Berean Bible Study

Trusting God during a night season and afterward

 



 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah 26:3

 

Have you had a hard time so far this year? It seems as though everyone is struggling in one way or another these days. I wanted to find something to strengthen us for the days ahead. I learned some things that helped me, and I would like to share them with you. That doesn't mean there aren't other answers or ways of looking at this.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who struggled - physically, spiritually and even emotionally. Look at Elijah, after the tremendous display of God's power on Mount Carmel that humiliated the prophets of Baal. He had this incredible, literally "mountaintop" experience - and where is he afterwards? Hiding in a cave, depressed. Jeremiah spent much of his life depressed, earning him the nickname, "The Weeping Prophet." Even our own Lord said his soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." In each of those cases, God handled it differently. Elijah got scolded, comforted and was prescribed rest and then exercise and was given work to do. Jeremiah was given strength to carry on despite his emotional turmoil. God the Father sent angels to strengthen Jesus. The writer of Psalms 42 and 43 went through various stages to come back to rejoicing.

Psalms 42 and 43 give us a promise in the midst of depression:

Psalm 42

Psalm 42:1 For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

 

The next Psalm, Psalm 43, is actually a continuation of the same song:

Psalm 43

Psalm 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.

2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?

3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

 

God felt far away to the writer of this song. "Where are you, God?" he's crying. "I feel like you've left me!" Look at verse 7 of Psalm 42: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. What is he saying? He's overwhelmed - and so deep in despair that he's drowning. The "deep" here is tehowm (teh-home'). It means those extra deep parts of the sea - in the abyss. The word translated "waterfalls" in the NIV or "waterspouts" in the King James carries the idea of great floods of water coming from the deepest part of the sea.

Jonah actually says something very similar, in a literal sense. The Psalm writer is echoing the same idea, only figuratively:

Johah 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

3 You hurled me into the deep, (same word) into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

4 I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'

The Psalm-writer is saying, "I can't see you. I can't feel you. I'm too deep, and I can't find my way out." Then, verse 8: By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life. What does that mean? It means the day comes - either literally or figuratively - and God "directs" His love to come. That word "directs" is tsavah (tsaw-vaw'). It means to "command," like when a military leader gives a command. God commands His love to come. The word the NIV calls "love" is "lovingkindness" in the King James. God IS love, and in commanding His love to come, He's sending more than just a feeling. He's sending a reminder of all that He is - so that by night (literally or figuratively), this song - Psalm 42 & 43 - is inspired. It's the prayer of this son of Korah, but also inspired truth. He cries out to God, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" The enemy here is not necessarily a man, but the enemy of our souls. Remember that this crying out to God is actually a step up from the drowning where he couldn't even do that. God sent a reminder of His love, His mercy and all that He is to this son of Korah, and that allowed him to cry out this question: Why have you forgotten me? Perhaps at the time, he didn't even realize that the ability to cry out was actually a gift - a step up from the abyss where he had been. And then God answers him with this promise, which he speaks to himself:

Psalm 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

The word "hope" here is yachal (yaw-chal'). It means to wait expectantly - for God to come, to act, to change things. It's not hope the way we use it. It's not "I hope it will rain," and maybe it will - maybe it won't. No, this is hope that trusts that God has a plan - a knowing that God will act in your life and make things work out.

God is giving a promise - both to the son of Korah and to all of us who have felt overwhelmed to the point of drowning - that it will not last forever. There will come a time when we will yet praise Him. God understands that there are times when joy and praise are beyond us, but not forever. There will come a day when we will praise again. I find that comforting on so many levels.

In Psalm 43, (remember this is all one song) the writer has taken another step up:

Psalm 43:3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

Now, he's ready for light and truth again. He's ready for God's Word to guide him again - back into God's presence. He may mean this entirely figuratively or he may be referring to literally being with God.

God doesn't leave, but when we're troubled, it feels like He does. He feels very far away - and yet He isn't the one that left. I have prayed, even recently, "Lord, you feel so far away. I know that it's me that left, not you, but I didn't mean to, and now I don't know how to find my way back. Please come and get me, because I want to feel you near me again." And, even though one way to get back is to immerse yourself in God's Word, sometimes it's just hard to get to that point. In these two Psalms, the writer goes through a process. First, he's so lost in despair that he feels like he's drowning in the abyss. He doesn't cry out to God; he's too busy drowning. God commands His love to come and the writer is reminded of all that God is. Now, he cries out - and God answers with a promise: this won't last forever. You can't praise Me now, but you will. The writer is able to pour out his heart in his song, and he realizes he needs God's light and truth to guide him back to rejoicing.

