10. Promises of Empowerment in Suffering, Deliverance and Provision

#1 – Future Glory (Romans 8:18-19)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

In 57 AD, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, assuring them that our sufferings in this life are not comparable to the glory we will experience in the age to come. Just as we experience suffering within ourselves now, Paul says the coming glory also “will be revealed in us.”

But the glory will not be manifested in us alone. It will also be seen throughout creation itself, as Paul declares: “creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” This statement makes it clear that the coming glory is not merely an escape plan for us alone or some kind of eternal spiritual bliss we will experience individually. It will be instead the victorious return of the physically resurrected children of God into a renewed creation - ruling here in glory and victory.

However, Paul makes it explicitly clear that this is a future state, and our current reality is very different. Right now we experience “sufferings”. We are not given a promise, but a perspective. We are not told that if we pray and have faith, these sufferings will be removed in this present age. Instead, we are given a perspective that we can use to anchor our souls. We are commanded to never imagine that what we suffer now could possibly outweigh the blessings we will receive in time to come. We must remember that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory” promised for our future.

So, what kind of sufferings might Paul be referring to when he talks about things we will face in the present age, that are completely insignificant in light of God’s plans and purpose for us? He provides a few examples from his own life and from those he ministered to.

With far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. - 2 Corinthians11:23-28

[Paul and Barnabus] returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. - Acts 14:21-22

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:37-39

These passages list some of the sufferings Paul and others faced, and also reveal his attitude toward those sufferings, based on his confidence in the security in God’s rest. In his soul, Paul knew both that he was serving the Lord now and that he would be rewarded in eternity when the Lord’s glory was manifested in him.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8

I am not ashamed, for 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

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

#2 – Strength in Weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 12:8-10

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about a specific affliction. It could have been physical, mental, or emotional. It could have involved opposition from unbelievers, Satan, or his own sin nature. Three times Paul went to the Lord in prayer and made the same request. Three times the Lord said something to the effect of, “No”. However, the Lord also graciously explained that, “My grace is sufficient.”

There was no need to resolve Paul’s present affliction or weakness, since God was manifesting his divine power in that situation - instead of letting him rely on his own limited human power.

There is human strength that can manifest as:
  • power of the will, such as determination
  • physical strength such as endurance running
  • power of the intellect, such as unraveling the mysteries of chemistry

We would all like to excel in these and similar areas of strength for several reasons - our own benefit, service to others, and even to fulfill the Lord’s purpose for our lives. So it is natural that when we lose the power of our will, our physical strength, or our intellect we will seek the Lord to have our human power restored. If we desire greater self-determination, physical power, or intelligence we definitely should seek God’s help. And we are right to do so, since we are told in Scripture to bring all of our needs and requests to the Lord:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6

Despite this command, sometimes the Lord’s plan is not to give you greater human strength, but to give you instead confidence that he is working alongside your limited human ability to achieve his purpose. I suppose it would be much like standing trapped against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army rushing out to destroy you - and all you have is a staff. In Moses’ case, the staff was not nearly sufficient to do what was needed, so the Lord came alongside him and his staff and parted the Red Sea.

It is very important for us to consciously realize that the very next verse - Philippians 4:7 - does not say, “And, behold, the Lord shall pour out all the things you asked for and fulfill every request you made.”

Philippians 4:7 promises instead that in response to you making your requests known to God, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In other words, go to the Lord in prayer in your time of need, trust him, and refuse to leave the stronghold of God’s rest that is identified here as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”. This place of “faith rest” or “peace that passes understanding” will guard your soul from being conquered by the fears of this life.

Remember, God’s power is made perfect in your weakness. The Greek word for “perfect” is a form of the word teleo which means “to bring to an end”, “to complete”, “to fulfill”. God’s power is fulfilled and completed in our weakness.

It is no wonder that Paul rushes to rejoice in that place of rest when he celebrates God’s provision saying: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul was secure in the strong tower of his soul in God’s rest.

