Posts Tagged 'Be Committed'

You Should Be Committed! Part 2

Americans are plagued by stress and anxiety. Just how bad is it? In the most advanced society on the planet; in a country with unmatched prosperity and freedom, anxiety disorders are the most pervasive of all psychiatric disorders listed in the DSMV. According to the latest statistics, the annual cost to treat those suffering with anxiety disorders in America is well over 42 million dollars. Despite being the richest nation on earth, America is also the most anxious nation on earth, with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem in their lifetime. Why is that? American philosopher and author Eric Hoffer hit the nail on the head, I think, when he wrote this:

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

The problem, of course, is that happiness in America is seen as a right; that everybody has a right to be happy, usually at any cost. And when an American isn’t happy, they get anxious and make bad decisions, making themselves even more anxious as that happiness they are looking for becomes more and more elusive. I’m sure Thomas Jefferson never dreamed that his bit about “the pursuit of happiness” would be twisted and tortured into something way beyond what he meant at the time he wrote it.

Yet according to Paul, no Christian should be anxious about anything.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 | TNIV)

“Anything” and “every” are two words that stand out in that verse because we can all find things that we think are worth being anxious about and the thought about praying with thanksgiving in every situation seems, well, unreasonable. Take the aforementioned happiness quest. Children are indoctrinated by, of all people, their parents, to believe the most important thing in the whole world is for them to be happy. Be happy no matter what. Be happy at school, even preschool when junior would rather be playing outside, discovering things on his own. Then it’s “be happy at work, even though it’s a dead-end job you hate,” because “you’re lucky to have it.” We are constantly being told to “be happy,” but we’re left up to our own devices to figure out how we make that happen! Thanks, Mom and Dad. Wouldn’t it better if Mom and Dad knew what the Bible says about the happiness issue? The reason they don’t is likely because their church doesn’t. Because the church of Jesus Christ has largely succumbed to the secular notion that “God wants you to be happy,” too. No wonder even Christians are anxiously pursuing a phantom notion.

What does the Bible say about the happiness issue? Honestly, it says nothing. Search as you might, you won’t find any red letter saying about the believer’s right to be happy. And yet it does, in a backwards, sideway way. Jesus said this about life for the believer:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 | TNIV)

That’s right and Jesus was totally honest. In this world, you won’t find happiness, but you will find heaps of trouble. The most the believer can hope for is peace in the midst of trouble, and that peace is not found in a Valium or in vodka or in a vacation, but in a Person – the Person of Jesus Christ.

That’s not to say that Jesus wants His people to be miserable, because He most certainly doesn’t. Frequently in the Gospels, Jesus began certain sayings with the phrase, “blessed is.” The Greek in behind our English word “blessed” carries with it the notion of being happy. So a Christian will find a measure of happiness by following the Beatitudes of Christ. Things like this:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12 | TNIV)

That might not be what some of you were expecting, but it is the Word of God. And this why some people find it so hard to fully commit to Jesus Christ, and hence are unhappy Christians. There is a segment of Christianity that continues to cling to notion that you can find lasting happiness in the world. It’s so baked into their psyche that they can’t stop their ultimately worthless pursuit. And you can’t have two minds if you want to follow Christ. If you’re not fully committed to Him, you will be continually disappointed – disappointed in both your faith and in the world, because you’ll be expecting something from both that they can’t give you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, answers to prayer and promised blessings will elude you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, He can’t take your world and make things work for you. Let’s face it. It’s rough being you if you aren’t fully committed to Christ.

Last time, we discussed the idea that a Christian needs to be fully committed to Christ even if it seems like his world collapsing around him. This was Paul’s situation. He had suffered greatly to share the Gospel with the lost. By the time he wrote his second letter to his pal Timothy, he was sitting in prison because he was preaching the Gospel. Yet he wrote this:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 | TNIV)

Paul had entrusted his very life – his whole life – to God, no matter what dangers he encountered or indignities he suffered. One time in his life, the great apostle prayed for some relief, and along came God’s surprising answer:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 | TNIV)

Paul had committed his life to Christ. Peter, another great apostle, wrote about committed something else to Christ, and that’s what we’ll look at today.

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in welldoing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19 | KJ21)

More modern translations look like this:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

The KJV used the word “soul,” and that’s actually a good way to translate the Greek phrase. Peter is referring to the “inner man.” It means being committed to Christ from the inside out; your mind, your heart, you body – in every way committed to Christ. It’s a single-minded devotedness that doesn’t ignore bad times, but at the same time doesn’t let those bad times disrupt the precious relationship that exists between Christ and His follower.

Suffering for Christ is a privilege?

