But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isa 40:31
I don’t deal with heights very good. For the most part I agree with my brother-in-Christ Jay, from Vancouver, WA. He says that we are not meant to fly in airplanes because in Matt 28:20 Jesus said “Lo(w) I am with you always”. But there is something about watching birds fly with such great ease through the air from one place to the next. This is even magnified when you watch a bird like an eagle who can soar through the air with great strength and agility. In Isaiah, we can have strength in the Lord and be like the eagles who fly so effortlessly. What a great image for us to carry through our Christian lives. But how do we get to this point to where we can soar with the Lord?
It all starts with “those who wait on the Lord”. The Hebrew word here is qavah (kaw-vah), and it means to either wait for, wait on, or wait upon – to wait or look eagerly for – to lie in wait for – to linger for. I just see an eagle waiting in the air as it soars to find prey that it can swoop in on and carry off for a meal, but this isn’t the type of waiting we’re being called to, because it says waiting on, for, or upon (depending on the translation you’re using) the Lord. We are not going to be searching for prey in this case. We are going to be eagerly lingering for where the Lord is going to take us in our lives. It is more like a waiter or waitress patiently waiting for someone to tell them what they want. Or to be a soldier that is waiting for marching orders from his superior. It is waiting for instructions as to what will happen next in a life that has been submitted to serve another. Do you pray with the thought of taking the Lord’s order so that you can fulfill it? Do you read your Bible with the idea of hearing commands that put you into action? Are you committed to waiting on the Lord?
If you are committed to following the Lord and doing what He says to do, then you “shall mount up with wings like an eagle”. Well, we have touched on eagles soaring in the air watching the ground for prey. It’s also possible that an eagle might just be up in the air soaring for enjoyment – catching the drafts to go higher or lower. But in this passage it is speaking of renewal and strength. Those who wait on the Lord shall be made new and strengthened in their spiritual life. They will be able to not only maintain, but to do greater things for the Lord that will provide more meaning for their own life. Think of the strength in eagle’s wings that makes their soaring seem so easy to maintain. Although they can soar for long periods of time, they need to rest so that they will be able to soon soar again. This can be another thought of waiting on the Lord. We need to find rest in the Lord so that we can be renewed and strengthened to mount up and soar again.
The Hebrew writer put it this way, “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest” Heb 4:1-3. Are you willing to enter God’s rest that He can give you? A rest that can renew and strengthen you spiritually, so that you can mount up with wings like an eagle, to soar in this life instead of trudging from one day to the next. The Hebrew writer here is warning Jewish Christians to not go the way of their forefathers, who heard the word of God, but did not follow it. They tried to go it alone and ended up looking to find rest and pleasure in the wrong places. Places that look like rest and pleasure, but lead to restlessness and displeasure, because they are not in the Lord but something else. This rest for those of the good news, is taking time during the day to spend with the Lord. To search His word and ways to see where He wants you to go. To do as Paul said in Philippians 4:8, to search for what is good and to meditate on it, and then put it in to action. Are you resting in the Lord, so that you can soar with the Lord?
Notice what an eagle does while it is landed and resting. It takes time to preen its feathers. It makes sure there is no unnecessary weight of water or the sort on its feathers. It makes sure that all the feathers on its wings are in place so that it is ready to go at a moment’s notice. The eagle does not want to come up short when it is most necessary. Paul writes about being ready to run and box so that he won’t be disqualified but to win, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable [prize]. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” 1 Cor 9:24-27. Satan and the world are going to try to deter you from winning, but you need to preen yourself, exercise self-control, and buffet your body and mind to win – to soar with the Lord
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to run and not grow weary? Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to run? I’m like you, I watch the young children after services and how they can’t wait to get somewhere and run. To let off the energy that has been building up in them. Ah, to run like I used to as a child and not grow weary. That is what the Lord is calling us to. To spiritually run or soar with the Lord and not grow tired. Did you ever as a child run and put out your arms like you were a bird or a plane? It just seemed like there wasn’t another care in the world at that time except to just keep running. I may not be able to physically run very much anymore, but spiritually I can soar like I have the wings of an eagle. To keep soaring to new levels and being able to handle the lower levels so that I can be back on top.
