“In Spite of It All, the Lord Stood With Me”

Man sitting alone in large area with dark background in sunlight

Paul the Apostle is considered to be one of the greatest men in the Bible. He was educated by highly distinguished teachers, and obtained the status of a very knowledgeable and outstanding religious leader among the Jewish people. He said of himself that “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city  at the feet of Gamaliel [well-respected teacher and authority of the Jewish law], and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God…” (Acts 22:3).

He considered believers in Jesus Christ to be heretics and enemies of the Jews, and he was determined to try to exterminate them all in the name of God. But God turned all of that around by bringing Paul to the point where he, himself, became a believer in Christ. This forced him to reconsider all that he had been taught. He eventually came to the point where he could say, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). As a result, instead of continuing to berate and eliminate the Christians, he began to humbly exhort and teach them and to preach Christ and Him crucified to them.

Paul became the author of almost one third of the New Testament. He encouraged both individual believers and churches, and set certain erroneous beliefs in the fellowships of the believers of that day straight. He also traveled extensively across the Mediterranean region, from Spain to Jerusalem, by land and by sea, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Throughout all of this, a great number of fellow believers in Christ assisted and encouraged him, both physically and spiritually, wherever he went. But in the end, when it came time for him to stand trial before the Roman emperor Nero, he said that “…no man stood with me, all men forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16). Like Christ at His trial and crucifixion, not one person stood by his side. Imagine how disappointed and downcast he could have been at that point.

Thankfully, the story does not end there, as we read in the next verse: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear…” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Paul had the greatest support of all—the Lord Himself. What a wonderful, reassuring thought, to know that Jesus is by our side giving us strength and encouragement, much more than any other person on this Earth could ever do.

While we may never be in a position as dire as what Paul encountered, how often do we wallow in self-pity and despair over circumstances and situations that are nowhere near the level of Paul’s? Proverbs describes the best characteristic of a real friend: “…there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). The friend most true is Jesus Christ Himself. Through thick and thin, He will be right there by our side, “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter how great or small the trial is that we are in, we can always rest assured that He is there with us, if we have put our trust in Him.

As we read through the New Testament, we find that God kept Paul in a position where he would not want to do anything else but look to Christ.

Even though he went from being beaten almost to death, then shackled in a prison cell, to being in the heart of an angry mob, to surviving a shipwreck, he never believed that God had abandoned him.

We as believers in Christ must remain continually in this same attitude. Our desire, our focus, and our faith must all be on Jesus Christ and the cross. Our best friends, closest relatives, and other loved ones may all forsake us at some crucial point in our life. Yet, as long as we pursue and obey Christ, and do not look to our self, He will always remain by our side and will never forsake us. In our most trying times, may we, as well, be able to say to others: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17a).

The Ultimate Insurance

handshake in front of various insurance terms

The concept of insurance has been traced as far back as 1700 BC in the Babylonian period. It is basically a guarantee provided by an individual, company, organization, or governmental entity for reimbursement of a specific loss. In return, the provider expects payment of a premium or prearranged fee for the duration of coverage. While the principle concept is simple and relatively beneficial as a whole, it has currently evolved and exploded exponentially into a global, multi-billion dollar industry that impacts the welfare of businesses and individuals alike.

We can now find insurance for practically everything. We can insure our health and our life as well as our pet’s health. Farmers can get coverage for their livestock and crops—and even weather insurance. If we want a home, we’ll need insurance for it, especially if we get a loan. We can get coverage to protect against mortgage rate increases, not to mention for losses due to floods and earthquakes, depending on where we live. The person who built the house most likely had builder’s insurance too. Are we planning to rent it out? Then we’ll want landlord’s insurance, and whoever rents it will need insurance also. If we have a registered vehicle, then we are required to have insurance, not so much for ourselves, but to cover the other person who runs into us, and vice versa. If we own a business we will need insurance, and if we have employees we will need coverage for them, too. If there are customers or visitors present, then liability insurance is necessary. How about legal expenses, our kid’s Ivy League university tuition, a superb singing voice, or that trip to Europe? Somebody will be glad to provide coverage for any or all of these, if we want to pay for it. We can find insurance for terminal illness, accidental death, terrorism, kidnapping and ransoms, cyber-attacks, divorces, and much more.

photograph of a person holding pen while about to fill out life insurance document

It seems like almost all areas of life can be insured to some degree. But what about when life is over? Sure, there is life insurance and death insurance, but how about for what happens to us after this life is ended, whether we are buried away or scattered over the sea? There are some who readily claim to insure the soul for a sizable fee, but their methods will only ensure that their wallets remain full. Why? We can find the answer in the Bible. Jesus said, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Unless we go to Jesus and accept Him into our heart, there is no guarantee or insurance for getting to Heaven for us when we leave this life for eternity. There is no other way or means that we, or anyone else, can carry out that will accomplish the same result.

