Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Christian's Attitude Toward Trials

It is a fact that Christian’s will have trials and problems at various times in life. This is evident from the teachings of the Bible and from everyday experience. No one escapes them. James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). When a temptation comes that we are able to withstand, or resist, then we have become stronger. We can expect the hills and valleys of life, as well as the pleasant things. Christians learn to understand this and make use of them. Difficulties can either make us bitter or they can be used as steps to higher ground. They can either drag us down, or they can strengthen us. If we look beyond, up the hill, and say “I can’t climb it,” then we are defeated. However, if we say, “I can climb it,” then we become stronger in the process of our continued success.

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow
We are taught by the Bible to “...not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). If we will put off that “worry” until tomorrow, then it probably will never happen. We will not have anything to worry about. The things we worry about usually never happens. There is no use to borrow trouble from tomorrow, for “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Take care of the present, those things in which we can control, and let tomorrow take care of itself. If we will seek the kingdom first, we will not have the “worries” that frustrate us in this materialistic society. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). 

Physical Distress Due to Worry
The command to “not be anxious” comes from the Lord. There is so much worry and frustration in our society that doctors tell us that about half of their patients are not physically ill, but are suffering from mental anguish, often times as a result of excessive worry. Many people worry, fret, fear, and doubt over so many things that it is no wonder so many are mentally exhausted which affects them physically. One day when Jesus was taking a ride with His disciples on a boat, strong winds began, and Jesus was asleep. They woke up Jesus because they were all afraid. Jesus asked, “...Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Our fears, doubts, worry, and frustrations can be cured in Christ, as we listen to His word, trust His will, and obey His commands.

Nothing Good Comes from Worrying
When we worry, there is nothing to be gained. Worry does no good, and it does a great deal of harm. Worry decays the mind, wastes time, robs God of good workers, and causes an employee to be inefficient. Many people worry about the future which most all the time nothing ever happens. When we worry about the past, there is nothing that can be done about it. When we open up our Bible and study the words of Jesus, we can gain the peace of mind that Jesus wants us to have. Think about the following important words that Jesus said about worrying. “Then He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Luke 12:22-28). We must all stop “worrying” and let the trials and tribulations of life strengthen us as Christians so we can count these things as joy. Let us all “press on” in our daily walk with Christ!


Thursday, April 13, 2023

Stay Committed to the End

In 2 Chronicles 14-16 we can read about King Asa of Judah who reigned for 41 years, 35 of which was dedicated to God. In the beginning he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places. It was said of him that “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (14:2). His first battle was against Zerah the Ethiopian in which Asa and Judah were out manned almost 2-1. But before he began to fight the battle, he cried out to God to ask for His guidance. As a result, “the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled” (14:12). The prophet Azariah came to Asa and told him that “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (15:2). These words inspired Asa and he became even more courageous, continuing to remove the abominable idols in the land. He proved himself to be a good and righteous king, motivating Judah to collectively engage in a “covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul” (15:12). There was great rejoicing at the oath and as a result the “Lord gave them rest all around” (15:15).

Things were going so very well for Asa and all of Judah. Asa was well respected by the people, and they were pleased to serve a King who was first willing to serve his God. God blessed Asa and the people for 35 years because of their righteousness and faithfulness to Him. However, in Asa’s 36th year, after 35 years of faithful service, he made a grave mistake. Perhaps apathy and pride had become part of his mind set, but whatever the case, Asa neglected to consult God when Baasha, the king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah to keep those in his kingdom from coming to Asa in Judah. Instead of crying out to God for help and guidance, he made a treaty with the wicked king of Syria, Ben-Hadad. He bribed him with gold and silver from the house of the Lord to fight against king Baasha of Israel. Ben-Hadad caused Baasha to cease his work at Ramah but the prophet Hanani came to king Asa and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand” (16:7). The prophet told Asa that from this time on he would have wars. Asa became so angry that he threw the prophet into prison and oppressed some of the people. In the end, Asa became diseased in his feet, still did not seek the Lord, but rather the physicians, and he died in the 41st year of his reign. King Asa served God for 35 years and in the end proved himself to be unfaithful to Him the last 6 years. This is a sad commentary for a king that had so much going for him, but in the end he was unfaithful to God. 

We should learn some valuable lessons today from this king from long ago. We need to ensure that we seek God on a daily basis (Matthew 6:33), and when we do we are promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We must never forget God when we encounter various trials in life (James 1:3). With every temptation God has promised us that He will make the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We must also learn that no matter how long we have been a Christian that we too can fall from God’s grace and be cut off if we do not remain righteous and faithful to Him (1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Peter 2:20; Romans 11:22). If we get caught up with pride, we must understand that it will lead us to destruction (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18; 29:23). Finally, we must remain loyal in our work and service to the Lord to the very end of our life (1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:10). May we never be guilty of quitting God and falling short of our eternal home with Him (Matthew 7:13-14). The prophet Hanani said these words to Asa, words that certainly apply to each one of us today: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (1 Chronicles 16:9). We must make sure that we stay committed to God until the very end of our life. Our eternal destiny depends on our commitment to Him each day that we live. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

What Constitutes Obedience?

A passage of scripture comes to mind when I hear the word "obedience" and that is from 1 Samuel 15:22 which says: "And Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, {And} to heed than the fat of rams". We all need to understand that to obey the voice of the Lord is our first obligation. The truth is what guides us unto salvation and all men should obey the truth of God (Galatians 3:1-5; 1 Peter 1:22). We can learn from the scriptures that no man was saved by obedience to anything other than God's word. King Saul obeyed the voice of the people and that led to his downfall (1 Samuel 15:21). Adam obeyed the voice of Satan (Genesis 3:1-6). Saul of Tarsus obeyed the voice of his conscience (Acts 26:9). Only when one obeys the commandments of God is one able to be saved.

So how do we obey the truth? Before answering this question, let us first see how we disobey it. We disobey the truth by refusing to do anything at all (John 5:40). We disobey the truth by adding anything to it that God has not commanded or allowed. The Proverb writer says: "Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar." (See also Revelation 22:18; 2 John 9) Besides adding to God's word we disobey Him by taking away that which He has instructed us to do (Revelation 22:19; Deuteronomy 4:2). The only way that we can obey the truth is by doing the exact thing that God commands for us to do. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23). Some may think they are doing God's will because it "feels right", or "it is a good work" but that does make it right!

This point is driven home by the example of Moses when he struck the rock when he was not commanded to do so (Exodus 20:7-12). It seemed such a small thing when Uzza touched the Ark to stabilize it, yet it caused his death (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). If we offend in one point, we are guilty of all "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one {point,} he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). Let us strive to do ONLY those things which ARE AUTHORIZED by God!