The key to resurrection life is death. Are you willing to die that you might live? Are you willing to let go of your life that you might find it? Are you willing to say to the Lord – what ever You want to do with my life do it? If you want to slay me, then slay me. I trust You!
Most Christians do not understand that this is exactly what God is doing in them. He is crucifying their flesh. It is out of His deep love for you that He does so, in order for you to know, experimentally, His resurrection life. This week, many have been meditating on and celebrating the cross of Jesus and His resurrection – yet have no real willingness to let that cross work in their own lives the same death and resurrection.
Rom 6:3-11 ”Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin. For the one that died has been justified from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no longer lords it over Him. For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Literal translation)
We can count on that as a finished work! It is a done deal when we come to Jesus for His saving grace. Yet it does not become our experience until the Lord Himself deals with our flesh to render it inoperative in us. Our part is to yield to Him as He does this in us, in faith, and not to struggle and fight against His hand, but to trust Him to fulfill His Word in us.
The greek for trust is: 3982 peitho pi'-tho a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy, to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively, to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):--agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) confluent, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.
The dark trials and sorrows and hardships we suffer are simply God slaying your “flesh” and replacing that with Christ Himself. In this we will truly be able to say, with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the One loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf. “ Gal. 2:20 (Literal translation)
Oh! Let’s look at that last line once again – “the One loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf.” How can we be so afraid to let this one slay us? Wasn’t He slayed for us? Isn’t He now loving us and giving Himself on our behalf? He always lives to make intercession for us! Nothing that happens to us can be allowed unless it comes through His nail-scarred hands. Will we trust Him and yield to Him? You will find that yielding a release – a freedom from your self. Allow Him to work it in you as only He can. As we come to Him in faith, it is He that works it in us to will and to do of His good pleasure – and He alone that will work in you that heart to trust Him and allow Him to do all in You that He would.
In his book Abandoned to God, by Oswald Chambers, he says,
”The mystics used to speak of the ‘dark night of the soul,’ as a time of spiritual darkness and dryness; not the direct result of sins committed, but rather a deep conviction of sin itself within the heart and mind. It’s a time the person ‘is being brought to an end of himself,’ and made aware of the utter worthlessness of his own nature when stripped of all religious pretensions. Moreover, there was the willingness to abandon all for Christ’s sake, to deny – not only his evil self but also his good self.”
It is only Jesus Who can bring us to this place in our lives where we can see our real “self” so that He might crucify it and replace it with Himself. We must trust Him as He is bringing us through this process and recognize what He is doing rather than running away from Him in confusion, as though He had rejected us. We must understand and yield to His hand so that He can finish that work He has begun in us at our salvation.
Heb 12:3-11 ”For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
Notice this next part: ”If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Shall we not yield, then, to our Father as He so lovingly deals with us as sons? But our human nature is to kick and scream and to strive for comfort and rest, isn’t it?
I’m reminded of an experience I had about 11 yrs. ago. I was having my morning prayer time. Pacing back and forth in my living room crying out to God, “God! Why can’t I get any better? I pray and pray and I read Your Word, but I can’t seem to grow! I can’t seem to ever overcome! Can’t You change me?? Help me!” I was struggling and striving to find that deeper walk with God but seemed to get nowhere. I was “surrendering” all I knew to surrender, yet getting nowhere. I was still angry, frustrated, had little self-control in my life, and sensed no victory over my flesh. Then I heard a very small nudging in my mind to go out on my deck. I didn’t know if it was from the Lord, and it seemed so strange…I mean why would God want me to go out on my deck? But I did. I went out and stood there and was in awe at what I saw. It was the first Spring in our new house and our woods were filled, seemingly overnight, with beautiful white blossoms all throughout, and the sun was just rising so that it’s rays were just glimmering over the tops of the blossoms and lighting them up so beautifully. I stood there in awe of God’s handiwork. I thought to myself…”How wonderful that God brought me out here to see this marvelous site.” Just yesterday it seemed our woods were bare and dead looking, yet today they were alive with color and beauty! Then I once again heard that still, small, voice speak to me, “Ginny, that is what I am about to do in you. I am about to make you a beautiful blossom unto me.” I stood there with tears coming down my cheeks, thanking God, in awe of Him and realized that I was His handiwork - ”For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10
What do you suppose happened in the next days, week, and years? I assumed life would be nothing but victory and intimacy with the Lord after that day. Yet soon everything in our family fell apart because of the unsolvable problems with our son who has tourettes, OCD, depression, and learning disabilities. We went through some of the most trying times in our family that we had ever faced. Our son eventually had to go to a home through the county as he was aggressive and out of control to the point where our family was endangered. I remember at one point saying, “God I don’t think I can believe in You anymore.” Yet it was He all along that held onto me. It was He that never let me go. It was He that loved me enough to risk my rejecting Him in order to accomplish the work of His cross in my life. I finally realized that I could never become that blossom with the fragrance of Christ until I let Him crush me. A flower gives off its greatest scent when it is crushed.
