Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TO THE OVERCOMERS


Overcome – to defeat, conquer, successfully resist

            Athletics has never been a strength of mine, and my weakness showed up in all its glory during Physical Education classes in my school years.  I did okay in some of the activities, but I wasn’t really good.  Obviously, everybody else knew it too, because I was usually one of the last ones chosen to be on a team.  That continued until the day the teacher announced that we would begin a segment on badminton.  We played in teams of two, and I suddenly found my niche in that class.  A friend of mine who was good at everything and later became a P.E. teacher, teamed up with me and we won the championship for all the P.E. classes!  We were unstoppable, and it felt great!  You don’t forget moments like that when you are used to being defeated and suddenly you are the conqueror.  It was glorious! I am probably the only person who remembers that, because it didn’t mean as much to anyone else.  But it felt so good to change my status and be a conqueror who was no longer beaten by my inadequacies.
            How about you?  Are you being beaten and defeated in your Christian life by the pull of the world?  This world, this culture, can be a trap to keep us down or it can be the challenge that causes us to rise up and overcome.  There is a way out of the trap, if we are willing to follow that path. 
            Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.”  That sounds like ominous news.  They were all about to fail on a large scale.  They were about to desert Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t stop there with their failure.  He went on to clarify His words.  He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)  Jesus was telling them that even in their scattered, fearful and unbelieving state, they could find redemption and peace.  They did not have to live in defeat.  They could be overcomers.  What was the game changer?  Jesus won the victory.  He has overcome the world, and because He did, we can too.
Jesus came in human flesh, and in that flesh, He lived a spotless, sinless, perfect life fully in the kingdom of God even while He walked the dusty roads and faced the devil in this world.  He was the perfect sacrifice Who took our sin on Himself, died and then rose again.  His death is our death (we are crucified with Christ).  His victory is our victory (we are risen with Christ).  The enemy has been conquered.  God has prevailed! That is where we get the power to conquer.  The Spirit of God in us will uproot the spirit of this world and the spirit of antichrist (the spirit in the world that opposes Christ and works through those who allow it).  The Spirit of God in us is unstoppable and will give us the power and strength to overcome.  We no longer have to be ruled by the dictates of this world.  We do not have to live in defeat.  We can be more than conquerors through Jesus Christ Who loves us. 
Those who are not overcoming are the ones who don’t know they can be overcomers, or those who have no desire to overcome the world.  Those who don’t want to overcome are comfortable in the world and have accepted sin as a normal lifestyle.  They really don’t see any reason to overcome.  Their lifestyle looks pretty much like everyone else’s, and they don’t want to rock the boat, even to be an overcomer and have eternal life.  Sadly, many believe it doesn’t matter because everyone goes to heaven, but as we will see, that is not the case.
In order for you to be an overcomer, there has to be something to overcome.  What is in the world that we are to overcome? Certainly our sin nature, but let’s be more specific.  Galatians 5:19-21 gives us examples of the outward behavior that stems from the nature of this world.  “Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ” (Amplified Bible) These components of earth-living will keep us ensnared by the world, and will lead us to destruction in hell for eternity. They will prevent us from entering into the kingdom of God, because choosing to be friends of the world means we are enemies of God.  But we don’t have to remain chained to that existence, because Jesus made a way for us.
            Let’s look at the next few verses in Galatians 5.  Like the words of Jesus we read previously, the good news will cancel the bad news if we apply it.  “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Amplified Bible)  When we have been born again of the Spirit of God, we exchange the spirit of this world for the Spirit of God.
            With the power of God working in us, not only can we overcome the practices of the sin nature, but God will do more than we can ask or even think.  He will do mighty works through us that we could never think of, much less accomplish on our own.  “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)    We will also overcome death, hell and the grave just as Jesus did.   
The ability to conquer this world with its temptations and trials comes by faith in Jesus. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)  Through faith in Christ, we break free from the spiritual gravity that holds us down, and we are lifted up into the kingdom of God.  We are like the space shuttles that separate themselves from this world’s atmosphere and soar into a whole new region.   
We remain in this world, but are no longer of it.  We are citizens of God’s kingdom.  However, Satan will continue to bring accusations against us, and try to make us believe we have to be a servant of sin because we cannot possibly live up to God’s rules.  He indicts us every time we make a mistake. He tries to make us forget about the mighty power of God that works in us. But overcomers will rise again when they fall.  “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”  (Micah 7:8 NKJV)  God gives us whatever we need to overcome our enemies and even our own failures. 
            We can be overcomers instead of being overcome if that is the life we choose.  It is a battle, but it is not a battle we fight on our own.  Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Don’t allow evil to conquer you.  You have the power of God’s Spirit within you to conquer it. We conquer evil by doing what is right and good, by allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through us.  James 4:7 puts it this way. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Be subject to God.  Yield the control of your life to Him.  The word ‘submit’ means to come under God’s control allowing His Word and His Spirit to govern us.  Study the Word of God so you can do what it says.  Let it change you.  Listen to the voice of His Spirit so you can follow Jesus.  Let Him lead you.  Then we are to resist the devil by setting ourselves against him, not by coming into agreement with him.  We oppose him.  It is the direct opposite of what we are to do with God.  We oppose the control of the enemy by allowing God’s Spirit to be in control.  When we do that, Satan will have to run.  The word ‘flee’ means to vanish, to avoid, to escape or to seek safety by flight.   An overcomer submits to God and resists the devil.

Let me leave you with a few Scriptures to encourage you in your life as an overcomer. 

Galatians 1:4 is speaking of Jesus when it says, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” (Galatians 1:4) 
As we submit, He delivers.
             
            “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) 
The greatness of His power is in us to conquer.

            “Who is the one who is victorious and overcomes the world? It is the one who believes and recognizes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.”  (1 John 5:5 – Amplified Bible) 
It is our choice.

“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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17



Now, go out and OVERCOME!

