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Constantly Together In Prayer  –  A study of prayer from Acts


“Prayer only makes sense when you have quit trying to do ministry alone. The following five passages were selected to provide a window into the prayer life of the early church in the book of Acts. 

97262076_640While there is not time to look at any of these passages at length, we will use them like a scrapbook to look through in order to get an idea of how and why they prayed.

Acts 2:42 
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The first fellowship was eagerly and persistently engaged in the critical duty of prayer. Understanding the sense of loss His disciples were feelings as they anticipated His leaving, the Lord Jesus Christ had promised in John 14:13-14 that “whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the  on. if you ask me anything in My name, I will do it.” 

The early church took that promise as the source of God’s provision for all their needs, and they relentlessly pursued divine help. Praying together was a hallmark of the early church:

(Acts 1:14) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

(Acts 1:24) “Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen”

(Acts 4:24-37) “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. {25} You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? {26} The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ {27} Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. {28} They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. {29} Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your
word with great boldness. {30} Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 

Acts 4:24-31 Notice the four parts of the believers’ prayer…
THEIR PRAISE v. 24 Sovereign Lord…you made the heaven and the earth and the sea…It is always appropriate to remember Who God is before we address any situation. 

SCRIPTURE w. 25-26 Quote from Psalm 2:1-2. They were comforted in that their opposition had been foretold by David. They were, in fact, a fulfillment of prophecy. Satan’s efforts only succeeded in fulfilling God’s eternal plan. 

THE PROBLEM w. 27-28 Their opposition was because they belonged to Jesus.

THEIR REQUEST w. 29-30 They did not ask for protection or a place to hide, but instead asked for even more courage to boldly proclaim God’s truth – the very thing they had been ordered not to do.

GOD’S RESPONSE v.31 God’s answer was not long in coming for the building was shaken and they spoke the word of God more boldly.

Acts 6:1-4
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. {2} So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. {3} Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them {4} and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.””

Prayer and ministry of the word were inseparably linked. God’s people must always seek that marvelous harmony of Bible study and prayer. 

Bible study without prayer can lead to self-righteousness and spiritual dryness; Prayer without Bible study can lead to a perpetual condition of spiritual immaturity.

The apostles wisely recognized:
· that hurry and over commitment are the enemies of spirituality
· that we can do more than pray after we have prayed, but we cannot do more than pray until we have prayed! 

Still for most of us there is a great feeling that when we pray we are doing nothing, and this feeling makes us give undue importance to work, sometimes even to the hurrying over or even to the neglect of prayer. 

Like the early church, we must remember not to rest too much on the arm of flesh and to make of first Importance the practice of relying first and foremost upon the arm of God.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “God wants us to take care of the depth of our ministry; He will take care of the breadth of our ministry.”

Acts 9:40-41 
“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. {41} He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.”

As he had seen the Lord do when He raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:40), Peter sent them all out of the room where Dorcas’ body lay. He would not put on a display before the crowd that would draw all attention to him; and wanted a quiet place to pray. 

Some might think that Peter, who had been involved in many healings should simply have commanded Dorcas to rise. He knew, however, the source of his power and presumed nothing about the will of God.

(Acts 12:1-12) “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. {2} He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. {3} When he saw that
this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. {4} After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers
each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. {5} So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. {6} The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. {7} Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. {8} Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and
sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. {9} Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. {10} They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. {11} Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” {12} When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.”

While Peter was kept in prison, the church responded as they usually did when facing persecution: fervent prayer. They knew the battle was spiritual in nature and that only God had the power to release Peter. 

The church poured the maximum effort they were capable of into their prayers for Peter. They knew the truth James was later to express, that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). 

What would you conclude to be some of their basic beliefs about God and about prayer?
1. They relentlessly pursued divine help according to the promise of Jesus. 
2. They believed God would protect them, so they prayed for boldness instead! 
3. They understood the premier importance of bath prayer and the Apostles’ words. 
4. They knew God was the source of power and prayer was not for the sake of show. 
5. They prayed with maximum effort, knowing their battle was truly a spiritual one.

· Stephen prayed as he was being stoned (Acts 7:55-60). 
· Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17)
· Saul of Tarsus prayed after his conversion (Acts 9:11). 
· Cornelius prayed that God would show him how to be saved (Acts 10:1-4)
· Peter was on the housetop praying when God told him how to be the answer to Cornelius’ prayers (Acts 10:9).
· The church at Antioch fasted and prayed before sending out Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:1-3; and note 14:23). 
· It was at a prayer meeting in Philippi that God opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:13)
· another prayer meeting in Philippi opened the prison doors (Acts 16:25ff). 
· Paul prayed for his friends before leaving them (Acts 20:36; 21:5). 
· In the midst of a storm, he prayed for God’s blessing (Acts 27:35)
· after a storm, he prayed that God would heal a sick man (Acts 28:8). 

In almost every chapter in Acts you find a reference to prayer, and the book makes it very clear that something happens when God’s people pray.

This is certainly a good lesson for the church today. Prayer is both the thermometer and the thermostat of the local church; for the “spiritual temperature” either goes up or down, depending on how God’s people pray. 

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” In the Book of Acts, you see prayer accomplishing all of these things.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2022 in Prayer

 

Why Doesn’t God Give Up On Me? 2 Peter 3:9-10 


2 Peter 3:9 Inspirational Images

This is an extremely skeptical world. We live in extremely skeptical times. We are suspicious of everything. We tend to think that everything is guided by ulterior motives. We tend to believe that true openness and genuine honesty do not exist.

Our skepticism profoundly impacts the way we look at God. We do not place as much emphasis on what God said as on what God did not say. We are devoted to determining what God actually wants. We often attempt to determine God’s true desires by “reading between the lines.”

I sincerely doubt that any of us are capable of imagining the enormous frustration that we inflict on God.

Have you ever considered how easily God could have “given up” on humanity? Have you ever considered how easily God could have decided that one of the worst mistakes He ever made was creating humans with a free will?

If God were human, He would have cut His losses a long time ago. To me the greatest evidences that God is not human are seen in His patience, His forgiveness, and His mercy.

No human, not even the best of the best, can endure as much abuse, misrepresentation, and neglect as does God, and remain patient, forgiving, and merciful.

Important for us to relate more and more with the nature of God…important that we come to know Him as He really is. We begin with a strange text:

Abraham’s Bargain (Genesis 18:16-33)

Relate context with faith of Abraham and Sarah. When God’s intentions regarding Sodom and Gomorrah becomes clear, Abraham is concerned because he has family down there. He begins bartering with God…think of his audacity….50…45…40…30…20 …10.

This is the very nature of God! He longs to save! The primary character of this text is not Abraham but God.

The Constant Refrain

(Exodus 34:6) “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” 

God is a holy God and His nature is not to be taken for granted…but His nature is clearly revealed again…He wants to save!

Relate rebellious nature of the children of Israel and see the end result:

(Numbers 14:18) “‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'”

The law is read before a large group of people and, after standing for hours, they repented of their sins…and remembered God in the past and related it to their present:

(Nehemiah 9:17) “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them…”

Psalmist complains about the abuse he’s taken in life:

(Psalms 86:15) “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

(Psalms 103:8-14) “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. {9} He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; {10} he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. {11} For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; {12} as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. {13} As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; {14} for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

This statement is like John 3:16 to the Jewish people……it is given as a constant reminder for the Israelites…..(Psalms 145:8) “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

(Joel 2:13) “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

(Jonah 4:2) “He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

(Nahum 1:3) “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.”

What Patience Is/Is Not

Patience is “slow to anger” and “steadfastness.”

Patience is not: apathy or tolerance. God is holy and He will reckon eventually with the unholiness of man and his willful decisions…of his ignoring the teachings of God. “Whatever” will not be tolerated by God when all is made right on His timetable.

Patience With a Purpose

God’s patience is for the purpose of giving an opportunity to repent (2 Pet. 3:9-10; Rom. 2:4).

(Romans 2:4) “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

(2 Peter 3:9-10) “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. {10} But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

Why has Christ not yet returned to earth? Because God loves man; He does not want any person to perish, not a single person. God is not slack in fulfilling His promise nor is He powerless to return and judge the earth. He has not returned for one reason and one reason only. He wants more and more people to come to repentance.

God wants no person to perish. To perish is a terrible thing. It means to be utterly lost and destroyed. It means to lose eternal life and to be cut off from life forever and ever. It means to be spiritually destitute, completely empty of all good. Itmeans to suffer the judgment, condemnation, and punishment of separation from God forever and ever. It means to perish; to be in a state of suffering forever and ever apart from God.

The point is this: God does not want us perishing; He does not want us cut off and separated from Him. God wants us to spend eternity with Him not apart from Him.

There are in this passage three great truths on which to nourish the mind and rest the heart.

(i)  Time is not the same to God as it is to man.  As the Psalmist had it:  “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).  When we think of the world’s hundreds of thousands of years of existence, it is easy to feel dwarfed into insignificance; when we think of the slowness of human progress, it is easy to become discouraged into pessimism.  There is comfort in the thought of a God who has all eternity to work in.  It is only against the background of eternity that things appear in their true proportions and assume their real value.

(ii)  We can also see from this passage that time is always to be regarded as an opportunity.  As Peter saw it, the years God gave the world were a further opportunity for men to repent and turn to him.  Every day which comes to us is a gift of mercy.  It is an opportunity to develop ourselves; to render some service to our fellow-men; to take one step nearer to God.

(iii)  Finally, there is another echo of a truth which so often lies in the background of New Testament thought.  God, says Peter, does not wish any to perish.  God, says Paul, has shut them all up together in unbelief, that he might have mercy on all (Romans 11:32).  Timothy in a tremendous phrase speaks of God who will have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).  Ezekiel hears God ask:  “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, and not rather that he should return from his way and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23).

Ever and again there shines in Scripture the glint of the larger hope.  We are not forbidden to believe that somehow and some time the God who loves the world will bring the whole world to himself.

A Word Straight to You and Me

God hasn’t given up on you and me! It’s easy for us to think God acts toward us the way we act toward each other. We’ve all had people “give up on us” as a result of some disagreement or event. One of the great tragedies is when family “gives up on us.” The message today: God doesn’t give up on us.

 

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2022 in Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way #5 Giving Thanks When You Don’t Feel Like It – 1 Thessalonians 5:18


Give Thanks in All Circumstances Vinyl Wall Statement - 1 Thessalonians  5:18, Vinyl, SCR340

The story has been told of two men who were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. They were afloat on a life raft and after several days had given up any hope of rescue. Finally, one said to the other, “Do you think it would do any good to pray?” The other agreed that nothing could be lost by trying. Neither, however, had ever prayed. Finally, one recalled living next door to a church as a child. He had often heard their mid‑week meetings through an open window. Bowing his head he began to pray, repeating his recollection of the words he had heard uttered in that church so many years ago. His fervent prayer began, “I‑26, B‑15, N‑7. …”

We may smile at this but before we begin to feel too smug there are some who know little when it comes to worship.

In the book by Reggie McNeal’s A work of Heart: “God’s Sabbath did not mean a cessation of activity, but a different activity…it is not a day off to pursue whatever fancy is attainable and affordable. Rather, it is a day to restore eternity to our souls….a day of communion and reflection. God established Sabbath to accomplish a re-creation of eternity, a reminder of what is really real….and involves the worship of God and reflection on the work of our hands (what is going on in our lives).

