LET US REASON WITH ONE ANOTHER!

divided

Some differences will always remain in the church. Indeed, it will not go away. It is something that every Christian will have to live with. Consequently, we should deal with it in a matter that is consistently Christian.

WE SHOULD NOT USE UNCHARITABLE LABELS TO THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH US

No matter what our particular position may be with respect to an issue, we should not resort to placing uncharitable labels upon people who disagree with us. It does no good to try and categorize those who hold different views than us as immature or to be less worthy Christians. This does not do anybody any good.

Unfortunately, there are in fact some unloving assessments from people who are being emotionally unstable, or unwittingly spreading a satanic counterfeit. These are those that are not filled with the Spirit and are consciously attempting to stop God’s work in this age. This type of behavior is unchristian, unbiblical, and counterproductive.

There are immature, arrogant, and divisive people on all sides of an issue. In addition, there are also godly, spiritually mature, and biblical literate people, on all sides of the same issue. We should seek for Christian unity in our diversity of views, while simultaneously standing on truth. Paul wrote about the correct attitude all believers should hold: Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:3 NLT).

WE NEED TO MAKE USE OF ALL SCRIPTURE

We must be careful how we develop our own understanding with respect to an issue. It is possible to find one verse, and then use it as a basis for an entire system of belief. We often make this mistake.

One must seek to find out what the totality of Scripture has to say on a subject, not merely one verse that will be the basis to support our interpretation.

BAD ARGUMENTS FROM THE OTHER SIDE DOES NOT PROVE YOUR CASE

In addition, the fact that some may have used bad arguments to prove their case does not necessarily mean what they believe is wrong and we are right. All it means is that someone offered an unconvincing argument! This is important to understand. We often find in the writings of both parties the idea that they have proved their case, because they have pointed out illogical arguments from those who have a different position. Pointing out bad arguments from those who disagree with us, only means that the other person has bad arguments. It does not settle the matter.

Any examination of two different perspectives should be based on the very best arguments each side has to offer, not on the poorest arguments that were offered (in our opinion).

LETS REALIZE THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF EACH BELIEVER IS UNIQUE

The experience of each believer is unique. Therefore, no one should attempt to make everyone conform to their own particular experience ór relationship with the Lord.

Many times, even with good motives, we attempt to encourage all believers to be like us and to have the same experiences as we do. In doing so, we can make other believers feel uneasy because they have not had the same experience.

Some Christians have convictions based upon their understanding of Scripture. It is wrong for one group to feel superior to the other. The Apostle Paul warned believers about comparing ourselves with one another (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The only thing that believers really ought to make foundational to the Christian faith is the Person of Jesus Christ.

WE SHOULD NOT THINK THAT WE HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS

It is possible that our belief system is too comfortable—we think that we have all the answers. We think we know God well enough to the point that we fully know how He operates. This is a very dangerous position to hold. We need to give God the ability to work any way in which He wishes, we cannot limit Him to the way that we think He will work.

Jesus, in comparing the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind, said the wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

The Holy Spirit works in the ways in which He desires. He certainly does not always operate according to our understanding.

WE CAN LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT

All of us can learn from those believers who hold differing viewpoints than us. Consequently, we should not shut ourselves up to only those who agree with us all the time. If anyone disassociates themselves from other Bible-believing Christians on the basis of their view on one or two subjects, it does not show their orthodoxy, it only shows their immaturity. Often, these issues are not ones that should divide believers, or keep them from associating with one another.

Indeed, they may be right, and we may be the ones who are wrong! There are always things that we can learn and during debates we can learn from each other.

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THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

entertainment

Our society offers so much. If I am lonely or depressed, if I feel empty and unfulfilled, there are film shows, television programmes, DVDs, music, stories, plots, drama, action, thrillers, romance, whodunits, adventure, you name it, we’ve got it. Slow music, rock, classic, pop, rap, hip hop, rave, metal, or underground? Perhaps you need to go to a disco, or night club, or a trance party. Lights, noise, laughter, rhythm, music, people… yes, people. But why are there so many empty and artificial people around? They seem so false. They also look lonely. Why?

Try some magazines, the newspaper, or the Internet. Wars, political intrigue, crime, inflation, scandals, skip that… what’s on at the movies? I wonder why I feel so empty inside? I feel nothing as I read of the starving millions, of war victims, terrorism and murders. Why do I care so little about other people? It could’ve been me… Let’s see what DSTV has to offer. Try binging another Netflix series, that might work.

I feel I’m getting more and more empty and frustrated inside. I think so much less than I used to. I do so little. Visit our relatives? Goodness no, we’ll miss that T.V. programme and besides, what is there to talk about? Pour another drink, put on another CD for background music. Light up a cigarette, yes, I know it is unhealthy, I know my lungs are being corroded away and I cough so much. I will try to kick the habit next week.

Why am I so restless, so ill at ease? Let’s try the amusement park, circus or gambling. Bright lights, beautiful colours, noise, music, laughter, crowds… yes, people! But, why does life seem so meaningless and pointless? I feel like a merry-go-round. I’m not getting anywhere. Let’s go to the casino. Try the one-armed bandits and Lotto. Some lose, some gain, but I come away feeling empty. Could I be wasting my time?

