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Posts Tagged ‘endurance’

Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here – not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip – I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles – a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time – knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Burnout, Dealing with Difficulties, Encouragement , , ,

Faith, Love, and Hope

September 14th, 2016

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

New Testament scholars put 1 Thessalonians among the earliest of Paul’s New Testament letters – perhaps the first he wrote. He and Silas came to Thessaloniki after evangelizing at Philippi, and initially they found great response among the Jews, so they remained for some time. But then opposition arose and due to the threat the “brothers” sent Paul and Silas to Bearea (Acts 17:1-10). Probably, Paul wrote his first and second letter to the Thessalonians from Corinth, around 52-53 A.D.

He was especially concerned that they would continue in their faith and witness for Christ – not out of fear that they who had believed might lose their salvation, but out of a concern that they might lose the opportunity of the moment, and lose the momentum of the Christian movement in that part of the world.

In these two verses the apostle revealed the depth of the faith of these early believers, and gives us desirable traits for our faith as well. The people of Thessaloniki were not remarkable in themselves, rather it was the remarkable character of the gospel of Christ and, especially, of the Holy Spirit that transformed them.

The outward signs of their faith: Their faith prompted “work,” “labor,” and “endurance.” He did not mean that their work had produced their faith, but that their faith had produced their work. These three words build in crescendo. The first, “work,” means those disciplines and responsibilities that are the normal expectations of Christians – study, worship, prayer, evangelism, teaching, encouragements to one another, helping the needy, serving and organizing the church, etc. Every Christian is called to “work” for Christ.

The second, “labor,” means intense toil, difficult work, and depicts the ministry of Paul in those days, as he said, “our labor” (1 Thes. 3:5). But every Christian is also called to a life that might involve rejection, persecution, and even martyrdom. To follow Christ is to pick up one’s cross – the instrument of our death – and follow after Christ. It was faith in the gospel and in Christ that had prompted their “work” but it was love that had prompted their “labor,” and so it is with us. The believers who love the Lord, who are captivated by His love for them, are those who labor for Him.

The third, “endurance,” means the spirit to continue to work and labor when things get difficult. Without a spirit of endurance nothing really important is ever accomplished in life. No where is this fact more true than in the gospel and in our service to Christ. Without endurance, our work and witness will fade away when opposition gets difficult, or, when there is no apparent opposition, when things seem tedious and dull.

We need merely to look at the history of the expansion of the Church of Christ anywhere on earth and we will see how these three have played themselves out. The early Baptists of England embraced by faith the gospel, then they faced opposition so they toiled for Christ, and then they endured persecution and continued to serve. The translation of the Bible into English was a labor of several generations – with work, labor, and endurance evidenced through it all.

Puritan Scholar Adam Clarke wrote:

This verse contains a very high character of the believers at Thessalonica. They had FAITH, not speculative and indolent, but true, sound, and operative; their faith worked. They had LOVE, not that gazed at and became enamored of the perfections of God, but such a love as labored with faith to fulfill the whole will of God. Faith worked; but love, because it can do more, did more, and therefore labored – worked energetically, to promote the glory of God and the salvation of men. They had HOPE; not an idle, cold, heartless expectation of future good, from which they felt no excitement, and for which they could give no reason, but such a hope as produced a satisfying expectation of a future life and state of blessedness, the reality of which faith had descried, and love anticipated; a hope, not hasty and impatient to get out of the trials of life and possess the heavenly inheritance, but one that was as willing to endure hardships as to enjoy glory itself, when God might be most honored by this patient endurance. FAITH worked, LOVE labored, and HOPE endured patiently. (Adam Clarke, 1760-1832)

The inward reality of their faith: We work outwardly for Christ because He works inwardly within us. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13, NKJV). Later in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul would use these three – faith, hope, and love – and speak about their “abiding” nature (1 Cor. 13:13). What are the three meanings connected to their use?

The abiding spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13:13 means that these are of an eternal nature. Faith is confidence in God, and is expressed through embracing the truth of His Word. In heaven the nature of our faith experience will change – on earth to walk by faith means to walk without sight. Yet in heaven we will still believe in the sense of possessing confidence in God.

Hope is also an eternal, abiding aspect of our experience with God. Again, on this earth we hope for what we cannot see and embrace the promises of God through faith from afar (Heb. 11:1,13). Yet in heaven we will still have hope, hope in the sense of expectation that God will continue to be true to His nature and His promises.

Love is called the most important, or the greatest, because it exerts the greatest influence on our lives. Logic, like faith, may lead someone to a certain set of assumptions – such as the goodness in one’s nation’s advancement. Yet logic alone will not make someone an martyr – it takes love to do that. This means that love is more than a fleeting emotion. It is the awareness of how greatly God cares for us, Christ died for us, and He touches us with His love until we love Him in return, and love others whom we have never met.

In heaven we can be assured that love will be at its greatest, and our salvation is bound up in the purpose of Christ to share with us the love that exists between Him and the Father: “That the love which You have for me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

There are some who say that we will not have faith and hope in heaven, only love, but I believe that is a misunderstanding of Paul’s statement that these three “abide.” When everything else that we associate with Christianity is gone, these three abiding: confidence in God, expectation of His victory, and awareness of His love.

Applications: For us to strengthen our work, we must strengthen our faith. To deepen our endurance we must deepen our confidence in Him and our expectation of His final and ultimate victory. To fortify our labor, we must let His love fortify our hearts. Whom we love we serve. 

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