The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #10: Desperation and Difficulty

This is the tenth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; Danger, Daring and Darkness; Defamation and Defense; and Delight and Desire thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Desperation and Difficulty.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Desperation

Life can be tough. Even as Christians, we may sometimes find ourselves in circumstances that cause us to despair. Or as Edman describes it, “We cannot strive nor struggle, flee nor even faint; we can only cry unto God” (Edman, p. 121).

Consider the following examples …

Peter

In Matthew 14:30, Peter cried, “Lord, save me.” As we look at the context of that plea of desperation by the apostle, we remember that he had been enjoying the safety of the boat, when his impetuosity caused him to step out of it onto the water and begin walking to Jesus.  “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’

“We may not approve his impetuosity nor his human impertinence in attempting to walk on the sea; but we must admire his implicit obedience and his deep devotion to his Lord” (Edman, p. 122).

The Disciples

Mark tells of another night when the disciples were with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee:

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41, NLT).

“That terrible thought, ‘Carest thou not?’ had been forming in their minds as the wind and wave rose higher, and the ship began to founder. Darkness of night, danger of storm, depths of the sea with death all about them, then in desperation the disciples gave vent to their pent-up fears, ‘Carest thou not that we perish?’” (Edman, p. 123).

We can experience those same kinds of feelings. We sing a song that asks “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song, As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long? Does Jesus care when my way is dark With a nameless dread and fear? As the day-light fades into deep night shades, Does He care enough to be near? Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘good-bye’ To the dearest on earth to me, And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks Is it aught to Him? Does He see?” The resounding response of the chorus is, “O yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; when the days are weary, the long night dreary, I know my Savior cares” (Does Jesus Care, WORDS: Frank E. Graeff, 1901).

In writing about this song, Robert J. Morgan says, “In his book, Lectures to My Students, Charles Haddon Spurgeon devoted a chapter to ‘The Minister’s Fainting Fits,’ warning his students of the dangers of discouragement and depression in the ministry. The chapter begins, ‘Fits of depression come over the most of us … The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” He goes on to explain that, “A series of heartbreaks shattered his spirits, and Frank Graeff found himself in the unfamiliar valley of deep depress and despondency…. The truth of 1Peter 5:7 suddenly too hold of him ‘… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Out of that experience, Frank wrote ‘Does  Jesus Care?’ with its series of commonly asked questions, followed by this resounding reply: O yes, He cares …” (Then Sings My Soul, p. 253).

The Tax Collector

Luke recounts the story of the Tax Collector

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NLT).

“If he had been so minded, like many of his day and ours, he could have blamed his sinful condition upon his family background, his heritage, environment, circumstances, evil companion. He really never had a chance: a poor home, no education, the pitiless strife of the street, ward politics, the dishonest and trickery of tax-gathering. Of course respectable people like yonder Pharisee despised him; he despised himself. Not only did he not blame his unhappy and unfortunate fate, he also laid no claim to any merit in God’s sight, no prayers, no fasting, no tithing, nothing of the Law. He was just a miserable, lost sinner, an ‘extortioner, unjust’ (v.11). He could only blame himself, and pray, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’ (v.13). And God had mercy upon him, instantly, completely; so that ‘this man went down to his home justified’ (v.14)” (Edman, p.125).

David

David testified:

When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

(Psalm 32:3-5, NLT)

We need to have this same attitude when we sin. We must not bury ourselves in denial. We must not try to run away from responsibility and accountability. We must not seek to transfer blame to others. Let us duplicate the attitude expressed by David in another of his psalms.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn. (Psalm 130:1-6, NLT)

George Matheson 

Erdman quotes George Matheson, Thoughts for Life’s Journey (pp. 266-267) to further illustrate this discipline of despair, “My soul, reject not the place of thy prostration! It has ever been the robing room for royalty. Ask the great ones of the past what has been the spot of their prosperity; they will say, ‘It was the cold ground on which I once was lying.’ Ask Abraham; he will point you to the sacrifice of Moriah. Ask Joseph; he will direct you to his dungeon. Ask Moses; he will date his fortune from his danger in the Nile. Ask Ruth; she will bid you build her monument in the field of her toil. Ask David; he will tell you that his songs came from the night. Ask Job; he will remind you that God answered him out of the whirlwind. Ask Peter; he will extol his submission in the sea. Ask John; he will give the palm to Patmos. Ask Paul; he will attribute his inspiration to the light that struck him blind. Ask one more – the Son of Man. Ask Him whence has come His rule over the world. He will answer, ‘From the cold ground on which I was lying – the Gethsemane ground; I received my scepter there.’ Thou too, my soul, shalt be garlanded by Gethsemane. The cup thou fain wouldst pass from thee will be thy coronet in the sweet by-and-by. The hour of thy loneliness will crown thee. The day of thy depression will regale thee. It is thy desert that will break forth into singing; it is the trees of thy silent forest that will clasp their hands” (Edman, pp.126-127).

Disciplined by desperation, we come to depend upon our God! Our Almighty God will deliver us! As we sing, “What A Mighty God We Serve!” “Our God is an awesome God!”

Difficulty

William H. Prescott

Edman relates the difficulties of William H. Prescott as he attempted to write his historical accounts, The Conquest of Peru and its companion, The Conquest of Mexico. Prescott first received an injury to one of his eyes, and then the other became inflamed making it debilitated for the rest of his life. He made up for his lost sight, by procuring the services of a secretary who read to him the resource material that he needed for his writing. He then used a writing-case to commit his thoughts to paper without the aid of sight.

“This is the discipline of difficult, understood and overcome only by the indomitable in heart. Only the undaunted, despite aching head and failing sight, could say that others could be in deeper difficulty than they. Lesser souls would be swallowed up in their own sickness, sorrows and silence” (Edman, pp145-146).

John Milton

John Milton became totally blind at the age of forty-four and was forced to give up public service. But he did not give up nor cease to actively pursue his passion. During this time, he brought forth his immortal masterpieces, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.

Moses

“Moses had the handicap of age before he began his lifework. At forty, when life allegedly begins, he went into exile, to spend his days as an obscure shepherd of the desert. He endured the adjustments made necessary by the shifting from Pharaoh’s majestic court to a Midian sheepfold, with its solitude, silence and apparent uselessness. At eighty, when most men have retired from active service, he was called at the burning bush to become the Deliverer of his people. With reasons, he could object to this calling, saying ‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3:11).” (Edman, pp, 146-147).

Mordecai

“Mordecai knew the humanly hopeless handicap of racial prejudice. He was a Jew in a strange land, and knew by experience the bitterness of unbridled racial bigotry. He had to warn his niece, Esther, not to reveal her nationality (Esther 2:20). Haman’s wrath knew no bounds when he was told that Mordecai was a Jew (3:4); with the result that he ‘sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai’ (3:6). The plot proceeded temporarily without hindrance, to the pleasure of Haman; while Mordecai was overcome with fear and grief (4:1-3). Only the soul that has felt the heel of the oppressor and the fury of the sadist can sense the sorrow that was Mordecai’s” (Edman, pp. 147-148)

Matthew

As a tax-collector, Matthew was familiar with social prejudice. Palestinians of his day viewed him as a traitor, as selling himself to be a servant of the hated Romans. They classed the publicans with the lowest of the population: the sinners. Matthew, however, was not overcome with social stigma. He responded immediately to the Lord’s call, “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9).

“Herein lies the discipline of difficulty: to recognize one’s limitation and handicaps; nevertheless, to rise up and do the impossible in spite of them. To yield to discouragement and difficulty is to be defeated. The handicap, I repeat, can be physical, racial, social, personal in any way; yet the soul that will rise up and follow the Saviour will know life that climbs with Bunyan’s Pilgrim the Hill Difficulty, to find on its summit the Palace Beautiful, whose windows face the sun-rising. Our discipline is to keep on climbing when sight is dim and strength is debilitated, when friends fail and foes are fierce, when handicaps hinder and hardships harry. God has use for the heart that no difficulties can deter!” (Edman, p. 149).

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, pp. 121-127, 143-149)

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #4, May 17, 2019: Courage

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must evidence courage in the face of challenges. The word courage, courageous, or courageously appears 26 times in the KJV of the Bible. In other translations the word may appear as many as 116 times. There are many ways that we must be strong and courageous, but I would like for you to consider three: courage to confront, courage to change, and courage to say no.

In the King James Version the word “courage” appears in the following (20) passages:

Numbers 13:20 – And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Deuteronomy 31:7 – And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.

Deuteronomy 31:23 – And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.

Joshua 1:6 – Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:18 – Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

Joshua 2:11 – And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Joshua 10:25 – And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

2 Samuel10:12 – Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.

1Chronicles 19:13 – Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.

1Chronicles 22:13 – Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.

1Chronicles 28:20 – And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.

2 Chronicles – 15:8 – And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.

Ezra 10:4 – Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 31:24 – Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Isiah 41:6 – hey helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.

Daniel 11:25 – And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.

Acts 28:15 – And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

In the King James Version the word “courageous” appears in the following (5) passages:

Joshua 1:7 – Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

Joshua 23:6 – Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;

2 Samuel 13:28 – Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.

2 Chronicles 32:7 – Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

Amos 2:16 – And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

In the King James Version the word “courageously” appears in the following (1) passage:

2 Chronicles 19:11 – And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.

The Courage to Confront

Confrontation is hardly ever pleasant, but the Scriptures teach that, if we encounter someone who is in danger, we will warn them of that danger.  We are instructed, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:1-3, NLT). And in another passage, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-21, NKJV).

In the Old Testament the watchman was charged with the responsibility to watch for any approaching enemy. If one was observed he was to sound warning so that precautions could be taken to defend the city. Notice how his responsibility is described in Ezek. 33:1-6, “Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

Sometimes our attempts, to confront one in love to turn from their sins, are met with resistance or outright hostility. The Scriptures provide the example for further discipline if this occurs (See Matthew 18:15-17). In such situations, truly courage must be manifested in order to do what is right.

The Courage to Change

The humility to change, when sin is evident in our lives, requires courage. The determination to change, when our behavior is harming others, requires courage. The sincerity of heart to change when we are bringing reproach upon our physical and spiritual family requires courage.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr captures the essence of this courage to change (emphasis by underlining and highlighting added by me):

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it;

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to Your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

The Courage to Say No

It requires courage to say no when you are asked to serve in some way, but you know that “your plate is full” and that you cannot give any additional task the justice it deserves. Saying no in a conflict situation when you are a “conflict avoider” requires courage. And saying no to not enable inappropriate behavior of one you love takes a great deal of courage.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have a great deal to say about saying no in their book Boundaries:

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what our job is and what it isn’t. Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as  homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t” (pp.24-25).

“Some people become so accustomed to others rescuing them that they begin to believe that their well-being is someone else’s problem” (119).

“Dysfunctional families are known for a certain type of boundary problem called ‘triangulation.’ Triangulation is the failure to resolve a conflict between two persons and the pulling in of a third to take sides. This is a boundary problem because the third person has no business in the conflict but is used for comfort and validation by the ones who are afraid to confront each other” (p. 129).

“Teens need to be setting their own relational, scheduling, values, and money boundaries as much as possible. And they should suffer real-life consequences when they cross their boundaries. The seventeen-year-old who still needs to be disciplined with social media and phone restrictions may have real problem at college in one year. Professors, deans, and residence hall assistants don’t impose these kinds of restrictions; they resort to tactics such as failing grades, suspension, and expulsion…. When their ability to say and hear no is deficient, clarifying house rules and consequences can often help in the last few years before the youth leave home. Symptoms such as the following, however, may indicate a more serious problem:

  • Isolation of the teen from family members
  • Depressed mood
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Continual conflict in family
  • Wrong type of friends
  • School problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Suicidal ideas or behavior

Many parents, observing these problems, react with either too many boundaries or too few. The too-strict parent runs the risk of alienating the almost-adult from the home connection. The too-lenient parent wants to be the child’s best friend at a time the teen needs someone to respect. At this point, parents should consider consulting a therapist who understands teen issues. The stakes are simply too high to ignore professional help” (p.192)

Truths About Courage

Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:

  1. Courage Begins with an Inward Battle
  2. Courage Is Making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over
  3. Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers
  4. Your Life Expands in Proportion to Your Courage

(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, John C. Maxwell, pp. 40-41)

Conclusion

Much more could be said about the attribute of courage that we need to possess as we seek to become the men that God wants us to be. But I hope these words have been thought-provoking and that, in some small way, they may help you with your Christian walk. For that is the purpose of this website.