PlayStation 3! Xbox 1! Computer games are fun… but why do I feel like I’m wasting my time? My life seems to lack direction. There is no real purpose in life. Gambling seems to be a tax on those who cannot do maths. Cards, racehorses, games! Life seems to be one big game. Have you heard the latest joke? Why am I afraid of silence? I’m afraid to be alone. Where’s my cell phone? Who can I SMS or WhatsApp?

The T.V. can help me kill time. The radio, iPhone, MP3 player, iPod and cell phone must crowd out those restless thoughts within me. Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going? Try some make-believe: put on another series. Let’s “google” something on the Internet. What am I so afraid of? Why do I need so much noise and so many gadgets and amusements to keep me occupied? Why am I so empty inside? My life seems to be controlled and manipulated by this pleasure-mad, entertainment-orientated world. Advertising offers so much; it all sounds so good, but it is so disappointing. I feel like my soul’s been ransacked and all the meaning and identity has been robbed from my life. Life is so plastic and artificial.

God, is this the way it’s meant to be? You never made the world this way, did You? Why do I feel so dead inside? Is it because I’ve tried to live without You? I know I haven’t paid much attention to the Bible – would that have helped? I suppose I should get into nature more. Would prayer help? I feel like I’ve been missing out on what life is really meant to be. It’s like I’ve let this synthetic society rape me of all reality and peace of mind. Can You forgive me for all these wasted, misused years? Will You show me a better way to live? Please fill this empty void in my life with reality and love.

I’ve been existing when I should have been living. I’ve been playing when I should have been praying. I’ve been reading the newspaper and surfing the Internet when I should have been reading the Bible, I’ve listened to the radio and my iPod instead of to You. Oh God, forgive me, I have spent more time watching T.V. than helping your creatures. No wonder my life has been so empty and frustrating. I have wasted my time and money on worthless man-made make-believe. My life and talents have rotted away while I have endured electronic mass-production entertainment and digital distractions.

Thank You for showing me life as it really is in the Bible.

Thank You for showing me what it can be. Thank You, Jesus, for showing me the way: what an example You are! Help me to live an unselfish life serving You and Your creation. Thank You for the beautiful forests and mountains! Thank You for clean country air and live animals in the game parks. I enjoy being alone now. You are there. I am different now, You have changed me. Since I surrendered my life to You, You have shown me how much You love me. You even came as a human being to die the death I deserve. Thank You for taking my punishment in order to free me from this selfish, sinful life I have been wasting my life on.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for giving my life meaning, purpose and direction. I find that I do not need artificial stimulation from entertainment and make-believe anymore. I like people now; they do not threaten me anymore. I want to help them. Things are so different already. I feel like I have been freed from slavery.

You have given me a New Start in life and a New Life to start.

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

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For other Bible-based teaching pamphlets and Gospel literature, or for details of scheduled Biblical Worldview Summits, Great Commission Courses, outreaches, events and seminars, contact:
Dr. Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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THE REALITY OF CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

A persecution

The persecution of Christians is often a topic many prefer to avoid but it is a reality. Throughout the New Testament, we read that the world hates Christians and that they will be persecuted. Here are a few of the verses:

  • Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
  • Mark 10:29-30, “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
  • Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
  • John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
  • Acts 14:22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
  • Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
  • Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

In an article called “The Promise of Persecution,” Greg Laurie mentioned that the period in church history from A.D. 100 to A.D. 314 was known as the Martyr Period, when literally thousands of Christians sealed their fate with their blood for their believes. According to secular historians, there have been 10 great persecutions against the church. These were all major attempts to wipe out Christianity from the face of the earth, starting with the wicked Caesar Nero and ending with Diocletian. Believers were fed alive to wild animals. They were taken to Roman arenas for sport. They were torn apart, tortured, and burned at the stake.

But persecution is not a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, as we approach the soon return of Christ, the persecution of Christians in different parts of the world is reaching “genocidal” levels, according to a new report commissioned by the British government in December 2018. In terms of an interim report issued by an Independent Review set up at the request of the UK foreign secretary, are overwhelmingly the most targeted religious group in the world, and “acts of violence and other intimidation against Christians are becoming more widespread.” In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN. Christianity is now facing “the possibility of being wiped out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. As an example, in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. In Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000. The report notes that violent persecution exists “in many forms,” and can include both state and non-state actors. In an article published by CBS News on 3 May 2019, 80 percent of religious believers who are being persecuted around the world are Christians.

Even in the western world we see how the removal of crosses and the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols are on the increase. The 116th class of US Congress is one of the most diverse to serve the United States and the Bible is no longer the only religious book in use to swear in officials – the Quran now enjoys equal status. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor asserted in an op-ed written for the Tribune News Service that the officially sanctioned National Day of Prayer — observed on May 2 this year — “goes against the spirit of the secular Constitution.” Prayers and Biblical teachings have basically been removed from all schools and universities. Christian businesses are often being forced to provide services that go against their religion, like baking wedding cakes for homosexual couples, while some churches are summoned to marry such couples. We also see attacks and discrimination increasing against Christians on social media. These are but only a few examples.

The Easter Sunday massacres in Sri Lanka (the third Easter in a row that has been targeted by radical Islamists) during which 359 Christians died, should still be fresh in our minds. These horrendous murders made the press for a day or two, while the world generally cared more about the fire in the famous Catholic Notre Dame cathedral than it does about those people who have their bodies blown to bits in architecturally less significant places of worship. Terrible massacres on Christians in Africa hardly enjoyed any news coverage, while the entire world mourned when 50 Muslims were gunned down in New Zealand in March 2019.

