Learning Empathy

I’m an up-and-at-em, carpe diem kinda guy. Nothing gets me down for very long—I’m resilient and self-motivated. So I used to have a hard time relating to people who weren’t wired the same way. That is until I went through a time in my life where getting up-and-at-em was one of the hardest things I had to do each day.  

In the midst of this dark night, I would ask God, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?” But I heard the Holy Spirit gently but unmistakably remind me, “This isn’t about you!” 

The dictionary says that empathy is nearly a transliterated word from the Greek word empatheia. It means to be in suffering, but the emphasis is more on imaginative empathy. Something like, “If I was them and I was in that situation, I bet it might feel like this.” 

In the New Testament, a different Greek word is translated sympathy, which is also a transliterated word from the Greek sympatheō. This word means to enter into another’s suffering, but the emphasis is on experiential empathy. In other words, I don’t have to imagine how you might feel, but I know how you feel because I’ve gone through the same thing myself. 

Just as the Holy Spirit taught me this lesson, let me say the same thing to you: the dark night you are going through isn’t about you. It’s about learning empathy SO THAT you can help others persevere all the way to the end! 

Think about the dark night Jesus went through just before His crucifixion. He might have asked His Father, “Why is this happening to Me? What did I do wrong?” But He knew why He was going through this night: it was to prepare Him to be the perfect empathetic High Priest for all of us (check out these verses in Hebrews).  

When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13, 26). 

Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. He wrote, “A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” 

Sometimes we have to go through the painful, dark nights so that we can learn to feel others’ pain so that we can learn empathy. 

Through those nights we can learn to hear what others aren’t saying, and feel what others aren’t expressing. We don’t have to ask, “Can I help?” but rather, “I’m here to help because I know what you’re going through.” 

You cannot truly empathize until you go through your own dark night. I can be thankful IN the night because God is growing my empathy so that I can help others! 

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

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with You mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

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.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Christ’s Momentary Pain, Your Eternal Gain

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.

Christ’s Momentary Pain, Your Eternal Gain

After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. (John 17:1) 

     The Son of God was glorified while He was dying, and it was one part of His glory that He should be able to bear the enormous load of human guilt. As a race we lay crushed beneath it.

     A thousand Samsons could not relieve us! Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim could never lift the stupendous mass! But this one Man alone, with no help, in weakness of body and in death pains, bore away the enormous load of human guilt! The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all! What a load it was! And that He could bear it was, indeed, a display of His glory. The lost in hell cannot bear the wrath of God! An eternity of suffering will not have discharged the dreadful penalty, and yet He bore that burden in an hour! Oh, marvelous strength of the incarnate God! Glorious are You indeed, O Christ, upon Your Cross! …  

     I say He was glorified in His passion and His prayer was heard! The Father did glorify His Son even on the Tree! It was an hour of glory that might dazzle angels’ eyes; that hour when He said, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30) and gave up the ghost. What had He finished? He had finished that which saved His people! He had peopled heaven with immortal spirits who will delight in Him forever and had shaken the gates of hell! God indeed glorified His Son in enabling Him to bear, and bear so well, all the weight of sin and the penalty that was due to it. …  

     When He died, He did not render the redemption of His people possible, but He ransomed them completely. By His agonies and death He did not merely give a bare hope of the pardon of sin, but He hurled the sin of all His elect into the depths of the sea in that same moment! He did not merely make the salvation of men a possibility if they would, but He saved His people then and there! He finished the work that He came to do, and proof of it is written that ‘this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10:12).

From The Son Glorified By The Father And The Father Glorified By The Son 

The enemy of your soul would love for you to believe his lies that you have to do something to secure your salvation, or that your most recent sin somehow made your salvation iffy, or that God is angry with you. 

THOSE ARE ALL LIES! 

Jesus didn’t make your salvation possible; He made it yours. This is what glorifies God: when you believe that the death of Jesus is all that is needed for your complete and eternal salvation! 

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“The Hour Has Come”

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.

