Learning Perseverance

I have shared three lessons I learned going through dark times in my life (you can check them out here, here, and here), but we aren’t even close to exhausting all of the lessons that can be learned in the night. I want to teach you one principle that will allow for lifelong learning and application of these nighttime lessons. 

The apostle Paul shared how he had matured during his times of struggle. He told the Corinthians he realized that God had delivered him in the past, was delivering him now, and would continue to deliver him in the future (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). The key is to hang in long enough to actually see how God brings about the deliverance and teaches the lessons. 

Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can ENDURE it (1 Corinthians 10:13). And the writer of Hebrews said, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to PERSEVERE so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). 

The Greek word translated “persevere” means keeping focused on the goal despite the struggles that it takes to get there. Jesus used this same Greek word at the conclusion of His parable of the sower: “The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by PERSEVERING produce a crop”; a crop that Jesus said was a hundred times more than what was sown (see Luke 8:5-15). 

I love riding my bike on the White Pine Trail by my house. My long rides have a really fun stretch where I am flying downhill! But as fun as that part is, I’m not really building anything of lasting value. However, when I am coming back uphill and I want to quit because my legs are burning and I can hardly breathe, that becomes a valuable struggle. I cannot build endurance by any other way than to push myself just a little bit farther each time. When I want to quit, I pedal just a few more feet. Gradually, the uphill becomes less daunting. 

A friend gave me a t-shirt I like to wear on my rides. When I put it on the blue-lettered message on the shirt says, “Do It!” but as I struggle uphill and the sweat begins to pour off my body, a new message emerges: “Don’t Quit!” 

I have learned that easy roads teach very few valuable lessons. 

So here are three thoughts to help you persevere in your struggling times: 

  1. Keep your eyes on Jesus and on His eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:1-3; James 1:2-4, 12) 
  2. Keep persevering friends close by—notice the “let us” phrases the writer of Hebrews uses 
  3. On your worst day, don’t quit but commit to going one day longer (Romans 5:3-4) 

[check out all of the verses by clicking here]

Remember that as you struggle and persevere, you are not only building your own endurance, but you are strengthening yourself to be able to help others. So we can be thankful IN the night because God is building our endurance for the next night, and our endurance for our friend’s next night. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Learning Contentment

A mark of a maturING saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! Even the most mature Christian you know hasn’t “arrived”; we are all a work-in-progress. Going through the dark nights is one way God helps mature our understanding of contentment. 

You know the differences between a need and a want: a need is something vital, something I require to survive; a want is something that would be nice to have. 

In good times I can convince myself that my wants are really the same as my needs. In the bright, sunny times a lot of wants mistakenly get called needs. But in the dark nights, this confusion is quickly clarified! 

In Philippians 4, Paul explains what he has learned about needs as he went through some very challenging, dark times. When he says he knows what a need is, he isn’t exaggerating a bit (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). And yet the Amplified Bible has Paul saying, “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want.” 

That’s because Paul was learnING contentment. The verb tense here means I have learned, I am learning, and I will keep on learning. It was an ongoing process that helped him clarify needs from wants. The word Paul uses for content is unique in all the New Testament and it means independent of external circumstances, or as the Amplified Bible says, “satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am. 

Paul uses another unique word in verse 12 when he says “I have learned.” This is a different Greek word from the previous verse. This time it means disciplined by experience to know how to respond. In other words, Paul disciplined himself to reflect on the lessons he learned in the night. The cliche “Experience is the best teacher” isn’t necessarily true. Lots of people go through experiences and never learn a single thing. Instead, we should say, “Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” That’s exactly what Paul is saying here: “I have learned lessons in my time of meditation after going through a dark night.” 

The English dictionary defines contentment in two important phrases: 

  1. Satisfied with what I have. In Psalm 16, David learned that he had everything he needed in God, and Jesus reminded us that “your Father knows what you NEED before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
  2. Satisfied with who I am. Paul knew that “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased” (Galatians 1:15). God made Paul on purpose and for a purpose, and Paul was satisfied with who he was in Christ. God made you on purpose too! 