#3 – Everything Leads You to God’s Goodness (Romans 8:28)

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

As has often been pointed out, this verse does not say “all things are good.” Paul is saying instead that “God is working for the good in all things” and he is doing this for those who love him and are in line with his plans and purposes. To benefit from God’s working for good in all things we must love God and be able to process things according to his purpose. We are going to have to remain in the place of faith rest while trusting God’s promise that he is good and will work out all things for good. “All things” would include even things that we consider to be bad or we know to be evil. In all things God is working for the good of those who love him.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.-Romans 8:37

This promise is one of the foundation stones of the fortress of your faith rest tower. Independent of whether things are good or bad - and independent of whether or not you have perfect understanding of a situation - you can know for certain that God is currently active to use this very moment in your life for your good. This fact needs to be solidly established in your soul before the storm of life hits. Then, when the various storms of life do strike, you will be able to stay in God’s rest while looking out the window of your strong fortress at the winds and the waves - all the while knowing that even in the midst of this turmoil the Lord is working for your good as his plans and purposes move closer and closer to completion.

There is, though, a clear condition in this verse. A person is disqualified from the benefits of God’s good work in all things if that person does not love God, or if that person’s will is not in line with God’s calling and purpose.

#4 – Rescued from Every Evil Attack (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. - 2 Timothy 4:17-18

Paul wrote this verse in 67 AD when he was an old man and a prisoner of the Roman Empire, being held in the Mamertine Prison in the city of Rome. The Mamertine Prison was originally dug as a cistern around 625 BC to access a spring of water. By Paul’s time it had been converted into a dungeon where prisoners were held or detained until their court case was finalized.

This was not the same detention that Paul suffered in Rome during 60-62 AD. At that time, Paul was detained under a much more comfortable house arrest and stayed in his own rented house.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. - Acts 28:30

Paul records in 2 Timothy that in 67 AD he had already appeared before Nero’s imperial court to present his case:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. - 2 Timothy 4:16-17

Paul was detained in the filthy Mamertine dungeon, where he would have been lowered in through an opening above. There were surely other prisoners being detained there. All waste, sewage, and the corpses of prisoners who died inside would have been washed from this dungeon through the sewer system of Rome (called the Cloaca Maxima) that connected the Mamertine dungeon to the Tiber River about a quarter mile away.

Paul was confident that he would be sentenced to be executed when he appeared before Nero’s court to hear the verdict of his case. He writes to Timothy:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.- 2 Timothy 4:6

Since Paul was a Roman citizen his execution would have been by decapitation in a place about 5 miles south of the Mamertine prison, outside the city limits on the Via Ostia. Based on early church history, tradition and archaeology, after the execution, Paul’s body was taken about 1.5 miles back toward the city and buried in an above ground cemetery on property belonging to Lucina, the woman who buried him.

Since Paul wrote “the time of my departure has come” - and we know that Paul was executed sometime between the fall of 67 AD and the spring of 68 AD - we can be quite certain that Paul was not anticipating physical deliverance from Nero when he wrote:

I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. - 2 Timothy 4:18

A casual reading of this verse could lead a person to assume that Paul was referring to physical deliverance from persecution, or any other form of evil intended by Nero. But, Paul was not referring to physical deliverance in this text. Obviously, Paul’s goal in life was not to escape death. No one escapes death. Paul’s goal in life was to fulfill the Lord’s plans and purpose for his life, which had long been clearly identified for Paul. The Lord had told Ananias:

This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. - Acts 9:15

And, according to Paul’s own account given in 59 AD in Caesarea to Governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II, it was the Lord who told Paul that he was being sent to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel to them:

I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. - Acts 26:17-18

Paul’s mission was to reach the Gentiles with the Word of God. Paul was appointed and empowered to do this by God, but Satan, the lion, would attack all of Paul’s efforts. Just as the birds in the parable of the sower came immediately to steal the seed of the Word that was scattered on the road (Matt. 13:4, 19), so Satan would try to destroy, intimidate, censor, discourage, and stifle the seeds of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Paul had plenty to fear in the natural world - including confinement in the Mamertine Prison, intimidation in the presence of Emperor Nero’s court, execution, and much more.

All of these evil attacks were real and designed by the prowling lion, Satan, to make Paul quit proclaiming the message of salvation to the Gentile world. Paul was a strong-willed man before he became a believer and remained so after he placed faith in Christ. But Paul’s human strength and determination by themselves would collapse under the pressure of the spiritual forces of evil. Paul needed a place of protection and support. Paul needed to abide in God’s rest.

In this place of rest, the fortress of Paul’s soul would be unconquerable no matter what kind of evil attack he was subjected to. And, from that same place of rest, Paul would be able to launch a counter attack by fully proclaiming to everyone in Nero’s court the knowledge of God.

