Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Week One - Always

 “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…”
 II Corinthians 2:14
Here the definition of the word “always” holds more than the simple connotation of continually or evermore.  It means - to be so at all times and growing more and more.  Our victory in Christ is not only consistent and continual, but it is always the truth and it becomes more and more apparent to us over the passage of time and through the channels of spiritual experience.
I am more confident in the sufficiency and supply of my Saviour for my spiritual and ministerial needs today than I was ten years ago.  But that does not mean that I was not triumphing in Christ back then.  I was, just at a different level in my Christian growth.  Further, I will be more confident in the sufficiency and supply of my Saviour ten years from now than I am today.  My victory in Christ is just as secure today as it was and as it will be.  This is true at all times, and yet, growing more solid with the passage of time.
A defeatist attitude has no place in the service of Christ.  As His servants we must remember that the battle is the Lord’s.  We are but tools in His capable hands and He always gains the victory.  Keeping our eyes firmly planted on the Leader will help us to see the victories and thereby increase our faith. 
Someone wrote:  “Don’t confuse your path with your destination.  Just because its stormy now doesn’t mean you aren’t headed for sunshine.” Might sound a bit trite in comparison to this verse, but it brings home the point.  Triumph requires battles.  But we know the end of the story – Christ will be triumphant and we will be at His side.
How about you?  Are you more confident in Christ today than you were ten years ago?  Can you see that the passage of time has increased your faith?  Answered some of your questions?  Brought you into many victories?  Or, are you letting the current battle cause you to forget the triumph you have in Christ?

“And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.” 
Deuteronomy 6:24
The definition of “always” in this verse holds yet another idea.  The word comes from three Hebrew words and can be defined as:  daily for an indefinite period for everyone collectively.
Moses is in the middle of his long sermon, which contains the Ten Commandments.  He is admonishing Israel to be obedient to the Lord and to the commands that have been given.  He has reminded them of their escape from Egypt and of the future promised land.  Life is going to be very different for them.  No longer slaves, no longer under Egyptian rule, they are now free men, but under God’s law.  Where Egypt’s rule was for the benefit of the Pharaoh, God’s rule is for their own benefit – “for our good always”.
God’s desire is to bless Israel.  He wants to bless all of them – every day – indefinitely.  Such is His love.  No one is left out.  No one excluded.  No one overlooked.  He is good and all about being good.  I like this thought.  I hear people speak as though God has overlooked them.  This shows me that He has not and does not overlook people.  His will of goodness toward us, as his children, is daily for an indefinite period for every one of us collectively, and individually.
Obedience to God’s commands keeps us in the place of blessing, and, according to this verse may very well keep us alive.  Like a good Father, God knows that his children need boundaries.  His boundaries are not designed to lock his children away, inhibit their growth or expression, but rather, to keep them safe and to give them good - good gifts the New Testament says.
Have you found yourself mully-grubbing about the way God treats you?  Do you think God has overlooked you?  He hasn’t.  His goodness is daily for an indefinite period for everyone collectively, and that includes you.

“Let your speech be always with grace…” Colossians 4: 6 
“…always laboring fervently for you in prayers…” Colossians 4:12 
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you…” II Thessalonians 2:13 
Again, the definition is - daily for an indefinite period for every one of us collectively.  If we look at the three verses we can find three distinct things that should be active in each of us daily and continually.
Colossians 4:6 says we should be always guarding our speech.  Our words should be graceful, or, full of grace.  That means savory, discreet, seasonable.  The definition of savory has taken on a different idea for me since living in England.  Here they do not eat savory and sweet together.  Savory food is meat and potatoes.  Sweet is dessert.  They do not go on the same plate.
If we apply that definition to this verse we can see that words seasoned with salt or graceful are not necessarily always the sweet words.  Sometimes people need to hear the meat and potatoes!  Stuff with substance – healthy words to grow on!  But they must be served tastefully!
Colossians 4:12 says that we should be hard at work in prayer. Fervently means with heat.  Without prayer we grow cold, so we need to “hot up” our prayer life always!  Each day we need to be actively serving others by holding them up in genuine, expressive prayer. Jack Taylor wrote that the work of the ministry is prayer.  After that, God does the rest.  Every one of us can have this part in the ministry – always – and for the benefit of everyone collectively.
II Thessalonians 2:13 reminds us that we are to be grateful, thankful creatures.  However, this verse is not speaking of a thankful heart for our food, clothing and shelter.  It is thankfulness for our fellow soldiers and brethren.  Paul was thankful for the Thessalonians who had come to know Christ and were facing trials and troubles.  He wanted to encourage them to stand fast and stay faithful.  He needed to be thankful for them, and they needed to hear of his thankfulness and receive this comfort and encouragement – a collective thankfulness.
So – time for a few questions.  Are you serving up tasteful, savory words?  Are you praying with some real passion and fervor?  Are you openly expressing thankfulness to and for your fellow brethren?  These three things should be daily for an indefinite period for every one of us collectively.

As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing… II Corinthians 6:10 
Paul is giving his definition of ministry.  It really makes for some hard reading from verses 3 –10.  Matthew Henry divides it up this way.
To be a servant of God one must do so by:
1.    Much patience in afflictions – verses 4-5

“But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings..”

2.    By acting from good principles – verses 6-7

“…by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left…”

3.    By due temper and behavior under all the variety of conditions – verses 8-10

“By honour and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we life; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

So when we come to this always rejoicing we need to know that this means exactly that – always, evermore.  It is amazing that this instruction comes near the end of this long list of hardships.  Ministry is obviously not for the faint hearted.  It is important to note as well that the rejoicing is not in what they had suffered, or so much about what they might have accomplished, but it is to be in God as when we come to Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”  Always – at all times – and growing more and more. 
Rejoicing is not only for the minister, but for the flock as well.  All will endure trials and sorrows, but the main response should always be one of rejoicing – rejoicing in the Lord.
Are you burdened down with heartaches and trials?  Does sorrow cast shadows on your life? Why not lay it all aside and do a bit of rejoicing as a servant of the Most High God?

“…having always a conscience void of offense toward God and man.” Acts 24:16 
A guilty, nagging conscience is a hard thing to live with.  Keeping a clear conscience does not happen by haphazard living.  Throughout Scripture we are instructed to “take heed”, to examine and judge ourselves, and to be ready and willing to confess our faults and make things right as we go through life.
Small things left unattended or swept under the carpet will collect and grow into bigger problems.  Some writers talk about “keeping short accounts”.  By this they mean diligently dealing with each hurt or misunderstanding that comes through life instead of letting things grow out of proportion. 
I know in my own life that when I leave something unattended it stalks me.  I begin to listen to my inner voice of condemnation or justification and my fear about confrontation grows larger than the initial problem.  I also know that when I am courageous enough to obey God’s directives that things are sorted out much quicker and with less spiritual pain.
Paul is saying here that he always works toward keeping a clear conscience in all things pertaining to God and pertaining to those around him.  I don’t think that means he wanders around looking for offenses, but I think that he is perceptive and responsive in the face of potentially hurtful situations.  He is ready always with an answer and ready to forgive.
The definition of “always” here is continual or constant. This was a pattern of Paul’s life.  He did not want to be a stumbling block, so he took care of things and directed his life in a manner that would please God and man.

Do you do the same?  Or is there a trail of devastation behind you by the way you have treated people, or held on to old grudges?  Is there someone to whom you need to grant forgiveness – or – someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?  Is your conscience clear or nagging?

No comments:

Post a Comment