Completed Series


Introduction

In this series, we will be discussing 3 characters that Jesus had told us to follow their example.

In Part 1 we covered The good Samaritan and Mary
In Part 2 we covered 2 of the 3 things that Abraham did.

Abraham circumcised himself and he left his kindred and home. These are all difficult instructions from God and he obey. In Part 3 let us look at the 3rd thing that he did.

Pt 3: Abraham Built Altar Wherever He Goes

Abraham built altars to worship God wherever he went. The time of the patriarchs preceded the Mosaic Law.  In those days, there are 2 significance behind the offering of Sacrifice. One significance is to thank God, while the other is to seek help and forgiveness from God.

Abraham led a life of building altars. No matter where he goes, he will first build an altar to worship God.  This is something modern day Christians ought to learn. Wherever we go, we must learn to build an altar to worship God. 

Today there is no longer a need to build a physical altar to offer sacrifices to God. But yet the spirit of worshipping God, coming before God for help and forgiveness remains. Abraham must have built a lot of altars in his life.

But the book of Genesis recorded 5 of the altars that was built. These 5 altars contains significance and life lessons for Christians to learn. Let us look at these altars and what they signify.

Pt 3.1: The First Altar at Shechem

“Abram passed through the land to 
  the place of Shechem, as far as the
  terebinth tree of Moreh. And the
  Canaanites were then in the land.
  Then the Lord appeared to Abram
  and said, “To your descendants I
  will give this land.” And there he
  built an altar to the Lord, who had
  appeared to him.” – Moses (Gen 12:6-7)

The first altar built by Abraham when he arrived at Shechem. This altar is a testimony of the genuine faith of Abraham. Shechem is the first city when you enter the land of Canaan.

Canaan is a foreign place full of strangers.  Sometimes it makes one feel lonely and helpless. Even though Abraham had wealth and servants, but he is without a friend or a relative nearby. He had departed from Haran, leaving the familiar place for a place that is completely foreign.

In my life, I encountered this feeling twice. The first time was when I moved from Singapore to Brunei and now I moved from Brunei to Vietnam. Only those who had migrated for study and work can understand the feeling fully.

But yet in the midst of these God appeared to Abraham, it is a significant event to Abraham. It provided him immediate comfort. God is assuring that he is not alone. God’s appearance to him is a sign that he abides with Abraham Even though now there are no one he could rely on, but God is his reliance.

God drew near to him and assure him saying “I am with you”. Abraham must have felt thankful to God from the bottom of his heart. Even though he is in a foreign land and dwelling among strangers. The God whom he believed in abides with him.  That is why he built an altar to worship and thank him.

When Abraham worship God, he knows he is not talking to thin air. He knew that God abides with him and he is worshipping him directly. Abraham  may not hear God talking to him on a daily basis, but through his faith he can see the abidance of GOd with him.

Can We Feel The Presence of God?

Our faith needs to be as genuine as Abraham. Are we able to fee the presence of God on a daily basis? Do we only feel his presence only when we encounter a vision or when we hear God speak ?

The fact is that we do not see miracles and vision at every prayer. Does that affect the genuineness of our faith? When we sing hymn and pray, do we know who we are talking to? Can we feel God standing right before us as we pray? Do we believe that he is there?

Today many Christians feel that their worship is like talking to thin air. When we sing hymns, our mouths may be moving but our mind is afar off. We are suppose to be singing to God. It is a important and sacred work.

If we truly believe that God is listening, we would not mind if others find our singing horrendous. We may not be musically talents, we may go off key at times, but God will always be listening and he will not despise our offering of praises. But God will listern and see if we are truly praising him. He will be disappointed if he find us praising without sincerity and heart.

The same concept applies to our prayer. When we begin our prayers, we will be serious at the very first minute of our prayer. But what happens in the next minute? Have our minds wandered off?

We often say that God is far from us, we said that our prayers are routine and it feel as if we are talking to thin air. That is because our worship is no longer a true worship

Understanding True Worship

True worship only happens when you choose to kneel before God. For we are not to bow to to anyone but only to God. We need to remind ourselves that we are kneeling and bowing down before God. Even though we cannot see God with our eyes but we can see him in faith. This faith is not one based on imagination. It is based on the words of Jesus.

“Again I say to you that if two of
  you agree on earth concerning
   anything that they ask, it will
  be done for them by My Father in
  heaven.  For where two or three are
  gathered together in My name,
  I am there in the midst of them.”-Jesus (Matt 18:19-20)

If we truly believe in the words of Jesus, than our worship will become real. Today in church we often say “in the name of Jesus”. This is not a magic phrase, we who said it are holding on to the promise of Jesus , for Jesus had said those words where we read them.

That is why as long as we gather in his name to pray, Jesus will be in our midst. If we believe in the words of Jesus. He will be there with us. We need to readjust our thinking and we need to change our attitude when it comes to service. By doing so, our prayers and worship will not become a routine nor will we feel that God is not in our midst.

Learning From King David

King David once said

“I have set the Lord always before me;
  Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
  My flesh also will rest in hope.” – David (Ps 16:8-9)

Why is David glad and what did he rejoice in? He told us that his flesh is rest in hope. David was a man who faced many troubles.  But whenever he worship and pray, his heart is glad, for he know that the Lord is with him.

This is not just a theory, and a belief, for he had set the Lord before him. He set the Lord before him with his heart. That is not an easy work. For our hearts tend to wander away easily. There are many things that can distract our heart when worshipping God.

Today all it takes is a vibration from our smart phone to distract us. many things can take our attention way from God. We need to grab our heart back for the Lord is before us. Today when we sit in the church hall, our hearts may not be there in the hall. Even though the speaker may not know, but God knows. He know those who gathered in his name but had their hearts outside the church hall. That is why Jesus remind us to worship in Spirit and in Truth

We need to make it a point to set the Lord before us. We need to turn our hearts back at him. Only then can our faith be true. Only then can our worship and prayer be with effect. For Jesus is the true God and his words are true. Our worship of God must be true.

Pt 2: 2nd Altar At Bethel

“And he moved from there to the
  mountain east of Bethel, and he
   pitched his tent with Bethel on
  the west and Ai on the east;
  there he built an altar to the Lord
  and called on the name of the Lord.” – Moses (Gen 12: 8)

Abraham moved to Bethel from Shechem and he built an altar and called on the name of God. The altar is between Bethel and Ai. These are contrasting names.  Bethel means the house of God while Ai means rubble.

If we are Abraham where will we move towards? We will choose to be in the house of God, for we do not want to dwell among ruins. Even if Ai is a beautiful city, but its name already suggested that it is a pile of ruins.  Perhaps Bethel may not be as beautiful as Ai, but it is the house of God.  It is established forever.

The altar at Bethel is a declaration of faith. Abraham is saying “I want to draw near to God”. For the house of God will be his house. He is only a sojourner and a stranger. This world will one day become a ruin, the world will be destroyed.

Christians must remind themselves that one day all on earth will be destroyed. we need to know that Christ will come again some day. AT that time there will only be 2 choices to go. One is to head toward heaven while the other is to head towards hell.

Where we will go depend on our choices, depends on who we choose to draw near to. If you build your altar at Bethel. You will have a portion in the house of God. But if you choose not to declare your faith, if you choose to love the world, and draw towards Ai.

Then your faith will only bring you close to the world and not God. One may have faith in God but if he refuse to make changes to his life, then his faith is without works. For he refuse to be on the side of Bethel and he refuses to keep the command of God.  That faith cannot save you, for James tell us that the devils believe in God. They understood that the world will be destroyed. But that faith did not save them, for they will never repent and turn back to God.

Choosing The Side Of God

True faith is a faith that is back with actions. One with true faith will choose to remain in the house of God. A man with true faith will automatically draw near to God for their faith is genuine.

If A Christian believe in God and choose to be in the world. If they choose not to draw near to God. Then their faith is a mere lip service. It is not genuine faith. 

For Paul told the church in Ephesus

“For through Him we both have access
  by one Spirit to the Father.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers 
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the 
saints and members of the household of God, 
having been built on the foundation of the 
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself
  being the chief cornerstone,”- Paul (Eph 2:18-19)

The important work of the Holy Spirit is to give us access to God. The foundation of the Church must be built on both the Apostles and the prophets. All of which must be built upon the teaching of Jesus, which is the chief cornerstone.

We need to hold on to this foundation and not allow it to be changed. For the teaching of the apostles were the instruction of Jesus.  Today there are many who want to change the words of God.  They downplay the new testament, cast doubts on its authenticity. They downplay the importance of baptism, foot washing, and the need to pray for the Holy Spirit.  Instead of following the teaching of Jesus regarding Holy communion. They choose to claim that one need to follow the old feasts under the mosaic covenant. They tell us that as long as one had faith and love, all other things are not important. Some even went one step ahead to say that the teaching of the apostles are distorted rules of churchianity and had no bearings to salvation.

