Don’t give up!

Friday, August 6th, 2021

Job 5-6, 2 Corinthians 4

I live a short drive from the Blue Ridge mountains. The rolling hills of the piedmont area where I live slowly turn into mountains that tower over everything, rising up in the distance to dominate the landscape. Being so close means that hiking was a favorite pastime of mine growing up. The go-to hike in my area is called Table Rock. Just to the north of Greenville, there is a mountain that overlooks the rest of the upstate. At the very top, there is a bare rock outcropping that provides the perfect spot for a picnic. It can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to get to the top of the mountain and most of that time is spent going straight up. Still, I loved the feeling of anticipation of what the view would look like when we reached the stop and that anticipation kept me going even when I felt like my legs were about to give out. Towards the end of the hike, I was always red faced, gasping for breath, straining towards the next step up. But, that momentary struggle paled in comparison to the views at the top. 

We’ve all probably faced times where it feels like our physical body is just about to give out. If you’re like me, it may be running 5 or 10k, a hard workout, a game of ultimate frisbee (or your favorite sport), a day spent weeding the garden in 100 degree heat, mulching the yard (also in 100 degree heat), or maybe just a really long day at work. These are moments where it seems like you’ll never make it to the end and your main thought is how can you just stop what you are doing and sit down. Each of these things, even if it seems like the difficulty will never end (and I’ve pushed through them all), has a time stamp on it. The struggle will come to an end, and we will arrive at what we’ve been working towards. 

Paul knows about this. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, he writes, “7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. 14 We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. 15 Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.”

The clay jars are us! We are fragile. We can be pressured, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but through it all, we will overcome. We live knowing that God will save us and raise us with Jesus. So when we feel like we are at the end of our rope, we are reminded that we are overcomers. 

Paul goes on in verses 16-18, “16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

We are renewed day by day for an absolutely incomparable eternal hope in glory with Christ. We will be glorified in the kingdom, so we don’t need to worry about the present sufferings we may face here. Our momentary struggle pales in comparison to what we are promised at the end. Don’t stop striving! Don’t give up! We have an eternal promise that is greater than everything we face now!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 5-6 and 2 Corinthians 4 .

Detestable Practices

2 Chronicles 33-34

I have two dramatically different directions I’d like to go with today’s reading, and decided I’d share them both.

In 2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 6, we find, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. … He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

Did you catch that, he sacrificed his sons in the fire.  As repulsive as everything else is that he did, in my mind, nothing can compare with that.  That sounds horrible, and in my mind, he deserved a horrible punishment.

2 Kings 24: 1-4 tells the end of that story.  It goes like this, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”

God annihilated the nation of Judah because of all the innocent blood Manasseh had shed.  God wasn’t willing to forgive.   As I read this, I have to agree that God was right in his judgement against Judah.  They deserved everything they got.

But this makes me wonder, how are we different from Judah?  We may not sacrifice our children in the fire, but we do have rampant abortion in our nation.  I wonder, in God’s eyes, how do those two ways of shedding innocent blood differ?  Which makes me wonder how much we are provoking God to anger, and what will be the end of our story as a nation.  I see parallels, and they concern me. 

The second thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is that Manasseh was born during the additional 15 years that God had extended Hezekiah’s life.  If Hezekiah had died when he was originally very sick, Manasseh would not have been born, and someone else would have been king.  It may have been that Judah would have existed as a nation far longer.  In this case, I think we can agree that for the greater good, it probably would have been better if Hezekiah had died young, so Manasseh would not have been born.

I know probably more than most, how we long to have life extended, and how we may plead with God to spare life.  But I’m reminded of Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

We don’t often think that sometimes the righteous die, basically for their own good.  We view death as the enemy, and rightly so, but this life isn’t our final reward.  This life is the test to see which eternal reward we will receive, life or death.  It’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice that we should live so sold out for God, that we shouldn’t be concerned about our life or our death.  We need to seek first God’s kingdom, and God will take care of everything else.


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 33-34 and Romans 16

The Best Construction Project

1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3 19 a

For the Corinthians and Greek culture in general, wisdom and knowledge were extremely important.  This is why Paul spends 1 Corinthians 1 emphasizing that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the wisdom they have worked towards their whole lives.  Then in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that wisdom is important for the Christian, but it is Godly wisdom that is very different from what they have learned, and it cannot be taught, but is given by the holy spirit.  Now in chapter 3 Paul is clearing up any last confusion in case they were not understanding up until now. He very clearly says that they need this Godly wisdom, but do not have it at all. They have been seeking an elevated status in their congregation because of their high learning and deep understandings.  Paul wants to set the record straight, living a Christian life is not about sitting in your plush study and writing treatises and books and musings, and becoming revered for your knowledge. It is about getting your hands dirty. He likens the Christians to farmers and builders who have work to do, and he is a worker right there with them.  This would have been a very shocking thing to the aristocratically minded members of the Corinthian Church who would have read this.

 

So let me be as clear as Paul was.  If you decide to follow Jesus and serve him, then you will be a servant.  Your life will not be a vacation, but a construction project. It will take work, but in the end you will hopefully do something valuable with your life and “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-14.  That reward is everlasting life in God’s kingdom, and is worth so much more than a high position in society, or being revered for your earthly wisdom.

 

Your fellow servant

Chris Mattison

Quite an Inheritance

psalm 37 29

There are five short verses in the Bible that every believer should commit to memory. Psalm 37:29, Proverbs 10:30, Proverbs 11:31, Matthew 5:5, and John 3:13. This is enough information to keep anyone from being confused about the place of the eternal reward of the righteous. It has become my habit to say that teaching that the righteous will go to heaven is telling a lie. And all liars will be rewarded by fire. Jesus had good reason to teach us that the meek will inherit the earth. I want to encourage everyone to commit to memory those verses.

-Larry Rankin

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