Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying in Our Sorrows

By Kelly M. Williams -May 18, 2021

We have to dedicate the darkest places of our lives to God’s miraculous power.

A 19th century poem by William Ross Wallace asserts, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” He must have been thinking about the story of Hannah and Samuel in 1 Samuel when he wrote that.

Hannah was a barren woman who longed to have children. She cried to God in her sorrows. God wants to meet us in our sorrows.

Maybe you feel “small” today in your life. Maybe the circumstances of your life are huge and overwhelming. Good! God’s about to do something through you that will amaze you. I pray you allow Hannah’s life to inspire you.

We meet Hannah for the first time in 1 Samuel 1:2. She is described as, “Hannah who had no children.” She was known by her sorrow.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:3 that Hannah’s husband would go up to the city every year to worship God and give thanks to God for his goodness and blessings to them. Because Hannah was barren, her husband had taken another wife in order to have children. This was a common practice in that day similar to surrogacy today. However, her surrogate often tormented her that she could not have children. It was a painful visit for Hannah to go and worship the Lord and give thanks in the midst of her sorrows.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:6 that Hannah couldn’t have children because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb. It is very difficult to give glory to God when God is the source of your greatest sorrow.

You are supposed to be giving glory to God today for his goodness to you and all you can think about is the blessing God has withheld from you. This is truly the dilemma of life.

Maybe you find yourself there today. I know I have been there. What do you do? These next seven words are crushing to a spirit that is already struggling. 1 Samuel 1:7 says, “So it went on year by year.”

Not only was she barren at a festival in the presence of her rival, where she was supposed to give glory to God for his blessings, but it went on year after year.

I find that a lot of people stop showing up for church for this very reason. They are tired of seeing God bless others before them. Can you relate? You are happy for them, but you want to say to the Lord, Where’s my blessing, Lord?

It is important in these seasons that we keep leaning into God in the midst of our sorrows.

Hannah’s pain was great, ongoing and unrelenting.

In the midst of Hannah’s hopelessness, she kept inviting God into these dark and hopeless spaces. She does this in 1 Samuel 1:11 when she said to God, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

I remember as a kid my mom telling me she prayed this prayer over me when I was two years old, sick and dying in a hospital bed in Louisville, Kentucky. My parents were told there was no hope for me to live. My mom knelt by my bed and prayed this prayer that Hannah prayed. I didn’t miraculously get up out of the bed that day, but I started getting better from that day forward.

If you and I are going to hear and obey God in our sorrows, we have to dedicate the darkest places of our lives to God’s miraculous power.

Hannah stays after it. Hannah says to Eli the Priest in 1 Samuel 1:15–16, “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

I love Eli’s response to Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:17, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” I love Hannah’s response to Eli’s in 1 Samuel 1:18, “‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

Can you say that and do that? If so, we should follow Hannah’s example. The next day 1 Samuel 1:19 tells us, “She rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord.”

Hannah didn’t allow her pain to define her practice of worship.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:20 that in due time God gave Hannah a son. She named him Samuel because that means “I asked for him from the Lord.” She wanted Samuel to know he was from the Lord. The loudest human voice in my head is my mom’s voice. She told me the story of my life when I was too young to remember it. She told me how God blessed my life and saved me. But the blessing wasn’t the end of the story. She reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me and she told me of God’s purpose for me.

God doesn’t bless us so we can be blessed. He blesses us so we can live out his purpose for our existence.

Do you see the blessings of God as your means to fulfill your purpose?

After Hannah weaned Samuel, she took him back to the house of God where God heard her cry and answered her. She said to God in 1 Samuel 1:28, “As long as Samuel lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

My mom went to heaven 29 years ago, but her dedication of me to God like Hannah did Samuel, still carries great weight and fulfillment through my life and ministry today.

Keep obeying God’s voice in your life. Dedicate your sorrows to God like Hannah, and in due time, he will fulfill his eternal purpose through it.

Love is not self seeking

April 27, 2021Author: Nehemiah Zion

Love is not self seeking. Love cares for others. When we pray, we pray for another’s good.

Who is God searching for among believers in times of crisis like these?

“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for [the sake of] the land, that I would not destroy it, but I found no one [not even one].” (Ezekiel‬ ‭22:30‬)

God is asking believers to cry and weep for the suffering world. To intercede for the weak and oppressed in prayer. Mostly, believers are focused on physically helping which will always fall short. The other problem with physical help is the temptation of becoming a proud doer. Telling the world of your good deeds. Seeking self.

The saddest aspect of a believer is his lack of belief in God’s call to pray. Praying has powers beyond all the human help put together. Did Israel win the battles because they were great warriors? No. God gave them great victories because of prayer and praise.

Self seeking believers

Ananias and Sapphira kept part of the money, received from selling their property, having promised all. While they started in love, promising help for the ministry, they died in sin because of their lies. They did not truly love God, got trapped in their love for money.

Judas walked as a servant of God, only to give in to greed, seeking his own and rejecting the love of God, literally and spiritually.

How easily we fall away! How dangerous is temptation! How grave is our situation without God! It only takes a moment to throw away everything about God from our lives. The depravity of sin should not be underestimated. If it hadn’t been for the blood of Jesus no one could have been saved.

You can leave all for Christ to minister to the flock, only to turn into an obstinate and dominating person. Loving God means to serve others. If you do not love another then you aren’t preparing for heaven. Love does not misuse the position, but serves to make others fruitful for the glory of God.

Love, to serve.
Love, to give.
Love, in truth.
Maranatha, Praise God and Amen.

Battle Prayers: Thy Tents Shall Be Our Home

BY STEPHANIE

I struggle constantly to share prayer needs with others.  I often have no trouble talking to God about various things on my mind, but I have also struggled personally to pray for my own prayer needs, and to pray without ceasing over the daily actions and routine of my life.  The biggest reason for this is that I have a hard time counting many things as needs.  It can be easy to pray wishful prayers about what I would like to see happen, but over which I have no control.  Yet there are plenty of other times that prayer just seems… impractical.  Barring an unforeseen disaster, why would I need to pray for strength to get a jar of peanut butter off of the shelf when I could just do it?  Surely praying without ceasing does not require me to be imagining that I break my arm doing the most simple tasks!  That kind of imagination also wouldn’t be very good to apply to corporate prayers, knowing now many others have serious and present needs.  It is often so much easier to see Jesus as Friend than as Lord.  These blocks have added a layer of awkwardness to my prayers for years.

I still can’t tell what sparked the process, but the Lord put me on a train of thought recently that has overwhelmed my prayer life.  It didn’t come all at once like some of God’s lessons.  It was half of a thought that sat for some time before it blossomed.  The beginning that I can remember was wondering, “What am I missing when I keep my prayers to myself?”  I know that there is power in prayer, so why do I so often isolate myself from the prayer of others, when prayer brings us into such sweet communion with our brothers and sisters, even over the small things?  That’s not to say we make the focus of prayer meetings be the strength to open pickle jars.  On the contrary.  How often do we pray for normal rather than for extraordinary?

Our entire life as disciples of Jesus is a spiritual war, and prayer is the most vital battlefield.  Yet so often we can make the focus of our prayers the desire to stay safe and to stay normal.  It is easy to see how so many of my prayers have been defensive: focusing on keeping my head down, my shield up, and hoping that my prayers add extra strength to my rock, fortress, and high tower that God promises to be in Psalm 18.

But we really have no reason to pray defensive prayers of safety from inside God’s mighty fortress.  Read Psalm 18 in its entirety, and try to imagine our hopes and thoughts being able to add any sort of power to the unyielding storm of our Heavenly Father when His children are in trouble.  It isn’t our job to keep Heaven from crumbling, or from protecting God from His enemies, and the enemies and dangers we face are so numerous, that we would be crushed just by being aware of all that God protects us from without our knowledge!  In a manner of thinking, none of our prayers are defensive, because God’s kingdom will never fall.

Battle metaphors speak to me, so I love coming back again and again to Caesarea Philippi.  Jesus takes His disciples to this pagan city, the location of a cave called “The Gates of Hades” where demons were actively and grotesquely worshiped, to give them a clear and lasting image of their role as His disciples.

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
~Matthew 16:18

Gates don’t make a habit of going out and attacking other castles.  Gates are made strong to protect their cities.  Gates can stand strong and overpower attacking forces, but those forces have to come to them first.  We are the advancing forces, not the gates.  At the same time that our treasures are stored up safely beyond the gates of Heaven, we are on the march.  When we are spiritually attacked, it is because the Lord is pressing us forward into enemy territory, and they are rightly terrified of losing.  The battle belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31), and no weapon that is formed against His armies will prosper (Isaiah 54:17).

When we neglect to pray over situations we can handle ourselves-on a physical level-we are skipping over our battle training.  We are disconnecting ourselves from our fellow soldiers who will need us in the fight.  We may feel safer and more comfortable, but we won’t be useful in rescuing anyone or spurring each other on to greater effectiveness on the battlefield.

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
~2 Timothy 2:4

Our battle prayers do not have to be complicated to be offensive instead of defensive.  “Lord, I want to be chosen for the front lines of the battle.  Let this situation equip me for the fight.  Keep my focus on you so that I can reclaim lives for you.  I don’t know how getting a jar of peanut butter off of a shelf will be a strike against the enemy, but if it can be, make it count!  Keep my armor and my resolve strong when your enemies lash out in self-defense.”

That is not to say that we can never pray for our own protection.  Our hearts and our treasures are safe in the stronghold of Zion, but we must go out against the gates of Hell, where we will be attacked.  There is a hymn that has become a favorite of mine that paints a very good picture:

Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home:

A tent is not nearly as defensible as a castle, but it is where we find the fight.  Remember that the church is built on the very rock that was named “The Gates of Hades”, so we are in full range of the attack.  Our souls are safe with our Father, but our bodies, minds, and hearts will be wounded and broken on the battlefield.  Choosing to fight for our King will mean choosing to live in dangerous places.  It is not wrong to pray for healing and for protection here, but we cannot withdraw from the fight in order to keep ourselves safe.

Training will be hard.  The fight will be long.  The more we pray, the more we will be attacked, and the less normal life will be, because God will put us into more significant battles as we press on.  Never pass up the opportunity to become a stronger, more fierce, more devoted soldier.  As you leave normal comfort behind, the Lord will be your source of joy and peace.

Dear Sister, press on and let the enemy know your Sword, let the captive know your love, and know Who has rescued you and given you both.  Never hold back, never look back, and pray because lives depend on it.

You have been chosen for this fight.  Take your stand, choose this day whom you will serve, and do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with your wherever you go.

Pray Because God Is Sovereign

Article by Marshall Segal Staff writer, desiringGod.org

If seeing and embracing the sovereignty of God causes us to pray less, we have not yet understood his sovereignty, or prayer. Providence does not make prayer optional or incidental, but vital and indispensable. Not because God couldn’t do it another way — God does all that he pleases however he pleases — but because the sovereign God has chosen, precisely and wisely, to hang many of his plans on the prayers of his people.

Did anyone love and herald the absolute sovereignty of God like the apostle Paul? And yet he says in 2 Corinthians 1:11, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” He also calls believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

The pages of Scripture, and of history, are filled with the power and necessity of prayer, because the all-powerful God has chosen to hear and answer prayer.

Pray Because God Is Sovereign

The early church certainly didn’t feel any tension between the sovereignty of God and prayer. His sovereignty, in fact, became the great foundation and incentive for prayer. When they lifted their voices together in the midst of persecution, they laid themselves in the sovereign hands of God: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them . . .” (Acts 4:24). And they didn’t stop at creation, but relished his sovereignty even in the worst horror and injustice of history:

Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27–28)

And the fact that God sovereignly made, predestined, and orchestrated all things did not keep them from asking him to do something new in their lives. In the very next breath, they pray,

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29–30)

They did not take his plan (or their own boldness) for granted. They didn’t wait around for God to heal. They didn’t presume their prayers made no difference in his providence. No, they prayed because they knew that prayer is a vital part of his sovereign plans. They knew that prayer really changes things, that the sovereign God had always planned to answer prayer.