BUT WHY ARE CHRISTIANS BEING PERSECUTED?

In John 15:18 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” As Christians, we are not like the world—vain, earthly, sensual, and given to pleasure, wealth, and ambition— and the world therefore opposes and hates us. Christian morals also stand in the way of globalism, socialism and for the Antichrist to be revealed.

Jesus also said, ” ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Peter says of Jesus, “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). In Matthew 5:10-12 we also read, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The persecution of Christians allows them to share in a unique fellowship with the Lord. Paul serves as an excellent example. James argues that trials test the Christian’s faith, develop endurance in his life, and help develop maturity (James 1:2–4). It strengthens the character of believers and enables them to better value the support of true brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Hardship can stimulate the Lord’s people toward a greater resolve to love and comfort one another and lift one another to the throne of grace in prayer.

Even in the face of Christian persecution, we can press on and during such times, we are in constant communication with God through prayers.

Also, instead of growing weaker during these times of persecution, the body of Christ (real believers) actually grows stronger. Persecution separates the real from the false. If you are a true follower of Jesus, then you won’t back down if persecution comes your way. If God allows persecution in your life, then He will give you the strength to face it.

Sometimes we whine about how hard it is to be a Christian, even when experiencing the smallest bit of tests, trials and tribulations in our lives. Maybe we need to stop for a moment and consider our experience in comparison to that of Christians in countries such as India and in the Middle East.

 

We should prepare ourselves as I do believe that persecution will intensify as we get closer to the Lord’s return.

 

 

 

DEALING WITH FALLEN CHURCHES AND TOXIC PASTORS

In the Bible, we see the moral failure of many leaders and they act as a reminder to us that even those near to God are tempted to turn away. Many pastors fall as a result of unaccountability, pride, and a distorted view of the Bible or even the image of God in all. The rash of well-known church leaders that we have seen fallen within the past two or three years, have nearly all engaged in moral failure or departure from the truths of the Word of God. They have made wrong decisions regarding the proper and biblical way to act as leaders.

There are some churches that would tell you right up front that they are and want to be Biblical, and if someone is in such a church, they would have an opportunity to search the scriptures with their elders and the pastor, as the Bereans did.  On the other hand, there are some churches that are openly liberal, openly experiential, and they have no interest or basis for understanding or for sound doctrine.

In a relatively short period of time, three of my closest friends shared their hardship about things going wrong in their churches, while they received very little to no support from their pastors to address and correct these issues. In all 3 instances, concerns relate to ideas that were promoted by their churches or some of its members, that have no Scriptural basis or completely go against God’s Word.

So now, the questions are whether to act or not and if needed to do so, how should the church and the pastor be approached?

The vision of the body of Christ as having different members must be recalled on a regular basis. Your own role in the church, whether larger or smaller, is critical. Therefore, we should know how to respond to spiritual abuse in our churches. Most people are paralyzed by such situations, not knowing what to do and often in shock that it could even happen.

As leaders, pastors’ call is to speak what must be said and to lead their people into places of safety and openness. If church members have questions over moral failings or unbiblical teachings and practices, they should be allowed to ask these questions in safe places and receive affirmation and comfort that their concerns are valid and will be addressed.

People are hurting in many churches, and leaders either often don’t know or aren’t responding as they ought to, to those who have serious questions and concerns. Some are placing their proverbial fingers in their ears in denial over the serious and deeply troubling conditions in the church today, while others are too afraid to address these issues and upset those in the wrong. A good pastor will never hide from people with hard questions. Sometimes it’s more than just a moral failure— and that may take an honest conversation of a different kind. This is called following Jesus in serving others.

Pastors need godly people, deacons and elders, Sunday school teachers, friends and well-meaning church members to hold us accountable and make sure they accurately handle the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15).

The pastor is supposed to confront members of his congregation who are involved in wrongdoing and false teaching and should also be open-minded if his own preaching or moral values are questioned. This is one of his responsibilities as a minister. He should preach on the whole council of God – “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction,” (2 Tim. 4:2). The Scriptures thus clearly teach that the pastor is to reprove, rebuke, and exhort the congregation. Since individuals are members of the congregation, then the pastor is supposed to go to those individuals and lovingly call them to repentance if needed.

Thom Ranier is a church consultant who has quantified fourteen symptoms of a Toxic Leader. Here are a few symptoms that come to mind: a toxic pastor…

  • manipulates people to promote their personal agenda
  • dodges, deflects, or rejects criticism
  • consistently rationalizes and minimizes their negative behavior
  • intimidates people with their biblical and persuasive arguments
  • twists scripture to support his or her claims
  • turns criticism back on the person who confronts them, shutting them down
  • shields himself or herself from critics and marginalizes them
  • insists on their agenda despite the concerns of others.
  • justifies their agenda by saying that “God told them.”

The pastor’s inner circle is muted, eliminating any kind of accountability. Those on the outer circle don’t feel like they are close enough to the pastor to say anything. They notice questionable behavior but don’t have enough evidence, or proximity to the pastor, to feel confident to say anything. If the inner circle is silent, who are they to say anything? And so it goes.

As time goes by, habits are cemented into place. The pastor is effectively insulated from any correction. He or she is free to perpetrate their toxic behavior because the insiders are silent, and the outsiders have no access. The majority of the church has no idea what’s going on because they only see the pastor on Sunday. If someone does suggest a problem they are often shot down as being critical or rebellious because most people aren’t aware of what’s really happening.

SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

I do not encourage people to just pack your bags and leave.  Someone once said if you’re looking for the perfect church and you find it, don’t join it because you will ruin it. Remember, we are not perfect ourselves.  Things that we understand today, we did not understand ten years ago as we do now, and we cannot expect that everybody must have the same maturity in the faith and the same understanding of everything as how we understand these things. Check your motives. Do you want your pastor to be able to hear you and receive what you say? Or do you just need to get something off your chest?

2 Timothy 2:23-24 says, “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” On the other hand, we may never compromise with the gospel. Make sure that this is a real issue and that you have gone about it in a gracious, loving, humble manner.

Deal with the issues you have quickly and wisely. Some people wait for year before they raise an issue which had been rankling them. During that time, the individuals who are holding back become bitter and distance themselves from the pastor or church, and sadly, in some instances from the ministry of the Word.  Deal with matters in a timely manner in order to prevent bitterness. As Scripture says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26).

Seek confirmation. Before you confront a pastor, talk to your spouse or a trusted friend in confidence to make sure it’s not just you. Be careful not to use this as an excuse to gossip. The goal is to check the accuracy of what you see as wrong.

Pray before you go. Ask God to season your words with salt and to help you to speak the truth in love. Pray for wisdom as you speak. We may believe that another person, like a friend or even the pastor, will have all the answers to our questions. Here’s the thing: they won’t. Jesus calls us to bring our hurt and pain to Him first. He reminds us that He is the answer to all the wrongs in the world, and that He will one day make things right.

Going to the pastor can feel overwhelming. Who are you to challenge a pastor? Well, if the pastor isn’t open to being challenged then he or she shouldn’t be a pastor. Pastors need to model transparency and humility. The door should always be open. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s fair to speak to a trusted friend or counselor to prep you for the meeting, and even go with you for support.

Ask permission to “go there”.  When you approach your pastor, give him a heads-up that you need to “create a little chaos.” It gives the pastor the opportunity to humble himself and pray for a teachable spirit.

How you deliver your message is everything. Humbly, graciously, not with the idea of being right and the others wrong. Raise a sincere question and ask the pastor if you both could go to the Word of God, that he can show you the contrary to what you believe, if he differs from your views.  Remember, in the Bible Paul said to Timothy not to rebuke an elder, but to entreat him as a father.  Seek to edify and build up your pastor (Eph 4:29). If your goal isn’t to strengthen and help him and the church, even if you need to say difficult things, then you have no business approaching him.

When giving criticism, be ready to receive criticism. Your problem with your pastor may simply be a spiritual problem in your own life. If you object to something he preaches or allows in the church, it may be that he never intended to preach falsely or did not realize what was going on in the church. That said, he is a sinner just like you and may also have been unfaithful in his preaching. Remember that both you and your pastor are sinners. There may be fault on both sides. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

If the pastor is truly toxic, he will either reject your criticism or placate you with false assurances. Then you need to take your concerns to the next level. Jesus said the next step is to go again, but with two or three witnesses (Matthew 18). These witnesses are people that see the same problem you see or at least trust what you see and will support you and your concerns. If they agree with you, ask them to go with you to the pastor and have them support you and even represent you.

The church is supposed to be a blessing to the world. The pastor should be a champion of grace and truth. There is nothing more perverse and distorted than a toxic pastor. Please do something! Leave or confront. But don’t sit by passively and allow it to continue. So much abuse has been allowed to happen because people have been overly cautious.

If you are not being heard, then you have to decide whether you should leave the church or not. Some people choose to stay and persistently stand opposed to the toxicity. Others feel that a biggest statement is made by leaving. There is no right or wrong response. You must do what you feel is best – but pray for guidance in your final decision.

Never leave a church without having attempted to resolve problems with your pastor. Ducking out is not an option. It is just plain sinful. It is sin against God chiefly, but also against His church. You may have genuine concerns with the ministry of your pastor and the direction of the church. But to leave without speaking to them may lead to further damage in the church. Your voice, rightly and humbly used, may be the instrument God uses to bring godly change in a man’s life. “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:23-24)

Philippians 2:14-16 reads, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

Don’t give up hope. These may be dark days for the church, but Jesus is the light of the world, and as we press on to purify ourselves, his light will shine brighter and brighter. Hebrews 12:12-13 reminds us, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”

Indeed, we are in a very difficult season and by all outward standards the church is on a perilous path. But for the grace of God who works in us. It is hard. But it is essential as people matter and the gospel matters.

TOLERANCE!! (PART 1)

According to 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, all truly saved Christians are part of the Body of Christ. It reads, “12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.”

Yet, differences sometimes exist in the opinions and interpretations of Scripture between the members of the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 13:9-12, Paul gave us a biblical reason why some of these differences may occur, “9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Sadly, there is also the other side of the “differences” coin, so to speak. These differences are often caused because of pride and arrogance and also due to the Word of God is not being studied for what it says but rather twisted to accommodate personal likes and dislikes. In these instances, differences often result in heated debates and even strait forward and fleshly disputes. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 warns that this would increasingly happen in the latter days “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”

This leaves us with a few questions, such as: “Is everybody who claims to be a Christian, part of the Body of Christ?” “How much should I tolerate?” “How should Christians resolve their differences?” “Is there a point where we should rather walk away and distance ourselves from others who claims to be Christians?” “Am I causing division in the Body of Christ?”

