Pain And Gain 

Ecclesiastes 7:14
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other…”

Adversity is part of life, and for the believer, it is something that should be embraced. It is not that we desire to suffer, but that we realize, God will use the difficulties we face to develop the character of Christ within us, and to shine the light of the gospel from us. As we work our way through the pages of the Scripture, we find the Bible heroes were forged through suffering.

Abraham became the father of faith, when he embraced his calling and left his home and family, for a land where he would forever live as a stranger. Moses embraced the suffering that came with choosing to identify with the people of God, rather than the palace of Egypt. David embraced the hardship of being the forgotten son, who was ridiculed by his brothers. Rather than weeping, whining, and expressing how unfair life is, he turned his eyes upward and wrote beautiful praise choruses that still comfort the hurting heart.

Life is filled with difficulty, adversity, trial, and hardship. As a follower of Christ it is important, that instead of wallowing in the mire of the unfair, we embrace the hardship, and allow the Lord to draw us near to Himself, and produce what is lacking in our faith.

If you are struggling through a painful experience, take the time to consider what God wants to accomplish in your life, and how the light of the Gospel of Christ can shine forth in your pain.

Pastor Jim

 

So Sad 

2 Corinthians 7:10
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Unfortunately, sadness is a common feeling. We have experienced it in all its varying levels and intervals. We have had little things happen that caused us to frown and go quiet, and we have had deeper experiences that gripped us with sorrow and caused us to weep or even wail. Paul is speaking here, not of the sorrow that comes from your favorite team losing a game, or even losing someone you love, he is speaking of the sorrow that comes upon a person when they realize they have sinned against God. The Psalmist wrote of a time when he was overcome with that kind of sadness;

Psalms 6:6 “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.”

Often, when a person’s sin is exposed publicly or privately, they will show signs of great sorrow. It is not uncommon for people to come to the altar with tears streaming down their faces and confess they have fallen once again into an easily besetting sin. Like the Psalmist, they are certainly remorseful for what they have done, and are looking for a way of escape. Paul warns that although sin will often produce sorrow, not all sorrow will produce a change in behavior.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation…”

The true evidence that a person is remorseful for the sin they have committed, is not the tears that are produced, but the change of behavior that follows. Paul uses the word “repentance;” a word that carries the idea of turning, and involves a turning from sin to God. Too often, we are satisfied with tears, thinking that is enough to show that we are truly sorry for the wrong we have committed.

“What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” 2 Corinthians 7:11

Paul is describing what godly sorrow will produce. “Clearing of yourself” refers to the removal of the guilt and shame, that comes with sin and failure. It is not the byproduct of a good cry, but of a change of actions, that will clean our conscience. He speaks of the need to apply diligence to your walk with the Lord. This is often seen in building walls that will keep you from going back into sin again. “Indignation” is a word that speaks of intense anger. The person who is sorrowful over sin, is a person who is angry at sin. It has been my experience, we avoid people at whom we are angry; the same will be true of sin. “Fear” is often looked at as a negative feeling, and certainly there are things we are afraid of that are irrational and silly; however, sin is not one of them. The person who wants to succeed in walking with Jesus, must have a healthy fear of sin and it’s effects upon our lives. As long as you think you are immune to sin’s tempting hooks, you will not avoid it, and you’ll find you continue to fall.

Finally, Paul speaks of “zeal” and “vindication”. True turning from sin will create in us a new intensity to follow Jesus. Sadly, I often see people come forward weeping over their sins, only to see them for the last time. Instead of determining they will press on in their walk with God, they go out the doors of the church, right back into the lifestyle that led to failure. If we want the vindication, the victory, the freedom to overcome our constant failures, we must determine to increase the intensity we pour into our relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Jim

 

What Are Words For? 

Job 7:11
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

As a child, I learned a simple proverb designed to help when someone said something unkind, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As the years passed, I found, for many, the wounds caused by unkind words are much greater than anything a kick or a stick could ever inflict. The closer the relationship, the more painful it is when the sword of the mouth cuts deep. This seems to be especially true in marriage relationships. It is common for a couple to be upset with one another, and lash out with unkind words. The hurt caused by letting insults fly, may take weeks to repair. In some cases, a person never seems able to get over it. I think we can learn a valuable lesson from Job regarding the unkind words that flow out of our mouth in a moment of rage, pain or confusion. Job declares,

“I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

Job realized, much of what he was saying was fueled by the intense pain he was experiencing. He seems to be pleading with his friends to understand that some of what he was saying was more of a reaction to his anguish, than an expression of what he really believed. I believe it is important to be very forgiving of a person who speaks out of pain, sorrow or confusion. Just as when the hammer hits our thumb, and a word comes out that we would never say otherwise. It is common for a person to say things in distress, they don’t really mean.

