The Good Stuff

Romans 5:1-5(NIV):
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I heard a sermon this past Sunday on this text from Romans chapter 5. Our pastor referred to this text from Romans as “The Good Stuff.” He went on to define, “The Good Stuff,” as “being justified by faith, having peace with God, grace, hope, and glory!” The text from Romans reveals to us that we find peace with God through our Lord Christ Jesus, when we place our faith in him. Our faith in Christ gives us an inner peace that we can reflect in an outward way in this world that we live in.

In verse 3, the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear, that as a follower of Christ, you will face many troubles, sufferings, and hardships. Those who preach the prosperity gospel completely miss this important truth of the Bible. If you are a follower of Christ, and you are living out your calling to be the light of Christ in the midst of a sinful and fallen world, you will experience suffering and rejection. Satan, will come after you in full force to interrupt or prevent your ministry for Christ. The Apostle Paul experienced this first hand as he said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

As Christians, we should be encouraged when we experience sufferings, troubles, and hardships. Those defining moments let us know that we are living out the life of faith that we are called into by Christ. So hang in there and continue on in your walk of faith knowing that you are on the right path. Satan is worried about what believers are doing in the world and he is doing everything in his power to silence our ministry for Christ. If you are a Christian, and you are not experiencing any of these things, then you need to ask yourself why Satan isn’t concerned about you. Have you become so comfortable with the world and the way that it operates, that you no longer “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23) and follow Christ? Are you a citizen of this world or a citizen of heaven? A citizen of heaven is someone who is just passing through this world but also called to change this world by bringing others to faith in Christ.

The text from Romans encourages us by telling us to rejoice in our sufferings. “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom we has given us” (Romans 5:2-5). The Holy Spirit lives within every believer, helping us to grow in our faith and to overcome and endure the many troubles that this world sends our way. The Holy Spirit helps us to emerge stronger and with a character that produces hope.

Our pastor said, “THIS kind of hope will NEVER disappoint. Why? Because, Christian hope is not some empty illusion. It is founded on the love of God and is given by the One who our Father gave us to walk along beside us – the very Holy Spirit of God. So no matter how dark or how bad things may seem, have hope! God is not finished!”

I pray that you find this “hope” in your daily walk with God. Remember that God loves you so much that he “poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” May the power of the Spirit be with you in the midst of your sufferings and troubles. And remember to give thanks to God and to rejoice in your sufferings, for then you are truly a child of God and a follower of Christ. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Nothing is Impossible With God

It never ceases to amaze me how we can receive an unexpected word from God. I have been reading through the New Testament, and this morning I was reading the passage from Luke chapter 1, where the angel Gabriel foretells the birth of Jesus to Mary. I almost didn’t read it, because it was a familiar passage, and I didn’t think that I would hear a much needed word from God by reading that text. I went ahead and read the passage anyway, and as I did, I was reminded of a truth that I very much needed to hear. Luke 1:37: “For nothing is impossible with God.” 

Have you been struggling with something that seems impossible to you? Have you lost faith that God can do the impossible and bring about a drastic change in your life? We all experience those times in life when we become dejected or we feel hopeless. Our worries and our failures seem to entangle us and we suddenly feel lost and disheartened. It is at this point in life that many began to lose faith. When life gets you down and your troubles seem to overwhelm you, remember and repeat these six powerful words from the Gospel writer Luke, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

A man in my Sunday school class recently asked for prayer because he was laid off from work without any notice. He said that it was the first time in thirty years that he did not have a job. I also know of people who are struggling with health issues as they seek answers and healing. There are many parents who are worried about their children and how to raise them to trust the Lord, instead of trusting this worldly culture that seeks to draw them away from God. When you can’t visualize a way out of your current situation in life, repeat and believe in these six authoritative words, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I don’t intend to imply that simply repeating these six words will change your circumstance in life. There are two other conditions that must be present as you seek to overcome your own situation; faith and prayer.

