The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

“She has done a good work for Me”


“Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me” – Mark 14:6

 

What have you done for the Lord lately? Do you feel His prodding, His urging, His call and are hesitating, resisting or holding back? Do you fear or have you been told that ministry or giving to ministry in some way is a waste of time? Perhaps you’re considering college; Bible college; or seminary. Maybe you have your entire life in front of you and are wondering, What should I do? Maybe you’ve lived most of your life for yourself. Maybe you’re coming to terms with how the Lord would have you live out the remaining portion of breath He has blessed you with. Maybe you’ve considered giving your life in ministry but are being discouraged to do so because others would prefer you spend your life in “making a living,” “making money,” or “making a name for yourself.” Maybe you’re concerned with a pension; with retirement? Are you hearing comments like, “Ministry, really? Can’t you come up with something better than that? “Or, “Ministry? You’re not going into ministry are you? What a waste of time!” Or, “You’re giving to what, ministry?!” Let me tell you something, nothing that is done or given for Jesus is ever a waste in any way.

Jesus was in “Bethany at the house of Simon the leper” on the night He was to be betrayed. In a few short hours He would be brutalized and crucified for the redemption of humanity. John’s gospel account tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus who “came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard” and “broke the flask and poured it on His head” (John 12:3; Mark 14:3). It was Lazarus who had been raised from the dead by Jesus (John 11). What memories; what incredible miraculous blessings from God. And all of it was percolating in Mary. And what was happening inside led to a lavish act by Mary. The oil was worth 300 denarii or a year’s wages (Mark 14:5; John 12:6). A year’s wages! A year’s salary poured out on Jesus’ feet! Would you do that?

The disciples, led by Judas, felt at least the oil could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor (Mark 14:5; John 13:29). Logical. Reasonable. Pragmatic. Someone who is a good steward, or thrifty, would think like that. They were indignant, angry. Of course we know Judas was really concerned with pilfering the proceeds. But the other disciples may very well have had a legitimate concern (cf. John 12:6).  What would you have thought? What did Jesus think?

Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you. Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:6-9).

There’s a lot to learn in this passage. There’s something vital to take away from this account. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” That means that she did something worth taking note of, worth repeating; worth copying and doing ourselves. What she did left us an example. What was her memorial? What is it we should remember and also do?

“She has done a good work for Me.” What is the nature of this good work she did? It was costly; valuable. It cost her a year’s wages. It was total. It was impractical, unreasonable, and not to logical as far as the male disciples were concerned. Maybe they were thinking, Just like a woman. But look deeper. It is likely this oil was something that was very precious to her. Precious oil was often purchased as a kind of investment for the future; it was a valued commodity; a precious currency. It may have been her dowry; something to be given her husband upon their marriage. If she were to die before marrying it may have been poured out on her own body in burial. By pouring it out on Jesus it was as though she was saying, “I give my future, my family, my happiness, my hopes and dreams, my life; I pour it all out to You Jesus.” Pouring out this costly oil was an act of supreme, deep and total devotion to Jesus. Have you poured yourself out to Jesus like that? Who holds your future? Or are you like the disciples, too practical and reserved for something like that?

This good work was exorbitant. When was the last time you did something lavish, exorbitant for Jesus? When was the last time you went all the way for Jesus? When was the last time your worship of Jesus took priority over your future plans? When was the last time you gave something to Jesus or for His glory that actually cost you something? Some say “I can’t afford to give.” Looking at Mary and her good work seems to tell us, “You can’t afford not to give.” At some point she came to realize, “I must give.” Jesus said, “She has done what she could.” She could not have done anything less. How about you?

But what about the poor? Don’t mistake what Jesus was saying. He isn’t minimizing ministry to the poor. He was maximizing our worship and commitment to Him. The poor and caring for them is extremely important. But it pales in comparison to how we spend our time with Jesus. In fact, if you don’t lavish worship on Jesus you probably won’t have too much to offer the poor or anyone else. Are you a Mary or a disciple?

Notice how Jesus attached the good work of Mary to the preaching of the gospel. How are they connected? They are connected at the heart. What Mary did is an example of how everyone should come to Jesus. She symbolized in a very worshipful and real way that she was giving her all to Jesus. That’s really what God is looking for when the gospel is preached. I received Jesus as my Savior over 35 years ago with the words that can be summed up as “Jesus, I’m Yours.”  My wife likes to say of people who struggle with their relationship with Jesus, “They just have to fall in love with Jesus.” That’s what Mary’s lavish act of worship communicated. She was totally in love with her Lord Jesus. She was wholly holy to Him. Are you?

What does your life speak to Jesus? Are you more like the disciples who scorned and looked down on lavish expressions of love to Jesus? Are you very practical; so practical that you’d never think of condoning such a lavish expenditure of funds, not even on Jesus? Remember, “You are not your own . . . For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Remember, “you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your sinless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Maybe as Mary and the disciples ate the Passover meal together that fateful night, it all came together for her. Maybe she realized what Jesus said of her act – “She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial” (Mark 14:8).

Do you know that Resurrection Sunday is only 11 weeks away? It will be here before you know it. Let's begin preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus early this year. This season of the crucifixion and resurrection why not pray about a lavish expression of your life for Jesus? Ask the Lord how you could show your love for Him in a costly lavish way like Mary did. Ask Him how you can follow in her steps and do a similar good work. Ask Him.



 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

“That we may die with Him”



Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”- John 11:16

 

Life is filled with uncertainties. Life is filled with risks. How will you deal with that? Life in Christ is lived by a faith that helps us wade through the sea of darkness. But there are times, even as a Christian, when we will have to choose to follow Jesus based on very limited circumstantial evidence. There is a time in every Christian’s life when they will have to risk all and follow Jesus. At some point, maybe at many points in life, we will have to step in line behind Thomas and say, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” If we refuse to do that, the consequences could be tragic.

 

The story is told of a dissatisfied man.[1] He had inherited a farm but felt tending it was more of a burden than a blessing. He was looking for anyway out from under this “burden.” He had little appreciation and saw his life as an aggravation. So frustrated and dissatisfied was the man that he took the matter to the Lord in prayer. He prayed and prayed, “Lord, get me out of here! I hate farming!” As time went on and nothing happened he approached the edge of despair. He began pleading with God to show him a sign of the way out. His prayers became expressions of his panic.

