Jan 28, 2012
Jan 28, 2012
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? . . . But I trust in your unfailing love. Psalm 13:1, 5
The first time I saw him, I cried. He looked like a perfect newborn asleep in his crib. But we knew he would never wake up. Not until he was in the arms of Jesus.
He clung to life for several months. Then his mother told us of his death in a heart-wrenching email. She wrote of “that deep, deep pain that groans inside you.” Then she said, “How deeply God carved His work of love into our hearts through that little life! What a powerful life it was!”
Powerful? How could she say that?
This family’s precious little boy showed them—and us—that we must depend on God for everything. Especially when things go horribly wrong! The hard yet comforting truth is that God meets us in our pain. He knows the grief of losing a Son.
In our deepest pain, we turn to the songs of David because he writes out of his own grief. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” he asked (Ps. 13:2). “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (v. 3). Yet David could give his biggest questions to God. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (v. 5).
Only God can bring ultimate significance to our most tragic events.
Where do I turn when a crisis hits me? Do I ever get angry with God when facing grief and loss? Am I afraid to share my true emotions with Him? Have I ever asked God for His peace?
God can do the most with what we think is least.
We may be surprised to hear a cry of abandonment coming from David, a man who knew God intimately. Psalm 13 describes David’s struggle. He was threatened by powerful enemies and distressed by God’s seeming prolonged apathy and absence, feeling forsaken in the time of his greatest need. “How long, Lord?” he asks. David questioned if God would ever come to his rescue (vv. 1–2). Even as he felt the sting of abandonment, David turned his turmoil over to God, asking Him for a deeper understanding of his circumstances (vv. 3–4). Anchoring himself in God’s unfailing covenantal love, David renews his trust in God (vv. 5–6).
Like David, you may be going through a rough patch, engulfed by feelings of dread and abandonment. God may seem silent, but He is never absent. Scripture confirms He will never leave or forsake anyone who calls on Him (Heb. 13:5–6).
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I thought the Christian life was going to be easier than this. Have these words ever entered your mind? Sometimes we come before our heavenly Father, thinking that He will fix all of our problems and devote Himself to our happiness and comfort. However, that is not the reality portrayed in Scripture. The apostle Paul was a man whom the Lord used greatly, and yet his life was anything but easy.
In fact, at one point Paul thought his pain was too much to bear, and he begged God to remove it. There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to relieve our suffering, but what should our response be if He doesn’t? The apostle probably had no idea that His experience would find its way into the Bible, to comfort and guide believers throughout the ages. The promise God gave him applies to us as well: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God’s grace could be defined as His provision for us at the point of our need. The problem is, there may be times when it doesn’t seem the Lord is truly meeting our need. But He frequently sees deficiencies, outcomes, and complications that we don’t. His goals for us involve spiritual growth, the development of Christlike character, and strong faith. And trials play a vital role in achieving such things.
The important issue is how we respond. If all you want is relief, you could descend into anger and doubt. But if your desire is to become the person God wants you to be, you’ll see each trial as an opportunity for Christ to display His character and strength in you.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
It is nearly impossible these days to turn on the TV, go shopping, go out to eat, read a newspaper, go online, etc., without our minds being cluttered and our thinking infiltrated by all sorts of improper thoughts. In our text, Paul gives us guidelines for our thinking. Let us investigate them.
True—or genuine, honest, and sincere. We should concentrate on honesty in all our dealings, for “God is true” (John 3:33) and Christ said, “My record is true” (John 8:14).
Honest—or better, honorable toward all. Strive to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2).
Just—or equitable. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal” (Colossians 4:1).
Pure—without spot or stain. “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).
Lovely—literally “towards love,” i.e., those things that demonstrate love or a response of love. This word only appears here in the New Testament.
Of good report—that which elicits praise.
Virtue—a standard of righteousness. He “hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
Praise—our speech should be to “the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:14).
