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?

Marriage and God – Titus 2:1-8

Our Elders Are to Teach The Young Families The Key Pillars To Marriage

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Creative Chiasm

A chiasm has been formed in these verses.  It contrasts men and women, and specifically, the mature versus the immature.  The structure looks like this:

Older Women – Young Women
/\
Older Men Young Men

It is an interesting contrast between these groups, especially the instructions given to the younger men and women.

Mature Men

Paul indicates that older men should be taught the following:

  • Avoid Excessive Wine (Temperate)
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol can severely impair a person’s judgment.  This can lead to terrible words and actions that cause great pain and resentment long after the effects of the alcohol wear off
  • Be Worthy of Respect (Honorable)
    • Paul touches upon a very core need for men – to be respected.  It is hard for a man to love a woman when he does not feel respected.  Paul urges men to live their lives in such a way that they are worthy of respect.  They are to make it as easy as possible for their wives to give them the respect that they so desperately need and desire.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Be Sound in Faith
  • Be Sound in Love
    • Paul exhorts men to unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially love their wives and others.  When they love their wives in this manner, it will help their wives to blossom and open up like a flower unfolds it petals, fully displaying its inner beauty to the world, confident in itself.
  • Be Sound in Endurance

Wise Women

Paul also urges that older women be taught the following:

  • Be Reverent in the Way They Live (live holy lives)
  • Avoid Slandering
    • The gift and curse of the great capability of women to communicate is the potential for gossip.  This needs to be avoided at all costs, so that no one is slandered.
  • Avoid Excessive Wine
    • Wine has the ability to lower the inhibitions of all who consume it, and everyone who does must take extra care to guard themselves against its effects
  • Teach What is Good

The interesting part is that Paul indicates that only after these characteristics are taught to older women that they will be able to properly guide the younger women in their ways.

Little Ladies

Paul then lists several ways that the older women should urge the younger women:

  • Love Their Husbands and Children
    • The interesting part of the word “love” here is that it comes from the Greek word phileo – to be greatly fond of.  God has already placed unconditional love – agape – into the hearts of women.  Older women must now teach the younger women to like their husbands and children.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Keep Chaste
    • It is ever more important that young ladies carefully guard their hearts against the wooing of other men.  In moments of emotional distress or feeling unloved by their husbands, younger women can be particularly vulnerable to a man who breathes life into her heart.
  • Be busy at home
    • In the time that this was written, it was mostly men who went out to work the land and provide for their families.  Yet it was documented in Proverbs 31 that a wife of noble character engaged in entrepreneurial enterprises as well as taking care of the family:
      • 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
        14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
        15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
        16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
        17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
        18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
        19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
        20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
        21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
        22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
        23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
        24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

  • Be kind
  • Submit to their husbands
    • Submission is the dreaded word that every women cringes at.  It brings about the feelings of some patriarchal tyrant who tries to keep his wife barefoot and pregnant, staying silent, and doing everything he asks – being at his beck and call and essentially his slave.  But submission is a beautiful thing.  We each are to submit to the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ Himself submitted completely to God.  Submission has been described as being willing to duck so that God can throw a right-cross at the one who is in charge.  But only a fool would not listen to the counsel of the one that God has placed at his side for his benefit.

Growing Guys

Paul then goes on to tell what the young men should be taught:

  • Be self-controlled
  • Set an example by doing what is good

Paul provides these instructions for our benefit.  It is at our own peril that we scoff at them or ignore them.  Western culture teaches us that we should seek our own welfare before the welfare of others.  But God in this passage shows us just how important it is to self-regulate rather than indulge our heart’s every desire.  It is better to follow the word of God than it is to follow our own hearts.  This is because our hearts are deceitful above all, and without the transformation by the Holy Spirit and the word of God, we will be duped into desiring what the flesh wants, rather than what the Spirit of God desires.