Sometimes we need to run and soar, but other times we need to just make sure we are walking with the Lord and not becoming faint or weak. Now walking is something that I can relate to better. But this is not physical walking, but spiritual walking. Paul writes, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Gal 5:25. The more we live in the Spirit, the better we will walk in the Spirit. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” John 6:63. Your physical body may be giving out, but spiritually you can soar like an eagle. It’s time to start walking to move forward, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” Gal 5:16. The apostle John encourages us to walk in the light as Christ is in the light, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” 1 John 1:7.
So, you can see that we need to wait on the Lord, we need to rest in the Lord, we need to walk in the Spirit, so that we can soar with the Lord. One thing that eagles are not known for though is banding together with other eagles to become stronger. There are other animals who do, but not eagles. John’s encouragement to us is to “have fellowship with one another”, we are not in this journey alone, but have the church who are all on the same quest. May we fellowship and work together to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” Heb 10:24. Let’s run together so that we can mount up on wings like eagles and serve the Lord together.
Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off. Prov 23:17-18
I need assurance that I’m going in the right direction. There are so many things that can bring me down because we live in a world where the devil is very dominate. That’s if you’re looking in the wrong direction which is pretty easy if you are looking at the majority of media. We want to stay up with the news and hope that we can make a difference for good. But unfortunately, we need to be selective at what we are seeing, what we are thinking, and how we react to the information we are taking in. The proverb above should offer us great hope and confidence in the Lord and offers us direction in how to find it. There is definitely a home in heaven and our hope will not be taken away.
Have you ever thought or heard someone say something like this, “That person is doing so well and they aren’t doing anything to please the Lord like I am”? A sinner where everything seems to go their way and here we are struggling through life. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair, but Jesus said, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” Matt 5:45. Material prosperity will not happen in this life just because you are a Christian, sorry. Those who do not follow Christ are not going to be dirt poor, even though they make bad spiritual decisions. The same material opportunities are going to be offered to everyone under the sun. It’s not all about this life, but the life hereafter. The promise is that if you are obedient to God through Jesus Christ, you have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Another promise is that if you live according to what God instructs you will be able to handle this life and be happy. Paul said, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Rom 6:22-23. So, we shouldn’t envy sinners, because we know the results of a life with God and a life without Him. Actually, we should feel bad for them for only reaping the reward of this life and not life with God.
The next part of the proverb is intriguing. I can understand being zealous for the Lord, but to be zealous for the fear of the Lord seems quite strange to most people. Solomon said at the end for his writings in Ecclesiastes, after speaking about wisdom and foolishness of this world, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” Eccl 12:13-14. Fearing the wrath of God for being disobedient is the inspiration we have for living a life according to God’s will. Fear really only comes into play if we are not living a life according to what God says for us to do. The zealous part comes in striving to do good and to stay away from those things God says displeases Him. That means we really need to study to know God and what His will is by reading His inspired word, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Tim 3:16-17. Everything we need to know to be able to go to heaven is within God’s inspired word to us. Peter wrote it this way, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” 2 Peter 1:3-4. God wants us to be with Him and has given us everything we need to do so. The question is: How much do we want to be with God and in Christ?
All of what has been said so far is not something we only do when the mood moves us. What we need to move us in the right decision is to allow the Spirit of God to guide us – all day long. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore, God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” Heb 4:6-11. Wow! That was a long passage. What it is saying is that there is not just one Sabbath Day to observe, but that every day we ought to be seeking to do God’s will by entering into His rest – today! Many Jews thought that if they just observed and rested on the Sabbath that they were right with God. Many Christians today think that if they are zealous about worshiping God on Sunday they are good with God. That is part of it, but God wants us to seek Him all day long, every day. Paul wrote to the Philippian church as to how to enter this rest, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” Phil 4:8-9. The NKJV says, “meditate on these things”. They are things we need to think about and put into practice every opportunity we can find and we will experience rest and peace in the Lord.
But Doug, I can’t do this all the time! Yes you can in one way or another. When I went to college (at a more mature age) I had a hard time reading and retaining what I read. Not a good thing in college. A sister in Christ was a retired reading teacher and helped out at the college for guys like me. What she taught me to do was that when I was reading, and my mind started to wander so that I didn’t understand what I had read, that I needed to stop when I realized I was doing it and go back and read it again. My task was to get faster at recognizing this and getting my mind in the right place. The more I practiced the better I did. It slowed my reading speed down by a lot, but I understood what I was reading better. After much practice my speed of reading increased, but it took work and practice. If I could do this, then I believe you can do it. Studying God’s word is something we need to practice and put into action in our life. Practice, practice, practice and don’t give up.
