TO FAMILIAR

Mark 6:1-6

BRIEF INTRO:

Ever heard the expression: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” That phrase’s meaning is plain: The more extensive knowledge or association that we have of someone or something typically leads to a loss of respect for them. That is what we witness in our following study. Jesus was simply “to familiar” to those in His hometown that they could not OR would not believe Him to be anyone OR anything remotely more special than themselves. Matthew 13:54-58 shares a similar account.

This familiarity also tends to lead to boredom with a person or thing because we have too much experience with them and know what to expect.

This study may not be full of profound doctrine or theology, per se, but it does provide two essential things for us today:

  1. It reveals the unbelief in those closest to Jesus and why.
  2. It gives us a warning to check our hearts, so we don’t make the same mistake.

Jesus went out from there and *came into [a]His hometown; and His disciples *followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and [b]the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man learn these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, and such [c]miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of [d]James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

FOCUS ONE: To familiar in his hometown, so they won’t listen to his wisdom

Jesus was consistent! His custom was to teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Matthew 4:23). Jesus was compassionate towards the people and wanted them to come out of the darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He humbled Himself, even to the point of death; death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). And how much more compassionate might He be in His hometown among His friends and family?

We are told that they recognized positive characteristics in Him (wisdom, miracle-working power). *”They acknowledged the two great proofs of the divine original of His gospel – the divine wisdom and the divine power, and yet, though they could not deny the premises, they (would not) admit the conclusion.”

As astonishing as these things were, they would certainly not make them think of Jesus any differently, especially as divine. “Is not this the carpenter. . .” They saw Him as a peer who did menial labor as they did, so they were not impressed with His humility.

Even though they were astonished (ἐξεπλήσσοντο), they weren’t moved to belief! That Greek word I have above comes out of two words: ek (out of) and plesso’ (to strike). This is a powerful word 1 “often meaning to drive one out of his senses by a sudden shock.”

They were amazed at His wisdom, BUT because of their familiarity with Him and His family, took offense at Him rather than placing their faith in Him!

Jesus went out from there and *came into [a]His hometown; and His disciples *followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and [b]the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man learn these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, and such [c]miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of [d]James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

FOCUS TWO: To familiar in His synagogue so they won’t submit to his authority and power

They knew His family. And even though they were astonished at His teaching, “they were offended at His person and for that reason would not believe”
Often that is the case with us in our culture today. I witnessed this phenomenon in one or two local churches I was a member in back in the day. Some people seemed to have a hard time benefiting from the speaker (lay speaker in these cases) simply because they knew him and his history and therefore struggled with submitting to His teachings.

What I am referring to is nowhere near the issue taking place in this account of Mark, but it stems from the same rotten fruit: familiarity!

These questions then became derogatory: “Is not this the carpenter” (common laborer). “The son of Mary” (A man was not described as his mother’s son in Jewish usage even if she was a widow, except by insult. CR Judges 11:1-2; John 8:41). “His brothers and sisters” were well known—people of similar circumstances.

So, since the hometown folk could not explain Jesus, His teaching, and his power to do miracles, it led them to take offense at Him, someone not unlike them (in their thinking).

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonored except in [a]his hometown and among his own relatives, and in his own household.” 5 And He could not do any [b]miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He was amazed at their unbelief.

And He was going around the villages, teaching.

FOCUS THREE: To familiar with his relatives, so won’t look to Him for compassion

It is so sad reading those verses. Jesus was disrespected and given no honor in all places in His hometown. We can’t even begin to fathom the childhood of Jesus. Did He get into trouble? Did He have a bad attitude? Was He lazy and withdrawn with His face in an iPhone all day disobeying His parents? Obviously not!

Far from that picture, we would believe Jesus to be obedient, helpful, a hard worker, joyful! The townspeople would have noticed such character as he grew up. They should know that He was different than the other children in many ways. So, it is striking that they would have so much trouble now!

