Fight With A Strength Not Your Own

 

It does not make any sense to me or to those looking on from the outside. The storm is attacking from every side. Like the wind that hit the house of Job’s children, it is striking all four corners of my life and is attempting to beat me into submission, but in the midst of it all, I have joy. This storm may perplex me, but I will not be abandoned. Though I am struck down, I will not be destroyed.

Those of you who know your Savior, understand what I am talking about. If the darkness of your sin has had to flee because of the light of Jesus, you know that your greatest groanings have been relieved. I once lived under the condemnation of the law, and I was awakened to my depravity. It is much more grievous than I ever realized. This great burden weighed me down to such a degree that I could not lift my head. The burden of sin was not merely something that was attached to me; it was me. Any attempt to remove it was insufficient, until the day when he lifted my head to look at his cross. At that moment the wrath of God was removed, and I became a child of God.

In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, I am grieved with manifold heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). It is the testing of my faith, and the testing of that faith will be found to the praise and glory and Savior Jesus Christ. This Joy cannot be removed by pain. It cannot be removed by sorrow, and despair cannot quench it.

On top of the joy found in the redemption of my sins, I know that our Lord is sovereign over my trials. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, which is a comfort and a conflict. It is a comfort because I know these difficulties I am facing are not accidents. They are perfectly planned by the God of wisdom who makes no mistakes, and I know if he gave his life to save me, he will also be good to me even in the midst of these trials.

The conflict is this, how do you fight against the hand of God in your trials when you know that there is nothing you can do to alter his divine purposes? If nothing can stay his hand, what could my fighting do? There was a temptation at first to resign myself to these trials, but this Joy I am experiencing is telling me otherwise. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and it is leading me to fight.

Though he is sovereign over the battle I am facing, he is also equipping me with strength for the battle (2 Samuel 22:40). He has not called us to despair; he has called us to strength. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9), even in the midst of God-ordained trials. In fact, if it were not for the affliction he allows in our life, we would never know the extent of the strength he can give us. Once we get a glimpse of it, we exalt him all the more, which increases our joy and our strength.

So I will fight with a strength that is not my own. My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Therefore, lift your drooping hands, and strengthen your weak knees so that what is out of joint may be healed (Hebrews 12:12). The battle belongs to the Lord. Seek him and his strength. Seek his presence continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). He will equip you with strength for the battle. You will find a power not your own, and that which rises against you, will sink beneath you (1 Chronicles 16:11).

D. Eaton

 

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Google Maps Captures a Fight of Faith Moment

I never expected this, but here we are. Of all things, Google Maps has provided a glimpse behind the scenes of one of the most popular posts on this blog. I recently wrote a post called Our Quiet Times Are Rarely As They Appear. In that post, I anonymously wrote myself into the story about a man who is sitting on his front porch reading scripture, and how there is much more happening than what you can see.

Yesterday I looked up my address on Google Maps, and in the providence of God, they have captured that moment. The picture at the top of this post is the screen capture from Google. I cannot say if this picture was on the exact day I wrote that post, but I know it was close. I remember seeing the Google car go by and thinking, “I wonder if they just took my picture.”

Of course, there is more going on than what you can see in the picture. If you want to know the deeper reality, you will need to read the post. I wrote it because I believe this is something with which most Christians can relate.

D. Eaton

 

 

Strive Against Spiritual Sluggishness

And while [Lot] lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. Gen. 19:16

Here we find Lot in the final moments before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The warnings had been clear, and Lot had not doubted the truthfulness of those threatenings. Yet in the final moments before the destruction, as Lot is told to escape with his life, he lingers as if unable to move. Calvin says this regarding Lot’s lingering, “His tardiness is truly wonderful, since, though he was certainly persuaded that the angels did not threaten in vain, he could yet be moved by no force of words until he is dragged by their hands out of the city.”

What caused him to linger? Matthew Poole estimates that“He lingered, either through lothness to part with all his estate, or to lose his sons-in-law; or through astonishment and distraction of mind, which made him both listless and impotent.” Whatever it was, Lot was powerless to move on his own, and this seems to be the experience of us all from time to time when the Lord, through his Word, has told us to move. Whether it is a sin with which we hate to part, or God’s leading in a new direction, many times we are sluggish.

God has told us to press on in His word, to be conformed to his image, and to do all He has commanded us. The thunderous warnings of the destruction of everything contrary have rung in our ears as He has told us to flee the wrath to come. Along with the thundering of destruction that pushes us from behind, we have the beauty of Christ before us, compelling us to come, yet so often we sit lifelessly.

As Matthew Henry so aptly put it, “Thus many that are under some convictions about the misery of their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, yet defer that needful work, and foolishly linger.” But praise God Lot’s story does not end there, and neither does ours, for God was merciful to him as the angels grabbed him by the hand and brought him out of the city to safety.

