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Bible verses about Trials
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 22:1

After what things had passed? What had passed was the whole, interesting story of his life up to this point. It has been said that to follow God Abraham gave up more than any other man. Now, at age 133, he is looking back on a lifetime of trials. Perhaps he thought that he had proved his faith and could relax a bit and enjoy his old age. God, however, had another test for him, the biggest yet. Though God does not tempt us (James 1:13), He does test us. Nevertheless, Abraham eagerly responds when God calls his name: "Here I am!" What tremendous humility this shows.

Mike Ford
Abraham's One God


 

Exodus 14:5-10

The Israelites accuse Moses of not dealing with them fairly, murmuring that he should not have led them out of Egypt. This occurs just days after they went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians, joyful that they were free. How quickly their faith evaporated when fear began closing in on them!

The Egyptians, their horses, their chariots, all the shining army and might of Egypt were represented there. The Israelites' backs were up against the sea, and they could see the death sentence approaching them as fast as a horse could pull a chariot. They thought their lives were hanging in a balance when they saw the army. The end of their lives was quickly coming within view.

Had not God given them enough evidence through all His plagues against Egypt? Had He not given them enough evidence to impact their thinking, clearly dividing the Israelites from the Egyptians, beginning with the fourth plague? All of the plagues fell on Egypt, but none of them after that fell on the Israelites. Had He not impressed their minds enough on Passover when the blood of the Lamb enabled their firstborn to live while the Egyptians' died?

We can learn and grow from this lesson. In principle, we all come to our own personal Red Sea. Every one of us fails repeatedly, just as Israel did when they lost their faith for a while. What we go through when we come up against our personal Red Sea is very similar to what Israel went through.

God rescued and chastened them, but He did not dump them. He shows that He will continue to work patiently with us just as a teacher continues to work with students, even though some fail and rarely do anything well. A teacher is faced with the same principle that we are involved in with God. The teacher does not want to fail students, so he uses all of his time, energy, and efforts to encourage and instruct so that those who are failing will turn around, catch the vision, and begin to apply the right teaching.

God thinks of time in the same way a teacher does: “There is still time to catch this person's interest and turn them around.” Therefore, God gave the Israelites forty years in the wilderness.

Hebrews 11:29 shows that these people did recover their faith in time to go through the Red Sea. The major reason that they turned themselves around may have largely been because of faithful leadership, primarily by Moses and possibly by others as well. They exhibited some measure of faith, and God faithfully and duly records it.

This ought to encourage those of us who fail from time to time. Many times our faith has failed, but God patiently continues to work with us. We cannot become discouraged, but must keep going on, because God will not stop. He will keep working with us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Exodus 23:23-30

Some people draw a careless assumption from a surface evaluation of Exodus 23:20-33, leading to a shallow conclusion: that if the Israelites had just obeyed God, they would have marched into the land and taken it over without a fight. Such submission would have undoubtedly made their course easier and produced better results.

However, many other contexts show that God tests His people because He is preparing them for future responsibilities. Israel failed many tests. The march through the wilderness and the conquest of the Promised Land was a school, a vast, almost fifty-years-long training ground, for appreciating, using, and governing the Promised Land. This "schooling" included tests by which the Israelites could measure their progress, and at the same time, prove to God their growth and readiness.

We concluded that God's promises in Exodus 23 were indeed conditional. Their fulfillment depended on Israel's obedience, and part of that obedience was confronting their enemies, the people of the land, in warfare. The episode recorded in Numbers 13-14 reveals that the Israelite spies fully expected to have to fight the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc. They did not understand Exodus 23 as a free pass, as many do today. Their responsibility was to drive them out in cooperation with God, as He promised to be with them, enabling them to drive the people out, which they were incapable of doing without His involvement. But they refused to do their part.

They were to drive out the inhabitants even as we, in cooperation with God, are to confront and drive out old habits, attitudes, and loyalties. These are negative characteristics left over from our pre-conversion days. Christian living parallels this Old Testament instruction. This is one reason why the New Testament has so many illustrations and exhortations regarding Christian warfare.

Our warfare is in many ways different. It does not involve bloody engagements featuring swords, spears, or rifles with bayonets. It is a spiritual warfare, one that takes place primarily within ourselves. Nonetheless, it requires qualities such as loyalty, patriotism, courage, self-denial, vision, understanding, and sacrifice for us to be victorious overcomers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Leviticus 2:2

Nearly forty times in the Old Testament, God declares how pleasing the aroma of a burnt offering is. This positive imagery of scent represents God's satisfaction in experiencing the proper worship of Him. In the meal offering, frankincense contributes to His satisfaction because it always accompanies the burnt offering.

Frankincense has a sweet fragrance, and honey a sweet taste, but the effect of heat—representing the pressure of trials—on them is vastly different. Heat corrupts, breaks down, and eventually destroys honey. This characteristic is probably why God did not permit its use in the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:11). However, frankincense does not release its greatest fragrance until heat is applied.

Incense has a long history of use in offerings to God. The priests used it daily on the incense altar, which stood directly in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holies of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, representing God's throne, stood. The incense billowed up in a smoky cloud, filling the rooms with a fragrant odor. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest burned incense in the Holy of Holies itself before the Ark.

Isaiah 6:1, 4 describes the vision Isaiah saw of God's heavenly dwelling place:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. . . . And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

The imagery of the smoke of incense and its fragrance, representing the prayers of the saints is well known. For instance, Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Revelation 5:8 confirms this: "Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

However, in the context of the meal offering, incense carries additional significance because of its overall meaning of dedication in service to man. Notice Jesus' words in Matthew 13:20-21:

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation of persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Incense portrays a person's attitude during his trials endured in service to fellow man. A person might be all sweetness and light until the hardship of service hits him, and he grows bitter and turns aside.

Frequently, a Christian's trials involve people, often those close to him: relatives, business coworkers, or social acquaintances. Nothing is more consistently difficult than interpersonal relationships. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without murmuring 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." He tells the Corinthians, ". . . nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (I Corinthians 10:10). Finally, Peter advises, "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (I Peter 4:9). Frankincense represents the pleasant satisfaction God experiences when His children endure without grumbling the hardships of unstinting service, especially to their brethren.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Three): The Meal Offering


 

Numbers 23:19

Job remarks that, as God's creations and recipients of His benevolence, we have no right to complain when He allows us to endure afflictions or hardships. Even in these times, we still reap the benefits of His goodness because it is good for us to be afflicted, to receive correction, because these trials will eventually benefit us. The result will always show God's goodness.

Martin G. Collins
Goodness


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

By means of trials, God seeks to help us see our need and our dependence on Him. We absolutely must learn that life—both physical and spiritual—depends on what God supplies. Our reaction to the trials reveals what is in our heart, that is, what really motivates us. Humiliation proves what is really there. He puts us into distress to make us become aware of our needs. He wants to see whether we will live by faith, depending upon Him to supply those needs. He needs to see whether we will keep His commands, even when a need might be supplied by disobeying them.

Things happen to those of faith so that we might possess qualities of mind, character, and heart that would otherwise not be available to us. We can take these qualities through the grave and into the Kingdom of God. Jesus says in John 15:5, "Without Me you can do nothing." The fruits of God's Spirit can be produced through faith only in cooperation with God in His purpose as we proceed on our pilgrimage.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

God deliberately made difficulties for the Israelites to face. This is why a test never comes at a convenient time. The more difficult choices seem to come in times of hardship, when our loyalty is really in question and when it is much easier to serve ourselves. However, God wants us to sacrifice ourselves instead.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

1 Kings 8:35-37

God works with people using situations and illustrations that most affect them. He wants a change of heart and direction to occur in their lives. However, as the Bible's pages reveal, His chosen people are too often hardhearted and disregard the most pointed of trials to continue in their own ways.

Staff
The Garden of God


 

Job 1:6-12

Notice that God Himself takes the initiative in setting this up, choosing the antagonist (Satan) and defining the parameters of what could be done. Can we say in the face of accounts like this that God only permits difficult trials to occur? Can we say He is not actively testing His children to see what is in them? Can we say He is not actively directing Satan to carry out the calamities He designs?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Job 2:9-10

Like Job, we must learn to look beyond the trial, understanding that God is working with us even in adversity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

Job 2:10

Should a Christian allow himself to bemoan God's goodness even during a trial? When Job's wife wanted him to curse God for bringing trials upon him, Job expressed the right principle of God's universal goodness and fairness when he rebuked her for grumbling.

