Category Archives: Trials

Difficult Times

tough-times-aheadThere is no doubt that we are living in the last days. Many of the faithful have lived in difficult times, but these times in which we live grow ever more evil. The age is materialistic and centered around self and self seeking. The solid foundations of the Truth are questioned in some quarters and zeal is something considered somewhat archaic. The words of Paul to Timothy come to mind:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2Timothy 3:1-5

Now if we stayed with verses 1-4 the description is very apt for the world in general but verse 4 applies it to those nominally disciples of Christ who have a ‘form of godliness’. In other words having the outward appearance of godliness, but not having a true desire in the heart to seek the Truth. Of this ilk are those who will say:

“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Under these circumstances what can those who seek to be righteous do?

The answer to this question applies equally as much to those from any age who sincerely desire to love the Lord their God. We must hold fast to the solid foundation of scripture neither adding to it, nor taking from it, rightly dividing the word of Truth and being very clear in ones mind about what is believed and what is to be rejected. This is exactly what the faithful of old did and it is exactly what we must do in our day and age.

There is a need to be definite and uncompromising in ones stand for the Truth and sound doctrine. Do not follow the crowd, but be willing to stand up for what is right just as did Daniel in his day.

But how should we speak of the true gospel message and the sound teaching of scripture? Well, by speaking the words of scripture, not embellishing scripture overly with personal feelings and experiences, but speaking the Truth in its purity and simplicity. Proverbs says:

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Prov 10:19

And Ecclesiates:

“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” Eccl 6:11

These thoughts apply to all that we do, be it proclaiming the Truth, giving an exhortation or giving a sermon. The whole objective must be to speak the words of God, not propound our own ‘crotchets and quavers.’

How can we then prepare ourselves for speaking the sound words of scripture? Well only by knowing the word of God! Do not be content with the elementary things of the Truth but rather try to understand some of the deeper things. Bible study is essential, but not all are for example inclined towards wanting to study the meanings of Hebrew and Greek words, understanding the ‘signs of the times’, working out the relationships between scriptural characters, knowing the history of the nations and kings or gaining a deep understanding of the furnishings and ritual of the Tabernacle or Temple. These things undoubtedly have their place, but we each have different interests and abilities. Equally of interest and of great importance is to study the life of Christ, comprehend his teachings, understand and develop the fruits of the spirit that Paul speaks of, learn the proverbs and how to apply them in our lives or study the profound subject of prayer. What ever our level of knowledge, interest, or ability every single one of us will benefit from reading the scriptures daily by following the Bible Companion or other method that ensures we read the totality of the Bible regularly. There is no substitute for regular reading, yet not just merely reading, but also thinking about what we read and then putting it into practice. These two aspects cannot be emphasized enough, think and put into practice.

Who would go to college from work to learn more about their job and not then use what they had learned? Nobody would go to that effort and not make use of knowledge gained. How then can the Truth be any different? No, we should the more so act upon it.

Finally we must always remember that we need a balance in all that we do, think and say. Do not discourage by thinking only upon the hardships of the way but consider also to the joys that lie ahead.

The hardships are there, the need for warning always present because of our human nature, but we also very much need the encouragement to persevere and there is indeed great joy ahead. There are promises from God so wondrous in their scope, that they are beyond our full comprehension and appreciation. Paul writes that we shall be made to be like the Lord Jesus Christ:

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Rom 6:5

”…who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil 3:21

Finally by way of encouragement we can think of these words penned by John:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1John 3:2

What manner of love indeed Yahweh has shown to us that we who are but dust are called to be His children. Should we be discouraged by the need for separation and hardship along the way? Should we be discouraged when we fail and come short? No, not at all! These things that befall the faithful are cause for perseverance, joy and encouragement. The trials confirm that we are called of God, that He treats us as His children and that He is merciful. This is the response of faith:

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. “ 1John 3:3

The Blind Spot

blindspotThe human eye is a wonderful thing. Blind people think a lot more about eyes and sight than those with normal vision because it is common to take for granted the many blessings we enjoy and only think about the things we want and do not have.

Most of us are blessed with vision of some degree, yet we all possess what is commonly called blind spots. These are two areas located on the right and left side. An eye doctor can draw the exact size and shape of our blind spot by use of a curved black flannel board and a little pointer with a white dot on it. We can see above and below, in front and behind, but within these blind spots we cannot see a thing.

Spiritual blindspots

Now most natural things have a spiritual counterpart and this is true of our blind spots. A blind person cannot see at all. A normal person can see clearly in most areas but is also completely blind in two specific areas.

We all know extremely intelligent people who have a wonderful knowledge of mathematics or physics, who can explain the workings of intricate machinery, or who are diligent in business and skilful in some sport but who know nothing, absolutely nothing about the Bible and what’s more, they don’t want to.

