If you thought that cleanliness is next to godliness is in the bible you are not alone. Studies have shown that the majority of Americans believe that this phrase comes from the Bible. You probably heard it from your parents and grandparents, from your Sunday School teacher or even Pastor. I bet that most of you parents have used it yourselves trying to get your children to take a bath or clean their rooms. Well this may surprise some of you but, “cleanliness is next to godliness is not in the bible.
The phrase is probably from a Babylonian and Hebrew proverb. It’s first appearance in English was a modification of the proverb in an essay written by Sir Francis Bacon in 1605 to “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” In a sermon by John Wesley titled “On Dress” printed in 1769 the phrase is rendered “Slovenliness is no part of religion...cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.”
So if the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” is not in the Bible why would a famous preacher like John Wesley use it in a sermon? I didn’t say he said the phrase came for the bible, he just used it in a sermon. The bible does talk a lot about the importance of being physically, ceremonially, and spiritually clean. To be unclean, according to the Old Testament books Leviticus and Numbers was to be defiled. The regulations and laws on cleanliness and purity were primarily designed to teach lessons about the holiness of God and the corruption of man. God's presence in the midst of his people, the Hebrews, could not be taken for granted and was to be carefully safeguarded and regulated.
Leviticus 26:11-12 (NLT)11 I will live among you, and I will not despise you.12 I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
Exodus 33:14 (NLT)14 The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
Because of sin human beings aren’t automatically qualified to come into God’s presence. Until Jesus came to the earth and paid the price for sin human beings had to prepare ourselves ceremonially and morally before they could approach God. Uncleanness, just like sin, can manifest itself both inside and outside so the Hebrews had to be diligent in order to avoid uncleanness. .
In addition to emphasizing the holiness of God the regulations on cleanliness would be a clear sign of separation of God’s chosen people from the surrounding nations.
Leviticus 20:26 (NLT) You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.
When God gave the instructions about clean and unclean animals, how to deal with leprosy, mold in clothing and in houses, relationships between parents, neighbors, foreigners, how to worship, all the regulations we read about in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, including the Ten Commandments, He was instructing them to be different from the other nations in their lifestyles.
Many of the rules, we recognize now, were also very practical, and given to keep the Hebrews from getting sick. For example;
Today we know that infectious diseases can sometimes spread from both animal and human corpses.
Leviticus 14:1-4 (NLT)1 And the LORD said to Moses,2 “The following instructions are for those seeking ceremonial purification from a skin disease. Those who have been healed must be brought to the priest,3 who will examine them at a place outside the camp. If the priest finds that someone has been healed of a serious skin disease,4 he will perform a purification ceremony, using two live birds that are ceremonially clean, a stick of cedar, some scarlet yarn, and a hyssop branch.
Clean On The Outside Isn’t Enough
The Hebrews, because of God’s emphasis on cleanliness became maybe the most health-conscious people in history. The problem was that they missed the point. They became more concerned with outward purity than the real reason that God gave the rules which were to point to His holiness and the fact that He was in their midsts. The regulations became empty rituals and substitutes for a real relationship with God. By the time of Jesus things were added with details so trivial that it bordered on the ridiculous.
Mark 7:1-7 (NLT)1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus.2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating.3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions.4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
Jesus’ comment addressed God’s initial purpose in giving the Hebrews His regulations on purity and cleanliness which was a cleansing of His people’s lives which set them apart from other nations. He told the Pharisees that they were honoring the traditions of cleanliness above the worship of God. He told them that it was not what was on the outside that made a person clean or unclean but what was inside that person.
Mark 7:14-15 (NLT)14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand.15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
The real problem of cleanliness was not dirty hands but a dirty heart. In scripture the heart is the center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities - Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
Mark 7:21-23 (NLT)21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
The Pharisees didn’t understand that every person has the stain of sin on and in them and that no amount of soap and water will remove that stain.
Jeremiah 2:22 (NLT) No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!
Jesus told us that they need to clean up what’s on the inside. If the inside is clean the outside will be clean too.
Matthew 23:25-26 (NLT)25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
Get Clean Inside And Out
The only thing that will remove the stain of sin from the inside is, blood. That doesn’t sound possible does it? To remove a stain you must clean it with something else that stain? Yes!
The stain that makes us unclean is sin. In the Old Testament God gave the Hebrews regulations on sacrificing bulls, goats and lambs, and using the blood of those animals in atonement for their sins. When they did this they were ceremonially clean but only until the next time they sinned then they had to bring another sacrifice. That was the Old Covenant that God had with His people. Jesus established a New Covenant,with his blood. Under this New Covenant those who believe in Him and fall under the New Covenant, are cleansed for all time by His blood.
Hebrews 9:14-15 (NLT)14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.
When we are washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus we are made clean from the inside out. We have a brand new heart and we are completely new.
1 John 1:7 (NLT) But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
No, “cleanliness is next to godliness” is not in the Bible. However the Bible does tell us that a clean heart is the result of having God in your life. That’s very important because the Bible tells us that if we are not clean we will not be able to remain in God’s presence. Remember when your parents told you that you couldn’t eat unless you washed your hands? It’s the same way in approaching God. You must be clean.
Psalm 24:3-4 (NLT)3 Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.
The Greek word translated “godliness” in the New Testament is eusebeian and it means “holiness,”. To be holy is to be set apart for God. (See Holy, Holy, Holy) , and if you aren’t you can’t see, or be in the presence of God.
Hebrews 12:14 (NLT) Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
It’s impossible to become holy by obeying rituals and traditions. The difference between God and us is that He is inherently holy while we, on the other hand, only become holy when we have a relationship with Christ, through His shed blood.
None of us will reach sinless perfection in this world, that won’t happen until Jesus returns, but God has made provision for our sin and cleansing both before and after we were saved.
1 John 1:9 (NLT) But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
God’s ultimate desire for His people is that we be holy which is being conformed into the image of His Son.
Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
God wants to cleanse you from the inside out. If you want that cleansing all you have to do is ask Him for it.
Psalm 51:10 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Then accept His cleansing through blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.
One of the things that happened after I retired nearly two years ago was that I no longer had the resources to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do. Things like travel, giving my children and grandchildren things, buying “toys” (I’m an early adopter and love technology), Mercedes, and giving more to my church and other ministries (yes that was really a goal of mine). I know that I made some poor choices over the years that seriously impacted my ability to do those things but that doesn’t stop me from time to time asking the question that’s the title of this post.