The Need To Defend Gods Truth 

Today when we are faced with such people, we need to choose what we believe and whether we should join them. We need to take a stand so that we can protect the faith of those around us.  Today we do what we do base on the instruction of Christ. These are commands that are meant to be followed and not questioned.

Today if we think that these doesn’t matter, then we are shutting salvation away from those who need them. There will come a time where we need to defend the true faith. If one were to distort the truth,then souls will be lost. We know that if the Lord loses a single sheep, he will seek it out himself.

We need to take the side of God and not the side of man. While others have the right to change their heart and not belief. There is no need for us to contend or fight with him. We can only choose  to preserve our own faith and leave them be. For they have chosen to reject the grace of God.

But if they want to lead others into disbelief, we cannot allow him to do so. We have to make our stand and defend the word of God with all our might. For he can choose whether to believe or not, but he had no right to affect others.

Let us learn to be like Abraham who built his altar in Bethel. For he knows he is a member of Gods house and he wanted to be on the side of God. Let our faith be one that is true and with declaration.

Pt 3.  3rd Altar At Bethel

“Then Abram went up from Egypt,
  he and his wife and all that he had,
  and Lot with him, to the South.
 
 Abram was very rich in livestock,
  in silver, and in gold. 
  And he went on his journey from the
  South as far as Bethel, to the place
  where his tent had been at the
  beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 
  to the place of the altar which he had
  made there at first. And there Abram
  called on the name of the Lord.”-Moses (Gen 13:1-4)

The 3rd Altar is at the same location as the second. This altar is constructed at the same time after he return from Egypt. God instructed him to return to Bethel, to the altar that he had build.

The significance of the 3rd altar is different. It is talking about a renewal of faith. Abraham used to be a strong and faithful believer of God. But when the famine started, his faith collapse. That is why he chose to enter Egypt. He did not enquire of God , he proceeded to Egypt on his own accord. His action was against the will of God, for God wanted him to remain in Canaan.

Abraham can choose to live in Canaan in areas where the famine is not severe. He should not have left of Egypt, but he went down to Egypt anyway. When he felt threatened in Egypt, he did not rely on God, he chose to tell lies. He told them that Sarah was his sister. The pharaoh wanted her as his wife.

There are times when we choose to lie to protect ourselves. Those lies may have brought us some benefits and convenience. Perhaps it may resolve the problem that lies before us, but every lie will be exposed one day. What are we to do when it happens?

The journey to Egypt was a result of the weakness of faith in Abraham. But God continue to stretch out his hands and deliver Abraham from the pharaoh. He manage to leave Egypt and return to Bethel safely.

Abraham was told to rebuild that altar and re-establish his faith.  It must have been a complicated feeling. On one hand he was full of regret, he thought that his faith was good and strong. But yet when trials come before him, he was unable to rely on God.

On the other hand he felt comforted. For God did not reject him despite the fact that he had went against God. God did not abandon him but still helped and resolved his problem. He must have seen the love of God as well as his mercy and forgiveness. This strengthened his resolve to seek and obey God. Even though he had failed, he knew he must rebuild his faith.

A Single Failure Is Not A Permanent Failure

The Altar at Bethel tells us about Abraham rebuilding his faith. It also remind us an important lesson. Our past success doesn’t guarantee success in the future. We saw how strong and powerful the faith of Abraham was and how he became weak.

Let us be weary of our success, be it today or tomorrow. For if we are careless, our success will become failure tomorrow. Let us not indulge in the success of the past but be mindful of the future.

At the same time it remind us that failures in the past is not failure forever. Even though we have fallen, let us not dwell on our mistakes and continue in them. Let us admit our mistake and return to God.

Just like how Abraham rebound from his mistake and return to Bethel. He readjusted his direction in life and return to God.

Many a times Christians choose not to return because we are afraid of being mock and attacked by others. That is why we blame our failures on the lack of love from our fellow brethren. Perhaps it is true that your brethren have failed in their duties as fellow christens. But they are not expert, they love you and they spoke their minds for they did not want you to continue in your mistakes. They wanted you to repent and return, but they are unable to express it well enough. They hurt you so that you will admit your mistakes and to repent before God. Only by doing so can you experience the love and forgiveness of God.

Today we need to do the works of Abraham. Abraham is not the father of faith because he is infallible and without weakness. He is the father of faith for he is able to repent and return to God. He is willing to turn back and change himself to return to God. 

Pt 4: 4th Altar  At Hebron

“Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan,
  and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain
  and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.
  
But the men of Sodom were exceedingly
  wicked and sinful against the Lord.

  And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot
  had separated from him: “Lift your eyes
  now and look from the place where you are
  —northward, southward, eastward, and
  westward; for all the land which you see
   I give to you and your descendants forever.

  Then Abram moved his tent, and went and
  dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre,
  
which are in Hebron, and built an altar there
  to the Lord.” – Moses (Gen 13:12-15,18 )

This 4th altar is built after Lot departed from Abraham. At that time God appeared to Abraham. Why did Lot leave? Have he stop believing? Have they not come to the promise land together?

There is a change that occurs in Lot, he no longer wants the promise land anymore. He is not able to see the promises of God, but he saw only the beauty of Sodom. Gen 13:10 tells us that the land of Sodom is like the garden of the Lord. That was so before God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Eventually Lot pitch his tents closer and closer to Sodom. But Abraham remain unmoved, his faith towards God unshaken. Even though he faces difficulty in life, he insist on his faith and did not change.

Abraham can choose to enter Sodom and stop his life of wandering. He can choose not to stay in tents. While most of us think its fun to camp outdoors. But to stay in tent permanently is not something which we like.  Life in the city of Sodom is different from life in the wilderness.

Abraham choose to fear God, he look forward to the promises of God. He did not regret his decision nor did he change his faith. He chose not to move into the city of Sodom to stay.

Choosing To Walk In Gods Path

On the other hand you see Lot being unable to resist the temptation and he entered the city. Lot may have still believed in God, but he no longer walk in his way. He had chosen to walk the way of the world, he choose to live life within Sodom

Today there are many Christians who still believe in the Lord. But they have stop walking their life of faith.  But those who believe in God must choose to walk on his way and obey his truth.

Today in life we may encounter trials and tribulation, we will also see others changing their faith, choosing no longer to walk with God. These people may be our friends and even our relative. They can just be like Lot to Abraham.

Who will we choose to follow? Can we continue to stand firm in our faith or will we allow them to influence us? When Lot separated himself from Abraham, Abraham choose to let him go. Abraham will not follow him on the wrong path. It is not that he no longer love Lot, but it is just that their priorities and path are no longer the same.

Abraham survived that trial and stood firm in his faith. That is why when Lot left, God appeared to Abraham and declared his promise to him. Abraham is given the promise of God. That is when Abraham built an altar for God. This is the altar of victory in  his faith.

Today when the ones we love no longer walk the way of the Lord.We would be thrown into a struggle, we will need to decide for ourselves whether we should stay or follow? What will our choice be?

Jesus tell us to do the works of Abraham will we be able to remain faithful to the Lord in the mist of this?

Pt 5: 5th Altar At Mount Moriah

The 5th  altar is the Altar at Mount Moriah. I have described it in the post the Heroes of Faith (Part V) Abraham and Isaac. It is an Altar built by Abraham and his son Isaac. It is the altar that testify of the complete obedience and the complete faith of Abraham.

May we all reach this stage of faith and may we have complete faith in the words of God.

This is the second part of the sermon shared in my church on Saturday. You can click here for the first part

Introduction

“Therefore, having been
  justified by faith, we have
  peace with God through
  our Lord Jesus Christ,
  through whom also we have
  access by faith into this grace
  in which we stand, and rejoice
  in hope of the glory of God. “ – Paul (Rom 5:1-2)

Paul says that we enter into grace by faith and we have hope in the glory of God.  Paul is a man who had suffered much for God but he felt his suffering is worth it for the coming glory far outweighs the temporary suffering he encountered. He once shared with the church in Corinth. 