There are now a higher percentage of Christian marriages ending in divorce than those who are not professing Christians.  This should not be!  There can only be one reason for such widespread failure in our marriages – we are not being obedient to God’s word.  Let us now take the time and remember the advice given by God to Solomon, the wisest man ever to live:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The choice is ours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing what God desires me to do as revealed in His word to ensure that my marriage is as best protected as it can be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the embodiment of truth.  You know all things, and reveal Your truth to us through Your word.  Help me to learn Your truth and put it into practice so that my marriage would flourish as well as bring you honor, glory, and praise.  Help me to submit myself to my spouse and to live life in accordance with what is good in Your eyes, so that You will be able to bless us in our marriage.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Remember These Things

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
if we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

Trustworthy Truism

Paul provides us with a wonderful understanding of the truth of God.  He first states that if we have dies with Christ, we are alive with Him.  For in the association with His death, we are likewise spiritually raised from the dead in Christ.  He was the first, and we are reborn as a result.  Our identity in Christ is not only in His is death but also in his resurrection.  And although the resurrection of our bodies has yet to take place, the resurrection of our spirits has already taken place.

Sovereign State

God has promised that if we endure, we will reign with Him.  We are told to allow perseverance to finish its work so that we will be complete.  This requires endurance through our trials, as this provides us with the necessary perseverance.  God has provided for us the ability to overcome just as Jesus has overcome through yielding ourselves to His Spirit.  It is through His power, strength, patience, and endurance that we will be trained to endure with Him.  This is a necessary part of our training, as it helps us to be prepared for ruling with Him.

Don’t Disown

God says that we should not disown His Son, or we will be disowned.  If we are to properly identify with Christ, we must identify fully with Him through every trial.  Regardless of the pressures and difficulties we face, we must stand strong in our identification with Jesus Christ.  Jesus never recanted nor disowned the Father, even through torture, beatings, false witness against Him, and even through crucifixion.  In a like manner, we too must trust ourselves to God and endure through whatever difficulties await us as we publicly identify with Christ.

Forever Faithful

The good news is, even if we are faithless, God is faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.  As the image-bearers of God, it is our duty – our responsibility – to completely identify with God in thought, word, and actions.  It is through obedience to His word that we show ourselves as being faithful to God.  Jesus did everything that the Father told Him to do.  We need to follow His example if we are to identify with Him.

But even should we fail in this, we cannot through our failure show that Jesus is not faithful, for in His very nature He is God, and cannot be unfaithful nor disown Himself.  We can be assured that Jesus will forever be in identify with the Father, so that any failure on our part doesn’t reflect upon His perfect identity with God.  And it is in that identity that God the Father sees us as righteous.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living out my identity in Christ in complete faithfulness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, thank You for the faithfulness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  As Your image-bearer, it is my duty and privilege to identify with Him in all things.  Grant me the strength, endurance, and perseverance to overcome all of the challenges that face me today.  In this world, I face many trials.  But I know that You and You alone are able to get me through them all.  Remember me as the world, the flesh, and the devil place their soul-crushing pressures upon me through physical, emotional, and spiritual difficulties that I may overcome them all.  I know that I can do this in the power and strength of Your Holy Spirit because Jesus has overcome the world.  Thank You for all that You do in my life and in the lives of everyone, for You are not a respecter of persons.  Help me to continue on in humility this day in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Faithfulness to God – Acts 14:19-20

Never Stop Doing What Is Right In The Eyes Of God

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Difficult Days

Most people have a really bad day every now and again.  But Paul had it a little harder than most people.  Even God said (about Paul’s life):

15 …”Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul had some interesting trials to undergo:

23 …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Most of us have not had to face the threat of death even once for the cause of Christ.  We do not yet know the difficulties that Paul encountered.  But even if that should change, we should take heart; Paul has shown us the way to overcome.  He was stoned near to death at least once.

