Category: Christian Growth

A Letter from Jeremiah to the Exiles

A Letter from Jeremiah to the Exiles

Jeremiah 29 records several letters: one from Jeremiah to the exiles, including reference to a letter concerning Jewish false prophets in Babylon to which Jeremiah replied; one from Shemaiah to the Temple priests, concerning Jeremiah; and one from Jeremiah to the exiles concerning Shemaiah.

Let us examine Jeremiah’s letters and see how the principles he laid out might and should be applied in our lives today as Christians.

A Letter of Instruction and Encouragement

Sometime after the deportation in 597, Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to tell them how to behave in their new land. Governed by special laws concerning clean and unclean things, the Jewish people would have a difficult time adjusting to a pagan society.

Jeremiah wanted the Jewish people to be good witnesses to the idolatrous Babylonians, and he also wanted them to be good even though they were separated from their Temple and its services. He addressed himself to the needs of three kinds of people: those with no hope, those with false hopes, and those who have true hope.

Hope in the Lord

Those With No Hope

The exiles had lost everything but their lives and what few possessions they could carry with them to Babylon. They had lost their freedom and were now captives. They had been taken from their homes and had lost their means of making a living. They were separated from relatives and friends, some of whom may have perished in the long march from Jerusalem to Babylon.

No matter how they looked at it, the situation seemed hopeless. So, Jeremiah gives them a Word from the Lord (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Clearly, the Jewish people were in Babylon by the will of God.

Yet, they were instructed to build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for their sons and give their daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters – that they may be increased there, and not diminished.

Also, they must seek the peace of the city where God has caused them to be carried away captive, and to lift it up to the Lord in prayer it; for when the city is peaceful, they will have peace.

Application to the Christian

When something as depressing as this happens to us, how should we handle it? It’s pretty difficult to remain hopeful while we watch everything we hold dear crumble before our very eyes. But no matter how tragic it might be, we must not allow any difficult circumstance to hold us back. Hanging our harps on the willow and sitting around weeping may be a normal reaction to tragedy but it sure won’t do us any good (Psalm 137:1-4).

One of the first steps in turning tragedy into triumph is to acknowledge that God has allowed it (Jeremiah 29:4). We must accept the situation courageously and entrust our lives completely into the hands of a loving God, who makes no mistakes.

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Those With False Hopes

The false prophets in Babylon were giving false hopes to the people concerning Jerusalem and Judah. Apparently, these false prophets had convinced the people that their stay in Babylon would be brief; thus they did not need to settle down and try to resume a normal life.

This word got back to Jeremiah so he wrote to the exiles again not only to warn them about these false prophets but also to tell them just the opposite of what they have been told (Jeremiah 29:8-9).

Since Jewish exiles would be in Babylon for as long as seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10), they would have plenty of time to build houses and set up homes. The exiles needed to have families so that people would be available to return to Judea when the captivity ended. This small Jewish remnant was holding in its hands the future of God’s great plan of salvation, and they must obey Him, be fruitful, and multiply.

The Jews could have easily waged constant warfare against their idolatrous Gentile captors, but Jeremiah instructed them to strive to get along with the Babylonians. The exiles were to be peacemakers, not troublemakers, and they were to pray sincerely for their enemies. (See Matthew 4:43-48; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-2.)

Application to the Christian

It was possible to be good Jews even in pagan land; it’s also possible to be good Christians in a secular and wicked world. Remember, if we reject the wooden yoke of submission, we only end up wearing an iron yoke of subjugation (Jeremiah 28:12-14).

Thus, the best course is to yield ourselves to the Lord and to those who are over us, no matter how badly they may treat us. (See Peter’s counsel to Christian slaves in 1 Peter 2:18-25). To indulge in false hope is to miss what God has planned for us.

Those Who Have True Hope

True hope is based on the revealed Word of God, not on the dream messages of self-appointed prophets (Jeremiah 29:8). God had given His people a gracious promise to deliver them from captivity, to gather them from all the nations and from all the places where He has driven them and bring them back to their land (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

And God is faithful, He would keep His promise. All the people have to do is to seek the Lord with all their hearts. According to Jeremiah 29:14, these promises reach beyond the Jews captive in Babylon and include all of Israel throughout the world. Jeremiah was looking ahead to the end of the age when Israel will be gathered to meet their Messiah and enter their kingdom (Isaiah 10:20 – 12:6).

For I know the plans I have for you

Application to the Christian

In every situation, God’s people have the responsibility to seek the Lord, pray, and ask Him to fulfill His promises, for the Word and prayer go together (Acts 6:4). They say that what life does to us depends largely on what life finds in us. If we seek the Lord and want His best, then circumstances will build us and prepare us for what He has planned

If we rebel or if we look for quick and easy shortcuts then circumstances will destroy us and rob us of the future God wants us to enjoy.

Closing Thoughts

God caused the Jews to be carried away captive in Babylon; it was part of His plan in bringing judgment on Judah for their generations of rebellion against Him. And in God’s plan, they would be in Babylon for a long time. But God has not forgotten about them and He never wanted to destroy them.

A man with a heart of a true shepherd, Jeremiah wanted to enlighten and encourage the Jewish exiles in their new life in Babylon.

God wanted the exiles to multiply in Babylon just as they multiplied in Egypt. He also wanted them to be good in their communities and to be a blessing to their Babylonian neighbors.

How was it possible for Jeremiah to get in touch with the Jewish exiles in Babylon? Correspondence like this wasn’t difficult to maintain in those days, for diplomatic missions between Jerusalem and Babylon were regular.

In the same way, God wants His children to be a good neighbor, employee, co-worker, and a blessing even to the meanest people. The Word of God exhorts every believer in Jesus to do everything with all their heart as though they are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).


Recommended Resource: Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control by Sarah Beckman

Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control by Sarah BeckmanHope in the Hard Places is a practical, encouraging guidebook for the weary soul looking for hope in dark circumstances.

In this life, everyone must face trials. Cancer, chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, depression, prodigal children, caring for aging parents, and other unknown terrains can cause people to feel hopeless and helpless.

For those who feel like they don’t know where to turn, Hope in the Hard Places equips readers to walk through their trial with hope rather than desperation.

Sarah Beckman, a speaker, and author, teaches effective and powerful ways to get through the pain with biblical truths and principles. She also includes insight from others who have experienced all manner of trials.

Packed with practical strategies, checklists, encouragement, wisdom from seasoned travelers, and rock-solid biblical truth, Hope in the Hard Places provides a beacon of hope in the darkness so that readers can walk through the depths of hardship with insight, dignity, and certainty.

Judging Your Brother in Faith

Judging Your Brother in Faith

Do you know of any brother or sister in Christ who only eats vegetables? What could be the reason behind it? More importantly, how do you feel about it or your reaction to it? Perhaps you know some Christians who consider one day more sacred than the other while you consider every day alike.

Do you condemn or judge them for their weak faith?

Bible Verses: Romans 14:10-14

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Condemning the Weak Believers

The whole chapter of Romans 14 is talking about Christian liberty and unity. Paul addresses those who were strong in the faith, that is, those who understood their spiritual liberty in Christ and were not enslaved to diets or holy days.

Who are the weak believers? The “weak in faith” were immature believers who felt obligated to obey legalistic rules concerning what they ate and when they worshiped. Many people have the idea that the Christians who follow strict rules are the most mature, but this is not necessarily the case.

Romans 14:1

We don’t have the responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church, only God can do this. To set up human restrictions, based on personal prejudices (or even convictions) is to go beyond the Word of God. We receive one another because God has received us (Romans 14:1-3).

Our first responsibility is to the Lord (Romans 14:8). If Christians would go to the Lord in prayer instead of going to their brother or sister with criticism or condemnation, the fellowship in churches would be stronger. See also John 21:15-25.

Every church has weak and strong believers. The strong understand spiritual truth and practice it, but the weak have not yet grown into that level of maturity and liberty. The weak must not condemn the strong and call them unspiritual. The strong must not despise the weak and call them immature.

God has received both the weak and the strong; therefore they should receive one another (Romans 14:12).

Do Not Judge Your Brother; Love Them Instead

The first part of Romans 14:13 admonishes us to stop judging one another. But if we stop with this, we might give the impression that Christians should leave each other alone and let the weak remain weak. But the second admonition explains things further.

