March 1 “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” John 11:9 When Jesus suggested going back to Judea, the disciples were terrified. The Jews had tried to stone Him there only recently, and now He was talking about a return visit. In answer to the disciples’ apprehension, Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” At first glance, the question seems to be completely disconnected from the conversation. But what the Savior was saying was this! The working day is made u...
“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” Qohn 11:9)
When Jesus suggested going back to Judea, the disciples were terrified. The Jews had tried to stone Him there only recently, and now He was talking about a return visit. In answer to the disciples’ apprehension, Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” At first glance, the question seems to be completely disconnected from the conversation. But what the Savior was saying was this! The working day is made up of twelve hours. When a person is yielded to God, every day has its appointed program. Nothing can thwart the accomplishing of that program. So even if Jesus went back to Jerusalem, and even if the Jews tried to kill Him again, they could not succeed. His work was not finished. His hour had not yet come.
For every child of God it is true that he is “immortal till his work is done.” This should impart great peace and poise to our lives. If we are living in the will of God, and if we follow reasonable rules of health and safety, we will never die a moment ahead of time. Nothing can come to us apart from His permissive will.
Many Christians worry themselves sick over the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe. In our pollution-conscious society there is always something to suggest that death is knocking at the door. But this anxiety is unnecessary. “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” Hasn’t God placed a hedge around the believer (Job 1:10) which the devil is powerless to penetrate?
If we believe this, it will save us from a lot of second-guessing. We will not say, “If the ambulance had only arrived sooner” or “If the doctor had only detected the growth four weeks earlier” or “If my husband had only taken a different airline.” Our lives are planned by infinite wisdom and in infinite power. He has a perfect timetable for each of us, and His trains run on perfect schedule.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Gal. 5:22)
The phrase “the fruit of the Spirit” teaches us at the outset that the virtues that follow can be produced only by the Holy Spirit. An unconverted man is incapable of manifesting any of these graces. Even a true believer is powerless to reproduce them by his own strength. So when we think of these graces, we must remember that they are supernatural and other-worldly.
The love spoken of here, for instance, is not the eros of passion, or the philia of friendship, or the storge of affection. It is agape love—the kind of love which God has shown to us and which He wants us to show to others.
Let me illustrate! Dr. T. E. McCully was the father of Ed McCully, one of the five young missionaries martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. One night when Dr. McCully and I were on our knees together in Oak Park, Illinois, his thoughts went back to Ecuador and to the Curaray River that holds the secret of the whereabouts of Ed’s body. He prayed, “Lord, let me live long enough to see those fellows saved who killed our boys, that I may throw my arms around them and tell them I love them because they love my Christ.” When we arose I saw rivulets of tears zig-zagging down his cheeks.
God answered that prayer of love. Some of those Auca Indians later professed faith in Christ. Dr. McCully went to Ecuador, met these men who murdered his son, threw his arms around them, and told them he loved them because they loved his Christ.
That is agape love. It is impartial, seeking the highest good of all—the homely as well as the handsome, foes as well as friends. It is unconditional, asking for nothing in return for its constant giving. It is sacrificial, never minding the cost. It is unselfish, more concerned with the needs of others than its own. It is pure, free from any trace of impatience, envy, pride, vindictiveness or spite.
Love is the greatest virtue of the Christian life. Without it our noblest endeavors are worthless.
“The fruit of the spirit is.. .joy.” (Gal. 5:22)
Man never finds real joy till he finds the Lord. Then he enters in to what Peter calls “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).
Anyone can rejoice when circumstances are favorable, but the joy which is the fruit of the Spirit is not the result of earthly circumstances. It springs from our relationship to the Lord and from the precious promises He has given to us. Christ would have to be dethroned before the Church could be finally robbed of its joy.
Christian joy can coexist with suffering. Paul weds the two when he speaks of “all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11). The Thessalonian saints had received the word “in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Th. 1:6). Suffering saints down through the centuries have testified how the Lord has given them songs in the night.
Joy can coexist with sorrow. The believer can stand by the grave of a loved one, shed tears of sorrow at the loss, yet rejoice at the knowledge that the loved one is in the presence of the Lord.
But joy cannot coexist with sin. Whenever a Christian sins, he loses his song. Not until he confesses and forsakes that sin is the joy of his salvation restored.
The Lord Jesus told His disciples to rejoice when they were reviled, persecuted and falsely accused (Mt. 5:11, 12). And they did! Not many years later we read of them leaving the courtroom, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
Our joy increases as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord. At first, perhaps, we can rejoice in minor irritations, chronic ailments and trivial inconveniences. But the Spirit of God wishes to bring us to the point where we can see God when circumstances are at their worst and rejoice in the knowledge that His way is perfect. We are spiritually mature when we can say with Habakkuk, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17, 18).
“The fruit of the Spirit is… peace…” (Gal. 5:22)
As soon as we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). That means that the hostility between ourselves and God has ceased since Christ has effectively dealt with the cause of that hostility—our sins.
We also have peace of conscience knowing that the work is finished, Christ has paid the penalty of our sins, and God has forgotten them.
But then the Holy Spirit also wants us to enjoy the peace of God in our hearts. This is the serenity and tranquility that come from knowing that our times are in the hands of God and that nothing can happen to us apart from His permissive will.
So we can remain calm when we have a tire blowout on the busy freeway. We don’t have to lose our composure when heavy traffic causes us to miss the plane. Peace means remaining cool in a car crash. Or when grease ignites on the kitchen range.
This fruit of the Spirit enables a Peter to sleep soundly in jail, a Stephen to pray for his murderous assailants, a Paul to comfort others in a shipwreck.
When a plane flies into clear air turbulence, and is thrown around like a feather in the gale, when the wing tips flex thirteen feet, when most of the passengers are screaming as the plane lurches, falls, rises and dips, peace enables a believer to bow his head, commit his soul to God, and praise God for whatever may be the outcome.
Or to change the illustration, the Spirit of God can give peace to us when we sit in the doctor’s office and hear him say, “I’m sorry to tell you but it’s malignant.” He can enable us to reply, “I’m ready to go, Doctor. I’m saved by the grace of God, and for me it will be ‘absent from the body, at home with the Lord.’”
