The great people of the Bible, who stood firm in the face of persecution, even unto terrible death, did not simply do so under their own strength and power of will. God, Himself gave them the strength to endure, to hold tight to their faith, to the truth, in the face of something we might otherwise consider unendurable. Consider Jesus who, being a man, looked toward his coming death with great concern for what He would face. When the time came though, He endured the whole of it with a grace and dignity that were not born of human ability. God has promised us the same power that He made available to Christ. Therefore, we too can endure any trials, any persecutions, without the fear of failing God. He will help us stand firm.
We were not created to walk through this life under our own power but, as with so many other things, our sinful nature convinces us we not only can but should. We feel as though we know where we are supposed to be going, which way is the best way to get us there, and who should be in on the journey, when in fact we are just guessing. For most of us it takes extreme circumstances, the kind we cannot see a way out of, before we will relinquish a measure of our imaginary control back to the One who has had actual control all along. He lets us wander into these circumstances so that we might learn to depend on God-control more than self-control, to rely fully on Him, as we should do in good times as well as bad.
God cares more about our sanctification than our comfort.
God does allow suffering into our lives. Suffering shows us plainly our need for Him (if everything was sunshine and rainbows always then why would we ever even look for a savior?), it shows us who He is through the comfort and strength He lends us, it grows us into better versions of ourselves- pushing us beyond where we are comfortable- and into new lives, new directions. As the Father of compassion, He would not have us walk these new roads alone. There are others who have walked down those same paths, gained wisdom, learned how to endure, drew comfort from God Himself, and he will send them to come alongside you, sharing the comfort they received, lending you strength and hope because you know you will endure. Even suffering has its purpose, but we will not be made to go through it alone.
Being right with God brings peace and joy, not worry and stress
The separation of our Christian denominations seems to be jumping out to me pretty consistently here in these last few chapters. There seem to be so many things we can disagree about, so many little rules that divide us instead of having us be a united front that works together to further Christ’s kingdom. Almost none of these ‘little’ rules about what we should eat, or drink, or wear, or how you should worship, etc are an issue of salvation. They can distract us from the truth though, put into our minds- maybe even subconsciously- that we need to earn our place in heaven through the following of these rules. Or they may cause us to begin to ‘rank’ ourselves. “I am better than so-and-so so I must be ok with God.” We begin to worry about what we need to do next, what we need to fix all by ourselves to ensure our own goodness or our pedestal on which we can look down on others. Instead, we must all ensure that our own self is in right standing with God; accept the salvation His Son freely offers (which is the single thing we can do to claim our place in heaven), confess wrong doings, wrong attitudes, & commit to the path He has set before you. This path will be different from everyone else’s so we can’t judge them based on our calling. Most importantly, we must spend time with our Creator, our Lord, our Father. As we do, He will change us. We will become more like Him and any rules He wishes us to follow will begin to flow out of us naturally over time, not as something we have to do but as something we just do. They will flow from us out of love for our Father and love for His children. Peace and joy that cannot be stripped away will flood our hearts, make us bold and caring. Imagine the impact we could have, the things God could accomplish through His church if we would put aside our differences, get ourself (and only ourself) right with God, and unite around the core of our belief: That the Almighty God loves each one of us & that His Son died to save each and every person who would accept His gift. Imagine what a force we could be!
According to chapter 14 it is not our place to judge the beliefs of worship methods of our fellow believers in so far as what they are doing does not go against the absolutes of scripture and it is being done earnestly for the Lord. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” “God has accepted him.” Our differences in denominational belief should not be something that separates us from one another. We must accept one another as family, be united in Christ against the powers of this world. We must each concern ourselves with what we believe, how we will worship, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” So decide, between you and the Lord what your personal convictions are. Be fully convinced of it and do your best to live it out. Realize that not everyone’s directives are exactly the same, God leads us individually in areas of our lives. Again, these convictions and beliefs should not go against the word of God. If they contradict then we need to reassess them. These individual leadings will sometimes mean that a fellow believer feels a conviction toward something that you may not. That is fine, God is speaking to each of us as individuals and so He may ask one person to stay away from certain things and not another. We must be careful that our freedom in Christ does not cause another to stumble and fall away from their relationship with God. Use good judgement in what you do, pay attention to who might be watching and understand the effect that each might have on the other. We must treat our brothers and sisters with love and consideration to help them move forward, not back.
