Take A Look….

Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Our verse today focuses on God the Father … the Creator … the Source of all life and being.  I love this verse because I am a stargazer.  On clear nights I study the heavens … tracing star formations and the parade of constellations across the sky.  I view the moon and planets … and I think deeply about the vastness and majesty of all God has created.  The Psalmist tells us the universe declares the glory of God and the work of His hands. This phrasing conveys the thought of personal and purposeful design.   And as I look upon the expanse in awe of the divine power it represents, an inner peace envelopes me, and I feel compelled to thank God in that moment for the privilege of being able to see His handiwork.  What an incredible experience God has given us as humans to observe and engage in His creation….

Theologians would describe this phenomenon as “natural revelation.”  We have the ability to “know” God and His existence through the lens of the observable, physical creation. Perhaps, Paul was inspired by this verse when he penned the Book of Romans.  From the outset of Chapter 1,  Paul expresses the same truth that everyone can know something about God from what is clearly visible in front of them. And he upbraids those who do not acknowledge the God of creation … who are not moved to worship the Father based upon what can be readily known of Him:

Romans 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

That is some very pointed preaching right there!  Quite an indictment of our sinful human nature … as we tend to be more enraptured with the world than the One who created it.  And therein is the deception that can draw hearts far from God. The Apostle John admonished, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) So maybe we do need to have more preaching on the topic.  What God created for believers to experience and enjoy in Him is quite different from the world unbelievers have created for their own pleasures….

A final thought … when we do take time to marvel at the universe and all of it wonderous beauty, I hope that we will pause to give thanks to God for His love as expressed through creation.  And as you look up at the skies, I encourage you to feel a sense of anticipation.  For who knows?  You might just observe something quite breathtaking when you least expect it … the Lord Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven – with power and great glory! As John wrote: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Matthew 24:29-31 (NIV)

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ (Cf. Isaiah 13:10; 34:4) 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.  31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Mark 14:61-63 (NIV)

Again the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.

Luke 21:25-28 (NIV)

25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” 

Revelation 1:7 (NIV)

“Look, He is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen. (See Daniel 7:13; Zechariah 12:10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Narrow Minded….

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Tucked in the middle of Matthew 7 (the concluding lessons from The Sermon on the Mount) is this short discourse on the “two ways” wherein Jesus challenges us to consider our personal path and examine our steps. Jesus begins with a present imperative: “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The fact that the gate appears first and then a way implies that this is referring to one’s coming to know God in a personal way through Jesus’ teachings and then following where He leads. This verse implies that salvation is not an easy decision which fits in with the mainstream of culture, but a decisive change of life which issues in obedience to the principles of God. The fact that one way leads to destruction shows the ultimate outcome of those whose lives are lived independent of God.  Jesus is inviting the people to come to Him – to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Him – in order to find true life … abundant life … eternal life.  You can see this metaphor with similar connotation used in the Gospel of John:

John 10:1-10 (NIV)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

So Jesus is the “small gate” that leads to a “narrow road” whose destination is “life”; as contrasted by a “wide gate” that leads to a “broad road” whose destination is “destruction”.  And the issue of great concern here is the number of people who travel down each path.  Many are those who remain in the deception of the world and its darkness; and few are those who embrace the light of the Gospel and follow Jesus and obeys His commands. There is something of grave importance for us to observe from this passage … and we need to examine the direction of our walk before God.  Have we truly entered the narrow road (lifestyle) that leads to life through Christ Jesus; or have we entered the superhighway of the world and the culture (lifestyle) as its speeds toward its own destruction?  Sometimes it is hard to distinguish professing Christians from those of the world; and I think this parable anticipates that phenomenon….

