Last Sunday I preached a sermon,“God Created You To Be A Good Works Machine”. In it I said that we perform those good works when we obey the law of Christ.
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
To love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the law of Christ. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others.
When we bear one another’s burdens we obey the law of Christ and perform good works.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Greek word rendered burden is bareos meaning something that makes an overwhelming demand, that which brings sorrow or grief.
God bears our burdens so that we can in turn bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters.
Psalm 68:19 (NKJV) Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
The early church did this. To lift the load of poverty, they pooled their resources so that no one was in need.
Acts 4:32 (NKJV) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
To bear someone’s burden is to really put the love that we say we have for one another into action. It means more that just having sympathy for someone. Sympathy is just an emotion and emotion is not enough. Emotions fail but love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
To fulfill the law of Christ is to exhibit the love shown in bearing one anothers burden. It’s the same thought that James had when he said that we show that we have faith by our works.
James 2:18-20 (NKJV)18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Burdens May Be...
Whatever the cause, bearing the burden means carrying the load until the brother or the sister can walk unburdened on his own again.
How Do We Bear Someone’s Burdens?
Bearing one another's burden begins with us dealing with another person’s sin.
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV) 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.
The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar spiritual and emotional issues. A sinful habit is much more harmful to a person than sickness, or unemployment, or loss of a loved one, or loneliness, or rejection.
If the burden is emotional, you bear it through counsel, hugs, listening and prayers. You may do that day after day after day, as long as that brother or sister carries the burden. If the burden is financial, the burden can be carried by giving your money or other assistance. If it's a physical burden, you bear it through your time, effort, compassion, and energy.
We can give a caregiver a weekend off; make a mortgage payment for a family who is in financial difficulties; sitting with an Alzheimer's patient whose spouse needs to run an errand; just listening to a brother or sister who’s hurting when it's inconvenient (When Serving God Is Inconvenient). The Holy Spirit has given some believers the spiritual gift of mercy by all Christians are called to bear one another's burdens (Motivational Gifts).
5 Tips On How To Bear One Another’s Burdens
Galatians 6:1 (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.
You don’t want to become a crutch for someone. For example, if a friend has lost a job you may want to help them financially but you want them to actively do what they need to do to become financially secure. If it is finding employment you want them to actively seek it. Bearing a burden does not need to turn into a co-dependent type of situation. So make sure to prayerfully consider what role God would have you play in bearing your brother or sister’s burdens.
At some time or another, we all struggle under tremendous burdens and some of them are more than we can bear alone. I wrote a post in which I said that God will allow us to experience circumstances that we are not able to bear alone, but He will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him (That’s Not In The Bible - God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Bear).
Jesus Is Our Example
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."
Since God predestines believers to be conformed to Christ’s likeness, we must imitate His care for and concern for others.
Romans 8:29 (NKJV) 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.
Charles Stanley said in one of his devotions; “A believer cannot wait until his life is clear of obstacles before reaching out to others, since that day may never come. Even though we have our own needs, we can do all things through Christ’s strength—including sharing someone else’s adversity.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) 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.
"When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.
When you’re willing to wade into someone else’s troubles to help that person hold up under the weight, two things happen. First, he or she receives desperately needed blessings in the form of aid, support, and love. When we bear one another’s burdens we fulfill God’s command to love a neighbor as yourself."
Mark 12:31 (NKJV) And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Not only this but in bearing one another’s burdens we become witnesses to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.
John 13:35 (NKJV) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we say God did it or allowed. It probably doesn’t surprise you that many Christians who don’t like Donald Trump or voted for him try to rationalize it by saying that “God put him in”. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we know loves us can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand. Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death. When these things happen in succession we search for answers. When we Christians say that God does or allows these things, without any explanation, why would anybody want to become a Christian? Think about it. If on the one hand we say that God is love, merciful, faithful, compassionate, and forgiving, and on the other hand say that God took a loved one, or caused a natural disaster just to punish, or teach us a lesson what kind of message are we sending?
Christians and nonbelievers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.” When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster. I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
How about turning the question around and asking "Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?" After all, if seeing good people suffer is horrible, it's not much fun seeing evil people having fun either.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12 (NKJV)12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
God is sovereign and He knows everything that has or ever will happen good, bad, or indifferent. That means that, in a sense, He allows everything. However allowing and doing are two very different things.
God Does Not Do Evil
James 1:13 (KJV)13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Job 34:12 (KJV)12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
If God doesn’t do anything that hurts us what does it mean then when it says in Job that God gives and takes away?
Job 1:20-21 (KJV)20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
When you start reading at verse one of this chapter you will see that God didn't do anything to or take anything from Job. It was Satan that did and took, but God did allow it by giving him permission. Job knew that he hadn’t done anything to cause what was happening to him so he, like most of us, needed to find someone or something to blame. Most of us “good Christians” blame Satan or God but never ourselves or acknowledge that some bad things just happen because we live in a fallen world.
Romans 8:20-22 (NKJV)20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
God Does Discipline Us
God does discipline but discipline is for good and not evil. Discipline with love does not result in tragedy as long as you don’t fight or despise the discipline.
Hebrews 12:7-11 (NKJV)7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
God warns us throughout scripture of the consequences of sinful behavior. As with our natural parents the warning and then discipline is proof God’s love. Because God, in His sovereignty gave mankind free will, if we continue to ignore the warnings and discipline the results are our fault not God’s.