There are times when we may feel like God is not treating us fairly. Job points out that, as God's creations and recipients of His generosity and benevolence, we have no right to complain when He allows us to be afflicted or tests us through hardship.

Martin G. Collins
Fear the Lord's Goodness!


 

Job 23:10-14

Many times, as we go about our lives, it seems as though this powerful Sovereign is nowhere around. Job 23:10-14; 24:1 records an interesting complaint of the perplexed Job, who represents anyone whom God has led through a trial.

On the one hand, Job perceives by faith that God is almighty and is involved in the events of his life. He is also confident that he is obedient to God. On the other hand, he cannot understand why God is being so hard on him, where He is, or how He can be persuaded to change His course of action. Job feels God is treating him unfairly. He also questions why those who know God still sin despite realizing He will judge those sins. The piper must be paid. We know that whatever a man sows, he reaps—and still we sin!

Many of us who have undergone a heavy trial have taken this course of thought. We may not use the same words, but they will have the same sense. We might say, "I am God's child, and I know I am not perfect, but I am not out there sinning a lot or terribly. Why is God so overbearing? Why does He seem so far away? Why does He not answer when I pray to Him? When am I ever going to get relief from this? Others seem to be doing things a great deal worse than I. Why are they getting away with it?"

It is humbling to grasp that we are not completely in control of our destinies. A great, overriding Power sees life and its purpose far differently and with much greater clarity than we can even grasp. His every thought is righteous, and as our Creator He has every right to move us about as He wills. He is in charge, and nobody keeps Him from carrying out His ultimate purpose, to create a Family in His image. Psalm 33:14-15 provides an interesting insight into His work among men: "From the place of His habitation He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works."

Isaiah 10:5-19 is on a much larger scale—involving an entire nation and millions of people. It predicts God's intention to use Assyria to punish Israel and His response when Assyria boasts of "its" accomplishment. This yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecy is a clear example of how God intervenes in man's affairs to complete His purpose. In verse 7, He even prophesies that Assyria will not want to cooperate with Him, but He makes them. After Israel is punished (verses 12-15), Assyria takes undue credit, and God's judgment begins in verse 16. The lesson to all is that we are empowered to do only what God wills or permits. There is no room for pride when God enables us.

Like Job when he understood more fully, we as sons of God should be rightly humbled—and at the same time, greatly encouraged—by the awesome knowledge that His creative efforts focus on us (Job 42:1-6). Paul writes, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (II Corinthians 4:6-7). God is doing something very special in us, but all the praise and glory belong to Him.

Even though His path for us may sometimes seem very rough, and He often appears distant and deaf, who is better in directing our lives toward a glorious end? Were we or some other human to choose our way, the result would surely be ignoble and shameful. To comprehend these truths and yield ourselves to searching for His path for us are among life's greatest accomplishments. Submitting to Him produces the abundant life Jesus so graciously wants us to have (John 10:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

Where one might expect righteousness (as in a court), one finds iniquity. But Solomon cautions, "Hang on. God will judge." Another important point to understand is that God's plan seems designed to show men how weak and meaningless they are in the overall scheme of life.

Even injustice and wickedness serve a purpose. Though they are painful for us to deal with, they provide a massive demonstration of our ignorance of our own nature, clearly revealing the overall character of mankind without conversion.

This is a tremendous benefit to the converted because they can always look at the world and ask, "Do I want those results?" If what we see in the world motivates us to fear God and follow the path toward His Kingdom—even though it might be painful, cause us to make a great many sacrifices, or put us under some kind of persecution or tribulation—it is doing a positive work for us if it helps to keep us on the track.

If there were no benefit from it, God would not permit it. If we did not know what evil was, we could not repent. The world shows us, in lurid detail, what evil is. We have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we want to do the things that have produced this world. Even in the courts, we will see evil, and we see it even in religion. Solomon says we should expect it and not be overly frustrated by it. Instead, we should learn from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

The Word of God clearly acknowledges that men, even those seemingly well-deserving, will meet with unforeseen, chance setbacks, including death! This may not seem just. It may be worrisome to contemplate and very painful to experience, but we are admonished through Solomon that such things will occur. Such possibilities must be part of our thinking if we are going to face the trials of life in a mature manner that will glorify our Father in heaven.

A closer examination of this in God's Word, however, reveals that in reality there are no innocent victims! There are victims who did not trigger the tragedy that brought about a sudden and unexpected death. In that sense they are innocent. But who can stand before God and say, "I am pure and do not deserve death"?

Earlier, Solomon says, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). His father, David, writes in Psalm 14:2-3:

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

These verses are a stinging indictment of each of us! The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and God, as the Sovereign Ruler of His creation, has every right to execute that penalty—or allow it to occur—on anybody at any time He deems appropriate. And in so doing He is perfectly just.

On some occasions in the Bible, God executed the death penalty with dramatic and terrifying suddenness. He struck down the sons of Aaron, probably with bolts of lightning, when they offered profane fire on the incense altar (Leviticus 10:1-7). God cut Uzza down when he stretched out his hand to steady the ark, which David was bringing to Jerusalem on a cart (I Chronicles 13:5-10). In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira fell dead at Peter's feet after lying about their offering (Acts 5:1-11).

In each case, their sin was directly and quickly connected to their death, giving vivid testimony of what God has every right to do. The only difference between these events and other seemingly random occurrences is the time lag. God can claim our lives for any unrepented sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Daniel 3:19-20

The Bible shows that God has a pattern of throwing His people right into the heart of the fire, so to speak, at important junctures in history, or we might say right into the heart of the issues that pertain to His purpose. He does this primarily for His glorification, as a witness, and for our preparation. He forces us to confront challenges we might otherwise withdraw or run from.

He did it with Noah and the Flood. He did it when Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac. He did it with Joseph in Egypt, with Moses and the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt and their pilgrimage through the wilderness. He did it with Daniel in the lions' den, and literally with these three men in the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar.

We find ourselves living in the end-time Babylon grown to the greatest extent of its evil, anti-God influence. We are confronted by the fact that His people of old came through their trials because God delivered them. Now we are commanded to "come out of Babylon." However, this is no longer literally possible, because it is a worldwide, organized system. We can still come out of it spiritually by resisting it, not allowing it to influence our decision making and therefore our conduct and our attitude.

We have read of the encouraging victories of God in behalf of His people. But we also have read of the evidence of Israel's weaknesses and failure, and it helps for us to understand their weaknesses, because we are cut from the same cloth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Amos 6:7

The first to go into captivity are the ones who live in excess, who seem unaware of the times. What happens to the Laodicean? He is thrown into the fire, a severe trial, which could very well be captivity (Revelation 3:18-19; 12:17).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 7:7-9

A major proof of false religion is that it cannot validate its effectiveness before the witness of man, but God can and does validate the true religion. He produces evidence of His righteousness, power, purpose, and way in many forms. God has performed miracles, signs, and wonders in the sight of thousands of witnesses.

Without objective assurance from time to time, we would be living in a world of religious make-believe. God sometimes validates Himself before man by advertising His power through an undeniable occurrence like Jesus' resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Men have verified the truths of God through observation and experimentation (I Kings 18:30-39). Man is thus without excuse (Romans 1:18-25).

On occasion, God also verifies our personal relationship with Him by immediately answering a prayer or miraculously saving us from harm. On the other hand, if He needs to get our attention, He will shake us awake by allowing a test or trial to warn us that the relationship is degenerating. Because we are assured that God is with us, the testing is good. It keeps us from sinking into complacency and pride, both of which will separate us from Him.

This is what God is addressing in the principle of the plumb line. Amos understood that God was using it to test the spirituality, morality, and genuineness of the people against the standard. The test answers the question, "Are they really God's people?" God wants to know if they are exhibiting His characteristics.

This idea of a spiritual standard of measure transferred directly into the New Testament church. God uses similar imagery, a measuring rod, in Revelation 11:1. To the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22), God uses fire to refer to a test instead of a plumb line.

As we can see from these examples, the end-time church will be tested. How are we going to build? What will the test reveal about our Christian growth (I Corinthians 3:9-16)? We are commanded to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From this we see that the plumb line is God's revelation of Himself as the standard.

At first, God's revelation of Himself was direct, visible, and personal, but later, as Israel grew, He revealed Himself more verbally through the prophets. They recorded His revelation for all time and all people, and we read it today in our Bibles.

God's law is the primary vehicle He uses to reveal His nature; it defines how He lives. If we want to be in His Kingdom and live as He does, we must obey His law, but obeying God's law in no way minimizes grace. God revealed Himself to Israel first as Redeemer and then as Lawgiver. He freed His people from their slavery in Egypt before He gave them the standard of His law. Grace precedes law. God gives grace first, but He does not leave His people ignorant of the life that pleases Him, which is revealed in His law.

