Thursdays With Oswald—The Love Behind The Warning

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

The Love Behind The Warning

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” —Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14) 

     Always distinguish between warning and threatening. God never threatens; the devil never warns. A warning is a great arresting statement of God’s, inspired by His love and patience. …

     It is the great patience of God that gives the warning, “The way of transgressors is hard.” Go behind that statement in your imagination and see the love of God. God is amazingly tender, but the way of transgressors cannot be made easy. God has made it difficult to go wrong, especially for His children. … 

     If Jesus came to be a teacher only, He had better have stayed away. What is the use of teaching a human being to be what no human being can be—to be continually self-effaced, to do more than his duty, to be completely disinterested, to be perfectly devoted to God? If all Jesus came to do was to teach men to be that, He is the greatest taunter that ever presented any ideal to the human race. But Jesus Christ came primarily and fundamentally to regenerate man. He came to put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and immediately that is given to a man, the teaching of Jesus begins to be possible. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t care what road we attempted to take. But He does love us, so He tells us the one and only way to get to Him: Jesus Christ is THE way. 

Chambers is exactly right when He says that Jesus was not just a great Teacher. If that’s all that Jesus came to do, we would be miserable people because we could never walk the narrow road that He taught. But Jesus came to enable and empower us to walk that road. He came to purchase our atonement (our “at-onement” with Him) so that we could live out all that He taught. 

Jesus is a Teacher, but He is also the Enabler that makes it possible for us to obey His teaching. For that, we should be eternally grateful! 

Poetry Saturday—God, Thou Art Love

If I forget,
Yet God remembers! If these hands of mine
Cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine
Hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
And if sometimes I am too tired to call
For Him to help me, then He reads the prayer 
Unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

I dare not fear, since certainly I know
That I am in God’s keeping, shielded so 
From all that else would harm, and in His power;
I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
Lift no burden, bear no pain, alone.
My soul a calm, sure hiding place has found:
The arms my life surround.

God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that.
I know Thee who has kept my path and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy;
It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love. —Robert Browning

The Difficulty In Answered Prayer

Often it is simply the answers to our prayers that cause many of the difficulties in the Christian life.

We pray for patience, and our Father sends demanding people our way who test us to the limit, ‘because…suffering produces perseverance’ (Romans 5:3). …

We pray to be unselfish, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice by placing other people’s needs first and by laying down our lives for other believers. …

We pray to the Lord, as His apostles did, saying, ‘Increase our faith!’ (Luke 17:5). Then our money seems to take wings and fly away; our children become critically ill; an employee becomes careless, slow, and wasteful; or some other new trial comes upon us, requiring more faith than we have ever before experienced.

We pray for a Christlike life that exhibits the humility of a lamb. Then we are asked to perform some lowly task, or we are unjustly accused and given no opportunity to explain….

We pray for gentleness and quickly face a storm of temptation to be harsh and irritable. 

We pray for quietness, and suddenly every nerve is tested to its limit with tremendous tension so that we may learn that when He sends His peace, no one can disturb it.

We pray for love for others, and God sends unique suffering by sending people our way who are difficult to love and who say things that get on our nerves and tear at our heart. …

The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance and every trial as being straight from the hand of our loving Father.” —Lettie Cowman, in Streams in the Desert (emphasis added)

When Fear Must Go

I love the balancing thought of being humbly confident in God’s presence (or if you like: being confidently humble).

Humble to know I have nothing in myself that gives me access to God’s presence and love and power, but confident to know that God through Christ’s work on the Cross desires to have me with Him. 

C.S. Lewis wisely noted: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Fear comes in when I’m thinking about me—how unworthy I am, how I messed up, how I wish I would have…. Fear leaves when I set my thoughts on Christ—how absolutely worthy He is, how He has accomplished everything for me, how He is working all things together for good…. 

There is no fear in love—dread does not exist—but full-grown, complete, perfect love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and so he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love—is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection. (1 John 4:18)

It is humbly confident (and confidently humble) to keep my mind off me and take all my thoughts to His perfect love. That’s when fear must go!

“The mark of God’s people is not incapacitating fear, but rather contrite courageous confidence in God. … The good news of the Bible is not that we are not worms, but that God helps worms who trust Him.” —John Piper, commenting on Isaiah 41:14

7 More Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

It may sound like an oxymoron—defiant joy—but it’s a powerful combination that Stasi Eldredge unpacks in her book. Check out my full review of Defiant Joy by clicking here. 

“Times of testing can also be times of refining and growth. The counterintuitive truth is that suffering can deepen our hope. It enlarges our hearts so that we can know the love and presence of Jesus in ways that we would not if we did not go through the stretching the process.” 

“The waiting can be hard when you are hungry, but when you know a feast is coming, you know that the waiting won’t last forever. Dear ones, the waiting is not going to last. But there is no shame in being hungry while you wait. … In our waiting God often deepens our hunger as well.” 