“The Hour Has Come” 

After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. (John 17:1) 

     Father, the hour is come.’ This is the hour ordained in the eternal purpose. The hour prophesied of which Daniel sought to know. The hour toward which all hours had pointed. The central hour—the hour up to which man dated and from which they will date again if they read time right. The hinge, pivot, and turning point of all human history! The dark yet delivering hour! The hour of vengeance and of acceptance! ‘The hour is come.’ …  

     You and I look into the hour of darkness, as a frequent rule, and see no further, for our eyes are dim through unbelief. But [Jesus] goes on beyond the hour and His prayer is, ‘Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’ He fixes His eyes upon the glory that was yet to be revealed and for joy of which He counts even His death to be but an hour—looking upon it as soon to be over and lost in the glory of His Father! 

     In all this, brothers and sisters, let us imitate our Lord and let us keep our eyes not on the present, but on the future; not on this light affliction, which is but for a moment, but on the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that will come of it. And let us with holy confidence, whenever our hour of darkness arrives, resort to our God in secret. The best preparation for the worst hour is prayer! The best remedy for a depressed spirit is nearness to God! 

From The Son Glorified By The Father And The Father Glorified By The Son 

Solomon became depressed when his gaze went no higher than “under the sun.” We, too, can become quite overwhelmed by our trials if our eyes only look at the present hour of darkness. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus who conquered in His hour of darkness—Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

No matter what you are going through, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t give in to the darkness because Jesus has made you more than a conqueror if you will remain in Him (Romans 8:37-39). 

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Seeds Of Revival

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.

Seeds Of Revival 

     How did Jesus Christ save souls in olden times? By the foolishness of preaching. And if you will look down through church history, you will find that, wherever there has been a great revival of religion, it has been linked with the preaching of the gospel! … Ah, my dear friends, the world will never be saved by Methodist doctors, or by Baptist doctors, or anything of the sort! But multitudes will be saved, by God’s grace, through preachers! It is the preacher to whom God has entrusted this great work! Jesus said, ‘Preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). 

     But men are getting tired of the divine plan. They are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by the theatricals, and who knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as they like, but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion—God dishonored, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world! Stand to your guns, brothers, and go on preaching and teaching nothing but the Word of God, for it still pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save those who believe! And this test still stands true: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ …  

     Well, you may try to do without prayer meetings if you like, but my solemn conviction is that, as these decline, the Spirit of God will depart from you and the preaching of the gospel will be of small account. …  

     The Holy Spirit works all the good that is ever done in the world, and as the Holy Spirit honors Jesus Christ, so He puts great honor upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship Him and believingly trust in Him, we will find that we will be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done before, but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must always be, ‘Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with Your servants!’ We know that we are utterly dependent upon Him. Such is the teaching of our Master, and ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’

From The Unchangeable Christ 

Charles Spurgeon is exactly right. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change our world today. For this message to go out in all of its life-changing power requires three things: 

  1. Pastors who will preach the Word of God. Music, opinions, and theatrics will not change lives. 
  2. Prayer. Both those in the pulpit and those in the seats of the church must be praying. 
  3. Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we won’t be effective at all. 

Do you want to see a revival? Encourage your pastor to preach well, keep on praying, and keep on asking for the Spirit’s empowerment!

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Stick To The Revealed Word Of God

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.

Stick To The Revealed Word Of God

Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (Hebrews 13:7-9) 

     From the connection it is evident that our text refers to the teaching of Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ This is not according to the so-called development folly. Theology, like every other science, is to grow, watered by the splendid wisdom of this enlightened age, fostered by the superlative ability of the gentlemen of light and leading of the present time, so much superior to all who came before them! 

     We think not so, brothers and sisters, for the Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect revelation of God. … In previous ages, God has spoken to us by His prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son [Hebrews 1:1-2]. Now as to that which was a complete revelation, it is blasphemous to suppose that there can be any more revealed than has been made known in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! … And as He shuts up the book that contains the written revelation, He bids you never dare to take from it, lest He should take your name out of the Book of Life! And never dare to add to it, lest He should add to you the plagues that are written in this book [Revelation 22:18-19]!