Monday, July 10, 2017

TO THE LEARNERS


Learner - a student, a follower, one who imitates their teacher, one who learns by inquiry or observation

            When I was in high school, I was required to memorize the first section of the Canterbury Tales which were written by Geoffrey Chaucher in 1387-1400.  I did well memorizing the words and even enjoyed the challenge of tackling the Middle English language.  As a matter of fact, after all these years, I can still quote a small part of it, although I have no idea what it means.  I’m sure the teacher explained it, because she was very thorough.  But, it wasn’t a lasting priority for me, so now all I am left with is a few memorized words. 
            There is a little phrase I have often heard, “use it or lose it”.  And it is true.  If we don’t take what we have heard and put it into practice, we lose it.        That’s why the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” God is working in us.  We need to go with what He is doing and let it shape who we are and ultimately what we do. It is not enough to know the words of truth.  We must incorporate them into our lifestyles until they become as natural as breathing if we are to learn of Jesus.
Many people call themselves disciples or learners of Jesus, but in actuality they have only memorized a few words instead of becoming imitators of His life.  There are some who hear the instruction of the Teacher and follow it, who cultivate the character and life of the Teacher.  Those are the true learners.  The ones who hear the words but remain unchanged are not.
Jesus calls us to come to Him and learn of Him.  Not just learn about Him, but to learn of Him.  We can learn from other people when they tell us about Jesus, but that is not enough.  He wants us to learn directly from Him.  He said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.” (Matthew11:29) Taking His yoke is the key to learning of Him.  This yoke unites us together with Jesus to work with Him toward a single purpose, His perfect purpose.  It keeps us at a steady pace as we pull together with Him.  We learn to match His steps and get in stride with Him.  If we try to work independently, we will hurt ourselves and impede our progress.  When we work yoked together with someone every day and in every situation, we don’t just learn what they do, we learn who they are.  We get to know their heart. The word ‘learn’ in this verse does not mean to simply learn the doctrine of Christ, but to learn Christ Himself.
Paul’s desire was to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.  He wanted to experience Christ in every area of life and become one with Him in the good and the bad.  He wanted to have the mind of Christ, to love what He loves and hate what He hates, to let Christ’s purpose become his purpose.  We all need that same passion to know Jesus and to imitate Him in our everyday life.  That’s what real learners do.  They have such a yearning in their heart to know Jesus that they lay aside other things.  The natural realm fades away as they walk in the Spirit of Christ.
            The twelve closest disciples to Jesus left behind their old lives and went wherever Jesus went, and they learned Who He was as they walked the roads with Him every day. They were yoked with Him.  Their connection was continuous.  It should be for us, too.  Prayer, our communication with God, is not a ritualistic discipline to be checked off our “to do” list every day.  It is a moment by moment connection with Him.  It is good to read our Bibles and pray during a certain time, but it shouldn’t stop there.  How does God fit into our lives for the rest of the day?  If you are caught in a stale devotional routine and have been wondering, “Is there more?”  The answer is ‘yes’. We can learn from Jesus, but we must acknowledge His presence more than just a few minutes a day.  The disciples learned because that was the most important aspect of their lives.  They had given up everything to follow Him, and they walked with Jesus daily in the mundane and the miraculous.  They were with Him morning, noon and night.  As a result, they knew Jesus Himself, not just His works. 
            When the disciples had questions, they asked Jesus.  When they were confused, they let Him know.  When there was a decision to make, they looked to Jesus for the right one.  When they disagreed with Him, they told Him and He would help them see things from a spiritual perspective instead of a physical one.  There were times He told them what was about to happen, and times when He told them it wasn’t for them to know right now.  But they learned because they were there all the time, not just part time. 
            The closer we are to Jesus, the more we will see things the way He sees them.  Being in the yoke with Him fuses our relationship, and we, too, can learn from Him as we walk daily with Him in the mundane and the miraculous.
One day, a crowd had followed Jesus out into a wilderness place because they wanted to hear His teachings and be healed of their diseases.  That evening the disciples told Jesus He needed to send them away to get something to eat in one of the villages.  Jesus said they didn’t need to go.  He said to the disciples, “You feed them.”  They told Him they only had five loaves and two fish.  So, Jesus said “bring them to Me.”  They brought them and Jesus blessed them, broke them and fed 5000 people.
The disciples had considered the situation in their natural minds, and they came up with a natural solution.  It seemed to be the best option.  But Jesus saw on a spiritual level, and the situation became a platform for a miracle.  Because the disciples heard Him and obeyed, He changed their focus.  They finally saw what Jesus had seen, but only after it came to pass before their eyes. Jesus can change our focus, too, if we will ask Him and obey what He says even when we can’t envision what He has in mind.  Many are facing circumstances that seem hopeless today.  If we ask God to let us see through His eyes and obey Him, we will see a platform for a miracle.  Stay in the yoke with Jesus.  Don’t try to pull the load alone.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  If you are not finding it so, it’s because it is not His yoke.
            We can also learn from Jesus by studying the Word of God.  A friend of mine said that one day when she was reading John 1 where it says “the Word was with God and the Word was God”, she realized, “If I know the Word, then I know God.”  When we read and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of His Word to us, we see the heart of God, the purpose of God, His compassion, His zeal for truth, and His power.  Sad to say, many who have been saved for years still don’t know Him.  They have grown very little. Why?  Because they have not worked out their salvation.  They have not taken on Jesus’ yoke. They have not allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal the Word to them until it is woven into the very fabric of their being.
First John 2:6 tells us, He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”  Some years ago the WWJD movement was widespread.  It challenged people to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” before making any decisions.  Then they were to follow in the direction Jesus would take regardless of the cost and regardless of who misunderstood them.  The problem was, it became more of a fad rather than the life-altering heart issue it was intended to be.  Yet, even today, it can have a life-changing impact on those who take it seriously.  After all, isn’t that what the first disciples did?  They came to Jesus with their questions, ideas, perplexities and needs.  It’s no wonder, because that is what Jesus showed them when He turned to the Father in prayer for that vital connection.  We need to ask ourselves that question, listen for the answer, and act on it.  “What would Jesus do in my circumstances?  What would Jesus say?”  “How would Jesus react?”  Jesus would do the will of the Father.  His will is found in the pages of God’s Word.  We can go there for answers.
What “hopeless” circumstance are you closing the door on?  Ask Jesus to show you what to do.  When you obey, He will work it out.  We become so earthly minded that we forget our spiritual roots when we need them most, and when others need us to operate on a spiritual level on their behalf.  The Holy Spirit is right alongside us to open our eyes to see things the way Jesus sees them.  We need to ask of Him.  When we have decisions to make, we need to see what God sees and follow His vision.  Are we growing more and more like Him?  We aren’t if we don’t know Him?
            There is an old song that says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus; All I ask to be like Him.  All through life’s journey from earth to glory, all I ask to be like Him.” That is the only kind of earnest, undying desire that will bring us to be true learners of Jesus.  Why do we cling to this world that is passing away when we can take hold of eternity? 