Peter’s advice to his readers was desperately needed. His letter was written to a bunch of Christian expats, who didn’t have it very good. Many of them didn’t possess two shekels to rub together.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | TNIV)

These people had lost everything in some cases to follow Christ. They had become exiles on account of their faith, but at the same time Peter calls them “God’s elect.” They were God’s elect, yet that didn’t disqualify them from suffering in the same way as their Lord did, and as other followers of Jesus do. But it wasn’t just any kind of suffering Peter is referring to. Later on, we’re told what the exiles were suffering for.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12, 13 | TNIV)

We don’t know what those fiery trials were, but had they not been following the teachings of Jesus Christ, they would have been just fine. Suffering on account of who Jesus is should be considered a blessing. Not all suffering, just suffering for Him.

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:15, 16 | TNIV)

Not all suffering is good. And if you suffer because of some stupid thing you did, you should be ashamed. But there’s no need for shame if your suffering is on account of your faith.

The reason for suffering

You may wonder why God allows His people to suffer like this. It’s not just a New Testament thing. For centuries Christians have, in the case of the martyrs, given their very lives for their testimony of faith. Peter gives us the reason, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 | TNIV)

That’s a chilling verse. Peter seemed to sense that the trials Christians are suffering today are really nothing less than a very long period of divine judgment or discipline. Though we are living in an age of grace, where God is not judging people and nations as we see Him doing in the Old Testament, that doesn’t mean He’s sitting idly by. God is just and He has appointed a righteous Judge.

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31 | TNIV)

Jesus Christ, our appointed Judge, knows the heart of every man; He sees what we do and how we live, but Jesus alone knows our intentions and motivations. If you read through the Old Testament, you’ll see that God always follows a pattern when it comes to discipline and judgment. It always begins with His people. The trials or problems you encounter may seem bad or unfair and difficult to endure, but God uses them to purify your faith and purge the impurities from your life. Peter wants us to know that anything negative we may experience because of our faith is nothing compared to the utter hopelessness and doom awaiting those who don’t have faith.

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

There is nothing more important than the strength of your faith. Nothing. Not even creature comforts or friends or even family. Your faith is of eternal value, and that’s why, from time-to-time, you may suffer on account of it. When that happens, you must be all the more committed to the Lord. Only He can see you through it. There can be no part-time Christians; no partially committed followers of Jesus. You’re either all in or you won’t make it. You need to be (say it with me) COMMITTED!

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You Should Be Committed! Part 1

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How many of you (of a certain age) remember these lyrics:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me,
Deep down depression, excessive misery,
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,
Gloom, despair and agony on me.

Yes, the four losers from Hee Haw would sing that song then complain about all the things wrong in their lives. It was a funny skit that went on for years. People enjoyed laughing at other people’s problems; it makes us feel good to think that other people have the same problems we have. Or even better, that they have it worse than we do.

That’s one way to deal with the stresses of life – to laugh at others, or to laugh at yourself. But what about those things that happen to you that you can’t laugh at. How do you cope with things that cause you genuine, unrelenting “gloom, despair, and agony?” A lot of us pull into ourselves, we fret and worry. We get nervous and fearful.

The Bible gives us some sound advice on how to cope with “gloom, despair, agony, and excessive misery” of life.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. (Philippians 4:6 | TLB)

That’s a verse that either makes you very happy or very angry, depending on your situation. Paul admonished: Don’t worry about anything. Yes, that’s a paraphrase, The Living Bible to be precise, so you may wonder if the word “anything” is accurate or not. Surely Ken Taylor, the man who is responsible for The Living Bible, was exaggerating when he wrote “everything.”

So let’s check this verse out in some other translations:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6 | KJV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 | TNIV)

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 | RSV)

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6 | ASV)

It’s a safe bet “anything” wasn’t Ken Taylor’s idea, but rather the apostle Paul’s. Christians aren’t supposed to worry or be anxious about “anything.” And “anything” means anything! That may seem hard for you to believe, especially in a culture that seems to encourage parents to worry about every aspect of their children’s life; about their own health; about their job security; about their pensions; about the president’s sanity. It’s crazy, but here in the greatest country in the world, the norm is to worry. Yet, if you want to live a life of faith that is pleasing to the Lord, you can’t worry about “anything.”

Yet we do. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being emotionally secure and completely objective, sometimes find ourselves overtaken by worry and anxiety. What do we do about that? Over the next few weeks, I’ll lay out what the Bible teaches about this issue. If we can grasp its teaching, we’ll find ourselves living better and enjoying life more.

Commit Yourself Unto Him, 2 Timothy 1:12

Paul was a preacher writing to a younger preacher. But that doesn’t mean what Paul wrote to Timothy isn’t important for you. You probably aren’t a preacher. But you are Christian. By default, you are an evangelist whether you realize it or not. Elton Trueblood’s marvelous book, “Your Other Vocation,” is a real eye-opener, and I urge everybody reading this to read that. The thrust of his book is that all believers are called to be ministers, and that our other vocation is how we earn a living. That’s an interesting thought, and it’s thoroughly Biblical. The idea that only pastors or evangelists should be the ones preaching and evangelizing goes completely against what the Bible teaches. So, with that in mind, let’s look at what Paul wrote to Timothy.

