Handling Suffering as a Christian…

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Handling Suffering as a Christian

The title of today’s challenge sounds a bit strange. And if you are not a ‘born again’ Christian you have no chance of understanding and accepting it. We live in a world where many teach that health, wealth, prosperity and the total absence of suffering brings fulfillment. And of course, our human nature totally agrees with that thought. There are even teachers professing to be ‘born again’ that teach the same. They teach that to experience otherwise reflects a weak faith or sin. While it can be a result of sin the scriptures never proclaim that if we suffer for the gospels sake it is a lack of faith. Actually, it is just the opposite.

When we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and we dig into His word to find meaning for our lives and we hear that, “”Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Wow, that stops us dead in our tracks. Many, who never study and never grow from the milk of God’s word to being able to handle the meat of God’s word never even address this question.

Can it really be true? If I am to live for my Savior who died for me can I expect some level of persecution? The answer from scripture is a loud yes. If the world disliked and even hated Jesus and we profess what He professed then the world will not like us either. That’s a tough one to swallow. Like you my flesh prefers that people would like me. And what if I am experiencing zero persecution. Does that mean my spiritual priorities are not correct? Yes, that could be the case. Ouch! We can only know that by asking God to answer that question and then we must do something contrary to our human will. We must truly be open to the answer. Remember the answers to prayer are yes, no and wait. Yes, is not the only option God has. When I hear no or wait it does not mean that God did not answer my prayer.

There are promises in the word of God that don’t seem much like promises to many believers. Persecution is one of them. Scripture proclaims that all whose purpose of heart is to live godly lives in this present world shall (certainly) suffer persecution, as did their Lord. Maybe we contemplate such verses and think they should say something like, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be appreciated for their goodness and rewarded with approval, good health and fortune while in this world.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul said to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We probably would be more comfortable if that were to read, “For unto you it is given…not only to believe on him, but also to be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity.” But it doesn’t say that. Reading and allowing the Word of God to change our lives are two entirely different things. Are you a reader only? Ouch, another convicting question.

So why would I want to be open to persecution??? As noted in James we are in this life but for a short time. Our lives are but a vapor that comes and disappears quickly. Our time to serve our Lord is short. This time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to eternity. And if you are a believer you will spend eternity with God. There is also a judgment seat or awards ceremony for believers. The judgment seat is not to judge our sins that Jesus took care of but to award us for services rendered while on this earth. I would rather hear, ‘well done’, than to hear how I missed the prize or to hear a silence because of lack of commitment on my part while on this earth.

We are to serve out of obedience. Disobedience is viewed by God as a tragic sin. Check it out over and over in scripture in both the OT and the NT. God never accepts disobedience. Our sins are washed away by Jesus blood so my salvation is secure. While works cannot save us they are very important after being ‘born again’. Serving Jesus while on this earth is now or should now be my focus! And when done correctly it will bring some level of persecution.

Remember persecution comes in many different ways including verbal, lost friendships, physical punishment, lost job opportunities, etc. In America at least for now the verbal, peer pressure and life style issues are the greatest persecution we see. So maybe all is not lost with that slap in the face that you just received, literal or figurative. Pray and think before you allow your fleshly frustration to take over. It may be that you are doing exactly what you should be for His glory!!!!!

Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Ways of Mankind are…

The ways of Mankind are….

Heb 12:2a “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…”

A Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet. Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

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A Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off.

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A Bee

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

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In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat, and the bee. They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there “above” them. Without Jesus as their Lord and Savior they only have themselves and the world around them to control their destiny. What an awful predicament!!!!

Prov 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Don’t be like the creatures and people who cannot see the forestry for the trees.

Heb 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

 John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 3:3-5 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

It is all about your Perspective…

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

It is all about your Perspective…

A little girl walked daily to and from school. Though the
weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made
her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with
thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that
her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school, and she
herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

Following the roar of thunder, lightning, like a flaming sword,
would cut through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into
her car and drove along the route to her child’s school.

As she did so she saw her little girl walking along, but at each
flash of lightning, the child would stop, look and smile. Another and
another followed quickly, each with the little girl stopping, looking at
the streak of light and smiling.

Finally, the mother called her over to the car and asked, “What
are you doing?” The child answered, “God just keeps taking pictures of me.”

