Judge Kay Woodbury (Jaclyn Smith), takes a troubled teen (Lyndsy Fonseca) foster child into her home after no one else seems to want her.
Judge Kay Woodbury (Jaclyn Smith), takes a troubled teen (Lyndsy Fonseca) foster child into her home after no one else seems to want her.
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24b
“Blood brother” can refer to people related by birth or to people related by a promise. In antiquity, that covenant was ratified by the parties nicking a hand or finger with a knife, then pressing their wounds together—thus “mixing” their blood and making them “blood brothers.”
In the Old Testament, blood was more often the blood of a sacrificial animal slain when a covenant of friendship was made (Genesis 15). David and Jonathan (the son of King Saul) were covenant brothers, united by their willingness to shed their own blood, if needed, for one another—symbolized by the exchange of weapons (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Jonathan and David are a perfect example of the truth of Proverbs 18:24. Their friendship was closer than that of birth brothers. Jonathan demonstrated his loyalty to David (1 Samuel 19:1) and David reciprocated the same loyalty to Jonathan’s son after Jonathan died (2 Samuel 9:1-2). And Jesus demonstrated that same loyalty to His disciples (John 15:13-15).
Loyalty is a rare trait these days. If you are going to be a friend, be a loyal friend who “sticks closer than a brother [or sister].”
There is no better proof of friendship than to help our friends with their burdens. Augustine
Today we meet Epaphras, a man who had a heart for the local church. He was most likely converted to Christ under Paul’s teaching when the gospel was rapidly spreading throughout Asia Minor. Epaphras evangelized his hometown of Colossae and founded a church there—and possibly the churches in Hierapolis and Laodicea as well.
Although very little is written about Epaphras in the New Testament, the letter to the Colossians emphasizes his great love and deep concern for Christ’s church (Col. 4:12-13). At the close of the letter, Paul points out that Epaphras is “always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (v. 12).
What he was asking for wasn’t greater numbers or bigger offerings but spiritual maturity and the true knowledge of God’s will. At that point in time, Epaphras was in prison with Paul (Philem. 1:23), and he couldn’t refute the false teachers who’d infiltrated the church at Colossae. But being apart from his congregation didn’t mean he was helpless. Intercession is a powerful ministry. It can alter circumstances, change thinking, and bring God’s truth to light. Epaphras went to his knees to plead for the church, and Paul joined him, which we see in his prayer in Colossians 1:9-14. (See also Col. 1:7)
Is anything weighing on your heart? Do you feel helpless to remedy the situation? If so, follow Epaphras and Paul’s example: Go to the One who knows exactly what to do and has the power to accomplish it. Then rest in Him and let His peace guard your heart and mind.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)
Every true Christian desires to be a fruit-bearing Christian, not one who is “barren” and “unfruitful” (2 Peter 1:8). He or she also earnestly desires that the fruit—whether that of a godly character (Galatians 5:22-23) or that of others won to Christ (Romans 1:13)—will not wither but remain strong and healthy before the Lord.
The promise of Christ in our text is that our fruit will remain, if He has chosen us and we go forth praying in His name and seeking sincerely to bear fruit for His name’s sake. It is significant that the Greek word translated “remain” (that is, meno) is also commonly translated “abide,” as well as “continue.” In fact, it occurs no less than 12 times in John 15:4-16, the last being in our text verse above.
To “abide in Christ” does not mean to be continually aware of His presence or perpetually thinking only of Him, but it does mean to continue believing His Word and serving Him. “Continue ye in my love,” He commands (v. 9). To do that, He says that “if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (v. 10).
He also has said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
Note the progression. He says, “Abide in me, and I in you” (v. 4). This means He says that “my words abide in you,” and also we are to “continue in my love,” which implies that “ye keep my commandments.” It follows, then, that as we “continue” in His Word, we shall “bring forth fruit” that will “remain”! HMM
1 Samuel 7:1
Thus the candlestick was removed from Shiloh, but the candle shone on far more brightly than before.