Will hardship never end? Probably not in this life. Yet if we trust Him with all of it, we will soon be able to sore above it with wings of eagles. We will run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint. We will know the intimacy of our Lord’s own cross and resurrection. It will be more than philosophy or head knowledge to us. It will be our experience.
St. John of the Cross once said, “Faith and love will lead you along a path unknown to you, to where God is hidden.” Do you wish to “dwell in the secret place of the Most High”? And do you wish to “abide under the shadow of the Almighty”? Let Him lead you there. Let Him do His work in your life and don’t fight against His hand. It is here that you will discover life. How I pray that we will come to the place this man did, as he never allowed exterior things to take away his interior peace, saying, “Trust in God should be so great, that even if the whole world were to collapse, one should not become disturbed.” This is my prayer.
1Pe 5:6 ”Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:”
J, F, & B commentary: 1Pe 5:6 - under the mighty hand--afflicting you (1Pe_3:15): "accept" His chastisements, and turn to Him that smiteth you. He depresses the proud and exalts the humble.
in due time--Wait humbly and patiently for His own fit time. One oldest manuscript and Vulgate read, "In the season of visitation," namely, His visitation in mercy.
So many times we make our trials worse, or prolong them because we try to take matters into our own hands, looking for escape, rather than humbling ourselves under His mighty hand, waiting on Him to lift us up in His due time. We blame satan, we blame others, we don’t recognize God’s hand in the storm. It is not “punishment” for anything wrong, but “chastisement” we are under, as all God’s children are. Without it we are not His children, the Bible says. As His dearly loved children, we must expect It, and know how to give ourselves to it, to allow God to produce in us that righteousness He desires in us, making us that vessel of honor unto Him, that true fruit of the Holy Spirit will flow from.
3809 – Greek - Chastisement
3809 paideia pahee-di'-ah
from 3811; tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication, disciplinary correction:--chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture.
Heb 12:5-13 “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”
There are things God has told us to do during this time of our “tutoring, training, nurturing, and discipline”. Fighting God, blaming God, doubt, discouragement, fear…all these things we must guard against during this time. These are the very schemes of the enemy to destroy us when we are the most vulnerable of all. His Word tells us to be sober, alert, and watch for the schemes of our enemy who seeks to devour us.
1 Peter 5:6-10 tells us what we are to do during this time.
First of all we are to cast all our cares on Him – the One Who is the very lover of our soul and cares for us intimately – every detail of our life – more so than we could even care for ourselves. Remember, He is the one Who gave Himself completely for you.
1Pe 5:7 ”Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. “
Pour out your heart to Him, confessing every care, every burden. Then with a choice of your will, not your emotions, choose to leave it in His hands, trusting in His goodness, His love, and His mercy. Trust His perfect plan for you and that His promise to work all things together for good in your life because you are His, is a sure promise. Count on it. When you are tempted to doubt, make a choice again to cling to His promises and not your feelings. In all these things continually give thanks for His goodness and working in your life and His perfect salvation, rejoicing in Him, as 1 Thess. 5:18, James 1:2,3; Phil. 3:1 and Phil. 4:4 tells us to.