Religion is their blind spot.

Developing our blind spots!

When we turn our hearts to God, we do not lose our natural blind spots, we just try and make ourselves become blind to different things. If we can only learn to become blind to the evil that is around us instead of focusing our eyes upon it, how wise we shall be. The lust of the eye is one of the three causes of sin and if we can only learn to have eyes for the things of God and not look upon evil, we shall avoid many of the pitfalls that make others fall.

Christians should not overlook what Jesus himself said about abusing the privilege of eyesight. In a passage about adultery Jesus indicated how serious the matter was. Even if we don’t take his suggestion literally, the lesson is clear:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29)

Unfortunately our spiritual blind spots are not limited to evil things. Our blind spots can be those faults which we possess and others can see so clearly and we can’t see at all. We all have them, and if only we can learn to see them, then they won’t be spiritual blind spots any more.

We can change the position of our natural blind spots by turning our head or backing away to get a different slant on things. If only we will train our spiritual vision to compensate for our weaknesses we can avoid stumbling.

Biblical examples

Peter and Paul are outstanding examples of faithful followers of Christ who, at one time, both had a serious spiritual blind spot.

Peter’s trouble was he acted first and thought later! One minute he refuses to let Christ wash his feet and the next he wanted him to wash his hands and his head as well. One minute he pulls out his sword to defend Christ and the next he denies that he even knows him.

Paul, on the other hand, was originally so wrapped up in what he thought was right that he wouldn’t listen to reason. When confronted with the wisdom of Stephen he became violent and consented to Stephen’s death.

Both of these men were rescued from their blind spots by the Lord Jesus Christ.

We all need help

Jesus will also rescue us from our spiritual blind spots if we will but turn to him for help.

Jesus prayed especially for Peter that his faith fail not, and Peter was able to strengthen his companions as well. In the case of Paul, Christ personally appeared to him to convert him and it is interesting to notice that Paul was struck blind for a time. It seemed to take natural blindness to make Paul see spiritual things.

We all have blind spots. We all need to get busy pulling the beam out of our own eye so that we may see clearly. Jesus plainly teaches us that it is the beam in our eye that causes us trouble, not the mote in our brother’s eye. The trouble is that we can see faults in other people more easily than we can see our own!

We need to busy ourselves looking for the beams in our eyes so that we can remove the spiritual blind spots that cause us to stumble.

Fight the Good Fight

fight the good fight“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art also called.” – 1 Tim. 6:12.

It is still true that they who will live Godly shall suffer persecution. To live Godly however, implies earnestness and consequent activity in God’s service.

Remember too, that the Apostle refers to these last days of the age as the most perilous times of all. Why? Because the errors and temptations of this day come in more subtle forms than before. This is emphatically the age of reason; an age of advancement in almost every direction; many are running to and fro and knowledge is increasing on every hand. And yet, human conceit and presumption is running vastly ahead of knowledge; and reason, unguided by the Divine Revelation, is falling into many foolish and hurtful errors, which are passing current among those who profess to be the children of God, who are deceived by these errors and are falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints. And though the great Babylon system is crumbling into decay, multitudinous errors, far more injurious than the formalism and slumber of Babylon, are at work, to build upon its ruins other systems of iniquity.

These errors must be met by the faithful few who are armed with the truth, – others cannot detect or defeat them. It is for these armed with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, to show by its profound reasonings the difference between truth and error, and that God’s plan in God’s way is superior to all the plans and ways of human arrangement. To escape falling into these errors, and being deceived by their subtle sophistries, and by the professions of loyalty to God on the part of the deceived deceivers who advance them, the children of God must keep close to their Father’s Word, and be filled with his spirit; and when they see the truth they must be bold and fearless in its defence regardless of all consequences.

This little army of faithful soldiers, all told, is but a handful, “a little flock;” but though in numbers they are so insignificant that the hosts of the opposers of the truth fear little from their efforts, the final victory shall be theirs; and God’s power will be glorified and manifested in them proportionately more. Like Gideon’s three hundred picked men who feared not to face the hosts of Midian because the Lord was with them, these have but to go forth likewise, strong in faith, sounding the trumpet of truth and breaking their earthen vessels (sacrificing their human nature) that the blessed light of God’s spirit may shine out; and at the appointed hour the hosts of the enemy shall take the alarm and flee. Systems of error new and old shall be turned to destruction, and, as in the case of the Midianites, each shall turn upon the other to accomplish the work of their destruction.

