Freedom is Never Free

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Inscribed on a 300 foot long black granite wall in Washington D.C., are the names of 58,267 American men and women who were killed or went missing in action, during the Vietnam War. There are very few dry eyes among the 3 million plus visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On that wall, I touched the name of a classmate and close friend from Malvern, Arkansas, that paid the ultimate price, as an 18 year-old young man.

The words, “Freedom is not free,” graces the entrance to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as well. Hopefully, there will be a memorial to the 4,424 who gave their lives in the Iraq War, and the 2,440 American military personnel who have died in Afghanistan—every life just as precious—every sacrifice just as appreciated. Their sacrifice, along with hundreds of thousands of others, through years of war, reminds us that freedom is never free. It is wonderfully free to receive, but carries a great price. America is the land of the free, because it is the home of the brave.

Memorials are good things. When we see them, they trigger memories of love, value, gratefulness and appreciation. It is for this reason there are headstones in cemeteries, statues in parks, memorial plaques and monuments across our land. Every memorial shouts out: “Remember Me! Don’t Forget! Consider Our Cause!”

On Monday, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day—A day when we pause to remember the men and women who have given their lives in defense of this nation and our way of life. This day should provoke thoughts of thankfulness and appreciation. It is a time to remember the great sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. It reminds us how precious freedom is, and that it needs to be constantly guarded.

However, we are prone to forget the significance of Memorial Day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” The president was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, it seems many Americans celebrate Memorial Day without a thought about those who died to keep us free.

Robert A. Heinlein put it perfectly when he wrote: “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

Memorial Day reminds me of two things. On one hand, it’s about remembering the price of our freedom. It is recalling the cost paid to secure our way of life in liberty. The very most a person can do for his friend is to die for him – a clear demonstration of supreme love. But Memorial Day also reminds me of the greatest cost ever given by any man to bring freedom to others. It is a day to recall the immense price Jesus paid to free us from the death penalty of our sins and to grant soul liberty, salvation and eternal life to all who trust in Him.

Jesus spoke of this great love in John 15:13 when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This “greater love” was shown—not debated—it was displayed—not discussed. This kind of love becomes visible when one person willingly gives his life for another. It is this quality of love Jesus has for each one of us. He demonstrated His love by giving His life a sacrifice “for his friends” – literally in behalf of his friends, or in the place of his friends.

The Lord’s love for us was immeasurable—His compassion for our condemned condition—incalculable. The Apostle Peter wrote that this love was so great that, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

As Peter wrote, this sacrifice Jesus made, this death He died for us, was to allow Him to, “bring us to God.” His atoning death was able to please the holy and righteous demands of God because “Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).

My son, Timothy (1997 graduate of Monticello High School), is a Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps. He served three deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently an Infantry Instructor at SOI West, Camp Pendleton, California. Not long ago, Tim wrote: “This Memorial holiday we pause to remember those loved ones we have lost, who served. Being the greatest country on the planet requires the greatest sacrifice, many times to the detriment of our family and friends. But as Americans, we have always stepped up and taken it on the cheek. That’s why we celebrate Memorial Day—to remember those who served who are no longer with us. So, if you have lost someone who served—from my family to yours—we THANK YOU for their service, and we HONOR their sacrifice. The remembrance of their sacrifice is special because it reflects the greatest kind of love there is…the love of God, #gonebutneverforgotten.”

On this Memorial Day, why not take some time to thank God for those who paid the ultimate cost? Thank the Lord for those who gave their lives for our nation and our personal freedom. Pray for their spouses, parents, children and families. Also, why not rejoice and trust in the One who gave His life for your spiritual freedom? Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). After all, freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.

 

 

 

 

Where Could I Go?

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Threatening worldwide events, and uncertainty on every hand, has caused me to stop and think more than usual. Here lately the chorus of this old gospel song has come to mind—“Where could I go, oh where could I go? Seeking a refuge for my soul. Needing a friend, to help me in the end. Where could I go, but to the Lord?”

Even in the darkest of days, every believer in Christ has a never-extinguished light, in which to find guidance, direction and security. We have a haven of rest during any storm. This place of respite—this source of consolation—is the sure promises of God.

When news, conjecture, opinions, projections, and uncertainties of life seem to overwhelm us, it is then we need a strong foundation—an immovable rock—an unchanging source of strength—and we have it in the Word of God.