And so in the words of Bickerstith’s lovely hymn, we can have “Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin…by thronging duties pressed…with sorrows surging round…with loved ones far a way…our future all unknown” because “Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is…longsuffering…” (Gal. 5:22)
Longsuffering is the virtue that bears up patiently and even triumphantly under the aggravations of life. While it may refer to a patient response to adverse circumstances, it usually refers to a merciful endurance of the provocations of people.
God is longsuffering with man. Think for a moment of the gross sinfulness of the human race at the present time—the legalization of prostitution, the popularization of homosexuality, the laws permitting abortions, the breakdown of marriage and the home, the wholesale rejection of moral standards, and, of course, man’s crowning sin—the utter rejection of God’s Son as only Lord and Savior. One could scarcely blame God if He were to wipe out mankind with a stroke. But He doesn’t do it. His goodness is designed to lead men to repentance. He is not willing that any should perish.
And His will is that this longsuffering should be reproduced in the lives of His people as they yield to the Holy Spirit. This means that we should not be quick-tempered. We should not fly off the handle easily. We should not try to get even with people when they have wronged us. Instead we should display what someone has called “a kind of conquering patience.”
When Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were enduring indescribable sufferings in the concentration camp, Betsie would often say that they must help these people after they were released. They simply had to find a way to help them. Corrie thought, of course, that her sister was planning some program to rehabilitate the victims of the Nazis. It wasn’t till later that Corrie realized that Betsie meant her persecutors. She wanted to find some way to teach them to love. Corrie commented, “And I wondered, not for the first time, what sort of a person she was, this sister of mine…what kind of road she followed while I trudged beside her on the all-too-solid earth” (The Hiding Place, p. 175).
The road Betsie followed was the road of longsuffering. And Corrie walked it too, in spite of her humble disclaimer.
“The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness…” (Gal. 5:22 NASB)
The King James Version has the word “gentleness” here but almost all modern versions read “kindness.” “The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness.”
Kindness describes the gentle, gracious, generous disposition that results in the doing of favors, the showing of mercies, and the bestowing of benefits on others. The kind person is gracious, not harsh; sympathetic, not indifferent; and helpful, not uninvolved. He is considerate, compassionate and charitable.
There is a natural kindness which even the people of the world show to one another. But the kindness which is produced by the Spirit is supernatural. It goes above and beyond anything that man is capable of doing by himself. It enables a believer to lend, hoping for nothing in return. It enables him to show hospitality to those who cannot repay him. It enables him to reward every insult with a courtesy. A Christian university student displayed this supernatural kindness toward another student who was an alcoholic. The latter had become so disgusting that he had been rejected by his classmates and finally was evicted from his quarters. The Christian had an extra bed in his room and so invited the drunk to live with him. Many nights the believer had to clean up his roommate’s vomit, take his clothes off, bathe him and put him to bed. It was a magnificent display of Christian kindness.
And—to complete the story—it paid off. Once, during a sober period, the dissolute fellow asked with irritation, “Say, look here, why are you doing all this for me? What are you after?” The Christian replied, “I’m after your soul”—and he got it.
When Dr. Ironside was cleaning out the cellar one day, he called a Jewish junk dealer to cart away the papers, magazines, rags and scrap metal. Dr. Ironside pretended to bargain seriously for a good price for the junk, but the junk man won, of course. When he was taking the last load out to his truck, kindly H. A. I. called him back, saying, “Oh, I forgot something. I want to give you this in the Name of the Lord Jesus.” And he handed him fifty cents.
The junk dealer went away, saying, “No one ever gave me anything in the Name of Jesus before.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is…goodness…” (Gal. 5:22)
Goodness means excellence of character. Someone has defined it as “virtue equipped at every point,” which simply means that the person possessing it is kind, virtuous and righteous in every area of life.
Goodness is the opposite of badness. A bad man may be deceitful, immoral, treacherous, unjust, cruel, selfish, hateful, covetous, and/or intemperate. The good man, though not perfect, exemplifies truth, justice, purity and other similarly desirable traits.
The Apostle Paul distinguishes between a righteous man and a good man in Romans 5:7. The righteous man is just, honest and straightforward in his dealings, but he may be icily detached from others. The good man, on the other hand, is affectionate and lovable. One would scarcely die for a righteous man, but one might die for a good man.
And yet we must remember that goodness can be firm. It would not be good to condone or overlook sin. And so goodness can rebuke, correct and discipline. We see this when the Lord Jesus, who is goodness incarnate, cleansed the Temple.
A unique feature of goodness is that it can overcome evil. Paul wrote to the Roman believers, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). When we allow someone else’s hatred to ruin our disposition, we have been overcome by his evil. But when we rise above it and show grace, mercy and love, we have overcome evil with good.
Murdoch Campbell tells of a godly Highland minister whose wife tried to make life miserable for him. One day as he was reading his Bible, she snatched it from his hands and threw it in the fire! He looked up into her face and said quietly, “I don’t think I’ve ever sat by a warmer fire.” His goodness overcame her evil. She became a lovely, gracious wife. As Campbell comments, “His Jezebel became a Lydia. His thorn became a lily.” Goodness had conquered!
“The fruit of the Spirit is…faith…” (Gal. 5:22)
This fruit of the Spirit is generally understood as being faithfulness. It is not the faith that saves, or the trust we exercise in God day by day (although it may include that). Rather it is our fidelity and dependability in our dealings with the Lord and with one another. Someone has defined it as being “true to oneself, to one’s nature, to any promise given, to any trust committed.”
When we say that a man’s word is his bond, we mean that in dealing with him, no written contract is necessary. If he has agreed to do something, he can be depended on to do it.
The faithful man keeps appointments on time, pays his bills on schedule, attends the meetings of the local fellowship regularly, performs tasks assigned to him without having to be constantly reminded. He is unswervingly true to his marriage vows and unfailing in the discharge of his family responsibilities. He is conscientious in setting money aside for the work of the Lord and careful also in his stewardship of time and talents.