Release your grip and take Jesus’ yoke upon you and learn of Him!
His yoke is easy and His burden is light!





Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TO THE LOST


Lost – no longer possessed; wasted; unable to find one’s way

            My mother was working with a large piece of plexi-glass when it suddenly shattered into seemingly thousands of pieces.  Once she had gathered all the broken pieces, she put them in a bag and placed them in the trashcan.  Later that day, she realized the diamond was missing from her ring.  She looked for it everywhere she could think of and then remembered the glass in the trashcan.  It seemed to be a hopeless endeavor to find a diamond among so many pieces of glass, but she removed the bag, opened it up and began her search for the lost diamond.  She saw it almost immediately because the sparkle of the diamond stood out from the glass.  She was relieved and very happy when she found it.  The diamond was important, not only because of its monetary value, but because my Daddy had given it to her when they were engaged to be married.  It was worth the search to restore it to its proper place.
            We are like that diamond in the eyes of our Savior.  We are of great value to Him, and are worth the sacrifice He made to restore us.  We were all lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Their lives, and ours, changed drastically.
            Adam and Eve had a perfect life in the Garden of Eden.  No pain, sorrow, disease or any kind of evil was there. They also had access to God and freely enjoyed His presence.  But one day Satan began to speak to Eve through a serpent.  Eve was enamored at what she heard as the serpent began to question why God would tell them not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He told Eve, "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."  This put a question in Eve's mind.  Could they have more than they already possessed by eating that fruit?  Was God keeping something good from them?  The fruit didn't seem dangerous.  It was beautiful to look at, so she indulged. The truth was that God had forbidden them to eat the fruit of that tree because He knew what the knowledge of evil would do to us all, the heartache it would cause and the darkness it would bring to our spirits.  But Eve was deceived by Satan, so, she ate the fruit.  She gave some to Adam and he ate, too. 
            They had been created in the image of God, but when they chose to rebel against Him, the essence of God’s nature and His image in them immediately died.  Where their minds had been enlightened to spiritual things, there was only darkness.  Where they had walked in innocence, they felt the guilt of sin.  And for the very first time, they were afraid and hid themselves from God’s presence. 
            Even their bodies began the process of decline, bodies that were created to live forever. From that moment on, the children produced were born with that sin nature, capable of committing every heinous sin imaginable.  "This is the book of the generations of Adam.  In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth."  (Genesis 5:1-3, emphasis mine)
            What a tragedy!  But God immediately came seeking them in the garden.  He could have easily cut them off from His presence forever.  Instead, He came and “called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”  God knew where they were and He knew what had happened, but He called them out of hiding.  He confronted them with their sin and dealt with it.  He explained to them the consequences that occurred because of their sin.  But He went beyond that.  He let them know all was not lost.  He covered them and spoke of redemption.
So, as a result of one man's sin, we were all sold into sin, and we lost the perfect world that we were created for.  That’s why every soul has a longing for something more, an emptiness that needs to be filled.  That’s also why nothing in this world can fill it.  We were created for more.  God knew that and already had a plan to buy us back.  The first mention is found in Genesis 3:15. In speaking to the serpent, God said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  God came to us.  He came in the form of His Son Jesus Who allowed Himself to become a man so He could die in our place.  Jesus allowed Satan to bruise His heel.  But He defeated Satan when He was resurrected so we can be restored to the place of God’s original intent for us.  Jesus bruised Satan’s head.  He came to call us back to Him.  He came to restore what the enemy had destroyed in us.
Romans 5:19 tells us, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”  That first man was Adam who brought sin and death into the world and caused us to bear a sin nature instead of the pure nature of God.  Jesus is the One that makes many righteous and reinstates our spiritual life and awareness.
Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)  His purpose was very clear.  He did not come to condemn us.  We were already under a death sentence with no way to overturn it.  Jesus came to liberate us from judgment and restore our former existence.  He came to restore us to right standing with God and give us eternal life.  John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
            In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables about searching for something that was lost.  A woman had ten pieces of silver and lost one.  She searched diligently until she found it.  A man had 100 sheep and lost one.  He left the 99 to go find and rescue the lost one.  A grieving father’s son chose to leave his home and live a life of sin, but he came home repentant and was greeted by a rejoicing father.  In each instance, there was a celebration when the lost was restored to its former place.  Jesus told all these parables to stress to us how God has reached out to bring us back home to the place we belong - in His presence.
            Also in Luke 15, Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”  Repentance is our part.  It is the step we make toward God.  He meets us more than halfway.
            Jesus preached, “Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Amplified Bible)  Repentance is a complete turnaround.  It changes the whole life.  And Jesus said without that kind of repentance, we will not enter the kingdom of God.
            Remorse is not repentance.  Remorse is being sorry for sin, regretting what we have done, but it brings no change.  It will only increase the burden of guilt.  Neither is reformation repentance.  We cannot change ourselves no matter how badly we feel about our sin or how much we try to reform our actions.  Only true repentance brings us to rely on the mercy of God and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ for remission of sin. 
            2 Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way: “For [godly] sorrow that is in accord with the will of  God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but worldly sorrow [the hopeless sorrow of those who do not believe] produces death.”
            Once we have repented before God, and believed on Jesus (surrendering our lives to Him), we become new creatures.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Everything about us changes, from the inside out.  When Adam and Eve sinned, light turned into darkness.  When we are re-born, darkness turns to light.  When we are saved, we know it, because there has been a dramatic change.
            Let’s go back and revisit what Jesus said in Luke 19:10.  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  What was lost?  The nature and image of God within us.  We were lost because we were without God.  But Jesus came searching to bring us back into unbroken fellowship with God.  No fear, no guilt, no sin, no condemnation.  To be at one with God again.  To be reborn in His image.
            Romans 8:29 tells us that those who are born again will be conformed to the image of Jesus.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are changed into the Lord’s image “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  With the Spirit of God inside us, we can grow more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.  And His image will be increasingly evident in our outward behavior.  Colossians 3:10 says we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”  We can be reborn in His image.
            Are you lost?  If you are, stop hiding from God.  The wisest and safest place to go when we sin is to Him.  He offers forgiveness and a new birth that transforms who we are.  No matter what course your life has taken, all is not lost.  You can start over as a new creation in Christ.

