Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Praying For You To Be Fruitful Philippians 1:9-11
Philippians 1 Your Prayer Life
3 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 Indeed, it is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
You are being prayed for at this very moment. But isn't it wonderful when somebody on the planet models the Savior; somebody in your world, made out of the same cloth, who makes the same mistakes, who needs the same grace says, "I'm going to pray for you . . . you're going on my prayer list." And the first personal thing he tells them in chapter 1 and verse 3 is that he is always praying for them.
They're on his prayer list. He's already informed them they are on his mind – verse 3 And they are on his heart – verse 7 He's effectively coming up to each of them, saying, "I want you to know, I'm praying for you every day, for the rest of my life." And he means it.
He writes, I yearn for you all with the affection – the same desires – that Jesus has for you. I long for your best, in this regard.
The phrase, I yearn for you, is a word that means to strain toward. Dwight Pentecost in his commentary on this text brought up another original context for this word as a word that illustrated the athlete nearing the finish line. He's at the front of the race, and victory appears to be his; but he hears footsteps on the track immediately behind him, and another contestant threatens to overtake him. So he strains with every muscle and nerve and fiber of his body and as he reaches the finish line, he leans forward – straining to cross the finish line first.ii
That's Paul's passion here – I am straining with everything in my being on your behalf – I am putting everything I've got into praying for you in the church at Philippi.
There are at least 9 prayer requests
Paul prays for 1. Their Passion in Life
Notice verse 9. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more.
The word abound perisseuo in the present tense is progressive and it expresses the idea of continuing, overflowing, abounding love.iii
That kind of love isn't sentimental . . . it isn't a few warm fuzzies here or there . . . it's the word agape for deep, undying commitment. In other words, Paul says, "I am praying every day for you – that your love will overflow the banks of your heart and life." Paul isn't saying, "That your love for me may abound." He doesn't even say, "that your love for God may abound"; or "That your love for each other . . . or for the world . . . or for the word . . . or for your family . . ." may abound. Paul doesn't specify the object of your love . . . which means that Paul is actually telling them that all the above would be true. In other words, in every dimension of life we are to demonstrate a lavish, ongoing, limitless love – one author writes – an unremitting geyser of love to God and a flood of love that overflows to everybody else.iv
The old Latin commentator, Bengel writes of this text, "The fire in the apostle never says, "It is enough." Paul is saying, more love . . . more love.v
More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee; Hear Thou the prayer I make, on bended knee;
This is my earnest plea, more love, O Christ to Thee, More love Thee . . . more love to Thee.vi
Paul is demonstrating a prayer life that looks nothing like a tourist stop in the body of Christ. He's describing a church body that views itself as critically essential in the growth and development of the believer and the concentrated outgrowth of the gospel. Paul is referring to the kind of passionate love that bothers enough to take up residency. You see, agape is a love that moves in and settles down and rolls up its sleeves . . . and endures the heat of discipleship and servanthood and spiritual disciplines.
Paul prays for: 2. Their Progress in Life
Paul says, "I am praying for your love to abound more and more, notice, with knowledge".
The word used here for knowledge is used without exception in the New Testament for spiritual issues – the knowledge of God; the knowledge of spiritual truth; the knowledge of doctrine – it's a knowledge that comes from the study of God's word.viii In other words, Paul wants these believers to learn more about God because when they do, their love for Him will be deeper and richer and more grateful.
Paul is also saying to the Philippians, "I'm longing for you all to develop in your knowledge of love – and not just whatever you think love might be – or what others consider love, but true, knowledgeable, spiritually originating, biblical love." Listen, our world is becoming like his world more and more all the time.
Adultery, the acceptance of mistresses, polygamy, pornography, homosexuality, promiscuity, one-night stands between strangers, all kinds of fornication – all these forms of sexual experiences and experiments were applauded by the Roman Empire. And Paul didn't stick his head in the sand either. He knew his generation would have to learn the boundaries of a brand new kind of love – a biblical love. Our sinful nature knows nothing of biblical love. Everything we thought we knew about love has to relearned . . . redefined . . . reconstructed now that we've been forgiven. And much of what we've been forgiven of – and will still be forgiven of day in and day out – is loving the wrong way.
No wonder Paul is earnestly praying that believers – then and now – "I'm praying with every ounce of strength I have and every fiber in my being that you will progress in learning how to love and how to live according to biblical knowledge." Relationships make up the majority of our lives . . . so progress in learning how to relate to others in life – in knowledgeable, biblical love.
Paul is praying for: 3. Their Practice in Life
In other words, how are these believers in Philippi – and us – to handle the daily issues and pressures of life biblically? Paul writes in verse 9. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. There's his third prayer request – for us to be discerning. What does it mean to be discerning? Paul uses a word here that never again appears in the New Testament. It's the word aesthesis and you can translate it sensibility or insight.x
It's a word that broadly refers to the application of biblical knowledge. Wisdom!! So Paul prays that we might possess the truth – that's knowledge; and then that we might practice the truth – that's discernment. You see the problem with the average Christian isn't that we don't know the truth; it's that we don't want to apply the truth we know. When John Wesley went away to study at Oxford in June of 1720, his godly mother Susanna wisely wrote in one of her letters to him, "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin."xiii
Now Paul continues in verse 10 to pray for our partiality.
