Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Sunday in the Study Today

There is no Sunday Sermon today. This is the 5th Sunday of the month. I have adopted the practice of using the 5th Sunday to get away and recharge my spiritual "batteries." We shall, Lord willing, be attending either the Trinity Baptist Church or the Trinity Bible Church.

Please check back in on February 7th when we shall, Lord willing pickup our study in Romans 3:21-26.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

S. P. E. E. C. H. and P. A. T.

In order to gain the maximum benefit from a passage of scripture during my quiet times, I use the following formula to extract the riches of God buried in the depth of the passage. This formula can be used and modified in order for you to thoroughly meditate on the passage at hand. As you read and think through your passage ask the following questions:

Is there a (an)...

Sin to Confess
Promise to Claim
Example to Copy
Error to Consider
Command to Complete
Hypothesis* to Construe

*a hypothesis is an idea or explanation that you then test through study and experimentation. Although we cannot conduct experiments on the bible, I use this term loosely to imply a general idea or thought that is expanded by study of the bible

Is there a (an)...

Praise to Commend
Attitude to Change
Truth to Champion

Don't just answer the questions with a simple "yes" or "no." Write out the answer when applicable and act upon your answer appropriately. 

For an example, if a passage is dealing with lying and you know that lying to be a sin and that you have in one way or another lied, the answer to is there a sin to confess it would be:

Sin to Confess:  Lying or failing to tell the truth. Action would then be to confess to God the lies that were told and also to recognize that lying is a terrible symptom of an even greater problem, our sin nature. 

Friday, January 29, 2016


1.                 God has spoken to man – bible is given to make man wise unto salvation

2.                 God is Lord over the world – He rules all things for His glory, displaying perfection in all that He does, in order that men may worship Him.

3.                 God is savior – active in sovereign love through Christ to rescue believers from guilt and the power of sin, to adopt the and bless them accordingly

4.                 God is triune – all of the trinity is involved in redemption

5.                 Godliness means responsibility to God’s revelation in trust, obedience, faith, worship, prayer, praise, submission and service

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Five Practical Steps to Climb out of Despair

Lamentations 3:1-16

Five Means to Guard Against Despair

1.       Recall God’s blessings of the past

2.       Remind God of what He has promised

3.       Recommit to God’s purpose

4.       Rest in God’s planning

5.       Resume doing what you know you are to do

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Holiness By Grace Book Review

HOLINESS BY GRACE by Bryan Chapell

The subtitle of this book is “Delighting in the Joy that Is Our Strength.” This is an apt description of the design of Dr. Chapell’s book. I realize this book was published in 2001 but I have been late coming to it. I was made aware of it last year, but was recently able to actually get to and read it. I am glad I did. As a result, I want to make a simple recommendation to others who might be late in coming across it.

Holiness by Grace is about our response and responsibility to God’s command to His children to, “Be holy, because I am holy.” Chapell comments, “Without Christ we would hear this command and shudder. How can God expect us to be holy as he is? Isn’t it unrealistic, since he is infinitely pure and we are clearly imperfect?

He then begins with an introduction that resonates with honesty, transparency, and the recognition of just how difficult it is to be holy. Particularly if one is trying to be holy in one’s own energy or system of “works.”

Chapell recounts a service where a young preacher quoted those words from Leviticus with what he calls “such fervor” that Chapell had little doubt that the preacher expected those in the congregation to be obedient to them. What I appreciated because it was a snap shot of reality was his thoughts as he heard this imperative but surveyed those around him. He recounts:

·        two sisters one the front row recently divorced and one had turned to sinful relationships and the other to the numbness of alcohol in order to cope
·        a successful business man and elder who had recently ousted the last pastor
·        a young mother who was trying to manage two out of control preschoolers
·        a teen-ager who sat at the opposite end of the pew in order to make a statement to his feelings about his family
·        a Seminary professor who had been moody to his family for days

His thoughts jarred him into the realization that “there was not a sinless person among us.” This book asks and answers the question “does God really expect us to be holy as he is holy?” Through 10 chapters he takes us on this journey of recognizing that we can’t do this in our own strength but demonstrates that God has made a way.

