Suffering For Doing Good

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Our Verse of the Day comes from a passage that focuses on suffering for doing good.  The Apostle Peter provides his insight as one who suffered for his faith in Christ Jesus; and he explains that even Jesus was made to suffered for righteousness. So believers of all generations share this common experience with the Lord Jesus Himself.  Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) So, let’s look at our verse in its context:

1 Peter 3:13-18 (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.” (Cf. Isaiah 8:1215 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 slander. 17 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. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I think we can all agree that suffering for the name of Christ is and will be a given for believers … especially as we move closer to the Day of the Lord.  And Peter gives us our application: “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….” Though unbelievers will speak maliciously against our good behavior in Christ, the Lord will be our vindication.  So wait patiently for the Lord.  Take heart because He has overcome the world.  And I pray we will remember and trust that Jesus has already prayed for us.  As He prayed to the Father, Jesus petitioned, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Cf. John 17:15) As the Apostle John affirmed: “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5)

So I pray this morning that we will be steadfast in our faith! “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:13)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Knowledge of His Will

Colossians 1:9 (NIV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives….

This is one of my favorite verses … contained in a larger passage that captures a model prayer of Paul.  I have found this prayer quite useful because it contains intercessory petitions and supplications that always align with the will of God.  And as the Apostle John affirms: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (Cf. 1 John 5:14) So let’s look at the overall prayer in context.

Colossians 1:3-14 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Some Notes:

Note that Verse 9 states “we have not stopped praying for you all.”  And then it emphasizes, “we continually ask God….”  To me, the context urges us to pray often for the people of God … for believers everywhere … because of their faith and love in Christ Jesus.  It is a prayer of encouragement, and this is what we ask or petition of God: “To fill His people with the knowledge of HIS WILL through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Indeed, this is a powerful request because it presses for revelation, and it activates the faith of believers to accomplish the purposes (works) of God that He has ordained for the Body of Christ to fulfill.

Note that Verse 10 provides the reason that we should ask God to fill believers with the knowledge of His will: So that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way:

            a.         By bearing fruit in every good work

            b.         By growing in the knowledge of God

            c.         By being strengthened with all power according to HIS glorious might

            d.         By exercising great endurance and patience in your faith

            e.         By giving joyful thanks to the Father

Note that the overall prayer is for the knowledge of God to fill believers in order for them to accomplish specific outcomes that will please the Lord. And Paul gives us some practical instruction on HOW to please God:

Romans 8:5-8 (NIV)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 14:17-19

17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (support).

A Final Thought:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NIV)

1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Desires of Your Heart…

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

This is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he wrote this Psalm.

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God to not worry or fret over this matter.  And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and violence going on in our nation right now.  David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Verses 1-4)

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live in the light of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. I think that most of the tension we encounter at the moment is the conflict between light versus darkness.  John observed: “This is the verdict.  Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Paul articulated: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) But we see that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever evil intent He allows mankind to inflict on one another. Light will ultimately prevail because God is light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions.  But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Verses 18-19) And consider Verses 23-28: 23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. 25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. 27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.

Even though we observe that God allows evil in this world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Psalm 50:6) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) And He will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the meaning of Verse 4. To delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart … to enjoy Him … to serve Him … to please Him … to trust and obey Him. But what is the desire of your heart and mine?  In the context of the entire Psalm, we learn that the desire of our heart should be focused on the everlasting life that awaits us.  Our inheritance, His promises, are the reward for perseverance in faith.  Jesus said, 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever is the desire of our hearts. And He will give eternal life to those who delight themselves in Him.  

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wait For The Lord

Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Are you going through a time of indecision … feeling uncertain or unsure? Have you been praying about the matter and pouring your heart out before God in the secret place? Do you feel like your faith is weak? You are not alone. We have all been there; and maybe, some of us are in this experience at the current moment. It was a place that King David found himself at times. And I am glad that he “journaled” his experiences and the meditations of his heart for our encouragement today. We see how David turned to God in times of distress. We sense his confidence in the care and compassion of God. He affords us a glimpse of how God worked in his life and blessed him with inner peace and assurance. And so David reminds us to seek the face of God; to rest in His omniscient wisdom and judgment; and to wait on His will and purposes to prevail in and through our lives.

Psalm 27 (NIV)

The Lord is my light and my salvation—    whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—    of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour (slander) me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sanctuary and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; in His sanctuary I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. 13I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This is a recurrent theme in the writings of David, so I want us to be captured by it and let the concept of “waiting” inspire our faith as well:

Psalm 33:10-22 (NIV)

10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— 15 He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord;  He is our help and our shield. 21 In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 37:1-9 (NIV)

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who wait on the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 130:1-8 (NIV)

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

It really does not matter what is bothering or troubling us. God is fully aware of our situations and circumstances. What He truly desires is for you and I to seek Him … because we do not have His knowledge or understanding. It is His wisdom and counsel we want to access – because we believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)   I think waiting for the answer and the direction to come from God is what stretches and grows our faith the most. We need to be patient with God just as He is with us. It is about our relationship with Him – first and foremost! It is about our trust in His love, goodness, and justice. And so, here are a few more passages to assure us that waiting on God is the right decision at any given moment:

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you. (Proverbs 20:22)

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! (Isaiah 30:18)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22-26)

So what is the application for us?  Well, I have concluded that watching in hope and waiting in patience are the genetic material of faith. I believe they are the spiritual molecular processes through which a mustard seed of faith can sprout and grow into the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade. (Cf. Matthew 13:32; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19) Indeed, I pray that we will let our faith grow to become the Kingdom of God within us; because through the maturation of our faith, we will see His Kingdom come and His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2) Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) And, “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Cf. Luke 17:20-21) So, perhaps, we should begin to see how our faith in God can grow into His Kingdom within us. Yes I pray that faith will begin to “rule” in our hearts … which will influence our decisions … which will impact our relationships … which will improve our effectiveness as the Body of Christ to establish the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.  Those are my thoughts….  

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength. They will soar on with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)