The emphasis is not on master-servant but a fellow believer. It is the principle of brotherly love. If we love each other we will seek to edify each other and build each other up in the faith (Romans 14:19). In the succeeding verses of Romans 14, Paul shared several facts to help his readers help their brothers.

Stop judging your brother in faith. Stop condemning the weak believers.

In the meantime, we must help each other grow. All believers, strong and weak, need to grow. Strong believers need to grow in love; weak believers need to grow in knowledge. So long as a fellow believer is weak in the faith, we must lovingly deal with that person in his or her immaturity.

But if we really love the weaker believer, we will help them to grow. For a Christian to remain immature, having a weak conscience is wrong.

Unity Does Not Always Mean Uniformity

If you have been following the late Dr. Ravi Zacharias, you should be familiar with the phrase, “Unity does not always mean uniformity.” He always used this every time he had to deal with the question of the differences in minor theology among Christian denominations.

Paul is telling us the same thing in Romans 14. Sure, God wants us (and expects us) to set standards in our lives. Sometimes those standards will be different from other Christians and there is actually nothing wrong with that.

God does not want unity based on conformity. God does not want Christians to live by a set of rules given by their pastor. This then results in Christians having different standards in many different areas.

However, disputes arise when believers start judging other believers for having stronger standards. In Romans 14:10, God is telling us, “Don’t worry about what other Christians are doing.” In other words, how they live their Christian life is none of your business. At the end of the day, we will all stand before Jesus to give an account of ourselves. You are not responsible for them.

This is actually what I use to completely ignore what other Christians are doing. All I’m saying is, don’t get all offended over what people do. You are not their judge so stop acting like one. Romans 14:14 implies that God has given all Christians the liberty to decide what standards they want to have. Thus, we must be convinced of the standards we set for ourselves.

Closing Words

If you do not know yet the standards you should live by, go figure. Nothing is inherently wrong, but if you believe Christian rock music is wrong and drinking alcohol is wrong, then don’t do it. You are responsible for your own actions.

We will all give an account of the way we lived our lives. On that day, we won’t have time to look at everyone else. Are you prepared to stand before God?


Get a copy of my devotional book “Life According to the Truth.”

Publisher’s Description

Life According to the Truth by Michael HeilmanDo you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Did you know that God wants to prepare you during this life to live in heaven with Him? Does your purpose for life evade you? In Life According to the Truth, disciple of Jesus Christ, Michael Heilman, honestly writes to the issues facing the church and how to live the victorious Christian life.

Michael expounds on biblical principles God has applied to his life and led to God’s blessing in many areas of his life. With illustrations, humor, and most importantly Scripture, he explains to any born again believer who is spiritually wandering through life, how to be spiritually blessed by God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In this devotional Bible study, you will be enlightened in regards to:

  • Why God must be the key focus of your life.
  • How to love God
  • How to love others.
  • How to discern God’s will for your life
  • How to be confident with your identity in Jesus Christ

Life is difficult, but God can enable you to have abundant joy. If you are a born-again believer that needs encouragement, this book is for you.

Types of Christian Prayers

Types of Christian Prayers

The Bible teaches that God is the Father of all who believe in Jesus Christ and that He is a loving Father. Since God loves His children, He wants them to communicate with Him. This is the very definition of prayer – talking to God.

As God’s children, all Christians have the privilege and the right of approaching God through prayer. It is through prayer that Christians personally communicate their deepest thoughts, needs, and desires to God.

Indeed, prayer is one of the most important things that believers can do.

The topic of prayers is quite broad and cannot be tackled in a single post. In this article, we will look at the kinds or types of prayer that can be prayed by believers in Jesus Christ.

Types of Prayer in Christianity

From Scripture, there are several types of prayers:

Prayer of Confession

Even though God has forgiven Christians all of their sins, not one of them ever lives a perfect life. We all still sin; no one is exempted. These sins need to be acknowledged before God. Consequently, prayer always involves a confession of our sin.

The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught to His followers as a model of prayer when He gave His discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount, includes a prayer of confession.

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name … And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:9, 12).

Likewise, the psalmist emphasized the need for confession of sin. He wrote:

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

1 John 1:9 NKJV

When King David realized that he committed a great sin against the Lord, he prayed a prayer of confession (Psalm 51:1-4).  Likewise, Daniel and Ezra realized the importance of confession, humbled themselves before the Lord, and confessed their sins as well as the sins of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:20; Ezra 9:5-6).

One of the questions Christians often ask is: Should we pray (confess) only the sins that we remember? What about those that we do not remember? The simple answer is, we ought to pray for those sins that we do not remember.

In psalm 19:12, the psalmist asked God to cleanse him from his secret (hidden) faults – those faults that were perhaps unknown to him, or those that must have slipped through his mind.

And the Lord is loving, compassionate, and forgiving. He promised to forgive our sins when we confessed them to Him (1 John 1:9).

All of us should want to walk worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus, and confession of sin will help us achieve that because it gets us back on to the straight and narrow way that the Lord has for each of us.

Prayer of Petition

Much of our prayer is for ourselves; this is called the prayer of petition.

And there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, James says we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). And at times we do not receive what we have asked for because we have the wrong motive (James 4:3).

The key to receiving what we have asked for is to ask for the things that God wants for us. Psalm 37:4-5 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

In other words, we should want things that God wants and desire for ourselves the things that God desires for us.

Prayer of Intercession

When we ask for things that are not for ourselves, it is called a prayer of intercession, and the one asking is called an intercessor. Let us take a look at some examples in Scripture of those who prayed or interceded for the needs of others.

Paul indicated that he always prayed for the church at Thessalonica and said that he would continually ask the Lord to meet their needs (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

The prayer of intercession does not necessarily have to be for a certain individual or group of individuals; it can also be for an entire city or entire nation. The psalmist declared that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).

Blessings for Blessing Israel

In times of global chaos, disaster, or pandemic, like what we are going through right now as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, Christians need to get down on their knees and intercede for the nations.

Intercessory prayer is important because it emphasizes that we are not merely to address the Lord for our needs but we need to think about others too.

Jesus also told us to pray for our enemies – those who have hurt us, are persecuting us or making things difficult for us, may it be within our family circle, community, or society (Luke 6:28). This is something difficult for us to do. Indeed, we need the Holy Spirit’s help and direction to pray for those with whom we are enemies.

Prayer of Praise, Worship, and Thanksgiving

When we pray, we do not only ask God to do something for us or others. There are times when our prayers consist of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Jesus began His model prayer for His disciples with praise to God:

In this manner, therefore, pray: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Consequently, we begin our prayers with words of praise and worship to the Lord. The psalmist wrote about the need to bow down and kneel before our God (Psalm 95:6-7). We should also pray with a thankful and humble attitude before the Lord, especially when we remember all that He has done for us.

In Exodus 13:3, the children of Israel were told to remember what the Lord has done for them.

And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.”

The apostle Paul says that we should give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) and told the church at Thessalonica that he constantly gave thanks to God as he continually prayed for them (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

Thankfulness and praise should always be part of our prayer life.

Prayer of Benediction

The prayer of benediction is a prayer of blessing for others. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

This is the type of prayer that we should often pray. We should desire God’s blessings to be bestowed upon others.

Prayer Containing All the Above Elements

The Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-13When we pray The Lord’s Prayer or use it as a model for our prayer, our prayer will likely contain each of the above-mentioned elements.

For example, when we pray, we will probably confess our sins, pray for others, pray for ourselves, give thanks to God, and pray a specific prayer of blessing for others. While this is not the case with every prayer we pray, these elements will certainly be in most of our prayers.

The psalmist wrote:

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly, God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me” (Psalm 66:16-20)!

Conclusion

The prayers we offer to God should contain these elements of confession, petition, intercession, praise, thanksgiving, and blessing. This is the biblical way in which we should pray.

However, there may be times when we miss some of these elements in our prayer. The important thing is this: we need to pray!


Reference: Prayer by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Renowned pastor and New York Times bestselling author of The Prodigal Prophet Timothy Keller explores the power of prayer.

