Don’t Let Storm Clouds End Your Journey Prematurely

clouds obscuring top of mountain

The view was outstanding, and they were only a couple of hundred feet up the side of the mountain. Now more than ever, Janet and her younger brother Caswell wanted to reach the peak. If the sight of the surrounding region was this wonderful here, it must be absolutely breathtaking at the top. Hal, their guide, was relieved, since many of those that he leads often want to turn around at this point.

After struggling up one precipitous path after the other for another hour, they finally reached a small plateau.

With much pleading and coaxing from the hikers, Hal reluctantly conceded to their request to refrain from further climbing, and they set up camp for the night. Janet bundled up in preparation for the chilly night ahead, while “Cas” preferred to wear only what he had on, relying on the sleeping bag for warmth. Hal, still somewhat wary of stopping at this location in their ascent, chose to dress for a quick departure.

Three hours later, their slumber was abruptly cut short as the ground started shaking and the sounds of tumultuous rumbling filled the whole region.

“Get up! Get up! It’s a rockslide!” Hal shouted. They all scrambled out of their tents while grabbing as much of their supplies as possible. In the midst of all the commotion, Hal ordered them to move quickly along the side of the mountain, just near the left edge of the plateau. Mere moments later, a deluge of small boulders and gravel poured over the cliff right above their heads. The place they had just fled from was completely inundated.

Each hiker, although very shaken up, breathed deep sighs of relief. “Wow, that pile of rocks could have fallen all over us,” Cas remarked, looking back over the place where they had just been sleeping.

“Well, actually, you would be all the way down there, and asleep permanently,” Hal grimly responded while pointing to the valley hundreds of feet below.

“That slide was more powerful than it appeared. Your tent would have been no match for it.” Following a few more minutes of rest, the group pushed forward on the small trail they had used as an escape earlier. “Now you know why I wasn’t keen about resting in that spot. Come on, let’s keep moving for a little longer. I know a better place just a short way ahead where we go and can finish sleeping,” Hal said encouragingly.

The following morning broke with a bright sun, a beautiful blue sky, large clusters of clouds, and a cool, light wind blowing over the tired but enthusiastic hikers. Hal managed to put together a small breakfast with some of what was left from the previous night’s escapade. After they ate, everyone pressed on toward the peak.

Hal estimated that there was just over a mile to go, but he also cautioned that this would be one of the most difficult parts remaining. Even so, his two intrepid explorers didn’t let this dampen their zeal.

Their excitement did not last long. The sun soon disappeared, and the clouds seen earlier began to thicken. The breeze became a strong, biting wind. Hal informed them that a storm was moving in, but they were not to panic, since he was going to lead them on a longer route instead, which would provide some shelter. Janet and Cas’ exuberance began to fade. They no longer wanted to continue, despite Hal’s reassurance.

Thunder echoed among the mountains as the hikers moved slowly along. Hal was right—the detour did give them a fair amount of protection.

While the stormy weather raged on all around them, they still managed to climb higher. Yet Cas could not be convinced that things were going to improve if he kept going.

He stopped, warily looked around, and then began to cower in fear. “We’ll never make it,” he moaned. But he knew that turning around and returning home was not a reasonable option.

It wasn’t long before Janet started feeling the same way, and in a short time they both came to a total standstill. The top of the mountain was completely gone.

All they could see was a wild and turbulent situation above them. Even Hal had vanished from sight in the clouds earlier.

Then, a short while later, he returned to the two scared hikers who were trying their best to hide from the dreadful conditions.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted. “Let’s move! The best is yet to come!”

“We can’t go any farther. Don’t you see how awful it is out here? What do we gain by going on? It’s just not worth it!” Janet screamed in reply.

“I told you earlier that we were at one of the hardest places in our climb. Don’t give up now. You are letting your discouragement run your life. These storm clouds are obscuring your view. It’s beautiful up there!”

Reluctantly, the two hikers pulled themselves together and slowly followed Hal up through the thick and tempestuous clouds ahead of them.