What does all this faith and belief that God keeps His promises amount to when I see others, who I know don’t love God and maybe even not believe He exists, prosper? Many of them go on extended vacations, continue to accumulate wealth, and appear to be very happy, with no thought of changing anything in their lives.
I know that I’m not the only Christian that has had those thoughts. Just two months ago I wrote the post “Why We Shouldn’t Envy Those Who Do Not Know God And Still Appear To Prosper” . In it I said…”the frustration mounts even to the point that he starts to wonder if all of our prayer, praise, service, was all for nothing.” The point of that post was to encourage those of us who become frustrated when we see the continuous prosperity of those who care nothing for God, while many of us struggle just to make ends meet.
Let me stop for just a minute to say that there are countless Christians, some of whom I know, that are prospering and will continue to prosper. Also, I’ve not found in scripture where God promised that all believers will prosper, have no sickness, no trials, and live carefree lives. In fact Jesus told His thoses closest to Him;
John 16:33 (NLT)33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In that earlier post I urged those of us who are frustrated to read Psalm 73 where the Psalmist, after spending time in the sanctuary (God’s presence), saw and understood the destiny of the wicked .
Psalm 73:18-20 (NLT)18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.19 In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.20 When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.
When does all this happen?
The Psalm is great and is very encouraging but, I know many “wicked” who have died natural deaths, who have happy homes, great children, lots of friends, great lives so, when will they reach this destiny, which in reading the Psalm is awful, happen. When will we see the fulfillment of God’s promises to us the believers?
Before we get to that there are some things we need to remember.
What’s In Store For The Righteous (Believers)?
Now that we know the destiny of the wicked (those who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord) what about the believer (righteous). There will be eternal rewards in heaven for all believers. Those rewards will be different for each believer and depends on what they do after salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NLT)10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
We don’t specifically know what those rewards will be but Jesus may have given us a glimpse in His parable about the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, where the Kingdom of God is described as a man going on a long trip and leaving money with three servants and then rewarding to of them for doubling the money for him and then punishing to one who did nothing at all. The point of the parable was that the two faithful servants were given more responsibilities and nothing for the third.
Matthew 25:20-23, 28-30 (NLT)20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
I don’t believe that this parable suggests that salvation can be lost because the third servant was to be cast into outer darkness. Once God has given you the free gift of Salvation, once you have truly received Jesus as your Savior, the issue of your Salvation is no longer in question. Consequently this third servant could not represent a true believer but one who has the appearance of one. Like the tares Christ mentions in the parable of wheat and tares where the tares are allowed to grow with the wheat until the harvest when they will be separated and destroyed.
Matthew 13:24-32 (NLT)24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Salvation is free and given by God’s grace to those who by faith believe in His Son and His work on the cross. However there are rewards for believers based on their works for the Kingdom while on earth and John encourages us not to lose them.
2 John 1:4-8 (NLT)4 How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning.6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist.8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.
While there will be differences of rewards all believers will receive crowns. Dr. Charles Stanley in a devotion titled “Our Eternal Rewards” talks about these crowns;
The Crown of Victory. To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games received a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we are effective in our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we'll be given an imperishable crown
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT)25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
The Crown of Exultation. The believers that we had a hand in bringing to Christ will be "our glory and joy" before the Lord
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20 (NLT)18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.
Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people who recognize your contribution to their spiritual development.
The Crown of Righteousness. The Christian life is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness are always thinking about the life to come and striving to meet God with a pure conscience
2 Timothy 4:5-8 (NLT)5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
The Crown of Life. Heartache and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him
James 1:12 (NLT)12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The rewards of service and crowns are what’s in store for all believers and they are forever. On the other hand there is eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who refused to believe, no matter how healthy, successful, or prosperous they were in this life. That’s why I continue to trust God and His promises while those who don’t still prosper. Our destinies are final and forever.
Today many people are in love with themselves above all else, including God. Taking care of “numero uno” is the main thing. Self is the basic standard for truth. Today, society tells us the most charismatic and authentic individuals are those who are “true to self.” Psychologists push self-help titles about inner-acceptance both in academic circles and on mainstream bookshelves.
With this as the standard we believe that we can follow our own consciences no matter what anybody, including God, says. When we are faced with a decision that includes somebody other than ourselves in order to not feel guilty, if that decision has negative consequences for them, we bring to mind a statement, many think is in the Bible, to justify our the decision. That statement is “to thine own self be true”. Surprise, it’s not in the bible.
“To thine own self be true” originated in “Hamlet” the tragedy written by Shakespeare. Polonius, the older counselor of Prince Hamlet's uncle, King Claudius, is giving advice to his son Laertes (who was about to leave Denmark and return to France) when he says: "This above all things: to thine own self be true" (Hamlet, 3.1.81). Instead of this being license to let his conscience be his guide it was actually an indictment of Polonius’ character and not a sign of personal integrity. Quite different from the way we use the saying today.
We apply the saying by living our lives to ourselves and we don’t let anybody influence us to do anything you don’t want to do. On the other hand the Bible says;
Philippians 2:3-6 (NLT)3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
It’s impossible to be true to self above any and everybody and at the same time be true to God. If you are true to self above God then you can’t obey what Jesus said were these two greatest commandments. If we put ourselves first then we cancel out a “real” scripture. One we love to quote, especially when we give to the church and others.
Luke 6:38 (NLT)38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
If we were really true to ourselves we would give to others first. That is being true to God and others first and you can see what Jesus said is the result of putting others first. Putting others first doesn’t mean that we put ourselves into position to be manipulated by other’s greed or wants. When we are true to God and not ourselves we will allow Him to lead us.
Proverbs 3:5 (NLT)5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Personal integrity and authenticity are encouraged by the Bible but “being true” is linked to seeking after God’s glory – not our own.
How good is Polonius’ advice anyway? We can only trust our conscience to guide us as far as it is led by the Holy Spirit. Left to ourselves we are corrupt, bankrupt and completely unreliable.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
Our example should be Jesus. He was all about love and putting others above Himself.
John 13:13-17, 34-35 (NLT)13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
What is Truth Anyway?
Merriam-Webster defines truth as the quality or state of being true. The definition of true is to be in in accordance with fact or reality.