Instead of the image of Adam, we can bear the image of God.




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TO THE SERVANTS

Servant – one who gives himself up to another’s will;
one devoted to another with disregard for their own interests

            A friend of mine asked me and a mutual friend of ours to sing a duet at her wedding.  Our friend had moved out of the area some years before and made the trip back for the wedding festivities.  As the order of the ceremony was discussed at the rehearsal, we singers were left as bystanders just waiting for our signal to sing.  My friend commented in his humorous fashion, “We are just the lowly musicians.”  But he was actually right.  We were there to do the bidding of the bride and groom.  We were standing by to sing when we were told to sing and sit when we were told to sit.  And it was the right thing to do.  We were not the central focus of the wedding.  Nor was the wedding being held so we could perform.  We were honored to be asked to play a small part in our friend’s special day.  A lot of people came and sat through the ceremony, but we had the privilege of being invited to take part in it.
            Paul called himself a servant of Jesus Christ.  The Greek word used is ‘doulos’, which means slave.  He had voluntarily given up himself and all his earthly interests to answer the call of God and to do His bidding.  He didn’t consider the cost too great.  He considered the honor more than he deserved.  Paul was single-minded and wholly devoted to Christ to the point of disregarding his own desires completely.
            If we constantly consider our rights and what is fair, we won’t be Christ’s servant, and we will get in the way of God’s purposes.  Jesus came to this world as our Savior and our example.  He didn’t fight for His earthly rights or stop carrying out the Father’s will when He wasn’t being treated fairly.  He said what the Father told Him to say and did what the Father told him to do, regardless of the consequences.  He knew God’s plan was perfect, and he didn’t allow His flesh to lead Him away from it.   God will not go along with our inferior, selfish plans.  He has a greater purpose than we could ever imagine.  And we are blessed beyond measure to be asked to take part in it.  But we need to remember, we are servants. [See Luke 17:7-10.]
            Jesus was clear about what is required of His servants. He said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)  The Greek word for ‘hate’ means to love less, to give a lower place of prominence.  It does not mean that we totally disregard our families and hold them in contempt.  It is a measure of our love for Jesus Christ compared to our love for our families.  Our love for Jesus must supersede our love for them.
            Jesus also said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)  If we deny ourselves, we completely set aside our personal interests.  We put the will of God first, and we follow wholeheartedly.  Taking up our cross simply means we follow Jesus’ example of saying what the Father tells us to say and doing what the Father tells us to do, regardless of the consequences.  We conform to the example He gave in His life and His death.
            Becoming a martyr is not the point.  The point is to follow the directions of the Master with complete abandon, and see His powerful results.  Our dream may be to do great things and have a large following.  God’s plan may be for us to do His work in obscurity.  On the other hand, we may want to settle down in a small, peaceful neighborhood, and God may be calling us to the front lines.  The question is, will we follow Him wherever He leads?  Will we set aside our dream in this world in order to break into enemy territory and release souls from the kingdom of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of God?  Will we do the work God has called us to, or will we take our ease, guarding our comfort and our rights?
            It may seem we are being asked to give too much.  After all, we only have one earthly life.  Jesus only had one life as a human, too.  But He gave it up for you and me, so that we could have eternal life.  It is not an unreasonable thing Jesus asks of us.  He gives us the opportunity to work with Him toward eternal things.  Think of a high-profile person you would love to be asked to work with.  It cannot compare to being invited to work alongside the God of the universe.  And we can only do it because He paid the ultimate price for us. 
            First Corinthians reminds us we are bought with a price, then tells us what to do about it. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (6:20)  “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (7:23)  Jesus set a value on us when He died in our place.  The value was high.  The price was the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else can remove our sins.  Nothing else can save us.  It was a tremendous price when Jesus took our sins on Himself. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”  (1 Peter 2:24)  Jesus bore in His body the sins of the whole world for all times.  He took on our pain, our sin and the death that belonged to us.  Have you ever felt the condemnation of your own sin or the pain of your disease?  Imagine having the weight of all humankind on you all at once.  He didn’t have to do that for us.  He chose to.  He valued us.  What value do we place on Jesus?   How we live our lives will give the answer.
