Like a lot of Christians I’ve asked the same question. “Why me Lord?” God’s answer is amazing and wonderful.
“Because you are special to me!”
For I reckon that sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Roman 8:18 KJV)
Is life getting tough? Sometimes we’re tempted to question why God would allow His loved ones to go through such difficulty. But of this we can be absolutely certain: He loves you very much and He has His reasons.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1st Peter 4:12 NIV)
God doesn’t want us to be confused over this. That’s why we are forewarned that suffering will come. Hardships are necessary, or God would not permit them. Several of His reasons are cited in scripture. And those indicated purposes are multiple. First is the growth of our faith. And the strengthening and shaping of our Christ-like character. He tests and proves our faith so that one day all others will see His work in us. Also, hardships teach us to depend on the Lord and trust Him implicitly through every circumstance.
Yet we can take joy in knowing that one day there will be no more tears, no pain, and no sorrow. And the difficulties we endure in the here-and-now will seem as nothing someday. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2nd Cor. 4:17 Holman CSB) We will shine with a glory unrealized in any earthly realm today! God is creating beauty and splendor in us. One day he will lift you up to showcase you before all of creation. “Look what I have created in this glorious soul!”
“…You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. (21) A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (22) So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20b-22 NIV)
For now, there’s great comfort in God’s promises. We know that He’s already explained as much as we are able to understand. Sure, there’s a lot more to God’s reasoning. But His mind dwarfs the greatest genius minds of all the ages. If the Lord were to explain any further than what He already has, we’d be completely incapable of comprehending it. Sufficient is our knowledge of His great love for all mankind, His omniscient wisdom, and His omnipotent ability to carry out His divine plan. Add to that our faith in God's trustworthiness to keep His promises, and we can face anything. Christ in us continues to suffer with us. He is with us every step of the way.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28 NIV)
After one of our often spirited debates, a certain relative by marriage asked me to write an article on how someone can be a good person regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. As an agnostic with atheistic leanings I believe he, like many folks today, feel that they are good people. And by the world’s standard of what is good, he is correct.
As I pondered covering such a topic, I was rather loathe to do so, having had my own heart revealed to me in the light of God’s glory. I’m fully persuaded that every person on earth is quite flawed. However, after checking with the big boss upstairs, He’s disclosed the door to enlightenment which such a discussion can present.
As humans it would be quite offensive to say, “You are not a good person”. It goes against what we believe. And of course the prospect that we are not good people is repulsive. It just down right makes us feel bad. In fact if you tell a person they are not good, their response might reveal the truth of the statement.
I don’t like to see Christians acting unwisely and unkindly towards those who disagree with them. It is necessary for me to acknowledge that atheists and agnostics can be very nice people, charitable, and have a good sense of morality. There is no denying mankind’s capacity for doing good works separate from a belief and trust in God. That is a result of an innate awareness of good and evil (God consciousness), an inherent knowledge of good and evil which mankind received in the Garden of Eden. But to me that’s never really been an issue. By my fleshly perceptions atheists can be very good people.
Christians are not better than non-Christians based on their own merit. We understand that we are in need of God’s grace like all other people. But God views those who are saved differently than those who are not. Because the righteousness of Christ covers the redeemed. Note that it’s Jesus’ righteousness that makes me good in God’s eyes. Yet God loves all people regardless of their lack of faith. Christ died for my sins before I even committed them. Faith in and obedience to the Lord has to do with the restoration of mankind’s relationship with God, not His love for mankind. God loves you very much! But He must remain true to His nature of holiness and justice, because He is the epitome of good.
I do believe that a Christian’s motivation to do what is good becomes greater because of their love for God. They receive joy by pleasing Him. Their capacity for goodness is aided by the power of God sanctifying the individual. Therefore the Christian has a distinct advantage over the non-Christian for doing good, because they are following the one who is perfectly good.
I do however, feel that when a non-believer comes to faith in Christ, that their capacity for love, and ability to perform good works becomes exponentially greater than before. They would then have the capability to be a better person than they ever thought possible. This, due to the enlightenment they’d receive by contrasting their goodness with that of the pure holiness they’d see in God. But mostly by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who would then dwell within them. We must remember, it is God’s power at work within believers that makes them different. Therefore no Christian can boast of being good and doing good. It is God who does it.