When you cry out to God, remember that being able to do that shows that He is already at work, restoring you. And the day will come when you WILL praise Him again. The Bible is full of assurances that the "night seasons" do not last forever. Here is one of many:

Psalm 30: 4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning .

Jesus says to us:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Why does He say that? Because our hearts do get troubled, and we are afraid. Yet, sometimes that "peace" seems awfully out of reach. If my heart is in turmoil, and I spend part of every day crying, I may very well be wondering, "Where is this peace you promised?"

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Or, an even better understanding from the New Living Translation:

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!

The literal translation is a bit obtuse, but worth picking apart:

Isaiah 26:3 An imagination supported Thou fortifiest peace — peace! For in Thee it is confident.

The one who has a steadfast "mind" is kept in perfect peace. That "mind" is yetser (yay'-tser). It means more your thoughts and imagination. It comes from the word yatsar (yaw-tsar'), which means to mold pottery, to shape something out of something previously unformed. It refers to the thoughts you form in your mind.

The word "steadfast" or "fixed" is camak (saw-mak'). It means to support or to lean against, like in a bearing weight kind of way. It would be like when your leg is broken and crutches support your weight - or you start to faint, and someone catches you - or how a bearing wall holds up the weight of your second story.

So, what is this saying? In order to have perfect peace, each one of our thoughts - each part of our imagination - needs to be fully resting on God. We need to put the "full weight" of them on God, so they are steadfastly "stuck" on Him. The "trust" there is batach (baw-takh'), to fully trust, to be absolutely confident. The "you know that you know that you know" trust - that God loves you, will take care of you, has a plan for your life, is truly Good, Right, True and in full control of the world.

God will keep us in perfect peace when we keep our thoughts, our imaginations, fixed on Him. I can personally attest that letting your imagination run wild is a pretty sure road to despair. Is my husband late? In just seconds, I can come up with dozens of scenarios, each one more bleak than the last. What happens? I'm a sobbing mess, for no good reason.

In 1917, Philip Mauro, a lawyer, wrote about his depression in the book "LIFE IN THE WORD":

Now, remember, the "perfect peace" or literally, "peace, peace," here is not necessarily a "Life is good" feeling. It is that confident faith that God is working all things together for good. God is not promising that you will not ever feel sad. On the contrary, the Bible promises that trouble will come! However, He is promising that if you keep your thoughts firmly fixed on Him, He will give you the faith to deal with whatever you're going through.

When I'm feeling depressed or anxious and overwhelmed, I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing or where I'm supposed to be going. I feel like I'm in the middle of a huge, empty field, with no discernible paths anywhere. I could go anywhere or no where. I don't know what to do, but I feel like if I could just figure it out, I would be OK. I would find the path and be OK again. Yet, remember this verse?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

That "Lean not on your own understanding" is the same idea. Instead of putting my "weight" or "fixing my thoughts" on my own understanding, I just need to trust God and let Him handle it. He WILL direct my paths. That "trust" is not a feeling. It is a decision. It is saying, "I will trust, regardless of how I feel. I will believe God is near even if I can't feel Him. I will depend on Him to work things out, even if I don't understand what I'm doing or where I'm going." Letting go of being in control is rarely easy for most of us.

So, where are we so far?

1. If you are so far down that you feel as though you are drowning, God will remind you of His love.

2. If you can cry out to God, He is already working in you.

3. God promises that your sorrow - or anxiety - or whatever - will not last forever.

4. When you understand that you will yet praise Him, it's time to get back into God's Word, which, in time, will lead you back to rejoicing.

5. You can avoid going back down (to that drowning point) if you will keep your thoughts firmly fixed on God and trust Him fully. Take every thought captive, as Paul advises us. Understand that Satan will use your imagination against you every time. He wants to take you further and further from God, and if he can keep you from being effective by making you feel anxious and overwhelmed, he will.

(This might be a good time to review the Armor of God study)

So, now what? The future stretches ahead of you. It is unlikely that there is a clear path to walk. How do we find the way that is pleasing to God, while being good mothers, wives, daughters, friends? How do we prepare for whatever that future holds? As Jesus' return draws nearer, the evil in our world will grow. Deception is already rampant, and it will grow worse. How do we live? What do we DO?

We learn to walk in the Spirit, not in our flesh. We trust God, not ourselves.