            Paul wrote in Romans 6:16, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” 
            Jesus gives us a choice.  Without His sacrifice, we had no choice.  We served sin and we were going to die and go to hell for eternity.  Now, we can choose to be free from that sentence of death.  We can trade it for “life more abundant”, being in right standing with God and living forever in His presence where there is fullness of joy.  We all make a choice.  We either choose the default, which is serving sin, or we can opt out of the default mode and choose righteousness by yielding to Jesus.
            So, how do we yield?  When we yield to sin, we listen to the urging of our flesh and we follow what it says.  Often, we are so used to the “little voice” that we obey without even realizing what we are doing.  If we choose to yield to Jesus, we listen to the urging of the Spirit of God within us and follow what He says.  (The Holy Spirit resides in those who are born again.)  We also need to immerse ourselves in the written Word of God to guide us and help us know right from wrong.  We simply stand ready by God’s side and do what He says.  We offer ourselves to be used of Him.  Now, in this world, people use us and then let us down.  God loves us.  He won’t do that.  Remember the value He placed on you?  He has a lot invested in us.  He goes with us on every mission and never leaves us on our own.  So we can confidently submit to his commands.  If we yield to sin, the results will be disastrous and are irreversible.  But we must make a choice.  We cannot serve this world and Jesus at the same time.  “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (treasure or whatever is trusted in).” (Luke 16:13)
            As if having Jesus pay our penalty of death and giving us new life in Him wasn’t enough, He gives us more.  If we want to receive it, we need to continue moving forward with Him and recognize the great authority He has as well as His endless resources and matchless power.  There is no one greater than He is in any way.  His majesty is unequalled in heaven and earth.  We must bow to Him in every area, and recognize who we are without Him.  But, we must also understand who we are because of Him.
            Scripture tells us Jesus taught with authority.  He cast out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead with authority.  Even the religious rulers recognized His authority, but they were jealous and resisted Him.  Authority is the ability or strength that one is empowered with.  Someone with authority possesses the power to cause others to submit to their will and obey their commands.  Those with authority in this world have limited, territorial authority.  Jesus has unlimited power in every sense of the word.  He could have made the scribes and Pharisees bow down and worship Him, but that was not the point of His coming.   
            In Mark 13:34-37, Jesus spoke a parable that tells us what He has done for us, His servants.  “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” A servant has certain responsibilities, but with those responsibilities come the resources and authority of the Master. This master gave the servants everything they needed in order to carry on His work until he returned.  Jesus gives His servants everything they need, too.
            In Luke 9:1-2, we read, “Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” [See also Matthew 10:1-9]
            Before Jesus ascended, He told his disciples, “ But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you….”  (Acts 1:8a) It is the same Spirit by which Jesus worked miracles and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  As servants of Jesus Christ today, we have been offered the same power and authority by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will return, and we will be called into account for what we have done with His power and authority while He was gone. 
            If we are still yielding to the things of the world, God cannot use us.  If we yield to Him, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the will of God and empower us to do it.  This is not an acquired power, but power that is inherent, “power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature”.  It is not inherent in our fleshly nature, so the fleshly, sinful nature must die.  This power is inherent in us only by the Holy Spirit abiding in us.  That is why Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are to provide a body for the Holy Spirit to work through, and the Spirit within us is alive, fresh, strong, efficient, active and powerful.  It is then that we can complete the “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” in our lives. 
            When we choose to allow the Holy Spirit to direct who we are and what we do, we have begun to walk in the Spirit.  We have become obedient to the character of Christ as well as the calling of Christ in our life.  We have become a servant of Jesus Christ, and, like Paul, we will disregard our own desires to do His will.  We stand by, ready to hear His command.  When He says ‘go’, we will go.  When He says ‘be still’, we will be still.  A servant stays close to his master and listens…then obeys. 