Let me show you what I mean . . . let's back up to verse 9 and get a running start; And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10, so that you may approve that which is excellent. The verb Paul uses for approving is dokimazein which means to examine or to test. xiv
It can refer to testing something to determine if it's true or false; This word can also refer to evaluating the difference between things that are good and things that are better – in other words, testing something so that you not only determine what's good, but what might be better – or what might be best. The word can also refer to determining the difference between things that matter and things that don't matter. xv
In classical Greek writings, this verb "to test or to approve" was used in testing money to determine whether or not it was counterfeit. Counterfeit money was around hundreds of years before Paul wrote this letter. Counterfeiters would coat copper coins with a thin coating of silver and pass them off as more valuable, solid silver coins. The word was also used in the political world for testing and approving a political candidate – to question them to determine their actual stance on issues. Paul is actually praying that we'll assume anything. He even wrote to the Thessalonians, "He that is spiritual tests everything." (I Thessalonians 5:21) Put everything to the test . . . make sure it's excellent – it's not only good – but better – and even best – for your heart and your walk and your life, and your mind.
He also prays that we develop purity.
Notice verse 10. So that you may approve through testing what is best/excellent – notice – and so be pure. In other words, testing and choosing the best things will always lead you toward purity, away from impurity. The word Paul uses is found only here and in 2 Peter 3:1 were Peter writes that he's attempting to stir up their minds toward sincerity. the Greek words for sunlight and judgment. xvi
Paul says, "Take it out and judge it by the light." Paul prays, I want you to live lives that can be judged by the light of day and found to be pure.
David wrote, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet – a light unto my pathway." (Psalm 119:105); The unfolding of Your word gives light (Psalm 119:130) Paul refers to the gospel as the glorious light of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Ephesians 5. Being exposed by the light.
This is especially pointed to the believer to avoid hypocrisy of any form. In Paul's generation, one of the largest industries in their world was the pottery industry. And pottery varied in quality just as cars and computers and clothing do today. The cheapest pottery was thick and solid and didn't require much skill to make. Archaeologists have unearthed truckloads of it. I have some in my office – thick, orange pottery. But the finest pottery was thin and delicate. It had a clear colour and brought a high price. Fine pottery was fragile both before and after firing and it would often crack in the oven. Dishonest dealers would take a clear pearly wax and fill in the cracks and crevices where it would blend in with the colour of the pottery. The cracks were nearly undetectable in the shops, especially when they were glazed or painted. But the wax was immediately detectable when the pottery was held up to the light of the sun. Latin was the official language of the empire and honest merchants would stamp on the bottom of their pottery the Latin caption, sine cera – which gives us our word sincere. It meant, without wax. xvii With this in mind, Paul isn't saying that the Christian's purity should be flawless. That you shouldn't have any cracks. The truth is, we're all broken . . . in this vocabulary, we're all cracked pots. Paul is reinforcing honesty and transparency – don't cover up and try to pass yourself off as fine china . . . it's okay to be an inexpensive thick, cracked, jar. Just don't try to pass off yourself as anything but…
He prays for: Their Prudence
Notice verse 10. So that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless…
One British New Testament scholar wrote that purity referred to the inner person and blamelessness refers to the outer behaviour. The word means "without stumbling." Be prudent in your behaviour. Prudence simply means cautious discretion. It means, being careful. Paul is praying earnestly and fervently for these believers to live pure, morally transparent lives, free from stumbling because they are careful in their Christian walk.xii
Is Paul using this word in an active sense, or passive sense? Paul is either telling us to walk with caution so that we don't stumble – that's passive – or he might actually be telling us to walk in such a way that we don't cause someone else to stumble – that's the active sense.xiii One of the marks of maturity in the life of any believer is that they want to be a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.xiv
That's Paul's progression in this prayer list as he adds this closing thought at the end of verse 10. We are to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
A prayer for: Their Perspective
"and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Paul effectively says, "Live for that day." Live for everything that day means – a day you will be evaluated (I Corinthians 5) – that day you will stand before Him – that day when you will give an account for the 1 talent He gave you – or the 5 talents or the 10 talents – that day when you will be rewarded and assigned to your regal post in His Kingdom. Live with anticipation for that day.
Everything you're doing for the glory and pleasure of Christ on earth is only a prelude to the privilege of serving Him for His glory and His pleasure during the coming Kingdom. Paul is trying to elevate our perspective.
For Paul the day of Christ wasn't some kind of prophetic obsession, it was a way of thinking . . . and deciding . . . and living.xv
He prays for: Their Productivity
I'm praying – verse 11 that you will be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
A good reminder that anything good that we do for Christ is Christ working in us to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
The cause of fruit in our lives is the work of Christ. The agency at work internally is the Spirit of Christ and as we submit to Him we display externally the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of righteousness is simply the fruit of a right relationship with God.xvi
When Lawrence of Arabia was in Paris after World War I, he took some of his Middle eastern friends who had never seen the sights and sounds of a modern world. They say all the amazing sights of Paris. But what captured their attention and gripped their imagination were the faucets in their bathrooms. They couldn't get enough of simply turning the faucet on and off – amazed at how the water spilled into the sink at the turn of the handle.