For me, Psalm 33 is such a place of safety and restoration. It fortifies my faith and comforts my heart. As I look at the frailties and failings of our small lives, I find comfort in the attributes and power of our great God.

Psalm 33 Teaches….

We are Blessed by Giving God Praise (Psalm 33:1-5)

Expressing thanks is a great source of strength during times of weakness. After urging people to “Sing for joy in the LORD” the writer states “joy is becoming to the upright” (verse 1). Singing, thanksgiving and joy are like medicines that heal the hurting heart. In times of sadness and loss, it is spiritually healthy to count your many blessings, name them one by one. Sorrow and despair focus on what you have lost through life—Praise and thanksgiving focus on what you have gained through Christ. This section closes with the truth: “The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD” (verse 5). There is much for which to give thanks. Find and focus on those things.

We are Awed by the Display of God’s Creation (Psalm 33:6-9)

When you observe God’s stunning creation, it leaves you transfixed in wonder. God’s handiwork is astonishing in its enormity, and incredible in its details. The vast, seemingly never-ending solar system is almost unbelievable—while the beautiful minute features of the smallest creatures are simply amazing. The psalmist wrote that “the heavens were made” and “all their host”—“By the word of the Lord…And by the breath of His mouth” (verse 6). If fears threaten to overwhelm you, stop and “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (verses 8-9).

We are Encouraged by the Comfort of God’s Providence (Psalm 33:10-12)

In times of uncertainty it is comforting that God knows everything from the beginning to the end. God is never surprised. The psalmist states it: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (verse 11). The counsel of the nations may be nullified; the plans of the peoples may be frustrated; but the counsel of God will never change course. The God of the Bible “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). It is for this reason, “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” (Romans 8:28).

We are Humbled by the Extent of God’s Knowledge (Psalm 33:13-17)

God wants us to know that “He who fashions the hearts of them all” is “He who understands all their works” (verse 15). He knows and understands us because He created and made us. In a later Psalm, King David wrote “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). Remember this when you go through difficult times—God knows everything about you, and can meet your needs. Indeed, in the person of Christ, “since He Himself was tempted [tried] in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted [tried]” (Hebrews 2:18).

We are Comforted by the Depth of God’s Love (Psalm 33:18-22)

The driving force in God’s interaction with His created people is His great love for them. Many questions may arise when His children endure suffering and tribulations, but one thing that always rings true is that He loves them. We know “the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness” (verse 18). These three things we know: He cares, He watches, He loves. If we would be comforted by His love, the psalmist said there are two things we must do. First, “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (verse 20)—we must wait for Him. We are spoiled by instant everything, and don’t like to wait. But God doesn’t run His schedule by our clock. We must wait. Second, “Our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name” (verse 21). We must rejoice in Him as we trust in Him, even when we don’t understand.

During times of uncertainty, when fears arise in our hearts, may we keep our faith and hope in Him. Believers in Christ need not live cowering under the circumstances—because they follow a God who is over the circumstances. Pray: “Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 33:22).

Happy Mother’s Day!

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The value of mothers cannot be overestimated. An old Spanish proverb rightly says, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” The powerful influence of mothers on the lives of their children lasts a lifetime and outweighs the impact of all other mentors.

Phil Whisenhunt correctly called motherhood the most important occupation on earth. He said, to be a real mother to children “does not have much glory; there is a lot of grit and grime. But there is no greater place of ministry, position, or power than that of a mother.”

Though the Bible was written mostly by men, and during ancient times, it was pretty much a man’s world, God’s Word reveals high praise for the position of mothers and elevates the role of women. It gives many examples of wonderful mothers.

Hannah, the mother of Samuel was a great, self-sacrificing mom. After many years of barrenness, in answer to sincere prayer, God gave her a son (1 Samuel 1). Hannah promised God she would give her only son to Him for full-time service. This act required great faith because Eli, the High Priest, had done a terrible job raising his sons ( 1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25). But because she trusted Him, God gave Hannah three more sons and two daughters (verse 21). Her son, Samuel, grew to become God’s man, leading Israel to worship and follow God; mediating, teaching, and praying them through difficult times; and anointing the first king of Israel, and King David as his successor.