From The Unchangeable Christ 

BEWARE when someone tells you they have discovered some new revelation from God that they—and they alone—have uncovered. God’s Word doesn’t need anyone’s “help.” 

But DO pray before you read the Bible to ask the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God to now illuminate it to your mind as you read and study. 

(P.S. Oswald Chambers had some sobering words about false prophets.)

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Thoughtful Meditation And Application

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.

Thoughtful Meditation And Application

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8) 

     Observe, then, that God’s people are a thoughtful people. If they are what they are to be, they do a great deal of remembering and considering. … I wish, in these days, that professing Christians remembered and considered a great deal more, but we live in such a flurry, hurry, and worry, that we do not give time for thought. …  

     Our great Master never aimed at originality—He said that He did not even speak His own words, but the words that He had heard of His Father [John 12:49]. He was docile and teachable. As the Son of God and the Servant of God, His ears were open to hear the instructions of the Father, and He could say, ‘I always do those things that please Him’ (John 8:29). … 

     There is no difference whatever in the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to His people at this time! He is just as ready to comfort us tonight as He was to comfort those with whom He dwelt when here below! Sister Mary, He is as willing to come down to your Bethany and help you in your sorrow about Lazarus as He was when He came to Martha and Mary whom He loved! Jesus Christ is just as ready to wash your feet, my brother, after another day’s weary travel through the foul ways of this world. He is as willing to take the basin and the towel and to give us a loving cleansing as He was when He washed His disciples’ feet! Just what He was to them, He is to us! Happy is it if you and I can truly say, ‘What He was to Peter, what He was to John, what He was to Magdalene, that is Jesus Christ to me—the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ 

From The Unchangeable Christ 

If Charles Spurgeon thought the 19th century was a time of “flurry, hurry, and worry,” what adjectives might describe the supersonic, multi-tasking, get-everything-done-now 21st century?! 

Today, more than ever, we need to take time to reflect on God’s Word. Read it slowly. Put yourself in the story. What would you have observed if you were there? What would you have felt? Look around at the others who were there: how would they have perceived what was happening? 

You don’t meditate on God’s Word so that you can find something original, but you meditate so that the Holy Spirit can reveal the original truths that are already there! The Holy Spirit can show you how to apply the Bible to your life, if you will only slow down to give Him time to do so. 

Don’t race through your Bible reading time—slow down and take it all in. Then let the Holy Spirit work out what He has helped you put in your heart and mind.

 

Impossible To Empowered

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].”  Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?” 

Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus. 

Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize. 

Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!” 

You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). 

This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly. 

Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27). 

On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection. 

Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?! 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Nothing Left Undone

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.

Nothing Left Undone

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:11-13) 

     You see the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice rests in this: that the priest offered continually, and after he had slaughtered one lamb, another was needed. After one scapegoat was driven into the wilderness, a scapegoat was needed the next year, but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, did what thousands of scapegoats never did and what hundreds of thousands of lambs could never effect. He perfected our salvation and worked out an entire atonement for the sins of all His chosen ones.

     I infer that His work is finished from the fact that He is described here [Hebrews 10:12] as sitting down. Christ would not sit down in heaven if He had more work to do. …

     But do you think my Savior would sit still if He had not done all His work? Oh no, beloved. He said once, ‘For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns’ (Isaiah 62:1). …

     Oh, if the last thread had not been woven in the great garment of our righteousness, He would be spinning it now. If the last particle of our debt had not been paid, He would be counting it down now. 

     Oh, glorious doctrine! This Man has done it. This Man has finished it. This Man has completed it. He was the Author. He is the finisher. He was the Alpha. He is the Omega. … You are accepted perfectly in His righteousness.… ‘By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). 

From Christ Exalted

Friend, Jesus has left nothing undone that would keep you from God’s full favor! 

Christ’s work on the Cross and His resurrection from the grave have removed every impediment that would keep you from God’s presence. Not sin’s condemnation, nor chaotic world affairs, nor the clamoring or godless people, nor anything you can imagine can hinder God’s favor. 

Cling to this: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

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