To know the truth you have to know the One who is Truth
John 14:6 (NLT)6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
He said that He was the truth and the life which means “I am the way to God Almighty in that I am the truth and the life.
John 7:28 (NLT)28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him.
Jesus and the Father, who are One, are Truth, the purest form of authenticity. To know truth you must know Jesus Christ because He is the center of the glory of God.
Where Does the Truth Come From?
John 7:38-39 (NLT)38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
The Holy Spirit gives you the unique ability to discern truth from error, sort of like a built-in lie detector.
John 16:12-15 (NLT)12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’
How Do You Get Truth?
John 8:31-32 (NLT)31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You get truth by believing in the One who is Truth, Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:12 (NLT)12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT)5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.
John 6:47-51 (NLT)47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.48 Yes, I am the bread of life!49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died.50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
No, “to thine ownself be true” is not in the bible and it’s really not true at all. Truth is not something that changes from person to person or era to era, or culture to era. Truth is eternal and it matters. Truth is, as it said in John 7:28, the one who sent and revealed Himself in Jesus. When we abide in Him and listen to his Spirit then we know and have Truth. We are no longer concerned about self first and everybody and everything else, including God, second. That’s being free. That’s being real. That’s true authenticity. This is real Truth.
Can unclean spirits (demons), inhabit, a believer, someone who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and has received salvation by God’s grace? Every time I hear that believers are called to and have the authority to cast out and/or rebuke demons from both unbelievers and believers I cringe.
We know from scripture that the Holy Spirit dwells in all those who have accepted Jesus.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
1 Corinthians 6:19 (NLT) Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,
So my question is how can an unclean spirit inhabit the same place as the Holy Spirit?
I wrote about binding and rebuking unclean spirits in another post “Can We Bind and Rebuke Satan - What Does The Bible Say?”
One point that I want to make right out of the box is that when I refer to the casting out of demons I’m talking about casting them out of the unbeliever. The believer can’t be possessed or be the dwelling place of a demon. I say that because as Paul says the believer’s body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
Think about it. Can a demon or an evil spirit dwell in the same place as God? Now that that is clear I want to quickly address those who believe that any illness that they have is the result of demonic presence. Again I say it is impossible for there to be any possession of any kind in the body of a believer. There can be and there is attack from outside the body but we are told to resist and the devil (that includes his demon friends) will flee.
James 4:7 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Ephesians 6:13 (NKJV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
One other point. Every illness, financial crisis, breakup, loss of job, or other unpleasant happening are not the result of demonic activity. Poor eating habits or dangerous activities may be the cause of sickness or accidents. Foolish financial decisions can result in financial crises. Downsizing of a company or an economic recession can cause loss of a job....you get the picture.
No Scriptural Evidence of Believers Possessed By Unclean Spirits
Never in the New Testament epistles are believers warned about the possibility of being possessed by demons. There are no references to anyone rebuking, binding, or casting demons from a believer. From unbelievers yes, but not from believers. The scriptures never even call believers to cast out demons at all.
This is from a post I published last year, “Can All Believers Cast Out Demons?”,
Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV) 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
This is the scripture that many Christians, especially those in the word of faith and prosperity gospel movements, use to say that all believers have the ability, whether they use it or not, to perform exorcisms or cast out demons. They also use it for claiming universal authority for other things as well but those are not a subject of this post.
I first want to address Mark 16:17-18, the scripture that is most often used to assert that all Christians have been given the authority to “cast out”. My guess is that there is a note in your bible that reads something like; “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." This is another way of saying that these verses are not considered inspired scripture, and thus should not be used to build doctrines or to even preach on by themselves, since they are considered unreliable and were most likely added to the scriptures by some scribe. (For more information on this note see the complete post HERE)
Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance the possessed people were unbelievers. To be completely honest there is reference in scripture of individuals who were not Christians or followers of Jesus that cast out demons.
Matthew 12:27 (NLT) And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said.
Acts 19:13-16 (NLT)13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!”14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this.15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?”16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
How Then Do You Explain The Actions Of many Believers If Not Unclean Spirits?
First some definitions;
Possession - the state of having, owning, or controlling something.
Demon possession involves a demon having direct/complete control over the thoughts and/or actions of a person
Matthew 17:14-18 (NLT)14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said,15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”17 Jesus replied, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.
To be possessed would mean that the unclean spirit has direct control of a person from the inside. This would mean there would be a degree of unusual actions resulting from some unnatural things going on in the mind or the body.
Oppression - prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.
Demon oppression or influence involves an unclean spirit or demon attacking a person spiritually and/or encouraging them into sinful behavior, but from the outside. In a blog series on Spiritual Warfare II write the this war takes place in the mind not the body. Mind here being your intellect not your brain.
While scripture indicates that a believer can’t be possessed by an unclean spirit a believer can be oppressed by unclean spirits. It’s also possible that they may be suffering from severe psychological problems which are not the result of unclean spirits at all. We have to be careful not to confuse possession or oppression with mental or behavioral illness although there may appear the same. I am not a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist so I am talking about possession and oppression not mental illness. In all instances where we are trying to determine possession, oppression, or mental illness we need to ask God for discernment. If you aren’t sure always try to refer the person to a professional.
Some Signs of Possible Oppression
Practicing sin can open a person up to having little control over certain aspects in their lives.. We forget sometimes that the old nature is still there in after salvation. The process of sanctification begins at conversion and continues until we die or Jesus returns. The old nature shows itself through our bodies, that’s why we are urged to crucify the flesh.
Galatians 5:24 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Romans 8:13 (NLT) For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
Yielding to the desires of the flesh can bring you into bondage but is not the same as possession it is oppression. Much of what we blame on demonic activity is really us trying to excuse sin Unclean spirits can tempt us and exaggerate our fleshly weaknesses but when we yield to the temptation it’s our fault. We have the Holy Spirit and with Him we can overcome the temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
I addressed this subject in yet another post “Take Responsibility, Stop Blaming The Devil and Use The Power And Authority That You Have In Christ” Satan has a limit in dealing with a believer, it that wasn’t the case we would be are no better off than someone who was an unbeliever.
The Solution To Oppression
Believers are commanded to be filled by the Holy Spirit. To be filled is to be controlled completely by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 (NLT)18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,
To be filled with the Holy Spirit you must allow yourself to be, dominated, and controlled by Him.