Of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus is an amazing example of motherhood. The New Testament shows her always to be gentle, submissive to God, and faithful. Mary gave birth to Jesus under totally unique circumstances and under severe judgment by people. Yet, because she sought to please God, she was not deterred by the hardship. After rearing Him to love and serve God, Mary watched while He was persecuted, tortured, ridiculed and abandoned. As Jesus hung dying on the cross, His love for His mother was so strong, He arranged for her keeping (John 19:25-27).

Another great example of motherhood was Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She defied the command of Pharaoh and hid Moses three months, until deciding to launch him into the Nile, in a small boat, with his sister, Miriam, watching from the riverbank. Because of her strong love and teaching, when Moses came of age, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

One other powerful example of motherhood is Eunice, and her mother, Lois, mother and grandmother of the young preacher, Timothy. The apostle Paul stated that both women had “sincere faith” which they sought to pass on to their son and grandson. Apparently Timothy’s father was an unbeliever (Acts 16:1), so the duty of communicating God’s truth to the young boy fell to his mother. We know Eunice and Lois were successful, because Paul encouraged him to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). The young preacher Timothy learned the truth of God, as many since, at the knees of a godly mom.

So, how can busy mothers be effective, leveraging their position and power, to influence their children for the glory of God? Sara Horn, founder of the military wives’ ministry, Wives of Faith, and author of “My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife,” shared three suggestions in an article in Focus on the Family, July 5, 2017. She suggests that mothers:

Be Available 

Because influence begins with availability—you must be intentionally available—fully present. Moms cannot influence a child they are not with. However, it is possible to be in the same room as your children and not really pay attention to them. Sara suggests moms consider sitting next to their kids when they’re watching a movie, working on a project, or inviting them to help cook dinner. A mother’s presence in her children’s lives means more to them than anyone can imagine. An available mom when your kids are young also sets the foundation for relationship in years to come.

Be A Godly Example 

Your children constantly watch you. They don’t just notice when you do things right; they notice when you mess up, too. Moms need to apologize when they lose their temper. They need to watch their attitude and words when dealing with their children—and with other people. You need to teach and practice grace, frequently and often. Moms need to allow their kids to see their relationship with Christ as authentic and real. Kids need to know Jesus makes a difference in what their mom does and says.

Be An Encouragement 

For moms, it’s often easier to spot the flaws in their kids than to be sensitive and aware of what they are doing that is good. Make a point to encourage your children in what they do right and not just correct them when they do wrong. Sara says it is best for moms to be direct in their actions but cautious in their reactions. This will help their kids believe that their mom will be their lifelong cheerleader.

As a mom, just think about the impact your choices have on your children. Proverbs 31:26 tells us that a great wife and mom, “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” There are no perfect moms, but as much as possible, if you will let wisdom and kindness come out, when you open your mouth, your children will “rise up and bless you, and your husband will praise you” (verse 28).

 

WHY?

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A 37-year-old church member named Wanda had died. She was a very popular and much-loved fixture in our church—a faithful member and teacher of children. Her early death was difficult.

As I preached her funeral, our then five-year-old son, Daren, and his 4-year-old sister, Julie, sat motionless, with their mom. They were near the front of the chapel and Wanda’s body lying in the casket, dressed in a beautiful gown, was in their full view. In the hushed silence, Daren whispered, “Why is Wanda sleeping?” to which Pat gave a quick, short answer, “Wanda is in heaven.”

Following the graveside committal, as we drove away from the cemetery, Daren asked, “Why are we leaving Wanda here?” Without thinking, I replied, “Oh, Wanda is not here; she is in heaven.” Immediately Daren said, “No, she isn’t. She is in that box!”

“Why?” is a difficult question for us to answer, and sometimes it is impossible.

It is not wrong to ask “Why?” if we can be content that it may not be answered in this lifetime. Even our Lord Jesus, in the darkness on the cross, cried out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus sensed a separation from God the Father He had never known. As He literally became sin for all men, the Father had to turn judicially from looking upon His Son.

So, what are the reasons for times of testing? Why does God allow trials and tribulations to come to His children? Is there a purpose for the pain?

1st Peter 1:6 reveals four of God’s principles in trials—the What. Then in verse 7 he shows four of God’s purposes for trials—the Why. Verses 6 and 7 read: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What are God’s Purposes for Trials?

1st to Prove Your Faith—“that the proof of your faith”

It is through difficult trials that your faith in God becomes visible. Faith is proven present and positive as a result of trials. While everything is smooth and tranquil in your life, it is easy to believe, trust and obey. But, when tragedy, testing and difficulties barge in like unwelcome guests, true faith will shine through.

