Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Help From The Lord

You have given up your old way of walking in the world.  You now live to serve God.  However, life can be difficult at times.  There are physical battles as well as emotional battles that you face.  But most importantly are the spiritual battles you experience such as temptation or sin or against forces of falsehood and evil.  In all of life’s battles, are you strong enough to be victorious?  No, you are not wise enough or strong enough to win all of life’s battles by yourself.  You need God’s help.  1 Peter 5:5b-7 “’God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  God is not going to automatically solve all of your problems.  But He wants you to cast all your care upon Him and He will help you.

First of all, you must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Your strength needs to come from the Lord.  You must put on the spiritual armor of God.   Ephesians 6:10-18 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.   Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the readiness of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and prayer are elements of God’s armor that you must put on to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might for spiritual battles.

As a Christian, your main enemy is the evil one.  In the model prayer, Jesus prayed for deliverance from the evil one.  Matthew 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.”  The apostle Paul later wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.”  It is the Lord who protects you from the evil one.

Are you aware that God uses His angels for you?  In speaking of children, Jesus said in Matthew 18:10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”  If children have angels, I believe that adult Christians also have angels.  In writing about angels, the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 1:14 “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”  Just because you do not see or recognize angels around you does not mean that they are not there, serving you.  Psalms 91:9-13 “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.  You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.”  The Devil used this scripture against Jesus as recorded in Matthew 4:6.  But I believe this promise applies to you as well.  When you are in the Lord, He sends His angels to guard and keep you.

Depend upon God’s power in your life.  At one time, the apostle Paul wanted to depend upon his own strength, but the Lord taught him otherwise.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Just like the apostle Paul, you must learn to trust in God’s grace and in His strength in spite of infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions or distresses.  The apostle wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Depend upon the strength from Christ. 

Consider the following scriptures.  Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence comes my help?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; he shall preserve your soul.  The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

My encouragement to you is to seek help from the Lord in your battles of life and depend upon His strength.  Jude 24-25 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.  Amen.”

Influence

You and I must be around people of the world.  It could be at school or at work or at play or even at the store where you buy necessities.  When you are around people of the world, their words and actions can affect you in a bad way and you may pick up some of their actions.  For example, if you are around people who are constantly using bad language to express what they want to say, after a while you may also use bad language when you express what you want to say.  The admonition is given in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’  Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”  The evil people that you associate with can corrupt your good habits and make them bad habits.  Do not be ignorant about this possibility and the dangers that others may lead you into error and vice. 

There are multiple areas in your life that you can be improperly influenced by others.  Being around others with bad language can influence you to use bad language, as has already been discussed.  The activities that the world engages in can influence you to follow in their steps.  This could include the games that they play or the entertainment they enjoy, or the drugs that they use, or the evil practices that they perform in secret.  They will try to convince you that what they are doing is not so bad and maybe even justified; they will encourage you to go along with them in their activities.  Also, you may be influenced to accept the false doctrines and beliefs that they hold that are contrary to the word of God.  “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

As the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, they were warned about their relationship with the nations they were driving out.  Exodus 34:12-16 “Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst.  But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.” When you continue to read the history of the Israelites after they entered Canaan, you find that they disobeyed this instruction and time and again they were influenced for evil by the inhabitants of the land.  King Solomon married many foreign women. 1 Kings 11:1-5 “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites — from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love.  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.  For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.”  The Apostle Paul gave the following admonition.  2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

One solution to avoid the bad influence of the world is to minimize your contact and involvement with the world.  Psalms 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”  A blessing is given to the one who avoids the counsel of the ungodly and avoids the path of the sinner and avoids the seat of the scornful.

Jesus did not avoid the sinners.  Matthew 9:10-13 “Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”  You and I are to be the salt and light of the world.  Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  If you totally avoid the world, how can you be its salt and light?  Jesus prayed to the Father about His disciples in John 17:15-16 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

So which is it?  Avoid the world because of the corrupting influence of the world or be a light and influence the world?  Wisdom must be used here.  Never engage in the evilness or falsehood of the world.  If you are influenced by the world, then remove yourself from that influence as much as you can.  If you are able to be a good influence and be a light to the world, as Jesus was, then be that light.  Pray that God will keep you from the evil one.  Maintain a constant vigilance and guard on your life and actions. 

