Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Greatest Sermon you will EVER PREACH

Life is hard. Change is hard to take. Consequences are unwanted. All are painful. Yet they are there. They happen. They come. How we respond to them is the real issue.

We are made great or destroyed by our response to the most painful difficulties in our lives. Think of the people you admire the most. Those who in spite of very hard situations, very difficult circumstances, very discouraging times, persevered and became an icon for the generations that followed. You know many stories of people who did exactly this. You also have stories of many who when hard times and pressures came, folded. Gave up. Failed. Things in themselves are neither good nor bad in and of ourselves, but our deciding what they are that defeats us.

I write this with a heavy heart. I have a friend facing very difficult times. I would take it from him if I could, but I can't. He will face this himself and for the most part alone. He will soon discover who his true friends are. They will be far fewer than he might imagine.

Yet in all the fog of the situation he is writing the greatest sermon of his life. The most powerful legacy for his children and grandchildren will ever know. He is going to leave a pattern that will be one his seed will follow for generations to come. How he deals with this difficulty will pattern the future for many.

His tenacity in leaning on the Lord. His faith. His trust. His fearlessness. His reliance on the Grace of God. His willingness to confront his fears and stand strong. He has always been one this kind of man, it's just been amplified, increased in this time of testing.

Ten years from now, while he is still in his strength (he would then be about my age today) his time of trouble will be done. He will be restored. He will be strong.....IF he does not fail.

AND he will be one who in spite of the worst things that can possibly happen will have demonstrated how God NEVER EVER leaves nor forsakes us. When he pulls his grandchildren up on his knee, they will see him as one who demonstrated nobility and honor in times of dishonor and ignobility. The shame will have been washed away. Gone.

To get there will require perseverance. Faith. The due season will come. It will be a better time. It will result in a latter house being greater than the former.

Of course, it is possible that trust in the arm of flesh can derail all the purposes of God in this. OH, YES, these are the purposes of God. I have never known a time when God is more glorified than when in the face of persecution and even death his saints sing praises and smile as they light the fire beneath their feet. Who worship God when the Lions and Tigers are loosed into the arena of Life to consume them.

There are times when it is hard, but we must face the facts that the Powers and Principalities hate us. That they will arrest us. That they will put us in jail. That they will kill us even. Why do we think we will escape? Paul, the Great Apostle did not, yet, we see him and his letters written from jail as powerful examples for facing incredible difficulty.

The following excerpt is taken from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, First Edition, article "Paul the Apostle":

"When Paul writes again to Timothy he has had a winter in prison, and has suffered greatly from the cold and does not wish to spend another winter in the Mamertine (probably) prison (2Timothy 4:13, 21). We do not know what the charges now are. They may have been connected with the burning of Rome. There were plenty of informers eager to win favor with Nero. Proof was not now necessary. Christianity is no longer a religion under the shelter of Judaism. It is now a crime to be a Christian. It is dangerous to be seen with Paul now, and he feels the desertion keenly (2Timothy 1:15ff; 4:10). Only Luke, the beloved physician, is with Paul (2Timothy 4:11), and such faithful ones as live in Rome still in hiding (2Timothy 4:21).

"Paul hopes that Timothy may come and bring Mark also (2Timothy 4:11). Apparently Timothy did come and was put into prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul is not afraid. He knows that he will die. He has escaped the mouth of the lion (2Timothy 4:17), but he will die (2Timothy 4:18). The Lord Jesus stood by him, perhaps in visible presence (2Timothy 4:17). The tradition is, for now Paul fails us, that Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded on the Ostian Road just outside of Rome. Nero died June, 68 A.D., so that Paul was executed before that date, perhaps in the late spring of that year (or 67). Perhaps Luke and Timothy were with him. It is fitting, as Findlay suggests, to let Paul's words in 2Timothy 4:6-8 serve for his own epitaph. He was ready to go to be with Jesus, as he had long wished to be (Philippians 1:23)"

Paul said to his followers, imitate me as I imitate Christ.

My friend, do the same. Do that which you would have all who love and admire you imitate.

This is the greatest sermon you will ever preach.

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