Be Strong in Grace

By Jim Weikal

The apostle Paul suffers in a Roman prison due to the persecution set in motion by the infamous emperor Nero. He knows 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, oppressions 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, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jim Weikal is a Biblical instructor at Bill Rudge Ministries.

Peace in a Time of Uncertainty

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Sea of Galilee by Bill Rudge

We all experience times of uncertainty; moments that raise many questions and concerns about what we should do and how things will work out. Currently, like many of you, my wife and I and our six children are working through our own time of uncertainty.

Our nation is also facing uncertainties. Many are overwhelmed with questions and concerns: When will this pandemic end? Will there be another spike in the virus? Will there be a food shortage? Do masks really help? Should I go out in public settings? Will I lose my job? How will the election results impact my life, my family, America, the world?

So too, Jesus’ disciples experienced their times of uncertainty. For about 3 years, the disciples had served at the side of Jesus where they were direct recipients of His daily teachings and eyewitnesses to His miraculous power. Now, they were confronted with the uncertainty that Jesus was going to leave them and with the uncertainty of the implications to follow. Just as it would be today, we find in John chapters 14-17 many what, how, why, where and when questions (John 14:5, 22; 16:17, 18). In response to their questions, Jesus asserted that even though we will have tribulation in this world, we can have peace because He has overcome the world (John 16:32, 33).

In light of these words by Jesus, we are addressing here three specific questions about the peace that Jesus offered His disciples and is available to us right now.

Question #1: What is this peace?

The peace that Jesus gives (see John 14:27) does not come from this world. Instead of trying to find it by looking to others (celebrities, politicians, etc.) or looking within, the peace Jesus provides can only be found by looking to Him. The idea of peace that the world promotes is a life without conflict and difficulty, but there are problems with this approach to peace: It is circumstantial. In other words, it is a peace that solely depends upon your circumstances/conditions. Because it is circumstantial, a worldly approach to peace is temporary. Certainly, we all have moments when life goes well and we don’t face any direct conflicts or challenges. But we also know that this peace is short-lived because we are all going to face tribulation, conflicts, and difficulties. In fact, the Greek word Jesus used for tribulation in John 16:33 means to be pressured or squeezed to the point you feel confined with no way to escape!

This is exactly how many feel right now with the current pandemic and state of our Union; squeezed with no way to escape as these uncertain times have robbed us of peace, individually, and collectively as a country (and the world). But while the peace of this world depends upon life’s circumstances, the peace that Jesus provides transcends our circumstances. We do not have to wait for circumstances to change.

Jesus’ peace impacts our lives by producing courage. Amidst their questions and fear, Jesus told the disciples to “take heart” (John 16:33). In the Greek this means to take courage and be of good cheer. This is the courage of confidence that rests not in ourselves, nor in our circumstances, but in the God we serve. Consider Joshua who faced uncertainty as he led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. As he took on this momentous task, God instructed him to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The key for Joshua’s courage did not rest in his own ability but in the fact that He served a faithful God who would be with Him. This is why Joshua was told to meditate upon God’s law (Joshua 1:8), so that he would not only have a proper understanding of what to do but a proper understanding of the One (God) who called him to do it.

Jesus’ peace impacts our lives by the removal of anxiety and fear. As Paul sat in a prison for preaching the Gospel, he wrote these powerful words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Despite his circumstances and the uncertain outcome, Paul still had the peace of God, a peace that Paul reminds all believers will guard us from being controlled by anxiety, doubt and fear.

Question #2: How is peace provided?