The plumb line combines grace and law, and God will test us against both. If we rely on His grace without law, or on His law without grace, we will not pass the test. If either is abused, we will not measure up to the standard.

Leviticus 19 shows that the revelation of the law is important because it is a verbal description of God's nature. Our God is a holy God (verse 2), and He expects His representatives to be holy also. But how do we become holy?

After God redeems us from sin and extends to us His Spirit and grace—His free, unmerited election, He expects us to follow His instructions. The remainder of Leviticus 19 fills in the details—we become holy by doing these things. These actions reflect God's nature. Since God is holy, His law is holy, and if we follow His holy law, we can—with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—grow to be holy like our holy God.

God chose Israel and extended the offer for a relationship with Him, to walk and fellowship with Him. After Israel's rejection of it, He has now extended this offer to those He has specifically called and chosen (John 6:44; I Corinthians 1:26-29).

God loves His people and gives them redemption, grace. He expects it will result in obedience to His law, the reflection of His nature, so on occasion, He holds a plumb line against them to check their progress. But when He sees that they have rejected His way of life, He has no choice but to try to guide them to repentance—by any means necessary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Habakkuk 2:3

This verse comes in two parts. The first two lines parallel each other, and the last two lines parallel each other. "An appointed time" and "at the end" mean the same thing. In Daniel 12:4, God tells the prophet, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (see also Daniel 8:17; 10:14). God is telling Habakkuk the same thing. The message was not necessarily for him and the people of his time. It is for the herald who runs and the people he will deliver the message to. It will be sealed until the appointed time, then it will be revealed.

This, then, is a revelation for our time today. He says, "At the end it will speak," an interesting image. It literally means the message will pant, like a runner after a marathon. Again, it is the heraldry image. The herald runs for miles with his message, and when he arrives, he is out of breath, panting. Then, he speaks his message to the recipient before he has recovered his breath, emphasizing its urgency. It must be given at the right time because things will happen swiftly, and the recipient must be ready. The wording mixes excitement with fatigue and urgency, a messenger rushing to get the words out because of shortness of time and breath!

God immediately reassures us that the message is truth. It will not lie. It will come. It will begin to be fulfilled right away. But it is God's truth, so we should believe it!

"Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" is also a parallel construction. God is saying, "Be patient. If things seem to be delayed, it is only your perspective because it will come right on time. I do things when I want them to happen."

What is the vision? In Hebrews 10:35-37, Paul not only quotes this verse, but he interprets it for us.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

What God has promised is His rest. The Israelites could not enter into His rest because of their unbelief (Hebrews 4:1). They showed no endurance. They did not see it all the way through to the end. So Paul says we need endurance to claim our reward.

Though the wording is somewhat different, the meaning is the same. Paul explains that what God told Habakkuk is, "Christ is coming!" That is the vision! That is the urgent message that we must understand—and not just that He is coming but all the end-time events too. Bad things and good things accompany His coming. Which side will we be on? The side that gets the bad things? Or the side that gets the good things? This is the revelation, the vision, that Habakkuk receives from God: that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come and solve the problems he is so worried about.

How does this answer his question, "Why do You use the wicked to punish us, who are the righteous?" Revelation 11:15-18 provides the answer. Because everything will be squared in the end; God will punish the wicked and reward the just. We have no need to be worried about why the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous are persecuted and killed. He soothes Habakkuk's troubled mind by giving him a dose of reality. The horrendous things God predicts will still occur, but they are His will, part of His plan. But events must take this course to produce the right fruit in the end. It will all be sorted out. No evil deed will go unpunished, and no good deed will go unrewarded.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The prophet's subject is famine, but he finds joy even in that! Does this not apply to today (Amos 8:11-12)? Though a famine of true Christianity stalks the land, though everything seems to be gone, we can rejoice in God. Though circumstances reach their lowest ebb, and things seem to be so out of kilter to the way that we think they should go, we can have joy because He has promised to save us—and He will. He has assured us many times, "Just endure this period of trial. Trust in Me."

Verse 19 returns to imagery of the herald, the runner. A deer is known for its fleetness of foot and its ability to bound over any obstacle in its way. For us, running the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1), God is our strength. He enables us to overcome. He helps us to climb the high hills, an image of our reward in the Kingdom of God. God is our strength. He enables us to run and to leap over our obstacles. He is the One that will bring us our reward.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Matthew 5:10

Strong's Concordance reveals that "persecute" (Greek dioko) means "to pursue, follow after or press toward." Vine's Expository Dictionary adds "to put to flight or drive away." Only within certain contexts does it take on the sense of oppression, ill treatment, abuse, tyranny, and even martyrdom and murder. Persecution is aggressive and injurious behavior carried out in a hostile, antagonistic spirit, normally by a group, but occasionally by one individual toward another. It is often carried out with fiery zeal, as Paul remarks about his persecution of the church (Philippians 3:6), but the persecuted must always remember that the fiery zeal bent against them is, according to Romans 10:2, "not according to knowledge." Thus Jesus, while dying on the stake, asks His Father to forgive His persecutors, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, persecution is so pervasive that it is presented as a more or less expected terror. Jesus, the epitome of righteousness, is also the focal point of persecution. As such, He clearly reveals persecution's source. In John 8 the Pharisees challenge Jesus' assertion of who He was, and the ensuing discussion leads to revealing its source.

The Jews claim to be Abraham's descendants and never in bondage to any man (though at the time they were subject to the Romans). Their statement is partly true. Jesus readily acknowledges they are physically Abraham's descendants, but He adds in verse 40, "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this." He implies that, if they were truly Abraham's children, their conduct would display his characteristics, and they would not be persecuting Him.

Satan the Devil is the source of persecution of those bearing and living the truth of God (verses 41, 44). At times he undoubtedly works through people whom he has duped and inflamed to unrelenting anger toward God's people so that the persecution appears to be entirely of men. But the Bible reveals the reality of Satan as the source.

The church bears the brunt of Satan's persecution because, as the body of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), it is the group of people in whom Christ is being formed (Galatians 4:19). Jesus warns us that this will occur:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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 keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21)

Thus, because of our relationship to Jesus Christ, persecution becomes our lot in life. Luke movingly describes this sense of solidarity and union with Christ during Paul's experience on the road to Damascus. Christ calls out, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Just three verses earlier, he writes, "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest." Paul had physically and psychologically abused the members of the church, but Christ considers any attack against His church to be an attack against Himself personally.

His disciples can count on persecution. In fact, persecution serves as a sign of the authenticity of his relationship to Jesus Christ, as Philippians 1:27-30 attests:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

The Bible also shows that the disciple's response to persecution is a veritable litmus test to determine that authenticity. Notice these two passages:

» But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:20-21)

» Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13)

Clearly, God will count as righteous those who respond to persecution in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 5:10-12

Jesus' phrase in the beatitude, "for righteousness' sake," calls upon us to examine ourselves honestly before God both before and after we are opposed. In I Peter 4:12-16, Peter, like Jesus, perceives persecution as inevitable and therefore a Christian should expect it. Since a disciple is not above His Master, a follower can hardly expect to escape some form of what the Master received.

Human nature dislikes and is suspicious of anyone who is different. True Christianity brings on its own form of unpopularity. It has never been easy, in part because, regardless of where they live, Christians are different. A Christian presents the standard of Jesus Christ to the world. Worldly witnesses to this do not understand exactly why, but it at least irritates them, pricks their conscience, and separates them from the Christian. In some it leads to open anger, even rage. For instance, while calling it a virtue, worldly people think goodness is a handicap because they fear it will keep them from achieving their goals. At the same time, a truly good person will irritate them. Before long, their conscience disturbs them, and they react by persecuting the good person. The human heart is so deceitful that Jesus remarks in John 16:2, "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service."

Peter also perceives persecution as a trial to overcome. A person's devotion to principle can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it. Therefore, since he writes of true Christians and not those merely in name, persecution will be a test. Compromising with God's standards will not elicit persecution because that leads to agreement with the world. Jesus says, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). Compromise will certainly ease the pressure, but God intends persecution to test the Christian's trust, loyalty, sincerity, courage, and patience.

Suffering for righteousness' sake is an honor leading to glory. In fact, Peter says that when one suffers persecution, the glory of God rests upon them. When Stephen was put on trial, his accusers "saw his face as the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15)! In such an instance, a persecuted Christian falls into the same category as Jesus Christ because all He suffered was for righteousness' sake. We therefore share in the same and should be unashamed.