After a half hour of struggling, things started to dramatically change. The atmosphere began to thin out and the sun started to shine brightly again.

“Hey, look, we are climbing up out of the storm!” Cas eagerly remarked. “It’s not as bad as it appeared. I can see for miles now!”

man sitting on mountainside overlooking clouds below

Janet’s countenance began to change as she, too, was enveloped by the bright sky. “Wow! The clouds are now beneath us! It’s a beautiful day again!”

As they finally arrived at the top of the mountain, the two climbers danced about. “We made it!” they shouted joyously.

In our walk with God, we are also going to find difficult areas and places where we cannot see how we can make it through on our own. There are going to be mountains to climb, and valleys we must descend to. But we should not allow rough areas or storms to deter us from traveling on.

The Lord, our guide through this journey, expects us to look to Him for direction, encouragement, protection, and strength.

In Exodus, God guided His people on a journey through the wilderness. They looked forward to it when it began, but soon became discouraged when they encountered difficult obstacles they didn’t know how to deal with. But every time they turned their latest challenge over to God, their leader throughout the whole trip, trusting in Him, they would make it through. But when they let their doubt, fear, and discouragement obscure their view, their circumstances were able to block their way or overtake them.

In our journey with God, we can easily let stormy weather discourage us from going on to higher altitudes, too.

We often want to just turn around and go back where things seem calmer and more manageable. But if we do this, we will still have to go through the previous challenges we had to overcome before. It is very likely that we will find ourselves even worse off than if we had pressed on and gone forward. This is the reason we need to turn any difficult situation over to the Lord, and not rely on our own feelings or understanding. We don’t want to let fear of the storms end our journey prematurely. If we keep following Jesus, our Guide who has already succeeded in reaching the top of the journey, we can be sure that He will lead us safely all the way through.

 

[Image credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger/Pexels; Joshua Earle/Unsplash]

Finding Out What God Means

When someone becomes a believer in Christ, it means that he or she has committed to learning to look at everything Christ’s way. But we are not to just accept what some people say that He taught. A lot of difficulty and trouble has been caused by doing just that! We have the true source to go to.

Why should we go to anyone else, when Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, is ever ready to answer any question or resolve any issue we don’t understand!

He may use another person to explain something to us at times, but that is not the same as always accepting as truth what other people claim that God has said or meant. It is easy to fall into this trap for those who have recently accepted Christ as their Savior or are new at studying the Bible.

If you are part of a denomination, this is particularly important to keep in mind. Your denomination may help to lead you to a great deal of truth in the Bible, but it is still important to examine all that you are told for yourself. You should see if it lines up with other parts of the Bible besides the one(s) they are referring to. The Bible will never contradict itself. (If you think you have found a place where it does, it is usually because of a lack of depth of understanding of the passages or issues involved. Make a note of the ‘discrepancy’ and ask the Lord about it in prayer. When the time is right, He will show you what the truth of the matter is.)

Be careful when a Bible teacher says, “Brother (or Doctor) So-and-So taught that this means…”

The esteemed brother may or may not perceive the matter correctly. Keep in mind what he said, but examine the passage for yourself. Don’t accept it until you are sure it lines up with the Bible, no matter how eminent the teacher may be. On the other hand, do not assume that you have superior knowledge to Bible teachers who have a great deal more experience and knowledge in studying and teaching the Bible than you do. You are just as liable (if not more so) to error as they are. Both of you should be searching the Bible for the answers, not each other!

You may also run into the matter of tradition by following what others say that God meant. There are many people who feel that following what their group’s Christian leaders have traditionally taught, whether currently or in the past, is the best and safest way to learn what God has said and meant. But this can also be a way for an error to multiply many-fold.

Just because something has been traditionally taught for a number of years or decades or even centuries does not automatically make it scriptural. It is lining up with what the Bible says that makes it scriptural!