1 Samuel 7:2
This was a happy sorrow. Whenever men lament after God he will soon appear unto them. It should be the business of any of us who have not yet found Jesus, to sigh and cry after him till he appear, and it will not be long before he looks upon us in love. God had already come back to Israel when the people lamented after him, and when a soul sighs for the Lord, the Lord is with it already.
1 Samuel 7:3, 4
Their repentance would have been all in vain if it had not been practical. Men cannot keep their sins and have their God; no man can serve two masters.
1 Samuel 7:7
Yet they had no cause for fear, now that God was reconciled. He who is at peace with God should be fearless.
1 Samuel 7:8
This was a wise speech, and shewed that they had faith as well as fear. Faith in God gave them faith in the power of prayer.
1 Samuel 7:9
True repentance, prayer, and faith in the great sacrifice, must win the day.
1 Samuel 7:12
Samuel won that battle on his knees, and afterwards he recorded with praise what he had won by prayer. Praying men are not ungrateful when their intercession prospers.
1 Samuel 7:15, 16
God does not cast off faithful servants when they grow old, neither do they ask for a retiring pension and for leave to be idle. O to serve God from our childhood to our hoar hairs! May such grace be given to the young members of our family.
I my Ebenezer raise
To my kind Redeemer’s praise;
With a grateful heart I own
Hitherto thy help I’ve known.
What may be my future lot
Well I know concerns me not;
This should set my heart at rest,
What thy will ordains is best.
Hebrews 10:38, 39
One day as I was ministering in a certain church, the pastor of the church asked me if I would take the time to have lunch with a minister who had previously been associated with many great men and women of faith. The pastor told me that this minister had worked at one time on the staff of a very large and successful ministry. However, after deciding that his assignment there was finished, the man had left to start his own ministry.
Several years had passed since this particular minister had taken the step of faith to start his own organization. But because his new organization hadn’t grown as quickly as he had wished, he had become very discouraged and depressed. As a result of these disappointments, he had begun to question everything he believed about walking by faith. He had even become very bitter and sour toward anyone who claimed to walk in faith. Unfortunately, this minister made the mistake of starting to measure what he believed by what he was experiencing.
That day when I went to lunch with this man, I was shocked that anyone who had known such a high level of faith could slip into such a miserable state. He wasn’t just negative; he was extremely critical and cynical of anything that had to do with faith. As I tried to encourage this man, he said, “Yeah, I know all about you faith guys! Name it and claim it; that’s who you guys are! But you’re all so shallow. You guys don’t know anything about hardships or suffering. You just live in a fairy-tale world that doesn’t touch anyone’s real existence.”
As this man alleged that I and my other faith friends didn’t know anything about hardships, I thought of all the personal challenges I had been through—the many assaults the devil had made against my life and my ministry. I also thought about how the very ministries he was specifically accusing of being shallow had stood so steadfastly against problems of which he was obviously unaware.
I felt a need to speak up and tell the man about some of these challenges and how I and my fellow ministers had won the victory by standing steadfastly in faith. But when I tried to speak to him, it was like talking to a concrete wall. He had already made up his mind that God had no plan of victory for his life—and that anyone who believed it was God’s will for people to be victorious was a charlatan!
After two hours of this man’s verbal abuse, I told the pastor who brought me to the lunch, “Excuse me, but I am not going to sit here and be verbally abused by this man anymore. I don’t even know him, yet he is viciously attacking me and my friends. I’m sorry he wouldn’t listen to me today, because I believe I could have helped him.”
With that, I pushed away from the table, stood up, put on my jacket, and left the restaurant. There was no reason for me to stay there any longer, because the bitterness in this man had defiled him so completely that he wasn’t willing to hear anything from me or from my friends who also believe in the walk of faith. In the end, I discovered the only reason he wanted to meet me for lunch was to have the opportunity to berate me for what I believed.
That experience made me think of Hebrews 10:38 and 39, which says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition….” This verse tells us explicitly what happens to people who walk away from the life of faith. According to this verse, the ramifications of this departure from faith are grim and ghastly. The man who berated me that day at lunch was a perfect example of what this verse communicates to you and me.