In an article published by Dr. Mark D. Roberts, he provides good guidance on how to deal with these differences and disputes. Much of what he said is build into our article. He started his article by saying, “I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within churches and denominations. But all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other.”

These disputes were not what Jesus intended. In his so-called “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

A little earlier, Jesus had said to his disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). To be sure, there are times when followers of Jesus do love each other in an exemplary way. But, far too often, such love is marred by conflict, tension, and outright meanness. And, far too often, we have not dealt with these problems in a loving way.”

No church in Scripture is more ridden with disagreement and controversy than the Corinthian church. It took Paul multiple visits and letters, two of which we have in the New Testament, to sort out the problems in this church.

Among other things, some of the divisive issues in the Corinthian church included over-identification with one or another Christian leader and selfishness in church gatherings. These might seem familiar to some of you …

Beneath the plethora of issues lay the challenge of working out the Christian life in a non-Christian culture, as well as a huge crowd of lukewarm church goers and “religious” people.

DEALING WITH CONFLICT AMONG CHRISTIANS: ONE STARTING POINT

God’s inspired Word is always the best starting point there is.

First, in times of conflict our natural human emotions often try to dictate our behavior. We feel anger and want to lash out. We feel wronged and want to get revenge. Chief among these ways is the desire to “win” our opponent. We defend ourselves and we play the victim if needed. We conveniently ignore facts that don’t support our side. We hold grudges, and so forth.

Rarely are these the ways of a God who says to us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). The world doesn’t have much room for one who tells us to turn the other cheek, who calls us to forgive seventy times seven, and who urges us to imitate his humble, self-sacrificial servanthood.

Yet, if we allow our emotions to guide our behavior, inevitably we’ll simply make matters worse. Conversely, if we tenaciously hang onto biblical teaching, we’ll find the power to act rightly even when our feelings try to drag us in the wrong direction. So we need the Bible to show us different ways to operate in times of conflict.

Also, in times of conflict among Christians, we need the Bible as the source both of practical guidance (here’s how to act) and of theological insight. The biblical combination of ethics and theology helps to shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

LET GOD SPEAK TO YOU THROUGH HIS WORD

One of the most important passages for discerning God’s guidance for Christians in conflict is found in Philippians 2:1-8.

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

In light of this passage, if you’re in the midst of conflict with other Christians, you need to do the following:

  1. Ask the Lord to speak to you through His Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As God convicts you, go with it. Talk to Him about it. Confess if you need to. Ask for His help to obey if you need to.
  2. Be open to correction from other believers.
  3. Act upon what God has said to you through His Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Be a doer of the Word, not a hearer only (James 1:22). You may find it very hard to do what God wants you to do. Be assured: He will provide the strength you need if you depend on him.

HAVING THE MIND OF CHRIST

Philippians 2:1-8 speaks of being agreeable, humble, and considering others as better than yourself. This passage begins with a series of ethical injunctions that could be paraphrased: agree with each other; love each other; be humble; care more for the concerns others than for your own concerns. These imperatives are summarized in verse five: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” In a nutshell, we are to think as Jesus thought.

The bigger picture is an image of Christ’s active humility. It’s a portrait of one who was fully equal to God the Father, but who, nevertheless, chose to take on the form of a slave by becoming human. Moreover, this passage paints a shocking picture of a divine being who not only became human, but also chose to die a most humiliating and painful death by crucifixion. One cannot imagine a more startling and unsettling image of humility and self-sacrifice.

How might our conflict with others be different if we took seriously the humility of Jesus? How might we react to those who wrong us if we were to reflect upon the self-giving love of Christ?

In Philippians 2, Paul uses the image of the humble, self-sacrificing, serving, crucified Christ to teach the Philippians believers how they ought to treat each other. We’re called to imitate Christ, not in any way we please, but specifically with respect to his humbling, self-giving, sacrificial action.

This isn’t easy to do! Even when getting along well with others it natural to put our self-interest first. It’s impossible to obey without God. It challenges the very fiber of our being. It calls us to counter-intuitive and counter-cultural humility. We’re just not wired to do this sort of thing apart from divine help.

When we put our faith in Christ, the very Spirit of God comes to dwell in us, empowering us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The Spirit is in the process of making us more and more like Christ. Once we realize our own inadequacies, we’re ready to trust God more completely, and to discover that we can do all things through Christ who makes us strong (Philippians 4:13). The more you depend upon Jesus, the more you’ll find unexpected strength to be agreeable, loving, humble, other-directed, and Christ-like.

WHAT IS THE TRUE CHURCH?

Which church is the one that God loves and cherishes and died for? Which church is His bride? The answer is that no visible church or denomination is the true church, because the bride of Christ is not an institution, but is instead a spiritual entity made up of those who have by grace through faith been brought into a close, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). Those people, no matter which building, denomination, or country they happen to be in, constitute the true church.

On the simplest level, a church is a gathering of people who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Wherever Christians come together in Christ, there is a church. But this is just the beginning. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of the church in striking and surprising language:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (3:16-17)

Here the temple of God is the church, the gathered fellowship of believers. The context in 1 Corinthians 3 makes it clear that Paul is not focusing on individual believers when he says “you are God’s temple.” In verse 9, the Corinthian church is “God’s building” (3:9). Those who labor as church-planters are in the construction business, so to speak (3:10-15). So when we come to verse 16, we know that the temple of which Paul speaks is not the individual believer but the assembly of believers.