As a quick example, a preacher taught that when the Israelites traveled in the desert forty years with Moses after they had crossed the Red Sea, the shoes grew to fit the growing children’s feet during those decades, because they had no way to get more shoes. That is an interesting concept, but it is not written anywhere in the Bible. Why couldn’t the parents exchange shoes when their children needed different sizes until they got the right ones? This is a simple example of tradition. One person came up with this idea and shared it with another, who apparently passed it along to more people, and it became accepted as a fact after a while—especially if people heard it repeated in more than one place. In this case, it is not a significant error. But what if it was a major issue that became accepted in this way? The inaccurate information can multiply until no one can tell what the real meaning is anymore! We need to check it out with what the Bible actually says!

Learn to tune into what we refer to as “the divine flutter.” This refers to experiencing a sense of uneasiness inside over a biblical matter someone is sharing with you, even though everything you are receiving seems to sound and look fine. There is probably a good reason you sense this uneasiness, or inner “flutter.” Don’t automatically dismiss it.

The Holy Spirit is very likely trying to warn you that all is not as it appears to be. He will not yell at you and say, “Deception! Run! This person or concept is wrong!”

He will usually tell you in a quiet way, deep inside your being, to pay careful attention and not be easily misled. Perhaps you aren’t knowledgeable about this subject enough to understand the problem yet. Tune into that ‘divine flutter’ whenever you encounter it, and let the Holy Spirit lead you back to asking God directly what it means.

For all who really want to know what God is saying, the Bible is still the source of all truth—because it is God’s word (not man’s).

The more we consult and study it, the more we will be able to detect error and embrace truth. Then we can be sure that we will not easily be misled.

 

[Image credits: Waldryano/Pixabay;Robert Owen-Wahl/Pixabay]

Some Examples on How to Fail God

White stone statue of man holding hand over face

The only place we should look when we want to know how to succeed is the Bible. But do you know that it also gives many instances concerning how to fail? It’s true! God actually wants us to understand how to fail. Look at the following examples.

Right at the beginning of the human race, we find one of the first failures. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—a simple command to follow. Don’t eat the tree’s fruit, and their relationship with God would remain in good standing. But sadly, it didn’t work out that way. After Eve was deceived by a serpent, she took a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual failure. The remainder came when she then gave the fruit to Adam. At this point, he could have refused her kind gesture and rebuked her for yielding to the deception.

Instead, he willfully took the fruit and ate of it himself. He failed when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Their relationship with God was broken as a result, and sin entered the picture.

Now all humanity from that point forward would also inherit a sin nature. This meant that we are born inclined toward sinning, rather than against it—and it was all due to Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God.

In another example God told Saul, one king of the Israelites, to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites had previously hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites back when they left Egypt through the wilderness.

Saul dutifully followed God’s command by mustering up thousands of soldiers and heading to Amalek. He was even kind enough to warn the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region so they would not be killed too. They had been helpful to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites. When Saul reached Amalek, “he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). The failure was Saul not fully obeying what God had ordered. Verse nine says, “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly”.

He let their king live and kept the best livestock, thereby acting upon own his best interests, not what God had required of him.

Not only did Samuel fail to obey God, but he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (verse 20). In very next verse, we find him playing the victim and shifting the blame for his failure to obey God to the people: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel was able to see through all of this. He told Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then He solemnly declared: “…rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (verse 23).

Saul failed by wanting to do what suited him, rather than what suited God. So, God rejected him as king.

Look now at a New Testament example. Here we find failure in one of the Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not a bashful individual, to say the least. He had little problem though with speaking his mind, as we find later on, when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Yet, in the first case, Peter did believe he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus stood. His downfall came when he took his eyes, his focus, off Jesus, and onto the conditions around him. We see in verse 32 of Matthew 14 that the winds were still rough until “…they were come into the ship, [and then] the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when he gave doubt room to work in his heart. He no longer trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness, but slipped back into believing in himself.

That was the point when he grew fearful and began sinking. “There is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter’s relationship with Jesus was not yet strong enough for him to completely let go and trust Him.

Throughout the Bible we read that failure comes about when God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow something or someone other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him.

Over and over, the Word of God demonstrates that failure is the product of disobedience.

