THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE
By Dan Luehrs
"In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago"
Many people today are going through life not knowing what life is really about. To some, their definition of the abundant life would be a good paying job, a nice home, a loving spouse, children, and a dog. Some would say, "That would be perfect. I would be happy all my days if I just had all of that!" But what happens if or when the storms of life take all that away? Then where will your happiness be? Having a family, a good job, and health are important things to us, but they are not all-important!
If the most important thing in your life is not eternal life, your life is built on sand, that will one day crumble before your eyes. Having eternal life in the person of Jesus Christ is your all-important need, not more things of the world. Though you cannot and will not take them with you, His life you can have forever!
We live in a generation of many diverse belief systems, all claiming to have the answers to eternal life; however. Where is the answer? What is the world's hope? "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). Many believe eternal life is time that goes on and on. But when we realize that Jesus Christ is eternal life Himself, then we come into it's true meaning. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). To "know" Him just doesn't mean to know Him as you would the banker downtown; but to know Him more intimately than you know your own spouse.
How can we
know this eternal life? John tells us, "I
write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you
may know that you have eternal life" (1
seek God in the spirit of holiness if we are to possess this life. If we are
obeying fleshly desires rather than the Spirit of God, we need to turn from our sin and turn to the living God.
Yet some will say, "I am saved by grace and not by works for it is a gift
of God." Let me set the record straight: I am in no way saying salvation
is by works. True salvation comes by the work of the cross and the precious
blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot earn this, but unless we overcome
this sinful nature by the help of the Holy Spirit, we will not possess the
life-giving power of God. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
says to the churches. To him who
overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the
THE CALL OF GOD
We are called to walk daily and habitually upright before God and man, not for just one hour on Sunday. We need to press toward the high calling of God that is in Christ Jesus, walking in a manner worthy of that call. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). We must not allow sin to take us off the course that God has called us to finish. Each of us has a high calling in Christ, for we are a called people; called from something to something much greater than ourselves. Satan and the carnal mind will hinder and oppose us every step of the way and will try to stop us from finishing our divine purpose. This is why Paul said, "And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry (calling) which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it" (Colossians 4:17). Eternal life lies in the balance, not only for us, but also for those who will hear us speak God's word them.
Timothy to, "Pay close attention to
yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you
will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you"
(1 Timothy 4:16). Very few people carry eternal life insurance. What is eternal
life insurance? Paying close attention to your spiritual life and pushing
forward in the times of opposition. People worry more about their temporal
worldly goods being insured than the riches of the
There are three types of spiritual insurance policies you can have: "whole life," "term," and "fire." I personally carry the "whole life policy." I am a lifetime card-carrying member: its going to last me throughout eternity! Seriously, I must "PAY" close attention to my life and my teaching everyday that I may not be found lacking in Him. John Wesley believed that, "One should examine himself daily."
Far too many people carry spiritual "term" insurance. That is, as long as it feels good they will serve Jesus. But the moment they feel pain and suffering they want to stop following Jesus, by finding a new job or marriage. God intends our problems to cause us to grow spiritually, not to stop us from growing. Satan tries to create problems to make us quit, but God wants to use them to make us stronger and more like Himself! We will not grow into the likeness of Christ until we have passed the tests that He puts before us. "... And become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
I am convinced that most Christians just carry "fire" insurance; this is because they do not want to go to hell. They get saved and excited about Jesus, but after awhile the excitement wanes. They know that if they turn from the Lord to the world's ways they will go to hell. So instead of leaving the faith, they park themselves in a pew and go through their religious Sunday motions. But this too is a great deception. For if the devil cannot get us to leave the Lord, he does the next best thing: he works with our already religious flesh (carnal nature) so that we feel good about ourselves and end up saying, "At least I'm going to church!" We choose not to remember that Jesus said, "So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). He said this to the church! True Christianity is not a dead religion. It is a vibrant, miraculous relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit.
Why then is there such a lack of discipline in Christian people today? Few Christians spend time with the Lord; waiting on God is a thing of the past. The Bible is only read a few minutes a day, if at all. It is said of preachers that most only spend three minutes a day in prayer. How then is the word of God going to come out from the pulpit? There will be no power in word or deed! Until we discipline ourselves toward this great hope, we will see very little of the things of God.