Faithful Friends

Paul had very good friends.  After he was nearly stoned to death, they surrounded him.  They too could have faced stoning as well.  When a mob begins to act in emotion, it is difficult to dissuade them from their course of action.  Look at the recent mob activity in the United States of America.  Once the mob engages in violence, then comes the fires, and the looting, the beatings of innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It takes faithful friends to join you when the mob turns its full wrath upon you.

Continue to Contend

Most people, facing a near-death experience at the hands of an angry, murderous mob, would “take a hint” and go elsewhere.  Scripture shows us Paul’s reaction: he went right back into the city to preach.  That takes great faith and trust in God.  In speaking about hardship, Paul said:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Regardless of our circumstances, we should continue to contend for the faith.  God will provide our strength as we are faithful in His service.  We have no fear of this: whatever God calls you to, he will provide the means and resources for you to complete your tasks.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful even when I experience great trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You keep every promise that You make, and do so in perfect timing and in Your methods.  We know that we can count upon You to always be faithful.  Strengthen me this day, Father, that I would show that same faithfulness to You, regardless of my circumstances.  Help me to rely upon You totally and without reservation as trials come into my life.  Help me in my weakness that You would be strong for me.  Carry me when I cannot walk, and protect me from my adversaries.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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?

Can God Trust You? – Daniel 6:4

Can God Trust You to be Faithful?

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Capable Character

God seeks to inculcate within us great character – HIS character. Our trials are designed to challenge us to rise to the occasion, and to cast aside our way of doing things in favor of doing things God’s way.  The Holy Spirit not only guides us in the way we should go, but provides the very means to do it, whether it is strength, endurance, wisdom, words, or anything else that is needed for God to accomplish His goals through us.

God greatly desires and has planned to do just that – to use His people to showcase Himself, rather than just appear as a great tower or smoke or pillar of fire as He once did for Israel.  We are to be used as His hands and feet and mouths so that His work in our lives can be displayed, rather than just signs and wonders to behold and possibly be ignored.  He seeks to have a relationship with His creation, and particularly with us humans.  This is shown in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as well as the way that God has worked through people all throughout the Bible.

God doesn’t have a “Plan B”.  Christians are it.  If we fail to do what we are supposed to do, then God’s plans won’t be completed the way He desires them to be completed.  Even now, God must reveal Himself through dreams and visions to people who live in the Middle East under Sharia law, as the evil there is so bad that even mentioning Christ will get you beheaded.  It’s hard to get the message out when the messengers are murdered before the message is completely delivered!  Speaking of messengers, Proverbs 25:13 tells us something about the ones with good character:

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Trustworthy Through Trials

God is seeking men and women who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  God needs people who are able to trust in Him to deliver them through the most difficult of trials.  Jesus experienced great hardship at the hands of men and His trials.  God appoints those who are trustworthy through trials to different positions depending on their ability and need.

God calls people to different many different responsibilities.  He who knows all things determines what and where His people should be called.  He selects them as He sees fit.

Administration Acumen

Many are selected to be leaders.  People should not seek a position of leadership without the calling of God.  The burden of leadership is great, and requires a specific personality and mentality to do it right.  Look at how many people are in leadership today that are causing so much grief to the ones that they have been placed over.  We should soberly look at this and give great consideration before accepting any position of leadership.  Remember – leaders will be judged more strictly than others because of the responsibility of their role.

Monetary Mindfulness

Some are selected to be the overseers of great wealth.  Although many (if not most) of us would say, “Sure – I’ll take that!”, it is most probable that they would fail miserably at the task.  The Bible says that if we can be trusted with little, we can be trusted with much.  Many Christians are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s not that they don’t have enough money to live frugally and save, it is just that the call of culture and desire of our hearts is to spend the money provided to us by God on ourselves.  Many people are not fiscally prudent, nor even know how to be.  Self-control in this department sometimes seems absent, and the wisdom to know what to do with money, as well as what not to do with money, seems to be missing from many Christians’ lives.