Surely our lifestyle and thought patterns need adjusting as noted above, particularly when the verb tense in the command “think on these things” implies a lifelong habit—a continuous way of doing things. JDM
After all, there is something even among men worth the having; something which may well justify the choice of the righteous in walking in his integrity. To be enrolled among the martyrs and confessors, or among the humbler saints, is no mean blessing; he whose memory lives after him, in fresh aroma of holiness and benevolence has not lived in vain. To such men the day of death is the laying of the top stone of their character, and its shoutings are more joyous than those which celebrated the fixing of the foundations.
Experience has proved to all wise men that the solid lessons which they gather in the house of mourning are more valuable, more sustaining, more consoling, and so in the end more fruitful of joy, than the frivolities which merely mask the sadness of the heart, and pass away as in a moment, leaving deeper wretchedness behind them, like the black spots which show where once thorns blazed their little moment.
Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift or rather a bribe
By perverting the judgment and killing the conscience.
The best man feels the occasional flash of anger, but bad men feed the flame; their wrath smoulders long, and is ready to burst forth whenever the breath of memory fans it. To be “angry and sin not” is a hard matter. May God grant us grace to rule our temper, or it will be our ruin.
Those who cry up the good old times should remember that time was never older than it is now, and it is a great question if things were ever better than at this present moment. Let us leave off idle complaints, and try to make our times better, and wherein we cannot alter them, let us leave them to God.
Men who have an inheritance and no wisdom are in a sad position, for they have great responsibilities, but no grace to meet them; the truest profit is true religion. He is the richest man who has God for his inheritance.
Understand by wisdom, the true wisdom, namely vital godliness and the meaning of Solomon is clear. There is no real life apart from faith in the Lord Jesus; faith is a defence for our life, as well as the great means of life.
Ecclesiastes 7:13, 14
Trials there must be. This side of heaven there must be thorns with the roses, and clouds with the sunshine. It is our wisdom to act rightly under all circumstances; to bless the Lord when his mercies overflow, and to turn to him penitently when he smites us with the rod. The Lord does not intend that his birds of Paradise should build their nests on any of the trees of this life’s forest, therefore he sends his roughest winds to rock the branches to and fro, that his chosen may take wing and fly aloft to the heavenly land, whereupon the tree of life they may sing for ever, and never more be disturbed.
As you grow in your walk with God, you will discover that one of the strongest forces you’ll have to face and overcome is your own flesh! Your flesh will try to oppose you, stand against you, and coax you into believing that you can do a little but still get a lot.
If you’re going to be mightily used by God, your flesh must be disciplined so it can become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit can flow. You have to pay the price of crucifying the flesh in order to have the resurrection power of Jesus Christ expressed through your life.
If you look at a child with no parental guidance or discipline, you’ll see exactly what the flesh does when it has its own way. The child will probably lie around, watch television, and eat junk food from morning till evening. And any person who lets his flesh do what it wants will most likely adopt the same lifestyle! That’s why dealing with the flesh is almost like chastening a child. The flesh must be controlled, corrected, and made to obey even if it wants to do otherwise. The process is painful, but the rewards are eternal!
This is what Hebrews 12:11 is talking about when it says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
The word “chastening” in this verse is the Greek word paideia, an old Greek word for the education or instruction of a child. It comes from the word pais, the Greek word for a boy. However, as time passed, the word paideia came to signify the education of all children. By the time of Plato, the word paideia included not only the education of children, but also of adults. The concepts of discipline and regimen were so intrinsically interwoven in this word that in Luke 23:16 and 22, the verb form of the word paideia is translated as the word “chastise” and refers to Jesus being whipped or scourged as punishment.
So when this verse speaks of “chastening” in Hebrews 12:11, it refers to disciplinary attitudes and actions that lead to one’s betterment in life or to one’s education. The fact that this word can also be translated as a whip, a scourge, or punishment explicitly tells us that rigid discipline is required for the flesh to be chastened and changed so that fruit can be produced in one’s life. The word paideia describes not only the process of education and change, but also the attitude required to bring about these benefits. An attitude of discipline is obligatory if the flesh is ever to make the needed changes.
Although the benefits of disciplining the flesh are too many to list, Hebrews 12:11 informs us that when this disciplinary process is in full force, it doesn’t seem joyous but rather feels “grievous.” The word “grievous” is the word lupe, the Greek word for pain, distress, trouble, grief, or sorrow. Although the discipline itself is good for us and provides us with the means to change, the flesh hates it when discipline is forced on it!