This purpose of God helps answer questions of why things happen. When Abraham was called by God to offer his only son Isaac, as a sacrifice (Gen. 20), the Scripture reveals he obeyed. He may have wondered why God asked that of him, but he obeyed. James noted that when Abraham obeyed God, he was “justified by works…as faith was working with his works” (James 2:21). Abraham’s actions proved that his faith was in God—not in himself. How did Abraham’s faith shine out as genuine? It was through his difficult time of testing.

2nd to Refine Your Character—“being more precious than gold…even though tested by fire”

Trials are more precious than gold, because gold perishes, whereas the positive effects of trials are eternal. Most believers can testify that through the difficult times of their lives, God refined and changed them for the better. They came near to God, humbly repented of sin, became more faithful, more godly, more prayerful, and followed Him more closely, because of their trials.

Peter compared the cleansing effect of trials on our lives to the purifying effect of heat on gold. The jeweler heats the gold at a high temperature to remove its impurities, thus increasing its value. When he applies high heat to the raw gold, he is not destroying it, but purifying it—by removing the useless dross. This is what happens to Christians through trials.

When believers go through trials, they come out cleaner and more pure. Job, who is the prime example of patiently enduring hardship, said: “He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). There are no shortcuts—if you bypass the fire—your impurity remains.

3rd to Increase Your Praise—“may be found to result in praise and glory and honor”

One great result of hardships and trials is an increase in one’s praise of God. After enduring difficult times, it is common to hear severely tested believers give wondrous praise, thanks and glory to God for bringing them through.

The words, “praise and glory and honor” that God receives as a result of our times of testing mean, He gets our applause, all the fame, and the highest value we can render Him. Christians who have grown through difficulties rarely praise themselves—but are extravagant in their worship and admiration for their Savior.

4th to Enhance Your Anticipation—“at the revelation of Jesus Christ”

The final effect of trials will be an enhanced anticipation for the return of the Lord. “The revelation” means the appearing of Jesus Christ, when He comes to this earth for His own, and later to establish His kingdom.

Jesus promised: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). He is the One who promises no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4); and no more tribulations—“in the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33.

Meanwhile, until He comes, stay faithful to Him through sunshine and shadow—good times and bad. Charles Spurgeon summed up God’s presence during trials when he said, “Though we cannot always trace His hand, we can always trust His heart.”

 

 

 

Growing through Hardship

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Frank E. Graeff (1860-1919) was a Methodist minister in Philadelphia, who went through severely trying experiences most of his life. During one especially difficult time of loss, overcome with grief, in despondency and doubt he began to question whether Jesus really cared about him and the tragedy that engulfed him. All he could see was darkness and despair. But fortunately, when he went to the Word of God, he read these words: “Casting all your care upon him for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

As he meditated on the words, “He careth for you,” they spoke deeply to his need. The truth behind the words gave light and assurance. Frank realized that, even during times of trials, struggles and weakness, Jesus still cares for His children. The Lord’s love and care for His children would never end. As he thought on that verse, the lyrics of a song began to form in his mind. He wrote:

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song,

As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief;

When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.

It is easy to get discouraged when difficulties come. We are facing a scary pandemic. But we know for sure that God knows for sure about our future that is sure, because it is in His hands. He is our Heavenly Father who, better than any earthly father, always loves and cares for His children.

Inspired words of Scripture can strengthen our faith, no matter what we face. As we saw last week, Peter wrote to encourage those suffering Christians by reminding them of their salvation in Christ and their hope of heaven, even while tribulations threatened to sweep them away. His reassuring words for them then, also apply to every believer in Christ now, because they are founded on biblical principles.

In First Peter 1:6, he revealed four principles we need to know as we face times of hardship:

1st Trials are Temporary   ”In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while…”

Difficulties, trials and hardships are not eternal, nor for a lifetime, but only last “a little while” – the King James Version renders it “for a season”—a short determined amount of time.

2nd Trials are Necessary   ”…if need be…”

The truth is, we need trials in our lives. When times of hardship come, they often help us grow as Christians, become fruitful, develop endurance, and be more devoted to prayer. As we have learned during the Coronavirus pandemic…trials forced us to stop and evaluate our lives.