TURNING THINGS AROUND
If your faith has grown cold and the excitement of loving Jesus has left you, His heart is breaking to have your heart fully again. It is said of Joshua and Caleb that they had a different spirit within them because they followed the Lord "FULLY"! Our deepest need can be filled by allowing Jesus to be the lover of our soul. Then our cup will be filled and overflowing! Nothing breaks my heart more than to see a person, loving Jesus and then one day grow cold to the things of God, as if they never knew Him. It's been said, "If most Christians were their spiritual age, they would fall off the chair they were sitting on." Today, spiritual maturity is what most Christians need.
say, "That's too strong." Listen to the writer of Hebrews; "Of whom we have many things to say,
and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull (stupid) of hearing (understanding spiritual things)." (Hebrews 5:11
When we begin with repentance for our lack of prayer, God will restore us with the increase of His presence. If not, we will only backslide, for the time is late; gross darkness is in the land. The temptations of this age are too great for us in these closing hours of this age; it is either life or spiritual death. Only a love for the truth will see us through because the devil will throw every curve possible to cause us to stumble. Jesus said, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Mark 14:38).
OUR CALL TO W-HOLINESS
If we are a called people, what are we called to? "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). Being holy simply means living separated onto the Lord and not living like the world. "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you" (2 Corinthians 6:17). Our worldly mentality needs to be changed to spiritual truth. With many Christians this is not the case. "… That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in "all" spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Colossians 1:9). A man stated, "I looked for the church and I found it in the world. I looked for the world and found it in the church." Then we wonder why there is no power in our churches today; worldly thinking is killing us! Today you cannot tell the world and most of the church apart; they are one and the same. Listen to James, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
We as a people should weep between the porch and altar! Let us say, "Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God" (Joel 2:17b)?
Some say that Paul turned the world upside down. He certainly didn't do it by being liked by the world or by being like the world. As the people of God need to stand up for what is right, not fearing the persecution from the enemy camp, but standing up for what we believe to be truth!
This hope of eternal life is not in ourselves, but by the Spirit of the living God that is in us to change us, so that others might see the nature and power of God in our lives. The unsaved will take notice and be uncomfortable by our stand for righteousness. Even the church will not be comfortable by our stand for righteousness; then the church will be shaken. "At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens" (Hebrews 12:26).
today is that not only would God save the world from their sin, but also the
church! When it is written, "If you
know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has
been born of him" (1
a parable in
TO HATE EVIL
Dew to the flood of filth upon us, we have a responsibility to show this generation that God is alive, not dead, and that He hates sin with a passion! "To fear the LORD is to hate evil..." (Proverbs 8:13). How can we claim the name of Jesus if we don't practice being like Him? Christian simply means, "Christ-like, to be like Jesus." This is our great hope: to be even as He is and was on this earth. How do we become more like Him? By spending time with Him. The more you hang around someone, the more you become like Him! We need to have the mentality of A.W. Tozer, "Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be, whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and the things eternal does injury to my soul." Come on church! Cast off those grave clothes and walk in the newness of life wherein you have been called. Stand fast on your feet and fight the good fight of faith. If you are reviled for the sake of Jesus you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory rests upon you!
If we live
focused on the hope of eternal life our lives will bring forth-lasting fruit;
fruit unto eternal life. We must take hold of eternal life. We must grasp it
with everything that is within us lest we fall short of it. Whatever we say or
do, we must have eternity before our eyes night and day. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness
in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1
This fear of God does not just mean, "reverence" as some may think, but literally, "be afraid of or in terror of." David said, "My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws" (Psalms 119:120). "The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear" (Hebrews 12:21). If these men that were the closest to God had a holy fear of Him, shouldn't we? If we are going to walk in sin before God, we had better tremble before His judgments. Do we not keep away from an open flame, fearing burns? How much more God! "He is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29)! Jesus said, "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him" (Luke 12:5). If we are commanded to fear Him, then why is there so much sin in the church? "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18).
