There are two types of repentance: worldly repentance and godly repentance. Godly repentance works the will of God, and that is what we want.
Worldly repentance is:
Self-centered – repentance flowing out of worldly concern (must change before I lose my job…my ministry…their love/respect).
Insincere – having a hardened heart to sin, repentance is only for show.
Insecure – believing God delivers from the penalty of sin, but we are still enslaved to the sin nature with no hope of freedom in this life.
Godly Repentance is:
Relational – concerned about pleasing God and protecting relationship with Him; and because of right relations with God, desiring to protect relationships with others.
Transforming – knowing that we not only possess the righteousness of Christ in the Spirit, but that the Spirit is with us, to empower our righteous acts accomplished through surrendered lives.
Eternal – knowing that God loves us at all times and will bring us into His eternal Kingdom because of Jesus, while also realizing that we are His representatives in our here and now, called and equipped as His image bearers to reveal Him to the world. Godly repentance truly desires to surrender to God’s work of making us into His image.
True repentance comes to those who know that God has a good work for us as individuals, beginning with us being His image bearers. Surrendered living with sincere effort to conform to His transforming power leads to accomplishing His purpose.
True repentance surrenders to eternal purpose through trusting faith that knows “nothing shall be impossible with God”, who so greatly desires a love relationship with us that He gave His only begotten Son to have it. And have it, He will, for His Word succeeds at accomplishing His purpose.
Take God at His Word and repent from a godly stance of faith made sure in Him.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:12-13 NASB
“The radical God-centeredness of the Lord’s Model Prayer teaches us that man’s pride has no place before the throne of God.” (Dr. Albert Mahler, The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down)
I have a decorative plate, given to me by my son, that misquotes the verse, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It says, “Give us this day THY daily bread.”
I’ve searched many translations, even looking through the oldest versions available to me, and none translate it that way, but I love the plate, not only because my son gave it to me, but because of the truth it reminds me to realize.
I, too often, fail to truly know what is best for me. I need the Father to instruct and form right desires and healthy appetites within me, leading me to seek after, recognize, and receive His best for me.
Pride hinders our ability to trust God for His best.
“”Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]” Matthew 6:9-13 NASB
Note: when struggling to pray, break down the outline of the Lord’s Model Prayer into its parts. Beginning with realizing that He is FATHER, who loves you and gave His all for you, let each part soak into your hurting soul to direct your heart in prayer for the trouble before you. Add to your praying the heart of Jesus that cried out in His time of agony, “Yet not my will, but THY will be done,” and you have a heart attitude God hears and responds to in amazing ways.
“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.” Luke 21:13 NASB
Speaking of end times, Jesus warns His disciples of the persecution coming to believers. Alerting them to the fact that they will be taken to court for their faith, he tells them to realize the opportunity they have in that situation to bear testimony of their faith.
As I read these words this morning, it speaks to me for the difficulties we face each day. Whether we face illness that threatens our now-life, or whether we are constantly challenged by bosses without integrity; whatever difficulty comes to our day, it brings opportunity to bear forth our testimony by a life of righteousness well lived. Though no one sees but the “cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (Hebrews 12:1), the things that test our resolve bring opportunity to bear testimony that tells the truth about our faithful trust in God.
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT
“By your endurance you will gain your lives. … Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”” Luke 21:19, 34-36 NASB
“The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform (accomplishes) this” – Isaiah 9:7 (AMPC).
I love that we can trust our God. Reading this focal passage in a devotional today has me wondering what scripture has to say about God’s zeal, so I did a little research, and here’s what I found:
God is zealous:
1. For His people (Isaiah 26:11; 37:32).
2. For the establishment of His King – Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7).
3. In His battle against enemy forces (Isaiah 42:13).
4. For the fulfillment of His purposes (Isaiah 9:7; Zephaniah 3:8; & all the above).
Another thing I noticed is the frequency with which His zeal is linked with Him being the Lord of Hosts. That says to me that God is not sitting back, waiting for things to happen. Zeal requires action, and He is actively involved in making sure His desire toward His people and purpose gets done.
We desperately need to see the zeal of the Lord in our day. We can do nothing apart from Him. We need His zeal for a Life that honors Him, fulfills His purpose, and walks in His victory.
Here am I, O God. Let Your zeal prevail and perform Your purposes in and through and around me and mine. Reveal Your zeal for all that concerns us. Pour forth Your zeal against the enemy that prowls around like a lion, set to devour. We look to You, O God, and are helped.
Thank You that You are for us and not against us who are of Your household; that You never leave nor forsake us; and that You are faithful, for You cannot deny Yourself by failing to fulfill Your word or by denying Your Son, Christ in us. We give all glory to You, realizing that Your zeal is our hope and help. In Jesus. Amen.
“You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB
If we are setting a bad example where we are, why do we tend to expect God will give us a position where we can lead others to be twice the hypocrite we are being?
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:7-10 NASB
God does not often put us in the position we desire until we are being that person, living the level of integrity required for it, in the place we currently hold. You want to come up higher? Live the degree of faithful, integrity required now.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25 NASB
People have said in my presence many times that we in America don’t know what persecution is. That very statement proves it – especially of the one speaking. What they are saying is we have not had our lives threatened by people wanting us to openly denounce our God. With that definition of persecution in mind, they are correct. We do not often see that in the USA, though, in recent days, we are seeing a rise in that type of attack. But that narrow definition of the parameters of persecution causes a failure to recognize that all face persecution in some way every day.
“How is that?” you may ask. To respond fully to the how, the question we have to answer is, what is persecution? What is its purpose? What is its underlying resource? One of the oldest texts in scripture answers all these questions and gives them definition through the more subtle attacks we see there, and in our land.
What is persecution and its resource?
We find this answered in Job 1, in the discourse between God and Satan. God points out Job, his righteous life and careful care of his relationship with God, seeking always to please God. Satan questions that loyalty, accusing God of having Job so protected and cared for that he only sought to please God for what it brought to his life. He goaded God, “Remove all his blessings from You and let me at him, and he will curse You” (Darlene’s paraphrase).
Persecution, whether that seen in the life of Job, or that intended when people say we, in America, do not truly know persecution, comes through the resource of Satan, who hates God. It is his attack against God, his attempt to destroy all that God holds dear. Some is the obvious persecution we recognize as we see those who refuse to deny God having their heads removed by those through whom Satan sends his attack.
Thus, in response to the third question, what is its purpose, we see that best defined by the words spoken through Job’s wife in chapter 2:10, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Satan’s whole desire is to get us to curse God, deny Him as God and Lord, and to enter the death that comes when we refuse to fully trust Him.
That brings us to the subtle aspects of persecution that we too often fail to recognize as that. The things Satan did to Job to try to get him to fall away from his “integrity” by cursing God and turning from faith in Him came in the following ways:
- The death of loved ones.
- The removal of wealth, bringing him to poverty.
- Assault against his health, threatening his life.
- The voice of a wife who fell, in her grief, to give voice to his persecutor, Satan, goading him to curse God too.
- The accusations of friends, convinced that some hidden sin and failure to repent was the cause of all his trouble, thus attempting to lead him to doubt his assurance in God.
Any of this sound familiar? I see it every day in our land. In fact, my thoughts today flow to this long understood truth, not only because of my husband’s battle with cancer, but also because of learning of a young, dearly loved woman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is still raising her children, two of them young teens. Her battle against this unseen enemy that wants not only to steal her life, but hopes to steal her faith in God, is well under way. My prayer for her and for her family today is for faith to trust God more. As Job said to his wayward, grief stricken wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Trusting God for me in my husband’s battle means trusting God’s hand of healing, whether it is experienced in this life or the next. It means trusting that God will continue to minister to my needs even if He takes my husband, who is our bread winner. It means trusting that He will help me face the days ahead with strength of faith and assurance of hope.
For my young friend, it means trusting that God has a purpose in all this. That He will help her face these days with courage and peace, joy and hope. That, if He takes her home, He will remain with her family to help them. That He will take up with her children where she leaves off, to help them be the men of God she desires. That He will help her husband stand firm of faith and be the daddy her kids need; and that God will meet him at his greatest needs.
We all hope healing in the here and now for her and for my husband. But true trust acknowledges that we cannot know all God sees in what He is doing and allowing. Trust knows that His purpose is eternal good, and His plan will succeed in accomplishing what is best for all concerned.
Our journey, whatever the struggle that comes, is made easier when faith stands firm on trust in God. That trust wins the battle against all the enemy can throw at us. That trust is what our loved ones need to see most of all, so whichever way God’s plan takes us, they are helped to have the resource of our example to help them carry on. May we be found faithfully trusting God.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 NASB
“And Ananias said to Paul ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” Acts 22:14-16 NASB
This Matthew call to go and make disciples still speaks today. Note: it does not say, “Go and make converts.” A convert, untaught, will too easily fall away (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). The work has only just begun when a person turns to Jesus, as it is more than telling about Jesus. The true call is to help each seeker grow to become a true disciple-believer, learning and growing as a Christ follower that bears His image and stands the test of time.
We are to help others become a disciple maker. In so doing, we will one day see the Righteous One face to face. As we fulfill this call, knowing it as God’s will, our hope is to hear His voice say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Be more than just a believer. Even the demons knew Jesus was the Son of God: The Very God incarnate; one with Father and Spirit, but their belief did not change them. We must be a disciple, continually being made new as we grow strong in Christ.