Here are some examples of warning and discipline.
Leviticus 20:9, 11-13, 16, 27 (NKJV)9 For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.11 The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 27 'A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' "
God even withholds punishment because He doesn’t want anyone to face it.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
People don’t want to take responsibility when bad things happen instead we like to place blame somewhere else.
Purpose in Our Pain
Here’s an account of a conversation between Jesus and His disciples;
John 9:1-3 (NKJV)1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him".
This man had spent years enduring the hardships of a life without sight, and Jesus basically said that God would be glorified through this tragedy. God has a purpose in our pain.
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
God takes the long view. His goal is not to give us temporary, superficial and fleeting comfort, but His purpose is our eternal welfare.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. But God allows things to happen for His reasons, whether we understand them or not. We know that God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we don't understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him.
Joseph is a perfect example of a series of tragic events that included his brothers throwing him in a pit, then selling him as a slave. Joseph while serving his master was falsely accused and then thrown in prison. He was forgotten after doing a doing a favor for a servant of Pharaoh by interpreting a dream. What a series of bad fortune. This same guy became the second in command in Egypt. Instead of becoming bitter Joseph was used by God to save his brothers and his family when they needed food in order to escape the famine. What those brothers originally meant for evil was proof that in His sovereignty could turn that evil into good, proving that nothing that man does can thwart the purposes of a sovereign God.
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Jesus came from that family.
God allowed the religious leaders, Roman authorities and Satan himself to murder His Son Jesus and it appeared that they won. But, allowed it to accomplish His plan of the reconciliation of man back to Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
As with the life of Joseph, God was orchestrating these unthinkable acts in order to accomplish His plan of satisfying the punishment of sin in mankind through the death of his Son.
When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you.
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.
We are told in scripture, and by our Christian leaders that we should raise our hands in praise.
Psalm 134:2 (NLT) Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.
Psalm 63:4 (NLT) I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
I agree that it is a wonderful way of expressing our thanksgiving to our sovereign Creator and God. It is also a gesture, when our palms are turned up to heaven, or our request and acceptance of God’s grace and blessings.
Uplifted hands with our palms up can be both, a gesture of receiving and an indication a of releasing. Receiving God's love, grace, and salvation, releasing things like greed, doubt, anger, guilt, and fear.
So while uplifted hands are an outward expression of praise and thanksgiving it is also an opportunity to release the thing that hamper that praise and thanksgiving.
This devotion is an excerpt from Palms Up: Receiving the Blessing- .Daily Guideposts: 40 Devotions for Lent, copyright Guideposts. Published by Zondervan.
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. — Numbers 6:24-26 KJV
In the closing moments of the Sunday morning service, our pastor raises his arms toward Heaven and calls down the blessing of the Lord upon all of us in the congregation. I bow my head in the contemplative prayer that has become for me a pre-blessing ritual.
I am a greedy child of God — I want every blessing, every gift the Lord has for me; I want nothing within me to hinder His giving or my receiving.
All too frequently, as I put down my hymnal and turn my hands palms-up to receive the blessing, I wince; I find my hands already full. Sometimes my fists are clenched, white knuckled, in unresolved anger, as they were the week a hit-and-run driver fatally injured our small calico cat. Sometimes I find myself holding on to brooding resentments over words spoken to me in the heat of an argument; or worse, I may be holding on to the guilt of harsh words I’ve spoken to others. Sometimes I’m clutching habitual worries I thought I’d let go the previous Sunday, only to find that through the days that followed I’ve picked them up again.
So I begin my weekly ritual of letting go:
Bless me and keep me, Lord.
Let Your face shine upon me, uphold me, and give me peace. —Fay Angus
I was thinking about a blog post for Valentine's Day tomorrow and couldn't come of with anything that I thought was any good. Then in my quite time today I read something from "Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls" by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. In this excerpt from the book they introduce a term that I had never heard before. They call it "rugged love". They define it as "A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth." Rugged love is the love that you have for someone who they call prodigal. I call them someone who is, without help from the Holy Spirit, is unlovable.
While we like to think of Valentine's Day as a day of love between spouses, girl and boy friends, and BBFs, it can also be a day of loving the unlovable.
Here is the entire excerpt.
If you live with a prodigal, you know what it means to love someone. Love is a means of survival. Love is what gets you up each morning and inspires you to serve someone who acts like they hate you. Loving this way means duty, sacrifice, responsibility, and resilience. Many years back, an R&B icon famously crooned a pseudo-love anthem to the world asking this skeptical question, “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?” If you live with a wayward person, the answer is a no-brainer: everything!
But there is a side of love that’s difficult to face. You’ve had a taste of it already if you are persisting in hope that this person you love might change. We want to invite you to go even deeper and join us on a surprising journey that may stretch your understanding of how to love a sinner who strays.
When people talk about love, they tend to think about feelings of attraction, that joy and excitement of being with someone who makes you feel alive. However, most of us know that this attraction is just scratching the surface.
Real love is something deep and powerful, a committed faithfulness that is sacrificial and loyal.
Love is keeping your promises, even when it hurts. It is patient and kind, gracious and forgiving, and willing to speak the truth even when doing so is costly (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). We know this love is tough.