God does not want us to fail Him. Yet we find so many places of man’s failure in His Word. He wants us to learn that when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right instead, we will ultimately fail. He wants us to read and study His Word, and then to obey and follow it. If we do, we will learn from the failure of others and keep from becoming another example of failure ourselves.

Our Steps Are Progressively Revealed

 

backside of woman hiking on heavy fog path

Have you ever walked down a path that you thought was the best way to go, only to find that you were greatly in error and you should have gone the other way—even though it didn’t seem ‘right’ at that time? Perhaps God pressed on your heart to travel in a direction where there is thick fog and you are unable to see past it. Yet in all other areas, it is mostly clear, or maybe just a little bit dense. Do you keep going where He is leading you? Or do you follow your common sense and go where it is easier to see most of the way?

In the book of Acts, the Lord told Philip the Evangelist through an angel to “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26). Now, to our natural, finite minds this does not seems logical.

Why should he go out into the desert? There is nothing there but rocks and sand almost as far as the eye can see. It is not very likely that anyone is out there to visit.

At the same time, right there in Jerusalem, hundreds of people are present almost everywhere at any given moment. It would seem best for him to just stay there, or maybe to go to a nearby village instead. Besides, the shade of the buildings in that area makes it cooler.

But that is not how God works in our lives. He reveals our path to us one step at a time. When we walk into an area of thick fog, it hits our eyes at first like a wall. As we move further inward, we can begin to see a little bit more of the walkway. And so, the pattern continues, as we progress even farther into the cloud and our way then becomes somewhat clear again. Notice how it only becomes clearer after we move to the next area. This is what the Lord wants us to realize.

We must go when He directs, even if the road ahead appears impassable, or just a waste of time. Not until we obey is the subsequent stage made visible to us.

Look again at Philip’s predicament and see what occurs. “And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read [Isaiah] the prophet” (Acts 8:27,28). Notice that he ‘arose and went’, meaning that he was obedient to the Lord’s command. As a result, the Lord revealed another section of the way to him.

“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). If Philip wanted to know what was to come, he first had to obey another directive from the Lord. Of course, he could have just kept on walking, since this person was linked with royalty and he was merely a commoner. After all, it wasn’t proper protocol to just run up and “join thyself to this chariot.” No. He fully obeyed what the Spirit of God put forth, and, in turn, the Lord opened the way for another step to be revealed. And Philip ran [toward] him, and heard him read the prophet [Isaiah], and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:30,31). Whether Philip was royalty or not, this eunuch wanted Philip up beside him to explain God’s word to him.

As a result of Philip’s diligent following of God’s commands, each part of the way was progressively made visible to him. At any point he could have concluded that there was no other way to go and reversed his course. Or he could have kept on moving instead into unsafe territory. Yet, if he had done so, this individual “of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure” would never have known Jesus Christ, never have accepted His plan of salvation, and never have been baptized.

We are not expected to know the whole picture that God sees in advance. He wants us to trust in Him for each part of the way.

It is human nature to want our whole day laid out ahead of time. Most of us would be quite content to know that at a certain time in the morning we will do this thing. Then at a later time, we will do something else. At noon we eat lunch, at five we eat dinner, and then we read some more of our favorite book and go to bed. We really prefer our life set before us in advance like this, and, of course, we want a little variety randomly distributed here and there throughout each week. As a whole, it is our human desire to know what lies ahead, both immediately, and in the distant future.

Yet doing so would only lead us to a lack of dependence on God. Why should we bother to look to Him, when we already know what each day will bring? This is the reason we need to trust in Him for the next step we are to take. No matter how obscure or odd the way may be ahead of us, if the Lord directs us to go, we need to move forward. Philip did not know that the treasurer of the Queen of the Ethiopians was out in the desert that day, and he certainly would not have expected that he would reveal Jesus Christ through the book of Isaiah to him.

But Philip did obey God, and one more soul was added to God’s Kingdom.