Jesus “wondered” at their unbelief. This word is a different Greek word than what Mark used in verse two. This word is ( θαυμάζω,v {thou-mad’-zo} it means:
1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel 2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration.” It is not as strong a word as what was used to describe the people in verse two.

“There was no limitation of His power, but His purpose was to perform miracles in the presence of faith. Only a few here had faith to come to Him for healing.” it is sad to read that because of their persistent unbelief, “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hand on a few sick people and healed them” (v. 5).

“So far as is known, He never returned to Nazareth.”

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR US:

  1. 1. Are we so familiar with our bible that we don’t spend much time with it?
  2. 2. Are we too familiar with our churches that we don’t attend regularly?
  3. 3. Are we so familiar with our brothers and sisters in Christ that we would rather avoid them?
  4. 4. Are we too familiar with the gospel that we no longer experience wonder at it?

• Matthew Henry
• Word Studies in the NT

WHEN DOUBT ARISES

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Mark 4: 35-41

BRIEF INTRO: After so long a period of teaching, confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, and the multitude’s relentless desire to be near Him, Jesus, say’s to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side,” most likely the east side of the Sea of Galilee. At this time, a “fierce gale of wind arose” (v. 37), which brought with it a challenge to the disciples and an opportunity for Jesus! Jesus, presumably exhausted, falls asleep in the stern (very back) of the boat. 

35 On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” 36 After dismissing the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37 And a fierce gale of wind *developed, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling with water. 38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS ONE: The circumstances

After expressing to the disciples that He desired to cross over the sea, Mark tells us that the disciples began sending away the multitude listening to His teaching, “they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat” (v. 36). In other words, there didn’t have to be any lengthy preparation for the trip. Jesus was already sitting in the boat, and that is how it appears He remained as they set out. 

Mark also tells us that “other boats were with Him” (vs. 36). So, some people had their boats here as well, and rather than leave Jesus as the vast majority of people had to do, they wanted to remain with Him and so followed them in their boats.

A severe storm arises, and the waves overtake the boat; it is “filling up” (v 37). This storm was sudden and dangerous. It shouldn’t be hard for us to understand the disciple’s fear and panic amid such circumstances. Most of us have faced less prevailing circumstances and “freaked out” over them! Like us, these men were human and struggled with fear over the uncertain and ever-changing events of their day. Also, we can add another element to their fear of the waves and subsequent doubt with Jesus’ concern for them. That element would be their (lack of understanding) of exactly who Jesus is.

These men had already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had accomplished. They had listened to and had explained to them many of His teachings (vv.10,34). They should have had a strong faith in Him by now. Worrying shouldn’t be a part of their thinking anymore, considering all they heard and saw. BUT they still feared. Why? 

Simply put: “it’s in our blood.” It’s human nature to fear what we can’t control. But thankfully, for those who are “in Christ,” we don’t have to live any longer as slaves of fear. Even though our un-redeemed flesh is corrupted and seeks to hold us in fear, we have an advocate and Helper, The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 1:13).

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS TWO: The challenge

They doubt he cares for them as the waves rise higher and the boat rocks steeper. They were in a perilous situation, and the only One that could help them was sleeping! Jesus must have been exhausted if the rocking and reeling of the boat did not awaken Him. The “cushion” that He would have been laying on is said to be a sailor’s leather rowing cushion which would have been used to give some comfort to the sailor as he rowed across the sea. 

It seems to be a bit ironic that they would express belief in Him as the One who could save them, but at the same time doubt His concern for them (v. 38)! I guess we’re all like that at times. But that does pose an interesting question for us to muse over: If Jesus is powerful enough to save us from our worst of fears (condemnation and separation from Him forever), why would we doubt His constant love and concern for us from that day forward?

Thankfully, like then, like now, Jesus is in control, and He demonstrates His power over nature by “rebuking the the wind,” AND IT OBEYS! “The wind died down,” and the sea became perfectly calm! Nature is under His control and is instantly placed in subjection to His will. 