However, we must be exceedingly careful we do not suffer because of our own misconduct. A Christian's life should be his best argument that he does not deserve what is happening to him. Jesus says in Matthew 5:11, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake." We hope that we suffer for our sins only rarely, but when we do, we are getting what we deserve. There is no glory in that. But even in this, all is not lost because it may lead to repentance, change, and growth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 5:10-12

It may seem strange that Jesus passes so quickly from peacemaking in the previous beatitude to persecution—from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. But we come to learn from life's experiences following conversion that, however hard we try to live peacefully or to make peace through reconciliation, some refuse to live at peace with us. Indeed, as this beatitude shows, some take the initiative to oppose, revile, and slander us. We must live with and adjust to the fact that persecution is simply the clash between two irreconcilable value systems. God has called us, selected us, to represent Him in patiently enduring and even overcoming persecution as part of our witness and preparation for His Kingdom.

God is not without sympathy for the difficulties these challenges pose for us, but He calls us blessed, counseling us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is [our] reward in heaven" for successfully overcoming persecution. We should realize we do not earn the reward because we are doing only what we are supposed to do (Luke 17:7-10). But God freely gives the reward; He promises it as His gift.

We are to face persecution remembering "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). When it comes upon us, we should not retaliate like the world, sulk like a child, lick our wounds like a dog in self-pity, or simply grin and bear it like a masochistic Stoic. Our Savior tells us to rejoice in it because it proves the authenticity of our faith, puts us into a noble succession of towering figures of faith who have preceded us, and guarantees us great reward in the Kingdom. It may also put us into the company of many martyrs exalted in God's Word.

Above all, persecution for His sake brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of our Savior. Our love for Christ should be so great that we rejoice that it has come upon us on His account. If He suffered so much to give us this awesome future, why should we not gladly suffer a little for Him?

Persecution is a blessing in disguise designed to bring out the best of Christian character. From it we frequently become aware of weaknesses in our character. Persecution's pressures are humbling. They make us understand that our spiritual infirmities are so great that we cannot stand for a single hour unless Christ upholds us. How true are His words, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Persecution can also keep us from certain sins because it makes us more vividly aware of the impossibility of friendship with the world. Seeing we cannot have both the world and the Kingdom, it can help us set our resolve to live righteously. "And not only that," the apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, "but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

At first glance, persecution seems contradictory to the way and purpose of God. Though we certainly do not wish it upon anyone, and though we sincerely hope we do not have to face it, we can understand in the broad overview that, because of the enmity of Satan, it is inevitable. And in reality, it is a disguised blessing, designed to complete our preparation for God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Luke 6:47-48

In this parable, Jesus describes one who hears His words and does them as a man who, when building his house, digs his foundation deeply and upon rock. When a flood threatens it, the house remains intact on its secure base.

Jesus' metaphor in the parable is apt: A man's character is like a house. Every thought is like a piece of timber in that house, every habit a beam, every imagination a window, well or badly placed. They all gather into a unity, handsome or grotesque. We decide how that house is constructed.

Unless one builds his character on the rock-solid foundation of God's Word, he will surely be swept away by the flood now inundating the world. As I Corinthians 3:11 says, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Of the two builders in the parable, one is a thoughtful man who deliberately plans his house with an eye to the future; the other is not a bad man, but thoughtless, casually building in the easiest way. The one is earnest; the other is content with a careless and unexamined life. The latter seems to want to avoid the hard work of digging deep to ensure a strong foundation, and also takes a short-range view, never thinking what life will be like six months into the future. He trades away future good for present pleasure and ease.

The flood obviously represents the trials of life. Frequently, the trials of life descend upon us either through our own lack of character or because of events in the world around us. Is our house strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the horrendous events of the end time? Can it even withstand our own weaknesses?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!


 

John 15:1-8

Christ came to this earth as THE BRANCH and fulfilled all righteousness, qualifying to replace Satan and rule as King over all the earth. He proved His worthiness by remaining in full accord with His heavenly Father, and bearing the spiritual fruit that makes redemption and salvation possible.

Likewise, we - whether natural or grafted in (Romans 11:17-24) - are also branches attached to the solid trunk of the tree, Christ. It is only by our abiding in Him - our attachment to Him - our close relationship with Him - that we produce any growth or godly works. As Paul writes in Romans 11:16, "If the root is holy, so are the branches." Our righteousness, works, and holiness come to us only because of our connection to Him.

Jesus says that God, in love, prunes us, chastens us, tries us, so that we become more profitable (see also Hebrews 12:3-11). He will do what He must to make us yield. But if we resist and eventually sever our connection with Him, we are fit only to be burned. God has no use for dead wood.

God wants us to use this connection to His Son to "bear much fruit," just as Jesus Christ did. Doing so proves to Him, to ourselves, and to everyone else that we are true Christians, disciples of His Son, the Branch. By this, we will glorify God and secure our place in His Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Branch


 

John 16:33

How glorious it would be to be free of the burdens of living in this dangerous, unstable, violent world, but as sons of God such is not our lot in life. God has called us to a life that runs counter to much of this world's practices and attitudes. As such, we are caught not only in general events and circumstances generated in the world, but also when we directly irritate and anger those close to us by determinedly following God's way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

Acts 14:22

"Tribulations" brings thoughts of trouble, anxiety, fear, and doubt. However, Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 that those who have peace with God and access to Him

. . . glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.

This peace is not a kind of secular contentment that men can find by lowering their standards and expectations. It is both a gift from God to those reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ and a product of the Holy Spirit in us as we grow in a continuing, trustful relationship through the daily affairs of our life.

The Christian's outlook on life can be entirely different from those in the world, untroubled by the calamity they see all around them. This does not mean that the Christian's peace is a sort of magic or that he ignores the seriousness of the situation. Nor does it mean that the Christian achieves this wonderful quality instantly or that it is always constant. However, it is always available through faith because he has access to the Sovereign, Almighty God. He always has everything under control and is filled with love and wisdom that He is willing to use for our benefit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

Acts 16:20-25

Unlike the Jews, the Romans were not limited to 39 stripes, so the beating Paul and Silas took was severe. The stocks they had to endure afterward were two large pieces of wood pierced with holes at different distances, designed to restrain the feet and produce pain.

Confined to the pitch-dark bowels of the prison, Paul and Silas now lie on a filthy floor on their bloody, shredded backs, their legs painfully distended. One might think they would have every right to complain about how unfairly the Philippians had treated them—or at least to spend all their time beseeching God to relieve them of their pain. Notice verse 25, however: "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them"!

Not only were they singing praises of thanksgiving to God, but they were also doing it loud enough for the other prisoners to hear them! Just as James says in James 5:13: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." They were praying for their affliction, but they were also singing songs of praise to God from hearts filled with thanksgiving!

Are we willing to do this, or will we just thank God when we think He deserves it? We need to make it a sincere habit to thank God fervently every day for all His benefits, glorifying His holy will and purpose for us. He is never undeserving of our praise and thanks—indeed, we cannot thank Him enough.

Mark Schindler
Ingratitude


 

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

There is no need for us to fail. Trials and tests will come—and they will be common tests. They will not be something so unusual that our situation will be absolutely unique. But God is faithful in that He promises to provide us a way out of it—not avoiding it, but through it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

When we are tempted, God will help. He will provide a way out, not to avoid temptation, but to meet it successfully and to stand firm under it. This is testing as permitted and controlled by God to produce sterling character that is a reflection of His own.

God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and successfully conquer. He challenges us to meet the temptations that spring up before us on the road of life, beat them down, learn the lessons, and move on to receive the crown of life. He promises to be with us every step of the way. We can be

... confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ... (Philippians 1:6),

when He will give us our reward (Revelation 22:12).

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

"Common to man" means that the trials that come upon Christians are the same as occur to all men. As we live life, we find that in most cases these trials are unavoidable. They just happen. If it happens in the world, we are part of what is going on in the world, and these things affect us unavoidably. God says that He will provide "the way of escape," implying that there is one right way out of each trial. There may be other optional ways, but Paul is stressing that there is "a way" and "the way." We want "the way," the one that God provides for us. The imagery is of an army trapped during a battle, but suddenly a mountain pass opens up before them to provide them a way out of their dilemma. This illustrates how Christians escape trials.