The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians have to do, not with threats to individual believers, but with the threat of division in the church at Corinth. So when Paul says, “If anyone destroys God’s temple,” he’s referring to the church of God in Corinth, which is at risk because of the conflicts in the church.

From the mere fact that the church is God’s temple, you’d naturally conclude that it ought to be treated with reverence and supreme care. Before you start trifling with the church of God, you’d better realize what you’re doing.

So, if you’re in the midst of “church” conflict, step back from the issues long enough to remember what it is you’re dealing with. Are you thinking of yourself and your opponent as the temple of God? Are you doing everything you can to protect and care for God’s temple?

WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?

The church is not simply a religious club, formed and guided by its members. It belongs to God in a strong, ultimate sense.

Paul reiterates this point at the conclusion of his opening address to the Corinthians: “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:9). Notice, first of all, that the Corinthian believers aren’t in the fellowship because they chose to join. From a theological point of view, they “were called” by God into the fellowship. They belong not merely to a human institution, but to a fellowship that has been founded by and is the property of the very Son of God.

Twice in his opening address to the Corinthians, Paul emphasizes the fact that their gathering is not their own. It belongs to God the Father and to the Son of God. Later Paul will explain that the church comes into existence through the work of the Spirit of God (see 12:12-13). This is a fundamental truth about the church, and one Paul emphasizes intentionally because it relates to the problem of conflict among Christians.

To relate Paul’s point to the situation of conflict among Christians today, when you’re caught up in a disagreement with other believers, you need to remember whose you are. You belong to God through Jesus Christ. This is true of you personally and also of the church.

The church doesn’t belong to you or to the people who are on your side. Not even to the majority of the members or to the founding members or their descendents. It doesn’t belong to the pastor, or the elders, or even the denomination (if there is one).

If we truly believe that the church belongs to God, then we’ll be more committed to finding God’s solution to our conflicts than making sure that our side wins. Only one opinion really matters, the opinion that belongs to God. The church is first and foremost, a vehicle for God’s glory. The church exists to do God’s bidding, to represent God’s kingdom, and to bring praise to God.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT CHRISTIAN LEADERS

Idolizing pastors and church fathers is often one of the major causes of disputes. There are many cases where people are so identified with the pastor or church fathers that things are way out of balance. A church that belongs to God ends up being spoken of, and sometimes even thought of, as the personal property of some individual or denomination. The identity of a pastor (or church father) and church are so intertwined that it’s almost impossible to think of them as distinct. That which exists for the sake and glory of Christ ends up as a personality cult with the pastor (or church father) as the dominant star.

The tendency of Christians to over-identify with their leaders is an old one. In fact, it goes back to the earliest years of the church. In the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, Paul gets right to the point after his opening address:

“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”” (1:10-12)

Fundamental to the divisions and disagreements in the Corinthian church was the tendency for the different “parties” to identify with some Christian leader over and against the others. Of course, love and appreciation for Christians leaders is a fine thing. But when this love and appreciation becomes divisive or idolatrous, then we have a real problem. Paul wraps up his argument with a simple imperative: “So let no one boast about human leaders.” Though appreciation of leaders is fine, this must not run over into bragging or anything that would divide the church.

Our “job” is to help the church be unified in Christ, based on the truths in the Word of God, not to divide in order to defend ourselves, our denominations, our church fathers, our pastors or our own opinions.  Devote yourself to seeking what’s best for whole church – the Body of Christ.

HOW NOT TO SOLVE CONFLICTS AMONG CHRISTIANS

As mentioned earlier, we are to imitate the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ. As Jesus taught, we often need to turn the other cheek, to walk the second mile (Matthew 5:39-41). Jesus modeled self-giving sacrifice through his death on the cross. Yes, indeed, this sort of thing grates against our own desire for vindication as well as our culture’s preoccupation with winning no matter what. But our Lord teaches us, both by word and by deed, how to give up our lives so that we might gain true life, eternal life, life in all of its fullness.

If you’re in a conflict with other Christians, whether it is personal, professional, or ecclesiastical, the way NOT to solve the problem is by making it a personal vendetta or humiliating your opponent before others. Yes, we may have to sacrifice our pride for a while. Yes, we may lose certain personal advantages and popularity. But what we gain, and what the church of Jesus Christ gains, may well be worth the cost.

Often people are not as spiritually mature and they get caught up in a worldly effort to win. But the fact that we Christians fail to do what Scripture calls us to do is no argument for not trying to obey in the first place. We should make every effort to settle our disputes in a Christ-like manner. And when this fails, there will be times when God will call us simply to lose and walk away, rather than to fight a useless battle. Yet in this losing, as counter-intuitive as it might seem, there will be a great gain for God’s kingdom, and even for our own souls.

Do not miss out on TOLERANCE – PART 2. It will be published on the blog within the next few days.

 

IT AIN’T EASY – ASK PAUL

Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In Acts 14:22 we read, “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” All Christians who follows Jesus are going to face afflictions. The Psalmist writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19). Hebrews describes saints who are “destitute, afflicted, tormented” and “endur(ing) a great fight of afflictions” (Hebrews 11:37, 10:32).

 

My family and I have been going through a very tough time during the last three years, mainly due to my wife’s illness and the high impact it has on our financial position. Last night I finally had the opportunity to watch a copy of the movie, “Paul, An apostle of Christ.” Suddenly, I realized that our own tests, trials and tribulations are so much smaller, compared to what the believers in biblical times had to go through.