question remains, "How do we get the fear of God?" "I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you" (Psalms 119:11). If we want to learn
God's holiness, which is His nature, we must ask Him for it. As long as we are walking in true holiness we
should not fear even if the earth were removed. "For the righteous are as bold as lions." But if we walk
in open sin before God we had better fear His judgments. "But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke
13:5). Repentance is not a bad word or even a hard word. Rather it is one of
the most loving words God has given mankind. Because of His great love He gives
us a period to turn from our sinful ways to follow Him. God's love is always
abounding to us, but there is a point when God will give us over to the lusts
of our heart (See
THESE LAST DAYS
Jesus said in the last days, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). Today we have greater ways of sinning: the printed page, TV, Internet, music, and radios that train our minds by what we are seeing and hearing, causing us to think like the world instead of having godly thoughts. The King James Bible says, "To wax cold in heart," meaning as a candle; the wax does not harden quickly but slowly. So does our heart when we let the little sins into our life. Sin is a hardening agent. Its power will cut us off from the very life of God. Remember Adam and Eve? Only one sin cut off their close fellowship with God. God said unto Cain, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master (overcome) it" (Genesis 4:7). He did not overcome it and look what happened to him, he killed his brother! We must master our sin with the power of the Spirit of God. Yet, many Christians today justify their sin before a holy God, mocking Him by saying, "I'm saved by grace; once saved always saved." Rightly did Peter say, "His (Paul's) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). To demonstrate this point let's look at unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a big problem with many Christians today. They may have been dramatically saved at one point in their life, but then they are offended by someone in their church, either a pastor or a friend. So they hold this person in unforgiveness for what has been done to them. Will this person be saved if they continue to hold unforgiveness and offence in their hearts? Most people would say "yes" because they have received Jesus as Savior and Lord. But Jesus said, "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). If we believe that we can still be saved while having unforgiveness in our heart toward anyone we make Jesus out to be a liar. Without the Father's forgiveness we would all go to hell, so we must forgive. Thank God for His mercy and forgiveness. Now we must forgive others!
taught a much straighter message than what we are hearing in most of our churches
now. Many people today would pick up and move on if we would speak as He did.
For fear of the people leaving most preachers will not preach the message of
holiness. This is the greater judgment of all men! Jesus said, to the
take the challenge of our Lord and walk free into true freedom? He said, "Yet you have a few people in
of the ten virgins of
THE ABIDING FACTOR
As we grow in our faith we see our Christian experience is three-fold:
1. Salvation, the day we receive Jesus as Savior.
2. Baptized in the Holy Ghost through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
3. The fullness of the Spirit, through the soon coming of Jesus in His saints.
It is not a one shot deal; get saved and live like the devil! This is not Biblical salvation. When Jesus comes into our life it is for the purpose of setting us free from all sin. "For sin shall not be your master" (Romans 6:14). You have been set apart to God, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has put His Spirit in us and then we are alive to God and dead to the world's ways. But if we do not seek God our old habits will once again rule us. We must break those sinful habits by training ourselves with good ones. "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). Sin has the blight to kill any spiritual growth within us, therefore stealing eternal life from us. It does not make any difference who or what we are in God or how long we have been there, sin is no respecter of persons or of man's influence. We Christians must remember, salvation is on a conditional basis only, not a one-time affair. The Bible uses the words, "but" and "if," for a purpose. Read to these verses:
"We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first" (Hebrews 3:14).
"But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger" (Romans 2:8).
"For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either" (Romans 11:21).
we have been saved by grace, it is a continual
work of grace in our everyday life; line upon line, precept upon precept.
We have a choice to abide in Christ or not. I call this the abiding factor of
A tree must
have a large rooting system in order for it to stand through a storm; for when
the winds hit the tree it is able to remain standing because of its roots. I
planted a small bush on the side of our house and gave it two years to grow. I
watered and fertilized this plant hoping it would grow big and have many nice
little flowers, but it never did grow or produce flowers. Two years I tried to
nurture this bush and all I got was a few green leaves and no growth
whatsoever! So I decided to pull it up and when I did, I prepared myself for
the pull of my life; after all it had been in the ground for two years! So I
pulled with all my might but it came out of the ground as if I had just planted
it yesterday. It had no roots! This is why the Bible says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, (rooted)
unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that
your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58
"Then he told this parable: A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil? Sir, the man replied, leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down" (Luke 13:6-9).