There is a reason for the Christian going through his trial. The trial God provides is good for him to experience. God wants to see what his reaction will be. Will he avail himself of "a way of escape" that he or the world might provide - or will he submit to "the way of escape" God makes available to him? Certainly, "the way of escape" will always involve the use of faith. God is testing the Christian's response to His declarations and His promises of faithfulness, and He wants to see if he will respond because God is faithful. Which way will he choose?

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

Demons can entice action and attitudes that will take us into sin, but God is holy. He never plays dirty; everything He does is fair. His actions are just, pure, right, and done in love. He does not tempt people to sin. If a person feels as if he is caught between conflicting pressures, impulses, and one of them is drawing him toward sin, it is certainly not from God. This is why John says what he does in I John 4:1-6. God's Spirit in us gives us the power to recognize truth, so we follow it.

A trial could come upon us not necessarily because of anything that we did or because something is wrong with us, but one could come upon us from this world or from Satan. God promises flat out He will never allow us to be tempted above what we are able to handle, and that He will always provide a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). We are not without resources. We can recognize truth, and the trials that we fall into can and will be overcome with His help.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 11:28-30

It is obvious that, because of the times in which we live, self-examination is necessary so that we correct ourselves on a regular basis to make certain we continue to bring honor to God and Christ. The apostle suggests that problems and trials, leading even to death, among the members of the church may have their sources in our unexamined conduct.

Staff
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?


 

1 Corinthians 11:31-32

Verse 31 teaches that God allows us the opportunity to exercise self-discipline and avoid His judgment by watching—searchingly examining ourselves, detecting our shortcomings, and recognizing our own condition. Yet, if we fail to exercise discipline, He will not. As in the example of Jonah, He is faithful and will complete His purpose (Philippians 1:6). If we fall short, He will discipline and chasten us because He does not want to see us destroyed. God's purpose—our salvation—does not change. Again, the only variable is how much we choose to suffer before He accomplishes His purpose. We choose whether we will be humble or be humbled.

In many cases, not necessarily all, we choose our trials. It is the same in any family. If one son is dutiful and obedient, and the other is rebellious, pushing the envelope at every opportunity, it would come as no surprise which son suffers the greater trials (or receives the most discipline) in both number and severity. Each child has a choice. We also have a choice—to exercise the discipline now, or to receive it from God at some time in the future.

So, how do we searchingly examine ourselves, detect our shortcomings, and recognize our own condition? How do we find the path we should be taking? God promises us in Proverbs 3:6, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." The Message, a paraphrase, renders this verse as, "Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track."

When we acknowledge His presence—which striving to pray always does—He shines His light on the decision or thought. Consciously including God in the process makes the right choice more obvious. It also makes the choice a conscious one of obeying or disobeying God, rather than relegating it to habit or impulse.

Too often, we are not exercising self-control because we are hiding from God's presence, just as Adam and Eve did (Genesis 3:8). We may hear that "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12), but we turn off our minds and just go with the flow, unresistingly following the dictates of our human nature, which has been under Satan's influence since our births.

This tendency makes striving to pray always, being in constant contact with God, the best way to accomplish effective self-examination. By communicating with God before every decision, even before every thought (II Corinthians 10:5), we invite God into the situation, putting the spotlight of truth on our thinking and motivations—human nature's worst nightmare.

With God's presence through His Holy Spirit, we are able to recognize our shame and our helplessness before God, helping to create a stronger awareness of sin that we cannot easily evade by rationalizing it. When face to face with the holy God, we cannot easily say that our sin is only a little thing. Nor can we use others as examples, saying, "They are doing it, so what is the big deal?" With God there, right in front of us, all our excuses fail.

Once we bring God into the picture, the right way is more obvious, removing the many excuses our human nature concocts to allow disobedience. Then, the stark choice of obedience or blatant rejection of God faces us. When this occurs, it is a good time to pray for the will and power to do the right thing (Philippians 2:13).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

2 Corinthians 4:7-8

No matter how thoroughly we were counseled for baptism or how vividly we were told that Christian life might prove difficult, very few are dissuaded from being baptized. This is, of course, good. However, most of us are also full of misplaced confidence. Though none of us is ever sure of what we will have to experience to be prepared for what God has in store for us in His Kingdom, we are sure God will be there for us in our times of trial. He will indeed, but will we be ready to face our discouragement over what we come to see in ourselves?

As we become educated in God's way, as we grow and become more discerning, sin becomes more apparent everywhere we look. The discouraging aspect is that the sin is not necessarily in others but that we see it in ourselves. We may even reach a level of outright despair because, everywhere we turn, every angle we view ourselves from, we see "little" deceits. We become aware of envy rising, jealousy, anger, and sometimes even rage and hatred. We attempt to bottle them up to keep them from breaking out.

Yet, they always seem to be just below the surface, ready to leap out in a foolish act. Sin is like a cancer, invisible most of the time but silently working to destroy us. Sin desires to return us to our former state. We may have even imagined that, when we began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, life would become continually easier - we would grow in holiness, and life would become an unending pleasure. Too frequently, it seems to work in the opposite direction.

This course, however, is good. First, the older and more mature we become in the faith, the more of the filthy corruption of sin we can discern. Our discouragement can turn to thankful encouragement because, even though we perceive the filthy corruption in ourselves, our ability to discern it more clearly is evidence of growth.

Second, it is encouraging to understand that for us to overcome sin and grow, we must first be aware of the corruption.

Third, it is wonderful to understand that our merciful God has covered even all this accumulated sin that we have been completely unaware of. Christ's blood is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world! That we can see more of the evil aspects of human nature should help us also discern of the implications of Christ's sacrifice.

Fourth, these things should motivate us to cry out to God, "Your Kingdom come! Your will be done!" and help us yearn for the time we will be free of the pulls of the flesh.

The removal of ignorance is a wonderfully rewarding gift. Even so, despair sometimes comes easily because we have allowed ourselves to be deceived into trusting our own works to keep us in good standing with God. If we fail to conduct ourselves properly even according to our own standards, it is not difficult to become guilt-ridden and full of despair.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

2 Corinthians 8:2

Our joy through trials is a result of suffering for Christ's sake. Of the persecution we must endure, Jesus says, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!" (Luke 6:23). Through the Holy Spirit, God gives us His gift of joy as part of the process of spiritual completion.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

These verses show us two examples regarding prayer: First, it illustrates how God can respond to our prayers, and second, how Paul reacted to God's answer. We, like Paul, want God to remove our afflictions any time we are in discomfort, but especially when the affliction is chronic and, we feel, inhibits accomplishment. God's response to Paul, however, fit a far greater need, perhaps to keep Paul humble so that his many gifts did not become a curse. Instead, God gave him strength to bear up under the affliction, thus keeping him in a constant state of dependency for strength to go on. Paul humbly accepted this and continued his ministry despite his affliction, knowing it was fulfilling God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Galatians 5:23

Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is the by-product of a number of elements, not the least of which are deep, thorough humility and an awareness of the seriousness of what our past conduct produced, especially toward Jesus Christ. These things have tamed the beast, broken our self-will, and made our minds receptive to the pure influences of God's Spirit. This is not natural but supernatural, the product of God's grace toward us and His Spirit working and growing in us. It very deeply, sometimes radically, alters our perspective of God, His purpose, the trials of life, the self, and other people.

This is very important regarding trials because meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and of ill-will toward men. In his commentary on Matthew 5:5, Matthew Henry writes, "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word and to his rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men" (p. 1629).

Meekness is the fruit of God by His Spirit working in us. Godly sorrow softens our stiff-necked rebellion and our hearts so that we are made receptive to the workings of the Creator to produce His image in us. Therefore meekness, along with the qualities already mentioned, also includes our becoming pliable, malleable, submissive, and teachable. A New Testament term for this condition might be "childlike."

God disciplines every son He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and sometimes His disciplines are very difficult to bear. We have passionate drives within us to flee from them, or at the very least, to grumble and murmur under their burden. But the meek will not do this. They will endure the privation, embarrassment, pain, loss, ignorance, or persecution with quiet patience because they know that God is sovereign over all and He is working in their lives.

Aaron's response to God's execution of his two sons is an example:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

This was a shocking, bitter pill to swallow, but Aaron took it properly, meekly. He was growing. In Psalm 39:9, David refers to a difficult situation he was experiencing, leaving us this example: "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it."

The supreme example of this is Jesus Christ, who endured horrific trials though He was the Son of God's love. John 18:11 says, "Then Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'" Acts 8:32 contains more insight on Christ's meek reaction: "He was led [not dragged] as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so He opened not His mouth." He was the very King of meekness.