The Glory That Is To Come

“It is doubtless not profitable for
  me to boast. I will come to visions
  and revelations of the Lord:
 
I know a man in Christ who fourteen
  years ago—whether in the body I
  do not know, or whether out of
  the body I do not know, God knows
  —such a one was caught up to the
   third heaven. “ – Paul (2 Cor 12:1-2)

Paul said that it is pointless for him to boast about himself. He would rather share the about the vision and revelations from the Lord. The man which he was referring to is himself. He was once taken up into heaven. He is unsure if he had physically been brought to heaven or if he encounter a vision . But what was important was written in Verse 4

“how he was caught up into
  Paradise and heard inexpressible
  words, which it is not lawful
  for a man to utter.”- Paul (2 Cor 12:4)

He was taken up into Paradise, it is in the spiritual realm where he heard of things that man cannot describe. When he say it is not lawful for man to utter. Of course it does not mean that he is sinning against God if he said it, but what he saw was glory that cannot be describe using the words of man. It is possible or one to compare and contrast various sites and scenes on earth. There may be places which we use to regard as beautiful. But if we come across another site, perhaps you can make a comparison and describe the difference using words.

But nothing on earth could compare to the paradise that Paul had seen, it is so indescribable which is why no man could utter a word to describe it. Paul was taken up to the heavens and he saw glory that cannot be compared with any place on earth. In the same way we have brethren who had seen heaven in vision and when their vision had finished, and we asked them how beautiful heaven is. But they were unable to describe it in words.

Glory In Tribulation

Paul was given the privilege to enter heaven and to see the glory that is to come. It is so glorious that nothing on earth can describe it. If we want to enter this glory, we would need to enter the grace of God through faith. After that we need to work hard to spiritual nurture ourselves in order to receive this glory. After we believe in the Lord, we will encounter trials in our faith. Paul once talk about tribulations in Rom 5:3 

“And not only that, but we
  also glory in tribulations,
  knowing that tribulation
  produces perseverance,
  and perseverance, character;
  and character, hope.” – Paul (Rom 5:3-4)

In order to allow us to enter into that glory we need to go through trials and tribulations. That is why we need to be vigilant when we are suffering in difficulties. For nothing on earth can describe that glory that is awaiting for us in heaven. If our sufferings on earth can be use to exchange for this glory. This exchange will definitely be worth it. For these tribulation can allow us to remain strong in faith. 

We need to be strong in the midst of tribulation for it will give us patience, through this patience we will learn perseverance. If we do not go through tribulation how would perseverance be produced? Without perseverance how could one endure in his faith till the end. If we do not endure to the end, we will be destroyed.

Trials Creates Perseverance

If we endure and persevere in faith, it that endurance is a proof that our faith is real.  If our faith is real we would be just like the Roly-Poly toy. It would never tumble because of its low centre of gravity, the more you try to stumble the doll the more it would come back up. The anchor of our faith is Jesus, he is our rock and the centre of our faith. He is our base with a strong weight. It is because of this faith in Jesus, we could turn tribulation into perseverance.

Without tribulation we would not know our areas of faith that needs improvement. That is why God allow us to meet with trials so that our faith will grow. A faith that could grow will create within us hope. In life we often say that practice makes perfect. If we do not use a skill often, we would not be able to retain the same level of competency. For example, if we drive a few times in a year, we will sometimes make mistakes at the wheel for we are unfamiliar with driving.  the more we drive, the more skilful we become. Eventually the driving will become second nature to us, inbuilt into our character.

How Perseverance Creates  Character, and Character Creates Hope

This is what Paul meant by Perseverance creates character. In our lives we learn to rely on God to be victorious in tribulations. Over time these victories will create perseverance.   Just like an Athlete who practiced often  in order to compete with their opponents. They are able to respond to their opponents move no matter how fast they may be. In order to develop such reflexes thy need to practice for long hours. The same applies when we persevere in trials and it will create the character within us. 

From character comes hope. Whenever we face tribulation and we overcome them by relying on God. From these experiences  we learnt to rely on God and that God  will opens a way of escape during the trial. Perhaps there are certain trials that we cannot avoid, but because of our reliance in God. We experience deliverance from God.  Over time our reliance become our hope whenever we face trials. ‘

Hope that is created out from our character is not a theoretical understanding of how to rely on God. But it is build from our practical experience after going through many tribulation. That is why whenever tribulation arrive, we would rely on God and hope that God will open a way of escape.

This is a hope that is not built base on theory but from your own experience in Christ.

The Source Of Hope, The Holy Spirit

Paul continue his sharing saying

“Now hope does not disappoint,
  because the love of God has been
  poured out in our hearts by the
  Holy Spirit who was given to us.”- Paul (Rom 5:5)

Here Paul tells us that this hope does not disappoint. Do we know of occasions where hope does disappoint?  Hope can be disappointment when what we expect from God did not happen. When everything in life turn against you and those who hurt you ridicule you asking “You claim that your God is so great and powerful, why did he not save you from your troubles?”  That is when we find disappointment in faith.

In the church there are many brethren who experience trials in faith. As long as they do not let go of their faith, their hope eventually does not disappoint. There are members who had unbelievers in their family. When they are stuck with illness, their family members mock them saying “You say that your God is so wonderful, why did he not save you from your illness? isn’t Jesus the best physician around?” But from our testimonies we hear of our brethren undergoing trials and how they feel that there was no way out. But God did not bring their hope to disappointment.   

A Personal Testimony From The Preacher

The preacher shared that during the period in the 80s when he was a student in Singapore. There was a riot in his hometown in Sabah. the rioters were burning shops and overturning vehicles. The rioters were looting and destroying the area near his fathers shop.  It was the grace of God that preserved his family, where in only the row of shop houses where his father shop was not set on fire. In that incident, all the buildings around were burnt and many of the shops are destroyed. But strangely their row of shop house were spared. When they came out after the rioters had left. They notice that the cars around the shop were all overturned and petrol was leaking out of the cars. But the shop did not caught fire. For his mother was in the shop, she was unable to escape on time, so out of desperation, she closed the shutters and hid in the shop. All she could is to pray.

She was the only believer around, according to her, there were other non Christians in the shop, whoever who tried to run risk being mugged and robbed.  Even though his mothers faith was not strong, but she relied on God and she prayed. Later on when the the rioters left, the police started to check on any survivors. When his mother left the shop she notice that everything around them were burnt.

Trials And The Building Of Faith

Sometimes God allow us to encounter trouble so that we can learn to keep our faith.  It is through trials and tribulation we can experience God.  As long as we do not lose faith our hope would not be disappointed. In another words God will let us experience his salvation no matter what trouble we encounter. It is through these experiences  we will experience God. These experience will give us hope so that when we encounter the similar situation again we will believe and rely on God. That will help us to overcome the trials that are before us.

During the Israelites 40 years of wandering of the wilderness, they encountered both Marah (BItterness) and Elim (Comfort) along the way, but they are mere stops along the way onto Canaan. Job experience a similar experience, but at the end of his trials God blessed him. The bible concluded his story by saying

And the Lord restored Job’s losses
 
when he prayed for his friends.
  Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as
  much as he had before.”- Job ( job 42:10 )

The bible tells us that Job met with much troubles during his trials. God tested him and allowed him to lose all his processions within a day. And later on God struck Job with illness so much so as he had sores all over his body. Job 42 records the end of the trials, at the end God gave him all that he had loss and blessed Job twice as much. This is the mercy of God to Job.

From here we know that no situation in life is permanent, God will change the situation around us. Whenever we encounter trouble we need to have the hope that Job had. Eventually God will change the situation and give us more blessing. If we compared Job procession in Job 42 verses what he had in Job 1, you will realised that he got back double of everything,

Love Poured Out To Our Heart By the Holy Spirit 

The latter part of Rom 5:5 tells us that the love of God was poured out to us through the Holy Spirit given to us by God. God did not give us trial for the sake of destroying us. It is meant to build us up and establish our faith. He allow us to encounter trouble and difficulty in order for us to grow.

If a flower is place constantly in the greenhouse, they will not be able to withstand the storms outside. For these plants are too well taken care of. A flower from the greenhouse may appear strong and sturdy but if we were to plant them in the wild, they may just die and wither away. The wild flowers are as strong as the trees in the wild. They  may not look tall but their roots are deep underground. They are able to withstand the strong winds and will not be uprooted easily.

From here we know that the stronger the winds the deeper the roots. As far as Christian life is concern, an easy life would not produce a deep root. Therefore God allow trials to come so that we will be deeply rooted in him . We remain rooted because the Holy Spirit was had poured out the love of God within us. The trials from God are meant to build us up and not harm us.  He will give us trails based on our degree of faith.  Those whoa re stronger will meet with greater test while those who are weaker will meet with a small test. As long as we believe in his love we will grow in faith at our own pace.

Conclusion

Rom 5:1-5 teaches us how is one justified by faith.  Baptism allowed us to access the grace of God through faith, after our baptism, we must undergo trials to help us be established in the grace in which we stand. Trials and tribulation can grow our faith and build up the hope of God within us. This hope does not disappoint, when hope is perfected it produces perseverance, and from perseverance comes character and from character come a stronger hope. God will use trials and tribulation to train us up in faith, they can come from within and outside the church.