Romans 8 (from the NKJV)

Free from Indwelling Sin

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (The second part of this verse is not in the NIV, which at first seems worrisome, but isn't, really. This is simply saying that those that are in Christ Jesus will walk in the Spirit. It is a summary of the verses that follow. The NIV explains the same thing in the verses that come later) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, We want to keep the law, but we are not able to. Our flesh - or sinful nature, betrays us. The law is good, but no one could keep it. There is also the matter of the law causing sin to flourish (explained in Chapter 7). For example, if I say to you, "Never think about elephants again," what's the first thing you do? Think about elephants! Even in thinking, "I must not think about elephants," you've thought about elephants and therefore failed. That's what the law does. God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

This is saying that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. It doesn't matter how "good" their work appears to be - God will not be pleased by it. But, we are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in us. If we are saved, then we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us:

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It might be relatively easy to die for Christ. In just moments, it would probably be over, and we'd be enjoying heaven. It's harder to live for Christ. Either we go our own way and fall away - or we strive in our own strength to please God and get all burned out. We have to remember that just as God did everything for our salvation, He also directs our sanctification (that process of becoming Christ-like).

The New Testament is filled with God's expectations for us. They are all important, and entire church bodies are founded on the idea of keeping them. This is God's law, and just as the Jews failed at keeping the law of Moses, so we fail at keeping these. (That's why we need - and will always need - a savior) But, where does this leave us? These ARE God's expectations!

Let's look at Galatians, Chapter 5:

Galatians 5

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

 

Now, Paul is primarily talking about the Jewish law, but we can have a tendency to be law-driven also. On one side of our brains, we know the correct answer - that we can do nothing to earn eternal life, but on the other side of the brain, we somehow get trapped into thinking that we must do such and such in order to please God. That's just as much "law-driven" as anything the Jews were doing. God says if you live by the Spirit, you are not under law. If we could walk perfectly in the Spirit (unfortunately we never will this side of heaven), we would automatically keep every one of God's requirements, without being driven by the law.

Without God's Spirit inside us, we would all tend toward this: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. But, the Holy Spirit works to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Love: agape {ag-ah'-pay}Godly, selfless love

Joy: chara {khar-ah'} joy, gladness

Peace: eirene {i-ray'-nay} a state of national tranquillity a) exemption from the rage and havoc of war 2) peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord

Longsuffering: , patience makrothumia {mak-roth-oo-mee'-ah} patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance slowness in avenging wrongs

Gentleness: kindness chrestotes {khray-stot'-ace} 1) moral goodness, integrity 2) benignity, kindness

Goodness: agathosune {ag-ath-o-soo'-nay} 1) uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness

Faith: faithfulness pistis {pis'-tis} 1) continuing in the conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it

a) relating to God: the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ

b) relating to Christ: a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

Meekness: gentleness praotes {prah-ot'-ace}
1) gentleness, mildness, meekness (doesn't mean weakness. To be truly meek requires strength)

Temperance: self-control egkrateia {eng-krat'-i-ah}
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)

These are the fruits of the Spirit, not of us. It goes directly back to what Jesus said:

John 15:5 "I am the vine ; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Other than staying connected to the vine, the branches do nothing. It is the vineyard keeper who prunes and fertilizes. Who is that?

John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

The vine itself produces the energy to grow the fruit. If the branches stay connected, they will produce fruit! Galatians says it is the work of the Spirit (not of us) to produce the fruit. Yet, what about this?

2 Peter 1

1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Is this active or passive?

Make every effort (KJ - giving all diligence, NASB - applying all diligence)

1) haste, with haste 2) earnestness, diligence a) earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything b) to give all diligence, interest one's self most earnestly

To add (NASB - supply) epichoregeo {ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh'-o}
1) to supply, furnish, present 2) to be supplied, ministered to, assisted

Tense: Aorist, active - ongoing - do this and keep on doing it

This is completely active. Yet, the list is very similar to that in Galatians. Is there a contradiction? No - this is the putting into practice the things given us by the Spirit. It says if we do these things, it will keep us from being unproductive. It's kind of like if someone gives you a bicycle. What do you do with it? It's your gift, but do you use it or does it sit in the garage?

James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

True faith will manifest itself in works, because someone with true faith has the Spirit of God within him or her. Yet, it is the Spirit that directs the works. It all starts with faith:

1. Faith: pistis {pis'-tis}
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it

a) relating to God - the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ

b) relating to Christ - a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

Where does faith come from? How do we get faith? Faith is a gift:

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Not everyone has the same amount.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.

Will you always have the same amount of faith? Have you had ups and downs in your faith? How do you get more?

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith !"

Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief !"

Faith will also grow as you spend time in God's word. As we've gone through before, God's word has the supernatural ability to change you. Now, just a note. In the two examples above, the people asked for more faith. However, if you spend zero time in God's Word and just ask for more faith, will God grant it to you? Remember, Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is the word of Christ.