To be filled with the Spirit implies freedom for Him to occupy every part of your life, guiding and controlling you. Then His power can be exerted through you so that what you do is fruitful to God. Being filled the Spirit does not apply to outward acts alone; it also applies to the innermost thoughts and motives of your actions.
Psalm 19:14 (NLT)14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
That’s what it means when the scripture said,
Romans 8:6 (NLT) So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
Here is a way I describe being filled with or by the Holy Spirit;
If you put electrodes in a glass of water and apply an electric current to them the electricity excites the water and splits the molecules and separates them into water’s elements of hydrogen and oxygen and if you do it right it can create the energy necessary to operate a vehicle. When your spirit is under the control of the Holy Spirit you can do things you thought you could never do.
Again I say that Christians cannot be possessed by a demon, but we can be influenced and oppressed by one.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
he Apostle Peter himself is an example of a believer who was influenced by a Satan.
Matthew 16:22-23 (NKJV)22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
Peter was influenced not possessed and after submitting himself completely to Jesus he was used by Him to introduce salvation through Christ to the Gentiles.
John 21:17 (NKJV)17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.
When you come under attack from Satan, demons, or unclean spirits, and you will be, you aren’t told to bind or rebuke them but to resist them and if we resist them they will flee.
James 4:7 (NLT)7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
A couple of sayings that I have written about about so far in this series actually contradict the Bible. “God helps those who help themselves” can keep us from admitting that we do need God’s help. “God will never give you more than you can bear”, can cause guilt and confusion. The saying in this post “Too err is human, to forgive divine”, isn’t in the Bible either, but while not in the Bible, it is a true statement.
The origin of the saying is from“An Essay on Criticism”, by Alexander Pope. Here’s the verse that includes the phrase.
If Wit so much from Ign'rance undergo,
Ah let not Learning too commence its Foe!
Of old, those met Rewards who cou'd excel,
And such were Prais'd who but endeavour'd well:
Tho' Triumphs were to Gen'rals only due,
Crowns were reserv'd to grace the Soldiers too.
Now, they who reached Parnassus' lofty Crown,
Employ their Pains to spurn some others down;
And while Self-Love each jealous Writer rules,
Contending Wits becomes the Sport of Fools:
But still the Worst with most Regret commend,
For each Ill Author is as bad a Friend.
To what base Ends, and by what abject Ways,
Are Mortals urg'd thro' Sacred Lust of praise!
Ah ne'er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine. (Bold mine)
All People Err (Sin, make mistakes)
Romans 3:23 (NLT) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
1 John 1:8,10 (NLT)8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
It’s in our human nature to sin and make mistakes and it’s in God’s divine nature to forgive us.
1 John 1:9-10 (NLT)9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
When we forgive others, especially those who we don’t think deserve forgiveness, those who have deeply hurt us so badly that the result of their action(s) stay with us for the rest of our lives, we are acting in a God-like manner.
Romans 5:8, 10 (NLT)8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
Here’s what I wrote in a post last year, “What Does The Bible Say? Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?”
God wants us to forgive each other just like He has forgiven us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Once we do what it says in
Romans 10:9-10 (HCSB) 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.;
God treats us as though we never sinned at all and doesn’t hold our sins against us. So, in a sense, He “forgives and forgets.”
In the same way when we forgive we should act as though it never happened. We do still remember the offense, and we should learn from it, but to truly forgive, we should treat the person as though it never happened.
I realize that it’s impossible for us to do that on our own however we have the Holy Spirit in us that empowers us, to do what is impossible to do in our flesh.
It’s not natural for us to want to forgive, but we are not to continue to follow our natural desires and tendencies. That’s divine power.
Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
A Methodist pastor, William Willimon once wrote “The human animal is not supposed to be good at forgiveness. Forgiveness is not some innate, natural human emotion. Vengeance, retribution, violence, these are natural human qualities. It is natural for the human animal to snarl and crouch into a defensive position when attacked, to howl when wronged, to bite back when bitten. Forgiveness is not natural.”
Here’s something else I found while doing the research for this post. At one time John Wesley met the governor of Georgia, General James Oglethorpe. In a conversation about one of the governor’s enemies, General Oglethorpe said, “I never forget, and I never forgive” John Wesley replied,”Then sir I hope you never sin.”
Think about that for a moment. The only person who can afford to never forgive is the one who never sins and needs forgiveness.
Forgiveness Is Not Easy
Without the power of the Holy Spirit forgiveness, in every case, is impossible. You hear people say all the time that “I just can’t forgive what they did to me.” They are right, you can’t, but with the Holy Spirit working through you can. I found these “Four Promises of Forgiveness” in “NO That’s NOT in the Bible”, by David O. Dykes.
Forgiveness Must Happen But Reconciliation May Not Happen
Romans 12:18 (NKJV) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
We can only do what we can do. We can’t control what others do or how they choose to respond. God requires us to take the first step and that is to forgive. Forgiveness requires one person to offer forgiveness. Reconciliation requires two people. One to forgive, one to accept the forgiveness.
That’s really the way that it works between God and us. God wants to be reconciled with everybody so He offers His grace and forgiveness universally and unilaterally.
2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
That doesn’t mean that everybody will accept His forgiveness and grace because He has given us freewill so the choice to accept His forgiveness and grace is ours. Reconciliation with God doesn’t happen until we repent and accept His forgiveness and offer of salvation. He doesn’t even require that we do anything else other than to come just as we are and acceot His grace.
Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.
Joel 2:32 (NLT)32 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called.
It’s the same way with us. When you forgive someone for something that they have done that has hurt you for no reason, you may feel that person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. However as God has done for you don’t wait until they come to you asking for forgiveness. With the help of the Holy Spirit you can choose to forgive them. If they accept the relationship will be reconciled. If they reject your forgiveness the two of you will not be reconciled but you have done all that God requires of you.
No the saying “To err is human, to forgive, divine” is not in the Bible. However we know that it is true that we must forgive, because God says if we don’t He won’t forgive us.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, write that unforgiveness is the stupidest thing a person can do. They say “When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him [or her] forever,” You may think that you are hurting the person by not forgiving them, but the truth is that you are uptight, stressed-out,and sick at heart. If there’s someone you haven’t forgiven to it today.
As David Dykes said “To err is human and to forgive feels divine.”