The words “draw back” are from the Greek word hupostello, which is a compound of the words hupo and stello. The word hupo in this case means back, and the word stello means to send. But when these two words become the word hupostello, it depicts someone who is shrinking back, withdrawing, retreating, regressing, receding, backing away, backsliding or someone who is recoiling from something. This is a person who started on a journey but then abruptly reversed his direction. He is now moving backward instead of forward. For some reason, this person is backing out of a position or belief that he once strongly held.
The word “perdition” is the Greek word apoleia, which describes something so ruined and rotten that it is decomposing, such as rotten potatoes that have sat too long and are now spoiled and ruined. Frequently this word was used to describe the stench of a decaying animal or a dead human body— a loathsome, putrid, vulgar, disgusting, nauseating scent. One whiff leaves you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. The smell is so repulsive that you feel like running to the bathroom to vomit. This is exactly the image that Hebrews 10:39 gives us of what happens when a person turns and walks away from the call of God or a life of faith. It results in a sickening, stinking situation.
Don’t be like the man given in this example above. If God has spoken to you, stand fast and refuse to budge until you receive the manifestation of the promise God made to you!
I am amazed at the short-lived nature of some people’s faith. For example, if their prayers for healing aren’t answered as quickly as they wish, they permit their flesh to lead them to the conclusion that it must be God’s will for them to be sick! Or if they sow their finances believing for a financial harvest but don’t see that harvest after a few months, they conclude that what they were taught about prosperity must be wrong.
But you have to give faith time to work! Faith and patience are partners. That is why Hebrews 10:36 says, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” The word “patience” comes from the word hupomene, a compound of the words hupo and meno. The word meno is the primary root of the word, and it means to stay, to remain, to continue, or to permanently abide in one place. It is the very word that Jesus used in John 15:7, when he said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” A literal translation of John 15:7 could be, “If you steadfastly and continuously abide in Me, and if My words steadfastly and continuously abide in you, you may ask what you will, and it shall be done for you.” The word meno gives the idea of something that is rooted, unmoving, and stable.
But when you add the prefix hupo to the front of meno, thus forming hupomene, the picture changes radically! In this situation, the word hupo means under, as to be underneath something that is very heavy. But when it is connected to the word meno—becoming the word hupomene—it pictures a person who is under a very heavy load but who has resolved that he isn’t moving; he is going to stay in that one spot. Regardless of how heavy the load or how long it takes, he refuses to move from his position because he knows that it is where he is supposed to be!
The word hupomene pictures a person who is completely committed to maintaining his position. He will stay under that heavy load as long as it is necessary for him to achieve his victory. He is intent on standing by his commitment, regardless of the cost he must pay. Nothing can sway or move him to change his mind. He is not going to relinquish his territory! One scholar says hupomene would be better translated “endurance” because it portrays an attitude that never gives up. It is a faith that manifests as a tough, resistant, persistent, obstinate, stubborn, tenacious spirit that refuses to let go of what it wants or believes. I personally translate the word hupomene as hang-in-there-power!
You must have hupomene if you intend to beat the devil at his game and successfully do what God has called you to do. If hupomene is working in your life, it’s just a matter of time until your victory comes to you. It’s not a question of if your victory will come—it’s only a question of when it will come. But for you to reach that glorious and long-awaited place of victory, it is essential that you have hupomene in your life!
So don’t let loose of your faith! The day your vision dies is the day your joy will disappear, your life will be depressing, and you will turn bitter. You’ll end up in “perdition” if you let go of the word of truth God gave you. You’ll start putting out the putrid stench of a faith turned sour—just like that minister who backed away from his once-strong position of faith and became bitter and cynical about anyone who walked in faith. Instead of resisting the lies the devil was speaking to him and maintaining his rock-solid stance on the Word of God, he relinquished his position of faith and gave place to doubt and unbelief.