I learned an important lesson last week and that is that I have got to be intentional about getting up on time and making sure that I spend my quiet time with God first thing in the morning. I have learned that my days have a tendency to get hijacked and, before I know it, it’s 11:00 at night and I haven’t spent any dedicated time with my Lord. So, please forgive me for the unplanned hiatus. I am jumping back in this morning with renewed commitment!
We have a strong responsibility to our fellow believers in Christ. To care for them, to help mend them if they are broken, to gently guide them back toward Christ when they have grown distant. They are a part of us and, like our physical bodies, if one part is ailing the whole body suffers from it. We must consider them as and love them as a part of ourselves, and more importantly as a part of Christ. No matter who they are or how far away they may be. This also means that we are called to think and act outside of ourselves. They heart can’t refuse to beat just because it is unhappy about something, the eye can’t refuse to see because someone made it angry, the stomach cannot refuse food because things aren’t to its satisfaction. Neither can we refuse to serve or be a part of the body of Christ. We all have a job to do in order for this body to work well, we need to jump in there and do it.
If we want to know God’s will for our lives, we must start by making a daily sacrifice of who we feel like being that day and of what we hope to get done. We must take all of our plans and hand them over, fully prepared for the changes He will make. We must exercise the gift of self-control in dealing with those changes, accepting them as they come and looking for God within them. We cannot react to every little upset as the world does, with anger, hatred, avoidance, grumpiness, sulking, etc… As we give ourselves to Him, He will change the way we think, the way we see ‘setbacks’ and the world will notice and wonder. Our own days will be ultimately more full and fulfilling, we will test and see that the Lord’s way is right and good. As we continue to give our will, our days, to God then we will discover, learn to know, what His will is for each of us!
Human beings tend to be so arrogant. We try to bargain with God and tell Him we will make this deal or that with Him. Like we really have anything to offer Him! Nothing we have is ours, from the cars we drive to the air we breathe. We have no right to try and deal. Besides that, we don’t need to. All things come from Him to us because He loves us, not because He needs us or because we promised Him something. He is already complete. He doesn’t need us to like Him, He doesn’t need us to do Him favors, nor does He need the things we might offer Him. He simply loves us, as a father does, and gives generously to us out of that love. If there is something you truly need then ask your Father and He will provide for you- without the bargains and deals. He will not hold His help hostage for ransom. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened. Our struggles are meant to mold us, to better us and your answer may not always come in the form you expect it. Look for what God is doing within your needs and trust your Father’s process.
Irrevocable: Not to be revoked (taken back, withdrawn, cancelled, or reversed) or replaced; unable to be repealed or annulled; unalterable
God has given us all a purpose, and gifts to fulfill said purpose. It does not matter how far we turn away, how much we ignore that calling, how badly we might mess up. Those gifts and that call will still be there waiting for us to turn back around and take hold of them, of God, and His plan for our life. We all mess up, ‘saints’ and sinners alike. We cannot be perfect because we are too prone to disobedience, no one is bettter than any other. But God will not give us up because we make mistakes. He will have mercy on us. He will still use us to fulfill His purposes. The old adage “If you ignore it, it will go away” does not apply here, God’s call is irrevocable whether we choose heed it or not. Embrace His gifts and His calling and walk in the fullness of the life He planned for each of us.
This present time may feel desperate to us who believe, even hopeless at times. We are not alone in such thoughts, both Elijah and Paul felt the same way in times that were far more desperate than our own and still God was victorious. His people have endured, despite the odds, throughout history, through a cycle of faithfulness and faithlessness in a world that continues to repeat itself. He is always here, He is always faithful, and He reserves for Himself a remnant of people, who-among a world that has bent the knee to the latest idols, have remained faithful to the one true God. They will endure through the struggles of a Godless culture and come through the other side carrying a legacy of grace and faith that will inspire the same in others and be used by God to turn the world back to Himself once more. We should strive to be one of His reserves, one of the few who can be called faithful. Remember, God does not reject His people, His people reject Him. Hold fast to the truth, do not bend you knee to this world.