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance on how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

Dr. Keller’s previous books have sold more than one million copies. His Redeemer Presbyterian Church is not only a major presence in his home base of New York, but it has also helped to launch more than two hundred fifty other churches in forty-eight cities around the world. His teachings have already helped millions, the majority of whom pray regularly.

And with Prayer, he’ll show them how to find a deeper connection with God.

Study Bibles for Beginners

Study Bibles for Beginners

For new believers, understanding and interpreting the Bible on their own could be a real challenge. I know many Christians who are very zealous in sharing the Word and also in encouraging others, and I do admire them for that.

The only issue I have is that they often take verses out of their contexts in support of a topic that is not in any way related to it. This is called “proof-texting,” one of the common errors of biblical interpretation.

How do we avoid committing this error? Having a good study Bible will help. If you are serious about the Word of God, it’s time you invest in a good study Bible that will help you to understand and properly interpret God’s Word.

Regular Bible vs. Study Bible

What is the difference between a study Bible and a regular Bible? They are the same in that they both contain the Word of God: 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

The difference is that a study Bible has additional features such as book introduction, historical context, cross-references to other Bible passages, outlines or maps, extensive study notes and explanations of key doctrines, devotionals, and so much more.

But which study Bibles are recommended for beginners? In this post, I will be sharing with you a list of my recommended study Bibles.

Selecting a Study Bible

Choosing the best study Bible can be overwhelming because there are hundreds of great choices. So how can one possibly determine which one suits them best? Can we even say that one study Bible is better than the rest? I don’t believe so. But I would say that there are a few that are better than the rest.

Let me also mention that in selecting a study Bible, there are certain things you need to consider. First is the translation. We have the NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, CSV, NLT, and numerous other options. How do you select which one is best for you from among them?

The Best Study Bibles 

If you are a beginner or new believer, I highly recommend that your first study Bible is one that focuses on interpretation rather than on application. You can always purchase an application study Bible later on.

So here we go.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: August 23, 2016

Editors: Craig S. Keener & John H. Walton

Description: The Bible was originally written to ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles.

It includes subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the texts read.

So, for us to truly understand the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world and language. This is what the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of biblical times.

These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible (Third Edition)

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

Editor: Jack W. Hayford

Description: Take a deep and powerful look at Scripture — and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit as you encounter God in His Word.

This best-selling NKJV Bible draws on the expertise of an expanded team of respected, Spirit-led scholars, led by Pastor Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way and chancellor of The King’s University.

With over 2 million copies sold, the NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Bible continues to equip God’s people to live in His kingdom, exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and lay hold of God’s promises.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Quest Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: November 19, 2011

Editor: Christianity Today Int.

Description: Get answers to the Bible questions you have … and questions you haven’t yet pondered!

The NIV Quest Study Bible features over 7,000 notes written in an engaging question and answer format that gives insight into the common, uncommon, and sometimes perplexing passages from the Bible.

You will have the opportunity to consider questions like, “Why did God send angels to Jacob?” “What prevents God from hearing our prayers?” and “Why does God test us?” as you explore God’s Word using the many study helps.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

The Jeremiah Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesAuthor: Dr. David Jeremiah

Publisher: Worthy Books

Publishing Date: November 26, 2013

Description: Drawn from more than 40 years of study, Dr. David Jeremiah, one of America’s leading Bible teachers, has produced a deeply personal and comprehensive study Bible packed with features specifically focused to help you discover what Scripture says, what Scripture means and, most importantly, what Scripture means to you.

The Jeremiah Study Bible presents the best of biblical insight and study tools along with clear, practical application to bring about authentic transformation in your life.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

The MacArthur Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 5, 2013

Editor: John F. MacArthur

Description: The NASB MacArthur Study Bible is a classic resource that is perfect for serious study.

Dr. John MacArthur has collected his pastoral and scholarly work of more than 35 years to create the most comprehensive study Bible available. No other study Bible does such a thorough job of explaining the historical context, unfolding the meaning of the text, and making it practical for your life.

Features: A 25-page concordance, including people and places, more than 20,000 study notes, charts, maps, outlines, and articles from Dr. John MacArthur, Overview of Theology, Index to Key Bible Doctrines.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersNIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

Publisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

General Editor: D.A. Carson

Description: Biblical Theology allows you to ponder the individual stories and themes of Scripture while observing how they all fit together in God’s grand biblical narrative.

It answers the question, “How has God revealed his word historically and organically?”

With three articles introducing Biblical theology and 25 articles unpacking key themes of Scripture, the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible equips you to follow the progressive unfolding of God’s story.

Features: Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV), previously published as NIV Zondervan Study Bible, 28 theologically rich articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung, 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes, Hundreds of full-color photos, more than 90 maps, and over 60 charts, Comprehensive book introductions, Over 60 trusted contributors, Cross-references and the NIV Comprehensive Concordance, Single-column, black letter edition, Two ribbon markers, and more.

Best Places to buy: Amazon ChristianBook Distributors

The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 10, 2015

General Editor: John Hagee

Description: The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail.

The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features: Introduction to Bible Prophecy, Index to Prophetic Passages, Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy, Diamonds for Daily Living, God’s Great Promises, God’s Great Salvation, Evidences, Spokesmen for God, Bible Insights, Bible Prophecy Charts, and Full concordance.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

NLT Life Application Study Bible (Third Edition)

Best Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Tyndale

Publishing Date: October 1, 2019

Description: Today’s number 1 selling study Bible, the NLT Life Application Study Bible, has been thoroughly updated and expanded, offering even more relevant insights and spiritual guidance for applying God’s Word to everyday life in today’s world.

This study Bible for women and men answers real-life questions and provides practical yet powerful ways to apply the Bible to your life every day.

Explore the stories and teachings of this NLT study Bible with verse-by-verse commentary. Gain wisdom from people in the Bible by exploring their accomplishments and learning from their mistakes.

Survey the big picture of each book through overviews, vital statistics, outlines, and timelines, and grasp difficult concepts using in-text maps, charts, and diagrams.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Compass Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: February 11, 2014

Editor: Ecclesia Bible Society

Description: Do you want to start reading and applying the Bible to your life, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Let Compass point you in the right direction.

Packed with Bible-reading helps and using an energizing, new Bible translation, Compass is a Bible designed with you in mind.

Features: In-text notes that include cultural, historical, theological, and devotional thoughts, God’s Promises—Thomas Nelson’s bestselling guide to Scripture for your every need, Book introductions, Reading plans for every day of the year, Topical Guides to Scripture and notes, and In-text maps.

Best Places to buy: Amazon ChristianBook Distributors

Closing Thoughts

Why do you need a study Bible?

A study Bible is a great supplementary resource that will help you understand Scripture more clearly as you read it. It can also help you interact with God’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way and to properly apply it in your life.

How to Effectively Witness for Christ

How to Effectively Witness for Christ

Do you still remember how you came to faith in Christ? God must have used somebody to share the good news of salvation to you. Was it a friend, a colleague, or a family member? Regardless of who that might be, now that you have received God’s gift of salvation, it’s your turn to share it with others.

But why should you do that? Why share the good news? It’s because all followers of Christ are to be His witnesses. Every Christian is commanded to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

However, fulfilling this mandate known as the Great Commission can be a real challenge to every follower of Jesus.

So in this article, I am going to share some guidelines or techniques on how to effectively witness for Christ.

Preach the Gospel

Does Mark 16:15 (quoted above) mean that every Christian must become a pastor or a preacher and speak from a pulpit or platform in order to proclaim the good news of salvation? Of course not!

To “preach” does not necessarily mean to deliver a sermon to an assembled group of people. We simply have to reach out to the lost and introduce the gospel to them. And like I said, this was a command (from Jesus), not a suggestion.

Did you know that this command was not obeyed immediately? Jesus’ disciples stayed in Jerusalem for many years after the church was born at Pentecost. It was only when the persecution started that Christianity began to spread to the world. And when it did, it spread robustly and continues to.

The more the church was persecuted, the faster the gospel propagated.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. - Mark 16:15

Important Note:

In many Bibles, Mark 16:9-20 is footnoted in some way because apparently, it did not exist in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the gospel of Mark.

Although the vast majority of later manuscripts include this passage, the two oldest and most respected manuscripts the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (dated from 325 and 340 A.D.) do not contain this section. A few ancient manuscripts put asterisks next to Mark 16:9-20 to indicate that it is an addition to the original text.

