Archive | February, 2013

Weeping with those that weep

27 Feb

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15, ESV)

In over twenty years as a pastor, there are some things that you never get used to.  Yesterday, I visited in the home of a member of our church who is dying of cancer. With his wife on one side of the hospital bed and me on the other, the three of us prayed together and wept together.  This particular couple have been dear friends of ours during our years in Huntsville.  I cried when I was them, and I cried when I got into my car.  I cried as I drove back to my office.  Even though they are strong believers, the sadness is profound.

Today, I conducted the funeral of another member of our church.  She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, church member, neighbor, and friend. Typically the funeral director gathers the family together a few minutes before the service starts so that the family can have a final private viewing.  Many times, these are the most emotional moments for families. Today was no different.  During this time before the funeral, we wept together and prayed together.

In addition, there are the ministry situations that I cannot share on this blog.  These are the heartbreaking situations that lead people to talk with a pastor. The pain is just as real, even though no death is involved.  I pray with everyone who comes to see me.  Sometimes I cry with the person as I pray with them.  I’ve had a few of those situations as well recently.

When I first started out in ministry, I used to think that it was a necessity to have something profound to say in these situations. No more. The truth is that oftentimes weeping with those that weep means more than anything.

Trusting God

25 Feb

Is there an issue in your life where you really struggle to trust God completely?  Scripture affirms over and over again that we are to trust Him.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37:3–5, ESV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5, ESV)

What does it mean to trust the Lord? The word translated “trust” in these verse has the idea of “to be confident, to feel safe, to rely on.”  The Bible presents our Lord not just as one whom we are to love and serve, but as one who can absolutely and totally be trusted.  Let’s think about that for a moment. The Lord desires that we trust His Word, but the reason we can trust the Word of God is because we trust God. It all comes back to that issue. Our trust is in the Lord himself.  E.M. Bounds in his classic book The Necessity of Prayer speaks to this issue…

“Have faith in God,” “Trust in the Lord” form the keynote and foundation of prayer. Primarily, it is not trust in the Word of God, but rather trust in the Person of God. For trust in the Person of God must precede trust in the Word of God…Trust, in an historical fact or in a mere record may be a very passive thing, but trust in a person vitalizes the quality, fructifies it, informs it with love. The trust which informs prayer centers in a Person.

I believe that Bounds is exactly right to link our trust to our prayer life. Think about it. If there is a person in your life that you don’t trust, it’s difficult to have much of a relationship with them. You might be required to talk with them in your job or they might be a member of your family, but the reality is that you will go through the motions in your interaction with that person because ultimately you are not assured that they are acting your best interest or even have your best interests at heart.  Where there is not love, there cannot be trust.  Ultimately our perception of a person’s love for us determines our capacity to trust them.

What does this have to do with prayer?  Everything! What does prayer have to do with trusting God?  Everything!  Remember, where there is not love, there cannot be trust. However, there is another side of that coin – where there is love, there can be trust.  We can trust God first and foremost because God loves us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7–10, ESV)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39, ESV)

You see, the basis of our trusting God is His faithful love for us!  If we believe with all of our heart that God loves us, then we can trust Him with all of our heart. If I know God loves me, then I also know that He will always act in my best interest. Therefore, I can trust Him.  Love and trust are intertwined. If I am assured of love, then I can trust.

One more thing: prayer is the key to trusting God.  Think about it. Isn’t conversation how relationships grow?  Aren’t talk and trust intertwined as well?  Ask a married couple who never talk to one another if there is really trust.  Go to any large company or organization where one group never talks to another group and you will find a lack of trust every time. So it is with our spiritual lives. Prayer is the engine that drives our trust in God. Once again, Bounds has the right words here when he wrote, “Trust grows nowhere as readily and richly as in the prayer chamber.” 

We are assured of His love, therefore we can trust Him. Because we trust Him, we talk to God in prayer. The more we talk to God in prayer, the more we are assured of His love. The more we are assured of His live, the more we pray.  And the more we pray…well, you get the idea. It goes like this..

Love > trust > prayer > love > trust > prayer > love > trust > prayer

Are you struggling to trust God this Monday morning?  Rest assured of His love and start praying!

Are we willing to be hated for Christ’s sake?