Actually, every step of our walk with the Lord needs to be ordered by Him. We, like Philip, need to let God’s Spirit direct us to wherever He wants us to go. It is not necessary to see the whole road ahead in advance. We very likely will not know who we may reach out to or speak with along the way. Instead of trying to figure out where we are going next, we need to let our eyes be on Him as He progressively reveals each step of the way.

 

[Image credit:Jason Blackeye/Unsplash]

A Plan Where Preconditions Are Accepted

graphic showing a doctor at counter with laptop and papers

Today, health insurance coverage is the rage among individuals and governments alike. Many believe that they need it so that they can receive treatment of whatever condition or malady that may occur in their life without having the enormous financial burden that would follow. Since healthcare costs continue to rise, the demand for insurance continues to increase even more. In order to make insurance that people desire available, companies have instituted various requirements for the applicant, one of which is whether or not the individual has any preconditions.

If there is some disease or malady like cancer present, the insurer will often deny coverage—and not for the just the stated condition, but for everything else, too.

So why won’t the insurance companies readily supply the coverage to treat these disclosed illnesses? The answer commonly lies in the cost of treatment. The providers know that if they accept a significant number of people who are already experiencing some kind of expensive or long-term illness, they will not have enough to pay for the recipient’s future care and maintain their own business financial needs as well. In other words, they won’t take the risk for fear that they will go broke.

Red 'denied' inside of retangular box stamped on white surface

Are you aware that we all have a precondition that prevents us from being right with God, from going to heaven, or from having any eternal rewards? It is called sin and it was precipitated, ever since we were formed in the womb, by something called the “sin nature” (the inclination to sin). The Bible flatly states that “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Now, like any physical ailment, we can do all kinds to things to try to eliminate the symptoms and byproducts of sin. Yet the sin itself will always remain, because it is a spiritual problem that we are only able to treat unsuccessfully with physical methods.

God cannot tolerate any sin, anywhere, anytime. He is holy, righteous and completely pure. To allow sin—even the smallest possible amount—would invalidate His very existence and bring everything into complete chaos.

Yet there is someone who will accept us, regardless of our past problems and sin. In fact, He welcomes them. And who will give us the coverage that we need anytime and anywhere? It is Jesus. When He came to this earth, He fulfilled all of the laws and requirements God set forth in the Bible. Due to our sins, we could not possibly satisfy them ourselves. When He sacrificed His life on the cross, He sealed and finalized this fulfillment. He made it possible for everyone—past, present and future—to be made free from sin, through Him. He paid the price for our sins for us.

Red approved stamped on white surface

By opening our hearts, asking Him for forgiveness for our sins, and allowing Him to work through us, we can have access to God through Him, and the door to eternal life becomes open for us to walk through. Jesus washes our sins away, removing them completely from God’s sight, through the shed blood of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus has a plan greater than any insurance company on this earth could ever offer. Any preconditions that you have are freely accepted.

He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If you will believe in and accept Him, you will not be refused or denied, and your coverage begins immediately. As long as you obey His Word, the coverage He offers is complete and guaranteed for all eternity. Tomorrow may never come; won’t you consider receiving Him today?

If you are interested in knowing more about this plan that God has for your life then please click here.

 

[Image credits:Mohamed Hasan/Pixabay,tswedensky/Pixabay,Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

God’s Blessings Are to Be Used Completely When Given

line drawing of Israelites gathering manna

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they [knew] not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did [measure] it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked]: and Moses was [angry] with them” (Exodus 16:14-20).

In the early stage of their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites reached a point where there was no food readily available. Rather than calling out right away to God for help, they decided to murmur and complain about their situation instead. Yet God still provided for them, and in a way that they were not expecting. He blessed them with what has been referred to as “angel’s food,” or, as the people called it, “manna.” It was the ‘perfect’ food.

Unlike other things they had eaten, manna could not wait and be harvested at a later time. It had to be gathered and processed each morning; otherwise, it would rot or melt away.

They only took “every man according to his eating,” (other than on the sixth day on the week) as God had told them. Whatever they collected each day, it was always sufficient, and “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.”