40 And He said to them, “Why are you [a]afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

FOCUS THREE: The rebuke

Jesus “ordered” or commanded the wind to “hush and be still,” But He rebukes them for little faith, “How is it that you have no faith” (v. 40)? He asks, “why are you so timid?” He first points out their fearfulness during the crisis and then questions their lack of faith in Him. “It still has not dawned on them that God’s authority and power were present in Jesus.”

They are afraid when His sovereignty and deity are exercised over the events of the storm, showing not only his care for them but His power to protect them. “In stilling, the storm Jesus assumed the authority exercised only by God in the Old Testament” (Ps. 89:8-9; 104:5-9; 106; 8-9). The “who is this” statement in verse 41 indicates that they still did not fully understand its significance.”

Application:

We learn various things about Jesus and the disciples by studying these verses. We learn that:

1. Jesus is patient.

2. In His humanness, He suffered from physical exhaustion and needed rest.

3. Even though it appears that Jesus is not concerned for our well-being, He most certainly is!

4. He is God and exercises divine power and authority.

5. He expects His children to trust in Him always!

6. He expects us cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6).

The disciples:

1. The disciples were slow learners

2. Fearful

3. Lacked consistent faith

4. Doubted the care and concern of Jesus for them

Mark leaves us with the pressing question these men were forced to ask: “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him” (v. 41).

We are more like these men than we care to admit. Let us resolve this day to walk by faith and not by sight, to take God at His word, ALWAYS remembering that He has authority over all things, all circumstances, and is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother!

God’s power to change lives

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Extended reading: Mark 1:21-28

Devotional verse: Verse 27

“Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. ‘What sort of new teaching is this?’ They asked excitedly. ‘It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey His orders!’”

Many people seem to falsely believe that Jesus would never forgive them of their sins. Others erroneously state that they have “gone to far” this time and have forfeited God’s love. But these verses teach otherwise! They are too vile, too horrible for Him to forgive.

They teach us that Jesus not only has the authority to cleanse, heal, and redeem. He also is willing to reach into our lives and deliver us from these things, to pour out His grace upon us and save us from something far worse than a physical disease; the sickness of our sinful hearts!

*“God’s power to change lives was demonstrated as Jesus cast out an evil spirit. If Jesus has the power to cast out evil spirits, He certainly has enough power to free us from the sins that entangle us. We need to recognize our problems and sins, confess them honestly, and call out to Him for help.”

Delay no longer. Call out to Him, and you will find grace greater than your sin! What is the gospel?

*Some parts adapted from the “Every mans Bible” NLT

GOD OF OPPOSITES

As I sit in my warm home on this cold, snowy day, I have been reflecting, remembering so many things that I have asked God for in prayer. I dare say that I did not receive many of those things, at least in the manner I expected. By reading my title, you may be thinking that I am a bit sarcastic or negative regarding my expectations of my Heavenly Father; I assure you that I am not being so minded.

I often tell people, well, at least those close to me, that in my experience, God has proven to be a “God of opposites.” When I say that to them, I only mean to express how He answered my prayers, most often opposite of what I thought would be best for me! Have you experienced this at all in your prayer life? 

I pray for one direction, and He leads in another. I ask for healing, and He allows me more time in my immobility. I pray for more godly men to rise in the church and serve Him, and He works in such a way that some leave the church. I ask for this or that, and He sees fit to give me something else or nothing at all.

Years ago, this troubled me. I struggled with praying at times because it seemed futile. I often thought and even joked with others that perhaps I should pray for the opposite of what they ask me to pray for on their behalf. Maybe then they will have a better chance at receiving their petitions!

I have learned over the years that God does answer my prayers in far better ways than I could have dreamed of. He knows my frame, my thoughts, my needs, my heart, and with such divine knowledge, He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

He knows when my motives are impure. He knows when what I am asking for is not truly what I need at the time. He knows what purpose He has created me for and is actively working to equip and strengthen me for the road ahead. 