“And a little child shall lead them…”

That story is a great lead in for truths from God’s word. It reminds us that

God desires pure and unquestioning faith for us to first be ‘born again’ and then

to please Him during our walk as CHRISTians. The faith like little children display.

Here is the test. For that need you have this morning, what or Who are you trusting to fill it?

Luke 18:17 “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

 

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

 

Hebrews 10:38 “But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrinks back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.”

Who Packs your Parachute…

I John 5:11-13 “And this is the record that God has given to us Eternal Life and that life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life and he who has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have Eternal Life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Who Packs your Parachute…

Charles Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.

He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did, if your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said “Good morning, How are you?” or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was a sailor.

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.

Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

The real parachute!

Mat 11:28 “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…”

I John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have Eternal Life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

True Patriotism…

Mat 4:19 “Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

From John Newton’s Letters:

True Patriotism…

Dear friend,

Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin–while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor–while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is–that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism–the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed–but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death–it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts–then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the ‘offence of the cross’!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their ‘liberty’–and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God’s law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state–and seek deliverance from their horrific thralldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind–I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven–and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world–where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth–will be of no more importance to me–than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity–many things which now assume an ‘air of importance, will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child’s dream!

How crucial then, is it for me–to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right–but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! “Let the dead bury their own dead–but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond–both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,

John Newton

Mat 28:19,20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Amen.”

The Apple of His Eye…

Psalm 17:8 states that God will keep us, “as the apple of His eye.”

The Apple of His Eye…

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill.
In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up.

He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.”
He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up He then asked, “Who still wants it?”

Still the hands were up in the air.” “Well,” he continued, “What if I do this?”
And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.
He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.  “Now who still wants it?”

Still the hands went into the air. “My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value.

It was still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes.

To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.

Mat 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

The Shock at the End of Life…

The Shock at the End of Life… 

Many have been fascinated with the story of the Titanic. The sinking of that seemingly “unsinkable” ship after a collision with an iceberg is filled with human drama that has inspired endless movies, books, and documentaries. Finding the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic fueled greater interest – and greater information – than ever before. Some of the drama of those discoveries has been within our reach as the Titanic artifacts exhibit has been on display in some of America’s leading museums. You can see many personal items recovered from the Titanic’s debris field along with displays that recreate the feeling of being a passenger on that doomed ship. When you go in the exhibit, you are given a boarding pass with the name of a real person who had been aboard that awful night. At the end of the exhibit, there’s this big wall with the names of everyone aboard – first class, second class, third class, crew. Every person is either on the list that says “saved” or “lost.” And of course you look hard for your name.  You may discover that you were one of the few crewmen or passengers who were “saved.”

Or the terrible alternative is that when you look for your name you will see and feel a portion of the experience of being one of the lost. Sadly many today leave their Eternal destiny and their saved or lost position up to their religious affiliation or their family heritage. You do not need to. God tells us in His own words in the Bible that we do not need other men to teach us. If we will but come to Him with the faith of little children He will provide us with the knowledge of what we must do to be saved.

Do you know this morning where you will spend Eternity and what confidence do you have in that knowledge? I mean truly KNOW? Be honest with yourself and actually ask the question. Or like the Titanic passengers are you going along for the ride assuming that someone, something or some organization has you covered? If you have a doubt this is not a topic to be shy about. It’s your Eternal Destiny. Doubt is removed by asking God for His guidance on this vital issue and having faith in His providing it.

You do not have to question where you will spend Eternity! If you believe the Word of God it tells us in I John 5:11-13 that we can KNOW without a shadow of doubt where we will spend Eternity. Finding out where you will spend Eternity has Eternal consequences! You may want to continue to search God’s word for the answer. It is the only place on this earth that you can totally trust for its reliability. May I suggest;

The Romans road to salvation; See Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:13
Based on what sacrifice or merit will I be saved or lost? Ephesians 2:8, 9 – Titus 3:5 – John 14:6

So, do you know where you will spend Eternity and what is that knowledge based on? If you are not sure I would enjoy talking with you about your Eternal Future! And I will not give you my opinion or philosophy but I will show you what God has to say. Then it’s up to you. As Joshua said, ‘Choose you this day whom you will serve…….’.

1 John 5:11-13 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Rev. 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”