SUFFERING: PERSEVERANCE, CHARACTER & HOPE

October 20, 2017

Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study the original language in which these verses were written, you will discover that Paul is saying essentially this: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to various patches military people wear that show they have been tested and proven. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from the Lord the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character. When you have been tested and proved, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. While visiting missionaries on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, I learned that one of the most important abilities for missionaries is stickability. Can you go to a foreign culture, and stay for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years?  Can you live out your life there as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are hostile toward Jesus and His followers?

Most missionary work is living Christ until the people you desire to reach “see Christ in your mortal flesh,” to borrow the words of one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


VISION, FAITH & SACRIFICE

October 3, 2017

“… But for this reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”  (John 12:27-28)

When we have a vision, we must also have a plan. It has been said that without vision the people perish, but without a plan the vision perishes. Nehemiah not only had a vision to repair and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, he had a plan to do so. As an enslaved exile his plan was to present his vision to the emperor for whom he was a cup bearer.

This was extremely dangerous. At that time there was a death penalty for being sad in the presence of the emperor, or for bringing anything negative to the attention of the emperor while serving him. Nehemiah had the faith to pray silently and then present his vision to the emperor. The emperor showed empathy and compassion for Nehemiah by approving his plan and supplying everything needed to see that the plan was followed to the letter.

Has God put a vision in your heart of what He wants you to do? If you have a vision, do you have a plan? In that context consider this formula for your vision:

vision + faith + sacrifice = miracle.

If you have a vision and a plan to carry out that vision, are you willing to sacrifice for that vision? Are you willing to die for that vision?

Our Lord Jesus Christ had a vision and a plan. He was willing to sacrifice and die for His vision and plan. He mandated that we should follow His example.

Regarding your vision and plan, are you willing to pray essentially:

“Father glorify Yourself and send me the bill.

Anything Father, just glorify Yourself?”

Dick Woodward, 30 January 2010


10th Condition for Peace: Christ within us

June 6, 2017

“…never forget the nearness of your Lord.” (Philippians 4:5)

When Paul experienced his last horrible imprisonment in Rome, visiting him was dangerous. Roman guards might chain you up if you came to see him. And nobody did. Paul writes: “They all forsook me. May God not lay it to their charge.” But he also writes: “Nevertheless the Lord stood by me and ministered to me.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

Paul has a relationship with the risen Christ. This is always his explanation for the dynamic of his life. He writes: “Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace all the time and in every way.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16) In the upper room discourse, Jesus shared: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27) Paul knows that Christ Who lives in us will give us, and keep us, in a state of perpetual peace.

As a by-product of Paul’s relationship with Christ, he can write, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One Who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Jesus was speaking about a relationship with God when He taught: “Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 Amplified Bible)

Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking. Open the door of your life wider and invite Christ into the center of every meaningful area of your life.

“Never forget the nearness of the presence of the Lord.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


What does it mean to be in Christ?

October 9, 2013

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I’m indebted to E. Stanley Jones, a missionary who served in India for 50 years, and his superb daily devotional, In Christ, for showing me the importance of this phrase in the New Testament.  I highly recommend his book which highlights the use of this phrase by all the New Testament authors.

According to Dr. Jones, when we think about being “in Christ,” we should realize that Paul was not talking about being in religion.  Few people have been more into religion than Paul before he met Jesus.  Paul was so religious he fervently persecuted followers of Jesus, sure that he was pleasing God by trying to snuff them out.

It is possible to be in religion, but not be in Christ.  It is possible to be in church, and not be in Christ.  We can be in doctrine, or theology, and not be in Christ.  We can be in the ministry and not be in Christ.  We can be committed to Christ, and believe a lot of things about Christ, and still not be in Christ.

To be in Christ locates us in a Person, right now.

Unless we are ‘in Christ’ it’s like we have a powerful engine in our automobile but we cannot find our ignition key that turns the engine on.  Being ‘in Christ’ is the ignition key, opening us up to experience “all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)  Paul essentially writes: I live because Christ lives in me and I live in Christ.

Just as you sometimes cannot find the keys to your automobile, have you misplaced this critical spiritual key – are you living by and in Christ?

 


The Remedy for the Wrath of God

September 27, 2013

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

The gospel Paul proclaimed was the good news that God will not only pardon and forgive our sins, but through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God will make it just as if we had never sinned.  God will also declare us to be as righteous as if we had never sinned.

In Psalm 51 David literally asked God to un-sin his sin.  David was a prophet and when he prayed that petition he knew the fulfillment of the answer would be in the word “justified.“  It literally means that God makes it as if our sin never happened and He declares us to be righteous.  If you have ever grievously sinned, you know that the cry of your heart is wishing your sin had never happened!

That is precisely what the good news of the gospel proclaims.  Imagine two men convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  After 25 years one of them is pardoned by the governor.  Evidence is discovered that proves the other man is innocent of his crime.  He cannot be pardoned, he needs to be exonerated as if he never committed the crime.

Man’s law can do that.  Only God, however, can declare a guilty man as innocent as if he never committed a crime for which he is in fact guilty.  That is what God has done and is God’s only remedy for His wrath.

If you believe the Good News of the Gospel, then open your heart to receive this remedy.


The Wrath of God

September 24, 2013

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… ” (Romans 1:18)

‘The wrath of God’ is the most unpopular phrase in the Bible.  The best definition of this concept I’ve ever heard is: “The wrath of God is the annihilating reaction of a loving God toward that which is destroying His love objects.”  Sin and unrighteousness destroys God’s love objects.  God therefore hates sin because sin will destroy us.

If you are into history you know that many nations have tried to destroy the Jews. Modern nations like Nazi Germany applied a horrible genocide holocaust against the Jewish people. Nazi Germany was destroyed.  I’m proud to be a citizen in a country that was one of many which were the vehicle of the wrath of God that destroyed Nazi Germany.

Throughout history nations that tried to destroy the love objects of God were themselves destroyed and the Jewish people are still here with us.  Some ask if it is not inconsistent with the love of God for Him to express His wrath.

As a social worker one night I saw a loving father express great wrath toward a man who had raped and murdered his seven year old daughter.  When that perverted rapist was brought into the police station it took every policeman in the station to hold that loving father down and keep him from trying to destroy the man who had destroyed his love object.  You see, great love gives us the capacity for great wrath.

The original language tells us that God is love but He can cross over from love and express His wrath until He has completely destroyed what is destroying His love objects.


When You Don’t Know What to Do

September 18, 2013

“We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”  (2Chronicles 20:12 NLT)

Have you ever faced problems that confronted you with the intolerable, the undeniable, the unthinkable and the impossible?  Throughout Hebrew and church history the people of God have often been confronted with these overwhelming realities.  Scripture supports the thought that God sometimes not only permits but creates these circumstances (Isaiah 45: 7).  According to Isaiah He does this because He wants us to learn that He is our only hope and our only help as we live for Him in this world.

The Word of God teaches that God is our Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when we are coping with calamities and trials of every possible description.  The confession quoted above is proclaiming that the people of God have two problems.  They do not know what to do and they do not have the power to do it when they know it.

Scripture tells us God will give us all the wisdom we need when we confess that we do not know what to do (James 1:5).  And Scripture teaches that God will give us the power to do what He wants us to do because He is God and He always completes what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6; 2:13).

There are times when it is wrong for us to put God to the test.  Then there are times when God invites us to prove Him.  God wants to give us the gift of faith.  He also wants to give us immeasurable degrees of the grace to overcome the greatest possible obstacles.  That’s why He permits and designs calamities or trials that force us to access His all sufficient grace.