For the most part, this tough love gets us through the tough times. Every relationship experiences struggle. Yet when two people are committed, reasonable, and willing to work things out, love finds a way through it all. But loving a prodigal is even tougher. It’s loving a rebel, someone who isn’t trying to work it out and who doesn’t have your interests in mind. It’s loving someone who is enamored with their sin and does not care about the consequences — the pain and hurt it causes others. As we’ve seen, wayward fools see themselves as the victim, and they are hell-bent on finding their freedom on their terms.
Prodigals need more than tough love; they need a rugged love.
A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth. For prodigals to change, those who love them must exercise a love that is courageous. They need to have conviction and a clear conscience. To love a wayward rebel, you need a rugged love that is rooted in the hope of God’s promises.
We offer the term rugged love not to pioneer a new way of loving but to bring fresh paint to the portrait of God’s unrelenting love in the Scriptures. Rugged love is the way God engages and reaches sinful people. We are all wayward, dead, and trapped in our sin. So the way we love prodigals must be patterned after the rugged love of God.
What is this rugged love? Love is rugged when it’s
Bonnie knows Stan is a serial adulterer, but she looks the other way. Walter believes his daughter is on drugs, but he won’t probe or ask her questions because he fears the truth. Zoe ignores the cruel and demeaning comments her husband makes about her in public and in front of the kids, hoping against hope that things will improve. Though each situation is distinct and complex, they are all connected by a common compromise: Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe are all tolerating evil. If you ask them why, they say they do it all for love.
When someone you love goes wayward, the worst lies are not always the ones you hear from them. They are the ones you whisper to yourself.
Of course, many of these lies stem from not fully grasping the biblical understanding of love. Our own misunderstandings of what love should look like and how to love others affect our well-intentioned responses to sinful behavior. Wayward people tend to pile up collateral damage like a tornado through a traffic jam. And that carnage of hurt feelings, broken trust, and fractured relationships can be so overwhelming that people like Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe just want to close their eyes and wish it away. They tell themselves that time heals all wounds. If they just ignore it and put it out of their minds, then surely things will eventually get back to normal. They hope to outlive the evil. This lie masquerades as hope, and perhaps on some level, it really is a hope that God will do a miracle. But it’s a naïve hope — one that traffics not in reality but denial. And the unwillingness to acknowledge reality only further encourages sinful behavior.
In calling us to biblical love, the apostle Paul says,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. — Romans 12:9
True and genuine love abhors evil. This means that we loathe and stand in opposition to it. Abhorrence leaves no room for denial. It means that we have eyes to see evil and the courage to respond to it. Sin and folly are inhabiting the soul of the wayward like unwelcome squatters. If these vices are ever to be expelled, they must be honestly named and exposed, not ignored or hidden.
To abhor evil requires a single-minded devotion to accelerating its downfall.
The most diminutive mom will strike with ninja speed and nuclear force if she sees a Nazi-loving skin-head threatening her small child. Her abhorrence in this case isn’t a mental exercise — “I despise when the strong threaten the weak” — it’s abhorrence in action, an unwavering commitment to eliminating the threat without hesitation or indecision.
The gospel does not deny evil. The gospel shows us God’s response to evil — he abhors it!
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. — Romans 1:18
God’s wrath is His settled and determined response to injustice, sin, rebellion, and evil. He cannot tolerate it, and He will not accommodate it in any way.
Christ did not come to earth to paper over our offenses against God. He was not here to spring God free from having to deal with the wickedness of the wayward. The gospel reveals the sinfulness of sin and showcases God’s hatred of evil.
God poured out His righteous fury on the only sinless man to walk the earth, who was stapled to a tree on a hill called Golgotha. And not just any man — His beloved Son, who willingly accepted His role as our substitute to free us from our enslavement to sin and reconcile us to God. Ascribed to Christ was our evil --
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus hung suspended, the sacrificial Lamb tarred by our wicked thoughts and actions, and received in his body the full gale force of God’s wrath.
Make no mistake; the gospel reveals a rugged love. When we look at this love, we see our sin and our hatred of God and are confronted by the truth that Christ suffered what we justly deserve. The nails were meant for us; the hopeless abandonment and spiritual separation from the love of God that Christ experienced was deservedly ours. God’s love, displayed for all to see on the cross, was strong enough not only to face evil, but also to act against it.
The cross reveals God’s abhorrence in action.
God’s response to evil is good news because it has a redemptive purpose, but the path to redemption requires that we come face-to-face with our sin and evil. God’s law, given to us in the Old Testament Scriptures, reveals our accountability before God and the rightness of His verdict against Adam and Eve in condemning them to death. Naming our sin and evil is always the first step to experiencing grace and forgiveness. This step cannot be bypassed or skipped. Conviction should lead to repentance, which leads us to forgiveness in Christ.
This gospel is good news because if someone you love is bent on evil, there is help. But repentance is the key that unlocks the power of grace and separates true grace from cheap grace: But true repentance doesn’t come through denial or accommodation. The pretending must end. The delusion that one can indulge evil behavior with no costs must be exposed.
Biblical grace is not a license to sin.
As the apostle Paul says in Romans 6:1-2,
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!
It is never loving or gracious to forgive someone simply to accommodate further sin.
Loving like this is not simple or easy. To get here, you need to experience this love yourself, a love so sturdy that it enables you to face your biggest fears — your dread of a loved one leaving you, your anxiety over the unknown, or your unspoken suspicion that this situation indicates you’re one humongous failure. Showing rugged love begins by receiving the rugged love of God and holding fast to the promises of the gospel, knowing that our Lord and Savior will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He is truly with us until the end (Matthew 28:20).