Therefore when we encounter trials let us not doubt the love of God.  As long as one does not doubt the love of God, he will not be disappointed and God will lead him to a higher ground and bless him as he continue to grow in his love.

Introduction

So far we have covered 4 factors behinds the success of Nehemiah.

1st Factor : He realised his commission and he prayed to God to help him  (Part 1)
2nd Factor : He was able to seize the opportunity and he was well prepared.  (Part 1)
3rd Factor : Nehemiah visited the ground to gain a personal understanding (Part 2)
4th Factor : Nehemiah encourage the Jews To Work For The Lord (Part 2)
5th Factor : Nehemiah knew how to make everyone work together (Part 3)
6th Factor : Nehemiah relied on God in face of Internal and External Threat (Part 4)

Let us continue our study the 6th factor behind his success. We understood that as Nehemiah went on to build the walls of Jerusalem, he had to handle both internal and external threats that will destroy the work of God.

Our previous post talks about how his enemies mock at the Jews and discredited the work that they did. They wanted to use their words to destroy the faith of the Jews. We have discussed how Nehemiah responded by calling God to listen and to judge. As he prayed, he continue to lead the Jewish exiles to work on the wall.

Let us now consider the other aspect of the threat of Sanballat and Tobiah

Threat 1: Military Action From Sanballat And Tobiah

“Now it happened, when Sanballat,
  Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites,
  and the Ashdodites heard that the
  walls of Jerusalem were being
  restored and the gaps were
  beginning to be closed, that they
  became very angry,  and all of them
  conspired together to come and attack
  Jerusalem and create confusion.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:7-8)

When Sanballat and Tobiah realised that their words failed to hurt the Jewish exiles, they decided to spread the word that they are planning to attack the builders. They did it so as to create confusion and to divide the people. If the exiles are divided, they will never be able to unite against their enemies. The threat of a military offensive is often effective tactic. For everyone is afraid of trouble, everyone is afraid of bloodshed and tears.  By issuing a military threat, they are able to threaten the Jews to stop the work.

Threat 2 : Resistance From The Workers

As the result of this external threat, Nehemiah now face the internal resistance from among the builders. These resistance came from many angles

“The strength of the laborers is
  failing, and there is so much
  rubbish that we are not able
  to build the wall.”- Judah (Neh 4:10)

“They will neither know nor
  see anything, till we come
  into their midst and kill them
  and cause the work to cease.”- Adversaries (Neh 4:11)

From here we know that the people had lose heart and their strength are failing. there are 2 reasons behind their discouragement

Firstly, they saw much debris and they needed more manpower to clear them. The builders needed more help, and now they face the threat of military action. These news brought grieve upon grieve. Sometimes as we serve in the church we will encounter a lot of debris and obstruction. They are hard and difficult to clear. Sometimes the more we try to clear them the more they will appear. These problems can make us weary and tired.

Secondly, their strength are failing and they are indeed exhausted . Every Project Manager will tell you that the midpoint of the project is the most trying time for the team. When a project is just initiated, it is often greeted with lots of enthusiasm and zeal. For the team is fresh and are eager to put in effort and to make sacrifices.  The same can be said when the project is close to completion, for everyone could see the light at the end of the tunnel and they will be willing to push forward towards the goal

But the midpoint is where most people are tired and discouraged. In the example of Nehemiah, the threat from the enemies discourage them even more. Some of the Jews wanted to stop working and they wanted to compromise with their enemies  

That is why some of the Jews reacted saying .

“From whatever place you
  turn, they will be upon us.”- Jews living near the Enemies (Neh 4:12) 

Nehemiah 4:12  talks about the Jews who lived close by telling Nehemiah to stop work. They approached him 10 times/ They are made up of residents living near the enemies, their numbers include the leaders and commoners.

These are the internal and external problems faced by Nehemiah. Let us learn how he responded to these problem.

Response 1: Nehemiah lead Israel To Focus On God

“Nevertheless we made our
  prayer to our God, and because
  of them we set a watch against
  them day and night.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:9)

In face of all the threats, the first thing he did was to lead them to pray to God. He wanted to turn their focus away from their weariness,  away from the debris and he wanted to turn their focus towards Lord. Everyone is aware of the reality of the work before them. There were a lot of rubble and it is difficult to clear them.  There were people trying to stop the work fearing for their lives, they refuse to cooperate to complete the work.

If this were to continue , when  will the wall ever be completed? Indeed the surrounding is scary and discouraging. It seems no matter how hard they try to see, they are unable to see any glimpse of hope.

Therefore Nehemiah led them to look upon God.  Even though we cannot deny our disappointment and how weary and tired we are, but let us focus on the Lord, his temple and this city that belongs to him. For we are not working for our own sake, and we are doing the will of God. God will help us, and God will complete this work.

All we need to do is to acknowledge the problem and tell them to the Lord.

Sometimes as we serve God, we will meet with many problem and we will face the threat from our enemies. But we need to know that our Lord is greater than all these problems.

That is why we need to look upon the Lord. Just like how Nehemiah reminded the Israelites

“Do not be afraid of them.
  Remember the Lord, great 
  and awesome, and fight for
  your brethren, your sons,
  your daughters, your wives,
  and your houses.”- Nehemiah (Neh 4:14)

Nehemiah reminded them that their God is great and awesome. The enemies are obstructing the work of God and they  will not escape from the wrath of God. But if the Jews were to stop working on the wall because of them, they will have to face the wrath of God.

Therefore let us not  focus on the  frightening the enemies are, but let us be afraid of the wrath of judgement of God. Nehemiah reminded them of whom they should really fear. Therefore whenever we feel weak and are fearful in the situation, let us remember that our great and awesome God.

A spiritual leader need to have strength in order to lead. If Nehemiah appear weak before his enemies, then the work will be affected. The Jews would be confused and frightened, and they will tremble in fear. Let us not be part of the confusion and fear, but rather let u rely on God who is strong and is able to complete the work.

When Winston Churchill became the prime minister of Britain, it was during a difficult time. For Hitler had occupied most of Europe and was planning to invade Britain. On his first speech to the house of commons he said.

“I have nothing to offer
  but blood, toil, tears
  and sweat.”- Winston Churchill

It was his strength and conviction that unites Britain against Nazi Germany. Britain is the only country that did not fall to Hitler. From here we can see something that is common in all struggles, be it spiritual or worldly.  Whenever we face the threat of enemies, it is natural to feel weak, discourage or even fearful. But that is also the time we need to use our faith to understand that our God is great and awesome.

Response 2 : To Pick Up Weapons For Defence

Beside praying, Nehemiah led the people to do whatever he could at that time.  

Therefore I positioned men
  behind the lower parts of
  the wall, at the openings;
  and I set the people according
  to their families, with their
  swords, their spears, and
  their bows” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:13)

Nehemiah told the Jews to to pick up their swords and spear. They did that not to attack but to defend themselves.  They wanted the enemies to know that even if they were to attack, the Jews will not surrender. Nehemiah then reminded them to fight for their brethren, sons, daughters, wives,  and their houses,

He told them not to be afraid but to defend themselves. For even if they were to surrender, they enemies will still come and attack them. But if they knew that the Jews were not afraid of them and have armed themselves. They would not dare to attack.

And it happened, when
  our enemies heard that
  it was known to us, and
  that God had brought their
  plot to nothing, that all
  of us returned to the wall,
  everyone to his work. “- Nehemiah (Neh 4:15)

The enemies purpose for threatening the Jews is to make them lose their faith and willpower. They wanted to create division and to be fearful and confused. But Nehemiah is a spiritual leader who fought hard for the house of God. He understood their plot so he encourage the Jews to be strong and not to fall from it. 

God helped them and he disrupted the plan of the enemies. We read that the enemies did not come for God had brought their plan to nothing. The bible did not record of how God helped the Jews and how he disrupted their plot. But we know that God had brought their plan to nothing. Therefore we need to learn to entrust our problem to the Lord. Even though we do not know when God will help and how he will destroy their plot. But we believe that whoever who opposed God will be judged by his righteousness.

Let us not stand there and wait for God to act, we need to do what is within our ability. We need to pick up our spears and swords and show our enemies our determination to fight.

Response 3 : Making Plans To Defend The Wall

Besides arming the Jews, Nehemiah made plans to defend the wall from the enemies. He did not relax just because the enemies did not come. He continued to prepare for the defence of the wall.