Meekness enables a person to bear patiently those insults and injuries he receives at the hand of others. It makes him ready to accept instruction from the least of the saints. It allows him to endure provocation without being inflamed by it. He remains cool when others become heated. Meek people seek no private revenge; they leave that to God's sense of justice while they seek to remain true in their calling and meet God's standards.

The spirit of meekness enables its possessor to squeeze great enjoyment from his earthly portion, be it small or great. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition, he is satisfied with what he has. Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of meekness. The haughty and covetous do not inherit the earth. As Psalm 37:16 says, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Ephesians 5:20

For some, this is difficult, and indeed, we all often stumble over it. We can be very grateful to God when things go well. Perhaps, after returning safely from a trip, we are quick to thank God for our successful arrival, as if He were personally responsible for the operations of all who worked to get us home. Suppose, however, that the trip was not so successful. Maybe we were involved in an accident and injured or delayed so that we were late for a meeting, costing a large sale or the loss of a client? Or maybe lightning struck the house, an earthquake damaged it, or a burglar broke in and stole valuables?

Do we see God's hand in these circumstances as well? Is God involved only in the "good" things of life? For example, did Job bemoan his "bad luck" or murmur against God? He bowed before Him, even managing to bless Him (Job 1:13-22)! Is this just fatalistic acquiescence or blind credulity? No, in people who live by faith, it is neither of these because real faith always rejoices in the Lord, knowing He is involved in all aspects of life.

Paul's exhortation to the Philippian church (Philippians 4:4) is nothing short of a call to faith of those undergoing some sort of heavy trial. If a Christian believes that his life and all its circumstances are in the hands of the sovereign, wise, and loving God who is always working for his good, then he can truly rejoice always.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

2 Timothy 3:12

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous," the psalmist writes (Psalm 34:19). Peter supplies a partial answer to this in I Peter 4:12: "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, as does Paul's statement in II Timothy 3:12: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The psalmist, Peter, and Paul are all saying that persecution is a common lot—a calling—of all who strive to serve Christ faithfully.

The essence of persecution lies in subjecting the Christian to injury or disadvantage because of his beliefs. Persecution may take many forms, but it is more than someone merely presenting counter-arguments to the Christian's convictions. It is inflicting some injury on him, putting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in unfavorable circumstances.

Persecution can take on many forms within these broad areas. The injury can be to the Christian's feelings or to his family, reputation, property, liberty, or influence. It may deprive him of an office or position he held or prevent him from obtaining one for which he is qualified. He could be subjected to a fine, imprisonment, banishment, torture, or death.

It follows, then, that both Peter and Paul warn us that we who make a profession of Christianity must be prepared for persecution. It "goes with the territory." We are not to shrink to avoid it, but bear it patiently as Christ did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Hebrews 2:10

Where did this suffering come from? It came as a result of having to live in this world of despair that Solomon lived in and wrote about. He had to be subject to circumstances that were beyond His control. If everything had been under the control of a righteous person like Jesus Christ, many events would never have happened. But surrounded by sin and despite His righteousness, He was subject to the futility, vanity, and meaningless of this world.

What did He do? He rose above it because He believed and lived the principle that is found in Romans 8:28.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Hebrews 4:14-15

Christ's physical life was not spared the calamities we commonly face so that He would be prepared for His responsibilities within God's purpose. He was made to share our experiences to perfect, complete, or mature Him. In other words, if we might have to flee for our lives, then God was not going to excuse Jesus from that kind of a trial. He allowed Jesus to get into situations where indeed He might have to flee for His life. Did Jesus just presume that God would rescue Him because of who He was? No. In writing this, the apostle Paul wants us to understand that Jesus sinlessness was the result of conscious decision and intense struggle, not merely the consequence of His divine nature or the Father's protection or intervention.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 2)


 

Hebrews 12:1-4

We can learn a great deal about why patience is so vital by comparing the process we are going through to an artist sculpting a work from a piece of marble. Chip by chip over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape a conception from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living, raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing the Creator to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be perfect and entire.

It is easy for us to magnify our burdens. Notice, however, what grumbling did for the Israelites in the wilderness when God finally responded. Would we rather have our trial or grumble and receive what the Israelites did? We must begin to cultivate the habit of thinking of life, including all of its trials, as being God's way to shape godly character in us.

James makes what seems to be a paradoxical statement in James 1:2: We should count our various trials as joy. Why? Because verse 3 says that doing so produces patience! We need patience so God can mold us into His likeness. Even God cannot produce godly character by fiat. James is teaching us that we should not measure the experiences of life by their ability to please our ambition or tastes but by their capacity to make us into God's image. If we have any vision - and a zealous desire to live as God does - we can welcome our trials as steps in God's creative process and meet them with patience and hope.

Perfection in this life is to become what God wants us to become. What could be better than that? If we understand that our lives are in God's hands as He molds and shapes us, then the meanings - the eventual outcome - of joy and sorrow are the same. God intends the same result whether He gives or takes. The events of life are merely the scaffolding for shaping us into His image, and we should meet them with patience as He continues His work. This will work to flatten out the emotional extremes we tend to experience.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Hebrews 12:4-11

Hebrews was written to a group of people who were fading away in their walk toward salvation. They were going through some pretty difficult trials, but they were not facing up to them. The underlying theme here is chastening. Many modern translations will use the word "discipline," and technically, it is closer in meaning to the Greek word.

Discipline covers formal instruction, but it also includes drill. Drill is associated with learning something repetitively—over and over again till we get it.

Discipline also includes punishment: spanking, rebuke, stern correction. Paul is saying that the sons of God should expect correction and rebuke. God has a way of starting off easy, but the punishment, the rebuke, the discipline become more stern as we fail to respond until He finally gets our attention. This could go so far as the Tribulation.

God's discipline is always corrective. He is not a sadist; He does not discipline for the fun of it. He disciplines us because we need to be turned in another direction. He is removing impediments to our spiritual development, so we do not need to become discouraged.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

James 1:1-4

James addresses his book, "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." Since the breadth of this address does not indicate that the people were enduring any common experience, James is likely giving counsel of timeless and general application that is indispensable to growth in godly character to all sorts of people under every circumstance. At the very beginning he writes,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (1:2-4)

Is patience that important? How important is it that we grow to be perfect and entire? James is clearly saying that patience is a vital ingredient to achieving this. Notice that he does not perceive patience as passive. It works! The fruit of its work can be either another virtue it is producing or in preserving itself, for that, too, is sometimes necessary.

Patience is not merely a fixed determination to hold our place in the teeth of the wind, but to make actual progress in spite of it. A ship may ride out a strong wind with a snug anchor and strong chains, yet another may set the sails to take advantage of the wind to bring it closer to its destination. It is this latter attitude that James is bidding us have and use.

Christ is a good example of this. Luke 9:51 says, "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." All His life the shadow of His crucifixion hung over Him, yet without faltering, swerving, or resisting, He took every step of His path and nothing turned Him aside because He came into the world for that hour. His resolve never broke. He would not blench from carrying out His duty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

James 1:2-4

"Testing" is dokimion, meaning "to prove." Dokimion describes the process of proving sterling coinage, that it was genuine and unalloyed. We can conclude, then, that God's testing process has the goal or aim of purging us of all impurity, to make us "perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (verse 4).

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

James 1:2-4

1. Trials should produce growth. Just as we prune a shrub or tree to force it to grow into a more perfect form, so God does with us. William Barclay makes an excellent comment on this:

. . . these tests or trials are not meant to make us fall, they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them.

Notice that trials should produce growth, rather than that they will produce it. Sometimes, we just do not learn the lesson; we fail; we regress; we sink into self-pity. This leads me to another lesson learned.

2. The fruit we produce depends on our outlook. This does not imply that anger and depression are not normal human emotions. They are. With any trial, you wonder why. You evaluate your actions, your mistakes, your sins. You repent, fast, and pray. You cry out to God with more emotion than you knew you possessed. If you are normal, you have moments of anger, perhaps even doubt.

Here is where we can produce fruit or destroy it. With God's help, we must forcibly evict these carnal thoughts from our minds. We cannot allow seeds of doubt to germinate, and if they do, they cannot be allowed to grow. We must look forward and deal with the situation.

Paul writes:

. . . we know for certain that He who raised the Lord Jesus from death shall also raise us with Jesus. We shall all stand together before Him. All this is indeed working out for your benefit, for as more grace is given to more and more people so will the thanksgiving to the glory of God be increased. This is the reason why we never lose heart. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. (II Corinthians 4:14-17, Phillips)

So it is good advice that we not resent our trials or bemoan our fate or the state in which we find ourselves. As James says, "Count it all joy," which brings us to the next lesson.