“Providence does not make prayer optional or incidental, but vital and indispensable.”

Notice what God does in answer to their prayers. “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23–31). First, he answers their specific request. They spoke the truth with the boldness they had prayed for. But beyond answering their immediate prayer, God shook the building in which they had prayed. Why did he do that?

It seems the sovereign God wanted to tell them how much he loved to hear them pray, and just how eager he was to answer.

Six Benefits of Praying to a Sovereign God

“Here then is the design of prayer,” A.W. Pink writes, “not that God’s will may be altered, but that it may be accomplished in his own good time and way” (The Sovereignty of God, 172). We do not pray as if God needed anything from us, “since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath” — including our prayers — “and everything” (Acts 17:25). We pray because God meets real, deep, desperate needs in the world through our prayers. And because he meets real, deep, desperate needs in us when we pray.

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, briefly highlights six great benefits of praying to a sovereign God (3.20.3). These are not reasons that we pray, but simply the happy fruit of a lifetime of bowing before the throne of providence. Why might God decide to run so much of the world and history through prayer? In part, because he longs to bless his needy, finite, chosen children — and to bless us far beyond our meager expectations and imaginations.

So, besides the realities that God really does answer prayer and that he commands us to pray, what other blessed reasons do we have to pray to our sovereign God?

1. That our hearts might be more united to his.

First, that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor.

Few things will fuel our desire and love for God like prayer. And few things will deplete our spiritual resolve and passion like prayerlessness. Notice the mingling of joy and prayer in Psalm 37:4–7:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
     and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
     trust in him, and he will act. . . .
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

Delight in God spills over in prayer to God — being still in his presence, committing our way to him, and laying out the desires of our heart before him (the psalm itself is a prayer). And prayer in God increases our delight in and desire for him. Prayer also consistently reminds us that, in Christ, we have “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).

Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Greater communion with Jesus increases the effectiveness of our prayers, often simply by aligning our hearts and requests with his. And when our hearts are aligned with his — when we are most satisfied with God and his glory — we will seek, receive, and enjoy more of him, especially in prayer.

2. That our desires might be purified.

That there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.

Faithful prayer exposes shortsighted, selfish, or earthly desires in us. When we bare our heart before God, we often feel just how misplaced our longings can be. James warns us about the danger of these wayward impulses:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? . . . You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1–3)

How do we make war on these rebel desires? James continues, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:7–810). And how better to humble ourselves (acknowledging how wayward our desires can be), submit ourselves (recommitting all we are and have to God’s desires), and draw near to him, than to pray?

“As we ask, receive, and rejoice, he gets more and more glory.”

Praying to a sovereign God also reminds us that even our noblest and purest desires and requests may go unanswered. His providence assures us that if he does not answer, whether immediately or ever, it is because he has a better plan. As painful as unanswered prayers can be, they are far more bearable (even strangely precious) when we know that the God who loves us is pervasively and meticulously in control of all things, working them for our good.

3. That we might be better prepared to give thanks.

That we be prepared to receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand.

Prayer can make us all the more aware of all that God is doing for us and around us. And that awareness multiplies our reasons for thanksgiving. The apostle Paul makes this connection explicit: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11).

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). Prayer opens our eyes wider and wider to all that he gives — specifically to what he gives in answer to prayer, but then far beyond our prayers to all the unasked-for blessings he showers on us.

4. That we might feel the weight of his kindness.

That, having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that he has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.

When was the last time God clearly answered one of your prayers? Can you remember a time when something you prayed for actually happened, and the circumstances left you concluding that it happened because you prayed? For that moment, heaven peeks through the clouds of all that we suffer and endure to remind us that we have an almighty and attentive Father. My wife and I just experienced a moment like that, after months of praying for a particular breakthrough in our family.

“Prayer not only exposes the kindness of God and inspires greater gratitude to God, but it also deepens our joy in God.”

For anyone in Christ, the kindness of God is not a marginal or occasional experience. It is the entire atmosphere of our experience — all of our experience. And it will always be so. God saved us “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Answered prayers are brilliant flashes, like bolts of lightning, announcing the ever-present, never-exhausted kindness of God.

Every time we pray, we invite another glimpse, another sensation of his surprising gentleness and affection, another occasion to awaken our selfish, impatient, grumbling hearts to his kindness.

5. That we might confirm his sovereign promises.

That use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us, and of his own will opens the way to call upon him at the very point of necessity, but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own.

When we pray, we take God at his word — that he will listen, that he will answer, that he will never fail us or send us anything that is not ultimately good for us, that he will fulfill all of his promises, including his promises about prayer. Jesus says to his disciples,

I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Luke 11:9–10)

When we pray, we take each of those promises seriously. We expect our heavenly Father to give us good gifts (Luke 11:11–13), either what we asked for or whatever would be better for us.

So, prayer proves the faithfulness of God as he answers our specific prayers (in his wisdom and timing) like he said he would. Prayer also allows us, however, to prove every other promise of God. Calvin says, “To us nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers” (3.20.2). One way prayer serves the providence of God and our joy in him is by inviting us to plead with him to do all that he has promised in Scripture.

If you want to start praying the promises of God, John Piper has modeled this kind of prayer well, and shared the promises he has leaned on most over decades of faith and ministry.

6. That we might be more satisfied in God.

That at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.

God has made prayer to serve and magnify joy. Jesus says precisely this when he tells his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23–24). Prayer not only exposes the kindness of God and inspires greater gratitude to God, but it also kindles our joy in the gifts God gives, which then inflames an even greater joy in God as the Giver. Answered prayers are kindling for inflaming true and lasting happiness.

And as our joy in God grows, his glory rises higher and higher in our life. We believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. So, if prayer kindles a warmer, more intense satisfaction in our souls, it also exalts the wisdom, power, and worth of God. As we ask, receive, and rejoice, he gets more and more glory, which is the one grand purpose of history and each of our roles in it.

So, if God is sovereign, why would we pray? The more we explore the dynamic and vibrant marriage between providence and prayer, the more we will ask instead: How could we not pray?

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/pray-because-god-is-sovereign

Your Marriage Can Survive The Storm It Is Facing

By Gary Thomas -March 30, 2020

survive the storm

You can survive the storm. 

A few weeks ago, a good friend of ours texted both Lisa and me to ask what was going on. She had had a terrifying dream about us the night before. “You and Lisa were in this tall tower,” she explained, “and this red plane was headed straight for you. I could see both you and Lisa overcome with sorrow and the plane was aimed right at you to finally take you out, but we couldn’t find a way to get into the tower to help you. I spent most of the night praying for you two. I couldn’t stop crying.”

God had “outed” our pain, so to speak, so we shared the details with her. When I later explained all that was going on in our lives to a counselor (I hadn’t been to one in over twenty-five years) and then sheepishly told him about our friend’s dream, he paused and said, “Uh, do you guys have anyone who can pray for you regularly? Because I don’t think that dream is too far off.” We were going to need help to survive the storm we were facing.

Because the situations (there are multiple) don’t involve just us, Lisa and I don’t feel free to share the details widely. But we have certainly felt targeted from just about every angle we can imagine and since I began meeting with that counselor, an entirely new front has opened up so apparently the “red plane” hasn’t run out of fuel yet (and prayers of protection and conquering for our entire family would be most welcome, as God leads).

Perhaps that’s why I was primed to be enthralled when a publisher sent me an amazing book of devotions to preview: Jeff and Sarah Walton’s Together Through the Storms.

We all know the biblical Esther was made queen “for such a time as this.” I believe God can also use books for such a time as this, and in the extraordinary turn of events our world has seen in the past month, I can’t imagine a more appropriate, helpful and encouraging book for marriages that are wondering how to survive the storm they are facing. I believe God inspired it and prepared it just in time, as I am sure many couples, now more than ever, are facing multiple challenges and “red plane” attacks of their own.

Here’s the beginning of their story (and their book):

We remember it like it was yesterday. The sun was shining, everyone was smiling, and, other than the fact that the DJ played the wrong song for our first dance (which we eventually laughed about), it was as close to a perfect day as it’s possible to be. I was twenty-three. She was twenty. Sarah and I were young, we were in love, we were excited, and we were ready (or so we thought) to embark on a life together.

We didn’t expect life to be perfect, of course—but we nat­urally assumed our marriage would be filled with more of the “better” than the “worse.” So with stars in our eyes and big dreams for what the future would hold, we confidently vowed:

“ I take you … to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live.”

That was nearly sixteen years ago. Little did we know that those years would bring chronic illness, financial loss, job loss, special needs, suffering children, overwhelming stress, and the marital strain that accompanies each. We never imagined that we’d experience so much of the “worse,” “poorer,” and “in sickness” parts of our vows.

The Waltons’ marriage barely got a chance to breathe before they faced a monumental challenge. They were instantly asked to survive the storm that was beyond anything they could imagine. What is often a very happy time for couples became terrifying for them:

Less than three years into our marriage, we excitedly wel­comed our first child into the world. All was going well until he spiked a fever and was hospitalized with a severe infection at seven weeks old. After five days in the hospi­tal with terrifying, inconclusive reports, we were sent home without answers. We thought it was an isolated incident, but over time it turned into years of life-altering neurolog­ical challenges that have forever changed our family’s lives. Every day, we helplessly watched as our sweet, smart, funny little boy would turn into someone else, displaying behav­ior that was extremely difficult to control and navigate. Countless consultations, tests, and evaluations left doctors shaking their heads, and all we were left with in the end was an increased financial burden, a stressful home life, and growing fears for him and us.

This wasn’t just a tough challenge, it became a long-term challenge and might even turn into a lifelong challenge, depending on God’s healing mercy. But in many ways the Waltons had just begun their season of storms:

Along with that, Sarah’s health was rapidly declining, and with each of our four children that she bore, she was increas­ingly unable to function through her own chronic pain and illness. On top of that, an ankle injury that she sustained in high school has now led to five surgeries and an inability to do much of what she loves anymore.

As our son’s disorder continued to intensify, and as Sarah grew sicker and our younger children began to exhibit their own chronic pains, my job as a consultant to orthopedic surgeons often kept me from being home. Our marriage began to suffer under the weight of it all.

Eventually, doctors were able to pinpoint the myriad symptoms of Sarah’s (and several children’s) maladies to Lyme disease, but they weren’t able to offer any clear consensus on what to do in order to treat the neurological and physical ailments. Reading this story, I could imagine the checks flying out the mailbox and the bank account depleting as they sought to do their best to overcome a tricky and nefarious disease.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  The Sexiest Habit Your Marriage Needs (it involves a calendar)

Unfortunately, even more bad news was ahead:

When we were at our lowest point, convinced that we couldn’t endure anything else, it became clear that I could no longer sustain my on-call job. So I left it behind, along with half of our income. We sold our dream home and downsized to a smaller rental home. A year later, my new company began to struggle and suddenly I was without a job—leaving us with no income at all.

Our family was in crisis. Most of our time spent together as a couple consisted of doctor appointments, navigating challenges with our son, soothing crying and hurting chil­dren, discussing what treatments we could afford, healing from each of the nine surgeries undergone between the two of us, dealing with Sarah’s chronic pain, and stressing about our draining finances, all the while being too exhausted to address the tensions that were building within our marriage. We were both broken and both wondering where God was and why he was allowing such deep and layered suffering. As we endured one loss after another, we found ourselves bat­tling despair and hopelessness, and being confronted with deep questions of faith that neither of us had faced before. We were surviving, but we—and our marriage—were hanging on by a thread.

But we’re still here. Still together. And, somehow, stron­ger for it all.

If ever a couple had “street cred” to write about how to survive the storm, the pain and its impact on marriage, the Waltons do. What amazed me about the book though was the faith and inspiration that breathes off every page. While avoiding easy answers and sentimentality, the Waltons have found hope, healing, and strength to persevere in their faith in God and the rich treasure trove of truths found in Scripture.

