More Than Conquerers!

[This post is an adaptation of a similar post that I wrote a while back. I found it in my drafts this morning and I felt in my spirit that I should re-post it]

 

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10

One time, not too long ago, I was in a jam – financially, spiritually and virtually in every area of my life. Spiritually, I was hanging on by a thread, literally. I couldn’t pray and I couldn’t read my Bible. I would spend all of my devotion time looking into space. The worst time was when it came to ministering in church. I preached while looking at the clock, willing the time to pass quickly.

As my condition worsened, I soon found myself blaming myself for each one of the problems I was facing. As far as I knew I hadn’t done any express sin that warranted this downward spiral in my life. But I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason nothing seemed to be working in my life. Since I could not find no one to blame for my predicament, I blamed myself.

It was then that the Lord, out of mercy for me, came to my rescue in the most unexpected manner.

Early one morning, a brother 600 miles away called me at 6 o’clock in the morning. For the last three hours, I had been lying on my back worrying about all the problems I was going through. At the exact moment that the brother called me, I was just beginning to doze off in fatigue. You can therefore imagine that I was none too happy as I answered his call.

The brother had never called me that early in the morning, so I thought he had something important to tell me. But, as it turned out, he had absolutely nothing of any importance to tell me. After greeting me (which was the only thing he had called to do), he told me that he was rushing off to his job. He works as a casual construction laborer. Work was hard to find lately, he intimated to me, and life had become extremely hard.

“But”, he concluded brightly, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed!” Then he hung up.

It took me a split second to realize that the words this brother had waved me off with were direct scripture. Suddenly, I knew I had just spoken with God; or, rather, God had just spoken to me.

I shot out of bed like a bullet and hit all the lights in the house as I began making a frantic search for my Bible, which since the last Sunday service I had thrown into no-man’s land. When I finally located it, I almost tore out the pages as I feverishly scrambled to find the scripture. Deep in my heart, I knew it was exactly as I had heard it on the phone, but I just had to make double sure!

When I finally found the scripture, I sighed with relief – and unbounded joy! The scripture lay there before me, exactly as the brother had spoken it. I was literally trembling as I read the words.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (2 Cor. 4:8).

I knew, without a doubt, that the Lord was speaking to me. I read the phrase over and over again:

“… troubled on every side”.

“… on every side”.

The joy that Lazarus felt after resurrecting from the dead wouldn’t have lighted a candle to the exhilaration I felt as those words rolled over and over in my heart. On that particular morning, the biggest cloud ever lifted from my shoulders. I felt indescribably free and relieved! I realized the devil had been trying to show me that it was my fault that I was undergoing all these negative situations in my life. But the Lord came to my rescue by showing me through His Word that what I was going through was the perfectly normal Christian life! Trouble on every side!

“… troubled on every side”.

That talks of the many enemies that we have in the spirit world.

As I read on further, I realized this suffering was for a purpose.

“9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

It is for a purpose that we undergo these low times in our lives. God wants to deal with our flesh, to the end that the spiritual life of Christ might be manifested in us.

But, as you might imagine, the flesh is totally against this state of affairs occurring in our lives. Much of the time, it is like we want to have a ‘hedge fund’ in our spiritual lives. It is like we want to have the rights to lots and lots of breathing space. Somehow, it has been psyched into our minds that the Christian life ought to be a trouble-free life and that, at the very worst, God allows us to encounter only a few teeny weeny problems which we can easily brush aside while sucking on our chocolate bars.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it says that we shall be “troubled on every side”!

Jesus Himself said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

That is the greatest promise that we can hinge our hope on. He has overcome the world; and He lives in us. What a combination! No wonder the Apostle Paul, after listing many of the enemies that we shall encounter, concludes:

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).

Yes, in the face of much spiritual opposition, we are more than conquerers. What an incredible realization!

[Memories…]

Grace! – the Macedonian Example (Part 3)

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 2 Cor. 8:1-4

In this final part, we will include verse 5 of this portion of scripture, which is the foundation upon which all that is written therein is built. This discourse would be incomplete – indeed, it would be meaningless – without an understanding of this verse. Verse 5 reads: And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”

But first, let us consider verses 3 and 4. These verses tell us about the practical outcome of the grace of God that was bestowed upon the Macedonian churches. This is so important for us to understand.

These churches were very poor materially, but when they heard about the physical lack that the Jerusalem church was undergoing, because of the richness of the grace of God in their hearts, they immediately decided to share whatever they had with the brethren who were in need.

There is something very important that I want us to realize about what went on here. The Bible says: “3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift…”

I want us to arrive at the astounding conclusion that the Bible brings up here, which is that the Macedonians gave until they were left with nothing.

Paul says, “For to their power… and beyond their power”, they gave.

What do you think that means?

I believe it means these brethren gave as much as they could give. But then, because of the richness of their generosity, which was a result of the joy that was in their hearts, they decided, ‘No, that’s not enough.’

They then went back inside their houses and took the little they had put aside for themselves and their children and told Paul and the apostles, “Take even these!”

They were left with nothing.

I am sure they were preparing to pull out even their door frames and put them on the donkeys that Paul came with, and Paul was overwhelmed with the sheer incredulity of it all.

Why would they pray Paul “with much intreaty” to take of their goods? It is not common to see people imploring you to take their goods. In churches today, hundreds of programs have been promulgated to make people to give. Actually, it is a form of arm-twisting – and where this fails incentives are brought in!

