Discovering God in the Psalms: Desperately Seeking God

 

0 God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is.  Psalm 63:1 (KJV)

Recent news featured several individuals who were lost in the wilderness.

One story told of a young boy who became separated from his family when he left them in search of mushrooms. In another story, a hiker who left her team experienced a dangerous fall. With a badly broken leg she crawled miles through the woods until she was discovered. In both stories, their separation from others resulted in fear and despair until they were rescued from their dire situation.

In Psalm 63, its author, David, conveys his feelings of despair as he finds himself separated from the presence of Almighty God. It is in this Psalm that we find David desperately seeking God.

The historical context for this psalm can be found in 2 Samuel 15. David’s despair is the result of his son Absalom’s conspiracy to steal the kingdom from his father. Fearful of the potential shift in power, David vacates his throne in Jerusalem and heads to the wilderness of Judah:

And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, all the people crossed over toward the way of the wilderness. (2 Sam. 15:23).

While David was in fact, in a physical wilderness, the wilderness he speaks of in Psalm 63 describes metaphorically his desperate longing for God’s presence.  His need to spiritually reconnect with God took on the characteristics of a person physically suffering great thirst in a dry and parched wasteland.

David’s desire for God became the first thing he sought when he rose in the morning. His soul (his mind, will and emotions) thirsted for God. His flesh responded to this insatiable thirst in a strong longing to be with God.  “To long” in Hebrew (kamahn) means “to faint with longing.” David was faint from longing for his God.

David’s emotional response in the wilderness mirrored what he probably heard while worshiping in the sanctuary in Jerusalem:

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Ps. 42:1-2).

David now knew what it felt like to experience thirst for the Living God.

Though David had never seen God physically, he had personally experienced God’s power and glory through His nature and attributes. He knew God’s love and mercy as he tended to his father’s sheep as a young boy (Ps. 23).

David was witness to God’s protection as he faced the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49-51). David knew the source of his success in battle against Israel’s enemies (1 Sam. 18:5, 7). David knew the power of God’s presence.

Remembrance of those times gave David confident assurance that God would graciously hear and answer His call (Isa. 30:19). It was in God’s presence only that David would find spiritual relief for his thirst.

In today’s society people are desperately seeking relief for their spiritual thirst. They are searching for life options they feel will satisfy their needs through hedonistic pursuits, spiritual experimentation, and material gain.

These efforts unfortunately never satisfy and often result in further despair and darkness. God our Father and Creator knows and possesses what is needed for spiritual dryness. Only He can truly satisfy man’s needs. Let us, like David, seek greater intimacy with God, driven by an unquenchable thirst for His presence. Let us desperately seek God!

Tools for Encouragement

Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.  Romans 15:2 (KJV)

As In The Word Ministries moves into its second decade of service, we will be launching a new program entitled Contending for Children (CFC).   While we declare that “children are our future”, unfortunately there are still gaps in services leaving our children victims of violence, neglect, and abuse.   It is our opinion that in order to live victoriously as individuals, both women and their children need to be included in our ministry efforts.

That being the case, my radar is continually in search of trends and new thinking concerning children.

In researching the topic of encouragement, I was introduced to an article by Dr. Timothy Evans entitled, “The Tools of Encouragement”.  While its focus is children, I found “spiritual fodder” for our series on encouragement for 21st century living.

Encouragement versus Discouragement

In his article, Dr. Evans cites attitudes and behaviors that compare encouragement to discouragement.  For space sake, I have listed below at few which, I feel, may fit with our discussion of encouragement.  I challenge you to review the total list  as an “informal assessment” of your personal “encouragement style” with others God has placed in your life.   

ENCOURAGEMENT DISCOURAGEMENT
Hopeful view of people’s nature Hopeless view of people’s nature
Individual’s behavior is purposeful Individual’s behavior is caused by outside forces and victimization in the past
Influence without strings Control, force, and fear
Equality as human beings Superiority-sitting in judgment
Chatting-talking with Advising-telling to
Being ourselves, fine as we are Pleasing and proving
Recognizes effort and improvement Recognizes only tasks well done
Courage to be imperfect Fear of mistakes

 After a review of the behaviors, I found that many of the actions I had believed to be “helpful” could have instead been discouraging to those whom I had hoped to assist.