If you continue to read beyond Verses 13-14, you will find a series of “contrasts” related to “religious” people

1.         The two ways of approaching God (Matthew 7:13-14)

2.         The two types of religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-23)

3.         The two foundations of a religious life (Matthew 7:24-27)

The question is not so much which lifestyle or group of religious people Jesus referred to; rather, the focus is on how people respond to their understanding of God’s will. Some discard God and religion altogether.  Some use religion to gain immediate praise and rewards from other people … but in vain. (Cf. Isaiah. 29:13-15; Colossians 2:16-23). True disciples; however, order their lives in light of Jesus’ words about the present and coming Kingdom of God.  He knows the sincerity our hearts!  As Jesus said, the time is now when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth – for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks. (Cf. John 4:23-24) Until you have Jesus, you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, you cannot worship the Father in the Spirit or in truth….  So the small gate and the narrow road are significant in our response to the lavish grace and mercy of God for our salvation. Jesus made it quite clear, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

This parable from Matthew 7:13-14 is paralleled in Luke 13:23-27, and I would like to contrast the two so you can see the intent of the message:

Luke 13:23-27 (NIV)

23 Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

Note here the “many” who will try to enter and will not be able to do so – because “the owner of the house gets up and closes the door”.  Herein lies the pressing nature of the Great Commission … the evangelical mission to share the Gospel and to urge people to “enter” through the “narrow door” while there is still opportunity to do so.  It is appointed for people to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27) When the door is shut from a hardened or deceived heart, death, or the Second Coming of Christ, there does not appear to be any more opportunity to intentionally trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  Again, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Jesus bids all people to enter through Him.  It may seem “narrow-minded” to have this view (as Christians are often accused), but Jesus declared He is the only way!  And as each day passes, the door inches a little more towards the frame and latch. Oh, I pray we will be about the Father’s business, inviting people through the door that leads to light and life – to an authentic encounter with our Lord and Savior. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Forever … You Are God

Psalm 90:2,4

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

I want to continue our theme on the sovereignty of God.  Before the mountains were ever formed, before the foundations of the earth were ever laid, God existed.  Perhaps, a better way to correctly phrase it: God exists!  God IS.  He revealed Himself (His Name) to Moses: God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) So, from everlasting to everlasting, He IS God!  Time is nothing to God.  There is no time with Him as we know and understand it as created beings. God is eternal, and that establishes His power, majesty, glory, authority, and sovereignty over all His creation.  He is Creator and we are created…. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) If you have an opportunity, I encourage you to read Isaiah 40 for a meditation on God and His attributes….

“The beginning” only refers to a framework for the knowledge and understanding that God has determined to give or reveal to us.  I think this “beginning” of creation was given as a reference to afford us the concept of time – which is interesting because Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares: “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  But perhaps a more important message to me is this passage: “He (God) has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:9-10) Life as we see it … as we experience it … was in the mind and will of God before we ever came into existence.  And the realities of His true nature and being were “brought to light” through the life and ministry of Jesus….  

Once we ascent to and believe these “beginnings” of revealed truth … we can go on to understand and embrace all of what God has revealed of Himself.  To believe God is to “fear” Him … meaning to show reverence and honor due unto Him.  It means submission to Him and His authority.  It means trusting Him. It means loving Him … because “God is love.” (Cf. 1 John 4:16) It is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Cf. Romans 2:4); and it is His mercy that redeems us from wayward, rebellious hearts that oppose Him. As Paul wrote: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32) All these things are mysteries to us until we begin to seek greater understanding for ourselves … and that “desire to know” becomes the foundation of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)

Each of us has a unique “beginning” to our knowledge of God … but it truly forms when we “fear” Him … when we acknowledge Him and reverence Him.   King Solomon wrote about the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom in several of his proverbs.  I will reprint some excerpts here, but I encourage you to read the full chapters when you have an opportunity:

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 4:5-7 (NIV)

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 9:10-12 (NIV)

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

So where am I going with these thoughts?  I suppose to exhort us to “Get Wisdom!”  It begins with acknowledging Almighty God the Father as sovereign over the universe and everything in it.  It begins with worshiping and subjecting ourselves to Him.  It begins with a proper view of our “position” in the created order of life (i.e. a little lower than the angels). (Cf. Psalm 8:5) It begins with understanding that we are subject to mortal time; but with God, time does not exist.  God has revealed the certainty of the eternity which God set in our hearts when He sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem us and grant us that eternal life….  So, I guess my point is that until we settle these foundational pillars of theology in our hearts, building the rest of the “house of faith” is going to be spiritually slower and arduous.  When we understand who God is, understanding ourselves and His purpose for us begins to take hold. And we can know God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the exact representation of His Being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3)