Faithfulness means being true to one’s word, even at great personal cost. The faithful man “swears to his own hurt, and does not change” (Psa. 15:4c NASB). In other words, he does not cancel one supper engagement when he receives another that promises a better menu or more congenial company. He does not renege on a work assignment to go on a recreational trip (unless he first arranges for a satisfactory substitute). He sells his house at the agreed price even if someone later offers him $10,000 more.
The ultimate in faithfulness is being willing to die rather than renounce one’s loyalty to Christ. When the king demanded that a faithful Christian retract his confession of Christ, the man replied, “The heart thought it; the mouth spoke it; the hand subscribed it; and if need be, by God’s grace the blood shall seal it.” When Polycarp was offered life in exchange for a denial of the Lord, he chose rather to be burned at the stake, saying, “These eighty-six years have I served my Lord. He never did me any harm, and I cannot deny my Lord and Master now.”
The martyrs were faithful unto death, and will receive a crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
“The fruit of the Spirit is…meekness…” (Gal. 5:23)
When we think of meekness, we are apt to think of Caspar Milquetoast, the comic strip character who was the embodiment of timidity and weakness. But this fruit of the Spirit is something very different. It comes from supernatural power, not from weakness.
It refers first of all to a believer’s loving submission to all God’s dealings in his life. The meek man bows to the will of God without rebellion, questioning or complaint. He reckons that “God is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind.” Realizing that there is no chance or accident, he believes that God is working everything together for good in his life.
Meekness also includes the believer’s relationship with others. Here he is self-effacing, not self-assertive and humble, not haughty. The meek man is one who practices brokenness. When he has said or done something wrong, he conquers pride by saying, “I am sorry. Please forgive me!” He would rather lose face than self-respect. When he suffers for doing what is right, he endures it patiently without any thought of fighting back. When he is falsely accused, he refrains from defending himself. As Trench says, the meek man accepts the injuries and insults of others as permitted by God for his chastening and purifying.
Someone has defined a meek man as “one who accepts the will of God without resentment, who can afford to be gentle and mild because of inward strength, and who is under the perfect control of God.” When a parishioner told Dr. Alexander Whyte that a fellow minister was being castigated as an unbeliever, Dr. Whyte blazed with indignation. When the parishioner added that the critic said that Dr. Whyte himself was not a true believer, he said, “Please leave the office so that I can be alone and examine my heart before the Lord.” THAT is meekness.
We are all called to take the yoke of Him who is “meek and lowly in heart.” As we do so, we find rest for our souls and will ultimately inherit the earth.
“The fruit of the Spirit is…temperance…” (Gal. 5:23)
The preferred rendering of this last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Temperance has become associated particularly with restraint in the use of intoxicating drinks. Self-control carries the thought of moderation or abstinence in every area of life.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is enabled to exercise self-control over his thought life, his appetite for food and drink, his speech, his sex life, his temper and every other power that God has given him. He need not be enslaved by any passion or desire.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that an athlete practices self-control in all things (1 Cor. 9:25). He himself was determined that he would not be enslaved by anything (1 Cor. 6:12) and so he pommeled his body and subdued it, lest after preaching to others, he himself should be disqualified (See 1 Cor. 9:27 RSV).
The disciplined Christian avoids overeating. If coffee, tea or Cokes have a grip on him, he kicks the habit. He refuses to be mastered by tobacco in any form. He carefully avoids use of tranquilizers, sleeping pills or other pharmaceuticals, except where medically prescribed. He controls the time given to sleeping. If he is plagued by the problem of lust, he learns to expel impure thoughts, concentrate on a clean thought life, and keep busy with constructive activity. To him every addiction or besetting sin is a Goliath to be conquered.
We often hear Christians complain that they can’t break a certain habit. Such defeatism guarantees failure. It means that the Holy Spirit is not able to give the needed victory. The fact is that unconverted people, who do not have the Spirit, are often able to quit smoking or drinking or gambling or swearing. How much more easily should Christians be able to do it through the indwelling Spirit!
Self-control, like the other eight fruits of the Spirit, is supernatural. It enables believers to exercise discipline over themselves in ways that others cannot match.
“Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way; in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison” (Mt. 5:25 NASB)
One of the surface lessons we learn from this passage is that Christians should not be prone to engage in lawsuits. It is a natural reaction to rush to court to seek redress for grievances and damages. But the believer is guided by higher principles than natural reactions. The will of God often cuts across the grain of nature.
Our law courts today are glutted with accident claims, malpractice suits, divorce cases and inheritance claims. In many cases, people rush to the lawyer in the hope of getting rich quick. But the Christian must settle things by the power of love and not by the processes of law. As someone has said, “If you go in for legal processes, then legal processes will get you, and you will pay the last penny.”
The only one who is sure to win is the lawyer; his fee is assured. A cartoon pictured the process this way. A plaintiff was pulling the head of a cow, the defendant was pulling the tail—and the lawyer was milking the cow.
In 1 Corinthians 6 Christians are positively forbidden to go to law against other Christians. For one thing they should take their disputes to some wise man in the church. But even beyond that they should be willing to be wronged and cheated rather than go to law before the judges of this world’s system. This, incidentally, would rule out all cases of divorce involving believing partners.
But what about cases between a believer and an unbeliever? Doesn’t the Christian have to stand up for his rights? The answer is that it is far better to forego his rights in order to demonstrate that Christ makes a difference in a person’s life. It does not require divine life to institute a suit against someone who has wronged him. But it does take divine life to commit his cause to God and use the case as an opportunity to witness to the saving, transforming power of Christ. As much as possible, he should live at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18).
“A man started to build a fence between himself and his neighbor. The neighbor came and said; ‘When you bought that lot you bought a court case along with it. That fence is going to be five feet in my land.’ The man replied, ‘I knew I would always have a nice neighbor next to me. I’ll tell you what I suggest: You put up the fence where you think it should go, send me the bill and I’ll pay for it.’ The fence was never put up. No need!” (E. Stanley Jones).
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Mt. 25:40)
Here is both a rewarding encouragement and a warning that should bring us up short. Whatever we do to Christ’s brethren is reckoned as being done unto Himself.
