IMO, this is Jon Voight’s greatest moment. A study in courage and truth. May God bless.
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:1-13
Paul’s theme here is that God comforts those in affliction. He does so, and then those who have been comforted are able to comfort others. Thus the ministry of Christ is multiplied throughout His body.
Christ’s comfort is made manifest alongside His affliction. Todd White has said that we are given the Comforter because God knew we would find ourselves in places where we would need comfort; where the comforts of this life and self-comfort would not be enough. We would need supernatural comfort, available only from God.
So when we are afflicted, we are comforted. And when we are comforted, we can comfort others. When we afflicted, we do not afflict others, as many in the world actually do; instead, through the Holy Spirit, we comfort others. The focus in all cases is on comfort, not affliction.
The hidden key to all this is in verse 6, where Paul says we must patiently endure our sufferings. Some – indeed, many – of the good things of God are only obtained through patient endurance in His course of discipleship. Hebrews 13 brings out how discipline is grievous in its time, but afterward brings forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Righteousness – being fully reconciled to God, not only forensically but manifestly, practically – is exactly what we need in order to overcome the hurdles of this life. Righteousness is akin to Christlikeness, for as we are conformed to the likeness of the Savior we increasingly take on His character. Christlikeness is the be-all and end-all of our program of sactification, for God intends that we fully become sons of Light, and no darkness will be permitted in His presence in the coming Kingdom. Therefore we must change.
Time and again during His ministry, the Lord Jesus warned His followers that the way would be hard. “Cramped and narrow is the way that leads to life”, while “broad and spacious is the way to destruction” He tells us in the Sermon. We must “hate” parents, family, even our own life, if we are to be His disciples, He warns. This is not a carnal hatred of the intrinsic thing, it is a putting of God first, not allowing anyone or anything, no matter how dear to our souls, to interfere with His purposes.
And so, in Asia, for whatever reason, Paul and his company were burdened, even beyond their ability to endure. It is often said that God does not give us more than we can handle. This is not an accurate reading of 1Cor 10.13 It says there that God will provide the way out, so that we can endure it. In other words, God will add His strength to ours, so that we can endure what was unendurable. That’s a whole different ball game. Once we understand that, we stop praying for an easy life, and we start praying for strength. It’s sometimes right to pray for escape (as the disciples did when Peter was jailed), but if continuing in it is against the will of God, we will get weaker. But if we pray for strength, we will grow in spirit and overcome all obstacles. We have to test the spirits.
So Paul went through that process in Asia. He was burdened beyond his ability to endure, but Holy Spirit came and “took hold on the other side” (which is, by definition, what the Para-klete does), and aided him. He endured and ultimately overcame. And now he was writing the Corinthians, not preaching a gospel of ease and pleasure, but giving comfort and helping them to overcome their afflictions.
The affliction Paul endured was so great it felt like a sentence of death, causing Paul to despair of life itself. Have you ever been there, despite being in Christ? God allows us to fall into situations where life puts its finger on the deepest root issues of our hearts. Under this pressure, we are in great pain and our strength is taken from us. We does God allow this? He cannot share His glory with anyone. Sanctification is ultimately His work, not ours, and He reserves its deepest work for His hands alone. This is why He denied Paul’s request for removal of his “thorn”, explaining, “My grace is sufficient, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2cor 12).
Paul learned in his darkest moments to trust neither in man nor in himself, but in God alone. This is advanced Christianity. If you learn this lesson, no failure of brother or church will derail you. It will hurt to go through, but your strength will be in God, not fallible man, so you will not stumble utterly.
Paul testifies that God did deliver him from that dark trail. Then he says an interesting thing: he trusts that God will deliver him again. We should not think that Paul’s trial was a one-time affair. No, that trail had come and gone, and Paul was now faced with fresh challenges. Perhaps the current trial wasn’t as great as the one in Asia that led him to despair of life. We are not told. But the significant thing is that Paul’s life was filled with trials, and those who want to live godly in Christ Jesus should expect no different.