It should go without saying that Christians are commanded to give thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 5:20 (ESV) 20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But this is where the rub comes. Even in those times when we should feel like giving thanks we can neglect to do so because of our own sin:

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (ESV) 10  “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11  and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12  then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Such forgetfulness can have serious consequences:

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) 47  Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48  therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Romans 1:20-21 (ESV) 20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

But these commands to continually give thanks become even more problematic to us on those occasions when God’s blessing is not immediately apparent. To take an extreme example, how can we give thanks when we read that a terrorist group has just attacked a Christian school and kidnapped several hundred school girls?

How do the Scriptures enable us to think biblically and thus to thank God when such an atrocity or tragedy occurs? The answer is much more complex than what will be suggested in the next few sentences; but let us at least make a start by pointing out how biblical thinking responds to the evils of this world.

First, we can thank God that the Bible squares with reality, so that the atrocities of this world should not come as a surprise to us (so-called prosperity preachers will struggle here). 

The Bible begins with the creation of a perfect world, but by the third chapter it is describing the fall of man and its devastating repercussions for the world in which we live; affirmed over and over again.

Romans 8:18-25 (ESV) 18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Man’s sin is never minimized, as we see in Romans 3:10-18 (ESV) 10  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13  “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16  in their paths are ruin and misery, 17  and the way of peace they have not known.” 18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

What we see going on in the world is what we should expect from reading the Bible. An accurate diagnosis is foundational to an adequate remedy, and for the Bible’s accurate diagnosis we can give thanks.

Second, we can give thanks to God for revealing to us that our sin and the brokenness of our world is not something that we can remedy.

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) 19  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin

Third, we can give thanks to God because He provided the solution for our sin and its disastrous consequences.

(Romans 3:21-26 (ESV) 21  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Titus 3:3-7 (ESV) 3  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God sent His Son into this world as the perfect God-man, who died in the sinner’s place, bearing the penalty for his sin. In exchange for our sin and condemnation He offers us His righteousness and the gift of eternal life. Jesus is the cure for the consequences of sin for all who will receive His gift of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV) 17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Fourth, we can give thanks that Jesus is coming to this earth once again, this time to punish evil doers, to put away sin, and to establish a kingdom in which righteousness dwells.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (ESV) 6  since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7  and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8  in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10  when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Fifth, we can give thanks that God is sovereign over all creation, and over all heavenly and earthly powers

John 16:11 (ESV) 11  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) 13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Sixth, we can give thanks that our God is a God who “causes all things to work together for good.”

Romans 8:28 (ESV) 28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.) and thus He even uses the sinful acts of men to ultimately achieve His good and perfect purposes. 

We see that with the sins of Joseph’s brothers.

 (Genesis 50:20 (ESV) 20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Seventh, we can give thanks that our God is mindful of the sufferings of those who are innocent, and that He will always do that which is right.

(Genesis 18:25 (ESV) 25  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

God’s wrath abides on those who are stumbling blocks to “little ones”

Matthew 18:5-7 (ESV) 5  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7  “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

Eighth, we can give thanks that our struggles with the success of the wicked is one with which other saints have wrestled.

Psalm 73:1-28 (ESV)  Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

10  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18  Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

20  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

This give us instruction as to how we should handle our adversities.

Ninth, we can give thanks for the character of our God, which assures us of His mercy and kind intentions, and informs us that His desire is that men be saved, rather than to face eternal judgment.

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV) 6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Ezekiel 18:23 (ESV) 23  Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)  9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2022 in Faithful Feelings

 

Faithful Feelings: Handling Emotions God’s Way #4 How to Battle Fear and Doubt – Genesis 15:1–6


4 Fears That Are Stopping You From Achieving Your Best Life (And How To Overcome It) | by Jari Roomer | Personal Growth Lab | Medium

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1–6)

How do we battle fear and doubt?

It has been said that the most repeated phrase in Scripture is, “Do not be afraid.” Some variation of it is mentioned over 350 times.

  • God said it to Gideon when calling him to lead Israel (Judg 6:23).
  • God said it to Jeremiah when calling him to be a prophet to the nations (Jer 1:8).
  • Christ said it to the women at his resurrection (Matt 28:10). Christ told his disciples, “Do not worry about what you will eat, drink, or wear” (Matt 6:25).
  • Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing.”

It was never God’s will for mankind to be fearful. It wasn’t until the advent of sin that fear became a problem for mankind. In Genesis 3, when Adam committed sin, a new word came into his vocabulary. In speaking to God, Adam said, “I was afraid so I hid.”

Mankind now struggles with fear. We struggle with fear about the past, present, and future, anxiety disorders, phobias, etc. Fear is natural to man; even though, it was never God’s will for us to be afraid.

First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casteth out fear. He who fears has not been made perfect in love” (KJV). For those who know God and are born again, we have experienced a love that when perfected in us, can wipe away all our fears.

Fear is not only common to people in general, it is even common to believers. After calling down fire from heaven and having the priests of Baal put to death, Elijah runs out of fear, as Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kgs 19).

The disciples, after Christ was taken to be crucified, fled in fear. This is the very reason that we see so many admonitions in Scripture to not be afraid or to not be anxious. It is because we all struggle with fear in some way or another.

Application Question: What are some consequences of living in fear?

  • Fear often results in depression. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man bring depression.”
  • Fear or anxiety often leads to sin. We saw Abraham lie about his wife because he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him to take her.
  • Fear will immobilize your spiritual life. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man will prove to be a snare.” When a person gets caught in a snare, he can no longer move. Many Christians are no longer progressing spiritually because they are afraid of what people think, what people say or have said, or what people can do to them. Fear will immobilize us spiritually.
  • Fear will also make God’s Word unproductive in our lives. In describing the thorny ground, Matthew 13:22 said, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it [the Word], making it unfruitful.” For many Christians, God’s Word is no longer alive to them because, instead of walking in faith, they walk in worry and fear. Therefore, God’s Word is choked and produces no fruit in their lives.

Because of all this, we can see why our enemy works so hard to bring fear in believers’ lives. It can severely handicap them from doing God’s will. It is through fear that Satan rules in many men’s hearts.

Interpretation Question: What was Abraham afraid of in Genesis 15?

In Genesis 15, Abraham was attacked by fear. We know he was afraid because God approached him and said, “Do not be afraid” (v.1). God is not like us. He does not waste words. If he says, “Do not be afraid,” we can be sure Abraham struggled with fear, and probably discouragement as a result of it.

What exactly was Abraham afraid of? It seems to be many things. In Genesis 14, he defeated a coalition of four kings from the east. One of them was a very strong king named Kedorlaomer, who oppressed five kings near the Dead Sea for twelve years. In fact, Kedorlaomer and his three alliances defeated the kings by the Dead Sea, including the king of Sodom, and ran off with Abraham’s nephew. Abraham, his 318 trained men, along with two alliances, defeated the four kings of the east through a night attack. They defeated these kings and took all their spoil, including Lot.

Perhaps, Abraham fears the repercussions of this attack. These kings were dangerous and probably wanted retribution. Some have speculated, maybe Abraham was also dealing with the natural consequences of battle. We were not made to kill or watch men die. The effects of battle leave scars on the greatest of men. Abraham may have been no different.

But, we can also discern through his exchange with God that Abraham was also worried about his future. He left everything to come to the promised land—the land of Canaan. God promised to make him great and a great nation. In fact, Abraham, at this point in time, has become great. He conquered the armies of the east and, no doubt, was now revered by all those living in Canaan.

However, Abraham still had no son—no heir to his household. The potential of retribution and death probably caused Abraham to consider who would be his heir and how God would fulfill his promise. As God appears to Abraham to comfort him, Abraham shares his concerns about not having an heir. God then renews his promise to Abraham saying that he would have a son from his body and that his seed would be like the stars in the sky (v. 4–5).

As we consider this dialogue between God and Abraham, many principles can be learned about battling fear and doubt, which will help enable us to walk in the peace and love God desires for us. What are secrets to battling fear and doubt?

Big Question: What can we learn about battling fear and doubt through Abraham’s dialogue with God in Genesis 15:1–6?

To Battle Fear and doubt, We Must Recognize the Root of It

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1 )

Again, Abraham is probably afraid of retribution from the four kings of the east. He also is considering his future, as he does not have a child. God shows up and speaks directly to the root of his fears by declaring that he is Abraham’s shield and great reward. Abraham didn’t need to worry about protection or provisions because God would take care of him.

Similarly, one of the ways we battle fear is by being aware of the root causes of our fear.

Application Question: What are common roots of fear and doubt?

1. Fear and doubt are often rooted in physical issues.

No doubt, Abraham had just come off a spiritual and physical high, as he and his allies defeated the four kings of the east. He would have just gained a new level of respect from his Canaanite neighbors, and he had just seen God’s miraculous provision. A common physical response to an emotional high is an emotional low. When we are running on an adrenaline high, the next step is a crash that hits right before our bodies go back to a state of equilibrium. This is how our body chemistry works.

No doubt, this was the reason that Elijah struggled with fear, depression, and a desire to die after defeating Ahab and his prophets (cf. 1 Kgs 18). He ran in fear, asking for God to take his life (1 Kgs 19:4). His response didn’t make any sense. If he really wanted to die, why not just let Jezebel kill him instead of running away?

However, God does not even correct him; he simply gives him a good meal and rest (v. 5–7). Elijah needed to eat and sleep. Many times it’s the same for us; we have been running on adrenaline to meet deadlines and finally we complete them. Then soon after, we crash. With our inhibitions down, we are now more open to irrational thoughts, fear, anxiety, and discouragement.

Sometimes, we just need to take a rest and eat good food. In order to battle fear and doubt, we need to know the root of it.

2. Fear and doubt are often rooted in spiritual attack.

To fear is ultimately to not trust God, and for that reason, Satan always seeks to draw people into fear. To have faith is to receive God’s promises and to fear will often draw people away from them. The Israelites feared the giants in the promised land and, therefore, received God’s judgment instead of his blessing. Many people miss God’s best because of fear. They say, “I can’t do this! This is impossible!”

The enemy commonly draws people into fear, doubt, and depression because he realizes that a fearful and depressed person is not very effective for the kingdom. Scripture calls Satan a roaring lion seeking to devour anyone he can (1 Pet 5:8). It has been said that lions roar to paralyze their prey. In the same way, Satan wants to paralyze us with fear so he can devour us and keep us from God’s best.

King Saul actually had a tormenting demon that brought him anxiety and fear (1 Sam 16:14–15). He battled it by having the Psalmist of Israel, David, play worship music for him. Certainly, at times the root of our fear maybe spiritual in nature as well; therefore, we must combat it through spiritual means such as reading God’s Word, worship, and prayer. We need to resist the devil by using the spiritual weapons God gave us (Jas 4:7).

3. Fear and doubt are often rooted in a wrong focus.

Abraham is probably focusing on the kings of the east and them potentially seeking revenge, instead of God. Because he could potentially die, he probably questions his lineage and the fact that God gave him no seed. He had a wrong focus which led him to fear and depression. He also probably questioned his rejection of the king of Sodom’s spoils and thus why God calls himself Abraham’s reward.

Like Peter walking on water, when he started to look at the wind and the waves, he became afraid and started to sink. Commonly, we do the same. All we see are problems, difficulties, and deadlines, instead of Christ, and therefore, we begin to sink. Since fear and doubt often come from a wrong focus, we need to develop a right focus. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” We gain this by focusing on Christ, as we prioritize our relationship with him.