What are you doing with your authority?


Saturday, April 15, 2017

TO THE FEARFUL

Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger, pain or a threat; dread; terror; cause to flight; cowardice; timidity

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock used to represent a countdown to global catastrophe.  It has been maintained since 1947 by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board.  The clock hangs on the wall in their office at the University of Chicago.  The factors that influence the “time” on the clock are nuclear weapons, climate-changing technologies, biotechnologies, cybertechnologies, and anything else that can destroy our civilization. On January 26, 2017, the Doomsday Clock was moved up by thirty seconds.  These scientists say we are now at 2 ½ minutes until midnight, or doomsday.
Few of us want to hear warnings about catastrophes in our future.  It strikes fear in us.  But even Jesus gave warnings to His disciples about things that were coming on the earth. He said that the powers of the heavens would be shaken, the sea and waves would roar, there would be distress among the nations, tribulation, persecution and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” Then He said, “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled”.  Jesus was telling His disciples not to fear all these things.
Don’t be troubled?  Don’t fear?  How can anyone face such overwhelming circumstances and not be troubled or afraid?  Why did He tell them those things?  To scare them?  Of course not!  He told them so they could be prepared…and so we can be prepared.
            If Jesus said not to be afraid, we need to take Him seriously that there is a way to conquer fear. We can find our way through the Word of God and by taking a closer look at the various types of fear.  Then we will see how Satan uses them to paralyze us and destroy our faith in ways we may not have realized before. When we see how Satan uses fear against us, we can be equipped.  Otherwise, fear will shut us down.  It will send us spinning in circles trying to fix things that only God can fix.  It will put our mind in a state of such turmoil that we cannot think clearly.  Fear is a diversionary tactic of the devil to turn us away from our faith and confidence in God. It paralyzes us from moving forward.
            Let’s look at some of the various characteristics of fear.  One of those characteristics is called dread.  Dread is an anxious anticipation of evil.  It isn’t terror, but rather an inner darkness and sense of foreboding.  It reminds me of the darkness and eerie stillness just before a tornado hits.  Dread hangs over us like the lull before the storm…even when there is no storm.  It gives us a continual sense of danger approaching.  When dread rules, we don’t expect anything good to happen.  We see the negative in every opportunity God sends instead of having confidence that He is working all things for our good.  We let dread lead us down the path of defeat instead of victory.
            Don’t you think Satan must have tried to put dread in the hearts and minds of the great men of faith?  “Joseph, you will never be free again.  Just be content that you have favor here in prison.”  “Peter, you missed your chance.  You denied the Lord.  It’s over now, and there is no turning back.”  We are not to live in a dream world and pretend our circumstances aren’t real, but we can’t let fear convince us they are bigger than God.
            Another type of fear will “cause to flight”.  It is something that makes us run.  That happens to a lot of people when God asks them to step out in a new area.  (Remember Jonah?) Or it may be a problem that is bigger than we are, so we are faced with a challenge.  We can accept the challenge, or we can run.  We can step out in faith to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, or we can retreat.  This type of fear will bring up every negative reason for us to turn away from the call.
            Even Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go?”  He brought up the fact that he wasn’t good at speaking and the people wouldn’t believe him.  Finally, he said, “O, Lord, send somebody else!” (my paraphrase)
            Fear probably tried to tell David, “You can’t kill Goliath!  Run while you have the chance.”  “Peter, you can’t walk on water or preach a sermon! Don’t do something foolish.”  And the enemy of our souls will call your name, too, and say, “you can’t (fill in the blank).”  Don’t listen to him.  When you are reasoning out if you can do it or not, don’t factor out God.  If Satan can trick us into listening to his voice and acting on it, he can snuff out our faith, just like putting out the light of a candle.  When God calls us to something or we face a challenge, He says, “Fear not, I am with you.” What more do we need?
            Cowardice and timidity are fears that cause us to withdraw from life in the Spirit.  This type of fear will immobilize us and cause us to constantly pull back because we are afraid to make a move.
            When I was a little girl, I was afraid of monsters under my bed.  Now, technically, I knew they weren’t there, but I was afraid of the darkness and the unknown.  It was an unfounded fear.  When we get older, our fears change, but most of them are still unfounded.  They turn into “what-ifs”.  “What if I fail? What if I heard God wrong?  What if people reject me or come against me? I might do the wrong thing, so I will just do nothing.”
            Usually, we know what God said, yet we keep questioning Him.  But He doesn’t say anything else because He has already told us what to do.  If we continue listening to this type of fear, it will hold us captive in indecision.  Then we will either compromise by doing something that seems a little safer, or we will hesitate in confusion and insecurity until the opportunity passes.  Either way, fear has done its job.  We cannot allow fear to intimidate us and rob us of our relationship with God and our work in His kingdom.  So, what are we to do?
            In Mark 4, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson in faith. They found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm in the sea. The storm they were battling was very real.  It was very dangerous and about to drown them all as the waves covered their boat.  It wasn’t an imagined danger, but one they were literally in the middle of.  They woke Jesus and asked Him, “Do you not care that we perish?”  And He said, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?  Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.  But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  (Matthew 8:23-27)  The disciples were given a glimpse of His power and authority, even over the wind.  They saw a little more clearly Who He was and what He could do.  They were learning to have a little more faith in every situation they encountered with Jesus. We can, too.
            Why are we so fearful?  Why do we have so little faith?  Faith comes from trusting Jesus, and trusting Him comes from having a close relationship with Him. And we can’t have a close relationship with Him if we don’t know Who He is, what He can do, what He taught, and what He still teaches those who will listen.   Faith will overcome fear.  Faith will lead us on in the face of danger and uncertainty. 
            When fear overtakes us and crushes our faith, we need to realize what is happening and overcome it.  Romans 10:17 tells us how.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is simple enough, but it takes some initiative on our part.  Be careful what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, what you allow inside of you.  If we are not careful, fear will set up a blockade between us and Jesus. When that happens, it blocks the light and we find ourselves groping in darkness.  Darkness brings fear and is full of lies.  Light brings truth. Truth brings faith. Faith eliminates fear.
The more we read the Word of God and listen to the voice of God speaking to our spirits, the stronger our faith will be.  Hearing the Word is the first step.  But, the word ‘hear’ means more than just hearing with the physical ear.  It means “a receiving of the message”.  In other words, we have to take what our ears hear and put it into practice day by day as situations present themselves to us.
Here is a random example.  When we read Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil”, then we need to use some self-control to keep from sinning when we get angry.  We also need to make sure we have our anger resolved before the day ends so it won’t take root in our spirits.  It’s that simple!  Follow the instructions you read in the Bible.  
Fear comes from hearing, believing, meditating on and acting on the words of the enemy.  It comes with practice.  Faith comes from hearing, believing, meditating on, and acting on the living Word of God.  It comes with practice.
It may sound like a terrible struggle, but it’s really not.  Our part is simply to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.” (Colossians 3:16)  It is a decision that will build confidence and trust in Jesus and a faith strong enough to conquer fear.  If you don’t eat any food for a few days, you will be weak.  If you don’t communicate with Jesus for a few days, you will be spiritually weak.
Remember, fear pushes us with threats and lies.  Faith leads us gently with light and truth.  Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We may see some perilous times, but He will be with us, and He will give us the kingdom.

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”


(Additional Scriptures:  Psalm 56:3; Luke 12:22-34; Psalm 46:1-10; Ephesians 6:10-18)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ARE YOU SLEEPING?



