It is my custom to send an email to my four sons on Father’s Day morning to thank and encourage them to be godly fathers. Early this morning, I asked the Lord to give me a Scripture that would speak to their hearts in a special way. As I prayed, 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 came to mind.
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:14–17).
You may recall the “jealousy and strife among” (3:3) these believers and parties had formed around well-known leaders, but they lacked the critical leadership in spiritual fathers. Paul had become a father to them “through the gospel.” The foundation of the gospel gave Paul a spiritual care for these saints that was able to handle some very difficult and sensitive issues. There are so few spiritual fathers who can father like this, but it is possible. Will you?
I will deal with other points that Paul makes in these verses tomorrow, but for now, it is vital to understand how the gospel addresses every issue in raising children, natural or spiritual. If we are not grounded in the pure gospel of grace, our fathering will turn to legalism and demand without grace and love. Without these, we misrepresent God as Father and promote rebellion.
As we talk and interact with so many around the world, many who are in real suffering, we realize how deep and extensive their “groaning” is. Some face starvation. Some are experiencing severe persecution, even to the point of death. Some have been subject to the cruel hand of an ungodly regime that is suppressing any degree of religious freedom. All these and more make us cry out to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge…” (Revelation 6:10).
Even in Paul’s day, he felt the same conditions. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23).
It is hard to wait when it seems that everything around us is causing us to groan deeper that ever. As Jesus predicted times of destruction, wars, persecution, and things that would take place just before His return, He makes a profound statement; “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
You may be very weary of the conditions we face today, but allow God’s Word to strengthen your faith. Lift your spiritual eyes and your mind to what God has promised. Our adoption is about to be complete when the Lord takes our bodies out of this world to where He is (John 14:3).
No one should ever think that I (or we) take lightly the suffering of anyone. Rather, we take seriously the words of Hebrews 13:3; “Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are in the body.” This is the same attitude as what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:26; “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”
Is suffering just one of those things in life that we have to ‘endure’? What does James say? “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).
The reason for this joy is not that we are going through a difficult time, but because we know that our sovereign God has allowed the trial or suffering to strengthen our faith and accomplish a divine purpose in us that could not be achieved any other way. We often are more concerned about the inconvenience of trials than wanting to know what God is “perfecting and completing” in us.
With that in mind, James says, “let steadfastness have its full effect.” In other words, don’t stop short of what God wants to accomplish in you! There is nothing more beautiful than God’s finished work in His children! Putting these verses together, we are with those who suffer, in prayer and comfort; desiring that God’s perfect purpose and will be fulfilled in them. It will end in GLORY!
As we watch from our homes the rise in persecution of God’s people around the world, our hearts go out to those suffering, both in prayer and in words of encouragement where and when we can. We may think that it has never been as bad as it is now. The fact is, from the beginning of the church, there have been waves of persecution that were far more intense. This reminds me of Peter and his words of encouragement to saints that were under a very heavy trial.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12–14). What a beautiful perspective! Let me outline the major points in these verses.
The danger in suffering for the sake of Christ is to focus our attention on ourselves and what we are going through, rather than HIM. When we do, we miss the joy and beauty of God’s glory and the Spirit’s presence and affirmation.
Written in May 1810 by Adoniram Judson.
Christian…Go to your closet; fall on your knees; and, if never before, pray for the poor heathen. Pray for the few, who have left all to carry them the news of a Savior. Pray that more missionaries may be sent forth. And whenever you have a view of Jesus, and have been weeping over the scene of his dying love; whenever your souls are melted into pious tenderness and turned to heavenly joys, Oh, forget not to pray for the poor heathen.
As God opens doors for us in places we never expected, we are in our closet asking Him to enable us to “GO”. Will you “GO” with us in prayer? If you are not receiving our newsletter, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to the list. Above anything else, pray with us to reach the last unreached people group.
Written in May 1810 by Adoniram Judson.
How do Christians discharge the trust committed to them? How do they obey their Master’s gracious injunction? They let three fourths of the world sleep the sleep of death, ignorant of the simple truth, that a Savior has died for them. Content if they can be useful in the little circle of their acquaintance, they quietly sit and see whole nations perishing for lack of knowledge. Many are seeking worldly wealth and worldly applause, under the specious pretext of serving Christ at home; and many are content to drag out an inactive, useless life in carnal ease and gratification, while darkness and the shadow of death overspreads the greater part of their fellow men.
Is the subject of missions proclaimed? Many are ready to cry out, “enthusiastic, visionary scheme!” And was it visionary for the Son of God to come into this world, the FIRST MISSIONARY? Was it visionary for the apostles to leave their country, and go through the world in the character of missionaries? No. It is the GRAND DUTY of Christians, and ought to be the GRAND BUSINESS of their lives, TO PROMULGATE THE GOSPEL.