That is not to say the life of the Christian is all drudgery. That would be a radical misstatement. While we do have adversities, afflictions and trials in this life, we also have the comfort and joy of Holy Spirit. And the more we focus on the latter, and the more victories we have, and the more maturity we gain, the more confident we become in God’s faithfulness and in His ability to deliver. And with that confidence comes Gospel power.
One final point. Paul ends his discourse on affliction and comfort by entreating the Corinthians to pray for him and his company. It is through prayer and practical aid that the Body comforts itself and builds itself up in love. These prayers can be open and known, or they can be hidden, known only to the Throne. But it is through sharing in each other’s burdens that the Body draws together and fulfills the law of Christ, which is love, even sacrificial love.
So when we are heavily burdened, let us not despair, but let us turn our focus to Christ, who will aid us and in due season raise us out of the affliction. And let us join in solidarity, in both prayer and action, with those who are suffering – of which there are many.
May the comfort of Holy Spirit be on all those who love the Lord and seek His rightful reign.
All of my Christian life I considered pragmatism to be an evil. I equated it to compromise, while in my idealism I tried to see myself as a hero taking courageous stands for Christ. Way back, there was one sermon that got a lot of play around here, and its message was that “compromise is of the devil”.
And so I was surprised several months ago, when in my reading of the New Testament I came across the parable of the nobleman, found in Luke 19 . The story is about a nobleman who travels to a distant land to secure his kingdom. He leaves his subjects behind in an adverse environment, and tells them to “occupy”, or “do business” until he returns.
I had heard that word, occupy, bandied about a lot. It is what we Christians are supposed to do until the Lord returns for us. But I never really got what it meant. Occupying seems a very passive endeavor. It is what protesters often do. It is what sluggards do at work, instead of actually working. It didn’t seem right that the Lord would want us to simply take up space or be content with the status quo, so I went to the Greek to find out what it might mean.
It turns out that occupy in the Greek is Pragmateuomai. This is where we get the word pragmatism. It’s used in the verse as a verb: “pragmatize until I return”. I was shocked to see this word used there. It was the last thing I expected.
Jesus was saying, “guys, I’m going to be a while. There are some very dark elements here. They hate Me and are opposed to My rule, and they are going to make things very hard for you. Because you will be up against adversity, you are going to have to be very practical. Keep your feet solidly on the ground, even as you continually think about Me and look for My return.”
Once again the amazing word of God had liberated me from an old and stale understanding of a concept I had heard from my earliest days. I prayed that the Lord would always increase my understanding in this way, for this is the path to freedom and power!
I bring all this up because of the crazy presidential primary season we have experienced. I have followed it closely, and my own feelings about some of the candidates changed as I learned more.
I began to notice that Donald Trump was destroying political correctness time and again. Before him, nothing else could. And then I saw him take a strong stand against illegal immigration, and even radical Islam, which no one else would do. Over the years I never had been a Trump fan, but now I found I actually began to think he might have something to offer.
At the same time, the guy who I should have been favoring, who had all the Christian “cred” – I found I was liking him less and less. And indeed, trusting him less and less. His actions didn’t seem to line up with his rhetoric.
There are times it’s definitely true that compromise is “of the devil”. When first principles are at stake, we dare not trade them for a lesser good. But short of that, when there is no ideal option, we need to evaluate the situation and make the best practical choice.
Now, that would be the end of this article, except that I have come across an amazing prophecy concerning Trump. This prophecy was given five years ago, yet it describes what has been going on as if it’s last week’s newspaper. The upshot is that Trump is going to be elected, and he will be used of God to return this nation from the abyss of political correctness. You will find the prophecy here: http://www.trunews.com/trunews-041816-mark-taylor-gods-man/. It’s a captivating one hour radio show.