When it came time to pack up and leave, Lawrence found these men in their bathroom, trying to detach the faucets. They still hadn't figured it out and they pleaded, "It's so dry in Arabia, we need these faucets so we can get all the water we need." Lawrence had to stop them and try to explain that the effectiveness of the faucets were not in themselves, but to the pipes and the reservoir to which they were connected.xvii
A faucet by itself will never produce water.
Jesus Christ said, You believe in me and out of you will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). Jesus said to His disciples, You abide in me – you stay connected to my strength and my vitality and my power – and you will bear much fruit for without me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Otherwise, you're just a faucet packed in somebody's bag; you're just a limb lying on the ground. You see here, Paul isn't just praying that we'll bear fruit, he's praying that we will understand we must stay in fellowship and submission and communion with the One who produces fruit.
He is diligently praying for:
Their passion – in love
Their progress – in knowledge
Their practice – in discernment
Their partiality – toward excellence
Their purity – with integrity
Their prudence – with carefulness
Their perspective – with anticipation
Their productivity – in fruitful living
Finally, Paul prays for: Their priority
11. Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – notice – to the glory and praise of God.
Monday, June 18, 2018
How to Fulfill God's Purpose For Your Life John 15
John 15. The True Vine: How To Fulfil Your Purpose In Life.
The true vine… the vine appeared on coins. It was the national symbol of Israel. A vine is supposed to be fruitful. If it doesn't bear good grapes it is useless at fulfilling its purpose.
God often spoke of how Israel had been unfruitful as a vine.
Isa 5:1 I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one's vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.2 He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes. 3 So now, residents of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could I have done for my vineyard than I did? Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes, did it yield worthless grapes? 5 Now I will tell you what I am about to do to my vineyard I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned or weeded; thorns and briers will grow up. I will also give orders to the clouds that rain should not fall on it. 7 For the vineyard of the LORD of Armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, the plant he delighted in. He expected justice but saw injustice; he expected righteousness, but heard cries of despair. Isaiah 5:1-7 (CSBBible)
The vine had become so much a symbol of Israel that it appeared on coins minted during the Maccabean period, which was between been the Old and New Testaments. During the time of Christ, Herod's Temple had a tremendous vine on it overlaid with gold that some have estimated was worth millions. Israel had always been God's vine, but it had become unproductive.
The Lord Jesus uses His familiar idiom of comparing the weak with the true fulfilment of the desired picture in Himself. He is the true light of the world. He is the true good shepherd. He is the true life. He is the true Vine. What was the purpose of Israel? It was to know God. It was to be a people who reflected God's glory. God's purpose for Israel was to bear fruit that proved its close relationship with God displayed in the national character of Israel. And Israel failed.
Israel was now no longer the true Vine: the Lord Jesus is the true Vine! Those brought into union with Him are now the true Israel bearing fruit that glorifies God. Those brought into union with Him are now the true Israel bearing fruit that reflects God's glory and proves the closeness of their relationship with Him in their lives.
How to fulfil your Purpose in Life How to be fruitful!
The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfilment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It's far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose. The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That's because we typically begin at the wrong starting point—ourselves. We ask self-centred questions like What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life's purpose.
Rick Warren noted "I have read many books that suggest ways to discover the purpose of my life. All of them could be classified as "self-help" books because they approach the subject from a self-centred viewpoint. Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life's purpose: Consider your dreams. Clarify your values. Set some goals. Figure out what you are good at. Aim high. Go for it! Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up. Of course, these recommendations often lead to great success. You can usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life's purpose are not at all the same issue!"
There is a story about a jetliner. The announcement came over the intercom "This is the captain. We have lost our computer, we have lost our navigation and compass, we have lost our radio. We do not know where we are. In short we are lost. However we have a fine tail wind and we are making excellent time." It really doesn't matter how fast you are going of you don't know where you are and where you are going. You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world's standard, and still miss the purposes for which God created you.
Knowing God's purpose for your life gives meaning to your life. We were made to have meaning. This is why people try dubious methods, like astrology or psychics, to discover it. When life has meaning, you can bear almost anything; without it, nothing is bearable. Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness. Solomon made it clear that "under the sun," without God, life is vanity, it is empty and meaningless. The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose.
Knowing God's purpose for your life simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don't do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren't.
Knowing God's purpose for your life focuses your life. It concentrates your effort and energy on what's important. You become effective by being selective. It's human nature to get distracted by minor issues. We play Trivial Pursuit with our lives. Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of "quiet desperation," but today a better description is aimless distraction. The Bible says, "So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."
Ephesians 5:17 (CSBBible)
Knowing God's purpose for your life motivates your life. Purpose always produces passion. Nothing energizes like a clear purpose. On the other hand, passion dissipates when you lack a purpose. Just getting out of bed becomes a major chore. It is usually meaningless work, not overwork, that wears us down, saps our strength, and robs our joy.
Knowing God's purpose for your life prepares you for eternity. Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. They want to be remembered when they're gone. Yet, what ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says.
God's purpose for your life is that you should be fruitful! You should be the new branches united to the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. In union with Him you can be fruitful.
Psalm 1:1-3--"Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season." Even in the Old Testament, the godly man was considered a fruit-bearing man. God's life was in him producing fruit.
Fruit is an expected result in the life of a godly man or woman by God's design.