As you begin your day … I encourage you to seek the wisdom and the knowledge of God or to continue going so.  Everything else in your life really hinges on those two pursuits.  And remember, the fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Prayer For Power

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all (exceedingly, abundantly above all – NKJV) we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We have a “power” full passage from the Book of Ephesians. Paul uses some exuberant language here to get believers focused on a core issue; namely, the POWER of the Holy Spirit and His function in your life.  Paul’s prayer is for us to be strengthened with the power of God’s Spirit in our inner beings … our souls.  Why?  “So that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith!”  That is the bottom line of how we abide in Christ and He in us.  It is through His Spirit and no other avenue.  As Paul taught, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, s/he is not His.” (Cf. Romans 8:9) And Paul goes on to pray that we might have this power of the Holy Spirit within us “to comprehend and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge – so that we may be will with all the fullness of God.” (Verses 18-19) This is incredible truth for us to examine and to incorporate into our theology … our understanding of God!  In addition, we need to understand that how God works in our hearts and lives is “according to HIS power”.  This “filling” of power to comprehend and spiritual know is not of ourselves. It is the gift of God … given to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus.

So, this is some great teaching for us to examine.  If we want more power for living; for knowing God in a more intimate way; and for conforming our lives to that of His Son … we need to pray for this power to become real within us.  The Holy Spirit has been sent to indwell (to fill) your inner being … and to give you the capacity to increase intimacy in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  The more you comprehend His love for you … the more you will become the man or woman God created you to be.  You will become like Jesus.  You will walk just as Jesus walked. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) It is not impossible. His power makes it possible. But remember Jesus told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Cf. John 15:5) Without Christ dwelling in our hearts, we can do nothing of spiritual value … nothing of eternal value.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

High Anxiety

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.

I’m not sure what I could add to what Paul has already shared….

Do not be anxious about ANYTHING!  We just need to pray with thanksgiving because – as we learned from John: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Knowing that we have what we asked of Him in prayer and petition should give us reason to include thanksgiving with our prayer.  And in this we experience the peace of God.  It enters our hearts and minds because of our confidence … our faith in Christ Jesus!

So let this be your meditation today.  Do not be anxious.  Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Invisible God – Visible Jesus

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

This particular verse always resonates with me … when I think of the “apologetics” we have available in the Scriptures to speak with others about God.  Paul explains that we can KNOW God exists from creation itself … that His eternal power and divine nature are UNDERSTOOD from creation.  I delight in God every night when I look out into the universe … study the stars, their positions, and their ordered movements.  I think about ancient people who gazed on the same constellations and their parades across the night skies over the seasons of time.  It reminds me that God is faithful and steadfast … His mercies endure forever … His love is everlasting!

Likewise, when I think about living creatures and the complexities of all life forms, I cannot help but be amazed at the diversity of life. I contemplate how no plant, animal, or human being had any choice, power, or control in being brought forth into existence here on earth.  Our time here had already been determined (ordained) without our knowledge or consent. Everything that exists is by the will of God the Father … and we would do well to embrace His loving will that we have been created in His image … created in Christ Jesus to do good works with God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) There have been no accidents or mistakes.  Every person (soul) is precious to God.  That is why He commands us to love one another as He has loved us. (Cf. John 13:34-35)

We will not ever know or comprehend the unsearchable things of God (Cf. Romans 11:33), but I believe there are two truths that God has given us the capacity to understand:

God is Spirit              (John 4:24)

God is Love                (1 John 4:8; 4:16)

And both of these invisible aspects of His divine nature can be understood through His visible creation.  But even more, God has granted us to see Him through someone more tangible and visible: Jesus – His Son!