Haven’t there been moments when your flesh screamed in disgust at the idea of discipline and commitment? It may be painful for the flesh to be crucified, but it is essential if you’re going to render your flesh dead to sin and alive to God so He can transform it into an instrument through which His power and wisdom can flow!
Hebrews 12:11 says that this discipline will yield “… the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” The word “exercised” is the Greek word gumnadzo. This word gumnadzo depicts radical discipline! It was the word the ancient Greeks used to portray the athletes who exercised, trained, and prepared for competition in the often barbaric athletic games of the ancient world. It is where we get the word gymnasium.
This word gumnadzo (“exercise”) portrays people who want to develop and change so much that they are willing to put themselves through vigorous, demanding, and strenuous discipline in order to bring about change and to achieve the results they desire. Now Hebrews 12:11 uses the word gumnadzo to tell us that if we will discipline the flesh, we will see great results in our lives, for we will begin to yield “… the peaceable fruit of righteousness….”
Let’s face it—there is nothing more thrilling than to see progress in your life. But to get the kind of progress you desire, you will be required to do something more than you’ve been doing. You will have to say no to your flesh, denying its appetites and disciplining yourself to do what God says even if your flesh doesn’t want to do it. This process often feels long and laborious, but afterward when you can see and appreciate the results, you’ll be so glad you didn’t quit!
So let the Holy Spirit exercise His discipline in your life. If you’ll pay the price to crucify your flesh and to submit yourself to discipline, it will pay off with big dividends. You may not see immediate, tangible results while you are training and preparing. But eventually you will see the fruit of your labor, and you’ll be so glad you took your flesh to school and taught it to obey!
Lord, I admit that I need help in bringing discipline to my flesh and my emotions. Forgive me for being too easy on myself and help me to be fiercely committed to bringing my body and my flesh under the control of the Holy Spirit. I want to be Your instrument so Your power can flow freely through me. So please help me today to submit to Your Word and to the control of Your Spirit. From this day forward, I purpose to no longer give my flesh the freedom to have its way in my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I declare that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are working inside me! Every day my flesh is being rendered inoperative and my body is responding less and less to sin as I reckon myself alive unto God. I am God’s instrument. His power flows through me. Because I am allowing God to bring discipline into my life on a daily basis, I have become a mighty weapon He can use to set people free and to make a significant difference in the world around me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
It may be painful for the flesh to be crucified, but it is essential if you’re going to render your flesh dead to sin and alive to God so He can transform it into an instrument through which His power and wisdom can flow!
Forget the IRS or the SEC. It’s the searing eyes of Jesus we need to be aware of.
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw… someone ‘like a son of man,‘ dressed in a robe… with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, AND HIS EYES WERE LIKE BLAZING FIRE.” (Revelation 1:12-14)
Yesterday I had lunch with a senior officer of a conglomerate who is intimately knowledgeable of the inner workings of the organization: Keeping double books, the cannibalizing of one company to shore up another, and the manipulation of reports to satisfy SEC and IRS scrutiny are all standard practices.
The CEO and CFO (who are also the controlling shareholders) determine senior management procedures. They are also professing Christians, who are known around town for their involvement in Christian missions and other programs related to the Gospel.
This senior officer went on to tell me that because of their hypocrisy, the non-Christian executives in the conglomerate mock anything that is labeled “Christian” and view the CEO and CFO with great contempt. Clearly, these two men have become stumbling blocks to their non-Christian employees. As he talked, I thought of the Scriptures’ warning:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men‘s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-29)
“If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6b)
“[When] the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men‘s hearts… What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (1 Corinthians 4:5b; Luke 12:31) (See Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 14:25)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither… thieves nor the greedy nor… swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10)
QUESTION: On the inevitable, and forthcoming day of judgment for believers, will your current business and professional practices withstand the searing, and all-knowing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ – Let alone the more immediate prospect of an inspection by the SEC or IRS? (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Are there specific changes you need to make at this time relative to your business practices?