Our number one priority must be to stay in love Jesus or we will not stay rooted in Him when difficult times come, and they will come. We are now closer to full salvation than when we first believed, however, we do not have the fullness of the Spirit yet. "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently" (Romans 8:24-25). We can rest in hope by persevering after God and becoming Christ-like in our character. Our hope of full salvation is to wear it as a helmet; always having it on our head; with the goal of having our mind stayed on His appearing. Jewish men cover their heads to remind them that God is above. In the same way we are to have our heads covered with the hope of full salvation. It is also to protect us from the enemy that is continually assaulting our mind everyday with evil thoughts so that we become weary in our well doing. But that's why we have the armor of God, and careful to use it daily and not lazy in the spiritual things. If we use the armor freely given us. The enemy cannot steal our salvation as we are protected by the power of God.
THE THREE CORD
Paul knew the hope of obtaining eternal life. "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time" (Titus 1:1-2). Truth leads to godliness in us to the hope of eternal life. We are to live as close to the truth as we know how; not veering to the right or the left, but staying stable, rooted and grounded in truth. "Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life" (Jude 1:21).
"A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Have you ever looked closely at a rope or a cable? Most consist of three smaller pieces interwoven together to give it strength. It's like marriage: if two people are married and Jesus is not interwoven through their marriage it too will be weak at best. Likewise, Christians who do not have the three cords of hope, faith, and love working in their lives will not have spiritual strength! Satan's three cords; the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life will blind and bind us if we choose not to be strong in God's three cords. Satan's three cords are no match for the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. God has given us the way of hope, faith, and love to keep us in His ways.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). If our hope is to walk in full salvation, we need to be walking in all three of these because faith in itself cannot save you! "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:14, 20, 26). In other words, if we say we have faith there better be some evidence of it, for faith leaves a trail to be tracked. Someone once said, "If you were tried in a court of law for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
Paul writes, "For the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness" (Titus 1:1). Strong's Concordance says, "knowledge" means, "to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know accurately." The Bible is very clear on this point. We are to know His word and not take Him for granted like most people do! Christians think that somehow if they do not know the word they will not be accountable to God for it. That's like saying to the officer that pulled you over, "I didn't know I was breaking the law." The officer will say, "You should have known. Ignorance is no excuse!" God has given His word and His Spirit to us that we might know Him.
The word tells us what God expects of us. "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10). -- "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). We all must ask ourselves if we are doing our best to know God through His word. "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly" (Proverbs 15:14). Knowledge is great, but we cannot be saved alone. Listen to what Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering" (Luke 11:52). Jesus is the key of knowledge! In (Christ) whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Only He can save us, not our faith and knowledge. The word was given as a tool for us to know Him, not just to know about Him. We must be careful not to make an idol out of the Bible like so many Christians do. Our Bibles are not Jesus!
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Our good works are done through His saving grace, but we must respond to the knowledge of His word by good works. Jesus said to the churches in the book of Revelation, "I know your deeds!" He didn't say, "I know your heart!" Our deeds will reveal our heart. Charles Finney said, "Bible teaching without moral application could be worse than no teaching at all, and could result in positive injury to the hearers." There is more at stake than most can see the gospel to be. It is absolute truth. God sent His only Son to die for mankind, so that all might serve Him whole-heartedly. But today, "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good" (Titus 1:16).
I was brought up in a religious home, baptized as an infant, confirmed, and attended services every Sunday. I even went to a Christian school. Yet I did not know Jesus as Savior and Lord of my life. Our church believed that as long as you are baptized as a baby, you go to heaven. That is far from the truth of God's word. We are saved by grace, not works. Jewish people have circumcision as their outward sign, Jesus died for us that we might be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire, being filled with His love as our outward witness to what has happened in us. When I received Christ I received a God-consciousness of righteousness, by knowing what pleased Him. But I had no power to do what was right. Then within two years I received the Holy Spirit with power as described in the book of Acts. I've been freed from the power of sin by the power of God and so can you! This is not to say that we do not struggle against sin at times, but truly it has no power over us unless we yield to it.
This Spirit-filled life isn't a bunch of "do's and don'ts," It's, "I don't want to anymore!" It is pure joy to live with the Holy Spirit as my Helper. The world gives me nothing. God alone has the power to change mankind's heart from wickedness to righteousness. You cannot change a person until God changes their heart to want to serve Him. Then God can begin to work in them, by changing the old sin nature to the new Christ nature within, which is righteousness. "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14).