I now better understand that encouragement needs to flow from a heart that “stands with” the person in need of support.  Its end result should reflect renewed hope and confidence.   Jesus understood this dynamic and demonstrates for us the best model for encouragement.         

The Master Encourager:  Inspiration to hope and service

By His very nature, Jesus was the greatest of all encouragers.   Whether with His disciples or with the crowds, Jesus’ words spoke life and possibilities to those in need of support and confidence.

Jesus encouraged others to an expectant hope.  Jesus comforted His disciples with living hope—hope found in the promise of His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  Jesus told them not to have their hearts troubled because “if they believed and trusted in the true and living God, they could also believe and trust in Him” (John 14:1).  Hope was fostered by the fact that God had a purposeful future planned for them including a place in heaven.

Jesus encouraged others in preparation for service.  Jesus spent His closing days with His disciples ensuring them that He would not leave them as orphans but instead promised the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would come alongside them to help fulfill their purpose and their service to mankind (John 14:16-18).  The Holy Spirit now indwells each of us in the 21st century to do the very same thing.

Encouragement—RECAST  

Although we as Christians may not experience overt persecution or hatred, we do feel the pressures and disappointment that comes from living in this fallen world.  Discouragement is not an uncommon human experience.  Therefore encouragement is needed.  

For the recipient, encouragement helps individuals manage through times of trials and spiritual discipline.  It undergirds them when they may feel like giving up (Heb. 12:5). Encouragement gives hope and helps believers to continue their walk of faith (Rom. 15:4).

For the donor, encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4-7). It takes attention away from self and refocuses on the needs of others (1 Thess. 5:11).  Encouragement of believers ultimately supports the Great Commission—the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I’d like to close this series with as acrostic that will help to remind us of the importance and purpose of encourage.  The word is HOPE:  Helping Others’ Purpose Evolve.   As believers we are to follow the example of Christ in encouraging other to pursue their purpose outlined before the foundations of the world (Eph. 2:10); to accomplish the days fashioned for them before they existed (Ps. 139:16).

The Encouragement Challenge

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,

just as you are doing.  1 Thess.  5:11 (NRS)

Are you an encourager?  Do your words and actions move others  toward their God-given purpose?  Or do they cause others to “wilt in the sun”?

Relational tension, strife, dysfunction

Loneliness, disconnectedness

Depression, hopelessness, suicide

These conditions of mankind call for more than a “pat on the back”.  They require an intentional plan to come along side individuals God places in our lives.  Believers in Christ are being called to step-up to the encouragement challenge.   

The Spiritual Gift of Encouragement

The spiritual gift of encouragement is listed in Romans 12:8.  While specific spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:6-8) are given  by the Holy Spirit “to prepare God’s people for works of service”, all Christians are called to encourage others (1 Thess. 5:11).

In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded to encourage Joshua who would be the leader to take the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut. 1:38). King Josiah helped return his people to the Lord through his encouragement to the priests (2 Chron. 35:2).

In the New Testament, Paul sought to encourage believers through his visits, his many letters, and his prayers (Acts 20:2). Other encouragers included Silas (Acts 15:32), Tychicus (Col. 4:8) and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2).

Some believers are “especially gifted” to be encouragers.  One of the strongest examples found in the New Testament is Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). He would become known as a son of encouragement and later help bring Paul into the church as a leader.

Encouragement and Sanctification

Encouragement is positive feedback that focuses primarily on effort or improvement rather than outcomes.[1]

This is important for “mature” Christians to know as they work with new Christians who need more encouragement and less “correction” to help them grow in their faith.

In addition, sanctification (being conformed to the image of Christ) is accelerated through use of encouragement.   Encouragement helps believers strive for “improvement” each day being fully aware  that we will never reach perfection until heaven.

Also Read, “Help the Stragglers”

Why is Encouragement important?