And then there’s a second prophecy, this one shorter. It’s similar to the first, but adds the parallel of the biblical Cyrus to the mix. Cyrus was a Persian king that the Lord used to bring the Israelites out of captivity and back to the land. He was not saved. He was, to our knowledge, not religious. But that wasn’t important. He was a secular power and he used his position to help the Jews. And that’s all that mattered. The prophecy is here: http://charismapodcastnetwork.com/shows/strangreport/fa261ca761fb800f76c6804ed34998f5
My own feeling is that America has sunk so low that it is going to take a hard-nosed battering ram like Donald Trump to break the stranglehold that grips her. The church cannot afford to wait around for an ideal leader who does everything the ideal way. We’re going to have to take what we can get, and trust in the Lord to put it all together.
Hebrews 11 is the famous “faith chapter”. There the writer talks about what faith is and gives us some great examples of faith.
The two verses in particular that define what faith is are vss. 1 and 6:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Heb 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. -Heb 11:6
That’s from the ESV translation. I want to focus on vs. 6 Let’s look at it in the new DLNT translation, to get a better idea of the original verbs and tenses:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For the one coming-to God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. -Heb 11:6
You will see that the main difference is found in the last clause. First, the more accurate translation stresses that God “becomes” the rewarder, not merely that He “rewards”. This is not an esoteric difference, because it implies the passage of time.
Many times in our walk we have to sow in faith, and there is a time lag before we reap the harvest. Just as it is in the natural, as any farmer or gardener will tell you, rewards do not come instantly. For much of our sowing period, we’re putting in the work but it may not seem that God is rewarding us for it. But we press on in faith, knowing the reward will come in time. In this sense, God “becomes” the rewarder. Thus the original text adds a little color to the grammar to stress this delay between sowing and reaping.
But the second difference is even more powerful. Whereas the ESV simply has “seek”, the DLNT has “seeking out”. And for good reason. The original verb in the Greek is Ekzeteo – to seek out. The writer could have merely used “zeteo” – to seek. But the “ek” is added for emphasis. This word means “out”. We still say “eke out”, as in “eke out a living”, implying a laborious, tedious process, often not highly rewarding. Because the writer opted to include the intensive, we can conclude that he is trying to convey something more than routine seeking.
First, he is saying that there are going to be times when our seeking after God will not be comfortable. We will have to go out of the box to lay hold of Him. We will have to leave the comfort zone behind, because He is calling us to something much greater than ourselves. This alone will separate mere curiosity seekers from those hungry for God. The Gospels are rife with Jesus dissuading those merely looking for a sign or a heady religious experience, and with warnings that following Christ is going to cost us in the natural. We need to get it settled then, that we do indeed want God. That’s the first thing this tiny prefix tells us.
Secondly, the writer is telling us that even when we have to go out of our way, even when it’s hard, and even when the reward for our effort seems small, the kind of faith that pleases God still holds fast to Him, and maintains that our reward will come in due season, because faithfulness and lovingkindness are intrinsic parts of God’s character. We realize that the whole enterprise turns on God’s character, and because we will not allow any slander to stand, we will hold fast to our faith in His goodness and our ultimate reward!
So this little verse packs quite a punch – more than we might have seen on its surface. It is saying that we need to be serious about following God wherever that might lead us, and that our reward might seem delayed. It is saying that for now the reward might seem small – barely enough to sustain us; that this is what we should expect at times, and that when we encounter that test, we need to fall back on a determined, persistent faith that pleases Him greatly.
When things get tough we can remind ourselves of God’s wonderful character and His ability to reward us, and we will gain renewed strength for the task before us.
Galatians 6.1 is on point here:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Gal 6:9
Maybe this little insight will help you next time you are seeking to know God better, or to know His will for your life. Stay on course, and immerse yourself in the love and promises of God. Everyone who asks, receives, everyone who seeks, finds, and to everyone who knocks, it is opened.
I found the article below very perceptive. We are rapidly approaching the day when everything will be connected and recorded. Technology dazzles. It is very effective, a lot of fun at times, and basically unstoppable. But there is a dark side to it too. The human heart has not changed, and technology is just a arm allowing us to do what we want.
Be careful with what technology you embrace. The other day I was going to use my google account to sign in for commenting on a news site. I stopped when they told me that I would be giving that news site access to my google contact list. Why does a newspaper in Oregon need to know who’s on my gmail contact list? Yet millions of people are allowing this to happen to them, most of them probably unaware of what they’re doing.