3rd Trials are Difficult “…you have been distressed…”

Make no mistake—trials are difficult, distressing, even depressing. Though the period of grief is not long and is needful, that does not make it easy. The King James Version renders it: “ye are in heaviness” because of your trials.

The word for “distressed” or “heaviness” means a time of great pain or grief. It is the very word used to describe what Jesus endured in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:37). The KJV renders it “sorrowful and very heavy.” Imagine Jesus enduring such agony before the cross. Yes, trials are difficult.

The apostle John adds that Jesus said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (John 12:27, 28). Vance Havner, the great Southern Baptist evangelist used to say: “What do you say, when you don’t know what to say? Say what Jesus said: ‘Father, glorify Your name!’”

We often experience trials, and the distress that accompanies them, when someone dies. This same Greek word for heaviness or distress was used by Paul to describe the sorrow that accompanied the death of a loved one—“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). It is natural to grieve—to be distressed and depressed—when a loved one passes away. Christians should not put on a stoic face or act unaffected, but should be honest in expressing their grief. But for the believer, who dies, the hope of the resurrection and future reunion in heaven, should prevent a life-shattering, hopeless grief.

4th Trials are Varied ”…by various trials.”

The Christian will face trials and tribulations of many kinds, from many sources. We may be distressed by “various trials.” The word means variegated or many-colored.

In any year, you may face financial trials, family issues, marital woes, job related problems, doubts to your faith, church troubles or health complications. Trials we face are varied, may come from many directions, but our solution is always the same—God’s help.

Through every difficulty, in the midst of each trial, facing any tragedy, God does not change. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation [or trial] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [or tried] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [or trial] will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

No matter what you face, or what may unexpectedly come at you; no matter what happens in your life—God is faithful! He has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5, 6).

 

FAITH in the FIRE

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If you heard that within one month, 16 million people would lose their jobs; churches would close doors from coast to coast; People across America would not meet in groups greater than 10, but would stay at home, indoors, week after week; would you have believed it? Me neither.

But that is exactly what happened. People around the world are staying apart, wearing masks and using hand-sanitizer religiously—to prevent spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Even with these precautions, almost 2 million people have contracted the virus and over 100,000 have died worldwide; more than 20,000 of these in the United States.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned new words and phrases, like: social distancing, mitigate, shelter-in-place, apex, self-quarantine, asymptomatic, transmission, and flatten the curve.

We have learned that all those appointments on our calendars and planners for April were really not that important, as most have been cancelled, postponed or abandoned.

The pandemic has taught us that man’s inclination to believe he is in control is a joke. Covid19 proves the final words of “Invictus” to be cruel sarcasm: “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Really?

So, if we are not masters of our fate, or captains of our souls, are we mere mortal pawns on some celestial chessboard? Does God care about what is happening here? If so, where is He? What can we do during times of crisis and danger? Fortunately, the Word of God speaks to these issues.

Peter touched on God’s Four Principles His children should know as they endure trials (1 Peter 1:6), and God’s Four Purposes for His children when they encounter trials (1 Peter 1:7). Remember that this letter was written to Christians scattered throughout northern Asia Minor, who were being persecuted because of their faith in Christ.

In his letter, Peter sought to encourage them and to strengthen their faith. He began by reminding them that they were born again by faith in Christ and had a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a guarded inheritance in heaven (verse 4), and a secure salvation in Christ (verse 5).

Though they possessed these spiritual gifts by faith in Christ, they were being relentlessly persecuted for it. So they would not be discouraged, he revealed God’s principles for trials (verse 6) and God’s purposes in trials (verse 7).

God’s Principles for Trials…1 Peter 1:6

  1. Trials are Temporary…”In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while…”

Peter noted one characteristic of trials is that they are temporary—they do not last forever. God’s Word compares trials to seasons that are of short duration. The four seasons of our year are three months in length. The seasons only last a short while. After the heat of summer, comes the coolness of autumn, then the coldness of winter, followed by the colors of spring.

In a similar way, trials are temporary. Difficult times come on all of us, but thank God they do not stay with us. Paul wrote, “our light affliction…is but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17). Warren Wiersbe said, “When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat!”

  1. Trials are Necessary…”…if need be you have been distressed by various trials…”

Whether we like it or not, we need trials in our lives. When times of hardship come, other superficial things are disregarded. As we undergo hardship, it narrows our focus to important, valuable things, and away from frivolous, empty things.

