Tag Archives: spiritual endurance

Spiritual Warnings for 21st Century Living 

Lost in Space was an American science fiction television series in the 1960’s.  It followed the adventures of the Robinsons, a pioneering family of space colonists who struggle to survive in the depths of space.

When danger was near to the Robinson family, Robbie, their protective robot, would cry out, “Danger”.   Similarly, we teach our children to be aware of danger.  They call out a warning, “stranger danger” when they feel threatened.

Stranger danger!

Warnings play a huge role in sheltering us from potential harm or danger.  Because of the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, we carefully heed the medical warnings provided to us by both our local and our state health officials.  With the growth of cyber-crimes in our nation, we quickly respond to security warnings by purchasing systems to protect our personal assets.  Police warnings of increases in crime incent us to invest in elaborate surveillance and security equipment.

However, do we, with the same diligence, heed spiritual warnings as we move through these fretful times?  Are we concerned about the health and well-being of our souls? What about our family’s spiritual well-being?  During the next few weeks, we will be using the book of Hebrews to discuss “spiritual danger warnings” in the 21st century.

Opportunities in warnings

The writer of Hebrews gave five (5) warnings to his readers.  Although the historical context for this epistle is different than in 2020, the warnings included in Hebrews are still relevant for today.

Warren Wiersbe, noted teacher and biblical scholar had this to share concerning the practical applications that can be found in the book of Hebrews:

Many people have avoided the epistle to the Hebrews and, consequently, have robbed themselves of practical spiritual help.  Some have avoided this book because they are afraid of it. The warnings in Hebrews have made them uneasy. Others have avoided this book because they think it is too difficult for the average Bible student. To be sure there are some profound truth in Hebrews, and no preacher or teacher will dare to claim that they know them all! But the general message of the book it’s clear and there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).  Let’s get ready to dig in!

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Rest.  Who needs rest?  We all do!  Health professionals agree that the need for rest is critical.  It is essential for our overall well-being.  This includes our emotional health and cognitive performance.

But how can we rest?  21st century living has introduced a unique set of challenges that radically impair our ability to rest.  Our current life experiences have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.

Similarly, rest for believers has always been (and will continue to be) challenging.  This is because we live in a fallen world.  However, the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:9-11) offers a “viable solution”.   He invites believers to enter God’s rest—wilderness rest.

Defining rest

Webster defines rest as not only sleep but also as freedom from worry or trouble.   Rest in the Bible is used most frequently in non-theological terms.

However, it takes on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people.  Most specifically, when used in reference to the Old and New Covenant.

God addresses wilderness rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is first introduced in Genesis as God ceases from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  God later commanded Sabbath rest as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15).  He knew that all living creatures needed physical renewal.

Canaan rest began with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.  Rest was defined as deliverance from slavery.  Canaan rest established protection from and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  By following God’s commandments, Israel would no longer be threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).  Peace in the land would be their rest.

Most importantly, Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement introduced us to God’s eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26).  Believer’s eternal rest will culminate with Jesus Christ in eternity.

Accessing God’s rest

Accessing God’s rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His will (John 10:27).  For example, believers should let God’s Word and Spirit guide us.  God has already provided solutions for our problems therefore releasing us from unnecessary anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:  “The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”  That is, believers need to be more responsive to the Lord.

Responding to wilderness rest

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  We trust the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.

Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, and protect.  He gives use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  God knows the end from the beginning and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near.

Wilderness Living

wilderness experience

Are you experiencing wilderness living?   I’m not talking about a survival challenge where one willingly goes into the wilderness to test their mental and physical endurance.  This wilderness experience is usually thought of as a tough time in which a believer endures discomfort and trials. We are unable to enjoy the pleasant things of life.

Similarly, this new decade (2020) is testing both our mental and physical endurance.  The stress and strain on our emotional health is unbelievable.  The combined effect of the health pandemic, racial strife and financial strain is unrelenting.  As a result, we have seen our lives played out like a bad dream repeated on a continuous loop.