We need to consider God’s blessings in our life in a similar manner. Whether small or great, we are not to delay in using what He has given us. So often, following a period of great need, we have the tendency to ration and store away what God blesses us with. We tend to take for granted that what has been distributed will always be there, or at least it will be for an extended period of time. Some of the Israelites acted in the same way. “Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked].”  Actually, if we do this, we are allowing unbelief to resurface in our hearts. We succumb to an attitude that either His blessing is not going to come to us again, or that He will keep our former shortfall from ever reoccurring.

As the children of God, we should not only ask of Him for all of our necessities and believe that He will supply, but we must also completely use what He blesses us with wisely in return.

When the Israelites gathered the right amount that they had to have of the manna for each day, they used it to satisfy that which they needed most. In this case, it was for the satisfying of their hunger. They didn’t pool it with their neighbors, making one big meal for the whole day, and then grumble about their ravenous appetite the rest of the time. Neither did they barter it with the surrounding nations to get meat or rich delicacies which would have had much less nutritional value.

Ultimately, what God desires in all of this is for us to depend on Him for our concerns. He wants us to come before Him continually.

The Lord does not like to see us hoard that which He freely gives us, and then become complacent or less reliant on Him. Therefore, let’s cheerfully and generously use with thanksgiving all that He blesses us with.

 

[Image credit:CCXpistiavos/Pixabay]

Is Your Sorrow over Sin Leading to Death or Life?

woman sitting on edge of bed with head in hands looking down out open window

At any given moment, there is someone who has done something wrong throughout the world. Whether the offense was a minor or major one, if that person was caught, or the error was exposed, he or she experienced some kind of sorrow. For most people, feelings of anguish only arise when the byproducts of their dishonest actions lay heavily on their mind and soul. Grief may come to them as a gnawing feeling occurring deep within them while they pace around a room. Or maybe the grief happened while traveling, or while sitting in a prison cell. Then there are some whose only real regret was that they were caught and are now unable to do even more evil deeds. All these kinds of sorrow the Apostle Paul called “the sorrow of the world.”

Look at that phrase in context: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The “sorrow of the world” is what comes naturally in almost all of us. It is the sense of feeling sorry at the moment of our wrongdoing, but not sorry to the level that we will never do it again. We knew we were wrong, and if there is a means to apologize or otherwise resolve the situation, we will pursue it—but that is as far as we will go. Even if we follow through by some form of restitution, or submit to a required discipline or punishment, we are very likely to turn back to our sinful ways later on. This sense of regret we felt came as the result of the sin of the first man, Adam. All sin or wrongdoing eventually leads to death if we do not stop doing it.

On the other hand, what the Lord expects of us is a godly kind of sorrow. This is the kind where we stop our wrongdoing at the first occurrence, earnestly ask God for forgiveness, and then repent and completely go in the opposite direction of our sin. But the more we linger in our disobedience to His Word, the faster we will travel on the path of death for eternity. On the other hand, He said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

God loves us more than we can fathom. That is why He, through the death of His Son on the cross, made it possible for us to be free from eternal death—the ultimate penalty for sin.

And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). It hurts Him greatly to see us willfully harboring transgressions against Him. And it is even worse when He is forced to send us to everlasting punishment because we have refused to let go of our transgressions and return to Him.

Why are you sorry? Were you caught in a sinful act which you have no intention of ending? Or is it from committing something wrong that you know has hurt the Lord?

God has provided a means for forgiveness and repentance; it is up to you to make use of it. As long as you continue to hold on to your sin, you will live in sorrow, leading ultimately to death. But if you are willing to give your sin over to Him to handle, to seek His forgiveness and go totally the other way, then your future will be an abundant, eternal life. Where is your sorrow over sin leading you? The choice is yours.

 

[Image credit:Dương Nhân/Pexels]

Why Look to Your Past for Your Future?

 

image of seated man with glasses in mirror hanging on tiled wall

“And it came to pass, that as he was come [near] unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:53-43).

How often do we, the children of God, look to our past when we have a need that we cannot meet?