Next: 1Pe 5:8 ”Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
Make your “care” be to know the schemes of the enemy and to be alert to them, watching in prayer. Peter, who wrote this, knew all too well those schemes as he slept the night Jesus told Him to watch and pray, lest he be tempted, and that very night he denied Jesus 3 times. Be alert to the doubts, discouragements, fears, anger, bitterness, and other weapons satan will use against you when you are being tried and tested. He wants to devour your faith and turn you from God. You must cling to God’s Word, putting on His whole armor during this time, standing in Christ and His Word, and not on your feelings at all.
1Pe 5:9 ”Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
You must resist the enemy. He will not flee from you if you don’t. You resist Him by submitting yourself to God, and all He chooses to do in you and to you at this time, trusting His plan, His goodness, and His perfect love for you. You resist by not giving in to or believing the lies the enemy will fill your mind with. Lies are his only real weapon. If he can get you to listen, and not resist, then he can defeat you. Resist the lies with the Word of truth, and submit to God’s will in your life. Only God knows what He is making you. He is the potter, and you are the clay. Let Him mold you without resistance to His hand. Satan will tell you God has abandoned you, that God must not love you, isn’t listening to you, that you must have committed some unforgivable sin, etc. Resist by believing God’s Word. If you continue standing on God’s truth, and not your feelings, satan will flee. He won’t stay where he isn’t getting an audience.
At the same time remember to pray for your fellow believers that are also going through the same trials, and training under the Lord’s hand. All of us must go through this time, just as a child must receive discipline from a loving Father if he is to grow and mature into an adult. We need to pray for and encourage one another through these times not to become discouraged.
Finally - 1Pe 5:10 ”But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
The Lord Himself will perfect that work of grace in you. He will establish you, He will strengthen you, and He will settle you. It will be of Him and nothing you have done, but simply put your faith in Him to do it, as you resisted the enemy and waited on Him. It will be His work in you – the work of His cross.
J, F, & B commentary… “The God to whom as its source all grace is to be referred; who in grace completes what in grace He began. He from the first "called (so the oldest manuscripts read for "us") unto (with a view to) glory." He will not let His purpose fall short of completion. If He does so in punishing, much more in grace. . The three are fitly conjoined: the call, the glory to which we are called, and the way (suffering); the fourth is the ground of the calling, namely, the grace of God in Christ. ”
What a blessed promise we have! Phi 1:6 ”Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
When it’s all done… 1Pe 5:11 ”To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” All the glory will be of Him and none of us….we will know that God Himself has done a work in us of His grace alone, that we could never have done by our own works in ourselves. It will be of His glory and unto His glory alone. Hallelujah!
Today, instead of my usual devotional, I wanted to share with you all a wonderful testimony of God’s grace in my family. For all of you mothers and fathers out there who are struggling with raising your children, seeing them rebel, and even despise you for your efforts to bring them to the Lord and teach them His ways, I want to give you hope.
My husband and I have 4 sons. Oh it’s so good to write that because until a week ago our firstborn was as good as dead to us. But God has given him back to us. We raised Micah, our 25 yr. old son to know the Lord. From the time he was a baby he was dedicated to the Lord, and was taught Bible stories, was home-schooled or Christian-schooled most of his growing up years, and brought to church.
We have a family of special needs. One of our sons, as is on my testimony page, Jesse, has Tourette’s syndrome/OCD/depression, and learning disabilities. We struggled trying to find answers and didn’t even have an accurate diagnosis until he was 11 yrs. old. During this struggle all was focused on him and the crisis we had to deal with on a daily basis. His behavior was out of control; sometimes there was uncontrollable aggression. Every day the focus for our entire family was on how to keep Jesse from going into a rage, how to deal with it when it happened, how to help the other children understand, and how to protect them.
At the time we were going through the worst, we also were going through the worst in the church we attended. There was a scandal with the pastor who was having multiple affairs, and with the church accountant, who was swindling people and steeling the money. Everything was kept a hush and people were condemned for questioning. So there was a lot of rumor and gossip and finally a split. We had our church taken away from us…our support system was gone. We had only the Lord to turn to.
Micah, during this time became more and more withdrawn from us, seemed even to hate us, and became very bitter towards church and towards us for making him go. He and his father had especially had a very close relationship, and did many things together, but it began to deteriorate. He was blocking us out of his life more and more and would not talk to us. We felt helpless. He was very strong-willed and insisted on his own way. Finally at the age of 17 we told him that if he chooses to put himself out from under our authority and protection than he would be responsible to God alone. We surrendered him into God’s hands and told him, he must answer to God’s discipline, if he rejects ours.