Holiness by Grace is a 243 page practical step by step guide in how to abandon self efforts and ideas of holiness and the adoption of the grace of God as God uses means to produce holiness within us. Dr. Chapell in a very down to earth, man in the pew manner  demonstrates how the grace of God and the joy of the Lord join hand in hand in producing holiness.

At the end of the book there is a “workbook” of discussion questions on each chapter to help the reader go deeper. This is not only a great book, but a very needed book. As a Pastor (w/o a charge), man, husband, and a father, I heartily recommend this you all who are believers. I plan to read and re-read this book many times as I realize that God is serious about holiness even in this life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Is A Genuine Christian?

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NKJV)

How does one define a genuine believer? I think this is a pertinent and valid question. Sadly, the average local church is filled with people who believe they are Christians, but more than likely are not. This, although perfectly in line with the sovereign will of God, is in my estimation, at best tragic.

Since the gospel has been reduced in most presentations to an encouragement to believe a few select "facts" about Jesus, we are losing, or have lost sight of what a genuine believer really is. This passage gives us some real insight.

First of all, we see a driving force in the phrase, "...the love of Christ compels us..."  Charles Hodge said it best when he commented on this phrase, "It is being so constrained by a sense of the love our divine Lord to us, that we consecrate our lives to Him." This means that there is a compelling or driving force that "grabs hold of us and does not let go."

Second, this realization, and this compulsion comes from the fact that Christ died for us. At first glance, this passage might be "show-piece" for the Arminian mindset that Christ died for all people of all times. But Paul is not saying that.

Paul is relaying the great truth that since Christ died for all of His people, all of His people also died when He died. In other words, when we are brought by the Holy Spirit to the solid rock conclusion that Christ died for us individually and that we individually died in Christ at the same time, we are compelled by the driving force of Christ's love for us. 

So at some point we must be brought to this magnificent conclusion by the Holy Spirit that Christ died for me and I died in him. We must recognize our death to self, to sin, to this world's ideologies and philosophies. We must recognize that we now live to and for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Being a Christian is not simply believing the facts of Christ's death and resurrection, nor is it wrapped up in the old worn out adage that, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." It is wrapped up in the deep conviction that Chris'ts love was extended to us through His death and that in His death we died, and in His resurrection, we were resurrected to a new life in Christ. This realization constrains or compels us to die to self and to live for Him.

If this truth for taught what power would be unleashed in the community. False professors would be rooted out and genuine believers would be unleashed to die to themselves and to live for Christ. They couldn't do anything else. Why? Because they are constrained or compelled by the love of Christ that flowed from His death and our death in Him.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Exhortation, Encouragement and Enlightenment: The Means of True Peace

In Philippians 4, Paul is giving final instructions to the believers of the Philippian fellowship. Among a number of final exhortations, Paul instructs the believers on how to have true peace in their lives. They are to consistently rejoice in Christ, they are to be reasonable, or to have reasonable expectations, they are instructed “not to be anxious” about anything, and they are to pray with thanksgiving by means of supplication. Finally, Paul instructs them to “think” or mediate on things that are worthy of the nature of God and the character of their spiritual lives. In doing these things the Philippian believers and we as well, are able to maintain consistent peace in our lives.

What does it mean, “do not be anxious about anything?” The Greek word translated as “be careful” (KJV); “be anxious” (NKJV and NASB); “do not be anxious” (ESV) is  μεριμναω. This word is used some nine-teen times in the New Testament. It is translated as “take thought, care, be careful, have care.”

Merminaw means “to care for someone or something.” This care or concern may be about something that may or may not happen in the future. It can also means “to be intent on something,” as a hound dog is intent upon a trail. It can be used to signify “to strive after something.” In reference to our lives it usually takes on the meaning of “anxious expectation of something or anxiety in the face of something.” It is usually linked with fear.

Μεριμναω comes from the word μεριμνα which means care or anxiety. This word actually comes from μεριζω which basically means distraction. It comes from the idea of “to divide or to split into factions.” Hence, the idea is that when we are not trusting in Christ, rejoicing in Him, and praying, various problems can cause our heart (mind) to be split into factions of worry, concern, and care. These problems can leave our “peace” divided, leaving us distracted from our primary position of trust in Christ.

From this word we see the idea of “being drawn in different directions.” The
“thing” that causes this being drawn in different directions or this distraction from faith in Christ is considered to be “a care”; hence it is considered to be an “anxious care.”