Our love becomes rugged as our motivation moves from “peace for me” to “help for them.” Rugged love faces human messiness head on. Are you facing the evil?
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. — Romans 12:9
Excerpted with permission from Letting Go by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert, copyright David T. Harvey and Paul Byron Gilbert.
Last July I wrote a post titled “Let God, Not Others, Determine The Value Of Your Work For Him” . In that post I wrote that when you get discouraged in your ministry God always finds a way to encourage you to keep going to keep working. That’s the good side of ministry but there are those times when you can become overwhelmed. When the pressures of ministry coupled with the pressures of life become too much; your ministry becomes inconvenient; serving God becomes inconvenient.
Lord I want to serve You but, sometimes serving You is inconvenient. As a person in ministry I admit that sometimes I feel that way. Especially when that ministry includes counseling others, or pastoral duties. There are the times that the phone rings when you just get to sleep, or just sit down to dinner, want to watch a television (especially sports), when you’re working on a bible study lesson or studying for a sermon. What about those times that you are trying to leave church and get something to eat, or go to the beach, or take a nap after service and somebody wants to talk to you. Are those really inconveniences or is is that we are reluctant to give up what it is we want to do in order to do what God has called us to do?
To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Required
Luke 12:48 (NKJV) But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Jesus said this at the end of his parable where he was teaching that skepticism about the His return produces misuse of authority and laxity of conduct. Those with authority would be punished in proportion to the level of authority. The more authority the greater the punishment.
The idea of “to whom much is given, much will be required” is that we are held responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and benefit others.
Most of us are quick to declare our love for God, but at times we are reluctant because we think it’s inconvenient.
Why Is It Inconvenient?
Sometimes our schedules are so full that there's no space to follow the Lord when we hear Him calling us to minister in a certain area. We are always busy we have a schedule to keep and todo list to deal with. Places to go and people to see. We all need borders in our lives if we want to abide in God's will. Are you too busy for God?
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV)15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Sacrificial service is never convenient. It may require that we change our plans, give up our comforts, or even make financial sacrifices.
Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
“Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. It’s called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender
We Don’t Care Enough
This one is really hard to admit. If we think it’s inconvenient at times because we’re too busy or selfish it may reveal a lack of devotion to the Lord and the ministry He’s called you to.
Matthew 22:36-39 (NKJV)36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
When we love Christ with all our heart we will joyfully serve Him by ministering to those in our families, workplaces, communities, and churches.
To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Required
God has given us so much and He wants us to use what He has given to further His Kingdom and proclaim His glory.
Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
The next time ministry becomes inconvenient remember this;
Hebrews 6:10-12 (NKJV)10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Any service we offer in Jesus' name will not be in vain. You'll experience the joy of giving and the assurance that the Lord won't forget your sacrifice.
The word "anointing" is often confused with the "power of God. Anointing is is not the "power of God," but being chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God's Kingdom often with power.
According to Webster's Dictionary, to anoint means to "rub oil or ointment on," "to put oil on in a ceremony of consecration."
Anointing was a common ancient cultural practice. Shepherds often poured oil on the heads of their sheep in order to protect them from insects that would burrow in their ears and kill them. This contributed to anointing becoming symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment. Spiritually, anointing was related to the idea of strength or blessing.
God commanded the Israelites to anoint the tabernacle and altar..
Exodus 40:9-10 (NKJV)9 And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy.10 You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy.
In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God's blessing or call on that person's life.
Priests were anointed with oil.
Exodus 29:4-7 (NKJV)4 And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water.5 Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod.6 You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban.7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.
Samuel anointed Saul and later David as kings of Israel.
1 Samuel 9:27-10:1 (NKJV)27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us." And he went on. "But you stand here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God." 1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?
Another meaning for the word anointed is "chosen one." God anointed Jesus.
Luke 4:18-21 (NKJV)18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Acts 10:37-38 (NKJV)37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Acts 4:26-28 (NKJV)26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
All Christians Are Anointed
In addition to Old Testament leaders and Jesus being anointed, the scriptures say that all believers (Christians) are anointed.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NKJV) 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
The Holy Spirit within every believer is associated with God's anointing. Every Christian is anointed or chosen by God as His children, set apart for Him. It means that you have been enabled, entrusted, and empowered to accomplish God's will.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
1 John 2:20, 27 (NKJV)20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
This anointing is permanent it never leaves you and can never be taken away
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NKJV)21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Anointing Comes With God’s Power But Anointing Is Not Power
We often talk about being in church and we comment that the Praise and Worship, the message or entire service was “anointed” or the "anointing of the Holy Spirit flowed." I was just in one. However we all too often imply that anointing is the power of God. God does move powerfully at meetings, through individuals and songs, however, the power of God and anointing are different concepts.
There Are No Levels Of Anointing
As believers we are either anointed — consecrated and set aside — or we are not. We can’t be more set aside or less set aside — we are either set aside with our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life or we are not.
Romans 10:12 (NKJV) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
Galatians 3:28-29 (NKJV)28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
I have one gift and another believer has another gift, that doesn’t mean that I am "more anointed" or have reached a "level" that someone else hasn’t. God blesses us with different gifts and ministries for His own designs. The fact that believers may have different gifts and ministries has nothing to do with anointing.
Romans 12:4-5 (NKJV)4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NKJV)12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
Sometimes people try to use the scripture where Elisha wanted and received a “double portion” of Elijah’s anointing as evidence of levels of anointing.
