“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.”
Wherever you’re at right now, the sun may be shining and life is good, making the reality of withstanding anything evil seem remote. Yet from the moment Eve plucked the fruit in the Garden, sin entered, and each day came under the sway of the evil one. It’s for this reason that Paul exhorts Christians to be geared up and battle ready.
Our adversary, Satan, will do his best to disarm you because he knows that a wobbly, defenseless Christian cannot stand. If we are to stand in opposition to his schemes, it’s essential that we make daily use of the most sophisticated armament available – the armor of God. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
It is incumbent upon each of us to be intimately acquainted with each piece of armor and keep it securely fastened. Puritan saint William Gurnall put it this way, “The armor… is to be worn night and day; we must walk, work, and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” With your armor firmly in place, you will be able to stand in obedience. Truth will triumph. You will not wobble or waver.
Today, if you are in the midst of personal trials, stand. In grief and sorrow, stand. In temptation, stand. In the chaos of our times, stand. Believer, in the evil day, stand!
The notion that the church must become like the world to win the world has taken evangelicalism by storm. Virtually every modern worldly attraction has a “Christian” counterpart. We have Christian motorcycle gangs, Christian bodybuilding teams, Christian dance clubs, Christian amusement parks, and I even read about a Christian nudist colony.
Where did Christians ever get the idea we could win the world by imitating it? Is there a shred of biblical justification for that kind of thinking? Many church marketing specialists affirm that there is, and they have convinced a myriad of pastors. Ironically, they usually cite the apostle Paul as someone who advocated adapting the gospel to the tastes of the audience. One has written, “Paul provided what I feel is perhaps the single most insightful perspective on marketing communications, the principle we call contextualization (1 Corinthians 9:19–23). Paul . . . was willing to shape his communications according to their needs in order to receive the response he sought.” “The first marketeer was Paul,” another echoes.
After all, the apostle did write, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:22, 23). Is that a mandate for pragmatism in ministry? Was the apostle Paul suggesting that the gospel message can be made to appeal to people by accommodating their relish for certain amusements or by pampering their pet vices? How far do you suppose he would have been willing to go with the principle of “contextualization”?
The Great Non-Negotiable
This much is very clear: the apostle Paul was no people-pleaser. He wrote, “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Paul did not amend or abridge his message to make people happy. He was utterly unwilling to try to remove the offense from the gospel (Galatians 5:11). He did not use methodology that catered to the lusts of his listeners. He certainly did not follow the pragmatic philosophy of modern market-driven ministers.
What made Paul effective was not marketing savvy, but a stubborn devotion to the truth. He was Christ’s ambassador, not His press secretary. Truth was something to be declared, not negotiated. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). He willingly suffered for the truth’s sake (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). He did not back down in the face of opposition or rejection. He did not compromise with unbelievers or make friends with the enemies of God.
Paul’s message was always non-negotiable. In the same chapter where he spoke of becoming all things to all men, Paul wrote, “I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). His ministry was in response to a divine mandate. God had called him and commissioned him. Paul preached the gospel exactly as he had received it directly from the Lord, and he always delivered that message “as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). He was not a salesman or marketer, but a divine emissary. He certainly was not “willing to shape his communications” to accommodate his listeners or produce a desirable response. The fact that he was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19), beaten, imprisoned, and finally killed for the truth’s sake ought to demonstrate that he didn’t adapt the message to make it pleasing to his hearers! And the personal suffering he bore because of his ministry did not indicate that something was wrong with his approach, but that everything had been right!
So what did Paul mean when he wrote, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel”? As always, the context makes his meaning clear. We’ll be taking a look at what Paul really meant over the course of the next several days. I hope you stick around.
The term “dysfunctional family” came into vogue in the ’70s and ’80s to describe families that struggle to deal with one another and that produce problems that follow children into adulthood. However, dysfunction may be more pervasive than you think. It’s said George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “I don’t know if there are men on the moon, but if there are they must be using the earth as their lunatic asylum.” Maybe you read that and think, He must’ve known my family.
Genesis features a prominent tale of family dysfunction among Jacob, his two wives Rachel and Leah, his father-in-law Laban, and Laban’s sons (see Genesis 29-31). There may have been a little bit of fudge in this family, but there were many more nuts. Jacob had deceived his own father and brother and faced a comeuppance from Laban, who tricked Jacob into marrying both of his daughters and kept him on the payroll for fourteen years to do it.