The word in 4:6 is a verb; it means “to have a distracting care” or “to be anxious about.” To understand this verb fully we see that it is used in the present tense. This is not be a one time, or an off and on again response, but we are to continually, consistently, or to always have no distracting or anxious thoughts. This verb is used in the active voice which means this action is done by us. There is no magic formula, or mystical elf or angel that is going to wave a magic wand and the thoughts and feelings of anxiety disappear. We are responsible to rest in God and not to have or maintain anxiety. This verb is in the imperative mood which makes it a command. It is not an option to choose if and when it is convenient to us. We are expected to obey this command.

The appeal of the soon return of the Lord is the basis for this command. Christ will soon be returning to set all things straight and to establish a kingdom in righteousness, therefore do not have concerns that distract you from that promise and drive you from Christ. In all of these things that come at you or upon you, turn to Christ and pray, be thankful and make your requests known to God, rather than worry or suffer anxiety.

Can you see the meaning of this word? More importantly can you see how the primary meaning of our word anxious relates to you? We must constantly be on our guard in order to not be distracted from Christ and from focusing on something or someone that may or may not harm or affect us in a negative way. Of course this is more often easier said than done. I face this temptation everyday myself.

Fulfilling God’s command to “be anxious, or not to worry or be concerned about anything” is very difficult at best. Fulfilling this command is a way in which we as God’s children are able to reflect the character and nature of God as we are directed in I Corinthians 10:31.

Study the following passages in their context to gain a more complete understanding of our word:

merimnaw - merimnao

Matt 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34, 10:19
Luke 10:41, 12:11, 22, 25, 26
I Corinthians 7:32, 33, 34, 12:25
Philippians 2:20, 4:6

mrimna - merimna

Matt 13:22
Mark 4:19
Luke 8:14, 21:34
II Corinthians 11:28
I Peter 5:7

merizw - merizo

Matt 12:25, 26
Mark 3:24-26, 6:41
Luke 12:13
Romans 12:3
I Corinthians 1:13; 7:17, 34
II Corinthians 10:13
Hebrews 7:2 


Vines Complete Expository Greek Dictionary
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
Moultan and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament
The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 4
The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary of Philippians, Moises Silva
Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, J. B. Lightfoot
A Reader’s Greek New Testament
NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV translations of the Bible

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to be Right With God Part 2

SERMON               GM16-071

SERIES:              Renewal Through Romans: The Gospel Defined, Explained, and Applied

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (January 24th, 2016)

SUBTITLE:        How to Be Right with God – Part 2

SCRIPTURE:     Romans 3:22-26

SUBJECT:          The Righteousness of God

SUMMARY:       The righteousness of God which cannot be obtained by merit comes to all men through faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross which fulfills the law of God.

SCHEME:           To enable my people to transcend present ecclesiastical understanding of righteousness by appreciating God’s benefits of the atoning work of Christ on the cross

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Keep Dragons in Your Planning

Here is my favorite quote and personal axiom. Hope you enjoy.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." (J.R. R. Tolkien)

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Strength of Weaknesses

Your weaknesses are not God’s mistakes and they are not meaningless. They’re designed by God and assigned to you in order to lead you to Him. 

(John Piper)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Guide Through the Shadows

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson: Pen name: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) – English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer; Author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and poems Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark.

“I believe that when you and I come to lie down for the last time, if only we can keep firm hold of the great truths Christ taught us—our own utter worthlessness and His infinite worth; and that He has brought us back to our one Father, and made us His brethren, and so brethren to one another—we shall have all we need to guide us through the shadows. Most assuredly I accept to the full the doctrines you refer to—that Christ died to save us, that we have no other way of salvation open to us but through His death, and that it is by faith in Him, and through no merit of ours, that we are reconciled to God; and most assuredly I can cordially say, "I owe all to Him who loved me, and died on the Cross of Calvary."— Carroll, (1897)

Collingwood, Stuart Dodgson (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Be Strong!

Sometimes we find it difficult to face the reality of our enemy head-on. We read of the battle that we are called to and it can cause even the most stout-hearted, battle worn warrior to grow faint. Periodically we are reminded by good preaching or teaching that we must ever be on our guard. The enemy’s fiery darts, subtle attacks, and ingenious counterfeits seemingly come at us from every quarter.