For a few years he lived with us, but not really. He just came and went and didn’t interact with us. But we hoped that we would somehow still have an influence on him. Finally after an awful fight with his brother, there came a point where we said, “we love you, but you and your brother can not live in the same house or you’ll kill each other.” He moved out at the age of 22 and left no word of where or how we could reach him. For the last 2 ½ yrs. it was as though our son was dead. We grieved as though he had died. I can’t describe the pain. It was worse than death I think. We didn’t know if we’d ever see him again. We examined our hearts over and over and yes, of course we saw mistakes we made. “If only I’d done that, or said that, or didn’t do that….etc.” So many times I wept before God begging for mercy for our mistakes and mercy for Micah and grace to help him find his way. I pleaded that God would not hold him accountable for wherever we failed him.
God finally enabled me to give my son up to Him, and trust him there in His hands. Again and again the Lord would show me I needed to press on, and not look back. I needed to trust God’s grace completely. I truly didn’t know if in my lifetime I would see Micah again and had to accept that perhaps I wouldn’t. God gave him to me, not for myself, but for Himself. Now I must trust God alone to reach him and deal with him.
God’s grace and love is so amazing!! There is so much more to this story I could tell you. Through the last 10 yrs. God has used trial and sorrow, and suffering in my life to show me His strength, victory, and grace over self and His resurrection power in my life. And now He has topped it all off by bringing my son back to me. This week we got a call from Micah. He told us he has become a Christian, that he has begun reading his Bible and through reading Romans he found the Lord and is attending a good Bible believing church. He told us in the last 6 months he has read his Bible through twice. He’s given up all his old friends and that he was so sorry for the way he treated us. About all I could do was cry and tell him I loved him. Tomorrow he is coming to see us. I intend to give him the biggest bear hug you have ever seen!
My prodigal has come home. During these last few years, 3 of my sons have come to the Lord. God is good! He wounds, and He heals. He takes away, and He restores. He loves continually. He never fails. He is a God of life and love and joy. NEVER let go of your confidence in Him! Parents, hang in there! Don’t give up!
Gal 6:9 ”And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
If now is your season for sowing – sow faithfully, and don’t become weary when it seems that the vultures eat all the seed you plant. God is faithful and will bring the increase. He will see to it that you reap! Be content to wait for His due season. You may not see it until you get to heaven – only He knows. But don’t quit trusting Him. He is hearing your prayers when you hear nothing. He is answering them through ways that you cannot comprehend. Trust Him! Live faithfully unto Him.
We have had to trust our son, Jesse into God’s hands when he had to leave our home at the young age of 11 and live in a special home in an ungodly atmosphere. We had to watch him go through so much suffering. God alone worked in Jesse’s life.
We had to surrender our son, Micah to the Lord and give him up. God alone worked in Micah’s life.
We have also had to give up our 3rd son and trust the Lord to bring him to Himself when it seemed he was bitter and hardened. God alone worked in Ben’s life. It is God who takes the seed you plant and God who gives it life. You cannot bring your children to the Lord. Only He can! You cannot make your children Christians - only God can! But as you sow in tears – God is faithful to hear, and every tear is precious to Him – our heavenly Father Who understands the pain of rebellion and rejection by His children more than any other.
Psa 91:11-12 ”For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. “
As Christians probably all of us can think of times of God’s protection, provision, or some way that we were kept from disaster. There are a couple times in my life that stand out. There was no doubt in my mind that He “gave His angels charge over me” and He preserved my life.