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” ~ Matthew 4:19
“Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. ~ Matthew 9:9
And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. ~ Matthew 10:38
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 3:12 NLT
A FB friend wrote a post on this Philippians passage encouraging us to possess the full treasure of God’s grace and provision to, in, and through us, (see link below). My thoughts in giving an example of possessing all that is ours through Christ, flows out of hers. I’ve probably posted similar before. In this day and age, with the trouble we see in this world, I cite Paul:“Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.” 2 Peter 1:12-13 NLT
On to our example of possession:
We are called to love as God loves. If we are to love others as He loves us – unconditionally and incorruptibly, then we must fully possess the love He provides us to walk out.
God IS Love. He loves out of who He is. His love is not dependent on who we are or what we do. It depends fully on the fact of who He is; thus, Jesus paid the full price for ALL and the grace available through that sacrifice of love is held out as a gift to receive and possess as one’s own.
The only thing about God’s love that is dependent on us is the degree to which we choose to receive it. Once we receive His Love, He has provided for us to possess that same love ability as our own through His Holy Spirit. As we possess and work out of that fruit of the Spirit expressed best in Galatians 5:22-23, we love as He loves, out of WHO WE ARE IN THE SPIRIT we possess for ourselves as He possesses us.
He provides love for our possession so we may BE LOVE on His behalf, being His love to those He places in our sphere of influence on any given day. Thus, love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is not something we have to learn. It is something we possess as our own, flowing out of THAT which flows into us. And we possess it by letting God’s Holy Spirit fully possess us.
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:6-10 NASB
When we possess Him who possesses us, things like bitterness, hate, and unforgiveness find “no room at the inn” of our heart’s dwelling place.
On this journey to consider truths we need to practice, as we work to take every thought captive and bring them in line with the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), our first divinely, powerful spiritual weapon is the possession of true joy that rests securely in the Lord. Joy in the Lord protects us from walking contrary to Him. It is not dependent on circumstance; and nothing can steal that joy away from us when we work with God in taking every thought captive to follow the example of Christ in obedience to Him, and in the likeness of His. Continuing to consider the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13, we come to verse 5:
“…Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. …”
I see two truths here necessary to our arsenal of weapons equipping us to bring our thoughts in line with God’s ways. One is our attitude or temperament in life situations, addressed here in the call to work out of a “gentle spirit”. The classic Amplified translation defines a gentle spirit, giving other words used in translating that phrase:
“Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].”
Walking in a gentle spirit requires us to be unselfish. Consider the impact selfishness has on our thought processes. We cannot accomplish the will of God or work well with others when we care more about our own desires, needs, and comfort than we do theirs. Being unselfish equips us to work with others in harmony, as it leads us to be considerate of them, their needs, and their opinions, while bowing to the will of God.
Walking in gentleness also requires us to be forbearing. Forbearance means tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation, bearing the fruit of patience toward others. It realizes that no one is perfect, and we all have habits and ways of doing things that differ. Gentleness practices understanding patience in our ability to let others be who they are without constantly insisting we have things done our way. Forbearance is self-controlled, knowing how to motivate and influence others without belittling them.
Our ability to control our attitude and temperament greatly affects the way we think in a situation and toward others. The second thing Paul adds here to motivate us, is that we are to remember that the Lord is near. There are two potential interpretations of that. One shared in the Amplified version is that we must realize that the Lord is returning, thus, we must take care to live in a way where we are ready for Him when He gets here.
Another interpretation of the Lord’s nearness is the realization that God causes His Spirit to dwell in us, to teach us and help us live in that readiness for the soon returning Christ. Wherever we are, in whatever situation we are in, recognizing the presence of God with us and His work in us, and surrendering to that, equips our representation of Him and His interests. We bear the fruit of gentleness when we relate with others out of this realization of His presence in us through the Spirit, living in ways that reveal understanding that Jesus is returning.
People are watching, beloved. They need to see us responding to life situations in line with the nature of God at work in us through the Spirit that indwells us. Our thought life very often affects our attitude and temperament. Surrendering to the Spirit’s nudge to remember gentleness, being unselfish and considerate, while practicing forbearance toward one another, strengthens our arsenal against bad attitudes and temper flares. In this way, remembering we are His representatives, we live in readiness for His return.
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off” ~ Isaiah 55:12-13.
Continuing with yesterday’s focus, this promise is awesome as well. Yesterday we saw that, as we practice walking the word out into life, God’s promise instructs us that in seeking His Word, opinion, perspective on our journey and walking His instruction out, His Word lived in and through us will fulfill its purpose. Reading on in the Isaiah 55 passage God promises in today’s passage that we will go out with joy, and be led by peace as we trust His Word (Colossians 3:15-17, See in AMPC). True joy and peace are intimately linked to trust in, faith in, reliance on, and confidence in God, who always does what He says He will do. He fulfills His word.
God also promises in this passage that all of creation will rejoice over our obedience to live God’s word out. That tells me that, when we are truly and fully following God and all others shun us for it or try to discourage our course, we have a cheering section in God and all of His creation. (Luke 19:37-40)
Finally, our passage today bears a promise that took a little research to fully understand: We will see the thorn bush replaced by the cypress, and the nettle replaced by the myrtle.
Thorn bush is easy. Get pricked by a thorn, and we move away from that place in a hurry. It is a deterrent from drawing near. Sin is thorn bushes that hinder our drawing near to God. As God removes sin from us, He is removing the thorn bush that is standing between us and the intimacy He desires for our relationship with Him.
Replacing the thorn bush with Cypress: the Cypress most often mentioned in scripture is a tree. It is open, inviting one to draw near, and it provides shade for comfort, enticing us to sit and rest under its branches for a while. It pictures a close, welcoming relationship with God.
Nettle has leaves with prickly hairs that cause an allergic sting. The sting of sin hinders our relationship with God, inflaming God against us. Sin inflames our relationships with others. Trouble and fear increases with the sting of the nettle. The allergic sting of sin comes to those who fail to align with God’s Word.
Replacing the nettle with Myrtle speaks of healing: Myrtle is one of the first NSAIDs, a pain reliever that aids against inflammation. Healing comes to hearts, relationships are restored, and strength increases for a life abundant and full. Myrtle can be used as a tea. I see a seeker of God, sipping that healing cup of tea, while enjoying the presence of Jesus in intimate relationship.
The promise of God for us who actively seek to walk in His word, is that we will find welcome as we draw near, receiving comfort and respit under the shade of His provision and healing from the pain and inflammation caused by sin: one’s own, or that of this world.
“… Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” ~ James 4:1-10.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” ~ Isaiah 55:6-11.
WOW! This speaks to me the vital importance of us making sure to seek the Lord for right thoughts that are in line with His, leading us to right ways on the paths of His choosing. Coming in line with God’s way of thinking on any issue of life, while recognizing thought as being the words in one’s mind that dictate beliefs and actions, such a practice walks in this promise of God. When God’s thoughts, found in scripture and raised up as reminders to direct our paths, dictate our own with trust in His word to us leading us to walk in His ways, this passage promises us that His word flowing to and in us will accomplish His purpose.
Taking every thought captive in Christlike obedience, we walk in the Light as He is in the Light. In that way, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 John 1:7).
Walking God’s word out in our lives assures us of a successful journey that fulfills His purpose in us.
“But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the Holy Spirit of God really dwells within you to direct and control you. But if anyone does not possess the Holy Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God]” ~ Romans 8:9, AMPC.
When we truly belong to God, Galatians 2:20 tells us “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. He does that by the power of the Spirit working in us to make us more Christlike (godly), more what God intended from the beginning of creation when He made man and woman to bear His image. The Holy Spirit moves in to direct our lives to bear His image, but He will not force us to follow His dictates. We still have choice. By choice, we must choose to surrender our fleshly ways in order to lay hold of and possess the Spirit within who instructs and empowers us to live God’s way.
One passage that tells us what that looks like is Galatians 5:22-23, where we are told the fruit born in us, as we possess the Spirit through surrender to His lead: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. One example of our possessing the Spirit is in our love walk. Through scripture, we learn that God is love. His love is not dictated by how happy He is with our behavior, but it is dictated by who He is: He is love. Though we fail Him, His love toward us continues, because He is faithful and He cannot deny Himself (1 John 4:8; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Timothy 1:13).
As we possess the Spirit of God, who brings His image to us and empowers us to possess His nature, we too will love because we are as He is: love. Scripture teaches us how to possess this love through a few “Let love” passages, love being one flavor of the fruit born out of one who possess the Spirit of God and is possessed by Him.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” ~ Romans 12:9, NASB.
This verse, to me, speaks the call of God for our love to be like His, not dictated by the actions of others, but dictated by our possession of His Spirit, as we allow the fruit of His Spirit to grow strong in us.
“Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT.
To love as God loves is the greatest goal we can have, empowering us to deny self and serve others’ needs without hypocrisy. One teaching on Galatians 5:22-23 says that love and self-control are bookends that hold all the other flavors of the fruit of the Spirit in place. Without love as God loves and without self-control, we cannot truly possess joy or peace, as every evil that strains love and self-control will rob us of it. We cannot practice patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or gentleness without a love like God’s love that, by self-control, denies self and chooses to practice these glorious attributes toward others, even when they are not being as we think they should be toward us. Love with self-control as powered by the Holy Spirit fully possessed in us, enables us to maintain joy and peace while continuing to minister patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness to others, even when they struggle to do the same in return.
“Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you [never let it fail]” Hebrews 13:1, AMP.
God is love and He requires us to love others in likeness to Him. For us to truly accomplish that goal, we must deny self, possess the Holy Spirit of God, and cooperate with Him in bearing the fruit that proves He lives in us with full authority. That authority is twofold: God saying, “Yes, that is my child. Fill them to overflowing, pouring Yourself through them”; us saying, “Yes, I choose God through Jesus and surrender to Him. Fill me. Be mine, and make me His. Empower me to bear His image by pouring Yourself through me.”
Whether by way of practicing and possessing the fruit of God’s Spirit in us, or the gifting He gives for our service and ministry, our unity with the Spirit of God is vital. That unity is a symbiosis, us possessing Him who possesses us. He will not force on us His right over us, but He will fully fill and spill Himself out of one willing vessel, ready to possess all He has to pour through us.
“So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, concentrate on striving to excel and to abound in them in ways that will build up the church” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:12, AMPC.
(NOTE: My husband’s chemo finished, we are recuperating and getting back into a more routine life. Hopefully I can get back to a regular posting here as we do. Thank you for hanging in with me. BLESSings, Darlene)
“Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—POSSESSING the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” ~ Matthew 5:8, AMPC.
“Grace. Grace. God’s grace.” Oh how happy we are when we possess full understanding of the blessing and work of God’s grace in us.
This Amplified Classic version of Matthew 5:8 speaks of possessing the happiness of Spirit that comes from personal realization and experience of God’s favor and grace, producing purity of life. That speaks to the importance of each individual of us personally possessing true understanding of God’s grace. We possess assurance of God’s grace through understanding our life of purity in Him by the power of work of Christ Jesus, our Savior.
As people made fully pure when we receive Jesus as Savior, our lives covered by the grace of that supply, Jesus instantly makes us eternally right with God in Christ through the power of His Spirit. The death that separates us from God is destroyed and we are made alive forever in Christ. However, God also calls and equips us in this life to grow in purity as we grow our ability to follow the dictates of the Spirit, thus producing the fruit born out of a life, saved and made whole by grace. Being pure of heart leads us to produce words and deeds that are pure, revealing us as the children of God in Christ. When we fail to produce the fruit of a pure life, the gift of Christ’s purity covers our failure through grace, holding us eternally secure, while working through repentance to lead us back to a life that bears the fruit of purity.
Grace is not a license to continue as we are, living as people dictated by fleshly desires. Instead, God, through grace supplied in Christ, gives us His Holy Spirit to direct our lives as we grow in righteousness: the product of purity. A person who truly possesses grace follows the dictates of the Spirit to live righteously for conscience sake. These produce fruit in keeping with a repentance that reveals the purity of heart graciously gifted to us in Christ (Matthew 3:8; Romans 14:13-23).
Possess God’s grace, beloved, for His grace brings us to true purity of heart, mind, soul, and strength that produces God’s blessing in and through us.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. …And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:21-23.
I truly appreciate the word “POSSESS”. My computer’s grammar checker sure dislikes it. Grammar checking programs often underline the word “POSSESS”, encouraging the author to choose a simpler, more acceptable word. God, however, desires we come into our possession, to lay hold of all He desires and provides for us.
In the past several years, God inspired in me an increased understanding of His call for His people to “POSSESS” and fully walk in all He gives us. Possessing all God calls us to, with the authority He gives us to lay hold on His provision with the full power He supplies, is a vital practice for these troubling days. Learning our authority in Christ and possessing all that is ours to lay hold of empowers us to face each day with the strength of God’s supply. Thinking on this underlined, grammatical undesirable, leads me to my next series of Ponderings: Called to POSSESS.
Beginning today with defining the word “possess”, we come to understand the full impact of God’s call and equipping our possession. Following posts will take us through several passages over the days to come that instruct our heart in all God’s calls us to possess: revealing His good desires for us in this life, and the next.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart” ~ Psalms 37:4.
Delighting in the Lord leads us away from fleshly desires to hearts that desire the good He has for us to possess. The dictionary of English words defines “possess” as follows:
POS·SESS (pə-zĕs′) tr.v. pos·sessed, pos·sess·ing, pos·sess·es: 1. a. To have as property; own. b. To have under one’s power or control. 2. a. To have as a quality, characteristic, or other attribute. b. To have mastery or knowledge of. 3. a. To gain control or power over. b. To occupy fully the mind or feelings of. …. d. To control or maintain (one’s nature) in a particular condition. 4. To cause (oneself) to own, hold, or master something, such as property or knowledge. 5. To gain or seize.
Thus, for the purposes of our study, as we look at all God calls us to possess, the meaning we will apply to this word is to take hold of with power to control, occupy, or maintain in a particular state or condition: to master, as one with authority.
Having these defining parameters, we begin in our next post to look at some passages of scripture that instruct in things God expects us to possess on the authority of His Word, in obedience to Him with the authority that obedience provides us, and in honoring Him as God.
“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]” ~ Psalm 27:8, AMPC.
On the Authority of God’s Word, we seek after and take possession of His good gifts to us.
(Note by way of reminder: My husband is battling cancer, which dictates our calendars right now. I will get each post out as quickly as possible. Thank you for your continued support when time constraints in this season hinders those timely posts. BLESSings to you, Beloved of God and me, Darlene)
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” ~ Luke 6:27-28, NLT.
God speaks this passage as reminder to me today, especially the command to “Pray FOR those who hurt you. Check how you are praying, Darlene.”
People hurt people. There are many causes that lead people to hurt one another, some malicious, some incidental and unintended. Some hurt comes with the best of intentions. We all struggle in various ways that can lead us to carry our feelings as on our shoulders, where the actions and words of others easily knock us around: fear of rejection and other such insecurities. Some carry their “feelings” on their shoulders because they are walking in an ungodly lifestyle, they know it, and they don’t want anyone telling them about it. People who struggle in any of the above tend to hurt those around them out of their own struggle and insecurities. Those trapped in the common sins of our day tend to hurt those around them in the very practice of their lifestyles: drug addicts steal from those they love most; adulterers destroy their own families; etc. We hurt each other, and praying properly for those who hurt us is often a challenge.
What does it mean to pray for those who hurt us? Too often, in praying for someone who hurt me, I find myself truly praying for me: praying selfishly.
“Lord, they falsely accused me. Make them know the truth and apologize.”
“Lord, they stole from me. Make them repent and pay it back.”
Problem is that their heart intent may be nowhere near my comprehension of the truth of their heart. I may have misunderstood their words. I may be reading between the lines and comprehending an accusation they never meant. I may receive insult from actions that truly were not aimed at me as I stepped between them and their target. Praying for others out of our hurt can lead to selfish requests that God cannot answer. Our best, most effective praying seeks the heart of God for His truth regarding the need of the one whose actions / reactions hurt our feelings or did harm to our life, reputation, or sense of security.
We can learn a lot from how Jesus prayed FOR those hurting Him. He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Praying for others realizes truth: Jesus proclaiming “they know not what they do”. Praying for others refuses to give preference for one’s own desire, right, or recompense. Praying for others seeks God and His desire for them. Praying for others focuses on their deepest, truest needs. We all need God’s grace sufficient for us. We all need truth that sets us free from any lie. We all need repentant hearts that seek wholeheartedly after God.
Until we can pray for others, our own heart toward them will fall short of truly loving and caring for their need. Until we can pray for God to forgive them, just as Jesus did, and mean it, our own ability to forgive will fall short. Until we can pray for them to know His love, our ability to love those who hurt us truly will suffer loss. Until we can pray for eyes that see as God sees, compassion will fail us, transforming-truth will escape us, and love will find no roost for new growth.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good…” ~ Romans 12:9-13 (Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; Romans 13:7-14).
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him” ~ Deuteronomy 32:11-12.
God stirs the nest of His child when He is ready for them to move to a new phase of growth and maturity. God stirs the nest, bringing discomfort to our comfort zones. He stirs a nest of our own making when we are in bad company, heading to a temptation that will catch us unawares if we fail to move with His stirring. He stirs the nest of those who settle into a comfort zone that we feel insecure and inadequate to leave; or one we feel accomplished in, not being ready to stop what we are doing. God forces us to leave a nest in order to teach us to fly in new directions, soaring to ever-greater heights of faith and effective ministry. He stirs the nest to wake us to ever-increasing depths of His love and faithfulness.
As we cooperate with God, we grow to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all our heart and mind, not relying on our own insight and understanding, but fully trusting Him alone as God. We grow in faith so that in all our ways we come to know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, believing fervently and fully that He will direct and make straight and plain our paths.
He stirred my nest several times, moving me to a position where He used me for some work He wanted accomplished, amazing me with His majesty in each situation. Every experience of God forcing me out of my comfy, little, just my size nest, I found God faithful and grew to know Him and His ways as I never knew Him before.
In one such experience, in a church I loved and served in for 20 years, I was serving the Lord in leadership areas I long wanted to participate in, thriving beyond my imaginings. Suddenly a sense that I was out of place hit me. It often knocked me off my proverbial feet, as I found my heart sitting before God, wondering what was going on. “Why is my soul disturbed within me” was my frequent cry.