Encouragement is the vehicle God uses to help believers live out  their purpose and true identity in Christ.  In addition, encouragement helps believers to:

    • Navigate in the 21st century.  The belief that we areOne nation under God” is  no longer true as key institutions are dismantled (church and family) and Christian beliefs are diminished (respect for others and the value of life).  Individuals feel devalued, hopeless, and powerless.   Encouragement builds inner resiliency and hope (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
    • Equip the saints. The Bible instructs believers to “examine themselves” (2 Cor. 13:5) and “grow in faith” (Eph. 4:15).  Encouragers are needed to help other believers become spiritually mature and ready for service.  This does not give us authority to meddle in  others’ lives.  It should, however, cause us to “be on the watch” for God’s divine opportunities to provide encouragement.  Encouragement provides needed support for spiritual growth and maturity (Rom. 15:1).
    • Build the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God came with the arrival of Jesus Christ.  He has charged every believer to expand His kingdom by sharing the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).  Our lives and service to mankind are to be “living testimonies” to  God’s goodness and His greatness.  Encouragement draws nonbelievers to God and citizenship in His kingdom (Eph. 2:19).

Are You Up for the Encouragement Challenge?

Encouragement is not only the action of giving someone support or confidence but it is also about giving inspiration for hope and service.

Encouragement is a social imperative that can radically reverse the pattern of  despair we face in our communities, in this country and the world.

Encouragement is a principle from God that originates from His love and grace (Is. 41:10).  It is how the Kingdom of God increases and how its citizens are to operate in this fallen world.   Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)

[1]   The Tools of Encouragement,  Dr. Timothy D. Evans

Encourage Yourself

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.   Joshua 1:6 (NKJ)

Donald Lawrence, gospel music songwriter and producer recorded a song that should resonate with believers living in the 21st century.  It is entitled “Encourage Yourself”.  Each verse and chorus repeats the need to continue moving forward when everything (and everyone) is pushing you back or holding you down.   

Sometimes you have to encourage yourself

Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test

And no matter how you feel

Speak the word and you will be healed

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

I know we typically think of encouragement as coming from outside ourselves, but it’s important to remember that we, as believers have a personal responsibility to “speak over and encourage ourselves in the Lord.”  How do we do that?  By speaking the truth—that which we “know” by faith.   In our text, Joshua had reason to lose courage.  Moses was dead and he now must lead over 2.5 million Israelites into the Promised Land.  And who would be there to encourage him?  The Lord and Joshua himself (Josh. 1:5).

Satan—our model for discouragement

 During times of weakness, Satan will use his favorite “tools” to wreck our confidence.  He will use discouragement, deception, and disappointment to thwart our efforts to move toward God and His purpose for our life (Jer. 29:11).  Discouragement is by far his favorite.  The base word for discourage means to deprive of or cause to lose courage (des- “away” (see dis-) + coragier, from corage “spirit”).  It is Satan’s plan to lead us away from a “spirit of courage”.

 It’s what “we know” that makes the difference

So what do we need to know that will help us encourage ourselves?  I will define each point with selected scripture you can memorize to combat Satan’s attacks.

We need to know Who God is.

  • You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
  • The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

We need to know who we are—our identity in Christ.

  • The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)
  • Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

We need to know our citizenship.

  • For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
  • For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Encouragement for believers is more than a pat on the back or a hearty “at-a-boy”.  Encouragement is the discipline of building endurance and resolve for the journey God has set before us.   Although encouragement often comes from our families and our “tribes” (communities), it is in those quiet moments of doubt or desperation, we need to “speak words” (God’s Word) that “heal” and can cause “giants to fall”.

A Call to Encouragement

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Hebrew 3:13 (NIV)

When I think of encouragement, George Nance comes to mind.  George “adopted me” as a new manager with Southwestern Bell (SWB).  George “came along side me” and coached me on how to navigate this new and foreign job of managing one of SWB’s million dollar account.  It was hard and I often thought of returning to teaching but I held on because George was there to encourage me.

Throughout my life, there has always been someone who stood with me to encourage me to be all that I could be.  Little did I know then that it was God at work (through my friends and family) keeping me moving forward to the purpose He had established for my life (Ep. 2:10).

Such is the role of one called to the side of one in order to teach, comfort, strengthen or “push them” to act in a certain way (as George did for me).  There are other words in the Bible that have similar meaning such as exhort, warn, and admonish.  The context of the Scripture will dictate what best describes the meaning for that situation.

Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support or confidence.  I would like to expand that definition by saying that encouragement is also “inspiration to hope and service.”