“So it was, from that time on,
  that half of my servants worked
  at construction, while the other
  half held the spears, the shields,
  the bows, and wore armor; and
  the leaders were behind all the
  house of Judah.
 
Those who built on the wall, and
  those who carried burdens, loaded
  themselves so that with one hand
  they worked at construction, and
  with the other held a weapon. 
 
Every one of the builders had his
  sword girded at his side as he built.
  And the one who sounded the
  trumpet was beside me. “ – Nehemiah (Neh 4:16-18)

The arrangement seem to create a difficult work environment for his people. But we need to understand that just because the enemies did not come, doesn’t mean that they would not come in the future. If the Jews were to relax themselves and stop arming themselves, the enemies will take the opportunity to make a surprise attack and they will be caught unprepared.

That is why Nehemiah did not relax, and he further prepared the Jews to defend themselves. Half of his workers were working, while the other half held spears. The leaders were to stand behind them and to supervise and guard them. These are necessary preparation to deter the enemies from attacking. 

Such precaution will increase the faith of the workers, for they will not be worried if the enemies were to attack the wall.  Some may think that these additional arrangement will affect that speed and progress of the work. But if the Jews were not armed, the wall will be destroyed by the enemies,

That is why Nehemiah arrange that half would work while the other half would guard. The work of building the wall would continue and the defence will not be compromised.  Those who work, must work with one hand and hold a weapon on the other. For there was not enough soldiers, therefore everyone must do his part to protect the wall. Those who are doing heavy manual work that require both hands must grid the weapon on them.

This is a attitude necessary to complete the work.

There was once a village chapel that caught fire. The villagers are are rallying to use buckets to carry water from the river to put out the water. But some of the Christians felt that they ought to pray and ask God to help them. Therefore the leaders told them “Let us use the water to put out the fire, but as we put out the fire let us pray with our heart.”

That leader fully understood what Nehemiah meant to work with one hand and to carry the weapon with the other.

Response 4 : To Set Up Communications Between The Builders

“The work is great and extensive,
  and we are separated far from
  one another on the wall.
  Wherever you hear the sound
  of the trumpet, rally to us
  there. Our God will fight
  for us.”- Nehemiah (Neh 4:19)

Nehemiah planed for the builders to help each other in need. He gave them horns to signal each other if attacked.  If the enemies were to attack suddenly, it would be difficult to summon help by mere shouting. But if one were to blow the horn, it can send a signal far away and the defenders can rally and defend themselves.

Such arrangement will allow the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. If you were to face a swift and stealthy  enemy alone, you will get tired easily. But if you know that help is coming, you will have the strength to fight on. That is why communication between the builders are important, even though the arrangement appear to be  unnecessary. But you will reap the benefit when the enemies were upon you. 

Besides working and carrying the weapon, we need the horn to call for help. 

Response 5 : Taking Turns To Guard The Wall

“Let each man and his servant
  stay at night in Jerusalem, that
  they may be our guard by night
  and a working party by day.
  So neither I, my brethren, my
  servants, nor the men of the
  guard who followed me took
  off our clothes, except that
  everyone took them off for
  washing.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:22-23)

This is another arrangement by Nehemiah. Nehemiah told the guards to watch days and night. They did not take off their armour except for  washing. The Chinese bible also indicated that those who fetch water carried weapons as well. This arrangement was so because they do not know when the enemies will strike

Nehemiah made preparation that everyone must be armed. Including the cooks and servants who fetch water. Nehemiah considered all the possibilities and prepared with all his might. His preparation allow the Jews to remain watchful and to overcome heir enemies.

Conclusion

Today as we serve God, we would face the same internal and external threats. The problems that we will face will be similar to the problems faced by Nehemiah. We will likewise face people mocking us with their words, and we may even be threatened as we serve God.

Today we studied into the sixth factor behind success of Nehemiah’s work.  It reminds us that we need to rely on God whenever we serve him. At the same time, we ought to make whatever preparation that is necessary. Nehemiah did not relax even though God had helped the people. He continue to put in effort to prepare his people to defend themselves.

We need to be like Nehemiah, to lead everyone to focus onto God. AT the same time we need to set guards, hold up our weapons to defend ourselves. We need to carry the horn to call for help to defend ourselves.

Most importantly, we need to continue to work even in the midst of trouble. For that is the most effective way to deal with threats within and outside the church.

So far we have studied 3 of the last will of King David.

1. The 1st will is to be strong and keep Gods commandment
2. The 2nd will is to judge and execute Joab the commander
3. The 3rd will is to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (Part 3, Part 4)
4. The 4th  will is to judge and execute Shimei the Benjamite (Part 5)

In part 5, we have studied the character of Shimei. We talk about  how he is a man who bullies those who are in trouble. We have studied the sins of Shimei and understood that his sin was because he had cursed the Lords anointed.

After that we went on to discuss David’s responses to the curse of Shimei. We understood the need to confess our sins and to face the consequences that resulted from our sin. 

Now let us look deeper into the wrongs of Shimei and why he must be judged.

Shimei Distorts The Truth As He Cursed David

Let us consider the curse of Shimei.

“Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty
  man, you rogue!  The Lord has brought
  upon you all the blood of the house of Saul,
  in whose place you have reigned; and the
  Lord has delivered the kingdom into the
  hand of Absalom your son. So now you are
  caught
in your own evil, because you are a
  bloodthirsty man!”- Shimei (2 Sam 16:17-18)

From here we can read of how Shimei distorts the truth. He had turn what is good into something bad. Shimei have treated what is bad as good. He accused David of being a bloodthirsty man.

He accused David of shedding the blood of Saul and claimed that God had judged him for that sin and gave his kingdom away. He claimed that David is caught in his own evil. His words appears true on the surface.

For it is fact that Saul had died and David became the king of Israel. It is also the fact that Absalom rebelled against him. There were many who supported the rebellion of Absalom. On the surface it appears as if David had killed Saul and had usurped his throne. It appears that Absalom is doing the same to David. 

But anyone familiar with the stories in 1 Samuel will know that it was Saul who disobeyed God. God rejected Saul as the king and during that time David had not came into the picture yet.

Saul Lost his throne because of God’s judgement and God had chosen David to be King in his place. When Saul knew that David will eventually replace him, he sought to kill David. By doing so, Saul had went against the will of God once again.

Even though David had the chance to kill Saul twice, David spared him again and again, Saul was eventually killed at Mount Gilboa in a battle against the Philistines. Even after his death, David did not take revenge on the house of Saul.

The bible recorded that David was King of Judah for 7 years, and he ruled Israel for 33 years. After the death of Saul there are many tribes who still supported the house of Saul. They rebelled against King David and refuse to acknowledge him as king. David did not assert his authority as the Lords anointed nor did he use his power to subdue the house of Saul. It took another 7 years before the other tribes understood the will of God and made David King.

David is not a man who lusted for political power, he did not force the people to support his claim to the throne. He gave them time to accept him.

There are all facts known by Israel but here we see Shimei twisting these facts. He accused David of shedding Saul’s blood and he even used the name of God as he distort the truth.

Understanding David’s Rationale For Judging Shimei

In the previous post, we saw David enduring the cursing from Shimei, and he did not put up a defence before him.  For he know that the facts could speak for itself and the truth cannot be hidden.

“You can fool all the people
  some of the time, and some
  of the people all the time, but
  you cannot fool all the people
  all the time." -Abraham Lincoln

Even though one could distort the truth, but the truth will be revealed in the end.

For we know that David eventually returns to Jerusalem to reclaim his throne. We have also seen that Shimei was eventually judged by God. For Shimei was executed by King Solomon. The bible gave an interesting narrative about the execution of Shimei.

“You know, as your heart acknowledges,  
  all the wickedness that you did to my 
  father David; therefore the Lord will 
  return your wickedness on your own 
  head.  But King Solomon shall be blessed, 
  and the throne of David shall be established 
  before the Lord forever.” – Solomon (1 King 2:44-45)

“So the king commanded Benaiah the 
  son of Jehoiada; and he went out and 
  struck him down, and he died. Thus 
  the kingdom was established in the 
  hand of Solomon.” – Author Of The Book Of Kings (1 King 2:46)

Shimei was killed according to his own sin. After his death, the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

Shimei is a man who distorts the truth and can bring damage to his country. If a nation is filled with people who distorts the truth, there can be no peace. His words can spark of rebellion and civil war creating unrest among the people.

David’s command to execute Shimei is not  a mere pursuit of vendetta against Shimei. For the existence of  Shimei will undermine the security of the kingdom of Israel. He is someone who will not help build up a nation but will be a threat to the peace and security of the country.

