Growing In Godliness Blog
By Paul Earnhart
Job, out of his wretchedness and deep anguish, once declared, ”Man that is born of women is of few days and full of trouble" (14:1). It may not be the whole story, but it is a significant part of it. Early and late, all of us will face some heartbreaking adversities. The presence of so much pain in life has caused some to question even the existence of God. The trap in that is that we are arguing against God by a standard which cannot exist without Him.
The adversity in human life is real, not imagined. The Bible deals forthrightly with it. Solomon speaks plainly in Ecclesiastes not only of the presence of pain but the absence of justice in life "under the sun." Most all of us have felt that knowing the why of all this suffering and who or what is behind it might help. It is altogether human to probe into such things, but we need to recognize the limitations of our own knowledge (Deuteronomy 29:29).
In the fall of the year before He died, Jesus and His disciples came upon a beggar in Jerusalem which moved the disciples to ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (John 9:1). They presumed that physical tragedy was always a result of divine judgment on sin. Jesus' answer, "Neither . . . but that the works of God should be revealed in him" opened up a much broader perspective on suffering. This man's suffering had a purpose. The disciples had seen it only as a consequence.
Where does suffering come from? From several sources. It can come from God, in the general suffering and death unleashed in the world after man sinned (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20), or in specific cases to humble or strengthen (Job, Miriam, Numbers 12:1-10, Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:10-20, and even Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7).
It can come from Satan, through God's allowance, as illustrated in the case of the horrific suffering of the righteous Job. Even Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was "a messenger of Satan" which God used for very different purposes than the Tempter intended.
It can come as the inevitable fruit of our own sins. "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). Sin has its temporal consequences--physical, emotional and social.
Yet, at last, unless there is some direct link to our sin, it is very difficult to know the exact origins of our adversity. And that is just as well, for far more important than knowing why we are suffering is our response to it. Adversity, regardless of its source, is one of God's most effective tools to deepen our faith in Him and transform our lives. So said the Psalmist: "Before I was afflicted I went astray. But now I keep Your word . . . It is good that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:67,72). As C. S. Lewis once observed, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts at us in our pain". And as Scripture observes, "Whom the Lord loves He chastens" (Hebrews 12:6).
The anguish of Christ on the cross reflects the influence of God (Isaiah 53:6), and Satan (Luke 22:3,4) and our own sins (1 Peter 2:24). Yet it was our Savior's trusting response to this awful suffering that enabled God to work by it something transcendently wonderful. So it will be with us, if we choose our response to suffering wisely--especially when we don't understand why. "For our light affliction, which is for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). At last, like that ancient blind man, what we suffer here is in order that "the works of God may be revealed in us."
Add To Your Faith
By Randy Case, Jr.
Growth is a requirement for all Christians if they desire to be pleasing to God. The Hebrew writer rebuked the brethren for not growing as they should. The writer states that they ought to have been teachers, but they still needed the milk of the word and were unable to handle solid food (Hebrews 5:12-13). They failed to apply themselves to spiritual matters. Therefore, they were still in need of teaching and were unable to teach others.
Many individuals put on Christ in baptism, but they do not grow as the Scriptures command. God demands Christians to develop certain characteristics. The book of 2 Peter was written to encourage Christians to continue to grow spiritually. Peter tells us that we must add certain things to our faith (2 Peter 1:5). Faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), is the foundation. Peter gives us seven qualities that are extremely important in 2 Peter 1:5-7. As children of God we must possess virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. Virtue is defined as moral excellence. Knowledge is spiritual discernment or understanding what is morally right or wrong. Self-control indicates discipline. Steadfastness refers to patience and the ability to maintain self-control. Godliness is characterized by a God-like attitude, doing what pleases Him. Brotherly kindness denotes a fondness and caring for individuals. And love seeks the best for the object of our affections. Peter states that these characteristics must be found in us and they must increase (v. 8). If these abound, then we will not be ineffective or idle as Christians.
In Galatians 5, Paul gives us a list similar to Peter’s. Paul describes the “Fruit of the Spirit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love is the foundational element upon which everything else stands. It is an “agape” love, which is the highest form of love. The joy that we are to have is not based on outward circumstances. A Christian’s joy comes from knowing that they have the hope of heaven as promised by the Creator, despite their situation. We must have a peace with God, with ourselves and with others. This peace is a tranquility of mind that no one outside of Christ should have. Patience indicates being long tempered. We must seek to be kind to all, willing to help those in need, especially Christians. Goodness refers to moral excellence that does not tolerate error. Christians have a standard to live by and that is found in Scripture. Faithfulness is a characteristic that simply carries the idea of being loyal. Our loyalty and allegiance must be to God in EVERY circumstance that we encounter. Gentleness or meekness is strength under control. And self-control requires us to restrain, or keep, ourselves from giving in to Satan’s temptations.