We sometimes begin to think who is strong enough for this? As we weaken we begin to think that maybe, just maybe the enemy is stronger than we could ever hope to be. Unfortunately, when we begin to think like this the enemy works fear in our soul and we become so distressed that we forget a number of valuable truths.

We are not to let our fears overwhelm us. We can march onward, to borrow a phrase from Stephen Ambrose, with undaunted courage. Why? The outcome of the battle rests on God’s performance and not on ours. It is not our skill or strength that determines the victory!

Listen to the Apostle Paul as he wrote to encourage the believers at Ephesus – “…be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV)

The word for “strong” is the word ενδυναμοω. It is used eight times in the New Testament and it means “ to be strong, endue with strength, strengthen or to receive strength, be strengthened, or increase in strength. It can be summed up with the idea of “be bold.”

God is not restrained by anything, as a result, there is no reason to be frightened of anything. Trust Him implicitly! He will never leave us nor forsake. He will never let us down.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Are You Double-Minded?

Word Study:  διψυχος

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8, ESV)

The context is trials. Believers are to reason through an intellectual process that results in the a believer joyfully embracing trials. This joyfully embracing is a result of understanding the end result or purpose of the trials – steadfastness. It is steadfastness through trials which serves as the agent that God uses to mature his children.

Due to the severity, complexity, and anxiety experienced during trials a believer may not know how to appropriate God’s grace and means by which to remain steadfast. The remedy prescribed is to ask God for the necessary wisdom. Rather than worry or react unbiblicaly a child of God may ask his heavenly father for necessary wisdom. The believer is promised that first, God will give the needed wisdom, and secondly that God will not rebuke or criticize the believer who needs to ask. The believer is simply told to ask in faith. Doubting will result in the believer not receiving the necessary wisdom.

James tells us that this person, the believer who asks not in faith, but from a perspective of doubt is unstable. James describes this person as like a wave in the ocean that is pushed around by the wind. Believers who do not exercise faith are subject to being tossed around by the winds of doubt. James calls this person a double-minded man.

Double-minded has been called the most expressive words in this letter. It is only used twice in the New Testament, here and in chapter four, verse eight. It is possible that James “coined” this word. There is no evidence of its use prior to James’s letter.

Dipsuchos literally means “two-souled.” The expression gives us the idea of “a man two-souled.” It is a vivid picture of the doubter’s mind-set. It is a picture of a man who has two personalities that are in on-going conflict with each other. One mind is turned to God and the things of God and the other mind is turned to the world and its attractions. A man who is two-souled or double-minded believes God will answer his prayer but also disbelieves that God will answer his prayer because he is influenced to think like the world thinks. Heibert called this man a “walking civil war.” This man is trying to do the impossible and what Christ said He would reject – a man trying to walk in two directions.

This type of a man James says is actually unstable in all of his ways. This man is unstable because he is not settled on one conviction; God isn’t quite good enough to warrant his full attention, but the world isn’t what he wants either. He is trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time. It is like who was like Israel when they had one eye on God and one eye on Egypt. This man cannot stand without wobbling or wavering.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to be Right with God Part 1

SERMON               GM16-070

SERIES:              Renewal Through Romans: The Gospel Defined, Explained, and Applied

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (January 17th, 2016)

SUBTITLE:        How to Be Right with God – Part 1

SCRIPTURE:     Romans 3:21-22

SUBJECT:          The Righteousness of God

SUMMARY:       The righteousness of God which cannot be obtained by merit comes to all men through faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross which fulfills the law of God.

SCHEME:           To enable my people to transcend present ecclesiastical understanding of righteousness by appreciating God’s benefits of the atoning work of Christ on the cross

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Am I a Student of the Word?

II Timothy 2:15 tells us; “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (ESV)

Do I rightly handle the word of truth? What does it mean to rightly handle the word of truth?

Paul begins to deal with false teacher beginning in chapter two and verse fourteen. He completes his thoughts about false teachers in chapter three verse nine. Paul demonstrates that false teachers are devastating and destructive in the body. He shows that they are argumentative and wrangle over words. As a matter of fact Paul states that false teachers quarrel or fight about “words.” Of course we know that the outcome of such behavior is division, confusion, and destruction to a church.