In this time of trial for so many marriages, Together Through the Storms can be a life preserver for marriages going through similar trials. You’ll still have to learn how to swim (or at least paddle) in the midst of your trials, but the truths discussed in this book will keep you from drowning in sorrow, doubt, and despair (natural temptations all). It’ll help you survive the storm. Unfortunately, the book isn’t available until May 1, but pre-sales are crucial for any new book and I’m hoping this one finds an enthusiastic response. Christian Book Distributors, Barnes and Noble, Amazon—anywhere you normally order books, you can pre-order Together Through the Storms.

I’ll end this blog post by quoting Jeff (chapters are written from both the husband’s and wife’s perspectives, and both Jeff and Sarah are excellent writers) and urging you to take advantage of a book that I truly believe was written and is being published “for such a time as this”:

We’re writing in the trenches, right there beside you, not from the mountaintop. But we have written these pages as a testimony to the faithful­ness, goodness, and sustaining grace of Jesus. He has been and continues to be our help, strength, song, and salvation.

So this is a book about marriage, but it’s very different than most books on marriage. It’s for the storms—to prepare you for them in the future, or to help you navigate them in the present, or to help you deal with the aftermath of what you’ve just come through. We hope to encourage you by acknowledging many (though certainly not all) of the chal­lenges that we can face when storms come into and against our marriage. That’s not because we’ve navigated our storms and safely reached the other side, but because Jesus Christ has been faithful to strengthen us, carry us, and change us and our marriage as we continue to weather them together.

Every marriage begins in the sun; every marriage must pass through storms. For you, maybe those storms have brewed within your marriage—from rubbing up against each other’s weaknesses, differences, and sins—perhaps from the pain of infidelity, addiction, hurtful patterns of sin, or an unbelieving spouse. Or maybe for you it’s been the storms of circumstances around your marriage: the experience of excitement over starting or growing a family becoming a deeply painful struggle with infertility, loss of a child, or special needs; or living with chronic illness, a life-altering injury, something that was done to you in the past, financial loss, tensions in your extended family, or a rebellious child.

Whatever your storms have been, or will be, these trials will inevitably cause you to wrestle with difficult and complex questions of faith—and they will either drive you closer together or further apart. It’s where and to whom we turn to for the strength and hope that we need to endure the storms that will make all the difference.

It’s possible to survive the storm. 

An Ordinary Girl of Extraordinary Faith

by Simonetta Carr

As sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey stood on the scaffold on a gray winter morning, she looked calmly out over the crowd of spectators. Then, mustering the strength she had asked God to provide, she spoke with such a poise and conviction that even her executioners were moved.

After a brief and customary admission of guilt (all those condemned to death had to admit to the justice of their punishment), Jane emphasized what mattered to her more than anything in the world. “I pray you all, good Christian people,” she said, “to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.” She confessed some past sins, particularly love of self and the world, thanked God for His mercy, then asked for prayer, but was careful to add, “while I am alive,” thereby pointing out the futility of the Roman Catholic belief in prayer for the dead.

Jane had ruled England for less than two weeks, during one of the most turbulent times of its history. Young King Edward VI had just died of a pulmonary illness, leaving unconfirmed orders for the installment of Jane to the throne. Taking advantage of strong popular support, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s firstborn, swiftly gathered her forces to claim her rights to the crown. Jane was arrested, confined to a section of the Tower of London, tried, and found guilty of treason. Initially, Mary seemed bent on showing mercy. That was until Jane’s father was caught as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. At that point, Jane became too great a risk to Mary’s reign. As long as she was alive, someone could try to free her and set her up again as queen. Her death sentence was sealed.

We know relatively little of Jane’s life until Edward’s death and the enactment of his will, but she emerges as a typical teenager from the few documents available. Her early letters reflect a simple desire to move away from home and a pleasing demonstration of literary skill. Her often romanticized complaint that her parents didn’t appreciate her love for higher studies sounds, in reality, like a teenager’s attempt to elicit sympathy at a time of personal frustration. Even her teacher, John Aylmer, had serious concerns when she started to display a seemingly vain interest in fashion and music.

Strangely, it’s in this ordinariness that we may find the greatest encouragement for ourselves and our children. When this very normal young girl had to face sudden humiliation, imprisonment, and eventually death, the Scriptures and theology she had consistently and almost inconspicuously learned, day after day, as a young girl—mostly in church, school, and family devotions—took prominence in her life.

Her theological training stands out particularly in her account of a three-day discussion with John Feckenham, an abbot sent by Queen Mary to persuade Jane to accept the Roman Catholic faith. Utterly convinced that “faith only saveth,” Jane confidently and passionately dismantled Feckenham’s arguments regarding the mass by pointing out that Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all on the cross and that He was offering an ordinary piece of bread while present in body with the disciples when He said, “This is my body” (Luke 22:19).

Her familiarity with Scriptures is also obvious in the letters she wrote during her imprisonment, particularly one to Thomas Harding, her former chaplain, who had renounced his faith in the gospel. In just one paragraph of that boldly explicit message, she very naturally quoted about eleven Bible verses.

Finally, her last letter to her younger sister Katherine echoes the words of comfort and instruction Jane must have heard in her younger years:

Desire, sister, to understand the law of the Lord your God. Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life, and then enjoy the life that Christ has gained for you by His death. Don’t think that just because you are now young, your life will be long, because young and old die as God wills. . .. Deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord. Repent of your sins, and yet don’t despair. Be strong in faith, and yet don’t presume. With St. Paul, desire to die and to be with Christ, with whom, even in death, there is life.

Jane inscribed the same phrase that she wrote to her sister—”Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life”—in the dedication of her book of prayers that she left to her jailer. In her last days, her death as a Christian was the only thing that mattered, and she embraced that task with diligence and devotion.

It’s sometimes easy to see ourselves or our children as the younger Jane—attending almost routinely or even distractedly to the means of grace and the study of God’s Word, seeing little fruit—but Jane’s life is an encouragement to persevere. If we are grounded in the gospel and sound theology, trials will not catch us unprepared. They will strengthen the faith that “comes from hearing,” while “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion” (Rom. 10:17Phil. 1:6).

Simonetta Carr is the author of numerous books and biographies, including her newest book Anselm of Canterbury, which is part of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.

What does Jesus pray for us?

by Greg Laurie on Mar 19, 2021

Sometimes people come up to me and ask me to pray for them or for a certain situation. I always try to pray right then, because if I don’t, I know that I might forget.

But even if we sometimes forget to pray for each other, Jesus never forgets to pray for us. The Bible tells us that He’s interceding for us in Heaven before the Father: “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25 NLT).

And Romans 8:34 says, “Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (NLT).

The question is this: What is he praying? What are the petitions he’s bringing before the Father on our behalf? We find the answer in John 17. In a prayer that only Jesus could pray, we discover his will, his plan and his purpose for us.

This prayer essentially has three sections. First Jesus prayed for himself (verses 1–5). He told God the Father that his work on Earth was finished. Then he prayed for his disciples (verses 6–19). He asked the Father to keep and sanctify them. And then he closed by praying for us and for the church to come (verses 20–26).

Jesus began by praying, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you” (verse 1 NLT). What had Jesus been doing up to this point? What had he done with his entire life? He glorified God the Father.

We should seek to follow his example. Jesus always sought to bring glory to the Father, and we should do the same. That’s why God has put us on this earth: to bring glory to him.

Of course, we tend to think we’re here to chase after our dreams and try to be happy. But we’re here to worship God and honor him.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. It beats being miserable, doesn’t it? I like to be happy. I like to enjoy life. But if we live to be happy, we never will be. On the other hand, if we seek to honor and glorify God and fulfill the purpose we were created for, then we will discover that happiness comes as a byproduct. We are here to glorify God, to bring him praise, and to bring him honor in every way.

Next, Jesus prayed for his disciples. As we look at his prayer for them, we really discover his heart for us: “Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold” (verses 11–12 NLT).

One day Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31–32 NKJV).

What a bombshell that must have been. Can you imagine sitting around with Jesus when he suddenly said that? In this case, Satan himself went after Peter. However, Jesus said, “But I have prayed for you.”

The good news is that when the devil knocks at the door, we can say, “Lord, would you mind answering that?” It’s so good to know that Jesus is interceding for each of us.

In addition to praying for the disciples’ preservation, Jesus also prayed for their consecration: “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (verses 14–17 NLT).

In speaking of “the world,” Jesus was referring to a system, a mentality, a philosophy, a belief. It’s basically secularism. We can have a Christian worldview, or we can have a secular worldview. The “world” Jesus was speaking of is the system that would pull us away from God.

Here’s the best definition of the world system that I know: “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16 NLT).

God wants us here in this world for a purpose. What is that purpose? I don’t believe it’s isolation, where we have very little to no contact with nonbelievers. Nor do I believe that it’s insulation, where we turn away from the pain and anguish of those who are without Christ.

Certainly, it isn’t stagnation, where we have no impact on the world at all, because we’re not living for the Lord. Worse yet, it isn’t imitation, where we actually become like the world that we’re living in.

Here’s what God wants for us: permeation, where we permeate our culture. We affect others by the way we live as we seek to glorify God with our lives.

The Bible tells us, “For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT).

God wants us to live lives that will glorify him. That’s why we exist. He also wants us to be unified before a lost and divided world, overcoming our differences and pulling together for what we have in common in Jesus Christ. This is God’s heart for us. And if we’re smart, we’ll seek to conform our lives to his will, his plan and his purpose.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

This article was originally published at WND.com.

How to Handle Persecution, Part 1

Sep 24, 1972 John MacArthur

Okay, Acts, chapter 4. I’ve titled this whole chapter – really through verse 37 – How to Handle Persecution, and we’re going to just begin to dive into a little bit this morning, an initial statement through verse 12. And persecution, of course, is a very, very intrinsic part of the Christian picture, and always has been. And here we have some tremendous truths given to us in the example of the apostles as they handled persecution. Now, persecution was a blessing to the apostolic church, just as it is a blessing to all churches and all believers.

Five times in 11 years, hands were stretched forth to persecute the church in Jerusalem on an organized basis. And this chapter records the first of these persecutions, and really, the beginning of the persecutions of the church that are still going on today, some 2,000 years later. During the first 300 years of the church’s existence, or the first three centuries, really, there were ten persecutions of major proportions brought against the church. Beginning with Stephen and extending nearly to all of the apostles, death became the common way to go, if you were a Christian.

The first persecution, for example, broke out under Nero Domitius, the sixth Emperor of Rome, and about the time A.D. 67, which isn’t too long after the church began. And Nero contrived all kinds of punishments for Christians; he sewed some up in the skins of wild animals, and then turned hungry dogs loose on them. He used others, dressed in wax shirts and attached to trees, to be lit as torches in his garden. The next persecution under Domitian was perhaps even more inventive. Christians were imprisoned. They were put on racks, they were seared, they were broiled, they were burned.

They went through scourging, stoning, and hanging. Many were lacerated with hot irons, others thrown on the horns of wild bulls. In the fourth persecution, beginning in about 162 A.D., some Christians were made to walk with already-wounded feet over thorns, nails, sharp shells; some were scourged until their flesh was gone, others were beheaded, and so it went. Under the eighth persecution at Utica, 300 Christians were placed alive around a lime kiln and told that they were to make offerings to Jupiter or be pushed in. Unanimously they refused, and all 300 of them perished in the lime.

That was only the beginning of what the church has undergone, and Satan’s persecution, as time has progressed, has become all the more subtle than it was then. It’s not nearly as obvious how it is that Satan persecutes today. And incidentally, today, apparently much more successfully, Satan’s techniques are working. Now, our text records for us the first persecution. This is the beginning of the steady stream of persecution that has gone on since the commencement of the church. In one way or another, the Christian church is always under persecution. It is not always political.

