Building the Body – Colossians 1:9-14

Prayer Is The Fuel For Spiritual Body Building

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Foundational Fuel

Everywhere you look in scripture, people are praying.  They are praying to worship God in praise.  They are praying to petition God for assistance.  They are praying for God’s will to come about.  And here, Paul and Epaphras are praying that the seed that was planted in the church body located at Colossi would flourish.

Prayer is the fuel and only offensive weapon we have in our spiritual warfare:

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Jesus definitively recognized that His disciples should pray.  Notice the words He uses when He talks about prayer:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “If you pray…”, or, “Should you decide to pray…”, or, “Perhaps you should pray…”.  Jesus says, “…when you pray…”.  One of the reasons that we are so weak is that we are not doing what our body-building trainer tells us to do – P R A Y!

Body Building

In this passage, there are several tips to successful spiritual body-building.  And just as Earthly body-builders need to practice and have workouts to keep their physical bodies in top shape, spiritual body-builders need to complete their workouts to keep their spiritual lives in top shape.  God is all about relationship.  Prayer is communication, which is a vital part of the relationship process.

Here are some of the tips and tricks provided to us to up our game in spiritual body-building from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ:

Dominion of Darkness

Before God the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to us, we were in the dominion of darkness.  Satan was our father, for our deeds were evil and we neither sought out God, nor gave Him glory.  The world, the flesh, and the devil were our constant companions and our advisors.  We were born with a sin nature passed down to us from Adam.  It’s no wonder that we were slaves in bondage to sin.

Crown of Christ

Jesus came to rescue us from our bondage to sin and from sin itself, and reconcile us to the Father.  When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, we were moved into the Kingdom of Light.  We have been adopted as children into the family of God.  Jesus is our brother; we are his brothers and sisters.

This seems very basic, but it has profound meaning and implication in our lives.  No longer are we prohibited from experentially and relationally knowing God.  No longer do we look in confusion or bewilderment at who God is; God is revealing Himself to us through His Son in His word and through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

To those who have been given much, much is expected.  How much has God given you?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful in my spiritual body-building exercises?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, the knowledge that You have adopted me into Your family is too wonderful for me to comprehend.  Just as an orphan is stunned after being adopted into a loving family, I am still stunned as I ponder the implications of being adopted into Your family.  You have done great and mighty things on and for my behalf.  You have given me an eternal future with You, access to You in Your throne room any time I need or just want to be there, and you have given me access to the royal treasury by blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have said that to those who have been given much, more is expected.  Father, what do you expect of me?  Show me that I may do all that you desire for me to do and become in gratitude for all that You have done for me.  Help me to remember my brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray fervently for them that they would be built up in Christ.  Give me Your love, so that it will be on display for all to see.  Help me to yield myself to you completely.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Called to Suffering – Acts 9:16

Can God Trust You With Suffering?

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Carefully Called

We can rejoice that God does not do things at random:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

God, omniscient, knows all things, and has a plan that is coming to fruition.  He carefully selects people for what He wants them to do.  He said the following of King David:

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'”

Many people were called by God for different purposes.  Some were to lead God’s people as judges, prophets, or kings.  Others were called to be intercessors, such as Esther.  Still others were called to discipline the Israelites through conquering them and enslaving them.  In every case, it was God who called them for His specific purpose, in His specific timing, for His greater glory.

Providential Purpose

God has purpose in everything that He does.  God does not waste any opportunity.  What appears to us to be random sequences of events are actually the carefully placed trellis that leads those who climb up it to where God wants and needs them to be.  We are but a mist, here today, and gone tomorrow.  We do not have the luxury of divine perspective with regards to long periods of time, because the average life span of a human being is seventy years, eighty if God is gracious.  We are unable to see the intertwining connectivity of timing and events, and to see the tendrils of connectedness between seemingly unrelated events and how and where they will intersect with one another in a tsunami of repercussions.

In all things, God has specific purposes for what He has called us.  Each of us are to play a part in it.  Paul likens this to being parts in a body, each one with unique features but that are part of a greater whole, contributing to or inhibiting the growth and health of the whole.  In everything, there is purpose.  God places purpose in His creation to reveal to us that He is full of purpose, and that we are to play a part in the purposes of God.