This particular dysfunctional family points to a greater truth: every family is dysfunctional. Does that sound harsh? Let me explain. Because of sin, we all operate at a certain level of dysfunction, especially compared to how God means for us to live. In some families, of course, it’s worse. Dysfunctional people attract other dysfunctional people, which compounds any issue. Jacob and Laban were two peas in a defective pod, but the reason we have their story is so that we can see how God worked despite their issues.
Jacob, who swindled his brother Esau’s birthright and tricked his aged father into giving him Esau’s blessing, left home, thinking he could escape his family’s issues. He wasn’t the first to do this, nor the last to learn that running away doesn’t work, because wherever you go, there you are. You bring yourself, problems and all. Yet Jacob, we read in the New Testament, ended up being described as a faithful standard bearer for God (see Hebrews 11:20-21). In spite of his messed-up behavior, God still had plans for him.
Every family is affected by sin. That’s because we are all broken, flawed individuals who need a Savior. Jesus spoke of the people He came to save as poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed (see Luke 4:16-19). We are inherently dysfunctional. But here’s the good news: God can function in our dysfunction.
In the midst of family squabbles, God came to Jacob and said, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). God blessed Jacob while he worked for Laban, and when Jacob was mature enough to see God’s hand at work, God brought him into a new season. That’s because the perfect God works through imperfect people. Admittedly, there’s no other kind of people for Him to use, but use us He does.
You’ve heard it said that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. However, you can choose to adjust to your family. And you can choose to add positively to your family. In fact, the only way to fail when it comes to dysfunction is to take failure as the final word. Let God have the final say, and watch Him work even in the midst of family issues.
These 51 Easter quotes will help you stop and reflect on this holy season of Easter. Each Easter quote comes from a meaningful Easter sermon on SermonCentral.com.
“Jesus could have been satisfied with giving the world bread and water. He could have given them a healing clinic in every town. A leprosarium. School of exorcism. No. He gave himself. Spiritual sacrifice to God. Broke the bond of sin and death and set us free forever. He left for us an empty tomb.” Eldon Reich in Easter: What God Gave to Us
“Muhammad died, and was buried. His faithful followers take pilgrimages to visit his remains, the same is true of Buddha and other religious leaders. But it is not true of Jesus. You cannot visit His remains; you can only visit His empty grave, because He isn’t there. He Arose!” James Wilson in Easter: Jesus Arose!
“The empty tomb tells us of God’s ultimate power. A power that points to an ultimate purpose. Throughout His suffering, many times Jesus was told to show His power to escape His suffering and His death…but He knew that beyond all demonstrations of power and miracles…it was the ultimate power over death which had to be revealed.” Brad Bailey in Easter: A Tomb Tells All
“For the separation of humanity from God is depicted way back in the garden…We have a broken relationship with God, both in the depths of our souls and the actions of our hearts. This is precisely the reason Christ came. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.He bore our cost.” Brad Bailey in Easter: Rooted in Time and History and Yet Timeless in Its Impact
“An event can be thrust upon you and it takes you by surprise; you never would have predicted it in a million years. Now here it is – staring you in the face. What will you do? You can’t stay the same, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. You may not know what to do, but this much is certain, you have to do something. This is the Resurrection.” Ken Sowers in Easter: Grave Robbers Didn’t Rob the Tomb; God Did!
