Monday, July 31, 2017

Don't Give In; Don't Give Up

so that you may not be slothful, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.   Hebrews 6:12

The words for endurance and patience are often used in a prophetic sense in relation to
* the coming of the Lord, 
* inheriting the promises of God, and 
eternal rewards. 

In such passages we are shown how our eternal hope and the sure promises of God are very much the foundation and the means of patience with people or perseverance under difficult conditions. The word illustrates this when it says:

“so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.”  Hebrews 6:12 

“And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise”  
Hebrews 6:15

Moses was willing to leave the treasures of Egypt, 

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:25-27

It was the invisible, but very real future reward that gave Moses the capacity to endure ill-treatment with the people of God. 

One passage that strongly stresses this prophetic element and the way it should impact our ability to endure and show undefined patience is  found in the flowing passage:  

Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.  James 5:10-11

Two truths: 

   First, we need to endure life’s pressures and be patient with others because, we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes; all the negative situations we find ourselves in or what is causing the other person to do, say or act. 

   Secondly, our capacity for patience strongly depends on our confidence in God’s person and eternal purposes. The Lord Jesus, the great physician and sovereign all-wise Lord, can never let us down.  As James told his readers, we are to strengthen our hearts because the Lord’s coming is near: 

You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord's return is near. James 5:8

When He comes, he will wipe away every tear, right every wrong, and reward every faithfulness, sacrifice and acts of obedience.

Endurance and patience give us the capacity to plod on with joyous, hopeful, and loving determination in spite of disappointments, rejection, persecution, and other pressures that might otherwise cause us to throw in the towel. These two qualities give us the willingness and capacity to continue on because of a hope fixed on God as one who is compassionate and merciful, and on God’s purposes and eternal rewards.

The race God has called us to is tough. This truth is richly illustrated for us in the life of Apostle Paul.  Toward the close of his life, Apostle Paul could make three statements that we should all pray that we will be able to also make.  He made these statements and they were true of him because he saw his life as a drink offering, a sacrifice poured out for the Savior and because he lived with a view of heavenly treasures. 

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  2 Timothy 4:7

God never said it would be easy and we should never expect it to be so. Discipleship is costly. The tendency is to give in, to throw in the towel, but to have fought the good fight is to have continued to fight courageously and bravely regardless of the opposition and the opponents.

God’s power is evidenced in our lives not only in our patience and longsuffering, but also in our joyfulness. When circumstances are difficult, we should exhibit joyful patience; and when people are hard to live with, we should reveal joyful longsuffering. Apostle Paul wanted us to know God’s comfort that we might not only be comforted ourselves, but also be able to comfort others. The goal, however, goes beyond just comfort. The goal is that the Corinthians (and we too) might experience patient endurance. 

But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:6 

Naturally, to experience godly endurance or patience, we do need the strength that only God can give, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this strength is tied in with a joyful and thankful heart. Know these truths from God's word: 

©    Without trials accompanied by steadfastness or endurance, we will not and cannot grow

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
(James. 1:1-4)

©     Endurance means waiting on the Lord in the light of the knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture; it means the enlargement and deepening of our faith

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

*        Since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, endurance requires seeking, knowing, and resting in God in the light of His Word

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
  (Romans 10:17; 15:4).

(Biblical Studies)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Faith and Obedience

Image result for Mark 9:23

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  Mark 9:23
The first thing we should know is that God has equipped us with everything we need to deal with the world.  It doesn’t matter your age, your tenure in Christ, your family name or background; all it takes is faith in Christ Jesus and obedience to His word.

 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth mePhilippians 4:13

Today, I'd like to share the account of 3 young Israelite men taken into captive.  

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.  Daniel 1:1

The captives which included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given food outside of their dietary laws.

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.  Daniel 1:5

-        Compromising our standards; blending our standards does not strengthen us; it weakens us spiritually so that we are no longer capable of the full weight of God’s glory.

Many times we are put in situations where it seems it would just be easier to do things as the world does, but God has called us to a higher standard.  We are to set the tone and be the example that the lost, the unsaved, the unbeliever, and even the new babes in Christ, even the carnal saints can see the difference.  We display the pattern of holiness, the standard of Holiness that God demands be exhibited by us.  We cannot do this as long as we long for the things, ways, attitudes and appetites of the world when we are told:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  1 John 2:15

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

As we look at this account, we are speaking specifically of the dietary laws of the Jewish culture (found primarily in the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) which was given to them by God to keep them physically strong and healthy; not to mention that it was another way to distinguish them from their Gentile counterparts.

We find 4 young men who were put in a precarious situation.  They were being asked to eat foods and drink that were not part of their diet.  Why was the situation precarious?

-           ®  Their refusal to eat the king’s meat could have caused the prince of the eunuchs his life and possibly their life.
-            ® Peer pressure; the other Israelites that were captured had no complaint about eating the King’s meat
-            ® Carnality – giving in to influences other than God; lowering the standard of God
-            ® They would be going against the word of God

The last one; going against God’s word is the most important one!  No matter what comes against us or to us to influence us against the command of God, we are to hold to God’s standards.  The destination of our souls is far more important than the vessel that carries it.

There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.  Ecclesiastes 8:8

Just as King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the selected captives eat food that was fit for Him (and probably thought he was doing a good thing), we have the same situation in our lives today.  We have ungodly demands and influences placed on us every day – everything from lying and backbiting to stealing and killing.  And even though we do not have the fear of losing our life like Daniel did; we are fearful of losing family, friends, status, finances, etc. if we do not bow or give into the standards presented by the world.

Daniel wasn’t being pompous, super spiritual or being a martyr, he simply remembered the words of God; His instruction to them and he was obedient to the instructions:

Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.  For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.  Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
Deuteronomy 14:1-3 

The adherence applies today.  Peter comes along and he tells us, the body of Christ, the same thing:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  I Peter 2:9

No matter what, we have to maintain the standard to which we were first called and, when we gave that yes, chosen.  We are a peculiar people; not strange, not odd – but set aside to do the work of God.  We can’t do His works, we can’t represent Him when we don’t uphold His standards.

There is a stance that we should take no matter how precarious our situation becomes; we no not let go of God or lower our standards.  Against all odds, we should have the same resolve reflect by Queen Esther:  

. . . and if I perish, I perish.  Esther 4:16

3 of the Israelite captives had the same resolve:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.   If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.  Daniel 3:16-18

Jesus lets us know that we that access to someone greater than man that has dominion over our soul and this is the one that we fear:   

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Luke 12:4-6

Despite our circumstances, the standard of God should be held up.  If we are to provide a positive spiritual pattern for others, then we must understand and incorporate Biblical principles into our life.

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity (Titus 2:7)

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (Romans 6:13)

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
 (Matthew 7:13-14). 

The result of upholding God’s standards results in:

And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.  Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.  As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  Daniel 1:15-17

 In addition to Daniel's faith and obedience to God, there were two things that Daniel did that not only kept him; it allowed him free, uninhibited access to God:  Prayer and fasting!

Biblical Studies