Application Question: In what ways are you commonly led into fear and doubt? How do you deal with it?

To Battle Fear and doubt, We Must Have a Revelation of God

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

While Abraham struggles with fear, God reveals himself to Abraham to calm his fears. In the same way, we should battle our fear by seeking God more. Many times in the midst of fear, doubt, and depression, God will reveal himself in new ways to us. Here, God tells Abraham that he is Abraham’s shield and very great reward.

God would protect him and, even though Abraham gave a tithe of all he owned to the king of Salem and rejected the wealth of Sodom, God would be his reward. God was enough for Abraham, and he is enough for us as well. If we just had a revelation of this, it would deliver us from all our fears.

Application Question: How can we battle fear and doubt through having a deeper revelation of God?

1. We must have a revelation of God through his Word.

Obviously, the first way we can battle fear is by knowing God through his Word. Genesis 15:1 says that “the word of the Lord came to Abram.” It must be remembered that when Abraham lived Scripture was not yet written. Moses, the narrator, is writing some of the first portions of Scripture, as he teaches Israel about Abraham in the book of Genesis.

God may choose to speak to us in a charismatic way, as he did with Abraham; however, his primary way of speaking to us is through the Word of God. Second Timothy 3:17 says that the Word of God equips the man of God for every good work. One of the good works God wants to equip us for through his Word is having peace and joy instead of fear and doubt.

David said, “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Ps 19:8). One of the ways God wants to give us joy is through studying his Word—by living in Scripture. It gives joy to the heart and radiance to the eyes. If we are not living in the Word of God, we will lack joy.

Similarly, Paul said,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8–9)

He told the Philippians to think on whatever was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. No doubt, the primary thing that Paul had in mind was the Word of God. It is the truth. It is noble and righteous. It is pure and without fault. It is admirable. And he promises that the God of peace will be with whoever meditates on God’s Word and practices what it says (v. 9).

The way to encounter God, as Abraham did, is to study God’s Word and to practice it. God manifests himself to those who do, and he calms their fears and gives joy to their hearts.

2. We must have a revelation of God through experiencing his love.

Here, we see that God tells Abraham that he is his shield and great reward. I think this is a picture of God’s love for him. He would protect him, and he would satisfy him. Similarly, when we struggle with fear and doubt, we need to know how much God loves us. Again, this is what John said, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

One of the reasons that we struggle with fear is because we don’t know the love of God, as we should. We fear the future, the past, the present, and people, all because we really don’t know how much God loves us. Perfect love casts out fear.

Application Question: How can we have a fuller revelation of God’s love?

  • To know God’s love, we must pray for it.

Consider what Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17–19)

Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know the depth, the height, and the width of God’s love for them. We need to pray this as well. If we had a revelation of God’s love, it would deliver us from fear and the resulting discouragement.

  • To know God’s love, we must experience it through the body of Christ.

God has called for the church to be the body of Christ, and it is through his body that we often hear his words, feel his touch, and sense his care.

Many Christians don’t know God’s love because they refuse to really get involved with the body of Christ. The more you are involved with God’s body, the more you can start to experience “together with all the saints” the love of Christ (Eph 3:18).

In order to know God’s love, we should pray for it and also seek it through the fellowship of the saints. Are you thinking on God’s love so you can battle fear (cf. 1 John 4:18)?

What’s another way that we can experience a revelation of God that removes fear?

3. We must have a revelation of God through prayer.

Finally, to battle fear, we must be people of prayer. In this passage, we see something theologians call an “interchange.”[1] God and Abraham dialogue with one another. This seems to be the first interchange that Abraham experiences. Previously, God spoke, and Abraham just listened and obeyed. But here, he has a conversation with the Lord, and in this conversation, God quiets Abraham’s fears.

Having a conversation with the Lord really is just prayer. When attacked by fear and doubt, we should run to God in prayer. Abraham doesn’t hide his doubts. He acknowledges his fear of not having a son, and maybe even a doubt in God’s promises. I think there is a place for that in our prayer. We should not sin by accusing God, but we should be honest about our genuine feelings and emotions, even if only in confession. David wrestles with himself before God, “Oh soul why are you disquieted within me, we will trust in God” (Ps 43:5).

We may not feel comfortable being fully honest and transparent with everybody, because some people may use the information to harm us. However, God already knows our fears and worries, and therefore, we should constantly bring our cares and petitions before him. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you.”

Paul taught the Philippians to go to God in prayer when struggling with fear and anxiety. In Philippians 4:6–7, he says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When we live in prayer (talking to God, adoring, and worshiping him), petition (bringing our requests before the Lord), and thanksgiving, then God gives us his peace.

If we are going to battle fear and doubt, we must continually experience a revelation of God through his Word, his love, and through prayer. Are you running to the Word of God and prayer? Are you accepting and experiencing his love? This is necessary to battle fear and discouragement.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced a revelation of God that took away your fear, doubt, or discouragement? How is he calling you to seek a deeper revelation of him?

To Battle Fear and doubt, We Must Choose to Reject Fear

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

Application Question: Why do some people accept fear instead of rejecting it? Why is it rational for us to reject fear?

Again, the first thing God says to Abraham is “Do not be afraid.” As mentioned, God say this many times in Scripture. Because it is so often repeated, we must recognize its importance.

It is very common for people to accept fear rather than reject it. It must be noted that some fears are healthy. Scripture says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10); however, if we experience any fears that prevent us from obeying God and knowing him, they must be rejected.

Why do people accept fear? For many, they accept fear because they see it as rational. When God called Moses to lead his people, Moses saw his lack of speaking ability as a rational reason to fear leading Israel (Exod 4:10). Many times our fears are rational. Maybe, we have a tendency towards fear and depression that is chemical. Maybe, we are not good speakers or good leaders. Maybe, we are unequipped for a certain job or ministry. However, these excuses are only rational if we don’t consider God.

Why is it rational to reject fear?

1. We should reject fear because of God’s resources.

God says to Abraham, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” God essentially says to Abraham, “I am enough for you! I’ve got everything you need! Therefore, don’t fear!” Paul said something similar to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

He essentially says, “Timothy, don’t be afraid because God gave you power to accomplish his work. He gave you the ability to love difficult and needy people and self-discipline to complete your tasks. Timothy, God gave you his resources!” This is true for us, as well. God is so big, that we don’t need to be afraid.

Abraham did not have to worry about an army attacking him because God would protect him. He did not have to worry about the fact that he gave away and rejected so much wealth. God would provide for him. Certainly, this is true for us as well.

Do you know that God’s resources are at your disposal?

2. We should reject fear because of God’s person.

Not only was God referring to his resources, as he would protect and provide for Abraham, but primarily he was referring to himself. “I am your shield and your great reward.” The reality is that if we have God, we have everything.

Hebrews 13:7 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Essentially, the author says, “Don’t be anxious about money and possessions because you already have God.” Christians who are anxious for this and for that are Christians who don’t know God’s person as they should.

First Timothy 6:6–8 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Why should we be content? We should be content because we have God. It’s like a married man who doesn’t look lustfully at other ladies because of contentment with his wife.

When we are not content with God, we find ourselves anxious for all the things in the world. Again, this is probably part of Abraham’s concerns. He is concerned about all the wealth he just rejected, and God says to him, “Abraham, I am enough. I am your reward.”

If we are going to battle fear and doubt, we must reject fear and worry. We must be “anxious for nothing.” We do this by recognizing our resources in God and enjoying his person.

Are you content with God? Do you know that he is enough? If not, you will be prone to fear and doubt. You will anxiously seek the things of this world because you ultimately hope that they will fill and satisfy you. However, they cannot—only God can.

Application Question: What do you think about Paul’s teaching that “Godliness with contentment is great gain … if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim 6:6–8)? How do we implement this practically to avoid the anxiety that most of the world suffers from?

To Battle Fear and doubt, We Must Believe God’s Promises

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:2–6)

Lastly, Abraham expresses his doubts about having a son. At this point, Abraham’s chief servant is his heir because he was the highest-ranking male in Abraham’s home. Since Lot left, he was next in line. However, God makes a promise to Abraham. He commands Abraham to look at the heavens and count the stars. He says to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Then the narrator says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

The way Abraham settled and removed his doubts and fear was by believing God’s promises. Warren Wiersbe said this about the word “believe”:

Abraham believed God, which is literally, “Abraham said, ‘Amen, God!’” The Hebrew word translated “believed” means “to lean your whole weight upon.” Abraham leaned wholly on the promise of God and the God of the promise.[2]

“‘Amen’ in Scripture never means a petition (‘May it be so’), but is always a strong assertion of faith (‘It shall be so,’ or ‘It is so’).”[3] It meant “it is done.” Abraham believed and continued to believe the promise of God, and God counted it as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6 is a very important passage. It is quoted three times in full in the New Testament. It is quoted in Galatians 4, Romans 4, and James 2. Paul used this verse to teach how Abraham was saved by faith and not works. Believers were saved both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament by faith. Nobody has ever been saved by works. In fact, Romans 4:3–5 says:

What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

It is not the man who works that is saved but the man who does not work. If anybody is trusting in their baptism, their practice of the Lord’s Supper, their church attendance, or any other good deed for salvation, they cannot be saved. It is the man who does not work but, instead, trusts solely in God who is justified—made righteous by God.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness no one will see God.” Because our God is so holy and righteous, no sinner can have a relationship with him or enter heaven. Therefore, the only pathway to salvation is grace—God’s unmerited favor. We must trust in his provision—through Jesus Christ—alone for salvation. In fact, the righteousness credited to Abraham’s account is the same righteousness credited to our account. God saved people in the Old Testament through Christ’s righteousness as well. Revelation 13:8 says, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”

Was Christ slain before the creation of the world? No, but his death and imputed righteousness applies to all with faith in God from the foundation of the world. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The content of the faith may have been different. Ancient believers didn’t understand what we know now about Christ. However, they probably understood more than we think. Jesus did say that Abraham rejoiced to see his day (John 8:56), which meant he knew about the coming messiah. Either way, all are saved by faith in God alone.

With that said, we must all ask the question, “Does the narrator’s assertion of Abraham being made righteous mean that Abraham was not yet a believer?” He had followed God for fifteen years now, as he was eighty-five.

Interpretation Question: Was Abraham saved when he believed God in Genesis 15 or beforehand? If he was already saved in Genesis 15, why does Paul use his belief as an analogy for how all have been saved?

Most commentators believe that Genesis 15 is simply a confirmation of his early conversion. Hebrews 11 supports this interpretation. It gives Abraham’s faith in leaving Ur as a model for us all. It says,

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8–10)

Why would God describe Abraham’s early faith as a model if he were not truly converted? The text even says that he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. Abraham was not primarily looking for Canaan, but heavenly Canaan, which earthly Canaan is only a shadow of (Heb 12:22). Pastor Steven Cole, from Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, shared this about Calvin’s view on this passage:

“John Calvin thought that it is mentioned here, long after Abram was first justified, to prove that justification does not just begin by faith, only to be perfected later by works. Rather, justification is by faith alone, apart from works, from start to finish (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], 1:408–409)”.[4]

Abraham still possessed the same saving faith he initially had when he left his home in obedience to God. And this is true for all true believers; they are not perfected by works but by grace—through a continuing, persevering faith in God (cf. Eph 2:8–9). This is true saving faith that leads to justification.