Thanks for reading …

Randy

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #9: Delight and Desire

This is the ninth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness, and Defamation and Defense thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Delight and Desire.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Delight

“I Know how to abound” (Philippians 4:12)

What is “Delight”?

Dictionary.com defines it as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” It was used in much the same way in New Testament times as is reflected in W. E. Vine’s definition: “Lit., “to rejoice with (anyone). To delight in (a thing) with (others),” signifies “to delight with oneself inwardly in a thing,” in Rom. 7:22”

“Delight is an affection of the ‘inmost heart’ (cf. Ps. 40:8). It signifies that in which one finds pleasure, i.e., the object of one’s love. In Prov. 5:19 the piel form of the verb rawa (lit. ‘drink one’s fill’) is used to denote being saturated with sensual pleasure.

Why is Delight a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?

As the term is used by Erdman, it describes a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. “They seem to have abundance of resources, and all that goes with money, clothes, car, companions, ease and education, while we plod along, quite penniless; theirs, abundance of good looks, while we carry weary body and aching hear. The have prosperity and prominence, poise and position, friends and favor, family and affection, home and hospitality in the words of the Psalmist, ‘They have more than hear could wish (Ps. 73:7).” (Erdman, p.85)

The Discipline of Delight will humble us to appreciate what we have. The Discipline of Delight move us away from “score-keeping,” comparing what we have with what others have. The career of Moses illustrates wonderfully this Discipline of Delight.

How Did the Career of Moses Illustrate the Discipline of Delight?

By the world’s standard he had everything a person might want, but he gave it all away to serve God. From boyhood, Moses’ parents “saw that God had given them an unusual child.” (Heb. 11:23, NLT). Elsewhere in Scripture Moses is described as “lovely” (Acts 7:20, NASB), and “special” (Ex. 2:20, NLT)

He did not allow “pride of place,” as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24; Ex. 2:10; Acts 7:21) to ruin his compassion. Moses did not lord his royalty over his lowly fellows, but rather “he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work” (Ex. 2:11, NLT)

He did not allow his learning to puff up his estimation of himself in relation to his brethren.  “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22, NKJV)

He did not allow his achievements to turn him into a prideful, impatient, overbearing man. He was “mighty in words and deeds,” and his leadership of the unruly children of Israel in the wilderness revealed the organization and discipline that came from military training.

We Must Discipline Ourselves to Be Useful to God and Our Fellow Man

“Moses points out the pathway to that service. Rather than delight in himself and his distinctions, he concerned himself with the difficulties of others (Acts 7:23). Unselfish interest in the welfare of others makes us unconcerned about any natural gifts and graces we may have. We forget ourselves in helping others; and others are then conscious, not of our person and position, but rather of the Christ who dwells in our hearts” (Erdman, p. 88).

“Choosing to suffer affliction for others becomes a genuine delight to us” (Heb. 11:25). “We identify ourselves with a Cause that is humanly unpopular, but which has the approval of Heaven. We renounce our rights in order to be on the right side; and a title to which we are entitled (as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter belonged to Moses) becomes a mere trifle, if only we be known as “the sons of God. We depend not upon our knowledge nor ability; rather we also ‘endure as seeing him who is invisible.’ (Heb. 11:27)

“There is satisfaction in serving the Lord Jesus; sweetness in suffering for His Name; blessing in bearing His reproach; pleasure in becoming a pilgrim; delight in doing his bidding…. To have every natural delight… is to need the discipline of delight, that every gift be acknowledged as from the Giver, that every talent become a sacred trust, that every honor become a humbling of heart  before Him, in order that He have all the Glory. Then, like Moses of old, with lowly heart and veiled face, we shall walk where He leads…. Then comes to pass the word, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart’ (Ps. 37:4) (Erdman, p.89).   

II. Desire

“For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3)

What is Desire?

Dictionary.com defines it as, “a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment; an expressed wish; request” The Encyclopedia of the Bible says, “There are over nine different Heb. words which can be tr. into Eng. as ‘desire’ as well as about the same number of Gr. words…. Some of the words which are used are אַוָּה, H205, חֶמְדָּה, H2775, חֵ֫פֶץ, H2914, חֵ֫שֶׁק, H3139, מַחְמָד, H4718, מִשְׁאָלָה, H5399, נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, רָצﯴן, H8356, תַּאֲוָה֒, H9294, תְּשׁוּקָה, H9592; θέλειν; θέλημα, G2525; θεμησις; ἐπιθυμία, G2123; αἰτέω, G160; ἐρωτἀω. Practically the whole spectrum of underlying psychological meanings are covered by the wide range of the above Heb. and Gr. words. This clearly shows how important a characteristic it is esp. as far as Scripture is concerned.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Desire)

Why is Desire a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?

As Erdman examines the Discipline of Desire, he asks, “as a Christian, what criteria of Christian conduct should be mine?” He rightly concludes that the Scriptures distinguish between various types of conduct. 1) Some matters are clearly required and 2) other matters are clearly prohibited, i.e. things that we must avoid. Then there is a third category, he says, “In between, there is a wide area of border-line cases; matters intrinsically innocent in themselves, but good or evil according to principles found in the Word of God. For those border-line cases the Scriptures give us basic principles of conduct, rather than precepts (Rom. 12-14; 1Cor. 8, and elsewhere); and we should catch the spirit as well as the letter of the Word to apply to our conduct” (Erdman, p. 102)

Erdman then proceeds to outline the following principles as “criteria of Christian conduct”:

1. There should be no conformity to the world (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1Jn. 2:15-17).

Erdman quotes from John Wesley to give a “working definition” of the world, “Whatever cools my affection toward Christ is the world.” Have you ever thought about it in those terms? What cools your affection towards Christ? What causes your desire to be for other things so that you don’t “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8, NLT)?

2. There should be no condemnatory attitude on our part (Rom. 14:1-3, 14-21).

In matters of opinion we definitely should show open-mindedness and appreciation for the opinion of others. An attitude that shows disrespect for a fellow human being is not of God. Do your desires cause you to run rough-shod over the opinions of others or do you have the humble attitude expressed by Paul, “14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. 20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” Rom 14:14-21, NLT).

3. We are to have our own convictions, based upon the Word of God (Rom. 14:1-9).

As Paul discusses the principles he lays out for the Corinthians, he makes application to two issues that were problems in his day. The first was eating of meats offered to idols and the second was observing of certain days. Please consider what one writer has said about these issues of the first century, “Under Judaism certain meats were forbidden (Lev. 11:) These were legal restrictions, not due to the nature of the animal (Gen. 9:1-4). But Christ fulfilled the typology of Judaism, and these restrictions were removed (Acts 10:10-16; 1Tim. 4:4. Again, meat that had been offer unto idols was sold in the markets, and was per se (of itself) unrestricted (1Cor. 8:1-8). To those with understanding, there was no wrong done in eating these meats. Under Judaism certain days were declared ‘holy’ (Lev. 23 :).These days were ‘set apart’ for Jews, and given significance by God’s decree, not for anything inherent in the day itself. They were a ‘shadow’… but the body is of Christ’ (Col. 2:16-17). The shadow had fulfilled its purpose with the coming of the New Covenant; hence, ‘day observance,’ per se, had lost its significance.” (Reading Romans, “When Saints Differ on Nonessentials,” Robert F. Turner, p.101)

In light of this, Paul emphasizes, “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable” (Rom. 14:5). “i.e., act with conviction, do whatever he does because he believes this is to the glory and service of God” (Turner, p. 102).

4. We are to be considerate one of another (Rom. 14:10-13).

“13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall (Rom. 14:13, NLT). I like Warren Wiersbe’s comments on this passage. He says, “Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve other or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian… The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love. Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet, Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe; but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures him that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong” (Be Right, Warren Wiersbe, pp. 157-158).

5. We should be consistent in our practice (Rom. 14:14-17).

“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16, NASB). Wiersbe said it well, “Not the externals, but the eternals must be first in our lives; righteousness, peace, and joy. Where do they come from? The Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (see Rom. 5:1-2)” (Ibid)

Erdman gives an example from the life of Rodney “Gipsy” Smith who was a British evangelist who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain for over 70 years. He was an early member of The Salvation Army and a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and acquaintance of G. Campbell Morgan and H. A. Ironside” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_%22Gipsy%22_Smith). He says, “More than once I heard the late Gypsy Smith relate the story of his father’s conversion. He heard the message of salvation, and with penitence received the Saviour as his own. That evening he returned to his motherless children in the gypsy wagon, and related to them all he knew of the Saviour and of the Scriptures. Then he prayed with them, setting up a family altar the first night of his new life in Christ. The following morning he repeated the whole matter again. Then he went back to town, and took with him the dearest treasure of a gypsy’s heart, his violin. On returning home that night he was without it, for he had sold it. He had sufficient spiritual insight, the first day of salvation, to realize that the old association of drinking and dancing places, where he had used his violin, would be inconsistent with his stand for Christ, and detrimental to his own conscience. We are glad for those whose background allows them to play the violin for God’s glory; but whatever is inconsistent to us and to others must be abandoned” (Erdman, p. 105).

6. Our conduct should be constructive (Rom. 14:18-19)

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). “Do my words, actions, standards, make for peace, to establish others in the truth of the gospel; or do I live to myself, unconcerned about the blessing promised to the peacemakers (Mt. 5:9) or about building strong Christian character and conviction in those that are as yet weaker in the faith?” (Erdman, p. 106).

7. We should be careful of conscience in what we allow in Christian conduct (Rom. 14:20-23).

“Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right” (Rom. 14:22, NLT). “We have to live with our own conscience to be under self-condemnation as well as under the conviction of the Spirit when our deeds are doubtful to ourselves; and on the other hand, we can have the happiness of a good conscience. We are to bear in mind also, however, the conscience of others in that which we allow. ‘But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.’ (1Cor. 8:9-12, NLT).  Strong and searching words, that should give us a tender and thoughtful conscience, with conviction that ‘Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.’ (v.13, KJV). High standard? Yes, high, but also holy and helpful; with the conscience of a weaker Christian as my criterion” (Erdman, pp. 107-108).

8. Our conduct should be Christ-like (Rom. 15:1-7).

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself” (Rom. 15:2-3, NLT). “The final criterion is the capstone of them all… Is the welfare and well-being of others a first consideration with us, as it was with Him? Can we deny ourselves that we might please others (v.1)? Is any sacrifice on our part in the least commensurate with His sacrifice for us? He has been patient with us, and desires that we be ‘likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus’ (v 5.). Do our words and our deeds, our attitudes and our acts, show forth Christ to others, especially to the weak in the faith? Are we Christ-like in our concern for them?”

Conclusion

Two more Disciplines of Life, I suggest as worthy of development in the life of the Christian: Delight and Desire. Delight is a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. It is an attitude that says, “I am appreciative for what I have and I will not waste my time trying to keep score of what I have compared to others. The Discipline of Desire will cause me to apply the principles of Christian conduct to my actions, in the light of another’s conscience.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 85-89, 101-111)

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 4, February 22, 2019 Theme: Thoughts From Philemon and Jude

In This Issue

  • “Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance: Thoughts from the book of Philemon,” written by Hannah Clark
  • Overcoming The Apostates: Thoughts from the book of Jude,”  written by Dillon Jarrett

Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance

Thoughts from the book of Philemon, written by Hannah Clark

               The book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to a fellow brother in Christ, Philemon. It is very short and was broken down into 25 verses so it’s one of Paul’s shorter letters. Despite its length, it holds a powerful message about forgiveness and accepting those that have come to Christ.