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “spare the rod, spoil the child”. I suspect you heard it from your parents or grandparents just before they disciplined you either by spanking or some other means. They may have even said, “the Bible says spare the rod, spoil the child”. Many people believe that this saying does come from the Bible. Well it doesn’t. You may be surprised where it originated.
It comes from a 17th century poem, “Hudibras”, by Samuel Butler . In the poem, a love affair is likened to a child, and spanking is commended as a way to make the love grow stronger. Here’s the actual verse,
“What medicine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets styled
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”
The idea, in the poem, which is very long, was that the absence of periodic spankings in the relationship will spoil it. In fact Butler says, and this may surprise and shock you, that women desire a good spanking more than gifts
Most people today, who think that the saying comes from the Bible believe it comes from;
Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)24 Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
The Hebrew word translated “rod” in Proverbs is shebet. Shebet is the staff a shepherd used to tend his sheep. The shepherd didn’t beat the sheep, he struck their hindquarters to get them to go in the direction that he wanted them to go. If one ot the sheep was too far away the shepherd threw the staff in front of the sheep and the sheep would then run back to the flock. The sheep didn’t fear the shepherd they feared the rod.
Shebet is the what that David said protected and comforted him.
Psalm 23:4 (NLT)4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Shebet refers to the discipline, protection, authority, and power that God as the Good Shepherd gives to His children. As parents, grandparents and guardians, we are compelled to follow His example in order to raise children for the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 7:14 (NLT)14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.
Proverbs 23:24 (NLT)24 The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
Proverbs 29:17 (NLT)17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.
The disciplining of children is not a popular subject today so before I go any further, and you accuse me of condoning or promoting “child abuse”, let me say now that there is no excuse for abuse and parents, grandparents, relatives, or others who abuse children deserve to be punished. There are huge differences in child abuse and loving caring biblical discipline.
A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children
Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Discipline should always done in love, never in frustration or anger. The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Savior to their children. When there are no consequences for disobedience , a child won’t understand that there is punishment for sin. There is salvation and forgiveness through Jesus but that won’t mean anything unless a child sees their disobedience as sin.
Discipline and punishment will show that there are consequences for our actions. Children are by nature rebellious and believe that the world revolves around them but discipline shows them that everything they do is not acceptable.
Proverbs 22:15 (NLT)15 A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.
Romans 5:12 (NLT)12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
The most important thing that a parent can do for a child is lead them to salvation and discipline in part of the process because it show that there are negative consequences for sin.
Proverbs 23:13-14 (NLT)13 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them.14 Physical discipline may well save them from death.
Proverbs 13:1 (NLT)1 A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction.
Proverbs 29:15 (NLT)15 To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an
Apply Discipline The Way God Does
God is the ideal loving parent and He often shows His love through discipline. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His children.
Hebrews 12:5-6 (NLT)5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
Communicate Before and After Discipline
Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NLT)17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
Amos 3:3-7 (NLT)3 Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?4 Does a lion ever roar in a thicket without first finding a victim? Does a young lion growl in its den without first catching its prey?5 Does a bird ever get caught in a trap that has no bait? Does a trap spring shut when there’s nothing to catch?6 When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?7 Indeed, the Sovereign LORD never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.
If we follow God’s process for discipline we will communicate how much we love our children by enforcing the rules. If you don’t care about the rules yourself then you won’t discipline.
Never Discipline in Anger
Abuse often happen when a parent loses his or her temper. Loving discipline is alway applied calmly. Do whatever you need to do to not disciple when you are mad or in front of others. If the discipline requires spanking, and yes there is a proper time and place for spanking, it should be done in private and when you have calmed down. Here is something I read while researching this blog post.
There was a woman who passed a man in a grocery store who was standing behind his shopping cart where his three-year-old son was screaming at the top of his voice. When the woman got closer, she hear the man saying, “Easy, Albert. Settle down, Albert. Take it easy, Albert” The woman was impressed with the father’s patience, she stopped and said,. “Sir I want to commend you on the gentle way in which you are speaking to Albert.” He looked at the child and said, “Oh, his name is Sam. My name is Albert.” That’s the way you need to be before disciplining your child.
If You Threaten Discipline Follow Through
If you threaten you child with punishment the worst thing that you can do is not deliver on you promise. Letting a child get away with something that they were told not to do is not doing them any favors. If you tell your child not to do a certain thing and tell them that disobeying will result in a spanking or in being grounded and they do that certain thing you must follow through with the punishment. If you don’t the child will then believe that there are no consequences for disobeying the rules.
Praise More Than Punish
Sometimes discipline is necessary but it’s much more important to praise. Yes, punishment discourages bad behavior, but praise encourages good behavior. The Bible tells us not to overdo the punishment in the absence of praise because it will have a detrimental effect on the child.
Colossians 3:21 (MSG)21 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
Are you one of those parents who when your child comes home with a report card with four A’s and one B who focuses on the B rather than praising them for the four A’s Give your children ten times more compliments than complaints, and a hundred times more hugs than spankings.
Biblical Discipline Is Love In Action
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” is the negative consequence of withholding punishment. The Bible gives us the benefits of applying discipline.
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)11 My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you.12 For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
Revelation 3:19 (NLT)19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
Hebrews 12:5-11 (NLT)5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
No, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not in the Bible, but what is in the Bible is how loving, biblical discipline can lead to salvation and keep your child out of trouble and out of hell. The values and belief that are developed in the first few years of a child’s life will determine, in a large part, their direction for the rest of their life. It’s easy not to discipline and not deal with the stress that comes with it, but your child will thank you applying the rod of correction when it was needed.
Saint Francis Xavier, a sixteenth century Roman Catholic missionary wrote “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone can have them after that.”
A few days ago I preached a sermon titled, “Trusting God Is Trusting In His Timing”. The Holy Spirit had been encouraging me to talk about waiting, and trusting God instead of becoming anxious because we haven’t seen the answer to prayer. It started with an exhortation, two weeks ago, to my church’s weekly Prayerline. Since the exhortation the Holy Spirit has continued to encouraging me to talk about the need to trust that God is acting on our behalf, while we wait. The things that I have been hearing in bible studies, in talking to other believers, and in my daily quiet times are confirmation that we must wait on God’s timing because His timing is perfect.