Over these next three messages we shall see how we can be fruitful. We shall see how we can fulfil God's purpose for our lives. We will focus on three big topics:
You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Real Spirituality (John 15:1-11), You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Robust Relationality (John 15:12-17), You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Resilient Personality (John 15:18-25).
1. You Can Be Fruitful By Developing A Real Spirituality (John 15:1-11),
It is the product of God's life within believers, whether in the Old Testament or the New. Fruit is also important because God is its enabling source. A man is not the source of fruit; he's merely the branch. It is God who produces life; it is His power that produces fruit.
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples. 9 "As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 "I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
If you are going to fulfil your purpose in life, you must have a true spirituality, a real spirituality.
Israel was supposed to know God! They didn't!
Israel was supposed to reflect God's character! They didn't!
Israel was supposed to obey God! They didn't!
Israel was supposed to be like a fruitful vine! They didn't!
In verse 4, Jesus is saying to men like Judas, "Don't be superficial; be for real. Abide in Me and prove that your faith is real. You superficial branches need to be saved!" It's tragic when men superficially line up with Jesus Christ but never become true Christians. There are some believing wives who bring their unsaved husbands to church. They may appear to be Christians, but they really aren't. Sometimes young people come to church only because they want to be involved in a youth program, but they don't know Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus calls to all who have made a statement of faith or an apparent identification with Him to be sure they're real believers, then they will be able to fulfil their purpose for life.
How you can fulfil God's purpose for your life.
1. A Fruitful Life is Grafted into the Lord Jesus
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers.
Have you been grafted into the Lord Jesus?
If you are grafted into the Lord Jesus you will display the Power of His Personality.
After the Lord Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and after His ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the disciples were arrested. A man lame from birth was healed. The disciples spoke of the resurrection and Messiahship of the Lord Jesus. The Sanhedrin had them arrested. Peter was able to speak up before the Sanhedrin: Act 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." 13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.
They saw they had been with Jesus!!
If you are grafted into the Lord Jesus you will display the Power of His Presence.
Every branch in me.
Remain in me, and I in you
It is not just a cleaning up of one's personality. You just don't try harder to be good!
The Lord Jesus Christ comes and indwells you. And you are in Him! It is Him in you Who is amazing. Not you. Just Him! Do people see the Lord Jesus at work in your life? Do they see a supernatural quality to your life?
If you are grafted into the Lord Jesus you will display the power of His Purification.
John 15:1, 2 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Last year our lemon tree got the dreaded blackspot on the leaves. I wasn't sure what to do. So I googled it. We bought some spray from the local Bunnings store ad sprayed it. And we cut it back savagely. When Lorelle gets out with a saw! Look out! That tree got a real haircut! And the spray again. This year instead of 20 inedible scrawny strange lemons, we have had 400 fresh beautiful lemons. The tree just keeps producing more and more.
The Lord wants you to produce fruit. There are many areas of our lives with the dreaded blackspot of sin on them. And the father has to do some radical surgery to cut off the bits that are killing the fruit. God knows what it will take to clean up the back spots in our hearts minds and lives. And He will do it so you can produce good fruit.
2. A Fruitful Life Enjoys the Lord Jesus
FB Meyer writes "Notice Christ's consciousness of sufficiency for the needs of men.---It were blasphemous audacity to speak thus, if He were not more than man. He affirms that there can be no life apart from Him; that souls not united with Him wither on the forest floor. He says that fruit bearing is only possible to those who receive from his fullness grace for grace. He says that to be in union with Him will secure union with all holy souls. He says that if his words are carefully pondered and obeyed, we shall make no petition which his Father will not grant. He says that his love, in quality and quantity, is like the love that God has towards Himself; that his commands take rank with those of Deity. He offers Himself to all mankind in coming ages, as their contemporary, and as the one sufficient source of life and godliness. All these assumptions are made in the range of these verses; and as we ponder them, we feel that the Speaker must be conscious of being other than human, and as possessing those infinite attributes which are the sole property of the Eternal.
Yet who shall say that He has offered more than He can give? Have not we tested Him in each of these particulars, and do not we, who have come to Him by Faith, know that in no one item has He been guilty of exaggeration? We were dead; but behold, we live! We spent our energies in profitless work; but now we bear fruit unto God. We were lonely and isolated; but now have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the innumerable company of angels, and to the Church of the First-born. Our prayers were aimless and ineffective; but now we have the petitions we desired. New hope and joy have filled our hearts---as the ruddy clusters hang full and ripe in the autumn. Prove Him for yourself, and see if this shall not be so for you also. Only give yourself entirely up to Christ. Abide in Him. Remain in Him. Let thought and speech and life be bathed in the influences of his Holy Spirit; let the sap of his life flow where the sap of the self-life was wont to flow; and lo! old things will pass away, and all things will become new.
Remain in my love.
"I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
Abide in His Word
Abide in Prayer
3. A Fruitful Life Obeys the Lord Jesus
"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13.)
"Obey my voice and I will be your God, and you shall be my people" (Jeremiah 7:23 NKJV). If the people of Israel wanted God to guide them, protect them, provide for them, bless them, and cause them to prosper, they had to obey God's voice and be his people.
God "keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands" (Daniel 9:4).
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life." (Deuteronomy 30:19-21).
Jesus told his disciples, and hence us, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me" (John 14:21). "If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching" (John 14:23). "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love" (John 15:10).