It is sometimes personal. It is sometimes religious. It sometimes comes from illegitimate Christianity. That is the greatest persecutor of evangelical Christianity is probably liberal Christianity, at least in the American situation. In one way or another, then, the church has suffered persecution ever since what we’re going to see in Acts, chapter 4, began at all. And as I said, persecution is subtle today. It’s not what it used to be. Satan usually directs the persecution today not at the physical body, but at the ego.

He directs his persecution at pride, or acceptance, or status, et cetera, and it’s really very effective. He doesn’t threaten the Christian by saying, “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off.” He threatens the Christian by planting within his mind the fact that if you witness you might lose your job, or your status, or somebody might think you’re strange. In these days, persecution has a tremendous effect, in a very subtle way. The form of persecution in the early church made heroes out of those who died.

And it came to be such a normal thing for Christians to die that many Christians developed a martyr complex, and just went around trying to put themselves into positions where they could be martyred. I mean, they wanted to belong, you know? But today, the persecution that comes is more effective; it doesn’t make heroes out of anybody. And it’s a sad thing; while the church today is not being killed physically, the church has succumbed to a kind of living spiritual death.

I suppose the perfect illustration would be the church at Sardis, in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 1, which says “‘And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; ‘These things saith He which hath the seven Spirits of God’” – or the Holy Spirit – “‘and the seven stars’ – the ministers of the seven churches – “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.’” Satan has killed the church in terms of its spiritual effect, without ever having to kill the Christians in it.

In fact, by letting them all live in an insipid kind of godless Christianity, he has a greater effect than if he wiped them all out, and had to face the issue again that the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. And so, Satan, whose persecution in the past has slaughtered Christians physically, has found it much more effective to kill the church by making it complacent, indolent, fat, rich, socially oriented, and accepted. And insipid, as it’s watered down its theology to accommodate the world; much more effective than if all Christians were boiled in oil.

Now, there are some places in our world where persecution does reign, physical persecution. Even some places here in America. But one way or another, Satan is antagonistic to the church. He persecutes the church. Obviously, and flagrantly, and blatantly physically, or subtly, by the persecution to become involved in the world, to strip off that which offends, in order that you might maintain your prestige, your status, or whatever it is that you desire from your ego. Now, Jesus, in John, chapter 15, warned the church in the statement to His disciples that they might as well expect persecution.

In verse 18 of John 15, we read this: “If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” You see, that’s why, John says, “Love not the world.” What happens when a Christian falls in love with the system is, the system no longer really is hindered by this guy, they are no longer offended by this guy, and Satan has accomplished a greater persecution than if you had taken that guy and killed him, physically, because he has destroyed his effect. In fact, he has made him a negative.

“If you are of the world, the world would love its own: but you’re not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” And they’ll persecute you. Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Verse 2 of chapter 16, “They’ll put you out of their synagogues: the time comes when whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.” Religious persecution. So, there is always persecution. Jesus stated it.

Peter went on a step further, in 1 Peter 2:21, and said this – and this is an important statement. He, in effect, said we should expect it. “For hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” If you confront the world, the world will react violently, one way or another. Now, you may succumb to the persecution of Satan, so that you fiddle out and kind of get laid by the wayside, long before you ever confront the world, because you’re really doing that to save your ego from being persecuted.

But Paul said to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:12, “You” – pardon me – “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Now, that’s a very clear statement. “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” You say, “Well, you know, I go along, and I don’t suffer persecution.” Read the verse again. “All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If you’re not suffering persecution, why aren’t you? Because you’re not living godly in Christ Jesus, just that simple.

If you live the kind of life that God intends you to live in Christ, you will by the very nature of that life butt heads with the world, and when I say world, I mean the system. If you are not suffering some persecution, you have either fallen right into the flow of the system so that they don’t know the difference, or they haven’t discovered yet who it is that you really are; you have hidden it well. But you begin to live openly and godly in the world, and you’re going to bang heads with Satan, and with his establishment.

You begin to confront the world, and the persecution is automatic. Now, we see this in the early church. First of all, it looks so great. You know, we always say, “If you really live a Christian life, the world will be drawn to you.” Sure, they’ll be drawn to the beauty of your person, but as soon as they find out what it is, then, all of sudden, that which draws them to you – unless they come to Christ – turns to be a negative. The early church, for example, in chapter 2 and 3, everything looked real positive.

Chapter 2, the world was amazed at them, and they found favor with all the people, and everything looked great. And all of a sudden, they found out what it was they stood for, and everything shifted gears mighty fast. Now, in chapter 3, you’ll remember that Peter had gone with John to the temple, and there he had healed a lame man. A crowd had gathered together in the courtyard. Peter and John had stood in Solomon’s portico, up off the floor, a little bit, of the courtyard, and he and John had between them the lame man, and Peter began to preach.

And he preached a powerful message regarding Jesus as Messiah, or the Christ, God. And he indicted Israel for executing Christ. He closed with an invitation to them, in verse 19 “repent and be converted.” And he really let them have it. You see, he confronted the world. He stood up in the middle of their thing, right smack in their temple, where they were doing their religious duties, and he said, “This is wrong. You have blown it,” and he confronted them face to face. Now, that’s the kind of confrontation I’m talking about.

That’s the kind of confrontation that brings hostility. But that’s the kind of confrontation that God expects us to be involved in. It is not that kind of a mealy-mouth hiding, in order to protect our ego, our status, and our prestige, and our name among the world. The response to what Peter did was very interesting. Look at verse 4 of chapter 4, and we’ll kind of begin to look at our text. “But many of them who heard the word believed.” Now, that’s what we’re trying to effect. We’re not trying to hide, because if we hide, not only do we not suffer, but nobody gets saved, either; that’s the problem.

Sure, you say, “Well, if I do that, I’m liable to get really messed up.” That’s right. You’re liable to get messed up, and somebody else is liable to get straightened out, and your life is expendable, my friend; so is mine. True? My life is expendable for the sake of somebody else. As soon as I start trying to live to protect my ego, and to protect my status, and to protect my prestige, then my life has become self-centered, and it’s no good to God or to anybody else.

If I’m not willing to confront the world for the sake of the salvation of those in the world, then I don’t have, really, anything to offer God or anybody else, and I’m only kidding myself. Now, it says in verse 4 that “Many of them who heard the Word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Now, the word was about should be translated came to be five thousand men. That means this is the total of men; at this point, this is the membership roll of the church. This is the male volume, anyway.

And there are two words for men in the Greek, two really most dominant words: anthrōpon or anthrōpos, and that word has to do with man generically, man as a race. Then the other one is andros, or here, ton andrōn, plural. This means man as opposed to female, and it would be best translated males. And so, what it says is this, “And the number of the men came to be,” or “the number of the males came to be five thousand.” That means, in addition to that, they were probably at least another five thousand women, and children.

That’s a large church for such a fast beginning, and you never hear another listing of how many from here on out. It grew so fast from this point, that it got past the possibility of keeping an accurate count. But many believed, and that was the reaction. Now, that was worth the price that Peter paid. It’s always worth the price to confront the world, that God may do His work. If we never confront the world, we’d blow it, because it is to the world that we are sent with the gospel.

You say, “Well, I might lose my job.” Praise the Lord, so lose your job – who cares about your job? I mean, God can handle you. He can provide everything you need, and promises that He will. Now, this doesn’t mean you’re to be a lousy employee, and waste all your time preaching the gospel; you better reread Ephesians. You’re to work like you ought to, and give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s earning. But wherever you are in this world, they ought to know that you stand for Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s look at the text, and see two things: the persecution manifest, first of all, in the first four verses, and then the persecution met. And then we’ll look at the principles for meeting persecution, and just kind of look at a few of them this morning; we don’t have much time to look at all of them. And I’m excited about this, ’cause this is going to give you some practical things, some real tools, that you can use. First of all, persecution is manifest in the first four verses.

Verse 1: “And as they spoke” – while they were speaking – “unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.” Now, the idea of “came upon them” is with anxiety, anger, to arrest them. I mean, they absolutely grabbed them; this is the point. This crowd had been gathered into the temple courtyard. They had seen the miracle, and the official people of the temple and Israel were really getting uptight about it.

And so in the middle of Peter’s sermon – really, it isn’t fully the middle, because he’s already wrapping up with his conclusion, but while he is yet speaking – they arrive at Solomon’s portico, and they grab them. They “came upon them,” it says. Now, I want you to see who’s involved in this. It doesn’t say, “Oh, the robbers, and thieves, and crooks in town,” and so forth, and so on. It says, number one, the priests, who were to represent God, which immediately shows you where the priesthood had gone; long way from where God intended it.

It’s interesting, too, that there were 24 courses of priests in the Levitical order, and there were so many priests that they divided into 24 courses, and of those courses, only certain priests ministered every week. So, when the priests were ministering in the temple, that meant it was their week, and you waited a long time for your week, and when your week finally came, it was a big deal. And least of all, did you want all of this commotion going on during your week, that you’d waited so long for.

And so here, in the middle of the week of these particular priests, all of this hubbub is going on, and they’re really concerned. This is religious opposition. And remember as I said earlier, persecution of the church often comes from religious groups, still even often from Judaism. All right, second person that we meet is the captain of the temple, the sagan, and this is the head of the temple police. Here is the political opposition. In some parts of the world, there is political opposition against the church.

In China today, there is political opposition against the church. In Russia, there is political opposition. Did you read in the Times the other day about the big hassle in Russia now, because so many of the Russian leaders are getting connected with religious groups. And now Russia is tremendously concerned to untangle these people, who are in important positions in Russia, from various religious groups. There are certain places in the world where there is political opposition, and that we get from the captain of the temple, who was the head of the temple police.

Now, the Roman government was very tolerant, but against disorder publicly, they were merciless. And so, he wasn’t about to get himself in a position where there was a riot, or he would really be in trouble. Then we meet the most important group, and that is the Sadducees. Now, you say, “What are the Sadducees?” Well, within the framework of Israel there were many groups. There were the Pharisees, and there were the Zealots, and so forth, and one interesting group was the Sadducees. Now, we don’t really know where that name comes from; some say from Zadok, but there’s really no way to tell.

But Sadducees were a religious and a political group, so they combined the worst of both in their persecution. They were the power sect in Israel. They were the religious liberals. They were the high priestly family; all the high priests at this point were Sadducees. They were the opposition party to the Pharisees, like the Republicans and the Democrats, with a religious flavor. They were the opposition. Now, the opposition of the Pharisees dominates the gospels, and the opposition of the Sadducees dominates the book of Acts, so both of them get into play.

It’s also very interesting that they were very wealthy. The Pharisees tended not to be wealthy; they tended to be extremely wealthy. They were also the collaborationist party. They were the ones who were always scratching Rome’s back for the mutual scratch, you know. They really didn’t care that much about the common people; they only cared about maintaining the status quo, and keeping their power and their prestige in Israel.

So they maintained a collaborationist attitude with Rome, kept on friendly terms with Rome, in order to maintain their prestige, power, and their comfort. They were a small group, very minority, but were greatly dominant in the political influence of Israel. They didn’t care for anything about religion, other than the fact that it was social custom, and so they were strict liberals. They were strict social religionists. In fact, I’ll give you just four points of their theology – won’t take more time than that.

We’ll get into it a little later in the book. But number one, they believed that only the written law was binding, and none of the oral tradition; that is, none of the rabbinical laws were binding, all of those things that the Pharisees lived and died by. Secondly, they believed there was no resurrection of the body, there was no future reward, there was no future punishment – a typical liberal line. Thirdly, they believed that the existence of angels, and spirits, and the spirit world, was a myth.