During that time, another church kept coming to my heart. Finally, one day, asking the Lord to direct me, I visited the church, seeking the Lord for confirmation the stirring of unsettledness within me was Him. That led to my change in church just before my beloved Pastor1 in the church of 20 years moved at God’s direction to a new place of service. Trusting God’s stirring of my nest put me in position to jump on board in a leadership role for a city wide, ministerial alliance coordination, gearing for a cooperative evangelistic focus, to get The Jesus Video into every household in our three town/community complex.
As we prepared for the day of distribution, that stirring returned, pushing me back to the previous church for some reason I did not understand. I liked my new church and my Pastor2, and I was enjoying the doors of ministry that swung open for me there. What was up?
Once back in the church of 20 years with its new Pastor3, I discovered that none of the membership knew anything about the Jesus Video project. Our previous Pastor1 started the ministerial alliance in the direction for that Jesus Video Project. The new leadership knew of it, but they were not promoting it to the church for their participation. Realizing the membership knew nothing about the project, when I learned that the ministerial alliance was lowering their aim, planning to get the video out in segments instead of covering the entire area, being unable to afford to do the entire area without the largest church in town helping with it, I made a phone call to the new Pastor3. Visiting with him, I discovered why the video was not on their radar.
Because God unsettled me and moved me back, I was in a position to act as go between. Informing Pastor2, the then-leader of the ministerial alliance, telling him of my findings in my conversation with Pastor3, he was able to address the issue and gain the support of the new leadership. The biggest church in town jumped on board and we covered the entire area with the Jesus Video.
God mightily moved on our behalf, leading us to fully complete the work as He intended when He laid it on the heart of our Pastor1 who moved to his new assignment. That Pastor1 and his wife are still very good friends of mine. I am greatly honored that God chose to unsettle me and allow me such an integral role in His plan for our city, placed in the heart of the Pastor1 I love.
Feeling restless and unsettled? Trust in the Lord and make the leap He sets before you, doing the good He prepared for you to accomplish. It may not be easy, but you can know that He will carry You through to the finish line like a momma eagle looking after her young.
God desires unity for His people, that we may be one as He is One. Our flesh, the ways of this world and demonic influences constantly work against that unity, seeking to destroy the work of God in and through us. The Apostle Paul calls the solution to our relationship issues, the “still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:11), the way that fulfills the law of God (Romans 13:8). Last post, we left our series with the following thought:
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:15.
Realizing and walking in the truth brings healing to one’s own life and makes us more like Christ. Walking in truth accomplishes His work in our situations.
Series on topics like this are difficult to address as we don’t always like seeing the truth about ourselves. We live in a day when many focus on God’s love and grace to the point that we tend to shun any words used of the Spirit to point to sin issues in need of change. This series is disciplining me on my own issues seen in the course of the study, but the blessing of coming into agreement with God in a way that helps me adjust to Him far outweighs the struggle. When my struggle helps others in the process, that fruit born in others is glorious!
Controversy between people is like the old quarters with the gold colored strip in the center. There are two sides to every situation between two people. The truth is in the gold strip between them, found only in seeking God, who knows the heart of each involved. He faithfully leads us to know our habitual responses that promote separation. He helps us to work our way to the gold strip where unity and peace reside. I am thankful for the truth God is teaching me about myself in this series; and I am watching for His word to come to pass that He highlighted for me in promise for the produce of this series:
“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” ~ Psalm 102:18.
I read this promise and I see families, friendships, and churches working their way to healing that will have an effect on future generations, leading to their worship of God. Thus, we continue today to our conclusion.
Have you read the scripture that talks of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17)? When we have a habitual sin that causes trouble and separates us from God, as well as from others, God often puts people in our lives that rub that area raw. His purpose is to help us let go of old ways of the flesh and walk in the new, testing / proving our obedience. The question is, will we realize God’s purpose and cooperate with His Spirit in taking off the old to dawn the new?
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” ~ 1 Peter 1:22.
Truth purifies the soul, making us fertile soil for God’s love to produce a crop through us. There are two things I find God constantly working on me to accomplish: one is my ability to forgive as He forgives. The other is my ability to love as He loves.
The ability to forgive is vital to a love relationship that lasts. Forgiveness must be from the heart as God forgives. God, our example, taught me long ago to forgive “for my own sake” as He does (Isaiah 43:25 Note that Israel was unrepentant when God professed His grace toward them).
The purpose of choosing forgiveness “for my own sake” is so we can move on in life, be all God desires, accomplishing His work as one who is truly able to love even those who hurt us. Our choosing to forgive protects from bitterness, anger, and other emotional snares that hinder love, destroy relationship with God and people, and rob of effectiveness in ministry.
God is our hope and help in every relationship issue. He desires our unity, especially with those who are brothers and sisters with us in Christ. Our true enemy is our own sin nature that opens us to the influence of demons and principalities that work against God, separating brothers, and destroying our witness as God’s people.
In any discord between people of God, we see that battle continue when we fail to realize the true enemy and wind up fighting against each other. The enemy of our soul realizes our fleshly impulses that lead to discord and makes sure, when relationship issues come, our minds keep returning to “what they did to me.” Therefore, when we have a habit that makes us vulnerable to God’s enemy, God puts iron in life to sharpen and hone our character.
The love God calls each to possess as His child is a type we can freely give even to those we struggle to get along with. That love desires what is best for those we love, seeking to help them achieve all the great potential God places within them, leading them to God, and encouraging them to come up higher in Christlikeness. That love is unconditional: not hindered or harmed by insult. It is also incorruptible: it does not act unbecomingly toward the object of love, nor lead the one loved into sin. The very heart of a factious nature seeks to lead others to disunity for ungodly reasons that oppose love.
The love God calls us to possess in likeness to Him does not keep a count of all we believe a person has done to hurt us, bringing that back into play every time a new situation arises. Love, coupled with forgiveness given for one’s own sake, deals with the situation at hand, puts it to rest (RIP), and wipes the slate clean. This is healing, and this series pictures a love-walk God can use for His glory.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” ~ Jude 1:24-25.
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” ~ Jude 1:16.
When a disagreement with others that gets contentious, our flesh getting out of control of the Spirit, we tend to grumble and complain about others involved, finding their every flaw, blaming them for causing the problem. Desiring to believe oneself in the right and true of heart (lust of our flesh), we see things as we want to see them (lust of the eyes), telling others of the situation from that viewpoint (boastful pride of life). Without the Spirit to correct our course, our flesh desiring others to agree that we are right and the other party wrong, we will tell our side with flattery meant to win the advantage.
Seeking God for a more clear understanding of this flattery as seen in a divisive situation, He sent me to the dictionary:
Flatter ~ To show off becomingly or advantageously. Give an unrealistically favorable impression of.
In other words, flattery in the context of our discourse means to make oneself and one’s own actions sound better than they are in order to gain approval. It makes sense that when we are refusing to see our own flaws that add to the discord, we would speak all that we want to believe true of self, desiring others to agree that the other party is at fault. Going to the scriptures for increased understanding, here is what I find:
“They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak” ~ Psalm 12:2.
The problem with this flattery when we are a true child of God: the Spirit will not allow us to get away with ignoring our own sin nature and habits. Every time I tell my side from a flesh-driven viewpoint or think my thoughts, bitterly blaming the other party, thinking more highly of myself than I ought, the Spirit nudges me. In that instance of my thinking and telling in opposition to the Spirit’s nudge of truth within, I am struggling with a double or two-faced heart. It is not until I sit still before God and sincerely ask “What?” that I can find the truth in myself that brings the repentance that heals a breach of relationship.
“A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin” ~ Proverbs 26:28.
This says to me that in refusing to seek the Spirit for truth, not only does my false understanding and representation crush those I come out against, but it crushes me. When I am walking in sin, refusing the work of the Spirit that convicts “concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8), I hurt myself, putting a wall between my God and me.
I can do nothing apart from God, beloved. Without God working in me, I can’t mend the proverbial fences, repent and change my ways so as to be a better person, or truly forgive and love those around me as I should. Healing in any contentious situation must begin with me coming into agreement with God’s view of the issue by getting still before God, knowing Him and His ways, so that I can adjust to be as He is in truth and in deed.
“He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue” ~ Proverbs 28:23.
One thing this speaks to me is our need to keep the situation between the others involved and me alone. I am not to go around destroying the reputation and relationships of others with my viewpoint. Any complaint I have must be addressed only with those I have the complaint against. Bringing other people into the situation only makes it worse, as we put the other party in a defensive position. When we do sit down with the other person, it is vital to come with a heart set to speak the truth in love, and to have ears attuned to hear their side of things.
Part of this “sitting before God” means considering the complaint on the other side, seeking God to reveal if there is any truth in their viewpoint, with willingness to make amends where needed. Now, I have been in situations where there is no truth in the complaint, only miscommunication and misunderstanding. In those instances, God instructs in ways of clarifying truth. When the other person continues to believe the lie, He instructs to entrust the one choosing to believe the lie to Him. He also frees us from the condemnation that is from demonic sources.
Seldom is there no fault of my own to deal with in a situation. If I am truly seeking God and honest with myself, He will show me my habits that lead to discord. Knowing the truth about my own bad habits that lead me to cause a relationship issue is vital to healing the current situation and to avoiding future encounters from the same type of harmful, inappropriate actions / reactions.