               Appreciation

Verses 1-3 convey Paul’s appreciation of Philemon as a “fellow laborer” in Christ and the church that is in his house. Philemon is described in verses 5-7 as showing love and faith to the saints he encounters and sharing his faith with others. Paul mentions that the “saints have been refreshed by you” (vs. 7). 

This description is one that should be commonly applied to those that are followers of Christ. In having traveled a lot in my life, I know of many I could apply this description to and it fills my heart with gladness. Knowing that there are Christians near and far is very encouraging.

               Appeal

Verses 8-16 reveal Paul’s main reason for writing the letter to Philemon. Paul is appealing to Philemon for the sake of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon. It is not revealed why Onesimus left Philemon but is assumed that Onesimus did not leave on good terms. After leaving Philemon, Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a fellow brother in Christ. Paul likens Onesimus as a son to him but is sending him back to Philemon and appealing to Philemon to take him back. Paul states that Philemon is receiving back more than a slave, but a brother as well.

It is sometimes hard for people to accept those that they felt have done them wrong or that they may not get along with. There is no room for this in the church and when there are those have decided to follow Christ, it is our job to welcome them as fellow brethren; to love and encourage them.

               Assurance

Paul concludes his letter in verses 17-25 by offering to repay Philemon for whatever/however Onesimus had wronged him. Paul has “confidence in [Philemon’s] obedience” that he will accept Onesimus and asks that Philemon prepare a room for him in the hopes that Paul will be able to visit. Paul lists his fellow workers that offer greetings to Philemon and closes his letter.

We don’t have a follow-up account of what happens when Onesimus returns to Philemon, but I would like to think (based on Paul’s account of Philemon’s character) that he welcomed Onesimus back as a brother in Christ and that he worshiped with the church that was in Philemon’s house.

Overcoming The Apostates

Thoughts from the book of Jude, written by Dillon Jarrett

               Jude should become one of your favorite letters if it isn’t already. The depth and breadth of topics included in this divine rhetoric is full of spiritual nuggets. Please take a few moments with me to review Jude in the eyes of our topic, “Overcoming the Apostates.”

               It isn’t coincidence that Judas, most likely the half brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), uses a different name to not have any semblance of the infamous Judas Iscariot. One of the most well known apostates, in accordance with prophecy and his own selfish ambitions (Matthew 26: 14-16), Judas fulfills the definition of apostate, “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.” This is the very problem that Jude will address throughout the letter.

               From the outset, it is clear his intentions were to write about the glory of the Kingdom of God and our salvation, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). Defending the faith (THE GOSPEL) is a common theme in the epistles (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Cor. 10:5; Psalm 94:16); Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:2; Philippians 1:16; Ephesians 5:11). Yet, Jude felt rather compelled to dive into the discussion that he does. Rightfully so. The Gospel message is something that many had already given their lives for, namely Christ. Allowing others to contentiously, selfishly and inaccurately portray the word of truth was not something acceptable to Jude in his writings. It should not be for us, either. “The faith” doesn’t mean our own personal belief, or faith in the sense of our trust in God. The phrase the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true Christians hold in common.” The faith is used in this sense repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 6:7, 13:8, 14:22, 16:5, 24:24; Romans 1:5 and 16:26; Colossians 2:7, and 1 Timothy 1:2 are just some of the examples). We must contend earnestly for the truth. “The faith is the body of truth that very early in the church’s history took on a definite form (Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Galatians 1:23).”

               Let’s notice how he addresses this problem. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 4-7). The apostates were predicted (Isaiah 8:19–22; 2 Thessalonians 2:6–10; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 2 Timothy 3:1– 9; 2 Peter 2:1–9). This is the first part of Jude’s sermon: Sin Separates and can Sets One’s Fate. One of the scariest notations in this discourse is the idea that these men secretly slipped in among you. That is the danger with ungodly people or those who once with good intentions, abandon the truth for their own desires. They pervert the grace of our God into a license of immorality…deny(ing) Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. This isn’t something his audience didn’t already know, but it needed reminding. He speaks of the Exodus and those who failed to believe after being relieved from bondage. Even the angels are bound to the Lord’s authority and were susceptible to condemnation. He finally points to Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically noting the immorality and perversion. Much could be said about the triplet representation above, but his point is simple: they serve as an example of those who suffer punishment of eternal fire. When we willfully sin and continue in that sin without desire to make our lives write with God, it should not be a surprise what one’s fate will be with those.

               This way of thinking is dangerous. It is toxic. It is ungodly and not fitting for Christians to partake in or EVEN ENTERTAIN. One of the dangers we see today that is prevalent in all avenues of communication (news, government, social media, radio, etc.) is this: on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. It is rather important to note the point he makes next about Michael the Archangel. Much could be said about this angel’s power and history, but the point is clear. Even he understood sometimes it is necessary to engage in spiritual warfare, but also with who’s authority he was in subjection to. As powerful and glorious as Michael is referenced in the Testaments, he would not dare to rebuke with the devil upon his own authority. It was only through God the Father that he engaged. He knew his place. The danger of these individuals addressed in Jude is that, more than anything, they have no respect for authority, especially the one true Lord. Notice how he references them with another rebuke: Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain (Genesis 4:8-9); they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-25, 31); they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11). Jude’s points about these three are a pinnacle point in his argument. The most dangerous aspect of Cain’s attitude was unbelief and empty religion. We fear many attacks on the faith today, but none are more striking and detrimental than vain, empty worship and living. A Christian who is lukewarm or engaging in apostasy is just as dangerous to the congregations of God’s people as the dangers we often label outside our walls. Jude’s second point in this section is: Don’t Sell Your Soul for Materialism. The danger of Balaam’s decisions were that he based them in greed. He was willing to compromise everything for money. Think that is happening today? Selling a message that tickles the people’s ears to fill congregations to the brim? Those individuals spiritually feed their congregations empty plates while trying to convince those people (and themselves) they’re filled (2 Timothy 4:3). Too many individuals are lost in these messages that are sweet to ears, but sour to the soul. To conclude this point, certain men live out the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16). You could say this is the final straw in some ways. Korah’s problem with Moses was that he had this crazy idea that Moses was attempting to exalt himself about the congregation of the Lord.” (Numbers 16:3). He wanted the authority and ministry of Moses. That was ultimately his problem with Moses: he wanted the spotlight and needed to remove Moses in order to get it. The problem with his intention was that he forgot that Moses didn’t put himself in that position, God did. Korah needed to learn this essential lesson: we should work hard to fulfill everything God has called us to be. At the same time, we should never try to be what God has not called us to be. (Guzik).                The most important principle from Jude’s final point would be this: Apostasy Can Come from Anyone and Any Walk of Life. Cain was a farmer. Balaam was a prophet. Korah was a leader within the nation of Israel. Problems can come from the pulpit, the pews, and anywhere else in the population. The future held for people that choose this path are sad existences. Spots in your love feast. They serve only themselves. Clouds without water. Trees that should bloom, who bear no fruit, not dead once but twice, pulled up from the roots (their perceived foundations.) Like streaking stars, their brightness is brief and always swallowed up in the blackness of the sky, a description of their destiny. A darkness forever that is never ending. He concludes with what Enoch says in prophecy about these types of individuals, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #8: Defamation and Defense

This is the eighth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Defamation and Defense.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Defamation (2nd Samuel 16:5-14)

Defamation is defined as “the act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel; calumny” (www.dictionary.com).

Edman reminds us of the admonition of Scripture, “For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1st Pet. 2:19-23, NLT). He then says, “This is a deep discipline of the soul, this evidence of our true sonship with God, as described by our Lord Jesus Christ… ”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:44-45, NLT).

David’s conduct before Shimei excellently illustrates the discipline endured by those who are defamed.

The situation: David is old; he’s been driven from his capital, caused by his rebellious son Absalom. Scripture describes Shimei’s stinging insults and David’s response (2nd Samuel 16:5-14, NLT).

Shimei said, “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

David’s response, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”

This is an often repeated theme in David’s Psalms:

“Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts…. The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (12:1, 2, 5, NLT).

“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family,    as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly” (35:11-15, NLT).

“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me” (39:1, NLT).

“I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!” (37:35-36, NLT)

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack” (31:19-21, NLT)

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain” (3:1-4, NLT).

Others demonstrated this discipline as well – the soft answer “that turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1)

Moses was the object of criticism, not only from the Israelites in General, but even from his own brother and sister. “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (Num. 12: 1-3). “One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?” Num 16:1-3, NLT)

The humble response of Moses is described, “When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. 5 Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!” (Num. 16:4-7, NLT).

Jesus was above all men spoken against falsely. In return for the miracles and healings He performed, He was repaid with the anger and envy of political leaders who sought to kill Him. One such example is that is recorded says,  “Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mk. 3:1-6, NLT)

Mark also records, “One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” (Mark 3:20-30, NLT).

Many other examples could be cited (Mk. 6:3; 14:45, 61; 15:3, 5; Isa. 42:2, 3; 53:7; Mt. 5:11-12) but suffice it to say that Jesus was without question the greatest sufferer and the most prolific example of the discipline of Defamation.

Paul described some of the things that he faced, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2Cor. 4:8-9). When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside” (2Cor. 7:5).

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap    burning coals of shame on their heads.”Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:7-21).

Defense (1Sam. 22:8)

“And there is none of you that is sorry for me.” “These are the words of a king! Who would have thought it could be so? A sovereign stooping to self-pity, a monarch making himself miserable and mean, a crown that cries like a spoiled child! But that is what the story tells, with penetrating insight and illumination into the character of Saul, first king of Israel” (Edman, p. 63).

Selfishness and self-pity were not conspicuous in Saul’s character at the outset his royal career, but he would soon develop a character dominated by those attributes.

At the outset of his royal career he seemed to have commendable characteristics: He came from a good family (1Sam. 9:1). He was a dutiful son (1Sam. 9:2). He was tall, handsome, competent, cooperative, and had qualifications to be over God’s people (1Sam. 9:16). He was humble and unassuming (1Sam. 10:14-16). He shrunk back from being king (1Sam. 10:22). He held his peace when criticized (1Sam. 10:26).

When time came “to reveal his qualities of leadership, he was not inadequate” (1Sam. 11:4-11). He showed that he could be magnanimous; for when his soldiers wanted to cut off his erstwhile critics, Saul could say with generosity, “There shall not be a man be put to death this day… (1Sam. 11:13)

But flaws began to appear in his personality & character: He seemed to lack a sense of the spiritual despite his home training. He became self-willed, impulsive, and imperious (“domineering in a haughty manner”-dictionary.com). He presumed the prerogatives of the priest by offering  the sacrifice (1Sam. 13:13-14)

He “seemed to lack a sense of fitness in things human as well as divine” (Erdman, p.65). He denied his men food when a great victory was in the making (1Sm. 13:15-23; 14:24). Even his son Jonathan said he “troubled the land” (1Sam. 14:29-30).

The test came years later when he was to destroy the Amalekites (1Sam. 15:1-3) but his obedience was only partial (1Sam. 15:9). The Lord was sorry he had set up Saul to be king (1Sam. 15:11). When confronted, he made excuses (1Sam. 15:20, 21) as he had done earlier (1Sam. 13:11-12).

Erdman says about this discipline:

“This is the discipline of defense. As long as a man is on the aggressive, alert to his liabilities and limitations, active in his service for God and man, he can be courageous, generous, altruistic, large-spirited; but when he allows himself to get on the defensive: defending his position, policies, procedure, personality, program, then he tends to become timid, selfish, self-centered and small. He has lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. He forgets the wholesomeness and soul-health necessary for his own soul. As indicated in a prayer of Phillips Brooks, ‘Let me not lose faith in my fellow men. Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness. Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them.’

“Self-centeredness makes a man soft, sensitive, selfish. Self-pity makes him pitiable, a picture of pathos when he should be a power for good. Self-importance makes him unimpressive, important in his own eyes but impossible to others. Conceit makes him contemptible. Bitterness of spirit over the success of others makes him blind to his own shortcomings. Envy makes him unenviable. Petulance makes him picayunish. Self-pampering makes him sarcastic. Self-indulgence makes him indolent. Self-defense destroys his self-respect, and makes him less a man.”