23 Feb

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12, ESV)

““If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

I grew up in the small community of Ider, Alabama where the overwhelming majority of people believed the Bible to be God’s Word and viewed it as a good and positive thing to be a committed Christian. As a teenager I began to really read the Bible regularly and, to be very honest, I would read passages like these and never give them a thought because I lived in somewhat of a bubble in the Bible belt of America. It was really only when I studied in seminary that I learned about the persecuted church and the sacrifices that so many have given for sake of Christ.  Still, for the last twenty years, I have served as a pastor in the United States and the reality has been that true persecution of Christians has been something that happened in other parts of the world.  Even after the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, being a Christian in the United States has largely been viewed as a good thing for my entire life.

However, we now see that changing before our very eyes.  Our culture is rapidly becoming hostile to the Biblical, historic Christian faith.  At present, this hostility seems to revolve around two issues: the exclusivity of the gospel (the belief that personal faith in Christ is the only way of salvation) and the Biblical standards of sexuality, marriage, and family.  It’s still “OK” to be a Christian in America as long as you are a Christian who believes that all religions are equally true and that homosexuality is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle that should be celebrated and even given the rights of marriage. However, if you are a Christian in America today who believes that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven and that sex is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated in the context of marriage between one man and one woman for life, then there is a rapidly growing hostility toward you. Increasingly, our culture will label you as hateful, bigoted, ignorant, unworthy of leadership, etc.  In other words, the Biblical, historic Christian faith is no longer welcome to growing segments of our culture in America.

Where will all of this end?  I do not know.  I personally pray every single day for America to return to the Lord.  I pray every day for revival to come to America. A great revival could turn this tide.  I am praying that all of this ends in revival for our nation.

However, if present trends continue, Bible believing Christians in America might soon have to face some very tough questions.  Will we remain faithful when our faith truly costs us something?  Will we share the gospel and make disciples in a culture that is hostile to our message and beliefs? Will we stand up for the right to teach our children Biblical truth even if that is labeled harmful to their well being by the government? What if there is violence against churches with Biblical convictions?  What if our church is sued for not allowing gay weddings in our facilities? What will we do when the TV and radio broadcasts of faithful pastors are labeled as “hate speech” because of their convictions and forced off the air if they refuse to edit them?   What will we do if being a member of a conservative, Bible preaching church might mean we won’t get promoted or even hired in the first place?  What would we do if being a committed Christian means you will not be elected to any political office of any consequence? Would we still tithe if we no longer receive a tax deduction for giving to our church?

If revival doesn’t come to America soon, we will very likely be answering these questions and many more.

When God Says “No”

21 Feb

During our Wednesday evening service at Whitesburg, I have been preaching a series of messages on the life of David. Today, I thought I would share a synopsis of the message last night…

“When God Says No”

2 Samuel 7:1-29

Years ago, I heard a preacher talk about the three ways that God can answer our prayers…

YES, right now

YES, but wait

NO

It’s this third instance that we are going to look at today. What do we do when God says no? How do we process that?  Here we see David go through a time when God did not answer his prayer. God did not give him the desire of his heart. David has now become king and he is ruling the nation from Jerusalem, just like he is supposed to. He even brought up the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem so that it would have its proper place and the presence of God would dwell among the people. So, this period in David’s life is very much a high point. God has blessed and David has honored the Lord. And this is one of the mountaintop times in David’s life. And God says, “no.”

God sometimes says no to good things  (v. 1-2)

Look at David’s situation here. There is not a hint of pride or of David desiring to do this for any reason other than to glorify the Lord. Up until this time, the presence of the Lord was manifested in the tabernacle, a tent. David looked around at the expensive, ornate palace that he lived in and said, “You know, the Lord should have a nicer house than me. I want to build the Lord a permanent house.” That is what was going on.  David wanted to do a good thing. A noble thing.  In fact, the Bible says just that later on in 2 Chronicles 6:7-9  The Lord told David that he desired a good thing. He commended David for that desire, but then he said, even though you have a good heart, that is not my will for you to do.