However, let’s look at the difficulty with our perceptions of goodness from an earthly viewpoint.
Though I’m only five foot eight, God has blessed me with a great deal of physical strength. Pound for pound, I felt as though I was one of the strongest men around. Back then, my schedule allowed me to hit the gym in the middle of the day on weekdays. It was the time of day when the place was sparsely populated. Then I started coming in on Saturdays too, and the place would be packed. Making some friends, I found several guys who all weighed the same as me (within about five pounds). Was I ever in for an education!
A lot of them were stronger than me—most by just a little. But Jack was extraordinary.
My eyes must have been bugging out of my head when I first witnessed his strength. After each three repetition set on the bench press, he jumped up and added two more forty-five pound plates, clanging the steel disks together. On his last set, he pressed five hundred fifty pounds for eight repetitions! Back then my one rep maximum was about 300 pounds.
On every exercise, including dead lifts, squats and curls, he could lift twice the amount that I could lift. And do more repetitions. Compared to Jack I was not very strong at all, and he was the same size as me. What amazed me even more was what he said.
“I’m not very strong compared to some other guys I know. They’re about the same size as us, and they can put me to shame!” I went home a humbled man that day.
But this story as an analogy can’t hold a candle to the vast expanse between the goodness of Homo-sapiens and the perfect paradigm of God’s goodness. The best person in the world pales in contrast with God’s purity and holiness.
It’s not all that difficult to be good enough for the world. The world’s standard is much lower than God’s standard. I think we’ve all heard, “Nobody’s perfect”. There’s lots of faithless humanitarians and do-gooders out there who spend themselves for the sake of others. And they accomplish countless good things. Only an idiot would say that you have to have faith to do good things and be considered a good person by the rest of the world. But that’s only the physical or natural world, which many times cannot even perceive its own corruption. Yes deeply egregious evils we recognize, but to God, the slightest flaw is egregious, because it introduces impurity. Though housed in a physical body we are also spiritual beings, we do not cease to exist once fleshly life ends.
God will hold us up in comparison to His righteousness. If there is the slightest flaw in us, then we are not fit to be in His holy presence. That’s why we need a Savior. As a Christian, I believe God when He says to trust in Christ Jesus alone to make me fit to be in His presence. There is not a perfect person on earth. And if we are not perfect then we won’t make the cut.
All the good works in the world won’t make a shred of difference in our admittance to eternal life in God’s loving presence. The kindest, the nicest and the most loving person on earth is not good enough. There is no way to earn salvation. The only escape from God’s wrath against sin is the way He has provided for us. It is by faith in the sacrifice He has made of His Son Jesus, to pay our fine for us.
God’s law states that the penalty for sin (being less than perfect) is death. But God can legally dismiss our case because He’s paid the penalty in our behalf.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Notice the severity of God’s judgment. Directly followed by His loving provision to negate the harshness of such judgment. The escape from being judged by the standard of His perfection is a gift. It is received by accepting His gift in faith that God will honor His word. He then imputes the righteousness of His Son Jesus to us. In a sense, we borrow Christ’s perfection to gain acceptance. When our Savior returns He shall complete and perfect us so that we may dwell with Him forever.
By God’s standard none of us are good. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23) Yet, He wants to be with us, because He is a God not only of law and justice, but also of mercy and love. The next verse (24) completes the sentence of Romans 3:23, and reveals the other side of God’s nature.
“(23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
He has redeemed us from the death penalty that is upon all people. And because none are perfect by God’s standard, His love demanded He provide a way to save us. Then, when Christ returns, the redeemed will receive a new spiritual body, an eternal body which is no longer prone to sin and imperfection. We will be truly good as God created us in the first place, before disobedience, or sin entered the picture. Perfect and good—God’s kind of good.
By all means, to the best of your ability, continue to be good and to do what is good. Be a nice person and a kind, charitable and loving person. But don’t depend on your own goodness to save your soul from damnation. Accept the gift.
The more a person comes to discern spiritual truth the more they realize how far off the mark they actually are. Each year, God progressively reveals more things in me that need to change, as I strive for His standard of perfection.