Heavenly Hardship

One of the most difficult, yet needed, purposes for God’s plan is people who have been chosen to be examples.  Some have been chosen by God to be examples of what is good.  Others have been chosen to be examples of what is not good.

For example, Able, the son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should do because he made the right offering before God.  Conversely, Cain, another son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should not do because of his offering before God, and his subsequent actions in regards to his offering’s rejection by God.

We need to keep in mind that the student is not above the teacher.  And Jesus Christ, the very best example that the Lord God Almighty could have sent to us experienced divine hardship on a scale that none of us can even comprehend.  He suffered and experienced great hardship throughout His life, but always with the attitude that God the Father had purpose in His hardship, and that in being yielded to the Holy Spirit, His life would glorify God.

One of the most difficult hardships to be given by God is the hardship of suffering.

Severe Suffering

No one likes to suffer (unless they are mentally deranged).  Suffering produces pain in our lives, and makes our lives so difficult that we can barely function.  At times, suffering can be so severe that we are incapacitated by it, and truly cannot even function.  Ask a person who is recovering from ninety percent of their skin being burned off in a fire if they are able to function.  The answer is obvious – until they are healed, they cannot.

God called His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to ultimate suffering for us.  As payment for our sins, not only was the burden of our sins – every sin that every human being ever committed past, present, and future – laid upon his shoulders as He hung on the cross at Calvary, God withdrew His presence from Him, and He experienced complete and total separation from the presence, provision, and protection of God in complete and total isolation with that burden placed upon Him in ultimate pain and agony.  Let it never be said that our salvation is free; it is freely given to us, but the cost was unimaginable.

Sometimes people are called to severe emotional suffering.  They have survived rape, torture, abuse, war, and other unspeakable circumstances.  The scars of these events will affect them for ages to come.  But they have been called as witnesses to the power, grace and glory of God as He leads them out of the bondage that such devastation has caused.

Sometimes people are called to severe physical affliction.  Most people have experienced some type of physical affliction, whether it is sickness or a broken bone.  But God has called some to suffer, not for days, months, or even years, but DECADES of life with pain that would cause the average person to curl up into a fetal position in the corner and bemoan their life (take a look at the life of Job for better clarification on this).  Ask people who have trigeminal neuralgia what it is like to live where, possibly every few seconds, or every second, it feels like someone is striking your face with the full swing of a baseball bat.  This particular affliction is also called “the suicide disease” because people would rather take their own life than live with the consequences of it.

In some cases, such as Lyme’s disease, it can not only be a painful, life-sucking, energy-draining, body-wasting disease, it can cause great misery.  Pain can be medicated away, even with morphine drips.  But misery is in an entirely different category.  Being in a state of extreme misery for any extended period of time will have a person begging God to take their life.  And when the pain and the misery go on day after day, year after year, DECADE AFTER DECADE, and the person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom it appears God has forsaken in their disease and time of need, what are they to do?

Total Trust

God has called these particular people to suffering as example to others.  Suffering (and the hardship that comes with it) produces character, and character produces hope.  Hope, in the sense that the Bible uses the word, is not wishful thinking, but rather a reasoned and sound expectation that some future event will occur.  In this, disciples of Christ have hope that God will work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  The purpose is to trust that Almighty God is sovereign, that He has a plan, that He has not forsaken those who suffer hardship, and be an example to others that in their pain and hardship, God is real and is able to get them through their trials as well.

When these great saints of God are called to severe suffering, and show complete and total trust through it, it is a powerful message to those who do not believe in God that there must be something that is helping those who are suffering to believe.  It is evident to most people who, in light of this type of suffering, there is no circumstance in the world that can force a person to believe that their suffering has purpose and is worth enduring apart from the sovereign grace and power of Almighty God.

Total trust in God yields great fruit, both in the life of the one suffering, and in the example provided to those who need an example to continue on in their own difficulties.  God loves it when we trust Him through these difficulties.  David spoke of this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The trust goes two ways.  We are to trust God, because He and He alone is completely trustworthy.  But God also trusts us.  To those whom He has placed the terrible burden of suffering, He trusts them to properly display that trust right back at Him.  The more hardship God brings into your life – and that which is NOT caused by your own sin, actions, or as consequences of your life choices – the more that he is trusting you for something great.