We can show kindness to the Lord Jesus any day by showing kindness to a fellow-believer. When we show hospitality to God’s people, it is the same as if we entertain Him in our homes. If we give them the master bedroom, we are giving it to Him.
Almost anyone would be quick to do everything possible for the Savior if He came as King of kings and Lord of lords. But He commonly comes to our door in very humble guise, and it is this that puts us to the test. The way we treat the least of His brethren is the way we treat Him.
A godly old preacher visited an assembly in hopes of being able to share with the saints from the Word. He did not have personal charisma and may not have had a dynamic pulpit style. But he was a servant of God and did have a message from the Lord. The elders told him that they could not ask him to stay for meetings and suggested that he go to a meeting in the black ghetto. He did, and was warmly received by the brethren there. During his week of meetings, he took a heart attack and died. It was as if the Lord was saying to the brothers in the fashionable assembly, “You may not have wanted him but I did. In refusing him you refused Me.”
In his poem “How the Great Guest Came,” Edwin Mark-ham tells of an old cobbler who made elaborate preparations for a dreamed-of visit from the Lord. The Lord never came. But when a beggar came, the cobbler put shoes on his feet. When an old lady came, the cobbler helped her with her load and gave her food. When a lost child came, the cobbler took her back to her mother.
Then soft in the silence a voice he heard:
Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with bruised feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
I was the child in the homeless street.
“Take heed what ye hear.” (Mk. 4:24)
The Lord Jesus cautions us to be careful what we hear. We are responsible to control what enters through the eargate, and equally responsible to put what we do hear to proper use.
We should not listen to what is blatantly false. The cults are spewing out their propaganda in unprecedented volume. They are always looking for someone who is willing to listen. John says we should not receive cultists into our house or even greet them. They are against Christ.
We should not listen to what is deceitfully subversive. Young people in colleges, universities and seminaries are often subjected to a daily barrage of doubts and denials concerning the Word of God. They hear the miracles explained away, the Lord Jesus condemned with faint praise and the plain meaning of Scripture watered down. It is impossible to sit under subversive teaching and not be affected by it. Even if the student’s faith is not destroyed, his mind is defiled. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals, and his feet not be scorched?” (Prov. 6:27, 28 NASB). The obvious answer is “No.”
We should not listen to what is impure or suggestive. The worst form of pollution in today’s society is mind pollution. The one word that describes most newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV programs, movies and human conversations is filth. Through constant exposure to this, the Christian is in danger of losing his sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And that is not the only danger! When we receive vile and suggestive stories in our minds, they have a way of coming back to haunt us during our most holy moments.
We should not fill our minds with things that are worthless or trifling. Life is too short and the task too urgent for that. “All must be earnest in a world like ours.”
Positively, we should be careful to hear the Word of God. The more we saturate our minds with the Word of God and obey its sacred precepts, the more we will think God’s thoughts after Him, the more we will be transformed into the image of Christ, and the more we will be separated from the moral pollution of our environment.
“Take heed therefore how ye hear.” (Lu. 8:18)
In the Christian life it is a question not only of what we hear but also of how we hear.
It is possible to hear the Word of God with an attitude of indifference. We can read the Bible as we would read any other book, seemingly unconcerned that the Almighty God is speaking to us in it.
We can hear with a critical attitude. Here we put human intellect above the Scriptures. We sit in judgment on the Bible instead of letting the Bible judge us.
We can hear with a rebellious attitude. When we come to portions that deal with the stern demands of discipleship or with women’s subjection and head-covering, we become enraged and utterly refuse to obey.
We can be forgetful hearers, like the man in the Book of James “who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (1:23, 24 NASB).
Perhaps the most common class is the callous hearers. These people have heard the Word so much that they have become insensitive. They listen to a sermon mechanically. It has become a ho-hum routine. Their ears are jaded. Their attitude is “What can you tell me that I haven’t already heard?”
The more we hear the Word of God without obeying what we hear, the more we become judicially deafened. If we refuse to hear, we lose the capacity to hear.
The best way to hear is to hear reverently, obediently and seriously. We should approach the Bible with the determination to do what it says, even if no one else is doing it. The wise man is the one who not only hears but does. God is looking for men who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2).
Paul commended the Thessalonians because when they heard the word of God, they did not receive it “as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God” (1 Th. 2:13). In the same manner we should be careful how we hear.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu. 9:24)
Basically there are two attitudes we believers can take toward our life. We can try to save it or we can purposefully lose it for Christ’s sake.
The natural thing is to try to save it. We can live a self-centered life, trying to protect ourselves from effort and inconvenience. We can make careful plans to cushion ourselves from shocks, to guard against loss, to avoid any form of discomfort. Our house becomes like a private estate posted with “No Tres; passing” signs. It is for the family only—with minimal hospitality shown to others. Our decisions are made on the basis of how things will affect us. If they disrupt our plans or involve a lot of work or require expenditure of funds to help others, we turn thumbs down. We tend to devote inordinate attention to our personal health, refusing any service that might call for sleepless nights, for contact with sickness, or death, for any physical risks. We also give a higher priority to personal appearance than to the needs of those around us. In short, we live to cater to the body, which, in a few short years, will be eaten by worms if the Lord doesn’t come.
In trying to save our life, we lose it. We suffer all the miseries of a selfish existence and miss out on all the blessings of living for others.
The alternative is to lose our life for Christ’s sake. This is a life of service and of sacrifice. While we do not take needless risks or court martyrdom, we do not turn away from duty with the plea that we have to live at all cost. There is a sense in which we “fling our soul and body down for God to plow them under.” We count it our greatest joy to spend and be spent for Him. Our home is open, our possessions are expendable, our time is available to those in need.
In thus pouring out our lives for Christ and for others, we find life that is life indeed. In losing our lives, we actually save them.
“For I say unto you, that unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Lu. 19:26)
The word “hath” at the beginning of this verse means more than mere possession. It includes the idea of obeying what we have been taught and of using what we have been given. In other words, it is not just what we have but rather what we do with what we have.