God knows we are programmed to the ways of the world and is very patient with us and helps us in every way possible to de-programmed. But if we stop hungering and thirsting for Him and begin to backslide, we will harden ourselves to the things of God. Our compromising of what is right begins with "a little here" and "a little there" until we find ourselves complacent about the things of God; with one look here, one look there, until we actually believe that it's all right to sin with our eyes. "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" (Song 2:15). Don't let the little sins destroy your love relationship! Guard your heart!
This is why
our time with God is so important. While communing with Him we not only feed
our spirit man, we also have fellowship with God our creator, becoming in this
world even as He is. If you thirst for the Lord He is more than willing to fill
you! "The poor and needy search for
water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD
will answer them; I, the God of
God allows us to go through dry times spiritually so that we will hunger and
thirst for Him even more and not take His presence for granted. Look at
had compassion on them, and did not destroy them, and gave them water to drink
out of the Rock. But first Moses was to strike the Rock; then water would come
forth from it. We know that the Rock was Christ according to
How many times do you drink in one day? Many! Why must you drink? Because you're thirsty! Your body requires water. The same is true when you are spiritually thirsty. If you just go to the Rock (Jesus) and speak to Him without complaining, saying, "Lord, I thirst for you, please fill me afresh." He will pour out His Spirit upon you and quench your thirst! The more we drink of Him, the more we will want to drink.
As we hunger for His righteousness and are suffering in this walk with Him, (even if we suffer from what Christian friends may say or do) we must go on knowing our walk is not in vain. "He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). This mercy was poured on us richly through Jesus Christ, making us heirs according to the hope of eternal life. "This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone" (Titus 3:8). Why are they excellent and profitable? Life eternal!
The word "hope" in the Greek means, "to be joyful with confident expectation." This sounds great when things are going well. Yet, when we suffer our hearts sink and our hopes fade. Then we say that all this suffering must be from the devil! Must we all suffer in life or is it just for a few? If we are not to suffer as Christians, then why are so many suffering and asking themselves, "Why me? What have I done wrong? Were is my sin?" When no answers come, condemnation sets in to destroy your faith. So we begin to question God, "Are You there?" If He is, doesn't He care? Then we end up getting mad at God cutting off our only hope in the time of need. The question that we should be asking is not "why," but "What does the Bible say about suffering? How am I to react to this?" The real question that we must ask God is, "What do You want to teach me in this time of testing?" Then we must tell Him that we will trust Him through this! Job said, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble" (Job 2:10b)? The untrusting soul will do as Job's wife wanted him to do, "Curse God and die." I believe this is where an atheist is made thinking, "If there is a God, why am I suffering?" They choose to not trust a God who would allow such hardships in their life for their training. They need to understand that Jesus is their help and hope and not their problem. But we must also know that He is disciplining us. "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
THE DOCTRINE OF SUFFERING
The doctrine of suffering is not a popular teaching in the church today, yet the Bible has much to say on this. When I came into the faith I came under a teaching that almost destroyed my faith and fire for God, as it did to so many before me. This teaching said, "If you are suffering, you are either in sin or you're not confessing the Word right." Yes, sin will reap suffering. But what if you are seeking God with all your heart and are walking in holiness, then why? Is your confession wrong? I doubt it! When we look in God's word and see that He allows us to suffer for a purpose, the purpose of bringing us closer to Himself and being more like Him, then we begin to see the love God has for us. We must know that He is not against us, but wants us to know and trust Him in all that life may bring us. David said, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" (Psalms 119:71). When we learn that God's ways are higher and better than ours, our faith will rise to a new level when we trust His will. Because we cannot deliver ourselves, we must wait upon Him. If we never have hard times, how would we ever know that God could deliver us? Sometimes God allows us to suffer so that we can encourage others. "Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).
God will bring us to the point in seeing that He is the Almighty; He alone is the true God and there is nothing too hard for Him! He will fight for us as we pray and trust in Him, knowing His word cannot fail us. This will cause us to walk much closer to Him and enable us to see that His hand is the only one that is able to bring us through as He leads the way. We cannot waver. God will give us the victory! My prayer is that you would see your suffering is not in vain, but unto the glory of God! "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
THE EGYPTIAN CONSPIRACY
a man to whom the Lord gave a dream that one day he would become a great
leader. But the testings and temptations that he went through were great. He
was thrown into a pit to die because his brothers were jealous of him. Then he
was sold into slavery by them only because one had mercy on him. Next he was
lied about by Potiphar's wife and thrown into prison for life. This all went on
for fourteen years! Yet the Bible says God was with him through it all. Some
would question that if God were with him, why did he have to go through so much
suffering? "You intended to harm
me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the
saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20). The end result was that God
knew what was best for him and his brothers as they all came to
God ever wanted was a people who desire to love Him with their whole heart,
serving Him without reservation. God gave them the Commandments to teach them
what He desires of them. "Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind. This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37b-38).
