“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9″
The apostle Paul penned these words to his friends in the ancient city of Corinth. He had been spreading the Christian message in another city, Ephesus, and was trying to decide whether to stay put or move on.
There had been many opportunities for Paul in Ephesus, but also much opposition. His preaching had been met with riotous mobs and death threats. Most people would take this as a sign to get out of town, but not Paul! He decided to base his decisions on God’s activity rather than what his enemies were doing and stayed in Ephesus for another year. Many more converts were added to the church during this time.
One can only assume, but I bet Paul’s life felt something like a chess match. Over and over, his opponents backed him into a corner–putting him in check. But God always provided a way out and kept Paul out of checkmate.
This has recently become real to me. In fact, I started this blog because I was placed in “check.”
For several months, I sent a dozen or so Christian colleagues at my company a Bible verse with an encouraging thought every morning. These are friends who attend a weekly employee prayer group or asked specifically to be included in the email. Nevertheless, someone in our company complained to HR, telling them I was sending “scriptures” through company email. The next thing I know, my boss gets a visit from corporate.
No, I wasn’t told to cease and desist. But the reality that someone took offense at my attempt to encourage a few Christian friends was deflating. I was really down for about 24 hours, but then recalled the words of a dear friend, “There are always options: good ones and bad ones.”
I chose the best option I could and avoided checkmate. When the time comes, I hope you will too.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8
When I was in grad school, a buddy of mine had a little ten foot sailboat we liked to take out on the weekends. My friend didn’t know much about sailing. I knew even less. But we had a blast cruising around a little lake near the university. That is, until this one day.
It was picture perfect with a 10-12 mph wind, which meant we were moving right along–cutting a big arc across the middle of the lake. Suddenly, and I mean out of nowhere, the wind died down to almost nothing. We were dead in the water and drifting AWAY from shore. It’s a good thing the boat came with two oars, because we ended up rowing a half mile to land!
Well, we brought her in (sort of), up to this boat slip where we were met by a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager grinning for ear to ear. It’s turned out this kid was a Norwegian exchange student who knew a thing or two about sailing. He’d watched our little “dilemma” unfold from shore. We tried to explain how the freakish break in the wind left us stranded, but he was having nothing of it. “For a sailor, almost any wind will do,” he said, still grinning. “May I show you?”
He then proceeded to shove off, set the sail, and slowly navigate out to the middle of the lake and back under the power of an almost imperceptible breeze. It’s funny, I don’t remember sailing much with my friend after that.
There’s a life application here somewhere…
Forces beyond our control, like the wind, can either help us or hurt us. It all depends on how we set the sail–make the best of God’s grace.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He (Jesus) said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Mark 14:34
About twenty years ago, WWJD? was a popular acronym: What Would Jesus Do?
It’s a great thought, but is this completely discernible in the 21st century? I’m fairly sure the Son of God wouldn’t tweet about what He had for breakfast, but how can one be certain?
Perhaps a better question is, What DID Jesus Do? Now, this is discoverable! The scripture above, for instance, records the actual behavior of Jesus in full-blown crisis mode.
In Mark 14:32-42, we find Him in the garden with a few close friends, emotionally and physically drained by the knowledge of his impending death. The Amplified Bible says he was, “deeply distressed and extremely anguished,” and he, “fell to the ground and prayed.”
So, here are two things Jesus did during the biggest crisis of His earthly life:
He sought comfort and guidance from God.
He asked a few close friends to come near–both physically and in prayer.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Have you ever attempted to bring peace to a difficult situation and failed?
This happened to me once with a room full of squirming kindergarteners.
I was a brand new elementary music teacher determined to prove my worth. Those little guys didn’t know who they were dealing with! Man, was I wrong.
I attempted to quiet down the class room using a call back: “Tootsie Roll. Lollipop. I was talking now I’ll stop.” The children were supposed to repeat after me, ONCE, and then get quiet. The trouble was, several little tykes wanted to be the last one standing. So they just kept saying it over and over.
I spoke peace, but peace did not prevail.
Jesus, however, has a better track record. He not only speaks peace to a situation, He creates it. Awakened once in the back of a boat during a fierce storm, he told the wind to stop and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind died down completely and there was a miraculous calm (Mark 4:39).
The application here is obvious. If the Prince of Peace speaks calm to your situation, He actually has the power to make it happen.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Ps. 55:22
One of my favorite translations of the Bible is Young’s Literal Translation; it puts the scripture in place English just as it was written in the original Hebrew or Greek.
Here is Ps. 55:22 from the YLT: “Cast on Jehovah that which He hath given thee, and He doth sustain thee. He doth not suffer forever the moving of the righteous.”
Give back to God the cares He has given you. Wow, what a thought!
In the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 14, Jesus told his disciples to feed 5000 people, but all they could find was a little boy’s lunch. They had five pieces of bread and two fish! Yet Jesus didn’t say, “Oh well, never mind.” He said, “Bring them here to me.”
The theologian, A.B. Simpson, describes such moments of overwhelming difficulty and need as, “vessels for the Holy Spirit to fill.”
We simply bring these nearly empty cups (or lunch boxes) to Christ and allow Him to fill them.