Here is a great principle for us, then, in the study of the Bible. As we follow the light which we receive, God gives us more light. The man who makes the best progress in the Christian life is the one who is determined to do what the Bible says, even if he doesn’t see anyone else around him doing it. In other words, it isn’t a matter of one’s intelligence quotient. What really counts is his obedience quotient. The Scriptures open up their treasures most readily to the obedient heart. Hosea said it well: “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord” (6:3). The more we practice what we have been taught, the more the Lord will reveal to us. Information plus application leads to multiplication. Information without application leads to stagnation.
The principle applies also to the use of our gifts and talents. The man whose pound increased to ten pounds was given authority over ten cities, and the man whose talent gained five pounds was given rule over five cities (Mt. 25:16-19).
This shows that the proper discharge of our responsibilities is rewarded with greater privileges and responsibilities. The man who did nothing with his pound lost it. So those who refuse to use what they have for the Lord eventually lose the ability to do so. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
We know that when we fail to use any part of the body it atrophies or wastes away. It is through constant use that normal development takes place. So it is in spiritual life. If we bury our gift, either through timidity or laziness, we will soon find that God has put us on the shelf and is using others in our place.
Therefore it is of utmost importance that we obey the precepts of Scripture, claim the promises and use whatever abilities God has given us.
“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule.” (Psa. 32:9)
It seems to me that the horse and the mule picture two wrong attitudes we might have when we are seeking the Lord’s guidance. The horse wants to charge ahead; the mule wants to lag behind. The horse tends to be impatient, high-spirited and impetuous. The mule on the other hand is stubborn, intractable and lazy. The psalmist says that neither animal has understanding. Both have to be controlled by bit and bridle, otherwise they will not come near to their master.
God’s desire is that we be sensitive to His leading, not plunging ahead in our own wisdom and not holding back when He has shown His will.
Here are a few rules-of-thumb that might be helpful in this regard.
Ask God to confirm His guidance in the mouths of two or three witnesses. He has said, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Mt. 18:16b). These witnesses may include a verse of Scripture, the counsel of other Christians and the marvelous converging of circumstances. If you get two or three distinct indications of His will, you will not have any doubts or misgivings.
If you are seeking God’s guidance and no guidance comes, then God’s guidance is for you to stay where you are. It is still true that “darkness about going is light about staying.”
Wait until the guidance is so clear that to refuse would be positive disobedience. The children of Israel were forbidden to move until the pillar of cloud and fire moved. No rationalizations on their part could excuse independent action. Their responsibility was to move when the cloud moved—not sooner and not later.
Finally, let the peace of Christ umpire in your heart. That is a free translation of Colossians 3:15. It means that when God is really guiding, He so influences our intellects and emotions that we have peace about the right way and no peace about any other way.
If we are anxious to know the divine will and quick to obey it, we will not need the bit and bridle of God’s discipline.
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:4 NASB)
The key word in Philippians 2 is “others.” The Lord Jesus lived for others. Paul lived for others. Timothy lived for others. Epaphroditus lived for others. We too should live for others.
We are told to do this not only because it is right but also because it is for our own good. If it is sometimes costly to live for others, it is more costly not to do so.
Our society is filled with people who live only for their own personal interests. Rather than keeping busy in serving others, they sit at home brooding. They think about every minor ache and pain and soon become confirmed hypochondriacs. In their loneliness they complain that no one takes an interest in them and soon they wallow in self-pity. The more time they have to think about themselves, the more depressed they become. Life becomes one great introspective horror of darkness. Soon they go off to the doctor and gulp enormous quantities of pills—pills that can never cure self-centeredness. Then they frequent the psychiatrist’s couch to somehow find relief for their boredom and weariness with life.
The best therapy for people like that is a life of service for others. There are shut-ins to be visited. There are senior citizens who need a friend. There are hospitals that welcome volunteer help. There are people who could be cheered by a letter or a card. There are missionaries who welcome news from home (and perhaps they could use a little greenery to brighten up the scenery). There are souls to be saved and Christians to be taught. In short there is no excuse for anyone to be bored. There is enough to do to fill one’s life with productive activity. And in the very process of living for others, we widen our circle of friends, make our own lives more interesting, and find fulfilment and satisfaction. P.M. Derham said, “A heart that is full of compassion for others is less likely to be absorbed in its own sorrows and poisoned by its own self pity.”
Others, yes, Lord, others,
Let this my motto be.
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee.
“Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” (Judges 5:23)
The Song of Deborah rehearses the curse on Meroz for staying on the sidelines while the army of Israel was locked in combat with the Canaanites. The people of Reuben also come in for withering scorn; they had good intentions but never left the sheepfolds. Gilead, Asher and Dan receive dishonorable mention for their non-intervention.
Dante said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in a time of great moral crisis.”
The same sentiments are echoed in the book of Proverbs, where we read, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” (Prov. 24:11, 12). Kidner comments, “It is the hireling, not the true shepherd, who will plead bad conditions (10), hopeless tasks (10) and pardonable ignorance (12); love is not so lightly quieted—nor is the God of love.”
What would we do if a great wave of anti-Semitism swept over our country, if Jewish people were herded off to concentration camps, to gas chambers, to ovens? Would we risk our own lives in order to grant them asylum?
Or if some of our fellow-Christians were being persecuted, and if it was a capital offense to shelter them, would we welcome them into our homes? What would we do?
Or perhaps we could take a less heroic but more contemporary case. Suppose you are a director of a Christian organization where a faithful employee is being railroaded to satisfy the spleen of another director who is wealthy, and influential. When the final vote is taken, would you sit on your hands and remain silent?
Suppose we had been on the Sanhedrin when Jesus was tried, or at the Cross when He was crucified? Would we have been neutral or would we have identified ourselves with Him?
“Silence is not always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow.”
“Father, I have sinned…” (Lu. 15:21)
It was not until the prodigal son returned repentant that the father ran out to meet him, fell on his neck and kissed him. It would not have been righteous to administer forgiveness until first there was repentance. The scriptural principle is, “… if he repent, forgive him” (Lu. 17:3).
There is no record that the father sent help to the prodigal as long as he was in the far country. Actually to have done so would have been to obstruct the work of God in the rebel’s life. The Lord’s goal was to bring the wayward one down to the dregs. He knew that the son had to come to the end of himself, that he would never look up until first he had hit bottom. The sooner the wanderer got to the husks, the sooner he would be ready to break. So the father had to commit his son to the Lord, and wait for the crisis of extremity.