I’d like to say I’m a good man. But I cannot do so in good conscience, because I know God.
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
(Scripture References are from the New International Version)
It was the kind of problem that would cause a man a great deal of embarrassment if the church he attended were to find out. But it’s actually a common problem for many Christians today.
He’d always been a nice guy, and kind to people. So, Marty was completely on-board with the love-your-neighbor thing. It was his weakness for beautiful women that was too powerful of an attraction. And he knew that lusting for their bodies was not love. Yet it was so deeply ingrained within his soul that it proved to be a powerful adversary.
Ten years after becoming a Christian he’d catch himself looking and lusting. Each time, he’d repent and confess and God forgave him. But the problem persisted.
One day after reading Romans chapter seven, Marty learned that being saved doesn’t mean we’ll no longer have problems with the flesh. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, has made provision for all that we need to live the kind of lives that are pleasing to Him. The gift of His Holy Spirit living inside every believer exerts the power of God for that purpose, as the eighth chapter of Romans revealed to Marty.
“Lord please forgive me. I need your help to overcome this. I want to be obedient, but I need your power to do it. Show me what to do.”
Mining deeper, he pulled exemplary tools for success from God’s word.
Marty had been fighting in his own strength; attempting to conger up enough will-power to quit his habit, but the flesh has no power in spiritual matters.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 NIV)
Finally, he put his faith to work in this dilemma. Christ is our champion. Our determined friend realized that it’s our faith in Jesus’ power to overcome, which applies His might to our struggles.
Secondly, he’d never fully “set” his affections on Christ and on righteousness. Sure, Marty loved God, but he also still loved the things of the world. He loved sex.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1 NIV)
Focusing on godliness as his ultimate objective, he began to love Jesus above all else. Which became a compelling force, driving him to obedience.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”—Jesus
Turning the radio to a Christian station one day, a preacher was talking about “The Battlefield of the Mind”.
God revealed to our struggling friend that these battles with lust were being waged in his mind. And he must protect it from evil influence. There were many television shows Marty had to quit watching, and pictures to stop looking at, and stories and jokes to stop listening to. They were bombarding his eyes and ears with sexual stimuli.
“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
He began filling his mind with all the good things of God.
The Lord then led a Christian friend to talk to Marty. Whenever a beautiful woman came around, Marty was to try and view her through God’s eyes, as God sees her. Suddenly, he found himself praying for nearly every woman he saw. He became concerned for their eternal salvation. Jesus’ love flowed through him.
In doing these things, the habit of sexual lust was squashed. It had no more power over him.
Today, Marty leads a Christian recovery group for those who are battling sexual addictions.
So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.—Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:25)
Solomon had asked God for wisdom and became wiser than any other king on earth. There’s no disputing the vast stores of wisdom he amassed, much of which is recorded in the bible. But Solomon did not always act wisely.
Going against God’s design for monogamous marriage is certainly not wise. Did Solomon actually think he could marry 300 women and have 700 more hot babes on the side and there would be no negative consequences? No strife and no difficulties? He knew the danger of being led astray by courting foreign women. God had warned against this. Yet the playboy King had lots of lovers of various descent. He was playing with fire and he knew it. The allure of using that kingly power for indulging in sexual escapades with beautiful women was too great to resist. He sowed unto the flesh and reaped a whirlwind of heartache because of it.
The canonical book of Proverbs stands as a strong warning against foolishness and wickedness and folly. It poignantly proclaims the riches of godliness and wisdom. Keeping a diary, recording the lessons we learn as we go through life is profoundly profitable. And once a person suffers the consequences of a bad decision in one of those life-events, nobody can rightly say that he is not qualified to speak on the issue, whatever it may be.
I’m picturing Solomon recording life-happenings as a very young fellow, learning through sundry experiences—sometimes the hard way.
Maybe one of his journal entries read something like this. “Note to self: ‘Don’t pull on a dog’s ears unless you want to get bit. It is foolish to do so.”
Perhaps somewhere along the line Solomon meddled in someone else’s arguments and difficulties, which had nothing to do with him. Ending up embroiled in a mess he could have avoided by minding his own business, he would have learned another valuable lesson. So he uses both incidents to write one of my favorites.