Encouragement Basics

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words translate encourage to mean “strengthen” (Deut. 31:6; Joshua 1:7, 9).  The basic New Testament word for encourage is paraklesis which interpreted means a calling to one’s aid.  In John 14:16, Jesus promised to send the Disciples another just like Himself (The Holy Spirit) who would walk with them; in this case “comfort” is the intended meaning of encourage.  “Exhort” is also used to mean encourage.  Its purpose is to build endurance and “spiritual doggedness” during times of trial and testing.  Such was the case in our text today.

The Need for Encouragement

The recipients of this letter were believers who had come to faith through the testimony of eyewitnesses of Christ. They were not novices and they had successfully endured hardships because of their stand for the gospel (Heb. 10:32-34).  Unfortunately, they had become “dull of hearing” and were in danger of drifting away.  This made them particularly susceptible to the renewed persecutions that were coming upon them and the author of Hebrews found it necessary to check the downward spiral with “the word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

“Today” referred to social and political pressures that potentially threatened their faith walk and Christian witness. “Sin’s deceitfulness” speaks to satanic attacks to simply “give in” to the external pressures versus standing firm in the faith.  In this case, it meant returning to Judaism.   

Fast forward to the 21st Century 

Our “Today” mirrors that of the writer of Hebrews.  Our faith is being challenged and with each day we are persecuted for our Christian beliefs and practices.  And what is the Church’s response?  What is our individual response?

In many case we have become dull of hearing and drifting away.  “Sin’s deceitfulness” has lured believers (and non-believers) into a false sense of “rightness” resulting in willful disobedience and depraved immorality.  Ruin is the outcome for those who continue on this path.

Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

The prophets give false prophecies, and the priests rule with an iron hand. And worse yet, my people like it that way! But what will you do when the end comes? Jeremiah 5:31

People think they are wise following the ways of the world, but in reality, they have become fools (Rom. 1:21-22).

Read:  Prayer Delivered in Kansas State Legislature

Encouragement in its basic form is a call to move people to hope and service for the Lord.  It is meant to incent believers to pursue God’s divine purpose for their life (Jer. 29:11).  Whether we strengthen, comfort, or exhort, every believer has a part to play in the spiritual success of those individuals God places in our path.  It’s time for a “word of encouragement.”

Encouragement in the Gloom

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;

But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 20:7  (KJV)

 After reading the morning paper, this thought came to mind–“the gloom deepens.”   Later that day my incoming mail  reminded me of the rising costs of utilities and health care.  More gloom!

I watched the evening news as it featured escalating tension in this country on all fronts–social, political, and economical as people become overwhelmed with “just living”. Heightening tension between the “have’s and the have nots”, fear as a result of mass shootings and gun violence.  Abroad there is civil disorder and conflicts around the world.  The gloom continues!

While these events are serious and very real, how are we, as believers in Christ, to respond to their underlying message of gloom? We are to be encouraged!

 We have been told in God’s Word that we will go through troubling times, much like those we are currently experiencing.

  • You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.  (Matthew 24:6-8, 12)
  • People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  (2 Timothy 3: 2-4)

But God has promised in the midst of these life storms to faithfully care for us. We can trust in Him!

  • “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:14-16)
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Knowing God can be trusted and is faithful, we can respond to the gloom message with a different voice than the world.

  • “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– He who watches over you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121: 1-3)
  • “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

Today’s news will soon be behind us. Tomorrow there will be something “different” to grab our attention–as a nation, as a family, or as an individual. The thing that remains constant is that God is still in control. It is in Him we will place our trust. The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

Do not let the world’s reaction to the current financial and social upheaval dictate how you will respond. The world reaction is based on its dependency on itself–its wisdom, its power, and its resources. That dependency is resulting in fear and panic. We will trust in the Lord.

Rejecting God’s Counsel

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Acts 20:27  (NKJ)

Our intent in creating this series has been to offer a new perspective on the whole counsel of God that will hopefully increase believers’ confidence in its validity and its value in navigating in the 21st century.

We introduced our series by first discussing the wisdom of God.  The “unsearchable” knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33) establishes the foundation for acceptance of the whole counsel of God and for victorious living under “Kingdom Rule”.

We expanded the definition of the whole counsel of God to include not only that which is revealed through His Word and the Holy Spirit, but also extends to His realized purpose and His will in the world and in the believer’s life.

The reliability of God’s counsel is a consequence of who He is and His relationship with believers. God is, by nature, exceedingly good and great!  Because of that, God’s counsel can be trusted.