It takes someone who have been trained by a knowledgeable mentor to understand these concepts and put them in practice.  For instance, in a perfect world, where the average rate of return on an investment is 12% per year (don’t laugh – we know times are tough and something like this is very unlikely at present), that a person that is eighteen years of age who puts $1000 U.S. into a Roth IRA investment every year for just 10 years, and leaves it alone, will have over one million U.S. dollars waiting for them at age 65 – TAX FREE.

How many people are willing to do that at that age, or consistently?  What if the return is only 8%, but they invest the maximum allowed per year every year (at this time, through two separate employers [you can be self-employed as well] a person can put in $5,500 U.S. dollars TOTAL) for just 20 years?  At age 65, they will have almost two and a half million U.S. dollars waiting for them.  Who knew?

In any case, it would be a terrible thing to have to give an accounting to God of how great wealth was lost through fiscal mismanagement or spent on personal enrichment.

Taken Through Trials

There is a reason that Jesus suggested that we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  He Himself was led by the Spirit of God to be tested by Satan himself.  We are going to be taken through trials to purge the dross that we have within us.  We shouldn’t be surprised at the trials that we face.  Regardless of what we are selected to do, we will face trials of many kinds.  Sometimes, they can take decades before we are ready (it took God forty years to get the Egypt out of Moses before He called him to service…)  But there is one specific calling that no one wants to receive, and that God requires the greatest trust from His people .

Selected for Suffering

God trusts us with what we are able to do and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure without providing a way.  God DOES give us more than we can handle so that we can grow in faith and character as we overcome our deficiencies with HIS strength, power, and ability.

One of the most difficult callings, or selections, is to be called to suffering.  God will eventually remove all suffering and pain.  Sometimes these things happen because it is God’s will that they happen and are not a direct result of sin:

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

It is very difficult for a person when God selects them for suffering.  Having to bear that tests a person’s faith down to its very core.  When the trial is prolonged (especially accompanied with excruciating pain) without help from others who support and encourage rather than assume and accuse, depression can set in, because the suffering is so great.

God greatly desires that Christians be patient and compassionate with people who have been called to this.  This does not include whiners who have a hangnail and act as though they have been skewered with a spear like a stuck pig.  These are people who have crippling diseases (like Lyme’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and the like).  Not every disease manifests itself on the outside for all to see. And the mental and emotional abuse afflicted upon people is much harder to see than physical abuse.

Even though God’s people are called to suffering, God assures us that eventually all pain and suffering will end for those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes that will be addressed in this life (like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the sick cured, and the like), or in the next.  Either way, God will eventually provide an end to it.  But just as Jesus said concerning the blind man who was that way from birth, there is purpose to it – not only for character development, but so that the works of God can be put on display.

Special Service

There was once a story about a man who came into a logging camp.  He was shown the logging operations, and was given the grand tour.  When they came to the river where the logs were being floated down to the logging plant from where they were cut, a logger stood at the edge of the river.  Every now and then, he would use a pole that he was carrying and reroute a cut tree down a smaller fork in the river.

The man asked the logger who was directing the trees what he was doing.  The logger replied, “oh, those are special trees”.  The visitor asked, “What is so special about them, and how can you tell?”  The logger replied, “The trees I am selecting are very special.  They were harvested from the very tops of the mountains.  The winds are ferocious up there, and these trees are bent as the storms wail against them, but they stay strong and resilient.  Although all of the trees are profitable, these trees have endured the greatest of trials, and are greatly prized by furniture makers and artists, and are worth many times more than what the other trees are worth.  They will be used in ways that show their beauty, and when they are finally shaped, will endure for generations as priceless antiques and masterpieces.”