John 14:1-11 (NIV)

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

The Son is the image of the invisible God … the firstborn over all creation.  (Colossians 1:15) When we come to the conviction of His majesty and glory, then we will humble ourselves and fear Him with all the reverence and honor due His name.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Granted to Suffer

Philippians 1:27-30 (NIV)


27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

When I read this passage of Scripture this morning, I had to stop at Verse 29 and really let it marinate in my soul. In the context, we see Paul addressing the believers at the Church of Philippi and encouraging them to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. He tells them to not be frightened by the persecution that will continue against them because of their faith – and more importantly – the sharing of their faith with others. Regardless of what happens, Paul urges them to conduct themselves “in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” There is great application of this Scripture for believers today in the context of our hedonistic culture and relativism.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

As we see the culture careening further into narcissism and darkness; cascading away from the commandments and love of God; and rejecting the unity of faith to be found in Christ Jesus; we need to heed the exhortation of Paul to “stand firm in the one Spirit and strive together as one for the faith of the gospel.” Paul encourages us not to be frightened or intimidated in doing so despite the vehement opposition believers will face in standing for the truth found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself spoke on this very issue and admonished, “You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Cf. Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17)

Matthew 24:4-14 (NIV)

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

John 15:18-25 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know Him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates Me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (Cf. Psalm 35:19)

So take a look at Philippians 1:29 with these Scriptures in mind: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…. Note first that our faith in Jesus – our capacity to believe in Him – was GRANTED. To grant something is to give, bestow, allow, or permit. So just as God granted us repentance that leads to eternal life (Cf. Acts 11:18), even our faith in Jesus the Son is a gift from God the Father! For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8) And what Paul states in this verse is that we have been granted the gift of suffering for Jesus! That’s right! Suffering for the sake of Christ Jesus has been bestowed upon us by the Father; and Paul is encouraging us to view the persecution and hate we will endure from the world as still another precious gift from God….

I think suffering in any form is definitely not something most people would prefer to receive or embrace for that matter. No one desires the infliction of verbal or emotional abuse, physical or mental anguish, or bodily harm. Yet, we see these things happening to Christians more and more around the world … along with the unrestrained vitriol that has emerged in our own country towards believers and the faith once delivered to the saints. (Cf. Jude 1:3) But Jesus told us as believers and disciples to expect such treatment. And Paul calls for us to view such vicious and hateful conduct as “a sign to unbelievers that they will receive destruction and a sign to believers that they will receive salvation.” To me,”This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Cf. Revelation 14:12)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31) 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 2:20-23 (NIV)

20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father who judges justly.

1 Peter 10:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

I do not have the answers on why God allows suffering in our human existence, but it appears to me the experience does have a profound effect upon accomplishing higher purposes for our faith and for our fellowship with God. God might not ever reveal more answers to these questions until we enter the next chapter of eternal life; but for now we do have His promise that suffering will not continue to be part of our experience as His children:

Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Cf. Isaiah 25:8-9)He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

So our challenge is to trust in God and His promises. We have been granted repentance through the kindness of God. We have been granted salvation through the sacrificial death of His Son. We have been granted eternal life through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we have been granted the experience of suffering for Jesus Christ. For it is through suffering, that we learn obedience (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) and through obedience we demonstrate our love for God (Cf. John 14:15) We do not have to understand it all, but what we can do is embrace what God has already revealed and demonstrated to us through His great love and compassion found in His Son.

I pray and encourage believers to understand that God is not unjust when He allows us to suffer for our faith in Jesus Christ … the faith of the gospel. This kind of suffering has been “granted” and should be embraced with its full purpose in mind. I pray we will stand firm in the one Spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel; and that we will in no way be intimidated by those who oppose the gospel or reject the truth of God found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the suffering we will endure is a sign to unbelievers that they will not inherit eternal life. Their unrighteous conduct is evidence of their destruction. But for us who believe and suffer for the name of Jesus, it will be a testimony to our salvation. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!