There is a story that goes something like this:

A man was at a lumberyard watching the lumberjacks move mighty trees from the forest down the river to where they would be sawn for wood.  At a junction in the river, there was a lumberjack who, every now and then, would direct one of the large trees floating in the water down a smaller path of the river.  There appeared to be no difference in the appearance of the trees, so this seemed odd to the man.  The man then asked the lumberjack directing these trees down the river what he was doing.

The lumberjack told the man the trees he was directing down the smaller path were from the very top of the mountain.  They received the most abuse from the weather, and they were constantly buffeted by the wind, rain, and snow.  These mighty trees looked like the others, but because of the abuse they took, along with the fact that they had not broken in the process, were of exceptional quality.  The wood had a much finer grain, and when used by carpenters, made the very finest furniture and brought the highest price on the market.  They were destined to be used by the most skilled artisans in the land for the most sought after projects, and were to be displayed in the most coveted of places because of the beauty that grew in them due to the hardship of the weather.

And just as the trees in this story brought praise to the artisans that used them with their great skill, so will the hardship in our lives be used by God to bring Him the maximum amount of glory, and be useful for displaying His craftsmanship and character.

Glorifying God

The end result of everything that God has done in the past, is doing now, and will do in the future, is to bring glory to Himself.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength.  He alone is The Great I AM, providing for our every need, displaying His love and infinite power to all who would take notice.

When a person is willing to be used by God for this purpose, God will use them mightily in ministry and to display His glory.  There is no greater honor than to be used by God in this way, as Jesus Christ demonstrated to us on the cross at Calvary.  But are we willing to go through the difficulty and hardship that is required to bring about the changes necessary to properly display what God has planned in His heart for us to show the world?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to allow God to bring hardship and suffering in my life to fulfill His plans and purposes for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is perfect, and Your will and character are perfect as well.  You have shown throughout Your word that You can be trusted with everything, for You are perfect in every way.  Father, help me to endure suffering and hardship as discipline.  Help me to gain Your perspective on my circumstances so that I may be willing to be used by You for the calling that You have placed upon my life.  Help me to be faithful to You throughout the process so that during the trials, and when I come out on the other side, You will be shown rightly to all who watch.  Guard my heart against bitterness through the process, and fill me with Your peace and power that all things You have planned would come to pass.  This I ask in the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Love of God – 1 Corinthians 13:4

Nothing Is Impossible With God

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Patient Persistence

In this well-quoted passage, Paul talks about one of the defining character strengths of God – Love.   The first aspect of God’s love is that it is patient.  Because of our sin nature, we are naturally impatient.  And, in recent times, we have taken this to a new level, almost making it an art form.

We have instant coffee, instant potatoes, microwave ovens, Gbps internet bandwidth, instant banking, instant (fill in the blank).  Just about every aspect of our lives denotes the very nature of our impatience.  People are so focused on the moment that they fail to take the time to wait in line.  On the roads in the United States of America, cars whiz by each other as fast as possible and change lanes without regard to the safety of themselves or others on the same road.

But God is patient, waiting for years – possibly decades – with a full-on assault of kindness and blessing to lead us into repentance with Him.  And we can barely stand still long enough to say “Amen!” when a prayer is offered.  Patience is a lost art in the Western world.  Yet it is the very first characteristic of love that is delineated by Paul in this great treatise on love.

Keeping up Kindness

It’s the little things in life that make the day go by easier and more smoothly.  Kindness is listed next in the characteristics of Godly love.  The primitive church disciples of Christ were known as chrestos, or kind-ones.  It was mistakenly believed that they were being called Christians because they followed Christ.  In reality, they were just so kind, that they stood apart from the world.

The chrestos ministered to a dying world in an amazing way.  When Roman citizens would throw their babies into the river to get rid of them, the chrestos went into the river, rescued them, and raised them as their own children.  When plague and sickness invaded cities, everyone fled, but the chrestos rushed in, providing comfort and care to those who were suffering, often dying of the very diseases that they were helping others to overcome.  Such was the life of kindness displayed in the primitive church.

Evading Envy

Having said what love was, Paul now tells us what love is not.  Love is not envious.  Envy is a terrible sin.  Desiring the property, relationships, wealth, position, status, authority, or anything else of someone else is effectively saying that God made a mistake in not providing it to you.  Since God does not make mistakes, it is we who make the mistake when we desire what we do not have.