No matter what life may bring our way to test our love for Him, our faith and
trust must remain intact. Moses said to Israel, "Remember how the LORD
your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and
to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would
keep his commands" (Deuteronomy 8:2). God was in the process of breaking
IT'S BEEN GRANTED
"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him" (Phil 1:29).
We as Christians suffer many things in life, but is it all worth it? Undoubtedly, yes! "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17). In other words, much is laid up for us in heaven because we did not quit following Him during our trials. These are the words of a man who was stoned, hated, rejected, and left for dead; beaten with whips and rods; shipwrecked and imprisoned for the cause of Christ. And he calls this a "light affliction!" Why? He sees that it is producing a spiritual harvest! We are to exalt in our tribulation, knowing that God is bringing out our best... Himself! As it's been said, "The bitter comes before the sweet."
see? All that Joseph suffered was for his good,
not bad! David also had a life of hardship, as did a host of other great men
and woman in the Bible (See
The purpose of God dealing with us here and now is to bring us back to the place where man was before the fall, and also to keep us from falling in the future. We are to labor now for things eternal, not temporal. We are being prepared to live life in the glory of God for eternity with Him. "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" (Revelation 2:26). God is preparing us for leadership with Him. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). No longer must we fret about what is happening to us, but only trust and obey the Lord. Give Him praise and thanksgiving through our trails, knowing He is trust-worthy and will fulfill His will as we yield our lives unto Him.
If you are a believer, faint not! God is using your problems to bring Him more glory and to bring you closer to Him. He knows what it will take to perform His perfect will in you. So let not your heart be troubled. We must be encouraged and not discouraged by our suffering. "Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:5-7).
Again Peter says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:12-13,19). These verses have to do with suffering for the purpose of obtaining God's glory, so that we do not fall short of it. God does not want us to lose heart in our trials, but to trust His word for what it says. God sees the full picture of our lives like a puzzle, one piece at a time, until it is finished. We cannot see the final product of His hand, but rest assured it is a beautiful work that God has begun, and that according to His word He is faithful to complete it. And when it is finished He will say, "It is good!"
He wants us to be strong in the power of His might, using our tribulations as stepping stones to the glory of God. As Paul said of himself; "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:36-39).
THE GREATER COMPLEX
"Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and
faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring" (2
Thessalonians 1:4). Paul speaks proudly of the churches that are suffering in
Thessalonica. Why would he speak proudly of their perseverance in suffering? To
encourage other Christians going through the same thing. In verse three he
gives thanks for them always as is only fitting, because their faith is greatly
enlarged and their love grows ever greater toward one another. This is what I
call, "The greater complex." We grow greater in faith and greater in
love with God and others. Isn't this Christian life about spiritual growth?
Growing in the revelation of Jesus and His likeness with love and faith
abounding! It is said of Jesus,
"Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and,
once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey
him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). How is it that we think we can get by on a bed
of roses in our day when the Son of God didn't? As we suffer in this life with
Christ, we know that Jesus is Lord of every situation in our life, whether good
or bad. We know and can trust that nothing touches us outside of His will. Our
suffering is making us worthy to partake of the
SUFFERINGS FOR TOLD
of Paul, "I will show him how much
he must suffer for my name" (Acts 9:16). How about the church in
If we are not to suffer hardships, why is it so scriptural then? Peter, the great man that he was, had to face hardships to be a purified vessel of honor, tried and proven by God. Satan asked God permission to sift him like wheat, but Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). Satan was given permission, but Jesus, had already interceded for him so that his faith would not fail, but once through it he would strengthen his brethren in Christ. The same is expected of us; for we are our brother's keeper!