3. Joy comes after, not before, the trial—and often not during it. No sane person sits around, wishing he had a trial. That is absurd. No one is ecstatic to find himself encompassed in pain. Only when you have faced your troubles and started to fight can you begin to see even a glimmer of a positive result at its conclusion.

James' advice is to count or consider our trials joyfully. The Phillips' version continues, "Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce endurance" (James 1:3). These words reflect a passage of time. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross "for the joy that was set before Him." He thought nothing of the pain and shame because of the joy He knew would follow His suffering. Joy came afterward.

Verse 11 says, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Here is convincing proof that joy is primarily post-trial.

Yet even this joy is not the ecstatic, "Hallelujah!" kind of joy. Chara means "cheerfulness" or "calm delight." God's Spirit does not produce in us a gloating, "I did it!" kind of emotion, but a cheerful peace of mind, an awareness that we survived and grew. We feel a kind of satisfaction that God has pruned us so that we might become more like him. This process helps us to appreciate our lives more, and to be more thankful, understanding, and sympathetic to the plight of others.

A lady with a long-term illness once wrote to us about her trials. As she came slowly out of her personal struggle, she passed on to us several things that we found to be true. One line she wrote is very true: "I never realized how wonderful it is to be able to do ordinary things until I couldn't do them." She had "never realized." Yet now, because of her trial, she counted or considered her situation and found joy in a simple act.

By sharing this with us, she gave us hope and encouragement. We saw this new perspective as positive. This is fruit borne through testing. It is God's refining process at work. He is removing impurities.

As hard as it seemed, after giving them much prayer and thought, we found that each trial was specific to us. It was what we needed to make us more like God. We did not see this initially, but through perseverance and growth, it became clear.

This is why we are happy that God has chosen us to suffer whatever trials He may allow. As James goes on to write:

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

James 1:2-3

We are counseled here by James, who was Jesus' brother. Hardly anyone knew Jesus as James did—he grew up with Him. He was able to watch Him over the course of His entire life, and so he knew the mind of Christ exceedingly well. James says that we are to consider trials as a reason for great joy because trials are capable of producing good results. However, we must understand that trials do not automatically produce good results. They can easily make one bitter rather than better. Whether one comes out better for the experience depends upon how faith, hope, and love are used. How the trial is used is the issue, and whether faith, hope, and love produce a higher level of spiritual maturity. What determines whether they make us better rather than bitter is how we use them.

James describes a person surrounded by trials of many kinds. We live in that period when iniquity abounds, and we are admonished by Jesus that we will need endurance during this time (Matthew 24:12-13). We are assaulted by many kinds of trials, and they will increase. James is concerned about whether they will produce perseverance in us.

The King James version renders this word as "patience." That may be an acceptable translation, but it is not really correct. "Perseverance" or "endurance" is better, as most modern translations translate it. This is because the Greek word that equates to our "patience" is passive, meaning that one is merely waiting something out. But the Greek word used here, hupomone, indicates activity rather than passivity. The person is not just waiting for something to happen, though he is patient in what he is going through.

Commentator William Barclay defines hupomone as "having the quality to stand, facing the storm, struggling against difficulty and opposition." It is a quality that makes progress against a trial, rather than merely waiting a difficulty out. James is focused on the testing of our belief and trust or faith. There is also hope that comes from faith, which acts as a motivator to sustain the struggle against the difficulties of life.

Hope is not directly mentioned here, but James does mention endurance. There is no active endurance unless one actually desires to accomplish something, and he has the hope of good to come from what he is enduring.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

James 1:12

"Temptation" is from the Greek noun peirasmos, which can refer to trials or tests with a beneficial purpose or effect—or to trials or tests designed to lead to wrong doing. The outcome depends on how the tempted person reacts. Temptation of itself is not sin; one must accept it before it results in sin. Thus, it is a forerunner of sin, warning us that the potential for sin is not far away.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

1 Peter 1:1-5

First, Peter reminds us who we are. The term "elect" is the very ground of our comfort because it means (when connected to the foreknowledge of God) that God knows us personally. A lot of people would like to know that the President of the United States knows them personally, but God knows us!

Some like it to be known that they are known by some person they respect very highly. Whether the person is a millionaire or a billionaire, a well-known athlete or entertainer, or somebody well known in the area, people like to drop names. Peter says if there is any name you want to drop, drop God's. He knows you!

Before God called us, He watched our lives because He wanted to make sure that we would be able to work with Him and that He would not lose us. He is sure that with His help we can make it. He can prepare us for whatever He has in store for us.

That is the ground of our hope. God knows us, and because of this, He will do things for us. He is in the position to do them. All He has to do is give the word. God can open any door anywhere for us. And He will do what is right for us.

Peter goes on in verse 3 to say that He is the Author of an act of mercy by which He has given us a sure hope of being brought into our inheritance. Even though we may have to go through sore trial, it can be done! God has not given us something impossible to do. He has begotten us again to a living hope.

Our hope is living because Jesus Christ is alive! He is our High Priest. And He loves us in a way that we cannot even begin to understand. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. He loves us so much that He is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we will be in His Kingdom. We have access to the highest of all places. We have friends who have names and power so awesome that there is nothing greater.

We do not need to fear what is coming because God is able to bring us through it. If we had to face it ourselves alone, there would be no hope for us.

The apostle calls our inheritance "incorruptible" (verse 4). The contrast is being made between Canaan or Palestine and the Kingdom of God. Which is better?

Lastly, it is "undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation." Kept can easily be translated "guarded," "surrounded," "hedged in." God is watching out for us in a way that He is not watching out for this world. Because we are the apple of His eye, and because He is preparing us for something, Jesus Christ will faithfully discharge His duties as High Priest in our behalf. He is guarding us—protecting us—from the worst of what is going on around us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

1 Peter 1:3

The strength of our hope rises or falls on how dependable we perceive our expectation to be. The reasons we believe our expectation to be dependable are thus decisive to whether we will be motivated.

Ours is a living hope because Jesus Christ and the Father are alive. They exert sovereign control, and They cannot lie. Because our hope is revealed, grounded, sustained, and directed by God, we can know that all things work together for good for those who are the called and love God (Romans 8:28). Our hope, then, should not be ephemeral wishes or dreams based on wishy-washy sentimentality, but the solid realities of God and His Word. Our hope flows from an inexhaustible Source, and therefore no trial should ever quench our optimism for future good. Hope is our response to His work in us expressed in trust, patience, endurance, and eagerness to continue.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

1 Peter 1:3-13

These verses link the unveiling of Jesus Christ with our future and all that the Father is working out. Verse 3 recalls to us our status as children of God, reminding us that our hope lies in the resurrection from the dead, when we will be composed of spirit, able to inherit the Kingdom (see I Corinthians 15:50). God Himself safeguards this perfect inheritance, which can never be diminished, for all those who are regenerated and endure to the end.

Verse 5 reminds us that our salvation will be revealed "in the last time." This gives us reason for great rejoicing, even though various trials may grieve us. Those trials are necessary, Peter tells us in verse 7, so that the genuineness of our faith—the tried and proven character of our faith—may be found when Jesus Christ is unveiled to the entire world (cf. Luke 18:8).

Verse 8 points out the contrast that, at this time, we do not see Him with our eyes because He is still veiled, hidden from the world. His revelation has not yet occurred. Even though we cannot see Him now, we still love Him and can still rejoice because we know that the Father will soon send Him back to this earth. Then, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7).

Verse 13 summarizes what we should be doing as a result of this understanding. We need to brace ourselves mentally, and think, plan, and act seriously and circumspectly, setting our hope wholly on the divine favor that the revelation of Jesus Christ will bring to us. For concurrent with the apocalypsis of Christ is the salvation of the saints, both living and dead.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?


 

1 Peter 2:19-21

Peter is not saying that suffering is a commendable thing. What is commendable is that one has submitted to God's will and that he is suffering, not because he did something wrong, but because he did something right. In addition, he is not striking back, which is what his emotions would lead him to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 Peter 4:12-13

When a trial comes upon us, we tend to think, "Why me? What have I done wrong?" We may have done nothing wrong. Trials are necessary for growth.

Imagine being a college student, knowing that your progress needs to be measured. How can that be done without testing or examination? If we do away with tests, how do we gauge growth?