In one of the parables, Jesus tells us that when a king went off to secure his kingship, he told his servants to conduct business until he returned (Luke 19.13). The word for conduct business there is Pragmateuomai, which speaks of being pragmatic or practical. So we need to be engaged in the affairs of life.
But the Bible tells us to walk in wisdom because the days are evil. Jesus sent us out as sheep among wolves. We need to be cautious about this technology blanket being wrapped around us.
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. -Gen 11:6
Yesterday a horrible story came out of Pittsburgh. A nun in her seventies was brutally raped by a teen in her church parking lot, as a statue of the Virgin Mary silently looked on. You have to ask yourself what kind of person can do such a thing. Our prayers are for the healing of this woman and her community.
Let’s get some basic historical perspective on the problem. In 1963 the most innocuous prayer imaginable was banned from public schools. It was a simple 23 word non-sectarian prayer asking for blessings on school, families and the nation. The following year it it became illegal to read – and later to even carry – a Bible in public schools.
We’re to the third generation from those rulings. Have you noticed that it’s rapidly getting worse and worse? We have condom dispensers hanging on school walls in NYC. Can you imagine what it must be like to grow up in this atmosphere, where the authorities have capitulated and now appease – even encourage – the immorality that dominates every other aspect of the culture? Christianity has been outlawed and expelled, and humanism enthroned. Even a cross, privately funded, is being stripped from a WWII veterans’ memorial outside San Diego which happens to be on government land.
As a nation we have lost our spiritual and moral compass. Or rather, it has been stolen from us. We are to the point where evil is about to break away unrestrained.
At the same time, obama has been building the “civilian force, just as powerful as the US military” that he promised in the 2008 election. Local police are being militarized, using equipment that meshes seamlessly with the armed forces. They’re also becoming more thuggish, as new stories attest to every day.
Draw these two lines in your mind as on a graph. Public virtue descending, the power of the state ascending. You’ll see they are rapidly converging and soon are going to intersect. And it’s not going to be pretty.
Do Americans still understand how blessed we have been with a constitutional republic of limited government? That’s the same blessed system that obama is aggressively working to “fundamentally transform” – another 2008 campaign promise of his. Each day brings a new assault on our underpinnings by him and his fellow humanist statists. If we somehow don’t reach the young generation and teach them how it’s supposed to work, and especially the fear of God that brings wisdom, the nation soon will be lost.
Remember that the next time your dear leader comes on the tube and looks so sincere, so intelligent, so personable and so helpful, and gives you his solemn word: If you like your freedoms, you can keep your freedoms. And if you like your nation, you can keep your nation.
I have a modest proposal. Let’s take the condom dispensers off the school walls and put the Ten Commandments back on. You know, the ones that include, “Thou shall not kill”, “Thou shall not commit adultery”, “Thou shall not steal” and others. But accountability to God would violate the humanist narrative, and we can’t have that!
But there is one principle that will not be violated, no matter how popular or powerful the forces arrayed against it – the law of sowing and reaping. If we keep piling garbage into our culture and our youth, we should only expect garbage out.
You take on the nature of what you worship. And as time rapidly accelerates, a great divide appears between those who worship the Lord and those who hate Him. It’s getting worse, not better.
Here’s a recent scene from Argentina, traditionally a Catholic nation, in which pro-abortion protesters are trying to breach a line of praying men in order to storm a cathedral. The difference in the spirits driving the two sides couldn’t be more stark. It is not easy to stand still when someone is spitting on you. It reminded me of the Lord’s forbearance during His passion, when He easily could have called ten thousand angels to deliver Him. Be advised this might not be suitable viewing for young folk.
We need to keep in mind that this spirit is what animates the other side in much of our public discourse. It seems impossible to pull these people out of the flames, but then I know from what depths I came, and if the Lord can reach me He can reach anyone. May He give us insight and wisdom to be able to reach many.