THE JOY OF IT ALL
There is a part in suffering that most cannot conceive and that is…joy. Yes, there is a joy that comes from above in the midst of our suffering. "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Yes, we can have joy in our spirit even though our flesh is crying out, knowing that God is our security and nothing else. Paul had joy in his sufferings and so can we if we imitate his faith. First, we need to see it is not our joy but God's! "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). If we are abiding in Christ and doing His will, we need not fear what we may go through. His joy will give us perfect peace and strength. "The joy of the Lord is your strength!" Notice: His joy is our strength. When we worship God in the midst of our trials we bring joy to the heart of God and His joy gives us strength. Our natural flesh would rather curse God and die, but we are not called to live by the flesh. We are called to live supernatural lives in the joy of the Spirit by giving thanks and praise unto Him through it all.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus did it for joy! Joy of what? That He might please the Father and that we will live with Him forever, not having to face death with uncertainty. We can face this life and all that it may bring with its hardships and sufferings because of the joy set before us. We must endure to the end. "However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). We must have a goal in life that we live for. Many live for what they can see, but we live for that which we cannot see. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).
It is true that we live in difficult times, but the Holy Spirit is preparing us for the days ahead. Don't pull back in these days of trial, but persevere unto the saving of your soul. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).
THE WAY OF NO HOPE
The writing of this book is for the purpose of leading people from the wrath of God into the fullness of God. We have heard many sermons and read many books on the love of God, which is good. But when have we heard a message preached on the wrath of God, repentance or hell? Most preachers turn and run as Jonah did! Those days are about gone! God is releasing in these last days His prophets! These will blow His trumpet and speak the uncompromising word of God without fearing what others might say or do to them, because they will be sold out to Jesus! Whether the body of Christ listens to them or not, they will speak loudly and clearly because it is a fact that He is coming for a church that is spotless. "And to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27).
Jesus, "Will appear a second time, not to
bear sin, but to bring (full) salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28b). Do you really believe Jesus
is coming back? Do you really believe half the virgins in
"The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
God is speaking to His church in the same manner today, but we also are not taking heed to His warning! Their end was God's judgment. What will be ours if we too despise His word? "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)!
The days in which we are living are like none before. Each new day is harder than the next to live a godly life until Jesus comes to set up His kingdom. We must change our ways before it is too late. We must be sold out to Jesus now, serving Him with all our heart before gross darkness covers the earth and we find ourselves unprepared to stand. He saved us so that we would be a light unto the nations, not so we could live in the pleasures of sin.
The free gift of God is eternal life, yet there is also a price that most are not willing to pay… their very lives! We must serve Jesus with our whole life in righteousness. Jesus said; "By standing firm you will gain life" (Luke 21:19). Moses chose to live righteously in the sight of God, looking for the reward that awaited him. But look what he gave up, living safely in Pharaoh's court with all the best the world could and would have offered him, "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time" (Hebrews 11:25). We must keep our eyes on the reward and the goal set before us, for Jesus, Himself is our great reward!
THE FALLING AWAY
remember that inheriting the
"But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die" (Ezekiel 18:24). Yes, this is Old Testament and now we are under grace and not law, yet God never changes; nor is there any shadow of turning with Him. Sin is still sin, and it must be dealt with at the cross of Christ or sinners will bear the penalty of their own sin. We are free only though the blood of Christ.
The New Testament is even stronger against sin, because of the price paid for it. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation" (Hebrews 2:1,3a)? The blood of goats and calves could not pay the price of sin. Only the God-man, the very Son of God, could pay this price which is unthinkable to the human mind. "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29)? It is by the Spirit of grace we are saved and set apart unto God for salvation. But we grieve Him when we willfully and continually sin against Him. If God has spoken to us and we still will not lay down our sin, God will give us over to it "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts" (Romans 1:24a). This should put the fear of God in us! We are told to, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).
How do we fall away from God?
1. Doubting God's word to be true.
2. Sinning willfully.
3. Lusting after things forbidden by God.
4. Listening to and believing slander against God when the devil tempts us with, "Did God really say that?"
5. Not living and walking in the Spirit.
6. By not, "Contending earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3).
"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many (Christians) live as enemies of the cross (sufferings) of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, (loss) their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Phil 3:18-19). Let us not be found sleeping when Jesus comes, but rather walking in the fear of the Lord to the saving of our souls. "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). The world, the flesh, and the devil are out to lead us off the road to eternal life. But take courage! Jesus has overcome them and He lives in us!