Archive for May 20, 2012
Tags: Christ, Christianity, Epistle to the Philippians, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Luke, Mind of Christ
By your patience possess your souls —Luke 21:19
There are certain things in life that we need not pray about— moods, for instance. We will never get rid of moodiness by praying, but we will by kicking it out of our lives. Moods nearly always are rooted in some physical circumstance, not in our true inner self. It is a continual struggle not to listen to the moods which arise as a result of our physical condition, but we must never submit to them for a second. We have to pick ourselves up by the back of the neck and shake ourselves; then we will find that we can do what we believed we were unable to do. The problem that most of us are cursed with is simply that we won’t. The Christian life is one of spiritual courage and determination lived out in our flesh.
Tags: Apostle Paul, Christ, God, Messenger of Satan, Paul, Satan, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Thorn in the flesh
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9
A small, older, hunched-over lady greeted us with a glowing smile at the doorway of our little son Matthew’s Sunday school room. She was one of the most effective Sunday school teachers at our church, and Matt loved her. I’ll never forget the time she told me, “Pastor, God made me small and bent over so that I can be right down here where the children are! If I weren’t like this, I couldn’t relate to them so well.” I was blown away by her perspective on her plight in life—her “thorn in the flesh.”
A thorn in the flesh is any affliction in our lives that, if we aren’t careful, can defeat us with a good dose of self-pity and embitter us toward God. But the important thing to know about our thorns is that Satan desires to use them to defeat us, while God is determined to use them for our good and His glory.
The apostle Paul is probably the most famous example of someone who was stuck with a thorn in the flesh. Paul knew right where the thorn had come from. He referred to it as a messenger of Satan. And though Paul never tells us what his thorn was, I think it’s clear that it was a serious problem to Paul. He said: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). God didn’t answer his prayer with a miraculous healing, but rather assured Paul that, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
It’s important to know that when God permits a thorn to remain, He gives us grace to accept it and sometimes even the grace to understand the purpose for which the thorn is intended. Paul came to realize that God permitted his affliction “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul was a gifted person and could have easily become proud in his abilities and accomplishments. That proud spirit would have been a disaster to his usefulness for God. So God took what Satan had intended to defeat Paul and turned it into a smashing victory by enabling him to stay appropriately humble and therefore useful.
Getting a grip on why God permits our afflictions, weaknesses, or disabilities to remain has a powerful effect on our attitudes. Instead of shaking his fist at God and grumbling about his thorn, Paul realized that God’s power was being made perfect in his weakness. That insight produced an upbeat spirit of delight and satisfaction. As Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
We normally don’t think of being strong in weakness, but that’s just how God works. He knows that if we think we are strong in and of ourselves, then we will become proud and self-sufficient. And when we feel that way, we are in reality very weak and unable to accomplish much of anything except for thinking how cool and capable we are. God has a better plan. When He needs to accomplish really great things through us, He sometimes needs to get our twisted view of ourselves out of the way. So He takes Satan’s intrusions into our lives and beats Satan at his own game! You may see it as a thorn, but God sees it as a triumph!
You don’t have to be Paul to start seeing what God is doing through your thorn. Rejoice that He cares enough to keep you from getting in the way of the great things that He wants to do through your life!
- Read Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-9. What do these passages have in common?
- What thorn is sticking in your side right now? How could God use it to glorify Himself?
- Have you given in to your thorn to the point where it has made you bitter and defeated? How can you reclaim that ground for Christ’s glory?
- Thorns are a mark of suffering. It is no coincidence that Jesus wore a crown of thorns before He was crucified. What does Christ’s suffering mean to you?
Tags: David, Evil, God, Judaism, King David, Psalm, Religion and Spirituality, World to Come
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” — Psalm 73:2–3
If you have ever looked around at the world and the child in you screamed “it’s not fair,” then Psalm 73 is for you! You are in good company too. Like most people do at some point in their lives, King David strives to understand why the wicked prosper while the good suffer. In this Psalm, he expresses his frustration, but also his resolution.
The psalmist gives words to the feelings so many hold inside: “This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth” (v.12). We look around and see a world in which many evil people have it so easy.
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence” (v.13). And then there are the good people, and even saintly people, whose lives bring them one struggle after the next. So what’s it worth? All the prayer, the good deeds, and all the faith in the world – and still they have it tough. Is it all in vain, as the psalmist suggests? Is there no divine justice in the world? Even King David had to ask.
“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (vv.16–17). Once the psalmist looked at life from a godly perspective, he understood this deeply troubling issue. From our limited human perspective we experience life as physical beings that, on occasion, have spiritual experiences. But the truth is that we are spiritual beings, and for a limited amount of time, we are having a physical experience. We did not come from this planet, and we won’t be staying here forever. We are on a trip until the day we arrive home.
From this perspective we can understand that we don’t see the whole story down here. The “final destiny” of the wicked – and of the righteous – will be decided up there. Our existence in this world is so very limited. However, life in the world to come is for eternity. It’s not easy to suffer in this world, but deep down we all know that it’s our final destiny that matters most.
Next time you find yourself frustrated with the cards you were dealt, remember to S-T-O-P: Stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath. Observe the true reality and shift your Perspective. Then, like the psalmist, you also will be able to find comfort and say “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v.26).
Tags: Christ, Christianity, Denominations, God, Jesu, New King James Version, Religion and Spirituality, Sin
When God takes all our iniquities with his own hand, and casts them with his own arm into the depths of the sea, they will never come out of those depths to witness against the family of God in the great and terrible day. Your sins now may seem to be all alive in your breast, and every one of them to bring accusation upon accusation against you. This sin is crying out for vengeance, and that for punishment. This slip, this fall, this backsliding, this foolish word, this wrong action, are all testifying against you in the court of conscience. Do what you may, be where you may, live how you may, watch and pray how you may, keep silent and separate from the world or even from your own family how you may, sin still moves, lives, acts, works, and often brings you into guilt and bondage. But if God has had mercy upon us he has cast all our sins with his own hands into the depths of the sea, and those sins have no more eyes to look at us with angry indignation, have no more tongues to speak against us in voices of accusation, have no more life in them to rise up and testify that they have been committed by us, that God’s law has been broken by them, and that therefore we are under its condemnation and curse. And there is no truth in God’s word more certain than the complete forgiveness of sins, and the presentation of the Church of Christ at the great day faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Tags: Christ, First Epistle of John, Jesu, Luke, Mainstream media, Prediction, Radio in the United States, Second Coming of Christ
Through the years, quite a few people have predicted the return of Jesus at a specific time. Just last year an American radio preacher stirred up the interest of the mainstream media with his prediction that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011.
Anyone who knows Scripture well knew that this advance warning wasn’t accurate, because Jesus Himself said His return would be “at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40). But I do have to admit that this prediction captured my attention. Often I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I live as though Jesus’ return is some distant reality. I forget that Jesus could come back at any time. The prediction, wrong as it was, reminded me about the importance of being prepared for my Savior’s return, and it renewed my excitement that it could be any day—even today.
Sometimes when we think of being ready for Jesus’ return, we think about what we shouldn’t be doing. But being prepared is really about purifying ourselves and becoming more and more like Him so we are pleasing to Him when He comes back for us (1 John 3:2-3). Jesus taught that being ready for His return requires living according to our Master’s will now (Luke 12:47). Will we be prepared when it’s time for the real thing?