God Is Just

Maybe you have looked at other people who cause you problems or who are engaged in some sinful activity and it seems that they are prospering in spite of their wicked lifestyle.  You, on the other hand, are doing your best to serve God and you know the many problems you face in your life.  Life doesn’t seem fair.  Maybe you wonder if being a Christian is worth it.  You may even be tempted to give up your life as a true follower of Jesus and enjoy the pleasures of sin – to join the other side.  Don’t do it!  Don’t give up. 

Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 “Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”  God is just; He sees all that is happening and justice will be done in the end.  For those who trouble you, God will repay them with tribulation.  The evil ones should fear justice from God; they also should fear justice from the legal authorities of the land.  God’s repayment may be in this life time in the troubles and justice they face here.  But repayment will certainly happen at the end of this earth, when Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.  He will take vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

Consider more about the justice of God.  Romans 2:6-11 God, “who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For there is no partiality with God.”  If you patiently continue in doing good in following Jesus, you will receive glory, honor, peace and immortality (eternal life).  For those who do evil, they will receive God’s indignation and wrath in tribulation and anguish.

Remember the story that Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  The rich man had everything that he could want, but the beggar, named Lazarus, was full of sores and laid at his gate desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  They both died and the beggar went to be with Abraham and the rich man was in a place of torment.  He wanted Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue for he was in torment in the flame.  Luke 16:25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”  This story teaches us that justice will be served in the end.  Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  I don’t want to imply that you or I earn eternal life; it is a gift of God.  Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Even so, do not grow weary in doing good and sowing to the Spirit; in due time you will reap everlasting life if you do not lose heart.

You work for God now; later you will receive a rest.  Hebrews 4:9-11 “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”  Revelation 14:13 “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’”

So don’t give up your life of righteous service to God.  God is just and will make things right for everyone in the end.  Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”  God will not forget what any one of us do in this life.

Love Of The Truth

Have you ever wondered when Jesus will return?  I think it will be soon, but I don’t know.  Only God the Father knows when He will send His Son back to the earth.  As recorded in the Bible, the brethren in Thessalonica thought that the return of Jesus was soon – in their life time.  But the apostle Paul explained that there had to come a falling away first and a lawless one would come and deceive many.  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  It is not my purpose to tell you who I think this lawless one is.  Instead, I want to address the attitude of those who were deceived and followed him.  The apostle says that they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  As a result, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie because they did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

There are many today who do not love the truth.  I will put them into two broad categories.  First, there are those who do not believe in the one true God.  This includes the atheists, the agnostics, and those who worship what God has created.  Romans 1:18-21 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  These suppress the truth about God.  The evidence of God is everywhere and obvious.  Many do not want to believe in God because they have pleasure in their unrighteousness.  They would have to give up their sexual immorality.  They would have to give up their lying and cheating and their materialistic and pleasure seeking life style.  It is easier to deny the existence of God and live as they please.  God sends them strong delusion so that they will believe their lies, because they do not have a love for the truth.

My second category of people who do not love the truth is those who believe in God but they follow false doctrines.  Many people who call themselves Christian fit into this category.  Some are deceived by false teachers.  The Apostle Paul gave the following instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”  These do not endure sound doctrine.  They find teachers who tell them what they want to hear.  They have turned away from God’s truth.  There are many false doctrines in the Christian world today.

Do you have a love for the truth?  Then you must have the attitude of the Bereans.  Acts 17:10-12 “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.  These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.”  The people of Berea tested what Paul and Silas were teaching.  They searched the scriptures daily to determine the truth of the matter.  Since they loved the truth, they found it and believed.  If you have a love for the truth, and you seek for it, I am confident that you will find it.

I believe that God wants you to find the truth.  Therefore, I believe that the promise applies that was given by Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Ask God to lead you to the truth.  Seek after the truth in your search of the Scriptures.  Knock and the door of truth will be opened for you.

The truth can be somewhat painful.  Following the truth may mean that you have to leave what is comfortable.   You may have to leave family and friends behind.  If you have a good and honest heart, and you ask, seek and knock, God will lead you to the truth.  If you do not love the truth, then God will cause you to be deceived.  My encouragement to you is to love the truth and follow it, wherever God leads you.