Fourthly, they believed that man was the master of his own destiny; that God was not involved in calling the shots, that there was no such thing as sovereignty or predestination, but man mastered his own fate. So here they are, the religious ranking liberals, the VIPs of Jerusalem, the bluebloods, and they’re the ones that come after Peter and John. And the reasons they did it are very clear in verse 2, and I want you to see them; it’s very clear. “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

Now, I want you to notice the word grieved. Now, that sounds, in the King James, like “Oh, they were so sorry, they were so sad in their hearts.” But that is not what the word means. It is a very strong word, and it means they were thoroughly pained; they were in terrible mental anguish. It’s not the kind of sorrow that, “Oh, things are getting all distraught. What a sad day for Israel.” It’s the kind of anguish that’s based on indignation and wrath; that’s the word.

In fact, it’s used again, in Acts 16:18, where Paul saw the woman at Philippi under the power of an evil spirit, and he had the same kind of attitude. It’s an angry indignation. It’s not just simple sorrow. Now, they were really angry; this is standard bigotry, you see; they really got uptight. They got very disturbed, very indignant, very angry, and they had three reasons. Number one, let’s look at verse 2: “That they taught the people.” First of all, they were upset that they were teaching, Peter and John.

Now, you see they believed that they had the corner on all truth, that they had all right to teach, and nobody else had a right to open his mouth. I mean, that was all – that was the way it was. Theirs was the prerogative of teaching, and nobody else had the right, and least of all, to walk right in the temple where all of these teachers were, stand up, and teach contrary truth to that truth which they had been teaching. They were really upset because these two were teaching. Who were they to teach? They’re not approved.

And, interestingly enough, look at verse 13: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled.” They were unlearned and ignorant; now, that’s two interesting words, and you don’t get the total impact by just reading those words. Let me show you what it means. Unlearned means that they didn’t know the sacred writings and the Jewish law. They weren’t versed in Jewish theology. “These guys are not even Jewish theologians,” they said. “They’re ignorant of rabbinic law. They haven’t been to the proper schools. How can they know anything?”

You remember they accused Jesus of the same thing. “Who is He that’s saying all of this? He’s never been to our school. Where’s He getting His information?” And then Jesus answered, “I get it directly from God.” Oh, you know, school is a little extraneous. And secondly, it says not only were they ignorant in terms of Jewish theology, but the second word, ignorant, means that they are commoners; they are not professionals, they are strictly amateurs. “Who are these uneducated amateurs?” That’s exactly what they’re saying.

And to make it even worse, they were from Galilee, which, of course, was the ultimate in despising. And so, they had no right to step into the narrow world of the instructors, and stand up in the very temple, and teach doctrines contrary to their own. And they were mad, because they did not agree with their theology. Now, whenever you stand up in the face of opposition, and you proclaim a truth that they deny, you’re going to get in trouble, and so they were angry. They had every reason to be, from their perspective, because they needed to preserve their own position.

So, it bugged them that they taught, that they even stood up and taught. Secondly, it bugged them what they taught. Look at verse 2. They preached Jesus. They “preached through Jesus the resurrection,” but they were preaching Jesus, and that, they hated. They had determined that Jesus was a blasphemer, and here they were back, announcing all over town that Jesus was Messiah, and you all have killed your Messiah. Now, that is not real popular stuff. And you try announcing that today in the midst of a congregation of Jewish people, and you’re going to find some reaction.

Peter proclaimed, “Jesus is Messiah,” and he indicted the whole nation of Israel for missing the Messiah, and he got a reaction. So, they didn’t like that he taught, and they didn’t like what he taught. And thirdly, they didn’t like the resurrection idea. He “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” He kept announcing that Jesus was alive. Well, that’s a fearful thought. I mean, if they have executed their Messiah, and He’s back alive again, that’s scary for them, because what would hinder Him from moving right out to bring about the vengeance that they would justly deserve?

And let’s be honest enough to think that they knew they were hypocrites. I don’t think they covered that up very well. I’m sure they knew they were hypocrites in their hearts, and they probably took a second thought, and thought, “Well, maybe we did blow it. Maybe we did execute our Messiah. Boy, if we did and He’s alive again, this is bad news. Better to shut these guys up.” Apart from the fact that the Sadducees’ theology did not permit a resurrection, which irritated them to death. And do they didn’t like the fact that they taught, and they didn’t like the truths that they taught, and so they reacted.

Now, watch what the results were in verse 3. “They laid hands on them” – and as I say, that is not to ordain them. “They laid hands on them, and they put them in custody in jail until the next day, for it was now eventide.” Three hours had gone by – they came here, remember, about three o’clock in the afternoon for the afternoon prayers, and by this time it’s at least six o’clock, which was eventide. So, three hours have gone by in this little incident, and they finally laid hands on them.

And I don’t know how many of those three hours Peter spent preaching, but nevertheless, they came to get them, and they put them in jail overnight. Now, that was the reaction, so the persecution began. But at the same time, I love verse 4: “Many of them who heard the Word believed; and the number of the males came to be five thousand.” Imprisoning the apostles didn’t nullify their effect, and it didn’t prevent the progress of the gospel, you see.

This was the first instance, which since has been so often repeated, in which persecution has only led to the extension and the establishing of the church. Rather than destroy it, it has brought it growth. If trial – watch it – and persecution on a personal level is God’s way of maturing a Christian – and it is, if you read James 1 – then trial and persecution on a whole church-wide level is God’s way of maturing His whole church, and building it up.

Persecution always results in growth – mark that. That has to be the beginning thing, because that’s your commitment to do what’s right, even if persecution is involved. Persecution results in growth for many reasons. Number one, it strips off all of the dead weight. If you’re a part of a group of people that are having to lay their lives on the line for Jesus Christ, then we’re only going to have people in that group who are willing to do that, right?

And part of the problem of the church today are all the tares that’s sown among the wheat, and the easiest way to get rid of the tares is just to make the wheat pay the price, or make the church pay the price of total discipleship. And the tares will just drop off, because they’re not really that committed, and don’t want to get that involved. And so, as a church is persecuted, it is purified. The waste is stripped off, false believers leave, the strong are left, and God works freely through them.

So, we see persecution manifest, and persecution purifies the church, and it greater – increases its effect to a greater degree. Now, let’s see how they met this persecution – just the first couple of points in our outline – and here are seven principles for meeting persecution. As I say, the first thing you’ve got to do is commit yourself to confront the world, or you’ll never have to run into the problem. Now, here are some practical things. These are really practical. In James, chapter 1, you know, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into trials and temptations.”

That’s a wonderful opportunity to grow. That’s the way you grow, is by going through the test, you see. If we live godly in the world, we will suffer persecution. If we suffer persecution, we ought to be happy, because persecution will make us grow, and it will reach others for Christ, and that’s what we’re all about. True? But somewhere, you’ve got to make the commitment that you’re willing to do that; make your life expendable, rather than to hide and protect yourself. So, we look forward to persecution with great anxiety and great joy, for righteousness’ sake.

Now, watch seven principles in reacting to persecution. Number one, be submissive to it. If persecution comes, be submissive. Verse 5 – well let’s look at verse 3. “And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody.” Does it say, “They laid hands on them, and Peter and John hit back, and a brawl ensued?” Doesn’t say that at all. They laid hands on them, and they just put them in jail overnight. Verse 5, “It came to pass on the next day, that” – this is the morning, after they’ve been in jail all night – “the rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,” et cetera, et cetera.

“When they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what power, by what name, have you done this?’” Now, you see no resistance in any of this. Now, this is more implied than stated, but it’s there. There is no resistance at all. Now, I’m not talking about a martyr complex that goes in there and says, “Yes, I’ll die.” You know, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about trust in God. They didn’t resist it, because they saw in it God’s great opportunity, you see? This is tremendous. I want you to see this. They knew that their arrest was in God’s hands.

They had been obedient in the proclamation, they would be submissive in the arrest, assuming that since their obedience had brought them to that point, that’s where God wanted them to be; you understand that? If you’re obeying the Lord and you wind up in a mess, you can assume that God ordained the mess, so stick around; there’s something that’s going to happen in that mess. Now, if you get yourself in a mess in disobedience, that’s another – that’s a horse of a different color. That’s a whole different issue.

But if you have been obedient, and you have been confronting the world, and proclaiming Christ, and you get into a hassle, just praise God, and wait to see what it’s all about, and be submissive. Don’t fight back. Now, look at this, this is so interesting. Verse 5, they were – ”It came to pass on the next day, the rulers, and elders, and scribes” – they brought them into this – into a counsel – really the Sanhedrin. The scribes, the elders, and the rulers, along with the high priest, made up the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin was the high ruling counsel of Israel.

This is the Supreme Court of the Jews. And even in the Roman times, they had the right to arrest. It had 70 members, and then the high priest was ex-officio president, so there were 71. And it included the priests and the scribes – you remember the scribes were the ones who were the experts in the law – and the elders, who were from the people. And then it included, in addition, the people from the priestly family, and they were really a motley bunch, to say the least. With this kind of leadership, it’s no wonder they had their problems.

Verse 6 introduces Annas, and you remember Annas, who was the high priest formerly, but had been deposed by the Romans. He was the senior ex-high priest, but he really ran the show. He was the power behind the scenes. In fact, when Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 18, they immediately took Him to Annas, because Annas was really the power of the whole structure in Israel. He was a Sadducee. Now, he had a son-in-law by the name of Caiaphas, who was Roman- appointed high priest, and he was as bad as Annas was.

Then it says “John, and Alexander.” Now, it’s very difficult to know who they are; there’s no way to know. But it is interesting that Annas did have five sons, one of his sons named Jonathan, and some of the manuscripts read Jonathan instead of John, so it may have been his son. And some say that Alexander is a form of Eleazer, and Eleazer is a known son of Annas. So perhaps they were two sons of Annas, perhaps we’re reading into it; that, we just really don’t know. But anyway, they were of the kindred of the high priest.

They all gathered at Jerusalem. Now, they got together in their council and their Sanhedrin, and they brought in Peter and John. Now, this is a tough pill for them to swallow, because they’re still not rid of Jesus, you see. He’s still the issue. Verse 7 says, “And when they had set them in the midst” – now, that’s interesting, because they usually assembled – in the precincts of the temple, there was an inner place called the hall of hewn stone. And they sat in a semi-circle, and they faced the president, who sat out here, and they always stuck the prisoner in the middle.

So, when it says, “They put them in the midst,” that gives you a good idea, even, of the picture of Peter and John standing here, with a semi-circle of the 70, and the president behind them. Now, this is so exciting. Do you know what God had just done? God had just given them the wonderful opportunity to preach to the Sanhedrin. This is a good case of Satan overdoing it. Satan does this all the time. He gets himself into real trouble. By persecution, he opens avenues that are never opened any other way.

Do you know that there was no way that they could have set up an afternoon to present the gospel to the Sanhedrin? There was no way possible to preach to those men, except this way. That’s why I say in the design of God, to submit is the whole key. They submitted, and God put them right where He wanted them. It’s a fantastic thing. God allows them to carry their testimony to the Sanhedrin itself. What an opportunity. And precisely why we must be submissive in persecution.

In persecution, if you’ve been obeying God, and you’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then accept it, because God has a design in it, you see, that maybe could never be realized in any other way. Our resistance can thwart God’s plan if we resist at the point of persecution. There was no other way they could have gotten there. And thus, Satan, in his opposition, overreached himself, and as always, God has a way of taking Satan’s best efforts and turning them to His glory. All right, then it says that once they got them in there, they then asked the right question.

God set the stage so perfectly. “By what power or by what name have you done this?” What a set up; what a question. In fact, it is indicating in the linear tense that they kept on asking them. They kept asking them. “Come on now. Come on. Come on, tell us.” And it just may be that Peter was saying, “Well, I don’t know if we ought to say anything about it.” And he just waited until they egged him on, and then he said it. That’s possible; not necessarily true. But anyway, they kept on asking him, and they said, first of all, “By what power?”

In other words, they may be a contempt in that question; what magic are you using? But the second question, “By what name?” has to do with by whose authority. A name represented authority; “In whose name do you do that? By whose – who gives you the authority to heal people, and to teach the way you do?” And so, they asked a simple, straightforward question; just exactly the question that set the stage for Peter to preach. Now, I want you to see how their submission at this point is the key to everything.