Some years ago Aleksandr Solzhenytsin, in a speech at Harvard University, said that in the Soviet Union they had rejected God and in the West we had forgotten God. Of the two, he thought what the West had done was the more dangerous.
As Christians we often forget that love for Christ issues in obedience to Christ. We order ourselves under the Lord Jesus Christ who has the right to direct us as He wills. And He directs us according to His Word.
Are you obeying the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what that means for you?
4. A Fruitful Life Glorifies the Lord Jesus
The Bible says, "The heavens declare the glory of God."
"The Son is the radiance of God's glory." 5 Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God's glory. "The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory . . . a glory full of grace and truth."
God's inherent glory is what he possesses because he is God. It is his nature. We cannot add anything to this glory, just as it would be impossible for us to make the sun shine brighter. But we are commanded to recognize his glory, honor his glory, declare his glory, praise his glory, reflect his glory, and live for his glory. Why? Because God deserves it! We owe him every honor we can possibly give. Since God made all things, he deserves all the glory.
The Bible says, "You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything." Rev 4:8
The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
None of us have given God the full glory he deserves from our lives. This is the worst sin and the biggest mistake we can make. On the other hand, living for God's glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives. God says, "They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory," 10 so it ought to be the supreme goal of our lives.
Jesus told the Father, "I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do." John 17:4 (CSBBible)
Jesus honored God by fulfilling his purpose on earth. We honor God the same way. When anything in creation fulfils its purpose, it brings glory to God. Birds bring glory to God by flying, chirping, nesting, and doing other bird-like activities that God intended. Even the lowly ant brings glory to God when it fulfils the purpose it was created for. God made ants to be ants, and he made you to be you. St. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive!"
Are you fruitful? 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
You will glorify God
You will demonstrate your discipleship
You will have answers to prayer You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
You will fulfil what your purpose in life.
How to be fruitful
Admit your need Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Allow your cleansing Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Read His Word If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
Pray If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Obey If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love
Love "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,1 for the servant2 does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Real Spirituality (John 15:1-11), You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Robust Relationality (John 15:12-17), You can Be Fruitful By Developing A Resilient Personality (John 15:18-25).
One of those painful areas of our lives that we all need God's work on, is that area of our relationality. We all have relationships that we would rather not think about. There are hurts that we harbour from some of the issues we have had with people.
No one is an island, although some people try and live isolated lives to keep themselves from relational difficulties.
Even country and Western writers recognised the problem of relationships. In fact just about every Country and western song is either about a bad relationship of a long lost dog! Somebody wrote: "My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, And I Sure Do Miss Him"
Hank Williams haunting lyrics and his mournful voice had a way of touching the hearts of the audience. A good example of this was his song, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Hear that lonesome whippoorwill / He sounds too blue to fly / The midnight train is whining low / I'm so lonesome I could cry.
"Eleanor Rigby," was released in 1966. It was never performed in public by the Beatles, they had stopped touring by the time it was released. It was the first recording where none of the Beatles played instruments. The music was provided by an octet of violins, violas, and cellos. Eleanor Rigby was released as the B-side of a single record. Yellow Submarine was the A side but Eleanor Rigby became the much larger hit. "Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came. Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved. All the lonely people; where do they all come from? All the lonely people; where do they all belong?"
The Beatles touched a sensitive nerve by confronting loneliness. It is one of the most painful human conditions. God looked down at Adam in the Garden of Eden and declared, "It is not good for man to be alone." That's still true.
The Beatle's song asks two questions about loneliness that they never answer: Look at all the lonely people: Where do they all come from? Easy answer: They come from everywhere—every neighbourhood, every city, and every nation. The second question was "Lonely people, where do they all belong?
While loneliness is a crippling force in our lives, most often loneliness is the outcome of poor relationships.
The Lord Jesus answers the Beatle's question: All the lonely people; where do they all come from? All the lonely people; where do they all belong?"
2. You Can Be Fruitful By Developing A Robust Relationality
12 "This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn't know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 "This is what I command you: Love one another.
a.The Elevating Consequence of Friendship With Jesus
1. I've found a friend, O such a friend! Christ loved me ere I knew Him
He drew me with the cords of love, And thus he bound me to Him;
And round my heart still closely twine Those ties which naught can sever,
For I am His, and Christ is mine, Forever and forever.
He took the initiative. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you.
More than a servant an intimate.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn't know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.
b. The Enlarging Company of friendship With Jesus 12
His friends become my friends.
12 "This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. 17 "This is what I command you: Love one another.
Love one another.
His friends are my friends.
Daniel in Kenya is my friend.
Communicate with one another relationally.
You can summarize the Beatles music with one word: Love. One of their most popular songs claimed, "All you need is Love." You need a friendship with the Lord that overflows in love towards His friends: fellow believers.
ALL YOU NEED IS JESUS. In his third letter the Apostle John indicates the value of friendship. He closed his letter by writing, "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk FACE TO FACE. Peace to you. The FRIENDS here send their greetings. Greet the FRIENDS there by NAME." (3 John 14)
John was using the most technologically advanced method of communication at the time. He or a scribe was writing it with ink on dried papyrus; then it was to be hand delivered hundreds of miles away. But John said the best way to communicate is face to face. Millions use social media to connect, but there's no substitute for personal interaction. In light of social media, let me remind you of these three truths: Fact-to-face is better than cyberspace; face look is better than Facebook; the best face time is not a video chat. That's what you get in a small group bible study.
c. The Enduring Cost of friendship With Jesus
Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.