Edify Your Brother

The assembly of the believers should be important to the believers.  The first disciples after the day of Pentecost were so excited about their salvation that they met daily (Acts 2:46).  While I am not suggesting that you meet every day, don’t go to the other extreme and forsake the assembly, Hebrews 10:25a “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.”  At the assembly, activities include singing and praying and one or more individuals speaking.  1 Corinthians 14:26 “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”  What impresses me is that all things are to be done for edification.  The things that you and I do at the assembly should build us up and make us stronger and encouraged to be faithful and true.  When we leave the assembly, we return to a different environment that can chip away at our faith and righteousness and can work to discourage us.  Your fellow Christian needs you at the assembly for his edification.

The church in Corinth was blessed with miraculous spiritual gifts.  Here is Paul’s instruction to them.  1 Corinthians 14:12 “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.”  While you may not have the miraculous spiritual gifts the Corinthians had, you should still seek to excel in the edification of the church.  You don’t have to be a leader in the church to find ways to edify your brother and sister in Christ.

When you come to the assembly, you interact with your fellow Christian.  Paul told the Corinthians that love edifies (1 Corinthians 8:1).  Does your fellow Christian feel your genuine, deep love?  Are you quick to overlook his mistakes and trespasses?  Do you smile big when you first see him?  Is your greeting from the heart to include your kiss, your hug, and your handshake?  Do you seek to better understand what is going on in his life?  Do you listen and empathize with his trials that he shares with you?  Do you offer a word of encouragement and exhortation?  Do you tell him that you are praying for him?    How can you excel in your love for your fellow Christian?  He needs your love so that he can be stronger in the Lord.  If you fail to attend the assembly or fail to show him your love, he will miss your edification.

Those who speak before the church have a special responsibility.  1 Corinthians 14:3-4 “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”  If you are one who speaks, seek to excel in your edification of the church.  The good speakers that I know spend hours in preparation – you can’t excel in speaking with just a few moments of preparation.  Most of us need study, research, prayer and practice to be good at edifying the church when we speak.  Accept constructive criticism.  I think we all have heard speakers whose presentations provide little edification – don’t be one of those.  Not everyone is going to speak before the church, but if you are one who does speak, seek to excel.

If you don’t speak before the church, do you realize that you can still edify in this area?  You can edify the speaker!  He is a brother who needs edification also.  While he is speaking, give him your full attention.  Afterwards, give him good feedback; thank him for his words.  Encourage him.

Singing should be an integral part of most Christian assemblies.  Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  It is most important to sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.  But you are also speaking to your fellow Christian.  Can you excel in your singing to better edify others?  Sing from your heart and mean what you sing; that will come through to those who hear you.  Do you have trouble singing the music correctly?   Practice and learn how to do it better.  Are you too loud or too soft?  Improve.  Again, song leaders have a special responsibility.  Don’t just choose songs just because you like them.  Choose songs that edify and are appropriate for the time in the assembly.

Prayer in the assembly can also edify; it can build up those who listen to the prayer.  If you are the one leading the prayer, you again have the greater responsibility for edification.  First, be sure you are speaking to God your Father.  Speak from your heart.  Don’t preach in your prayers.  Don’t use a lot of repetition.  You should already be a praying person and have lots of practice in your private prayers to God.  Seek to excel in the prayer you lead in the assembly.  If you are not the leader of the prayer, you can still pay close attention and give a hearty “amen”, as appropriate.

I am not going to address everything done at the church assembly.  But here is the picture I encourage you to have.  Come to the assembly with a goal of edifying your brother and sister in Christ.  Seek to excel in this goal.  How can you help your brother so that he will be stronger in the Lord after the assembly because of your love and what you have done or said?  Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

Patience and Faith

The apostle Paul boasted to other churches about the brethren in Thessalonica.  2 Thessalonians 1:4 “So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.”  How are you with persecutions and tribulations in your life?  Would Paul boast about you?  Or would he be critical of you?