With that said, the main principle we are focusing on in this text is that we, similarly, must by faith hold onto God’s promises to battle fear and doubt. Consider what Peter said about God’s promises:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3–4)

God has given us his promises, so that by them, we can participate in the divine nature, which means looking more like God, and escape the sin and corruption of the world. The world is prone to worry, doubt, and anxiousness; however, as Christians, we don’t have to live that way. God gave us promises so we can be free from the corruption of the world.

Application Question: What are some of these precious promises that can deliver us from fear and doubt?

Here are a few: Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we put God first, he will take care of all our needs. This was given in the context of the disciples worrying about their future provisions. If we put God first, he will provide for us.

Similarly, when struggling with our future and what path to take, Proverbs 3:6 says, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” It can also be translated, “He will show you which path to take.” When worried about our future and what direction to take, we must focus on putting God first. We put him first by serving the church, by consistent devotions and prayer, and by being a light in the world, among other things. When we do this, God guides and delivers us from fear and worry.

In addition, as mentioned earlier, Philippians 4:6–7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When we are living in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, God promises to give us his peace. This peace will many times not make sense. How can we have peace in the midst of chaos? It is a divine blessing given to those who take hold of God’s promises.

Another great promise to consider and to continually drink deeply from is Psalm 23. It says:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

If we have not committed these verses to memory, we should. We will need them, when we, like Abraham, struggle with fear and doubt. We must by faith take hold of God’s promises and believe them. As we do, God will comfort and strengthen us.

Application Question: What promises of God are especially helpful to you when battling fear and doubt? How is God calling you to trust him more in your circumstances?

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 893–895). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (pp. 46–47). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[4] Steven Cole’s Sermon on Genesis 15:1–6, “Making God’s Promises Yours” accessed on 10/4/2014 https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-30-making-god-s-promises-yours-genesis-151-6

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2022 in Faithful Feelings

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way #3- Grief, Sorrow, and Anguish: How Do I Handle Difficult Situations? Matthew 26:36-46


Quotes About Grief and Sorrow - Awesome Quotes About Life

Even when one’s best is done to study about and meditate on the Lord Jesus Christ, it becomes clear that the mystery is far too deep for human comprehension. We know and believe that He is fully God and also fully man, but to state and even sincerely believe such a paradox is not to understand it.

By now it was probably near midnight on the Thursday of Passover week. Jesus’ three years of ministry were completed. He had preached His last public sermon and performed His last miracle. He also had celebrated the last Passover with His disciples. But infinitely more important than that, He had come to be the last and ultimate Passover Lamb, the perfect and only sacrifice for the sins of the world.

As we look further into our Lord’s last night before death, we grasp what we can of the sacredness of this powerful moment in His life and ministry. But we realize that no amount of study or insight can give more than a glimpse of the divine-human agony He experienced there.

One of Philip Bliss’s beautiful hymns contains the words,

Man of sorrows, what a name, For the Son of God who came, Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The hymn writer borrowed his description of Christ from Isaiah, who predicted that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

There is no record in Scripture of Jesus’ laughing, but there are numerous accounts of His grieving, His sadness, and even His weeping:

  • He wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35)
  • He wept over Jerusalem at the time of His triumphal entry (Luke 19:41).

Jesus knew sorrow upon sorrow and grief upon grief as no other man who has ever lived. But the sorrow He experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane on the last night before His crucifixion seemed to be the accumulation of all the sorrow He had ever known, which would accelerate to a climax the following day.

We cannot comprehend the depth of Jesus’ agony, because, as sinless and holy God incarnate, He was able to perceive the horror of sin in a way we cannot. Therefore even to attempt to understand the suffering of Jesus that night on the Mount of Olives is to tread on holy ground.

The mystery is too profound for human beings to comprehend and even for angels. We can only stand in awe of the God-Man.

Like every other aspect and detail of Jesus’ life and ministry, His agony in the garden was integral to the foreordained, divine plan of redemption. It was part of Jesus’ preparation for the cross, where the climactic event in the work of that redemption would transpire.

Ever and always the teacher; Jesus used even this struggle with the enemy in the garden the night before the cross to teach the disciples and every future believer another lesson in godliness, a lesson about facing temptation and severe trial. The Lord not only was preparing Himself for the cross but also, by His example, preparing His followers for the crosses He calls them to bear in His name (see Matt. 16:24).

Matthew 26:36-46 reveals three aspects of Jesus’ striving in the garden: His sorrow, His supplication, and His strength. And in clear contrast to their Lord’s unremitting struggle we see also the disciples’ indifferent lethargy

Sorrow

36  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
37  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
After the eleven disciples echoed Peter’s boast and insisted on their loyalty to Jesus even to the point of dying with Him if necessary (v. 35), they then moved with Him to a place on the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane. Although He had not announced in advance where He was going, “Jesus had often met there with His disciples,” and it was that fact that enabled Judas to find Him so easily later that night (John 18:2).

The name Gethsemane means “olive press,” and the garden probably belonged to a believer who allowed Jesus to use it as a place of retreat and prayer.

William Barclay points out, the owner of Gethsemane, like the owner of the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the owner of the upper room, was a nameless friend who ministered to the Lord during His final hours. “In a desert of hatred,” Barclay observes, “there were still oases of love” (The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 [Westminster, 1958], p. 384).

It is likely that the garden was fenced or walled and had an entrance, perhaps even a gate. Jesus asked His disciples to sit at the entrance and keep Him from being disturbed while He went into the garden to pray.

Our Lord took only three with Him to pray. He wanted to teach them further about facing strong temptation with confidence in God rather than in themselves. In light of their self-declared dependability (v. 35), the disciples needed to learn the humility and poverty of spirit that is necessary before God can effectively use His people (see Matt. 5:3).

He wanted Peter, James, and John to be convinced and convicted of their foolish smugness and feelings of invincibility. And He wanted them, in turn, to teach their fellow disciples that lesson. He took them along for their benefit, not His.

His purpose also was to teach that, as important and helpful as the fellowship and support of other believers can be, there are times when one’s only help is direct communion with God in prayer. He wanted to show them vividly that, in His humanness, even the divine Son of God needed the sustenance of His heavenly Father.

Fallen, sinful humanity refuses to acknowledge its weakness, but the unfallen, sinless Son of Man well knew His human weakness. When He became flesh and dwelt among men as a man, He accepted the weaknesses that are common to all humanity. He experienced the weaknesses of hunger, thirst, pain, and temptation. Now He was about to experience the supreme human weakness: death.

In acknowledging His human weakness and His consequent need for His heavenly Father’s presence and strength, Jesus did what the disciples saw no need for doing. It was because He looked to His Father that He endured and passed every temptation, including sin-bearing and death—the severest test of all. Every moment of Jesus’ life, from His first cry as an infant to His last cry from the cross, was lived in total submission to His heavenly Father. And through that sinless submission during His humanity He became a high priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses,… one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

As He went into the garden with the three disciples, Jesus began to be grieved and distressed. It was not that He had never experienced grief or distress over sin and death and over the isolation from His heavenly Father they would bring.

He had always known that He had come to earth to suffer and die for the sins of the world. But the climax of His anguish now began to intensify as never before, as His becoming sin in our place and His consequent estrangement from God drew near. His very soul was repulsed by the encroachment of His sin bearing, not because of the physical pain. He would endure but because of His taking upon Himself there the full magnitude and defilement of all man’s iniquity. His agony over that prospect was beyond description or understanding.

When Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35), it was not for Lazarus or for the grieving sisters, because He was about to restore His dear friend and their brother to life. He rather wept because of the power of sin and death over mankind.

But now a very deep and desolate kind of loneliness began to sweep over Him that caused Him to be severely distressed.

In addition to the rejections were the blatant injustices He would face. The very Creator of justice would Himself be subjected to the ultimate injustice of mankind. He would be vilified and defrauded in the petty courts of sinful, spiteful, lying men—and that in the name of God. The One whom angels praise and with whom God the Father is well pleased would be cursed and mocked by the vile and wicked multitudes, many of whom had a few days earlier sung His praises and attempted to make Him their king.

Jesus confronted a loneliness that no other man could experience. The Son of God, who communed with the Father and the Holy Spirit and with all the holy angels of heaven, would find Himself forsaken by His Father as He became sin. He would be so identified with iniquity that the hosts of heaven would have to turn their backs on Him. And the same sin that repulsed them repulsed Him, the sinless, holy, pure, and undefiled Son of righteousness.

The agony of this temptation was unequaled. It was Jesus’ most intense struggle with Satan, more agonizing even than the encounter in the wilderness. The magnitude of His grief apparently caused Jesus’ subcutaneous capillaries to dilate and burst. As the capillaries burst under the pressure of deep distress and blood escaped through the pores of His skin, it mingled with His sweat, “falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44).

It was to this experience, no doubt, that the writer of Hebrews referred in saying that Jesus Hebrews 5:7 (NIV)  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Jesus was not grieved because of fear He would succumb to Satan’s temptations. As mentioned above, He had already declared that Satan “has nothing in Me,” meaning that ‘there was no sin or evil in Him in which temptation could take root. Nor was He grieved over a possibility of not conquering sin or surviving death. He had repeatedly spoken of His coming resurrection and even of His ascension. There was no doubt in our Lord’s mind about the outcome of the cross, by which He would become victor over sin, death, and the devil. Jesus was deeply grieved, to the point of death because of His having to become sin. That was the unbearably excruciating prospect that made Him sweat great drops of blood. Holiness is totally repulsed by sin. The prophet Habakkuk revealed this when he wrote, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13).

In that deep sorrow Jesus knew His only solace was with His heavenly Father, and with each wave of temptation and anguish He retreated to a place of seclusion some distance away (see vv. 36, 39, 42). Luke reports that “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw” (Luke 22:41), which amounted to thirty to fifty yards. The intensity of temptation and of Jesus’ prayer response increased with each of the three sessions and is reflected in the positions the Lord took. At first He knelt (Luke 22:41), but as the intensity escalated He fell prostrate on His face (Matt. 26:39).

Supplication

39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
41  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
42  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
44  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?

These verses focus alternately on Jesus’ supplication to His heavenly Father and on the three disciples’ falling asleep. On the one hand is Jesus’ intense, self-giving desire to do His Father’s will, even to the point of becoming sin to save sinners and by prayer to deal with temptation cast at Him.

On the other hand is the disciples’ indifferent, self-centered inability to watch and to confront the conflict and danger with intercession on their Lord’s behalf. While Jesus, understanding the power of the enemy, retreated to prayer, they retreated into sleep.

Again going a little beyond the three disciples, Jesus fell on His face and prayed to His Father.

Jesus implored the Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” By asking, “If it is possible,” Jesus did not wonder if escaping the cross was within the realm of possibility. He knew He could have walked away from death at any time He chose.

“I lay down My life that I may take it again,” He explained to the unbelieving Pharisees “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

The Father sent the Son to the cross, but He did not force Him to go. Jesus was here asking if avoiding the cross were possible within the Father’s redemptive plan and purpose. The agony of becoming sin was becoming unendurable for the sinless Son of God, and He wondered aloud before His Father if there could be another way to deliver men from sin.

As always with Jesus, the determining consideration was God’s will. “I did not speak on My own initiative,” He declared, “but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. 14:31; 17:8).

He therefore said submissively, “Yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

This conflict between what I will and what Thou wilt reveals the reality of the amazing fact that Jesus was truly being tempted. Though sinless and unable to sin, He clearly could he brought into the real conflict of temptation (see Heb. 4:15).