There are three reasons to serve : because you have to, because you ought to , because you want to.
Because you have to: You are obligated.
Because you ought to: you are employed to do so.
Because you want to: you are eternally grateful!
12 "This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.
2. I've found a friend, O such a friend! He bled, he died to save me;
And not alone the gift of life, But His own self He gave me;
Naught that I have my own I call, I hold it for the Giver;
My heart, my strength, my life, my all Are His, and His forever.
You don't have to go to church to be a Christian! But if you are a Christian you will want to!
Sacrifice for one another
d. The Enriching Compensations of Friendship With Jesus
4. I've found a friend, O such a friend! So kind and true and tender,
So wise a counselor and guide, So mighty a defender!
From Him who loves me now so well What pow'r my soul can sever?
Shall life or death or earth or hell? No, I am his forever.
d. The Inevitable Conflicts of Friendship With Jesus
Those who hate Him will also hate me if I am like Him.
You Can Fulfil God's Purpose To Be Fruitful By Developing A Resilient Personality
In 1980, the New Hebrides gained its independence from Britain and France and was named Vanuatu. The chain of Islands is about 450 miles long. Today its population is 190,000.
The New Hebrides had no Christian influence before John Williams and James Harris from the London Missionary Society landed in 1839. Both of these missionaries were killed and eaten by cannibals on the island of Erromanga on November 20 of that year, only minutes after going ashore. Forty-eight years later John Paton wrote, "Thus were the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of martyrs; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that he claimed these islands as His own."
Paton arrived in the New Hebrides (via Australia) with his wife Mary on April 16, 1858, at the age of 33. They reached their appointed island of Tanna on November 5, and in March the next year both his wife and his newborn son died of the fever. He served alone on the island for the next four years under incredible circumstances of constant danger until he was driven off the island in February, 1862.
He married again in 1864, and took his wife, Margaret, back this time to the smaller island of Aniwa ("It measures scarcely seven miles by two," p. 312). They labored together for 41 years until Margaret died in 1905 when John Paton was 81. I shared this message about John Paton at the Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle a few years ago. Paton's granddaughter was in the congregation that day. Her family had founded the Raymond Terrace Presbyterian church of Eastern Australia.
You Can Be Fruitful By Developing A Resilient Personality
"Fever and ague had attacked me fourteen times severely"
"Our continuous danger caused me now oftentimes to sleep with my clothes on, that I might start at a moment's warning. May faithful dog Clutha would give a sharp bark and awake me. . . . God made them fear this precious creature, and often used her in saving our lives" (p. 178).
My enemies seldom slackened their hateful designs against my life, however calmed or baffled for the moment. . . . A wild chief followed me around for four hours with his loaded musket, and, though often directed towards me, God restrained his hand. I spoke kindly to him, and attended to my work as if he had not been there, fully persuaded that my God had placed me there, and would protect me till my allotted task was finished. Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done. Trials and hairbreadth escapes strengthened my faith, and seemed only to nerve me for more to follow; and they did tread swiftly upon each other's heels. (p. 117)
One morning at daybreak I found my house surrounded by armed men, and a chief intimated that they had assembled to take my life. Seeing that I was entirely in their hands, I knelt down and gave myself away body and soul to the Lord Jesus, for what seemed the last time on earth. Rising, I went out to them, and began calmly talking about their unkind treatment of me and contrasting it with all my conduct towards them. . . . At last some of the Chiefs, who had attended the Worship, rose and said, "Our conduct has been bad; but now we will fight for you, and kill all those who hate you." (p. 115)
[Once] when natives in large numbers were assembled at my house, a man furiously rushed on me with his axe but a Kaserumini Chief snatched a spade with which I had been working, and dexterously defended me from instant death. Life in such circumstances led me to cling very near to the Lord Jesus; I knew not, for one brief hour, when or how attack might be made; and yet, with my trembling hand clasped in the hand once nailed on Calvary, and now swaying the scepter of the universe, calmness and peace and resignation abode in my soul. (p. 117)
Once a native named Ian called Paton to his sick bed, and as Paton leaned over him, he pulled a dagger and held it to Paton's heart.
I durst neither move nor speak, except that my heart kept praying to the Lord to spare me, or if my time was come to take me home to Glory with Himself. There passed a few moments of awful suspense. My sight went and came. Not a word had been spoken, except to Jesus; and then Ian wheeled the knife around, thrust it into the sugar cane leaf. And cried to me, "Go, go quickly!" . . . I ran for my life a weary four miles till I reached the Mission House, faint, yet praising God for such a deliverance (p.191).
There is a ripping pain of persecution
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 "You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (CSBBible)
How do you claim the promises of God for protection when your wife was equally faithful but, rather than being protected, died; and when the Gordons on Erromanga were equally trusting in those promises and were martyred?