Seated before me that day was a man who had turned around and backed out of the life of faith he had once embraced. His whole mind was doused in defeat. He had even rationalized his defeat by immersing himself in a doctrinal system designed to support his depressing existence. The entire conversation with him just made me feel ill. It was sickening to see someone who once walked in victory now walking in such a terrible low-level existence.
That’s why Hebrews 10:38 says, “… if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” It isn’t a pleasurable experience to see someone who once made such advances later take a turn for the worse. In fact, it’s heartbreaking.
Perhaps you know people who once intensely longed to do the will of God and who firmly believed in what God had called them to do. But when it didn’t turn out the way they expected or when they hit a few unexpected bumps along the way, they said, “Forget this faith thing! It doesn’t work!” Did those same people then turn around and back away from what God had called them to do or from what He had revealed to them? Isn’t it sad to see what happens to people like this—people who had so much potential and who could have achieved so much if they had just held on a little longer?
Perhaps you are the one who once tried to do God’s will but then allowed yourself to become discouraged and defeated. Did you throw in the towel and let the devil have his way in ruining your dream? Did you give up, turn back, and withdraw from doing what you were called to be or to do? If the answer is yes, you’re probably disgusted with yourself and you feel unhappy and unfulfilled. Right?
Well, there’s no reason for you to remain in this miserable condition for the rest of your life. The table is prepared, and the meal is cooked. God is waiting for you to pull up your chair to the table, pick up your knife and fork, and begin again to dig into the awesome plan He has for your life. Don’t let discouragement keep you from being who God wants you to be. Just hold fast, hold tight, and determine that you’re not going to stop until you see your dream come to pass!
Aches and pains will soon be forgotten when the powers of hell move out of the way and your dream becomes a reality. When that happens, you’ll be so glad you didn’t take the low road and join the club of quitters!
Lord, I am asking You to help me stay focused and to remain determined to stay in my race of faith until I reach the finish line and receive my long-awaited prize! When the devil tries to dissuade me from holding on to my faith, help me to rebuke him, to command him to be silent, and to order him to leave! With Your Spirit empowering me, I know I will be able to keep believing and walking by faith until I finally see the manifestation of my dreams!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that regardless of how heavy the load or how long it takes, I am going to refuse to move from my faith position until I achieve the victory Jesus promises to me. I will remain steadfast in my commitment, and nothing can sway or move me to change my mind. I refuse to relinquish any of my God-promised territory! My faith is tough, resistant, persistent, obstinate, and stubborn. My spirit is so tenacious that it refuses to let go! It isn’t a question of IF my victory will come—it’s only a question of WHEN it will come!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
In discipling others, avoid these six myths about spiritual maturity
1. Spiritual maturity is automatic:
We should not assume that people will mature simply because they show up at church or religious activities: “By this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God‘s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12)
2. Spiritual maturity is mystical:
Some retain the idea that maturity is beyond the reach of the average person, and is reserved for a select few. Not so: “That the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature… ” (Ephesians 4:12b, 13a)
3. Spiritual maturity is instant:
Certain people believe maturity is bound up in a single experience, conference, person, etc. Rather, spiritual maturity is a process that takes time and involves a multiplicity of exposures. Mushrooms sprout over night. Redwood trees take a bit longer!
4. Spiritual maturity is knowledge:
While Biblical knowledge is indispensable, it must be weighted along with righteous behavior: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
5. Spiritual maturity is personal and private:
True spiritual maturity does not occur in isolation. There is no allowance in Scripture for an independent spirit, as God intends for us to engage in fellowship and accountability with other believers: “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together… but let us encourage one another… Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom… ” (Hebrews 10:24, 25a; Colossians 3:16b)
6. Spiritual maturity is Bible study:
While Bible study is vital, the process of growth also encompasses loving relationships, an appreciation of the gifts, and genuine worship.
Conclusion: Growing toward spiritual maturity is a process that starts with commitment, but also entails the development of spiritual disciplines, a Biblical perspective on life, Scripturally rooted convictions, Christlike character, and the skills necessary to help others find and mature in Christ.