 

One day, as he was plowing in the field, he looked up into the sky. He stared at two particular clouds as they floated conspicuously across the sky. Then in astonishment he perceived the clouds seemed to form two letters. “I see a ‘P’ and a ‘C.’ My sign? Thank You Jesus!” But what did it mean? It didn’t take him long to interpret the “sign” in the clouds to mean, “Leave your farming and Preach Christ.” “Hallelujah!’ he shouted, “I’m finally set free from this curse of farming.” The dissatisfied man sold his farm and everything with it at a price that was far less than its true worth. He just wanted to get out of there.

 

The dissatisfied man turned preacher left and went to Bible school. There he struggled to pass his classes. Learning the Bible seemed to him drudgery. He was hell bent to “Preach Christ.” He lost interest in his studies. He didn’t seem to have any staying power. He struggled and stalled. He was confronted with another dead end of dissatisfaction. He decided to quit. “But not all is lost” he thought, “I have met the perfect pastor’s wife.” He married and moved on leaving school before graduation. He justified his decision by reasoning there were too many lost souls that needed him to save them.

 

At the urging of his wife he found a church that would have him as pastor. The church was desperate and so was he. A “perfect match” he thought. Soon he was caught up in the busy-ness of ministry. He was obsessed with “ministry.” But a preacher is not necessarily a pastor. And as hard as he preached Christ to the lost, no one ever seemed to listen to what he had to say. No one seemed to ever get saved.

 

The man turned pastor labored and toiled in ministry to the “bride of Christ.” But he neglected his own bride. This soured the mood of “the perfect pastor’s wife.” Their marriage was in trouble. They thought that children, “a blessing from the Lord,” would bring them together. So they jumped into parenthood and family. But the little blessings only added stress to their lives. They just seemed to get in the way. They were a nuisance to the Mom who was thought to be a perfect pastor’s wife. They were a nuisance to the Dad who was the dissatisfied farmer preacher pastor. They just didn’t have the time or interest to be parents.

 

No matter what this dissatisfied man did it seemed out of sync with everything around him. This led to more dissatisfaction and more emptiness for not only him but for his wife too. That led to anger. They fought with each other. They fought with their children. They fought with the congregation. They fought with their neighbors. There was no blessing. They struggled to pay their bills. They struggled to make ends meet. They seemed to be opposed at every turn. Life was misery.

 

Dissatisfaction is contagious. The dissatisfied man led to a dissatisfied woman. Dissatisfied parents led to dissatisfied children. The children grew and couldn’t wait to leave home. And when the last one did leave, “the perfect pastor’s wife” had nothing to hold her to the dissatisfied farmer preacher pastor husband and father. She didn’t feel she even knew him. And she didn’t care. All she knew was that she was dissatisfied. It was her time to live for herself. So the dissatisfied woman left the dissatisfied man. And the man who was a dissatisfied farmer, preacher, student, pastor, husband, and father sunk deeper and deeper into greater and greater darkness.

 

The dissatisfied man had long since stopped praying or reading his Bible. He was a preacher and pastor in title only. His heart wasn’t in it. He settled on using online sermon outlines. He didn’t have the time or interest to seek the Lord for his own sermons. He settled to “preach” a company line. He was tossed to and fro with every wind and wave of doctrine. He had long since stopped trying to “Preach Christ.” He didn’t pray but he did shake his fist at God.

 

If the dissatisfied man did have a time with God it was only to complain. And his complaints took the form of, “Why are You doing this to me? Why doesn’t anything go my way? Why has life been such a struggle? Why do I feel so empty? Where is Your peace? Why have You forsaken me?” And then finally he shouted at God, “I can’t take this anymore! I hate You!” The dissatisfied man’s faith was hanging by a thread.

 

The dissatisfied man became bitter, left the ministry, and lived the rest of his life in resentment toward God and anger toward everyone else. He lived on scraps. It was a sad story. Finally he died. Finally it was time to go before the Lord. The dissatisfied man had some questions to bring up to the Lord. He wanted some answers. And in “righteous” indignation he was determined to confront God with his questions.

 

He passed from this life to the next. He was ushered into the presence of the Lord. There he was forced to bow in God’s Holy Presence.  He tried to hang on to his proud indignation but that was hard to do while bowed in the presence of the Sovereign of the universe. As his turn came to be addressed by God he was summoned not by the sound of an angry ogre but by a powerful calm and controlled voice. It was a voice that soothed and oozed with grace, mercy and love.

 

The man’s name was called. He was brought forward. He nearly melted in the gaze of the Lord. Then the Judge said, “Hmmm, I see you’ve had a rough time in life. A lot of starts and few finishes: farmer, preacher, student, pastor, husband, father, and man. Much dissatisfaction. Much depression. Much division. Much disappointment. Many defeats, few victories. A divorce. What’s this, you shouted at Me in prayer and said, ‘I hate You!’ Well you may hate me, but I love you. Thank Me for your sake that My grace is sufficient. At least you received My gift of salvation. And I’m still glad that you’re here. But what have you to say for yourself?” 

 

The dissatisfied man gathered his strength and lifted his head. He said, “I was born into a cursed farming family. I prayed and prayed to You for freedom. Then finally one day You gave me a sign in the clouds. A “P” and a “C.” Your call to “Preach Christ. And I answered that call. But my life as a whole has been miserable even after I answered Your call. I just don’t understand.” With this the Lord opened His Book of Life. He turned to the man’s name and looked at the record. Then He said, “Hmmm. You’re right. I did answer your prayer in the clouds of the sky that day. But you seem to have misinterpreted My message. That sometimes happens when a person such as yourself trusts in himself and not in Me. That sometimes happens when someone rejects my blessings and obsesses over their own lusts like you did. That is what happens when a person fights My will like you did. That’s what happens when people like you think they know better than Me.” The weight of God’s words was heavy on the man. The LORD paused to let the dissatisfied man catch his breath.

 

Then the LORD continued, “You see, I indeed sent you the sign of “P” and “C” but My word to you was ‘Plant Corn,’ not ‘Preach Christ.’ My plan for you was that you be blessed from working My land. If you had only been open to My will and plan for you I would have blessed you with complete and full satisfaction. From My blessing of your harvest you were to provide financial support for My Great Commission. Many souls would have been saved. I provided grace for you to do that. I had great plans for you. I wanted to use you so mightily for My glory. But you weren’t open to that. And so you read into My sign what you wanted. The result is that you were indeed out of sync in life. You sowed selfishness and reaped dissatisfaction. You and those you touched missed so much. If only at some point you would have come to Me in full surrender and just listened to Me, I could have turned things around for you. Oh, you would have been so blessed by what I wanted to do in and through you. Too bad, I had so much more for you than you were able to grab on your own. The blessing that could have been yours was passed on to another.”

