by Mike Ratliff
28 Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν. Romans 8:28 (NA28)
28 And we know that to the ones who love God, He works all things together for their good according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In last night’s post, God’s purpose in our discouragement, I shared a great deal of how God had used my circumstances over the last several years, in and out of the fires of tribulation, to transform me according to His will. I shared how this should be an encouragement for us not a discouragement. In this post, we will look at some of those “circumstances” in greater detail.
One of the main things, if not the most important thing, that I have learned on this narrow path is when I see God moving in and through me or my ministry the more I submit to His will no matter how severe or fiery the trials and tests become. The place God has taken this ministry over the last several years is remarkable, but the way He has done it in and through me has been quite painful. Through these lessons of submission to His will and obedience through fiery trials and tests, I have let go of many things I used to think were important while submitting more and more to His will in simply having no goals or ambitions for me or this ministry in this world at all. When I first began, I thought that God was going to eventually grow this ministry into something and use me and who knows how far He would take us? However, that has not been the case at all.
When I first started writing, it was with the goal of gaining readers with the hope of eventually getting a writing ministry going and become a successful Christian writer and possibly even a full-time Bible teacher/commentator traveling around doing seminars and talk shows, et cetera. However, God had other plans. I soon found myself just a few months into this in a full-scale war at my old church against those who desired to take it down the Purpose Driven path. However, through that battle and my own desperate education on how to combat it, I became Reformed in my theology and I made friends with Ken Silva. After several months of seeking God’s will as I wrote commentaries and posted them while commenting as I could in those battles over at the old Slice of Laodicea blog, Ken contacted me, asking me to come on board the Christian Research Network team. This did several things. It increased my exposure of course, but it also brought home a certain sense of reality of the increasing spiritual darkness that has overtaken the visible church.
After several severe battles with some enemies of the truth, all of those illusions I began with were gone. One by one, my goals and ambitions were being taken away. When I came to the end of the summer of 2009, I was thinking about quitting. Then in the last part of August, I began to have Epileptic Seizures again. The last ones I had had were back in the 1970’s while I was in the Navy. Over the next nine months as my Neurologist tried to get them under control, I had at least one seizure every few weeks. This messed up my shoulders. I ended up having physical therapy on my left shoulder and “frozen-joint” shoulder manipulation on my right shoulder plus physical therapy. All of this has a tendency to make you feel helpless and vulnerable. When I think back on those times now I remember the pain and also the spiritual attacks from our enemy attempting to discourage me. This required a great deal of prayer time to get through.
What has this to do with this ministry and loving the Lord? I am convinced that God had foreordained that I go through all of this. It has been through the seizures and pain and being helpless, et cetera that I have become totally dependent upon His grace. I know that the only thing that matters at all is His glory. When I look back now on those goals and ambitions for this ministry and myself that I had in 2006 or so I am almost embarrassed. It has been through persevering through these trials and witnessing His strong right arm holding me and not letting me fall in the midst of all them that my faith has grown deep roots and my gratitude towards my Lord is as deep as it can be. I am my Lord’s to do with as He sees fit. He is the Lord! I am His slave. Blessed be the Name of the Lord God almighty!
Now, do I love God? Oh, my goodness! Yes, I love Him beyond what I can describe. However, that Love has grown deeper and wider and more intense through these tests and trials especially as I have studied those parts of Sacred Scripture that talk about how God first loved us, before we ever loved Him. Let us look at Romans 8:26-30.
26 Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν· τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις· 27 ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδεν τί τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων. 28 Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν. 29 ὅτι οὓς προέγνω, καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς· 30 οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν· καὶ οὓς ἐκάλεσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδικαίωσεν· οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν. Romans 8:26-30 (NA28)
26 And in like manner also the Spirit joins in to help our weakness for what we should pray for we do not always know what to ask, but the Spirit intercedes on our behalf with groanings unexpressed. 27 But the one searching the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because according to God He intercedes on behalf of the saints. 28 And we know that to the ones who love God, He works all things together for their good according to His purpose. 29 Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son for him to be firstborn among many brothers. 30 And whom He predestined, these also He called and whom He called, these also He justified; and whom He justified, these also He glorified. Romans 8:26-30 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
What action of God is first in the progression of vv29-30? God foreknew then predestined those whom He later called. The word translated as “foreknew” in v29 is the verb προέγνω, which is the Aorist tense, Indicative mood, and Active voice form of προγινώσκω. This word does mean “to have prior knowledge, but it also carries the idea of foreordination.” If you take that nugget back and reread Romans 8:26-30 then you see that it is God not simply looking forward in time, knowing all things, but is foreordaining His will in predestining these same ones to be conformed to the image of His Son. These same ones He also predestined He also sealed it by calling them. All those whom He called, He also justified. All whom He Justified are glorified.
The word translated above as “predestined” in v30 is the verb προώρισεν, which is the Aorist tense, Indicative mood, Active voice form of προορίζω, “to predestine; choose, determine, set apart beforehand.” Let’s look at another example, which is 1 Peter 1:1-2,19-20.
1 Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, Γαλατίας, Καππαδοκίας, Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας, 2 κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη. 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NA28)
19 ἀλλὰ τιμίῳ αἵματι ὡς ἀμνοῦ ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου Χριστοῦ, 20 προεγνωσμένου μὲν πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου φανερωθέντος δὲ ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν χρόνων διʼ ὑμᾶς 1 Peter 1:19-20 (NA28)
1 Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ to the chosen exiles of the dispersion of Pontus, of Galatia, of Cappadocia, of Asia, and of Bithynia. 2 According to the foreknowledge of God the Father by Sanctification of the Spirit resulting in Obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ, Grace to you and peace may it be multiplied. 1 Peter 1:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
19 But with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and unspotted, the blood of Christ 20 having been foreordained before the foundation of the world yet having been manifested in the last of the times for you. 1 Peter 1:19-20 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The noun foreknowledge in v2 translates πρόγνωσιν, the Accusative, Singular of πρόγνωσις. This is the noun form of προγινώσκω. In v20 we have the Perfect, Passive, Participle form, προεγνωσμένου, which I translated as “having been foreordained…” All of this is clear if we prayerfully and carefully study these things with the right motives. It is obvious that all this does not mean that God simply foresaw that Christ would be manifested. Instead, He was, as we are, foreordained and foreknown by an intimate relationship before the foundation of the world.
Now take one or several steps back and digest all of that. I have done this in light of the health issues I have had and the issues I have had with dealing with the enemies of the truth as well as infiltrators in the camp who have done all they can to destroy what we do in our discernment ministries from the inside out. Who is Sovereign? Who foreknew us, loving us and foreordaining that we are who we are and all of this stuff? God is in control my brethren. He is on the throne. My arm feeling like it is about to fall off sometimes and me being in so much pain that I wish it would, is all part of this. I am in the fires of tribulation. I have a thorn in the flesh. I am not at some relaxing picnic. No, I am called by God to stand in the gap and tell the truth to the Body of Christ to all who will hear. Some who hear do not like it and strike back. Some hate what we do so much they attempt to do evil against us. It does not matter. It is all foreordained.
I am sustained in these fires of trial. The Grace of God is sufficient for any trial. I am His to use as He sees fit. If it is my time to be used up them so be it. If my time is done then it is far better to be face-to-face with my redeemer. However, as long as I am kept here, I will serve in whatever capacity God ordains for me to do. His will be done, all for His glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!