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:15.
True love requires truth within us. True love cannot exist in a lie. Truly loving others requires that we seek to know and understand truth about ourselves as well as about the situation and others involved. Next post concludes our study as we look at the love-walk that honors God as God in our fickle, fleshly, relationship issues.
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” ~ Jude 1:16.
Thus far, in covering actions and heart attitudes that cause divisions because of our being worldly-minded and devoid of the Spirit in an instant of action, we see that grumbling and faultfinding must be overcome by gratitude to God for the good in others and for His purpose fulfilled in times of trouble.
I read a quote yesterday that said, “God tests our obedience while the devil tests our faith” (Kristina Seymour). Trouble allowed by God comes to test our obedience to Him, while the devil intends it to prove the weakness of our faith and to tear down what we do possess of it. When discord hits our relationships, if we look closely at our hearts in the leading and power of God’s Spirit, at the center of every argument we will find ourselves given-over to some area of lust: God testing, proving, and disciplining us in areas of sin that easily entangle us.
In 1 John 2, God’s Word warns us, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (verses 15-17).
How does this fit our topic? I believe that in every argument each party involved believes they are completely right because they desire to be right (lust of the flesh). Their desire to be right colors their way of looking at the issue so that they cannot see full truth and admit to themselves how they are adding to the discord; instead, they see what they want to see (lust of the eyes). That leads to speaking out arrogantly, believing their position to be righteous and the other’s position set completely on falsehood (boastful pride of life). Statistics reveal that in most all controversy there is a right and a wrong on both sides of the issue. Failing to see where our understanding and actions are false, we speak out arrogantly, hurting our relationship with God and man, doing harm to our witness as a child of God in the process.
Believe me, this is a major struggle in my life. As one who struggles with a fear of rejection, I hate when I do something worthy of rejecting. A person who struggles with this issue I’ve heard called “a spirit of rejection” will go one of two ways in life: they will be a person who participates in the rejection by accepting all blame and beating themselves down in agreement with their accuser; or they will stand up and fight even when they are wrong. I stand up and fight when what I need is to…
“Be still, and know that I am God…” ~ Psalm 46:10.
Scripture tells us that the heart is deceptive above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). Because of our desire to be right and seen in a good light, we tend to lie to ourselves rather than seek the Father, who alone knows the hidden things of our hearts and can lead us to truth, repentance and the “still more excellent way” of love (1 Corinthians 12:31 ~ Read on through chapter 13). We can avoid much controversy and argument if we will get still before the Lord, trust our heart to Him, let Him speak truth to our heart, and trust Him to direct our path and our mouths to a right and true response. In this way, we come into the leading and power of God, avoiding actions and words that are devoid of Spirit.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” ~ Proverbs 4:23.
I can tell you from experience that I can truly turn to seek the Lord, and in the same step / breath, stumble over my flesh. In the midst of a controversial issue, standing guard over ones heart is vital to success in saying and doing the righteous things. This is the struggle, one Paul portrayed so well in his discourse found in Romans 7, “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from the shackles of this body of death? O thank God! He will! through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then indeed I, of myself with the mind and heart, serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (verses 24-25, AMP). Thus my heart cries out day and night…
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” ~ Psalm 139:23-24.
“These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” ~ Jude 1:19.
Who are “these” our author refers to? Verse 18 says these are “mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” Verse 16 defines those ungodly attributes that produce division:
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”
Here we find warning, alerting us to watch against grumbling, fault-finding, feeding one’s own lusts, speaking arrogantly, and speaking to flatter with hope of gaining an advantage. Acting out of these worldly-minded habits that are not Spirit led and fed, we cause division. Taking action to avert these habits protects unity and heals relationships.
Grumbling and fault-finding
If we learn little else in the books of Moses, we learn how destructive grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding are to ones relationship with God and other people. These habits fail to see what God can and will do in our situation; they refuse to appreciate the good He does and accomplishes for us; and they deny any good in those around us. A focus on the negatives seen in grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding robs us of the ability to find, know, and appreciate what we have in front of us.
During a time of difficulty in our marriage following the death of his mother, the negatives my husband exhibited snared my mind. I learned later the things he was doing are commonly seen in men grieving the loss of a mother. God gradually revealed how my grumbling mind and mouth were hurting the situation. One day, He clearly led me to purchase one of those two-year pocket calendars. He instructed my heart to write in each day something I saw to appreciate in my husband. By the end of a year, I had a new appreciation for my husband, my thoughts focused on his good attributes. Reading the year’s entries, I found 365 different positives about my man. God inspired me to give the calendar for him to use the second year. He told me later that he made his entries keeping his time in his calendar section, and then he read what I wrote on that date the previous year. During that year, he determined to major on those things I appreciated in him. That calendar remained in his lunch box, safely kept in a Ziplock bag, for five years of daily reading. God restored our relationship by changing my focus, and I found my faith in God strengthened by the experience.
When we fall to the habits of grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding, we leave our First Love, failing to trust God and the good He works through our days of struggle. In our complaint, we become part of the problem instead of the solution, pushing people away or causing factions to form a line of dissenters with us that dishonor God. Making the choice to focus one’s mind and heart to discover the good God has hidden within our situations and the people around us equips us to serve as His instrument for healing, unity, and peace.
Wow. I thought I finished this series, and then God spoke again through another passage and added to my understanding of the factious, divisive spirit that grabs hold on us and leads us away from God’s Light and the peaceful unity found there. Beloved, in any divisive situation, it is never one-sided. There are always two sides, pulling away from each other, trying to win a battle.
In the previous 5 devotional thoughts we covered the following thought patterns that are found in the mindset of one ensnared by a factious spirit: 1) the desire for those they tell to agree with their position in their situation with another, thus causing the hearer to feel they must pick a side; 2) holding to a truth that is closed off to hearing the other side of the issue; 3) refusing to seek the whole truth as God sees it, missing out on the Light of God that leads to the peace of unity; thus 4) a factious mindset is snared by the old flesh, the old nature’s way of thinking and being.
There are factious people we are to stay away from completely. We are to avoid and stay away from people who continually lead us away from God and His ways, as in the false teachers spoken of in the Titus 3 passage and in the one we will begin looking at today. God condemns those who would deliberately lead us away from Him. However, if the enemy of God cannot lead us away from believing in and following after God, he will stir up strife between God’s followers in order to divide God’s people. In this way, that enemy of God weakens our effective service to God, separating us from Him in less obvious ways. This divisive spirit is the one I am addressing in these blogs. He tears apart the fellowship of family, friends, and fellow believers. Such division stems from failure to come under God’s light where we find full truth and unity, and it fails to love with God’s unconditional, incorruptible love, thus falling away from God as His image-bearers.
Why write on these things? God never leads me to write things without leading me to evaluate my own life and ways in the area He reveals to me. The things that speak to and help me personally are the things I write about. God desires us to evaluate ourselves truthfully now, so we may come into His likeness and avoid the judgment to come (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Romans 12:1-3; Hebrews 4:12). Throughout the writing of this series, I have had to look at myself in each area, and repent for my own failures.
The passage we start devouring today speaks clearly to me of my own habits I tend to fall to, causing and adding to division; and it warns me of others I must be alert to. We cannot change to be more like Him if we are unwilling to evaluate ourselves and come to stand in agreement with Him in the light of His word. When we refuse to see as He sees, acknowledge our own sin within, thus, continuing to walk in divisive ways, God says:
“These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” ~ Jude 1:19.
Worldly-minded actions dictated by fleshly lusts flow from the life that, at least in that moment of divisiveness is devoid of Spirit. God showed me how, recently, I sought Him for direction in a situation, but when it came to implementation of the wisdom given, my flesh got in the way. In that instant, despite the Spirit’s warning, I went my own way, made a situation worse instead of better, becoming devoid of Spirit in that moment of surrender to the desires of my flesh-man. Shifting away from the Spirit to follow my flesh, I perverted the way of God before me, fell to my own sin nature, and stand self-condemned. Praise be to God, who disciplines me, bringing me back to Himself through His Word, by the Spirit and blood of Christ.
Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines His children, and that discipline proves our position with Him as His Kingdom People. God proves we are His when He does not allow us to get away with our fleshly, old-nature behavior. God’s discipline comes through His word that instructs us in righteousness.
As we continue this series on overcoming a factious spirit, we will look closely at this Jude passage touched on above. There we find an outline of potential characteristics found in a person given to being divisive; to which I cry:
“Ouch, Lord! Father, forgive me, a sinner apart from Your grace found in Christ. Set me free in Christ to be in His likeness so I do not give myself so readily to the lust of my flesh. In Jesus, amen.”
“[As for] a man who is factious [a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions], after admonishing him a first and second time, reject [him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him]” ~ Titus 3:10, AMP.
Answering the question, what do we do about a person that we love when a factious mindset threatens the relationship? How can we reject a contentious, divisive fellowship without leaving the relationship? To answer that, I think of the things God taught me over many years of dealing with my sweet daddy.
In his later years, my daddy suffered depression and paranoia common to aging. He was hard of hearing and often misheard or misinterpreted things. That fed his paranoia, leading to discord with family members. His actions and attitudes became factious, as he freely shared his beliefs about “what people are doing to me”, based on his misunderstanding of truth. There was no consoling him, and no changing his mind about the things he believed. It was very difficult some days to be around him. But I love my daddy, who is now with the Lord, and through that time of dealing with him, God taught me another way to reject the factious fellowship.
