The Word

We Do Not Lose Heart

2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-6 “Therefore, since we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. … For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” …

My flesh never sleeps. It never takes a break. My struggles never end; if I fought on my own, the flames of sin would consume me in an instant. I echo the words of Paul in Romans 7“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” I join with him in joyful thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ Jesus who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion (Psalm 103:4). His sacrifice is the only thing allowing me to persevere through the trials that assail me. Without Him, I would have been forever encompassed in the temptations weighed against my soul.

Those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s atoning work on the cross know this fact well. How often do we forget, though? How many times do the worries of this world lay hold of our hearts, causing anxiety and fear? These sins are so fundamentally opposed to the truth we claim, yet I see myself and many other Christians continually fall by their hands! Anxiety, namely, is a multi-faceted sin, but one of its severest encroachments upon truth is its expression of unbelief. When I become anxious, I show off a lack of faith in God; the same God who always has been and always will be. The God who told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM,”; the One who created the heavens and the earth, made man and controls all things. When Moses tried to run from the will of God, He rebuked Moses, saying “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 3:11, 12) More than these, anxiety contradicts our faith in the One who made us alive together with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions! (Ephesians 2:5) We know that if He has the power and love to deliver us from His all-consuming wrath, He has the strength to uphold us through any circumstance we encounter.

Anxiety is ultimately pride, for when we attain this form of doubt, our actions are screaming that we are not content with God’s sovereignty in our circumstances. 1 Peter 5:6, 7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.” We must humble ourselves to receive our circumstances in a godly manner, offering all of our worries up to the Lord, because out of care, He will comfort us.

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

Isaiah 35: 3, 4 “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will have His vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.”

On a closely related topic, the Lord has lately been teaching me what it means to persevere through trials I have brought about my own sin of idolatry. I have had to battle my flesh as it has risen within me time and time again. By His grace, I have been able to overcome and persevere through this temptation. I have been comforted throughout this time by Jesus’ words in John 14:1, 3, 15-16; 15:4-5, 9-11 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. … If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. … If you love Me you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, the He may be with you forever. … Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. … Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be made full in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

The Greek word for “abide” is also translated as “remain”, “endure”, and others. Jesus has told us that apart from Him, in our flesh, we can do nothing of eternal value. I persevere because of the cross. He has sacrificed Himself for my debt, and calls me to abide in His love. He calls me to serve Him no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter how much pain, heart-brake, trials and persecutions I must endure. Paul served as a perfect example of this, as he endured more than any of us will ever know for the sake of Christ. Concerning the thorn in the flesh that the Lord gave Paul, he wrote “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with  distresses,  with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul suffered so much for the sake of the gospel, yet he endured it all! I should be ashamed if I complain or become anxious about any struggle I might have, for Paul did not become anxious but endured all forms of persecution! Never should I say that a specific situation or setting caused me to sin, for Christ has given me the power to persevere. Romans 8:37 “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

His grace is sufficient; for this reason I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing  (Philippians 3:14, James 1:3,4 emphasis added). I persevere because I know it pleases my Lord, and He will bless me for it. (James 1:12) I must become a man and do away with childish things, as I persevere in Christ through my life on this earth (1 Corinthians 13:11, 12). I must bear my yoke as a son of God, as in Lamentations 3:27-32 “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach. For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to his abundant lovingkindness.”

In the end, I must imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. Since I have the ministry of furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of His Kingdom and His rule, I will endure. I finish by quoting the ever faithful Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”

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Struggles, The Word

Pierced To The Division Of Soul And Spirit

Hebrews 4:12, 13 “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

God and His Word are the most powerful forces at work in the life of every man. No one can hide from them, and everyone must ultimately respond to them. The force of God’s Word was working mightily in my life these past few weeks, violently revealing that which was decidedly hidden from my sight. It threw my soul into upheaval, shattering the thick walls that my sins hid behind. For months, possibly a year, I had fostered a passion which dishonored my Savior, my God. I believe the desire was godly when it was young, but it grew so large and so fast, for a long period of time it outweighed my love for the Lord. I had exchanged the object of my life worship, my Redeemer, for my own self-erected golden calf. I did not truly love the One who was pierced for my transgressions; I loved that which pleased me. My mind and heart were ruled by it, so much so that a day did not go by in that period of time without it occupying many of my thoughts. Sure, I learned much about my God and even still honored Him in this time, but the majority of my heart was not given to Him. This idol of the mind extended its grasp into many areas of my life, including how I looked at my brethren, how I conducted myself at church functions, and how I behaved in my own home.

But praise be to the God Almighty, for His strength is greater than our weakness; His love is stronger than our hate; His grace is more than sufficient for the depth of our depravity. Three weeks ago, the living sword which is the Word of God made a divine incision, and cut loose the web of sin my soul had weaved upon itself. I realized through the reading of Scripture and the teaching of the mature in Christ, that something had obstructed my love for the Lord, and I had chosen to store it away, to remain apathetic to it. This realization shattered me to the core, and it demanded action. Matthew 16:24, 26a “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. … For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” I knew this imperative of Christ well, yet I had chosen not to practice it. I loved my Savior more than anything but this idol, and I desired to follow Him, but I refused to deny myself.

One of my favorite songs is called Give Me Christ Or Else I Die. Its chorus is so written: All unholy and unclean, I am nothing else but sin, on thy mercy I rely, give me Christ or else… I die. How could I sing with passion the words, “Give me Christ or else I die,” if I refused to live for Him? About the time the Lord brought His Word to bear upon my heart concerning my idolatry, my youth group sung this, and my heart sank within me, convicted of hypocrisy. I knew then that I was not living for the Lord. I was broken over this sin, saddened because I was looking for satisfaction outside of the Word of God, and outside of Christ. My soul was grieved, for I had led other beloved followers of Christ headlong into sin. The Word of God is truly piercing, and when one is struck by it, the pain can be severe. Thankfully, though, the joy brought about by its sanctifying work is greater.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

In this trial, my Father has disciplined me, and He continues to do so. Hebrews 12:11 “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”  Trials and discipline are not to be mourned, for they are gifts of God, not curses. The Father is training me for greater service to Him; He is teaching me to find my satisfaction in Him, and Him alone. I am learning to love my Father more than myself or anything else. Another passage of great impact throughout this trial and before, is Psalm 73:25, 26 “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” God is enough, and as Psalm 73 goes on to say, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”

This trial is not over; no, it is a struggle that will continue for quite a long time. It continues in the mind. I must be careful to guard against the treachery of my heart and mind. I must follow Paul as he says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

 My final thoughts are of thankfulness. 2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  If not for His faithfulness to provide grace, I would have never seen my sin, and if not for the strength which He supplies(1 Pe. 4:11) I would not have been able to fight it, as I must continually. In the end, though, it all comes back to our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 4:13-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need. 

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