This is one of the hardest things for parents to do—especially for mothers. The natural tendency is to bail out a rebellious son or daughter from every emergency that the Lord sends along. But all that such parents succeed in doing is hinder the Lord in His purpose and prolong the agony for the loved one.
Spurgeon once said, “The truest love to those who err is not to fraternize with them in their error but to be faithful to Jesus in all things.” It is not love to indulge a person in his wickedness. Love rather turns the person over to the Lord and prays, “Lord, restore him, no matter what the cost may be.”
One of the biggest mistakes David made was bringing Absalom back before there was any repentance. Before long Absalom was winning the hearts of the people and plotting a revolt against his father. Finally he drove his father from Jerusalem and was anointed king in his place. Even when he set out with his army to destroy David, the latter instructed his men to spare Absalom in the event of a confrontation. But Joab thought better of it and slew Absalom.
Parents who are willing to bear the pain of watching God reduce their son or daughter to life in a pig-pen are often spared a greater sorrow.
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shall thou restrain.” (Psa. 76:10)
One of the fascinating features of human history is the way in which God makes man’s wrath praise Him. Ever since the Fall, man has shaken the fist against God, against His people and against His cause. Instead of judging such wrath on the spot, the Lord lets it work itself out, harnessing it for His glory and for the blessing of His people.
A group of men devised evil against their brother, selling him to a band of nomads who took him to Egypt. God raised him up to be second in power and the savior of his people. Joseph later reminded his brothers, “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20 NASB).
Haman’s rage against the Jews resulted in his own destruction and in the exaltation of those he sought to destroy.
Three young Hebrews were thrown into a furnace of fire so hot that it consumed those who threw them in. But the Hebrews emerged unscathed and without even the smell of smoke on them. The heathen king then decreed death for anyone who said a word against the God of the Jews.
Daniel was cast into the den of lions for praying to the God of heaven. But his miraculous deliverance resulted in another decree by his pagan ruler, demanding reverence and respect for the God of Daniel.
Coming over to the New Testament era, the persecution of the church resulted in the more rapid dissemination of the Gospel. The martyrdom of Stephen had within it the seeds of Saul’s conversion. The imprisonment of Paul produced four letters that became part of the Holy Bible.
Later, the ashes of John Hus were thrown into the river, and everywhere the river flowed, the Gospel followed shortly thereafter.
Men tear up the Bible and throw it to the wind, but someone picks up a random page, reads it and is gloriously saved. Men scoff at the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, and thereby fulfil the prophecy that scoffers will come in the last days (2 Pet. 3:3,4).
So God makes the wrath of man to praise Him—and what won’t praise Him He restrains.
“Thou didst well in that it was in thine heart.” (1 Kings 8:18)
One of the great desires of David’s heart was to build a Temple for Jehovah in Jerusalem. The Lord sent word that he would not be permitted to build the Temple because he was a man of war, but the Lord added these significant words, “Thou didst well in that it was in thine heart.” It seems clear from this that God counts the desire for the act when we are unable to carry out our desires for Him.
This does not apply when our failure to perform is due to our own procrastination or inaction. Here the desire is not enough. As has been said, the streets of hell are paved with good intentions.
But there are many occasions in the Christian life when we want to do something to please the Lord but are prevented by circumstances beyond our control. A young convert, for instance, desires to be baptized but is forbidden by unbelieving parents. In such a case, God counts his unbaptism for baptism until he leaves home and can obey the Lord without being insubordinate to his parents.
A Christian wife desires to attend all the meetings of the local assembly but her drunken husband insists that she stay at home. The Lord rewards both her subjection to her husband and her desire to meet with others in His Name.
An aged sister wept as she watched others serving meals at a Bible Conference. It had been her great joy to do this for many years, but now she was physically unable. As far as God is concerned she receives as rich a reward for her tears as the others do for their labors.
Who knows how many there are who have willingly offered themselves for service on the mission fields, yet they were never able to travel beyond their own hometown? God knows—and all of these holy aspirations will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The principle also applies in the matter of giving. There are those who are already investing sacrificially in the work of the Lord and just wish they could give more. In a coming day, the divine ledger will show that they did give more.
The ill, the handicapped, the shut-ins, the aged are not cut off from first-place honors, because, “in His mercy, God judges us, not only by our achievements, but by our dreams.”
“Neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:24)
When David was instructed to offer burnt offerings where the Lord had stopped the pestilence, Araunah offered as an outright gift a threshing floor, oxen, and wood for the fire. But David insisted on buying these things. He would not offer to the Lord something that cost him nothing.
We know that it costs nothing to become a Christian, but we should also know that a life of genuine discipleship costs plenty. “A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing.”
Too often the extent of our commitment is determined by considerations of convenience, cost, and comfort. Yes, we’ll go to the prayer meeting if we aren’t tired or if we don’t have a headache. Yes, we’ll teach the Bible Class as long as it doesn’t conflict with a weekend in the mountains.
It makes us nervous to pray in public, to give a testimony, to preach the Gospel—therefore, we remain silent. We have no desire to help at the rescue mission for fear of picking up lice or fleas. We shut out any thought of the mission field because of a horror of snakes or spiders.
Our giving is too often a tip instead of a sacrifice. We give what we will never miss—unlike the widow who gave all. Our hospitality is determined by the measure of expense, inconvenience and mess to our homes—unlike the soul winner who said that every rug in his house has been stained by drunks throwing up on them. Our availability to people in need ceases when we lie down on our water bed—unlike the elder who was willing to be roused at any time in order to be of spiritual or material assistance.
Very often when the call of Christ comes to us, we are prone to ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” or “Will it pay?” The question is rather, “Is this an offering that really costs?” It has been well said, “It is better in the spiritual life that things should cost than that they should pay.”
When we think of what our redemption cost our Savior, it seems a poor return that we should hold back from cost and sacrifice for Him.
“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Eph. 4:7)
We must always remember that whenever the Lord tells us to do something, He gives us the needed power. All His commands include His enablement, even when His commands are in the realm of the impossible.