- First, realize the truth of the person’s mental, physical, and emotional state. What is going on in their life that is wearing them down? What is going on that may have them constantly meditating on the false information, further feeding the falsehood? Put yourself in their shoes and get a little compassion flowing toward them.
- Try to speak truth to the situation if you know it, in an effort to console, impart wisdom, and give peace, with hope of correcting the misunderstanding. Point to God’s ability to reveal truth and heal the situation.
- If they will not be consoled, try to change the subject.
- If they keep returning to their complaint and you cannot get them off the subject, excuse yourself with promise to return another day.
- Do not participate in a lie that is feeding discord. We tend to want to let one sharing their contentions have their way and pretend to agree with them hoping they will go on to some other topic of discussion: I.e., saying, “Yeah, that was horrible for them to do that,” when we know the other person did not do the stated deed. That just gives fuel for a factious spirit to use in breeding more discord.
Dealing with people in my dad’s situation, where they truly do not realize what they are doing and the harm it is bringing to relationships can be difficult. Those who do not have a mental issue causing them to behave factiously can be even harder to cope with; but if you want to maintain relationship without taking part in the divisive misinformation, knowing when to leave the conversation and change the subject is crucial.
So is watching oneself to be sure you are not inadvertently adding to the problem by talking with others about the situation with your loved one, inadvertently participating in the battle with a factious spirit of your own. In another situation where a person would not believe I did not do the thing accused of, they shut me out of their life. In my own hurt, when people would ask me how that person was doing, I would respond, “I don’t know.” Dependent on who it was, I would tell why I did not know, “They believe I did something I did not do and have shut me out of their life.” Then one day God inspired my heart to quit telling people about the other person’s insult to my heart or talking about the problem. He instructed that in doing so, I was hurting their reputation and relationship with others, and the reliving of the account was keeping the scab ripped off my own wounds. Following God’s instruction freed me to work toward loving that person anyway.
In another situation, I thought the other party was hearing me incorrectly. Then I realized that I said just what they said I did. With that revelation, it was time for a very sincere and heart-felt apology, first to God, and then to them. God reveals the truth. When He does, we must be ready to deal with it appropriately so that healing and restoration can begin.
Beloved, in whatever situation you find yourself, seek the wisdom of the Lord in dealing with it. Find truth as God sees it. Realize people’s life situation and their tendency to return to old coping mechanisms when wounded. Give yourself that same courtesy, realizing that we learn coping mechanisms over time, and may be walking in old ways that fail to glorify God. Find the truth as God reveals it and walk in the fellowship of His light, learning new ways of coping and dealing with such trouble. Be a peacemaker where you can, shining the light on God and His word, coming into agreement with Him. And most importantly, remember, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).
“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]” ~ 1 Peter 4:8, AMP.
“The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! He knows the truth, and may (God’s people) know it, too! …” Joshua 22:22, NLT (author’s translation).
In any divisive situation, each person often acts and reacts out of their pain and woundedness. When that happens, we miss the full truth of the current situation, stray from the Light of God, and fall prey to a divisive, factious spirit that is out to steal, kill, and destroy our ability to live together in love, acceptance, and grace. Overcoming that enemy requires us to seek God and His ways. Coming into His Light, we are to seek understanding of truth, repent where needed, and give grace that restores fellowship. Too often, however, our flesh gets in the way of our victory in Christ:
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” ~ Romans 8:6-8 (read verses 1-8).
Another reason for a factious spirit getting a stronghold set up between us is our refusal to follow the dictates of the Spirit of God. When a factious mindset so gets ahold on us that we cannot, and will not reconcile with another – forgiving the insult, forgetting the injury and pain of it, and going forward in grace and love – we dishonor God. When we refuse to see the separation caused by our falling back to fleshly ways in a controversy, we follow the dictates of our flesh and, denying the work of God’s Spirit of Light, we refuse His direction for our paths.
If the Spirit of God shines a light on something within me that is causing my problem with a friend and I refuse to deal with it, I follow the dictates of the flesh and grieve the Spirit of God. If God reveals to me the truth of a friends situation that is causing them to behave in an unacceptable way, and I refuse to give them grace and show love in helping them wherever I can, I follow the dictates of the flesh and deny the leading of the Spirit.
“The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward GOD.” When we refuse to follow the calling and direction given us by God’s Spirit, we stand against Him.
The verse in the first of our series on recognizing and dealing with a factious spirit said this:
“Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” ~ Titus 3:10-11 (read verses 1-11).
This rebellion against God is, I believe, the reason God tells us to reject a factious person: reject their message, reject their ways and attitudes, and especially reject the dictates within one’s own flesh that leads us to respond inappropriately in a divisive encounter. A factious spirit leads us away from God, and indeed, stands hostile to Him. Participating in that puts us in opposition to God as well. We think we are in discord with another person, but when we refuse to follow the teaching of God as peacemakers, we stand against Him. The Amplified Classic version of this Titus 3:10 verse says this:
“[As for] a man who is factious [a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions], after admonishing him a first and second time, reject [him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him]” ~ Titus 3:10, AMP.
Scripture warns us that bad company corrupts good morals. There are times when it is best to leave a relationship than continue on with one that constantly brings us to fall to our flesh. There are also times when we love and care for a person who is given to a factious nature or who has a mental or physical health issue that is causing them to be paranoid and given to complaining about others. We cannot “remove from fellowship” by leaving the relationship when it is a person we care for and those who are within our sphere of responsibility to look after, like my poor daddy who suffered with paranoia for many years. What are we to do then? There is a way to remove ourselves from such unhealthy fellowship without removing ourselves from the relationship. See you next post.
Thus far, we covered that a factious spirit that gets hold of our mind and emotions is one that says, “I need someone to agree with me.” It is a spirit that fails and often refuses to open itself to seeking and finding the full truth of a situation. Defeating this tendency requires us to realize that the only one we need in agreement with us is God. He knows our hearts and if He does not convict or condemn us, then we stand righteous before Him.
Overcoming discord requires us to seek to understand our own thoughts and feelings, and to know that we stand pure of heart before God. Restoration requires us to seek to understand the thoughts and feelings of the others involved in the conflict. Today we discover that successful effort in this accomplishes the main work of a peacemaker.
Reading on from yesterday’s scripture:
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” ~ 1 John 1:5-7.
As I read this passage, God’s Spirit reminds me of something He recently inspired me to understand about the true role of a peacemaker. The number one characteristic of a peacemaker, in the way God intends it, is being a person who can walk in the light of truth, and help others do the same. These seek and find the truth of a situation, seek and find the truth of God’s will and way, and bringing all under that light, they seek to lead all parties to find the unity and fellowship we have in Christ and His truth. The true peacemaker seeks after and leads those around them to come to The Light, making amends wherever truth reveals the need, thus restoring fellowship with God first, and then with man.
1 John 2:7-11 says, “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Fleshly indulgences, worldly ways, and Satanic influence is darkness that seeks to separate us from God, His Light, and those we love, especially from other believers. When we set our minds and hearts on our own version of truth, refusing to seek to understand others and bring a situation into God’s Light, Satan attacks our minds and hearts with thoughts that feed our false understanding, giving approval to fleshly indulgence and worldly ways. He takes us ever deeper into his pit of despair and discord.
We cannot develop a true and lasting fellowship with others unless we are willing to come into God’s Light with them. When we sit together, with ears attuned to hear their heart, eyes focused on seeing their situation and need, and hands ready and willing to give that healing touch of love, we get to the heart of our issues. There we find that any problem between us is seldom a one-sided problem, and often we find the truth of it to be not what we thought it was.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned” ~ Luke 6:36-37.
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” ~ 1 John 1:1-4.
I love this passage of scripture. This is one of those passages of scripture that speaks my call in ministry, to write the truths God teaches me concerning Himself and His Word. It tells me to write what I hear, see, look at intently so-as-to know with true understanding, and the things I touch or am touched by in life that teach me about God and His truth: the Word of Life. The things we learn from all our senses, touched by God in life, we are to share with others, finding fellowship through the truth of God and His ways. This sharing and the unity it brings is joy made complete.
Today, however, this passage speaks to me concerning a second aspect of the factious spirit. Besides wanting someone to affirm their stance as right and good, the person under the influence of a factious spirit wants others to know their opinion of what truth is. Often fearing the other side is talking, they want their side known.
Here is the problem: when an argument ensues that hurts feelings, or that puts people on the spot, etc., truth is seldom on one side or the other of the controversy. It is somewhere between them. In a contentious encounter, we may see, hear, and feel ok, but when our emotions get involved, we misunderstand what we are looking at. That leads us to take action out of an emotional place where our understanding of what is truly happening becomes even more twisted by misinterpretation of what we see, hear and feel.
In any dispute, the factious spirit convinces each person involved that their understanding of the event and the feelings they felt are full and complete truth. There is nothing from the other side to understand in the pursuit of clarity. It says, “My truth is all right and theirs is all wrong.” For example, a person may interpret things they sense in an encounter with another as the other person being angry, when the fuel of discord is actually heartache over past false assumptions and a lack of trust toward the one making false assumptions. Issues cannot be resolved truthfully when dictated by false assumptions and failure to get to the heart of the problem.