Are there areas in your life which hinder your growth in the things of the Lord? Do you know the Lord has called you to remedy a certain aspect of your life, yet you sit idle, making no progress in spiritual things? If so, be prepared, for if you are a true child of God who is unmoved even though you have heard His word, He will use other means to get you to move. Whatever inordinate loves keep you motionless may be forcefully removed, forcing you to make steps onward in your journey to the Celestial City. Calvin makes the point clear when he says,

“For so it is often necessary for us to be forcibly drawn away from scenes which we do not willingly leave. If riches, or honors, or any other things of that kind, prove an obstacle to anyone, to render him less free and disengaged from the service of God, when it happens that he is abridged of his fortune, or reduced to a lower rank, let him know that the Lord has laid hold of his hand; because words and exhortations had not sufficiently profited him.”

Let us never forget that even the more forceful means the Lord uses to speed us along to conform to the image of Christ is done in mercy, for it would have been no injustice had He left us in our impotent state to partake in the destruction that we refused to flee. Has the Lord been calling you to surrender some sin? Has he been prompting you by His Holy Spirit to live a life in greater service to Him than the worldly pleasure you now serve? Or is he simply calling you to spend more time in the prayerful study of His Word, which is so often neglected? Whatever it may be, we all have enough sluggishness in us that we should, with all earnestness, strive against it. And may the words of this devotion be the means God uses to move us on, for if mere words are not enough, in His mercy, He will lay his hands on His child.

D. Eaton

Take A Stand Against Error – J. Gresham Machen

Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.

Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an address. In it he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul’s teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn.

In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the Church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the Church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth.

J. Gresham Machen-

The Deeps

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

The Valley of Vision

Sanctified Affliction Seldom Seems Sanctified

One of the great prayers from the Valley of Vision, a collection of old puritan prayers, says this, “No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If thou, oh Lord, should give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sin, or to have them burnt away with trials, give me sanctified affliction.”

We see this idea of sanctified affliction throughout Scripture. We hear cries in the Bible that say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word,” and “It was good that I was afflicted so that I might learn Your statutes.” Many of us have gone through difficult times in our life, and it may not have been the direct result of sin, but when we come out of it, we see that the Lord has changed us for the better. He has removed some pride or some other sins with which we struggled, and He has drawn us closer to Him because of it.

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It is important for us to understand this idea of sanctified affliction, because if we do not know that God is doing something good in our life with affliction, we will be without hope. The sovereignty of God in our trials is a glorious truth we must comprehend, but when you are in the midst of sanctified affliction, it may not seem sanctified. In fact, it may feel like utter darkness.

If you find yourself there, this is where I want to encourage you. The Lord, for some reason, has seen fit to allow you to go through a dark and difficult time, but what you are seeing during this is more and more of your sinfulness. The deeper the trial seems to go, the deeper and more profound your sense of sin. Because of this you think, this cannot be sanctified affliction because sanctified affliction is supposed to be moving me forward in holiness, but I seem to be more and more awakened to my sinfulness in this trial.

I want to encourage you since that is precisely what we should expect because what the Lord is doing, is He is drawing the dross to the surface and bringing it to your attention. Before, when you were comfortable and at peace, all these areas of sin did not really bother you much, but now you cannot help but see them. When I have gone through times like this, God allowed me to see how sinful I was when I was comfortable, which was part of the trial. In reality, it was probably the darkest part of the affliction, but God was bringing the dross to the surface of my life to wipe it away.

If you are there, this is where you need to take heart. Our God is a good God. If you have confessed Him in faith and trusted in His sacrifice on the cross, He says, “You are mine. I will never leave you. I will never lose you.” Jesus is the perfect shepherd, and He makes no mistakes.

If you find yourself there, keep moving forward in obedience. You may not feel peace for quite some time, but take the advice of John Owen when he said, “See in the meantime that your faith brings forth obedience, and God in due time will cause it to bring forth peace.” At that point, you will find that your peace will be deeper than you ever imagined.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 11:67

D. Eaton

Other Posts on God’s Work in Affliction

Longing to Die Yet Eager to Live

As mentioned in an earlier post, there are tensions in the Christian life which are the direct result of knowing Jesus. These are tensions we are meant to feel. They seem to be two desires pulling us in two different directions, but in reality, they are two balancing forces driving us toward holiness and happiness. One of these tensions is the desire to depart and the eagerness to live. Paul expressed it this way.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.- Philippians 1:22-26

Every believer will long to die and be with God from time to time. Conflicts, persecutions, and illnesses can cause us all to long for home, and during those times, we are often more willing to depart than usual. The problem is, if we only long to die and be with our Savior in times of trouble, then maybe we desire to avoid difficulty more than we desire to be with Christ.

When the scriptures talk about longing to die, they are talking about our desire to be with Jesus, and this yearning should be something that is steady in times of pleasure as well as in times of pain. To be with Christ should be our daily desire, and if going through the door of our enemy death is the only way, then death becomes our hope.

At the same time, we are to be eager to live, because to live is also Christ. Every moment of life, whether it be lived in weakness or strength, pain or pleasure, or joy or sorrow, can be a testament to our glorious Savior. Some of the greatest men and women of the faith were men and women who lived in constant weakness and hardship, yet their lives were beacons pointing the world to Jesus.

Since Christ is both our desire to depart and our desire to live, we should never desire one more than the other. Both longings provide us with a balance that keeps us steady. To desire death more than life is to neglect Christ’s work in this world through our lives and shows us that personal peace is more important to us than Christ. At the same time, desiring life over death produces a fear of dying which indicates that being with Christ may not be our true desire.