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

If you have been selected for great suffering, rejoice:  God plans to use you in the most beautiful of ways.  Once you have been tested, expect to be put on display.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I demonstrating to God that I can be trusted with whatever He is selecting me to do and be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are good and gracious.  Help me to both find the area where I am called, and to do thrive in it so that You may be glorified.  Strengthen me so that I will be able to endure all the trials that I have been appointed to, and to overcome any difficulties that I encounter.  May Your character be put on display at all times, that as an image-bearer for You, I would be able to fulfill all that you have planned for me to do since before time began.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Waiting for God – Psalm 42:8-11

The Long Dark Night of the Soul Will Be Redeemed by God

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Lavished Love

God pours out his love to us all of the time.  By day we see His hand as He provides for our every need.  He is involved in every aspect of our lives as we struggle in our daily lives.  Even when we cannot feel His presence, He is there, just as a father is running behind a child learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels as the front wheel wobbles back and forth.

Solemn Song

By night we experience His comfort as our souls cry out to Him. God tests us even as we sleep, yet still we seek Him out in song and prayer.  This does not happen automatically.  We must make every effort during our waking hours to instill this desire in our hearts so that at night, it will reveal itself in our subconscious wanderings.

Oppressed by Opposition

An old nursery rhyme says, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  This is given to children to counter taunts and jeers, but it is not accurate.  Words CAN and DO hurt.  And the enemy knows this well.  Whether they try to attach a label to the focus of their wrath, or merely mock us as we go through our trials (many of which THEY have caused), the pain of enduring the trial is greatly amplified when God appears silent, and deliverance is not quickly forthcoming.  This is especially true when the trial is prolonged and filled with physical as well as emotional suffering.

Downcast with Despair

The authors of this Psalm challenge themselves and us to ask ourselves a very important question:  Why should our souls be downcast?  Why should we be in emotional and spiritual despair?   Is not our God YHWH, who exists eternally and is dynamically involved in our lives?  Is God even able to break His word when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“?  What part of our despair is based in truth given the Word of the Living God who says that we are more than conquerors through Christ?  Or that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing?  Or that He knows the plans He has for us to give us hope and a future?

Heavenly Hope

The sons of Korah encourage us to put our hope in God our Savior.  Let us not forget His benefits, His lavishing of love, grace, and mercy upon us.  Let us breathe strength into our weary bones and emotional pain by remembering the Character and Nature of God and what He has done for us.  Remember also that God has a tendency to come during the fourth watch of the night – at the very last second.  Our faith is stretched and we grow when we are able to endure through the trial, especially when the devil and his demonic minions are hurling their insults, accusations, doubts and ideas of fear at us while his earthly minions are doing their best to oppress us and make us feel even worse.

It is never easy to wait for God.  As we are standing and waiting to be delivered, God will often allow great difficulty into our lives.  Let us not forget that we may even be called upon to bear His witness through isolation, torture, and even gruesome death.  Yet Jesus has overcome death itself!  We can be assured that regardless of the outcome, our hope in God is not misplaced.  Patiently endure your trials so that God may be glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we filling ourselves with God and hope in His promises as the devil and his minions are beating us up, having backed us into a corner, as we wait for God to deliver us?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name forever and ever!  It is always so difficult for me as I endure these trials.  Help me to overcome them, Lord God, and to do so with joy in my heart.  I know that You are never far from me, and that You are watching in expectation to see my faith grow.  Why must this always be so painful?  Remember me, Father, as my enemies lie about me to others, accuse me falsely, and seek to destroy my reputation and character.  May I find strength in Jesus, that He has provided me with His reputation and His character.  I know, Father, that my enemies don’t understand what they are doing.  They, like all truly evil people, lash out at the loved ones of their true target to cause the object of their fury the greatest amount of pain.  I pray, Father, that You would have mercy upon them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they would cease from bringing shame to You as Your image-bearers, and instead bring You the glory and honor that You so rightly deserve.  Strengthen me during these trials that regardless of the outcome, my faith would grow and when Your Son comes in glory, that All would glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Justice of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

God Will Not Withhold His Wrath Forever

5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Selected for Suffering

All who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior will experience suffering.  No student is above his teacher, and we are not above Jesus Christ in this regard.  We should take heart and rejoice in our sufferings, and decide to consider them as an indication that we are truly God’s people:

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.