God’s Word reveals several reasons for hardship.

Sometimes, trials come as discipline, when “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). God’s discipline takes many forms, but because He is a perfect, loving Father, it is ALWAYS for our benefit. Trials remind us to be in subjection to Him (verse 9). God’s discipline is always “for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (verse 10). And, though, “all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (verse 11).

At other times trials are necessary for spiritual growth. After Paul had prayed for relief from his suffering and the “messenger of Satan to torment me” (2 Cor. 12:7), God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (verse 9). Paul understood the trial he faced was to make him weak so he would trust Christ more. So he said, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 10).

Another purpose for trials is so the Christian can develop patience, as James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2, 3). Through tough times we learn to patiently wait.

A fourth reason trials are needed is that they push us to pray. We should “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be make known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He meant: “Don’t worry about anything—Pray about everything.” If you had no trials, tribulations or hardships, what would you pray about? Truthfully, we pray more often with greater intensity and fuller sincerity—when we are threatened, tried or hurting.

See? Trials and hardships are of short duration, are necessary and are good for you. They will make you fruitful, help you grow, bring about endurance, and drive you to God! Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember that: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quarantined But Not Quiet

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Our pastoral staff has been debating what to do for the upcoming Easter service, in light of the nationwide Coronavirus shutdown. One thing we know—Sunday will be the strangest Easter any of us have ever seen, as we celebrate that holy day, mostly isolated in our homes. And, though the world hopes the circumstances this Easter will never be repeated—it remains that the message of this Easter has never been more needed.

Christians world-wide celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Sunday following Palm Sunday, designated, “Easter.” It was during this week of Jewish Passover almost 2,000 years ago that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. When they were accusing Him, the High Priest and Sanhedrin Court could not enter the Roman court for fear they would be ritually defiled. John wrote about the Jewish religious leaders: “they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover” (John 18:28). It is ironic that they rejected the true Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), so they could partake of His picture.

John recorded that Jesus was crucified on “the day of preparation for the Passover” (John 19:14). This was also the reason His accusers wanted His body off the cross, into a tomb before sunset, “because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)” (John 19:31). Passover was considered a high Sabbath, and dead bodies on crosses would desecrate that holy day.

Palm Sunday was important, the crucifixion was vital, but, thank God—the resurrection was essential! Jesus, crucified and buried, was raised the Sunday after Passover.

“He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6), was spoken by angels standing at the tomb where Christ’s body once laid. Think of that statement: “Not here…but risen!” The words stimulate our thinking and alter our eternity: He Is—Not Here—But Risen!

 So, what does Christ’s resurrection 2,000 years ago mean today?

  1. His resurrection means believers in Christ will have life after death.

Because of Christ’s victory over death, every believer has the same promise of life after death. Paul wrote, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11). Paul told the Corinthians: “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (2 Corinthians 4:14). Believers in Christ have hope because of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

  1. His resurrection means believers in Christ may have hope in this life.

Many times things go wrong in this life and tragedy comes to steal our hope. But Christ’s resurrection means things, though tragic, are never hopeless. Peter reminded the persecuted Christians of his day that God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Because Christ is a resurrected, living Savior, we have an overcoming, life-giving hope.

  1. His resurrection means believers in Christ are justified in God’s sight.

Though we are all sinners by nature and practice, every believer in Christ will stand justified in God’s sight. They are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). It is a wonderful truth that when Christ arose from the dead, He assured our justification because He was “delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Amazing! He was crucified for sins—He was raised for justification.

  1. His resurrection means the sins of all believers in Christ are forgiven.

God promises full forgiveness of sins to every person who trusts in Jesus. Peter said, “through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). However, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, our sins could not be forgiven, as Paul wrote, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor. 15:17-18).

  1. His resurrection means every person will give account to God.

Unbelieving skeptics may think: “That sounds good, but does not apply to me.” However, the consequence of Christ’s resurrection applies to everyone. When Paul preached to unbelievers on Mars’ Hill, he said, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31). Because Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, all people will give account to God.

Because of Christ’s resurrection any person can have life, hope, justification, and forgiveness of sins. Because of Christ’s resurrection every person is accountable to God. Aren’t you glad “He is not here, but is risen”? Trust Him as your Savior, rejoice in His resurrection, and share this message of hope with others. The best news the world has ever heard came from a cemetery in Jerusalem!