So why do people reject God’s counsel?

When I teach God’s Word, I am surprised at the number of pushbacks and arguments I get from people as I share the whole counsel of God.  I see in their eyes and hear in their voices, the inner conflict that God’s Word creates in their life as they attempt to convince me (and justify to themselves) their “difference with the counsel” that is being “revealed”.  It is out of this place of discomfort that the Bible and the Holy Spirit is regularly accused of being “intolerant”, “outdated”, and “inaccurate”.

The reason for their “disconnect” is the standard they use to assess the “value or correctness” of God’s counsel.  Their “source of counsel” is, in most cases, the world, their flesh, and/or the influence of Satan.   Once this is understood, it becomes clear the basis of their discomfort is not the sufficiency of Scripture but the struggle for authority in their life—God’s authority or the current worldview?  God’s authority or what makes them happy?  God’s authority or Satan’s authority?  It is a matter of authority and obedience.   

Obedience and the whole counsel of God

I was saved when I was nine years old.  I bought the “fire insurance” and wasn’t going to hell.  But it was 30 years later that I learned about “lordship” and God’s authority and rule in my life.  That required me to change the source of my counsel—no longer the world, my flesh, or Satan—but the whole counsel of God.

My personal journey has led me to believe that people’s disobedience and rejection of God’s counsel usually stems from one or all of the following:

Blinding by Satan.  “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NRS)

Paul explains to the Corinthians the reason why people reject the gospel.  The translated meaning of veiled is “to hide or hinder the knowledge of a thing.” And who is the culprit responsible for the veiling?  It is Satan.  Satan’s agenda is to keep people away from their Creator and His purpose for their lives.  And what doesn’t Satan want people to know?  “The gospel of the glory of God” realized through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has provided freedom from the bondage of sin, a path back to God (reconciled), and access to spiritual blessings prepared for them (Eph. 1:3-5).

Bentness of the Flesh.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world;  for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world.  And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.  1 John 2:15-17

As Christians we not only have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) but we also have been delivered from the penalty and the power of sin.  However, until Christ’s return or we transition to be with Him in heaven, we must still deal with the presence of sin, in our unredeemed flesh and by virtue of living in this fallen world.

These two facts require BELIEVERS to continually be aware of those factors that tend to “bend us” toward the “world’s view of life” versus God’s expectations of Christian behavior and purpose.  If you have not accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, there is still “room at the Cross” with an opportunity to “change the bentness” of your flesh and the influence of this “falling” world in our lives.

Battle for Truth. “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:21-22

The battle for truth in the 21st century is raging.  We feel the effects of postmodernism both inside and outside the Church.   To exacerbate this dilemma, social media and technology has introduced the ability for individuals and groups to flood the channels with their agendas that spread propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation.

Propaganda is defined as the systematic transmission of information or ideas in order to encourage or instill a particular idea, attitude, or response. Misinformation is erroneous or incorrect information. Misinformation differs from propaganda in that it always refers to something which is not true. Its intent is usually neutral. Disinformation refers to disseminating deliberately false information, with the intention of influencing policies of those who receive it.  

John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries

So where is one to go for good counsel?   To the only source that has a record of being all wise, reliable, and totally committed to our well-being.  That Source is God.

God’s Counsel = LIFE

The whole counsel of God includes some things that are difficult to hear—the fact that we are dead in sin and deserving of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1–3) and the fact that we cannot save ourselves through works (Eph. 2:8–9). The gospel is a call to faithfulness and holy living (Eph. 1: 4).  Believers will face persecution (John 16:33) and likely be considered foolish. But none of these things should dissuade us.

When we accepted God’s lordship and are obedient to His will and His purpose, our life will become richer and fuller—God planned it that way through Jesus Christ who is the living WORD (John 10:10).  Accept the full counsel of God as your source of wisdom and direction.  God’s counsel is the true path of life (Ps. 16:11).

The Reliability of God, Part 2

 

Ah Lord GOD! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Great in counsel and mighty in deed.

  Jeremiah 32:17, 19a (NRS)

In the introduction of this series, “The Whole Counsel of God”, I emphasized the importance of understanding who God is.  Our view of God creates the framework on which our faith and life is to be built.  This is also true with regard to following God’s revealed will and purpose for our life.  Last week in our discussion on the reliability of God’s counsel, I concluded that God can be trusted because of our relationship with Him and because of who He is.  Today we will continue with specifics into the reliability of God by examining a few of His key attributes.