If we submit in persecution, we’ll find ourselves in the place that God wants us to be. Listen to what Peter says. In 1 Peter – and Peter was there, so he may have been reflecting on some of these things. 1 Peter 4, verse 12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you” – I mean, you’re confronting the world, you’re sure to get it. “But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.

“If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, on your part He is glorified.” You see, in this, this kind of thing, God desires to gain glory. And I love verse 19: “Wherefore let him that suffers according to the will of God commit the keeping of his soul to Him in well-doing, as unto to a faithful Creator.” Just say, “Hey Lord You got me into this; here I am. You better take care of me,” and God will be glorified in it.

You see, if you let this happen, submit to it, then the glory of God is a possibility. Second principle – in dealing with persecution, be submissive to it – secondly, be filled with the Spirit, verse 8: “Then Peter” – what’s the next word? – “filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them.” Now, you see, the key to anything in the Christian life is the power of the Holy Spirit, right? And Peter at this point has yielded to the Spirit of God. It’s an aorist passive. It indicates, perhaps, that he was already ready, because he was already filled with the Spirit.

Now, we’ve talked so much about the filling of the Spirit. If you are at all confused about what that doctrine has to say to you, then you can get the tape on Ephesians 5:18, or the one on Acts Chapter 2, the very beginning, and we have an explanation of that in there. But let me just say this. Some have thought that the filling of the Spirit is a kind of a trauma, or a kind of a mourners’ bench experience, or a kind of an emotional thing. It is not. The filling of the Spirit is not the result of lengthy prayer.

It is not the result of an emotional experience. It is not the result of some kind of a highly exciting spiritual activity. The Spirit – the filling of the Spirit is simply when a believer walks in obedience to the Word and the Spirit, you see. Peter had already taken the steps to be Spirit-filled, because he was obedient. He had preached, and he had submitted as God had brought the persecution, and that was under the control of the Spirit, at that point. That’s why it’s an aorist passive; it had already been done. It is simply submission, is all it is.

It’s, “Here I am. What a wonderful opportunity; I submit to you, Spirit. Whatever You want to do through me, do it.” The Spirit-filled life is just that; it is yielding everything to the full power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every Christian has within him the Holy Spirit. He is there to power us, and as we yield to His power, that power is released, and Peter knew that there is no way he’s going to get victory over this problem unless he was yielded to the Spirit of God. You say, “Well, if I was there, I probably would have fallen over in fear.”

Well, that’s possible. But instead of falling over in fear, Peter just leaned his whole weight on the Holy Spirit. There’s no other way for victory. And folks, at this point, without the other five steps to victory, Peter is already guaranteed victory. Once he had turned this into that kind of thing, he had won the victory. Because what? If this experience had caused him to yield to the Spirit of God, then it’s a plus; would you buy that? Anything in my life that causes me to be filled with the Spirit is a good thing, it’s a victory, is it not?

Step number two, Peter has already got victory, because you know what happened? This persecution came, and it drove him closer to the Spirit of God. That’s victory. He was filled with the Spirit. At this point, the whole thing had drawn him to the Lord, completely yielded to His will. That is victory. And I’ll tell you something, this is what’s missing in the church today. This is why the church isn’t victorious over its persecution, because they’re not really leaning on the Spirit of God.

When somebody comes at you, and persecutes you, you get uptight, you run and hide, instead of standing firm, and yielding to the Spirit, and saying, “What’s your design? I submit to this.” You say – you tend to back off, you know, “Wrr, wrr,” see. Or if we know there’s something offensive about our gospel, or offensive about what we believe, we tend to delete it, and we talk in little innocuous, religious platitudes, so we don’t offend anybody.

Because we’re afraid, instead of boldly saying what we know is right, and then yielding to the Spirit of God and watching Him work, we are defeated, first of all, by the failing to say what we know is the truth, even though it offends. Because if it doesn’t offend, you might as well not say it, because you need to offend people, so you can show them they’ve got a problem. But after that, we fall apart in fear, and we make sure that we avoid the issue from then on.

That’s a backwards thing, but when the church is Spirit-filled, then it is going to be uncomfortable in the world, but it is going to be victorious. Today the church is comfortable; it is not Spirit- filled, it is defeated. Peter and John found themselves out of step with the going pattern of belief. They collided hard with it, and they didn’t run and hide. They stood there, they submitted, they were filled with the Spirit, they were victorious. You better be out of step with the world. You better be marching to the beat of a different drum.

You better be a constant thorn in the side of somebody in the system. You better be violating incessantly the selfish, godless, immoral, materialistic, indulgent society you live in, so that you do collide with it; or you really have no reason to exist. So, they were submissive, and they were Spirit filled. And thirdly – this is good – the third principle of victory is boldly, they used it as an opportunity. This is terrific.

Verse 8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, “You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he has made well; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead” – which, of course, sets them at the opposite ends from God again, and which he does all the time. “Even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Boy, that is powerful stuff; here he goes again. Filled with the Spirit, he uses the persecution as an opportunity for a bolder testimony. Instead of getting persecuted, and then clamming up, or falling apart, he just says, “Well, let me tell you what it was that I was saying, so that you will really clearly understand it. I said Jesus is Messiah, and you crucified Him. And God had to raise Him again from the dead.” Now, apparently in this message, which is only 92 Greek words, it embodies all of the apostolic preaching characteristics.

It’s got it all; the indictment of rejection, the presentation of Jesus as Messiah from an Old Testament text, and then a good note about the resurrection. It’s all there, and it’s even got a closing invitation, in verse 12. And in verse 9, he says – he starts to preach in verse 8. In verse 9, he says, “If we this day be examined of the good deed,” isn’t that interesting? In other words, he establishes to begin with that there’s injustice, because what is the thing that they’ve just done? What does he call it there in verse 9? A good deed.

He just makes sure they understand that they’re doing unjustly. He establishes the injustice of the persecution by stating that all they had done was a good deed. It certainly wouldn’t be evil to heal a lame man, would it? If you want to know what it’s all about, verse 10, “Be it known unto you all” – and then he announces – “to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” – and you could just see them go, uck, you know – “whom ye crucified” – and then the anger begins to seethe – “whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Now, that is boldness, friends. I mean, they – he put his head on the block. He put his life on the line. In the very citadel of the enemy, he proclaims the living Christ to them who killed Him. “Your own Messiah did this, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you killed, and God raised.” And he always puts them at odds with God, ’cause they always thought they were plugged into God, see. He constantly does that. And so even in the presence of the Sanhedrin, he doesn’t back off at all on the resurrection.

He doesn’t back off at all on the indictment of Israel for executing Christ. Let me give you a principle. Never, never, never accommodate the gospel by deleting what offends somebody. You need to major on what offends them; that’s the point. And so, Peter doesn’t back off, and they knew they were spiritual hypocrites, and the lingering fear that perhaps He was Messiah must have begun to eat inside. And then, as if to dig a deeper hole for them, he says this. In verse 11, he quotes Psalm 118:22, right out of their own prophecy.

Because their question was, “Well, if this is the Messiah, He wouldn’t be dead and brought back again. We don’t see that.” And so, he quotes, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which has become the head of the corner.” “You know, your own Psalm 118:22 said there would be a stone to be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, but it would be brought back to be the head of the corner. That’s a prophecy of the death, resurrection of Messiah. It’s right there. You’ve got it all.”

Buildings had cornerstones. In fact, they’ve found some from the original temple – or one of the temples, I should say – that measures 38 feet in length. They would run up to the corners. They were tremendous things. And one that wasn’t perfect would be thrown away, because everything else would be imperfect all the way up. They had to have a perfect cornerstone. And so the prophecy simply says Jesus will be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, thinking it imperfect, but God would bring it back, and make it the corner.

That’s exactly what happened with Jesus. They threw it away. “That’s not our cornerstone.” God raised Him from the dead, and stuck Him right back in, created a new temple – Ephesians 2:20 – the church. And in Matthew 21:42, our Lord even claimed to be that stone. And in Romans 9:31-33, Paul said He was that stone. And then his invitation comes powerfully in verse 12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

People always say, “Well, you can get saved a lot of ways.” We were in Israel, went up to Haifa, and they’ve got the Bahaism Temple up there, and it has nine doors to God: Muhammadism, Confucianism, Buddhism, every kind of ism there is. And that isn’t true; there aren’t nine doors to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father” – what? – “but by Me.” There is no other name. There is no salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

And Peter is saying, in effect, “People, if you don’t turn to Jesus, you will be damned. There is no other way.” People always accuse Christians of being narrow. We’re not narrow, friends; any more narrow than the word of God. Unfortunately, the word of God is the most narrow book ever written. It’s always right, and never wrong, and anything that contradicts it is wrong. It is only in His name. They said to them – they said to him, “Who healed that man?” And he said, “Jesus did.” And he uses the same word for healing the man that is used when it says it made him well.

How did you make this – the end of verse 9. “What means he is made well,” is the same word as salvation, and so he does a play on words. This man was physically healed by Jesus, and you’ll never be spiritually healed, unless it’s by Him. He’s the only way. There’s no salvation in any other. The word salvation means deliverance from sin. No other name, no other name. I close with this, very quickly. In February 1959, at the South Pole, 17 men in Operation Deep Freeze Number Four, took their spare time and built a 16-foot-square chapel.

And on that chapel they put a sign, called The Chapel of All Faith. The structure contained an altar, over which they had a picture of Jesus, a crucifix, a Star of David, and a lotus leaf representing Buddha. The inscription on the wall read, “Now it can be said that the earth turns on the point of faith.” An all-faiths altar was recently dedicated at a university – it’s called an inter-religious center – at one of the Midwestern universities. The altar, it revolves. One is for Protestant, one for Catholic, one for Jewish, and then there’s one miscellaneous that’s adaptable to any religion.

That’s just exactly what the Bible says is so wrong. It would have been very easy for Peter and John to have mumbled innocuous platitudes about religion, and won the smiles of all, and the early church would have been immediately acquitted from the world’s hatred by a reasonable, broad-minded, downgrading of Jesus Christ. But not so, not so. This is it. Be submissive, be Spirit-filled, and boldly use it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. That’s the first three ways to be victorious over persecution.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for teaching us from Your book the truths You want us to learn. Seal them to our hearts, and us to thy use. We’ll give You the glory and the praise for it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

END

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1714/how-to-handle-persecution-part-1

VIDEO Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return

Intercessory Prayer

By John MacArthur Dec 3, 2006

Let me encourage you to open your Bible to the 18th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 18.  And here is a familiar and wonderful and rich parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ, the master of the story with a spiritual point, the master of the simple story with a profound spiritual message.  Luke chapter 18, we begin at verse 1.

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  And there was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.”  And for a while he was unwilling.  But afterward, he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection lest by continually coming she wear me out.”  And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said.’  Now, shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?  And will He delay long over them?  I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Now the heart of this text is this great story that begins in verse 2, and ends in verse 5.  I want us to direct our attention, first of all, to the story and then we’ll consider the surrounding material.  Let’s call it the Lord’s illustration, the Lord’s illustration.  Verse 2: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.”  This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story.  But we can assume that since He’s talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel.  And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges.  And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.

And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes.  This man is ultimately and finally wicked.  There is no way to penetrate this man’s wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man.  He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy.  He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor.  He is the most wicked man.

His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge.  The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust.  Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he’s comfortable with it.  In verse 4 he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect men.” This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full.  Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court.

Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court.   In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations.  Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts.  This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people.  Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge.  Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah.  It says in verse 4, “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.  And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.  And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’  “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you.  Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”

Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well.  But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt.  Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, “They hate him who reproves him in the gate.  They abhor him who speaks with integrity.  Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them.  You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.”  The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated.  These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.

But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus.  Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title.  They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law.  The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt.  They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do.  They showed partiality.  They were unjust and they took bribes.  The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal.  And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect man.

Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame.  In other words, this man had no shame.  Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture.  You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague.  That was typically the way life was lived.  And so the way to understand that expression “did not respect man” would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame.  In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than “he was not ashamed before people.”  He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did.  Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame.  I understand that.  As a kid growing up, I remember vividly my mother saying to me on numerous occasions, “Johnnie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  My mother made constant appeals to my sense of honor and my sense of shame.  “Shame on you,” I can hear her say, “Shame on you.”  I’m not sure anybody even says that anymore.  I’m not sure that we can appeal to a sense of shame in the culture we live in, but in that culture you could.  And to say about someone that he had absolutely no reverence for God and could never ever do anything that would make him feel shame in his behavior toward people is to say he is impervious to any appeal to justice or righteousness.  This judge was shameless.  He had no spark of honor, no sense of character, no point apparently…no noble point to which he could be appealed. Neither for God’s sake nor for man’s sake would he be moved to do what is right.  This is the worst possible human being and his wickedness has all kinds of tragic implications because he is making decisions that affect people’s lives.

This woman we meet in verse 3 who is the widow.  “There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”  Someone has defrauded her.  In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute.  Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord’s way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men.  Men came to court. Women did not come to court.  The courts belonged to the men.  The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case.  This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate.  And it’s wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her.   Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow.  Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met.  This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection.  She has been defrauded.  Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.

By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well.  They were an important part of the ancient world.  Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.

She comes, back to verse 3, and kept coming and kept saying, which means she’s relentless, she’s there every day and she’s saying, “Give me legal protection,” give me what is mine. “Vindicate me,” is a way to translate that verb there.  Vindicate me, justify my complaint, render it a righteous complaint and give me what is mine.

Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, “And for a while he was unwilling.”  He was just outright indifferent.  He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable.  Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite.  Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language.  But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that.  But it says in verse 4, “Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself…” Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man.” He’s a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back.  He has no noble motive.  He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever.  But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me.” In the Greek, “She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.”  Every day she’s there.  Every day she’s pleading her case.  It’s becoming very troublesome.  I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming…” “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.”  She will come forever if I don’t get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”

He has no regard for God.  He has no regard for man.  But he has regard for himself.  He cares not for what pleases God.  He cares not for what pleases men.  But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him.  This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive.  And by the way, I like that little phrase, “She will wear me out.”  But it’s a little more benign than the Greek.  The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it’s a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye.  She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up.  Some translations would be, “to blacken the face,” to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows.  She’s giving me a black eye, she’s beating me.  It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission.”  This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful.  This is more than I can stand and she’s going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don’t get rid of her.  So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.

Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture.  Women were really powerless.  I guess that’s a good way to say it.  They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today.  But they were respected and they were honored.  And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn’t get away with.  I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, “A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected.  And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life.”  And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized here.  The crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7.  So she’s driving this man to destruction in his own mind.  He’s got to get rid of her.  And so he rules in her favor.  Go back to verse 5, “I will give her legal protection.” That simply means I will vindicate her.  I will vindicate her.  It’s got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice.  I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf.  I will vindicate her.  I will avenge her.  I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her…her harangue any longer.  So that’s the story. That’s the illustration.

Now what is the Lord’s intention?  That was the Lord’s illustration. What’s the Lord’s intention?  What’s the intention of this story?  Go back to verse 1.  Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.  So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door.  Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there.  This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.  They…them…He was telling them.  Them…Who is that?  Back to verse 22, “He said to His disciples.”  He’s talking to those who are His followers, those who belong to Him at this point, those who have secured their place with Him now at the end of His life and His ministry and He has just been giving them this great discourse on the Second Coming.  He has been talking about the fact that the Son of Man is going to come, that He is going to come in a way that is visible and the whole world will see His coming.  It will flash across the sky like lightning from one end to the other.  And He’s going to come in horrific judgment as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot.  He’s going to come in a way that’s going to divide marriages and families, one taken, another left.  He’s going to come in a way that’s going to create death and devastation and carcasses all over the earth so that vultures will gather as we see in verse 37 to devour the flesh of those that have been destroyed.  He’s been talking about His Second Coming in judgment.  Yes He’s coming to set up the kingdom.  Yes He’s coming to glorify Himself.  Yes He’s coming to establish His rule of righteousness and peace in the world.  But before that, there’s going to be this great judgment. Then will come the glory of the kingdom, then will come the Son of Man establishing His kingdom.  In verse 22, the days shall come when you shall long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.  We long to see Him come, not only to judge, but we long to see Him come to judge and then to establish His glory and His kingdom.

And so, He’s been talking about the Second Coming.  He’s been talking about the fact that there is a return for the establishment of the kingdom so that you have to understand He’s saying to His disciples there will be two comings. Once He comes to die and pay the penalty for sin, and again He comes later to establish His glorious kingdom, to judge the ungodly as well.  So that’s what He’s talking about.  He’s been talking about the future, eschatology, the Second Coming.  Along that line, nothing changes, you notice in verse 1, no scene change, no audience change. “Now He was telling them” takes you right back to the same people He was talking to in verse 22, “that they” the disciples “ought to pray and not lose heart.”  What do you mean?  In the time between the first and Second Coming, in the time between the first and Second Coming we are not to lose heart but rather we are to pray.  We are living in that period of time now.  Yes there is the invisible kingdom the Lord is building through salvation as He comes to take up His royal throne in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ.  There is that invisible kingdom being built.  But the visible kingdom, the kingdom of righteousness, the destruction of the ungodly, the binding of Satan, the end of the reign of Satan and sin, the establishment of the glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace and finally the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth are all associated with His Second Coming, which will be triggered by the rapture of the church.  That’s all in the future.  And so He is saying you need to view that event with prayer and not to lose heart.  That’s the key to unlocking the meaning of the story.

And it’s understandable.  The Lord knew then that a long time would go by, by our measurement, not by His.  A day with Him is 1,000 years, 1,000 years is a day because He is eternal.  But for us it’s a long time.  It was probably a long time for some of the disciples when it was just years and then when it was centuries and now it’s a couple of millennia, 2,000 years.  And continually Christ is dishonored and Christ is denied His rightful place.  And the Word of God is unappreciated and assaulted and attacked.  And Christians are treated with rejection and persecution and hostility and even martyrdom through these two millennia.  We suffer at the hands of Satan and the world and we suffer the persecution of a hostile environment and we long for Christ to come back and destroy the ungodly and destroy sin and the reign of Satan and set up His kingdom.  We want all that.  We long for all of that.  But in the intervening time the message is very clear from our Lord: Don’t lose heart. Keep praying to that end.  This is instruction for us that it’s unmistakable: at all times, at all times.  That simply means through all the events and all the seasons and all the eras and all the sweeping years that go by, we are to pray and not lose heart.  “Lose heart” comes from a Greek verb egkakeō, which means “to become weary,” “to give in” or “to become a coward,” turn coward.  It’s used only here by Luke but five times by Paul and it always has that…that meaning.  Don’t give up hope that Jesus is coming. Mockers will come, as Peter says. Where is the promise of His coming?  Denying the Second Coming.  We will be a…ridiculed for saying Jesus is coming, but He is coming.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t become cowardly.  As Matthew 24:13 records, our Lord says “he that endures to the end shall be saved.”  It’s that enduring faith that marks the true believer.  So this is not a call to prayer in general like, “Pray without ceasing.”  That’s a call to unceasing prayer in general.  This is a call to eschatological prayer, pray that the Lord will come and pray for the strength to endure until He arrives, to endure the flesh, the world, the devil, the hostility against the gospel, persecution, rejection, and even martyrdom.  This is eschatological praying.

There’s a similar call by our Lord in the 21st chapter of Luke and verse 36 as well.  “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and stand before the Son of Man.”  You need to pray that Christ will come. You need to pray that you’ll have the strength to endure to the end; the end of your life and the end until the Lord Himself comes, should you live until we are gathered to Him.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?”  Well verse 8 is the key to that.  It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?”  Will He find this kind of persevering faith?  Will He find this kind of persevering prayer?  Will He find this kind of enduring confidence?  This is definitely eschatological praying.  No one of us knows the time of the rapture.  We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched.  We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but 2,000 years have passed by. Believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners.  Sin escalates. Evil men grow worse and worse and worse.  We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom.  False teachers abound everywhere.  We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God.  We have been promised that He will come.  We believe that He will come.  And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.”  He will come but part of the means of His coming is our prayer life.  Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming.  He will come.  He promises He will come.  He will be faithful to His elect.  He will bring judgment to the ungodly.  He will vindicate the saints.  He will exalt Himself.  He will establish His throne on earth.  He will reign in a kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth.  And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2.  “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Thy kingdom come.’”  This is kingdom pray…praying.  This is praying for the kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne, and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises.  So again I say: The key to the parable hangs at the front door. We know what this story is about.  We are to be living our lives saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view.  I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.  That backs up to affect everything.  Just think about it.  Paul writing about the Second Coming to the Thessalonians, about the rapture of the church aspect of it says, “Comfort one another with these words.”  That’s where we find our comfort in the midst of the issues of this life.  It’s just…It’s not just comfort, John says, “He that has this hope in Him purifies himself.”  It’s a purifying hope as well.  Paul says, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We evangelize because we know the Lord is coming.  We’re comforted because we know He’s coming.  We’re purified because we know He’s coming.  And there are many more.  This has tremendously critical implications.  It has implications about how we view everything we own. Everything we possess, what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what we invest into the lives of our children and our acquaintances, how we live our lives should all be powerfully influenced by a strong and constant prevailing, persistent prayer that Jesus come.  And when you pray that way constantly, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” that defines your life. That defines your life.

So we saw the Lord’s illustration and the Lord’s intention.  Let’s go down to verse 6 and hear the Lord’s interpretation.  Let the Lord explain the story in the context of His return.  “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the righteous judge said.'” That’s kind of a vernacular way to say: Let’s think about the meaning of this story.  Think about the wicked judge in the story.  Think about it.  He was cruelly indifferent to God.  He was cruelly indifferent to people.  But he finally did what was right for purely selfish reasons.  He did what was right for a woman for whom he had no feeling, no emotion, and to whom he had no attachment.  That’s what we’re going to start with as we hear the interpretation of the Lord.  But let’s go to verse 7 and see the contrast.

Now, “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?  And will He delay long over them?”  Listen, what’s the point?  This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison.  This is extreme.  You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest.  And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world?  And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?

The elect are represented by the widow.  We are, in a sense, helpless.  We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge.  But this judge is not like God.  This judge is the opposite of God.  He is as unlike God as you can get.  God always does what is right by His own law.  God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind.  And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world.  The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?

The answer: verse 7, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?”  Literally, “Make the vindication,” make the vindication.”  Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.”  Will He not justify?  Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation?  First Peter 2:23 says, “God is the one who judges righteously.”  Romans 12:19 says that, “God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’”  Revelation 19:2, “True and righteous are His judgments.”  He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He’s faithful to His Word, He’s faithful to His law, because He’s merciful, because He’s compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.

And the key here is this, verse 7: “Who cry to Him day and night.” That’s us.  And that takes us back to verse 22 in chapter 17.  “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.” That’s us again.  We’re longing for Christ to come.  We’re living with the blessed hope and glorious appearing of that great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We live longingly, we live pleading like those under the altar in Revelation 6, we’ve commented on, “How long, oh Lord?”  How long are You going to allow this evil until You come and establish righteousness and glory?  We are those like the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, who wait for His Son from heaven, who wait for His Son from heaven.  I don’t think you can live your Christian life the way the Lord wants you to live it unless you live it in the light of the Second Coming.  You can’t remove the Second Coming out of the constant discourse of the church, out of your vocabulary or the theology of the Second Coming, out of your life with having…without having massive implications on how you view everything.

