God Finishes What He Starts

I love this verse! There are times when I wonder if I am making any gains in my spiritual life. Too many times I start the new year with well-meaning goals and resolutions. Not that they can’t be attained, but on my own, my best efforts usually hit a wall at some point. But thankfully, when God starts a project, He finishes it!

Paul is describing the Christian’s growth process here. God’s work for us began when Christ took our place with His sacrificial death on the cross. His work in us begins when we first believe. With Jesus Christ as our foundation, He continues framing and building our character while daily enabling us to be more Christ-like through His indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit. If you are God’s child, rest in the promise that He will finish this good work when we meet Him face to face.

The School of Life (Part 1), Exodus 15:22-16:3

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” –Phillips Brooks (American preacher and Episcopal bishop, 1835-1893)

Perhaps Philips Brooks had the Israelites in mind when he spoke these words to his Boston congregation. For the Israelites began to grumble and whine about returning to Egypt whenever they encountered trials. Their joyful worship of God after crossing the Red Sea failed to connect with daily trust of God’s provision during their wilderness walk.

You may read Exodus 15:22-16:3 here: Bible Gateway.

It’s easy to look down on the Israelites’ grumbling attitude, especially after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. I’m missing out, however, if I don’t look beyond their faults. Am I any different? Do I sing praises to God on Sunday, only to complain about my circumstances during the week? Have I recently won a spiritual battle only to find myself losing the victory like the Jews in their journey toward Mount Sinai?

Warren Wiersbe shares some great advice about the Israelites’ desert wanderings in his book, Be Delivered. I’m following his outline in this series.

Expect Trials to Come

Wiersbe writes: “God was testing His people, not because He didn’t know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their own hearts. . . . ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9).’ The Lord tests us to encourage spiritual growth and bring out the best in us, but the Devil tempts us to bring out the worst in us and to encourage spiritual immaturity. The attitude that we take toward our difficulties determines which direction life will go, for what life does to us depends on what life finds in us. If we trust God and obey His Word, we’ll pass the test and grow, but if in unbelief we complain and disobey the Lord, we’ll fail the test and remain immature (James 1:12-18; Heb. 12:1-11).”

I know I’m guilty multiple times of trying to avoid or smooth over situations that create conflict or produce pain. I’d rather be sailing in the Caribbean while soaking up the sunshine and sipping my strawberry soda. But the truth is: Life is a journey where we must fight new battles and learn new lessons. We need new experiences that challenge us. And God knows best how to tailor these challenges to help us grow and glorify Him.

“What shall we drink?” (15:22-27). This question, along with: “What shall we eat?” (16:1-3) were at the forefront of the Israelites’ minds. Although they had forgotten their bondage and beatings while enslaved in Egypt, they remembered Egypt’s “flesh pots” that filled their stomachs.

Now their challenge consisted of traveling three days in the desert—with children and animals—without water. Not a pleasant experience! On the third day they came across water, only to find it was bitter, (Marah means “bitter”).

Unlike the Israelites who complained and accused Moses and Aaron of leading them into the wilderness to die, Moses acted in faith. He cried out to God and then obeyed.

Wiersbe concludes: “God can solve our problems by changing things (like making the bitter waters sweet), by giving us something else (like the wells of water at Elim), or by giving us the grace we need to bear with our difficulties and not complain. The third approach is what produces lasting spiritual growth (2 Cor. 12:7-10). . . .Note to self . . . . The Jews not only learned something about themselves and about life, but they also learned something about their God, that He is ‘Jehovah-Ropha, the Lord who heals’ (15:26). God promised Israel abundant physical blessings if they would obey Him, but physical afflictions if they disobeyed (Deut. 7:12-15; 28). These promises were a part of the old covenant with Israel and aren’t repeated in the new covenant for believers today. If it is His will, God is certainly able to heal every disease, but our attitude must always be, ‘Not my will but Thy will be done.’”

(surveyofchrisianity.com)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—knowing the intense suffering that lay before Him—modeled this prayer three times. Instead of complaining or questioning God, He simply prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39b). What incredible love and obedience!

Thankfully, God knows how to balance our life experiences. He alone knows how much we can take. Although God gives us trials to humble and grow us, He also pours out rich blessings to encourage—just as He did by leading His people to the restful place of Elim with lots of water.

Future Glory, Romans 8:18-25

I hope you’ve had a great summer. The glory of summer is soon fading. I enjoy summer, but I really love the changing colors and weather fall brings. I’m thankful for the changing seasons.

Speaking of fading, my computer’s hard-drive died. I’ve told myself that I will never take my computer for granted again! 🙂

Since my hard-drive crashed last week I’ve been using the library’s computer. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post pictures. With limited time I will also be posting weekly for a while instead of twice a week.

