All believers know the stress of suffering as Jesus foretold (John 16:33; Luke 9:23). Jesus was well acquainted with our griefs: Isaiah described the pain of the coming Savior centuries before in chapter 53 verses 3 and 4.
Times of stress and grief are not easy on anybody, but believers have a Savior who understands their predicament. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, because He does hear us. Run to Jesus Christ when suffering comes. He understands and He cares.
The apostle Paul suffers in a Roman prison due to the persecution set in motion by the infamous emperor Nero – he knows that his death is imminent. So what does a dying man say to a “child in the faith” such as Timothy? Paul points Timothy to the source where he will find the strength to face the challenges of ministry and Roman persecution:
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).
This verse is a straightforward charge to “be strong.” It is a command and not a suggestion. To “be strong” is a continuous action not a one time reaction. Likewise, the Christian today who faces difficulties, challenges, persecutions, oppression and the like, Paul’s command resonates with us centuries later – “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Remember our Master’s words:
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Parents, I have an important message for you so pay close attention. You teach your children sports, help them with school work and many other things that can have a lifetime benefit. But do you teach them about the most important journey they will take or the most amazing adventure they will experience – eternity? Eternity lasts forever!
As a youth and on through my life, I have lost many family members, friends and acquaintances to eternity – many of whom were taken unexpectedly and were not prepared.
I had a vivid dream one night several months ago of two friends from my past standing with me on a small boat a little offshore. It was twilight and before us lay a vast, dark ocean. I said to my friends as we sailed into the darkness and infinite unknowns of eternity, “Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior so you are prepared for what lies ahead.” But they seemed indifferent as we headed toward certain demise. Then I woke up.
Parents, don’t be indifferent. Teach your children valuable lessons for this life, but do not neglect to teach them about what is most important and lasts forever – eternity!
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let others do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians and ministers may push themselves and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit of it, but He will make you work on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.
He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His … He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
Excerpts from George Douglas Watson, 1845-1924 (public domain)
God has given each one of us a purpose in life: a calling, a mission, a destiny to fulfill. When we choose to follow Christ wholeheartedly, we are no longer held hostage and defined by the limitations this world puts on us. We no longer have to feel defeated, discouraged, dismayed or depressed by the circumstances that surround us. We are not limited by the resources at hand but by the faith in our hearts.
I have met “wounded warriors” who have lost limbs and they still run and compete with prosthetic limbs in races. Our limits are mostly in our minds. Put on the mind of Christ and be transformed by the Word of God and go set the world on fire!
This is one of these fundamental questions, I believe, that we should not only ask ourselves but know how to answer. In fact, this is the very question I ask the students in my ethics class at a local university, pointing out that they must identify what they believe and why they believe it.
The concept of conviction in our
culture today seems to have given way to the “virtue” of compromise. While
compromise in certain contexts is needed, the idea of following the crowd,
doing what everyone else is doing, seems to be the mantra of our time! But our
culture is desperate for leaders who will rise above the rest and live with
Conviction creates a clear path for
how to choose to live our lives. It is an every day reminder that certain
things must never be compromised; that we must stand for certain core values
even if it means we have to stand alone.
The story of the sacrifice of Riley
Howell is an example in point: When the gunman entered his classroom at UNC
Charlotte, rather than run or hide Riley charged him. An act – not surprising
to those who knew him – that reflected the way he lived his life. Although this
decision would cost Riley his life, it saved the lives of others. Conviction
does not yield to consequences but lives by principle: doing what one knows is
the right thing to do.
The Christian world needs men and
women of conviction: Men and women who, like Riley, will stand for what is
right, regardless of the cost. Men and women who will not seek the comforts of
compromise, but out of a love for Jesus Christ and others will stand for what
is true; men and women who, despite the pressures of popular opinion, are
willing to stand alone for their faith.
So, let me ask you the same
question I ask my ethics students, what are your convictions? What do you
believe and why do you believe it? May we be ready every day to give a reason
for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15, 16).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments we meet people who offered sacrifices and demonstrated the appearance of spirituality. However, God labels many of them as lukewarm, disobedient, stiff-necked, stubborn, rebellious or apostate. Why? Because God is more concerned with the attitudes of the heart than with outward displays. God desires a people who are obedient and faithful.
King Saul learned the hard way that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Following Saul’s lame excuse for only partially obeying the Lord’s command, the prophet Samuel rebuked him with the following words:
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice… (1 Samuel 15:22).
It is very important that we not only talk our Christianity, but that we walk it. Titus 1:16 states:
They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him….
All through the Scriptures we meet those who were tempted, tested, and confronted by obstacles. Some disobeyed, rebelled, and turned from the Lord. Others remained faithful – no matter the cost. Those who disobeyed suffered the consequences; immediately or in the not-so-distant future. Those who obeyed received God’s blessing and ultimate victory.
On Talking Back
When I was in gymnastics and my instructor would say, “Billy, climb the rope to the gym’s ceiling. Do a round off and several backhand springs in a row on the mat. Get on the trampoline and do a double back flip.” I did not say, “I don’t feel like doing that today.” I did it!
When going out for football and the coach would say, “Hit the sled and keep hitting it until I tell you to stop. Run the ropes. Take five laps.” I did not say, “Well coach, I am not in the mood to do that today.” I did it!
When, in karate, my instructor said, “Do knuckle pushups.” I did knuckle pushups. When he said, “You, Rudge! Come here. I want to use you for an uke and beat on you for awhile.” I did not say, “Not today, Sensei. Maybe next time.” No, I stepped forward and let him demonstrate strikes and kicks on me. When I was told, “Lay down and put this potato on your chest so I can slice it in half with this sword.” I did not say, “That’s a bad idea.” I obeyed. When he said spar and fight, I sparred and fought!
Should I obey any less the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God who created me, the God who came and died for me, who bodily rose from the dead, and who is coming again to rule and reign for all eternity?
When His Word and Spirit tell me to do something, how much more should I obey without talking back or whining or complaining or making excuses? I do not say, “Well, if I feel like it, Lord,” or “Maybe I will think about it,” or “I don’t know if I want to do that.” I obey! That is what it means to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship.
But is this biblical? In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks:
Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?
In John 14:15, 24 Jesus said:
If you love Me, you will obey what I command. He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching.
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus states:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
1 John 2:3, 6 says:
We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.
And the manner in which Jesus walked was in humility and obedience (Philippians 2:8).
Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition.