Saturday, June 15, 2024

What Praise Can Do

II Chronicles 20:1-30

If asked to do something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, will you do it?  What if the situation is critical, life and death critical, will you still follow what you were asked to do, or would you stick with the way things have been done for ages?  Our Old Testament Scripture tells the account of the King of Judah and the surprising way he met some enemy nations that were coming against him, what God wanted him to do, and the amazing results when he obeyed.

During the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms.  The northern kingdom retained the name of Israel, while the southern kingdom became the Kingdom of Judah.  Israel had no godly, believing kings, while Judah had some good and godly kings, and some who were not followers of the Lord.  Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah in our Scripture today, was a godly and believing king.

During the reign of Jehoshaphat, three neighboring nations decided to come against Judah, and gathered their armies together.  These nations were Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, also known as Edom (vs. 1).  Ammon was northeast of Judah, Moab directly east, and Edom south and southeast.  Ammon and Moab were descended from Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters, and Edom was descended from Ishmael.

This was three armies against one, three powerful nations with strong, well-trained armies, against one.  King Jehoshaphat was naturally worried, as they were marching down towards his nation.  What was he going to do?  Should he send some messengers with pleas of surrender, and for them to just take the country’s wealth and leave the people alive?  Or should he gather his army, much smaller than three armies, and give it their best try?  Jehoshaphat did neither!  What he did do was to call upon the people of his kingdom to join him in prayer and fasting, praying to the Lord for His help and deliverance (vs. 3-4).   The king did not throw up his hands in a panic, crying “Oh what am I going to do, God?”  He went to the Temple and prayed to the Lord, reminding Him of His promises and of His past deliverances (vs. 5-12).

God responded by the message of one of His prophets, Jahaziel, telling the king to bring his army to a certain position, but they were not to attack or fight, as the Lord would deliver them (vs. 14-17).  Jehoshaphat did as the Lord commanded.  He brought his army out, but instead of putting the strongest soldiers first, just in case, he put the Temple worship singers, basically the church choir, up in front to sing praises to the Lord!  (vs. 18-21).  What did God do in response to Jehoshaphat’s obedience and the songs of praise to Him?  He defeated the three armies, without Judah having to lift a sword or spear! (vs. 22-24)  All because of obedience and praise!

We all have various “armies” that come against us - illness, financial troubles, problems our children are going through, etc.  Are we trying to fight them on our own, or do we go to God first and foremost?  Are we crying in defeat or do we bring praise to the situation?  Satan and his demons do not like it when we praise the Lord!  And the more that we praise Him, the more they will take flight!  When we are in a really desperate situation, rather than crumble with worry and fear, instead start praising the Lord!

In closing, let me share an account of how praising the Lord saved a little boy’s life.  Back in 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia, little nine year old Willie Myrick was kidnapped from his yard by a stranger.  The kidnapper threw him into the back seat of his car and drove off.  Instead of crying or panicking, Willie just started singing over and over the worship song “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker.  (Every Praise)  Over and over the young boy sang that song, despite his kidnapper snarling at him to shut up.  Finally, after three hours, the kidnapper pulled over and made Willie get out of the car.  The demons in that situation could not stand the continual praise to God that the young boy kept giving!  When Willie Myrick started to praise God, He sent His angels to surround the boy and keep him safe.  Singing praises to God saved that boy’s life!

Will you praise the Lord when problems surround you, like King Jehoshaphat did, like Willie Myrick did?  “Every praise is to our God!”

Friday, June 14, 2024

Jesus' True Family

Mark 3:20-35

“You’re crazy!”  Every once in a while someone will say that to another.  Often it is said good naturedly, as perhaps the one said or did something preposterous and funny. At other times this could be said in all seriousness, as if the other person is thought to be actually mentally ill.  If that is the case, and one genuinely cares about the other’s well-being, that might be okay.  Sometimes, though, this accusation is leveled against another just because they don’t like the other person, and want to shut them up.  Not that long ago, someone could get a relative, often a spouse, parent, or child, wrongly locked up for years in a psychiatric hospital, by falsely accusing them of being “crazy”.   In our Scripture today we read of a time when Jesus was called crazy, including by some relatives.  Let’s take a look to see what brought that on, and how Jesus responded.

As Jesus’ ministry progressed, the crowds that sought Him grew to huge numbers.  People crowded to hear Him preach and teach, and they especially came bringing sick folk to Him for healing.  Day after day this happened, and Jesus had very little time to rest or even to grab a bite to eat (vs. 20).   As this continued on, where Jesus kept on teaching, preaching, and healing without much time for any breaks, or taking a few days away for a rest every now and then, word got back to His relatives.

Jesus had several relatives, most likely still living in Nazareth.  In addition to His mother, Mark 6:3 lists several “brothers” and “sisters”.  There are different views as to who exactly these were.  The Greek word used is “adelphos”, which means both a literal brother or also “brethren”, which could mean another close relative, such as cousins or step-brothers (if Joseph had been previously married and had children).   During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry these “adelphos” did not believe in His being the Messiah.  However, fairly soon after His resurrection and ascension, at least two came to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, James (author of the Book of James and an early Bishop of Jerusalem), and Jude (author of the Book of Jude).  At this time, though, Jesus’ relatives thought He was crazy, and came to take ahold of Him and bring Him home, even if it was by force (vs. 21).  Even those close to Him were slow to understand who He was and what He had come to do.

Jesus’ family thought He was insane because He took little or no time to eat or rest, so urgent was He with ministry.  The Pharisees thought He was demon possessed and in league with Satan (vs. 22).  They refused to believe that Jesus’ power was from God, because then they would have to accept Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees had too much pride, so they instead said His power came from Satan.  After they made that proclamation, Jesus tried to use a bit of logic with them.  Why would someone in league with Satan want to cast Satan or his demons out? (vs. 23-27).  Satan is described as a “strong man” in verse 27.  However, one must be stronger than him to enter his domain and bind and plunder his house.  Only Jesus has such power.  Satan is ultimately doomed as head of the demonic world system.

The Lord then continued His teaching by proclaiming that there is an unpardonable sin (vs. 28-30).  This sin is committed when one deliberately and disrespectfully slanders the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in particular the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  When one does that, they completely cancel and forfeit any possibility of forgiveness of sins, because they have rejected the only basis of God’s salvation, Jesus’ saving death on the cross.   The Pharisees rejected the work of the Holy Spirit.  They did this by willfully choosing not to believe in Jesus as their Savior under any condition.  Because of their unbelief, they chose to remain without forgiveness.

Acknowledging the true origin of Jesus’ works is a matter of eternal importance.  It distinguishes His true family members from those who would be eternally condemned as blasphemous (vs. 31-35).  Any biological connection that the “adelphos” had was not important.  What was and is important is whether one accepts what Jesus did on the cross for themselves, and takes Him as their Savior.  They are His true family.  We know that the Virgin Mary did, of course, and that later both James and Jude did.  There is no record of whether any others did or not.  What about you?  Do you think that Jesus was possibly crazy, mentally ill, like His family did at first?  Or maybe you go so far as to think that He may have had a demon, like the Pharisees did.  If you have never asked the Lord Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior, please do so now, and become a member of His true family.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It Will Be Worth It All

II Corinthians 4:16-18

Would you go through a minute of bad pain if you knew that the rest of your life would be pain-free?  Many of us might go through a day or two of misery if we knew that afterwards, for the rest of our life, every need or wish we had would be met.  We go through several years of difficult study to get that university degree we desire, in order to have the career we want.  We get a painful shot, take nasty medicine, or have painful surgery in order to have better health in our future.  Why do we do that?  Because we know that the results are worth that momentary pain.  Not getting some diseases is worth the pain of a shot.  Laser surgery on your eyes is worth undergoing if it restores your vision.  The same with many other discomforts.  In our Scripture today, the Apostle Paul reminds us that for believers, the trials and tribulations we go through will be worth it when we consider what the Lord has prepared for us in heaven.

As our brief Scripture opens, Paul urges us to not lose heart, to not become discouraged when we go through something hard, difficult, or terrible (vs. 16).  We might be going through a catastrophic illness or injury, some deep financial trouble, or painful relationship problems.  It may feel like we are perishing, and perhaps we actually are.  Paul even says that our outward man, our physical body, may be perishing.  Our daily struggles wear down our physical body, and the more stress and problems we have, the more we physically break down.

Then Paul gives us some encouragement following that statement.  Our outward body may be perishing, but our inward body, our spiritual self, is renewed each day when we walk with the Lord, trusting in Him and His Word.  The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for the Lord to accomplish His purpose.  The Lord has a purpose for everything we go through, and even if He didn’t cause the catastrophe we might face, He allowed it, and can use it for our good if we allow Him.  We need to remember that nothing touches us that has not passed through the hands of our Heavenly Father.  Whatever occurs, God has sovereignly surveyed and approved.  Let God work His good purpose, and our inward man will be renewed.

There is a purpose in the trials that the Lord allows us to go through.  First, when we go through something difficult, that trial can remind us of all that Jesus suffered for us.  He didn’t have to, He could have said no, but He didn’t.  Jesus went through the worst suffering out of love for us, to redeem our souls from sin and hell.  Our suffering can also keep us from becoming too prideful, one of the worst of sins.  They can cause us to look beyond this brief life, at what the Lord has in store for us.  And when we go through trials in a patient and godly manner, the Lord has the opportunity to demonstrate His power through us.

God will amply reward what we suffer if we are obedient to Him (vs. 17).  Jesus will bless us for our faithfulness to Him (Mark 10:28-30).  We must never forsake our eternal reward because of the intensity of today’s pain.  Our very weakness allows the resurrection power of Christ to strengthen us moment by moment.

The problems we see are temporary, but the hope we have in Jesus, though unseen, is eternal (vs. 18).  The problems may seem like they’ll never end, just like when we go through a long, dark tunnel.  But don’t you see that speck of light far ahead, at the end?  When going through a difficult time, keep your eyes on Jesus, just like we keep our eyes on that speck of light at the end of the tunnel.

All the trials and tribulations we go through will be worth it when we get to heaven.  What is 70, 80, or 90 years compared to all of eternity?  It is like a millisecond to a lifetime!   Remember, this life is not all there is!

Monday, June 10, 2024

Deep In A Pit

Psalm 130

Hopefully you have never been trapped deep inside of something, like perhaps a well or a cave shaft.  Fortunately I never have.  However I do remember almost 37 years ago when a little girl, Jessica McClure, fell deep down a very narrow well in rural Texas in October of 1987, and was trapped for about 56 hours while all sorts of experts worked to safely rescue her.  Being only 18 months old, she probably could not consciously pray, but if we were trapped in some similar type condition, we would undoubtedly be crying out to the Lord to rescue us!  In our psalm for this week, the unknown psalmist also cried to God from the deep, and found rescue.  Let’s see what his deep problem might have been.

As our psalm opens, the psalmist relates an incident in his life where he was in some desperate trouble, and he called upon the Lord to rescue him (vs. 1-2).  We don’t know what the situation was, but whatever it was, he was deep into it.  Perhaps he had literally fallen down deep into something, such as a well like little Jessica McClure, or down a deep crevice.  Possibly the phrase “the depths” might be figurative, and the psalmist was deep in some other type of trouble, such as financial trouble, or problems unjustly brought against him by another.  This deep trouble caused him great distress, and he cried out to God.  He needed God to hear his voice, to listen and pay attention.

We’ve all been in some sort of trouble, possibly even very deep trouble, and we cry out to God.  If help doesn’t immediately come, we wonder if God heard us, or was even paying attention.  We want God to listen up and hear us!  Then we wonder if we are so deep into the pit, that our voice isn’t even reaching Him.  However, as the late Christian author and speaker Corrie ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”  The prophet Isaiah tells us that before we even cry out, God has heard us (Isaiah 65:24).

We don’t like to wait for God’s answer.  We want our rescue to be immediate.  Sometimes when we find ourselves in an extreme or dangerous situation we panic, and then we may try to solve the problem on our own.  Often that can make it worse.  Instead, we need to stay calm and wait upon the Lord to be attentive to our cries for mercy, and to put our hope in the Word of God, which shall never fail.  God, who knows the end from the beginning, knows that sometimes we do have to wait.  Little Jessica had to wait nearly 2 ½ days in that well to be rescued!

There is one situation that every one of us have been deep in, and that is deep in our sins, and our psalmist knew that (vs. 3-4).  Before we come to Jesus for salvation, our sins overwhelm us.  We are sunk deep, and we have no way of rescuing ourselves.  Our only hope is to call upon the Lord.  Some may feel that their sins are so bad and so numerous that God would turn them away.  The Lord reminds us here that when we come to Him, confessing our sins and repenting, He gives us never-ending forgiveness.

Continuing on in our psalm, the Lord reminds us that very often we have to wait for our deliverance or for answers to our prayers (vs. 5-6).  God does not spring into action on our timetable.  He waits until the very best moment to intervene.  I am sure that those 56 hours of waiting were quite difficult for Baby Jessica’s mother!  What if she hadn’t waited and trusted the experts to figure out the best way to rescue her little girl?  What if she had decided not to wait, and started digging on her own?  She wanted her baby, and she wanted her now!  Quite likely the ground might have collapsed in on little Jessica, and she would have died.  Waiting was important, and it meant that her child was rescued safely.  When we wait on the Lord our faith grows stronger, and we learn to trust Him.  His answer will be best in whatever trouble we are in.

In closing, let’s remember what our Psalmist learned.  When we find ourselves in some deep trouble or problem, call upon the Lord.  Confess your sins, and know that He will forgive you.  The Lord does hear you, and at the perfect time, He will rescue you.  God’s Word will never fail!

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Price Of A Sinful Choice

Genesis 3:1-21

We sometimes hear someone question out loud why this or that awful thing happened, why so many young people get murdered in the big cities, why dreadful diseases strike down so many, and why terrible wars bring countries to their knees.  Though there are often specific answers for each instance, overall the answer can be traced back to the very beginning, which is sin.  It is at this beginning, when sin entered the world and cast its evil shadow over all, that our Old Testament Scripture for this week is found.   Let’s take a quick look at this chapter in Genesis.

After God had created all, He placed man in the Garden of Eden, giving him one command, and that was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17).  It was here in the garden that Satan lost no time in working his plan to tempt mankind and bring down God’s creation.  Satan is a fallen archangel, and thus a supernatural being.  He possessed the body of a serpent in its pre-fallen state, and in that form he struck up a conversation with Eve (vs. 1).  Immediately he put his plan into action by getting Eve to question God’s goodness and kindness, to make her doubt His Word and His care for her and Adam.  He did this by implying that God forbade them from enjoying good things (vs. 1).  Satan still deceives people into thinking that following God will end all enjoyment in life.

When Eve corrected the serpent by telling him the one command God had given, Satan then told her a direct lie (vs. 4-5).  Satan is called a liar and a murderer from the beginning, and here is the evidence (John 8:44).  His lies always promise great benefits, but they fail to deliver good.  He tempted Eve by telling her she’d be like God, and selfishness has reigned in the human heart ever since.

Satan tempted Eve with the fruit.  He still uses the same tactics as he did then.  He often uses this same plan, to make people crave some sort of physical gratification to the point that they become preoccupied with it (vs. 6).  He makes them want to acquire things to the point they bow down to the god of materialism and lust for more and more.  Satan showed Eve that the fruit was pleasing to the eye.  He tempted her by promising an increased awareness which would make her become more like God.  Eve saw that it was good for food - lust of the flesh, pleasant to the eyes - lust of the eyes, and would make one wise - pride of life (I John 2:16).  We need to be careful with what we are looking at.  Temptation often begins by simply seeing something we want.  The battle is often lost at the first look.

After both Adam and Eve ate the fruit, sin came upon all of creation.  They heard God coming to meet with them and they hid, as sin brought guilt and shame (vs. 8-10).  God was not ignorant of their location.  He wanted them to come out, talk with Him, and explain.  There is never a place we can hide from God (Psalm 139:1-12).  He always seeks out mankind. He doesn’t just sit and wait for people to come to Him.  He actively seeks us.

As we continue, we see that Adam refused to take full responsibility for his actions.  He tried to put the responsibility on God for giving him Eve (vs. 12).  Eve’s effort to put the blame on the serpent, which was partially true, did not absolve her of the responsibility for her distrust and disobedience to God (vs. 13).