Nevertheless, many very early Christians referred to this passage in their writings, which shows that they accepted it as genuine. But whether this portion of Mark’s gospel was written by Mark or was added later on by scribes, it is important to note that it offers no new information, nor does it contradict previously revealed events and/or doctrines.

Why Should Christians Share Their Faith?

Aside from the fact that God has commanded us to do so, we share our faith as a demonstration of our love for God. Jesus said that if we truly loved Him we should keep His commandments (John 14:15).

Christians must also share their faith because all are lost (Romans 3:10, 23) but God desires to save all people (Acts 4:12, 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). Sharing our faith is God’s chosen method to tell all people what Christ has done at Mount Calvary for the forgiveness and salvation of man.

God could have used angels but He didn’t. It’s because only redeemed sinners can tell lost sinners about Christ (Romans 10:14-17; Acts 8:13).

We must share our faith because someone once shared their faith with us. It may have been a faithful Bible teacher, or a godly pastor, or a praying parent. In other words, they have the right to expect that we will do for others what they have done for us.

Effective Witnessing Techniques

1. Be a clean vessel for God.

First, to be an effective witness for Christ, we must be clean vessels. God reminds Isaiah the prophet of this, “Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). We cannot expect to share our faith successfully if we are deliberately living in sin and disobedience to God.

We must confess our sins to God and forsake them, then yield our lives completely to God. Although God does not demand golden or silver vessels, He does require clean ones. (Notice that God used and continues to use imperfect people.)

2. Pray, pray, pray.

Prayer is very important if we are to be effective soul-winners for Christ. Before we even attempt to evangelize, we pray not only for the blood covering of Jesus upon us because we will be engaging in a spiritual battle but also for God to open doors so we can proclaim the gospel.

We must pray that God will lead us to the people He wants us to share the gospel with; we pray that God will open their hearts to receive the gospel.

When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria from speaking to great multitudes at Iconium and Lystra, passing through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga and Attalia, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).

We also read in Colossians 4:3-4 that Paul asked the brethren to pray for him and his companions so that God will open a door for the message of the gospel, and for him to proclaim it clearly as he should.


3. Be totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Before His ascension, Jesus gave a specific instruction to His disciples to not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and empower them to become His witnesses not only in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, but also to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8).

We must acknowledge that we cannot be effective witnesses for Christ without the Holy Spirit to work on our behalf. We can do nothing without God and this includes soul-winning. We do not know the right words to say; many of us may be timid and are not eloquent speakers.

But God did not only promise that He’d give us the courage to speak, but He’d also give us the words to proclaim.

The apostle Paul, who used to be a zealous Jew taught by Gamaliel, said to the church in Corinth in his first letter that he knew nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He then went on to say that he was proclaiming his testimony about God to them not with wise and persuasive words, but with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the most powerful sermon ever that led to the conversion of 3,000 souls in one day. How did he do that? The Holy Spirit enabled him.

These two instances in the ministry of Paul and Peter clearly illustrate that without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we cannot possibly share the gospel effectively.

One side note: It’s not your job to convert people to Christ. Your job is to share the Gospel. So do your job of sharing the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to do His job of convicting.

4. God is patient with lost sinners.

One other thing we need to keep in mind is that God does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The leaders of Israel had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus, yet God gave them another opportunity to repent and be saved. They had denied and slain their own Messiah, yet God patiently held back His judgment and sent His Spirit to deal with them.

God’s people today need patience as they witness to a lost world.

Had there been times when you lost patience with someone you’re witnessing to because it looked like it wasn’t working? Let me just say that whenever you’re tempted to lose patience with the lost and want to give up, remember how God has been patient with you up until today.

Now, the question you may want to ask is: At what point should we stop trying to convince someone their need of a Savior? If after repeatedly sharing with them the bad news (we are all sinners) and the good news (Christ paid for our sins by His suffering and death) but they’re not interested, I believe it’s time to move on to the next person on your list.

Matthew 7:6 says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” In other words, we should not shove the gospel down the throats of people who do not want it; they will just continue to mock God and His Word.

5. Learn to do basic Apologetics.

One of the most effective tools in witnessing is apologetics, from the Greek word apologia, meaning to give a defense.

We first read this word from Peter when he said in his epistle, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

In short, apologetics is the science and art of defending the Christian faith by using reasons and evidence.

When Peter and John were brought before the rulers, elders, scribes and priests, (including Annas the high priest), and was asked in what power or by what name has he been performing miracle healings, Peter implored apologetics. He gave a clear defense of the gospel by declaring to them the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 4:5-14).

Apologetics - an Effective Tool in Witnessing

Can you give an answer as to why you’re a Christian? Why do you believe Christianity is true? What’s your basis in claiming that the Bible is God’s Word? You do not have to attend seminary school, but as a Christian, you must be able to explain why you believe what you believe.

I often hear many Christians (including pastors) say this to non-Christians: “Just believe.” And I’m like, “What? Seriously?” Haven’t these Christians read how Jesus gave evidence for His claim of divinity by performing miracles? He did not just claim to be God by attributing to Himself God’s name (I Am); He did many miracles to prove it. The climax being His resurrection!

Christianity hinges on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and the historical evidence for the resurrection is very strong and compelling. This alone should be enough to give Christians confidence that they did not believe in vain.

6. Learn Polemics

Polemics is a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.

Polemics is the other side of apologetics. If apologetics is defense, polemics is offense. As Jay Smith always says, “The best defense is a good offense.” In basketball, you don’t win the game just by defending the goal; you win by attacking the basket and scoring against your opponent.

This is not only true in the game of basketball or soccer, but also in witnessing.

While in Thessalonica, it was Paul’s custom to go into the synagogues of the Jews for days, months and even years, to argue and reason with them persuasively from the Scriptures about the kingdom of God. He would explain and prove that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:1-3; 19:8-10).

Do you see what Paul had been doing? He’s on the attack! He did not just wait for the Jewish religious leaders to question him; he went to them and proclaimed the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

So how and where do you begin? You can start the conversation by asking what they believe about life and death, or heaven and hell. Ask them where they think they will go should they die today and why.

7. A changed life is the best defense of the truth of Christianity.

In his evangelistic ministries, Methodist preacher Samuel Chadwick used to pray for “a Lazarus” in every campaign, “some great sinner” whose conversion would shock the community. He got the idea from John 12:9-11.

God answered his prayers in meeting after meeting as infamous wicked individuals trusted Christ and became witnesses through their changed lives.

How to be an Effective Witness for Christ

This is Paul’s exhortation for all Christians in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

You may have heard this exhortation from most pastors about living the faith as followers of Jesus. “Be careful how you live your life because you may be the only Bible unbelievers will ever read.”

Concluding Words

When the disciples asked Jesus what are the signs of His coming and the end of the age, He said to them:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:5-10).

The end is near, the days are evil. Jesus is coming soon. Christians need to work double-time to witness to the lost.

The Great Commission still stands. Are you fulfilling it?


Recommended Resource:  The Case for Christ, Revised & Updated: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus By Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ by Lee StrobelIs there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of God?

Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools like Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis who are recognized authorities in their own fields.

Strobel challenges them with questions like: How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?

In this winner of the Gold Medallion Book Award and two-time nominee for the Christian Book of the Year Award, Strobel’s tough, point-blank questions play like a captivating, fast-paced novel. But it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.

The new edition includes scores of revisions and additions, including updated material on archaeological and manuscript discoveries, fresh recommendations for further study, and an interview with the author that tells dramatic stories about the book’s impact, provides behind-the-scenes information, and responds to critiques of the book by skeptics.

This updated edition will prove even more valuable to contemporary listeners.

When Christians Doubt God

When Christians Doubt God

How long have you been a Christian? Do you ever struggle with doubt? How did you deal with it? You are not alone. Most Christians at some point in their walk with God have struggled with doubt.

Doubt: What is it?

Doubt may be defined as the uncertainty of belief or lack of confidence in something. It is important to clarify that doubt is not the absence of faith. Doubt is when you question what you already believe.

Applied to the Christian life, doubt refers to the lack of confidence in God and His Word that Christians occasionally exhibit.