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” Proverbs 26:17 (NIV)
Whichever way Solomon learned these two pearls of wisdom, I’m glad he records those warnings for us. So that we can heed his counsel and learn the easy way, not having to make those mistakes ourselves. I’m certain that Thomas Edison was scoffed at and ridiculed for goofing around trying to invent the light bulb after thousands of failures. But through a process of elimination he was finally successful. Now, we don’t have to try all those things that don’t work to make a light bulb, because he’s already found out for us what does not work.
I remember a certain pastor who scoffed at another minister for counselling a young married couple in marital affairs. He said the man was not qualified to give counsel on marriage because he’d been through a divorce. Of course that was long before he’d been called to the ministry. Who in their right mind would go to a divorcee for marital advice? I would. Why? Because that man has made the mistakes and knows what to not do! Besides, if he is a spirit-led minister, God would be directing him on how to counsel others. And God knows all things.
So how do we gain wisdom? What does the bible have to say about it?
James 1:4 lays the ground work for verse 5, which speaks of wisdom.
“And let endurance (patience) have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.…”
Notice the element of time in gaining wisdom. That time, accounts for good decisions which bring favorable outcomes, as well poor choices resulting in bad happenings. The words endurance in the NIV and patience in the KJV, both require the element of time to be perfected. And whether one learns them through mistakes or otherwise, the important thing is that we have learned them.
Patient endurance while trusting God is the road to wisdom.
Remaining steadfast in faith while patiently enduring all that life throws at us, in conjunction with seeking the Lord’s mind on every issue, is the path to godly wisdom.
I think each of us probably has a regret or two and have learned a few things the hard way, whether it was rushing into a bad marriage, discovering that fire will burn you, or any number of things. So, let’s not discount others because of past mistakes or failures. They may have experiences which we can benefit from, just as Solomon made his share of bad choices. Yet we learn much from his writings.
Gaining wisdom is a process—one in which we can be proactively engaged. Let’s review what we’ve discussed and latch ahold of the keys to wisdom. But this is not an exhaustive list!
1. Ask God for wisdom and heed His counsel. ie: Obey Him.
2. Keep a journal of things you’ve learned and how you’ve come to understand them.
3. Study God’s word, the bible.
4. Maintain humility: Have a teachable spirit.
5. Be patient and understand that it takes the element of time.
6. Learn from your mistakes.
7. Every person in your life has something to contribute to your wisdom.
Lord willing, next time we'll ask and answer the question: What is it that I am supposed to endure?
A True Account
The witch doctor shrieked like a wild banshee, throwing his head around in circles as the beads on his ornamented headdress rattled. Then looked again into Tafadzwa’s eyes to confirm his diagnoses of the 30 year-old patient.
“What do you see great one?” Tafadzwa asked in a shaky voice.
“Death. There is death in your eyes. You will surely die!”
The poor Shona tribesman’s entire body went limp with shock. Fear gripped his heart like a living fire, beginning in his stomach and consuming every vital organ. All strength ebbed from his body. His words were but a whisper.
“How long do I have?”
“It is up to the ngozi. He is the evil spirit of the one you have offended. The ngozi is very angry and has come to exact retribution.”
The Shaman or “n’anga” wielded a mighty influence over the Shona tribes of Zimbabwe. And was believed to be gifted with supernatural abilities to heal, to tell the future or to curse a person. But the Christian missionaries sent to preach the gospel to the Shona people, and to offer them medical assistance, knew this to be nonsense.
The two missionaries, Jim and Jeanne, examined Tafadzwa, who now lay on a mat in his shabby hut. Trained in nursing, Jeanne gave him a clean bill of health. Physically, there was nothing wrong with the man. But he believed he was dying.
The next morning the couple went to check on the distraught native. They found him sitting on the ground with his back pressed against a huge baobab tree. He was dead. But his eyes remained wide open, as if in terror.
It was a year later when Jim and Jeanne spoke with doctors who confirmed the possibility of actually dying, simply on the belief that death was imminent. In fact, three other cases of death by a person’s own mind had been documented.
“The mind is a powerful thing.” They were told.
These two Christian missionaries related the story to me. They are my parents.