Luke tells us that Mary believed what God promised her, through the angel Gabriel, would come true. Her faith, her belief in God’s promises, is what enabled her to face the many joys and difficulties that awaited her. Her cousin Elizabeth praised Mary’s faith by saying, “Blessed is she who believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45). The Apostle Paul reminds us that, “we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Prayer is the second condition that must be present as you seek God’s guidance and mercy. Again, the Apostle Paul tells us how we should approach our daily life of faith: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). In our joy and in our despair, we must give thanks to God and trust that He is working out circumstances for our own good. And we pray, we pray constantly, asking God to help us to trust Him even more, as we experience the many joys and difficulties of life. “For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

 

A Model Prayer Life

“For the effect of prayer is union with God, and, if someone is with God, he is separated from the enemy.” Gregory of Nyssa

Jesus was tempted for forty days in the desert and I’m certain that prayer played an important role during that time of temptation. As Jesus continued on in his ministry, daily prayer and time alone with God was necessary for Jesus to recharge himself and to determine God’s will. “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place” (Luke 4:42). Why did Jesus seek out a solitary place? To pray – and to spend valuable time alone with God. If Jesus gave prayer this high of a priority, how much more do we need this daily time alone with God as well? Jesus desired this prayer time alone with God in order to draw strength for the mission that awaited him, and so should we. 

When we spend time in prayer with God, we separate ourselves from the enemy and his many evil schemes and desires. We also begin to learn more about God’s plan for our lives as we draw near to God in prayer. Prayer serves to protect us from the devil’s intention of interrupting or destroying our union with God. As I sat down today to read my Bible and pray, the evil one tried every way possible to disrupt my time alone with God. I began to think about some challenges that are ahead of me and my mind began to wander in many different directions. The evil one knows that when we spend time in prayer with God, we draw closer to God and further away from the enemy’s influence. Satan will go to any lengths to keep us from this union with God through prayer. He will do anything to lessen our effectiveness as followers of Christ.

“Through prayer we guard our chastity, control our temper and rid ourselves of vanity. It makes us forget injuries, overcomes envy, defeats injustice and makes amends for sin. Through prayer we obtain physical well-being, a happy home, and a strong, well-ordered society.” Gregory of Nyssa

As Jesus was carrying out his earthly ministry, crowds of people followed him to hear him teach and to be healed. “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). It’s apparent that Jesus needed this prayer time alone with God to recharge and ready himself for the next day of ministry – and so do we! As you face the many trials, challenges and temptations that life sends your way, you also need this daily quiet time of prayer with your heavenly Father. Through prayer, God can heal our very souls and minds so that we can become more attuned to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“Prayer is intimacy with God and contemplation of the invisible. Prayer is the enjoyment of things present and the substance of the things to come.” Gregory of Nyssa

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles” (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus prayed to God when important decisions needed to be made and in this instance he spent the entire night praying! How often do you take to God your most important decisions and ask for His guidance? And how often do you follow that guidance?

The reason that the Gospels give us a glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus is:
1) To help us understand that prayer is something to be taken seriously. It is a “union with God” where we are “separated from the enemy.” As Christians, we need this many times throughout our day. Prayer “will refresh you when you are weary and comfort you when you are sorrowful.”
2) To teach us to pray often. Prayer is to be practiced daily, multiple times a day, and even throughout the night, if necessary. Prayer helps us to develop a more trusting relationship with God and to seek His will. It also “makes us forget injuries, overcomes envy, defeats injustice and makes amends for sin.”
3) To help us determine God’s will in our daily lives. Jesus spent the entire night praying to God before selecting his twelve disciples. As we draw near to God through prayer we learn to become more aware of how God and his Holy Spirit are moving in our lives. We learn to become more obedient to God and to trust him fully. “Prayer is intimacy with God and contemplation of the invisible.”

The Apostle Paul reminds us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).