Our relationship with Jesus is a maturING one. It’s only IN Christ that I can be satisfied with what I have, and satisfied with who I am. It’s only IN the night that my wants get separated from my needs, by learnING contentment.

I can be thankful in the night because I am learning contentment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Light In A Dark Cave

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Light In A Dark Cave

     Now I must have an illustration. I must compare truth to some cave or grotto that you have heard of, with wondrous stalactites hanging from the roof and others starting from the floor—a cavern, glittering with spar and abounding in marvels. Before entering the cave you inquire for a guide, who comes with his lighted flambeau. He conducts you down a considerable depth and you find yourself in the midst of the cave. He leads you through different chambers. Here he points to a little stream rushing from amid the rocks and indicates its rise and progress. There he points to some peculiar rock and tells you its name. Then he takes you into a large natural hall, tells you how many persons once feasted in it, and so on. Truth is a grand series of caverns. It is our glory to have so great and wise a Conductor. Imagine that we are coming to the darkness of it. He is a light shining in the midst of us to guide us. And by the light He shows us wondrous things. In three ways the Holy Spirit teaches us—by suggestion, direction, and illumination. 

     First, He guides us into all truth by suggestion. There are thoughts that dwell in our minds that were not born there but that were exotics brought from heaven and put there by the Spirit. It is not a fancy that angels whisper into our ears and that devils do the same. Both good and evil spirits hold converse with men. …  

     Sometimes He leads us by direction. … The Spirit gives a direction and tendency to our thoughts. Not suggesting a new one but leading a particular thought, when it starts, to take such and such a direction. …  

     Perhaps the best way in which the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth is by illumination. … Beloved, you may read to all eternity and never learn anything by it, unless the Holy Spirit illuminates it. And then the words shine forth like stars. … Blind men may read the Bible with their fingers, but blind souls cannot. We want a light to read the Bible by; there is no reading it in the dark. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth by suggesting ideas, by directing our thoughts, and by illuminating the Scriptures when we read them. 

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

A good prayer every time you open your Bible is this: “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your Word” (Psalm 119:18). 

The illumination of the Holy Spirit helps us connect the written Word to our real-life, every-day settings. 

When times are confusing, the Holy Spirit can illuminate the Scriptures to help us evaluate both our feelings and the facts around us through the filter of God’s truth. 

But perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit helps us take captive all of those thoughts. Whether they were whispered by angels or devils, or just thought from our own carnal minds, we can take all of those thought captive and make them obedient to God’s Word (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We need to learn to think about what we’re thinking about, utilizing the truth of Scripture that the Holy Spirit will illuminate to us.

 

The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

Now And Not Yet

Psalm 68 is a Christological Psalm. That means it points to Jesus and it is fulfilled through Christ’s First and Second Advents. These types of psalms don’t make sense if they are restricted strictly to the Old Testament. 

As I have explained previously, Hebrew literature often puts the key point in the middle—in the case of this psalm, that’s verses 18-20. The opening verse sets the stage, or the scene of battle, and then right in the middle of this psalm of David is the description of God’s victory won through Jesus. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm, and I want you to notice what’s happening at each one: 

  • When You marched through the wasteland (v. 7) 
  • Who daily bears our burdens (v. 18) 
  • Sing praise to the Lord (v. 32) 

Do you remember the three definitions of Selah? A pause to consider; a breath before the crescendo; a time to weigh what’s valuable. In this case, I believe we should lean more to the second definition. Why? Because all three of these Selahs shows us what God has done, what He is still doing, and what He will ultimately do in the eternity of Heaven. I believe we are living in the breath/Selah after Christ’s First Advent and leading up to the crescendo of His Second Advent. 

Jesus is BOTH the Immanuel that came to earth at His First Advent AND the returning King at His Second Advent. We are living in an era of BOTH “now” AND “not yet.” 

The apostle Paul looks back to this psalm (especially those middle verses of 18-20) even as he looks forward to the Second Advent. He captures the essence of “now” and “not yet” in all these passages:  

Jesus paid the price for our sin.
He broke the bonds of hell and death.
He prepared the way to Heaven.
He showed the way to Heaven.
He built our mansions in Heaven.
He WILL return to take us to be with Him in Heaven!