As Christians, it is vitally important to guard our thoughts, and to diligently protect what goes into our minds. Stimulus, suggestion, and callousing are constant threats against our fortresses of thought. The mind is much more impressionable than any of us would care to admit. Especially when we think it is not.
It is our mind’s belief in Jesus which saves us, and ushers us into eternal life. A healthy thought life is a nurturing spring of vibrant spiritual health. Thoughts that are uplifting, loving and grateful are like rich nutrients to the soul. Whereas negative, bitter or lustful thoughts poison the mind, and ultimately lead to death.
Millions of people over the past two thousand years have testified of the power of the word of God, the holy bible, to change lives. They have experienced transformation for themselves, and have received life in abundance, peace, joy and wisdom. I have as well. Yet, there are many who feel that the bible is just an ordinary book, written by men. These too have testimony to give. They’ve read it and declared the scriptures to have no lasting impact upon their lives.
Let’s examine this dichotomy and discover the truth. I remember high school science as my favorite course of study. I was fascinated with microscopic life, chemicals and reactions. Early on, I learned about catalysts. Many times, a catalyst needs to be added to a compound to speed up and enhance the reaction to mixing them together.
Today’s automobiles include a catalytic converter, which is a device that uses a catalyst to convert three harmful compounds in car exhaust into harmless compounds. The catalyst helps to change toxic carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. It transforms the atmosphere damaging hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water. It also converts the nitrogen oxides back into nitrogen and oxygen.
Going deeper, we find that without catalysts, life is not possible. For example, without a catalyst, oxygen and hydrogen gases would not be able to combine to form water. Without water, all life on planet earth would cease to exist.
Ephesians 5:26 speaks of God’s word, as water which cleanses those who are being saved. “…to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (“Her” refers to the church)
The bible too is a catalyst of sorts, a cleansing agent for the soul, helping convert condemned sinners into cleansed and sanctified Saints. It aids in gaining eternal life, because it reveals Jesus as the Christ and exposes the deep secrets of our hearts. It changes lives. But according to the testimonies of some non-believers, it does not always change lives.
Hmmm. Maybe the word of God needs a catalyst for the powerful change in a person’s heart and mind to take place. Perhaps that catalyst was absent in the people who experienced no power and no positive reaction from reading the bible. You’ve probably already surmised: I’m talking about faith!
“For without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
It is God who works the change. He is the power behind the jaw dropping transformations that take place in the hearts, minds and characters of a multitude of souls across the globe daily. It is when the word of God is read through the eyes of faith that its power is released. And faith compels God to exert His awesome power into the life of believers.
Yet without faith, the bible have no impact. Because the flesh is in opposition to God and cannot even comprehend the things of God. It is the Spirit of God who acts upon the believer’s faith and opens the mind’s understanding. Without the faith, the Spirit will not react in this way.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV)
When a person goes to a doctor for treatment of some physical ailment they must first have faith in that doctor. They must believe he knows what he’s doing and that he understands medicine, the human body and various sicknesses. The same is true of God and His word, the bible.
Continuing the analogy further, if the doctor prescribes a medicine for a sickness, it would be ridiculous to think that it would have any effect without actually taking or applying the medicine. Simply reading the bible has no power to transform whatsoever. However, applying its principles to our lives will invariably create drastic and positive change.
Faith is belief in action. It’s doing something. Faith and application is what makes the difference. We must respond in faith to God’s word. When we do this, we can expect miracles.
I just purchased several exercise machines. Perhaps if I stare at them and study them long enough, I’ll get in shape?
Watching a re-run of the classic western TV series “Bonanza”, is what sparked my research into an old silver mine. It is called the Comstock Lode, and was one of the world’s biggest hauls of silver. Millions of dollars’ worth of raw silver was overlooked by gold seekers. They hadn’t been searching for silver, and didn’t know how to recognize it in its raw form. Hoping for the yellow stuff, the miners became disgusted with all those blasted blue rocks they kept digging up. As a result, Comstock, who did recognize it as silver ore, purchased the site for a pittance and became a mega millionaire.
The former owners of the site, as well as most of the miners working the site, allowed a vast fortune to slip through their fingers.
Many Christians today are completely unaware of the immense wealth that is within their grasp. Not money, silver, gold or diamonds, though that too is possible. We must develop a mind to understand what God has for us. Our hearts must be trained to discern our riches in Christ, available in the here-and-now, with the inheritance of all things yet to come.