However, there are still times when I pray for things near God’s heart, things He tells us to pray for in His holy Word. Things like unity within the body; souls being saved through the church’s ministry. And yet, these things do not seem to happen, and the months, perhaps years of praying, affect no difference. I may be sounding critical to you again, but honestly, that is not my purpose. I am not alone in this area of prayerfulness. I have talked with and counseled others struggling with the “why” questions. Why does God tell me to pray for this or that but does not seem to answer those prayers? Why wouldn’t He grant these requests? After all, He tells us to pray to Him for them? Why would He allow such adverse outcomes when so many pray for godly ones?

I am older now than I once was and have been graciously redeemed for the vast majority of my adult years, and I still do not have an answer to those questions. I do know that He is sovereign over all things. His character is goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, justice, holiness, forgiveness, and much more. And as such, He is unchangeable! That is where I draw my encouragement to keep on praying, asking, and petitioning. I am not God, and the Bible tells us that He is not like us; His thoughts are far above ours. Whatever He is doing OR not doing (from our perspective) ultimately results in “the praise of His glory.” 

He will receive glory in and through all things, and He is worthy of such praise. I have learned in my short life as a Christian what Charles Spurgeon stated so well:

“When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must trust His heart.”

THE GOSPEL PREACHED

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                              Philippians 1:12-26

Study 3 

BRIEF INTRO:

I want to focus on the word “trust,” as we begin because even if you’re not a pilot or a skydiver, trust is something that every one of us has to exercise every day. We exercise it by getting into our cars to drive to work each morning. We exercised it by sitting down in our chairs at the kitchen table this morning, trusting they would hold us up. Trust is at the core of what it means to please God and to follow Jesus. The Bible says we are to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).

Have you ever thought about what it means to trust in God? The words “trust,” “faith,” and “believe in” are all synonyms. When the Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), it’s another way of saying, “Trust in the Lord.”

Trust is an integral part of a living, ongoing relationship. Trust means knowing someone well enough that you can count on that person and then acting in accordance with that trust. Believing, having faith, trusting are the fundamentals of life with God. Trust, however, does not come naturally for most of us.

Today we’re going to look at a time in Paul’s life and ministry where his faith in God was tested beyond its normal limits and how “faith” was worked out and matured through his temporary afflictions.

By way of reminder, Paul is writing this Epistle (letter) to a group of people in Philippi, a group of people he had not seen for about five years. Paul founded this church in Philippi about ten years earlier (50 AD). Their love for him and participation with him in the gospel fostered a profoundly loving relationship between them.

Paul is writing with much joy and love in his heart for these people. And in his salutation, what we meditated on the last time we were together, we found Paul, with this frame of mind and heart, expressing his love and joy for them. He wants them to be encouraged that God is a completer!

And now, Paul begins to explain his prison circumstances to these beloved people, not to cause worry or fear, but to give them greater encouragement to persevere in the faith, or as he says in verse 27, so they may “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my [a]imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the [b]praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brothers and sisters, [c]trusting in the Lord because of my [d]imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

FOCUS ONE:

1.  God is sovereign over our afflictions 

To understand this rightly, we must first understand what it means to be sovereign. 

This is part of what it means to be God. For God to be sovereign means: “There are no limits to His rule. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we as Believers should feel most reverent, most secure, most free.”

This is undoubtedly on Paul’s mind as he writes this letter. The thread that entwines this whole letter together is Christ and His Gospel. In chapter one alone, Paul mentions Christ and His gospel or some aspect to either nine times! And in these first verses, we are looking at we see this evident even in Paul’s prison sentence.

Paul is in prison because of the “cause of Christ,” as he puts it. He is not there because of violence, thievery, embezzlement, murder, or any crime that would warrant such a penalty. He is there because he is obedient to Jesus Christ.

“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.” 

― Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

But, take notice of what he tells his readers about his situation, he says it: “turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” He wrote that not only the reality of him serving jail time was well known (quickly passed through the grapevine) throughout the whole governor’s palace but also the reason he was in prison!

Now that is not so unusual in our day. Cell phones, the internet, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like make for gossip and essential news to travel extremely fast, but that is a fascinating point in his day.

And what was the result? Notice verse 14 again, many people came to faith in Christ DUE TO his being in prison! And not only that, they had “Far more courage” to speak the word of God without fear! Not what we anticipate would happen if we were to be thrown in jail.

Do you trust in the sovereignty of God over ALL your circumstances, even the scary, fear-filled ones? Have you considered that He can use your “God appointed” afflictions to work out for the “greater progress of the gospel” in the lives of those around you?

Dear unbelieving friend, I want you to see that no matter where you are, no matter how bad you have been, no matter what your circumstances, God sends His people to those places to reveal Christ to you! He has, and still does, give his children gospel ministry in even the darkest and most hopeless places. So, grab hold of Him as many people around Paul did.

15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even [a]from envy and strife, but some also [b]from goodwill; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition [c]rather than from pure motives, thinking that they are causing me distress in my [d]imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.

FOCUS TWO:

God is sovereign over the gospel

Now, even though the gospel was progressing amidst Paul’s hardship, strife was ever-present. 

Take notice of the two motives Paul mentions for the gospel going forward.

A. Envy and strife

B. Goodwill

“He rejoices that Christ is proclaimed. But some of the proclaimers are sinning as they proclaim, trying to afflict Paul by making him feel jealous that they are free while he is in prison. What is more astonishing is that this sinful behavior is just the opposite of the way the gospel itself would incline a person to act. So, they are hypocrites. They preach the gospel and then contradict in their very motives the gospel they are preaching.”

The one response that of envy and strife is a hypocritical approach to sharing the gospel. Paul says these people were doing it “out of selfish ambition,” not out of love for Christ and appreciation of the salvation He graciously bestowed upon them. 

Their goal was to cause him distress, believe it or not, upon the grief he was already facing being imprisoned and limited in his freedoms. But the others, those of goodwill, shared Christ out of love. Love for Paul, love for their savior!

Brothers and sisters, we should be cautious to keep our motives in check in regards to our serving Christ and sharing His gospel. Are your motivations pure for telling others the gospel message, or are they hypocritical? 

Are you sharing the gospel because you genuinely want to be obedient to Christ? Because you love Him and those other sinners He came to redeem, or are you sharing the gospel, participating in an evangelism ministry, because you are worried about what other Christians might think about you if you didn’t?

The only pure motivation for sharing the gospel is a love for Jesus Christ and what He willingly and joyfully accomplished for you and me at the cross. 

Now don’t miss this fantastic fact that Paul tells his readers in verse 18:

“No matter what, in pretense (for show) or in truth, the gospel went forward, Christ was proclaimed!”

How can that be? How can the gospel be effective in such a place under such circumstances? The short but accurate answer–God is sovereign over His gospel!

19 for I know that this will turn out for my [a]deliverance through your [b]prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 [c]But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [d]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy [e]in the faith, 26 so that your pride in Christ Jesus may be abundant because of me by my coming to you again.

FOCUS THREE:

God is sovereign over our lives

God’s providence concerning his being in prison and the gospel being proclaimed there, “for show or in truth.” In verses 19-21, Paul is expressing his faith in the providence of God. Notice he says that it is his “earnest expectation and hope,” That even in those circumstances, Christ, as always, would be exalted in his body whether by life or by death.”

How can a faithful minister of the gospel, in prison, have such confidence? How can he trust (that word we talked about when I started this post) that God would use him and be exalted by using him even if it means his demise? Well, that has to do with rightly understanding the “providence” of God.