In verses 11 and 12, Paul writes of his ministry:

For this I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles, for which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed. For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day. (2 Timothy 1:11, 12 | KJ21)

The apostle covers four things.

“I suffer these things.” Paul was called by the Lord to be His preacher, and ever since Paul answered that called, he suffered. He suffers “these things.” How did Paul suffer? He gave a partial list to the church at Corinth:

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. (2 Corinthians 11:23 – 29 | MSG)

Yes, Paul paid a high price to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Most of us will never suffer like Paul did, but serving the Lord faithfully isn’t easy. A serious Christian will suffer, to some degree, in his vocation. If you want to follow Jesus faithfully, many times your attitudes toward things in our culture will be completely opposite to the mainstream. At this moment, our culture is swirling down the toilet, and the things it values and promotes are almost always anti Christian. Taking a stand for Biblical morality and ethics can take its toll on your reputation at work or even out in the community.

To be a modern-day disciple of Christ is a radical way to live life, and while those of us who are striving to be that committed to our Lord may not suffer as Paul did, what we do put up with is suffering for the Gospel, nonetheless.

“I am not ashamed.” That’s what Paul wrote, but of what was he not ashamed? He wrote a similar thing to the Romans:

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 | KJ21)

So Paul wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel, nor was he ashamed of how he was suffering for the sake of that same Gospel. And here he was, cooling his heels in prison because he was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, and he still wasn’t ashamed. He wasn’t in prison because of some crime he committed, he was in prison because he chose to obey God, not man. In Paul’s mind, he had nothing to be ashamed of. Now, there were people who were running around talking trash about Paul because he was in prison, but his conscience was absolutely clear.

“I know whom I have believed.” The secret of Paul’s positive attitude was not that he had read Napoleon Hill’s books. His secret was a Person: Jesus Christ. It wasn’t Paul’s temperament or his personality. It wasn’t his education. It wasn’t his close circle of friends. Paul was positive and he was certain because he knew Jesus Christ personally.

This is an important concept for you, the modern Christian to grasp hold of and not let go of. The world may regard your faith in a crucified Messiah as a joke; a thing of folly and a just cause for mockery and shame, but if your relationship with Jesus Christ is strong and genuine, then whatever the world may think of you and your faith will not impact you one wit. The world may make fun of you, but Jesus Christ never will. Like Paul, you must permanently put your trust and confidence in Him.

“I am persuaded.” This is an essential characteristic of the Christian faith. To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ is much more than merely believing the right stuff concerning Christ, however important that may be. True Christianity must involve a love fellowship with a Person—namely Jesus Christ—if our faith is to be truly Christian. We must be persuaded of the reality of Jesus Christ and the reality of relationship we have with Him.

Paul wrote that he was convinced that God could “keep” that which he had committed to His care. Literally, the Greek looks like this: “that he is able to guard my deposit.” He has unshaken confidence in God’s ability to do what he trusts Him to do. He is able effectively “to guard my deposit.”

Paul was absolutely, 100 percent convinced of God’s ability to “keep” or guard the trust or deposit. In the Greek, this whole statement indicates there is no doubt that God, in whom he has placed his faith, is able to guard what the apostle has entrusted. The tense of the verb “to guard” means to continue watching over and protecting, as a guard watches over a prisoner. Of course, the question you should be asking is, What is being guarded by God?  The Greek term is parathēkē, and was used for the deposit of money or property entrusted to another. As Paul used it here, there are two possible meanings: First, the gospel that God entrusted to Paul is now entrusted to Timothy’s guardianship. That’s possible but unlikely.

Secondly, Paul could be referring to the commitment that he has entrusted to God, and this probably what the great apostle is getting at. Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end, and just as God can be trusted to save your soul, so He can be trusted to “keep” or guard your life until the very end. In short, Paul was not ashamed in the midst of suffering because he was fully convinced that God would keep safe his deposit of faith – to vindicate his deposit of faith – until the very end.

In the midst of all of his sufferings; through all the ups and downs of his life, Paul was trusting God with his very life – his life now, and his life in the future. God gave Paul salvation and a job to do. And Paul, in return, gave God his life, his ambition, his talents, and trusted God with all those things.

Paul had completely committed himself in every sense of the word to God and His care. Have you? Too many Christians name Christ as their Savior but hold back part of themselves. God doesn’t have 100% of their lives. But the thing is, God wants all of you. He wants all of your time. All of your ambition. All of your talents. He wants all of your heart.


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