Dec 29, 2008
Scenery from the Rocky Mountains accompanied with the music of When Peace Like A River
Dec 29, 2008
Scenery from the Rocky Mountains accompanied with the music of When Peace Like A River
You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people. Ephesians 2:19
A young African refugee who goes by the name of Steven is a man without a country. He thinks he may have been born in Mozambique or Zimbabwe. But he never knew his father and lost his mother. She fled civil war, traveling country to country as a street vendor. Without ID and unable to prove his place of birth, Steven walked into a British police station, asking to be arrested. Jail seemed better to Steven than trying to exist on the streets without the rights and benefits of citizenship.
The plight of living without a country was on Paul’s mind as he wrote his letter to the Ephesians. His non-Jewish readers knew what it was like to live as aliens and outsiders (2:12). Only since finding life and hope in Christ (1:13) had they discovered what it meant to belong to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). In Jesus, they learned what it means to be known and cared for by the Father He came to reveal (Matt. 6:31–33).
Paul realized, however, that as the past fades from view, a short memory can cause us to forget that, while hope is the new norm, despair was the old reality.
May our God help us to live in security—to know each day the belonging that we have as members of His family is by faith in Jesus Christ and to understand the rights and benefits of having our home in Him.
Lord, as we remember how hopeless we were before You found us, please help us not to forget those who are still on the street.
Hope means the most to those who have lived without it.
When you face a problem, is prayer your first response, or do you spring into action mode? God works powerfully through prayer, yet too often we look at it as a last resort: After we are at the end of our rope, then we start praying.
Using the example of Elijah, James reminds us what the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish. In today’s passage, the subject is healing, but that’s not the only prayer God will answer. Every aspect of life can be impacted by the power of prayer.
Temptation. Jesus told His disciples, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation” (Mark 14:38).
Praise. After being beaten and thrown into prison, Paul and Silas prayed and praised God, even in the midst of their pain (Acts 16:25).
Spiritual Warfare. Paul teaches us to access God’s power by “pray[ing] without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
Anxiety. We aren’t at the mercy of fear if we pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).
Transformation. When we pray according to God’s desires, He transforms our mind, attitudes, character, and actions (Col. 1:9-12).
Witness. Through prayer, we ask that the Lord open doors for us to spread His Word (2 Thess. 3:1).
Protection. God is faithful to answer requests that He strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:2-3).
The next time you face a challenging situation, remember that prayer is more powerful than all your self-efforts. Pray, and watch God work.
“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.” (Proverbs 25:14)
Cain initially was a religious man, evidently proud of his achievements as a “tiller of the ground” that God had “cursed” (Genesis 4:2; 3:17). He assumed that God would be much impressed with the beautiful basket of his “fruit of the ground” that he presented as an “offering unto the LORD.” Cain became bitterly angry when God “had not respect” to Cain and his offering (Genesis 4:3-5).
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” shedding the blood of an innocent lamb in substitution for his own sin and guilt before God, “by which he obtained witness that he was righteous” (Hebrews 11:4). Since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), Abel was merely obeying God’s Word, but Cain, proud and self-righteous in attitude, was presuming to offer up his own merits in payment for the privilege of coming to God.
This was a “false gift,” however, with no meritorious value at all before God, “like clouds and wind without rain.” The apostle Jude warns against any such presumption, especially now that we can freely come to God through His own perfect “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Woe unto them!” says Jude, “for they have gone in the way of Cain . . . clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:11-12). This severe indictment was lodged against all who, like Cain, are superficially religious but who, by their self-righteous resentment against God, are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). We must not boast of our gifts to God, but only of His gift to us. HMM
The sublime language of Jehovah in his address to Job is far above all human eloquence. Let us take a second lesson from that divine discourse. First, let us read the unrivalled description of a war-horse.
He who created a creature so noble, powerful, and courageous, is not to be summoned to our bar, or questioned as to what he does.
We commonly speak of instinct. What is it but the teaching of God? He who has given so much wisdom to birds and beasts is full of wisdom himself. Let us bow before him, and rest assured that what he does is ever best.
Far-seeing and terrible, the royal bird belongs not to the kings of the earth though they figure it upon their banners: it is but another incarnation of the sublime thoughts of God, a further illustration of his greatness.
If we fancy that we can vie with God in justice, we are challenged first to compete with him in power. All the attributes of God are equally great, and if we cannot rival one, it will be wise not to impugn another.
Come thou poor glow-worm, put forth thy light, and see if thou art comparable to the sun.
Until we can manage providence as the Lord has done, so as to abase tyrants and deliver the oppressed, we had better learn submission to the divine will, and cease for ever from all rebellious questionings.
In heaven and earth, in air and seas,
He executes His wise decrees:
And by His saints it stands confest,
That what He does is ever best.
Wait, then, my soul, submissive wait,
With reverence bow before His seat;
And, midst the terrors of His rod,
Trust in a wise and gracious God.
In the earliest years of the Church, the believers faced unremitting persecution. Every day they were confronted by hostile powers that were arrayed against them. Culture, pagan religion, government, unsaved family and friends—all these forces were arrayed against them, putting constant pressure on them to forfeit their faith and return to their old ways.
Even if you are facing great challenges today, it doesn’t begin to match the pressure these brothers and sisters felt. I don’t want to make light of the struggles you’re going through, but the truth is, very few people alive today have faced the level of intense opposition that these early believers faced.
Think about it—do you personally know anyone who has been thrown into the arena to be mauled and eaten by hungry lions? Do you know anyone who has been burned at the stake for his faith? Or can you think of any friends of yours who have been forced into imprisonment because of faith in Jesus Christ?