But when the Lord returned to the three disciples, He found them sleeping. That discovery; though not unexpected, must have added greatly to His grief and distress. No one can disappoint and hurt us so deeply as those we love. Jesus was not surprised, because in His omniscience He was perfectly aware of their weakness and had predicted that it would, that very night, he manifested even in desertion (see v. 31). But that knowledge did not alleviate the pain caused by their not being sensitive enough or caring enough to watch and pray with Him in the last hours of His life.

It was probably after midnight, and the need for sleep at that hour was natural. Jesus and the disciples had had a long and eventful day, and they had just finished a large meal and walked perhaps a mile or so from the upper room to the Mount of Olives. But even the disciples’ limited and confused perception of His imminent ordeal and of their desertion of Him that He had predicted should have motivated and energized them enough to stay awake with Him at this obviously grave time.

In fairness, it should he noted that sleep is often a means of escape, and the disciples may have slept more out of frustration, confusion, and depression than apathy. They could not bring themselves to face the truth that their dear friend and Lord, the promised Messiah of Israel, not only would suffer mockery and pain at the hands of wicked men but would even be put to death by them.

As a physician, Luke perhaps was especially diagnostic in viewing their emotional state, and he reports that, as we might expect, they were “sleeping from sorrow” (22:45).

But even that reason did not excuse their lack of vigilance. They did not fully believe Jesus’ predictions of His death and of their desertion primarily because they did not want to believe them. Had they accepted Jesus’ word at face value, their minds and emotions would have been far too exercised to allow sleep.

The disciples’ predicted desertion of Jesus began here, as they left Him alone in His great time of need. His heart must have broken when He said to Peter, but also for the benefit of James and John, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?”

Considering the circumstances, the rebuke was especially mild. It was not Jesus’ purpose to shame the disciples but to strengthen them and teach them their need for divine help. “Keep watching and praying,” He implored, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The Greek verbs behind keep watching and praying are present imperatives and carry the idea of continuous action, indicated in the nasb by keep.

The need for spiritual vigilance is not occasional but constant. Jesus was warning His disciples to be discerning enough to know they were in spiritual warfare and to be prepared by God to resist the adversary. He was warning them of the danger of self-confidence, which produces spiritual drowsiness.

The only way to keep from being engulfed in temptation is to be aware of Satan’s craftiness and not only to go immediately to our heavenly Father in prayer when we are already under attack but to pray even in anticipation of coming temptation. Peter perhaps first began to learn that lesson on this night in the garden. And after serving faithfully as an apostle for many years, he admonished Christians: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). He also gave the assurance, however, that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Pet. 2:9).

As our Lord taught, we are to pray for God not to “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).

The fact that Jesus again… came and found them sleeping indicates that the disciples fell asleep even after He had awakened and admonished them. Their eyes were heavy, and because they would not seek the Father’s help they found themselves powerless even to stay awake, much less to offer intercession for or consolation to their Master.

After He found the disciples sleeping the second time, Jesus left them again, and went away and prayed a third time. Although the gospels do not indicate it specifically, it would seem possible that, as already mentioned, Jesus had three sessions of prayer in response to three specific waves of Satanic attack, just as in the wilderness. It took three attempts for Satan to exhaust his malevolent strategy against the Son of God. Each time Jesus suffered more extreme torment of soul, but each time He responded with absolute resolution to do the Father’s will. After the third siege, our Lord said the same thing once more to His heavenly Father, that is, “Thy will be done” (see v. 42).

After the third session of prayer, Jesus came to the disciples, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?” Even after the two rebukes and heartfelt admonitions from the Lord, the three men were still sleeping. Their eyes were still heavy (cf. v. 43) because they were controlled by the natural rather than by the spiritual. They were so totally subject to the flesh and its needs that they were indifferent to the needs of Christ. They were even indifferent to their own deepest needs, because, just as Jesus had warned a short while before, they were about to be overwhelmed by fear for their own lives and by shame of Christ. Yet instead of following their Master’s example through agonizing in prayer, they blissfully rested in sleep.

Jesus was teaching the disciples that spiritual victory goes to those who are alert in prayer and who depend on their heavenly Father. The other side of that lesson, and the one the disciples would learn first, was that self-confidence and unpreparedness are the way to certain spiritual defeat.

Strength

Matthew 26:45-46 (NIV) Mt 45 (NIV)  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

The word behold is used to call attention to something. As Jesus walked back to the three disciples, the men coming to arrest Him were already within sight. In fact, they arrived “while He was still speaking” (v. 47). As they approached, Jesus could make out the Roman soldiers from Fort Antonia and the chief priests and elders. Most clearly of all, He could see Judas, who led the motley contingent.

With great sadness, Jesus said, “The hour is at hand.” He was not sad because He was unwilling to face the cross but because He was about to become sin. And His sadness was made the more bitter because His beloved disciples would not stand with Him as He gave His all for them. With a strength made even more magnificent by its contrast with their weakness, the Son of Man graciously submitted to being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

There was nothing more that Jesus needed to do and nothing more the disciples were willing to do. “Arise” Jesus therefore said, “let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” Rather than being weakened and deterred by the temptations, Jesus became stronger and more resolved; and instead of waiting for His enemies to come to Him, He went out to meet them.

With the courage of invincibility, Jesus had made the ultimate and final act of commitment to His heavenly Father, who He knew would raise Him from the dead on the third day. As He moved toward the crowd who came to arrest Him, He also resolutely moved toward the cross. “For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2).

Matthew 26:36-46 gives the pattern and sequence of spiritual tragedy, which may be summarized in the words: confidence, sleep, temptation, sin, and disaster.

  • Self-confidence always opens the door to temptation. The first step of a believer’s falling into sin is false confidence that he is able to be faithful to the Lord in his own power. Like the disciples on the Mount of Olives, he is certain he would never forsake Christ or compromise His Word.
  • Following self-confidence comes sleep, representing indifference to evil and lack of moral and spiritual vigilance. The sleeping believer has little concern for what he reads or listens to, even when it is clearly unchristian and debasing.
  • The third step is temptation, which Satan’s system is constantly ready to place in the way of God’s people. As with Jesus, the temptation appeals to one’s personal rights and calls for rebellion against God.
  • The fourth step is sin, because a believer who is spiritually self-confident, who is indifferent to sin, and who does not turn to the Lord for help will inevitably fall into sin. No person, not even a Christian, has the capacity within himself to withstand Satan and avoid sin.
  • The fifth and final stage in the sequence is disaster. Just as temptation that is not resisted in God’s power always leads to sin, sin that is not confessed and cleansed leads to spiritual tragedy.

But this passage also contains the pattern for spiritual victory, manifested and exemplified by Jesus. The way of victory rather than tragic defeat:

  • confidence in God rather than self
  • moral and spiritual vigilance rather than indifference
  • resisting temptation in God’s power rather than in our own
  • and holding to obedience rather than to the rebellion of sin.

 

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2022 in Faithful Feelings

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way #2 Worry/Fretting…What Does The Future Hold? Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 37


Dealing With Anxiety During A Pandemic - MediKeeper

It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains. Alice Caldwell Rice

Worry has become an obsession in our modern world. A look at the self-help section in any bookstore will reveal its prevalence. Hospitals and waiting rooms are filled with people who have physical problems caused by overwhelming anxiety. In addition, there are many people whose lives are disrupted or made unenjoyable because of paralyzing fear.

Christians like to hide their worry by labeling it Christian concern. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is intensely practical. He deals with this practical problem of anxiety. If he taught about it, that means he cares about it.

The Jews themselves were very familiar with this attitude to life. It was the teaching of the great Rabbis that a man ought to meet life with a combination of prudence and serenity. They insisted, for instance, that every man must teach his son a trade, for, they said, not to teach him a trade was to teach him to steal. That is to say, they believed in taking all the necessary steps for the prudent handling of life. But at the same time, they said, “He who has a loaf in his basket, and who says, ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’ is a man of little faith.”

Jesus said that worry is sinful. We may dignify worry by calling it by some other name—concern, burden, a cross to bear—but the results are still the same. Instead of helping us live longer, anxiety only makes life shorter (Matt. 6:27). The Greek word translated take no thought literally means “to be drawn in different directions.” Worry pulls us apart. Until man interferes, everything in nature works together, because all of nature trusts God. Man, however, is pulled apart because he tries to live his own life by depending on material wealth.

God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies. He will feed and clothe us. It is our “little faith” that hinders Him from working as He would. He has great blessings for us if only we will yield to Him and live for the riches that last forever.

Mt 25 (NIV)  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

There is plenty to worry about (v. 25).

There is no shortage of potential items to worry about. Jesus mentions several matters of common concern.

  1. Life
  2. Health
  3. Possessions

We could add our own list of concerns.

  1. Accidents
  2. Aging
  3. Weather
  4. Criticism

 

In these ten verses Jesus sets out seven different arguments and defenses against worry.

  • He begins by pointing out (verse 25) that God gave us life….surely we can trust him for the lesser things.
  • Jesus goes on to speak about the birds (verse 26). 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
  • There is no worry in their lives, no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on. The point that Jesus is making is not that the birds do not work; it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; the point that he is making is that they do not worry.
  • 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? In verse 27, Jesus goes on to prove that worry is in any event is useless…no man by worrying can add the shortest space to his life; and that meaning is more likely.
  • 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Jesus goes on to speak about the flowers (verses 28-30), and he speaks about them as one who loved them. If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will he care for man?
  • 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
  • Jesus goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like (verse 32). Worry is essentially distrust of God.
  • Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. Worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
  • Jesus says that worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time (verse 34).
  • 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We worry over things we cannot control…usually do not happen…cause us to lose joy of the day…act as if we do not know God.

Worry is a futile thing It’s something like a rocking chair, It will keep you occupied But it won’t get you anywhere.

It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains. Alice Caldwell Rice

It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past. Simon Patrick (1625–1707)

Psalm 37:1-40 (NIV)
1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
2  for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3  Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6  He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.
9  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10  A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
11  But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
12  The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;
13  but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
14  The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
15  But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
16  Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
17  for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18  The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever.
19  In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20  But the wicked will perish: The LORD’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish–vanish like smoke.
21  The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;
22  those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.
23  If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;
24  though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
26  They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.
27  Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.
28  For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
29  the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.
30  The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.
31  The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.
32  The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives;
33  but the LORD will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34  Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
35  I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,
36  but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37  Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.
38  But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.
39  The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40  The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2022 in Faithful Feelings

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way #1 The Challenge of Disappointment


Dealing with Disappointment - satisfiedinjesus.org

How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life. As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

What Isaiah Saw  — Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah did not begin his book with an account of his call to ministry. This he gives in chapter 6, where we’ll look today. Instead, he started with a probing examination of Judah’s present situation and gave a passionate plea for God’s people to return to the Lord.

Crisis and change often bring people to times of disappointment, self-examination and reflection and, hopefully, prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray.

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise; for some 52 years he had been guided by God’s will…but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Isaiah was in turmoil: what is going to happen to Judah?

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

Isaiah saw his Lord (upward look verses 1-4): It was a time of reverence.

He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.”

And notice the angels saw “the while earth is full of his glory.” They knew what Isaiah did not feel.

He was made to realize again that God is on His throne. He saw his circumstances from God’s perspective, not his own.

He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God. In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin (inward look verses 5-6): It was a time of repentance.

It should be a natural occurrence that when we see God, we truly see ourselves. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us.

It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of the people. Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing (verse 7) It was a time of restoration.