What is the providence of God? Here is the answer of the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27): It is:

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”

And why is that important for us to grasp? Why was that critical for Paul to believe? What good will it do? Here is the answer to question 28.

“That we may be (patient) in adversity, (thankful)l in prosperity, and for what is future have (good confidence) in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.”

What joy, dear Christian, how God is sovereign over our afflictions, sovereign over His gospel, and here in these verses (22-26) Paul reveals how He is in control of our lives.

a. Hard pressed from both directions/competing desires

b. Be with Christ (death) or remain on here (life, ministry)

c. Remaining will be “fruitful labor,” (22)

d. Remaining is more necessary for the Philippians (24)

e. To be with Christ is “very much better.” (23)

f. Paul’s love for these people is evident in these verses.

Well, Verse 22 is a clear follow-up to verse 21. Paul is picking up on his first clause (to live is Christ), Paul is assessing what its outcome will mean for him in the body (literally “flesh”), namely, fruitful labor. An opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. But, it would be a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. 

But rather than follow that up with a similar sentence (“if it means death”), he jumps ahead to reflect on what he might do (if he, in fact had a real choice in the matter.) “I simply cannot say,” “I don’t know which to choose.” he says; indeed, I am torn between the two, since it means Christ in either case.” (Gordon Fee, amended)

Paul says that he is “hard pressed,” the Greek word used there is “sun-echo” means to be hemmed in on both sides and was used of a traveler in a narrow passage or gorge, with a wall of rock on either side, hemmed in, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight.  

And so, Paul expands upon the options of life or death. One commentator puts it this way: “If he continues his sojourn on earth–“But if I live on in the flesh”–then he sees it as an opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. Again we see Paul’s strict single-mindedness (the mind of Christ)–he saw himself as an instrument for the unleashing of God’s glory as long as time permitted (cf Acts 9:15). However, this unleashing would be a costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. So appealing that he adds, “yet what I shall choose, I cannot tell (lit.–I do not know).”

Paul’s point seems to be that he had not yet decided which to choose because the Lord had not yet made it known to him which to choose. Because he was not sure of the Lord’s will in the matter, he was not sure of his own.

Have you ever felt that way, Christian? Do you think that way right now? Have you come to a place where you have lost your zeal, your faith is waning, the conflicts all around you are seemingly impossible, and you want to -if-you-haven’t-yet, cried out, “Lord, take me home, I am more than ready.”

I want to encourage you with this quote:

“If God has done what you think he should do, trust him. If God doesn’t do what you think he should do, trust him. If you pray and believe God for a miracle and he does it, trust him. If your worst nightmare comes true, believe he is sovereign. Believe he is good.” 

― Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist

Don’t give up; trust Him and wait for His will to be revealed to you.

POST ELECTION THOUGHTS

It’s a crazy and uncertain world that we live in and that truth stands out even more clearly to us each election cycle. I have sat back, as all of you have I’m sure, and watched the election process for the next president of the United States take place. I have, along with all of you, been riding the roller coaster of emotions up and down and have gone through many twists and turns, finding myself a bit nauseated as the ride comes to its end.

Whichever side your on; Republican or Democrat, the end result has far reaching consequences. As a Christian blogger I tend to think of things through the lens of a biblical worldview: from God’s perspective more so than my own. I am truly thankful that by His grace I am one of His redeemed, and through His Word and work in me by the Holy Spirit, I am able to see things from His perspective. That helps me cope with a lot of things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.

Can I be honest with you? I am struggling with the very real potential (possibly a reality till I post this), that a worldview far different than my own may be leading our country forward. As a Christian I do not see that as a good thing. (Click here to see the issues at stake in the current election). https://7waysfromsunday.com/2020/10/26/our-current-dilemma/

What am I supposed to do with that? How are we as followers of Jesus Christ expected to handle this potential outcome and the years that follow? Should I, as lady Gaga (who rode a garbage truck in front of Trump tower protesting) do the same at Joe Biden’s home?  Should I pull up my roots and move to another country as some have pledged to do? Maybe I could fall down in the middle of the street in my hometown and have a major breakdown, screaming “Noooo,” as someone with no hope, like one person did at Trumps 2016 inauguration.