The Attributes of God

When we speak of attributes of God, we are referring to those qualities that make up who God is—they are characteristics of His nature.  We are not referring to the acts which God performs, such as creating, guiding or preserving nor to the roles He executes as Creator, Guide, or Protector.  Attributes are the essence of who God is and are qualities shared by the entire Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The whole counsel of God, His truth revealed in His purpose and His will, proves reliable because they flow from the very nature of who God is.  God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).  In response to challenges to their Christian beliefs, believers often use the adage, “God said it and that settles it”.   Although their comeback may sound comical or ridiculous to some, their position of belief is biblically sound, because it is based on the source of their information—God Himself.

Reliability in God’s Attributes

All the attributes of God—His Goodness and His Greatness, support the dependability of God’s counsel.  For time sake, I will highlight the two that will answer the question most frequently asked by those concerned with the reliability of God’s counsel—does it change?

Does God’s counsel change?

This is usually asked by those who feel that the Bible is “outdated” or “out of touch” with the life styles of the 21st century.  Such questions, although often sincere, are a serious threat to the biblical authority of Scripture.  Although the Bible is tangible, we must remember that it is THE WORD OF GOD—alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and coming directly from God Himself (2 Tim. 3:16).  The following attributes of God support the reliability of His counsel:

  • The constancy or immutability of God is the attribute that states that “God never changes (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). He is the same—yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).  To say God never changes, does not mean God is static but God is “stable”.  The truth that God reveals to man from Genesis to Revelations is the same truth for 21st century living (Heb. 6:17-19).
  • God’s attribute of integrity or truthfulness speaks to His faithfulness in all He says and does.  God keeps all His promises.  This is a function of his limitless power and capability; because of that God can never commitment Himself to something He is incapable of doing.  (Don’t you love that!)  God will never revise His Word or default on a promise.  Throughout biblical history and today, God always fulfills what He says He will do (Is. 25:1). 

We, as believer in Christ, can trust in the reliability of God’s counsel because of who God is and because of our relationship with Him.  It is not necessary for us to check the credentials of God or ask for references; check within the pages of Scripture and see where God has proven Himself to faithful and true.  But better yet, look within the pages of your own life and see where God has shown Himself to be a faithful and true Counselor.

Next week will close this series with “Reasons God’s Counsel is Rejected”.

The Reliability of God, Part 1

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  Psalm 16:7 (NIV)

As I entered the therapist’s office, I was immediately made aware of their qualifications as evidenced by the numerous degrees, certifications, and achievements displayed on the wall.  This is very typical of professionals as they attempt to elicit our confidence in their abilities.  I see the same thing when I walk into the offices of clergy and church laity.

The belief that the “buyer should beware” extends not only to products and services, but unfortunately to matters of faith.  Can God be trusted?  Does God really mean what He says in His Word?  Therefore it may be helpful at this point in the series to explore the reliability of God’s counsel, especially for those who might question its dependability.

Last week we defined the whole counsel of God as God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will.  God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and through His Holy Spirit.   To understand the counsel of God, it is important to first understand who God is?

Who is God?

This is the bedrock on which our spiritual confidence is built.  Who is God?  God is the “source” of all knowledge and the “power” behind the eternal plan for all Creation.  The veracity of God’s counsel is based on its source and that source is God Himself.   We will spend more time discussing this in, “The Reliability of God’s Counsel”, Part 2.

The biblical phrase, “before the foundation of the world” was chosen through inspiration of the Holy Spirit to highlight the eternal wisdom and knowledge of God as He created His plan of salvation, healing, deliverance, and redemption for mankind.  God ordained His purpose according to His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5).

Who is God to Me?

The reliability of the counsel of God is built, not only on who God is, but more importantly on who God is to me personally. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to receive advice and instruction from someone who is neither trustworthy nor “safe.”  Trust and reliability are often built through relationship.