If in the midst of a heated argument, your spouse said something you are having a difficult time getting past, give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were speaking from the anguish of their spirit. Be willing to extend the mercy Job was hoping to receive from his friends. After all, when the story reaches its end, we find out how wrong they both were.
Pastor Jim

 

Guidance 

Job 5:8
“But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause”

One of the reasons the book of Job is so difficult is, though much of the counsel he receives is correct, the application is misplaced. Eliphaz wrongly believed Job was in sin, and his trials were brought about entirely by his disobedience. That being said, we find in this verse, some of the wisest counsel we will ever receive,

“But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause”

Whatever you are facing, the right approach is to seek God and commit your ways to Him. If you are facing a time of great trial, instead of complaining about how hard it is, or looking for an easy way out, take some time to seek God. It may be, you will learn why you are facing the trial, or more importantly, you will learn something about who God is and what He wants to accomplish in your life. When Paul faced a difficult time, he took the counsel of Eliphaz and sought the Lord. He learned God wanted him to understand the sufficiency of His grace in times of need.

Another important aspect of moving ahead through difficult times, is to learn to commit our ways to the Lord. This will ensure that we walk in the right direction, and are involved in the things that are pleasing to God. It is too common among Christians, to use our difficulties as an excuse to sin. We think a rough day at work, gives us the freedom to blow off steam with a few drinks, or to unload on our wife and kids. We think a difficult situation with a friend gives us the liberty to gossip about them, or tear apart their character to make us feel better. One way to guard against allowing hardship to lead to sin, is to commit our ways to the Lord.

Whatever you are facing, whether a devastating trial or a tremendous blessing, take some time to seek the Lord and commit your day to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Sorrow 

Romans 9:2-3
“That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”

We have all had experiences that have saddened us. Sometimes the word ‘sad’ is too shallow to describe what we are feeling, we might say we are sorrowful or even consumed with grief. When a relationship comes to an end or someone we love dies, the sadness is often so deep it becomes difficult to manage.

I find it challenging as I read what saddened Paul so deeply. He does not describe himself as sorrowful when he writes of the great difficulties he faced while following Jesus. It was not shipwrecks, beatings, prison or hunger that broke his heart. Instead, it was the spiritual condition of his family and friends. When he writes of his countrymen, he is referring to the Jewish people. They were the ones he grew up with, went to school with, worked with and hung around, before coming to Christ. As he looks at the accomplishments of his years of serving Christ, he is still saddened by the fact that many, so close to him, have yet to come to Christ. The sadness is so deep, he states that were it possible (which of course it is not), he would trade places with them, taking the punishment of separation from God that they might be saved.

As he continues to pour out his heart for his friends, he gives us insight into the reason for their condition. He speaks of how years before they were born, God had planned for their salvation, yet they refused to believe in Christ and receive the pardon for sin.

Their unbelief was caused by a number of things. First, the message of the cross was a stumbling block to them, because Jesus was not the Messiah they were expecting. Their expectation had them looking for a powerful military leader who would overthrow the Roman oppression and restore the nation to the glory days. Instead, a humble Messiah arrived on a donkey and died on a cross. It is very common today for some to respond to Christ only to reject Him later, because their expectations are not being met. They assumed, following Jesus would mean their troubles would be behind them, their marriages fixed, or their financial burdens removed. When that did not happen, they turned from Christ, returning to the old life. Second, many rejected Christ because of popular opinion.

In the grand scheme of things, only a few of the Jewish people were responding to Christ. Most rejected Him, causing others to reject Him as well. This is still happening today. In a world where Jesus is looked down upon, and belief in the Bible is ridiculed, many refuse Christ because they want to be accepted by others. Third, another reason for refusing to believe in Christ was pride. Pride will always keep a person from Christ. We must humble ourselves and freely receive the gift of Christ to be saved.

Let’s pray we develop a heart like Paul’s, that would break at the thought of people rejecting Christ, and would compel us to share the love of Christ with a dying world.