“When it comes to believing in the resurrection of Jesus, we cannot simply seek knowledge; instead, we must seek faith. Nobody comes to faith in Jesus because of knowledge of Him. Even Satan has knowledge of Jesus, only he doesn’t believe in Jesus.” Michael Deutsch in Easter Sermon
“If you were to return to the scene of Christ’s execution that Sunday morning, you’d find relics of his death: A braided crown with scarlet tips. Three iron nails covered in dirt and blood. And an empty cross tinged red with the blood of God.” Scott Bayles in Easter: Empty Promises of Easter
“Perhaps the message this angel spoke was the most important one in Scripture. The message of the angel is still true today ‘don’t be alarmed – He is risen! He is not here; you will see him again.’ Jesus is alive!” Andy Barnard in Easter Angel
“Easter is the focal point of all history–because Jesus Christ is the focal point of all human history. Every time you date a check, print a calendar…every time this unbelieving world puts a date on a newspaper or magazine they are bearing witness to Him. History just cannot get away from Him.” Steve Malone in The Easter Door
“These angels are involved in our lives for several reasons, but one of them is to learn about God’s grace by watching us. When you study the Bible or reflect upon the person and work of Christ, you are joining in the curriculum of the angels; you are on holy ground.” Ed Vasicek in Easter Angels
“Jesus knew His followers were confused and frightened. They had hit rock bottom. And so He says, ‘Peace be with you.’ This is not simply a salutation; it’s the first application of Easter—peace.” Robert Leroe in Easter Qualities
“Jesus had power over death. Death was no match for him. People had feared for centuries that death was a stone cold grip from which no one could escape. And Jesus very calmly asserted His authority over it.” Matthew Rogers in He Defeated Death
“Do you want to live life to its fullest? Then aim higher. Don’t set your sights too low. Determine to become all that God created you to be. Give yourself to Christ, follow Him completely, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Because of Him!” Ryan Johnson in Because of Him
“Think about the promises of Easter. There are three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty. An empty cross, an empty tomb, and empty burial clothes. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real.” Steven Kellett in The Empty Promises of Easter
“But with the gospel also comes a call to live a holy life, a life of spiritual depth and growth. This is what we mean by nurture, being nurtured in the life God calls us to. Although we do not contribute anything to our salvation, once God saves us, he calls us to live differently. He calls us to a life of transformation, a life where we grow and mature. He calls us to put down deep spiritual roots that are nourished by the truth of God. He calls us to nurture a holy life.” Timothy Peck in Renewing Our Vision
“When Jesus came into our world, He revealed not only Himself but He revealed the very nature and personality of God. So there is a part of God that we can see because of Jesus. And in the same way, God wants others to be able to see Jesus in us.” Melvin Newland in He Is the Root and Morning Star
“To do something in the name of Jesus is to ‘act consistently with who He is and what He wants.’ It is to do all that we do for the glory of His name. The more that I wear Jesus’ clothes, the more that people will think they are seeing Jesus coming when I’m on the way.” Chris Talton in Hand-Me Downs
“Beyond our greatest fear is his hand reaching out to us, beckoning us to come with Him, to believe, to know that God is with us at all times and in all places. We do not have to fear.” Kyle Blanton in Easter Sunrise
“Jesus’ resurrected body was a real body…He didn’t return as a ghost or a mist…He told his followers, ‘Look at my hands and my feet, it is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ “ Rick Burdette in The Mystery of Easter
“The Scriptures tell us that on the first Good Friday, darkness came over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. The earth itself was mourning and protesting the death of its Creator. And you have the great symbolism of the Light of the world being extinguished and the world being plunged into darkness.” Claude Alexander in Jesus and Easter
“What we find inside this Holy Book is the greatest gift given to the world. Through the power of a simple empty tomb, our wealthy heavenly father has given us a great fortune that leads us to an eternal home.” David Trexler in Easter Message
“Jesus becomes human. 100% Human. 100% God. Lives, dies, is able to rise up, overcoming death….Spiritual death. The Bible does not simply mean physical death; it means spiritual death as well which is separation from God.” Peter Loughman in Easter: Fear This
“Jesus is not resuscitated; He is resurrected. He is raised by the power of God into a new way of life, a new existence. The power of Easter comes as the resurrected Lord is raised to a new way of life, and then, in a miraculous fashion, shares with us that new way of life.” Gregory Neal in An Easter People
“However you see Jesus, He is my Savior! He died for me. He paid the price for my sin, and the historical, proven fact of His resurrection has influenced the lives of millions upon millions.” Oris Hubbard in Easter’s Influences
“The tomb of Jesus also told a story. But it was not what was inside his tomb that told the story, it was what was NOT in his tomb. There was nothing there. The tomb is empty — and that tells it all. The angel said to the women at the tomb, The bones of the Buddha are on display. The tombs of world leaders are full of the remains of death. But the tomb of Jesus is empty because he is not there. He has risen — just as he said.” Rodney Buchanan in Easter’s Surprises
“The things He said were so preposterous and dangerous. He claimed that the Scriptures were all about Him and that the prophets spoke about Him. He had the audacity to state that He was the only way to God. Not that He knew the way, but that He WAS the way. He claimed that no-one could come to God except through Him!” Bramwell Hayes in Easter Is Dangerous!