-God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Satan specializes is the game of guilt. He works on our individual desires to move us toward sin…and then points his finger at us and reminds of what we’ve done.

What is offered to us? (Acts 2:38 NIV)  “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

(Heb 10:19-22 NIV)  “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, {21} and since we have a great priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Rabbis called this the “13 Attributes” because it spoke so fully of the character of God: (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)  “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, {7} maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.””

Sins of fathers and sons? (Deut. 24:16 NIV)  “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”

(Ezek 18:20 NIV)  “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

One more important point: one of the great tragedies we can present is to speak of God’s throne without the awareness of the altar. God is interested in our life and He has provided what we need.

Isaiah saw the need….his mission (verses 8:13): It was a time of recognition. Verses 9-10 are references 6 times in the New Testament. It reminds us that some will not “hear” or “see” and “believe” no matter what is said or done. Some are very persistent in their unwillingness to believe and eventually live in obedience to God.

I have to be true to my training to have us at least read from John 12:38-41: “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” {39} For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: {40} “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” {41} Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”

When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should.

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it.

The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn our life over to His care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

Can this make a difference?

The story has been told of two men who were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. They were afloat on a life raft and after several days had given up any hope of rescue. Finally, one said to the other, “Do you think it would do any good to pray?” The other agreed that nothing could be lost by trying. Neither, however, had ever prayed. Finally, one recalled living next door to a church as a child. He had often heard their mid‑week meetings through an open window. Bowing his head he began to pray, repeating his recollection of the words he had heard uttered in that church so many years ago. His fervent prayer began, “I‑26, B‑15, N‑7. …”

We may smile at this but before we begin to feel too smug there are some who know little when it comes to worship.

I found a statement that seeks to apply the principles we’ve seen today….In the book by Reggie McNeal’s A work of Heart: “God’s Sabbath did not mean a cessation of activity, but a different activity…it is not a day off to pursue whatever fancy is attainable and affordable. Rather, it is a day to restore eternity to our souls….a day of communion and reflection. God established Sabbath to accomplish a re-creation of eternity, a reminder of what is really real….and involves the worship of God and reflection on the work of our hands (what is going on in our lives).

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2022 in Faithful Feelings

 

Ministry to missing members: How to respond when people are in danger of ‘dropping out of church.’


Saint John Lutheran Church, Charter Oak, Iowa: We Miss YOU!

The Apathetic and Bored Church Member

John S. Savage wrote a doctoral dissertation several years ago on inactive members and the steps they go through to become ‘permanently’ inactive. I believe it will be advantageous for all of us to be aware of these steps and be ready to assist our brothers and sisters if a need arises.

1. The first step is an anxiety-provoking event.

An incident which produces some type of anxiety or uncomfortable feeling in the active member (1) Conflict with the minister; (2) Conflict with another family member; (3) Conflict with another church member.

We found 95 percent of the people had experienced what we now call an “anxiety-provoking event”-an ape. Subsequent research showed these events usually come in clusters, several apes compounding within six months to a year.

Anxiety is the emotional alarm system triggered by disequilibrium, hurt, or anticipated hurt. The inactive members we visited revealed high levels of anxiety, which drove them from church membership because they were never resolved. Their anxiety fell into four categories.

  • Reality anxiety. This anxiety is based on some real, historical event; you could have videotaped what caused it. Normally the event is a snub or an utter lack of church care when a member needed it.  A family from the church had their home burn to the ground, and their 2- and 4-year-old children died in the fire. How many people went to visit him and his wife? Maybe the minister, but probably not many parishioners. Most would confess, “I wouldn’t know what to say,” as if they had to say something.  That event causes reality anxiety. A family experiencing this kind of tragedy would have a hard time returning to a church they felt let them down when they needed them.
  • Moral anxiety. Moral anxiety arises when people experience in themselves or others behaviors they believe aren’t right.  Immoral sexual activity causes many people to eventually leave the church.
  • Neurotic anxiety. Neurotic anxiety is pain caused by the imagination. Someone may claim, “I don’t go to church because the minister doesn’t like me.” The feeling might be based on reality, but the chances are it’s neurotic. It’s only in the person’s head.  A man goes into the hospital, doesn’t let you know he’s there, but expects you to visit. Then he gets angry when you don’t. Months later when you do call, you may trace his problem to that hospital stay. The man is convinced you don’t care about him. That’s neurotic anxiety.  We can inadvertently foster neurotic anxiety. For example, a minister regularly calls on a couple who are potential members. He spends time with them and makes them feel important. All the time they’re thinking, Look at all the personal attention you get from the minister around here! Then they join the church, and the attention they receive drops almost to zero. They wonder what happened. The minister has accidentally encouraged unrealistic expectations, which give rise to neurotic anxiety.
  • Existential anxiety. Existential anxiety is the feeling brought about by the thought that some day you may not exist, or that even if you do, your life may be meaningless. We hear the refrains, “The church has lost its meaning for me,” “The sermons don’t mean anything anymore, Minister,” “My kids are bored stiff in Sunday school.”

Main conflict areas
All anxiety arises from some problem. The most common is intra-family conflict. Husband and wife square off on some issue; parents and kids squabble. This kind of conflict is the most consistent characteristic of people who have left the church.

Conflict with ministers is the second most common problem. When ministers avoid dealing with people’s anxiety, the people simply avoid the ministers and their churches.

Family against family, inter-family conflict, is the third arena. It’s the Hatfields against the McCoys; people don’t get along with one another.

Overwork, or at least the feeling of it, presents a fourth problem area. With volunteer church service, too much too soon or too long, with no reward, will drive people from the church.

Suppose you discover a family is having troubles at home, seems to be avoiding you, is feeling disappointed about the way other church members have treated them, and thinks they’re overworked and unrewarded. You will usually find they are experiencing reality, moral, neurotic, or existential anxiety-often simultaneously. Then you can predict the next stage: they cry for help.

2. The second step is the blinking red light.  The member is hurting inside and wants/needs to talk.

3. Anger is the third step. When anxiety reaches the stage of acute discomfort, the anxiety is transformed to anger.

The cry
If we learn to hear and respond to people’s cries for help, we can usually prevent their dropping out. Those still crying will respond to our efforts to reach them. But cries don’t last forever. Some cry longer than others, depending on their bond to the congregation, but when the cry goes unanswered, eventually members leave. Then the damage is much greater and more difficult to repair.

A verbal cry for help may sound like this: “I don’t know if I want to continue coming to this church. If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s hypocrites!”

Or it could be more subtle: “You know, all the men but me in our Sunday school class have had promotions at work.”

I worked with a woman in Christian education for two years and never once heard a complaint. Then one day in the midst of a long paragraph she let slip just one sentence: “I’m not sure I can do this job much longer.”

I didn’t say anything right then, but when I saw her the next Sunday morning in the hallway, I said, “Sally, I have a feeling you might be upset about some things in church, particularly in the Christian education area.”

“Can I talk with you this week?” she said.

She came in the following Thursday with all her teaching materials-and unmistakable body language. Even before she sat down, she said, “You’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you, but I’m going to resign.” I listened to her story for an hour and a half, and I heard from her the classic phrase of one who is thinking of leaving: “I don’t want to leave the church. I love the church, but I’m tired.” She was overworked-reality anxiety-so we renegotiated her workload, and she stayed. The key is hearing the story first.

Ministers can respond to cries in one of three ways:

First, they can listen and respond to the pain the cry represents. That can be amazingly beneficial.

Second, they can ignore the cry, not realizing how serious it is, until the cry moves into anger. The person gets more agitated and says, “Hey, what do I have to do to get you to hear me? Somebody help me. Can’t you see I’m about to leave the church?”

Third, they can shoot the person with the gospel gun: “What’s the matter with you? Are you losing your faith or something?” That’s a mistake of confusing the symptom for the disease, the behavior for the cause.

But surprisingly, even if we react to the immediate anger rather than the anxiety behind it, we’ll still recover about 80 percent of the people. Even hesitating steps in the right direction can help.

If we miss the verbal cries for help, we at least have a whole string of nonverbal cries to alert us to the problem. The cries for help become behavioral. The person either leaves or begins the process of leaving.

4. Behavioral change. The member either becomes more aggressive or withdrawn. If the problem is not resolved at this point, they move further away from active membership. They drop out of committees. They give up their Sunday or Wednesday classes, if teaching. Usually, at this point, they stop attending except on Sunday morning. They stop attending special meetings and their contributions are either cut down or cut out altogether.

The first behavior change is the leaving of worship.

Second, people leave major committees and boards. They either don’t show up or they begin to show up sporadically. Both of these indicators can be seen on an attendance graph. The one who was always there four Sundays a month drops to three to two to only rare appearances. Or the board member makes one or two meetings a year after nearly perfect attendance in past years.

Third, people begin to leave Sunday school. Most adults have their closest friends in their Sunday school classes. Backing away from friends is a major change.

Fourth, the kids are pulled out of Sunday school. The parents decide they don’t even want to bring them, let alone come themselves.

Fifth comes the letter of resignation, and finally, interestingly enough, the pledge is dropped. That’s the final gasp for help, the last commitment to be given up in most denominations.

The sad thing is, these dropouts are hurting. They’ve not only experienced a cluster of anxiety-provoking events, but also are grieving the loss of their church.

Skunks and turtles
In my experience, a third of the inactive people we called on had tears running down their cheeks once we dug out the original cluster of pain. Uncovering that hurt caused them to cry before perfect strangers.

But people respond to their pain in different ways. Some begin to blame something external – the church, the elders, the members, the minister. We’ve nicknamed them skunks. When you call on these people, you get sprayed on. It’s what happened to me when the woman slammed the paper into her lap and lashed out at me.

When these people drop out, they wait six to eight weeks and then psychologically seal off the pain and anxiety produced by the original cluster. They back away and by all appearances become apathetic. But the pain of the cluster remains and acts as the block to returning to church. In order to get the person to come back, we must deal with that pain.

After they seal off the pain, people reinvest their time, energy, and money in other pursuits. Half reinvest themselves in the family; they buy tents, trailers, and snowmobiles and go away on the weekend. You visit them and hear, “Our family is just as close to God fishing on the lake as we were back at church with that bunch of snobs.”

The other 50 percent reinvest themselves in other institutions: hospitals, PTA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Rotary. So if we call on them, they’ll point their finger at us and say, “I’ve gotten involved with that volunteer ambulance crew. I’m a dispatcher on Sunday mornings. You know, we really help people now.” That’s a skunk speaking.

Another set of dropouts experiences a different emotion: hopelessness. It’s the antithesis of helplessness. It’s the sense of being incapable of generating any inner motivation. As a result, these people withdraw and become inactive. We call them turtles.

Turtles have incredible power to hook other people’s guilt. A turtle’s cry for help might sound like this: “I’m sure you could get Mrs. Green to teach the class. She would do a much better job than I could.” The turtle drops out, waits six to eight weeks, and seals off the pain, much like the skunk. But turtles point the blame internally, toward themselves.

Whether it’s the skunks’ spray or the turtles’ timidity, the various cries for help can be addressed.

Pain – listening
So what do we do for these people? We need to teach ourselves and our lay people to hear the pain of inactive people. It helps, too, if we learn how to intervene in the stages leading to inactivity, before the people disappear.