I was encouraged when Michelle Obama shared her personal struggle with mild depression.  Her transparency and vulnerability are character strengths we can model during these difficult times.  In the same vein Israel  needed support to help them successfully navigate wilderness living.

God revealed during wilderness living

Captivity was Israel’s “wilderness experience.”  The nation was away from their land, their temple, and most importantly, their God.  Therefore, God, through His prophet Isaiah, sent words of consolation to Israel during their wilderness experience.  He promised to do a new thing (Is. 43:16-19).

New in Hebrew means to renew, rebuild, or repair.  Most certainly,  people today  need these three actions during times of uncertainty and chaos.   Our minds need to be renewed from the the insanity of the world (Rom. 12:1-2).  Our relationships need to be rebuilt and repaired  (Rom. 12:17-18).  We are divided on so many things.  Therefore, Satan uses these differences to further polarize us and  negate Jesus’ mandate to love one another (Matt. 5:43-44).

Because of His love for Israel, God promised He would not only renew, rebuild, and repair what was loss during the exile, but also   do the impossible.  “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3).  In other words,  God would revive Israel physically and spiritually.

Facing wilderness living

Wilderness living is different for everyone. For example, for some people wilderness living may be relational—failed, estranged, or disappointing relationships.  For others the experience may be professional—finding the right vocation or personal significance.  But for some, wilderness living may be experiential—moments of personal loss, loneliness, or misfortune.  No two wildernesses are the same.

Likewise our spirit man may also feel strained.  What is God doing in the world and in our lives?  We may feel alone and isolated.  We may even think God has left us and no longer hears our prayers.  Is God with us in our wilderness?  He answers, “Yes!”  It’s in His Word (Ps. 91:15; Isa.43:2; Isa. 49:15).

Living in the wilderness

Above all, regardless of the type of wilderness experience, we can trust God.  We can relinquish control to God’s sovereign will and His steadfast love.   God is for us and He cares about everything that keeps us awake at night—our family, our provision, and our future.  God will sustain us In short, while we have no forecast as to when and if our world will ever be the same again, we have the blessed assurance that God is with us.  (Ps. 119:116)

After our wilderness experience

Through our wilderness experience God can renew, rebuild, and repair our lives (Ps. 130:5).  As we strengthen our intimacy with Him, we will find true happiness, contentment, and peace (Rev. 21:7).   God can do that for us individually.  Likewise, He can also do that for our nation.

God can do the impossible and bring us back to a healthy, vigorous and flourishing condition (Isa. 40:31).   We may not look the same but because of God, we will be better because of our experience in the wilderness (Job 23:10).

Is God really in control? Why now?

God is sovereign

Why now?  Why are we studying the sovereignty of God?  Because we have questions!  What is the future of this nation?  Who is best equipped to lead us in this “new normal” world we find ourselves?  How are we to move forward through this health pandemic and social unrest?  Does anyone have a plan?

Because we have these questions, it is timely to share a truth that will encourage us during this period of uncertainty and turmoil.  It doesn’t seem like anyone has the answers nor is anyone able to guarantee success.

While all this may be true of humanity and our current institutions, the Creator of heaven and earth (Ps. 19:1-6) knows the answers for all our questions.  Who then is in a better position to provide us with the answers we need?  God is sovereign and He has always had a plan for mankind.  What we are experiencing right now is part of that plan.

Knowing God is the “why now”

It is important to continually reinforce our knowledge of who God is.  Knowing God is foundational in securing our trust and our confidence (Ps. 27:1-3).  This is especially true during difficult times when fear and doubt challenge our faith.  When that happens, we can stand firmly on what we know about God and those things which He has revealed to us.

Those things God reveals to us can answer persistent questions concerning not only our life but the lives of those around us, including our nation.   How we respond to things revealed become the entry point for God to provide His power, His provision, and His presence.