“Easter in us is the resurrection power of life that God desires to place in every Christian’s heart. God generally doesn’t do this unless we are open to it. Let us pray that God puts Easter in each of us, and through His presence in us, may God’s glory be revealed in the world. In the words of the poem, ‘let Him easter in us.’ “ Anthony Seel in Easter in Us
“If you can think in computer terms, He has downloaded our sins upon Himself. Now if you know anything about downloads, a lot of them are free, but in order for them to be free, someone had to do the work earlier to make the download possible. That is what God has done for us. He has made forgiveness possible; He has done the work for us. As a result, He downloaded our sins and took them upon himself and went to the cross.” Richard Pfeil in Experiencing Easter
“God threw open the doors of heaven. He invited all nations, tribes and languages to Himself. Jesus doesn’t separate the believers. He does the opposite. The blood that He shed sanctified us and made us one. And one day, one sweet day – we’ll all be privileged to see that around God’s throne.” Eloy Gonzalez in Easter–For Whom?
“Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same.” Dan Cormie in Hope at Easter
“Whatever you face, whether it’s today or tomorrow, the promise of Jesus to everyone who puts their trust in Him. In this there is hope, even when it feels like ‘Checkmate.’ Because…THE KING STILL HAS ANOTHER MOVE IN YOUR LIFE. You might feel like you’re in checkmate, but Jesus says that if you believe in Him…HE WILL SAVE YOU.” David Kinnan in Easter: Hope
“We are embraced by God. That means all that we are, including our wounds, our sins, our sorrows – is embraced, accepted completely by the everlasting God. This is the beginning, because forgiveness is just a beginning. Then God sends us out to live as free people, ever thankful for the freedom Christ won for us on the cross. We’re sent out as free people to be agents of His love, to be ministers of reconciliation, to be people through whom God’s best intentions for this planet and every soul on this planet are made to happen, made real, made manifest.” Matthew Parker in The Easter Continuum
“Whether one believes nothing yet or has come to a partial understanding, believing is a process of uncovering errors and weaknesses and coming to a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God. This process is furthered only by one’s own experience of the Word; no one else’s experience can be a substitute.” Paul Andrew in Easter Impact
“Forgiveness is powerless unless it comes from one who has the power to forgive. Unless it came from one who had the power to say, defeat death. Without the resurrection, that forgiveness would have been worthless, simply more words from a prophet proved wrong by his death. But when He stepped out of the tomb everything he said, everything he taught was proved to be right. And His forgiveness became a certainty.” Denn Guptill in Rediscover Easter
“People are brought back to life everyday in emergencies rooms across the country. That is not resurrection – that is resuscitation. The people who are given a second chance at life by resuscitation – will eventually die. That is not what we are talking about with the resurrection. If you are in Christ, you will be given a heavenly body. You will be given an imperishable body. You will be raised in glory. You will be raised in power. You will have a spiritual body and you will never, never, never, die again. You will live forever with an imperishable body.” Tom Shepard in The Arrival of Easter
“The Risen Lord actually lives, is alive, and is present today in our testimony of his Gospel. In a very real sense, our lives should be a ‘5th gospel.’ “ David Rigg in An Easter Message
“No other holiday is as critical to the Christian faith as Easter. The very foundation of Christianity stands or crumbles on the truthfulness of the assertion that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Easter is not about religious ritual or tradition. It is about the resurrection of the Son of God, an historical event. It is significant because of what the resurrection of Jesus validates.” Jerry Flury in The Importance of Easter
“Paul speaks of salvation. Jesus speaks of loving God with all of our hearts and our neighbors unconditionally. Timothy speaks of the importance of order in our lives. Jesus speaks of the importance of a relationship with Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. David speaks of repentance; Jesus speaks of forgiveness. Joshua speaks of obedience, Solomon speaks of trust, Isaiah speaks of hope, Jeremiah speaks promise and Jesus speaks of finding the Glory of God through a relationship with Him.” Rich Anderson in The Heart of Easter
“We have a God who knows, not just theoretically but experientially what it feels like to suffer, to have pain, to be betrayed, to be ignored, to be forgotten, to die. That means we can share our pain with God. We can draw near with a confidence that He knows and He understands and yet He tells us He still loves us.” Nathan Eyland in An Easter Message
“Death couldn’t hold Him. The resurrection proves that Jesus was who He said He was. It proves that Jesus did what He said He was going to do… and it proves that all who put their faith and trust in Him as Lord and Savior will be forgiven of their sins, granted eternal life, and be made right with God!” Ken McKinley in Easter 2017