Jesus was on His way into the city of Jericho when He came within the vicinity of a blind man. He stopped to respond to the commotion that the man was making. This blind man, known as Bartimaeus, had heard that Jesus was within earshot and earnestly called out to Him. Why? Because he had a need that he could not overcome in his own strength. He also knew who Jesus was, and that He could cure his condition. Bartimaeus was not able to make himself see again. If he had reflected solely on the fact that he had been and still was without sight, he might have never called out to the Lord. But he did not dwell on the unresolvable—he put his full attention on Jesus.

The Lord is not looking for what we think is the best thing to do. He is seeking for what we believe He is able to accomplish, above and beyond our finite mindset.

Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). When we focus on what has not been taken care of—the negative things of our past—we restrict God. Almost anybody can believe for what is possible; but it is solving our impossibilities that God desires us to believe Him for.

We must reach the place where we believe that the Lord totally and completely is able to handle any difficult situation, infirmity, problem, or extreme condition that we may find ourselves in.

Even if the problem has been with us for most (if not all) of our life, we have to continue looking forward to the Lord in faith if we are going to receive our breakthrough. We need to let go of our old self with its negative mindset, and associate with Him to the point where we can see the impossible as being fully possible. We cannot allow ourselves to look back on our past, continuing to believe that our future is destined to be more of the same. As children of God, let’s do what the formerly blind Bartimaeus did—hold our peace no longer, but cry out persistently to Jesus instead, totally believing in Him for our miracle. Then He will be able to reply, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (emphasis added).

 

[Image credit: Charis Gegelman/Unsplash]

My Joy and Your Joy

sepia photo of man with arms raised standing on rocky ground facing towards large body of water on cloudy day

“These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled” (John 15:11).

The Joy of Christ

“My joy” here means the joy that is Christ’s. This is what He desires for His disciples to possess, by which He can then, as a consequence, guarantee that we will be truly blessed. And what was His joy?—absolute self-surrender of Himself to His Father—the joy of doing what the heavenly Father sent Him here to do. He declared, “I am come to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9).

His joy was the joy of self-sacrifice in continual obedience to His Father.

Jesus also said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful” (John 14:27). And just as Jesus gave the disciples His peace, He gave them His joy—the joy of self-sacrificing love. He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled” (John 15:11). The love of Christ was not the ordinary kind, but the highest kind—the kind that is the greatest and most free from concern, resulting in the greatest self-sacrifice. And the greater the self-sacrifice is, the greater the joy is. Both were perfect in Christ—because He had the joy of perfect self-sacrifice.

Christ’s Confidence of Success

Jesus also had the joy of steady confidence in coming victory and success. He never entertained the slightest doubt concerning the ultimate success of His mission and the result of His coming into this world. But no one else has ever been tried as severely as He was. He was rejected and crucified by His own. But, in spite of this, His joy remained poised and serene. It did not destroy His happiness, nor His confidence in God the Father. His faith in the justice and successful outcome of His cause was never shaken.

The source of the joy Jesus had, and the joy of all His followers, is the joy of union with Him and the Father, of obedience to Him and His commands, and of love to Him and each other.

It is the joy of self-sacrifice, even to the point of suffering and death. It is also the joy of His perfect confidence of the righteousness of their cause and principles, and of total victory in the end. Consequently, the joy of the disciples and their Master came forth from the same source which flows out into an ocean of joy without end.

Christ the Example of joy

Jesus pointed out the source of happiness to His disciples. Both by His rule and His example, He revealed that the only path of real joy is the path of duty. We need to walk this path as He did. We need to dwell in Him as He dwelt in His Father. We need to obey as He did and love as He loved.

We need to be willing to sacrifice ourselves as He was willing to sacrifice Himself.

Then His joy will be in us, and ours will be fulfilled in Him and in ourselves. This is when His joy will be ours–while still being His own. The joy of our Master is fulfilled in the joy of His disciple. And the disciple’s joy is satisfied in his Master.