“We are alive. And to be alive means that we will feel. We don’t need to deny it, and we don’t need to have it rule us. We dare not marry it to cynicism, and we must not fuel it with fatalism. It is not the end of our reality. It is instead a clue that we are strangers in a strange land. And we are passing through. Sadness touches us all, but God can use it to enhance the beauty and joy of the lives we are living. Sadness can fuel our hope. It can arouse our expectancy.” 

“God displayed His fierce, constant love for us once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. The essence of His heart is no longer up for question. Because of all that Jesus won for us and our choice to receive it, God promises that we actually have nothing to fear.” 

“satan comes to rob us of our joy, our peace, and our connection to and faith in God. He whispers lies to us when we are vulnerable and does his best to warp our perception of our lives with his depressing and evil spin. His endless attacks can wear a person down if they are aware that the perceptions being suggested are coming straight from hell.

“satan is very good at stealing. He’s devoted all his malice to separating us from intimacy with our good Father and the experience of deep joy that comes straight from Jesus’ heart. The evil one uses the circumstances of our lives and of the world to bring discouragement and despair. That is why we must remember that though happiness is rooted in our circumstances, joy is rooted in eternity.” 

“Depth of character doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t come at all to those who refuse to admit the difficulties in their lives are painful. It comes when we fix our gaze on Jesus and the reality that this life is only part of the grand scheme of things.” 

“There is something forged in all of us that can only be forged through fire. Perhaps intense periods of struggle, pain, betrayal, persecution, and rejection are the times when the baptism by fire that Jesus talks about occurs. When we cling to Jesus and proclaim He is good in the midst of the licking flames, our spirits rise in a strength that is proven unshakable, and God is glorified beyond reckoning. Our pain becomes the terrain of God. It becomes sacred.” 

Check out some more quotes I shared from Defiant Joy here.

No Looking Back

…He steadfastly set His face… (Luke 9:51). 

Jesus wasn’t about to be deterred, delayed, or detoured from fulfilling His Father’s mission. 

Some of the other Bible translations fill in this meaning:

  • resolutely (NLT) 
  • steadfastly and determinedly (AMP) 
  • gathered up His courage and steeled Himself (MSG)
  • “to turn in a certain direction, confirm it, and resolutely follow it” (Strong’s Concordance)

Jesus could do this for at least three reasons—

  1. He knew “the time had come” (see v. 51 and John 13:1, 3) 
  2. He knew the joy at the end of the journey (Hebrews 12:2)
  3. He knew His Father loved Him (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17)

A mark of a godly leader is one who resolutely follows God. No matter what!

Jesus calls His followers to the same path He walked—“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)

It’s hard because people reject a resolute man. 

It’s hard because the accommodations along the way are uncertain. 

It’s hard because I have to give up my right to myself. 

But the reward is incomparable—Heaven forever with Jesus!

This is part 33 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

8 Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

For anyone going through a trying time, Stasi Eldredge has given us a timely reminder of how we can tenaciously and defiantly cling to the joy the God gives us. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Ignoring reality does not breed joy. Pretending that what is true does not exist is not holy defiance. The seeds of joy can only be firmly planted in the pungent soil of the here and now while at the same time being tethered to eternity. Joy is fully rooted in the truth. Joy embraces all the senses and is fully awake to the laughter, the wonder, and the beauty present in the moment as well as the sorrow, the angst, and the fear. Joy says, ‘Even so, I have a reason to celebrate.’” 

“Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.” 

“Joy is not happiness on steroids. It is not happiness squared. … Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir, who are connected to His life. Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. … Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy.” 

“Joy and breakthrough are not opposed to suffering But are available in the midst of it. Suffering is not a failure of faith on our part; its presence does not mean the absence of the presence of God. We can live with suffering and joy simultaneously.” 

“Joy is deeply rooted in the availability of God and His kingdom right here, right now. Sometimes we find breakthrough. Sometimes we find a deeper knowing of God in our suffering.” 

“Here is the truth we must remember in the middle of this sometimes painful healing process: we matter to the heart of God. He hasn’t taken His eyes off us. He thinks of us constantly. He has hopes and dreams for us. God planned on us before He made the stars, and He planned on us being His. He planned on us sharing our lives with Him on this wild adventure. And His plans are good.” 

“God drops things in our laps at just the right time. He puts barriers in our paths that look like roadblocks but are really gifts in disguise, beckoning us to take a closer look at what’s going on inside of us. We can either step over them or choose to pick them up and examine them for the potential they may hold.” 

“When the sadness refuses to be silenced and the feelings arise that this is not the life we had signed up for, we can either go to shame or go to God.” 

I’ll be sharing more quotes in the near future, so stay tuned…

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