Have you not heard, in church: “With your gift of a hundred dollars, you can become the proud owner of such and such a souvenir”, or, on the internet, “Click the link at the very top of this description, ‘like’ this site, and you could win great prizes…”

Such a language with the Macedonians would have been as alien as a Martian talking to a man from Earth.

The Bible says the Macedonians gave of their goods willingly, joyfully and cheerfully. “…they were willing of themselves”.

But the Macedonians were rich! They were rich in grace. They could afford to give liberally, almost luxuriantly.

I am sure the Macedonians intreated Paul because he most likely refused to take more of their goods, realizing that these people would be left with literally nothing!

But the consequence of the grace that they carried in their hearts is that they were more concerned about the poor saints in Jerusalem than they were about themselves. They were ready to go without, just so their brethren could have.

These Macedonians were willing to sacrifice themselves that others could live.

Elsewhere, Paul talks of Priscilla and Aquila, Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4).

Finally, let us look at the most important verse in this scripture, verse 5.

And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”

This is talking about revelation. Anyone can give, but if it is not a result of the revelation of the cross in their lives, such giving is not of the Spirit. This is so important for the church to understand, the fact that we need to give in the Spirit.

There are people who do things for worldly glory, or to satisfy their egos or, as we just saw, to profit in other ways. The gospel, on the other hand, has to do with losing our lives. Hence, the cross.

The revelation of the cross is the heart of the gospel. When we catch this revelation, we are willing to lose our lives for Christ. That is why the Apostle Paul would not preach any other gospel other than the gospel of the cross of Christ. The revelation of the cross in our hearts brings the grace of God into our hearts, and we can live the resurrection life, which is a life that has died in the natural, but is alive in the Spirit.

[Below: The Macedonians gave liberally!]

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Grace! – the Macedonian Example (Part 2)

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 2 Cor. 8:1-4

Grace is the church’s inheritance. The Bible says: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).

Grace is the inheritance that Jesus gave to the church. Isn’t it wonderful to have, or to own what Jesus bequeathed us?

That is why we cannot lightly “fly past” this scripture about the Macedonians. We must encamp there and see what went on with these blessed brethen.

Y’know, today, to a large extent, we do not have preachers of the gospel in church. Today what the church has is mostly worldly-minded motivational preachers. (In this group, unfortunately, there are also fraudsters and scoundrels of the basest sort). Now, motivational preachers will not talk to you about the grace of God. Grace is heavenly business and these men and women have nothing of heaven in their hearts. So they talk of this world. They will talk about the things of this world. They will talk about money and such-like things.

But I think it would have been rather stupid for Jesus to leave behind the glories of heaven and to come to earth to become a billionaire in some church! It would have been extremely ridiculous, and I am glad Jesus did not do that.

There were only two things that Jesus owned when He was here on earth. Jesus had nothing of this world, but He had something else. He had grace and truth. I don’t know about you but me, I want what Jesus had.

These noble Macedonians certainly did.

Today let us look at verse 2 of this wonderful scripture.

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

We read in verse 2 that when the Macedonian brethren were going through tribulation and suffering for the gospel’s sake, their joy was increased!

There is something called ‘diametrically opposed’. We all know that suffering and joy are diametrically opposed. So these Macedonians accomplished a mathematical formula which even Einstein could not achieve: the marriage of two diametrically opposed experiences, suffering and joy.

That is something that can only be attained through the grace of God.

The Bible says that in rejoicing through suffering, the Macedonians demonstrated the grace of God that was in their lives!

One thing I can tell you for sure is that I am not like these Macedonians. In all sincerity I cannot say that I am happy when things are going all wrong in my life. When things are not “working” for me, I tend to fret and there are even times when I have known myself to become absolutely grace-less (and probably even plain hostile) when the pressure became too much to bear!

But the Bible states here that when the Macedonians were going through trouble, it was all song and dance in those churches. That’s the one experience I sure would love to have and to own in my life! That’s grace.

No amount of writing could exhaust the riches to be found in this tiny portion of scripture.

Let us take a peep at the second part.

“… their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

Here we find another set of diametric opposites: poverty and liberality.

It is generally assumed that the rich should give to the poor. I also subscribe to that belief. He who has should give to him who does not have. That is Biblical.

But that has nothing to do with a generous heart. You can give away all your wealth until you scratch yourself like Job, but that does not mean that you are generous. I know of people who give of their worldly goods, but they are not generous. You can see it in the way they give. They will put you to an interview, where you can feel all the condescending fog from them descending upon you…

Let me put it this way: grace enables us to do things the way God does them. God does things willingly, joyfully and cheerfully. When you have the grace of God in your heart, therefore, the natural outcome is to do God’s will willingly, joyfully and cheerfully. When it comes to giving, you will give in exactly in that manner – willingly, joyfully and cheerfully.

God is generous. I have been saved for a long time, and I can attest to the fact that God is generous. There was a time when I thought that I needed to be financially rich in order to affirm God’s generosity. But I have learned to appreciate God’s generosity towards me, a generosity which does not necessarily have to do with him blessing me financially. Money, as the saying goes, is not everything. That is especially so with the gospel.

What God gives us is a rich heart, a heart rich in grace. This is all that matters with the gospel. A heart rich in grace will accomplish everything God needs it to accomplish.

When the Macedonians received the grace of God, they became rich in generosity.

Let us take time to examine our hearts and to see whether we are rich in grace or not. Today, let us forget for a moment our nicely-trimmed bank accounts. Let us instead look into our hearts. Are we rich there or not?

Tomorrow we will take one final look at this exciting scripture.

[Below: Grace – free as a bird!]

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