Here’s what I said in my sermon;
When we grow impatient, it is easy to rush ahead of God’s work. If it hasn’t happened yet it doesn’t mean something’s wrong, it doesn’t mean God’s mad at you, it doesn’t mean it’s never gonna work out. God has already established the time down to the split second, you don’t have to worry, stress out, or be anxious. God is directing your steps not randomly, not vaguely, but down to the smallest detail. This takes all the pressure off you.
If you are waiting for the answer to a prayer right now and you have been waiting a long time, remember that God’s timing is perfect. He may just be putting things in place, or moving something out of the way for you. Trust Him because he loves you.
It really doesn’t matter what you are waiting on God for; a job, a spouse, a house, a car, a child, healing, whatever. God’s timing is always perfect. So whatever you are praying and trusting God for wait patiently, even if it’s very hard to do.
Today, in my quiet time I read a devotion from Dr. Charles Stanley that was even more confirmation. In this devotion, which I will share in this blog post, Dr. Stanley says that we should have perseverance in prayer. He said most of us have come to God eagerly in prayer about something or someone but when we didn't see the answer right away we became discouraged. The reason for that, he says, is that we get weary of asking and listening when all we perceive is silence. ln my sermon I said that In order to patiently wait on God’s timing and not “freak out” with stress and anxiety we have to know that God acts on our behalf. We have to rely on Him and HIs timing to guide our lives, not our own schedule and timing. What we can see and know is limited but God’s knowledge is unlimited because He knows the end from the beginning.
Isaiah 46:10 (NLT) Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
God may be putting people in certain places just so they can be the answer to your prayer. He may be building a new ministry for you to join where you will find your answer. He may be creating a new job for you in a new city. There are any number of things that God may be preparing or removing,which involve other people even other believers, before He reveals the answer to your prayer.
While we're waiting on God's timing we should be persistent in prayer. Dr. Stanley says “Barriers can develop if we persistently cry out to God but nothing changes.” Continue to pray. As I have said many times when we pray God may not answer right away or He may not answer in the way we would like but we can be sure of one thing, that He will always give us peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
The following is Dr. Stanley's complete devotional.
Perseverance in Prayer
Romans 12:11-13 (NLT)11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
As a pastor, I speak with many people about their spiritual journey. From these interactions, I know that most individuals are not satisfied with their prayer life. They lack anticipation and faith, and time with God feels empty. Most likely, this is why many Christians pray so little and so passionlessly.
Yesterday, we began looking at obstacles to a healthy prayer life. Let’s explore one more hindrance that blocks vibrant communication between God and us: impatience.
Most of us have at some point brought our supplication to Jesus vigorously but did not see the desired results. Unfortunately, humans are, by nature, fainthearted. We get weary of asking and listening when all we perceive is silence. Remember, though, that God is not some “cosmic bellhop”; He does not act on our cue. In fact, if we could see the big picture as He can, we would gladly wait for His way and time.
Actually, I believe that we benefit by not receiving all that we request. Understanding this concept is a sign of spiritual maturity. When we are thoroughly satisfied with the Lord’s presence, our relationship with Him will flourish, even when we don’t get all we ask. When that is the case, we grasp what prayer is—not a long want list, but a relationship.
Barriers can develop if we persistently cry out to God but nothing changes. Continue to pray. Beyond this “wall,” you’ll sense God’s presence, where you will find peace, joy, and awesome glimpses of His glory. This will be completely satisfying, even if He never gives you exactly what you requested.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.
God Moves In Mysterious Ways His Wonders To Perform
This saying has its origin in an 18th century hymn written by William Cowper of England. This is the first three stanzas of that him.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
The hymn was inspired by what Jesus said in:
John 13:7 (NLT)7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
There is nothing wrong with the words of this hymn. God does work in ways that we don’t understand and that are mysterious to us. God’s ways don’t conform to our human motives or reasoning.
Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
The point is that this saying, “God works in mysterious ways”, is not in the Bible. It is often quoted as praise after God has done something that can’t be explained, or it may be just an expression in difficult times and we want to blame God. As I have written in other posts, Hod allows tough times He doesn’t cause them. Some of those times are the result of the actions and activity of Satan and his forces, others the result of things we do or don’t do, or the mear fact that we live in a fallen world (Take Responsibility, Stop Blaming The Devil And Use The Power And Authority That You Have In Christ, Does God Test Christians? ) Sometimes we use this saying as an excuse for not wanting to know or understand God. After all He’s so mysterious there is no way to know him right? Well, there is a scripture that completely debunks that idea.
We can know God but we can never really comprehend everything about Him.
Isaiah 55:6 (NLT)6 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
While God reveals a great deal about Himself in Scripture and through the Holy Spirit, we can know God we can never comprehend everything about Him.
John 16:13 (NKJV)13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
We don’t have the capacity fully to understand all of His greatness and glory.
Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!34 For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?35 And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
God does things that are beyond our limited experience and ability to comprehend.
Romans 11:33-35 (NKJV)33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"35 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?"
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV)29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
We don’t know why He allows certain things to happen to us but we know that whatever happens He will never leave or forsake us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
God’s methods often leave us completely confused. Why would He tell Joshua and the children of Israel to march around the city of Jericho for a week?
Joshua 6:1-4 (NKJV)1 Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.2 And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days.4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.
What purpose would it serve for a young girl to after diving into shallow water break her neck on a submerged rock and then spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair? That young woman is Joni Eareckson Tada. This is she wrote in her book “A Step Further” in response to letter she received from a young man that had been in an accident who was bitter at God for allowing him to suffer.
“If God decided to explain all His ways to me, what makes me think I would be able to understand them? It would be like pouring million-gallon truths into my one-once brain. Didn’t one Old Testament author write, ‘As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things’ (Ecclesiastes 11:5)? In fact, the whole book of Ecclesiastes was written to convince people like me that only God holds the keys to unlocking the mysteries of life and that He’s not loaning them all out! If God’s mind was small enough for me to understand, He wouldn't be God! Yet, in spite of this, He has chosen to have a personal relationship with me - that’s the greatest mystery of all!” (p. 173)
He has revealed that He loves us.
John 3:16 (NKJV)16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
1 John 4:8-10 (NKJV)8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
He keeps every promise that He makes.
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NLT)9 Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.
