Life Is Hard! Now What?

Jesus told Peter, and now Peter tells us—Christians are going to be insulted and persecuted for believing in Jesus. So the fact that life is hard shouldn’t come as a surprise. Peter then goes on to elaborate on how Christians should live in spite of the mistreatment. 

“The more Christians are unlike the world, the more it hates us; the more we are like our Lord, the more the world will persecute us.” —Horatius Bonar

How should Christians respond to insults and persecution? Peter outlines the Christian’s response in 1 Peter 4:12-19

dear friends, do not be surprised (v. 12). I like this verse in the Amplified Bible: Do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. After all, Jesus told us this was coming (see John 15:18-20). 

but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ (v. 13a). Notice that this should be the sufferings OF Christ, not of our own making. 

—let suffering lead to Spirit-led reflection (notice the if’s in vv. 14-18, and the if’s in what Jesus said in John 15:18-20). We need to make sure our suffering is because we’re standing for Jesus, not because we’re being jerks! David asked God to check if his actions were the cause of his persecution (Psalm 7:3-4) and we should too. If we discover that we’re the one to blame, quickly apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make things right.  

keep your focus on when His glory is revealed (v. 13b). Time is short, and the rewards are sure so don’t remain focused on the immediate pain, but look up to the longterm gain.  

do not be ashamed to suffer for Jesus (v. 16). Jesus told us not to be ashamed of Him because He is not ashamed of us (Luke 9:26; Hebrews 2:11). 

stay committed to your faithful Creator (v. 19a). Staying committed means getting even closer to God in the hard times.

continue to do good (v. 19b). What does continue to do good look like? Peter lists things like being self-controlled, helping others that are being persecuted, showing proper respect, having a good work ethic, not trading insult for insult, and many other commands. Bottom line: doing good means living like Jesus lived while He was on Earth (see Acts 10:38). 

So, Christian, I’ve got two questions for you—

How are you handling insults and persecution? Are you continuing to do good despite the mistreatment? 

Remember Jesus is coming soon, and His rewards are with Him for how we have lived. “Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.” —Jesus (Revelation 22:12) 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while we visit Earth. You can join us either in person or via Facebook Live. 

Grudges Can Block God’s Blessings

In Psalm 7, some guy named Cush is giving David trouble. How much trouble? David felt like Cush was a lion about to rip him apart! 

We would naturally expect David to cry out for God’s help from this tormentor (which he does in the opening verses), but then what David does next is quite unexpected—he asks to God to search his heart to see if he might be the cause for Cush’s attack: 

  • Have I done something wrong?
  • Is there guilt on my hands?
  • Have I done such an evil to cause him to attack? 
  • Have I somehow robbed Cush of something? 

This introspection in God’s presence was apparently a regular habit for David. He made this a regular habit when the heat was on, and also when he was at peace (see Psalm 139:23-24). 

Not only did David want to make sure his hands were clean, but he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t carrying a grudge against Cush. A grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment toward someone who has wronged us. But the most devastating thing about a grudge is that it takes our eyes off God and places them on our tormentor. 

In other words, as long as we hold a grudge, we continue to give our tormentor power over our lives. 

So after asking those introspective questions, David writes Selah. One definition of this word—which is probably quite appropriate here—is pause, and calmly think of that. 

After this Selah pause of introspection in God’s presence, David must have felt clear of any guilt (because we don’t see him repenting, as is his habit), but we also see him being very careful of not holding on to a grudge against Cush. 

David then begins to affirm in the remaining verses that God is more than capable of handling evil people and keeping the righteous protected. David determines that he will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Most High (v. 17). 

Here’s an important thing for anyone who has been injured by someone else to remember—

By holding on to a grudge, you’re holding yourself in bondage! 

How can your hands be free to receive God’s blessings if your hands are full of the grudges you are holding? 

Learn from David’s Selah these two lessons when someone torments you: 

  1. Ask God: am I to blame? If so, repent. If not, ask question 2.
  2. Ask God: am I holding on to a grudge? If so, let it go so your hands are free to receive God’s blessings! 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Tozer: We Must Face Up To This

“Our Lord told of two men who appeared before God in prayer, a Pharisee who recited his virtues and a publican who beat on his breast and pleaded for mercy. The first was rejected, the other justified [see Luke 18:9-14].

“We manage to live with that story in some degree of comfort only by keeping it at full arm’s length and never permitting it to catch a hold of our conscience. These two men are long ago dead and their story has become a little religious classic. We are different, and how can anything so remote apply to us? So we reason, on a level only slightly above our unconscious, and draw what comfort we can from the vagueness and remoteness of it all.

“But why should we not face up to it? The truth is that this happens not a long while ago, but yesterday, this morning; not far away, but here where some of us last knelt to pray. These two men are not dead, but alive, and are found in the local church, at the missionary convention and the deeper life conference here, now, today.” —A.W. Tozer, from Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

Bill Hybels’ 10 Rules Of Respect

My mind and heart were expanded once again at this year’s Global Leadership Summit! Bill Hybels opened the conference with a call to leaders to promote civility in our areas of influence. Here are a few notes I jotted down.