You see, so many Christians have all of these wrong ideas about prayer and the will of God. Years ago, I had a lady tell me that whatever she prayed for she had learned to expect the opposite from God. She took that to mean that she had little faith to pray or that something was so wrong with her. Now, one reason that might have been her experience is simply that she needed to learn to walk with the Lord more and get her desires more in line with God’s desires. That happens many times. We don’t walk with him as we should and therefore, we do not want what God wants. As a result, we are asking God for things that aren’t even in the ballpark of His will for us. Many times that is the case.

However, sometimes we are walking with him and we desire good things. Even things that would bring honor to the Lord. Yet, God still says no. That is what happened to David. God said no to a good thing. Think about it.

Many times our friends will say yes before God says no (v. 3)

Look at what Nathan the prophet says in v. 3.  By the way, this is the first mention of him in the Bible and later on he is going to have a more key role in David’s life.  Nathan says, “I think you ought to go for it!”  Now, Nathan was not some pagan out here. He was a prophet of the Lord. He wanted to honor the Lord too. He was sincere, AND HE WAS DEAD WRONG.

Listen, friends, there is value in many counselors. There is value in talking with trusted, Godly people in our lives.  Many times God might use them to speak to us or to clarify a situation, BUT they do not speak for God. Ultimately, we must listen to God alone. That is the advice I recently gave a close friend of mine who came to me.  I told him the situation as I saw it and gave him my best advice – and then told him to get alone with God for the answer!

God often has something else in mind when He says no (v. 4-17)  

Read v. 4-11 and God reminds David of how He has worked in His life. Notice V. 11 there is a definite play on words here. David isn’t going to build God’s house, but rather God is going to build David’s house.  Now, very important point here. Down through v. 11 God tells David some things that are going to be fulfilled in his lifetime. Then beginning with v. 12, God tells David some things he is going to do after his death…Read v. 12-17  Now, it is very important to point out that these verses have a dual fulfillment…

  • In the short term, they are fulfilled in Solomon
  • In the long term, they are fulfilled in Christ

-Compare v. 13-14 to Hebrews 1:8

Compare v. 16 to Luke 1:26-33

 Do you know how long it was between David’s death and the birth of Christ?  About 960 years. Think about that. While David was thinking about the “right now”, God was thinking 960 years down the road!

Respond to God’s no with reverent humility (v. 18-20)

Think about this. David was reaching the height of his accomplishment, power, popularity, wealth, you name it. David had it all at this time. And yet, look at his heart. The truth is that all of us need to read v. 18 more often than we do. The truth is that none of us deserve anything from the Lord. The truth is that our worst day is all of his grace. The truth is that every single one of us  – by the nature of living in America and the blessings we have here – every single one of us is far better off than the overwhelming majority of Christians in the world right now. AND WHO ARE WE?  We are nobody. It is only by God’s grace we are who we are.

After God says no, praise Him (v. 21-29)

Did you notice that 10 times in these verses David refers to Himself as “your servant.”  Now, David is king, but he saw himself as a humble servant of THE KING over all. So much of our struggle comes from our prideful self-importance. The truth is that our theology says God’s will is all that matters, but our hearts sometimes say something else. It’s times like these that we must praise Him and let our feelings catch up. God said no to David, but David praised the Lord and said Yes to God’s plan.

The day after Valentine’s Day…

15 Feb

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, ESV)

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Like many husbands, I got my lovely wife a sweet card and took her to her favorite restaurant to eat for Valentine’s Day.  To be very honest, Valentine’s Day is the easiest day of the year to show love and appreciation because everyone is doing it. Every store you go into has tangible reminders with cards, candy, and gifts conveniently displayed.  But what about the day after Valentine’s Day?  What about showing love every day?

The truth is that real love doesn’t just happen on a certain day.  Real love happens every day. Real love happens in the small everyday things as well as in the big holidays.  The verse I quote above is a great reminder that our love really is ultimately shown by our integrity and our deeds. Words are cheap but deeds cost us and integrity is priceless. The problem in so many marriages isn’t that there is not enough love shown on Valentine’s Day, but rather there is not enough love in the other days of the year.

So, what about the day after Valentines Day?  Let it be a great reminder of what true love involves every single day – deeds and truth!  By the way, 1 John 4:7-12 says that the pattern for love like this is found in the love of God through our Savior Jesus Christ.  The cross where Jesus died for our sins is the ultimate expression of love in both deed and truth. It is only through the great love of God that we sinful human beings are capable of loving in the same way. Show love today – in deed and truth!