In this way Paul would be tearing down strongholds in the minds of the Gentiles who heard his words. The arguments and high thoughts of evil that stood opposed to the knowledge of God would begin to crumble. The Lord stood by Paul’s side and delivered Paul from every evil attack by giving him confidence, endurance, and fearlessness in the face of evil. Because of this, the Lord’s message was fully proclaimed to begin tearing down the strong towers of false philosophies and corrupt realities that evil had built in the souls of the Gentiles.

#5 – Endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2

Each of us is called by the Lord to “run…the race that is set before us”. Jeremiah’s ministry was compared to a race (Jer. 12:5), and Jesus himself had a race to run that included going to the Cross. Before Jesus went to his Cross he had told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

To successfully “run..the race marked out for us”, and to “take up our cross” we will need endurance. Even Jesus is said to have “endured the cross.” We will also have to endure, so that we might take up our own cross and finish our race.

The word used twice in Hebrews 12:1-2 for “endurance” (“run with endurance”) and “endured” (“endured the cross”) is hupomone in the Greek. The word hupomone means “a remaining behind” and “a patient endurance.” The idea of this word is to hold your ground even when everyone else retreats - and to continue under the load, continuing the work until it is finished.

While running the race of faith, opposition and struggles to overcome are guaranteed. To finish his work of the Cross, we are told that Jesus had to “despise the shame” of the temporal situation that was crushing in on the strong tower in his soul. Jesus endured the shame of the Cross because in the fortress of his soul he had the knowledge of God that continually revealed to him the fullness of joy that awaited him on the other side.

We are told to consider Jesus as we struggle to endure the race set before us, because Jesus is an example of how to face difficulties and endure to the end by understanding the promise of future joy and glory. There are two additional pieces of knowledge in Christ that will empower us to secure our place in God’s rest while we endure and finish our race.

The first is that Jesus is the “founder” of our faith. The word “founder” comes from the Greek word archegos meaning “originator”, “author”, or “leader”. The word archegos is a compound word in the Greek made from two words: arxe meaning “the first” and ago meaning “to lead”. Together arxe-ago literally means “the first to lead”. This word identifies the first in a long line of followers. The archegos is the person who begins the trail or the movement. Jesus is the one who established the race we are running and is the one who set us on the race course. He himself has already run the course, cleared the path, and won the race. Now we are following his path, and it is one that leads us also to victory - but only if we endure, stay on course, and finish the race.

The second is the second word used to describe Jesus, identifying him as the “perfecter” of our faith. The Greek word for “perfecter” is teleiotes meaning “a completer” and “a finisher”. Jesus has victoriously completed the race, and he reaches back to empower us to do likewise. To access the power he offers us, we need to continue to endure.

So, we see that Jesus has established the course, cleared the way, endured the shame, finished the race, and now holds the key to victory. And having done it himself, he now sets us on that same course and has empowered us to finish for the same victory. We only need to endure - which means we need to continue running even when others stop. We must remain at work and carry the load until the job is finished.

Endurance is not listed specifically as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, but it is something we can attain in the place of rest as we trust the knowledge of God. Just as you can increase your physical running endurance with training, running races and testing your progress, so steadfastly running “with endurance the race marked out for us” in God’s plan and purpose will continue to produce more and more spiritual endurance (hupomone) in us.
Endurance is the ability to maintain concentration and remain in God’s rest as we continually trust him. This is exactly what James says:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (Greek: hupomone). - James 1:2-3

As you remain at rest, trusting the Lord, the testing of your faith will produce more and more endurance, which will then enable you to continue to wait in faith for the Lord even more. Not only does the testing of your faith increase your ability to use your faith, it also proves the genuineness of your faith, as Peter writes:

Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 1:6-7

So continue to endure and remain in the rest of God as you trust his word, because when Jesus Christ returns and is fully revealed in the reality of his creation, you will receive praise, glory and honor from the Lord himself.

#6 – The Appointed Time…Wait for It (Habakkuk 2:3)

The vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.- Habakkuk 2:3

At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. - Psalm 75:2

He has set a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead. - Acts 17:31

Justice is part of God’s good character. Judgment of rebellion, sin, and evil is the logical result of the Goodness of God. The challenging part of this logic is that some judgment will take place in time, but other judgment is reserved for a future day. Paul makes this clear in his first letter to Timothy:

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. - 1 Timothy 5:24-25

And we know that rewards and promises work in a similar way. Some promises and blessings occur in this life, while other promises and rewards are reserved for later when God’s plan and purpose have been fulfilled.