Satan used a woman to bring down the human race.  God used a woman as an instrument to bring the Redeemer into the world who would save the human race (vs. 15).  This verse is prophetic of the struggle between “your seed” - Satan and unbelievers (called the devil’s children by Jesus in John 8:44), and “her Seed” - Jesus and those in Him.  The woman’s offspring is Jesus, who will one day defeat the Serpent.  Satan can only bruise Jesus’ heel, cause Him to suffer.  Jesus will bruise Satan’s head, destroy him with a fatal blow.

People today bemoan the terrible things that happen in the world, murder, sickness, wars, and question why God allows it.  He didn’t bring that into the world, mankind did when they followed Satan and turned away from God.  That is why there is a curse on the ground and human death (vs. 17-19).  Humans turned their back to the Voice of God.  The thorns (vs. 18) represent all of the consequences of our sinful choices.  Jesus took those thorns upon Himself, and wore them as a crown (Matthew 27:29).

God took an innocent animal (vs. 21), and killed it to cover man’s sin and shame.  That is a shadow of the reality that God would someday allow His innocent and sinless Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die as a substitute to redeem sinners.  Have you accepted Him as your Savior?  If not, come to Him today.

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Intent Of The Sabbath Laws

Mark 2:23-28

When I was a child, back in the 1960’s, just about everything was closed on Sundays.  All stores and offices were closed, most restaurants, and many gas stations, as well.  People also did not do unnecessary work around the house, either.  You wouldn’t hear the lawnmowers going on a Sunday.  Families relaxed.  They went to church in the morning, and then they might go for an afternoon drive, or play some games together.  Some parents wouldn’t even allow their children to do homework on a Sunday.  One had to get it done before then.  This was all across the country.  They honored the Lord’s Day.  However, that all started to change during the 1970s.  By the end of that decade, most stores would have Sunday hours.  Many offices would be open, and a boss could easily call a worker to come in on Sunday.

Today people don’t like restrictions on what they can and cannot do, certainly not because of what day of the week it is.  So who’s right?  Those who feel that no work should be done on Sundays, or those who want to shop, eat out, and carry on business as usual?  Jesus had something to say about the Sabbath in our Scripture today.  Let’s take a look.

As we read through all four Gospels, one thing that frequently sticks out is that the Pharisees were often at odds with Jesus because He would heal people on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were devoutly religious.  They tried to strictly follow the Laws of Moses, and they wanted everyone else to, as well.  So when they saw Jesus doing something they felt He shouldn’t, they were quick to harshly criticize Him.  On this particular occasion, the Pharisees were criticizing Jesus and His disciples for what they felt was harvesting grain on the Sabbath.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus and His disciples were walking from one place to another, and the path went by some grain fields, and they took some to eat (vs. 23).  Now before anyone starts to think that they were stealing a farmer’s crop, we need to look at some laws given in the Old Testament.  In Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 23:25, it says that farmers were to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that some of their crops could be picked by travelers and the poor.

The Pharisees immediately started to criticize and condemn them, saying they were working on the Sabbath, that they were harvesting grain, which was breaking Sabbath rules (vs. 24).  Over the centuries since the days of Moses, so many extra rules and regulations had been added to the Sabbath commandment, and here was an example.  God’s law said that crops should not be harvested on the Sabbath (Exodus 34:21).  This law prevented farmers from becoming greedy and ignoring God on the Sabbath.  It also protected laborers from being overworked.  However, Jesus and the disciples were not picking the grain for personal gain.  They were looking for something to eat.  The Pharisees were so focused on the words of the law that they missed its intent.

Jesus then gave an example from the life of one of the most revered people in Israel’s history, King David (vs. 25-26).  He reminded the Pharisees that David did something that was not allowed by the Law of Moses.  David was not a priest, so by the Law, he could not eat one of the special loaves of showbread in the Tabernacle, but he and his men did (I Samuel 21:1-6).  David wisely judged that the law forbidding the laity to eat this bread ought to yield to a law of necessity and of nature.

By the time of Jesus the Pharisees had turned the Sabbath into a big list of do’s and don’ts.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, not the people meet the requirements of the Sabbath (vs. 27-28).  The Pharisees had made the Sabbath a burden, not the blessing it was intended to be.  God gave us the Sabbath as a gift for us, not to be a burden, and just one more rule and regulation to follow.  We live in a generation that works almost constantly, but God, in His compassion, knew that we need to rest.  It was to allow people to rest and allow God to refresh.