2. Goodness: (KJ - virtue, NASB - moral excellence): arete {ar-et'-ay}
1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action, moral goodness, 2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity

Used five times in the NT - four by Peter. The other is here:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

So, how do you go about adding goodness? The verse above is a great start! Feed the new man; starve the old one.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Ephesians 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness , but rather expose them.

As Jon Courson says, from the BlueLetterBible.org commentary on 2 Peter 1:

3. Knowledge: gnosis {gno'-sis}
1) the general knowledge of Christian religion, b) the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced c) esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians d) moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living

Where does knowledge come from? From God's word, of course! Why does goodness come before knowledge? My guess is that we will not have time for God's word if our lives are filled with things of the world. When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, what was the first thing that had to happen afterward? Lazarus had to be loosed from his grave clothes.

So, how do we add knowledge? We dig into God's word - and keep on digging. Just as we need to eat every day to feed our physical bodies, we need spiritual nourishment every day, too.

 

4. Self-control: (KJ - temperance) egkrateia {eng-krat'-i-ah}
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)

This is also listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which was completely passive. Why is this listed in an active sense now? This is acting on what the Spirit has given us - making use of it. We each have two natures - the sinful nature and our new nature. They are always at war with each other. Whichever one gets fed the most is the one that will be strongest. So, how do we get self-control? We stay connected to Jesus (the vine) so that the Spirit can produce fruit in us, of which self control is a part. We "feed" our new man and starve our old one.

5. Perseverance: (KJ - patience) hupomone {hoop-om-on-ay'}
1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings b) patiently, and steadfastly 2) a patient, steadfast waiting 3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Where do we get perseverance? The Bible gives a number of ways. We ask for it:

Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

We gain it through God's word and the example of others who have persevered:

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

James 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

We look eagerly for Jesus' return, which produces perseverance:

Romans 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Hebrews 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.

We gain perseverance by going through trials. (Don't worry - you don't have to seek them. They will simply come.)

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Romans 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

And, we simply trust God to provide it:

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

 

6. Godliness: eusebeia {yoo-seb'-i-ah}
1) reverence, respect 2) piety towards God, godliness

So, how do we obtain godliness? It seems to come through the Spirit as we spend time in God's word and learn about Him. This very section that we're studying says that:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

And, it says that elsewhere as well:

1 Timothy 3:14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness,

It is possible to have "pretend" godliness - such as you might see in the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons or even in Christian churches that have strayed into legalism. Things done in the flesh are not pleasing to God, even if they appear right and good to other men and even if they appear right and good to other Christians.

2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them

Romans 8:8 (NKJV) So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

7. Brotherly kindness: philadelphia {fil-ad-el-fee'-ah}
1) love of brothers or sisters, brotherly love 2) in the NT the love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren

The verb form is phileo.

1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

1 Peter 1:21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other

Brotherly kindness or phileo love seems to come with salvation. It is evidence that we have been saved. Why does Peter command us to add it, then? Again, I believe this means to practice using it. It comes fairly late in the list, so I think this will grow as the others do.

 

8. Love: (KJ - charity) agape {ag-ah'-pay}
the love of God, the way God loves us, to love completely without thought of recompense, abundant, overflowing, unconditional love

 The verb form is agapao {ag-ap-ah'-o}. There is no way that anyone can have agape love without being saved. Only through the Spirit can you have this kind of love. It's last on the list because it is the hardest. Peter thought he had agape love:

John 13:37 Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." 38 Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

But, as we know, he didn't really. Later, after Jesus' resurrection, they had a little conversation after a fish breakfast on the shore. We miss what really was going on in the English:

John 21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me agapao more than these?"

"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love phileo you."

Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love agapao me?"

He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love phileo you."

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love phileo me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love phileo you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

In the end, Jesus is saying that phileo is enough to start with. Peter can feed the sheep with phileo love. Is it any wonder that Peter listed agape love last? And, yet, that is what Jesus commands:

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love agapao one another. As I have loved agapao you, so you must love agapao one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27 He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" 28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

So, how is it possible? Only through the Holy Spirit. That is the only way. It is simply not possible through human will.

So, what have we learned? To live as God expects - to be truly holy - to do the works that God desires - is impossible in our human strength. We all want to be Christ-like, but no one gets that way by just deciding to. It ISN'T a matter of figuring out what Jesus would do and then doing it.

Ladies, have you ever read Proverbs 31 and wanted to be a wife of noble character? You could make a list in your head - up before dawn, prepare the food, make clothes for the family, run the household, bring in extra money, give to the poor, dole out wisdom. . . Are you up for it? That's what God wants, right? How long before you give up in utter exhaustion, a complete failure? That's what happens when you try to do it in your own strength.

