“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
James 1: 12
Reading: James 1: 2-8
Last Sunday (24th September) we considered the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ Ministry especially in relation to the miracles that are recorded in the Gospels. We considered that the Holy Spirit always pointed to Jesus as the Truth of God, confirmed Him as the Son of God and anointed Him in His ministry. We considered a five-fold purpose in these miracles, to: glorify God; demonstrate the power and presence of God’s Kingdom; confirm who Jesus is; demonstrate how Jesus fulfills the law and prophets; and to bless people and society. These miracles occurred in three areas; the realm of creation; the physical; and the spiritual. We then shared a wonderful time of prayer. During this prayer time, in follow up conversations and in questions asked, the issues of trials and suffering were prominent. How do we connect these Gospel accounts with our lives today?
The Miracle of Life
Life itself is a miracle; that the world exists, life is possible and the world abundant, in its provision. As a Christian, a child of God (1 John 3: 1) I believe that this is a pure gift from God in His sovereignty and providence. The reality of suffering, pain and trials is also very clear. For some, a ‘miracle’ is needed every day to survive and continue. We may face: the loss of a loved one; a serious illness; financial difficulties; betrayal; separation; breakdown in relationships; or life-threatening situations. I record these examples because I have experienced them all; I want you to know that I am writing from personal experience not simply a theoretical understanding. I have found the truth and reality of life in and through Jesus to be the answer.
When we place our trust in God through Jesus we are ‘born again,’ (John 3: 6-7) and His Holy Spirit enters us and lives within us (1 Cor 3: 16); a miracle of new life and a new relationship. The Holy Spirit can then empower and enable us in our trials to persevere; He can even heal and provide grace that is sufficient for us in our trials and weaknesses (2 Cor. 12: 9).
There is an eternal perspective to this matter too - God promises us the ‘Crown of Life,’ eternity beyond this time; a true miracle of life.
Having this knowledge can encourage us in perseverance and help us to see our situations from a different perspective. Trials and suffering can be something that God uses to help and bless us (Romans 8: 28). It can be a time that enables us to truly trust God and grow in our relationship with Him AND we have the reassurance that there is a guaranteed future for us without any of this pain (Rev. 21: 3-4).
Prayer, faith and the Church are essential ingredients to perseverance and to overcoming. Our faith in God and prayer and the prayers and faith of our brothers and sisters in the Church for us.
The Question of Application
What promise of God’s, in Scripture, can you pray, for a situation you or someone else is facing?
Almighty God, at this time, grant us endurance and encouragement and the same attitude of mind that Christ Jesus had. Grant us an inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. In mercy forgive us our sins, release us from suffering and restore us to wholeness and strength. May you, the God of hope, fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in you, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) – Hillsong Worship
September 17th – Les Kovacs
Last week, Rev. Kim stated that it was the Lord who raised up the prophets of old and anointed them to carry out His work in calling the people of Israel back into a righteous relationship with Himself as they struggled with the temptations of the pagan cultures around them. Rev Kim pointedly affirmed that these select individuals were not self-appointed prophets. In my sermon from this past Sunday, I asked a rhetorical question about who the modern-day prophets were that could speak to God’s people in today’s culture, and I indicated that we as Christians, we can all be prophets. Notice that I was careful to say that we can all be prophets, not that we are all prophets. These two assertions, that the Biblical prophets of old were not self-appointed but anointed by God, and that we (modern Christians) can be prophets, are both correct.
In the Old Testament, God would send His Holy Spirit on specific individuals whom He had called to prophecy to His people. They would communicate His will, His warnings, and His promises to His people. We are familiar with these prophets through the various recorded writings in Scripture attributed to them and about them. The Old Testament also mentions numerous false prophets who were not anointed by God and did not speak for Him, such as Noadiah found in Nehemiah 6:14, or Hananiah found in Jeremiah 28, and several others. They were proven wrong by the actual anointed prophets of God.
In the Gospel according to John, we read about Jesus telling His disciples that He after He left, He would ask the Father to send them another advocate. He would send the Spirit of truth, which is the Holy Spirit who would dwell with them and in them (John 14:16-17). All those who know and love the Lord Jesus have the Holy Spirit within them. The Holy Spirit is a direct connection to the Father, and He can speak to you just as He did with the prophets of old, except now He doesn’t need to “come upon” you as He did in the Old Testament, he is already within you. And being God, He will always speak the truth – always.
I also said that just because someone says they have a word from the Lord, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right, or that they are being prophetic. Sometimes our thoughts are just that, our thoughts. Just as in days gone by, if you or someone else thinks they have a word from the Lord, it must be tested. All the prophecies from the Biblical prophets listed in the Old Testament were proved correct and were scripturally sound. If you believe you have a message from God, you must test it thoroughly (1 Thessalonians 5). Pray for confirmation; ensure it aligns with scripture; seek advice from mature Christians. The Holy Spirit who lives within you will not lead you into sin; He will not contradict Scripture; He will not promote division; He will not glorify Himself; and He will not lead to confusion. If the message fails any of these tests, it is not from God, and we are not being prophetic in that instance. However, just because one message might prove to be not from God, doesn’t mean that the next one might not be either. Any message you believe is from God must be tested and if it passes, it may be prophetic, and you could share it with your Pastor or with whomever God leads you.