When we call on an inactive family, or one heading that direction, chances are strong we’re going to have to deal with anger. The turtles’ anger will make us feel guilty, and the skunks’ anger will make us mad. Since calling on an inactive member is often painful, it’s easy to enter a cycle: People leave because they’re angry; I’m angry because they left; I punish them by letting them sit in their pain; they punish me by not coming back.

5. Holding Pattern.

This lasts from six to eight weeks. During this time, they are breaking emotional ties with the folks at the church. They are waiting to see if anyone from the church will call on them. If no one comes during the holding period, then they begin to reinvest their time and energy in other organizations and clubs. Camping, or other family outings, especially on weekends, seems to become a favorite pastime of the inactive member.

6. Out the back door.

The active member has now made the journey out of the church and no longer attends or takes interest in the congregation to which he/she once gave much time and effort.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2022 in Church, Encouragement

 

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #37 Paul Greets His Friends Romans 16


Spread the Word by KJ: Romans 16: Paul's Final Greetings ...

Rome was the capital of the empire. As Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life, Rome was the world’s political, religious, social, and economic center. There the major governmental decisions were made, and from there the gospel spread to the ends of the earth. The church in Rome was a dynamic mixture of Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free people, men, women, Roman citizens, and world travelers; therefore, it had potential for both great influence and great conflict.

The Romans had built a tremendous system of roads between the various major cities of its vast empire, so movement by people from place to place was not unusual. As Paul preached in the eastern part of the empire, he went first to the key cities—Jerusalem, Antioch in Syria, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Ephesus. Along the way he met many believers who eventually ended up in Rome. The fact that Paul knew the whereabouts of so many of his friends and co-workers gives us a glimpse into the interest this great missionary had in the people to whom he ministered and who ministered to him. This final chapter reveals a treasury of friends Paul expected to see in Rome.

Paul had not yet been to Rome to meet all the Christians there, and, of course, he has not yet met us. We too live in a cosmopolitan setting with the entire world open to us. We also have the potential for both widespread influence and wrenching conflict. We should listen carefully to and apply Paul’s teaching about unity, service, and love.

16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church at Cenchrea.NKJV Phoebe was known as a servant or “deacon.” The Greek word used here is diakonon (masculine gender); literally she was a deacon, not a deaconess. However, this description could suggest her entire service, not just an office in the local church at Cenchrea. Apparently she was a wealthy person who helped support Paul’s ministry. Phoebe was highly regarded in the church (suggested by the phrase a servant of the church). Furthermore, because Paul specifically commends her to the Romans it is likely that she delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome. This provides evidence that women had important roles in the early church, as well as important roles in business. Paul mentions by name nine women among his friends in Rome, calling them all “fellow workers.” Phoebe was wealthy, and she apparently had some business in Rome to attend to. Paul, knowing that her itinerary would bring her to Rome before he could get there, asked her to personally carry this letter for him. The letter, then, served as an introduction for Phoebe to the church in Rome.

It’s amazing what could get done for God if no one worried who got the credit. Unknown.

Cenchrea. Cenchrea, the town where Phoebe lived, was the eastern port of Corinth, six miles from the city center (see Acts 18:18). The church here was probably a daughter church of the one in Corinth.

16:2 Receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints.NKJV Paul here asks that the believers welcome Phoebe and give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.NIV Believers who traveled from one place to another could always be assured of a warm welcome and kind hospitality from other believers. How Phoebe helped Paul and others is unknown, but those she helped were obviously very grateful. Life within the body of Christ is a constant exchange of help. Those who are helped one day are given the privilege in Christ of being the helpers the next day. We need to make sure we are participating in both roles in the local church where we worship.

16:3 Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers.NKJV Priscilla and Aquila were a married couple who had become Paul’s close friends. They, along with all other Jews, had been expelled from Rome in a.d. 49 by Emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2-3) and had moved to Corinth. There they met Paul while he was. On his second missionary journey, and they invited him to live with them. Priscilla and Aquila were Christians before they met Paul, and probably told him much about the Roman church. Like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila were missionaries, and they all shared the same trade—tentmaking. They went with Paul when he left Corinth, and when they arrived in Ephesus, decided to stay and help the believers there (Acts 18:19). Priscilla and Aquila helped explain the full gospel to the powerful preacher, Apollos (Acts 18:26). Paul probably stayed with them when he visited Ephesus on his third missionary journey. At some point, they moved back to Rome when they were allowed to return (the Emperor Claudius died five years after issuing the edict expelling Jews from Rome, so it is possible that many returned then). Later, they went back to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).

Priscilla and Aquila were a couple who accomplished effective ministry behind the scenes. Their tools were hospitality, friendship, and person-to-person teaching. They were not public speakers, but private evangelists. For at least some of the Romans, their home was used for church meetings (16:5). Priscilla and Aquila give us a challenging model of what a couple can do together in the service of Christ. How often do we see our families and homes as gifts through which God can accomplish his work? How does God want to use your home and family to serve him?

16:4 They risked their lives for me.NIV Paul was indebted to these dear friends, even explaining to the others that they risked their lives for him. What they did is no longer known, but Paul had faced plenty of danger and had heard many threats against himself. This was certainly true in Ephesus (see Acts 18:6-10; 19:28-31; 1 Corinthians 15:32). Somehow Priscilla and Aquila intervened at one time to save Paul.

Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.NIV Paul is grateful that they saved his life, and the Gentile churches would also be grateful that Paul’s life was spared.

16:5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.NIV A common characteristic of the early church was that the believers met in people’s homes. Priscilla and Aquila had also had a church in their home in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19).

Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.NIV Whoever this man was, Paul calls him my dear friend (niv), and he hag the legacy of being the first convert in Asia! Paul was in Asia on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:10); he had wanted to travel there during his second missionary journey but had been prevented (Acts 16:6).

When we think of being first, we invariably think about athletic records. Paul thought of converts. He went to places in which there was not a single believer in Jesus. The people who first heard the gospel in those places were important to him. Recognizing firsts in our lives is a valuable exercise. Do we know who planted the church where we worship? Do we know who was the first believer in our family? Do we remember who first communicated the gospel to us? Do we remember who was the first one we told about our relationship with Christ? Have we taken time to thank God for each of those first people in our lives?

The personal greetings that follow went to people (twenty-six in all) who were Romans and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, prisoners and prominent citizens. The church’s base was broad: it crossed cultural, social, intellectual, and economic lines. From this list we also learn that the Christian community was mobile. Though Paul had not yet been to Rome, he had met these people in other places on his journeys. Tradespeople, such as Priscilla and Aquila for example, were very mobile. What these believers had in common was a willingness to be taught and a willingness to serve fully as members of the body of Christ.

16:6 Mary, who has worked very hard among you.NRSV Paul would not know firsthand who had worked hard among the believers in Rome, so he is probably speaking from information given him by others, possibly Priscilla and Aquila.

16:7 Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me.NRSV These two may have been a husband and wife team. Junia (or even “Julia,” which is the reading in certain ancient manuscripts) was a widely used female name at the time. Paul’s references to them as relatives (see also 16:21) could mean that they were also Jews, possibly from the same tribe. When they were imprisoned with him is not known, because Paul had been imprisoned numerous times (see 2 Corinthians 11:23).

They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.NRSV Andronicus and Junia distinguished themselves as apostles (“sent ones”) in their ministry. They belonged to that larger group of apostles who had seen the risen Christ (a credential of an apostle—see Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Quite interestingly, this is the only mention of a female apostle (Junia) in the New Testament. If Andronicus and Junia were believers before Paul was, they would have been Christians for about 25 years.

16:8 Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.NIV This was a common Roman name at this time period, and it often showed up in the imperial household. It is possible that this man was part of Caesar’s household because the gospel had reached even there. When Paul later wrote to the Philippian church from Rome, he said, “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22 niv).

16:9 Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ.NKJV Another common Roman name, Urbanus is greeted as a fellow worker—most likely another missionary for the early church.

Stachys. This name was not so common; some people in association with the imperial household were named Stachys.

16:10 Apelles, approved in Christ.NKJV This is a typical Jewish name, common among the Jews in Rome.

Those who are of the household of Aristobulus.NKJV This person may have been related to the Herods, perhaps a brother of Herod Agrippa I. He lived in Rome as a private citizen. To greet a “household” would mean greeting both the family and the servants.

16:11 Herodion, my relative.NIV This person was probably a Jew, and a relative by tribe, not family.

Those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.NIV Perhaps some in Narcissus’s household were not believers, because Paul specifies his greetings to those who are. This person has been identified as Tiberius Claudius Narcissus, a wealthy and powerful man during the reigns of emperors Tiberius and Claudius. But he was executed under Nero (sometime after a.d. 54). At that point, all his possessions, including slaves, would have been confiscated and become imperial property. So Paul sent his greetings to the believers among Narcissus’s household who are now the property of Rome.

16:12 Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.NIV These probably were sisters, maybe even twins because of the close relation of the names.

Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.NIV This name has appeared both among slaves and wealthy people, but never in connection with the imperial household.

16:13 Rufus, chosen in the Lord. This is an extremely common name. But it is possible that this is the same Rufus as mentioned in Mark 15:21. If so, then this is a son of Simon of Cyrene, and thus a North African.

His mother, who has been a mother to me, too.NIV If Rufus is the same as the one mentioned in Mark’s gospel, Paul may have met his mother in Antioch of Syria. Rufus’s father, Simon, has been identified as the Simeon who was a teacher in the church there (Acts 13:1). Paul was brought to Antioch of Syria by Barnabas, where they spent a year (Acts 11:25-26). Perhaps Paul lived with them, and Rufus’s mother had special concern and love for Paul—seeming like a mother to him.

16:14 Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers with them.NIV Perhaps these men were leaders of other house churches. The names are common names, especially among slaves.

16:15 Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.NKJV Philologus and Julia may have been married. Olympas may have been another leader in a house church.

16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The “holy kiss” was a common form of greeting, much like the handshake today. (See also 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.)

All the churches of Christ greet you.NRSV The churches Paul is referring to would most likely be those who were joining together in delivering the offering to Jerusalem (see 15:25-27).

Taken together, the list above represents a cross-section of Roman culture, from slaves to those of high social status. The church to whom Paul was writing had all the potential for unity in Christ in spite of every possible barrier. Even this list serves as another example of the theme of Paul’s letter: God’s plan includes the entire world. Justification by faith is the greatest proof of the truth of the theme, but the repeated theme of this letter is the great news that the Good News is for everyone!

16:17 Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.NIV Jesus had told the disciples that false teachers would come (Matthew 24:11; Mark 13:22-23). Just as false prophets had contradicted the true prophets in Old Testament times (for example, see Jeremiah 23:16-40; 28:1-17), telling people only what they wanted to hear, so false teachers were twisting Christ’s teachings and the words of his apostles. These teachers were belittling the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Some claimed that Jesus couldn’t be God; others claimed that he couldn’t have been a real man. These teachers allowed and even encouraged all kinds of wrong and immoral acts, especially sexual sin.

Avoid them.NKJV Paul had not yet been to Rome, but he certainly realized that the ubiquitous false teachers would make their way there. He urges believers to be careful about the doctrines they listen to and to check all teachers’ words against the Scriptures. And then they were to keep’ away from those trying to cause divisions. The severe problem of false teaching in some of the other churches Paul visited caused him to include this in the closing lines of his letter, for he knew it could certainly become a problem.