When Elisha demonstrates the heart of a servant by nobly refusing to abandon Elijah. The word translated "double," can also mean "to repeat, or do again". What God did was to repeat the prophetic spirit or disposition with which He had blessed Elijah.
There Are Times We Are More Prepared Than Others
Sometimes, Christians are more prepared than at other times. Sometimes they may be able to spend time waiting on God more than other times. Times of prayer and fasting can heighten sensitivity to God’s voice. It is important to spend time in fellowship and intimacy with God in order to build up a preparedness to move when the Spirit moves. By being prepared, Christians are more able to tap into the full measure of the anointing upon their life.
For example my pastor went through a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for an annual healing and deliverance service. The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in the service as he anointed each person with oil and prayed with and for them. Other pastors, including me, also prayed with those the pastor anointed. None of us had a higher level of anointing than any other believer. Each of us was operating in the spiritual gift we received from God. Any blessings that come from that service are the result of the power of God not a special or higher level of anointing.
There is a price to pay in anointed ministry, such as waiting upon the Lord, praying, fasting, studying the Word and seeking the mind of the Spirit. There are sacrifices that have to be made in order to walk in God’s fullness. Preparedness affects the anointing of God upon an individual’s life.
All Christians are anointed equally. God uses His anointed ones (all Christians) to display His power in any way he chooses.
Like most of you in ministry I often run and run and run to exhaustion. My excuse is often "if I don't do it who will", or "I'm working for the Lord and this is more important than my comfort". However God has designed our bodies with some mechanisms that warn us when we are getting to the limits of our physical or emotional endurance. It's when we ignore those mechanisms (warnings) that we begin to breakdown physically , emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. We all know that at times Jesus rested and called for His disciples to rest.
Mark 6:31 (HCSB) He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
While we know that we should rest to keep from burning out, even when we are working in ministry, we don't do it. Today, in my quite time, I read a "Jesus Said Get Some Rest" by by Jeff Manion, from Dream Big, Think Small, Published by Zondervan.
The following is the complete text:
I settled in at a coffee shop to read and journal.
It was the perfect, peaceful setting to quiet my heart and reflect on life. But my tranquility was quickly disrupted by the onset of a throbbing headache. I’ve experienced this dull throb before, and as soon as it started I knew exactly what was happening and why.
Earlier in the morning I’d taken off on a long training run in damp air. The temperature was chilly and I overdressed. I warmed up during the run and overheated a bit. I wasn’t particularly thirsty and didn’t drink anything during the run, or when I reached my car, or when I got home. Big mistake.
Returning home, I showered, gathered my journal and laptop, and headed to the calm of the coffee shop. That’s when the dehydration-induced headache began to rob me of focus. I approached the counter and requested a glass of water, then another. But dehydration takes time to remedy, and the headache grew. The pain didn’t fully dissipate for hours.
I’ve made this mistake before and probably will again. The lesson is simple: Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Know what your system needs, and act accordingly. In a prolonged endeavor — a long hike, bike ride, or run — take in water before you grow thirsty. If you wait until you are parched, you’ve probably waited too long. Unfortunately, we usually discover what we should have done after we didn’t do it.
My coffee-shop headache serves as a parable for emotional depletion and the need to replenish ourselves. Serving a family, a company, or a ministry depletes your emotional reserves. If you are constantly pouring yourself out, you require a regimen of filling yourself up — rehydrating, if you will. Every “mile” of serving takes something out of you. If you want to live and love faithfully for decades — marathon distance — you had better know how to consistently restore depleted resources. And preferably before you are in desperate need.
The lesson is clear. Don’t wait until you feel a searing headache and then begin your search for water.
Drink before you are thirsty.
Let’s talk about ways to fill your spirit long before you grow emotionally, spiritually, or relationally dehydrated.
Don’t wait for the compounding symptoms of emotional burnout before you justify a vacation or build rest into your schedule. Plan time away long before you experience a crash. Once you’re totally depleted and drained, a week away isn’t enough to repair the frayed ends of your weary life.
During a complicated season in Jesus’s ministry, as enthusiastic crowds clamored for His attention and resentful enemies badgered Him, He chose to get away with his apostles.
Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. — Mark 6:31
Read His words again. Hear them as a personal invitation. We all have intense seasons when we need to get away to a quiet place and rest. And also, remember that some trips aren’t restful. You’re probably familiar with the type of getaway that causes you to need a vacation to rest up from your vacation. Years back we pulled the plug on a complicated road trip and instead rented a simple lake cottage not far from our home.
Don’t wait for a vacation to recharge your batteries. Nourish yourself daily.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. — Mark 1:35
Embrace the practice of the daily retreat. Seek quiet moments to reflect on Scripture, express gratitude for the blessings that surround you, and invite God into your challenging relationships and decisions.
Don’t wait until you find yourself in the middle of a spiritual desert to refill your tank. Create space to fill your thirsty spirit each and every day.
Make space for life-giving friendships. Who are your true friends, and how does your calendar reflect your devotion to them?
On occasion, Jesus taught thousands of people. But He also had an inner circle He limited to twelve disciples, and among those, had an even closer relationship with Peter, James, and John. Jesus also often visited the home of siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. Because their village was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem, Jesus could find refuge among trusted friends while encountering hostility in the capital.