 

So how shall we now live in this time of “now” and “not yet”? In a word: AWARE… 

  • …of His ultimate victory (Psalm 68:1) 
  • …of the desperation of the enemy. Death, sin, and the devil have been defeated! We now deal with a broken army, a scattered foe in the final death throes, a wounded, dying warrior desperately lashing out. The prince of this earth is quickly failing, while God is liberally pouring out rewards that were purchased by Christ our King! 
  • …of the brevity of this life (v. 2)
  • …of the joy of living in God’s presence (v. 3) 
  • …of the power of worship (v. 4) 
  • …of our confidence in being heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (vv. 5-6) 

Now is not the time for fainting, but fighting the good fight. Our Immanuel has won the battle, He will continue to strengthen us every day that we walk this Earth, and He will keep us by His side as He reigns for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords! 

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be A Reflector

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Be A Reflector 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

     It is by the heart that we know God and Christ, and as our affections are purified, we become sensible of God’s presence in Christ. … Our beholding Him has purified the eyes that have gazed upon His purity. His brightness has helped our eyesight so that we see much already and will yet see more. …  

     Why did not everybody see the glory of God in Jesus Christ when He was here? It was conspicuous enough. Answer: It matters not how brightly the sun shines among blind men. … What, then, has happened to us? To eternal grace be endless praise! God Himself has shined into our hearts. That same God who said, ‘Light be,’ and light was, has shined into our hearts! … If you can delight in God in Christ Jesus, then remember, no man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Spirit, and you have said it [Matthew 16:13-17]! …  

     You must not hoard up the light within yourself—it will not be light to you if you do. Only think of a person when his room is full of sunlight saying to his servant, ‘Quick, now! Close the shutters and let us keep this precious light to ourselves.’ Your room will be in the dark, my friend! … 

     A man of God, when he receives the light of Christ, can become so perfect a reflector that to common eyes, at any rate, he is brightness itself! … Scatter your light in all unselfishness. Wish to shine, not that others may say, ‘How great he is,’ but that they, getting the light, may rejoice in the Source from which it came to you and to them.

From The Glory Of God In The Face Of Jesus Christ

As the old hymn reminds us, “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” It is by God’s grace alone that we have been given light to see Jesus and to place our faith in Him! 

That light continues to grow within us the longer we gaze at the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Immerse yourself in the Gospels. Don’t read your Bible just to know the Word of God, but read to get to know the God of the Word better. Let the Holy Spirit purify your vision. 

Then you will become a reflector of God’s glory. The love and light of God are too wonderful to hoard to yourself! Ask God to bless you with a greater capacity to reflect the light of His Son to a dark, groping world.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Seeing God In Jesus

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Seeing God In Jesus 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

     Paul knew not merely God, but God in Christ Jesus! Not merely ‘the glory of God,’ but ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The knowledge dealt with God, but it was Christward knowledge! He pined not for a Christless theism but for God in Christ! This, beloved, is the one thing that you and I should aim to know. …  

     Even when your thought sweeps round the stars and circumnavigates space, you feel that heaven, even the heaven of heavens, cannot contain Him. Everything conceivable falls short of the inconceivable glory of God! When you come, however, to gaze upon the face of Christ Jesus, how different is the feeling! Now you have a mirror equal to the reflection of the eternal Face, ‘in Him dwells in the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9). His name is ‘Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6). He is the image of God, ‘the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person’ (Hebrews 1:3). If your conception of Christ is truthful, it will coincide with the true idea of God and you will exclaim, ‘This is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). Like Thomas, you will salute the wounded Savior with the cry, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). …  

     How softly breaks the divine glory through the human life of Jesus; a babe in grace may gaze upon this brightness without fear! When Moses’ face shone, the people could not look at him, but when Jesus came from His transfiguration, the people ran to Him and saluted Him! Everything is attractive in God in Christ Jesus! In Him we see God to the fullest, but the Deity so mildly beams through the medium of human flesh that mortal man may draw near and look and live. 

From The Glory Of God In The Face Of Jesus Christ

If you would like to know God more intimately, look more closely at Jesus. 