Right following this, Jesus would heal a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-6).  He implied that the Sabbath is a day to do good.  Sabbath rest doesn’t mean that we don’t lift a finger to help others.  The Sabbath should not become a time of selfish indulgence.  God derives no benefits from having us rest on the Sabbath.  We are restored physically and spiritually when we take the day to rest from our usual work.  The intent of God’s Law is to promote love for God and for others.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Knocked Down But Not Out

II Corinthians 4:5-12

When my adult son was little, preschool age, he used to have an inflatable punching toy.  If I remember correctly, it had the figure of a clown on it.  It was weighted with sand at the bottom, so that every time he hit it, it would bounce back upright.  No matter how many times he hit it, no matter how hard he hit it, boing!, that clown would bounce right back up! Wouldn’t it be nice if every time some problem would hit us, if every time some trouble attempted to knock us down, we would bounce right back up, that nothing could keep us down.  In our Scripture today from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he gave a similar description of what he and some other Christians who were actively serving the Lord went through.

As Paul traveled throughout Greece, Asia Minor, and on to Rome preaching the Gospel, he faced attacks from many enemies.  Some that attacked him were his own Jewish people who did not want him preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and especially that he not only preached to Jews, but that he also reached out to Gentiles.  Paul also suffered attacks from Gentiles and pagans who did not like what he was preaching, either.  Then there were some who claimed to be followers of Jesus, but who were actually false preachers who brought heretical messages.  Paul was frequently arrested or ran out of town.  He was beaten, scourged, and even stoned.  Would you keep going if this was the response you continued to experience?

Our Scripture begins with Paul stating that the message he preached was not one about himself, or one that he made up to promote himself, but the message of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 5).  False teachers had accused Paul of preaching for his own benefit.  They were actually the ones guilty of doing so.  Paul was humble, and never promoted himself.  He preached Christ Jesus as Lord.  The focus of Paul’s preaching was Jesus, not himself or the latest topic of the day, or even his own ideas and philosophies.  The same holds for today.  Preachers should not be spouting off their own ideas and philosophies, but instead what Jesus did on the cross.  Just as in Paul’s day, people today need to be introduced to Jesus.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was planned as carefully as Creation was planned (vs 6).  God created physical light in the universe.  He also created spiritual light in the soul, and brings believers out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of light.  Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross is as necessary to our eternal life as the sun is to the solar system.

The Apostle Paul did not view himself as anyone special, which often his enemies claimed he did.  Many preachers throughout history have looked at themselves as something special, someone that everyone should be holding in esteem.  Paul, though, saw himself as lowly, common, expendable, and replaceable, just as an earthen vessel (vs. 7).  However, a lowly container can contain something valuable.  The valuable message of salvation in Jesus has been entrusted to frail and fallible humans (earthen vessels).  God’s power dwells in us.  Though we are weak, God uses us to spread the Gospel, and He gives us His power to do so.  By using frail and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the result of His power, and not any power that His messengers could generate. The power of God transcends the earthen vessel.  Our value and worth is not in ourselves.  It is in what we contain, the Holy Spirit, and the message we are to proclaim.

Then Paul states how, no matter how many attacks and assaults he may go through he does not stay down. He is not crushed, destroyed, in despair, and never forsaken by the Savior (vs. 8-12).  These problems did not cripple him.  Rather, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, they strengthened him.  Paul’s suffering was the badge of his loyalty to Jesus, and the source of his power.  He faced death every day, yet he was willing to pay that price if it meant salvation for those to whom he preached the Gospel.  The Apostle’s suffering was actually a result of attacks against the Lord Jesus, not himself or other believers.  Those who hate Jesus frequently take out their vengeance on those who represent Him.

Like Paul, if we are faithful to the Great Commission, and stand true to God’s Word, the Bible, we will face trials and persecution.  However, like the Apostle, we don’t need to worry.  We have the victory through Jesus.  We may get knocked down, but we are never knocked out.  We can be confident of victory.  God will never abandon us.  All of our trials are opportunities for Jesus to demonstrate His power and presence in and through us.