The false teachers were motivated by their own interests rather than Christ’s. They embroiled the church in endless and irrelevant questions and controversies, taking precious time away from the study of the truth. Today we could also enter into worthless and irrelevant discussions, but such disputes quickly crowd out the life-changing message of Christ. We must stay away from religious speculation and pointless theological arguments. Such exercises may seem harmless at first, but they have a way of sidetracking us from the central message of the gospel—the person and work of Jesus Christ. And they expend time we should use to share the gospel with others. We should avoid anything that keeps us from doing God’s work.

16:18 Such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.NRSV Teachers should be paid by the people they teach, but false teachers were attempting to make more money by distorting the truth and saying what people wanted to hear. They were more interested in making money than in teaching truth, motivated by a desire to gain power and prestige. In contrast, genuine Christian teachers are motivated by sincere faith and a desire to do what is right. Both Paul and Peter condemned greedy, lying teachers (see 1 Timothy 6:5).

By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.NIV Paul warns the Roman believers that when they listen to teachers, they should check the content of what is said and not be fooled by smooth style or flattery, Many cult leaders have led Christians astray by teaching things that sound like truth but are actually falsehoods. Christians who study God’s Word will not be fooled, even though superficial listeners may easily be taken in. For an example of those who carefully checked God’s Word, see Acts 17:10-12.

16:19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you.NIV Paul quickly adds that he knows the Roman believers are not naive (16:18) because their obedience to God is well known.

I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.NIV Believers are to be wise in their understanding of what is good, that is, in what God wants them to do. On the reverse, they are to be innocent about evil. The Greek word for innocent is akeraious, meaning simple or pure. The word was used to describe wine that was undiluted. Believers are to be innocent; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (12:2).

16:20 The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.KJV This language echoes Genesis 3:15, wherein God declares that the serpent’s head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. These false teachers, servants of Satan, would try to sow discord in the churches, but God is the God of peace, The false teachers will be destroyed when Christ establishes his peace upon his return (see Revelation 20:1-6).

16:21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you.NIV Timothy was a key person in the growth of the early church, traveling with Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3). Later Paul wrote two letters to him (1 and 2 Timothy) as Timothy worked to strengthen the churches in Ephesus. Paul wrote of him, “Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:22 niv). Acts 20:4 places Timothy with Paul prior to Paul’s departure to Jerusalem.

Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.NRSV Again these are fellow Jews, not family relations. These names are also mentioned in other places: Acts 13:1; 17:5-9; 20:4.

16:22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.NIV This was Paul’s secretary, who wrote the letter as Paul dictated it.

16:23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.NIV This is most likely not the same Gaius who was from Macedonia (Acts 19:29), nor the one from Derbe (Acts 20:4), nor the one addressed in 3 John. It is probably the Gaius whom Paul baptized in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Erastus, the treasurer of the city.NKJV Erastus would have been a powerful and influential man. A civic official of this name is mentioned on the inscription on a marble paving-block in Corinth. The name was common enough that he need not be identified with the Erastus mentioned in other places (Acts 19:22 and 2 Timothy 4:20).

The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years. C. S. Lewis

There is no verse 24 in most modem translations because it is not found in the most trusted Greek manuscripts. It is a scribal addition repeating the words of 16:20.

16:25 Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.NKJV Paul had explained his gospel at length in this letter to the Romans (see 2:16). Paul’s gospel was the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that the gospel and Christ himself would establish (strengthen and stabilize) them in the faith.

According to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.NIV Parts of that gospel were a mystery for many ages, hidden in the Old Testament (see also Ephesians 3:8-11; Colossians 1:25-27).

16:26 Now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God.NIV The prophets who wrote various books of the Old Testament were not fully aware of the meaning of their own words; but they wrote, at God’s command, much about the fulfillment of the mystery—the coming of the Messiah, the salvation of the Gentiles, and the return of the Jews (see 11:25). Now, after the coming of Christ and the growth of the church, what they wrote is being understood (1:2). (See also Luke 24:44-45; 1 Peter 1:10-12.)

So that all nations might believe and obey him.NIV This was the ultimate goal, all part of God’s plan from the beginning (see 1:5). Paul exclaims that it is wonderful to be alive when the mystery, God’s secret—his way of saving the Gentiles—is becoming known throughout the world! All the Old Testament prophecies are coming true, and God is using Paul as his instrument to tell this Good News.

16:27 To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.NIV God’s glory is displayed through Jesus Christ. William Tyndale reflected on what might be the appropriate application of the entire letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Now go to, reader, and according to the order of Paul’s writing, even so do thou. First behold thyself diligently in the law of God, and see there thy just damnation. Secondarily turn thine eyes to Christ, and see there the exceeding mercy of thy most kind and loving Father. Thirdly remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again: neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest return (as a swine) unto thine old puddle again: but that thou shouldest be a new creature and live a new life after the will of God and not of the flesh. And be diligent lest through thine own negligence and unthankfulness thou lose this favour and mercy again.”

Paul had not yet been to Rome to meet all the Christians there, and, of course, he has not yet met us. We can easily count ourselves among the strangers to whom he was writing. We too live in a cosmopolitan setting with the entire world open to us. We also have the potential for both widespread influence and wrenching conflict. We, too, belong to churches that exhibit an all-too-embarrassing tendency towards disunity and ineffectiveness. There is plenty of work to be done if we will listen carefully to and apply Paul’s teaching about unity, service, and love. Any effort in that direction is bound to bring glory to God!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2021 in Romans

 

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #36 – Marks of a Strong Fellowship Within the Church, 15:1-13


Walking in the Light : Romans 15:1-13 – Christian Responsibility

Paul continues his discussion from chapter 14 on how believers should relate to one another, especially when there are disagreements on matters of opinion.

As long as these matters of conviction do not entail disobedience to God, strong believers must not look down on their weaker brothers and sisters, and weak believers must not judge and condemn the freedom of stronger brothers and sisters. (14:1-12).

  1. Mark 1: the strong bear the weaknesses of the weak (v.1-3).

1  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

15:1 We who are strong. Paul identifies himself as one of the “strong.” He was comfortable in any company because his main goal was to win others to Christ.

To the Corinthians he wrote: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22 niv)

The word for obligation is present tense, showing that stronger believers always have this obligation. They may find themselves frustrated by the failings of the weak—their concerns and worries over what, to the strong, seems trivial. But the responsibility lies with the strong to maintain harmony in the church by “bearing” with these brothers and sisters (see Galatians 6:1-2).

The word “bear” (bastazein) does not mean to bear in the sense of putting up with and forebearing with an attitude of begrudging. It means to bear the weak along, to support them, to carry them along as a father or mother would carry a child—in love and tenderness, understanding and care.

The stronger believers demonstrate their spiritual strength precisely at those moments when they are practicing compassion for those who are weaker.

15:2 Please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.NIV The strong believer must never be self-centered, but must be concerned for the spiritual welfare of his neighbor—the weaker person beside him or her in the congregation. This “pleasing” is done with a goal in mind—to encourage and build up that other believer in the faith.

There is a fine line to walk—the stronger person should not push the weaker one to change his or her ways before he or she is ready; neither should the stronger person pander to the doubts of that weaker one by allowing such doubts to become rules for the church.

15:3 Christ did not please himself. Christ was the “strongest” human who ever lived—he did not please himself, but did God’s will. Certainly death on a cruel cross was not the path he would have chosen to please himself, but his mission was to please God.

As it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”NRSV Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9. This messianic psalm prophesied the Messiah’s coming into the world and what would happen to him. Christ faced reproach and insults because he did not choose to please himself; instead, he chose to do what God had called him to do. How much more should we, who are called by his name, also choose to please God rather than ourselves.

Real Christian freedom means inconvenience. In the complexities of relationships, a free person will limit his or her actions in one area in order to accomplish a more important goal in another. Bearing with weaknesses, identifying with those who are persecuted for the cause of Christ, and seeking others’ good demonstrate a life of love. Maturity develops when we don’t allow our convictions to become excuses for treating poorly our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

  1. Mark 2: everyone studies the Scriptures (v.4).

4  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

15:4 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.NIV All of Scripture (here referring to the Old Testament) was written and preserved for future generations. Our scriptural knowledge affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater will be our confidence in what he will do in the days ahead. We should read our Bible diligently to increase our trust that God’s will is best for us.

So that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.NRSV How does the Bible encourage us?

(1) God’s attributes and character constantly remind us in whom our hope is based (Psalm 46:1-2)

(2) The biographies of saints who overcame great obstacles give us examples of what can be done with God’s help (Hebrews 11).

(3) The direct exhortation of Scripture calls for endurance and speaks encouragement (James 1:24; Hebrews 12:1-2).

(4) The prophetic statements support our hope for a wonderful future planned for us in eternity (Romans 5:1-5).

Scripture records stories of those who pleased God, those who didn’t, and those who failed but learned from their mistakes.

 

  1. Mark 3: everyone works for harmony (v.5-6).

5  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How can a church—a church with so many diverse personalities—achieve harmonious feelings and one mind? He has just said that the endurance and comfort necessary to live for God comes from the Scriptures. Now he says they come from God. In fact, he says that God is the God of patience (endurance) and consolation (comfort). Therefore, the believer secures his strength or endurance and comfort from both the Scriptures and God.

This prayer is strikingly similar to the one Jesus prayed with his disciples at the end of his final meal with them, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23 niv).

 

  1. Mark 4: everyone accepts one another without discrimination (v.7-12).

7  Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8  For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9  and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10  And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11  And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12  And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

15:7 Accept one another . . . just as Christ accepted you.NIV If our goal is to glorify God, we cannot be caught up in dissension, disagreements, or arguments, especially about trivial matters of opinions. Instead, we should lovingly accept one another—there is to be no one-sided acceptance. All are to accept one another and live in harmony.

At one time, we all were weak. And many strong believers are still weak in some areas. Christ is our model of what acceptance means. When we realize that Christ accepted us, as unlovely and sinful and immature as we were when we came to him (see 5:6, 8, 10), then we will accept our brothers and sisters.

The world sits up and takes notice when believers of widely differing backgrounds practice Christlike acceptance. This brings praise to God.NIV

15:8-9 Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth.NIV Having referred to unity again, Paul feels compelled to remind his readers that the greatest example of unity brings both Jews and Gentiles under the lordship of Christ.

Jesus came to bring the truth to the Jews and to show that God is true to his promises—the promises given to the patriarchs.NRSV At the same time, Christ came so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.NKJV The promises, the covenants, were made to the patriarchs of the Jewish nation alone, but God, in his mercy, made them available to the Gentiles as well. God’s offer of salvation to the Gentiles would cause them to glorify him for his mercy. Without God’s mercy, the Gentiles could never receive his blessings and his salvation.

To offer final proof, Paul quoted four Old Testament passages, taken from the three divisions of the Old Testament—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The Old Testament pictured the Gentiles as receiving blessings from God.

Paul demonstrated that the Old Testament spoke of the Gentiles being included in the messianic kingdom. Since Christ would rule over both the Jews and the Gentiles, they should accept each other as members of God’s family.

 

 

  1. Mark 5: everyone is filled by the God of hope (v.13).

13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.NIV Paul again prays for the believers (as in 15:5). This time Paul prays that the God who gives hope will give them joy (as they anticipate what God has in store for them) and peace (as they rest in the assurance that God will do as he has promised). Then, the believers can overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.NIV It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that God accomplishes his care for his people—giving them endurance, encouragement, unity (15:5), hope, joy, and peace. Hope comes as a by-product of the Holy Spirit’s work. It does not come from our own senses or experiences.

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2021 in Romans

 
 
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