 

There was a heavy silence when the Lord ended His words. The dissatisfied man was dumbfounded by God’s truth and reality. The Lord’s revelation explained his life exactly. All he could initially muster in response to His Lord was, “O LORD, I see.” Then, after another moment, the dissatisfied man submitted, “Forgive me Lord for my selfishness and dissatisfaction. Forgive me for seeking my will and not Your will. Forgive me for being more concerned with representing me and not You. Forgive me for a wasted life. Forgive me for not loving You and trusting You the way I should have. Forgive me Lord, my sin, in Jesus’ name, by His blood, forgive me.”

 

The Lord forgave him. He forgave him with a final word. “Yes, in Jesus’ name, by His blood, I forgive you. You have believed in My Name by the Gospel for your salvation. And salvation is by My grace not your works. But you will pass into eternity naked with no evidence of God-glorifying fruit. In fact, people have looked at your miserable life and questioned My grace, My wisdom, My love. Your dissatisfaction, pride, self-serving attitude, and self-centered living have robbed you of My blessings. I can see here that you have finally died to self.  But had you died to self earlier, your final chapter would not have been such a sad epitaph. Had you died to you and followed Me your life would have been abundant and not such an abomination. Go now into eternity.” With that the dissatisfied man walked into eternity. Eternal life with Jesus for the dissatisfied man was still so wonderful. But it would have been better to have been able to offer Him a life of thanks.

 

Our life can be better than that dissatisfied man. It can be better if we follow the example of Thomas. Thomas is so real. Thomas is so practical. Later in John’s gospel he misses a resurrection appearance of Jesus and insists on seeing and touching Jesus for himself before he will believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:24-29). Thomas was not one to dwell on esoteric ideas. Thomas was not the kind of person who looks at a cloud and sees letters in the sky. Thomas is a meat and potatoes man from the show me state. He was a man of faith and loyalty to his Lord.

 

When Jesus announced He was going to see Lazarus, Thomas knew that meant going into a life threatening place where Jesus would be vulnerable to His enemies. They might take Him and stone Him. Thomas and the others knew that. They knew following Jesus was not comfortable, it was costly. When we look at Thomas’ response we see he didn’t fully understand what Jesus plan entailed. None of the disciples did at this point. But he followed Him anyway. We can learn a lot about following Jesus by looking at Thomas.

 

Even though Thomas didn’t quite understand Jesus’ plan and even though accompanying Jesus meant putting his own life at risk, Thomas was willing to die with and for Jesus. Thomas wasn’t a perfect disciple. But neither are we. There are no perfect disciples. Thomas had a faith that believed in Jesus through times of unseen outcome. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the belief in things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Thomas didn’t see the end of Jesus’ plan. But he was willing to die to his own plans in order to be with Jesus and be a part of His plans. Even though they aren’t revealed to us, it’s likely that Thomas had hopes, dreams, aspirations, goals in life. He was human. But he was willing to physically die with Jesus. His physical death meant he was willing to die to the things of this life.

 

How about you? Are you willing to trust Jesus even though you don’t know what the final outcome with Jesus will be? You may be willing to physically die for Jesus like Thomas. Peter said he was willing to physically die for Jesus too (John 13:37). But later Peter kept his distance from the arrested Jesus (John 18:15-27). Later Peter denied His Lord three times. Thomas departed from Jesus’ side in the end too. But here Thomas is willing to die with Jesus. We need to come to that place as well.

 

We may not be called upon to physically die. But we will need to come to that place where we are willing to follow Jesus even if we must die to the things of this world. His call on us will bring us to a place of crucifixion and death.  To count the cost of following Christ means to be willing to pay the price of all we hold dear that isn’t Christ. We have to die to our dreams, hopes, expectations, aspirations by being willing to lose them for the sake of God’s will in our life. We have to go to our personal Gethsemane like Jesus. Jesus asked the Father to take the cup from Him. He asked the Father for an alternative to the cross if possible. There’s nothing wrong with questioning God or asking Him for something. But like Jesus we must end our request with “nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  We must submit, “not my will, but Yours be done.”

 

Like Jesus, we need to get alone and get quiet with the Father. We need to get still and listen to the Father (Psalm 46:10). We then need to seek His will in all that we hold dear to us. We might ask, “Father, I would like to get married. But not my will but Yours be done.” Or, “Father, I want to pursue this career. But not my will but Yours be done.” Or, “Father, I want ________. But not my will but Yours be done.” We have to come before Him as a living sacrifice with open hands, open mind, and open heart and seek His will (cf. Romans 12:1-2).

 

God’s will for us must be our top priority. We must decide to truly follow Jesus. We have to die to “me” and live to Thee. Why is that so? Because if we “Preach Christ,” when we were called to “Plant Corn,” life will be miserable. If we compromise and do something that contradicts God’s word or His expressed will, that which we thought would be a blessing will turn into a curse. Let me provide a more practical example.

 

In our day we see more and more Christians disregarding God’s truth. One area we see this is in the area of marriage. There is the same-sex marriage abomination. But even in normal marriage arrangements we see a departure from God’s truth. For instance, we see Christians open to being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6). We see Christians, especially those who are getting further up in age, compromising and marrying people who don’t know the Lord or who know Him in only a very superficial way. We see a redefinition of what a “Christian” is in order to marry unbelievers. Or we see the manipulation by affection to drag people to church and act like a “Christian” before the wedding only to see such an artificial “Christian” evaporate in absence to the church after the wedding. Lowering God’s standards to get what you want always leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. You’d be better to die with Jesus.

 

Our holy objective in marriage should not merely be to find someone who will allow us to follow the Lord. A spouse should be someone who will advance in the Lord hand in hand together with us. And God will supply such a person if we trust Him. God brought Eve to Adam. God will bring a suitable spouse to you. If you say, “Okay, where is my spouse? I don’t see them.” Well maybe you need to look harder. Maybe you need to look more at the heart than the body. Or maybe God has Someone better for you to be with; Himself. It’s better to die with Jesus.