Life can be lonely, but we make it lonelier than it needs to be by expending our life energy among a hundred shallow acquaintances while neglecting to connect deeply with any one individual. Don’t wait until you are relationally famished to invest in life-giving friendships.
All you have to do for family relationships to erode is nothing.
Relationships slide downhill by gravitational force in the routine wear and tear of life. How are family members prioritized in your busy life? Schedule downtime together, an occasional weekend away, a weekly date night with your spouse, or breakfast with one of your children. Create time to sit and eat and laugh. Invest in each other long before stress fractures are visible. Seek help early, before someone is ready to call it quits. Hydrate before a massive headache lets you know that you didn’t.
What energizes you? Walking, painting, sailing, time with grandkids? What activities recharge your batteries, and how do you give these activities priority in your schedule? It isn’t selfish to invest in your emotional health. When I am running on fumes, slogging through life in a perpetually depleted state, I am not leading, serving, or loving at my best. Life is draining. We need to discover ways to fill ourselves long before we crash.
Road races of any length have aid stations along the way. Volunteers fill thousands of cups with water or Gatorade. These tables are placed at predictable intervals along the course, with race maps letting you know exactly where you will find the aid stations. I think this is a great image of how to prepare for keeping ourselves hydrated in all parts of our lives.
Remember these words of Jesus to His disciples:
Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. — Mark 6:31
Know where the aid stations are. Drink before you are thirsty. Don’t wait for a meltdown or a breakdown before you refill your tank.
Before closing out today’s reading, pull up your calendar.
Look ahead four weeks to discern where the aid stations can be scheduled into your life. Over the course of the next month, where can you spend unrushed time with family or close friends?
Where can you capture quiet moments to sit, read, and reflect? Schedule these now. Write them into your calendar before every moment is claimed by draining activity.
Now look ahead three months. Where can you carve out significant time away? Schedule these times of rest long before routine commitments and demands stake a claim on every breathing moment.
I for one commit to trying to follow Jesus' example of taking time to rest and renew so that I can work toward the Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples:
Matthew 28:18-20 (HCSB) 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We often hear people talk about “The Seven Deadly Sins” like there is a list in the Bible. Well guess what there is no list of seven deadly sins in the Bible. The movie Se7en, released in 1995, about a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as metaphors in his murders, shed light on what are thought of as the seven deadly sins. They are:
There is a scripture that lists seven sins in Proverbs that God hates, but they are not called deadly sins.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
The seven deadly sins were first compiled by Pope Gregory I around the year 600.
Gregory also compiled a list of the seven virtues:
It is probably true that they were used extensively to teach principles from God's Word, particularly in the centuries before the invention of the printing press when the Bible was not available for the common man to read and study.
The Bible does validate all of these concepts, but nowhere are they recorded in a list like this and nowhere in the Bible are they specifically referred to as the seven deadly sins or seven virtues.
There are several more sins listed in Galatians, but they are not identified as deadly sins either.
Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV)19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These and the sins listed in Proverbs are clearly all sins and God despises sin.
Psalm 5:4 (NKJV) For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You.
Isaiah 59:1-2 (NKJV)1 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
However the Bible tells us that the only sin that cannot be forgiven is complete rejection of God’s grace which is outright rebellion against God, also known as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 12:31 (NKJV)31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (Bold mine).
1 John 1:5-10 (NKJV)5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (Bold mine)
What Cures These “Deadly Sins”?
Salvation cures these deadly sins because with salvation comes the gift of a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV)26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
God puts His Spirit in us along with this new heart.
Acts 2:38 (NKJV)38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NKJV)13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
It is the Holy Spirit in you that enables you to develop the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-23 (NKJV)16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
As the fruit of the Spirit becomes real in your life the seven deadly sins of gluttony, envy, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and greed will lose their power in your life.
There are some people, in fact lots of people today, who say that God can and does change His mind. I was always taught that God never changed, and that included changing His mind. I was taught that God created everything and after He created it He said that it was very good. If the Creator said it was very good there is no reason for change, ever.
Genesis 1:31 (NKJV) Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
The Bible says, in many places, that God never changes.
Numbers 23:19 (NKJV) "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Malachi 3:6 (NKJV) "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
The people who say God does change His mind point to scripture too.
Genesis 6:6 (NKJV) And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Jeremiah 18:7-10 (NKJV)7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
Jonah 3:10 (NKJV) Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
God is not one to cause confusion so I needed to make sense out of what appears, on the surface, to be very real contradictions in my perception and belief of God’s character.
God Is Immutable
It’s clear from scripture that God is immutable. The definition of immutable is; is unchanging over time or unable to be changed. We know that God has always existed and will exist forever. He has no beginning and no end.
Psalm 90:2 (NKJV) Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Isaiah 44:6 (NKJV) "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Revelation 1:8 (NKJV) "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Scripture also tells us that God is perfect and omniscient.
Psalm 18:30 (NKJV) As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
Isaiah 40:13-14 (NKJV)13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has taught Him?14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?
Since God is immutable, omniscient, and perfect He has no reason to ever change. The fact is that God knows all things and he has known it all forever so He never needs to change His mind or anything else.
1 John 3:16-20 (NKJV)16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (Bold mine)
To say that God would actually change his mind would imply that God, who is supposed to have already known everything, decided to act in a way that was different from what He always knew He would do. So, how is he really changing his mind if he decided to do something all along that only appears (to us) that He changed his mind?
How Is It That That God Never Changes But Also Changes His Mind?