Read through the Gospels slowly, focusing on what Jesus was saying and doing. Let the Holy Spirit transport you to those dusty Israelite roads, where you can walk with Jesus and get a new glimpse of the majestic glory of God.

The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

Try Reverse Thinking

Reverse ThinkingToday was the absolute worst day ever
And don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
Because
True happiness can be obtained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
The reality
Creates
My attitude
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say that
Today was a good day

Psychologists call it metacognition when we think about what we’re thinking about. The Bible calls it capturing every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Sometimes it takes reversing our thinking.

The devil has a singular agenda: He wants to steal joy from your life, he wants to kill any hope you have for the future, and he wants your end to be utter destruction.

Jesus has a singular agenda for you too: I have come that you might have abundant life.

Try reversing your thinking. Try thinking about your thinking in a different way.

The devil says, “Life has no purpose.” God says, “I created you on purpose.”

The devil says, “You’re nothing special.” God says, “You’re one-of-a-kind.”

The devil says, “You’ll never find true love.” God says, “I love you so much that I died for you.”

The devil says, “God remembers you blew it.” God says, “I’ve forgotten everything I’ve forgiven.”

The devil says, “This life is all there is.” God says, “You can’t even imagine what’s coming next!”

Reverse your thinking to listen to what God says.

Read the opening passage of this post in reverse—from bottom to topand notice the change.

I pray you will be able to reverse today was the absolute worst day ever to today was a good day!

Where’s God When I Feel Abandoned?

Have you ever felt abandoned by someone? 

You stood up for someone, but when you needed someone to stand up for you they disappeared Or you did what was right, but no one recognized you for it? Or you were the encourager, but when you needed encouragement no one was around for you? Or maybe even you obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed God abandoned you when you needed Him most? 

Jesus knows what every single one of these scenarios feel like! He stood up for the downtrodden, but they screamed, “Crucify Him!” He poured His life into teaching and encouraging His friends, but they all ran when the heat was on, leaving Jesus all by Himself. He obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed like God abandoned Him when He needed Him most. 

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? 

Jesus did. 

Hanging from the Cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!” 

I cannot help but notice two things about the state of mind Jesus was in heading to the horrific treatment He would face (see Matthew 26:31-44; 27:27-46). 

  1. Jesus knew all of this was going to happen to Him. Notice the phrases “for it is written” and “so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled” and “so that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Even His cry from the Cross was a literal quotation of Old Testament Scripture (Psalm 22:1).
  2. God was silent. Even though Jesus called out to His Father three times in prayer, “My Father!” there was no heavenly response. 

Why would God remain silent during this trial? God didn’t need to speak to His Son during the trial because He had already spoken to Him before the trial! 

It’s the same in our trials—

The Teacher prepares us for the test, but then is silent during the test. 

God’s silence is not His rejection or abandonment. Just as God provided for Jesus in His moment of trial, God has provided for us in our trials too—For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP) 

So let’s learn three invaluable lessons we can learn from Christ’s time of supreme suffering. 

1. Be honest in God’s presence 

Jesus didn’t hide His feelings, nor did He try to couch His vocabulary in “churchy” sounding words. God already knows what’s in your heart, so pour it out raw and honestly! Go to the Psalms and see raw emotions on full display in prayer. 

2. Lean all your weight on Jesus

Jesus prayed, “My Father!” and He cried out from the Cross, “My God!” His death on the Cross took away the barriers that kept up from coming into God’s presence (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). After His resurrection, Jesus sent this message to His friends: “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to MY Father and YOUR Father, to MY God and YOUR God’” (John 20:17). 

3. Go to the Word of God

This is what Jesus did. In His moment of abandonment, He quoted Psalm 22 from the Cross. Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Scriptures, so now we can pray with greater assurance—For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

God’s silence is NOT God’s abandonment. God’s silence is His invitation for us to be honest, to lean on Jesus, and to trust every promise in His Word. Every single promise that is Yes! and Amen! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Where’s God? series, please check out: 

And join me this Sunday as we take a look at how Jesus has conquered humanity’s ultimate enemy. 

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