“This I say is the discipline of defense. To whimper is to be a weakling to complain is to be a coward; to blame others is to be a baby; to pity self is to be pitiful; to yell is to be ‘yellow,’ which term of contempt contains the whole concept of the unworthy and worthless.”

“The discipline of defense demands that we destroy self-centeredness, self-pity, self-importance, self-indulgence, self-defense of any kind. If others are honored, congratulate them (1Cor 12:26); if you are neglected, forget it. If the job is too big for you, admit it to yourself and to others and step aside graciously; you will be a bigger and better man for it. If others can do the job better than you, let them do it with your ‘God bless you!’ Let no dog-in-the-manger attitude make you snappy, showing teeth and temper rather than kindness and courtesy; in other words, be a Christian rather than a cur!”

“The discipline of defense is to ‘to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love in honor preferring one another … not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith … (to) bless them which persecute you; (to) bless and curse not’ (Rom. 12:10,3,14).” It is further defined and described in Phil. 2:3,14,15. “It is to do your duty and to do good unto others.”

“To defend yourself is to descend to the despicable, the degrading, the destructive; to deny yourself is to ascend to the worth-while, the wholesome and the helpful” (Erdman, pp.66-68).  

Conclusion:

This article has dealt with a positive discipline that we should seek to develop and a negative that we should be on guard against.

The positive, Defamation, that is doing good and living for God, no matter the consequences that may come to you as a result, is a discipline to be developed.

The negative, Defense that is allowing yourself to get on the defensive: defending your position, policies, procedure, personality, program, tending to become selfish, self-centered and small. You have lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. This is a discipline that would cause us to guard against the invasion of flaws of personality and character like those that developed in Saul.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 55-70)

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 3, January 25, 2019 Theme: Thoughts From 1st and 2nd Timothy

In This Issue

  • “The Church and Its Members (1st Timothy Chapters 2-3)” (New King James Version) by Sarah Crawford
  • “The Church & Its Minister (1st Timothy Chapter 4)” by Hannah Clark
  • “The Practical Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 2)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The Personal Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 4)” by Sarah Crawford

“The Church and Its Members (1st Timothy Chapters 2-3)” (New King James Version)

By

Sarah Crawford

At the beginning of chapter two and end of chapter three, Paul makes an address for all the brethren on the purpose and goal of the church’s conduct.

Chapter two verses 1-4 explain God’s desire for all to be saved and the members role in making supplications, prayers, and interceding on behalf of all people so that we might live a peaceable life in godliness. Later in chapter three verses 14-16 Paul again describes that he has written all these things so that the brethren would know how to conduct themselves in the church for the glory of God. The rest of the scriptures between these two passages go into further detail on how the brethren can specifically fulfill this exhortation from Paul.

Chapter two (vs. 8-15) describes the roles men and women have within the church. It even goes into detail on what they should and should not participate in, which indicates that God has strict expectations in these specified areas. Men are instructed to “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (vs. 8). This may only be one verse, but there are many concepts described here. Praying everywhere may involve praying in different countries, cities, homes, and can even mean in all areas of an individual’s life. Sometimes we restrict our prayers to times when we are in the comforts of our homes or gathered with brethren, but we must also take confidence in our faith to pray when we are uncomfortable or it is unpopular to do so. This could be at work, with our non-faithful families/friends, or even in an unfamiliar environment around strangers. “Lifting up holy hands” is not a common phrase we use today, but we can understand that how we present ourselves must be with holiness/godliness. This does not mean we are perfect, but rather that our hearts must be sincere in our desire to be pleasing to God. We work towards this by studying His word, embracing the love Christ demonstrated for us, and bearing our burdens with one another to encourage and edify our brethren and non-faithful peoples. “Without wrath and doubting” may seem obvious, but it can be a real struggle for many people. Paul does not say without wrath and doubting over the big problems. We have to practice humbling our hearts and trusting in God so as not to allow our hearts to become wrathful against others over anything, big or small. In my experience, it is not the big things that I have trouble handling, but it is the small things that happen over and over again that wear me down and can corrupt my heart. It may be something as simple as my brothers not replacing the toilet paper roll, but if I am not careful, my heart can become unjustly angry and I can let that anger fester in my heart to the point that I am not leading a godly lifestyle.

These instructions for the men of the church also apply for the women as Paul says in the next verse (vs. 9), “in like manner also”. The next verses on women’s apparel has been interpreted different over time, but I think it is a simple instruction on how women present themselves based on what is in their hearts. It is not wrong to wear jewelry, nice clothes, or braid our hair, UNLESS we do it with the intention of flaunting ourselves. When our hearts are focused on self-serving instead of serving God in good works and holiness, that is when it can become ungodly. Our focus, as women in the church, is not to give glory to ourselves, but to give glory to God in the work He has blessed us with. Today’s culture does not favor the next verses on a woman’s silence and submission in the church because it is often misread with emotional bias. The statements in the next verses are not meant to be offensive, but to give guidance to women on how they can please God in their roles in the church. One good explanation I have heard for women’s silence in the church is this: God calls men to step up and be leaders of His flock while He calls the women to train up the children and practice self-control and submission within the church. These two roles, for a majority of individuals, contradicts their natural inclinations. Many men in the church I have observed tend to be quieter or more conserved in their leadership approaches while many women have input on a lot of things they would like to see changed or addressed. God’s commands for men and women’s roles in the church challenge both sexes to grow in areas they may not be naturally inclined towards. Many women are not naturally good at keeping their thoughts to themselves, unless they practice and train their hearts to allow the men to be leaders. And likewise, many men might defer to their wives at times because it is easier. I know, for myself, I find it challenging to give in on a discussion if I think I have a better position, but sometimes I need to step back and let the man take control so that I can protect his heart as well as my own and that we do not create an unloving atmosphere within the church. Keeping in mind the goal Paul charges us with, to live peaceable with all men, this requires also that the world can see us living peaceably with other members too.

Chapter three discusses two potential leadership roles that the men of the church may aspire to: bishop (overseer) and deacon. Many of the qualifications for these two positions are similar with some noted exceptions; one that deacons must be tested prior to taking on the position. A deacon must also have a wife who is found blameless as he is, which is not indicated with the position for bishop. It is important to note that the word “bishop” as used in the bible is not the same as the bishops we see today in the Catholic faith. The biblical bishop is an overseer of a local congregation working with the members to care for their spiritual needs and must have good standing with the brethren and those outside the church. It is not an unbroken line of charism passed down by the laying on of hands, but rather, it is a position that any faithful man may aspire and work towards. There is no age limit, but the man must not be a novice in the faith and it states in this passage that to qualify as a bishop the man must be married to one wife and rule his house well. These qualifications are important because they automatically single out individuals who are strong in the faith and have demonstrated the ability to lead a family before guiding God’s church. Verse 13 states that these individuals gain good standing and great boldness in the faith, but it requires a great degree of responsibility on their part as they must actively seek to build and encourage the brethren so that others grow to be of service to God and the church. While it is easy to read through these chapters quickly, there is much that we can glean and apply to our personal growth and how to encourage those around us and in our local congregations.

“The Church & Its Minister (1st Timothy Chapter 4)”

By

Hannah Clark

Upon first reading this title, you may think that chapter 4 of first Timothy is in regards to the congregation and its preacher. The section headings in my Bible read “a good servant of Jesus Christ” and “take heed in your ministry” which has a more personal feeling to it. What I needed to remind myself is that this book of the Bible is a letter from Paul to Timothy which means we are essentially reading someone else’s mail. Some of the verses are particular to things happening at that time in history while other verses can easily be applied to us today. My goal in this article is to try and focus on the latter.

Paul begins this part of the letter as warning Timothy that there will be those that will leave the faith due to false doctrines (4:1) which can be seen in the world around us today due to all the varying religious teachings. To combat this, Paul tells Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness.” In their time, they only had the Old Testament writings and letters of what we now have in the New Testament. We are blessed to have the Bible readily at our fingertips by means of our phones or a book so that we may more easily gird with the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).

Verse 10 states how Paul and Timothy “labor and suffer reproach” for their faith in God. This is still true today. Jesus Himself was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3) and Paul even mentions in his second letter to Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It can be discouraging to want to try and teach others due to the backlash that we may face. In this, I am reminded of what the Lord told Samuel in the Old Testament, “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me…” (1 Samuel 8:7).

We know Timothy is a younger teacher based on verse 12 but is told to “be an example to the believers in work, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Many know the phrase to “talk the talk and walk the walk” and that’s true in our lives as Christians. In ministering to others, how we follow through with what we teach has a big impact on how others receive the Word of God. I’ve heard so many stories from others that want nothing to do with God, faith, and the Bible due to the hypocrisy of other “Christians.” On the flip-side, I’ve also heard accounts of those that have come to the Lord through the example of another (which leads people to ask questions and want to know more about Christ). Just because Timothy was a younger teacher didn’t make him a less effective minister to others and if we are using Christ as our guide, we won’t go astray in helping others.

Paul finishes this part of the letter (our chapter) by encouraging Timothy to continue in the doctrine they are teaching (which is of Christ). This is a lead-in to the last two chapters of this book in which Paul finishes up his letter to Timothy on how brethren should treat one another. Paul says that in continuing in the doctrine of Christ, Timothy will “save both [himself] and those who hear [him]” (4:16). None can come to salvation without Jesus Christ and our ministering to Christ through the teaching of His word will save others too. Jesus said Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It is up to us to know the gospel so that we can share it with others so that they may have a hope of eternal life in heaven.

To conclude, this section of Paul’s letter to Timothy reinforces how the older of the congregation are to teach the younger so that we all would be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). By reading and studying the gospel, we are better prepared to ministers ourselves to Christ and teach others. We will also be better equipped to bring others to Christ not only by our words, but also by our deeds.  

“The Practical Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 2)”

By

David Bushnaq

2 Timothy 2 is a chapter that speaks of the future of the church. It begins with Paul telling Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Timothy is told that because Paul gives him the charge to find

those who will be teachers, which then teach others so they also can one day be teachers.

Before he can teach others, first Paul tells him the prerequisites he must follow, himself.

He must not allow himself to be entangled with the world to the detriment of his growth, rather he must – as if he was competing in a sport or race – confirm he abides by the rules of the bible so he is not

disqualified from the crown that awaits him, and all who live godly lives.

Now these concepts are not strictly for him, but for all Christians. The examples given imply that his competing isn’t private. Neither should ours be. Those not only in the congregation, but in the world around us should know that we are Christians, that we too strive for the crown.

For one to undergo such a task of finding teachers, one must be strong in the grace. Teaching others in error will almost certainly lead to them also teaching error, and congregations that allow teaching in

errors lead their members to destruction.

How does one demonstrate their strength? By having the ability to “rightly divide the word of truth”, or to accurately handle it. The word “rightly divide” in the Greek means “to cut straight” as if from a guide.

Which means he must be able to, from the guide of the bible, handle disputes or conflicts that may arise.

He must “shun profane and idle babblings” which, of course, suggests that he has the ability to discern what is or is not “idle.”

Timothy also has to demonstrate a different kind of strength as well. He has to find faithful men who also can teach others, and that means he must be able to determine he who also demonstrates a similar strength, or who can be encouraged to reach that strength.

Churches die when men, strong in the faith and knowledge of God’s word, fail to continue the work of those before them in teaching and sharing what they’ve learned. If we do not share our understanding of the bible with those of the next generation, who would? And how could we encourage a better understanding of why what the bible says is so?

There is much being taught about the bible, and just about as much of it is untrue. We may know it, but do the children of our congregations? If they’re told something that is untrue but it sounds or feels good, are they firm enough that they can refute the error?

Paul tells Timothy to search for those able to teach others, but it’s not only those in the congregation who must teach, but the parents as well. Like Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother, parents must regularly discuss the bible with their children so when the time comes they, as the next generation, can step in. If our parents show a lack of care in the bible and the study of it, in most cases, we will too.

