There are some statements that Paul makes about himself that are deeply challenging to me. I could never be like the Apostle, but I want God to direct my heart and thinking so it follows a model that was very successful in Paul. Here is an example:
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22–23).
Paul never lowered his moral standard or commitment to truth to win others to Jesus and the gospel. What he did do was the same thing that Jesus did; take a very humble position among others so they would accept the gospel and “its blessings”! The blessings of the gospel were designed to be shared with as many as possible. That is why Paul says in 1 Timothy; “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:3-4).
What is the image we project by our walk among people? Does our manner of life have the drawing power of the Spirit such that persons want what we have? We each must answer this question.
The more I study the Apostle Paul, the more I am amazed at the quality of his character. His commitment to share the gospel where it had not been preached meant that he often went to places that were dangerous because of Jewish opposition. In addition, travel was risky.
Paul had not been in Corinth long before “the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal” (Acts 18:12). This was only one event in a string of times that Paul suffered at the hands of the Jews. At the same time, he endured such treatment, that he wrote to Corinth:
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:5–6).
Paul saw everything he experienced as a possible way to benefit others. Oh, that we would have this kind of spiritual vision! We too often resort to complaining about our circumstances rather than asking God how He is going to use them for the benefit of others.
In the midst of Peter’s glorious description of suffering for and with Christ, he suddenly changes the subject. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). That phrase “let none of you” refers to anyone who claims to be a Christian and follower of Christ. Putting this in the words of Paul, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”(Philippians 1:27). In my words, Peter is saying, ‘let us never suffer because we have misrepresented our Savior in any manner of our lives!’
On the contrary, we are to “glorify God in that name,” the name of Christ and all it represents. To add greater emphasis to this challenge, Peter refers to Mal.3:1-3. ““And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
God is coming among His own people and rendering a ‘judicial decision’ about sins that we have committed which do not represent Christ. For that reason, God as a faithful Father chastens His children so we can suffer for Christ and the world will see His glory shine through us.
Accepting this purifying process gives us confidence that we can “suffer according to God’s will [and] entrust [our] souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (4:19). If we reject the purifying word of God in us, we will not have confidence in suffering.
“Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13).
Where did Peter learn this perspective on suffering? There was no Bible College or Seminary to attend and take a class on suffering. His first learning experience was spending 3 ½ years with Jesus. As they travelled from one place and village to another, they could not make reservations at the local Marriott or Holiday Inn.
In fact, “Jesus said…“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”” (Luke 9:58). Following Jesus meant a life of inconvenience and living without pantries and grocery stores. Jesus never hid from the twelve the true cost of being a disciple. Here is one of His stunning statements:
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Just take a moment and think about all the “things” we possess. The word “renounce” means to “give up, to part with, say goodbye to or take leave of.” There is a finality to this that is hard for us to grasp. Would you be willing to do that right now for the sake of Christ?
When Jesus first called these fishermen, there was something very compelling about how He called them. “They left everything and followed Him” (Lk. 5:11). For these eleven men (excluding Judas), there was NO turning back.
“Sharing in Christ’s sufferings” is not so much what we are willing to give up for Him as much as it is accepting the consequence of being faithful to Him in a world that is opposed to all He stands for.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5–6).
Where do the pressures of life drive you? Again, and again we find in Scripture those who turned to the Lord and found refuge, strength and peace in the day of trouble. For them it was a daily habit to spend time with God as their only resource for life. So many I talk with today that face trials make little time to be alone with God, and so they are overcome with stress.
A man I have worked with for about two years, admitted that getting up early in the morning for prayer and meditation in God’s Word was the only thing that kept him steady.
Chuck Swindoll tells of the home where he was raised. “The house in which I was reared was very small. My mom’s place to meet with God was the bathroom. She put her books near the little stove that heated the room. When she met with God she put a little sign on the door that said, “Do not disturb.”
Where is your place? I have found personally that I cannot go through any day successfully without this special, undistracted time with the Lord. Like Psalm 130, does your soul long for these moments when you are alone with Him and His Word? Is there a time and place when you allow God to prepare you for the day ahead? If you have never done this, start today.