It is possible that in a moment of infirmity a Christian may doubt the existence of God in spite of the fact that it is not reasonable for a person to disbelieve this obvious truth. As Psalm 14:1 says, “Only the fool will say in his heart that there is no God, for they are corrupt.” Indeed, Faithlessness is Foolishness.

Occasions when Christians Doubt

A Christian is more likely to doubt his salvation after sinning or after a spiritual defeat. A misunderstanding of such verses as 1 John 3:9 contributes to this doubt: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin.” It is crucial to note that this verse speaks of a lifestyle of sin, not instances of sin.

A Christian may also doubt God’s sovereignty or His goodness. In such circumstances as sickness, suffering, injustice, opposition, economic problems, family problems, national calamity, or apparently unanswered prayer, a Christian may be tempted to doubt the goodness of God.

One must remember that it is not always possible to discern God’s good hand in the affairs of life. But the person of faith believes God even when circumstances appear to the contrary.

Sources of Doubt

Why do Christians doubt God? The three common sources of doubt are Satan, the world system, and the Christian himself.

1. Satan

One of the most potent sources of doubt is introduced in the early chapters of Genesis. It is Satan himself who causes Eve to doubt God by questioning His Word.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’” (Genesis 3:1)?

Satan even tries to get the longsuffering Job to curse God (Job 1:11; 2:9).

Satan is also said to be seeking to devour Christians: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

But this statement must not be taken literally; it means that Satan wants to devour the Christian’s commitment to God and their testimony before others. One way he does this is by introducing doubt into their minds.

2. The World

The world system is another source of doubt. Since it has its own set of values and objectives that are opposed to God; it also has its own worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6). This wisdom stands in direct opposition to the wisdom of God taught by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Sources of Doubt in the Christian Life
Photo Credits: The Stream

While worldly wisdom appeals to the senses and emotions of man, thus telling them to follow their hearts, godly wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).

Christians are exhorted by the Word of God to not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2) and to not love the world or the things in this world, for all that is in the world –the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16).

3. Spiritual Immaturity

Probably the greatest source of doubt Christians face is simply their own immaturity.

James traces doubting in prayer to double-mindedness and instability (James 1:6). Paul explains that when Christians doubt sound doctrine, it is because they are children in the faith and thus are easily deceived (Ephesians 4:14).

If we are to overcome doubt, we need to continue seeking God and His will. We must desire to grow and mature in our spiritual walk with the Lord. One of the signs of spiritual maturity is to be able to stand firm in our faith even when things in life get tough.

How to Overcome Doubt

The cure for doubt depends to some extent on the thing doubted. However, the real problem is not in the object doubted but in the subject who doubts. Therefore, the following steps should be taken by the doubting Christian:

a. Confess the doubt to God as sin.

All doubt may be traced ultimately to unbelief in the Word of God, which affirms beyond question the existence and character of God.

While it is okay to sometimes doubt and question why unpleasant things are happening in our life, it is important that we regard doubt as the sin of unbelief and then confess it to God immediately.

Allowing doubt to linger in our life is one way of giving the devil a foothold in us. Thereby, confronting doubt and confessing it to God is the first step towards overcoming it.

When we do confess, God has promised to hear our confession of even the darkest unbelief.

b. Study the evidence for the Christian faith.

Christians have nothing to fear by looking into the facts from any source of knowledge.

The greatest evidence for the validity of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ, is attested by many proofs. Among these are the empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances, and transformed disciples. Since the Resurrection is true, it verifies everything the Bible says.

To read more of the evidence of the resurrection, you may want to grab your copy of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas & Michael R. Licona.

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The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, along with an interactive CD, will prepare you to make a compelling argument for the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, even to those who do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired.

The authors first develop principles by which a historical event can be accepted as true, then apply them to belief in Christ’s rising from the dead, and finally offer sample scenarios illustrating the use of these principles.

c. Make certain of your salvation.

Paul exhorts Christians to examine themselves to make sure they are Christians (2 Corinthians 13:5). So did the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 6:1-9).

Do you really belong to the body of Christ? Have you confessed Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? Are you completely surrendered to God and living according to His Word? Will your faith be proven genuine when tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7)?

Salvation from sin is by simply trusting in Jesus Christ, that is, placing your faith in the finished works of Christ. Until you are assured of your salvation you will be troubled by enormous doubts.

When Christians Doubt God

d. Faithfully study the Word of God.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Through the study and application of the Bible, our faith is strengthened and matured. Most especially, we must master the doctrines or basic teachings of the Bible if we are to be stable, mature Christians (1 Timothy 4:13, 16; 2 Timothy 3:16, Titus 2:1, 10).

When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand in times when doubts start kicking in.

e. Pray.

The surest way to face doubts when they come is to have an extensive history of answered prayer.

The more a Christian prays with faith, the more that Christian sees God answer prayer; the more a person sees God answer prayer, the stronger that person’s faith becomes while the doubt becomes less.

Closing Thoughts

Understand that doubting is normal. Abraham, who is called the father of faith, doubted God several times. When his life was in danger, he lied in order to save himself (Genesis 12:10-13). We thought he learned his lesson and has learned to trust God more. Yet, he doubted God’s promise again and repeated his error (Genesis 20:1-2).

When John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was really the Messiah, or whether they should expect someone else (Matthew 11:1-3; Luke 7:18-20). What? John the Baptist? The cousin and forerunner of Jesus? The one who baptized Him and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him?

John knew the evidence but his sense of being abandoned while in prison brought on emotional doubt.

This can happen to anyone of us and when it does, we can be sure that God understands us and is patient with us. But we need to confess our doubts as sin and trust that God’s presence is with us even when we don’t always feel it (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

We are exhorted by the Word of God to not lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5). Yet, oftentimes, we choose to trust our own heart; we choose to trust ourselves. Do you know that trusting the heart is just another way of trusting in man?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Now, why did the prophet Jeremiah say this? Why did he warn the people to be cautious about the directions and inclinations of the heart?

It has everything to do with what happened to the people of Judah. Instead of giving their devotion and obedience to the true and living God, who had blessed them, the Jews followed the dictates of their evil hearts which eventually led them astray.

The Folly of Trusting You Own Heart

It’s interesting that the Bible calls it foolishness to trust and follow your own heart.

The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. Indeed, our heart often deceives us. It convinces us that heart-fulfillment is the key to happiness. Our heart tells us that if we would just be true to it and fulfill all its desires then we will be happy. However, what we desire is often not what we need.

But the human heart is not only deceitful but also desperately wicked. By following their heart without judging it by the measure of God’s truth, many people have been led to disobedience, rebellion, and eventually great sorrow. I’d say the advice to “always follow your heart” is not good advice at all.

God Has Given Us a New Heart

As believers under the New Covenant, we have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), we have been made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and have become a new man according to the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24).

Ezekiel 36:26

Although there are still some elements of sin and flesh remaining in us and we still have to deal with inward deceit and wickedness, we can be confident that the Lord will give us the strength and grace to overcome. We just need to trust in the Lord to guide and lead us and allow Him to carry out His plans and purpose in our lives.

God searches the heart and mind and knows exactly how to reward each one of us. If we want to know how our hearts are like, we must read the Word and let the Spirit teach us.

God is Continually Transforming Our Hearts

In Philippians 2:12-13, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is working in us.”

A very important note in regard to this verse. Paul is definitely not saying that we must work to earn our salvation. Rather, Paul calls the Philippians (and every believer today) to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. The Christian is to make evident in every area of their lives the salvation that God has given them freely.

God does not automatically make you a sanctified Christian. You have to put the work into it to foster that relationship with God.

It’s kind’ a like a plant. After a seed is planted in fertile soil, it sprouts. That is when salvation occurs, but it is only a baby plant. Now, it needs to grow, but if it does not have the right conditions, it can’t grow.

We need the water of the Word and sunlight. God is described in many places in the Bible as being the Light (Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). We need an unobstructed view of the Light. We need to make sure we do not have any obstructions in our view.

God is our main priority, our main focus. And our main motive is our love for God. You may want to read Deuteronomy 5:29 again.

Has God Changed Your Heart?

