Point of Reference
by Fred Price
In attempting to answer the questions posed in last week’s first installment of, “…the battle is the Lord’s,…” 1 Samuel 17:47; we examined the lives of several Old Testament men who faced tremendous obstacles yet overcame them all – David, Noah and Gideon.
Being baffled, confused and puzzled by circumstances beyond our control and overwhelmed by decisions and tasks that seem beyond our ability to complete are common to all men in every age. In continuing our quest this week, let’s look at Paul, the quintessential over-comer; to ascertain his secret of success.
Paul , a man more responsible for the spread of Christianity than most anyone else in history, suffered immensely as he worked and struggled through his mission in life. He writes of some of his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, listing the obstacles overcome. Five times he received 39 lashes from a whip (often a source of mutilation if not death), he was beaten three times with rods, stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times; never settled but constantly on the move to new territory and converts. As such he was in danger along the roads and waterways from bandits as well as false believers and adversaries of the faith; often laboring without adequate clothing, food, water and shelter. All this – not for monetary gain, career advancement or worldly acclaim but for the sake of the gospel! Throughout these unsurpassed examples of success in the midst of hardship, of overcoming the ordinary with the extraordinary; his battle cry was, “I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NASB) He wasn’t reckless in his endeavors, he took precautions and the “easy” way out if the opportunity availed itself to him. ( 2 Corinthians 11:32,33) But he was willing to face death unafraid if need be to advance the gospel of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. ( Acts 14:19,20) Assuring those about him that, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 He had acquired the freedom of being available for whatever God asked, placing himself squarely in God’s hands and then being content to deal with whatever came his way. ( Philippians 4:11) Asserting that, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 Because quite honestly, things don’t always work right here on earth. If we think to profit all the time because of our faith we will be disappointed. Sometimes things won’t go “right” because of our faith. But heaven awaits! We must realize that like Paul, we will often be delivered through hardship and trials, not protected from them. With this understanding, we will be armed with the ability to find contentment in God’s service, come what may. Paul was God’s to do with as God saw fit. As such, he was able to find peace in doing God’s will, even when he didn’t fully understand or see how it would all play out. And of course the ultimate example of giving to gain was set by Christ himself. (See Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:2) So, “ Let us fix our eyes on Jesus ” – as well as these other men of faithful action.
What can we learn from these men? Key ingredients for effectiveness under fire! All these people benefited from challenging situations. If for no other reason, the testing of our faith and faithfulness develops the much needed character-trait of perseverance; which in turn matures us and leads us to completion in Christ. ( James 1:3) We learn that God is dependable, which encourages us to attempt more tasks for his glory. So, “…run with perseverance the race marked out for (you).” Hebrews 12:1 Even if suffering, of the mental, emotional or physical kind is inflicted upon us, we can rejoice... “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3,4
These examples show us as well the proper working relationship we need to develop with Jesus Christ. “For we are God’s fellow workers;...” unashamed as we correctly relay the truth to others, created for good works in Jesus’ name. 1 Corinthians 3:9 (See also Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:15) As such, we must remain ever-ready to work for him – with him. If not, we have failed our true purpose; which requires us to understand what is expected and to embrace the lifestyle he exemplified. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action;...” 1 Peter 1:13, which will impart self-control, a key requirement for effectiveness under fire. As we are, “…made new in the attitude of our minds,” putting on a “…new self, created to be like God…” Ephesians 4:23,24How do we do that? By not conforming “…any longer to the pattern of this world, but be(ing) transformed by the renewing of your mind,...” Romans 12:2 The result being that we acquire the ability to recognize God’s will and ways. This new self taking shape as we are, “…renewed in knowledge in the image of (our) creator.” Colossians 3:10 So, “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2 Which is very difficult to do! It takes effort, desire and commitment. So “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…” 2 Peter 1:5-8
By incorporating these attributes into our lifestyle we will develop the confidence to trust God to work through us to create good in our lives and in the world. As “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” Is. 32:17 Even in times of uncertainty and trials, our faith and the faithfulness derived from it will allow us to, “…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 Remembering, GOD “…is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,…” Ephesians 3:20
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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