Woeful Wrath

Paul says something interesting here.  He indicates that God will pay back trouble to those who trouble us.  One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian is to bear up under the abuse of others. A “trick” that we can employ to help us with this is to remember that God will pay back those who trouble us.  This does not mean that we wish harm to come to others; it merely means that we can rest in knowing that God is Just and will punish the wicked.

In order to use this effectively, we must see through God’s lens of eternity and be satisfied with His Justice, resting in the outcome of eternity.  Let us take a step back, and with the revealed knowledge of what God will do (through examining eschatological [end-times] prophecy) understand that from God’s perspective, everything is already accomplished.  This is how God was and is able to endure the disobedience of man – He was able to see Christ crucified and resurrected before the beginning of the universe, as though it had already occurred.

We too should look at the wrath of God as already having been poured out upon those who refuse to believe.  In God’s eyes, as in ours, we should see that the punishment of justice has already occurred.  Those who wronged us but accepted Christ have their sins forgiven in Christ, so justice has been served – Christ paid for it with His holy, perfect, sinless blood, as He did ours.  Justice is served.  For those who refused the free gift of salvation, they are already serving their sentence in the lake of fire.  Justice is served.  Either way, justice has been served, and we can rest in the Holy Justice of God to let these things go so that no root of bitterness will grow in our hearts.

Ruler Revealed

All of this will occur when Jesus Christ is revealed as the Lion of Judah .  He first came as a lamb.  He now returns as the Lion to gather His elect and bring wrath to the unbelievers.  Jesus will be unveiled and the unseen will become seen.  Every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, whether they bow willingly or grudgingly.  We will know and be fully known.  What a wonderful and dreadful day that will be!

Destruction of the Disobedient

God will not withhold His wrath and anger forever.  He does not destroy us now because He would like to see as many that would believe would be saved and to display His mercy.  Those that don’t believe will face absolute destruction with the second death – spiritual death (the eternal separation from God in the lake of fire).  They will be tormented for all eternity because they refused to love the truth.  That should sober up every Christian when we think about it and propel us into action so that the message of the Gospel is delivered to all the world.

And when we fail in that, or are unable because the devil has complete control over a region, God will still reveal Himself to people through visions and dreams.  Many in the Middle East, where they are under complete Shariah law, are being reached through this method even today.  Because of this, many are coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Darkness has fallen there, and no one can work but God alone.  Darkness is falling across the entire world.  Places where freedom once reigned and Christianity once flourished and thrived are now being choked out by oppressive governments and their subjected peoples who sympathize with their government’s position.  Take Heart!  Christ has overcome the world!

Glorified by God

And when Jesus arrives, those who found life through salvation of sin in Jesus Christ will be with Him as He is glorified.  We will be like Him.  And we will marvel in His glory from that time throughout all eternity, praising and glorifying Him forever and ever.

Suffering a little now seems insignificant when we consider the eternal glory of God and being in His presence.  Endure the trials before you, knowing that you will be reunited with your Savior in joy and celebration for all eternity.  The pain you suffer now is great, but it is momentary in light of eternity.  Pray that God would comfort you through it, so that you would endure your suffering in such a way that it would bring glory to His name.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we bearing up under our suffering so that God will be glorified, as He seeks to prepare us for the time when we will be with Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I greatly look forward to the return of Jesus Christ as the Lion of Judah.  Help me to be prepared so that when He returns, I will be ready and found doing what I have been told to do.  Give me peace as I suffer in my trials, and give me Your eternal perspective on all things that I may be able to look beyond the present to see everything in the lens of eternity.  May this viewpoint bring me comfort and help me to grow in grace and righteousness.  Comfort me in my pain.  It seems as though it will last forever, but You have promised that when I am with You in heaven, there will be no more pain and no more tears.  I greatly look forward to that day.  Blessed be Your Name, Lord God Almighty!  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?