As people, we are predisposed to sin. Why? It’s because our hearts desire to sin. We are not able to change that. Romans 7:18 says “nothing good dwells in men.” So when God saves us, He saves us by first allowing our hearts to change.

As I said earlier, sanctification is not automatic after salvation. We did not automatically get a heart for God the moment we got born again. Rather, we need to allow God to work in us and through us. And it starts by submitting to the will of God as shown by our obedience to Him and His commandments.

In his appeal to Israel, Moses urged the people to remember the majesty of God and respect the Word of God. He quoted Yahweh’s own words, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29)!

Obedience is always a matter of the heart, and if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). There is no conflict between the greatness of God and the grace of God, His transcendence and His immanence, for we can love the Lord and fear the Lord with the same heart (Psalm 2:10-12; 34:8-9).

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

As God changes our hearts, we will fear Him more and more. When we love Him, we will keep His commandments. God does not want us to be petrified of Him. He is our Father.

Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

We are children of God and He wants to bless us for our obedience. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30 that we can “swap our burden of sin, for His burden is light.” Why? It’s because we want to live for Him.

Are you serious about putting your heart, soul, mind, and strength into loving God? If not, why not start now? God has done so much for you, how are you going to say thank you to Him?

Closing Words

Why is the human heart deceitful and wicked? Because it often desires things that are contrary to what God wants for us. And if we let our own hearts make decisions without taking into consideration what the Word of God says, we will be led astray.

Let us learn from the Jewish people who allowed their hearts to turn away from the Lord and His truth. Consequently, they made unwise decisions and plunged the nation into ruin.

Search Me O Lord, Know My Heart

Search Me O Lord, Know My Heart

Few people get to know the real us up close and personal. Our parents, our spouse, our children, and our siblings are the only ones who really know us. We act so differently at home than we do at work.

Yet, even our families do not know us completely. Only God does. In fact, God knows us better than we know ourselves. That’s because God sees our hearts. King David recognized the omniscience of God when he said, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me” (Psalm 139:1).

God knows our every thought before we even thought of it. We could not begin a sentence for which God did not already know the end. Because God is omniscient, trying to count all the thoughts of God would be like counting the grains of sand on all the shores of the world.

We Cannot Hide from God

In looking at how God protected and chosen him, David found that it was beyond his capacity to understand all the magnificent deeds the Lord had done (Psalm 139:5-6). David also knew there was no place distant enough, no hiding place small enough, no darkness deep enough to conceal himself from God (Psalm 139:7-12).

Hold on a second, is David describing in verse 8 what we normally think of as hell or Gehenna (Matthew 10:28; 18:9)? Is he saying that even in hell God will be present because there is no place where God cannot be? It appears so. But make no mistake, this does not mean that God dwells in hell the same way He resides in heaven.

O God You Search Me You Know Me

God is transcendent so there is no place that is beyond His reach, even hell. However, we need to understand that God’s presence in hell will radiate none of His grace and mercy; only His righteous judgment.

Because God sees everything, David says to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart … And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). David begins and ends this psalm with a plea for God to search him, to look into his heart and see what he is really like and then to lead him into the way of everlasting.

Life Begins at Conception

David also acknowledged that even before he was born, God knew him in the womb and saw his potential and the life that awaited him (Psalm 139:13-16). The fact that God knows and cares for children in the womb means that God’s concern for life begins at the moment of conception.

Abortionists that say an unborn child is just so much unwanted tissue should read this passage as it demonstrates that God sees another person in the mother’s womb. Most people tend to argue that the mother has the right to do as she pleases with her own body, including the moral right to abortion.

God’s heart must be grieved as He sees so much potential thrown into the dumpsters of our land.

Be Open to God’s Searching Eye

David admitted that God knew him better than he knew himself and that he needed God to search and know him (Psalm 139:23-24). David knew that he could not truly know his heart so he asked God to know him; to examine him and look for some evidence of wickedness, worry, unbelief or misplaced trust.

In the end, David declared his complete trust in God to lead him to everlasting life.

If you asked God to search your heart, what would He see? If you asked God to lead you into the way everlasting, would you be ready to go?

A Clear Conscience

A man on his deathbed called his Christian friend to his house one day. This man was very wealthy and had lived a reprobate life. He had never given to the Lord’s work before, but knowing that he was dying, he wanted to give a generous sum of money to the church.

When his Christian friend asked why, he replied, “I want to have a clear conscience.” His friend knew he needed to face the truth so he said, “My friend, you are rich, but you do not have enough money to buy a clear conscience. You have stolen God’s tithes and offerings all your life. You have abused people with your wealth. Your family has suffered because of your indiscretions.”

O God You Search Me You Know Me

As the man was about to say something, his friend continued, “The only thing that can help you clear your conscience is to confess that you are a sinner, believe that Jesus died for you, and accept Him as your Savior. You need to get right with God.”

The man’s dark eyes blazed with hatred and said, “I am dying. How can you talk to me that way?” His friend did all he could to explain to him God’s gift of salvation but in the end, he rejected it. Death soon came and the man left this world an unrepentant sinner.

He wanted a clear conscience but in reality, he was a bitter, remorseless man.

Tending the Soul

In Mark 8:36, Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Only Jesus could have asked this question. Only Jesus could have possessed all this world’s gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, sapphires, and rubies. He could have had it all, but He knew that riches would not save one soul.

The only way to life everlasting is redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son (Matthew 26:28). Without the shedding of His blood, there is no remission of our sins. No matter how much money we have or how many things we possess, we must come to the place where we give our hearts to the Lord.

Whether we are community-minded, family-oriented, or upwardly mobile, if we have not accepted Christ as Savior, then nothing else matters.

Closing Words

Jesus said, “And all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23). Jesus did not die at Calvary for our comfort. There is no crown without the Cross. There is no blessing without the burden. There is no conquest without conflict.

We are to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Take a stand for the Lord. There are burdens to carry and giants to whip. Put your hand to the plow without looking back. Quit whining about your comfort. We are at war with Satan and his armies.

When God searches your heart, will He find a worthy workman? Will you have accomplished the things that He had envisioned for you to do and be?

Here’s a beautiful worship song called, “Lead Me in the Way Everlasting” based on Psalm 139:23-24. Watch and be blessed.

What is the Fruitful Christian Life?

What is the Fruitful Christian Life?

In the creation story, the very first command given to man by God was “to be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:27-28). Interestingly, Jesus gave the same command to His followers in John 15:16: “to go and bear fruit – fruit that should remain” (or that will last).

But what fruit (or fruits) is Jesus referring to in this passage? What does it mean for a believer to be fruitful? And how are Christians supposed to bear fruit?

The Believer’s Fruit

There are three kinds of fruits that the passage can be referring to: the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of our labor and our good works.

1. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Whenever the Bible speaks of fruit or being fruitful in Christ, it is often in reference to the fruit of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of a believer: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

Notice that these fruits are attributes of God-like love, peace, faithfulness, and goodness. It is expected that these fruits will closely resemble the parent plant, which in this case is the Spirit of God. While it is true that we cannot see in the human heart to know who is truly born again and who is not, we can see the fruit of a person’s life or the absence thereof.

A person who is truly saved and belonging to Christ, having already crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, is now living according to the Spirit. And if he is living according to the Spirit then he is also walking according to the Spirit, thereby making the fruits of the flesh less visible (Galatians 5:24-25).

2. The Fruit of His Labor

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave this command to His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” and He promised, “I am always with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

This mandate is not only for the eleven disciples of Jesus but for every believer in Christ. When we share our faith with others and they respond by acknowledging their sinfulness and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, they become our fruit.

How many persons have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because you cared enough to share the gospel message?

 

Strengthen your faith with Christian jewelry
Strengthen your Faith with Christian Jewelry

3. The Fruit of Good Works

The good works that the believer does can also be counted as fruits. When you show even the simplest acts of kindness to Christians and non-Christian alike that you come in contact with, extend a helping hand to those in need, or share your time and talent (money) in support of your church ministry, you are bearing the fruit of good works.

However, I need to emphasize the cardinal biblical truth that good works do not have any bearing on our salvation. We have been saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus and this is not from ourselves. Salvation is the gift of God, not by our works so that none of us can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The good works we do are fruits of our salvation. In other words, they are evidence of our genuine faith, which is what is needed to receive God’s gift of salvation. This is actually what James is pointing out in his epistle when he said, “Faith without action is dead” (James 2:14-26).