Some Christians endure more persecutions than others.  Brethren in the early church suffered beatings, imprisonment, confiscation of property and even death because of their faith in Jesus.   The apostle Paul certainly suffered much.  2 Corinthians 11:24-26 “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. While some today endure similar persecutions, most of us suffer very little in the way of persecutions.  I recall one time that a co-worker criticized and berated me because I was a Christian.  A fellow believer told me he was treated poorly by his boss because of his faith.  Since you are a Christian, someone may avoid you and not be your friend because of your faith.  If you are really willing to stand up for Jesus, you will likely suffer persecution sometime in your life.  2 Timothy 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Tribulations can be any kind of problem in your life.  They may be health issues or financial difficulties.  They may be relationship problems with your boss or co-workers or parents or children or neighbors or fellow Christians.  Tribulations may be loss of property or accidents that you suffer.  They may be any sort of difficulty that you experience in your life.  Everyone has tribulations in their life.  Life does not go smoothly all of the time for any one of us.

When tribulations or persecutions come in your life, you should respond with patience and faith.  Patience and faith should go together because as a result of your faith in God and his promises, you can have patience in your trials.  For example, He tells you that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”  (See also Hebrews 13:5)  God will be with you in all of your trials, so you need not be afraid.

You can have patience in your trials because you have faith that tribulations develop in you the character that God wants you to have.  Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

You can respond with patience and faith because you know you are a light to others in this world.  They look at you to see how a Christian responds to problems.  Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

You can respond to tribulations and persecutions with patience and faith because you know that life is short and what God has prepared for you in Heaven is worth patiently enduring any problems and losses you face in this short life.  Hebrews 10:32-34 “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:  partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”

What would it look like if you patiently endured persecutions and tribulations?  You would not complain, grumble or whine; you would not get angry, seek vengeance or revile those who oppress you.  You would not blame others.  Instead you would be prayerful.  You would be joyful and filled with praise for God.  You would be like Christ; remember He suffered much.

None of the tribulations or persecutions you suffer can separate you from the love of God.  He still loves you.  Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do you have faith in the love of God so that you will be patient in your persecutions and tribulations?  My encouragement to you is to have faith and trust in God and choose to be patient in your trials.  Look forward to eternal life with Jesus and God the Father.

Growing Your Faith

The apostle Paul gave thanks to God for the brethren in Thessalonica.  2 Thessalonians 1:3a “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly.”  The apostle had started the church in Thessalonica.  He had seen men and women come to believe in Jesus as the Christ.  But now he was witness to a great growth in their faith.  What about you?  Is your faith growing? 

Do you have greater belief that there is a creator God that made everything that you see?  Romans 1:19-20 “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”  When you look at the beauty and symmetry of a flower, when you see the birth of a baby, when you experience the wonderful functions of a human body, and when you observe the changing of the seasons and return of the rain, do you confess that there must be a God?  When scientists search deep within the cells of living organisms and report the immense complexity and amazing functionality that they find, there has to be a master designer; does this strengthen your belief? 

But beyond your belief in God, have you grown to trust Him?  Do you see the fulfillment of His promises in your life?  Hebrews 13:5b-6 “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’”  Do you pray to Him often and seek His guidance in your life?  Do you see His blessings upon you?  If you faith is growing, you will experience that growth in your trust and reliance upon Him.  1 Timothy 4:10 “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” 

Do you need greater faith?  Luke 17:5 “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’”  If you, like the apostles, want to have more faith, my recommendation is to “get into the word”.  In other words, do more reading and studying of the Bible.  Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Read about people of faith in the Bible.  The 11th chapter of Hebrews has a long list of those who had great faith, such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and Daniel.  Read their stories in the Old Testament.  The gospels have examples of people with great faith, such as the centurion asking for healing for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13) or the woman with an issue of blood that touched Jesus (Luke 8:43-48) or Peter who walked on the water (Matthew 14:25-32).  When you read about these people of faith you can see the trials they went through and the result of living their lives in faith.  You can also read about the miracles of Jesus and the apostles or the miracles of the prophets Elijah and Elisha; reading how God worked great miracles through these individuals should also increase your faith.

When you read your Bible you should come to understand some of the mysteries that God has revealed there.  The Old Testament repeatedly foretells the coming of Jesus the Christ.  2 Peter 1:19-21 “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  When you see the fulfillment of prophesies of the Old Testament made hundreds of years before the coming of the Christ, does this strengthen your faith?  When you experience the wisdom and truth of God as it applies to your life, does this strengthen your faith? 