            The Amplified Bible renders 2 Corinthians 5:10 like this:  “For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].”  Please read it again, very slowly.  Let the gravity of those words sink into your mind and spirit.
            If suddenly you were revealed as you really are, what would people see?  Would it be a different you than they were used to?  What have you achieved?  What are you giving yourself to accomplish?  What or who has your attention?  What are your motives and purpose in what you are busy working toward?  We all have carefully learned answers to such questions.  Of course, we are giving ourselves to the work of the Lord for His glory.  Really?  That’s the right answer, but is it true?  Certainly it is the goal of every real Christian – to please God above all else.  But Satan is doing everything he can to turn us from that goal.  He is fighting hard because it is so close to the end.  He wants to lull us to sleep to keep us from accomplishing eternal purposes.
            When religion replaces relationship with Christ, we have been lulled to sleep.  When “getting out of the box” really means trading in tradition for the newest fad, we have become drunk with the world system, reeling from box to box and fooling ourselves.  When motivational speeches have replaced the message of Jesus Christ crucified, dead and resurrected to save us from our sins, denying ourselves and becoming one with the Father, we are severely lacking in truth.
            We seem to have forgotten passages of scripture like 1 John 2:15.  “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.”  If we believe that scripture, why would we want to copy the practices of the world by developing our Christian version of it?  We try to offer a “Christian alternative” to every holiday and trend of the world, but wouldn’t it be better to simply offer them Jesus in the power of His Spirit?  If we want to give them something different, why don’t we, instead of trying to wrap Him in their trappings?  We are not to live in darkness, but in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not a message to condemn, but an urgent message to rouse us out of our sleep to arise and follow Jesus.
            We are living very close to the day of Jesus’ return, the coming of antichrist and the judgment of God upon this earth.  It is of grave importance that we wake up from our slumber and become the people He has called us to be and do the work He has called us to do.  The hour is too late to offer emotionally charged but spiritually empty performances in Jesus’ name.  It is too late to offer messages that are only “bless me” oriented and leave out the teachings of Jesus that we are to sacrifice to bless others and selflessly do the work of the Kingdom.  It is too late for our churches to be passive rather than places of pure worship and equipping the saints to take the message outside the walls.  It is too late for us to be striving for positions, money, power and the honor of men, rather than taking on the role of a servant.  It is time to be kind to God and not always be asking Him to be kind to us.  We need to wake up!
 “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”  1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
            Those who sleep are in a state of partial unconsciousness.  Spiritually speaking, they are carnal (thinking from a darkened mind) and indifferent to the things of God’s Spirit.  They are sluggish in their understanding of spiritual matters and the times and seasons.  A person who is drunk has lost their self-control, their balance and their ability to think or express themselves because they have put poison inside them.  The word ‘intoxicate’ comes from the root of two Latin words; one meaning ‘in’ and the other meaning ‘poison’.  When we as Christians give our attention to the things of the world rather than the things of God, we are filling our spirit with poison.  We lose our ability to think and comprehend clearly.  We even lose our ability to walk in the Spirit and communicate clearly.  In either case, whether asleep or drunk, we are not fit to do the work of the Kingdom.  We are instructed to be alert and sober.  That may mean renewing our faith in a Holy God and giving Him the reverence He deserves.  It may mean renewing our passion for Him alone.  It may mean renewing our hope in His promise of salvation - His way, not our way.
2 Peter 3 tells us “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [behavior] and godliness”.   We Christians need to shake ourselves and wake up.  Where is our zeal?  Where is our power?  Just as alcohol is never the answer for the flesh, filling our minds with worldly things is not the answer for our spirit.  We need to keep intoxicants from our spirits so we can be spiritually alert.  Satan has offered us a sedative to make us comfortable in this world, and we have taken it.  His real intention is to take our eyes off Jesus.  Jesus never promised us a comfortable life in this world, but the power to overcome.  The only place we can find the power to overcome is at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him and being filled with His Holy Spirit.  Then we can have our minds transformed to the mind of Christ and be free from the influence of intoxicants.
We are warned further in 2 Peter 3, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.”  We may know the dangers ahead of time, but that alone will not save us from the enemy.
A soldier who studies the enemy’s tactics and learns how to conquer them, then settles down to sleep will be captured by the enemy and will put many others in danger.  Knowledge in itself will not get the job done.  It takes putting that knowledge into action. The scripture here tells us to “beware”.  That means to stay alert and be prepared for danger and the wiles of the devil.  
We need to watch.  The meaning of watching is not only to stay awake, but to stay awake because one is so intent upon something.  If we put all our emphasis on the enemy, we won’t have the offense ready.  The positive side is to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.”  2 Peter 3:18
As we are watchful of the enemies’ devices, we are also watchful in readiness.  If we want to be ready, we have to make the effort it takes to continually grow in grace (the Divine touch on our hearts and its outflow from our lives).  If we will observe the example of Jesus, we will discover He made time with the Father a priority.  His whole purpose was to do the Father’s will, so He had to know what it was.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is our lifeline.  It is everything, because we get our strength, wisdom and guidance from Him.  We need to become one with Him in character, in purpose, in service, in love.  We can only do that as we are consistently influenced by being in His presence.  The things of this world are passing away, and if we want to invest in something eternal, we must stay connected with Jesus Christ.  Just doing and saying the right things won’t work.  We must have the anointing (the touch of God) on our lives to give power and substance to our work.  As John the Baptist observed, we must decrease and Jesus must increase.  Our wants and desires must fade away as we merge into His will and desires.  In this close fellowship and walking it out in our lives, we will be set free from the bondage of the temporary to soar with the eternal.