We do not have to prove to God that our faith is genuine; He knows because He sees our hearts. But our good works will prove to others that we are truly saved and we belong to Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Do not weary doing good to others

The Fruitful Life: Abiding in the Vine

If we read the entire passage wherein Christ appointed His followers to be fruitful, He specifically said that the only way they could carry out this task was for them to abide in Him (John 15:1-10). What does it mean to abide in Christ?

The fact that the word “abide” is mentioned eight times in seven verses (John 15:4-10) strongly points out how the branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. In other words, it is crucial to abide in Christ if we are to live a fruitful Christian life.

Note: And if you’re reading from the New International Version, the word “remain” is mentioned eleven times (John 15:4-10 NIV).

After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon and promising the Holy Spirit to abide with them forever, we now come to the seventh and last of the “I am” statements of Christ recorded in the gospel of John.

As Jesus spoke to His disciples probably in the upper room, preparing to leave, He uses the imagery of a vine to describe the new relationship which His disciples are about to enjoy with Him and with the Father. Our Lord is the vine; the believers are the branches, and the Father is the vinedresser (gardener) who tends the vine, removing dead branches and pruning them so that they will become even more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

The Father Prunes

Our heavenly Father is never nearer to us than when He is pruning us. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble, but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing us of spiritual vigor.

Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we certainly need it.

At times the Father also prunes us (the branches) by allowing difficult circumstances and situations in our lives such as poor finances, poor health, misunderstanding and conflict with others, difficult relationships, etc. These trials are designed to bring us to the end of our own strength and will awaken in us a need for a deeper surrender to the Lord.

*Read here: The Christian Response to Trials

How to Live the Fruitful Christian Life

Jesus Christ is the True Vine

Notice how Jesus speaks of Himself not merely as the “vine,” but as the “True Vine.” The vine was a familiar symbol in the Hebrew Scriptures for the nation of Israel (Psalm 80:7-8, 14-17; Isaiah 5:7; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-2). During the Maccabean period, they even adopted it as their national symbol.

However, the use of the vine as an image for the Jewish nation was often used in a negative sense (Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-8; Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 5:1-2). The vine, which is the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, did not bear the fruit that God intended because of their unfaithfulness.

In contrast, Jesus is the True Vine, replacing the Jewish nation and Christians must be rooted in Him if they are to bear fruit for God. The vine and branch picture emphasizes complete dependence and the need for constant connection. Of itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building (John 15:5-6).

The Lord as the true vine is the source of life, strength, and fruit for the branches (believers). The branches obtain life through the vine; they are sustained by the vine and they produce fruit through the vine. The branches then become the visible manifestation of the life of the vine and God’s instruments for fruit-bearing.

Abiding in Christ: Living in Obedience

The abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, but it must be cultivated in the Christian life. It is not automatic. Rather, it is something that we are commanded to do, and which takes effort and action on our part. To abide in Christ the true vine, demands worship, meditation of God’s Word, prayer, sacrifice, service and above all, obedience to God and His Word.

Jesus made this very clear when He said, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9-10). Simply put, to abide in Christ and in His love is to keep His commandments.


By the way, Jesus is not saying here that we abide in His love when we keep the Law. Jesus inseparably joins love and commandment keeping. This is evident when He summed up the Law by two commandments, both of which were commands to love in Matthew 22:34-40.

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

God gave His commandments out of love. What God prohibits, He prohibits for our own good. What God requires, He requires for our own good. God’s commandments are a manifestation of His love for us and He expects us to obey them out of our love for Him.

God’s laws or commandments should be the delight of every Christian because it is a manifestation of God’s love (Psalm 1:1-2). God gave us His commandments to keep us from those things that would destroy us and to point us to Jesus Christ – the One who can save us. So whenever we are tempted to look at God’s commands as something other than the expression of His love, we are headed for serious trouble.

And if we are looking for the best illustration of obedience, we must look no further for Jesus has exemplified the finest illustration of this kind of abiding with His total submission and obedience to the will of the Father (John 8:28-29).

Jesus never acted independently of the Father. In fact, He was completely obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Christ’s obedience made possible man’s reconciliation with God.

What does it mean to Remain in Christ

Conclusion

Living the fruitful Christian life is the calling for every believer. Not that we chose Jesus, the King of kings, but He chose us, He has called us to be His friends and appointed us to be fruitful (John 15:15-16). It is a humbling experience indeed!

And while it brings glory to the Father when the branches bear much fruit (John 15:8), the branches share in the joy of the vinedresser. The joy and satisfaction that go hand in hand with the bearing of more perfect and abundant fruit are not only reserved for the vinedresser, who is the Father but are shared by the branches as well.

Once again, the only way for believers to be fruitful in Christ is to abide in Him. It is our communion with Christ through the Spirit that makes possible the bearing of the fruit. The sooner we as believers discover that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord, for we will know our own weakness and confess our need for His strength.

Are you bearing fruit for Christ to the glory of the Father in heaven?

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

The subject of human suffering is not easy to understand, for there are mysteries to the working of God that we will never grasp until we get to heaven. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? What can we learn from suffering?

Some people argue that the suffering of the righteous is the major obstacle to faith in God. They reason that God cannot be loving and all-powerful if disasters strike good people. Either he doesn’t love His followers enough to take care of them or He isn’t powerful enough to protect them.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

If God’s love or power is defective, He isn’t worthy of human worship and allegiance.

In the Word of God, there are four great examples of believers suffering for the sake of righteousness: Joseph, Job, Jeremiah, and Paul. In this article, we will look at the accounts of Job and Paul and see what we can learn from them.

The Suffering of Job

Whenever Christians speak of suffering, it is impossible to not consider the account of Job. The Bible describes Job as a blameless and upright man; one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).

Job was prosperous in his family life (Job 1:2-3). The events in this book took place during the Patriarchal Age (Job may have been a contemporary of Abraham or Isaac) when a large family was seen as a blessing from God (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 30:1). His children must have enjoyed each other’s company since they met frequently to celebrate their birthdays.

And after each feast, Job would offer special sacrifices to God not because their celebration was wicked and that they needed to repent. It only shows that Job was a pious man and wanted to be sure his family was right with God.

Until it happened that Job suffered the loss of his wealth and the death of his children, all in one day. Then, sometime later, his health failed, and apparently he would never get well.

Finally, his best friends came and accused him of being a secret sinner who needed to get right with God. Add to this Job’s wife who was of the opinion that he should curse God for letting all this misery befall him (Job 2:9). In her eyes, God had obviously failed Job.

Interestingly, Job never found out why disaster struck him. Job knew what had happened, but he did not know why it had happened, and that is the crux of the matter. Because the author allows us to visit the throne room of heaven and hear God and Satan speak, we know who caused the destruction and why he was allowed to cause it.


The Suffering of Paul

Paul who used to be Saul, the number one persecutor of Christianity, but later on became Paul, the number one propagator of Christianity, had suffered quite a lot for the sake of the gospel.

In his second letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul opened his heart to them (and to us) and revealed the trials he had experienced. To begin with, he had been severely criticized by some of the people in Corinth because he had changed his plans and apparently not kept his promise to visit them again (2 Corinthians 1:12-18).

When Christians misunderstand each other, the wounds can go very deep. Then there was the problem of opposition to his apostolic authority in the church. One of the members – possibly a leader had to be disciplined, and this gave Paul great sorrow.

Finally, there were difficult circumstances Paul had to endure. He was plotted against several times (Acts 9:23, 29; 20:3; 21:30; 23:10, 12; 25:3), was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19), was subjected to satanic pressure (1 Thessalonians 2:18), was beaten and jailed at Philippi (Acts 16:19-24), was ridiculed (Acts 17:16-18; 26:24), was falsely accused (Acts 21:21, 28; 24:5-9; endured a number of violent storms at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25; Acts 27:14-20), was beaten by a serpent (Acts 28:3-4) and was forsaken by all (2 Timothy 4:10, 16).

Learning from Suffering

Perhaps the most painful question confronting the believer is the problem of suffering. Why does a loving and wise God permit His children to suffer?