Realistically, I can’t respond that way and neither can you. We are a people who have hope and that hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ! Come what may, we know that our God is in control and we trust in His providence over all things (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19). So, where do we go from here if our Father in heaven decrees it so that someone else, some other party, controls the reigns of government this upcoming year? God, in His Word gives us the answers that we are searching for:

Remember, God removes and establishes leaders. Daniel 2:21 teaches us that our sovereign God is the one who not only has the authority to change times and seasons, He also has the wisdom and authority to raise up new leaders and remove the old.  Paul taught the Roman believers that: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1-2). As a child of God I know that He is faithful and wise; I know that His thoughts are far wiser than my own. His ways and means of doing things will not always agree with what I think in any given situation (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that is ok, I trust Him, will you?

Respect and obey governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to be in “subjection” to the current authorities. Paul does not qualify that in any way. Whether we are in the same party or not we are to respect and obey its role over us. Remember, God allowed this change and He requires His children to conduct themselves as “faithful ambassadors “ while living under this temporary civil structure. To resist, Paul states, puts us in the place of “opposing the ordinance of God,” and that is never viewed as a good thing (13:2). Our obedience is not blind. When obedience to civil authority requires disobedience to God’s Word, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately, we are not to be a people who fear such authority, God ordained it to be, as Paul says: “a minister of God to you for good” (13:4). So, let us be diligent in promoting and helping our leaders in their role of restraining evil and protecting life and property, while trusting our Heavenly Father with the outcomes.

Reevaluate our prayer lives. We are to be a people that prays. A people that entreats and petitions God on behalf of all men and that includes “kings, and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether we like the leader or not. Whether we agree with them or not, we are to be praying for them! This may be hard for some of us at first, but you will find doing it a blessing to your soul. Pray that our leaders would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Pray that their laws would be in accordance to God’s stated purposes that we find in His Word. Pray that God would use these leaders in such a way that we as Christians would be able to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (vs. 2). In other words, that we would not have all kinds of external disturbances that would hinder us from being the church: Proclaiming the gospel, helping the poor and destitute, and building up the body of Christ.

Remain steadfast. Just as David petitioned the Lord to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me” (Psalm 51:10), after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband, we too may need to repent of our own sin. Obviously, I am not implying that we murdered anyone but listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. . .” Our anger is just as bad in God’s eyes as murder, because anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to murder.

Actually, anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to other sins, like: hate, strife, and loss of self control (Psalm 37:8; James 1:20; Proverbs 22:24). These are things that our bible tell’s us should have no place in our lives (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). In fact, it is an aspect of the flesh, not the Spirit, and we are called to walk in the Spirt so that His fruit may be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). 

How have you handled your temper with friends, family members, and news anchors during this election cycle? Maybe it’s time to search our hearts and confess that we need God to cleanse and renew a right spirit with in us.

Rekindle a desire for holiness. As we move forward from where we are, I encourage you to pursue holiness. We are called to this very pursuit (1 Peter 1:15-16). Make it your goal to be more and more like your savior (Philippians 2:5-11). Fight the good fight of faith and like a good soldier: put off the old man, the old way of living, and put on the new man, “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

I know, none of these things I mentioned are new and trendy in our day, but they are the teachings of scripture, and we will be truly blessed if we obey them in our daily lives. What I hope you realized as you perused through my post, is that the manner in which we move forward from here, is the same manner in which we are to regulate our lives no matter what is going on in the world around us! You and I are awaiting our king, king Jesus to return, let’s move forward seeking to bring honor and glory to His name, no matter who is president of the United States!

If you are interested in more on this topic you can listen to a series John MacArthur has on “Christians and politics” here: http://www.gty.org/library/articles/A124

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