Let me give you an illustration of this, and this is really just an add-on, but it’s worth a moment.  Turn to 1 Thessalonians.  If you were to go to a brand new place where the gospel had never been and you were going to teach and preach there, what would your message be?  Let’s say you’re going to go into a place where there’s no knowledge of the gospel at all.  There’s a…There’s a Jewish synagogue there so there’s some knowledge of the Old Testament, but predominantly you’re going to a pagan city.  That’s the case in Thessalonica.  And Acts 17 tells the story about the apostle Paul going there.  What are you going to preach when you go there?  What is the message you’re going to give?

Well if we asked that of a contemporary group of evangelicals today we’d probably get everything but the right answer.  Probably get everything but the right answer.  What did Paul do for these people?  Now we’re told in the book of Acts that He was there three Sabbaths, three Sabbaths, that he was teaching three Sabbaths.  That’s the minimum, three weeks.  Little deeper study and some conclusions drawn from these epistles would say that maybe he actually stayed beyond those initial three Sabbaths. Maybe he stayed a little longer but somewhere between four and six months, absolutely the terminus point, so somewhere in there.  If you only had a few weeks, if you only had a few months with a group of people, what would you teach them?  What would be the theology that you would give them?

Let’s find out what Paul majored on.  Chapter 1 verse 3, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”  Right away in the salutation he introduces the hope that we have: our future hope.  And what is that hope?  He tells you in verse 10, “To wait for His Son from heaven.” Right off the launch pad he instructs them with regard to the Second Coming.  You come in to chapter 2 verse 12, “That you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” And now we know that he’s talking in terms that they understand.  They understand the hope of the return of Christ.  They understand that they’re waiting for Him to come back from heaven.  They understand also that He is going to bring a kingdom and establish His glory.

If you drop down in this same chapter to verse 19, Paul refers again to the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming, the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.  You see this emphasis throughout this entire letter.  I won’t belabor the point, but look at verse 11 of chapter 3, “May our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you.  May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men, just as we also do for you, so that,” there’s the reason, “He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God…our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”  You’ve got to live in the light of His coming.  It provides comfort, I said earlier.  It provides purity. First 1 Corinthians 15:58 says it provides stability.  It provides zeal in evangelism.  You have to live in the light of the Second Coming of Christ.

You come into chapter 4 and he gets more detailed.  In verses 13 to 18 he describes the rapture of the church.  He says in verse 15, “We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those that are fallen asleep.”  The people that are alive are going to go first, and then the dead are going to be…I should say, the dead are going to be caught up first and the people who are alive are going to follow.  The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God.  The dead in Christ rise first.  The rest are caught up, going to meet the Lord in the air, always be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words.  This is a lot of eschatology for a baby church.

Come in to chapter 5 and he says…Listen to how he begins, “As to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” Why?  What do you mean we don’t have anything we need to know?  Well you know already about the times and the epochs.  What is he saying?  I’ve told you the history of the ages.  I have already taught you eschatology.  Verse 2: “You yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”  He told them about the suddenness of the Second Coming. When people are saying peace and safety, they won’t find that.  They were also told in verse 5 that they were sons of light and sons of the day and won’t get caught in the night and the darkness.  They were also told in verse 9 that God has not destined them for wrath but for obtaining salvation.  You know because I taught you.

If you go in to 2 Thessalonians, look at verse 5 of chapter 2; 2 Thessalonians 5 chapter 2.  “Do you remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things?”  If you only had a few weeks or a few months with a brand new congregation, a few Jews and assorted pagans who knew nothing about the Bible, would you give them a full-orbed eschatology?  That’s what he did.  Backing in to chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians, he told them in verse 5 about God’s righteous judgment, about the kingdom of God that was to come and until which they were suffering.  He told them in verse 7 that the Lord would be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing retribution out to those who don’t know God.  He told them also that after that judgment, verse 10, He would be coming to be glorified in His saints on that day and to be marveled at among all who have believed.  They’ve got a theology of judgment.  They’ve got a theology of the Second Coming glory, the establishment of the kingdom, the judgment of sinners.  You go into chapter 2 and he says this, this is amazing, verse 3, “The apostasy will come first before the Day of the Lord.”  The Day of the Lord is mentioned in verse 2.  Apostasy comes first, the man of lawlessness is revealed.  They also knew about Antichrist, they knew about escalating lawlessness.  They knew about the apostasy and they knew it all.  They knew that he would establish himself, this Antichrist, as a god, as an object of worship.  He would take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God, verse 4, and that’s when he says in verse 5, you remember all this, I told you all this.  And you know about him — verse 9 — that he’s going to come in the power of Satan with signs and false wonders and deception of wickedness.  That is amazing…amazingly comprehensive eschatology. It encompasses the rapture of the church. It encompasses the suffering of believers until that time.  It encompasses the Kingdom, the establishment of glory, the glory of Christ, the glory of His own, the manifestation of the saints, the judgment of the ungodly.  It’s all here.  It was critical.  It was foundational.  It always is foundational to know the end of the story. It produces stability, as I said. “Be ye,” Paul says, “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Because when He comes He’s going to reward you for it.

So look at this time and remember there’s a reason for it.  One of the reasons is so that you can labor to earn an eternal reward.  But there’s another reason.  Let’s go back to the text of verse 8.  And this is the one to which our Lord points us…verse 7, rather.  “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him night and day?”  Of course He will.  Of course the true elect are going to continue to believe, continue to hope, continue to pray that Jesus will come soon.  And will He delay long over them?  That probably could be better translated.  It should say, “and be patient over them.”  Yes, “Is not God exercising patience?” is what this means.  How do you know that?  Makrothumeō is the word. It means to be patient.  Do not we expect a delay because God is being patient over His people?  What does that mean?  It’s really a profoundly important word.  The long interval between the first and the Second Coming of Jesus is a period in which God is exercising patience, “patience over them,” it says, patience over them. “Them” is in this text, back to verse 22 of 17, the disciples, His own, being patient over them.

Now there are three New Testament words for patience that are used in reference to God.  One is anecho. It means “tolerance.”  One is hupomone. It’s the patience of the sufferer, as Christ patiently suffered.  But this is makrothumeō or makrothumia. It’s from two Greek words. Makros; we know what “macro” means as opposed to “micro.”  The technical meaning of “macro” in the Greek, makros, is “far distant.”  It means “long” with regard to space, or “long” with regard to distance, remote.  And that’s makro, makrothumos.  Thumos is anger.  The word makrothumia means remote anger, anger removed far, far away.  And our Lord is saying He is coming, He will come, He will vindicate His own, He will glorify Himself, He will judge sinners.  But He has removed to a far distance His wrath for a long, long time.  This describes what Exodus 34 says about God, that He is slow to anger.

God has a right to judge, but He also has a right to be merciful.  God will judge in His own time.  But Peter tells us the answer to this little dilemma, 2 Peter 3:9, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  So in 2 Peter 3:15 Peter says this, “The makrothumia of God is salvation.”  What’s He waiting for?  He’s waiting for the salvation of His elect.  He’s waiting until they’re all gathered in.  You don’t want Him here any sooner than that.  And when the last of the elect are gathered in, then the end will come.  Yes, He will satisfy his wrath, but not until He has satisfied His grace.  This, by the way, is the meaning of makrothumia every time it is used with reference to God.  It is used with reference to God in Romans 2:4Romans 9:221 Peter 3:202 Peter 3:9 and 151 Timothy 1:16.  In each of those cases it means that God withholds His wrath at a distance.

T.W. Manson told a story that came from the old rabbis and this is the story.  There was a king who was a very compassionate king.  He wanted to rule his people with compassion and so he determined that his army would be stationed many miles from the city.  And when he was asked by the wise men of the city why he would station his army many miles from the city, because they would be so far removed from civil disobedience that people would get away with things and they wouldn’t be able to get there in time, he said this, according to the rabbis.  That on any occasion of such rebellion in the city, it will take a long time to bring the soldiers here and this will be time for the rebels to come to their senses.  And so said the rabbis, it is argued that God keeps His wrath at a distance in order for Israel to have time to repent.  And not just Israel, but Gentiles as well.  That’s again 2 Peter 3:15, “Consider the makrothumia of the Lord as salvation.”  God will send Christ to judge and set up His kingdom and vindicate His elect, but not until His mercy in salvation is satisfied in full and all the elect are in.

So verse 8, “I tell you that He will bring about justice, He will vindicate,” literally, make the vindication of the elect.  He will make the vindication of the elect speedily, en tachei, quickly, suddenly.  When it happens it will happen suddenly.  And he will do it, but you keep praying and praying and persisting in prayer and don’t lose heart because He’s waiting to gather in all His elect.

So, the Lord’s illustration, intention, and interpretation; a final thought: the Lord’s inquisition.  He closes with a question, verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  What does that mean?  Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it’s going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow?  When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return?  I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that.  Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope.  But we get easily distracted, don’t we?  And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way.  When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return?  Will we love His appearing?  Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord.  Or will it be like in Noah’s day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?

We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope.  We…We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise.  This is how it’s all going to end.  In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long.  We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ.  And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life.  How you view every part of your life.  Yes it’s been 2,000. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm.  And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord.  Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes.  And watch how it changes your life.  Let’s pray together.

We know You keep Your Word. You’ve kept it perfectly throughout all history and You will keep Your word in the future, oh God.  Give us this shining, bright hope, this blazing hope to live our lives knowing how it’s all going to end, to invest in what is eternal, to treat lightly the things that perish and to treat seriously the things that are forever.  And that’s the difference between how we treat material things and how we treat people.  People are forever.  May we, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men! May we do our part to engage in the accomplishment of the patience of God leading to salvation that Peter talks about!  Even so, Lord Jesus, we wait and we will wait until You determine You want to come and the time is right.  But we plead with You to come, Lord Jesus, come soon, come suddenly as You have said.  Take us to be with You, establish Your glory, and bring us all that You have promised that we might give you unfading and unhindered praise and worship throughout all eternity.  That is our prayer.  May You be glorified in the glory of Christ when He comes.  And until then, may we be known as those who cry day and night and never lose heart that the Lord Jesus will come sooner than ever, even this moment.  And we’re ready and eager.  We thank You, Lord, for that eagerness that comes by a grace gift through the Spirit to us in salvation.  We give You all the praise.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-227

4 things every Christian should be doing Now!

December 14, 2020 Author: hephzibahgarden

Every Christian needs to keep in mind 4 important things during these days. Well, what does the Scripture point to?

The year 2020 has reached the month of December and its sourness still exists very much in the hearts of the people! However, there is still hope!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬

4 things which we need to do mentioned here:

  • Humble themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek my face
  • Turn from their wicked ways

Humble themselves

The first aspect of God healing the land begins with believers humbling themselves before God. The Lord grants grace to those who humble themselves. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. ‭‭James‬ ‭4:6‬. Jesus humbled Himself till the death on the Cross, FOR US, so that we could be reconciled back to God.

Every Christian Prays

St.Paul urges the believers to pray without ceasing.For forgiveness of our sins and wickedness, we must repent and pray. Pray without ceasing. ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17‬. Why is he saying so? … that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke‬ ‭21:36‬.

Every christian seeks God’s face in crisis

To seek my(God’s) face means to seek His character. To seek His character means to seek His heart. How is His heart? The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalms‬ ‭145:8‬. He is plenteous in mercy. Psalms 103:8. He is righteous. Psalms 116:5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:5‬.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah‬ ‭55:6-7‬

Turn from their wicked ways

Wicked way refers to every sinful way that takes us away from the Lord. The devil is referred to the Wicked One in the Word of God. There is no fear of God in those who do wickedly and therefore the Lord desires that we depart from every wicked way. Moreover, when a child of God isn’t able to enjoy the Presence of God nor rejoice in the Lord, it means that that person, in the sight of God has been living wickedly. God does not want us to be in such a state.

Well..! When we do these 4 things daily, the Lord will do His part of hearing our prayers from heaven, forgiving our sins and healing our land. May the Lord help us.

Be blessed!