“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TO THE DISCONTENT


Contentment – a state of being satisfied or easy in mind

            Are you content?  Part of the time? All the time? Never?  What makes you feel content?  I enjoy quiet, unrushed moments when I’m alone with the Lord.  They give me a sense of contentment.  Finishing a task I had been dreading to tackle can also give me a feeling of satisfaction.  Of course, being with family, a peaceful vacation and many other circumstances can bring contentment.  But when those circumstances are past, the feeling of contentment goes with them.  And what about the days when there are no quiet moments, the work load is overwhelming, the family isn’t around and our circumstances have left us alone and afraid?  We need something that never changes if we want true, lasting contentment.  Situations change. Relationships change.  Our needs change.  The contentment they offer today may be pulled out from under us tomorrow, leaving us discontent.  But we can have an abiding contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
            Paul had a firsthand understanding of the complexities and even brutalities of this world.  But he had a greater understanding of the realm of God’s kingdom.  In Philippians 4:11 he made this statement: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Paul had learned from experience to be content regardless of his condition or status.  His comfort level was not the prerequisite for his contentment.  Whether he had plenty to eat or was hungry, he knew God would not let Him down. If everyone else was against him, God was for him.  Paul knew what it was like to have to restrain people from worshipping him, but he also knew what it was like to be tracked down, hated, stoned, persecuted and thrown in prison without a cause.  Yet he said whatever his status, he had learned to be content with it.
To ‘be’ is to exist in the present.  When troubles come, it’s easy to long for the pleasant days of the past or try to block out the present by looking to the future as we ‘wait it out’.  But even in the hard times, the unfair times, we need to be present in our existing circumstances and look for the purpose of God in them.  We can look around us and say, “What is God’s work here?  He has me here for a purpose, so what is it?”  It may be to turn our attention back to God.  It may be an open door for ministry.  When we find it, we need to move with it.  That is where Paul found contentment.  Knowing and doing the will of God.  That is where we will find it, too.
            How could Paul be content when his circumstances contradicted everything we consider essential for contentment?  He gives us the answer in verse 13.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  That scripture is not just a mantra that if repeated over and over will come true.  It is much more than that.  Paul had learned from experience that it is a rock-solid truth he could count on.  Paul accepted the will of God, but not without the strength and ability of God.  We can, too, but we have to choose to set our focus and goals on a higher realm of living.
            Paul had learned that real, lasting contentment is found only in Christ.  Before his encounter with Jesus, he was a Pharisee.  He had enjoyed prestige and the best this life has to offer.  But he learned contentment was not found in the long, repetitious prayers prayed in public, or being called “Rabbi”, or even in having the esteem of the people, his peers and his superiors.  The pride of the position he had earned by a well-disciplined life fell short of bringing contentment.  He found contentment in giving everything for the cause of Christ.  And Christ became everything to him.
            Paul was always fully engaged in his present circumstances. When he stood in chains before Festus and king Agrippa, he seized the opportunity to give testimony of how Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and how his life was changed. When he was shipwrecked on an island, then bitten by a poisonous snake, it was all for the glory of God.  It led to the salvation of those on the island.  When he was arrested in Jerusalem, it was his ticket to Rome where God had called him.  Even during his imprisonment there, he continued to write and share the gospel with everyone who came to see him.  Paul did the work of the kingdom of God wherever he was.  He didn’t need a formal invitation.  His circumstances were his invitation.
            Because of the hardships in his life, Paul stood before kings, worked miracles, shared the gospel with most of the world, and wrote a large portion of the New Testament by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  He was content in the will of God.
            Jesus is the perfect example of finding joy and contentment in doing God’s will.  Even as He struggled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was set and determined to do God’s will.  He had the power to free Himself with one word.  So, how did He find the resolve to give Himself over to the torturers?  It was for the joy of doing the Father’s will.  It was for the joy of knowing He was buying our redemption. 
Hebrews 12:2 speaks of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He knew what was ahead, and He allowed Himself to be tortured, humiliated, ridiculed and crucified for the joy that was set before Him, and for the joy He brought to those who believe on Him.
I know this is a poor example in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, but it will give us a picture of the principle involved.  I don’t like to clean house.  Scrubbing sinks, bathtubs and toilets and vacuuming, dusting and mopping don’t really bring excitement into my life. I dread it, but I do those things because I know what will happen if I don’t.  It would leave us in unhealthy living conditions, and all the clutter would overwhelm us.  I do it because I know the benefits and the light feeling that comes with a clean house.  The work is worth it.  It leaves me with a sense of contentment.
We were worth it to Jesus because He loves us.  He knew our sins had overwhelmed us and would destroy us, and there was nothing we could do to redeem ourselves.  He saw the end result – our redemption.  He also found joy in pleasing the Father by accomplishing His plan. We can find that same joy and contentment, knowing we are in the will of God.
We are called to lay aside anything and everything that will take us away from accomplishing God’s will.  If we will give up the struggle and give in to walking in God’s will (following His Word), we will find contentment there. If we offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, being transformed by His Word and refusing to be conformed to this world, we will walk out the perfect and acceptable will of God in our lives.  Even our harshest circumstances can prove to be of great value to us and the kingdom of God.
First Timothy 6:6 tells us, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Godliness is holiness and righteousness that is ours only through Jesus’ sacrifice and the abiding Spirit of God in us.  It cannot be earned.  We can have the life of Christ in us and be free from the guilt of sin, all because Jesus walked in the Father’s will and paid for our freedom.  Now we need to set ourselves to walk in the Father’s will and see what He will do through us. 
Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21, emphasis mine) We live in the kingdom of God by doing the will of the Father.  We can have the Spirit of God alive in us, changing us to be more and more like Jesus, guiding us, giving us understanding of God’s Word.  That is the epitome of contentment – living the full life of freedom in the kingdom of God, the perfect will of God.  We can be satisfied even in the most difficult of times, because we know the One Who has promised to provide everything we need.  When we learn to trust in the all-powerful hands of God, we can have a mind that is at peace with its lot in life, hands that are ready to seize every opportunity, and an assurance that we have more than enough of whatever we need.  We can go through the hardships with joy because we are accomplishing God’s plan.
What are you leaning on to make you content?  Is it a relationship, a promotion, a bigger house or retirement? If it is the things of this world, I can assure you it is not enough and it won’t last.  It’s amazing, that most things we think will bring us contentment are dreams for the future that will probably never come to pass.  But, we can start being content here and now, in our ‘present’, wherever that may be.  Because only following Jesus will bring contentment that weathers the storms of this life and ushers us into His presence.  Only by His Spirit can we recognize the will of God and walk in it. That is contentment.

Are you content?


Do you want to be?