Banning Boasting

We also have the desire to promote ourselves, rather than God.  We seek to lay claim to His glory as our own, for it is God who enables us to do all things.  Nothing that we do is done solely by us, but rather with the express prior permission, provision, and protection of God.  We cannot take a breath of air without His help.  Christ holds all things together, and created all things.

When we boast, we are in effect saying that by our own ability something was accomplished.  Yet anything done without the power and provision of God is hay and stubble, tainted by the very nature of sin that now threatens to usurp God’s rightful claim to glory and praise.  If we must boast in something, let it be in our weakness, for when we are weak, God is strong.

Purging Pride

The three main threats we encounter in our sinful nature are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Pride is the seed and root of boasting, believing that we are the authors of our own destinies.  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.  We are setting ourselves us for failure when we buy into the belief that we are the authors of anything good.

God alone is good, and we need Him to help us accomplish anything worthy of praise.  And because of our dependence upon Him, we can rightfully give all glory and honor to God.  Since God and God alone is worthy of all praise and glory, it is right to give it all to Him.  The Bible says that we will be tested by our praise.  Let us remember the source of all our power, energy, strength, and ability – The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the vine.  We are merely the branches, drawing life from the root of the plant.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I demonstrating the love of God to others, or am I adhering to the cultural norms?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have demonstrated Your love for us, in that You sent Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment for our sins.  Help me this day, Father, to bear Your image properly.  Help me to see others as You see them, and to love others as You love them.  Show me how to shed the attitudes of culture so that I can embrace Your character instead.  Guard my heart against the desire to promote myself, and help me to promote Jesus instead.  Let my life be a testament to Your glory, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the supernatural power that You have to free us from the bondage of sin.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for spelling errors.

The Timing of God – Mark 6:46-52

God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Training Through Trials

Everyone goes through trials.  Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others.  The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life.  Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering.  You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.

The disciples were fighting for their very lives.  Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous.  Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought.  But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.

James has this to say about our trials:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trial of Trust

When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time.  We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately.  We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes.  This is the trial of trust.

God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night.  The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:

  • First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
  • Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
  • Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am

The fourth watch was the longest watch of all.  Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow.  Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them.  This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs.  This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.

Strategic Support

Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems.  He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us.  By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.

As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet.  Unable to stop, you fight for your life.  It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene.  He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more.  If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life.  This is about on the same level as praying for patience.

Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid.  God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision.  Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin.  We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours.  That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…

Stopping Storms

When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down.  Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all.  Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops.  We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name.  For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.

Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces.  And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there.  It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning.  Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials.  Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You.  Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips.  For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You.  You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand.  I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials.  This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Walking with God – Revelation 3:7-13

Let us be like the Church of Philadelphia, that God may have nothing against us

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Amazing Author

God confirms in the title of this author that it is Jesus Christ Himself who is speaking the words that John wrote and heard.  We can be sure that He has a proper grasp of all things, for Jesus is The Truth.

There are two churches that God does not reprimand for something – Smyrna and Philadelphia.  However, the church of Smyrna would have to go through the trials that were coming, and the church of Philadelphia would be spared them.  The Philadelphia church was the only one that was commended and found worthy.  It was highly commended by their Savior.  We should be aware of what Jesus had against the other churches so that we can avoid those pitfalls:

  • Ephesus: 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
  • Smyrna: [Based on the praise of the Philadelphia church, they may have not held to the command to endure patiently, and would have to go through the fiery trials.]
  • Pergamum: 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
  • Thyatira: 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
  • Sardis: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
  • Laodicea: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Terrible Trials

The church has suffered greatly throughout the last 2000 years or so (read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” for more details).  Hebrews 11 tells of some of the sufferings they had to face.  The church throughout the world is undergoing trials right now, and even places that were safe for it fifty years ago are hotbeds of hostility.  Jesus gave us a warning about this:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Faithful Foundation

We are exhorted to be faithful.  We can do so, for Jesus, our example and mentor, was faithful, even unto death, and death on a cross!  How much more so should we be faithful who only have to suffer a little bit.

It is not my intention to minimize the pain that people experience in their trials – it is very painful.  Some people are more able to cope with types of suffering that others find unbearable.  So we should be empathetic to the suffering of others.  And never discount the suffering of those who have had the trial of unending physical pain through incurable disease.  Just because you cannot see someone else’s pain doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing it.