“I want to be like Adrian Rogers…”

12 Feb

AdrianRogers

Adrian Rogers remains one of the most influential people in my life.  Other than the Words of God in the Bible, the words of Adrian Rogers have influenced me more than any other. There is literally not a single day that I do not think of Dr. Rogers and something I have learned from him.  Were we close friends? No. Actually I only had the privilege of talking with him on one occasion.  What I have learned from him, I gleaned from a three day pastor’s conference that he led and from near countless sermons I have heard him preach. Still, his impact on my life is incalculable. Just this morning, I quoted him in a conversation.

The other day I was talking with a young person who is a very faithful, committed young Christian who had never heard of Adrian Rogers.  It was then I realized that it’s been almost eight years since he went home to be with the Lord. Perhaps you are reading this blog and you have never heard of him.  Adrian Rogers was the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee for thirty years.  He was a mighty preacher and became known all over the world through the ministry he founded, Love Worth Finding. The video below will give you a flavor of his life and ministry. It was played for the first time at his funeral service…

Upon learning of his death, I typed a personal tribute to him that I shared with the church family I was serving at that time. Here it is in its entirety…

A Tribute to Dr. Adrian Rogers

By Gregory L. Corbin

November 15, 2005

 

            Dr. Adrian Rogers, a well-known pastor and leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, went home to be with the Lord on November 15, 2005.  While I will not be among the thousands who will be present at his funeral service, I decided to honor Dr. Rogers among my church family and others that I have contact with by sharing my thoughts about a man that I had the opportunity to meet up close and personal.

“I want to be like Adrian Rogers.”  Those have been the words of thousands of young Baptist preachers over the years. They have been my words in my younger days as well.  I still remember the first time that I saw Adrian Rogers preaching on television. I had just begun my own journey of preaching the Word of God when I saw my first Love Worth Finding broadcast. “What a voice,” I remember thinking.  Like many, I was struck by his booming voice and the passion that he preached with.  In 1996, I saw him in person for the first time as he preached at the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference in New Orleans. He was no less impressive in person than on television. Great preacher. Huge church. Baptizing hundreds. Commanding leader.   Like many young preachers there, I remember thinking, “I want to be like Adrian Rogers.”

Fast forward to the Fall of 2003.  I was privileged to be one of 50 pastors that Dr. Rogers invited to spend three days with him in Memphis.  I preached that Sunday morning at the church I was serving as pastor, hopped into my car, and took off to Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis for the evening worship service. It was an incredible service and Dr. Rogers preached a tremendous message.  There were three or four other pastors who arrived early for the conference to attend the evening service. To our surprise, an announcement was made at the end of the service that Dr. Rogers would like to meet in his office with any pastors who were present.          We were escorted into his office.  Of course, it was very large and tastefully decorated. Behind his desk were portraits of Dr. Rogers with three different United States Presidents. However, the thing that I remember most about his office was the visitor who was there when we entered – a truck driver.  As a child, this man had been saved and baptized at Bellevue early on in Dr. Rogers’ ministry there. He had not been to Bellevue or seen Dr. Rogers since he was a child. In fact, he was not even planning on being at Bellevue that night. His rig had broken down in Memphis, and it was going to be the next morning before he was going to be able to resume his trip. So, in his work clothes, he took a taxi to Bellevue for the Sunday night service and wound up getting invited to visit with Dr. Rogers in his office.  It impressed me that Dr. Rogers would do that. He only spent about ten minutes with that man, but it was ten minutes that man will never forget. Even though thousands were present that night at church, Adrian Rogers took a few minutes to talk to a truck driver he had not seen in years.

When the pastor’s conference started the next morning, I was again pleasantly surprised.  Dr. Rogers had cleared his calendar for three days for us. Yes, he taught us during the sessions, but he also stood out in the hallway with us during the breaks.  He ate meals with us.  He arrived early to talk with people and he left late after talking with people. He had a way of making each person that he talked with feel like the most important person in the building.