 

Some might respond, “Wait a minute pastor. I know believers who have married unbelievers and they’re okay.” “Okay,” what does that mean? Will the unsaved spouse be able to join with the saved spouse in fellowship in the holy presence of God? Will an unsaved spouse relate to the things of God? If you have children are you sure the unsaved spouse will agree to allow them to be raised in the counsel of the Lord? Will their view of “raising them in the counsel of the Lord” be like yours? “Love” and passion may tempt you to overlook the spiritual shortcomings of a spouse before marriage, but you will regret it when you want to go deeper with the Lord. Can two walk together unless they are agreed in such eternal things? (cf. Amos 3:3). Why would you settle for less than God’s best? Are you willing to die with Jesus?

 

“But they will get saved by my influence?” you retort. Truthfully, you don’t know that.  In seeking a spouse there is the trap of overlooking flaws or problems that are evident and revealed by God in prospective spouses before marriage. A person does this because they presume they can change the unsaved into the saved. Sometimes there is the fantasy of thinking that a wedding certificate will miraculously change a person into to something they have never been. A wedding will not change anyone; it is designed as a rite of passage for those already devoted to God. Will a uniform make you a player? Maybe for Halloween, but not in real life. You cannot save anyone. Only God can save a person. You do not know if someone will be saved. Only God knows that. And if such a disregard of God’s truth does work out in the end, it will be in spite of you not because of you. Thank God for His mercy and grace but don’t use that as an excuse for sinful presumption.

 

Marriage is a wonderful thing; if it’s pursued in God’s way in God’s timing. If it isn’t God’s will for you to be married, then maybe He wants you all to Himself. That’s not a bad thing. He loves us so much. He deserves our trust. He knows what is best. The bottom line is whether or not you trust Him enough to run your life. Jesus is enough. Surrender to Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Die with Him.  

 

The decisions we make and figuring the cost of following Jesus should take place in counsel with the Lord. We need to get quiet before the Lord and seek His will. He will guide us with His peace (cf. Colossians 3:15). God works in orderly not disorderly ways (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). It is the enemy that wants you to compromise. Satan knows if he can get you outside the parameters of God’s word you will be more vulnerable. If we pursue unscriptural relationships, careers, work involvement, or anything else, it will consume our time. It will rob us of our precious quiet time with the Lord. Think about that.  Anything we rush into, force ourselves into, or do without seeking the will of the Lord or waiting on Him will result in dissatisfaction, discouragement, and distance from the Lord. Nothing is worth more than spending time with Jesus. Nothing is worth more than following Jesus.

 

Life is blessed and faith is built by following Jesus at the cost of death to our will and acceptance of His will. That is prerequisite to experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised us. Some may see that as too risky or not to their liking. It’s easy to surrender all to Jesus when you have nothing. But as life goes on we begin to accumulate things that become more precious to us. As time goes by and age becomes a factor, we are tempted to take things into our own hands; to bend corners; to compromise. We start to get fidgety. We consider preaching when we should be planting. The older we get the greater the calculated risks become. It becomes harder and harder to hold to the cost we once counted. But think about it. The Jesus you are turning to and forsaking all for is the same Jesus who went to the cross and died for you to redeem you from your slavery to sin. And He did that while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). He loves you unconditionally. He loves you just the way you are. And He loves you too much to leave you the way you are. He is devoted to finishing what He started in you (Phil. 1:6). When He’s finished with you, your life will be a beautiful poem to His glory (Eph. 2:10).

 

The closer you draw to Jesus, the more clearly you will sense His will. The closer you come to Jesus the more sensitive you will become to His beating heart. That beating heart of our Lord beats for you. That beating heart of Jesus brings comfort and satisfaction. That beating heart of Jesus reduces the risk because you are assured of His dependability.  Don’t be a dissatisfied farmer who willfully turns preacher. Be a satisfied whatever-God-calls-you-to-be. Follow Jesus like Thomas did. Pray, “Lord, I don’t know all of Your plan. But I’m going with you even if it means I die.” That’s a life journey worth taking. That’s a life blessed by the Lord.

 

 



[1] Story idea is adapted from a Newton Stein Sermon Illustration


Monday, January 5, 2015

"That You May Believe"


" Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” - John 11:14-15

 

" Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15). Those are the words spoken by Jesus to His disciples about the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was dead, not merely asleep as His disciples wrongly assumed (John 11:13). And Jesus was glad for this. Not because it would cause pain or that He didn't like Lazarus, or Mary, or Martha. He loved them all (John 11:5). Jesus loves us too. Jesus was glad Lazarus had died because it was part of the Father's plan to build their faith. He wants to build our faith too.

 

How can our faith be built? Why should we put a priority on faith building? What do we learn from Jesus’ faith building tactics that can help us cooperate and be used in God’s faith building procedures? These are questions this teaching aims to address.

 

The Bible states, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Spiritually speaking, we can’t walk or get anywhere without doing so by faith. We progress and move on in our spiritual walk “not by sight,” or not merely by what we see around us or what we understand about what is going on around us. In fact, faith building utilizes the lack of sight; not knowing. The account of the resurrection of Lazarus is a good example of this. This is a chapter about the necessity of waiting in order to see Jesus’ resurrection work. But it is also about what is involved in building faith.

 

Building faith involves testing. Belief, faith, is like a muscle. To grow strong faith must be tested. Faith must be tested in order to be trusted and revealed as true. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write, “In this you greatly rejoice [i.e. the prospect of resurrection, our incorruptible inheritance in heaven, and “the power of God through faith for salvation”] , though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-9). This flies in the face of making decisions purely based on financial reasons. (Which is, in and out of the church today, one of the primary if not the primary determiners in decisions in our world today.) Our faith is “much more precious than gold that perishes.” According to God and His word, our faith is more valuable than the most precious commodity this world has to offer. Nothing in this world is as valuable as your faith. Do we really believe that? Do we make decisions from that world view? Would you pass that kind of test? Would you choose faith over fortune? Are your decisions made based on building your faith or finding financial “freedom”?

 

A faith untested cannot be trusted. This is why life is more making money. Life is more than financial comfort. It is a great mistake to run after comfort. Comfort makes faith flabby. Comfort atrophies faith. Faith dies when we live at ease. Christian, you are called to be more than a couch potato! Challenge, difficulty, and circumstances that require perseverance and hard work are the proving ground of faith. Faith is birthed by grace. Faith is built as we by grace go to work. We are what we are by God’s grace. But that does not excuse us from “labor” (Greek kopiao in 1 Corinthians 15:10); hard wearying, fatiguing, labor. It would have been relatively easy for Jesus to heal Lazarus before he died. But Jesus knew building faith involves testing. The faith of His disciples, Martha and Mary had to be tested strong. Jesus is looking to build believers with ram-tough faith. How tough is your faith when tested? The resurrection of Lazarus is a faith building experience.