2 Cor 11:23-28 speaks of the many trials Paul faced. He:

  • Was put in prison over and over;
  • Was flogged an uncounted number of times;
  • Faced death over and over;
  • Received 39 lashes from the Jews 5 times;
  • Was beaten with rods 3 times;
  • Was stoned one time;
  • Was shipwrecked 3 times;
  • Spent a day and night in the sea;
  • Was in continual danger from rivers and robbers;
  • Was in danger from his own countrymen, as well as the Gentiles;
  • Was in danger in the city, in the country, at sea, and from false brothers;
  • Was weary and in pain often, without sleep;
  • Was often hungry and thirsty, cold and naked;
  • And was continually concerned about the health of all of the churches.

Although some of these things might seem familiar to some of us, I doubt that any of us can say that we went through all of them during our lifetimes. Do we with our Westernized culture honestly know what it is to be tested? We are much, much further away from what the Bible means by tribulation, if we compare ourselves to those times. Christians in parts of the world, like the Middle East and China, where persecution is part of Christian life, must have a much better understanding.

The Institute in Basic Life Principles list an interesting, brief description of eight types of tests that Christian are likely to face:

  • Fiery trials: intense encounters or struggles; bursts of anger, grief, or lust;
  • Infirmities: physical limitations and illnesses;
  • Reproaches: ridicule and rejection on account of faith or holiness;
  • Persecutions: harassment and oppression due to religious convictions;
  • Necessities: wear and care of daily responsibilities;
  • Distresses: disappointments and deep hurts;
  • Tribulations: unusual pressures and challenges;
  • Temptations: opportunities to yield to our sinful nature.

WHY DOES GOD EXPECT US TO GO THROUGH TESTS, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS?

When we respond to God’s grace and believe in Jesus Christ, we are “born again” into the Kingdom of God. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in your spirit. He confirms our relationship with God, comforts us, and leads us into all truth. (See Romans 8:16, John 14:16–17 and 16:13.)

God begins the supernatural work of transforming us, His children, into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, who was and is perfect. (See Romans 8:29.) As we mature in our faith, God uses tests and trials to develop our character.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Peter 4:12–13).

HOW WILL I KNOW IF GOD IS TESTING ME?

We will not always know when we are being tested by God. Job didn’t know that what he was going through was a test until he came out of it. The best thing to do is to regard everything as a test at first. Every trial, even every time someone does or say something to us that they shouldn’t or try to get us upset or to respond in a negative way. This way we will not react our normal fleshly way. If we are unable to pay your bills are sick and being depress. Try to have faith in God. Having and maintaining faith in God in times of trials will not always be easy and for some of us faith doesn’t come very easy, but we must start training ourselves to have faith if you want to live in victory each day.

It is also important to remember that not all of our trials are tests of faith. There is another of God’s purposes in our trials: The Father is preparing a bride for his Son. And he wants more from us in our trials than greater faith. This bride is going to be tried severely, and her love for the Bridegroom will come through the fire. Her trust in him will be refined through fires, floods and afflictions. Yet these trials aren’t a matter of testing her love and devotion. Rather, they’re about refining a love that is already fully committed.

However, we must be careful not to forget that many of our “trials and tribulations” are also a result of our own wrongdoing. “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). God will forgive our sins because the eternal punishment for them has been paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. However, we still have to suffer the natural consequences in this life for our sins and bad choices. But God uses even those sufferings to mold and shape us for His purposes and our ultimate good.

WHERE IS GOD DURING OUR TESTS, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS?

God takes no delight in the testings of His children. The Bible says Christ is sympathetic toward us in all our trials, being touched by the feelings of our infirmities. In Revelation 2:9 he tells the church, “I know thy … tribulation, and poverty…” He is actually saying, “I know what you’re going through. You may not understand it, but I know all about it.”

The Lord provides strength and faith through even the most excruciating ordeals. Think about your own past ordeals or trials. While you went through them, didn’t you sometimes thought that you would not be able to endure? And yet you did – all by the strength and mercy of God!

God has assured us that He will not permit us to be attacked with trials or temptations that are too overwhelming for us to handle. He will grant us grace to be overcomers. In I Corinthians 10:12–13, Paul says: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

THE ROLE AND AUTHORITY OF SATAN AND THE DEMONS.

Satan wants us to let go of God, give up on life, curse God, or stop believing in God. Many Christians therefore blindly blame all bad things that happen to them on Satan. Sadly, the actual purposes of tests, trials and tribulations in their lives are then overlooked. As a matter of fact, they give the serpent way too much credit (and he thoroughly enjoys it).

If you think about the word “authority,” it comes from the word “author.” We know from Genesis 1 that God is the Author of the entire universe (including Satan himself)! Remember, Satan is an angel, created by God. Satan is not divine. He is not God’s equal. The closest Satan comes to being an author is by twisting what God has done, and turning it into sin. He’s the author of lies.

“All authority comes from God, and those in position of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13:1). Therefore, no authority that God has given has been given to Satan. So any authority that Satan exercises was taken, not given. He is, by definition, unauthorized!

The book of Job gives further insight into the limited nature of Satan’s power. Satan came before God with other heavenly beings (Job 1:6), and God asked him where he had been (1:7). Satan tells him, and God asks if he knows about his servant, Job (1:8). Satan challenges God, saying he’s put a hedge around him and blessed him, and he asks God to take away the hedge, threatening that if he did, Job would curse God to his face (1:10-11). God removes the hedge of blessing around Job’s life, but restricts Satan’s activity.