The Call for Understanding God’s Sovereignty

In his book, The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Tozer, pastor, author, and spiritual mentor, cries out for renewed understanding of God’s sovereignty.

Present day conditions call loudly for a new examination and new presentation of God’s omnipotence, God’s sufficiency, God’s sovereignty. From every pulpit in the land it needs to be thundered forth that God still lives, that God still observes, that God still reigns. Faith is now in the crucible; it is being tested by fire, and there is no fixed and sufficient resting-place for the heart and mind but in the throne of God. What is needed now, as never before, is a full, positive, constructive setting forth of the Godhead of God. 

 It is in the context of God’s sovereignty that we can manage our fears and minimize our anxieties.  The uncertainties and insecurities we experience today can now be transferred to God who is the only one who can do something about them (2 Cor. 12:9).

Moving from head to heart

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the sovereignty of God (and you know I love nuts and bolts), it is important to remind ourselves that what we learn about God is not to be reduced to “mere academics”.

We must apply this truth (as with all truth) not only to our minds but also to our hearts.  If we do the former without the latter, we might know that God is sweet but we will never taste His sweetness (Ps. 34:8).

Defining the Sovereignty of God

Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies.[1] In political theory, sovereignty is a functional term designating supreme legitimate authority over some political entity. It is the ultimate overseer, or authority, in the decision-making process of the state and in the maintenance of order.[2] 

The sovereignty of God refers to His position of supreme authority and power.  He rules over and owns everything because He made everything.  Much like man’s sovereignty, God has legitimate authority over His universe.  As the sovereign One, God has a predetermined plan and purpose for everything that happens in that universe.  Not only does He have a plan (Ep. 1:11) but God oversees and makes decisions which fulfill His divine plan.  God upholds all things and all things owe their existence to Him (Heb. 1:3).[3]

The Right to Supreme Authority

God’s sovereignty is a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  God is described in the Bible as all-powerful and all-knowing (Psalm 147:5), outside of time (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2), and responsible for the creation of everything (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1). These divine traits set the minimum boundary for God’s sovereign control in the universe, which is to say that nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission.

God has the power and knowledge to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so anything that does happen must, at the very least, be allowed by God. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we mean He rules the universe.  The debate begins when and where His control is direct and when it is indirect.  This will be explored at a later time.

God’s Plan Unfolding in His Sovereignty

With everything that is occurring in our nation and our cities, it’s easy to wonder if God really cares about us.  There are those who have a cartoonish view of God’s sovereignty.

God’s relationship with His creation is pictured as “a man viewing an ant in a fish bowl”.  He is seen as distant, detached, and disconnected.  That may be how we feel as we view the world around us today.  But as I stated at the beginning of this teaching, God has a plan.

The Triune God orchestrated their plan before the creation of the world.  That redemptive plan (Rom. 5:2) has been unfolding through the history of mankind and continues even today in the 21st century.

As chronicled from Genesis to Revelation, God has an eternal plan that restores man’s fellowship with God by the creation of an escape from death’s curse (Romans 5:2) and the rediscovery of the spiritual life.  It is God’s plan to bring mankind to Himself (Eph. 1:7-11) and ultimately to a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).

It is by His divine power and gracious will that we live, and move, and have our meaning (Acts 17:28).  Knowing God is sovereign is enough to give us a good hope (2 Thess. 2:16).  It is enough to assure us of our future well-being (Jer. 29:11).

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Britannica.com

[3] Insight for Living Canada

 

 

Spiritually Fit and Ready to Go!

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.  Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn’t know any better then; you do now.  1 Pet. 1:13-14 (The Message)

If you have accepted responsibility for your spiritual fitness and established intentional strategies that have led you to a richer relationship with the Lord, the next question is “Where do I go from here?”  After reaching a personal goal, physical or spiritual, the next difficult task is in maintaining the new behavior.  How do you continue to do the “right thing”?  The Apostle Peter’s message is both timely and fitting for believer’s who desire to maintain their spiritual fitness in spite of living in the 21st century.