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:18)
As a man who enjoys living with gusto, my passion drives me, yet I must allow intellect and logic to hold the steering wheel. One melancholy fellow I used to work alongside would constantly ask me, “What are you so dog-gone happy about?” He’d say, “Get your head out the clouds, life sucks.”
That’s more than a matter of perspective. The weather men tell us most weather changes take place in the troposphere, or lower level of the atmosphere. With my heart and mind set on the Lord, I try to keep my head above the stratosphere, where the ever changing weather of life has the least effect on my journey towards home.
Sometimes in this life on earth we look too hard for gold, when silver is right there within reach. Maybe we need to settle for silver more often. “Store up our treasure in heaven”, as Jesus puts it. We gather little by little today, while pressing on to acquire the greatest wealth of all.
What God has for us, exceeds anything we can possibly imagine for ourselves. All we need do is follow God’s program, which He’s designed to lead us there. It’s the best way and the right way. The way of righteousness, through faith in Christ. We’ll find it to be the way least taken, yet it leads to the fulfillment of our hearts deepest desires. The greatest wealth of all, is found by allowing God to enlighten our hearts to understand the vast treasure we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."
(Romans 12:1 NIV)
What we have to look forward to, or “our hope”:
Eternal life with glorious King Jesus, living amidst beauty not yet seen, in perfect peace, and no pain or suffering, while inheriting the entire earth. That is merely the tip of the iceberg—just the beginning of our hope as Christians.
Yet we can have so many benefits right now that they cannot be numbered. Here’s a dozen benefits to consider what we can have right now, and which come from a life of trusting Christ—living in obedience to Him.
Provision of everything we need
Our deepest desires fulfilled
Discernment… you get the picture.
But we must remember that we are not called to a life of ease. There will be sacrifices to make—self-denial, suffering and pain, hardship and difficulties. That’s what those twelve benefits are for. To strengthen us—enabling the faithful to endure to the end, that we may obtain the greatest treasure of all. Jesus Christ is our treasure.
Flipping through an old hymnal brought back many great memories of my early years growing up attending church, creating a warm nostalgia. I was struck by the number of songs about the cross. In my youth, I couldn’t fully appreciate the many songs that sing of the cross of Christ.
A lot of people were crucified on those Roman instruments of torture. What is it about the cross of Christ that is so powerful and elicits such teary eyed wonder and praise? What’s so special about that cross? Looking at some of those hymns, we can see the answer.
“At the Cross”
“At the Cross, at the cross where I first saw the light
and the burdens of my heart rolled away.
It was there by faith, I received my sight.
And now I am happy all the day.”
And Isaac Watts’ “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”:
“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.”
Then: “I Saw the Cross” by Frederick Whitfield,
The 3rd verse reads:
“I trust the cross of Jesus In every trying hour,
My sure and certain refuge, my never failing tower;
In every fear and conflict, I more than conqueror am;
Living I’m safe, or dying, Thro’ Christ the living Lamb.”
Or: “The Old Rugged Cross” by George Benard, Verse 3:
“In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see; For twas on that old cross
Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross…”
There are many more, The love that was displayed there and the glorious cleansing it procures for all who trust in Jesus, elicits worship and love, praise and thanks, while revealing the power of God to transform hearts and lives.
Perhaps Jennie Evelyn Hussey’s chorus to “Lead Me to Calvary” sheds more light.
“Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.”
Another illumining verse is from, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” by John Bowring.
“When the woes of life o’re-take me, Hopes deceive and fears annoy.
Never shall the cross forsake me: Lo, It glows with peace and joy.”
For the Christian, the cross of Christ is the symbol of our hope, our joy and redemption. All comfort is found in the shade of that Roman instrument of cruelty and torture, because of the one who died on it. Jesus, the Prince of Peace and Lord of Glory.
The salt air was warm at two o’clock in the morning and the distant surf splashed its waves onto shore with a cleansing sound. At the end of a very long fishing pier on Florida’s gulf coast, I cried out to the Lord with the deepest heartache of my 29 years. Shark fishermen glared darts at me for intruding into their self-claimed area, yet I’d paid my gate-fee.