“Bad news? Death is our enemy; good news? Death is defeated! Jesus died the death; Jesus took all of the pain; everything that you and I deserved He paid for on that cross.” Bud Rose in Easter Sunday
“In a very real way, God’s kingdom could not have come unless Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father. But also we should not expect God’s kingdom to come, to transform our lives, our neighbors’ lives. We shouldn’t expect to see healings and answered prayer unless we are willing to seek the Lord’s will. I fear that far too often we expect God’s kingdom to come and great things to happen to us in our church and our lives without submitting to the will of God.” James Tetly in Preparing for Easter
“Faith is shaking hands with God and getting right with Him. Faith is putting our hands up and surrendering our lives to Christ. Faith is raising your hand and saying, Here I am Lord, take me in Your loving hands.” Ross Cochrane in Hands of Easter
“And then there are those who truly get it. They know the resurrected Jesus and He lives strong in them. They pour out their compassion and love, their mercy and grace, which is only through the power of Christ inside of them.” Mark Engler in The Wonder of Easter
“Faith begins with knowledge, which is where the intellect is involved. Then it moves to the emotions where convictions are developed. Saving faith must then move to the will, where a commitment is made. True saving faith involves appropriating what Christ has done for us.” Brian Bill in Easter Comeback
“Death is not the end for Christians, it is only the beginning. the beginning of a life spent in Heaven with our Creator and our Savior. As Jesus now lives forever, we also can live forever … with Him, because we have true hope.” Bruce Ball in The Proof of Easter
“For the disciples it took only three days. On Friday they are in deep despair, but by Sunday night they’re on top of the mountain because of the resurrection. So sometimes things can be quickly reversed.” Melvin Newland in Easter: At the Tomb
Think about the most beautiful places you’ve seen on earth. Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to visit a palm-fringed island in the South Pacific, or ski the Alps of Switzerland, or wander through the stark beauty of the Grand Canyon.
But even the most beautiful things on earth pale to what we’ll experience when we first see Jesus and the beauty of heaven. He’s been preparing heaven for you and me, for all who believe.
Can you imagine how wonderful, how beautiful it’s going to be?
The apostle John described the beauty of heaven in the Book of Revelation, and chapters 21 and 22 provide a virtual tour of the new heaven and the new earth. You might ask whether these scriptures describing streets of gold, gates of pearl, and a crystal sea are literal or figurative.
The answer is yes—they are both.
Every image in Revelation illustrates something even more real than we can know or understand. Heaven is beyond our comprehension and imagining, but it should not be beyond our contemplation.
And that is what John shows us in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more.”
Of course, some will say, “Well, I like the ocean.” But this description is actually about separation.
John was in exile. He was a prisoner placed among the insane and the criminals on an island separated from the world by the Aegean Sea. He was alone. And when he saw heaven, he saw a place where he’d never be separated again.
In heaven, we will be with other believers and our loved ones in Christ forever and ever. No more sea… no more separation!
Heaven is going to be more wonderful than anything you can imagine on earth. May the expectation of eternity there give you hope and peace in Jesus Christ today!
Toward the end of his life, the apostle Paul foresaw the abandonment of truth, even in the church, and gave his young protégé Timothy this antidote: “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul then offered three directives to help us sharpen our spiritual vision and anchor ourselves in God’s Word:
1. Be concerned about knowing the truth. Spiritual blindness is a metaphor for the unwillingness or inability to see spiritual truth. Over time, things we once saw clearly can become hazy, whether that’s because of life experiences or our own sin. This happens easily in a culture in crisis, where the cynical regularly question truth, as Pilate did (see John 18:38). Lines can become blurred in the church, too. That’s not a new development; Satan has always used non-truth as a tactic (see Genesis 3:1).
But we sharpen our spiritual vision when we concern ourselves with knowing spiritual truth. Paul mentioned truth eleven times throughout 1 and 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4 alone, he talked about “the word” (v. 2), “teaching” (v. 2), “sound doctrine” (v. 3), and “the truth” (v. 4). Truth is tied to doctrine, which in its simplest form means strong biblical teaching. Christians are to be people of the truth, because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6). That means we are accountable for our knowledge of biblical truth (see Hosea 4:6; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:13; Titus 2:1).