This epistle was addressed to believers throughout Asia Minor (Modern Turkey).  Hostility and suspicion were mounting against Christians.  These believers’ presence was becoming an offense to the pagan world with their life-styles and talk of “another Kingdom”. The stage was being set for greater persecution and even martyrdom in the near future.  Peter encourages these believers to maintain obedience to God and resist the temptation to return to their previous way of living (1 Pet. 1:13-14).  This is still God’s directive to believers today.

As believers become more “spiritually fit”—conformed to the image of Christ—they will demonstrate behavior that puts them in harm’s way with the world, especially as they resist conformity to postmodern thinking (Rom. 12:1).  They will be called “narrow–minded” and “bigoted” because believers in Christ look very different from the rest of the world.   So how are believers, even those who are spiritually fit, expected to maintain their walk of faith?

Align their purpose with God.  Believers are to walk in assurance that their life has changed and that they are following the path God has established for them from the foundations of the world (Ep. 2:10).  There are many good things believers can do with their life, but the “best things” are those lived in humble submission to the will of God.

Walk in their identity in Christ.  As joint heirs with Christ, believers share not only in His purpose, but they also share in His privilege and power.  The believer’s spiritual fitness includes the ability to successfully resist old temptations and tendencies that were part of their “old nature” before becoming one with Christ (Col. 3:1-4).

Manage their expectations of the world.  The Apostle Peter encouraged his readers to prepare their minds for action, discipline themselves, and set all their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ.  Believers know that Jesus has overcome the world, God is still on His throne managing the events of the world including His Church, and our inheritance awaits us in eternity future.

Believers, whether living in the 1st or 21st century, are to live as “lights shining in the world among a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).    Spiritually fit and ready to go, we move forward in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), “proclaiming the mighty acts of Him who called us out of the darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet.2:9).

Strategies for Spiritual Fitness

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.”  1 Cor. 9:24 (NRSV)

In the beginning of this series, I shared that I have been using an activity tracker to improve my overall physical fitness.  The results I am achieving with the tracker are evidence that it was the perfect addition to my strategy for improving my personal health and wellness.  Similarly, I am confident that believers who develop intentional strategies for spiritual fitness will be able to successfully navigate in the 21st century.

My Fitbit monitors several indicators of good health.  They include number of steps made in a day, heart rate, number of steps climbed, sleep time, and finally, water and food consumed.  If one looks at these indicators individually, they might question the benefit to be gained from their tracking.  However, when viewed collectively, this monitoring provides useful information on vital human body systems that work cooperatively to keep us “physically” fit.  These include our nervous system (sleep), our muscular system (steps climbed), our cardiovascular system (heart rate), our respiratory system (steps taken), and our digestive system (water and food).

Our inner man is a “spiritual system” designed by God (Gen. 2:7).  It consists of not only the believer’s spirit or eternal nature but it also is comprised of the soul—the mind, the will, and the emotions; these work cooperatively, much like our human body system, to accomplish God’s purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).

Once we become believers, our spirit becomes one with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).  Agreement, however, between the spirit and the soul will not happen “on its own” (Rom. 7:18-20) but requires the development of intentional strategies that will combat forces—Satan, the world, and the flesh—that move believers away from God.  Is your spiritual system working to accomplish God’s purpose in your life?  Spiritual fitness works to insures that these spiritual systems, the spirit and the soul, are working cooperatively (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires not only a change in “habits and routines” but it also requires a change in “mindset”.   With the help of my Fitbit, I am encouraged when I see progress in areas that support good health, like an increase in the number of steps I make in a day.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit directs, instructs, and corrects believers so they stay on the “path of righteousness” (Prov. 12:28) while glorifying God (John 16:13-14).   What feedback is the Holy Spirit giving you on your habits, routines, and mindset?  Like “eating clean” leads to a healthier physical body, spiritual fitness leads to a God-honoring, Christ-centered life (Matt. 5:16).