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

1 Peter 4:17

Most people regard judgment as something that occurs only at the end of the age. However, the Bible shows that Christians are being judged today. As in human courts, judgment is a process. Judges do not render decisions without getting the facts and pondering all the evidence. Today, God is putting Christians through trials and tests to see if they will be faithful to Him and His way of life.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

1 John 4:8

Every thought, every word, every act of God is an expression of love. God is sovereign, and He has the right to do whatever He wants. This would be tyranny except for one simple fact: Everything God does, whether seemingly arbitrary or not, is motivated by love. Even our trials are supreme acts of love as Hebrews 12:5-11 and Job's experience show.

Herbert W. Armstrong once said about Job: "Job was one of the hardest men for God to ever bring down to repentance that has ever lived on the face of this earth." As terrible as the trial was, Job needed it for salvation. Psalm 84:11 says that God will withhold no good thing from us. To withhold that trial from Job would have been withholding a good thing, making God guilty of hating Job (Proverbs 13:24).

Only God is wise enough to allow us to go through a desperately needed trial while simultaneously using it to accomplish His other purposes as well. In the worsening times ahead, God will not use some of us as cannon fodder for His purposes, though He has the right to do it—He made us. Because of His love for us, He will allow us to face trials because we need them to perfect us. After all, "all things work together for good" to those called (Romans 8:28).

How will we survive spiritually if we are among those God chooses to be persecuted, possibly tortured, and killed? Only because we believe that God loves no one more than us, and for this reason, we will know that what we are enduring is for our good and will bring about His purpose.

As children, we were disciplined by our parents. As it happened, how often did we thank them for the love they were showing us? As parents, we have disciplined our children. How many times have they ever said, "Thank you"? Most likely, the answer to both is, "Never!"

Do we discipline our children out of love or hate? Love, of course. Then why do they not say, "Thank you"? At the moment it is happening, they cannot see—they do not believe—how much we love them. It is a hallmark of youth or immaturity to be blind to the big picture, to see only what is directly in front of them. Hopefully, in times of trial, we are not children in a spiritual sense.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

1 John 4:17

If we have this faith in God's love for us mentioned in verse 16, its purpose is to give us the confidence, courage, and hope we need as we face our trials in our day of judgment, which is now (I Peter 4:17), whatever and whenever they may be. By exercising this faith, we will be exactly like Christ.

Christ had absolute faith in God's love for Him, and He used that faith to triumph in His trials and endure. We must use the exact same faith in following the example He set for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

1 John 4:18

If understanding how much God loves us and believing in it are so important, how can we tell where we stand in the strength of that belief? Verse 18 begins to answer that question. Fear and worry signal that we are not yet perfect in our belief in how much God loves us. If we believe that the God of infinite power and wisdom loves no one in the universe more than us, what do we have to fear or worry about?

What good parent does not use all the resources available to ensure the well being of his or her children? We are in the minute-by-minute care of the great God (Matthew 10:29-31). "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Similarly, Isaiah 43:13 (CEV) records an important promise from God: "I am God now and forever. No one can snatch you from me or stand in my way."

Nothing outside of us can stand in His way of accomplishing His purpose to save except ourselves (John 6:39-40; 10:28; Philippians 1:6). As difficult as Job was, God knew exactly what trial was necessary—in his case, a quite painful one—to get the right result. He knows the buttons to push and the pressures to apply to set each of us straight. Job 36:15 (Today's English Version) tells us, "But God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes."

A second sign of our lack of faith in His love is how we respond to trials. If we believe in how much He loves us, then we know the trial is for our good. Because of His love, we should know that a trial is not just an arbitrary act without rhyme or reason. Because He is God, it cannot be an accidental circumstance happening without His awareness or concern. It definitely cannot be an act just to make our lives more difficult. These might be the thoughts of a child while receiving a spanking, but they should not be ours.

A third way to measure the strength of our faith is to list the things that would make our lives better yet seem to be out of reach. For some, it is money; others, a job; and still others, a mate. Psalm 84:11 is a verse we can use to get the right perspective: "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

If we are walking uprightly, our lack of a desired thing is in itself a good indication that at this time it is not good for us, no matter what we might think to the contrary. Otherwise, this verse cannot be true. Getting what we want rather than what we need can be spiritually lethal (Revelation 3:17).

A final way to measure our faith is to examine if we ever feel we love ourselves more than God does. A person with this attitude begins to take things into his own hands because he cannot trust God to do it—he does not believe how good God is and how much He loves him. To doubt the depth of God's love for us is to deny God and the very essence of who He is—love.

This describes Satan's attitude, one that could be considered insanity. Human nature, which mimics Satan's spirit (Ephesians 2:2) is suicidal, wanting to sin even though it knows the result is death. Thus, because human nature contains this spirit of self-destruction, God always loves us more than we love ourselves.

It is vital that we build our faith in God's love for us and realize just how special we are to Him. He loves no one else in the universe more. I John 4:17 promises that perfecting our faith in God's love for us gives us the power we need to face our trials, our day of judgment, boldly. In doing so, we will be imitating the faith Jesus Christ exercised in facing His trails, showing absolute faith in God's love for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Revelation 1:9

This verse emphasizes the overall importance of patience. James 1:2-3 shows that patience allows the trial to become completed and produce the right thing.

John emphasizes the word "kingdom" (Greek is written emphatically to draw attention to certain words). The other two words, "tribulation" and "patience," are like parentheses on both sides of the word "kingdom." What this does is to cause the word "tribulation" to define the path to the kingdom! Think of tribulation in terms of trials and pressures that arise as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, our journey toward God's Kingdom, and our faith that we will be a part of it. The way to the Kingdom of God is through trials. We will not just skate along because God has created work for us to accomplish in our lives so that we might be prepared for the Kingdom. If we are not prepared for it, we will not be there.

The way of preparation is for God to put us through trials, just as if we were going to school. We can think of trials in terms of lessons that need to be learned, character that needs to be built, attitudes that need to be adjusted. All of these put pressure on us. So tribulation—pressure or trials—is the path. "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). We are going against the flow of the world, and God has designed it this way to prepare us for His Kingdom. Thus, there will always be pressure on us.

Pressure is the way to the Kingdom, and patience is the necessary element for making it. If we are impatient, we will not be there! Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith is needed when we do not have what we desire—the Kingdom of God. There is no need for faith if we do not have to wait! Patience is required while we are waiting. It is that simple.

The way to the Kingdom is through testing and trial, and the way to succeed in testing and trial is to put our faith to work by being patient! That is the path that will exercise our faith. God will see that it is there, and His creative efforts on our behalf will work. All of us must have patience. It is there, but it has to be activated. We have to trust that God really wants us in His Family, and if we want to be prepared for His Kingdom, we had better start using patience.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Revelation 3:10

Because of what will be happening at the end time, "persevering" or "courageously enduring" without compromising will certainly be no small accomplishment. Yet Christ says that because some of His people have been keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the worst of it. They have already proved their faithfulness to Him; He knows where they stand, He sees their track record with Him, and He will not require them to experience everything that the rest of humanity will suffer.

In colleges and universities, some professors make the final exam at the end of a semester optional. This means that students take the final only if they need to bring their overall average up. But if a student already has an A from other tests and class work, the professor figures the student has already proved himself, and does not require him to take the final exam.

This approach is analogous to Revelation 3:10. If the Christian is already faithfully persevering and resisting the spiritual foes, God may not require that he endure the very hardest test to prove what is in his heart. He has already proved it consistently through the course of his life. However, if, like a stereotypical first-year college student, he has frittered away his time, becoming involved in matters having nothing to do with college, he will have to prove where he stands. The final exam in this case is the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord, so it is in our best interest that we students demonstrate to the Teacher that we are serious before the end of the semester.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

Revelation 3:17-19

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:18

Gold, clothing, and eye salve represent the three major industries of Laodicea: banking, textiles, and medicines.

Gold, spiritual riches (I Peter 1:7), contrasts with the word "poor," and fire symbolizes trial. God advises them to obtain spiritual riches produced through trials, which the self-sufficient Laodicean avoids by compromising.

"White garments" contrast with their nakedness. Clothing helps us to distinguish people and groups. Because of the differences between men and women's clothing, sexual distinctions can be made. Clothes reveal status: A man in a well-tailored suit falls into a different category than a beggar in rags. Clothing provides a measure of comfort and protection from the elements. It hides shame and deformity. Biblically, God uses it to symbolize righteousness (Revelation 19:8). He instructs the Laodicean to dress himself in the holiness of God to cover his spiritual nakedness, self-righteousness.

Their need of eye salve contrasts with their blindness. Commentators understand it to represent God's Spirit coupled with obedience. The combination of the two gives a Christian the ability to see - to understand spiritual things. "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalms 111:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

 




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