The Assurance of Trouble

November 3, 2017 at 8:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8:35

Paul, although writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could speak from experience. He had experienced all these things: persecution, hunger, extreme poverty, life-threatening danger. Yet he remained convinced of the assurance of Christ’s love, not just IN SPITE of these things, but partly BECAUSE of these things.

In fact, the perseverance of his faith and the knowledge of Christ’s presence through trials, tribulations, hardship, and imminent death, utterly convinced him that nothing whatsoever in all of existence could ever separate him from the love of God in Christ.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Sadly, we are often backward in our thinking, looking at trials and temptations and difficulties as signs that God has forgotten or neglected us. What we should do, when God graciously gives us opportunities to strengthen our faith by turning to Him in times of trouble, is to rejoice that He loves us enough to give us such experiential assurances.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4

Tribulations come to us to strengthen our hope or assurance. They are not random occurrences that have somehow broken out of God’s corral, set loose to stampede and trample our lives. They are controlled tests and gifts of grace, teaching us to patiently consider our Savior and the justification He has won for us, not so that we could be left to our own devices, but so that we could be continually drawing closer to Him.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Romans 5:1-4

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Living and Giving, Heeding and Proceeding

August 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

Mark 12:38-40

Just warned His disciples of the scribes, not because the scribes would try to physically harm them, but because of the temptation of behaving the way that the scribes behaved. They were proud of their way of living, but there is also a danger of pride in giving:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Mark 12:41-44

God is less interested in our portion than He is in our PROportion when it comes to our giving.

Mark 13 contains the Olivet Discourse, which deals with end-times events. Jesus gave four signs or “birth-pangs” that would mean that the “time of Jacob’s trouble” – the Tribulation – was at hand:

1. The success of false Christs

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:5-6

2. Nations in conflict
and
3. Natural disasters

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

Mark 13:7-8

4. Religious persecution

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Mark 13:9-11

This promise of Christ, that He will provide the words to speak for those persecuted for His sake, is not an excuse for those of us today to be unprepared when we know we are going to have opportunities to speak for Him.

Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Mark 13:12-13

This makes it sound as if some will be saved during the Tribulation, but we need to be watching, and we need to be prepared, not for the signs themselves, but for Jesus Himself, and we must take heed not to be deceived.

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

Mark 13:5

But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Mark 13:23

Be careful NOT to listen to men more closely than you listen to Jesus.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

Mark 13:33

Be careful of earthly “wisdom.” Remember God’s Word and do it. Always be alert and praying. The word “straightway” is used 19 times in the Book of Mark. It means to go forward, to keep moving, to keep looking for the next opportunity to serve Jesus. Movement in the Kingdom of God is His prescription for combating spiritual depression and despair.

Consolation / Castastrophe

May 30, 2014 at 10:29 am | Posted in Two Sides to Every Comfort | 7 Comments
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The Bible has much to say about comfort, and comfort is something we all need, for none of us are above things like fear, depression, anxiety – even hopelessness. One of the many names that the Bible gives us for our God is “the God of all comfort.”

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy [our] brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: Grace [be] to you and peace from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

II Corinthians 1:1-3

“Comfort” is a word that comes from combining two other words. “Com” simply means “with” and “fort” means “strength.” For example, a military “fort” is supposed to be a position of safety and strength. Some types of foods are described as being “fortified,” which means they are strengthened with vitamins or minerals. We say someone who is courageous has “intestinal fortitude,” which colloquially means that he has “strong guts” (gross). So when the Bible says that God is the God of all comfort it is reminding us that the strength that we need – our “fortification” – will always come from God… which is, of course, a “comforting” thought. But it is also an often misunderstood thought.

Here is how it is misunderstood. We become frightened or confused or stressed out or panicked, and we want comfort. We remember that God is the God of all comfort, and we expect Him to show us comfort or to give comfort or to bring comfort in certain ways, but those ways do not at first always make us “feel” comforted. Therefore, we lose sight of God’s promises, and we begin to doubt God.

Look at what the next part of the passage from II Corinthians says:

Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

II Corinthians 1:4-5

Words like “tribulation” and “trouble” and “suffering” don’t sound very comforting, but the Bible is reminding us that every comfort that comes from the God of all comfort has two sides to it. You may have heard the expression “two sides to every coin.” Bill Parcells, when he was Head Coach for the Dallas Cowboys, used to like to remind the media that “there is another side to that pancake,” expressing a similar sentiment. In this series of lessons I want to look at some of the specific “comforts” that God gives to us, and turn them over, and look at the flip side.

Consolation

And whether we be afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation.

II Corinthians 1:6-7

Consolation is a great gift from the God of all comfort, but we tend think of consolation as kind of the “loser’s prize.” A “consolation game” is where two competitors who have already lost and been eliminated from a tournament play each other without any real consequences riding on the outcome. Consolation is not like that with God. God’s consolation comes with real relief, real rescue, and real redemption.

However, there is a flip side to consolation:

Catastrophe

In order to experience true consolation, you have to first experience some kind of catastrophe – some kind of trouble that you can not get yourself out of in your own strength. We talk about “tragedy” and “accidents” and “mistakes,” forgetting that God is sovereign and that He ordains the catastrophe so that He may grant the consolation. Who would think of a catastrophe as bringing comfort? But be honest: When have you drawn closer to God than ever before in your life? In the good times or the bad times? And how are you going to share the consolation with which God has comforted you, unless you have been through the same catastrophe that someone else is going through? When catastrophe strikes, draw near to God, depend upon Him, and wait for Him to turn the page from catastrophe to consolation.


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