Concluding The Study Of Shimei The Benjamite

Shimei is a man who set his heart to follow King Saul. Even though Saul was dead, he continues to follow blindly and continued in his hatred for King David. His support for Saul was so great that he even went to the extent of distorting the truth about David.

He disregarded the fact that it was Saul who went against the commands of the Lord, he disregards the fact that God had chosen David as King over Israel. He did not think about the damage that the house of Saul had did to Israel.

He choose to follow Saul blindly and went against King David, even if it means going against the will of God.

That is why David have to execute him , for there will be no security with him around. It was only after his death that the kingdom of Solomon was established.

Today we are like King David. We have our weakness and we sin against God. But we must emulate David to confess his sin and repent before God. When David repented and return to God, God gave him peace. This is the reason why we continue to respect King David as a man after God’s heart 

Let us not be like Shimei who followed blindly  and distorts the truth. For men like Shimei  will bring harm upon the kingdom of God. We know that he was eventually judged by God and was executed by King Solomon.

Let us learn to respect and emulate a man like David, let us learn to respect God and be loyal to the house of God. Let us be weary of a people like Shimei. Let us not be the Shimei within our own church and our own community.

Concluding The Series Of Study

I hope that this series will change how we read 1 Kings 2:1-9. It will help us  understand the will of David better. 

Here are the links to all the blog post under this topic

1. The 1st will is to be strong and keep Gods commandment
2. The 2nd will is to judge and execute Joab the commander
3. The 3rd will is to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (Part 3, Part 4)
4. The 4th  will is to judge and execute Shimei the Benjamite (Part 5 , Part 6)

Introduction

In our previous post, we have discussed that the bible contains 2 types of will of God. One type is known as the Laissez Faire  type. Where God allow a person to do whatever they want. Basically it means that God had given up and will not choose to stop a individual from offending him and sinning against him.

The second type of will of God is the predestined will of God. It is set within a certain boundary where God grants man autonomy to do all that he wants. In this will only the boundaries are defined. This means that out of the many options that are available for choice. All of them are in the will of God. Some of the options may carry with it consequences but all of them leads to the general direction of the will of God.

The previous post left us with a question that in our mind. “How then do we make the best choice?” This is important as all the options seems right and we need to choose the one that give the best outcome.

So how should we choose? Paul once talked about the principle for choosing in the book of Romans

“I beseech you therefore,
  brethren, by the mercies
  of God, that you present
  your bodies a living sacrifice,
  holy, acceptable to God,
  which is your reasonable service.
 
And do not be conformed to this
  world, but be transformed by
  the renewing of your mind,
  that you may prove what is
  that good and acceptable and
  perfect will of God.” – Paul (Rom 12:1-2)

Here Paul describes the will of God. He also gave the standards that are used to determine the will of God. We know for sure that we must make our choices within the boundaries of the Lord. For we know that it is dangerous to go beyond the boundary of God. Therefore we need to base our decision on the 3 standards listed here by Paul. Let us consider the 3 standards we see here.

Pt 1 :  What Is Good?

How do we know what is Gods will? What should we base the standard on? Paul once talk about this standard of goodness of God

Therefore the law is holy,
  and the commandment
  holy and just and good.” – Paul (Rom 7:12)

This law of God contains the will of God that is good. Knowing the commandments of God and understanding the law of God help us understand this standard of goodness that is defined by God.   That is why Paul said that the will of God is just and good.

The modern word “Ethic” was taken from Greek and it means customs or traditions. It often refer to the acceptable practices that is local to the region . But we know that the standards of man keep changing over time. What is regarded as “unacceptable” ethics is now being legalised all over the place

That is why Christians ought to understand that the customs and tradition from Christ never changes. It transcend time and it holds more authority over the customs of man.  We know that the bible spans between 2 periods of history. The Old testament talks about the Law, The Prophets And The Commandments. The New Testament records the words of Jesus as well as the teaching of the Apostles.

Even though the bible spans across thousands of years, but the moral standards found in the Old Testament And The New Testament are constant. It must be use as the base for the understanding of goodness and righteousness. For Jesus once told the rich young ruler

“Why do you call Me good?
 
  No one is good but One, that is, 
  God. But if you want to enter into
  life, keep the commandments.” – Jesus (Matt 19:17)

Making A Good Choice Within Gods Boundaries

So today, if we were to encounter choices, how can we determine that we are within the boundaries of God?  We ought to compare the choices against the standard of the commandments of God. By understanding the moral standards of the bible we are able to tell our boundaries correctly. We need to make our choices base on the standard of his goodness

Just like What David once said

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
  For You are the God of my salvation;
  On You I wait all the day.” – David (Ps 25:5)

David asked God to direct his way and lead him. He pray to God to guide him into understanding the truth in the bible.  David knows that scriptures are the best guide for men. Likewise Paul mentioned of the importance of the bible to Timothy

“and that from childhood you
  have known the Holy Scriptures,
  which are able to make you wise
  for salvation through faith which
  is in Christ Jesus.

  All Scripture is given by inspiration
  of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
  for reproof, for correction, for instruction
  in righteousness,  that the man of God
  may be complete, thoroughly equipped
  for every good work.” – Paul (2 Tim 3:15-17)

Paul is saying that the scriptures are inspired by God and that can serve as a guide to make us wise for salvation. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. If we choose to use the scriptures to direct us in life, it will lead you to do good and be righteous before God. If you keep the words of God in your heart and mediate on it daily , God will use them to guide us to understand his will. Your experience will be similar to what David experienced

“Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law” – David (Ps 119:18)

David trust in the word of God all his life and he tried his best to make sure he lived within the boundaries of the word of God. He compared his actions to the standards of the goodness of the word of God. Today if we focus on the word of God and we try our best to understand it.  Our eyes will be open as well and we can see the wondrous things from his law.

On the contrary if one were to ignore his words, it will be like him cutting off his communication with God.  It will be difficult for him to understand the will of God. His knowledge of God will be superficial. If one is unwilling to learn the word of God, it is like knowing someone without talking to him. If we attempt to know God through feelings alone, it will result to shallow knowledge.

That is why if we want to know the will of God, we must put in effort to understand the standards that he had set. If we stay within that boundary we will always make choices that are according to his will. If we go beyond that boundary, we will enter his wrath and we would grief the spirit of God. Finally God will give up and allow us to do whatever we want.

Pt 2 :  What Is The Perfect Will Of God?

In Rom 12:2. It tells us that the will of God is one that is perfect. The Greek Word for Perfect here is Teleion (G5046). In its original language it a also means that it is matured or Matured into perfect condition. So what does it mean to be perfect?

It means in order to make the best decision, you will need to progress and mature. To achieve that one need to enter the trial of the Lord. Within the trial we will learn slowly about the perfect will of God. Sometimes God put us in a difficult situation to help us mature and to learn to make a better decision

Misconception That A Smooth Sailing Way Indicates The Will Of God

Many Christian had the misconception that as long the way is smooth and easy, as long as they encounter no opposition, no divine intervention then it must be the will of God. People who hold this concept will also think that as long as they encounter trouble, it is God who stopped them from doing it. And they judge whether a matter is the will of God base on it

This is  dangerous thinking for it is not necessary the case every time. Imagine a poor student who had straight As and he wanted to go overseas to study. His immediate surrounding is poor and he cannot afford the trip. But yet sometimes in our testimonies we hear  how through much prayers and struggle, God reveals his will and allowed him to get scholarship.

Having  a good surrounding and not having opposition doesn’t necessary mean that one is according living according he will of God. The reserve is true as well, adversity doesn’t necessary mean God is opposing you and you are not doing the will of God.

Sometimes the will of God could be contrary to the current situation we are facing.

Lets take a few example from the scriptures

In Exodus, all of us know that the will of God is for the Israelites to leave Egypt and return to Canaan. For God had sent Moses to Egypt and he went to talk to the Pharaoh.  Lets look at the response of the Pharaoh

“Who is the Lord, that I should 
  obey His voice to let Israel go?
  I do not know the Lord, nor
  will I let Israel go.”- Pharaoh (Ex 5:2)

Here Pharaoh said that he will not obey the Lord and will not let Israel go. We know that soon after that Pharaoh added trouble to the children of Israel, they are told to produce the same amount of bricks and they are no longer supplied with straws from the Pharaoh. Moses had failed at that time, it result to more opposition from the Pharaoh. Many of the Israelites blamed Moses for making life difficult for them.

But we know for sure that Gods will is for Israel to leave Egypt, it is just that it was not possible at that particular point of time. Even after God sent the ten plagues and Israelites left Egypt, they continue to face the opposition of the Pharaoh and they were pursued by the armies of Egypt. We read of how they were stranded between the Red Sea and the chariots Of Egypt.