On the other hand, God expects his workman to be different. We who handle the word of God must labor diligently with great effort to properly interpret or divide the word. This means that we must be able “to cut straight or to cut straight ways.” We have the idea that we are able to proceed on straight paths or to hold a straight course. This word is the equivalent to doing right. So we must be able to make straight and smooth “cuts” or interpretations of the word and to handle the word of God correctly, being able to teach the truth directly and accurately.

The end result will be that we are approved by God. Our word approved is a great word with a rich meaning. The word means “accepted, pleasing, and acceptable”, particularly of coins and money. Donald Barnhouse makes this comment about “approved”

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called "dokimos" or "approved"

So, the question is still before us to answer. Am I A Student of the Word? Do I rightly handle the word of truth?


Friday, January 15, 2016

A Thought About Suffering Part 3

As promised in our last post, I want to share with you seven more reasons that God not only allows suffering, but why he has graciously given suffering to us as a gift. This is certainly not the type of gift that we would naturally desire, yet it is sometimes the best gift that we could receive.

There certainly is nothing new in this post that most of us have not already considered or experienced. It is good as Peter said:

“…I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have, I think it right, as; as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder…I will make every effort so that…you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (II Peter 1:12-15 ESV)

Once again let me say that the following reasons are not original with me. They are taken from notes of sermons I have heard, from research in sermons and series I have both preached and taught. These suggestions come from various pastors, authors, books, and even from internet articles. I give the ultimate credit to God for His glory and truly give credit to the many pastors, authors, bible teachers who have over the years added these viable hints of why our glorious, loving, omnipotent, and merciful God allows us to experience the most physical, emotional and spiritual pain possible.
We are called to and given the gracious gift of suffering in order….

To Be Humbled by God
II Corinthians 12:7.

Periodically we forget just who we really are. We are warned not to think more highly of ourselves than we should but we forget. God often uses trials or tribulations to remind us that we are always to be dependent upon Him. Trials show us that we really are fragile vessels in need of God’s grace and care. Pride is a terrible thing and the Word tells us that God hates it. If necessary God will allow suffering in our lives to “snap us back to reality.”

To Demonstrate that that God's Grace is all we need
II Corinthians 12:9, II Timothy 4:20.

The most difficult type of suffering or trial is when we are walking with God and there seems to be no reason for our suffering. You know what I mean, we have “checked” ourselves carefully, we are not being disciplined for sin, or we haven’t done something foolish with consequences, or we went through these fourteen reasons and haven’t found the right one.

There are times God just wants to show us how sufficient He really is. There are times God is simply saying, "Trust Me, I will meet your needs; My grace is sufficient for you." This is difficult to understand because we feel that all suffering needs to be explained. We don’t like to think that our God whom we perceive to be loving and kind would allow something such as pain to enter our lives simply to show us how sufficient He is, yet it is possible.

To Purifies us
I Peter 4:1-3, Job 23:10.

Just like Silver or Gold we as God’s children posses dross or impurities. We are mixed with the residue of sin and behavior from the vestiges of the old nature that was crucified yet remains. Just like Silver or God which requires extreme temperatures to melt its properties in order to remove the impurities, God turns up the heat on each one of His children in order to do the same.

To bring glory to God
 John 9:1-3; 11:3-6, 9:1-3, Job 13:15
I admit that this reason is the most difficult for me to grasp. There is no doubt that God is worthy of all glory and glory derived from anything source. This suffering allows the character and nature of God to be reflected or displayed in our lives through pain and suffering.

The most amazing story to me is found in John 9. Jesus and the disciples encounter a man who had been born blind. In keeping with the “philosophy” of their day, they asked the question, “Who sinned that this man was born blind? Was it him or was it his parents?” Jesus told them that neither the man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind to display the works of God.

Can you imagine what must have gone through the man’s mind as he heard Jesus reply? I can – “You mean I have never seen my parents face, a sunrise or sunset, a flower, colors, or the rain cascading down on a grassy hillside just so God could display his work?”

It seems so strange that our suffering brings glory to God. Suffering allows us to display the magnificent character of God in our lives for others to see and to desire.

To Drive us to greater depths in His Word
Psalms 119:71, Colossians 3:16.