 

Building faith involves God's planning. Jesus followed the Father's plan not man's plan (John 11:15). The people in this story are all in a hurry. Jesus isn’t in a hurry. Jesus is on a mission. He operates by His Father’s schedule not the schedule of those around Him. He moves about in a calm calculated way to fulfill His Father’s plan. Can you say that? Have you discerned God’s will for you in quiet waiting before Him with His open Word before you? Or do you rush around with no clue of God’s will for your life?

 

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1a). Faith invites that inner witness of the Spirit. The Spirit directs the faith-full to carry on, push forward and push through. Faith involves hope. Hope is the eye of faith for the future. Faith and hope are both guided and governed by God's plans, not our own. Faith asks, "What is God's plan for my life?" Faith waits on God for its marching orders. Then faith pursues God's plan with an assurance God will be faithful to fulfill His plan in and through us. Faith believes God’s calling is God’s enablement.

 

Building faith involves uncertainty. The question on everyone's mind and in everyone's heart was "Why?" Why did Jesus delay? Why did He let Lazarus die? Why did He act in such an apparently unloving way if He loved these people? (John 11:5, 21, 32). Why did Jesus wait? Faith is the belief in things not seen (Hebrews11:1b). It's in circumstances where you can't see how God is going to work things out that faith, in God, is worked out.

 

It's in those times where all you have is God, where He is your only hope, that you discover faith and that He really is, your only hope. It is in the death of your plans, your resources, your efforts, abilities and strategies, where nothing works anymore and all seems lost, that is where faith is born and raised. That is where God can come through and faith is strengthened. Faith is built when our time runs out and God comes through. He reserves the right to come through with plans that may differ from our own. His coming through may not mean rescue, healing or resurrection. His coming through will in every way mean we will be closer to Him and know Him more intimately. Our faith will be made stronger.

 

Building Faith is challenging not comfortable. It would have been so much more comfortable to heal Lazarus before he died. Jesus could have come to heal Lazarus in the comfort of his home. It would have spared these people a lot of grief, sorrow, and pain. But it is the flesh, not faith that lusts after comfort. It is the flesh, the sinful nature, not faith, that lives in comfort and ease where everything is easy, no work is required, and God is easily forgotten. Without a challenge God can't come through. God is omnipresent (e.g. Psalm 139). But if there could ever be a place where God's presence is not, it would be the place of carnal comfort, easiness, and ease.

 

Faith building is the process that involves us coming to the point where we realize I can’t. . . but God can. Once Lazarus was dead, there was nothing anyone other than Jesus could do. They might have thought That’s it, he’s dead, we can’t do anything about it. Thankfully they didn’t stop there. They still went to Jesus. Only Jesus is Master over death.

 

If we stop and give up every time we can’t do something we miss out on the chance for God to use our circumstances to show us He can. Submit your circumstances to Jesus. Let Jesus tell you when to press on or when to give up. People who give up do so because they haven’t sought the Lord for His will. Without any awareness of God’s will or plan a person is driven only by circumstances, good or bad. Without an awareness of God’s will we become like the man tossed to and fro by the wind on the ocean (James 1:5-6). Lack of direction makes one easy prey for doubt. Untethered doubt wrecks faith.

 

The next time you have a big decision to make, ask first, “Father, what is Your will for my life here?” Then ask, “Father, which choice will best build my faith?” Then step out in faith. It will always be uncomfortable when God is building our faith. We don’t like to submit or surrender, even to God. We don’t like uncertainty. But discomfort and uncertainty is not something to run from. That is something to run too! These are tools God uses to build our faith.

 

Building faith involves risk. Risk is the possibility of loss. It is the flesh that settles for safety and no risk. Mary and Martha and the disciples wanted Jesus to come before Lazarus died (John 11:3). They didn't want to risk Lazarus’ death. But faith involves risk. Faith requires we trust God in the face of danger and threat of loss. Faith is brought to life through risk that leads to reward. Therefore life worth living involves risk. God's plans involve risk. I’m not talking about presumption. Presumption is prayerless risk taking. I’m talking about obeying God even when it is risky. There is no faith building without risk.

 

Building faith involves facing fears. Lazarus was dead. Death is permanent. Death is scary. It is scary if you face it without faith in God. Martha and Mary feared the death of their brother Lazarus. They had faith in Jesus, but they were human. As the days went by and their brother moved closer and closer to death, their fears must have increased. The longer it took for Jesus to arrive, the more fearful of death they became. They would have to face these fears with Jesus.

 

It is devilishly deceptive if your faith is presumptuous or based on anything or anyone other than Jesus. Faith involves facing fear by trusting in Jesus. Jesus alone is the resurrection and the life. It’s only through faith in Jesus that we can experience salvation, resurrection and eternal life (John 11:25-26). Fear is the foe of faith. Faith in Jesus can obliterate our fears.

 

Building faith involves submission and obedience. Martha and Mary and the disciples were surrendered and obedient to Jesus' plan even if it meant death was involved (John 11:16, 22). His disciples accompanied Jesus on this life threatening journey (John 11:16). Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27). And it was Martha who obediently ordered the stone to her brothers tomb to be moved aside even though he had been dead for four days (John 11:39-41). Because of their submission and obedience they saw a resurrection. We have to learn to wait in faith. We have to learn to submit to Jesus and obey Him. We have to learn to trust and obey. And like the classic hymn says, “for there’s no other way.” There’s no other way for faith to be built.

 

There's another reason to submit and obey in God's Faith building plans. If we resist God's faith building plans it can be dangerous. Unlike Martha, Mary and the disciples an Old Testament prophet named Jonah fled west when God's will was east. He resisted God's call. He hated those God loved. He proudly and indignantly rejected God's desire to call sinners to repentance. He couldn't and wouldn't accept God's plan. He refused to go where God wanted him to go. So God let him go. Jonah may have responded better if he had taken time to get alone with God in prayer. God has a way of getting us alone with Him. God prefers one on one conversations. And so God sent Jonah a storm. God had him swallowed whole in a great giant fish. He shook him in the sea monster. He stopped him, spoke with him, and brought him to his senses. God persuaded Jonah. He taught him how to walk in faith. He did what was required to get him going back in the right direction; to minister to the lost, to see a resurrection, and to build his faith. God can be very persuasive. God is all knowing and always has what looks to us like a contingency plan. God is never surprised.