The believer’s responsibility in this “spiritual fitness” process is to strengthen their personal relationship with God.  This includes spending time with Him studying the Bible, in prayer and meditation, and in individual worship, just to name a few.  Time spent with the Lord will become periods of renewal and growth as God provides the believer “real time” feedback on their spiritual progress.  How much effort and time are you devoting to your personal relationship with God?  When spiritual fitness habits are faithfully practiced by the believer, their thoughts, behaviors and ultimately, their life style will reflect the image of Christ to the glory of God (Phil. 2:9-11).

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

For whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,

that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

This week we will continue our teaching on spiritual fitness by describing what it looks like in the believer’s life.

Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.    In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God” (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his perseverance in completing the daunting task of building the Ark.  Job was designated as “perfect and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1).  Job proved himself spiritually fit for the challenges placed in his life by Satan.  In the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.   

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is not a destination—it’s a journey.  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer. (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 1

“For, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy 4:8   (NRS)

For the last 90 days, I’ve been on a journey to wellness.  It began as a result of a minor physical irritation that eventually developed into a major restructure of my diet and exercise commitment.

One of the new tools I now use to assist me in developing a healthier lifestyle is my FitBit, a wireless, activity tracker that continually monitors and measures data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal health metrics.

Imagine if we had a “spiritual” Fitbit that would do the same.  What would be the data that could be gathered to indicate our spiritual fitness?

Fitness is defined as the state or condition of being “qualitied” for a specific purpose, physically or intellectually.  This is the definition we’re most familiar with seeing, however there is also an expansion of that definition to include “suitability and appropriateness”.

Spiritual is that which deals with the part of man that extends beyond the physical and is eternal in nature.  It exists forever, even when the physical body ceases to live (Heb. 9:27).

I’d like to use both definitions and put forth the proposition that in order to be spiritually fit, believers need to be both “qualified” and “suitable” for the purpose that God has designated for their lives (Ep. 2:10).  Spiritual fitness is the state or condition of being qualified and suitable for the purpose that God has identified for believers both individually and as the collective Church.  The disciple Peter was spiritually “unqualified” when Jesus identified him as key to the building of His future Church (Matt. 16:18); however, after the testing of the Calvary, the apostle Paul was more than “suitable” for the purpose of Pentecost (Acts 2:14).

Next week, we will discuss why believers should be concerned with spiritual fitness in the  21st century.  In the interim, I have a simple assessment to help you “check” your spiritual fitness.

(1) Do you feel spiritually weak and defeated in your efforts to walk holy?

(2) Do you find your choices and life style inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus the Christ?

(3) Is it becoming increasingly more difficult to living out your walk of faith?

If you answered yes to any of these three (3) questions, then it’s time to work on your spiritual fitness. See you next week.

Stay on the Path

“Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)

 

A few years ago there is a commercial for financial planning that features a wide green path and arrow to guide the investor along life’s path.  As the investor strolls through the city, they are tempted to step off the path to pursue things that could hinder their ability to accomplish their long-term investment plans. The voice of the financial advisor coaches the investor to “just stay on the path.”  The implication is that as long as the investor “stays on the path” they will realize their financial goals and live happily ever after.

This commercial reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He told His listeners to, “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The King James Version renders “narrow” as “strait.”  Strait (stenos) refers to a narrowness created by obstacles standing close about.   These obstacles could be the world’s view on how we are to enter God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ point in this teaching is that the way to life is through a portal providing controlled access along a narrow way defined by God.  In contrast, the wide highway represents the world’s “substitute” for the way of life.  The end, of course, is death.

As I talk with believers about activities in their local churches, I am disturbed and heartbroken.  The Church, which was created to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13), is choosing to “get off the path.”  Churches across this country have abandoned teaching and preaching the “full counsel” of God for “trendy methods” of ministry.  The “fervent prayers of the righteous” (James 5:16) have been replaced with small group discussions on why the church should practice religious tolerance.  Churches are more concerned with not offending others than with grieving the Holy Spirit.  Peter reminded the early church, that Christ Himself was “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (1 Peter 2:8).