Since this is true concerning both the judgment of evil and the fulfillment of God’s promises, we are told in the Bible to “wait for it.”

If it seems slow, wait for it; It will surely come; it will not delay. - Habakkuk 2:3

The Lord will judge good and evil with equity, but this will not take place fully until “the set time” (Ps. 75:2). Remain in God’s rest knowing all will be judged and all will be fair, and that we are all waiting for the “appointed time” (Hab. 2:3), for he “has set a day” (Acts 17:31) - a day on which he “will judge with equity” (Ps 75:2) and “will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Even while waiting, we must not become bitter or skeptical. We must understand that “the vision awaits its appointed time.”

We are all waiting for fulfilled promises and rewards, just as we are all waiting for judgment and a personal evaluation in the future. Today we can remain in God’s rest knowing that “it will surely come; it will not delay.” But, for now we are told to “wait for it.”

#7 – God Controls Government and Nations (John 19:11)

You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.- Jesus to Pilate in John 19:11

There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.- Romans 13:1

The concept that God controls governments, nations and all the leaders of those nations may be the most relevant promise for our generation. Of course, all of God’s promises are important and beneficial for establishing the fortress of rest in our soul. But right now - as we transition into a dramatic phase of our postmodern and post-Christian Western World culture - we need to process this truth in a way we have not needed to before. Recognizing and keeping hold of truth must become a part of the daily maintenance of our faith rest life.
God established the institution of government (Gen. 9:5-6) and the institution of nations (Gen. 11:1-9) for the wellbeing of mankind on earth. Through these and the other institutions he has established, God provides order and structure for mankind on earth, and at the right time he will use them to bring history to its ultimate fulfillment - the Kingdom of God on earth under the leadership of the man the Lord Jesus Christ.

God will raise up the right leaders and nations to bring about his plans.

The main point for us is that we know and understand the promise that the Lord is ultimately in control of leaders and nations. God is using everything for his good purpose. All leaders and nations will be held accountable before God when he is finished using them for his purpose. These leaders and nations may or may not know the Lord. They may or may not intentionally serve the Lord. But, the truth of the matter is that they are serving him - intentionally or not - and they will all stand before him for judgment at the appointed time. With this in mind, David writes advice to the rulers of the world - for both those in his day and for every king in every nation that would follow after him:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.Blessed are all who take refuge in him.- Psalm 2:10-12

Indeed, the anger of the Son of God can flare up quickly, and those in rebellion to the Lord can perish as quickly as burning grass. History is riddled with instances of “the most powerful man in the world” falling from power in a moment. All leaders are serving God, but only those who take refuge in him will be blessed for their service. The others will vanish like vapor into eternity.

Psalm 2:10-12 should be engraved in the stone, hung in the hallways, and printed on the letterhead of the United Nations as an act of mercy to the kings and leaders of the nations today, because one day they will stand before the Son for evaluation and judgment.

Of course, there are several examples of this reality in Scripture, such as those below. In the first, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar in 603 BC that it was the Lord who brought him to power and caused nations to submit to him.

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. - Daniel 2:37-38

Jeremiah tells Nebuchadnezzar the same thing, but adds the duration of his time of dominion. It was to be limited by the Lord to three generations: Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC), Amel-Marduk (560-556 BC), and Nabonidus (556-539 BC).

It is I (the Lord) who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I (the Lord) give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave. - Jeremiah 27:5-7

Following those three generations, and after the Lord had punished Israel with 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the empire of Babylon itself would be punished for their iniquity.

Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands. - Jeremiah 25:12-14

Today’s leaders, governments and nations are likewise serving the Lord. When the Lord has used them for his purpose, they will be removed. Some may receive reward from the Lord, but many more will suffer temporal and eternal destruction.

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.- Daniel 2:21

We can understand this. The fact is the Lord is using leaders, governments, and nations for his purpose. We must trust in the goodness of God and know that some things are being set in motion, while other things had already been established long before we came on the scene. Some events and leaders have already been determined. When the Lord causes commotion, confusion, or chaos political opponents cry out against each other, “Conspiracy! Conspiracy!”

But, Isaiah is told that even if these social and political events look like the conspiracies of man, they are not. Often, the chaos and injustice that men may call “a conspiracy” are actually the judgments of God coming down on the people, leaders, and culture of a nation that God is punishing.