To have the privilege of fighting this good fight of faith and of being the Lord’s chosen ones for the great work now to be done, God’s children, like Gideon’s army, must first be proved – tested. At first there was a host of thirty thousand with Gideon; and when all that were fearful were told to return to their homes, only ten thousand remained, and when God further tested these, only three hundred remained; a little insignificant company truly they must have appeared, not only to the Midianites, but also to themselves. Yet, God’s power was made the more manifest by their smallness and weakness.

JUST SO IT IS NOW.

 

The Crown of Life – Who Will Receive It?

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” – James 1:12.

THE above words of the Apostle James are a part of an earnest exhortation to all the Church of God scattered abroad. “Blessed is the man who endureth [with fortitude] temptation.” Those who do not love the Lord with all their hearts, in whom self or some other idol has first place, will be seduced by the world, the flesh or the Devil into some form of rebellion against the Divine Word or Divine providences. They will have schemes, theories or desires which they will prefer to the Lord’s Plan and way; and their own theories, plans and ways will be found, when analyzed, to be based upon selfishness and ambition or an evil spirit of envy, hatred, jealousy, pride, etc. It is only such as endure such temptations and besetments with fortitude, by the grace of God conquering and subduing the fleshly mind, that will receive the promised crown.

The Apostle here speaks of the final reward as being “the crown of life.” It might be possible to view this matter of the crown of life from different standpoints; for instance, to think of life as being a crowning blessing, on whatever plane of being. Those who will be brought into the Lord’s favor during the Millennial Age will, after the close of that Age, if proven worthy, gain everlasting life. In other words, they will be crowned with a life which will be endless. The Ancient Worthies will have this life everlasting. They will be crowned with life. Life, perfect, unending, is the greatest blessing God could bestow. Then the Little Flock will be especially crowned with life; for they will have life on the superior plane, the life of the Divine nature – the nature of Jehovah; life in the very highest form will be their crown. So we think of all these things as being crowns of life when all have been tested and proven to the end of their course.

THE CROWN ABOVE ALL OTHERS

But we have reason to suppose that St. James is here referring to the Church, the Bride of Christ, the most blessed of all humanity. The Church is now especially on trial. This trial of our love, endurance, faith, patience, is for the purpose of demonstrating which of us will be found worthy of the chiefest of all blessings – the Divine nature, which God has promised to those who love Him – love Him more than they love houses or lands or bonds, more than they love wife or husband or parents or children or self, or any other thing. God will have a reward for others, also; but it will not be this highest crown, which He offers to the Bride of His Son alone.

What constitutes the temptation spoken of in our text? The answer of the Scriptures is that the Lord has said there will come trials and temptations – disciplinings – to those who are His, to develop their character, to prove their steadfastness and loyalty. Without trials and temptations our allegiance to God would never be shown. Self-love might be reigning in our hearts, and we would not recognize it unless it were demonstrated. It is very easy to think how much we love the Lord and how much we would like to do for Him. Then comes the temptation to sloth, and to do something for ourselves instead of for the Lord. It is easy for us to think we love His will, and to sing:

“I love Thy will, O God.”

Then we are severely tried on that line, and we sometimes find out that our love for His will needs yet farther development and greater fixity.

Our covenant with the Lord is to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to live up to this standard in the spirit of our minds so far as we are able by Divine assistance, trusting to the merit of the precious blood to cover our unavoidable deficiencies. Yea, we are to “lay down our lives for the brethren.” The temptation comes to love other things more, to love self more than we love God and the brethren. The Lord permits these trials and temptations and difficulties to come to us. The way we meet these, we think, will have much to do in deciding whether we shall be worthy of the highest crown of life.

THE CROWN OF LIFE AFTER THE TRIAL

“When he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” The expression, “when he is tried,” does not mean one trial merely; but our entire experience is spoken of as a trial, a test of loyalty. Our whole life is a matter of trial or testing to see how sincere we are, how fully we love the Lord, what we are willing to sacrifice, in harmony with our covenant. “When he is tried,” then, means, when his trial is over. Then he will receive the “crown of life.” He will not get it before. That would not necessarily mean, however, that he would get the crown the minute the trial was over – as soon as his sacrifice was completed in death. Jesus slept until the third day before He received His crown. The Apostles and others slept for many centuries before they received theirs.

It does not mean, either, that the very minute or the very day on which the Christian had fully demonstrated his faithfulness to the Lord he would immediately fall asleep or would be instantly ushered into honor and immortality by the glorious change of the First Resurrection. The Lord might have further purposes of usefulness, etc., in regard to His children before their sacrifice would be completed.

So with every phase of our trial and testing there should be a demonstration of our loyalty. Let the trials come, then, and let them continue to come. No matter what our natural infirmities may be, we shall be granted grace sufficient; and we are expected to be loyal under all conditions, at all times, until the end.

 

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" – 1 Peter 3:15