Both the fear of death and the desire to die to escape difficulties to the neglect of our calling shows us that Christ is not our greatest hope. Both of these errors will produce a discontentment in us which will be revealed in times of trouble. During those times, we will be tempted to seek our answers outside of Christ. Only if Christ is our greatest longing will we both long to die and be eager to live, and in that we will find joy in any situation.

For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

D. Eaton

 

Longing for Home

For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. Gen. 49:18

In our text we see Jacob, who is coming to the end of his life, prophesying over his sons; the twelve tribes of Israel. As we read the text, we can see him propped up in bed weak from age, blessing his sons with perfect accuracy as to what God had planned for them. As he finished blessing Dan and was ready to bless Gad, we see a man weary of his travels in this world show his true desire, which was to end his waiting and be with his Lord.

Salvation had been his since God established a covenant with him. After that, there was never any doubt that Jacob had salvation, or that the promise would be fulfilled, but being saved in the land of our sojourn is not the same as reaching the land of promise. No peace on this earth, though it is wonderful at times, will ever compare to having our destination reached and our salvation complete.

Let us learn from Jacob, who at this point in his life was living comfortably in the land of Goshen. Jacob and his family had all they needed as they lived in Egypt’s finest land. This time of peace would have been a needed retirement for a man who, by God’s sovereign decree, had been through many rough waters, but even though he is in a pleasant land, we find his desire is to go home.

Waiting is never easy, even in our lands of Goshen, but God has promised to satisfy our desire. He has promised to complete the work He has started in us, but it is all in His time. What we do not want to do is become so comfortable that we forget we are waiting for something better, or to become so overwhelmed by affliction that we cannot see the Celestial City waiting at the other end of the dark valley.

Though some may have all the comforts of this world, and others may be in times of affliction, together we wait for this one desire to be fulfilled. Let us, in the middle of our God-given work, speak our deepest desire. Let us, whether we are in the land of famine or the land of plenty, make our longing to be with our Father known.

The world in all its pleasure,
Nor pain in all its measure,
Will change my one desire,
His salvation to acquire.

D. Eaton

The Mormon Challenge to Seeker Churches

“[Approximately] 75-80 percent of Mormon converts come from specifically Protestant background. A well-known saying within LDS circles, based on the average size of a Baptist church in America, is “We baptize a Baptist church every week.” Whatever the actual figures are, the fact is that far more people convert to Mormonism from evangelical churches than vice versa. Second, given the current levels of biblical and theological literacy in evangelical churches and the kinds of converts produced by certain segments of the church growth movement, I am skeptical that evangelicalism is growing in the right kind of way to stave off groups like the Mormons. An increasingly theologically illiterate laity and an entertainment-focused pastoral ministry opens wide the doors of opportunity for Mormonism and other heterodox movements to attract converts from our churches.”

~Carl Mosser The New Mormon Challenge~

When God’s Love Hurts

But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries. 2 Chronicles 12:8

In this verse, we find the nation of Judah in a humbling position. King Rehoboam had only been king of Judah for five years, but in that five years, he had forsaken the law of the Lord. Because of this unfaithfulness, the Lord sends Shishak, King of Egypt to capture the fortified cities of Judah. The Lord then says to King Rehoboam, “You have forsaken me, so I have forsaken you to Shishak”, and what we see next is faith revived, for they humbled themselves and said, “the Lord is righteous.”

Too often we take disobedience lightly, and most people do not like to talk about the times they have been under God’s rod of discipline, and you can understand why. With so much theology pushing for the elusive mountaintop experience, and Christian pop psychology teaching us “How to manage our emotions” or “How to find the champion within,” a Christian could feel like quite the failure in many of today’s churches to acknowledge that God’s discipline is upon them.

We must, however, see this for what it is. To be under the heavy hand of God is a blessing because the Lord only disciplines those He loves. In this text we see His discipline had a specific purpose: to teach. There are many things we must be taught by the hand of the Lord for our hearts are deceitful and prone to wander, but our Shepherd knows how to lead us. When we learn the difference between His service and the service of the prince of this world, we find that His yoke is easy and His burden in light.

There is also the unfortunate fact that many people live their lives based on subjective feelings and do not live according to the Word of God. They feel that they are spiritual because they get goosebumps during their worship service, but they are living in sin and feel no remorse about it. Living in disobedience with warm affections in worship is a much worse place to be than under the rod of God’s discipline.

Today, if you find yourself under God’s Rod of discipline, humble yourself, and know that He is righteous. Don’t try to run, for it is God’s love that is dealing with you, not His condemnation. Praise Him for He is good, and if the world looks down on you because you have been brought low, and if many in the church are too busy chasing affluence under the guise of Christianity to understand, remember victory is yours because He is your shepherd. It is God’s grace that teaches us these crucial lessons, and we know “the broken and contrite He will never turn away.” Praise God, for He disciplines those He loves, we are kept by the power of God, and we will never be lost.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. -Hebrew 12:4-11 

D. Eaton

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