“The solution to incivility must begin with me.” —Bill Hybels

“Christians do not get to chose whom they will respect [1 Peter 2:17].” —Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels’ 10 rules of respect:

  1. Leaders must set the standard of how to disagree without demonizing the other person.
  2. Leaders must allow spirited conversations without it getting personal.
  3. Leaders must not interrupt others who are talking.
  4. Leaders must limit their volume level and eliminate belittling words.
  5. Leaders must set the example of being courteous.
  6. Leaders must never stereotype.
  7. Leaders must apologize immediately if they are wrong.
  8. Leaders must form opinions carefully.
  9. Leaders must set the example of showing up on time and doing what they say they will do.
  10. Leaders must set rules of respect for the organization and enforce them relentlessly.

Bill Hybels closed with this challenge—“When was the last time I reflected deeply on my own convictions about respecting others?”

Run Today’s Race (book review)

It’s amazing the thoughts you can think if only the right “seed thought” is first planted in your mind. In Run Today’s Race that’s exactly what Oswald Chambers does for us.

Run Today’s Race is a 365-day seed-planting book designed to send your mind exploring the applications of each day’s short statement or question. At most, each day’s reading is expressed in three sentences, but many of them are expressed in just a handful of words.

The original publication in 1918 was called Seed Thoughts Calendar. In the introduction we read:

“Oswald Chambers firmly believed in the concept of ‘seed thoughts’—brief, pithy sayings designed to arrest attention and stimulate thinking. The entry for December 9 perhaps best expresses his conviction on how to affect a person’s mind and behavior: ‘Our Lord was never impatient. He simply planted seed thoughts in the disciples’ minds and surrounded them with the atmosphere of His own life….’”

Each day’s entry in Run Today’s Race will take you only a few seconds to read, but you will have some excellent thought material to keep your mind occupied all day long. Make an investment in your spiritual growth by picking up a copy of this excellent book.

As an example from November 14:

“The proof that we are rightly related to God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.”

This might stimulate questions like:

  • Do I do my best only when someone is watching me, or do I do my best because God is always watching me?
  • Do my work ethic and pursuit of excellence make God look good to others?
  • Do I have to wait until I’m “inspired” to do my best, or can simply doing my best make me feel inspired?

Thursdays With Oswald—A Dangerous (But Vital) Prayer

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.

A Dangerous (But Vital) Prayer

     No one but a fool or a sincere soul would ever pray this prayer—‘Search me, O God’ [Psalm 139:23-24] … Any soul who prays that prayer will be answered. … 

     If you want to know what the scrutiny of God is like, listen to Jesus Christ: “For from within, out of the heart of man, evil thoughts proceed…” [Matthew 15:19], and then follows a rugged catalog of things few of us know anything about in conscious life, consequently we are apt to be indignant and resent Jesus Christ’s diagnosis—“I have never felt like a murderer, or an adulterer, therefore those things cannot be in me.” To talk in that way is proof that we are grossly ignorant of ourselves. If we prefer to trust our ignorant innocence we pass a verdict on the only Master of the human heart there is, we tell Him He does not know what He is talking about. The one right thing to do is to listen to Jesus Christ and then hand our hearts over to God to be searched and guarded, and filled with the Holy Spirit. … 

     Jesus Christ has undertaken through His Redemption to put into us a heart so pure that God Almighty can see nothing to censure in it, and the Holy Spirit searches us not only to make us know the possibilities of iniquity in our heart, but to make us “unblameable in holiness” in His sight.

From The Soul Of A Christian

Are you willing to really pray this prayer, listen to what the Holy Spirit says, and then allow Christ’s work of redemption to make you unblameable in holiness?

Or, Chambers asks, “Are we willing to let God scrutinize us, or are we doing the worst of all things, trying to justify ourselves?”

It’s your choice.

11 Quotes From “Absolute Surrender”

absolute-surrenderThis book is a challenging book for any Christian to read. Check out my review by clicking here, and then check out a few quotes that especially caught my heart.

“I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. … Can God work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot.”

“How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy—our will and our thoughts about the work—is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Ghost!”

“One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. … It is only when God’s people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see—it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God.”

“A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. ‘I fail continually,’ such a one must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this: Because they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit can pour God’s love into their heart.”

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.”

“God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to go unless God go before us. God has planned for the work and the extension of His kingdom.”

“God can only reveal His will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.” 

“May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Ghost to have.”

“The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. … All God’s servants in the Old Testament counted upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: ‘I can do nothing. God must and will do all.’”

“Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ah, yes; you failed because you do not accept the strength of God. God alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God’s will, but His Holy Spirit can; and until the Church, until believers grasp this, and cease trying to by human effort to do God’s will, and wait upon the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, the Church will never be what God wants her to be, and what God is willing to make of her.”

I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon. To be notified immediately when these quotes are posted, fill in your email address in the field to the right and click “Sign me up!” Also be sure to follow me on Tumblr and Twitter for great quotes I share every day.

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