 

Building faith involves difficulty and challenge, even failure. Jesus appeared to have failed His friends. If He had been there earlier, He could have prevented Lazarus' death (John 11:21, 32). And after four days in the tomb to remove the stone would have made a smelly defiling failure! (John 11:39). But Jesus is a Master of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Jesus knows how to bring beauty from ashes (cf. Isaiah 61:3). Have you crashed and burned? Are you down and out? Are you perplexed by defeat? Are you running from difficulty? Are you fleeing from life's challenge? That very well may be God's will for you. Failure and falls are sometimes what are required for faith to be built. Difficulties and defeats are necessary for us to learn we can't, but God can. God steers us with these not with ease. Rise with Him in faith.

 

Building faith involves death.Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14).  Faith is built in despair; when there is no reasonable hope. Jesus was glad for the hopeless situation of Lazarus' death. Why? because it was the perfect environment for faith to be built. They had to be brought to the place where Jesus was their only hope. They had to trust Jesus if they wanted Lazarus back. They had to come to a point where they said, “Yes, Lord. I believe” (John 11:27). Jesus alone, builds faith.

 

Building faith involves fire. The fire of testing is where faith is proven. When a person dies decay sets in like a slow burning degenerating consuming fire (John 11:39). Eremacausis is the gradual oxidation of matter from exposure to air and moisture. Eremacausis is a fire of death that burns up the dead body with decay. When the fire of life leaves, the fire of death takes over. When your faith is tested will it burn you out, burn you up, or burn you bright?

 

Where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you doing? What do you want to do? What is your dream, your destination, your destiny? Life is more than ease and retirement. Are you walking by faith? Is faith building your priority? Or are you looking for an easy way out? Are you ready to retire? Some old preacher once told me, "I'm not retired, I'm re-fired!" Are you looking for an early retirement, or a refirement? Faith fires us up.

 

Building faith involves destiny. Lazarus' destiny seemed set. But Jesus wasn't finished with him. Lazarus' death was his destiny and would become his greatest means of telling about Jesus' life giving ways. For Lazarus to be mightily used for God's glory he had to die. Death is part of faith building; death to self; death to my ways, my expectations. If you would have asked Lazarus while still alive if he wanted to live, he probably would have said "Yes!" But if he could have seen how he would be used for the glory of God and Christ as a result of his death and resurrection, he would have said “For the glory of God and my Savior Jesus, let me die a thousand times over!” Lazarus had to die to truly live for the glory of God (John 11:4). So do we. Are you willing to die?

 

At the end of the road of life what will your story be? Will it be a story of boring comfort and ease void of challenge and victory; void of faith? Will it be a life of complaints over the challenges you faced and the hardships you surrendered to? Will you lament the lost opportunities to build your faith?  Will you have to admit you hated what God loved and  rebelled against His will? Or will you be able to say through the wise eyes of faith, "Yes, life was a challenge, but I accepted the challenge and pressed on with Him in faith. Yes, it was hard and high but I pressed on harder and higher by faith. My life has been a living sacrifice to God by faith. I went where He wanted by faith. I stayed where He wanted by faith. I lived by faith. I worked, pressed on and overcame, by faith. I have come to see why Jesus was glad that Lazarus was dead and why He has purposely allowed deaths in my life; dangers, doubts, defeats, and discouragements in my life. It was so I may believe. And because of that I am glad too." What will your life testimony be?

 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Can The World Expect To Experience Toward The End of The Age?

Jesus told His disciples what things would be like toward the end of the age. He said:

 

  • Matthew 24:4-14 – “And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.8 “All these are the beginning of sorrows.9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.10 “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” 

As we draw closer and closer to the end of the age, what will the world look like? What can the world expect to experience as we approach the end of the age? As we answer these questions, keep in mind that we disciples will see many of these things as we are in the deteriorating world prior to being raptured out of the world before the Tribulation period.

 

First, deceivers and false messiah’s in the name of Jesus (24:4-5, 11). Jesus actually mentions the rise of false prophets twice in His sermon. If He mentioned false prophets and deception twice, He must have felt we needed to be doubly aware of the danger such false prophets hold.

 

When leaving the Ephesian church the apostle Paul gave the following warning: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29; see also Peter’s words in 2 Peter 2). The Spirit inspired Paul to reiterate this later in his ministry when he wrote: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Again a double warning for emphasis; we need to pay attention to this.


False ministers of religion are proliferating at a rapid rate. There is a proliferation of lying signs and wonders in the world (2 Thessalonians 2:9). God states in His word that a time would come when people would reject His word and question the prophetic nature of it (2 Peter 3:1-4; Jude 17-18). And that is exactly what we see today.


There is much debate today over fitting, even squeezing the theory of evolution and its contention that the universe is billions and billions of years old into the Genesis account of creation. There are interesting presentations on both sides. Some exalt “science” over scripture as having the final word. That is a position proved wrong throughout history. Remember, the secular world once viewed the world as flat in opposition to scripture which presented the world as round (e.g. Job 26:7; Isaiah 40:21-22). How many times have “missing links” been “found” only to be discredited as frauds? Some fail to distinguish between micro adaptation and macro evolution. Christians seeking “relevance” with the world are running away from the literal truth of God’s word. If Creation is a miraculous work of God our Creator, then why couldn’t He create the world in days rather than billions of years? The debate goes on. The motives for the debate will be exposed and judged by God. There is nothing wrong with debate. However when debate minimizes the inspiration and authority of God’s Holy Word, the same Word that he exalts above His own Holy Name (Psalm 138:2), that is dangerous. Debate and our attitudes toward God and His Word can cross the line and offend the Holy One. And when that happens, it becomes an end time attribute of evil.



When we look at the impact of evolution on history and civilization we see it is the basis for much discrimination and immorality. Hitler and his Final Solution were based on evolutionary theory. Racial discrimination is rooted in evolutionary theory. This cannot be denied. There are some who would say “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” They’d say, “There is truth in evolutionary theory.” There is genuine interest in the nature of the universe. But there is also a lust for academic acceptance. Some would sacrifice scientific integrity for fitting in with the world’s view even if though the nowhere or at any time has any ordered thing come from a blast from the past. Order does not come from disorder. God is a God of order and the order of the universe points to God as its Creator (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Poppycock to the contrary is evidence of the deception in the End Times.