In our focal passage, we see that the proclamation of truth known brings fellowship. However, the thing we must realize is that the truth that brings true and abiding fellowship is not the truth I think I know from the situation experienced. The truth that brings true and abiding fellowship is the one that seeks after God and the truth He sees. God sees the heart in all things and He can lead us to it.
Seeking God’s truth that brings fellowship requires us to sit down with one who has a complaint and understand their heart. It requires each party to be open to facing their own flaws. It requires each to practice grace toward the other, knowing we all are a work in progress, “CONTINUALLY being perfected until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). True and abiding fellowship requires a love for God and a love for one another that hates the division that works destruction, and that determines to find the truth that brings fellowship.
When we can make application of the Word of God to our life situations, sit down together, and work toward truth that brings fellowship, we honor God and participate with Him in bringing LIFE to our words. In seeking truth, we replace the factious heart and mind with the heart and mind of Christ.
Yesterday morning, I had a vision that I believe to be from God. Lying in bed, hoping to go back to sleep, eyes closed, in that darkness I clearly see our bedroom filling with white smoke. Immediately following my asking the Lord, “What’s going on?” two angels step into the smoke and lift holy hands to God. I cannot hear what they are saying, but I sense worship in the air and step forward, joining the angel’s song. As I do, the image changes. I see many scenes of people all over the world, running in a panic from something. I get the strong sense that whatever is causing the fear and panic is allowed or sent by God. My heart of worship continues and the vision ends.
Last night, thinking on the vision from yesterday morning, I sought God for greater revelation. As I considered the scene of the Angel’s song, God pointed my heart to the position from and to which all occurred. Noting the position of things, I recognized the smoke, coming from the west, is the sacrifice of praise and worship coming from God’s people. The Angels came up into that worship from the southeast and turned to face due east. All the hosts of God’s creation who believe in and seek Him, were watching for and working to be ready for the King’s arrival.
I said above that I stepped forward to join the Angel’s song. I did not see myself do that. I was not seen in the vision, I was part of it, physically joining in the worship going on. It was a heart movement as I mentally and emotionally turned my focus to the East and began to worship God with full control of my very alert faculties.
As soon as I did that, the scene literally swiped away from the southeast where the Angels came from, to the northwest, being replaced as if seeing the screen of a video swiping up to replace the view of those worshiping God, changing to many scenes in a collage of views from everywhere on the earth.
The first, most evident scene was a woman, climbing a big hill or mountain covered with huge boulders, panic stricken, moving north. The next was a couple in a well-groomed, middle class neighborhood, running in a panic, the man looking over his shoulder to the west where the worship was coming from, dragging behind a woman with a panicked expression. Another had city skyscrapers surrounding many people on the run, with all I can recall seeing looking back as if to escape some approaching enemy, having facial expressions of panic. I vaguely remember scenes including a Japanese style building (a pagoda and huts), forest or wooded areas, and there was more my mind could not focus on before the vision quit.
God told me yesterday that the meaning of the vision would be found in my next portion of scripture reading. I finally got to focus on my reading last night, which was 2 Thessalonians. There, in chapter 1, verses 3-10, God reveals it.
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, AWAY FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AND FROM THE GLORY OF HIS POWER, WHEN HE COMES TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS ON THAT DAY, AND TO BE MARVELED AT AMONG ALL WHO HAVE BELIEVED—FOR OUR TESTIMONY TO YOU WAS BELIEVED” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.
Those who believe God run to Him in every avenue of life, their very being expressive of the true worship of God. Those who do not believe God run from any evidence of His presence and fight against the knowledge of God that makes Him evident.
I believe God is calling all who truly seek Him with a whole heart, desiring and recognizing His presence, to be more overt in our worship of Him in every way that the Scriptures reveal to be the true and evident heart of worship (1). Every part of our being must seek to possess and remain in the presence of the Lord through a holy life that truly and sincerely worships and honors Him as Lord. Those who do not want to know His presence will flee from us because they recognize and do not want the presence of the Lord. We are not to turn from worshipping God, as man pleasers, but as God-seekers, our focus is to be on the presence and power of our soon returning King.
Every act of our worship reaches out to Him as the savory aroma of the sacrifice of praise. Glorify the Lord with every breath, for the day of His return is nigh (very near to us, quickly approaching).
A few passages that instruct in the true worship seen in the saints of God: Isaiah 58; John 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; Philippians 3 (esp. AMPCL).
Reading Genesis 11, the story of Babel, I note anew the reasoning of the people as they plan to build and the rebellion against God found there. In verse 4, the people proclaim:
“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Here they are talking about pooling their resources together to build a permanent residence where they can dwell under one name and stop roaming over the earth. They refused to scatter over the whole earth, choosing instead to become great as one people under one name. This is rebellion against God who told Adam, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]…” ~ Genesis 1:28, AMP.
God repeated this command with Noah, “And GOD pronounced a blessing upon Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” ~ Genesis 9:1.
These people refused the will of God, deciding instead to set themselves up in one place, become great in stature together, and stand deliberately against the call to scatter over the earth, subduing it and making full use of its resources. In God’s response to this rebellion, we see Him doing what it takes to force the hand of the people and set them back on the path He laid out for them.
“And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city. Therefore the name of it was called Babel—because there the Lord confounded the language of all the earth; and from that place the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” ~ Genesis 11:6-9, AMP.
Beloved, God has a plan and a purpose for each of us on the path of life. Part of that plan, the key piece, is that we rely on and seek after Him and His will first, desiring Him above all, and fulfilling His purpose. Anytime we choose self-reliance over trust in Him, we leave the path of God’s desire for us, and fail to fulfill His purpose. God cannot let that stand. He must act as God and be God in the situation; and He is not above doing whatever it takes to set our feet on the path of His choosing.
Is there a difficulty in your life that has you stumbling about in confusion, frustrating your efforts to do what you want? Stop and seek the Lord to discern where you are on the path of life. Are you with the Lord on the path of His choosing? Then fear not. The trouble has a purpose and God has a plan and provision for dealing with it. Have you deliberately walked away from God, going your own way in your own strength to do your own thing? God does not leave us, but we can walk away from Him through rebellion that sets us on a path He cannot allow to succeed.
Holy Habitation with God requires that we get our bearings lined up with His as His people, called by His name, so we are on the path to fulfilling His purpose for us. Take a moment right now to check your position. Are you with God on the path, or have you slipped away?
“He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ James 4:6-10.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” ~ Romans 8:28.
Who of God’s people have not had opportunity to trust the promise of God that He will turn our troubles to a good purpose? The question is, do we have the right to claim this promise?
John Piper, in his revised version of “Future Grace” points out that many of God’s promises to us are conditional. This is one such promise. God does work all things together for good, conditionally, “to those who love God” and “to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Qualification 1) God works all things to good “for those who love God.”
This love we are to have for God, 1) holds love for Him first above all else; 2) proves itself through obedience; and 3) is incorruptible.
We are called to love God first, above all else. My husband knows there is only One I love more than I love him, and that is God. God gets my first and best. Without this, I cannot truly love, nor can I do any good, for God is love, and He alone is good. Only in abiding relationship with Him can I hope to love as He loves or do any good thing. God is the source of true love and we can only accomplish the truly good with His power supplying. That is a good thing for my husband, because, as I keep God first in my affections, then my love for him flows out of my love for God. If we have anything positioned in our life above God, we fail to love God in a way that causes Him to work His good in our lives.
Jesus made it clear that proof of our love for God is seen in our obedience to follow Christ (John 14:15, 23-24; 15:10), practicing the obedience He exhibited as example for us (John 5:19; 5:30; 8:28; 8:42; 10:18; 12:49; 14:10; 16:13; Galatians 2:20). We prove our love for God through our obedience in following Him above all others. A love that keeps God first and obeys Him at all cost is incorruptible and everlasting, not falling away to falsehood or any evil thing. God knows those who love Him in this way will continue to love Him despite every difficulty. He knows they will seek to have His viewpoint for every situation they face in life and that they will watch for the good God chooses to do through those circumstances. He knows they trust Him because they love Him and they know His love always does what is best. So their love remains steadfast even when the outcome of life’s challenges takes turns they may not see as a good thing at the time.
Qualification 2) God works all things out to a good conclusion for “those who are called according to His purpose.”
If we choose to do something God does not call us to do, He is not obligated to work good out of it; thus it is vital that all we do be done in and by the calling and equipping of God. To do less means we do so in our own strength, which will fail us. Doing something even if called to it, but going outside God’s purpose and plan for us, thus walking in disobedience, nullifies His obligation to work good out of our circumstances. Loving obedience within the confines of God’s call to and equipping for us is required if we are to see the promised good from God that this Romans 8:28 promise of God holds for us.
I don’t know if you have ever been on a mission trip, but there are several things I find common to those who go in the calling and equipping of God. Great strength pours through the body of one who goes in the will of God, having God as first love. That power pours forth to accomplish great things, from reaching the masses with the gospel message and love of Christ, to ministering to the physical, spiritual, mental, and social needs of the masses. We often see the miraculous as God’s power pours forth through us, granting us the privilege of experiencing Him as His instrument in ministry. Then we get home and that anointing of His power for that specific time and purpose lifts. Strength seems sapped because that power is not as evident as when on the field for a season of ministry. At the same time, the joy and excitement of the experience spurs the desire for more of the same on the home front.