When we examine John chapters 14-17, we discover two ways Jesus provides this peace: first through the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27). “Helper” refers to someone who has been called to come alongside to help and plead the cause of someone else. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit did in the lives of the apostles as He provided them with wisdom, guidance and strength. In fact, Jesus goes on to say that it was for their advantage that He leaves them and sends the Holy Spirit (see John 16:7). How could it be an advantage for the disciples that Jesus would leave them? What could be more spiritually advantageous than literally walking and talking with Jesus? By forcing the disciples to step out of their comfort zone, they could learn to trust God in a deeper way and experience the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

My sister and brother-in-law recently watched their only son leave for the Navy. But knowing they had raised him to love the Lord, the sadness of seeing him go also brought with it the joy and confidence that God would continue to work in his life in a deeper and more powerful way. Sometimes the only way to grow is to step out of our comfort zones and encounter the uncertainties of life with faith and trust. Thankfully, we do not have to do this in our own strength, because we have the active presence of the Holy Spirit who right now can strengthen and empower us in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16).

The second way Jesus provides His peace is through the fellowship (unity) of believers. As Christians, we are not designed to live as islands unto ourselves. Instead, we are called to live out our faith within the community of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Before Jesus faced His arrest, trial, and crucifixion He specifically prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17:20, 21). Unity within the body of Christ occurs both on a doctrinal level (what we believe) and on a practical level (how we live out our faith). It is on this practical level where – when we go through uncertain and difficult times – it is our function as a body to encourage and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

I have several friends with whom I meet on a monthly basis to pray. They have been a source of peace in my life as I have been for them when they faced times of uncertainty. As the Body of Christ, Jesus wants us to face our problems unified, so we may have the peace that comes through the support and love of each other. As believers in Jesus Christ, may we be unified during this time of uncertainty so we can be instruments of hope and peace to a world desperately needing it.

Question #3: How can I experience this peace?

If you want to experience the peace of Jesus right now, the very first thing you must do is repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit will dwell within you and begin to produce the fruit of His Spirit in your life – one of which is peace (Galatians 5:22-23). Secondly, you must place your trust in God and not your circumstances. This act of trust will require you to yield your will to God’s will. Jesus provides the best example of this as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

Knowing the agony of what He was about to experience, Jesus surrendered His will so that He could fulfill the will of His Father. This same attitude is what we need to display when we face times of uncertainty. We need to trust God and yield to His will, even when it does not seem to line up with what we want. Happily, we have the confidence that we are surrendering ourselves over to a sovereign God who is not only in control of every detail of our lives, but truly has our best interests at heart.

Closing Challenge

In this time of uncertainty, we should do more than strive for personal peace, but also seek to be used by God to bring hope to others. I recently read an article that discussed how previous pandemics in history caused major shifts in the world. Two of these impacted the Roman Empire in the 2nd century and 3rd century A.D. causing a major shift in the Empire’s worldview. According to the author, these pandemics had a mortality rate of about 25-30% of the empire’s population. At this time the empire was pagan; the majority of people worshipped multiple gods. Christianity was less than 1% of the population. The response of the Pagans and Christians to these pandemics was starkly different. The Pagans opted to live in self-isolation with the goal of self-preservation, while the Christians sought opportunities to minister to the sick and hopeless. This response by the Christians, along with several other factors, affected the Roman empire so dramatically that the author concludes by saying, “in roughly a span of a century, an essentially pagan empire found itself well on its way to becoming a majority Christian one.”

While we need to use wisdom during this pandemic – especially those of us who have underlying health risks – let us not waste the opportunity God has provided for us at this time in history! In a world overcome with uncertainty and fear, may we be living testimonies of the PEACE that comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Meditate On This

by Jim Weikal

And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass (Revelation 15:2).

During the brutal time of the Tribulation, many people will accept a false political leader (the beast), worship a false deity (his image), and procure food, clothing, and shelter by participating in an electronically controlled economic system (the number 666).

But there will be those who are victorious over these demonic systems because of the “blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her [Babylon], my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues’; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities (Rev. 18:4-5).

The Greek verb translated “piled up” means “to glue” or “to stick together.” These vile sins are stuck together, one on top of the other, until they reach heaven itself.

Contrast the sins of those connected with Babylon, to your sins. We know that no believer is without sin (1 John 1:10). But when we do sin, “we have an advocate with the Father.” An “advocate” is defined as one who assists another or pleads the cause of another (1 John 2:1).