Another way to have greater faith is to be around people of faith.  Romans 1:12 “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”  The church assembly is just one time to be around other Christians of faith.  Find other times to be around brothers and sisters of faith.  Do you know someone who demonstrates great faith?  Spend time with that individual and see why they have faith and how they live their life in faith.

My encouragement to you is to find ways to grow your faith.  Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

What Is Love

It seems that most people understand love to be this warm, emotional feeling you have for someone to whom you are attracted.  But that isn’t the love that Jesus commanded you to have for God, for your spouse, for your fellow Christian, for your neighbor and even for your enemy.  The characteristics of this love are described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”

My encouragement to you is to pick someone in your life that you know you need to love, but you have trouble loving, and then consider the “love characteristics” you should have for that individual.  It can be a man or a woman or a boy or a girl; I am going to refer to that person as “he”. 

“Love suffers long and is kind.”  You are to be patient in spite of the things you may have suffered from him.  He may be inconsiderate or antagonistic.  He may be selfish.  He may talk too much or ignore you and your needs.  He may cause you many trials because of his actions.  Those who sin against you are likely the most difficult to love.  But you are asked to suffer all these things and still love, not merely for a time, but long, without end.  I have found that the best way to love someone who causes you to suffer is to see them as a precious soul that needs God’s love and your love so that eventually they can be saved.  You are to be kind to him.  Your natural reaction may be to fight fire with fire and give him a taste of what he has done to you.  But instead, you are to be kind, that is, gentle, mild, and compassionate – easy to be approached.

“Love does not envy.”  Envy is when you resent him and you wish that you had what he has.  It may be that he has material possessions, abilities, relationships, position or accomplishments.  Love is that you are happy for him and how he has been blessed and you don’t resent him.

“Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.”  This has to do with pride and boasting on your part.  Maybe you have done something well; maybe you have been greatly blessed.  But you don’t throw it in his face and show him that you think you are better than he is.  The opposite of pride is humility.  Therefore, in love you will be humble.

Love “does not behave rudely.”  You don’t act in an inappropriate manner towards him.  You aren’t rude, sarcastic, overly critical or exhibit any action unbecoming of a Christian.  Whereas he may act in an inappropriate manner to you, you do not respond in kind.

Love “does not seek its own.”  In my opinion, this is one of the most significant characteristics of love.  In love you are not selfish but instead you seek the good of the one that you love.  You want his success; you want him to be blessed; you want his salvation.

Love “is not provoked.”  Some versions say “is not easily provoked.”  Even when he acts inappropriately, because of your love, you are not provoked to be irritated or angry or to respond in any inappropriate manner.

Love “thinks no evil.”  You don’t suppose that his good actions have a bad motive.  In love, you don’t miss judge him but think that his actions and motives are good until proven otherwise.

Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”  Because of your love, you do not rejoice when he sins or commits wickedness.  Neither do you rejoice when he receives punishment for his wrongs.  Instead, you rejoice when he follows the truth of the gospel and you rejoice when he is bearing good fruit.  You rejoice when you hear good things about him.

Love “bears all things.”  When the one you love has imperfections or even sin, you do not give up on him; you do not spread to others what you know about his faults.  It is not a matter of condoning wrong, but instead you are seeking his good.

 Love “believes all things.”  You are not distrustful or suspicious.  You believe the good about him because you love him.

Love “hopes all things.”  You don’t give up on the one you love; you hope for the best.  If there is sin in his life, you maintain hope for a change of heart and repentance.  If he commits some doubtful action, you hope that a good explanation can be provided.

Love “endures all things.”  You patiently endure persecution or suffering you receive from him.  Whatever may happen, you continue to love.

“Love never fails.”  Love continues to survive.  You don’t switch off love and go to other inferior reactions in your heart and actions.  Your love for him is permanent until death.

God has love for you with these very characteristics.  I encourage you to have this kind of love for those around you.  This kind of love is very powerful in making you the person God wants you to be and in influencing for good those that you love.  1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  It should be easy to see why love is the greatest.

Without Love

Some people attempt to follow Christ without having love.  But here is what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” For you to have the ability to speak to people of other languages, perhaps without having studied those languages, would indeed be a special gift.  But to go beyond that and even speak the language of the angels would be a very special gift.  To be skilled in the use of language is a gift from God.  But if you do not use this gift with love, you are but a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  This indicates that you are just a noise.  There is nothing of real value in your words for the saving of souls or true edification of fellow Christians. 