With all of these tools [and more] at our disposal as the next generation {and the generations after mine} there are no excuses for those who are not growing and preparing to support the church when the time comes. This is no mere theory. Godly churches remain so with this pattern. So I challenge you as parents to challenge your kids. Ask them biblical questions and if they don’t know the answers, discuss it with them. Discuss it with book chapter and verse, so when the time comes, they can do the same.

Thank you for reading.

“The Personal Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 4)”

By

Sarah Crawford

This chapter starts off with one of the famous sayings by Paul when he charges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort; with complete patience and teaching” (vs. 2). These instructions are part of Paul’s farewell to Timothy as he knows that there is little time left in his earthly life. Verse 9 is where Paul begins his personal plea to Timothy, urging him to visit soon as time is drawing near for Paul’s death. In this last chapter, Paul concludes the letter with many words of parting directed to specific people. We do not know a whole lot about some of these people, but it is clear that they had significant importance in Paul’s life for him to mention them by name. Luke is the only one with Paul at this point and Paul gives Timothy instructions to bring Mark with him when he visits. This is interesting to see Paul’s change in disposition towards Mark. If we recall, John Mark was chosen by Barnabas to go on a missionary trip with them (Paul and Barnabas) and Paul refused to take Mark because he had abandoned them on a previous missionary journey. Paul was so adamant about not bringing Mark that he and Barnabas went on separate missionary trips instead of traveling together (Acts 15). Yet now we see that Paul calls Mark out by name and says “he is very useful to me”.  It is unclear what changed, but there was such a growth in Mark as a worker for God’s kingdom that Paul wishes him to visit in his last days.

Paul gives context for the location of a few people in the next verses by making simple statements as to where they currently are or have been sent. This gives us topographical placement for people while looking at the big picture. It also communicates to Timothy Paul’s current relationship with some of these individuals. For example, in case Timothy was not aware, Paul lets him know that Demas had abandoned him because of his love for the world. Paul also communicates how Timothy should respond if he comes across these people in verse 14 when he states, “the Lord will repay him for his deeds” referring to Alexander the coppersmith who had worked great harm against Paul. He goes on to defend to the people who deserted him when they faced great persecution and tells Timothy not to hold it against them. This is important for Timothy moving forward because we see Paul as a great support and brother to Timothy, but as he is soon to die, Timothy will face situations where he may not have any support from brethren. Paul strengthens him by encouraging him to find strength and courage in the Lord and be confident in the message of God.

Paul ends the letter with final greetings for Prisca, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus and greetings to Timothy from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia by name. Paul also encourages the brethren in Rome to greet Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:3). It is clear that from the multiple mentions of these two that they are very dear to Paul. Earlier in this letter, Paul blessed the household of Onesiphorus for the kindness and generosity shown to Paul regardless of his chains (2 Timothy 1). It goes on to say that Onesiphorus “searched for me earnestly and found me” while he was in Rome. Paul was being persecuted for his beliefs and those who associated with him were also in jeopardy for facing persecution, yet Onesiphorus not only stood by Paul, but sought him out amongst the persecution. This takes a great deal of love and faith in God so it makes sense that he would be one of the few people Paul wishes to send final greetings to. Paul mentions brethren who send their greetings to Timothy, in my opinion, as a way to further encourage Timothy and build his confidence that there are those who will support him once Paul is gone. Paul mentions again at the end for Timothy to come visit before winter, indicating how eager Paul is to see Timothy one more time. The last farewell is “The Lord be with your spirit”. Paul does end many of his letters with similar farewells, but this seems to target Timothy’s weakness. We see earlier Paul’s encouragement for Timothy to preach even though he is younger and not let others discourage him. As a younger brother, Timothy has worked to find a balance between teaching older brethren and still be respectful to his elders, while always serving God. It seems as if Paul is praying that the Lord strengthens Timothy’s spirit to preach as instructed at the beginning of this chapter; “in season and out of season”. This is one great take-home message for us as there are different situations where others may accept God’s word and others may assault us for speaking the truth. But as Paul says, we must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be: Volume 3, Number 3, January 18, 2019: Commitment

What is Commitment?

Commitment is defined by Merriam Webster as: “1. an agreement or pledge to do something in the future, 2. a commitment to a cause.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commitment). Cambridge English Dictionary says it is “a promise to give yourself, your money, your time, etc., to support or buy something” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/commitment). The Urban Dictionary expands upon these definitions by adding, “Commitment is what transforms the promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions and the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none; coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.” (https://www.urbandictionary.com/.php?term=commitment)

Under the word “commit,” the ISBE lists passages that use the Hebrew words galal, paqad, natan, and sim (Job. 5:8; Ps. 10:14; 22:8; Jer. 11:20; 20:12; Ezek. 27:24; Isa. 22:21; and Lev. 6:14). Also there are passages where the Greek words paradidomi, paratithemi, and didomi, are found (Lk. 23:46; Acts 8:3; 14:23; Rom. 6:17; 1Tim. 1:18; 2Pet. 2:4; and Rev. 20:4). Then, by way of explanation, it is stated, “In these references, “commit” is used in the sense ‘entrust.’” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, G. W. Bromiley, General Editor, Volume One, p. 751).

Though the Bible does not contain the word “commitment,” it certainly does have a great deal to say about the concept of commitment. To convey this idea of “a promise to give yourself to support a cause,” The Bible uses words like “faithful” (Lk. 16:10-13), “doer” (Js. 1:20-25), “works” (Js. 4:14-26), “boldness” (Phil. 1:20; 1Thess. 2:2), etc. If we are to become the men that God wants us to be, we must be men of commitment.

The Heart of A Champion Foundation tells those that are enrolled in its Character Development Program, “It is challenging to be a person of commitment today because we live in a world where commitment seems to have little value. Yet, clearly, those who are committed to relationships, their jobs, and upholding a standard of honesty are those who achieve the greatest and most long-lasting success and personal fulfillment…. Your commitments are tested on a daily basis. You have been given great talents and abilities. But crossing the finish line will depend on your level of commitment. Quitting is always hardest the first time. From then on, it becomes easier and easier. Don’t quit! Be a person of commitment and GO THE DISTANCE!” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 3)

Consider the following areas where we can demonstrate commitment and some examples Of people who have done just that  …

Commitment to What is Right

The story of Louis Zamperini is pretty unbelievable. He is perhaps most well known for being a Japanese prisoner of war survivor. But prior to his war exploits, Zamperini was known as an athlete who took up running in high school and participated for the US in the 5,000 meter race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1941, he was commissioned into the United States Army Air Forces as a lieutenant. He served as a bombardier in B-24 Liberators in the Pacific. On a search and rescue mission, mechanical difficulties forced Zamperini’s plane to crash into the ocean. After drifting at sea for 47 days, he landed on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands and was captured. He was taken to a prison camp in Japan where he was tortured. Following the war he initially struggled to overcome his ordeal. In a televised interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2003, Zamperini related that after the war, he had nightmares about strangling his former captors and began drinking heavily, trying to forget his experiences as a POW. While attending one of the evangelistic crusades led by Billy Graham in Los Angeles, he was reminded of his prayers during his time on the life raft and imprisonment, and Zamperini recommitted his life to Christ. Following this, he forgave his captors, and his nightmares ceased.

Later Graham helped Zamperini launch a new career as an evangelist. One of his recurring themes was forgiveness, and he visited many of the guards from his POW days to let them know that he had forgiven them. This included an October 1950 visit to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, where many war criminals were imprisoned, and where he expressed forgiveness to them. Zamperini told CBN that some became Christians in response. Zamperini’s life story has been captured in the biography by Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and the hit movie Unbroken.

“It is said that when we forgive, it is as if we are releasing someone from a sort of ‘mental prison’ that we create for them. This is true, but it is also true that we release something within ourselves when we forgive. When unforgiveness remains in us, it simmers into bitterness, and bitterness will eat away at your soul. According to medical professionals, bitterness can cause depression and even lead to various physical maladies. But when we forgive, we release that bitterness, and in so doing, release ourselves from our own ‘emotional prison’. A commitment to do what is right means a commitment to forgive others. When you forgive, you are embodying the greatest act of love and power you can ever know. So do the right thing. Go the distance in your relationships by forgiving others.” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 4)

Joe Ehrmann is another example of one who has a commitment to what is right. Ehrmann has developed a program called Building Men for Others, utilizing his 13-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL and his 10-years’ experience as a volunteer high school defensive line coach. He works to tear down stereotypes that are common criteria for manhood: athletic ability, sexual conquest, and financial success. He says, “These standard, consistently set young men up for failure. It gives this concept that what we need to do as men is compare what we have and compete with others for what they have. Ultimately, as adults, we compare bank accounts and job titles, houses and cars, and we compete for the amount of security and power that those represent. We compare; we compete. That’s all we ever do. It leaves most men feeling isolated and alone. And it destroys any concept of community.”

Ehrmann offers an alternative, what he calls “strategic masculinity.” In his definition, manhood is based on two keys: relationships and having a cause beyond yourself. He “reinforces these principles through stories and lessons about being a man built for others. Serving others, empathy, inclusion and integrity are preached. A code of conduct is emphasized: accepting responsibility, leading courageously, enacting justice on behalf of others. Team rules are unorthodox: no player should allow another student to sit by himself in the lunchroom; no boy is ever cut from the team; every senior plays; coaches must always teach by building up rather than tearing down.” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 6)

Commitment to People

Clayton Lillard is an example of one who has a commitment to people. Clayton, while still an elementary school student, had a dream of helping children. Clayton discovered he could salvage old bicycle parts to build refurbished bikes for needy children. Writes Linda Owen, “It all began in 1998 when he found two battered bikes on top of a pile of brush in his San Antonio neighborhood. The thought hit him: It would be really great to fix up those bikes and give them to kids who don’t have one….  Since that first year, “Clayton’s Backyard Crew” has repaired and donated more than 600 bikes through area churches’ Angel Tree ministries, which give Christmas presents to kids who have a parent in jail. ‘The kids think the bikes are from their incarcerated parent,’ says Clayton, now 16. ‘That’s OK with me. Just seeing the excitement on their faces as they realize ‘My Daddy loves me!’ is the best reward.’ Whenever he can, Clayton makes sure they know their Heavenly Father loves them, too; and that’s why Jesus was born. ‘This was God’s idea,’ says Clayton. ‘He just allowed me to be the instrument that he used to bring his love to the children.’” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/truelifestories/interestingpeople/25.16.html)

Clayton says this on his go fund me page, “In 1999, at the age of 10, and with the essential help of my mother, Vicki Gil, I founded a community project called Clayton’s Backyard Crew (CBC).  Originally, we received bicycle donations from around the city of San Antonio and would restore them to be delivered as Christmas gifts for children of incarcerated parents.   Over the next 14 years we were able to successfully donate over 1,200 bicycles to these at risk youth.  We’ve been on a brief hiatus (I moved out of state for college and have since settled down in Austin, TX) but we are bringing CBC back into operation for 2014!” His current status shows $1,285 raised of $7,500 goal, with no donations made in 50 months. (https://www.gofundme.com/thebackyardcrew)

“So many people say they want to help those who are needy, but few ever actually do it. All around you there are people with serious needs – physical, emotional, spiritual. But what they most need is to know that someone cares about them. That doesn’t happen because of one phone call, letter visit, or extended hand of assistance. It happens when we turn one call, one visit, one letter, or one extended hand into a series of them reflecting a longer-term commitment. People need to know someone is committed to them. This gives them hope. Spouses, children, friends, the needy – all those in your relationship circle throughout your lifetime need to know you will be there for them. Your commitment shows them that there is at least one person who will be there for them. Nothing provides them greater human comfort. Remember, a champion looks for opportunities to make the lives of those around them better. R U Committed?” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 7)

Ruth Jones is another example of one who has a commitment to people. Jones’ work with the Henry Paideia Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has earned her numerous honors, awards and accolades, as well as visits from former Michigan Governor John Engler and President George W. Bush. From 1994 to 2004 she was responsible for taking the inner-city school from the brink of closure, because of poor academic performance to a top-performing institution.