Since, then, we have but a few days to spend in this world – a few days in which we can show our love to Christ and immortal souls; let it be the earnest inquiry of our hearts, “What shalt we do for the poor heathen?”
These sobering words remind me of Paul’s statement about himself which has become my life verse: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24). What is your goal in life?
Three of our team were together this morning discussing the great things God is doing around the world and through NFI. While many seem discouraged because of the limitations COVID-19 has brought on us, we see in many places just the opposite. It seems this pandemic has inspired more persecution of Christians around the globe, but in that, God has energized His people to spread the gospel with greater fervency.
Our discussion turned the attention to Abraham as Paul sees him in Romans 4. Look at these amazing statements:
4:3 – “Abraham believed God”
4:9 – “Faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness”
4:19 – “He did not weaken in faith”
4:20 – “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God”
4:20 – “He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God”
4:21 – He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised”
That list is what I call “active faith” that builds and becomes stronger as it is being used. If we do not use the faith God has given us, we become “weak in faith” and may resort “to quarrel over opinions” (Romans 14:1). Strong faith leads to maturity which in turn leads to unity in the Church.
It is not the ‘size’ of faith that matters so much as whether you use and strengthen the faith God gave you.
In May 1810, Adoniram Judson wrote; “Concern for the Salvation of the Heathen.” It is worth reading and considering:
Is it possible that eighteen centuries have elapsed since the death of Christ, and yet whole nations are still involved in pagan darkness? Is it possible that, at the present moment, five hundred million men have never heard of the name of Jesus? (That number is now over 3.2 billion).
Where has fled the spirit of apostolic days? Where is that ardent love, which, in the strength of the Lord, delivered thousands from the darkness of Satan’s kingdom, prostrated before the cross the idols of the heathen world, and sounded the glorious tidings of salvation through every clime? Weep, O my soul, over the faded glory of the Christian name. Weep over the forlorn state of the poor heathen.
Christian, the inhabitants of the greater part of the world, know not a Bible, a Sabbath, or a church. Ignorant of the only way of life, and neglected by their brethren of the same blood, who only can impart the necessary knowledge, wretched, friendless, they pass their days in gross idolatry, and descend into the tomb without a ray of hope. Immortal souls launch into an eternity, of which they were not informed, and for which they were entirely unprepared. The never-dying worm gnaws the anguished spirit, and the unquenchable fire burns in their eternal home.
The Son of God died to deliver mankind from this dreadful fate, and at His ascension to heaven, left a solemn charge to all His followers to proclaim His love to the whole world. “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Blessed Savior, how much love was manifested in every part of Your divine mission. What an earnest desire in this final command, that the benefits of Your atonement might be universally enjoyed.
Let us consider our responsibility toward those who have never heard.
Jesus illustrates a principle of the kingdom; that of mercy. In Matthew 18:23-35, He tells the parable of the servant that was deeply in debt to a king. “And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So, the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” That is mercy!
Sadly, the servant turns around and goes after a fellow servant and “seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.” After being shown mercy by his master, you would think this first servant would be overwhelmed by the master’s kindness.
Mercy and forgiveness are both principles on which the kingdom operates. Anyone who is part of the kingdom is expected to show the same quality to those they have relations with. If we are unwilling to demonstrate the same mercy and forgiveness to others as has been shown to us, we will receive the consequences of a hard heart. This is a “heart” issue. Mercy and forgiveness are characteristics of God’s heart toward us, and with the Spirit, we are to show the same to others.
The “heavenly Father” is watching how we use this principle of freedom on others who are indebted to us. Others may never know God’s heart unless they see it beating in you.
Have you ever taken time to consider how great the patience of God is? With chaos bursting out in so many parts of the world, gross injustice and persecution toward Christians in many places, we may wonder why God does not intervene in judgement.
As Paul addressed this same concern in his day; outlining the deplorable conditions of man, he asked a valid question; “Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). “Repentance” is one of the primary reasons for God’s patience.
When conditions trend toward getting worse and worse around in the world, we long for the end to come and the Lord returns for His Church. Rarely do we marvel at the patience “of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Our feelings get stirred up like David in his imprecatory Psalms that called for God’s wrath and judgment against the enemies of God.
What about God’s patience toward one individual — you and me? This type of patience is expressed in Luke 15. The man with one lost sheep caused him to “leave the ninety-nine…and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it” (15:4). There is no human time limit on God’s patience. What will mark the end of this age will be that His purposes have been reached, not that His patience has run out.
It is good for us to consider this when we are dealing with other people.
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