Suffering certainly can drive us to God’s Word. We are driven to it to look for comfort, help, and even answers. We can get sloppy about our devotion to Scripture and its place in our lives for spiritual growth.

I remember once when the trial of unemployment overtook me in 2001. After the first day of shock and surprise, I was driven to James in order to learn more about trials in chapter one. However, it was a great reminder that I had been ignoring God’s word for quite some time. That trial and others have caused me to pay more attention to God’s Word.

Let me add, you cannot make a deal with God. Being driven to the Word, giving it great attention, or spending time in it will not end the trial or suffering nor will it insulate you from future suffering. Suffering drives us to the Word in order to draw us closer to God and to facilitate growth.

To Demonstrate that Suffering or Trials are God’s Prerogative
 I Peter 4:19, Acts 9:16, John 16:33, II Corinthians 12:8-9, Isaiah 55:8-9, 30:20.

God is absolutely sovereign. This is a concept that the human heart unaided by God absolutely hates. Apart from God’s grace we hate to admit that God is in control. There is no doubt that Scripture teaches that His ways are different and higher than our ways.

It may be painful and even unexplainable but we are not in charge. Our Sovereign God--who controls all things and knows all things--has determined that for our good and His glory we shall suffer.

To Maintain our thoughts On Spiritual things
Romans 8:22-23; Colossians 3:1-2; II Corinthians 4:17, Hebrews 11:32-40

We are not citizens of this world. We are only passing through as pilgrims or sojourners. It is our responsibility and privilege to continually be looking forward and upward. We face the problem of growing weary of the journey and becoming enamored with this present world. God will bring suffering into our lives in order to wake us from the stupor of placing our affections on things in this world and to remind us that our affections are to be on spiritual things.

Suffering causes us to be reminded of spiritual priorities. This life is so short; here today and gone tomorrow and nothing in it will last. There is no spiritual or eternal value in this world other than the opportunity of magnifying the glory of God’s marvelous character. Suffering gives us perspective by reminding us to maintain our thoughts, hopes, and expectations on spiritual things rather than temporal.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Thought About Suffering - Part 2

Image result for sufferingAlmost all of us have at one time or another filled the slot of “Monday morning quarterback.” It is so easy to watch our favorite quarterback on Sunday afternoons make a multitude of mistakes and then Monday morning around the water cooler explain what we would have done different.

Equally troubling is listening to those Monday morning quarterbacks tell us why we are suffering, or undergoing our current trials. Many people are merely trying to help us, and they even think they might even be encouraging us. We just want to yell back at them things like, “How do you know how I feel?” “How can you even come close to feeling the pain or hurt that I am experiencing?” How dare you think I might be guilty of sin which in turn has brought down on my poor wicked head the trouble that now is surrounding me?

I want to share with you several possibilities for the pain that we often experience in our Christian life. As far as I can deduce from the Scriptures pain, suffering, trials, tribulations, and even testings do not come upon us but for a reason or reasons known to God. There is a biblical perspective for suffering. We may not know at the time or for quite some time the reasons why we are experiencing the pain that we suffer. Quite frankly, we may never know this side of heaven why we are undergoing the difficulties that may be pounding us mercilessly.

At best James, the brother of Jesus and former pastor of the Jerusalem Christian Fellowship in Jerusalem, circa AD 33, gives us the best piece of advice that anyone could ever give us. In the very context of trials of various kinds, including the testing of your faith, James encourages us to pray and ask God for wisdom to respond properly and wisely to what we are experiencing. Listen to him:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting…”

The following reasons are suggested as to why you, someone you know, or even me may be suffering or undergoing trials or tribulations. These reasons are not original with me. They are taken from notes of sermons I have heard, from research in sermons and series I have both preached and taught. These suggestions come from various pastors, authors, books, and even from internet articles. I give the ultimate credit to God for His glory and truly give credit to the many pastors, authors, bible teachers who have over the years added these viable hints of why our glorious, loving, omnipotent, and merciful God allows us to experience the most physical, emotional and spiritual pain possible.

We are called to and given the gracious gift of suffering in order…. 

To Comfort others who suffer

  II Corinthians 1:4

As we have suffered in specific or concrete ways, we have become prepared vessels in order to render comfort and aid to others in the body of Christ who are suffering similarly. God extended his grace throughout your suffering and what you learned you now can be his hands and feet to extend grace to someone who may be asking why Lord? God grants us compassion for others in order to further reveal Himself to those yet in pain.