“Jones began a multi-faceted approach to change. She began to address the constant sadness and depression she saw in students. She also addressed their practical needs. It was common for many children to come to school dirty, so Jones had four washing machines and dryers installed at school. Children were now able to have clean clothes, which kept them from what Jones saw as unnecessary embarrassment. Eventually Jones instituted school uniforms for all students, which she said made an almost immediate impact. The reduced peer pressure related to clothing translated into reduced conflict.”

“The keys to her success, say her peers, are Jones’ ability to care for each student and her commitment to give her students the same quality of life as children from wealthier neighborhoods. ‘We act like just because a child is poor, they are going to be able to do without all the things our kids have and be the same as our kids and out all right,’ Jones says. ‘We so nothing, we reap nothing.’ (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 9)

Commitment to the Truth

Mack White made some very bad choices that landed him in a juvenile justice facility in Texas for three years. While incarcerated he was forced to confront some difficult truths that led him to change his heart and become a more productive citizen. With the help of Mike and Carmen Studer, who asked Mack to come and live with them, he gained confidence and came to appreciate that nothing is impossible if you are willing to face the most difficult truths about yourself. Mack’s story is woven through the movie entitled One Heart. The website says this about the story that forms the basis of the movie and of Mack White’s story that is part of the movie. “Based on the real-life events surrounding a 2008 high school football game, One Heart is the amazing story of the players and coaches from Gainesville State School and Grapevine Faith – two groups from diverse backgrounds whose paths cross to create life-changing hope and inspiration for both teams. Two Teams. Two Cultures. One Heart.

“Reminiscent of The Blind Side, Remember the Titans, Hoosiers, and Chariots of Fire, One Heart is a moving story that transcends sports, touches the heart and shows how a simple act of compassion creates a powerful and lasting impact. One Heart demonstrates the power of unconditional love to transform lives. The film is targeted to both adult and teen audiences as well as the family film audience.

“At the conclusion of the movie, the audience will have the opportunity to join the One Heart Movement and impact a forgotten population of juvenile offenders. The One Heart Project is a public charity that provides a second chance to incarcerated and at-risk youth, through service partners in communities across America, by connecting those activated by the movie.

“The One Heart movie is being produced by Eterné Films in association with Birchwood Pictures…..”

“Mack White experienced first-hand what it is like to be a part of the “cradle to the cage” pipeline. Mack was born into the circumstances and cruelty of inner city life in Houston’s toughest neighborhood only to end up in prison, a two-time felon, at the age of 16. Mack never denies his part in this tragedy, but is convinced that there are ways to keep others from making the same choices and break the cycle. Kids born into cultural depravity are making adult decisions, life altering decisions, at ages as young as 10. With that in mind, Mack is on a mission to teach every kid in America that when opportunity is rare and life’s not fair, preparation is the only way out of his or her snare. Because of Mack’s leadership for good in prison, he earned a reputation that gave him an opportunity to be mentored by a Faith Christian School family who attended the football game that launched this movie. He now lives with this family in Flower Mound and in seven short months he: has obtained his Driver’s license, has begun working, has bought a truck, is working on his GED, has become the domestic spokesperson for Touch A Life Foundation, which works to saves kids in Africa and around the world from slavery, has become a consultant on the movie One Heart. He has recently signed a contract with Kim Dawson Talent and Modeling Agency in Dallas. Mack’s Character is woven throughout movie.

“Mack is now being mentored as a public speaker by Victor Marx.”

(http://www.oneheartmovie.com/story.html)

“Truth, no matter how difficult, is worth standing for at great personal cost. But when we are presented with the truth, we must act upon it. Every truth demands our response, our action. It takes great character to uphold the truth, especially when the truth is difficult to face. BUT YOU CAN DO IT!” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 10)

Carlos Beltran, at the age of 17, was selected in the second round of the June 1995 Free Agent Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He made his major league debut in 1998 and in his first full year in 1999, he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Beltran had dreamed of playing in the major leagues from the time he was 5 years old and promised his parents, “When I get to the big leagues, I am going to buy you a new home.” After the end of the 2002 season, Beltran and his wife Jessica, returned to Puerto Rico, and under the guise of buying the house for themselves, sought the parent’s guidance in selecting items for the house. During a family party on Christmas Eve, Carlos and Jessica presented the house to his parents.

Commitment to Doing Your Best

Sheila Burrell had a dream to be an Olympic gold medalist on the track. She had many of the tools that she needed to achieve her dream: athletic ability, the coaching and the desire. The only thing holding her back was a commitment to do her best.

She did make a commitment to do her best. Sheila competed in the heptathlon. The women’s outdoor heptathlon consists of the following events, with the first four contested on the first day, and the remaining three on day two:

100 meters hurdles

High jump

Shot put

200 meters

Long jump

Javelin throw

800 meters

Sheila was a two-time representative of the United States at the Summer Olympics, competing in 2000 and 2004. Her best Olympic finish was fourth place. She also competed twice at the World Championships in Athletics, which included a bronze medal in 2001. She was also a two-time silver medalist at the 1999 Pan American Games. Her personal best for the heptathlon was 6472 points and she was American national champion on four occasions.

Sheila was disappointed at many of her early performances but she was motivated by the knowledge that there were many who had better records that she beat at the Athens games in 2004. She recognizes that her performance does not define her and she still pushes herself to be the best even though she has retired as a heptahalete. She now coaches women’s track at San Diego State

Drake Hills said of her in a recent article,

“Even in moments of adversity, like the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, injury couldn’t stop Burrell from finishing. After hurting her knee and no-heighting on her first attempt in the high jump, Burrell completed each event, finishing 26th while earning the respect of opponents.

Such character and competitiveness have spilled into Burrell’s coaching career, with stops at Cal State Northridge, Kansas State and Georgetown before she arrived at San Diego State.

“In the end,” Burrell said, “the goal is always for us to finish top 25, win conference indoor and outdoor, and qualify as many athletes as possible for the NCAA finals.

“The goals are the same.”

(“Former heptathlete Burrell ‘creating success’ as SDSU track coach,” by Drake Hills, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 4, 2018 )

Fallon Taylor was blessed with both supermodel looks and world-class rodeo riding skills. During her pre-teen and teen years, she set many barrel racing records and earned more than $250,000. When she was 17, she gave up her barrel racing and moved to New York to focus on another career she had fallen in love with, modeling. But after six years of modelling, Fallon decided that she missed her barrel racing so much that she moved back to her parents’ home in Texas in 2004 to concentrate on both interests.

Fallon broke her C-2 vertebrae in her neck in a horse accident in 2009 but after recovering from that went on to other rodeo successes. She won the World Champion Barrel Race at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in 2014. In addition to barrel racing she has also been a New York model and was the Axe body spray girl, made appearances on several TV shows including Two and a Half Men and started her own clothing company – ranchdressn.com with her two best friends in 2014.

(Source: http://www.wpra.com/index.php/taylor-fallon)

“It is the ultimate dichotomy. Taylor goes from thousands of dollars a day shoots in which she wears elegant outfits and spends hours getting her hair and makeup done, to throw on jeans and cowboy boots and riding horses inside a smelly arena…. Continuing in both professions is grueling, however, Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way. She remains committed to giving her all to make the dual-career work. This once child prodigy is still young a young star on the rise making every day count.” (Heart Of A Champion Character Development Program, “Commitment,” p. 15)

CONCLUSION

Think about what it takes to demonstrate commitment to what is right, to people, to the truth, and to doing your best. How will you use these examples to motivate your own commitment? John Maxwell tells the story of Michelangelo and the extreme commitment that it took for him to complete the painting of four hundred figures and nine scenes from the book of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Very likely we will not be asked to make a commitment of that magnitude. Maxwell says Commitment means different things to different people, “To the boxer, it’s getting off the mat one more time than you’ve been knocked down. To the marathoner, it’s running another ten miles when your strength is gone. To the soldier, it’s going over the hill, not knowing what’s waiting on the other side. To the missionary, it’s saying good-bye to your own comfort to make life better for others. To the leader, it’s all that and more because everyone you lead is depending on you.” (The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader, pp. 16-18).   

Won’t you be the man that God wants you to be by showing commitment like Jesus did when He went to the cross for us?

Thanks for reading.

–Randy

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #7: Danger, Daring, and Darkness


This is the seventh lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; and Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability thus far.

There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Danger, Daring, and Darkness. As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

Danger (Neh. 6:1-19)

Life is full of dangers: physical, social and spiritual. Nehemiah’s experience is illustrative of the discipline of danger. As we read the 6th chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we see described the dangers he faced in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

First, there was the Danger of Intrigue (vv. 1-4).  The enemy sent word to Nehemiah that they would like to meet with him. Nehemiah could only speculate as to the purpose of the meeting, but the text says that “they were planning to harm me” and therefore sent word to them, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” They repeated the request four more times.

Second, there was the Danger of Innuendo (vv. 6-9). They sought to ascribe to him false motives. They said, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, a king is in Judah!” Nehemiah’s response was that they were inventing these things in their own minds.

Third, there was the Danger of Intimidation (vv. 10-14). Shemaiah told Nehemiah that, ““Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” Nehemiah replied to him, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” Nehemiah realized that God had not spoken to him at all, but rather that Shemaiah had been hired by Tobiah and Sanballat,  hoping to intimidate him and make him sin so that they could accuse and discredit him.

Finally, there was the Danger of Insinuation (vv. 17, 19). The text says, “During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah…. They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.”  The servant of God may be assaulted by letters sent by others in an attempt to destroy his reputation. Sticking to his duty, in the midst of such a barrage of letters, may very well be the deepest of trials for this servant of God.

The application for us as Christians today is that we may be tempted to turn from our tasks to address the dangers of intrigue, innuendo, intimidation, or insinuation but our safety is in doing our duty (2:3),  putting our trust in God (6:9), standing steadfast and immovable (6:11), and serving in silence. The result for us will be as it was with Nehemiah, “…the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God” (6:15-16). “Danger feared is folly, danger faced is freedom” (Erdman, p.23)

Daring (Joshua 1:6-7)

Joshua illustrates wonderfully the Discipline of Daring. Scripture tells us that after the death of Moses the Lord spoke to Joshua, his assistant and told him “the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:2-5)

There is no indication in Scripture that Joshua hesitated at all, but rather he promptly began giving instructions to his officers, “Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Joshua 1:10-11)

It certainly would not have been unreasonable to expect that he would have exercised the Discipline of Deliberation – “To be sure, there is the discipline of deliberation, wherein one ponders the pathway he should take and restudies the resources he will need for any given enterprise; but there is also the discipline of daring, wherein one decided to do his duty despite every difficult and danger” (Erdman, p.25).

But to deliberate and delay unduly, when God is for us and leading us, is foolish. “Daring can mean the difference between defeat by default and the delight of duty well done” (Ibid). And so God urged him on, ““Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do” (Joshua 1:6-7).

We need that same exhortation today, “Be Strong & Very Courageous!” There are giants as there were then. Joshua had seen them (Num. 13) but he did not concur with the majority report (Num. 13:33; 14:8-9).

Consider these insightful comments by Erdman

  • “Daring sees God, not the giants, the Savior, not the cities walled up to heaven; the promises, not the impossibilities; the authority of God, not the Anakim” (Erdman, p.26). Their minority report said “Let’s go up at once and possess it … (Num. 13:33).
  • Daring often stands alone or in a hopeless minority; and learns therein one of the primary lessons of patience that lead to triumph; dread not the majority that outvotes you nor the mob that would stone you” (Num. 14:10)(Erdman, p.27). Often “…our real foes are not the fierce sons of Anak, but rather are the furtive Achans within our own camp” (Joshua 7) (Erdman, p. 27).
  • There is the Jordan, as well as the giants to hinder us as it did Joshua. The giants may represent spiritual and psychological foes that face us when we would follow God, the Jordan may well represent physical factors that render fortuitous or even foolish any thought of following Him further … There are physical factors that make impossible our obedience to the know will of God…. God had told Joshua to go over this Jordan just as it was. There is a very fine line of differentiation between fanaticism of self-will and the faith of obedience to God’s will; and happy the heart that learns that difference” (Erdman, pp. 28-29).
  • While caution considers and deliberation delays, daring obeys the explicit command of the Lord…. This is a discipline of daring: to be strong when the seeming impossibility stares one in the face; to be very courageous when obedience commands that we put our feet on the brim of certain disaster” (Erdman, pp. 29-30)
  • A life of sight calculates, considers, cautions, and cringes. Whereas a life of faith follows God implicitly” (2Cor. 1:9-10; 4:8) (Erdman, p. 30).
  • “To walk by faith is to face an unending succession of giants, Jordans, and Jerichos and to dare to conquer each one in turn” (Erdman, p. 30).