Gods will may be contrary to the current situation

Now let us consider the story of Jonah.

We know that the will of God is to send Jonah to the city of Nineveh and to preach against it. But yet Jonah came to sea port of Joppa and he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. Perhaps today we do not find it miraculous for we can fly to anywhere anytime. But during those days there is no boat schedule in ports for no sailors can ever be sure when they will arrive at any seaport

Therefore it is a “miracle” that Jonah found a ship heading to Tarshish and  he did not meet with any opposition. The process of finding the ship is smooth sailing. But yet it is not the will of God

Even though we all desire an ideal surrounding as well as a smooth sailing life. Let us not allow it to cloud our judgement.  For success and failure in a certain matter do not determine the will of God. Having a smooth sailing process with no opposition doesn’t indicate the will of God.  Similarly being in a bad situation does not necessary mean you are going against the will of God.

We need to understand that a good and perfect will of God must be well pleasing at the same time.

Pt 3 :  What Is The Acceptable And Well Pleasing Will Of God?

So today whenever we encounter many options, we must first determine which of them are good based on the standard of Gods word. This is the first step because any option that went against the word of God will never be good. 

At the same time, it must be perfect and mature. We can make such choices if we are experienced with the trials of life.

But what if we encounter many options and they are all acceptable in sight of the will of God, how do we pick the best option among them?

Paul reminds the church in Ephesus

“See then that you walk circumspectly,
  not as fools but as wise,  redeeming the
  time, because the days are evil
  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand
  what the will of the Lord is.” – Paul (Eph 5:15-17)

Firstly we must not walk in the path of evil, let us not be foolish within the way of the Lord. We need to know what is pleasing before God, what is within his boundary and that which is perfect.

Sometimes in order to choose the best will, we need to pray often. For prayer is like a wrestle between our will and the will of God. Paul once describe that when he talks about someone

‘’Epaphras, who is one of you, 
  a bondservant of Christ, greets
  you, always laboring fervently
  for you in prayers, that you may
  stand perfect and complete in all
  the will of God. “ – Paul (Col 4:12)

The Greek word of laboring is agonizomenos (G75). It could mean contending and struggling. Therefore the prayer of Epaphras is just like wrestling, this wrestling is similar to the time where Jacob wrestle with God as he pray.

Prayer is the time when your will is struggling against the will of God. At the same time the devil may want us to make the wrong decision. Therefore we need to pray hard to find the best decision when face with choices.

Sometimes the moving of the Holy Spirit is like fire within us . That is why Paul once reminded the church in Thessalonica

“Do not quench the Spirit.” – Paul (1 Thess 5:19)

He means not to extinguish the moving of the Holy Spirit, it is just like someone blowing out the candle. To extinguish is to stop something as it was already burning. Paul describes the Holy Spirit like a fire burning within us. Therefore to quench the Spirit is like pouring cold water onto the burning fire.

Whenever we encounter a problem or when we are faced with multiple decisions the Holy Spirit will guide and move us. But we need to discern through prayer. Those who had experienced the guidance of God will know what it means to be moved by the spirit of God.  The moving of God is clearest when we are calm and peaceful. It comes when we choose to draw near to God and listen to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

If one makes a decision when his heart is in turmoil and when he did not entrust the matter to God. The decision he makes is most likely hasty. Even if it correspond to the direction of God’s will it will most likely not be the best choice available.

When your heart is not at peace within you, it is usually difficult to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. The calling of God is one that is peaceful and soft. It begins like a still small voice and slowly as time grows it become louder bit by bit. God usually do not speak out suddenly and order you to do this or that, 

For God once spoken through Prophet Isaiah

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
  In quietness and confidence shall be your
  strength.”- YHWH (Is 30:15)

So when it comes to choosing the best decision it should be make after we pray and entrust the matter to God. We need to be calm and composed. This is true especially when we make a decision that is not in direct opposition to the word of God.

Therefore when we are faced with tough decision and all of them seem good and within the boundaries of Gods word. We need to face the problem with prayer and entrustment. God will use his still small voice to guide us, but a man who is emotional will find it hard to hear it.

A Practical Example : Paul’s Macedonian Ministry

Now lets take a practical example of this from the scriptures.

“Now when they had gone
  through Phrygia and the
  region of Galatia, they were
  forbidden by the Holy Spirit
  to preach the word in Asia. 
  After they had come to Mysia,
  they tried to go into Bithynia,
  but the Spirit did not permit
  them.

  And a vision appeared to Paul in
  the night. A man of Macedonia
  stood and pleaded with him, saying,
  “Come over to Macedonia and
  help us.”” – Luke (Acts 1:6-7,9)

Paul wanted to preach in the place known as Phrygia but over here we see the Holy Spirit stopping him. As far as we know, preaching the word of God is definitely a will of God. We know that God desires all man to be save therefore Paul is doing something good and perfect in the will of God.

But it seems that God had other plan for Paul to preach to Europe. It is good and proper for one to plan in his service to God. But in order to fully understand the will of God frequent prayers are needed.

So therefore when we encounter obstacles and obstruction or if our plan fail, we need to consider if it is the Holy Spirit preventing you to act. It is important to pray to God to reveal his will to us. But we must also need to entrust the matter to God.

To entrust the situation to God does not mean sitting there and doing nothing. We see Paul and his team continue moving as they were praying. They did not force their plan unto God. There is something we ought to learn about entrusting to the Lord.

As we pray to God about our problems and make our decisions known. We need to let go of our own will. We need to remember that prayer is like struggling with God, it is our will verses the will of God. We can tell God our plans and ask him to guide, but we also need to let go of our own will and allow God to guide us. Only then can we see the direction God wanted us to take.

There are times our decision may coincide with the moving of God. But there will also be times when our decisions may not be the one with the best outcome. Therefore we need to be patient, we need to pray and entrust the matter to God.

We need to learn to let go of our will and allow the spirit of God to guide us.

Conclusion

Indeed, sometimes it is difficult to make the right decision, we need to trust that no matter what decision we make. God is on top of it and he will guide us. Even if we encounter oppositions and troubles as a result of our choices. Let us not be too quick to doubt and to think that we are going against the will of God.

As long as the choices we make are within the boundary of the words of God. As long as we make the decision base on the perfect will of God, as long as we learn to entrust the matter to God. God will definitely guide us to find the best solution to our issues.

Not long ago I have shared a series of blog article about the decisions made by the saints in the bible. Perhaps now when we re-read them we will have new insights when it comes to making the right choices.

The articles are here for your references

1. Choice Of Oprah And Ruth
2. The choice Of Mary And Martha
3. The Choice Of Abraham And Lot
4. The Choice Of Joshua
5. The Choice Of Agur

May God guide us in all the choices we make.

We learnt about the first weapon of Apostle Peter, he was armed with mind to suffer for Christ. Now lets take a look at his second weapon

Weapon No 2: A Strong Faith To Resist The Devil

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary
  the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking
  whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the
  faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by
  your brotherhood in the world.” – Peter (1 Pet 5:8-9)

A roaring lion may appear to be majestic looking. However, the devil is also a roaring lion, and the thought of that frightened us. How can we resist him? Peter here tells us that a steadfast faith could resist the devil.

Indeed, even though the devil may be frightening, always lurking around us, even though his roars frightened us. A Christian could resist him with a steadfast faith. It is a type of faith that is strong.

We all have some degree of faith, that is why we come to church. But the question is, is our faith steadfast and strong? Sometimes our faith may appear strong and steadfast, it is just like Peter when he said that he is willing to die with Jesus.

I am sure Peter was sincere and was not telling a lie, but the problem is that his faith is not as strong as he think. Sometimes faith can be shaken in face of calamity. That is when we find our faith melting like wax, as the fire burns at us.

Sometimes we find our faith like clay, it becomes hard and strong through the fire, a good potter knows that by burning wet clay, he could produce a good piece of pottery. We are all clay, for we are made of dust. God prepare us in this life by testing us with fire. As the result we eventually become good and strong vessels, fit for the use of God.

Peter is a fine example of that testing. That is why we need a steadfast faith. God is ever willing to help us, but we must use our faith to resist the devil. We need to endure to the end as well.

Enduring To the End

Sometimes when trouble comes knocking on our door, we may be able to deal with it initially. But as months and years goes by, are we still able to endure it?  Often we find a short trial easier to bear compared to a trial that goes on for years.

That is why many Christians give up their faith in face of long suffering. The devil eventually overcame them. That is why elder James remind us that we need to have long suffering in order to be victorious.

For if we do not endure to the end, we will lose this battle of faith.