God’s Greatest Mystery
While God works in ways we don’t understand, ways that are mysterious to us, He has revealed His greatest mystery.. What’s the mystery? The mystery is that Christ, came to dwell in all people. Not just the Jewish people but all people.
Colossians 1:26-27 (NKJV)26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Today we We Christians take God's blessing for granted. But for the Gentile believers, that Paul was writing to in Colossae, to realize that the Messiah came for them too, was a tremendous revelation.
If Christ is in us then the focus is not on us anymore but on Christ.
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Though we may not understand everything that God does about where we fit into God’s plan we know that whatever happens works to our benefit.
Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Yes, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that God does move in mysterious ways, although the saying is not there. However He has revealed His greatest mystery, “Christ in you”. If you haven’t received Jesus into your heart please consider it not. Only then can you understand the mystery of Christ in you and yes that’s in the Bible. That’s the one truth that makes all the difference.
First things first. Let’s look at the answers to the quiz from our the first post in this series, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”.
Which ones of these sayings do you think are in the Bible?
The phrases that are actually in the bible are:
The apple of my eye
Zechariah 2:8 (NKJV)8 For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.
Eat, drink and be merry
Luke 12:19 (NKJV)19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.";
Eat sour grapes
Ezekiel 18:2 (NKJV)2 "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'?
A drop in the bucket
Isaiah 40:15 (NKJV)15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
The skin of my teeth
Job 19:20 (NKJV)20 My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh, And I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
Now to the next phrase that many think is in the Bible but isn't.
God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Bear
As I said in my first post not everything that is mistaken as being in the Bible is bad things, in fact some of them are good things, good advice, and wise sayings. I just want you to know that a lot of things that you hear Christians even Christian leaders say are in the Bible are actually there and if they are not there they don’t carry the authority of Scripture.
Psalm 119:89 (NKJV)89 Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So if you have a question about something that you hear check it for yourself.
The phrase “God will never give you more than you can bear” is not in the Bible. It is a misquote of;
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul reminded them that people often choose to do the wrong thing when they are tempted. However we know that God does but tempt us. If we interpret this scripture in context we see that what Paul is saying is that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. When we are tempted to sin we can’t say that God tempted us,
James 1:13-15 (NKJV)13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Temptation and sin constantly test us today so we look to the Bible and in it we find that Paul told the Christians in Corinth that God is faithful and that He give us the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that is in us, to withstand the temptation and the consequences of sin.
This is not an escape from temptation, nor simply a hope of strength to overcome in the future, but a present power to endure in the midst of temptation, a glorious promise for the sorely tried. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
He does make a way of escape the temptation through the power of the Holy Spirit who is in us.
John 14:16-17 (NKJV)16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Romans 8:11 (NKJV)11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Hebrews 2:17-18 (NKJV)17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Temptations are a lot different for the trials and tribulations that come upon us, often without warning, in this fallen world. Some, in fact many of them, come as a consequence of our own actions. The premise of this saying suggests that a God who loves us would never let us get past the breaking point. When some well meaning person says to us “God will never give you more than you can bear” and the reality is that you have reached the point of exhaustion and are about to lose it, you start to think that God is either a masochist, doesn’t really know how much you can bear, or that there is something wrong with you because you’re overwhelmed and God isn’t helping.
We know how great a true follower of Jesus Paul was yet he faced trials and tribulations all the time, and at one time he admitted that by himself he couldn’t take it anymore.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NKJV)8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,
Let’s admit it we sometimes hurt so much that it is more than we can bear. There is a quote by Dr. Howard Hendricks, “Sometimes life gets so tough that you don’t just hit rock bottom - you crash through it”. Tough times come with living we can’t get around it and we’re not exempt from them.
The reality of Scripture is that God allows us to experience trials, tribulations, and hardships, sometimes even greater than we can bear by ourselves in order to push us toward true faith and submission.
James 1:2-8 (NKJV)2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The way you bear the burdens that come on you speaks volumes about your faith and commitment to trusting God. Paul, that great follower of Jesus asked, no pleaded, three times for God to take a burden from him. God’s answer wasn’t you can bear it Paul because I wouldn’t put more on you than you can bear. His answer was;
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV)7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
In my post “Don’t Become Trapped By Discouragement”, I wrote Our expectations are that we won’t ever have to deal with disappointment, that every day will be perfect, no worries, no sickness, no sorrow. But when those things come our emotional response is disappointment. If we’re not careful that disappointment can become discouragement. The circumstances that trigger disappointment may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice. We can either let the disappointment overwhelm us or we can face the situation with courage and take it to the One who can help us through them.
There is nowhere in Scripture where there appears to be a cutoff point for trials and tribulations. Not while we are still alive and on this earth. Yes, when we die and go to be with the Lord, there are no more troubles but until then we have to depend on the Lord to be with us, to guide us, and strengthen us, because there will be troubles that we can’t bear on our own. God didn’t give us the troubles but He stays with us through them.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
The Question Then Is What Do You Do When Things Get Too Much To Bare
Jesus tells us to come Him;
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
He tells us to help each other;
Galatians 6:1-5 (NKJV)1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.
David, who we know had all sorts of problems in his life told us to give them to the Lord;
Psalm 55:22 (NKJV)22 Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
God Doesn’t Expect You To Bear Your Troubles Alone
It’s pretty clear that God doesn’t expect any person to handle everything that comes to them alone. The Scriptures never say that God won’t give you more that you can handle what they do say is that if you trust God He will be with you through it.
In the book “No That’s Not in the Bible”, by David O. Dykes, which I’m reading as part of my research for this series, I found this paragraph:
Mary lost her husband unexpectedly in a tragic accident. Several weeks after his death, I saw her at church and reminded her, “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.” Mary just smiled and proceeded to teach me a lesson I never got in seminary. She said “Oh, I’ve heard that before. But after Dave died, I tried to find that scripture in the Bible. It isn’t there.” Then she took a deep breath and said, “However, I have found that God will never put more on you than God can bear.” - No That’s Not in the Bible: Popular Sayings You just THOUGHT Were in the Bible, page 51
So rather than the phrase being “God will never give you more than you can bear” it really should be “The world and Satan will give you more than you can bear, but God will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him!
