May 26, 2017

Staying Encouraged in the Lord

By Mike Willis

There is no one who serves God who does not face trials, tribulations, adversities, and other things that tempt him to throw up his hands and quit. That is common to Christians and, for that reason, there are numerous Scriptures to encourage us not to become discouraged and disheartened. Paul exhorted, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Sometimes it helps us to be reminded of those things that make serving God worthwhile. Consider some of these things that Christ gives us:

1. A hope of heaven. On several occasions, the Lord described to us what he has prepared for us in heaven.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Rev. 21:1-7).

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-3).

The hope that one has enables him to endure the horrible burdens of life. The Proverbs speak of how one without hope has trouble perservering.

Prov. 12:25 — “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop . . .” Prov. 15:13 — “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”

Prov. 18:14 — “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

We think of some faithful men who endured, such as Job. Their hope sustained them. Job wrote, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27).

2. Forgiveness of sins as a present possession. How could one look at himself in the mirror without having forgiveness of his sins? More than any other person he is aware of his failures, his transgressions, the pain he has caused others, his innermost thoughts that are not always pure, the words he has spoken in anger, the off color jokes he has told and laughed at, and other failures in his life. He is fully aware of his failures and knows by experience what Paul so ably expressed,

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me (Rom. 7:15-20, NRSV).

How blessed a sinner is to know that his sins are forgiven and that he has peace with God. Christ is the expression of God’s grace, his undeserved and unmerited kindness toward mankind. The Father gave his Son as an atonement for sin that men could be saved from their transgressions and iniquities. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation from one’s sins gives the sinner a release from his guilty conscience. Paul described this peace as that “which passeth all understanding” and which is able to “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Through Christ we who once were alienated from God can be at peace with him (Eph. 2:14). The beautiful message of Christianity is that it is a redemptive system. Regardless of what you have done in the past, you can be forgiven and have newness of life. Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).

3. A brotherhood of Christians. Christians are part of a family, the family of God. What a blessing we have to be called the children of God. John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1). Everywhere God has a son, I have a brother. How blessed one is to be a part of the family of God.

God’s children are lovely and loving people caring for one another’s needs. Paul described how God’s children should act toward one another when he compared the church to a physical body: “. . . the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26).

Sometimes the brotherly affection for each other is most apparent in the hour of adversity. I have watched how Christians rally to the support of those who are hurting. I was so proud of my brethren who raised over $400,000 last year to help their Filipino brethren who were destitute, even though most of us would not know by face any one of these brethren. I watch how Christians minister to one another when the call of death arrives. Christians are generally ready to assist the family through the suffering the family endures as it awaits that final hour. Indeed, I am honored to be associated with the best people in the world in being a part of the family of God.

4. Purpose for living. Christianity gives us direction in life, helping us to sort out what is most important and what is least important. In a culture in which men are tempted to become consumed by recreational activities because of our abundance of leisure time, we need to remember that life’s purpose is not self-gratification, as the hedonists might teach us. In an age when one might think that life’s purpose is the accumulation of things (as illustrated in the game of monopoly — he who has the most at the end wins), we need to remember that these things will be left behind when we hear the call of death and then whose shall they be (Luke 12:15-21)? What is life’s true purpose? Here was Solomon’s conclusion: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).

5. Hope for tomorrow. Everyone goes through dark and gloomy times in his life. One has reminded us, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Whatever comes to me will come from a God who truly and dearly loves me. Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:11). Recognizing God’s providence, I know that there is hope for tomorrow. “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). In one of Bill Gaither’s songs is this line: “Hold on my child, The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight.”

6. Strength to endure. Paul reminded us that through the strength of the Lord, he had the ability to endure his suffering and remain faithful to his God. So can we. His inspiring words are worthy of our meditation: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”  (Phil.

4:11-13).

Conclusion

As we face life’s trials, let’s try to keep focused on what truly is important in life. There is so much reason to have.

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