It is extremely difficult to stay on the path of God when the world, especially the Church, is encouraging us to do otherwise. It is critical and life affecting that we stand fast in our faith (1 Peter 5:12).  We must resist being lured to “enter through the wide gate.” Do not be enticed by false teachings with their “faith-by-works, all-roads-lead-to-God” beliefs. Stay on the path until you reach your eternal goal of heaven. Remember, it is a narrow path that leads to life, and only a few find it.

SELAH: One of the inherent gift that is available with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is spiritual discernment. Spiritual discernment is “the ability to see life from God’s perspective”. It helps us to evaluate potential choices, options, and actions we may need to make in our life. Spiritual discernment helps believers to avoid potential “spiritual landmines” that might take us off path.

Read “The Power of a Discerning Spirit” then invite ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your discernment and reveal spiritual landmines currently in your life that might detour you from God’s desired purpose.

Faith to Persevere

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,

and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13   (NKJ)

To persevere requires one to continue despite difficulties, opposition, or discouragement. This requires not only spiritual power but also faith.  Our friends and family try to reassure us by telling us to “hang in there” or “tough it out” but unfortunately, encouraging words do not always succeed in moving us forward.

That is where “persevering faith” comes in.  Not “saving faith” that we associate with our initial salvation, but the ability to see through difficulties and press forward for the prize (Phil. 3:14).  I’m talking about “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).  Faith that perseveres looks to the future and visualize the promises of God, in all their fullness.  It was this “forward looking faith” that helped the Faith Hall of Famers to persevere.

“Having seen the promises afar off.”   The word “promises” is a metonymy—a figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.  The word “promises” is a metonymy for the “things promised.” Literally, the Faith Hall of Famers “had received” their individual promises—whether it be deliverance from destruction, children to a barren couple, or a future homeland (vv. 10, 14,16). The “things promised” were the spiritual blessings of the Gospel dispensation and the future heavenly inheritance.  Each one died in the firm expectation of the promised Messiah and in believing views of the heavenly glory.  In their “mind’s eye”, they had an inner awareness of what the promises meant—in all their “fullness.”      

“were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” To be “persuaded” means to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended. In this case, it is God who provided the promises.  The Hall of Famers confidently believed based on the veracity of God.  To “embrace” means to salute or greet.   Based on God’s assurance, they “eagerly welcomed” (versus acquiesced to) their destiny. They moved forward with full confidence.

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  To “confess” implies expressing openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. The Faith Hall of Famers desired more than this world had to offer, especially after seeing the promises afar off.  They fixed their eyes on those things which are above where Christ is seated (Col. 3:1).  If they regarded themselves daily as earthlings, they would not have retained the vision of faith and may have been tempted to turn back.      

The order of the aforementioned verbs teaches us an important practical lesson on developing persevering faith.  First, we must envision the promises of God.  Then, based on the Giver of the promises, we confidently accept, believe, and rest on the reliability of God’s word. It is here that our faith becomes grounded.  Lastly, faith “sees” with understanding, is “persuaded” in the heart and “embraced” by the will.

In a society where instant gratification is the norm, faith that perseveres requires a daily commitment to “forward looking” faith.  This letter to the Hebrews was to press upon them and us, the critical need for a faith that would last, wear, overcome obstacles, and endure until the end.  Like the Faith Hall of Famers, the eyes of our heart must see the blessings God has promised and be persuaded that in due season, they will be ours.  We are to joyfully anticipate our future as opposed to present advantages.  Faith that perseveres single-mindedly looks to the future with an eye on the Provider who “according to His divine power has given us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:3, 4). 

 

SELAH: Ask God to share with you His plan for helping you to persevere in your faith.  What does God want you to “see” with your understanding, be “persuaded” in your heart, and “embrace” in your will?