When we are considering how we should move forward, we must recognize the God’s methods may not be ours. In fact, usually they are not. Consider the methods God chose at Jericho (Josh. 6:16, 20), at Ai (Josh. 8:18, 26) and centuries later with King Jehoshaphat (2nd Chron. 20:22).

“This is the discipline of daring; to discern one’s duty, to do God’s bidding, to delight in His presence, to depend upon His promise, to discover His power as we obey His word, ‘Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do … that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest …’ (Josh. 1:7-9)” (Erdman, p. 31).

Darkness (Isa 50:10)

Finally let’s consider the Discipline of Darkness. To illustrate this discipline, we will look at the statement found in Isaiah 50: 10, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.” The child of God has benefit of wisdom from God’s word, and therefore need not walk in darkness. This truth is confirmed in many New Testament passages, including Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:17; Rom. 12:1-2; Acts 23:11.

But we are also told that the trial of our faith is inevitable (1Pet. 1:7). “This trial of faith provides the discipline of darkness for God’s child, that he may learn to trust his Father in the shadows as well as in the sunshine” (Erdman, p. 34)

Consider several Bible Examples. First consider Joseph. Childhood dreams taught him he would be preeminent among his brothers but his pathway led through hatred, envy, & rejection. His experience in Potiphar’s house was very much a journey through darkness as was his experience in prison. But Joseph was faithful to the mission God called him and God blessed him (Gen. 50:20).

Secondly, consider the example of Jeremiah. He was misunderstood by others, but assured by God (Jer. 15:11, 20). He went deeper into distress and difficulty. But God again assured him (Jer. 39:17, 18).

Third, consider John the Baptist. He was a burning and shining light (Jn. 5:35). But the hatred of the Herodians led him to the dungeon and death. 

Finally, consider Job. There was none like him in all the earth (Job 1:1-8; 2:3). Suddenly he was plunged into dismay, desolation, disease, and despair. Have you ever thought about the “dark night of the soul” reflected in Job’s statements in Job 3:23; 6:8-9; 9:30-31; and 13:24-25?

The darkness brings to us haunting shadows that insinuate ‘God has forgotten to be gracious,’ ‘God concerns not himself with you,’ ‘God’s will would not bring you into the shadow,’ ‘God has forsaken you because you have disobeyed Him,’ and a thousand similar subtle snares of Satan. On the contrary, the discipline of darkness can show us the wonderful truth of Isa. 50:10 …Our temptation is to give up all hope in the dark or else to kindle a fire of our own (Isa. 50:11) which will prove to be loss and sorrow. Rather we find heart and mind are stayed upon the Lord, that, ‘unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous’ (Psa. 112:4)” (Erdman, p. 37)

Conclusion

Danger, Daring, and Darkness. Those are disciplines that we may very well be called upon to engage in our lives as Christians. Are you prepared to face what life throws at you? If you “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on your God” you should be! If not, make it right today!

Thanks for reading dear friend.

-Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 17-38)

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 2, September/October, 2018 Theme: Thoughts From 1st and 2nd Thessalonians

In This Issue

 

  • “Paul Remembers: How the Church was born, nurtured and established (1st Thessalonians Chapters 1-3)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Paul Exhorts: In Holiness, harmony, honesty, hope and helpfulness (1st Thessalonians Chapters 4-5)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Encouragement in Suffering (2nd Thessalonians Chapter 1)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Book of Second Thessalonians Chapter 3” (Reprint) by William C. Sexton

 

 

 

Paul Remembers: How the Church was born, nurtured and established (1st Thessalonians Chapters 1-3)

 

By

 

Randy Sexton

 

A Church is Born (Chapter 1)

The Background of the city of Thessalonica is very impressive. Today it is the second largest city in Greece, behind Athens. During World War I, it served as an important Allied base. The city has a long history. Originally it was known as Therma, but was renamed Thessalonica in 315 B.C. after the half-sister of Alexander the Great. At the time that Paul wrote this letter, 200,000 people lived there. The population was a mix of Greeks, Romans, and Jews. The church here was established by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-15). Paul had only been at Thessalonica “three Sabbath days” (Acts 17:2) before the Jews stirred up trouble and he had to leave. Scripture says “the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (Acts 17:10). Regardless, we know that Paul worked at his tent making trade to support himself (1Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:6-15). Despite his short stay, his teaching was solid enough to leave behind a thriving church. When he left for Athens, Paul told Timothy and Silas to remain behind there and help the new church and then join him later.

 

The Burden that Paul had for his brethren is evident in his writings. He wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians to assure them of his love and concern and to ground them in the doctrines of the faith, particularly with reference to Christ’s return. He recognized that they might be tempted to compromise the truth in the face of severe persecution. He also wrote to encourage them to live holy lives. There seemed to be some confusion among these brethren in regard to the second coming of Christ and about those who had already died. Paul comforts them with what he wrote (1Thess. 4:13-18).

 

The Blessing in the message of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians is the return of Jesus Christ and how this vital doctrine can affect our lives and churches and make us more spiritual. This book is unique in that every chapter ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23). With this emphasis on steadfastness and holy living, an appropriate theme might be: HOLINESS IN VIEW OF THE COMING OF CHRIST.

 

Paul addresses the Thessalonians as An Elect People (1:1-4). Paul is joined by Silvanus and Timothy in Corinth, where he is when he writes this epistle.  They had been with him when the gospel was first preached in Thessalonica. Paul offers his salutation along with a petition for grace and peace. He follows with an expression of thanksgiving for their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope, knowing their election by God.

 

He recognizes them as An Exemplary People (1:5-7). They had received the gospel not only in word, but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance. They had imitated Paul and Jesus by receiving the word in much affliction and joy, they in turn had become examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

 

They are further described by Paul as An Enthusiastic People (1:8). They were faithful in sounding out the word in every place, and in the process, the news of their own faith toward God had so spread that Paul did not need to tell others about them. In fact, others were telling Paul of the Thessalonians’ conversion from idols to serve the true God, and how they were waiting for the resurrected Jesus to return from heaven who would deliver them from the wrath to come.

 

The Thessalonians were An Expectant People (1:9-10). Based upon what they had been taught, they were fully expecting the return of Christ. They were known as a people who were waiting for the resurrected Jesus to return from heaven and to deliver them from the persecutions they were suffering then and from wrath to come.

 

A Church is Nurtured (Chapter 2)

“Just as God uses people to bring the Gospel to the lost, so He uses people to nurture the babes in Christ and help lead them to maturity. The church at Thessalonica was born through the faithful preaching of the apostle and his helpers, and the church was nurtured through the faithful pastoring that Paul and his friends gave to the infant church. This helped them to stand strong in the midst of persecution” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 2 by Warren Wiersbe, p. 163).

 

“Reflections Regarding His Conduct (2:1-12)

Having reflected upon their reception of the gospel, Paul now reflects upon his own conduct while with them. He describes the manner of his preaching as one that was free of guile, deceit, flattery, and covetousness. Seeking not the glory of men, but of God, he spoke with boldness despite conflict, and was gentle among them as a nursing mother would be with her own children (1-8). His manner of life was sacrificial, working hard not to be a burden to them, behaving devoutly, justly, and blamelessly while among them. As a father does his own children, he exhorted, comforted and charged them to walk in a way worthy of God who was calling them into His own kingdom and glory (9-12).

 

Reflections Regarding His Concerns (2:13-20)

Paul then begins to reflect upon the concern that he has for their condition. Thankful for their reception

of his gospel as the word of God and not of men, he writes how they had imitated the churches in Judea

in receiving the word among much persecution by their own countrymen (13-16). Even though it has

only been a short time since he has seen them, he has desired to come to them time and again, but Satan had hindered him. His longing to see them is due to his view of them as his hope, joy and crown of

rejoicing in the presence of Jesus when He comes again (17-20).”

(The First Epistle To The Thessalonians, p. 10, Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2001)

 

A Church Is Established (Chapter 3)

“In the first two chapters, Paul explained how the church was born and nurtured. Now he dealt with the next step in maturity: how the church was to stand. The key word in this chapter is establish (vv. 2 and 13)(The NASB uses the word “strengthen” in verse 2, but many other translations use the same word in both verses-RS). The key thought is expressed in 3:8: “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (Wiersbe, p. 171).

 

“As Paul expresses his concern for their faithfulness, he explains why Timothy had been sent to them while he himself remained in Athens. Fearful that their afflictions might have given Satan an opportunity to tempt them and render his labors with them in vain, Timothy was sent to establish and encourage them in their faith (1-5).

 

Timothy brought back good news to Paul concerning the church at Thessalonica, telling him of their faith and love, their fond memories of Paul, and their desire to see him again. This greatly comforted Paul who was suffering his own afflictions, and he is overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. Praying night and day that he might see them again and perfect what is lacking in their faith, he offers a prayer that God and Jesus might direct his way to them. He also prays that the Lord will help them to increase and abound in love to one another and to all, and to establish their hearts blameless in holiness before God at the coming of Christ with all His saints (6-13)” (Copeland, p. 13).

 

As we read this first epistle to the Thessalonians, we should be encouraged. Even though we do not face the tremendous physical persecution that these brethren faced, we may be subjected to social persecutions. Young people, you especially may face peer pressure that takes a great deal of courage and faith to resist. I pray that the word of the Apostle Paul to these first century Christians will help you in your walk with Christ.

 

Thanks for reading …

Randy

 

 

Paul Exhorts: In Holiness, harmony, honesty, hope and helpfulness (1st Thessalonians Chapters 4-5)

 

By

 

Randy Sexton

 

As we look at the final two chapters of 1st Thessalonians, the following outline by Warren Wiersbe may be helpful:

  1. How to Please Your Father (4:1-12)
  2. Walk in Holiness (vv. 1-8)
  3. Walk in Harmony (vv. 9-10)
  4. Walk in Honesty (vv. 11-12)

 

  1. The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
  2. Revelation: We Have God’s Truth (vv. 13, 15a)
  3. Return: Christ is Coming Again (vv. 14-15)
  4. Resurrection: The Christian Dead (vv. 15-16)
  5. Rapture: Living Believers Caught Up (v. 17)
  6. Reunion: Christians Forever with the Lord (vv. 17-18)

 

III. Don’t Walk in Your Sleep! (5:1-11)

  1. Knowledge and Ignorance (vv. 1-2)
  2. Expectancy and Surprise (vv. 3-5)
  3. Soberness and Drunkenness (vv. 6-8)
  4. Salvation and Judgment (vv. 9-11)

 

  1. It’s All in the Family (5:12-28)
  2. Family Leadership (vv. 12-13)
  3. Family Partnership (vv. 14-16)
  4. Family Worship (vv. 17-28)

 

Also, as you read the Bible text, consider the following summaries of this good brother.

Chapter Four

“With this chapter Paul begins a series of apostolic instructions related to the Christian’s walk in holiness, especially in view of the coming of Christ. Urging them to abound more and more so that they might please God, he first focuses on their sanctification and the need to abstain from sexual immorality (1-8). He then urges them to increase more and more in brotherly love, even though they had been taught by God to love another and did so toward all the brethren throughout Macedonia (9-10). That they might walk properly toward outsiders, he urges them to lead quiet lives, mind their own business, and to work with their own hands (11-12).