Speaking of the sessions, they turned out to be the opposite of what I expected. For three days, Dr. Rogers never talked to us about “how to grow a big church.”  Instead, he talked with us about the pastor’s prayer life and personal integrity.  He talked about the pastor’s family life – “the ministry that doesn’t begin at home doesn’t begin.”  He taught us about expository preaching and how important it was to invest our lives in preaching the Word – “the Bible will get the job done.”  He opened up and shared with us deeply personal stories of the tragedies and triumphs of his fifty years in ministry.  He shared with us about times when he failed as a husband and struggled as a father.  He shared with us about the times when he was not happy at the church he was serving. He told us about times when he had been hurt.  There was not a dry eye in the house when he and his wife Joyce talked about the heart break of burying their infant son.

Another attribute that impressed me was the fact that Adrian Rogers was comfortable in his own skin. He did not try to act as if he was not a well-known pastor who led one of the largest ministries in the world. Yet, his genuine humility shined through at every turn. There was absolutely no hint of taking credit or putting on airs.  He was humble, real, and personable.  On the closing night of conference, we had a formal banquet.  A friend and I sat down at a table and begin talking when I felt a hand on my shoulder. “May we join you?” Dr. Rogers asked as he sat down with his wife. So, I literally ate a meal elbow to elbow with Adrian Rogers. We did not talk about Bellevue or his ministry.  He asked about my wife and children. He wanted to know all about them. He asked about my church and how things were going. I had dinner with Adrian Rogers and he wanted to talk about me.

When I arrived home the next day, I wrote Dr. Rogers and thanked him for three of the best days of my life. On a recent trip, I listened to most of the tapes of those sessions again. Once again, I laughed and cried and prayed as I listened to Adrian Rogers remind me that the most important things about a pastor are not the size of his church and the number of baptisms.  Now that he has gone on to be with the Lord, I will probably listen to them again very soon.  They are priceless.

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know Adrian Rogers the man. He was so much more than a powerful preacher and a strong leader.  He was a husband who stayed faithful to his wife and loved her more the longer he was married to her.  He was a father who would quickly let you know how proud he was of his children, and, when it was time to have dinner with them, he showed you to the door! They were important.  He preached with great boldness but on a personal level he was humble, loving, and sincere. He loved Christ with all of his heart. He served the church with all of his might.  He preached to thousands from one of the most prestigious pulpits in the world, and yet he took time to talk to truck drivers and young preachers from Alabama.  There was never a hint of scandal or immorality in all of his years as a pastor. He was faithful to his Lord, his family, and his church. In a day when so many fell, he stood. In a day when so many quit, he finished. It was never about Adrian, but it was always about Jesus. Whenever he stepped into the pulpit, he did not have a sermon – he brought a message. He preached from the heart – with all of his heart. He lived what he preached. And then he died.

I want to be like Adrian Rogers.

Counter culture!

11 Feb

By this time of the year, many Christians have begun to struggle with fulfilling their New Year’s resolution to read through the Bible.  For many, the reason can be summed in one word: Leviticus!  Certainly, the book of Leviticus is not the easiest reading in the Bible.  In fact, I am in Leviticus right now in my own daily Bible readings as I journey through the Bible again this year, and each time that I read it, I come to a greater appreciation for the book. Yes, Leviticus is tedious and filled with laws and regulations that we do not understand and as New Testament Christians, we no longer live under the obligation to follow. It’s easy to wonder, “Why is this even in the Bible?” One year as I was struggling to read through Leviticus, I learned the key verses in the entire book…

“You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:3–5, ESV)

Did you catch that?  God is giving His people the Law so that they would have a lifestyle distinct from the culture they lived in. Remember, in the centuries before this time, the people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt, and the Lord miraculously delivered them through the Exodus experience – think plagues, parting the Red Sea, and raining bread from heaven!  Now, the people of God were delivered from Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land.  However, the influences of Egypt were still with them. The culture they had lived in worshiped many gods and did not believe in the one true God of Israel.  Egyptian culture had many beliefs, practices, and standards that were not in keeping with God’s plan for His people. So, in the book of Leviticus, we have the Lord giving His standard to His people. It is not God’s intention that His people continue to live just like the unbelievers they lived among.  It is God’s intention that His people live distinctly from the people who do not follow the Lord. THAT is the core issue in the Leviticus.