2. Be cautious about neglecting the truth. Our culture has largely rejected truth, mainly because sensationalism has become more important than facts and truth is considered personal, which means it can shift depending on the situation. But think about it: if someone says, “There is no absolute truth,” they are making an absolute statement, which is a self-contradictory and self-defeating declaration.
Now, we might expect that sort of thinking from our culture, but keep in mind that Paul wrote 2 Timothy as a warning not for unbelievers but for believers who were turning from the truth. Christianity is always one generation from extinction. It starts in the pulpit when pastors who don’t believe the Bible is the literal Word of God don’t preach the full truth of it. This problem leads to “itching ears” (v. 3), as preachers feed the desire for novelty over a need for truth. God’s people starve when pastors pander to what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
3. Be careful about nurturing the truth. Paul warned Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (v. 5). Paul was calling Timothy to hold to truth and sound doctrine, feeding on it for himself and then sharing it. The Greek word for sound is related to our word hygienic; in other words, preaching good, true doctrine promotes healing and health.
And preaching carries the idea of an imperial messenger making a proclamation with authority. Timothy’s mission was to preach the truth of the true King—Jesus. As Christians, this is our calling, too: to believe the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth, and live the truth, always pointing others to the one true King.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Scripture needn’t be lengthy to be powerful, and here in Job’s three-fold declaration is inspired proof.
He knows. What does God know? He knows the beginning from the end and everything in-between (Isaiah 46:10). From first breath to dying day, He knows the storms that buffet and situations that vex. He knows how frail we are (Genesis 3:19) and moves in our lives accordingly. God’s knowledge is intimate and exhaustive (Psalm 139), and He wisely chooses our paths.
He tests. We naturally shy away from discomfort, which leads me to believe that not many Christians venture to pray, “Dear Lord, please test me.” But if we pondered the potential in testing, and trusted the motivation behind it, perhaps we would.
I shall. When testing does come and things are dark, there is a flame of biblical truth to light our way – God’s testing is never for naught. Trials work for us, not against us, and when handled rightly, the outcome is as pure gold. Such knowledge opens wide a sanctuary of courage and strength to every saint.
Believer, live boldly! Our confidence in every challenge circles back to and rests upon the assurance that He, God Almighty, knows.
– Pastor Jack
What We Know For Sure
Today’s message from Ezekiel 38, delivers the promise of things to come, with great confidence and peace to the followers of Jesus. The overwhelming indicators in our current global news of the return of Jesus Christ, our blessed Hope. Get ready. Be prepared.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought fear, chaos, grief, and isolation into our lives in a way many of us have never experienced.
Every day, I hear about strained marriages, lonely seniors, anxious students, despairing business owners, and grieving families who’ve lost someone to the virus. Many people are experiencing depression and anxiety because of these unprecedented circumstances.
But when depression and anxiety threaten to overwhelm us, there are three steps we can take that can help us get our bearings back.
First, be honest with God.
Although it may come as a surprise, many people in the Bible struggled with depression. Moses, Elijah, and Jonah—to name a few—all experienced disappointment, disillusionment, and despair. In their darkest moments, they cried out to God in agonizing honesty.
If these men—all of whom were prophets—walked so closely with God and yet so powerfully struggled with their mental and emotional health, then I think God understands when we do too.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental or emotional health struggles, you’re not alone. Don’t believe the lie that you aren’t fit to be God’s child. Hear and respond to the life-giving, soul-healing truth of God’s Word. He heard the cries of Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah, and He hears yours.
Second, participate in community.
God exists in unity and community, and after He created the first man, He said, “it is not good for man to be alone” and created the first woman (Genesis 2:18). Division and isolation came as a result of the Fall.
Of course, COVID-19 has changed how we participate in community. While some churches are beginning to gather, many people are still not able to meet in person because of health concerns.
But the wonderful thing is that the virus has not canceled community because the church is not a building. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).
We can stay connected through phone calls, text messaging, video chatting, letter writing, and socially distanced visits. It only takes two to make a church gathering.
And third, ask for help when you need it.
While prayer and community are certainly helpful, there’s no shame in seeking professional help for depression and anxiety. Sometimes, our brains and bodies simply don’t work like they should. Sometimes, circumstances really can be too much to bear.
Talking to a doctor or counselor can be immensely helpful in understanding and managing mental health issues. I know — I have battled depression. Some days are harder than others. And that’s okay. Depression and anxiety are a real part of life in this broken world. God has promised each of us that we can find wholeness, peace, and security in Him no matter what trials we are facing. So in these challenging times, let’s be honest with Him, participate in community, and ask for help when we need it.