The more we can understand that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people, but do the best we can to follow God, we can have confidence in our salvation. Sometimes only a cup of water is required of us, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward" Matt 10:42. Sometimes it will cost us all we have, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it” Mark 8:34-35. What will the Lord require of you? We don’t know exactly, but will you be willing to do it when it is asked of you? God has kept His side of the promise to provide you with a good physical life and to offer you an eternal life with Him in heaven. You can have faith in God to keep His promises. We are told we can have confidence in our salvation, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” Heb 10:35-36. Let’s strive to live a life for the Lord and never give up on the hope we have of heaven through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" Romans 6:14
For most people in today’s world it is hard to understand being a servant and having someone be your master. It carries with it negative connotations of abuse, oppression, or total domination. We like being the master of our own lives and doing or saying whatever we want. But if you are like me, it’s hard making the right decisions and go in the right direction without some kind of guidance. I’ve learned in my life that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know who or what on this earth to trust. I said on this earth, because if there is one thing I do know, it is that I can trust and follow Christ as my master. Paul in the Romans 6, makes this point, spiritually you have two choices on who will be your master for eternity, Christ or Satan. His question from that passage is who will you allow to be your master?
One thing that God did, for better or worse, is to create mankind with the ability to choose to obey or not to obey Him. If you will obey God, He will guide, provide, and protect you. But if you don’t choose to obey Him, then you have defaulted to the one who looks to separate you further from God, and to have you share in his punishment for sin. God has made every effort to encourage each one of us to choose Him as our master, and to be the One to guide our lives with His all-knowing ways and love He has for us to succeed in this life. In the World Bible School booklet “This Is Good News: The Heart of the Good News” there is this passage “God's answer breaks the hardest hearts: Why? "Because I love you! I care what happens to you. I want you. I choose you. Despite your 'transgressions' - all you have done against Me - My great love, mercy and grace reach out to rescue you." It’s amazing to know that God has these kind of feelings for us, that anyone would care about us this much, and want to help us to go through a life that is often very hard to deal with.
You see, the master/servant relationship didn’t use to have a bad meaning. Yes, there has always been abuse that gone on in this kind of relationship, but it is what most people in times past relied on to be able to exist. Landowners or noble people, who had the means to support other people, would take on single, married, or even families to work on their land or within their homes. They offered a place to live, eat, and be protected from outside sources. For many centuries, this was the way of most the population to be able to live. There were many servant/slaves who were bought and sold in many nations – some with the ability to purchase their freedom, or work it off, and some who were indentured for life. Under the Law of Moses, a servant could serve six years and on the seventh year go free, but if he came to like his life as a servant under this master and situation, he could choose to be a servant for life. “But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever” Ex 21:5-6. Being a servant and having a master can be a good thing – okay, I’d really have to think whether I wanted my ear pierced that way, but yeah, to keep a good life with my family I’d do it.
The Lord wants to be our master and wants us to serve Him, but He wants us to serve Him only. As Rom 6:14 says, He rules with grace not with a law that makes us feel oppressed. It is through God’s great love and mercy that He shows us grace and saves us from this life and from our own wrongdoings, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved" Ephesians 2:4-5. Paul writes this to the Ephesian church as one who knows what it is like to have sinned and worked against the Lord and was shown mercy and grace, as he relates to Timothy, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life" 1 Timothy 1:13-16. Paul, even the worst of sinners, was forgiven by the Lord and given the opportunity to serve God through Christ Jesus.
From the conversion that Paul went through, and as becoming a Christ follower, Paul identified himself as a servant, a slave, or even to the extent of calling himself a prisoner of Christ, understood that Christ was His master and he would serve Him all his life. Is that what we understood and determined to do when we were converted and baptized into Christ? I wonder if there is that same allegiance to nthe one we have given our life to when we submit to baptism. Possibly we don’t realize the love that has been shown to us. Possibly we don’t feel we had that many sins to forgive and not much grace was needed. Possibly we were joining an institution rather than a way of life. Possibly it could be for a number of reasons. The point is, do we fully realize what our commitment to being “in Christ” really involves and what it means. We need to understand that on our own merit we don’t deserve heaven. We need to realize how much the Lord loves us and wants us to be with Him. We need to accept Christ as not just the Son of God who took away our sins, but that He is our Lord and Savior and we owe Him our whole life.