While we now live as Christians in the age of New Testament grace brought through the work of Christ on the cross and no longer are required to keep the Law, this principle of God’s people living a distinct lifestyle is carried throughout scripture…

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:17–20, ESV)

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV)

We live in a time when the church is under pressure to compromise and conform to the culture. That is always a tragic mistake. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to a counter cultural lifestyle.  The fact that the church is not like the world is a positive thing.  The fact that our values as Christians increasingly clash with the values of the culture should not surprise us – in fact, it’s the Biblical norm. If you study the Bible, you will find that God’s people did not get into trouble when they did not live like the world, but rather when they did. Think about it.

As Christians, we live in this world. In fact, the Bible teaches that the Lord has us in this world for a purpose and a mission.  That fact is why God has always intended for his people to be in the world, but to live distinctly from the world. How can we shine as lights in a dark world if we live just like the world?  We can’t.  The first witness we must give is a life sold out to Jesus Christ in every way.  When unbelievers see Christ in us, they will be willing to listen when we share how they can know Him too.

It works the same collectively in the church.  I am in no way opposed to the church using technology and all means available to us in order to communicate the Gospel.  I am in no way opposed to churches changing how we do things to meet the challenges of a changing culture.  In fact, I am staunchly in favor of those things.  My point is that no matter how much technology we use in the church and no matter how many styles of music we offer and no matter how “cutting edge” we might strive to be, the true church as described in the Bible has always been and will always be distinctly counter cultural.  We do not offer just a “christianized” version of what is offered in the world. We offer hope and eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We offer changed life, not from self-help but from Christ living in you!

As the days we live in grow darker with sin, let us each one determine to shine more brightly. Think about it.

Depending on God

6 Feb

It’s so easy to fall into pride and self-sufficiency. One of the greatest passages in the Bible on our utter dependance on the Lord is found in 1 Peter…

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:6–10, NKJV)

These verses are great reminders of just how much we must depend on the Lord.  As we look closer at this passage, we find four things for which we must all depend on the Lord…

I.        Depend on God in your sorrows  (v. 6-7)

 Verse six uses a phrase that we don’t hear in church very often today: “the mighty hand of God.”   You see over and over again in the Old Testament, the Bible talks about God’s work in our lives – the things that God brings our way, the things that God allows to happen to us, the things that God teaches us – and it calls all of those things “the mighty hand of God.”  It means different things at different times in your life. Sometimes the mighty hand of God delivers us from trouble, but sometimes the mighty hand of God corrects us when we’re in trouble!  Sometimes we haven’t done anything wrong but the mighty hand of God brings a test into our lives. The mighty hand of God is God’s sovereignty, God’s power, God’s authority over your life and mine. God is in charge.  The mighty hand of God is the hand of God in charge of you.  And the Bible says here that we are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt us – in other words, He will lift us up.  Do you need a lift?  Are you going through a hard time?  You can depend on God in your sorrows, but here’s how you do it:  humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.

Think about taking a young child to the mall or across a crowded street.  What do you do?  You hold their hand or you place your hand on their shoulder or the back of their neck. But what do they do? They pull away. They complain. They don’t like it.  Why? Because they want to be INDEPENDENT. They don’t like the way you guide their little life. They think they know what is best.  But they have to learn to humble themselves under the mighty hand of mom! Think about that.  Maybe you are reading this blog right now, and you don’t like how God has guided you. You don’t like where you are in life.  You don’t like how He is leading you. Many of us think we know what God should do in our lives.  The truth is that we must get under God’s mighty hand – humble ourselves and say “Lord, I accept it.”  “Lord, I’m not going to question”  “Lord, I want to be content.”

 Now, let me show you something wonderful.  God does not expect us just to take our medicine in life and like it. He knows we hurt.  Now, we are supposed to humble and submit ourselves to what He is doing, BUT look at verse 7.  When the Bible says to “cast your cares on Him” the Greek word literally means to put that weight onto something else. When you go on vacation, you load your car, van, or SUV up don’t you?  You pack everything but the kitchen sink – especially if you have kids. Question:  How far would you get on vacation if you had to carry everything on your back or in your hands? You will not get very far in life trying to carry all of your burdens, God has unlimited cargo space.  You can load Him up!  You can cry. You can be honest with Him. You can tell Him how you feel. You can depend on God in your sorrows.

