by Mike Ratliff
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB)
16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NASB)
9 The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
I’ve got my rights! That’s not fair! Can’t I do whatever I want to be happy? Do you recognize those attitudes? As I age I am constantly amazed at how stupid the world’s ways are. I am old enough to remember a time when there was always a “higher standard” that ruled over us all. It was simply understood life was not fair, it never would be, and it was best to get used to the idea. Then one day the world seemed to change. Now, there is a push to try to equalize everything. Forced equality forces the concept “everything is relative.”
Relativism is a cancer. It says there are no absolutes. It says no matter how evil or abhorrent a person’s values are to you, you must accept them because that is just your opinion. Relativism accepts all beliefs as equal. It is an illogical assumption, however. In saying, “There are no absolutes”, the speaker is making an absolute statement. The premise cannot be supported logically.
Relativism says no matter how immoral or self-centered my actions are it is okay because I make up my own rules and values as I go. If you don’t like it then you are the one who must adjust not me.
When Man attempts to apply relativism to God things get sticky in a hurry. The Bible is full of statements that make it clear there is most definitely a sovereign God on the throne who is not going to listen and give in to people’s demands to have their salvation, but forget that Lordship stuff.
The courts and legislatures in the USA have gone a long way to turn this nation away from God and His ways. There is a movement by the secular humanists and liberal politicians to change the country along the lines of the European model which is, for the most part, godless and totally devoted to relativism.
God has blessed the USA, but it has turned its back on Him and treated Him as if He is the interloper. What is His response? Check out this quote from Psalm 2.
1 Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” Psalms 2:1-6 (NASB)
The God I worship and belong to is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. He is real. He is in control. He is sovereign. He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Son came to this planet as a man. He lived a perfect life and was murdered by sinful men. As he died, the sin of all who would believe was placed on Him. He became sin so those who believe on Him as Lord and Savior are redeemed and given eternal life. A very gracious God offers sinful man the free gift of salvation.
Those who are defiled in their self-focused lifestyles and refuse to give them up are in for a very rude awakening. Many of them come to Christ for salvation on their own terms. They want it all. It doesn’t work that way. The following quote is Jesus’ own words to those who want salvation, but refuse to submit to His Lordship.
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (NASB)
True (eternal) life is found in giving up this life for Christ’s sake. Eternal death comes to those who refuse to do so.
Taking up our cross and following Christ is the antithesis of the attitude, “I’ve got my rights!” If we are struggling with the concept of fairness when it comes to the sovereignty of God then we had better get over it. God is Sovereign. He owns everything because He created everything. He makes the rules not us. If we are in Christ, but are dismayed over our struggles and all of the adversity we are going through then we must seek His face, plead for His help and comfort then respond in obedience to what He reveals to us.
God uses hard things in our lives to bring us to submit entirely to the Lordship of Christ. If we stiffen our necks, dig in our heels and refuse to accept God’s will for us in this area we make a grave error. If we demand our rights or complain about fairness and not being happy to God then all we are doing is showing how mired we are in Hard-Hearted, self-focused behavior. The adversity God is putting us through is designed specifically to refine us unto Christ-likeness.
I heard a sermon one time about going through adversity. It was after God had drawn me into a personal revival that He used to turn me around and start me on the road to maturing His way. I was the passenger in my pickup as my wife, Ina, was driving us home from church. I couldn’t drive very well at that time because my back was out. It really hurt. The sermon was on the radio. The preacher was talking about God taking us through hardship and trials and those who God pruned and refined were being prepared for greatness. I didn’t shout for joy or anything like that when I heard that. I do remember feeling that familiar “pang” I get when the Holy Spirit rejoices within me. I simply looked out the window and silently thanked God and felt very humble. I asked God, “Who am I?”
Abiding in Christ is how the believer matures into Spirit-led, Tenderhearted Christ-likeness. We cannot abide in Christ if we are demanding our rights. We can not abide in Christ if we think God is “not fair.” We can not abide in Christ if we want happiness in our circumstances rather then joy from His fulfillment. Submission to the Yoke of Christ, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices and learning from Christ all demand the giving up of our rights, ridding ourselves of relativism and seeking God for Himself rather than demanding happiness in circumstances.