 

Paul then addresses the matter of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. He did not want the Thessalonians to sorrow over them as others who have no hope. For just as God raised Jesus from the dead, even so He would bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (13-14). This leads to a description of the Lord’s coming, especially as it relates to how those who are alive and remain until His coming will in no way precede those who have died. Indeed, when the Lord comes from heaven, the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will at that time be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, to be with Him forever. Christians should therefore comfort one another with these words (15-18).

 

Chapter Five

“Continuing his apostolic instructions, Paul knows he does not need to write to the Thessalonians concerning the timing of the Lord’s coming, for they know full well that He will come as a thief in the night and with sudden destruction catch many people unexpectedly (1-3). Such should not be the case for Christians, however, for they are “sons of light” and “sons of the day”; therefore they should watch and be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and having as a helmet the hope of their salvation (4-8). Knowing that God has appointed them to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ, they know that whether dead or alive they will live with Christ. Through such hope they should therefore comfort and edify one another, just as they were doing (9-11).

 

A series of exhortations follows. First, to recognize and esteem those who labor among them and are over them in the Lord, and to be at peace among themselves (12-13). Then, exhortations related to our

concern for one another, along with a call to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in everything, to quench not the Spirit nor despise prophecies, yet testing all things, holding fast to what is good and abstaining from all that is evil (14-22).”

(The First Epistle To The Thessalonians, pp. 16, 20, Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2001)

 

Young people, It is so important for us as we read this epistle of the Apostle Paul to these Christians of the first century, to see application in our own lives. May I suggest the following applications?

  • We should live in such a way that we are examples to others and when they think of us they think of our work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope
  • We should be busy about planting the seed of God’s word in the hearts of others and, as we do that, we should let the truth of God’s word speak for itself; we should not attempt to use “flattering speech” to persuade.
  • We should always be willing and eager to accept the word of God for what it is and make corrections in our lives.
  • We should continuously be examining our walk in the light of God’s word; so that we improve in those areas where we are weak, and so that we “excel still more” in those areas where we are strong.
  • We should be informed about the second coming of Christ and always be prepared for that day, knowing that no one knows when it will take place.

 

Thanks for reading …

Randy

 

 

Encouragement in Suffering – 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1

Thoughts by Hannah Clark

 

A while back I saw a picture on Facebook with pretty font and at first glance, I thought it said “So weary of the seed.” I scrolled back up to get a better look and realized it actually said “Sowers of the seed.” It got me thinking, how often do we feel weary of living by “the seed” (or the word of God)? How often do we take blessings for burdens? It’s something I’ve struggled with in my attitude of late but am also reminded that it’s not a feeling isolated to myself. Present Christians and those of the first century church in the New Testament all face various trials and tribulations. It’s our attitudes and decision to bend our wills to that of the Lord’s that sets up apart from the rest of the world.

I thought I was just having a rough time but when I look around at my co-workers, they are struggling too (not just physically but spiritually). On tough days, one thing that helps me gain a better perspective is taking a moment to try and help someone else out. It helps me see that I’m more blessed than I realize and am guilty of taking my blessings for granted far too easily. This life isn’t an easy one and that is why we have fellow Christians/brethren so that we can help one another – Christ didn’t intend for us to “go it alone.” The church in Thessalonica worked together for righteousness, despite the persecution they faced.

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians isn’t long but I love the way it begins. Verse 2 says “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If that isn’t a way to start a letter, I don’t know what is. Paul then goes on to commend them for their faith and love toward one another and even boasts of the patience despite the “persecutions and tribulations” that they endure (vs. 3-4). There are congregations now, especially in other countries, which face greater persecution than we do here in America. However, in the past and present, there were and are still “those who do not know God” and “those who do not obey the gospel” (vs. 8). Paul states in verse 9 that those people will be “punished with everlasting destruction.” Through suffering, we can find strength in Paul’s words not only to the Thessalonians but also when he told the brethren at Corinth to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, know that your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Paul tells the brethren in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 that their righteousness will count them as worthy for the kingdom of God (vs. 5) and that God will “repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (vs. 6). The same holds true for us today. Whatever life may throw our way or however the devil may choose to tempt us, our righteousness will be rewarded. And for those that may wrong us as we try to sow the seed, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

 

Book of Second Thessalonians Chapter 3

 

Reprint from the Works of William C. Sexton

 

Introduction:  This third and final chapter of this book points to how discipline of people needs to be administered, if and when they do not conduct themselves according to the inspired teachings. This is a matter that is not always carried out, and if attempted, often trouble develops because it is not supported by all members of a congregation.

 

In the first five verses we are told of Paul’s request for their prayers that the word of the Lord would have frees course and that unreasonable and wicked men would not be able to keep it from having it’s effect. In line with that, the Lord would establish them and keep them from evil. He expressed his “confidence” in the Lord to perform His part and enable them to do “the things which” he had commanded them. He pointed to the Lord directing them relative to LOVE and PAITIENCE in “waiting for Christ.” (2 Thess. 3:1-5).

 

He commands them, using the authority of Christ Jesus, “that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother” who walks “disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye receives of me.” He reminds them of how he had conduced himself among them He had not been “disorderly,” among them, eating another’s “bread for naught.” Instead he had labored night and day, that he “might not be chargeable to any of “ them. He could and did call them as witnesses of his behavior. His behavior was not done because he didn’t have the power/right to have their financial support, but he was motivated to be “an ensample,” meaning example of course, for them to “follow” him. He reminds them that while he was with them, he “commanded” them “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:6-10).

 

His knowledge comes from someone telling him that “there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” This was shameful then, as it is today. When people are not busy working to support themselves, they become busybodies, meddling in things that are unprofitable. I believe we need to recognize the evil involved in such a lifestyle, and do what we can to correct them, according to God’s directions. The Bible does not support the lazy person who will not work to support self and contribute to others that  are really needy (Cf. Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8). When such people are members of a congregation, they are to be dealt with as Paul here gives directions: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” He tells them not to be “weary in well doing.” That is needed to be reminded when God directs us to take such action, then we need not be worry in such. Even more directly he tells them: “If any man obeys not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Notice the aim of such action: It’s to cause a person to see his misconduct and be ashamed so that he can/will return to behaving as the Lord demands! Then a cautionary note is give as to our relationship with that person: “Yet count him not as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:11-15).

 

Paul closes this letter by pointing to “peace” that the Lord gives, as He is with them. The “token” of each of his letters is to give his salutation with his “own hand.” Wishing the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” (2 Thess. 3:16-18).

 

Questions

  1. Finally what did Paul request of these brethren as he opens this chapter (2 Thess. 3:1-2)

 

  1. What did he say the Lord is “faithful” in doing (2 Thess. 3:3)?

 

  1. What did Paul have “confidence” concerning (2 Thess. 3:4-5)

 

4). What matter did Paul given direction concerning in v. 6-15)?

 

  1. What action is commanded relative to “every brother” who does walk how (2 Thess. 3:6)?:

 

6.How had Paul conducted himself among them for what reason (2 Thess. 3:7-9))?

 

  1. When with them what had he “commanded” (2 Thess. 3:10)?

 

8.What had he heard about some there and his direction to corrective action (2 Thess. 3:11 12)

 

9.What is the aim of such action, and attitude toward a disciplined brother (2 Thess. 3:13-15) ?

 

  1. How did he close the letter (2 Thess. 316-18)?

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #6: Serving

As we continue our series on The Disciplines of Life, I would suggest to you that servanthood is one of those character traits that require “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” As humans driven to serve self, serving others is not something that we do naturally.

 

In April of 2005 I gave a Toastmasters speech which I entitled “Do You Think Like a Servant?” In that speech, I said, “Mr. Toastmaster, fellow members and honored guests, in a previous speech, I challenged you to consider whether you have the HEART of a champion.  Today I want to challenge you to consider whether you have the MIND of a servant.  My question for you today is, ‘Do you think like a servant?’” The following is material that I presented in that speech.

 

The great Master Teacher said, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant” (Mk. 10:43 from The Message bible).  Author Rick Warren suggests, “The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position….  God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you….  Thousands of books have been written on leadership, but few on servanthood….  Anyone can be a servant.  All it requires is character.” (The Purpose Driven-Life, pp 257-258)

 

But Consider that …

 

Servants think more about others than about themselves.  When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us.  This can be very challenging in a culture that encourages us to insist on our RIGHTS.  Also, if we are not careful, our service can become self-serving-to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals.  I am by nature selfish so thinking like a servant requires me to understand that self-denial is the core of servanthood.  There are daily opportunities for each of us to be servants.  These opportunities require us to make the choice between meeting my needs or the needs of others.  Servants keep a low profile – not promoting or calling attention to themselves.  “There are more than 750 ‘Halls of Fame’ in America and more than 450 ‘Who’s Who’ publications, but you won’t find many real servants in these places.” (Warren, p 263)

 

A perfect example of this attitude is described by Peggy Noonan, in her biography of Ronald Reagan, which she titled, When Character Was King.  (I love that title.) She describes a scene in the President’s hospital room after an assassin’s attempt on his life.  John Hinckley’s attempt had not been fatal, but the bullet wound was serious enough to hospitalize Mr. Reagan. The still weakened President had spilled some water and was on his hands and knees cleaning up after himself so that a nurse wouldn’t have to.  He did not want to bother the nurse with the problem he caused. Here was the most powerful, influential man in the free world down on his hands and knees cleaning up.  He thought more about others than about himself.  (When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan)

 

Secondly, Servants think like stewards, not owners.  A steward is a servant entrusted to manage an estate.  A young man in the small nation of Israel in is an example.  His name was Joseph and he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  This condition of slavery led him to Egypt where he first served as an overseer in Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:1-20).  In this role, Potiphar gave him “complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t have a worry in the world, except to decide what he wanted to eat.” (New Living Translation of 39:6.)  As a steward who was faithful to Potiphar and to God, he resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife.  When he spurns her advances, she spitefully accuses him and causes him imprisonment.

 

In Pharaoh’s Prison Joseph again demonstrated the thinking of a steward (Gen 39:21-41:36) and is placed in charge of the other prisoners and eventually finds himself in the role of interpreter of the dreams of Pharaoh.  Throughout, Joseph maintained his integrity and his servant’s mindset.

 

And finally, as a prince in Egypt Joseph continues to think as a steward (Gen 41:38-50). He is wise in his service to Pharaoh, as his wisdom is manifested in his administration showing foresight in years of plenty and shrewdness in years of famine.  He is merciful in his treatment of his brothers who he forgave for selling him into slavery.  He continued to believe in the providence of God: that God could make good things come out of evil intentions and that God would keep his promises made to His people.  Joseph was indeed a servant, a man of Character!

 

Finally, Servants think about THEIR work, not what others are doing.  They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants/ministries.  There is no place for petty jealousies between servants.  My two boys, Ryan and Tyler have not yet learned how to think like servants.  They are very much in competition – comparing their own achievement against that of their brother.  We excuse this in children but adults also can be guilty.  When Martha complained about Mary not helping with the work, she lost her servant’s heart.

 

Sprint gives us abundant opportunities to serve and to develop our ability to think like a servant.  Last week was National Volunteer Week when nominations were solicited for those who “Inspire by Example” reflecting the power volunteers have to inspire the people they help, as well as, to inspire others to serve.”  We have Community Relations Teams.  Sprint also encourages its employees to serve on a non-profit board of directors and towards that end is offering two University of Excellence Courses, “101-Board Training” and “102-Strategic Board Leadership.”

 

I like what Chuck Swindoll says in his book, Improving Your Serve.  He says, “What I’ve learned: To keep my eyes open for opportunities, my wallet open for giving, my time open for flexibility, my heart open for availability, and my ears open for listening — even the unspoken needs.”

 

Are you usually more concerned about being served or finding ways to serve others?  If you would have the MIND of a servant, you will think more about others than about yourself, you will think like a steward rather than an owner and you will think about YOUR work not about what others are doing.

 

Thanks for reading.

Randy