Being steadfast in the midst of a changing world 

Jesus once prophesized about the last days, he said

“as lawlessness increase, love will go cold”

There are many things that stumble the faith of a Christian. We need to ask ourselves are we able to hold on to our zeal and faith as this is happening? 

We see some giving up saying they do not want to believe in Christ anymore, but yet there are many will continue to fight on. For they remembered the words of Jesus

“he who endures to the end will be saved” – Jesus

Throughout our walk of faith, we have come across  many zealous Christians. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they serve the church all the time. But some of them ended up leaving the faith. That is because they are unable to endure and they fall from faith one after the other.

At the same time we witness common believers who do not perform great works. But yet they remain faithful they kept their faith all the way to their deathbed. Perhaps all they could do is to pray to God, and they remain faithful to the end. These Christian are indeed victorious.

Strengthening Our Faith

Perhaps we were once believers full of zeal and now we are cold in our faith. Perhaps we may be lukewarm believers who are neither hot nor cold. No matter what,we all need God  strengthen our own faith.

I am sure we all know that ancient formula to pray and to ask God for help. But is there something else we can do besides that?

Paul once taught us saying

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus
  the Lord, so walk in Him,  rooted and built up
  in Him and established in the faith, as you have
  been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Paul (Col 2:6-7)

He talks about 2 points on how to strength our faith.

Be Rooted In Jesus

He teaches us to have our faith rooted in Jesus and we need to build up our faith with the right roots.

Many of us come to church due to various reasons, perhaps we felt the love among brethren’s, and perhaps we are moved by certain actions by the church. But we need to recognized the fact that one day, the person we respect may fall from faith and leave the church. 

We need to root  our faith in the right foundation. For if we build our foundation upon the people we respect, our faith will waver when these people grow weary and have a change of heart. But if we build our faith on Jesus, he will never change and we will never be moved.

At the same time we need to consider, where will our foundation of faith be?

A house build on sand cannot withstand the winds and waves. When they start hitting the house, it will collapse. Similarly if we come to church because of others, or we come to church purely because we wanted peace. Our faith can waver if those things are taken away from us.

Those who listen to the words of God are people who have built upon the rock. It is unmoved by wind and waves, for he remain anchored onto the rock.

A faith can be strong only if it is built upon Christ. Such faith cannot be moved by others easily.

The reason behind the failure in faith for many Christians is because they had allowed themselves to be moved by deceitful words.  They follow blindly and does not discern between the teaching of God and the commandments of man. 

One who is established in Christ will do according to what Jesus commanded. He will ignore the words that are not in accordance to the teaching of Jesus.

Be  Established In the Words of God 

That is why Paul reminds us to be vigilant so that others will not deceive us with empty philosophy and the traditions of man.  It serves to remind us that a strong and steadfast faith can only be established upon the words of God.

We need to build our faith needs upon Christ and the words of God. We need to use the bible as our standard, and we need to compare what we hear with the words of the bible.

We need to be sure that what we believe is according to the teaching of Christ

A faith that discerns is a steadfast faith. Only a steadfast faith can allow us to overcome the devil and fight a good fight.

Let us learn from the weapons of Peter and used them in our lives

In our previous post, we talked about the spiritual battle faced by Christians today. We talked about the need of having the power of God in our lives, and we introduced the first weapon used by Apostle Paul, which is Prayer

Now lets look at the second weapon

Weapon No 2: The Word Of God, The Sword Of The Spirit

Paul talks about his second weapon in Eph 6:17

“And take the helmet of salvation, and
  the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” – Paul (Eph 6:17)

The Holy Spirit is not a sword, but the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. If one keep emphasizing on the Holy Spirit and not the word of God. It would be problematic. In fact this is what is happening to Christendom today.

Many churches emphasis on the need of receiving the Holy Spirit. Some also believe that speaking in tongues is the evidence of receiving it. They can be seen throughout the Pentecostal and the Charismatic branches

But yet when they explain the words of God, you can see this failure to talk about the truth in the bible. In fact once my friends ask me why do I regard my church as different from the other Charismatic and Pentecostal.

My point is simple
1. The Holy spirit is the spirit of truth, it guides us to all truth (Jn 16:13)
      a. He will never speak on his own authority
2. We have a faithful God who is never  yes and no (2 Cor 1:18-22) 
3. It is impossible for Church A to be thought one thing by Him, and Church B to learn something contrary by the same Holy Spirit

Therefore to me all the spirit in the churches are different, and there is a need to discern what spirit we are dealing with. The only way to discern the spirit is to compare the words he teach with the standard of the scriptures.

That is why we need the word of GOd, the sword of the spirit, without it, we cannot overcome our enemies and we would not be able to defend the truth.

The Word Of God And Organizational Power

Sadly, many churches now place emphasis on organizational structure and power.

Christian today need to understand that church organization is not a weapon in the spiritual battlefield. It is seen only as a administration method of the church. Indeed Organization is a good way to divide up responsibly among members of the church.

But this will not help us overcome our enemies in the spiritual realm. To fight that battle, we need the truth, which is the word of God, the sword of the spirit. This is the weapon that the church will need to fight this war, therefore Christians must place an emphasis on learning and pursuing after the truth. This is because

“For the word of God is living and powerful,
   and sharper than any two-edged sword,
   piercing even to the division of soul and spirit,
   and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of
   the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Author Of Hebrew (Heb 4:12 )

This is the effect of the word of God, which is sharper than a 2 edged sword. But do we still have this weapon?

The Real Enemy Within

Many  times we think about spiritual battle, we think our enemies must be the devil himself. But are we aware who are our enemies in this spiritual warfare?

Very often we think we are fighting against the devil, the Antichrist, the people who spread heresies. I do not deny that they are the enemies of the truth, and we need the sword of the spirit to defend ourselves and to attack them.

But sometimes, the biggest enemies to our own faith is ourselves. For often we are not submissive to God and sometimes we hold on to our incorrect concept about faith. There are times we are proud and greedy, and times when we give in to anger and jealousy.

These are all enemies of the truth as well. For Jesus once said

“What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
   
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed
  evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 
  
thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, 
  an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” – Jesus (Mk 7:20-22)

That is why we need the Holy spirit to change us, and that is why we need the word of God, that is sharper than the 2 edged sword.  Besides piercing the division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow. If also divides the thoughts and intents of our heart.

Our heart often tells us of our needs and desires, but at the same time, our spirit calls out to us, telling us to pursue eternal life. He reminds us to look for things with eternal value.

God often looks at our heart, even though we often neglect it. For sometimes we perceive ourselves as spiritual and righteous, we often see the fault in others and not ourselves. We often accused others of being carnal and physical and we fail to see we are like that just as well.

Seeing Our Own Faults

That is why God spoke to the church in Laodicea

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy,
  and have need of nothing’—and do not know that
  you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”- Jesus (Rev 3:17)

As Human beings, we cannot see our own weakness, that is why we need the word of God to pierce into our hearts and discern our intents and thoughts

For when man comes face to face with the words of God, he is able to pinpoint his own fault. This is why many do not like to encounter it.

Sometimes when we hear sermon, we feel as if it is rebuking us, that is why we do not feel good after hearing them. But have we considered “Why are we not feeling good?”

Is a good sermon one that is full of jokes, heart warming stories? Or should it be on that tears our façade and our mask?  Should a good sermon help us see our faults and reveal the part of us that is not good?

Many modern churches refuse to point out the mistakes of the congregation. They hide behind the banner of being “Politically correct” and “Loving” . They only choose to talk about peace and love and forget justice and mercy.

But lets say, if a church only preaches love and mercy, perhaps it can attract many to be baptized into the church.  But yet when Christ comes to judge the world, these poor believers ended up subjecting to it. Are we not cheating the truth seekers to becoming Christians.

IS this how we want the word of God to work?

Conclusion About Truth As A Weapon

Therefore, if we want truth to be our weapon in this spiritual war , are we willing to allow this 2 edged sword to discern our thoughts?

For whenever we are unwilling to listen to sermons that points out our mistakes, we are forbidden the word of God to pierce through our hearts.

At the same time, we are not allowing it to become our spiritual weapon, and if that continues what would happen to the church?

If we continue to paint a negative picture of “Fighting for the truth” in the name of preserving peace and unity within the church, we would ultimately lose the only offensive weapon the church has.

who do you think would be cheering at the background? God or the Devil?

The devil loves to see Christians who choose to keep quiet about the truth, they love to see it when we refuse to use the truth as our weapons. He loves to see a church defenseless without the weapon of the apostles

This is the reason why many of us are weak in faith.

If the church wants to be victorious in this spiritual battle, we need to be like the apostles. We need to hold the same spiritual weapons used by the apostles

Let prayer and Truth be our weapons to help us fight this good fight of faith.

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