Let us be found faithful so that we may endure patiently and  persevere through suffering by leaning on our rock of salvation, experiencing His peace through the trial.  It is only then that we are able to overcome.  Prolonged suffering, whether physical or emotional without any relief for an extended time (think decades…) can drive a person to become depressed, angry, confused, withdrawn, and if not tended to properly, despondent.

Valorous Victory

Our reward for obedience and patience through suffering is victory over death in Jesus Christ.  No amount of works that we do commends us to God, but God is pleased as we display His character to the world.  Remember that the thief on the cross next to Jesus was admitted into the kingdom of heaven.  He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Let us rejoice in victory, for Christ has already procured that for us in His victory over death.  And it is in Christ that we were crucified and raised from the dead in Him.  Therefore, the second death – eternal spiritual separation from God – has been overcome already.  That is our light at the end of the tunnel of suffering.  Gaze upon it, have your eyes fixed upon Jesus, and regardless of the struggle, He will get you through it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we keeping God’s command to endure patiently through trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to us through the Book of Revelation.  I think You Lord for the warnings that You have given me in your letters to the churches.  Help me to be like the church in Philadelphia that you would find nothing against me.  Forgive me of all my sins, and show me where I am lacking, that I may grow.  Provide me with the strength and wisdom to walk in Your ways.  Help me to overcome.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification by God – Matthew 7:1-2

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

When we are first saved, we are like Lazarus coming out of the tomb – we still have our grave-clothes on.  Our stinking, smelly rags that cover the fresh aroma of Christ.  We have been made alive in Christ, and yet our outer appearance is that of a dead man.  Immediately, we begin to change.  Attitudes, likes and dislikes are moving in different directions, and we may not even be aware of them until we realize that we no longer do or say certain things, and begin to desire other things.  As the “grave-clothes” are removed, we begin to look different as our changed nature becomes more apparent.

But there are some grave-clothes that just seem to stick with us for a very long time.  In the culture of this age, in the United States of America, one of these is being critically judgmental.  Oswald Chambers says in “My Utmost for His Highest” that this attitude makes it impossible to enter into communion with our Creator because of how hard it makes us and where it places us – as superior to others.  It would appear that everyone wants to be right; and as we judge others, we fail to rightly judge ourselves.

The brain is interesting.  When we develop patterns of thought, it creates real grooves in our brain that direct thought patterns.  And we need to fight against that to create new grooves in our brain (transformation through the renewing of our mind by repeated exposure to the Word of God).  The problem is, that like a scratched vinyl record (does anyone remember those?), the needle may stay in the same groove.  We need to force the needle – the thought process- of our brain into a different area so that a new groove can be made.

When there is something in our lives that is deeply ingrained, it may seem impossible for us to change it.  That is when we need to confess this to God, and ask Him to supernaturally address the issue.  God generally does this in one of two ways:

  • He supernaturally and instantaneously removes the desire from us
    • Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  You are delivered!  Now walk in that deliverance…
  • He consistently and repeatedly puts us in situations where we can practice creating a new groove in our brain (a new pattern of thought and action) to replace the one we want expunged (He disciplines us).
    • This is never fun.  It is also why many seasoned Christians will warn younger Christians to give careful consideration to the consequences of praying for patience.
    • Be careful what you pray for – you might just get it!
    • If you ever pray for patience, you should expect that God will send the meanest, nastiest, angriest, rudest, most irritating, most ignorant, verbally violent, and socially unpalatable people into your life to help you to put on Christ (love) in the form of patience.
    • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that we don’t need it or shouldn’t ask for it.  Once we are disciplined, it will bring a great harvest of righteousness.

So let’s ask the question:  are we critically judgmental of others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You today for the love that You show me when You discipline me.  Please do not discipline me in Your anger.  You are able to rightly discern my innermost thoughts and motivations.  Show me the true nature of what I am doing.  Search my heart, Lord, and see if there is anything displeasing to You in it.  Purge me from it, for my desire is to live this life in righteous obedience to You and Your Word.  Give me strength to endure the trials necessary to sanctify my mind.  Remove from me those desires and attitudes that in any way interfere with my walk with You.  Guard me on all sides, and may Your righteousness show through me that others will be attracted to You.  Bring glory to Your name, and help me to be humble when You shine.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?