Mr. and Mrs. G. N. Gordon were killed on Erromanga on May 20, 1861. They had labored four years on the island when they walked into an ambush. "A blow was aimed at him with a tomahawk, which he caught; the other man struck, but his weapon was also caught. One of the tomahawks was then wrenched out of his grasp. Next moment, a blow on the spine laid the dear Missionary low, and a second on the neck almost severed the head from the body." Mrs. Gordon came running to see the noise and "Ouben slipped stealthily behind here, sank his tomahawk into her back and with another blow almost severed her head! This was the fate of those two devoted servants of the Lord; loving in their lives and in their deaths not divided, their spirits, wearing the crown of martyrdom, entered Glory together, to be welcomed by Williams and Harris, whose blood was shed near the same now hallowed spot for the name and the cause of Jesus" (p. 166).
C.J. Dennis, THE SONGS OF A SENTIMENTAL BLOKE. "Yeh live, yeh love, yeh learn; an' when yeh come / To square the ledger in some thortful hour / The everlastin' answer to the sum / Must allus be, 'Where's sense in gittin' sour?'"
There is a Real self-identity that provokes persecution.
18 "If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don't know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason. 26 "When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:18-27 (CSBBible)
Paul David Tripp notes that "If you are not feeding your soul on the realities of the presence, promises, and provisions of Christ, you will ask the people, situations, and things around you to be the messiah that they can never be. If you are not attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the things in your life to be your Savior, and it will never happen. If you are not requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty. If you are not resting in the one true gospel, preaching it to yourself over and over again, you will look to another gospel to meet the needs of your unsettled heart."
Is your life known in the life we live?
Before he was twelve years old, Paton says, "I had given my soul to God, and was resolved to aim at being a missionary of the cross, or a minister of the gospel" (p. 21).
Is your Lord known by the love we live?
What is your Self-identity?
"and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 (CSBBible)
Paton once wrote, "I am more proud that the blood of Martyrs is in my veins, and their truths in my heart, than other men can be of noble pedigree or royal names" (p. 280).
Where Does Courage Come From? How can we have a resilient personality?
The answer he would want us to say is: It came from God. But he would also want us to see what precious means God used and, if possible, apply them to ourselves and our situation.
There is a Reward that powers through persecution.
Matthew 5:12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.
The Provision of the Lord prevails over persecution.
"I am by conviction a strong Calvinist" (p. 195). "Regeneration is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart and soul, and is in every case one and the same. Conversion, on the other hand, bringing into play the action also of the human will, is never absolutely the same perhaps in even two souls" (p. 372). "Oh, Jesus! To Thee alone be all the glory. Thou hast the key to unlock every heart that Thou has created" (p. 373).
"Feeling immovably assured that my God and father was too wise and loving to err in anything that he does or permits, I looked up to the Lord for help, and struggled on in His work" (p. 85).
Over and over this faith sustained him in the most threatening and frightening situations. As he was trying to escape from Tanna at the end of four years of dangers, he and Abraham were surrounded by raging natives who kept urging each other to strike the first blow.
"My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene. My peace came back to me like a wave from God. I realized that I was immortal till my Master's work with me was done. The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth. He rules all Nature, animate and inanimate, and restrains even the Savage of the South Seas." (p. 207)
Near the end of his life, at age 79, he was back on his beloved island Aniwa. "I cannot visit the villages, or go among the people and the sick, as formerly, owing to an increased feebleness in my legs and lumbago. Which is painful for the last fortnight. But all is as our Master sends it, and we submit thankfully, as all is nothing to what we deserve; and adored be our God. We have in our dear Lord Jesus [grace] for peace and joy in all circumstances" (Ralph Bell, John G. Paton, p. 238).
It is vital that you stay focused on God's plan, not your pain or problem. That is how Jesus endured the pain of the cross, and we are urged to follow his example: "Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards." Corrie ten Boom, who suffered in a Nazi death camp, explained the power of focus: "If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you'll be at rest!" Your focus will determine your feelings.
The Promotions from the Lord prevails over persecution.
Matthew 5:12 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.
The secret of endurance is to remember that your pain is temporary but your reward will be eternal.
Moses endured a life of problems "because he was looking ahead to his reward." Paul endured hardship the same way. He said, "Our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!"
Don't give in to short-term thinking. Stay focused on the end result: "If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later."
"Often since have I thought that the Lord stripped me thus bare of all these interests, that I might with undistracted mind devote my entire energy to the special work soon to be carved out for me, and of which at this moment neither I nor anyone had ever dreamed" (p. 220).
"I . . . assured them that I was not afraid to die, for at death my Savior would take me to be with Himself in Heaven, and to be far happier than I had ever been on Earth. I then lifted up my hands and eyes to the Heavens, and prayed aloud for Jesus . . . either to protect me or to take me home to Glory as He saw to be for the best." (p. 164)
That was how he prayed again and again: "Protect me or . . . take me home to Glory as you see to be for the best."
There is a Response that Prevails over persecution.
Rejoice Matthew 5:12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.
Rejoice and give thanks. The Bible tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." How is this possible? Notice that God tells us to give thanks "in all circumstances" not "for all circumstances." God doesn't expect you to be thankful for evil, for sin, for suffering, or for their painful consequences in the world. Instead, God wants you to thank him that he will use your problems to fulfil his purposes. The Bible says, "Rejoice in the Lord always." It doesn't say, "Rejoice over your pain." That's masochism. You rejoice "in the Lord." No matter what's happening, you can rejoice in God's love, care, wisdom, power, and faithfulness. Jesus said, "Be full of joy at that time, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven."