 II.        Depend on God for your security  (v. 8-9)

 These next verses talk about something that most of us NEVER think about – our enemy.  Now you may spend a lot of time worrying about your enemies, but verses 8-9 talk about THE Enemy. The devil and what he is up to.  Read verse 8. Let me give you four places that Satan loves to attack:

  • You – he attacks through temptation, through other people, through our mind, wherever there is an open door. He loves to make sure we are discouraged or angry or tired or too busy and preferably all of the above!
  • The family – Please understand, you have a very real enemy that would love nothing better than to destroy your marriage (and he may be well on the way). He would like nothing better than to see your kids and mine self-destruct.
  • Leaders in the Church – We’ve all heard of Godly men who preached the Gospel and influenced so many people, just up and leaving their wife for someone else. We say “How could that happen?”  Satan is attacking the leaders of God’s people.
  • The Church – The churches who will never have to deal with the devil from time to time are those who never preach the Gospel, never pray, and have a form of Godliness but no power. They are no threat to Satan’s Kingdom.

The Bible says that we are in a Spiritual battle and our enemy is real. So what do we do?  Verse 9. Resist him.  How?  Steadfast in the faith.  Know the Word, depend on God. We must depend on God to win the spiritual battles we all face.  He is your Security!

III.        Depend on God for your Salvation  (v. 10)

 Now, if there is one thing that people just naturally want on their own terms, it is their eternal destiny.  Practically no one believes they are going to wind up in Hell. Practically everyone believes that somehow they will make it to Heaven.  And everybody has somehow, in their own mind, rationalized why they are going to Heaven:  “I’m just as good as those people who go to church.”  “I’ve never harmed anybody and I try to help people.”  “Now, Pastor, I was raised in church…”  Do you know what all of those have in common?  The natural human desire to define and control our own destiny.

Let’s see how that squares with what we find in the Bible. Look at verse 10.  “God of all grace who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.”  Did you notice how it says that God calls us to eternal life?  “by Christ Jesus.”  Now, we may want to define our own existence, but the truth is that we only really begin to understand who we are when we visit a hill called Golgotha where Christ hung on that cross almost 2000 years ago – when we understand a little of His agony and comprehend exactly WHY every drop of blood was spilled that day.   Christ died for my sins and yours – in our place, paying our debt.  THAT MY FRIENDS, DEFINES OUR EXISTENCE.   You can’t really understand life until you understand the Cross.  The Cross tells us that we can’t make it to Heaven on our own, we must depend on God for our salvation. We must go to the Cross and place our faith in what happened there.

Did you notice that God is “calling” you?  Perhaps you are reading this right now and thinking, “But I’ve done too much, God could never love me.”  God is saying “Come, Come to me right now.”  Someone is saying “But, I put it off years ago and I have lived my way for years, God won’t have me now.”   God is saying “Come on.”  He is calling you!   “But I’m afraid I won’t be good enough”  He is saying come, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross!  Come and depend on God for your salvation, it is the ONLY way!

IV.       Depend on God for your Strength  (v. 10)

At the end of verse 10, Peter moves from what it means to be a Christian, to what happens after we become a Christian.  It says that God will “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  Those four words are just almost synonyms. They all have the basic idea of becoming strong, stable, and sure.  I love the way the Living Bible puts this “He will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever.”  That’s the idea.  So, AFTER we become a Christian, then God begins this process of strengthening us.

Did you notice how this strengthening comes?  “after you have suffered a while.”  Now the people that Peter was originally writing to were suffering for their faith.  They were suffering unjustly. Many of them had been lied about and lied to.  Maybe your suffering comes another way. You are suffering physically or maybe you are suffering a marriage that causes you great pain.  Maybe you are suffering mentally, so you struggle with depression.  Maybe you are suffering financially or suffering on your job.  Perhaps one reason might be that  God is making you strong in Him!

Why don’t you take a moment and review these ways we each must depend on the Lord?  Remember what happens when we humble ourselves under His mighty hand?  He exalts us – He lifts us up!  Do you need a lift?  The way to get a lift from the Lord is to humble down and depend on Him!