Secondly, wars and rumors of wars (24:6-7a). Is such a sign applicable to our world today?

The War Atlas (a publication of The Club of Rome which is a part of the European Economic Community) reports:

 

·         Since WW II there has not been a single day of peace on the planet.

·         There are 32 million soldiers on active duty (570 million in reserve).

·         50% of world’s scientists are working on weapons

·         40% of all money spent in the field of science is to research and develop weapons.

·         USS Pennsylvania, (an atomic submarine costing 3 billion dollars) carries 24 missiles each with 15 separate warheads (each can be individually targeted) and has 40 times more killing power than all combined weapons detonated in World War II.

·         For every person on earth there is 40 tons of TNT.

 

It’s estimated that in the Twentieth Century 180 million people died in war and conflict related activities. This is a far greater number than for any other century of recorded history. One web commentator put that number in perspective by stating:

 

“Let's say that you're the receptionist in the Afterlife (a 9 to 5 job, 5 days a week, with two weeks vacation -- which comes to 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year), and it's your job to simply ask the name of each victim, enter it into a computer and direct them to Room 504 for processing (a task that takes 5 seconds, which means that you can process 720 per hour), and these 180 million people were to approach your desk one after another without letup.”[1]

 

There is no reason to believe that the 21st Century will be any better. Indeed since the year 2000 there has been constant and ever increasing amount of unrest in the world. This is due to Middle East conflict, the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the United States and its repercussions, world wide terrorism, not to mention the noticeable rise of China as a world power.

 

In the January 2002 issue of Whistleblower magazine, David Kupelian, in an article entitled Preparing for the Next War,” writes the following:

 

“Americans have been conditioned somehow to go into denial about the nuclear threat. Perhaps it’s the standard Hollywood depiction of a nuclear detonation as causing the annihilation of everything – the end of the world – that causes most Americans reflexively to roll their eyes.

 

The truth is: 1) There are currently thousands of nuclear weapons in the world; 2) They are coveted by dictators, jihad madmen and would-be superpowers; and 3) they are constantly under development (or their acquisition is being negotiated) by unstable regimes run by megalomaniacal leaders.

 

If we’re going to face the fact that evil people are striving mightily to obtain, and use on Americans, the most devastating weapons possible – and after Sept. 11, who could doubt their willingness to do so – we must also understand that their favorite, and ultimate, weapon is the nuclear bomb. Nothing else will do.

 

A nuclear bomb is what turns a psychopath into a superpower leader. Not smallpox, not anthrax, not sarin gas, not jet fuel. A nuclear bomb is to a hate-filled, charismatic figure like bin Laden what a 12-gauge shotgun is in the hands of a 15-year old girl facing an attacker: It’s the great equalizer.” [2]     

 

That was over a decade ago. Does anyone doubt it is any less true today? The rise of China as a world power, the economic troubles of Russia, the Islamic hellish pursuit of a global caliphate are just some of the ingredients that involve our present day wars and rumors of war.

 

Look at the most organized, mechanized, and wealthy terror group to date, ISIS – Islamic State in Iraq (or ISIL - Islamic State in Iraq Levant). This group is the result of the proliferation of the use of terrorism as a war strategy. The world through media has been exposed to the literal cutthroat beheadings of this group. They are well funded and equipped and have swept into the void left in Iraq by the premature retreat of United States peace keepers ordered by an administration that cares more about votes than victory. The rise of ISIS is evidence of the fall of American prestige and foreign policy credibility in the world. It will only get worse. We are living in an age of wars and rumors of wars.

 

Third, famines (24:7). Studies of the global environment show that deserts increase 14.8 million square miles per year which leads to less and less land to produce the food necessary to feed an ever growing world population. In the U.S., topsoil measures 3 inches. Topsoil in the U.S. used to be like it is in Canada, 10 feet. Globally there is less food in storage than there was in 1920. The world is constantly experiencing a state of famine in various areas of the world. We are living in an age of famine.

 

Fourth, pestilences (24:7). A “pestilence” is defined as, “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.” [3] the Greek New Testament word translated pestilence is loimos and refers to “a pest; pestilence; plague.” Pestilences are spread by transmission from animals such a rodents or it could be microscopic entities.

 

At present there is a worldwide outbreak of Ebola. While the spread of this pestilence is somewhat contained, it is expected to continue through 2015. [4] HIV/AIDS is still a major issue internationally as it results in 1.78 million deaths annually, which accounts for 3.1 percent of deaths in our world.  But it’s heart disease that still accounts for the greatest percentage of deaths in the world; 7.25 million deaths annually; 12.8 % of all deaths. [5] With all that is going wrong in the world it’s not surprising that a disease of the heart accounts for the greatest number of deaths.

 

Fifth, earthquakes (24:7). Major earthquakes doubled in 2014. While scientists attribute this development to random chance, it may by a sign that we are closer to the return of Jesus. [6]

Jesus said such natural upheavals are only the “beginning” of the birth pangs and sorrows that will come on the earth (Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8). Is there any doubt that our world is going through some serious natural change? Meteorologists are having a more difficult time predicting the weather. The weather seems to swing on a pendulum of extremes. The point is that just as the labor pains of a woman who is with child increase as the delivery gets closer, so too the natural signs mentioned by Jesus will increase as the delivery of the prophetic fulfillment of the End Times gets closer.

Sixth, persecution (24:8-10).  Are Christians and Jews persecuted today? ISIS is systematically exterminating Christians. There is eyewitness evidence that this terror group has beaded children unwilling to renounce their faith in Jesus. [7] The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reports that “Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of 180 Christians around the world are killed [murdered] each month for their faith.” [8]

 

Persecution of Christians is on the rise. Persecution is often covered up for political expediency by governments. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10). Those persecuted for their faith, those called upon to testify to whether or not they worship Jesus and to bear the life or death consequences are spiritually enriched as they offer themselves completely to their God as a living and then literal sacrifice. Persecution purifies faith (1 Peter 4:1). Persecution deepens faith (Psalm 66:10-12). We need to pray for the persecuted brethren throughout the world. We need to prepare ourselves for the likelihood of our own future persecution.  