We can also rejoice in knowing that God is going through the pain with us. We do not serve a distant and detached God who spouts encouraging clichés safely from the sideline. Instead, he enters into our suffering. Jesus did it in the Incarnation, and his Spirit does it in us now. God will never leave us on our own.
"Oh that the pleasure-seeking men and women of the world could only taste and feel the real joy of those who know and love the true God – a heritage which the world . . . cannot give to them, but which the poorest and humblest followers of Jesus inherit and enjoy! (p. 78) My heart often says within itself — when, when will men's eyes at home be opened? When will the rich and the learned . . . renounce their shallow frivolities, and go to live amongst the poor, the ignorant, the outcast, and the lost, and write their eternal fame on the souls by them blessed and brought to the Savior? Those who have tasted this highest joy, "The joy of the Lord," will never again ask — Is Life worth living?" "Life, any life, would be well spent, under any conceivable conditions, in bringing one human soul to know and love and serve God and His Son, and thereby securing for yourself at least one temple where your name and memory would be held for ever and for ever in affectionate praise — a regenerated Heart in heaven. That fame will prove immortal, when all the poems and monuments and pyramids of Earth have gone into dust."(pp. 411–412)
Respond in love
Year after year, "disappointments and successes were strangely intermingled" (p. 247) in his life. "Whatever trials have befallen me in my Earthly Pilgrimage, I have never had the trial of doubting that perhaps, after all, Jesus had made some mistake. No! my blessed Lord Jesus makes no mistakes! When we see all His meaning, we shall then understand, what now we can only trustfully believe that all is well — best for us, best for the cause most dear to us, best for the good of others and the glory of God." (p. 488)
"Recall . . . what the Gospel has done for the near kindred of these same Aborigines. On our own Aneityum, 3,500 Cannibals have been lead to renounce their heathenism . . . In Fiji, 79,000 Cannibals have been brought under the influence of the Gospel; and 13,000 members of the Churches are professing to live and work for Jesus. In Samoa, 34,000 Cannibals have professed Christianity; and in nineteen years, its College has sent forth 206 Native teachers and evangelists. On our New Hebrides, more than 12,000 Cannibals have been brought to sit at the feet of Christ, through I mean not to say that they are all model Christians; and 133 of the Natives have been trained and sent forth as teachers and preachers of the Gospel." (p. 265)
"Often have I seized the pointed barrel and directed it upwards, or, pleading with my assailant, uncapped his musket in the struggle. At other times, nothing could be said, nothing done, but stand still in silent prayer, asking to protect us or to prepare us for going home to His glory. He fulfilled His own promise — I will not fail thee nor forsake thee." (pp. 329–330)
"Go and make disciples of all nations . . . and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19–20). More than any other promise, this one brought Jesus close and real to John Paton in all his dangers. After the measles epidemic that killed thousands on the islands, and for which the missionaries were blamed, he wrote: "During the crisis, I felt generally calm, and firm of soul, standing erect and with my whole weight on the promise, 'Lo! I am with you alway.' Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name" (p. 154).
"Without that abiding consciousness of the presence and power of my dear Lord and Savior, nothing else in all the world could have preserved me from losing my reason and perishing miserably. In his words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," became to me so real that it would not have startled me to behold Him, as Stephen did, gazing down upon the scene. I felt His supporting power. . . . It is the sober truth, and it comes back to me sweetly after 20 years, that I had my nearest and dearest glimpses of the face and smiles of my blessed Lord in those dread moments when musket, club, or spear was being leveled at my life. Oh the bliss of living and enduring, as seeing "Him who is invisible"!" (p. 117)
"My constant custom was, in order to prevent war, to run right in between the contending parties. My faith enabled me to grasp and realize the promise, 'Lo, I am with you alway.' In Jesus I felt invulnerable and immortal, so long as I was doing his work. And I can truly say, that these were the moments when I felt my Savior to be most truly and sensibly present, inspiring and empowering me." (p. 342)
One of the most startling memories recorded in his Autobiography describes his experience of hiding in a tree as hundreds of angry natives hunted him for his life. What he experienced there was the deepest source of Paton's joy and courage. "I pity from the depth of my heart every human being, who, from whatever cause, is a stranger to the most ennobling, uplifting, and consoling experience that can come to the soul of man — blessed communion with the Father of our Spirits, through gracious union with the Lord Jesus Christ." (p. 359)
Refuse to give up. Be patient and persistent. The Bible says, "Let the process go on until your endurance is fully developed, and you will find that you have become men of mature character . . . with no weak spots."
Character building is a slow process. Whenever we try to avoid or escape the difficulties in life, we short-circuit the process, delay our growth, and actually end up with a worse kind of pain—the worthless type that accompanies denial and avoidance. When you grasp the eternal consequences of your character development, you'll pray fewer "Comfort me" prayers ("Help me feel good") and more "Conform me" prayers ("Use this to make me more like you"). You know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random, baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life. If you are facing trouble right now, don't ask, "Why me?" Instead ask, "What do you want me to learn?" Then trust God and keep on doing what's right. "You need to stick it out, staying with God's plan so you'll be there for the promised completion."
Don't give up—grow up!