I vividly remember in 2009 when I found myself in a storm like I’d never experienced before. I had received a cancer diagnosis and was unsure of what the future would hold.
But what I also remember is what a close friend of mine said to me in the midst of my battle…
“Jack, I’m praying for you… that you will learn everything you need to learn in the midst of this trial in your life.”
And God was faithful to do just that. As I prayed, “Lord, teach me what you want to teach me,” He stepped into my storm to do something I never expected. You see, while trials are a painful part of life, they serve to strengthen our faith and build our character.
That’s what the first chapter of the book of James is all about. James writes in verse 2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
The picture James is painting is that we’re walking along, everything is going well, and out of nowhere life hits us like a two-by-four with a trial, test, or storm.
Now I realize that this is exactly where many of us find ourselves today. Toward the beginning of 2020, we lived blissfully ignorant of the trials that were about to hit us.
And then over the past several months, we’ve been hit hard.
We’ve seen sickness and death from a global pandemic. We’ve experienced the isolation that comes with sheltering at home. And we’ve lived through one of the most politically and racially charged climates we’ve seen in decades.
There’s no escaping it – our world is full of pain and suffering. In Romans 8 we’re told that all creation groans in preparation for the birth of the new earth that is coming when Christ returns.
But on this side of eternity, we will experience suffering, pain, and heartache.
And still, James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Seriously? Why would James say this – a difficult, almost impossible command to follow?
Scripture answers that question for us in Psalm 16:11. The psalmist writes, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
All who are in Christ share in His eternal joy, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. It is a unique promise and privilege for believers and followers of Jesus.
I’d love to share more with you about how you can authentically live out your faith in tumultuous times like these by sending you my book, Visible Faith. It’s my way to say thanks for your gift to help take the Gospel to the world.
And it gets better, thanks to a $200,000 Matching Grant, your gift today will be DOUBLED to help share the hope of Jesus with more people!
Thank you for your generosity. I pray Visible Faith encourages and equips you to be a light for Christ – so our darkening world can see the faith that truly saves!
Every challenge you face in life, every personal hardship, and every frustrating headline should remind you to check the way you look at the world. Which lens will you choose to look through—fear or faith?
I’m not talking about taking life’s lemons and making lemonade from them. Rather, can you look beyond the sour and the sweet and see that God is sovereign? When panic comes knocking, can you access His peace? When worry casts its shadow, are you willing to worship Him?
The best way to check your worldview is to bring your response to trouble in line with what the Bible says. The Bible lays out a distinct way of looking at the world. Here it is in a nutshell: God created everything and called it good; mankind made a bad choice that has had disastrous repercussions for every generation since; death has reigned—spiritually, physically, and morally—but God staged a long-term rescue mission; that mission began when Jesus dealt with sin at the cross, and it will culminate when He returns to rule over a restored creation with those He was sent to save.
If you don’t live with that worldview, most of life will seem senseless, haphazard, arbitrary, cruel, isolating, and frightening. Even if you live with that worldview, life will still hurt and be hard, but the bigger picture of God’s purposes will bring clarity to you and comfort you.
The Bible helps us lean into this perspective. It shows us that even as Christians, we’re not immune to pain. Even Jesus—who knows a thing or two about suffering—said that the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
It might be oversimplifying to say that bad things happen to good people, because the Bible also makes it clear that, in light of God’s holiness, there are no “good” people. We all fall short, and our most righteous deeds are a pile of dirty rags before the Lord. But the wonder of God’s purpose in our lives is that He works all of our shortcomings and shortsightedness and messiness into an eternal opportunity for good, if we trust in His sovereignty (see Romans 8:28).
Think of David, the man after God’s own heart. When bad things happened—when he was on the run from Saul, for instance, persecuted unjustly because of Saul’s jealousy—David still believed God was in charge and in control. He had a high view of God. This belief steadied him and kept him from dishonoring the Lord.
David’s suffering still ministers to us today. When bad things happened, David could say, “But God is still on His throne.” That means when bad things happen in our lives, it’s not the end of the story. Evil may succeed for a day or for a season, but in the end, God will triumph, and we will triumph with Him. In the meantime, every hardship is an opportunity to check your worldview and look to God. Are you looking?