Jethro said to Moses, “If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure”(Ex. 18:23). “The principle is that God assumes full responsibility for enabling His man to fulfill every task to which He has appointed him” (J. O. Sanders).
In His ministry the Lord Jesus met at least two men who were paralyzed (Mt. 9:6, Jn. 5:9). On both occasions He told them to get up and carry their pad. As they exercised the will to obey, power flowed into their helpless limbs.
Peter sensed that if the Lord Jesus called him to come on the water, then he could walk on water. As soon as Jesus said “Come,” Peter went down out of the ship and walked on the water.
It is doubtful that the man with the withered hand could stretch it out; yet when our Lord told him to do it, he did and the hand was restored.
The idea of feeding 5000 with a few loaves and fishes is out of the question. But whenever Jesus said to the disciples, “Give them to eat,” the impossibility vanished.
Lazarus had lain in the grave for four days when Jesus called, “Lazarus, come forth.” The command was accompanied by the necessary power. Lazarus came forth.
We should appropriate this truth. When God leads us, we should never cop out with the plea that we can’t do it. If He tells us to do something, He will supply the power. It has been well said, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God will not sustain you.”
It is equally true that when God orders something, He pays for what He orders. If we are sure of His leading, we need not worry about the finances. He will Provide.
The God who opened the Red Sea and the Jordan so that His people could pass over is the same today. He is still in the business of removing impossibilities when His people obey His will. He still supplies all needed grace to do whatever He commands. He still works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
“In the beginning God—” (Gen. 1:1)
If we separate the first four words of Genesis 1:1 from the rest of the verse, they form a sort of motto for all of life. They say, “God first.”
We find this motto suggested in the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” No one and nothing must take the place of the true and living God.
We find it taught in the story of Elijah and the widow who had only enough flour and oil left to make one final loaf for her son and herself (1 Kings 17:12). Surprisingly Elijah said, “Make me a little loaf first.” Though this might sound like gross selfishness, it wasn’t. Elijah was a representative of God. He was saying, “Just put God first and your supply of the necessities of life will never fail.”
The Lord Jesus taught the same thing centuries later on the Mount when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). The central priority of life is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Again the Savior asserted His prior claim in Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Christ must have first place.
But how do we put God first? We have our family to care for. We have our secular employment to think of. We have a multitude of duties crying out for our time and resources. We put God first by loving Him with a love beside which all other loves are hatred in comparison. By using all material things as a trust from Him, holding onto only those things which can be used in connection with His kingdom. By giving top priority to matters of eternal consequences, remembering that even good things are sometimes enemies of the best.
Man’s best interests lie in a right relationship with God. The right relationship is when God is given first place. Even when man puts God first, he will have some problems, but he will find fulfilment in life. But when he puts God second, he will have nothing but problems—and a miserable existence.
“What is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:22)
The Lord Jesus had just told Peter that he would live to be an old man, and then die a martyr’s death. Peter immediately looked across at John and wondered out loud if John would receive preferred treatment. The Lord’s reply was, “What is that to thee? follow thou Me.”
Peter’s attitude reminds us of the words of Dag Hammar-skjold: “In spite of everything, your bitterness because others are enjoying what you are denied is always ready to flare up. At best it may lie dormant for a couple of sunny days. Yet, even at this unspeakably shabby level, it is still an expression of the real bitterness of death—the fact that others are allowed to go on living.
If we would take to heart the words of the Lord, they would solve many a problem among Christian people.
It is so easy to become resentful when we see others prospering more than we are. The Lord allows them to have a new home, a new car, a cottage by the lake.
Others whom we might consider less devoted have good health while we battle two or three chronic ailments.
That other family has fine looking children who excel in athletics and in academics. Our children are the common, garden variety.
We see other believers doing things that we don’t have liberty to do. Even if the things are not sinful, we become resentful at their liberty.
Sad to say, there is a certain amount of professional jealousy among Christian workers. One preacher is offended because another is more popular, has more friends, is more in the public eye. Or another is piqued because his colleague uses methods he does not approve.
To all of these unworthy attitudes, the words of the Lord come with striking forcefulness, “What is that to thee? follow thou me.” How the Lord deals with other Christians is really none of our business. Our responsibility is to follow Him in whatever pathway He has marked out for us.
“The wind blozveth where it listeth.” (John 3:8)
The Spirit of God is sovereign. He moves as He pleases. We try to pour Him into our particular mold, but our attempts are invariably frustrated.
Most of the types of the Holy Spirit are fluid - wind, fire, oil, and water. We may try to hold these in our hands but they have a way of saying “Don’t fence me in.”
The Holy Spirit will never do anything that is morally wrong, but in other areas He reserves the right to act in exceptional and unconventional ways. For example, while it is true that God has given headship to man, we cannot say that the Holy Spirit cannot raise up a Deborah to lead God’s people if He wishes.
In days of declension, the Spirit permits behavior that ordinarily would be forbidden. Thus David and his men were allowed to eat the shewbread, which was reserved exclusively for the priests. And the disciples were justified in plucking grain on the Sabbath day.
People say that there is a definite, predictable pattern of evangelism in the Book of Acts, but the only pattern I can see is the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.
The apostles and others did not follow a textbook; they followed His leading, which was often quite different from what common sense would have dictated.
For instance, we see the Spirit leading Philip to leave a successful revival in Samaria in order to witness to a lone Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza.
In our own day, we must guard against dictating to the Holy Spirit what He can and cannot do. We know that He will never do anything that is sinful. But in other areas He can be counted on to do the extraordinary. He is not limited to a certain set of methods. He is not bound by our traditional ways of doing things. He has a way of protesting against formalism, ritualism and deadness by raising up new movements with reviving power. We should therefore be open to this sovereign working of the Holy Spirit and not be found sitting on the sidelines, criticizing.
“The hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.” (2 Sam. 13:15)
Amnon burned with lust for his half-sister, Tamar. She was beautiful, and he was determined to have her. He was frustrated because he knew that what he wanted to do was clearly forbidden by the law of God. But he was so consumed by desire for her that no other considerations seemed important. So he pretended to be ill, lured her into his room and violated her. He was willing to sacrifice everything for that one moment of passion.