It is time to take this truth also into the strong tower of God’s rest in your soul. The Lord told Isaiah to avoid walking in the way of man, and warned him, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy.” It is the Lord you are to fear, not the so-called “conspiracies” of one political ideology against another. Honor the Lord as holy, fear him, and keep yourself in his place of rest.

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.…” - Isaiah 8:11-3

#8 – Understanding: The One Who Has, Will be Given More (Matthew 13:12)

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.- Matthew 13:11-13

If you have embraced the truth that has been revealed to you, then you are in a position to use your understanding to gain even more details about that truth. It is similar to learning the secrets of math.

If a student understands first grade math, then the second grade teacher can build on that knowledge to provide that student with more understanding. This process continues for as long as that student continues to add to his knowledge of mathematics. Eventually, the student will be able to use their understanding to resolve story problems, do equations, and even apply their math knowledge to other fields of study, such as chemistry, economics, and statistical analysis.

However, as often happens, the first grade student who doesn’t know their numbers from 1 to 100 will soon begin to struggle with even basic introductory math lessons. If the student fails to catch up academically and so never masters basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division there is very little hope of ever being able to process something as complex as a story problem. And as an adult that student may not even be able to understand their basic personal finances.

In Matthew 13:11-13, Jesus is saying that if you have received basic instruction concerning the kingdom of Heaven, then you have the foundation to hear and receive the “mysteries” or “secrets” of the kingdom of heaven as well. If you believe there is a God and you understand that God is good, you are ready to receive the next level of insight that God is revealing. You will then learn to see God in creation and in the written text of Scripture.

When Jesus spoke of these things he was building on the principles of theology that had already been built into the understanding of the Jewish people. Within that framework of understanding was the promise that the Messiah would come to Israel and to all mankind to deliver them. And Jesus was that Messiah.

If the people who heard Jesus speak understood his teaching about himself, they would be able to connect that knowledge to their previous understanding. They would then be ready to receive the next level of insight and be able to apply their new learning to their lives.

But, if they instead rejected it as false, then even the understanding they had would stop increasing, grow stagnant, and eventually become useless. And worse, their misunderstanding would be misapplied to their theology and then to their lives. Ultimately, even the lowest introductory levels of insight they had would be lost.

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! - Hebrews 5:12

Even today these truths remain relevant. If we embrace them we will be able to add to our learning. If we have received the promises of God and entered God’s rest by trusting the knowledge of God, then in this place of peace and trust we will be given more. We will find ourselves in a position to process “complicated equations” and apply the principles of faith-rest to all areas of our lives. Just like math is used in daily life and applied to multiple fields of study, so will our ever-growing understanding of God be applied in our daily lives in a multitude of ways.

If a person rejects the knowledge of God at the very beginning, or at any point along the path of growth, the process of applying God’s rest to life begins to unravel. Soon, even the little peace of mind that person has in Christ and the faith-rest in their soul will be gone.

To keep growing, you need to keep hearing.

#9 – Wisdom (James 1:5)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. - James 1:5

Discernment is one of the necessities of life. Everyday we have to evaluate situations, relationships, products and information (including the mainstream media’s non-stop news). There is a difference between knowing the hard facts and applying them. Life is not as easy as a true/false quiz. Life is more like a long rambling story problem in math class. In life, an answer to the question merely opens up the next level of the never-ending story problem.
Still, there certainly are some absolute true or false answers in life, because truth, reality, and God are all absolutes. But if you can’t pass the true/false quiz of God’s reality then you are not going to be able to pass the test of life either. To pass the test of life you will need wisdom to apply your true/false answers correctly.

Even when we know the right answers, sometimes the application of what is right involves a variety of variables such as timing, presentation, intensity, personality, situation, background, experience, and so on. This is definitely not justification for the false theories of situational ethics or moral relativism, but is instead an appeal for wisdom when applying absolutes.

This wisdom is available to the child of God who is abiding in the place of God’s rest. From this place of confidence, a believer can go to the Lord and ask God for wisdom and insight related to various situations, timing, personalities, options, etc. James tell us:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.- James 1:5

Of course, James is assuming you already know the Lord and understand truth - and that what you are lacking is clear discernment in how to use that knowledge. What you need is wisdom.

Once again God is not hiding. In fact, Solomon wrote:

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks.- Proverbs 1:20-21

If you need to understand reality, study Creation.
If you need to know truth, study the Scriptures.
If you need wisdom, ask God.