If we are focused on circumstances we are self-focused. If we are self-focused everything that happens will drive us either up or down. If something good happens our Hearts try to get fulfillment from it by generating positive emotions. If something bad happens our Hearts try to get fulfillment from it by generation of negative emotions. None of the fulfillment lasts. It is all very short and is just chasing after the wind.
If we are Spirit-led then we are focused on God. Our circumstances are simply the tool we use to monitor what our Heart is up to. We must pay attention to our reactions to everything around us and what is going on in our minds and imaginations. When we do that we catch all of those attempts at fulfillment from fleshly things. When we catch them we capture them and give them to God. When we do that we are constantly in His presence. When we turn our Hearts to God for fulfillment like this we are abiding in Christ. We are not driven by circumstances. We are not controlled by relativism. We are submitted to the Lordship of Christ and are yoked up with Him.
Part of abiding in Christ is to stop being conformed to the world. The world’s ways are not God’s ways. The world’s ways demand fairness for all no matter how stupid the outcome. God’s ways demand everyone to submit to Him and His ways because He is sovereign. The World’s ways says we shouldn’t have to wait for anything. God’s ways are to develop patience in us by having us wait on Him and His solution.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.”? Did you know that phrase is not found anywhere in scripture? Not only is it not found in scripture it isn’t biblical or in any way conformed to God and His ways. The phrase came from one of Aesop’s Fables. The story goes a wagoner was driving a heavy wagon along a muddy road and became stuck. He couldn’t get the wagon unstuck so he jumped down and prayed for Hercules to come and help him. Hercules appeared and said, “Man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.”
So, what will you do the next time someone tells you to quit waiting on God in the midst of your test or trial. They may even use the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” If we fall for this we are being conformed to the world. How are we to respond to tests and trials where God’s plan is for us to wait on Him? Waiting on God is part of our learning as we are being transformed by Him through the adversity.
31 Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
Godly character, Christ-likeness, is more valuable than any treasure we could ever acquire in this physical realm. Godly character waits on the Lord. It doesn’t demand its rights. It isn’t screaming about fairness or happiness in circumstances. Godly character waits on the Lord no matter what. Godly character patiently endures tests and trials by His grace and mercy. What is the result of waiting on God instead of “helping ourselves”? Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.
Being strong in the Lord speaks of one who is walking the Walk by Faith. They are going through the process of abiding in Christ. The Lord allows a trial which means the believer must wait for God’s solution. If they prayerfully wait on the Lord their faith is exercised and becomes stronger in the Lord.
Eagles know when a storm is approaching. When it comes close the eagle will use the wind currents to rise above the storm. They don’t escape the storm; they use it to go higher. The believer in the midst of a stormy trial who has learned to wait on the Lord will use the “pursuit of God” in prayer to become closer and more intimate with Him. God will sustain the praying believer through any trial. While above the storm, the believer takes on God’s view of the storm, not theirs. That view sees the affliction as momentary and light because it is from the eternal viewpoint.
I was a runner for years. I ran for fun, fitness and the thrill of competition. I ran in races all over Oklahoma. There was a period in the early 1980’s when I was running up to forty miles a week. I went on several long training runs which were over ten miles. It was amazing to be half way into a fourteen mile run and suddenly realize you are not even breathing hard anymore. I would find my body had adjusted to the running and I was not even the least bit tired. I felt like I could run like that forever. Some people call that the “runner’s high.” If we prayerfully wait on the Lord during our trials He will sustain us with internal strength to remain faithful.
I can’t run anymore because of a knee problem. However, I can still walk. During the spring, summer and fall I will walk or hike several miles a day. After I have started walking again after winter it will take several days or even weeks of walking to get my strength back so I go out further. The stamina to do that comes from walking and hiking. You don’t get stamina for walking long distance from thinking about it or watching others walk. You have to get out there and walk.
God blesses the patient, praying believer with strength in their trials. Consider the Apostle Paul’s example:
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB)
Waiting on the Lord in the midst of a trial is not demanding our rights, or screaming about fairness, or becoming devastated about the lack of happiness in our lives. Waiting on the Lord is a vital element of abiding in Christ and walking the Walk by Faith. As we patiently endure these trials God changes us. He matures us. He changes our viewpoint. We learn to see the trial, the suffering, the agony as “sweet pain” because it brings us closer to God
Soli Deo Gloria!