Baptism is an important part in obtaining salvation. But, it is only the beginning. If we fail to develop the characteristics that Paul and Peter talk about, we become near-sighted, forgetting that we have been cleansed from our former sins (1 Peter 1:9). We should never be satisfied with our present growth. Let us always add to our faith!
Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned... Throughout My Life?
By Mike Cox
"What hinders me from being baptized?" This is the question that the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip in Acts 8:36 as they had been studying the Bible together. One of the big hindrances to obeying the Gospel that I have heard throughout my time as a Christian, is that people feel like they don't know enough to be baptized. This even applied to me before I became a Christian. What exactly is it that one needs to know to be baptized? How much does one need to know to be baptized? Not as much as we may think.
There are things that we need to know and come to terms with before we make the decision to become a Christian. We must first hear God's word (John 5:24), and we must believe (Mk. 16:15-16) in God. In doing so, this means that we have to acknowledge that we have sinned. Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". We then must repent (turn away) from our sins (Mk. 1:14-15). Philip tells the Eunuch in Acts 8:37 that "if you believe with all your heart you may" be baptized. This is followed up by the Eunuch's confession of his belief in Jesus Christ and subsequently his baptism in verse 38 of Acts 8; Acts 2:21 and Mk. 16:16 are also commands for baptism. When we do this there is a level of commitment involved which can also be hindrance to some when they are considering becoming a Christian. We must then remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). This can seem like a daunting task when we feel we don't know enough about the Bible or we are overwhelmed with the expectation that we must live perfectly and without sin. As previously mentioned, we all have sinned and will sin. We all sin, but the difference between believers and non-believers when we sin is seen in how it affects us and how we try to not repeat that sin. We strive to live righteously.
We have a lifetime to learn of and about God and what is required of us. We all must start at the beginning. First Peter 2:2 references a time period where Christians are "newborn babes", that "desire the pure milk of the word", that we may grow. Does a star athlete start out at the top of his sport? No, they obtain a higher level as they learn and apply what they have learned. This is the same principle for Christians. We must apply what we've learned about God's word and expectations throughout our lives. We must mature as Christians and have a greater level of understanding and purpose. If our expectation is one of perfection from the start, it will be a daunting task to follow God and get to Heaven. Keep in mind that all have sinned and those that make it to Heaven will do so because they made the choice to make a commitment to follow God - and they kept it. The second part of this is God's grace that is bestowed upon us; God's unmerited favor given to us even though we sinned. Hebrews 11 highlights some of the faithful followers of the Bible. Even they had their struggles with sin. It is important to note that while God's plan may have occurred through these people, they weren't perfect either.
As previously mentioned we know very little at the beginning. If we keep this in perspective and strive to grow as Christians and grow closer to God, we CAN get to Heaven with God's grace. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". This goes for us as well. No master craftsman ever started out that way, it occurred over time as they learned their craft. Being a faithful Christian is a life long journey to draw nearer to God and ultimately dwell with him in Heaven.
Do Our Emotions Excuse Us From Self-Control?
By Christy Ganchero
A few weeks ago, I took part in a fruit-of-the-spirit themed girl’s night. I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts about self-control with several young women, all of whom showed great excitement about spiritual things. However, I realized later on that I forgot to cover an important question related to the final fruit of the Spirit: Do our emotions excuse us from having self-control?
At a young age, women realize that there are times when our emotions are difficult to control, especially during our monthly cycle. It is no longer taboo in our society to talk about menstruation, or the bundle of emotions that comes with it. In fact, the internet is full of memes and jokes concerning PMS. Most of these portray women as having a monthly nightmare mode, which takes over our bodies and causes us to have uncontrollable anger, sadness, and aggravation. We have to deal this internal monster for one week out of the month, or a quarter of our lives.
Our culture says two contradictory things about women in this conversation. On one hand, feminist propaganda states that women and men are essentially the same. They say that the differences between men and women are just figments of collective imagination. On the other hand, postmodern progressivism encourages women to say, “I can completely lose control, and that’s okay, because I am a woman!” These two ideas cannot mix. A man cannot experience a menstrual cycle, which is biological proof that the two sexes serve different physical functions. But a woman cannot behave however she wants to just because she is a female biologically – she is also a member of the human race, which has God-given reason and intellect. We would never condone men assaulting women because “they can’t control themselves.” Both men and women will be held accountable for their actions (2 Cor. 5:10).
What does the Bible say regarding women and self-control? In Titus 2, Paul instructs young women to be “self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive” (Titus 2:5). All of these things require us to reign in our emotions and serve others above ourselves. How can we accomplish this? Paul gives us the answer a few verses later:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Ti 2:11-14)
God’s grace trains us to live with self-control. And this grace was given through Jesus Christ, who died in order to purify us from sin. Jesus felt deep, raw emotions, yet He exercised self-control and went to the cross. Because of His sacrifice, those who have been born again and have received His Spirit have the power, by faith, to exercise self-control in all things, just as He did.