As a young college student I was very naïve, coming to the Big city from a small town. In my small town I could walk everywhere by myself with no fear, even at night. We didn’t lock doors. Everybody knew everybody else. When I came to the city I acted the same way, with a naïve small town sense that nothing bad would happen to me and that murders, rapes, and so forth only happened in the movies, not in real life, and not to good people. All the girls were warned at the Bible College I attended not to go out on the streets by ourselves, but to take a guy from the college with us to escort us. Well, that was a bit of a hassle, and I didn’t always have time to find someone to accompany me when I wanted to go out on the street and wait for a bus to do some shopping, or go to the Christian coffee house I was involved in at the time. One evening I was waiting on the corner for my bus to come and across the street were a group of drunken men, boisterous, looking at me, making comments and gestures, etc. I was afraid they would approach me, and it looked as though they were planning to do that. I prayed, “Lord send someone here to wait with me!” No quicker did I get the words out to the Lord, when I turned around and an older man was standing behind me and said, “A young girl like you should not be standing here by herself. I’m going to stand here with you until your bus comes”. He stood there with me, looking all around like a guard on guard duty. The group of men turned away and left me alone. The bus came and this man got on the bus and road it with me for a couple blocks and then got off and took off down the street. I thought he must be an angel! If not he surely was God’s messenger sent to me that day.
God sends us messengers and helpers many times right when we need it and we think nothing of it. I wonder in eternity, what God will show us – how many times He protected us or kept us from disaster or how often He changed our course when we were headed the wrong way or were about to do something that would have changed the rest of our lives.
One other story I’d like to share, that was so obviously a miracle of God’s protection in my life. I should not have even been here today to write about it! I was living in an apartment with two other girls, engaged to the man who I am now married to, and didn’t know a whole lot about cooking. So my roommates were going to help me learn to cook. They announced to me that the next day I would cook supper. So I was going to make a chicken dinner. I turned on the oven to preheat it when after 20 min. realized that it was an oven that needed to be lit. It was a gas stove. I opened the oven door and bent down with my head in there to figure out where I was suppose to light it (obviously I was not raised with a gas stove), and lit the match, held it in the stove. The next thing that happened all happened in a split second of time….A huge flame whooshed up to my face in a roar, barely singed my bangs and then whooshed right back down into the oven. My roommates came home, immediately began opening windows to air out the strong gas smell, and asked me why the apartment was filled with gas. I told them my story to which they stood there with eyes dazed and mouth hanging open, speechless. Needless to say, they never allowed me to cook for them again, and after I was married I have always used an electric stove!
So what about the times when that doesn’t happen. There are also times in my life when I said, “God where were you?” “Why did you let this happen?” There are things in our lives where we go over them and over them – “If only I’d…..” If only God would have answered……” That nagging feeling that God let us down haunts us. We feel like that day He must have been taking a vacation and certainly didn’t have His thoughts on us. We prayed and prayed for guidance and nevertheless, God let this happen and let me be guided in making the wrong choice. I thought it was God’s leading yet it ended in disaster. Or why didn’t God protect my child? Why did He let this happen when He could have prevented it?
So where was God? The same place He was when His Son was falsly accused, beat, spit on, mocked, scourged, and hung on a cross. He was right there with you all the time, as you faced your cross. He was right there with you to see that your flesh was hung on the cross. And He is right there with you now to bring you resurrection life, as you surrender to that cross in your life, and trust His hand in it.
Does God protect us some times, maybe because we’re reading our Bibles a little more, or a little more obedient, and at other times overlook us and forget to protect us? The above stories I shared did not happen when I was especially closer to God or more obedient in any way! I have never been deserving of His grace.
Does He take a break once in awhile and miss what is going on in our lives? No, He never takes His eyes off from you, and never leaves you or forsakes you. He has promised that “He causes all things to work together for our good”, if we are His. Not one hair of our head should fall without Him knowing it. Will you trust His goodness? Will you trust His love? Will you trust that what He began in you He will finish, is able to finish, and bring to completion? Will you say, as Jesus did in His garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Yours be done”? and, “The cup that my Father gives me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Will you trust Him with the bad as well as the good. Not one thing can happen to you but that it has to first pass through His nail scarred hands. How do you know that you weren’t diverted from a worse disaster than what you are now facing? You don’t know the outcome, but you can trust that the outcome will be for your good, when you trust it in His hands.
You are in a special position – you are a child of God. It is He that made you that, and it is He that will train you, guide you, and keep you. Trust Him to do so, without question, when life is impossible to understand. Trust yourself to be in His loving hands. He will never fail you nor forsake you.