But then lust turned to hatred. After he had selfishly exploited her, he despised her and probably wished he had never seen her. He ordered her to be thrown out and the door locked behind her.
This vignette of history is being replayed every day. In our freewheeling society, moral standards have been largely abandoned. Premarital sex is accepted as normal. Couples live together without the formality of marriage. Prostitution is legalized. Homosexuality has become an accepted alternative life style.
Young and old alike see someone they like and that settles it. They recognize no higher law. They are bound by no inhibitions. They are determined to get what they want. They wave off any thought of right or wrong, and rationalize that they cannot live a normal life in any other way. So they take the plunge, as Amnon did, and think that they have achieved fulfilment.
But what had looked so beautiful in prospect often looks very hideous in retrospect. Guilt is inevitable, no matter how hotly it is denied. A mutual loss of self-respect leads to resentment. That in turn often boils over into quarreling and then into hatred. The person who once seemed so indispensable is now positively repulsive. From there it is an easy step to beatings, court-battles and even murder.
Lust lays a rotten foundation on which to build a lasting relationship. Men ignore God’s law of purity to their own loss and destruction. Only the grace of God can bring forgiveness, healing and restoration.
“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Tim. 2:4)
The Christian has been enlisted by the Lord, and is on active service for Him. He must not entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life. The emphasis here is on the word entangle. He cannot completely divorce himself from worldly business. He must work in order to provide the necessities of life for his family. There is a certain amount of involvement in everyday interests that is unavoidable. Otherwise he would have to go out of the world, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5:10.
But he mustn’t allow himself to become entangled. He must keep his priorities straight. Even things that are good in themselves can sometimes become the enemies of the best.
Wm. Kelly says that “to entangle oneself in the businesses of life means really to give up separation from the world by taking one’s part in outward affairs as a bona fide partner in it.”
I have become entangled when I become involved in the world’s politics as a means of solving man’s problems. That would be like spending my time “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Or I have become entangled when I put more emphasis on social service than on the Gospel as a panacea for the world’s ills.
I have become entangled when business gets such a grip on me that I give my best efforts to the making of money. In thus gaining a living, I lose a life.
I have become entangled when the kingdom of God and His righteousness cease to have first place in my life.
I have become entangled when I am caught up by things that are too small for a child of eternity—like the mineral deficiencies in the tomato and cocklebur, the summer habits of Wyoming antelope, the microbic content of cotton T-shirts, the browning reaction in potato chips or the post-rotational movements of a pigeon’s eye. These studies may be all right as a means of livelihood but they aren’t worthy of a life passion.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NASB)
This is one of those verses that perplex us most when the going is roughest. As long as the wind blows gently, we have no trouble saying, “Lord, I believe.” But when the storms of life arise, we say, “Help Thou my unbelief.”
And yet we know the verse is true. God does work all things together for good. We know it because the Bible says it. Faith appropriates it, even when we cannot see or understand.
We know it is true because of the character of God. If He is a God of infinite love, of infinite wisdom and of infinite power, then it follows that He is planning and working for our highest good.
We know it is true because of the experience of God’s people. In Choice Gleanings the story is told of an only survivor of a wreck who was thrown on an uninhabited island. He managed to build himself a hut, in which he placed all that he saved from the wreck. He prayed to God for deliverance and anxiously scanned the horizon each day to hail any passing ship. One day he was horrified to find his hut in flames; all he had went up in smoke. But that which seemed the worst was in reality the best. “We saw your smoke signal,” said the captain of the ship that came to his rescue. Let us remember that if our lives are in God’s hands, “All things work together for good.”
Admittedly there are times when faith falters, when the burden seems unbearable and the darkness unendurable. We ask in our extremity, “What good can possibly come out of this?” There is an answer. The good that God is working out is found in the next verse (Rom. 8:29)—that we should be “conformed to the image of His Son.” It is as the sculptor’s chisel wastes away the marble that the image of the man appears. And it is as the blows of life chip away all that is unworthy in us that we become changed into His blessed likeness. So if you cannot find any other good in the crises of life, remember this one—conformity to Christ.
“Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6)
In listing the qualifications of an elder, the Apostle Paul cautions against the assumption of this work by one who is young in the faith. Overseership requires the wisdom and sound judgment that come only by spiritual maturity and godly experience. Yet how often this principle is violated! A successful young businessman, politician or professional man comes into the fellowship of the local church. We feel that if we don’t get him involved immediately, he might leave and go elsewhere, so we catapult him into a place of leadership. We would be better advised to follow Paul’s dictum for deacons, “…let these also first be proved.”
A more glaring violation of this spiritual principle is seen in the way that newly-converted stars are publicized and glamorized in the evangelical firmament. It may be a football hero who has just come to saving faith in Christ. Some religious promoter gets a hold of him and has him billed all the way from Dan to Beersheba. As soon as word gets out that a Hollywood actress has been born again, she becomes headline news. Her opinions are sought on everything from capital punishment to premarital sex—as if conversion has given her instant wisdom on all subjects. Now it is an ex-criminal who has come to know the Lord. One fears for him as he is exploited by covetous agents who are out for a fast buck.
Says Dr. Paul Van Gorder, “I have never been in favor of getting a sinner up from his knees and showing him off in front of a crowd. Irreparable harm has been done to the cause of Christ by parading noted figures of the entertainment, sports, and political world across the evangelical platform before sufficient time has elapsed to indicate whether the seed of the Word of God has penetrated and really taken root.”
It probably gives some Christians a boost to their religious ego when a drug addict or a politician is heralded as the latest addition to the faith. Perhaps they suffer from feelings of insecurity or inferiority, and every converted celebrity helps to boost their sagging confidence.
But these exploited heroes and heroines often become sitting ducks for the Devil’s potshot. Unaware of his subtle devices, they fall into sin and bring enormous reproach on the testimony of the Lord Jesus.
We are thankful for everyone who is genuinely saved, whether famous or obscure. But we are mistaken if we think we can best advance the cause of Christ by pushing novices to the pulpit or TV camera.