I believe the disciples, in our Mark 9:14-29 passage for this series, were in this post mission exuberance. They wanted to be God’s instrument for healing the boy, but their faith was resting on their past experience of God’s calling and equipping. They failed to seek God out of love for Him, entering into His equipping for this opportunity in front of them. They were not moving out of the calling and equipping of God, but out of their desire to do the miraculous. They fell to loving the experience of His power instead of truly loving Him, and out of that love, letting His power have control. They came off the mission field too big for their britches, forgot their first love, and found they had only a little power, which proved to be insufficient for the need.
For God to fulfill His promise of working His good into our lives, we must have hearts attuned to Him as our first love: our most vital need and necessity for life. We must also walk in the calling and equipping of God for current situations, with faith firmly resting in what He can and will do through us and for us. Anything less and the good of God may not reach us, His obligation to act on our behalf voided by our failure to fulfill His will through obedience that keeps Him first in our affections.
“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord” ~ Lamentations 3:21-26.
My journey of learning to walk by faith, knowing I can trust God for every need, began with a very small issue that was mountainous to me. A wart on my hand refused to heal, despite every effort.
On the day I was considering the need to go to our medical doctor and let him take care of it, I walked into our living room where a TV program was talking about a little booklet, just out at that time, titled, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” They were talking about the “room” of our heart where faith resides. Struck by the discourse, I went back to the kitchen I was in the process of cleaning, praying along the way for God to grow my faith. The person sharing the booklet suggested asking God to point to a particular need that He would use to enliven our journey to increased faith that fully trusts in Him. Doing so, as I reached into the sink for the next dish, I bumped the wart.
Memory of my mother telling me of a time when I had several warts on my hand came instantly to mind. She said they could not afford to do anything medically for it at that time, so she prayed for God’s healing, and He took care of it: within a week, they were gone. There it was! Revelation of the conduit for my beginning on the journey to grow in faith that fully trusts and looks to God. Praying for God’s healing to increase my faith to trust Him more, I went on with life. Not many days later, again doing dishes, I saw it, my perfectly healed hand. I forgot about the wart after giving it to the Lord and paid no attention until reaching into the water again reminded me. Ever since then, just the inkling of a wart meets with prayers of faith that trusts God. I have not had one wart since. In fact, one threatened to rise up just last week, and it is gone because God is faithful.
My journey of growth to greater levels of faith continues today. Our God is so very great; He is beyond any ability we have to fully comprehend His glory and power this side of eternity. I am convinced that, no matter how strong we grow in our knowledge of and understanding of Him, when we meet Him in eternity, amazement will be ours as we meet a Father much greater than we can ever comprehended in this life. Every situation we face presents us with opportunity to grow in faith as we come to better understand our God. Acts 17 tells us:
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist…” ~ vs. 24-28.
God’s desire is that we grow in our knowledge of Him, and the purpose of every experience under the sun is that we reach for His hand expecting to find it. This is the journey of ever-growing faith.
My husband and I are in new territory for us even now that is giving ample opportunity to seek and find the hand of God in ways never before experienced by us. My beloved husband of over 40 years received a diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer just a few weeks ago. He had no common symptoms of prostate issues, thus the advanced state (Men, it is vital you have a physical every year that includes a prostate exam and PSA lab work). The symptoms he does have pointed to a myriad of possibilities. Addressing the most likely cause first, his presenting symptom went on for 10 months before another symptom finally led to looking more closely at what was going on. So here we are, on a journey that, short of God’s work in my husband’s body, has us facing the reality that his life may end sooner than desired by us.
Seeking God as the shock of the diagnoses of earthly medicine hit, Father made it clear that He is in control. This thing is not outside the scope of His plan nor beyond the reach of His hand. He has purpose in this season and will accomplish it. This is a journey set by God to increase faith in us as we seek the Lord’s direction for each and every step. God’s purpose in this health issues is to give us opportunity to seek Him so we may grow in our knowledge of Him. As we do, we take every opportunity to share the journey in ways that help the faith and growth of those walking with us. You are now part of that group.
In our journey, we are discovering as never before the greatest of faith that cries out as Jesus did, “Yet not my will, but Your will be done.” We seek God, having our desire in the outcome, but we know God’s will is of greatest importance and must prevail, for His purpose will see its fulfillment. The soil for the seed of faith is always and only in the calling and equipping of God available to us in the things that challenge our faith. If we are not in the center of God’s will, reaching for His Hand in any given situation, His power and supply for our ability will not be there to help us. Faith either fails to sprout forth to accomplish any good thing because of immaturity, or because of lack of obedience that fails to receive the nutrients available to us in the soil of life-challenges. Growing and productive seeds for abundant life root out by faith in God, revealed as such through trusting obedience to Him, bearing the fruit of righteousness.
Faith seeks God first, finds His will and way for the path ahead, and walks that path with assurance that He is in control, leading to the outcome of His choosing. Faith trusts that the One who sees and knows all things, from beginning of time to end of days, is working a plan that establishes and accomplishes our divinely appointed role in this life.
All the good we seek to do can only come to fulfill His will and purpose as we grope for Him, finding His hand to lead us to it. Fighting death as if it is the mountain is a waste of energy apart from God’s leading in the fight. Short of the Rapture coming to take us, death is a promise to all human flesh. Death is the natural course of life in this shell we call “body”, and God is the one who sets in place the time and method of our death. Unless raptured, we will all one-day die.
God’s word tells us that He plans the number of our days while there is yet one of them. Before we are born, He knows our hour of death, because He set the course of our life and planned how each breath fits His eternal purpose. Our walk of faith is to grasp for His hand with every step, trusting Him to direct our paths to fulfill the purpose He planned before we were born. Continue in attempts to do what we see as good without waiting on God to direct, equip, and establish our path, and we deplete the soil of the heart, using up resources meant for other things, and missing the mark of fulfilling His purpose.
Depleted soil cannot bear good fruit. That is when our everyday ministry begins to falter as we deplete resources given for it while trying to do more than God calls us to do. Johnny has strength to keep working because God set His feet on the path and Johnny trusts God for each step. He is not fretting over things He cannot control. Though he is putting up the fight against cancer as God leads us to, He knows God is the only one who can bring the victory. God’s will for Johnny’s life will be done.
My husband’s health issue is a huge mountainous challenge in our lives, but it is not the only mountain, nor even the main one. Death being part of life, the mountain to cast away is anything in us that hinders our facing it with faith, hope, and trust in God, knowing He will not allow our death one instant before He fulfills His plan in us. The mountain God reveals to me is most important to Him is the things in us that hinder our faith and rob of strength needed for us to walk this journey well, in ways that glorify Him. Oh how sad it would be to come to the end of our days and fail to finish strong in faith filled obedience to God, being too busy fighting death to live the life He gives us!
One of the biggest challenges revealed so far on our journey is the mountain of my need to control things. My routines are messed up, and my calendar is no longer my own. I know. It never truly was, not if I truly follow God; but all sense of time ever belonging to me to control is falling to the wayside, as we must do what is necessary to travel the path God has us walking. We often get calls to remind of appointments one of his doctors set up without consulting us. The reminder for the appointment becomes the first we knew of it, reminding us that our calendar is not our own: it must rest in God’s capable hands (Psalm 37:23; 40:2; Proverbs 16:9). Household duties and my husband’s work duties pile up as we spend time normally put to those things, running to appointments and tending to health needs.
As we seek God in every challenge Johnny’s health journey brings, God directs us step by step. He is pouring strength to my husband, thus far protecting him from the side effects of chemo and symptoms common to his illness, empowering him to keep working and to get the work done as he gets to it. Hubby’s patience has always amazed me, and his ability to let God be God in this hour is strengthening my own.
As for me, God told me shortly after this journey began to fret not over things that can wait, but pick my battles with His priorities at heart, reserving the energy I need to be the wife Johnny needs in this season. That wisdom and the faith to let God have control, knowing God will provide the energy and ability for each thing in its time, brought down a huge mountain in me as I surrendered my times to God’s care, trusting my days to Him.
“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon You…” ~ Psalm 31:14-17a.
When faced with an issue that looks like a mountain to overcome, the first step is to go to the Father and ask if we are the one to tackle it. The voice of persecution from God’s enemy often comes as a sense of urgency to jump on tasks that are truly unimportant in that moment, only serving to rob of needed strength for things we do need to take care of. We must seek His revelation to know if that thing in front of our eyes is a mountain He wants us to face, and whether it is one to cast aside or whether it is His provision of a place of fertile soil for our spiritual growth and service. His answer fertilizes our faith, making it ready for germination. Planting that seed by trusting Him for each step, following in obedient faith, grows in us the fruit bearing trees that glorify Him.
Knowing our calling and equipping, and having God’s focus, requires a vital and growing relationship with the Father. That begins and ends in prayer: communication with God that earnestly seeks Him with seeds of faith ready for His provision for growth. Seeking Him must be in faith that trusts Him to give the right answer, with commitment to follow the wisdom He supplies without wavering (James 1:1-8).
The question that comes to my attention next is, how do we know that our faith is planted in the fertile soil of God’s making so that mountains fall and good springs forth? Next post we address another difficult thing about God’s word and way that is necessary to understand if we are to see His good worked out into our circumstances. Hoping to see you back here next week as our life circumstances allow me time to write subsequent posts.