To destroy our self-reliance and trust

 II Corinthians 1:9

God designs trials to destroy our self-sufficiency. The battle for control never ceases in our lives. When things are going well the tendency is to forget the continual need to rely on God for everything.  Trials and tribulation have a tendency to jolt us back into the reality that we are dependent on God for everything all of the time.

To develop a life-habit of thanksgiving

II Corinthians 1:11, I Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20

We are called and expected to give thanks in everything. The Scripture makes it clear that everything we have we have received. In other words, we would not have one thing that we have if God did not give it to us. Therefore, we are to be thankful. Trials or tribulations remind us to be thankful even when it is hard.

To be more fruitful

John 15:2

I use to have 21 rose bushes. I loved my roses and I worked hard on them. In order to keep them healthy and to give my roses opportunities to produce more “fruit” or roses, I had to periodically prune them. I had to “disturb” them by digging around their “comfortable” roots and break up the dirt that had become dry, hard, and void of nutrients. I had to take pruning shears and cut into healthy living branches. Those cuts were then susceptible to infection and disease. I had to seal them with sprays and keep watch that infection didn’t set in. The process was “painful” to the roses. Year after year I had large, vibrant, colorful, and innumerable roses.

God does the same thing to us. He has designed us to produce fruit (Galatians 5.) John 15 tells us the pruning process in the lives of believers. God will “disturb” the hardened soil of our lives and cut out the branches that are not producing in order to give us the opportunity of producing more fruit. God is never satisfied with some fruit, a little fruit – He always wants more fruit. 

Proves the reality of our faith.

J ob 2:10, II Corinthians 12:10, James 1:2-18

Faith is a gift that this given by God. The danger we face is having a faith that is really not faith. In the parable of the Sower we see four different seeds sown. Yet only one of those seeds was proven to be true or alive; the one that produced fruit. Trials and tribulation, suffering, and pain will be the instrument God uses to prove that our faith is real and not a “false” faith. Paul gives us great advice when he tells us to “examine our faith”, “see if we are really in the faith.” We can misplace faith. We can put faith in ourselves, a formula or activity, or even in an idea. It can be illustrated by many people who are actually in love with love rather than someone as the object of their love.

To Increase and develop our faith

Job 40:4-5, James 1:2-4, Job 42:5, Deuteronomy 29:29

We are to grow in our faith. It is a tragedy multiplied over when we see someone who has grown physically in body to an adult yet they remain mentally and emotionally an infant or little better. God gives faith in measures to us as He pleases, yet he expects us to develop and to grow. Prosperity or good times are not very conducive to spiritual growth due to the fact that we “don’t need God” when everything is cool and we have it under control. God is always at work to stretch us, develop us, and take us to new heights. His goal is to conform us to the image of His dear Son.

I know this is a hard one for some folks. They can sometimes accept the fact that trials or tribulations may come because they have sinned or because the world hates them and has it out for them. But to think that God in His good pleasure purposely allows these things in our lives simply to further develop us is hard to fathom.

To Disciplines and train us

Hebrews 5:8, 12:7, I Corinthians 11:29-30, Psalms 119:67.

It is no secret that trials can be at times God's rod of correction. God has made it very clear that He disciplines those who are His own true sons. He may use an illness, death, accident, loss of job, family turmoil, a foreclosure, unfounded and damaging accusations, or worse to train us in holiness and righteousness.

You must always guard against shrugging most trials or tribulations off as something as an attack from the Devil, or our constant struggle with sin, or even, “that’s the way life is sometimes.” Many times we miss the point of God’s disciplining hand in our lives. Know this well, God does not punish His children. No discipline or correction should never be construed as God being angry with us or is punishing us. His corrections are rare, but they begin gently with the goal of bringing us to repentance.

Well, here are seven reasons why God allows suffering, opposition, trials, tribulations, and testings into our lives. We are called to suffer. God has given suffering for Christ’s sake as a gracious gift for our benefit. Meditate on these reasons, take them to heart, and find comfort in them as your experience pain, sorrow, or heart-break.

Tomorrow Lord willing we will share seven more reasons for suffering. See you then!