By being “in Christ”, we have died to ourselves so that we can have a new life, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” Rom 6:3-4. It’s no longer us who lives, but Christ through us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” Gal 2:20. We don’t belong to ourselves anymore, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” 1 Cor 6:19-20. It’s pretty humbling to understand that when you were baptized into Christ, you committed your life to being a slave because you were bought with a price, isn’t it? The question is, what will you do with this understanding?
Don’t let this be considered as a bad realization, but a good one. You see, even though you have become a slave of the Lord’s and hopefully to righteousness, God also considers you one of His children and a co-heir with Christ to inherit a home in heaven, “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.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” Rom 8:15-17. But look at the end of that passage. There’s an “if”, “if indeed we suffer with Him” do we receive the glory of inheritance with Him. This requires us to do something, to pick up our cross and be willing to serve Him to the point of death, even on that cross, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it” Mark 8:34-35. We need to join with Paul, and the other followers of Christ, to show our love for all, that God through Christ, has done for us and be willing to become a slave of Christ. I’ll leave you with what Paul said to Timothy, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing" 2 Timothy 4:8. Isn’t that what we all want to say. May God bless us all as we look to serve the Master.
I love you all, Doug.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:3-10
One of the things I’ve been working on in my life recently, and is a lifelong pursuit, is learning to control my attitude towards people and things that happen. Whether it is because of a world that seems to be in chaos, health problems, or personal challenges, many of us find ourselves having a hard time coping with things [things = situations too numerous to list and sometimes hard to explain] that happen in life. All of these situations lead us away from God’s intended path for our lives. Jesus in the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, starts out with what are commonly known as The Beatitudes. This is a good name because we are called to form an attitude in our life that helps us to live in the world deal with other people.
A book that I have been reading lately, to help with my attitude, is call "A Faith Not Worth Fighting For". It deals with handling situations that arise in peaceful ways. There are a lot of good points in these essays that draw me to Jesus’ listing of the Beatitudes, because it is the beginning of Jesus’ teachings of how we are to change our attitude to live and be a light to the world. A quote from this book is, “The purpose of creation and redemption is for God to dwell with God’s creatures and vice versa. This cannot, however, be accomplished in any haphazard way. It is not simply a function of will; it requires that we participate in the holiness that characterizes God’s own perfections.” We are being called by God, through His Son Jesus Christ, to live in holiness that represents God’s own holiness. Our pursuit should be to apply these attitudes to our lives so that we reflect God to others.
If you look at the Beatitudes listed above in Matt 5:3-10, the first four are towards creating a right relationship with God. The last four are how we present ourselves to others. It goes back to Christ’s summary of the Law of Moses, "'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" Matt 22:37-40. In all of these attitudes, it is to show Christ in our life and to be “blessed”, or it can also be translated “be made happy”. Either way they are ways to make our life better.
The first Beatitude is to be “poor in spirit”. This can be looked at in two ways: to see yourself as a sinner as you approach the throne of God, not as a Pharisee, but as the tax collector, a sinner. The other way is to see yourself as poor no matter how many material items you have accumulated in your life. Such as with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" Job 1:21. In either situation, it is realizing that God is God and you are not. It is realizing that no matter how great you have become in this world; you are as nothing in comparison to your Creator. This goes along with what James writes, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” James 4:10. It’s hard to be lifted up if you’ve already done it yourself.
Next, is be one that “mourns”. As Coffman’s Commentary say, it seems to be a contradiction to say “Happy are those who grieve”, but it is actually what it means. It is coming before the Lord and acknowledging with sincerity the sin you have in your life. It is to become justified with God so that you are at peace with Him, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Rom 5:1. It is being truly sorry for the thoughts you’ve had and/or things you have said or done. It makes you mourn until you have been made right with God, then happiness and blessedness is felt because of it.
Next, is those who are “meek”. This is much like “poor in spirit”, but this goes a little bit further in not only humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord, but having that humbleness in the sight of others. Paul calls us to have the mind of Christ, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” Phil 2:3. The question can be raised, if we can’t humble ourselves before others, how can we truly humble ourselves before God? I believe it takes more strength to be meek than it does to act aggressively towards others. Being aggressive and intimidating is the easy way out. It takes a lot more to stand firm without attacking.