Here in America we use the last Thursday in November to remember how thankful a few Pilgrims were who arrived in the new world and survived their first year. It was a difficult learning process.
We are hundreds of years removed from their experience, but we are not in any way different from them in that we need to be thankful for the many mercies of God in difficult times. Below are a few verses that should reminds us of the mighty goodness of God toward us in so many ways.
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17).
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” [Jesus Christ and His grace] (2 Corinthians 9:15).
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
Notice in the first two references where we must direct our thankfulness. It is God who is the source of all we have. As we develop a thankful heart, we find God giving us joy when we are surrounded by troubles. Solomon said, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Let your spirit of gratitude produce infectious joy for others to receive.
My wife and I attended Finishing the Task Conference in December 2018 which focused on how to reach unengaged and unreached people groups with the gospel. Almost two years later, FTT published the progress that has been made. It is very encouraging!
People Groups engaged. 128
Additional fully-focused workers. 13,428
Additional bi-vocational and part-time workers. 2,554
Churches planted. 16,935
Additional reported believers. 450,882
(FFT Report, November 2020)
While this is all very encouraging, there is still much more work to be done. The focus of New Foundations International is to train indigenous believers to reach out to those nearest to them with the gospel. They are most familiar with the culture of the unengaged and most likely speak the same language. Pray with us that this task will be finished quickly.
With well over 2,000 people groups that are still unengaged (no gospel or Christian witness), there is still much work to be done. Will you join us in seeking every open door we can find to finish spreading the gospel top to those who have never heard.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
This comes from David: Nicaragua has been hit by strong hurricanes during the month of November. It left many people with severe damage to property and the loss of many lives. In spite of that, I have the honor of being able to train brothers who were praying for help to come their way through God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD). God connected me with them, and they received the training yesterday in a city called Chinandega which is 138 km north of Managua.
On Thursday, David leaves for Puerto Cabeza on the west coast of Nicaragua (321 miles), where most of the victims of the last hurricane are. He will take a little of what he can collect for food and clothing and at the same time will give training to the brothers with GPHD. For him and for them, it is more important to be affirmed in the Gospel of Grace.
He asked that we pray for a great harvest. “I dream of seeing Nicaragua saved for Christ. During the pandemic, and now hurricanes, we feel the great need to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ louder than ever.”
I was reading some comments by J. Oswald Sanders in his book, Enjoying Intimacy with God, and his comments on Joshua seized my attention. Here is the reference in Exodus he spoke of:
“Thus, the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11).
We have in this one verse vital lessons we need to learn. The influence of Moses on Joshua was enormous. Joshua watched Moses as the Lord communicated with him. There was a freedom between them that made a permanent impact on Joshua such that when Moses returned from the tent to lead the people of Israel, Joshua wanted to stay in the place where he could enjoy the same closeness with the Lord that Moses had.
This was a choice that Joshua made. It was not required by Moses. The fact that Joshua was “a young man” proves that this kind of intimacy with God is not reserved just for seasoned servants. It is open to anyone who wants a living, fresh relationship that allows the Lord to communicate His mind and will to us.
What kind of influence will we be on the next generation? It will be more powerful when they see it lived out in us, not just hear or read about it.
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).
Peter is determined that his audience, who were going through a very tough time that included persecution, would have abundant reason to be thankful. Many in his day thought that the end was near because of trials the Church was experiencing. Many have said to me in the last few months, ‘do you think the end is near because of all that is happening?’ My answer is “Yes and No.” Why do I answer this way? There are several verses that keep this question in tension.
“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40).
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32). This is repeated in Mt. 24:36.
At the same time Jesus balanced all the prophecies and predictions of Scripture with another statement we cannot overlook. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). In other words, ‘don’t worry about the day or hour, just be busy with sharing the gospel to every “ethnos or people group” in the whole world!
In view of this and our responsibility as children in His kingdom, Peter wants us to live in these end-times in such a way that we “are good stewards of God’s varied grace.” This word “stewards” means that we have been left in charge of what belongs to God as if we were managing His affairs or household. In verse 10, we have each received “gifts” that are to be used to carry out this stewardship until Jesus comes. Let us be faithful in using these gifts of grace as we wait.
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