Seasons

As I write about change and seasons I’m reminded of what my pastor said: “Knowing what season you’re in (spiritually) is important.” He suggested that our lives won’t be in perfect balance as we journey here on earth, but we usually have a rhythm in our spiritual growth. Knowing which season we’re in will determine how we respond.

On the tail of verse 17 in Romans 8, after writing about a season of sharing in Christ’s suffering, Paul sets up three reasons for encouragement: 1) the glory that will be revealed (vs. 18-25); 2) the Holy Spirit’s help (vs. 26-27); and 3) all things work together for good (vs. 28-30).

Hope of God’s Final Victory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” –vs. 18-22

Genesis 3:17-19 sets the background for this passage. Paul makes three observations about creation:

  1. It eagerly awaits the revelation of God’s children.
  2. By God’s will, it was subjected to frustration.
  3. It will be set free from decay’s bondage and share in transformation along with God’s children.

Paul ties the believer’s present trials to creation in verses 23-25. Similar to creation, we groan inwardly as we await the full adoption as God’s children that will happen at the resurrection. Our present hope is “the first-fruits of the Spirit”, God’s promise of our total victory with Christ in the end.

So What?

Through sin, all creation is subject to frustration and bondage to decay. But one day all creation will be set free and transformed. Because believers look forward to a new heaven and earth that God promised we can be filled with hope now.

Believers resurrected bodies will be glorified like the body Christ now has in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:25-58; 1 John 3:2). Believers have the down payment, “first-fruits”, of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of being resurrected (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

If you are a believer who is currently suffering, hold on to hope. Ultimate victory is your final resting place through Jesus Christ!

God’s Plans—Who Me? What? Why?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

God—master artist, architect, builder, designer—knows exactly where and how to apply His creative techniques on us, His canvas. I like Chip Ingram’s analogy (Your Divine Design, Living on the Edge): “Believers [in Christ] are in process . . . process of an extreme makeover.”

In order to understand God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts, we need to first understand the context.

Who? What?

Ephesians 2:1-3 explains who we used to be:

  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts [prisoners of the world system].  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

 Ephesians 2:4-6 explains who we are now in Christ:

  • But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Why an extreme makeover?

Ephesians 2:7-10 explains God’s purpose:

  • . . . in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (vs. 10)

Is your life different now because of Jesus? How?

What work is God doing in you?

More to come: “Where and how does God do extreme makeovers?”

Why Study the Bible?

“If there is one terrible disease in the church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as He is. We’re too familiar with God.”  – A.W. Tozer, Worship: The Missing Jewel

Growing up and regularly attending a Bible based church has truly been a blessing. But I confess, there have been times when I allowed my relationship with God to become too casual–viewing Him more as my buddy rather than the infinite, omnipotent King of Kings. A peruse of Job 38-41, however, quickly put things into proper perspective. 🙂

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When we apply ourselves to Bible study we grow in knowledge, wisdom and truth (Proverbs 2:6).

The Bible–A Map to Guide Us

God knows we desperately need a map to point us in the right direction. On our own we are lost sinners. His inspired Word provides the guidance we need to acquire His perspective and principles for living (Psalm 119). No wonder King David penned, “you [Lord] have exalted above all things your name and your word”  (Psalm 138:1-2).

Knowing God’s Commands

Matthew 7:1-13 records Jesus scolding the Pharisees for claiming to know God’s will in every detail of life. They created much confusion amongst the people by adding hundreds of their own petty rules and regulations to God’s laws. Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men,” (vs. 8).

Engaging Our Minds

Jesus used parables to explain spiritual truth, compelling listeners to think. He doesn’t want us to park our minds in neutral and follow Him in a blind free fall. He calls us to actively engage our minds in His Word (Matthew 22:37; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Peter 3:15).

Other Benefits From Bible Study

  • Knowing Jesus Christ and God the Father: His justice and mercy
  • Understanding how to receive eternal life
  • Knowledge of the beginning and the end (Genesis, Revelation)
  • Training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Combatting temptation and spiritual warfare (Matthew 4:1-4; Ephesians 6:10-18)
  • Understanding God’s purpose of spiritual gifts and the function of His church
  • Discernment of false teachers

The Take Away

God wants us to not only listen carefully to His instructions, but also obey (Hebrews 2:1; James 1:22-25).

ed81919a606f79fe2cf3cb280c73b462When we seek God through Bible study and prayer, He will come along beside us personally each day and help us carry out His principles. He will also grow our faith and bless our obedience.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  – 1 Timothy 4:16

Are you currently engaged in Bible study? Does a Christian ever reach a point when he/she doesn’t need God’s Word anymore?

Coming next—“Understanding Biblical Truth.”

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