The Self-sacrifice for Christ

The sacrifice of self at the request of Christ is the path to the highest, most superb, and most godlike joy and gladness of which our human hearts are capable. If His joy is ours, then we can rest assured that our joy will last. We’ll find that it will be filled up to the highest measure of its capacity. It will be elevated and will move forward, always going on to fuller possession of His joy. Our joy will be able to maintain a deeper calm of pure and continual ecstasy. This will create a settled and heavenly bliss for all to whom the Lord has said, “…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Jesus was the most perfect, beneficial, and inspiring example to His disciples. In one sense, His joy in relation to believers is an illustration of this, while also being a very efficient aid to achieving the same ourselves.

He helps us so that we can help ourselves—by careful imitation of Him as our example.

Jesus prayed that our joy may continue being fulfilled until it is the same as His joy. The question is, will we permit Him to introduce this joy of His to us? And will we continue on to the point of self-sacrifice to obtain the ultimate joy—like He did?

 

[Image credit:Bjørn Heidenstrøm/Flickr]

He Will Never Do It Again

graphic displaying Jesus and Simon the Cyrene carrying cross up hill with a red 'no' circle overlay on top of picture

Many years ago, I heard a song that said, “If He had to do it all again, He’d do it all again.” The song’s overall message tells how great the love of Jesus is. It is true that He loved us so much that, even though there was nothing in us to deserve it, He came to Earth to take away our sins and give us a new life by dying on the cross for us. This song implied (with no expectation of it actually happening) that Jesus’ love for us is so great that He would willingly come and die on the cross again to redeem us. But, in reality, though this never can or will happen. Jesus became fully man when He came to Earth to die for us.

No man can die more than once, including Him. It is therefore impossible for Jesus to return again to die again to redeem us from the curse of sin and death.

When Jesus was on the cross, He made a statement in His final hours that completed God’s plan for the salvation and victory for everyone in the world, past, present and future, who will believe Him. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up [His spirit]” (John 19:30 emphasis added). He fulfilled all of God’s requirements found in the Old Testament. Throughout His time here on Earth, He satisfied every expectation His Father deemed necessary, in order to re-establish the relationship with Him that man lost due to sin.

Before all that God’s Son accomplished on the cross, sin could be covered only temporarily by the sacrifice of an animal in our place. Therefore, people had to continually go before a priest, who would take the item a person brought to be sacrificed and present it before God on his behalf. There was no real means for someone to go freely before God by himself. A priest and a physical sacrifice had to go before him.

Now Jesus’ finished work on the cross enables us to freely come before God through Jesus as our Great High Priest.

He fulfilled the role of the priest, and He also gave His life as the final and ultimate sacrifice. There is no longer a need for us to offer up an animal, as was previously required.

This is the reason that it is impossible for Jesus “to do it all again.” What He did for us on the cross was final. If He had “to do it all again,” it would mean that the first time was incomplete. It also suggests that when He declared “it is finished,” everything was not accomplished after all, and therefore Jesus made a mistake. To carry this train of thought out even further, for Jesus to be in error would mean that His heavenly Father is wrong as well, since Jesus is always fully obedient to what His Father tells Him. This would contradict the nature and existence of God therefore, resulting in total chaos!

When Jesus came in person to this world to provide the way of deliverance from the curse of sin and death, it was once and for all.

The love of God and His Son for man is so immense, perfect, and infinite that there is no need whatsoever for a ‘repeat performance.’ On the contrary, we need to accept His finished work at the cross as our own, based solely on the first and only time He did it. Jesus is coming back to this Earth again. This time, though, it will not be for another attempt at redeeming man, but rather in judgment for those who have rejected His initial offer of salvation and deliverance, when He died on the cross on their behalf to free them from the power of sin. Everything man needed to come to God was completely provided for then. There is no point in standing around waiting to see if Jesus will ‘do it all again.’ We need to yield our heart to Him now, based on what He has already done on our behalf, while we still can!

If you want more information on how to accept this finished work Jesus made possible during His time here on the Earth for yourself and receive external life, please click here.

 

[Graphic credit (without red slash and circle): raphael/Pixabay]