Questions: Have you ever felt a message from God that proved to be prophetic? How did you prove it? Did you act on it? What was the result?
1. Read Deuteronomy 18:14-22. In popular culture, “prophet” and “prophecy” mean predicting the future. In the Bible prophets do much more. Name at least three other things prophets in the Old Testament do besides predict future events.
2. From Deuteronomy 18:14-22, we can build a “working definition” from what Moses says about prophets. As you read this, are there any surprises, or aspects of prophecy you didn’t know about?
• God raises up prophets, as he did Moses. Prophets are not self appointed.
• God puts his own words in the prophet’s mouth. Our own human words do not count as prophecy.
• The prophet will tell Israel everything that the Lord God commands them to say. Therefore, the prophet must be heeded.
• Those who do not heed the prophet’s message will be held to account by God.
• Anyone who presumes to speak a word that God has not commanded, or has spoken in the name of other gods, will be put to death.
• One test of a prophet is whether or not what the prophet says actually happens or not.
• If a prophet says such and such will happen, but it does not, that is a false prophet, and we need not be alarmed about it.
(Optional question: which of these apply to New Testament prophets, or Christian prophecy today? Which don’t?)
3. Why were pagans gods/idols/cults such a threat to Israel? Why couldn’t Israel just “live and let live”?
4. Read I Kings 19:9b-18. Elijah is in crisis. He is on the run for his life from Jezebel, whose prophets he has killed. He flees deep into the desert, to Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Since God already knows, why does God ask him that? Why is it a good question for God to ask us in a crisis? What do you think of Elijah’s repeated answer?
5. In Exodus 19, God met Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai, and spoke to them from the mountaintop out of thunder, lightning, thick cloud and smoke, the mountain trembled and a great trumpet sounded, as he gave Moses the Ten Commandments. When Elijah is at the same mountain, at I Kings 19:11-13, God was not in the mighty wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Instead came a still small voice, a gentle whisper. Why are these so different? What can we learn from this about how God reveals himself to us?
6. When God spoke to Elijah, God gave the prophet 3 new tasks, to anoint two kings and to anoint his own successor, Elisha, as prophet. But before he is swept up to heaven, Elijah only accomplishes the 3rd one. Why did God do this? Personal question: has God given you a “life task” to complete?
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1: 7 (KJV)
“For as a he thinketh in his heart, so he is.” Proverbs 23: 7a (KJV)
Last Sunday we resumed our focus on our Triune God, specifically upon the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. I detailed the following characteristics of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is God – 2 Cor. 3: 17-18, Is. 40: 13, Gen. 1: 2; He is a Person –John 16: 13-14; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son – John 14: 16-17a & 16: 14 – 15; and the Holy Spirit gives life – Job 33: 4 & John 6: 63, 3: 5-8. It was my focus upon how the Holy Spirit empowers our life as His children that seems to have connected most with you and that I will build upon today.
The Holy Spirit Empowers Life
Once we acknowledge our need of God in our hearts the opportunity is there for us to repent and put our trust in Him through faith in Jesus Christ and God’s grace. Repentance leads to re-birth and re-entry into God’s Kingdom. This brings about the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38) who then enters our hearts and makes His dwelling within us (1 Cor. 3: 16); we become a new creation (2 Cor. 5: 17). I then explained how the Holy Spirit takes from God and makes His truth and thoughts known in our hearts; we can begin to think like Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2: 12 & 16). The Holy Spirit then imparts God’s wisdom and understanding to us which helps us know His will (Col. 1: 9). God then causes us to act and will in line with His purposes (Phil. 2:13).
How does this work in practice and reality? The more time we spend in His Word, in prayer and with our brothers and sisters the more we grow. God calls us His children (1 John 3: 1) and we begin our new life in Him as spiritual babes; we need to grow (1 Peter 2: 2). It is in these spiritual practices that we get to know God more and grow in Him – like any other relationship. The more we think about what is right, pure, noble and praiseworthy (Phil. 4: 8), the more we have a mind of peace (Roms. 8: 6), the more we have the mind of Christ. This changes us to be more like Jesus and impacts what we do in a cycle of blessing.
The Proverb listed above tells us that what we think about ourselves, so we are. This can range from positive to negative, from arrogance to humility, from love to hate. God is calling us to see our true selves as His children, our identity in Him. He has given us His Holy Spirit, and in so doing enables us to have His empowerment, love and sound mind (2 Tim. 1: 7). So, how do you think about yourself? How might you take these thoughts under control until they are obedient to Christ so that they bless you and give you peace (2 Cor. 10: 5)? God loves us deeply and desires to have peace with us and to impart His peace to us. Let’s learn to think like Jesus.
Sound Mind – Melissa Helser
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.