God’s voice is in the streets, and his Spirit is in your heart.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.- 1 Corinthians 2:12-14

10 – Empowered in Contentment: the Quadrants of Life (Philippians 4:11-13)

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Throughout the Scriptures we are told that God is good. Our definition of “good” could include synonyms like pleasant, pleasing, desirable, pain-free, or sought-after. However, when we study the verses that proclaim God as “good”, we see that part of God’s “good” activity toward us does not fall within our “pleasant and pleasing” definition. Things like testing, trying, examining, and sacrificing are also part of the goodness of God.

In Psalm 107, which begins and ends with statements attesting to the “goodness” of God, forty-three verses are laced with real life situations where the goodness of God has been manifested to people. Some of these people were lost and wandering, some had been subjected to bitter labor by God, others were caught in a storm sent by God, and some of them were suffering divine discipline for their rebellion against God. Although each group was in a different situation, and there for different reasons - some had rebelled, some had obeyed, some were guilty, some were innocent - they were all still living within the goodness of God.

The obvious truth is that God is doing something in our lives with the aim of changing us - and this is one of the things we must be taught. We were all at one time rebels and enemies of God, but were then saved by grace. Now that we have been delivered from death and sin, given eternal life, and seated in Christ in heavenly places, we are purposefully being transformed into his image.

The change is more than drastic. In fact, the radical nature of this change we are undergoing cannot be understated. We began as rebels against God who existed in a state of death - but are now being transformed into obedient sons who have been seated with Christ in constant fellowship with a holy God. A great transformation has begun, but it is far from over. We are all being changed even now.

In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul says he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” The phrase “learned the secret” is a technical term in Greek that refers to the process of initiation that would include more than merely attaining knowledge - it would also involve a sequence of life experiences.

The various situations of life are then listed by Paul, and form a quadrant. Paul says he has learned to be content when:
  • “well fed”
  • “hungry”
  • “in plenty”
  • “in want”

These four may seem redundant as translated in our English Bibles - as if saying “prosperity or poverty” twice over. But the tenses of the Greek verbs Paul uses in the text develop these pairs into quadrants that can categorize every situation in life.

The first prosperity phrase (“well fed”) is passive. This means Paul was the recipient, but not the doer of the verb. In other words he did not cause it to happen. This is also true for the poverty of the last phrase (“in want”), which is also in the passive, indicating that there were times Paul was in need that were out of his control. Paul did not deserve or cause the lack in this situation - it was given to him.

The other two phrases (“hungry” and “plenty”) are verbs in the active tense, meaning Paul did or created both of these situations in his life at some point in time.

All four of these words serve a purpose and demonstrate the manifestation of the goodness of God in our lives. You may be suffering undeservedly like Joseph - or deservedly like Samson. You may be prospering undeservedly like Solomon - or deservedly like Abraham.

But no matter which situation you are in now, one thing is true - God’s goodness will eventually take you to and through all four quadrants as part of his process of initiation, which includes both knowledge and experience. And in his strength, you can be content in any of them.

Once initiated (or once you have “learned the secret”), these truths can be applied to your own life. In whatever circumstances you find yourself, you will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens you!

This verse teaches us that after we have learned the secret of being content we will be able to manifest God’s purpose for us in any and every situation, regardless of what we have or do not have. If we do the work and accept what we are given, we will succeed. This is one of the ultimate and most advanced stages of God’s rest.

In contrast, this verse does not contain any humanistic meaning such as, “Whatever I set my mind to do I can do.” The power of Christ will not help you achieve anything your human will desires. The verse does not say, “The power of Christ is available for you to use however you want.” If God has not planned or purposed your intention, your human effort will not accomplish it. And even if you do achieve that goal, you will not find contentment in it, and the things you did to accomplish it may well destroy you.

My Image

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. - Hebrews 13:5

No matter what situation you find yourself in you can remain at rest in your soul knowing that the Lord will never leave you. You can do all things in any situation through Christ who strengthens you - independent of the resources or the position you have.

Here are some more promises of God’s ways to fortify your soul:
Knowing and trusting these promises will allow the believer to remain calm and confident in God’s rest.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13 – For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 54:17 – No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.

Psalm 32:8 – I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Psalms 37:23-24 – The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Exodus 14:14 – The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Philippians 4:19 – My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 34:17 – When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 50:15 – Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 9:9-10 – The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 103:2-5 – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

James 5:14-15 – Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Matthew 6:31-33 – Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Romans 8:31-35 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

2 Peter 1:3-4 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Psalm 91:1-2 – He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”