So meditate on this: Jesus Christ is your advocate! Because the righteous One is the payment for your sins, your sins do not pile up. You can go to God and confess your sins to a faithful mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6) and He will “cleanse [you] from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Your sins do not “stick together” like the unrepentant sinners of Babylon. Your sins have been forgiven since you received Christ as your savior. And “no one is able to snatch [you] out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

Jim Weikal is a Biblical instructor at Bill Rudge Ministries.

Where Is Your Treasure?

by Bill Rudge

Everything you have can be swept away in a flood, burned up in a fire, blown away in a tornado, stolen by thieves, wasted on excessive living or consumed by medical expenses – but what you invest in God’s Kingdom will last forever. Through Jesus Christ you can have an eternal inheritance that will never be robbed, lost, tarnished, spoiled or fade away.

The condition of America’s spiritual health is of utmost concern. Unless our nation’s moral hemorrhage is stopped, it will prove fatal. America will be brought to her knees – either in repentance or from intensifying judgment.

God has given us additional time to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Have we squandered our opportunities or wisely used them? How many of our friends and loved ones have already passed into eternity? Now is the time to share Jesus with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…while we still have opportunity – while there is yet time.

The Greater Cause

As believers in Jesus Christ we should care less about being politically correct and more about being biblically accurate. We must defend the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). Besides, beneficial and lasting social change will only come when the hearts of the people are turned back to their Creator. While many causes are noble, all will prove inadequate and inferior to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Imagine the eternal impact – as well as the social and political benefits – if Christians put increased effort into evangelism. Imagine the positive influence on our nation if the life-changing, eternal life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ were embraced, and compassion instead of hostility, reigned in relationships, personal and national. As a result of loving service in Jesus’ name and living exemplary lives, we would be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

The heartbeat of Jesus, before He returns, is the fulfillment of His Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel across the entire world. Evangelism is such a priority that Jesus’ parting words before His ascension instructed the disciples to be His witnesses throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus went so far as to state that the end will not come until the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14).

During the Tribulation period – in the midst of intense persecution – God will use the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11), raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7 and 14), and even use angels to proclaim His everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, 7). The harvest will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).

Financial Security – Not

While it is wise to have reserves for emergencies and future needs, no amount of accumulated wealth and resources will protect you from what is coming. Currently you can still choose to give where you want, but in the future you may not have that option. Your resources and investments could be confiscated or controlled by another. Your money could be taken through identity theft, bank account seizures, medical expenses, and so on.

Eventually, everything you have will be taken. Besides, you can’t take it with you when you die or when Jesus returns. The only security in this turbulent world is the LORD. Those who horde and stockpile earthly riches will be bankrupt. Jesus said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Wise financial planning includes far more than accumulating retirement accounts and material possessions. Countless people have lost large amounts of money that might have been used for the Kingdom – providing them an eternal reward that surpasses any monetary gains they had hoped to achieve. Do not let the words of James 5:2, 3 be true of you:

Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

The day rapidly approaches when each of us will give an account to God concerning our stewardship of finances, time and talents (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Therefore, it would be wise to focus on God’s priority: Evangelism and Missions. A significant portion of our resources, time and energy should be put into sharing the love and truth of Jesus with a lost and dying world – this is sound financial planning and most certainly the best inheritance.

Ask yourself: Do I care more about my political agenda or my testimony for Jesus Christ? Do I give more to social and political causes or to missions? Am I neglecting evangelism and witnessing because it is offensive to some? Am I using my life and money primarily for personal pursuits and pleasures or to help fulfill the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? What am I doing to advance God’s Kingdom and reach people for eternity before the days of opportunity are gone?

Remember, true and lasting riches consist of spiritual blessings and the legacy of faith you leave your loved ones. We cannot take anything into eternity with us except the lives we touch for Jesus Christ!

Be Strong in the Lord

by Jim Weikal

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).