The next beatitude is to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. This is the one that stands out to me the most and the promise that goes with it is to be filled. In our lives, it should not be what the world would do or thinks we should do, but to constantly think what would God want me to do? We need to hunger and thirst to know what God’s will is. Too many times we think the situation out on our own terms and then believe that God will back it up. That’s the opposite of what Jesus is calling us to do in this verse. Hunger and thirsting for righteousness is delving into God’s word constantly and putting that knowledge into practice. David wrote, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” Ps 63:1.
In Matt 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy”. To be merciful is to show compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. It begs the question, how merciful are we towards others even though they may not be merciful towards us? I don’t know about you, but when someone doesn’t treat me or my family right, I have the tendency to react in a not so merciful way. Paul says to respond with kindness, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Rom 12:17-18, 21. And going back to Philippians, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” Phil 2:1-2.
The next attitude is to be “pure in heart”. The heart in Scripture is centered in the mind and controls thoughts and feelings. A book I read years ago, pictures the heart as a house and deciding which rooms you would allow the Lord to come into. I’m afraid we have rooms in our hearts that are messy, and we don’t want company to come in and see, let alone the Lord. The mess is sins that are private and long held onto, but it needs to be like the TV ad for letgo.com. In the ad a friend is able to put the unneeded item another person is having a hard time letting go of online to be sold. Sometimes we need to open up our messy room and allow our private sins to be let go and sometimes it takes a close friend to help us get rid of them. Jesus wants to be the friend that helps us clean up those private rooms in our heart. As David wrote as he was repenting of his sin with Bathsheba, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” Ps 51:7-9. Don’t let sin settle into your mind and heart where is pollutes the soul, but come to the Lord and let it go.
We are also called to be peacemakers. Jesus is telling us that if we want to follow Him and be His disciple, that we need to bring peace to all situations and with all people, as Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Rom 12:18. There are going to be times when it isn’t possible, but as much as it is in our ability, we need to find a peaceful solution. Paul instructs us to have a bond of peace, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” Eph 4:3. A bond is something that brings two sides together and makes them one. This passage is speaking to the church, but aren’t we the church wherever we go and whoever we come into contact with? Let’s be part of a solution that brings peace to others, and in an extension to that, to ourselves.
Finally, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake”. This pertains for those who are attacked verbally and/or physically for standing up for God’s will, and going along with the rest of the Beatitudes, not returning ill will in response. There are going to be times when the world is not going to agree with our belief and our actions in being a Christian. Jesus is telling us to stand firm under such trials. Paul understood this by the way he was treated for taking the gospel to the Gentiles. So he tells us how to stand firm when it seems as though the whole world is against us, “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Eph 6:10-11. Paul goes on to describe what that armor is. It’s not physical armor, but spiritual. If fact, if we can apply the whole armor of God to our lives it will help us, not only to stand in times of attack, but to apply the other Beatitudes to our lives. May we always strive to have the right attitude, the attitude of Christ.
“By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:5-6 NASB
“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6 NIV
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I question, “Is this all there is to this life?” It feels like there should be more to it. Then there are times when “my cup runneth over” and I want God to take some of it away. We want more! We want less! Instead of wanting to walk as Jesus did. I believe, that much too often, we look at our lives the way the world does instead of how Jesus walked through His life. To live a life of service, not having a place to lay His head, and ultimately giving His life so others could live – “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death; even death on a cross!” Phil 2:8. I think after a while of serving Christ, Paul caught on to walking as Jesus did, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” Phil 4:11-13. Walking as Jesus did is living in contentment with the situation God has you in at the moment and knowing that He will give you strength to do what He has called you to do.
We all have different backgrounds that we have come through. We all have different situations that we are living in. What we still have the opportunity to change is our future. Oh, maybe not the situation we are in, but our attitude of how we go through it. A preacher Peggy and I had years ago, Leonard Woods, said that if you had everyone write down their own personal situation, and you had them put those pieces of paper into a paper bag, shook it up really good, and then had everyone draw a piece of paper. That piece of paper you drew, is the situation you would get to have from then on, he said, you would probably want yours back. Our situation always looks worse until we take some time to walk in someone else’s shoes. How would you like to walk in Jesus’ shoes? Earl Graham would like the carpentry part. I know we would like to help people to overcome their difficulties of life. And it sounds cool to be able to do miracles and signs. But there is more to Jesus’ life than that. Why was He able to do all these things and more? Yes, He was God on earth, but there is more to Jesus’ life on earth than even that. He was one with His Father in heaven and served on earth to do God’s will.