 

Seventh, cold-heartedness (24:12). We live in a society where the law is continually weakened to pander to the lusts of people’s selfish fleshly desires. The laws of men are more and more in opposition to the Law of God. Laws legalizing such activities as Same-sex marriage is nothing less than licentiousness; the giving license to sin. Legalized abortion dehumanizes and cheapens life and even moreso as sonogram technology exposes the humanity of life in the womb and proponents of baby-murder insist on the “right” of a “mother” to rip up the “fetal tissue” within her. The sanctity of human life is steadily declining. The “love” of our day isn’t love at all; it is lust for hedonism.  The only “love” during the end times is an obsessive self-love (2 Timothy 3:1-7).

Ninth, the gospel will be spread throughout the world (24:14). This is a verse that has been often misinterpreted and greatly abused. The return of Christ is not dependent on our preaching of the Gospel throughout the world. The return of Christ will occur according to the Father’s set time. Many use Matthew 24:14 as a call to missions but the Gospel will be preached throughout the world during the Tribulation by 144,000 apostle Paul-like messianic evangelists (Revelation 7), two witnesses (Revelation 11), Tribulation saints  (Revelation 12) and angels who fly throughout the world warning against the antichrist (Revelation 14:6-7).

 

There’s scriptural evidence that the gospel being preached “in all the world” was fulfilled in New Testament times (cf. Colossians 1:3-6). This means that there is no outstanding activity that needs to be accomplished in order to usher in the return of Jesus. If there was, then Christ’s return could not be said to be imminent. It is misinterpretation of scripture to say that the rapture cannot occur for any reason. Jesus could come back at any time, even before you finish reading this study. Are you ready?

 


What do we do now? When we look at the world today in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, it seems clear that we are closer to the end today, than ever before in the history of mankind. If that is so, what should we do? Jesus tells us: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13). Jesus instructs us to “endure to the end.” What does it mean to “endure”?


Enduring to the end. In Matthew 24:13, Jesus speaks of endurance. The word “endure” is translated from the Greek term hupomeno meaning, “to stay under; remain under; have fortitude; persevere; endure patiently; abide; endure; and suffer.”  We get a clearer sense of the word by examining it more closely. Hupomeno is a word formed by joining the prefix hupo to the term meno. The preposition hupo can mean, “by” or “under.” The word meno is translated, “abide.” To “abide” means, “to continue; abide; stay; dwell; be present; remain.” Therefore hupomeno communicates the idea of continuing-under/by; abiding-under/by; staying-under/by; dwelling-under/by; remaining-under/by.


 

Jesus particularly said His followers needed to “endure” when faced with persecution (Matthew 10:22). The agape love of God is defined in part by bearing or enduring all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Paul testified he endured all things for the sake of the elect church (2 Timothy 2:10).  We should be willing to endure too.

 

Jesus is our Model of Endurance. Jesus is our ultimate example of endurance. He endured suffering and shame for the sake of the gospel. We are exhorted, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured [hupomeno] the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured [hupomeno] such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:2-3).


As we see the endurance of our blessed Savior it moves our heart in the Spirit. As we look at Jesus we are reminded of our great personal saving relationship with Him. Jesus referred to enduring by relying on Him in this personal relationship when He used the word “abide.”

Enduring means Abiding. Jesus used this word to instruct the disciple on how to endure and persevere. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32).  


 


Abiding in Christ is not merely something we do with discipline, intestinal fortitude or our own strength. No, abiding is done by relying on Jesus, staying by Him, continuing by Him, dwelling by Him, abiding by Him in the personal saving relationship He has blessed you with. Jesus explains this when He says: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”  (John 15:4-8).


 

Abiding in Jesus is simply living by the Spirit in close relationship and communication with Him. Abiding in Jesus is an ongoing, moment by moment process by which we endure to the end of this life. Jesus must become our all in all. The apostle Paul expressed this well when he said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). Jesus is our all in all, He is our reason for living and that ultimately is what abiding in Him is all about. Abiding in Jesus is staying so close to Him that we stick to Him like glue. Abiding in Jesus means we are with Him and He with us at all times everywhere we go.  It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to endure in Christ (see Romans 8). There is one other way this is expressed.

 


Enduring is putting On Christ. Jesus said we need to endure. Spiritual endurance is abiding by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit in our personal saving relationship with Jesus. This includes relying on Jesus for our righteousness before God. We aren’t to strive to be right before God by good works. By faith we receive the righteousness of Jesus put to our account. Any good works we do is our response of loving appreciation for the righteousness provided in Christ by God’s grace. By faith we literally are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:11-14). The next time you falter or get down or the enemy tries to trample you with discouragement, just abide in the love and righteousness of Jesus and you will endure. The love of Jesus is unconditional.


Blessed Endurance. It’s a blessing to endure with Jesus. There is no better way to live than to endure and live abiding in Jesus. James the half-brother of Jesus speaks of the blessedness of enduring in our faith when he is inspired to write: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  (James 1:12). Again James writes, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”  (James 5:11). Who better to testify to the blessedness of enduring with Jesus than His own brother!


When he was at the end of his life, preparing to be executed for his faith, Paul told Timothy, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” That is a wonderful prospect and hope. But Paul also said, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” In other words, if and when we falter, we can still repent and return to our Savior and He will receive us. Our faithfulness is secondary to His primary faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

We may falter in our abiding, but Jesus will always be there for us to help us onward and through hard times. Abiding in Jesus is a blessed way to live one’s live, no matter the circumstances. Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote:

Give me some men who are stouthearted men
Who will fight for the right they adore.
Start me with 10 who are stouthearted men
And I'll soon give you 10,000 more. [9]



We need to be stouthearted and steadfast Christians as we see the End Times develop before our eyes. Paul was inspired to write: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58). That is how we ought to face the future. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Jesus holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). He is in control. He has a prophetic plan. And He is coming back! Be ready.

 

 



[1]   See http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/war-1900.htm#introduction
[2] David Kupelian, Whistleblower Magazine, January 2002 issue. Volume 11, No. 1. p. 6
[3]Merriam-Webster, I. 1996, c1993. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Merriam-Webster: Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.

[4] Ebola Crisis Could Last Through 2015 as Marks Year Since Outbreak By Belinda Goldsmith

[6] Big Earthquakes Double in 2014, But Scientists say they aren’t linked by Becky Oskin http://www.cbsnews.com/news/big-earthquakes-double-in-2014-but-scientists-say-theyre-not-linked
[7] ISIS beheaded four children: Christian Leader. By Marisa Schultz. New York Post. 12/12/14 - http://nypost.com/2014/12/12/christian-leader-isis-savages-behead-four-children
[9] The New Moon © 1927