After neglecting my relationship with God for many years, I needed Him desperately. I was ready to either: end my life, or hear from God. That was the essence of my cry. I was heart-broken, despairing and crushed in spirit. At the time, all the scriptures speaking of how God constantly searches for hearts in precisely that condition, were not yet known.
I was finally ready to surrender, like a wild stallion who is at last broken for service. This is what God had been waiting for. My surrender. Complete submission to Him. It was necessary to break my self-reliance to embark into the most beautiful love relationship with my Creator and Lord. I had to empty myself of all I thought I knew, and of all the good things I believed I’d done. Totally empty—that I may be completely filled.
Self-will constantly conflicts with God’s will, until we entirely submit to Him. Then we share the same desires—God and the individual. That is the key to intimacy with God: Constant surrender, perpetual submission and remaining dependent upon Christ. God views self-sufficiency as sinful pride, and He cannot work with that, until we are broken of it.
Two men in suits drew even more pointed stares from the shark butchers, who were after only dorsal fins, wasting the rest of the fish. God had sent these two servants of the Most High to speak with me and share from the book of Hosea.
We three were roughly kicked off the pier by the owner when the shark-men complained that we we’re talking about God and quoting the bible. One week later a hurricane destroyed that pier. Hmmm.
It’s a simple concept to understand. When we come to the Lord and open the bible, we read it every time with new eyes. We don’t bring our preconceived ideas to taint the message God has for us at that moment. We allow the truth to transform us.
Jesus is the truth, and God’s word is truth. We must rely on His Spirit to teach us the truths we need to govern our lives, not our college professors. We respond to His message of love by loving Him in return. He becomes our bread and meat and drink.
There is nothing else that will completely satisfy the human heart and soul the way an intimate relationship with God will satisfy. Then—never will we want for anything. Never again.
Sin has gone far beyond a mere tainting of a profoundly beautiful gift. Sin has stigmatized the vehicle of one of God’s most poignant messages to mankind. Sex is an object lesson for the people of His monolithic affection.
Love, being the essence of the Divine character and being, is more aptly understood through the physical and emotional responses to the act of sex.
Stigma clings to the word. Sex. And to the act itself, as something bad and dirty. Yet, the gift of sex was given to mankind to reflect the glorious beauty and intensity of God’s love. Much more than for merely a sensational response to human love.
Sex heightens love. It deepens the bond and commitment in the mind between two, penetrating deeply into the seat of emotion and affection. It melds two individuals together, uniting souls to become as one. Hence, sex within the confines of marriage, is the tangible picture of the close, intimate relationship our Creator desires between Himself and every individual. A love relationship with mankind: His living and pinnacle creation of love.
Sex is the ultimate in closeness. It clarifies God’s purpose in creating us to have fellowship with Him. And it is only through intimacy in our relationship with Him that we come to experience total fulfillment in our designed purpose. Contentment is acquired in our union with God. Allegorically, our marriage to Him.
The intensity of affection, driven into the heart at the time of orgasm, fits well with the satisfaction found in a right and close relationship with God. He fulfills our every desire.
In Thomas Constable’s commentary on Canticles (Song of Solomon), he writes: “…sex enables an experience of love whose intensity has no parallel in this cosmos and serves as a signpost to point to the greater love that lies beyond it."
It is “the greater love” (of God) to which the gift of sex would direct our attention. What more powerful sensation could better fit the contentment found in Christ, than that of orgasmic satisfaction, when it is acquired through a monogamous act of love’s expression?
Yet love that is not tested, tried and proven can never sustain a union that is so complete, such as marriage is. Therefore, God’s plan, which sought to express His great love, even before the creation of the cosmos, was revealed through the Son, Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. There is no greater test of love. “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—Jesus
The longer we walk with the Lord and the more intimately we come to know Him, the greater our awe becomes at the bottomless well of His love. I believe it will take all eternity to discover the greatest depths of God’s monolithic love in all of its various attributes.
Our God wants to lavish that love upon us. If we will only return to Him, through His Son, Jesus. His call is clear. His invitation stands. “I love you. Come home and remain faithful to me—my wife.”
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.”
Hosea 2:19 NIV