A friend who has recently been reading through David Brainerd’s biography shared with me a stirring passage from Brainerd’s journal. What motivated this man — who spent years in sacrifice and service of the gospel, and eventually died an early death for the spread of it — to continue laboring in the face of excruciating pain and disappointment? The overarching, undergirding concern “that God might be known to be God in the whole earth” and that “God have the glory forever.”
I shared these thoughts at a men’s retreat a few years ago, learning from the man whom God himself commended in superlative terms for his meekness, even though he was a great leader. In fact, it is his very meekness which contributed to Moses’ great leadership. There are lessons here, then, for every leader — including in the home — so I hope these observations will be a blessing to all fathers and families:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
Paul, in the middle of a praise-hymn to God in Christ, makes the astounding claim that He is “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” because of the power that is working in Christian believers (Ephesians 3:20). God is able! He is able to do what we ask; he is able to do more than we think; he is able to do above all that we can ask or think. And this doesn’t just mean that God is capable of answering more prayers than we are asking; it also means he is answering
“[We have] boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Access to the holy God who created us is the most precious commodity in the universe. So precious, in fact, that no person can afford it, can purchase it with any amount of money or sacrifice or even personal godliness. This is the lesson we are meant learn from the Old Testament sacrificial system of worship. The innermost room (the “holiest”) of the temple was where God’s presence was experienced in a special way. Yet the writer of Hebrews reminds us that there is only
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:6) It is interesting how these two things go together: 1) forsaking foolishness, and 2) living wisely. In order to pursue the way of truth, the way of understanding, you must forsake the company of foolish companions. You can’t have both. You can’t go in the way of understanding, and also keep your foolish friends close by. “Forsake the foolish and live,” and in forsaking the foolish, “go in the way of understanding.” To pursue wise ways of living, you must—you must—forsake the company and counsel of
David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
The question of evil and suffering is never a theoretical one. We all experience real and deep pain and wickedness. However, for the Christian believer (who recognizes there is a God), there are only three logical possibilities for the evil things that happen in this world:
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (1 Corinthians 15:36). Paul, speaking here in the context of the resurrection of the dead, compares our earthly body to a seed. The seed must be planted, and die, in order for it to eventually become the full-grown plant. Similarly, Paul goes on in the very next verse to insist, our earthly body is only the bare kernel of what our glorified body will be. This is a stunning analogy, with awesome implications for the afterlife!
Paul contends in Romans 1:18-22 that, although God is invisible, his works are a visible proof of his actions and existence. Everyone realizes, in their heart, that there is a God; but many try to suppress this knowledge even from themselves.
The same Jesus who teaches us to pray our Father in heaven tells us God runs to meet his children who come to him by faith. So even as you run to God today, when you do, Jesus says you will find that God is running to receive you. Take the parable of the prodigal son. In the beginning, the son wants what he can get from the father:
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2) While it is true that we all have experienced what we might call “a good day” — when the children are behaving, the sun is shining, our body is healthy, our spouse is agreeable — these blessings from our benevolent God are not unique to believers who have Christ as their shepherd. Even unbelievers can enjoy these things.
The psalmist famously writes: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Francis Schaeffer, in his book The God Who Is There, references a tragic poem found with the body of a 23-year old young woman and drug addict who had committed suicide. The note read:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (1 Corinthians 15:35-36). Paul, in discussing the truth of the general resurrection of the dead, anticipates some possible queries and objections. Someone might ask, for instance, “How are the dead raised?” This is a good question! Christian, linger here and learn from the heretic.