Pastor Jim

 

Accusations 

Psalm 130:3-4
“If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”

The Psalmist is rejoicing in the pardon the Lord provides. In doing so, he considers what would happen to us if the Lord treated our wrongdoings the way we do. What would happen to us if, instead of forgiving sin, God kept a detailed record of it. Instead of removing it as far as the East is from the West, or casting it into the depths of the sea, He held it close by, to remind us of it each time we struggled or fell.

At one time or another, we all struggle with receiving the complete pardon offered at the cross. We lie in bed tossing and turning, unable to find rest, because we are haunted by a failure of the recent, or at times, even the distant past. We find ourselves crippled with guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Keep in mind, it is not God who is bringing up your failures.

The Spirit of God will shed a brilliant light on our sin in order to bring us to confession and repentance. God will never rub our nose in our past failures, like an angry man reacting to a puppy’s little gift on the carpets. There is one who is quick to bring up yesterday’s sins in order to keep us from today’s victories.

One of the descriptions the Bible gives of Satan is “The Accuser of the Brethren.” We are told, day and night he brings accusations against the Christian. The prophet Zechariah (3:3-4) was privileged to witness Satan bringing accusation against Joshua, the High Priest. The Scripture says Joshua stood before the Lord in filthy garments; an apt picture of a man who has sinned. Right away, we read of the Accuser of the Brethren, poised, ready to hurl guilt upon the child of God. However, before a word can pass his lips, Satan is rebuked by Jesus. He not only silences the mouth of the Accuser, but also removes the filthy rags and replaces them with robes of righteousness. God refuses to listen to the insults and accusation Satan hurls against the child of God.

All sin is forgiven when we take hold of the cross. It is vital to our growth and success as believers, to lay hold of that forgiveness, rather than wallowing in the failures of countless yesterdays. Instead of thinking of all the ways you have disappointed God, how about spending your time musing over His amazing love which has provided complete and total pardon from all your sins.

Pastor Jim

 

Such Comfort

Genesis 37:35
“And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’  Thus his father wept for him.”

2015/01/img_1348.jpgDealing with the death of a loved one is perhaps the most difficult part of life. Since God created us for life, and it was sin that brought death into the world, we were never really designed to handle death. No matter what, death seems to be unexpected, and the emotions that arise within us are more than we can bear. I recently heard Greg Laurie say, death is often more difficult for the believer because we love at a deeper level. The extreme grief associated with death is made evident in the reaction of Jacob, upon hearing of the death of his son, Joseph. He is so utterly devastated by the news, he refuses to be comforted. While death is difficult, the sorrow it brings is deep, and a season of mourning is expected, but there is something unnatural about Jacob refusing comfort. He should have been comforted by at least three truths.

First, Paul declared that we, the believers, do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Jacob should have been comforted in knowing that while life on earth ended too soon for his son, Joseph, eternity awaited him. David, in a similar situation, received comfort knowing, while on earth he would not see his son again, they would be reunited in eternity (2Samuel 12:23).

Second, while the sorrow of death is great, God himself promises to be our comforter. Paul spoke of the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our tribulations (2 Corinthians 1:3-40). He speaks of a comfort that is so great it is able to not only to strengthen us, but give us what we need to aid others who are facing similar difficulties. Jesus added, the role of the Holy Spirit would be to comfort the believer (John 14:26), even calling Him “The Comforter.” When Paul said we do not sorrow as those who have no hope, it is partly due to the fact that we have the hope of being comforted by God. In our deepest pain, we can cling to His great love.

Finally, it was wrong for Jacob to refuse comfort, because he could not see the overall plan of God. His case is unique in that his son was not actually dead. However, it serves to illustrate the truth that God is the author of a much bigger plan than we can see or comprehend. While Jacob wept over the loss of his son, God was raising Joseph to a place of prominence within Egypt, in order to save a nation. What seemed to be a loss for Jacob, would prove to be the way of salvation for his family.

At the end of the story we read, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20).

It has been my experience that death within a family will often lead others into a relationship with Christ. While that does not completely remove the sorrow of loss, it does help us to see the overall plan of God. His great desire is for all men everywhere to be saved. If you are struggling to grasp the comfort available to you because of the loss of someone you love, allow me to encourage you to get alone, call out to God, and let the consolation of Christ, and the comfort of His love surround and strengthen you.

Pastor Jim