In our text today, David’s personal fellowship with the Lord was his greatest reason to trust God’s counsel.  David had experienced God’s instruction and advice throughout his life beginning as a shepherd boy in the fields of Bethlehem, through his strained relationship with Saul (1 Sam. 18:9) to his ultimate kingship over nation of Israel (2 Sam. 5:4).  God was always there to advise David on what to do and how to do it.   Because of that David praised or “blessed” the Lord.

David’s “reins” (heart, NIV)—the seat of his emotion and affection—were further instructed by God in the night seasons.  “Instruct” carries with it the idea of discipline and chastening (Heb. 12:1-12).  Night” is plural and suggests “dark nights” or “night after night” learning from God.  God’s counsel, day or night, in the good or bad times, had always proven a trustworthy guide for David, one deserving all his confident.

Is God’s Counsel Reliable?

Paul warned Timothy, his young minister-in-training, of the coming apostasy—the abandonment of religious belief.  He advised Timothy to teach the whole counsel of God, in this case, the scriptures,  that are “profitable” (useful, NRS)  for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness  so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Paul closed his teaching with the foretelling of a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having “itching ears”.  They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Does that sound like the world we are living in today?

We, as believer in Christ, can trust in the reliability of God’s counsel because of who God is and because of our relationship with Him.  The whole counsel of God is the only dependable counsel for 21st century living.

Also Read:  Postmodernism 101

The Whole Counsel of God: What is it?

 

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Acts 20:27  (NKJ)

One of the things this nation is not short on is advice.  If you turn on the television, every station has its personal brand of advice—The Real, The Talk, The View.  And let’s not forget social media.

Life and spiritual coaches have been added to the deluge of resources ready to “create a better life for you”.  Online counseling by Chat, Video or Phone.  Get Help and Get Happy.  Therapy Anytime, Anywhere.   Each of these resources and programs are targeting different groups of viewers—boomers, millennials, Xers to influence their thoughts and actions.  And the real question is influence for what?

If ever there was a need for reliable counsel, it is now!

Definition of Counsel

The noun “counsel” means advice, especially that given formally.  Counsel is synonymous with guidance, direction and instruction.  The Hebrew word that best communicates the concept of counsel is ‘esah, which adds purpose or plan to the definition.   It is both used of God’s counsel and of human counsel.

Counsel Given—Counsel Received  

The Old Testament portrays counsel as that which is usually given to kings (1 Chron. 13:1).  Counsel may have come from trusted advisors but more frequently through God’s prophets (Deut. 18:14-21).

Proverbs suggests that one should seek counsel from many with the thought that human beings are limited and need contributors to be sure all alternatives are considered (Prov. 11:14;  Prov. 20:18).

In the New Testament, especially in the church, though they were a close-knit fellowship, involved in one another’s lives, there is almost nothing about counsel or acting on the advice of others.  The closest thing to “counsel” would have been that given to the early churches via apostolic letters.

Regardless of the counsel received, no advice or counsel frees the person’s responsibility for making his or her own choice. Such was the case in our text as Paul gives instructions to the Ephesian elders.

What constitutes “the whole” ?

What is the “whole counsel of God”?  If you search different Bible versions for clarity, you may still be left asking, “What is it?”  In our text, the different Bible versions read, “the whole counsel of God” (ESV) or “the whole will of God” (NIV) or “the whole purpose of God” (NASB).

The phrase the whole counsel of God was introduced by Paul in Acts 20:27 in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church.  In this context, the whole counsel of God refers to the “gospel message”.

Paul spoke the complete gospel—the whole truth about God’s salvation including the “mystery” of God extending His plan of salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews (Ep. 3:9).  Paul’s declaration of the “whole counsel of God” made him “innocent” of anyone’s decision to reject God’s truth as revealed, at that time.

The whole counsel of God, in summary, is God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will.  God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

Paul witnessed to the fact that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, NRS).   The Bible is the “play book” which helps believers live in alignment with God’s will and in right relationship with one another.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers relate God’s truth to present situations—guiding them in actions they are to take.   Although the Spirit may use any number of avenues to help believers sense His direction, He ultimately guides us to decisions that are in harmony with what God purposes for us (Jer. 10:23).

Living in 21st century, postmodern America, it is critical that we have access to good counsel.  We need counsel that is sure and dependable; trustworthy and timeless.  We need counsel to help us live out of the heart God created for us.  We need the whole counsel of God.

We will continue next week with this series, “The Whole Counsel of God.”