Newsletter for Jun 2011
The following story is documented and true: A young lady, age 20, attempted to fulfill her dream of becoming a trooper for the Ohio Highway Patrol. As part of the application process she had to undergo a personal interview at the patrol headquarters in Columbus. Before the standard lie detector test was given, she was asked is she had ever done anything that might affect her performance on the job. “Well,” she replied, “there was that time last June when my husband and I stole a brand new Honda Accord from the Honda dealership in Miamisburg, Ohio.”
In stunned silence, the interviewers glanced at each other, not sure if she was being truthful or demonstrating an odd sense of humor. They finished the interview and then had officers wait inconspicuously for her husband to come and pick her up. In a short time he arrived at the patrol headquarters…driving a brand new – and stolen – Honda Accord! Both he and his wife were arrested without incident and charged with auto theft.
Not only would this lady not be hired as a law enforcement officer, her actions had also established a legacy that will follow her the rest of her life, including making it difficult for her to find any kind of gainful employment. Along the same line, I am more aware than ever that we, as Christians, must recognize that what we do can permanently impact not just our own lives, but also the lives of those around us.
The Apostle Paul wrote powerful letters to many of the early churches. Those letters were inspired by the Holy Spirit and could be considered as manuals for spiritual maturity. In those letters he made some very profound statements about the people and churches to which he was writing.
To the church at Rome: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8)
To the church at Ephesus: Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; (Ephesians 1:15-16)
To the church at Philippi: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5)
To the church at Colossae: We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:6)
To the church at Thessalonica: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
To the church at Thessalonica: We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
In writing to these churches Paul spoke of their faith, mentioning such things as a work of faith, faith that is growing and faith so outstanding it is spoken of throughout the church world. Paul was a man who did not mince words or say things about people just to get on their good side. He made it clear that he was not trying to impress men but wanted only to please and obey God (Galatians 1:10). Therefore, we can be quite confident that these churches were made up of people who knew about and exercised a strong faith in God and His word.
This brings up an interesting question: If Paul were alive today and wrote a letter to the church you or I attend, what would he write about the faith being demonstrated? When it’s “testimony time” in church, nobody stands up and declares that they are miserable, wretched failures when it comes to living by faith. Instead, people talk about how they love God, how they trust Him and praise Him for always being there for them. They may even quote scriptures about walking by faith and not by sight and how it is impossible to please God without faith.
But when it’s prayer request time, some of these “stalwarts of faith” present the same prayer requests over and over…sometimes for years! They’ll talk about how difficult life is and – while tears are cascading down their cheeks – describe their pains, aches, physical woes, financial disasters and how Satan keeps messing up their lives. In other words, they talk a good talk about faith, but they have absolutely no genuine walk of faith, speaking more of defeat than victory.
Taking this a littler further, what if Paul was writing a letter personally to you and me: what would he write about our faith? Do we honestly believe that every word of God is yea and amen? Are our actions and decisions based on circumstance or God’s promises? Do we have works of faith, or faith in works? Like those churches to which Paul wrote, is our faith growing exceedingly and being spoken of by others? If adversity strikes, do we first turn to man or God; what is our confession? Stated differently, what is the legacy of faith we are leaving behind?
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you (1 Corinthians 1:6). It is very easy to stand up and be bold for Jesus in a closed and controlled environment such as a church service or Bible study in someone’s home. But how open and bold are we about our Christianity when we’re “out in the world”? I’m not talking about things such as walking the sidewalks and protesting at abortion clinics. What I mean is, does Jesus ever come up in our conversations with others? If someone were to interview our co-workers, the people in our neighborhood or our extended family, what kind of report would be given? Does anyone “out there” know we are a Christian?
Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:22,
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
That word “hated” means, “hated, detested, persecuted.” If we are truly living a life that is totally committed to Jesus, we will experience some form of persecution sooner or later. We may be laughed at, ostracized by our family, mocked or even physically abused. You see, it is impossible to be sold out to Jesus in a world full of sin and never encounter rejection. Homosexuals all over the world have been “coming out of the closet” to openly declare their sin without reservation. But if anyone has a reason to openly proclaim who they are, it is the Body of Christ. So then, what is the legacy of our testimony for Christ?
In both of his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul spoke highly of their patience. Most people seem to think that patience means forcing themselves to sit and wait for something to happen, while the whole time their insides are churning with anxiety. That is most definitely not the kind of patience Paul was talking about.
The Greek word that Paul used which has been transcribed as “patience” is the word “hupomone” and it means: bearing up under; quality of character that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; the bearing of evils and suffering with a tranquil mind. Without this kind of patience it is easy to allow circumstances, and not the leading of the Holy Spirit, to dictate how we react.
Without the working of hupomone in our lives, trials will hammer our emotions and send us reeling in some form of distress. But unique to this kind of patience is that it cannot be separated from peace. Patience and peace are partners; to claim one without the other is a contradiction. Christians who appear to be stressed out, worried or anxious over the conditions in their life are not living in the patience and peace of God.
Another interesting characteristic about patience is that it is a type of spiritual “tool”. Patience is a method by which we obtain the blessings God has promised us. Many people quote from James chapter two and teach how that faith without works is dead. But how often have you heard that faith without patience fails to produce?
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12)
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:36)
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3-4)
True, genuine, God-pleasing faith cannot be exercised without patience. You see, whenever we determine in our heart to trust God for something He has promised, we either believe He will come through or we don’t. If we expect to see His promises fulfilled, everything in us must believe Him without hesitation. We cannot allow the circumstances around us to have a greater influence on our hearts and minds than what is recorded in His word.
Another interesting aspect of the word hupomone is the fact it is actually a compound word: “hupo” (under), and “meno” (to abide). From this perspective, patience is not just an inner feeling but a dwelling place. Romans 15:4 refers to God as the “God of patience”; or, in other words, “the God under whom we dwell.” This is similar to what David wrote:
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (Psalm 36:7)
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. (Psalm 57:1)
As we dwell under the shadow of God’s wings, or in His presence, we will have an overwhelming sense of contentment and peace. Our hearts will be filled with trust in His provision and the fact that the current calamity will soon be a thing of the past.
Have you ever heard a Christian who is dealing with an adverse problem say something like, “I’m running out of patience,” or, “I just ran out of patience”? Basically, what they are saying is that they have stepped out from beneath the shadow of God’s presence and decided to face their problem alone. When that happens, they are no longer raising the shield of faith but the shield of emotions: the shield of emotions cannot quench any fiery darts but will instead explode in a ball of flaming anger, anxiety, worry and fear.
Ultimately our thoughts, conversations and actions will reflect what we believe the most. What would the testimonies of other people be if they were to share what they have observed in our lives? What kind of legacy are we establishing when it comes to the God-kind of patience?
I believe it would be to our benefit to read again the things Paul wrote in his letters to the various New Testament churches. We should pay close attention to the virtues he commends in each of them. Then, we should take a look at both our own lives and at the churches we attend: do we see the same virtues? One of the greatest legacies we could ever pass along to the generations to follow is that we recognized our shortcomings, and then pressed into God for change.
God’s word is our measuring stick for both success and progress. Man can tell us what God said; God can bring what He said to life in our hearts. The power of His words can produce change. No matter how many shortcomings you see in your own life, make a decision to partner and fellowship with the Holy Spirit to overpower those shortcomings through God’s life in you. Remember, nothing is impossible with God!
Your servant in Christ,