Now, these scenarios do happen today to believers who live in anti-Christian parts of the world, and we definitely need to hold them up in prayer. Let’s not forget about them, nor about those who suffer for the Gospel in countries that are blessed with freedom. It is a statistical fact that since the year 1900, more than 29 million believers have died worldwide for their faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, large numbers of people currently die for Jesus every single day. By the time we get up, get dressed, and arrive at work to clock in for the day, someone, somewhere, has already laid down his life for the Gospel.
This puts a different light on the problems we face in the free world. Our problems are related to relationships, finances, family issues, health issues, and other problems of a personal nature. The stress that believers experience in free parts of the world is often related to having too much work to do; being under pressure due to the intense nature of their jobs; or trying to figure out how to handle their busy schedules. Although no one in their neighborhoods or local churches is currently being fed to hungry lions, the stresses and pressures these believers feel can nonetheless be very severe.
So no matter where you live or what you’re facing, remember that it’s essential to have the right attitude toward high-pressure situations! The Early Church called “patience” the “queen of all virtues.” They believed that if they possessed this one virtue, they could survive anything that ever came against them. It is this same virtue that is sustaining believers today who live in godless regions of the world—and this virtue is exactly what you need to victoriously outlast the pressures and ordeals you may be dealing with today.
James was writing to believers who were undergoing the kind of hardships described above. He told them, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
The word “patience” is the Greek word hupomeno—a compound of the words hupo and meno. The word hupo means under, as to be underneath something. The word meno means to stay or to abide. You could say that the word meno means to remain in one’s spot; to keep a position; to resolve to maintain some territory that has been gained. It is the state of mind that says, “This is my spot, and I’m not moving!”
The determination inherent within the word hupomeno is clearly seen when it was used in a military sense to picture soldiers who were ordered to maintain their positions even in the face of fierce combat. Their order was to stand their ground and defend what had been gained. To keep that ground, they had to be courageous to do whatever was required—no matter how hard or difficult the assignment. Their goal was to see that they survived every attack and held their position until they had outlived and outlasted the resistance. These soldiers had to indefinitely and defiantly stick it out until the enemy realized they couldn’t be beaten and decided to retreat and go elsewhere.
Thus, the word hupomeno conveys the idea of being steadfast, consistent, unwavering, and unflinching. It is the attitude that declares, “I don’t care how heavy the load gets or how much pressure I’m under, I am not budging one inch! This is my spot, and I’m telling you right now that there isn’t enough pressure in the whole world to make me move and give it up!”
Although the King James Version translates this word “patience,” a more accurate rendering would be endurance. One scholar calls it staying power, whereas another contemporary translator calls it hang-in-there power. Both of these translations adequately express the right idea about hupomeno. This is an attitude that never gives up! It holds out, holds on, outlasts, and perseveres.
Revelation 1:9 uses the word hupomeno when it refers to “the patience of Jesus Christ.” In Second Thessalonians 3:5, this word is also used in the phrase, “the patient waiting for Christ,” which could be translated, “… The patience of Jesus Christ—that attitude that hangs in there, never giving up, refusing to surrender to obstacles, and turning down every opportunity to quit.” This word illustrates the patient endurance Jesus demonstrated during His trial, scourging, and crucifixion. Even though the assignment was the most difficult task ever given to anyone, Jesus stayed with it all the way to the end.
Keeping all this in mind, James 1:4 could be interpreted:
“But let patience have her perfect work—I’m talking about the kind of attitude that hangs in there, never giving up, refusing to surrender to obstacles and turning down every opportunity to quit….”
The Early Church called patience the “queen of all virtues” for good reason. They knew that as long as they had this character quality working in their lives, it wasn’t a question of if they would win their battles—it was only a question of when they would win their battles.
Hupomeno—that is, endurance, staying power, hang-in-there power— is one of the major weapons you need to outlast any difficulty or time of stress and pressure that comes your way. So if you’re going through some rough circumstances at the moment, be encouraged! It’s a fleeting and temporary condition that will soon change! It’s time for you to get your eyes off your challenges and to stop fixating on your problems. Make up your mind that you’re going to stand your ground and hang in there. It won’t be long until the problems flee—and when they do, you’ll be so glad you didn’t give up!
Lord, help me stand my ground and defend what I have gained, no matter how difficult it might be to do this. I know that with Your supernatural help, I can outlive and outlast the resistance. With Your Spirit’s power working inside me, I know I can indefinitely and defiantly stick it out until the enemy realizes he cannot beat me and decides to retreat!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am steadfast, consistent, unwavering, and unflinching. I don’t care how heavy the load gets or how much pressure I’m under, I am not budging one inch! This is my spot, and there isn’t enough pressure in the whole world to make me move and give it up! I have supernatural endurance—staying power, hang-in-there power—and an attitude that holds out, holds on, outlasts, and perseveres until the victory is won and the goal is reached!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
The imagery of Christ making His way through the bustling, pawing, and demanding crowds was one of peace, bearing, and purpose. CALLED by the Father to complete His task, Jesus never appeared to be in a hurry… yet always progressing toward His goal.
Because Jesus had a clear sense of His calling, He was able at age 33 — the night before the cross — to say to His Father, “I have finished the work You gave me to do.” (John 17:4)
So it is to be with us. God has CALLED us to a work, be it in the context of the market place or behind a pulpit.
Unfortunately, many of us conduct our lives in a manner more indicative of a DRIVEN person :
By contrast, Isaiah paints a picture of work accomplished God’s way:
“The work of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)
If your lifestyle and approach to work reflect a DRIVEN man as opposed to the CALLED person of Isaiah 32:17, perhaps it is time to take inventory.