1. Suffering helps bring out the best in us.

While Satan attempts to use temptation and suffering to bring out the worst in us, God uses them to bring out the best in us.

The hosts of heaven and of hell watched to see how Job would respond to his first test: the loss of his wealth and children. He expressed his grief in a manner normal for that day, for God expects us to be human (1 Thessalonians 4:13). After all, even Jesus wept (John 11:35).

But then Job looked up, worshiped God and uttered a profound statement of faith: (Job 1:21). Instead of cursing God, as Satan said Job would do, Job praised the Lord. Anybody can say, “God gave me what I had” or “God has taken it away,” but real faith says, in the midst of sorrow and suffering, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21 NKJV

But Satan does not give up easily, and he returned to God’s throne to ask for His permission to torment Job physically, which the Lord willingly gave (Job 2:1-7). We get the impression that God was confident that his servant would not fail the test.

Satan was absolutely sure that his strategy of suffering (Job 1:11; 2:4-5) would destroy the faith of Job, which the devil consistently misunderstood (Job 1:9-10). After losing all his wealth and children, and afflicted with painful boils all over his body, Job’s faith in God remained firm. His wife told Job to “curse God and die” which was exactly what Satan wanted him to do, but he didn’t (Job 2:9-10).

The two things Job would not give up were his faith in God and his integrity. Even if God permitted evil to come into his life, Job would not rebel against God by taking matters into his own hands. God used Job’s sufferings to bring out the best in him.

2. God uses suffering to silence the devil.

Satan accused Job of merely serving God for the material blessings involved (Job 1:9-11). We might paraphrase it like this: “The only reason Job fears you is because you pay him to do it. You two have made a contract: You protect him and prosper him as long as he obeys you and worships you.”

We can see that Satan’s accusation against Job was really an attack on God. Satan was telling God, “You are not a God worthy of worship! You have to pay people to honor you.” So the Lord allowed the devil to torment Job to demonstrate that His servant loved God because of who He was, and not for what he could get from Him (Job 1:12).

God found no fault with Job, but Satan did. God’s statement in Job 1:8 echoes the description of Job in verse 1, but Satan questioned it. The word “Satan” means adversary – one who opposes the Law. Imagine a courtroom scene where God and Satan each deliver different verdicts. Satan said Job was guilty, but keep in mind that God said, “Not guilty!”

Romans 8:1 NIV

The readers get the sense that Job’s life was a battlefield over which the forces of light and darkness waged war. Satan suffered a tremendous defeat, but Job never knew it. Eventually, Job’s insight into God grew, but that in no way diminished the horror of his suffering.

Some of the so-called tragedies in our lives have really been weapons of God when He is “silencing our enemies and all who oppose us (Psalm 8:2).” We may not know until we get to heaven why God allowed certain things to happen.

Meanwhile, we are to “walk by faith” and say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. Suffering teaches us to depend on God.

In his second letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul began with a doxology (2 Corinthians 1:3). He certainly could not sing about his circumstances, but he could sing about the God who is in control of circumstances. Paul had learned that praise is an important factor in achieving victory over discouragement and depression.

Despite his suffering, Paul was confident that whatever the Father did for Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He is able to do for him and for us today. We are dear to the Father because His Son is dear to Him and we are citizens of the “Kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

We are precious to the Father, and He will see to it that the pressures of life will not destroy us. God enables us to bear trials. But the first thing God must do is to show us how weak we are in ourselves.

Paul was a gifted and experienced servant of God, who had been through many different kinds of trials. Surely all of his experience would be sufficient for him to face new difficulties and overcome them. But God wants us to trust Him, not our gifts or abilities, our experience or our “spiritual reserves” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “God delivered us, will deliver us and will still deliver us” from all trials. Paul saw God’s hand of deliverance whether he looked back, around or ahead. However, God does not always deliver or rescue us immediately, nor does He always rescue us in the same way. Sometimes God rescues us from our trials, and at other times He rescues us in our trials.

We must never think that trouble is an accident. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment. There are only three possible outlooks a person can take when it comes to the trials and suffering of life.

If our trials are the products of “fate” or “chance,” then our only recourse is to give up. Nobody can control fate or chance. If we have to control everything ourselves, then the situation is just as hopeless. But if God is in control, and we trust Him, then we can overcome circumstances with His help.

4. God is glorified through our trials and suffering.

When Paul reported what God has done for him, a great chorus of praise and thanksgiving went up from the saints to the throne of God (2 Corinthians 1:11). The highest service you and I can render on earth is to bring glory to God, and sometimes the service involves suffering.

Every one of us will face various trials and difficulties in our lives. Some may suffer more but as Christians, we must take each situation as an opportunity to show the world how God is still with us and loves us.

Romans 8:18

Through suffering, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the unbelieving world how Christ is more glorious and precious to us than any pain and difficulty we might endure. While others are anxious and wallowing in depression, we have every reason to thank God and rejoice.

When we place our ultimate hope in Christ rather than in the temporary things of this world, such as trials and suffering, God is glorified.

5. Sufferings will produce fruit.

If we allow suffering to accomplish its purpose, it can bring forth patience (James 1:3; Hebrews 10:36), joy (Psalm 30:5; 126:6), knowledge (Psalm 94:12), and maturity (1 Peter 5:10).

For more of this please refer to this article: The Christian’s Response to Trials

6. Suffering can perfect our character and help us to minister to others.

In every church, there are mature saints of God who have suffered and experienced God’s grace, and they are great “encouragers” in the congregation. Paul experienced trouble, not as punishment for something he had done, but as preparation for something he was yet going to do – minister to others in need.

Just think of the trials that King David had to endure in order to give us the great encouragement that we find in the Psalms.

2 Corinthians 1:7 makes it clear that there is always the possibility that the situation might be reversed: The Corinthians believers might go through trials and receive God’s grace so that they might encourage others. God sometimes calls a church family to experience special trials in order that He might bestow on them special abundant grace.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

God’s gracious encouragement helps us if we learn to endure. “Patient endurance” is evidence of faith. If we become bitter or critical of God, if we rebel instead of submitting, then our trials will work against us instead of for us. The ability to endure difficulties patiently, without giving up, is a mark of spiritual maturity (Hebrews 12:1-7).

God has to work in us before He can work through us. It is much easier for us to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Learning God’s truth and getting it into our heads is one thing, but living God’s truth and getting it into our character is quite something else.

God put young Joseph through thirteen years of tribulation before He made him the second ruler of Egypt, and what a great man Joseph turned out to be! God always prepares us for what He is preparing for us, and a part of that preparation is suffering.

Suffering: A Barrier to Faith?

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis admits that when his wife Joy died of bone cancer he felt as though the heavens had become a barrier of bronze between him and God. Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People reports that the issue of the suffering of people who love God is the ultimate theological question for sensitive religious people.

Oswald Chambers wrote in Christian Disciplines, “Perhaps to be able to explain suffering is the clearest indication of never having suffered.” He concluded that suffering is one of life’s “mysteries that awaken all the other mysteries until the heart rests in God.”

That’s the dilemma: Some conclude that the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God impossible; others conclude the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God imperative.

A Father Suffers

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father let the younger son leave home and suffer sorts of consequences of his folly. He also let his older son at home struggle with his bitterness and pride. The father endured the anguish of watching both sons deal with pain.

God the Father made humans free moral agents, and with that liberty set the course for our suffering and His: ours because tragedies occur in a world marred by human sin, and His because He doesn’t prevent the pain of those He loves.

What the Father offers us is a refuge. We can run to Him and cling with all our might and He will comfort us and share our pain, or we can blame Him and stubbornly suffer.

Closing Thoughts

Why does God allow His people to suffer?

Suffering helps bring out the best in us, produces fruit in us, teaches us to depend on God, can perfect our character and help us to become more like Jesus so we can minister to others.

Suffering is also used by God to silence the enemy (Satan) and for Him to be glorified in the lives of His people. God works out His purposes in the trials of life, if we yield to Him, trust Him, and obey what He tells us to do. 

Whatever suffering we are experiencing right now, let us find comfort in the words of God in Revelation 21:4.

Revelation 21:4 NKJV 

Should you have anything else to add or if you want to share your story: the trials and difficulties you went through, please use the comment section below.