Ruth, the woman who I was married to for over 40 years would be celebrating her 71st birthday in a few days. She has now gone to be with the Lord. He has blessed me with a wonderful, growing relationship with a great woman. A relationship in which I'm very happy. However, when you've lived with someone for over 40 years you will never forget them. About 3:30 AM., one recent morning, after getting up to go to the bathroom, I wasn’t able go back to sleep. I started thinking about the good days and the bad days the ups and the downs of the more than 40 years Ruth and I were together. As I lay there thanking God for all of those days, good and bad, the words of a song, that was played at a Memorial Service at my church, not long ago, came to mind. The thing that struck me during the time of reflections, were the comments that no matter how sick, or how much pain this man was in he never complained.
A few days ago a Facebook friend writing a post on his birthday, thanked God for all of the things, good and bad, that had happened in his life. He included some of the lyrics I heard at the Memorial Service, in his post. Those lyrics kept running through my mind as I lay there. I could not get to sleep until I got up and started writing. I believe that was the Holy Spirit.
The lyrics are from the gospel song “I Won't Complain. The original song was written by Rev. Don Johnson an Apostolic preacher from Nashville, Tennessee, in 1974. His original title was "I Can't Complain". The name, and some of the lyrics were changed from “I can’t complain to “I won’t complain”. The most popular arrangement of “I Won’t Complain was recorded by Rev. Paul Jones. The lyrics that kept running through my mind are;
I've had some good days
I've had some hills to climb
I've had some weary days
And some lonely nights
But when I look around and I think
Things over...all of my good days,
They outweigh my weary days - I won't complain
What Do Those Lyrics Have To Do With This Post?
As the song says, we've all had some good days and we’ve had some weary days but the good days outweigh the bad days, so we shouldn’t complain and fall into the trap of discouragement.
We’re told that once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we become God’s children with all the blessings that go along with it. We look forward to that especially if our lives have been a mess. What we hear are the blessings, we don’t hear that salvation doesn’t mean that we will have smooth sailing for the rest of our lives on earth. We’re not told, or we didn’t remember, or don’t want to remember, that God promises us that even in the tough times, the weary days, He will never leave or forsake us;
Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
We don’t remember, or don’t want to remember, that Jesus said that we shouldn’t worry about material things because God knows that we need them.
Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT)31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
We forget that Jesus told His disciples, that they would face trials and tribulation but that they shouldn’t lose heart because He has overcome the world.
John 16:32-33 (NLT)32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Our expectations are that we won’t ever have to deal with disappointment, that every day will be perfect, no worries, no sickness, no sorrow. But when those things come our emotional response is disappointment. If we’re not careful that disappointment can become discouragement.
Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellow man, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God. - William Ward.
Discouragement hangs over us like a dense cloud. Like the one that hung over the head of the Li’l Abner cartoon character, Joe Btsfplk.
When you fall into the trap of discouragement, there is no joy or contentment, no matter what you do.
I call it a trap because as I’ve written before we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare, and In spiritual warfare the weapons are not physical they are spiritual and the battlefield is your mind (The Mind is the Battlefield of in Spiritual Warfare).
Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
It’s your enemy, Satan’s, objective for you to question or to blame God for every discouraging thing that’s happening to you. He puts it in your mind that after all if God is all powerful He would keep those discouraging things from happening to you.
The circumstances that trigger disappointment may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice. We can either let the disappointment overwhelm us or we can face the situation with courage and take it to the One who can help us through them. Remember He promised to never leave or forsake us.
Why Doesn’t God Just Make It So We Never Have Tough Times?
Habakkuk 1:2 (NLT)2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.
It doesn't seem fair, does it? In our minds, the Lord should protect His loyal followers from hardships, but He doesn't always do so.
From God's perspective, suffering is what produces faithful Christians. If we all had lives of ease without opposition, trials, or pain, we'd never really know God, because we'd never need Him. Like it or not, adversity teaches us more about God than just reading the Bible ever will. Yes we should study and know Scripture, that’s one of the things that I keep stressing in this and the other blogs that I write, but unless what we believe is never tested by adversity, we will never really know if what the scriptures say is true.
I’ve been through many trials and I can tell you from, first hand experience, that it’s True. In the more than 40 years that Ruth and I were married I can think of several times, because of poor decisions, we were at the end of our resources and had no idea where, other than our trust in God, how we could pay our mortgage, or rent, or eat. We remembered that He said that He already knew that we needed those things, and that He would not forsake us. Although we didn’t know how we knew that He would provide. He did every time. We were disappointed when those decisions didn’t work out, but we never became discouraged. God doesn’t cause but He allows trials and tribulations and when we exercise our faith in Him through the process we will always find Him faithful.
Depending on your response, trials can be God's greatest means of building faith or they can be an avenue to discouragement and self-pity. If you'll believe what God says in His Word, and apply its principles to your situation, your trust in God will grow, and your faith will be strengthened through trial.
Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Joshua 1:9 (NLT)9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Put your hope in God who loves you.
We all face disappointment from time to time, but don’t fall into it’s trap. When you fall into the trap of discouragement you can’t focus on anything other than the current circumstance. Discouragement if not dealt with can become depression. When you are trapped by discouragement you make poor decisions based on emotion not truth. Then our natural tendency is to look for someone to blame. You start to blame yourself, other people even God. God wants us to trust Him with everything including our unmet expectations.
Psalm 42:11 (NLT)11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Remember God’s purpose for you.
Romans 8:28-30 (NLT)28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
In God Your good days will always outweigh your weary days….don’t complain!
I Won’t Complain
Here are the complete lyrics to the song “I Won't Complain” as recorded by Rev. Paul Jones
I've had some good days
I've had some hills to climb
I've had some weary days
And some lonely nights
But when I look around and I think
Things over...all of my good days,
They outweigh my weary days - I won't complain
Sometimes my clouds hang low
I can hardly see the road
I ask the question-"Lord...Why so much pain?"
But He knows what's best for me
Although my weary eyes cannot see
And I say, Thank you Lord - I won't complain...
He dries all my tears away
Turn my dark nights into days
And I say, Thank you Lord - I won't complain...
God has been good to me
He's been so good to me
Better than you or this old world could ever be
He's been so good, He's been so good to me...
He dries all my tears away
Turn my dark nights into days
And I say, Thank you Lord...
When my friends turn their backs on me, Thank you, Lord
When the bills are due, Thank you, Lord
In the midnight hour, Thank you, Lord
I won't complain
If you want to download the song and add it to your music library. Here's the LINK to a great arrangement.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.