Contrary to popular belief, God loves us more than we could ever possibly imagine. No one in history, on this earth and beyond, loved us so much that they gave their only son to die for us. God’s Son, as well, willingly came to this earth to sacrifice His life on a cross to pay for not only our sins, but also for all of those in the past, and all of those yet to be born. God knew that it was impossible for us to pay the price for all of the wrongdoings we have committed against Him. That is why His Son, Jesus, lovingly took our place. When we reject His sacrifice, we are telling God that we know more than He does and our way is better. In essence, God does not send us to hell—we commit ourselves there through our self-righteousness and the rejection of His Son. God intended hell solely for fallen angels who rebelled against Him ages ago, and not for us, His beloved human creation. By acknowledging His Son and His sacrifice, as well as forsaking our sinful, rebellious ways, we insure ourselves against a life in hell forever. We open the door to real peace and joy.

We can have insurance against almost every possible loss that could happen in this world, but in the end, it still won’t be enough.

What we need is the “ultimate insurance”—Jesus Christ. His policy is not full of exceptions and fine print. It will never fail or expire. There are no surprises or continual rate increases. Pre-existing conditions don’t matter, and we will never be turned down. Jesus said “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Insurance is of little benefit if you wait until after you need it to decide. So give your heart over to Him today, while you still can.

To read more on how you can give your life over to Jesus please click here.

Are You Traveling On or Giving Up?

hikers on small clearing of hill

There was a man in the Old Testament named Job (rhymes with globe) who was in right standing in God’s eyes. Yet he went through suffering and an extremely great loss to the point that he wished he was never born. Even his wife said to curse God and end his life! Several of his friends, hearing of his losses and the anguish he was going through, came to the place where he resided. Rather than giving encouragement and support, they chided and ‘counseled’ him in what they believed were his erroneous ways. Each one felt that, obviously, he must have sinned and needed to repent of his wrongful actions. They were convinced that God was punishing him and that there was no possibility that He would work in any other manner.

Their ‘help’ was really just condemnation after condemnation.

Not one openly sought God first about Job’s condition; they firmly believed they were right and he was wrong. None ever considered that God ordained all of this and was behind it all, even Job himself—until sometime later when God made it known.

Yet, through it all, Job did not sin against God. He did not follow his wife’s advice. He lost his wealth, family, and health. This struggle brought him down to the very core of his being. But in the end, he knew and trusted in God in a manner like no one else around him. God works this way in all who truly want to follow Him. As we travel the path He has laid for us, we often find it to be a real struggle. There are rough places and narrow stretches. We are accused and blamed though we have done nothing wrong. It is not easy like others said it would be.

But, in spite of it all, as we follow God’s word and draw closer to Him, we continue to find many areas of our life become better than they were before we knew Him.

The word ‘travel’ has the same origin as ‘travail’—meaning to torment, labor, or journey. While we are not necessarily tortured, we do toil, labor, and struggle on a journey—but this one has eternal rewards. And, unlike traveling (or travailing) in this current world’s system, which leads only to physical exhaustion and death, we are on our way to a heavenly place which has no pain, struggle, toil, or travail.

We, like Job, are in a continual refinement process, not so much to prepare us for our heavenly destination, as for the present age that we live in.

We could equate our travail with the actions of a vaccine. It introduces a small amount of a disease into us so our body builds up immunity, or a means to cope with greater amounts of the same or a similar malady in the future. Similarly, God leads us into situations to bring us where we will turn to Him for deliverance. As a result, when similar problems come our way, we know how to handle them victoriously, just as Jesus did when the storm came upon the boat He and His disciples were traveling in.

“Now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with His disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed He fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then He arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And He said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him.” (Luke 8:23-25 emphasis added). Jesus had been tested in another manner sometime prior to this. Having successfully gone through that particular trial, He was now able to rest, knowing His Heavenly Father would bring Him through this one safely also.

Looking back over the centuries, multitudes have traveled on in their journey to their resting place in heaven. Many were beaten, stoned, tortured, burned, ridiculed, imprisoned, maligned, falsely accused, and the list goes on—but they did not compromise or give up in their journey. Their focus remained on their heavenly home, knowing that this life is only temporary and all it contains will not last.

Problems and trials should never keep us from wanting to go forward in our walk with God.

In the beginning, it looked hopeless for Job. Yet he never threw up his arms in desperation and gave up on God (although he may have wanted to concerning his so-called ‘friends’!). The apostle Paul went through all kinds of anguish, but his response was: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10). When trying situations and circumstances come our way, let’s not be downcast, but rather let’s say, in the words of the hymn writer:

My heav’nly home is bright and fair,
I feel like traveling on;
Nor pain nor death can enter there,
I feel like traveling on.

Let others seek a home below,
I feel like traveling on;
Which flames devour, or waves o’erflow,
I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,
I feel like traveling on;
Until that blessed home I see,
I feel like traveling on.