One day the angels came to present themselves before he Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, Where have you come from?…Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Job 1:6-7, 12
I’m not sure whether it’s troubling or delightful to know that there are wars being waged on our behalf in heaven. We obviously don’t know the extent of these wars, the number of participants, or the stakes being “wagered.” God’s betting on us.
I know, it’s a radical idea, but look at Job. The text doesn’t say that anything was wagered, but God just wanted to show off His children. He let Satan do what he needed in order to prove a point. The battle you’re going through right now may be a direct result of Satan. God is pulling for you. He wants you to remain faithful. He want you to stick to your beliefs, even if it means you lose everything.
Every now and again we get a glimpse into heaven. We may not like what we see because it doesn’t fit our idea of what heaven’s really like. But war is being waged, and Satan will ultimately be defeated.
“…and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:11
The whole point of knowing Christ, knowing the power of his resurrection, and sharing in his sufferings is victory. It seems simple, I know. But it means victory in the temporary life we live here on earth, and victory in that which is unseen, the eternal.
Have you ever watched a game where the winning team squeaked by with a win? Maybe they went ahead in the last minute after they were behind the entire match? You probably had a sick feeling in your stomach over the win. The announcers might say, “it wasn’t a pretty win, but it still goes in the win column.”
Now have you ever seen a team that outmatched, outplayed and utterly whipped their opponents? Their opponents were annihilated, demolished, crushed. You would have probably felt sorry for the opposing team if you hadn’t been rooting for the victors.
That’s the kind of victory that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings, both in the temporary and in the eternal. Utter triumph over sin. Total victory over death and hell.
“…becoming like him in his death,” Philippians 3:10
I realize it’s neither a pleasant nor an upbeat subject, but have you ever thought of what it would be like to be martyred for what you believe in? Have you ever heard the stories or seen the footage of Believers around the world who have had to suffer unbelievable injustices at the hands of their enemies and in the end say, “the Lord is Good. Blessed be the Lord.”
I’ve seen and heard it too and have wondered what it would be like. Would I be able to handle it? What would I say under pressure? And yes, would I deny Him with a gun to my head?
Think for a moment about our Lord’s last moments on the cross. He could have called legions of angels to rescue him in an instant. He could have denounced His heavenly Father. He could have dashed it all and went back to heaven with the bruises and scars he already endured.
But he didn’t.
That act of obedience is a reminder to us that we may be asked to lay down our lives for Him. He will give us the strength on that day.
…and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering,” Philippians 3:10
I’ve heard stories recently of Chinese believers who go to prison in order to share their faith with the inmates there. I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure there is a lot of suffering and misery in many of the world’s prisons. And yet, there are those who would deny themselves to the point of pain and suffering in order to witness for Jesus.
That is completely foreign to my Western mindset. And obviously it’s totally foreign to our Western feel-good, no pain society.
My point is not to deride the West for its comfortable way of life. I want to do better. We “pride” ourselves at being the best in the world in most everything. Suffering, though, is a tough one. Is it possible that we could be the best at that too?
What would it take to be the best at suffering? Perhaps we just need someone to tell us we can’t do it. In books I’ve read, many of our Chinese brethren have already said that.
The ball is in our court…
...And the power of his resurrection… Philippians 3:10
Resurrection power. The power that raised Jesus from the dead. The power to heal and mend and protect and loose from bondage. The Apostle Paul sought to know this power, to know the “power” behind the power.
In a real sense, the power of the resurrection is that 2000 years removed from the actual event, people are still coming to know the One who was Resurrected! Lives are still being changed. Marriages are being restored. Addictions are being broken. Proud men are being humbled. Truly evil men are changing their lives completely. The world is changed each and every time someone believes in Jesus.
Yeah, it’s that resurrection power.
I want to know Christ… Philippians 3:10
Paul’s passion after his dramatic conversion experience was that he wanted to know Christ. Period. Nothing else seemed to matter. Sometimes that meant that he had to preach the Gospel. Sometimes he had to teach. Sometimes he just had to fellowship with his fellow believers. In all of those actions, he was learning more and more about Christ because God was using those people to teach him.
Obviously we know that people can teach us what to do and what not to do by their actions and words. But I think we need to be receptive to hearing and learning. “What can this person teach me about Christ?” is probably a fairly common prayer we should have. Even the vilest of people can teach us great things about Christ.
One such man in my past would call me to task every time I did something that he thought that Christians shouldn’t be doing. He didn’t know Christ but he did know that we as Believers didn’t have to stoop to his level to prove a point. In his own way, he was teaching me that Christ cared even in my speech and course jesting.
I’m not saying that every single person you come across will teach you something about the nature of Christ.
Or maybe I am.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The Righteous run to it and are saved. Proverbs 18:10
I used to work in the Hancock Tower in Chicago. It was 95 floors straight up. There was an express elevator that went from the Ground Floor to 95 in about 45 seconds. When you looked out over Lake Michigan to the east, and the city and suburbs to the north, south and west, you felt invincible, like nothing could ever shake your world.
The name of the Lord is like that. You don’t have to defend it; it’s solid. You don’t have to excuse it nor do you have to run from it. In fact, this verse tells us that we should run to it.
When you’re afraid, it’s your safe harbor. When you’re lonely; it’s your friend. When you’re hurt and wounded, it’s the salve that will heal.
Run to the Tower of the Lord; run often.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Mark 9:4
So much could be said about the Transfiguration: the dazzling brightness, two Bible characters we have read about all our lives, His disciples’ reaction, and The Voice.
To be certain, all of those are important and could cover many in depth lessons and sermons. I could see myself as one of the three disciples who came with Jesus, looking in awe at the Elijah, Moses, and Jesus after Jesus was transfigured.
The important entity in this story isn’t Elijah, Moses, James, John, or Peter. That’s right, the most important person in this passage is Jesus himself. We lose sight of that when we’re in the nitty gritty of the Bible.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the central character in the Bible.
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Acts 11:19
Church history books are filled with stories of the growth of the Church because of persecution. It’s a paradox that Satan himself must still be puzzled over. If he persecutes and kills many in the Church, it should die. He couldn’t be more wrong. The more the Evil One persecutes and kills those in the church, the more there is growth, and sometimes in great numbers!
We have this idea that those in the early Church were filled with the Spirit and tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel far and wide. They did. But in some instances, they were forced to go (and persecution is what drew them out).
We in the Western world find ourselves in a similar situation. For the most part, we’ve become lax and lazy. We don’t sense the urgency. We like our creature comforts. A day will come, though, when we may be persecuted for what we believe. I don’t wish it to happen; I don’t want it to happen, but it may nonetheless happen.
It will also be a time when those who are true followers will be weeded out from those who are religious and have no desire to be persecuted for him. When will that time be? I don’t know, nor does anyone know. Pray that when that time comes, we’ll hold strong and steady to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.