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Resting in Confidence

December 26th, 2018

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. He who goes out weeping, bearing a trail of seed, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves of grain. (Psalm 126:5-6 BSB)

The psalmist makes a spiritual analogy from farming life, that the one who goes forth planting seed should expect a harvest, and even if the planting or sowing is done in difficult conditions – even with weeping – there will come a time of rejoicing at the harvest.

God empowerment or self empowerment

In today’s world, especially in the developed world, increasingly the emphasis is on self-empowerment and cultivating the attitude that takes charge of life. We see this in management seminars that teach people to prepare purpose statements, strategic objectives, goals and aspirations, and measurable steps to get where they are going. But it is also the spirit of the age that has a growing confidence of what we can do. People are taught today to see themselves as empowered agents who can change their surroundings and achieve their goals in life.

This is not all bad – not at all. People should set goals and confidently seek to achieve those in their life. As someone who has been the senior pastor of some large church for the past twenty-five years, overseeing ministerial staff members, I have encouraged my staff members to make concrete goals for their ministry. Yet in life, and even in the Christian life, we can take this concept in a direction that leaves God out of it. James rebuked the people of his day and age along these same lines and wrote:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your proud intentions. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin. (James 4:13-17 BSB)

The greatest need for our age and for every age is to know and experience the empowerment of God. The passage above from Psalm 126 does not teach us that those who set out on a certain course of their choosing, and stay the course, will inevitably find success regardless. Rather the point is that those who go God’s way, who believe His promises, who teach His Word, who witness to His grace, power, and redemption, they who plant the seed of the word of God in the lives of people will eventually see these come to fruition. We human beings are capable of failure, but God never fails. We read:

For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 BSB)

Even for those who reject His Word and His witness, the Word achieves the goal of condemnation.

Sowing in tears

This psalm came out of the judgment of God for the Hebrew nation’s sins, which resulted in the Babylonian Captivity. Puritan scholar Matthew Henry pointed out:  “God sent them into captivity, not as dross is put into the fire to be consumed, but as gold to be refined.” So it is always with God and His children. The tears are not useless, but rather they become part of the planting process of God. And trouble and hardship, when faced with knowledge of the Word of God become instruments He uses to grow us. Our tears are like the rain that waters the ground where the seed falls.

Our tears are not the seed, and some people just become bitter in hardship, but if we can remain fixed to the purposes of the cross and of grace, and keep reading and meditating on His Word we find that these tears help to nurture and to fertilise God’s truth in our hearts.

Reaping in joy

But what is spoken of here, and what the emphasis in the Bible on this matter of purpose and planting the truth of God, is not merely about self-development, but about sharing His love with others. The sheaves he is talking about represent those who trust the Lord through the seed of God’s Word that we have planted in their life.

The seed must also be planted in ours, but not in ours alone. We cannot stand before Christ and find a suitable answer in the Bema Judgment in the purpose of our life goal that we focused only on our growth and let our neighbours remain lost. Rather the purpose of every Christian must be aligned with the Great Commission to make disciples of the whole world. We do this work the best – just like farmers do – when we work with others. We all have some role to play in this matter.

But I believe that in the truly spiritual person these matters become intertwined with one another – our growth and our neighbour’s salvation and growth – until we cannot always completely separate the two. We invite people to come to Christ, but also to come and sit with us at the table of grace as our brothers and sisters. It is the family of God that rejoices in the common effort and common purpose and shared character.

Resting in Confidence

So we can rest peacefully in God and in the power of His grace, confidently and calmly. Leave the time and means and nature of the future harvest to God. We can rest in His promise. Though there may be times when the Spirit will place on our hearts the urgency of this matter with some people, and call us to act quickly and immediately, we never should do this in a spirit of insecurity or anxiousness. We can attend to the task of planting His truth and letting God bring the increase in His time and in His way.

 

Psalms

Knowing the Joyful Sound

December 18th, 2018

Blessed are those who know the joyful sound, who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15 BSB)

Do you know the joyful sound of God?

The phrase “joyful sound” is one single word in Hebrew – teruah – and it was used in the Bible in two distinct ways: (1) the trumpet blast of a call to battle; and (2) the sound of victory and praise after the battle. In that context it was often used for the worship, faith, and praise from God’s people. If we will know the joyful sound of God we need to know both of these meanings: the call to conflict and the call to victory over the enemy.

When we face obstacles to our Christian walk – temptations, rejections, discouragements, struggles – we are to face them confidently. The one who knows the joyful sound of God is the spiritual soldier who is confident in spiritual warfare of the ultimate and complete victory of God. He shouts no less enthusiastically and confidently at the beginning of the struggle than he will at the end. The victor starts and ends each battle with the joyful sound of victory.

We have victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was born at Bethlehem and who died on Calvary is risen and reigning and coming again. And Christ calls us to “do battle” for Him. The spiritual conflict we are engaged in is called warfare. We stand firm against the onslaught of temptation and discouragements. We do not fight alone, rather we fight in the strength of the Lord Jesus. “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). That which was physical warfare in the Old Testament is spiritual warfare in the New.

We are to put on the whole armor of God and to stand in His strength against the enemy:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:10-17)

This battle shout or trumpet battle blast was done in faith, in confidence of the Lord’s victory through His people. It was said of kings in that day that they never entered a battle unconfident of victory, rather the king’s belief in his army’s victory was contagious and buoyed up their confidence and hopes as well.

For us, we have more reasons to be confident in the ultimate victory of Christ – for He has already conquered death and has enabled us to stand in faith in Him. He is our victory and our confidence, and we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5). But through John God also said that faith is our victory.

By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, because everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. Who then overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)

Greater is he who is in us that he who is in the world, and we can live through faith in victory and spiritual peace. Each of us has many failings in our past, and many temptations around us, but if we will live in faith in God, in the ultimate and complete victory in Christ, then we can also live in constant victory.

Enter each battle of temptation and trial in the confident victory shout of Christ, and He will bring you through.

 

Psalms, temptation