Since God is really beyond our ability to fully comprehend the Holy Spirit enabled men to write in a manner that we can understand. The technical term for this way of talking about God is anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities.
Here is what Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says about anthropomorphism.
The use of human terminology to talk about God is necessary when we, in our limitations, wish to express truths about the Deity who by his very nature cannot be described or known. From biblical times to the present, people have felt compelled to explain what God is like, and no expressions other than human terms are able to convey any semblance of meaning to the indescribable. Thus, in Genesis alone God creates ( 1:1 ), moves ( 1:2 ), speaks ( 1:3 ), sees ( 1:4 ), divides ( 1:4 ), places ( 1:17 ), blesses ( 1:22 ), plants ( 2:8 ), walks ( 3:8 ), shuts ( 7:16 ), smells ( 8:21 ), descends ( 11:5 ), scatters ( 11:8 ), hears ( 21:17 ), tests ( 22:1 ), and judges ( 30:6 ). For example, the Bible speaks of the “arm of God” (Deuteronomy 5:15 (NKJV)15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day) with respect to His power while Psalm 50:10 says, “[God] owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” We know, however, that this is metaphorical language. The Bible isn’t trying to tell us that God is a cosmic cowboy who is in the cattle business. That God owns the cattle on a thousand hills is a human way of describing the vast riches that our Creator possesses. This language is perfectly useful to describe God’s activity among us;
When we understand that this is the only way we can begin to know what God is like we can then see how from our human viewpoint God seems to change His mind, but He is only presented to us that way so that we can relate to an omniscient God.
God's Declarations Are Conditional or Unconditional
In addition to knowing that scripture is written in a way for us to better understand God from our human perspective, we must make a distinction between conditional declarations and unconditional determinations of God.
The declaration to destroy Nineveh in forty days was conditional one.
Jonah 3:1-4 (NKJV)1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you."3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
The declaration was conditioned on Nineveh's repentance. We know this was the condition because they repented, and God didn’t destroy the city.
Jonah 3:10 (NKJV) Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
In this instance God was consistent. He was going to judge Nineveh but Nineveh repented. Since God is holy He had mercy on the city because of they repented. Consequently what appears, to us to be a change of mind is, on the other hand, entirely consistent with His character. God will never do anything out of character if He did He wouldn’t be God.
The declaration to David about his family was unconditional
2 Samuel 7:16 (NKJV) And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever." ' "
There were no conditions expressed or implied in this declaration. No matter what David did or did not do, the word of the Lord would come to pass, and we know that David was far from perfect.
God also makes some declarations that He will act in accordance with our choices. Notice the conditional words but and if;
Jeremiah 18:7-8 (NKJV) The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Ezekiel 33:13-16 (NKJV)13 When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die.14 Again, when I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right,15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die.16 None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
At one time we were all enemies of God due to our sin, and He warned us what would happen if there was no change
Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we repented and trusted Christ for salvation it appears that God “changed His mind” about us, but He acted in accordance to our choice and, saved us. It would be contrary to God’s character to not punish us had we continued in sin, so it would be contrary to His character to punish us after we repent. Does our change of heart mean that God changes? No, if anything, our salvation points to the fact that God does not change, because had He not saved us for the sake of Christ, He would have acted contrary to His character.
When a person repents the relationship with God changes because of the person’s choice to accept the grace of God. Just as in the case of Nineveh, “I’m going to judge you,” and then (after they repent) refuse to judge them may look like God changed His mind. In reality, God was simply staying true to His character. He loves mercy and forgives.
So, what we’re seeing is God changing his mind from our perspective, but from the eternal perspective he did not change His mind about the penalty of sin. He already knows what we will choose so He’s not surprised by our choices. He does’t have to adapt to our mistakes or our plans.
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
The discourse with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah is not an example of God changing His mind either. Those who use the example of God saying that He would not destroy the cities if differing numbers of righteous people are found there is a very weak argument of God changing His mind. Abraham first asked God if He would destroy the cities if there were 50 righteous there and God said no. Abraham kept reducing the number of righteous until he reached 10 and at each iteration God said no, He would not destroy the cities. Abraham stopped at 10, and God said He would not destroy the cities if there were 10 righteous. We know the end of the story and that there were only 4 righteous people in Sodom (and one of those didn’t make it far) so He destroyed Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain. Does anybody really believe that God didn’t already know that there were not 10 righteous people in these cities? What we have is an example of God talking with a friend and engaging him in conversation not an example of God changing his mind.
Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?
People often ask whether prayer can change God’s mind. If God has determined something do you really think that He is going to change His mind? If you know that God has not answered a request do you really think you can talk Him into doing it without you doing something different? If when you change or make a different choice, and the prayer is answered it proves my point that you have made a different choice. God has not changed His mind you are the one that has changed and come into God’s will for you. God knows everything, and He has known it forever. He’s known the end from the beginning. He never changes and never changes His mind.
Isaiah 46:10 (NKJV) Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'
Many Christians blame Satan for every unpleasant thing that happens in their lives including sickness and disease. The Bible does clearly indicate that sickness is often the result of actions by Satan and demons, but not every time.