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge”.  The gift of prophesy indicates that you have the ability to proclaim the will of God and also have the gift from God to foretell future events.  To understand all mysteries and all knowledge might imply that you understand the meaning of the types and figures in the Old Testament.  You also might understand the figurative language and meaning of the book of Revelation.  You might be a Biblical scholar.  You might understand the secrets of nature, science and the arts. 

“And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  Jesus said in Matthew 17:20b “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” Abraham was a man of great faith when time and again he believed what God told him.  For you to have great faith is an outstanding characteristic.  For you to have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and to have faith to remove mountains but you don’t have love, you are nothing.  All your gifts and faith by themselves are of no real eternal value.  Without love, you will not be a real help to the lost or to fellow Christians. 

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor.”  Material things may be of little value to you.  You are willing to give it all up and let others have your possessions.  “And though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”  You might have a reason for boasting that you were a martyr and gave up your very life for God.  You may do many great works, but without love, it profits you nothing.

Perhaps the apostle Paul could lay claim to most, if not all of these attributes and accomplishments.  He had the gift of tongues.  He had the gift of prophesy and had great knowledge and understanding of the mysteries from God.  He demonstrated great faith.  He lived a life of poverty and was willing to die for Christ.  Certainly, these are attributes, characteristics and works to be admired and desired.  So what if you were like the apostle Paul – one of the greatest apostles?  If you do not have love, the answer is that it profits you nothing.

The apostle Paul wrote this passage of scripture to demonstrate the importance of love in your life.  Why is love so important?  Love is the greatest commandment.  Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’”  God is love; you are to be like Him.  Jesus demonstrated great love for you; as a follower of Christ, you must be like Him in love.  Love binds Christians together.  Love motivates the lost to accept the salvation of God.  Love is the fulfilling of the law.  Colossians 3:14 “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

My encouragement to you is to seek to cultivate love in all areas of your life – for God and for Jesus, for your family members, for fellow Christians, for your neighbors, for you enemies, and for the lost.  Without love, you are nothing.

Test All Things

There are millions and millions of people who follow different religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.  Even within those who believe in Jesus Christ, there are many different denominations and sects with different doctrinal teachings and practices.  What are you going to believe?  What are you going to accept?  Many people accept the religion or church of their parents and follow what has been passed down to them.  Others go where they feel comfortable or where there is a good preacher or where they have good programs for the family.  But heed the admonition in 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  Since many false prophets have gone out into the world, you must not believe every spirit but test each to see if they are of God.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”  There has to be a standard against which you can test the beliefs, teachings and practices of a church.  That standard is the words of Jesus and His inspired apostles whose words are recorded in the Bible.  Test the different doctrines by the word of God.

Another test that can be applied is to inspect the fruit of the prophet or teacher.   Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  A person may look like someone you can trust, but if their fruit or actions are bad, then you can confidently reject their teachings as well.

Look at what the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”  Even in the times of the apostles there were false teachers who held to heresies.  One such group was the Gnostics; part of their belief was that Jesus did not come in the flesh.  The Apostle John wrote about them in 2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”  If there were heresies in the first century, it should not surprise you that there are many heresies in the modern churches that call themselves Christian.  Based upon the writings of the early Christians in the second and third century, some of the doctrines taught by modern churches today were considered heresies by those early Christians.  The Apostle Peter taught that some of the heretics were motivated by covetousness.  In other words, the false teachers were motivated by worldly possessions or money.  Some of that is true today.  But there are also many very sincere individuals who are following false practices and false doctrines today.  What should you do?  “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)  Test the different doctrines by the word of God.

The Apostle Paul described a major heresy that was to come.  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  I am convinced the same principle applies to today.  If you do not have a love of the truth, God will allow you to be deluded to accept false teachings.

The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy to hold on to sound doctrine.  2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”  Those with “itching ears” are those who find teachers who tell them what they want to hear.  I trust that you do not have “itching ears.”  Love the truth and test all teachings by the word of God.  Follow sound doctrine.

My encouragement to you is to love the truth and “test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)