We can walk as Jesus did if we take time to observe Jesus’ life. Even as a young boy of twelve, Jesus looked to do the will of His Heavenly Father. Jesus and His family had come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, and as they were leaving to go home, Jesus’ parents noticed He was gone and started looking for Him. Okay, it was a day before they noticed He was gone, and then took three days of looking in Jerusalem before they found Him. When they found Him He was “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” Luke 2:46. How would you have reacted as His parent? Be careful. When they found Him, what was His response? "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Luke 2:49. Yeah, I might have lost it a little bit at that point. But then in verse 51 and 52, look at what it goes on to say, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Even at a young age, Jesus wanted to be with those who knew about God the Father. He wanted to be around those who could teach Him so He could grow in wisdom and stature, not physical stature here, but a good standing with God and men. So, wanting to walk as Jesus did means seeking to know God and all about Him. God watched over Jesus in His life and provided for Him and God will do the same for us. Jesus never took that for granted, but stayed in a loving relationship with the Father, even as He went on into His ministry to the people in Judah and Galilee.
Many times Jesus got away by Himself and prayed to God the Father, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” Matt 14:23. This is right after He had fed the 5,000 plus, and just before would save His disciples from the storm in the sea, by walking on the water out to them. It was in the between two acts of doing something for those close to Him and people in general. Jesus stayed in contact with God the Father as He was doing the mission of God. Even at the time of His arrest Jesus sought to get away to have time to pray to His Father for strength, “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me" Matt 26:36-38. Jesus not only wanted private time with God, but He wanted His closest friends/disciples close to him while He was deeply distressed and sorrowful. We need to understand, that as we serve God and go through trials, we need to draw family and friends closer, not push them away thinking we can handle it ourselves. But, there are also times, like with Jesus, that it is going to be just between you and God. He is the only One you can get you through, even if He cannot take us out of the situation we are in. Paul teaches us that during this time, the answer from God could be, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9
We not only need to pray to God to know Him and His will for us, but to put our faith as disciples into action. In a book that I am reading, I came across this, “Christian discipleship, understood as the radical call to follow Jesus, is a passionate affair. It is a journey and a lesson in obedience, in which Christians actively engage in the work and mission of God. There is no such thing as an inactive disciple” D. Stephen Long. In obedience, we need to have the attitude of Christ and show it through our service to God and others. We need find ways to be obedient to God and to serve as disciples of Christ. Phil 2:1-5 is a great passage that shows how our devotion to God and Christ should be. It begins and ends with, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ . . . Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” In between, it speaks of not thinking you are too good to serve others. The passage goes on to tell of how Jesus humbled Himself to the very nature of a servant and He was obedient to God even to His death. If Jesus humbled Himself in order to serve God and others, then we need to do likewise in world we live. I don’t know what opportunities God will put in your life to serve others, but if you are a Christ follower you cannot be inactive, but need to find ways to serve God and others.
Finally, Jesus could have been born into a rich and influential family. He could have taken those riches and influence to gain a following. He could have been their teacher and leader to make Christianity a worldwide power. He could have, but He didn’t. Others have tried, but it doesn’t go so well because Christianity shouldn’t be a world power, but on a volunteer basis to serve those in the world. Jesus’ ministry was always about the people who God loved (John 3:16). He came to show God to those people and offer them a way to live in this life so they could be with God afterwards. He came as a sacrifice for us so that we can have a right relationship with God the Father, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Matt 20:28. What are you willing to give to walk as Jesus did? I’m not talking necessarily about money or material things, although they may be needed, but what will you give of yourself and your time? What is in the way of you giving of yourself to the Lord? The Lord knows that there are a lot of things in this world that can take up our time and offer comfort and pleasure. He doesn’t deprive us of those things. But, where do they stand in your life compared to walking as Jesus did? I pray that our need for self does not overcome our need to serve God as Christ did. I not only write to you, but to myself. I love you all, Doug.