It is clear from this that Satan could do only what God had given him permission to do, and nothing more. Job was certainly a believer, but there is no reason to think that Satan somehow has unrestricted authority over unbelievers. This Scripture tells us the reason that Satan has any authority at all, because God allows it to be so…for now, and only for the purposes of God.

You can be confident that God will not allow anything to happen to you without His permission, and He will not let any “bad thing” happen that will not ultimately bring you more good than destruction. (See I Peter 4:12–13, Romans 9:14–24, Isaiah 55:8–9, Job 1:6–12, Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 121.)

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO OUR OWN TESTS, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS?

What is a Christian to do when faced with disappointment, disaster, and despair? Scripture teaches us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Yet when we encounter difficulties, we often wonder, “Why?”

Paul regarded these “tests” as opportunities to grow spiritually. Instead of despairing when he encountered trials, Paul said he would glory in his infirmities so that the power of Christ would rest upon him. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9.) As we, like Paul, choose to trust God and accept the grace He gives us, Christ’s character will be formed in us. “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3–5).

Unless you accept God’s grace to deal with suffering, inevitably you will become bitter. However, if you choose to trust God to bring about His purposes through the suffering, you can avoid the trap of bitterness and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. (See II Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:14–15, and II Peter 3:18.)

The Institute in Basic Life Principles  provides five responses that are keys to enduring tests and trials through God’s grace:

  1. GIVE THANKS.

Sometimes being thankful in a difficult situation is the most difficult thing you can do. Yet, Scripture is very clear about this response: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). To be thankful rather than to complain takes a conscious act of the will and a sacrifice of natural desires.

Unfortunately, most of us respond with murmuring or complaining when we face hardship of any kind—emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. However, through trials, “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:13–15).

Thanking God in all things does not mean that we thank God for evil. It means that we are thanking God for the benefits He intends for us when He allows things to happen.

  1. REJOICE!

Along with giving thanks, we also are instructed to rejoice in all things: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Thanking God is an act of the will, but rejoicing is a response of the spirit. Therefore, it is possible to be sad and joyful at the same time. We cannot escape the pain of a difficult situation, but we can learn to rejoice in God Himself and in the good things God will do through our suffering.

We should try to discern the positive benefits that could come about through the situation. Ask the question, Why did God allow this to happen? Tests and trials give us opportunities to come to know God better and to bring glory to God.

Paul stated: “. . . We are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14–18).

As you deal with the difficulties, remember the following truths:

Gaining intimate knowledge of Christ exceeds the value of gaining more possessions. (See Philippians 3:8.)

Developing stronger character is more important than getting your own way. (See Hebrews 5:8.)

Demonstrating self-control is more heroic than dominating your competitors. (See Proverbs 25:28.)

Eternal treasures are more valuable than earthly riches. (See Matthew 19:21.)

  1. BELIEVE AND ACT ON THE WORD OF GOD.

When Jesus was tested in the wilderness, He responded to each temptation by quoting Scripture. For example, when Satan urged Christ to turn stones into bread, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We can follow Jesus’ example and successfully engage in spiritual warfare by proclaiming truth in the face of tests and temptations.

Ephesians 6:17 describes the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit”—the only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). They are also the authority by which we can claim the promises of God, since we are told, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

As you meditate on the truth of God’s Word, which is living and active (see Hebrews 4:12), you can learn to effectively battle the enemy of your soul, Satan, with the sword of the Spirit.

  1. CRY OUT TO GOD.

Perhaps the greatest reason God has for taking us through the trials of life is to bring us to the firm conclusion that we need God. He desires to work powerfully through our lives; therefore we must learn to depend on Him. He alone must become our source of strength, provision, protection, and direction.

God has the ability to protect us from every trial or distress. Instead, He often chooses to deliver us in the midst of trials. In Psalm 50:15 we are told, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” God’s goal through our trials is to strengthen our dependence on Him. We must trust Him to work in the ways and in the time frame that will produce the most good in our lives and the most glory for His name. As we call to the Lord in our distress, He will deliver us.

  1. OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.

Jesus gave His disciples a clear set of instructions about responding to those who made life miserable for them. (See Matthew 5:44.) These directions are completely opposite to what we would naturally do:

Love your enemies.

Bless those who curse you.

Do good to those who hate you.

Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.

Such responses would never be a person’s natural tendency, but they do reflect the heart of God: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

If you react to a person who offends you and become bitter toward him, you actually put yourself in an emotional prison. Bitterness will control your thought life, your emotions, your free time, and your health. In order to be freed from this prison, you must forgive.

Scripture provides many examples of those who forgave offenders, including Job (Job 42:10), Stephen (Acts 7:59–60), and Jesus Christ (Luke 23:34).

THE REWARDS OF RESPONDING WITH GRACE

As God faithfully pours out His grace upon us in the midst of each fiery trial, we can endure hardships and overcome the enemy in God’s strength. (See 2 Chronicles 20:15.) Scripture reveals that there are great rewards for responding to trials with grace, including those listed below:

The strength of Godly character

“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3–5).

Exceeding joy in God’s glory

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Peter 4:12–13).

God’s strength in our weaknesses

“. . . Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:9–10).

Fellowship with Christ

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:8–10).

Heavenly rewards

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12).

Reigning with Christ

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (II Timothy 2:11–12).