When they reached the crowd, a man approached and knelt down before Him. “Lord,” he said, “have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers severely. He often falls into the fire and often into the water. Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed. Matthew 17:14-15, 17-18
As He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water? Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years — shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day? ” Luke 13:10-11, 15-16
So Satan left the Lord ’s presence and infected Job with terrible boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. Job 2:7
Not All Sickness and Disease Comes From Satan
On the other hand there were times during, His ministry, that Jesus gives us some indication that not all sickness is the result of direct demonic activity. When a sickness was caused by a demon Jesus identified it as such, as were the examples I just gave of the young boy with seizures and the woman who could not stand straight. However there are other instances of Jesus healing people without the mention of casting out or rebuking of a demon(s). attacked by demons;
So Jesus and His disciples got up and followed him. Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well! ” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. Matthew 9:19-22
After He left the synagogue, He entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and began to serve them.
Some Sickness and Disease Comes From God
We don’t like to admit it, but there are even examples in scripture where God sometimes intentionally allows, or even causes sickness for His sovereign purposes.
Yahweh said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? Exodus 4:11
The Lord afflicted the king, and he had a serious skin disease until the day of his death. He lived in a separate house, while Jotham, the king’s son, was over the household governing the people of the land. 2 Kings 15:5
The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” Luke 1:19-20
The Greatest Source of Sickness and Disease is Sin
There is also another reason, perhaps the greatest one or all, for sickness and disease, and that is sin. We are fallen beings because of Adam and Eve with physical bodies prone to disease and illness. Some sickness is simply a result of the natural course of things in this world. When Adam and Eve sinned their punishment, which was passed down to all of mankind, was death which is a form or sickness..
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17
Death, as well as sickness, are part of the effect of Adam's sin. When Adam sinned, he died. His death was not an immediate physical death, but spiritual death, a separation from God.
But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen. Isaiah 59:2
Sin, with its impact, entered the creation through Adam who was to have dominion over it.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” Genesis 1:26
Adam’s actions did not only affect mankind, but the entire creation. Man was now subject to diseases, sickness, illnesses and deterioration. Sin which is separation from God, was the source of disease. Just as every person is born in sin and subject to it and the consequences and punishment for it, every person is subject to the disease, sickness, illnesses and deterioration that came as the result of sins effect on the entire creation.
For the creation was subjected to futility — not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it — in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Romans 8:20-22
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
Nobody is Immune
The entrance of sin, at the urging of Satan, is the primary cause of sickness. As we get older we get wrinkles, some of us need glasses, our muscles get shorter, and eventually we all die. Both the righteous and the unrighteous are subject to sickness and disease.
According to Scripture, the cause of man’s psychological and physical problems always has its origin in the fall of Adam. There would be no psychological problem or physical disease if there had been no sin. The original sin of Adam resulted in our individual, personal sin, sins against us which are often not our fault, and the many diseases and eventual death which are not always the direct result of personal sin.
Non-spiritual causes of abnormality include genetic influences which have been documented to exist, and must not be confused with those causes which are the result of personal behavior and personal sin. Genetic influences are shown to cause a predisposition toward certain physical and psychological ailments. These include the fact that gender influences many mood disorders. Women are known to experience more frequent depression than their male counterparts. In identical twin studies, the bipolar and schizophrenic disorders have been shown to have a very decided genetic influence.
Additionally, the victims of organic disorders (such as brain tumors and disorders resulting from physical trauma, as in the case of accident victims) are not to be held personally responsible for their inability to function at the level expected by society. It goes without saying that a child with down syndrome would not be personally responsible for this condition and should have limited social and spiritual expectations of responsibility. Unfortunately many who do not exhibit physical manifestations of their psychological problem are shown little respect for their non-physical, psychological disability. - A Christian Perspective on Medication by Dr. Scott Hadden and Theron Messer
The Apostle Paul preached to the Galatians the first time because he was sick.
you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a physical illness. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. Galatians 4:13-14
Timothy has stomach problems;
Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Timothy 5:23
The prophet Elisha died from an illness;
When Elisha became sick with the illness that he died from, Jehoash king of Israel went down and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel! ” 2 Kings 13:14
We all know very devout believers, including my late wife, who is now with the Lord, who suffered and died the result of sickness and disease.
No Matter the Source God is Still in Control
The point is this that no matter the source, Satan, demons, the fallen state of creation, or God Himself, this world remains under His sovereign control.. For the believer, that means that God even works sickness together for their.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
When we are suffering with a sickness, disease, or injury, we usually focus solely on our own suffering. The key is remembering that God's ways are higher than our ways. Sickness can even be be a means of God's loving discipline.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes. I know, Lord , that Your judgments are just and that You have afflicted me fairly. Psalms 119:67, 71-71, 75
It’s hard for us to understand why God would work in this way but remember what I said earlier about him working everything together for good.
Sickness and suffering is never an easy thing to deal with, but sickness should not cause us to lose faith in God. God is good, even when we are suffering. Even the ultimate of suffering—death—is an act of God's goodness. Think of loved ones, who were believers and are now with the Lord as a result of sickness or suffering regrets and what they went through in this life.
One word of caution when people are suffering, it is our responsibility to minister to them, care for them, pray for them, and comfort them. When a person is suffering, it is not always appropriate to emphasize that God will bring good out of the suffering. Yes, that is the truth. However, in the midst of suffering, it is not always the best time to share that truth. Suffering people need our love and encouragement, not necessarily a reminder of sound biblical theology.
For the child of God, the hope is not perfect health in this lifetime but a resurrected body in the life to come.
Brothers, I tell you this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption. Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:50-55
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
** All scriptures are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted
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.