OR - you can seek God every day, in His word and in your prayer. Trust Him. Depend on Him. And, someday, when you look back, you'll realize that you're a lot more of that Proverbs 31 woman than you used to be. It was in God's time and in God's strength. That's what it means to walk in the Spirit. It's God working in you - not anything you did yourself.

It is possible to do what appears to be good works and commanded of God and have it turn out to be works of the flesh. Remember this verse?

1 Corinthians 3: 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.

The work here was the work of believers - God's fellow workers - and yet some of it may burn up when tested in the fire. Work directed by the Spirit is pleasing to God. Work done in the flesh (in your own strength and will) is not pleasing, even if it appears righteous to us.

What you do in the Spirit will not burn you out (and will not burn up). There is time enough in every day to do what God wants you to do in that day. If it appears that there is not, then you are trying to go beyond what the Spirit wants for you.

That's part of the problem with many, many things on the Christian scene these days. Their basic message is, "This is what you were created for. Get out there and do it - spread the good news, make disciples, help the poor. Find out what your spiritual gift is and put it to work!"

Well, that's all well and good. It IS what the Bible says. But - they leave out the whole part about it being fruit of the Spirit. You go and do all that in your strength and will, and not only will you fail to please God, you will wind up feeling like an utter and complete failure. They call it being "purpose driven." Really, it's being "law-driven." We want to be led by the Spirit, not driven by the law.

So, what do we do? Go sit in a dark room until we FEEL the Spirit? No, that's not the way it works. (Don't you wish it was sometimes?)

Ephesians 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

How can we be filled with the Spirit? How can we actually walk by the Spirit, live by the Spirit?

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

These two passages suggest two things. The first is simply to ask, as Jesus tells us:

Luke 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

The second is to "feed" your new man and "starve" your old man. Stay away from things of the world. Instead, drink deeply, daily of God's word, as the many, many passages we've gone through in the past say. Speak and sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Be thankful for all things and keep your mind on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

And, my favorite verse of all:

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

I believe that's the key right there - trust. We always want to make things complicated. We seem to always stray one way or the other. Either we try to do things in our own strength and wind up exhausted and burned out, feeling far from the very One we wanted to serve -- or, we go too far the other way and find ourselves paralyzed because we don't hear or FEEL God telling us what to do. It's not supposed to be that hard.

 

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me , all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We need to just trust God to lead us, and He will! It's that simple. (I know - I know. While it's simple in truth, we women are feeling creatures, and too often we confuse trust with feeling. Our feelings so often mislead us). Just remember, we are to bear fruit, yes, but we are neither the gardener or the vine:

John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

The branches do not strain to produce fruit. They simply soak up the "Son" and the fruit grows!

One last - very important! - point: The "law" (all those expectations of God) does a number of things, but most importantly, it shows us our sin as we fail to live up to it. Only Jesus could keep it all perfectly. We will never be without sin on this earth. We will never walk perfectly in the Spirit. We will never be perfectly obedient. You can do everything we discussed here, and you will still screw up. We all do, no matter how long we've been Christians. When we acknowledge our sin, we remember again our need for our savior. The gospel is not something you believe and are done with. The gospel is an entire way of life. We need to remember that because of what Jesus did for us, we are already right with God. We are His dearly loved children, not because of ANYTHING we do, but because when the Father looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus instead of our sin.

It's easy to know that in your head - that we're never trying to "earn points" by our works, but very hard to remember it in your heart. Our feelings are deceptive, and sometimes they will trip us up. We start to feel like God is not pleased with us, and He begins to feel very, very far away. Or, we start to feel like God IS pleased with us, because of the good things we've done. Neither is right thinking. God is already perfectly pleased with you, not because of what you've done or not done, but because when He looks at you, He sees His dear child, bought with the blood of Jesus.

God did everything in your salvation - and He will do everything in your sanctification, too. Just trust Him to lead you, and He will! (Remembering that He can use even your screw-ups for your eternal good!)

OK, now just a reminder of where we started, as we got pretty far down the road from the “night seasons” we started with. When you are desperately depressed, God has not forgotten you. He has not left you, even if you feel like He has. Remember:

  1. If you are so far down that you feel as though you are drowning, God will remind you of His love.

  2. If you can cry out to God, He is already working in you.

  3. God promises that your sorrow - or anxiety - or whatever - will not last forever.

  4. When you understand that you will yet praise Him, it's time to get back into God's Word, which, in time, will lead you back to rejoicing.

  5. You can avoid going back down (to that drowning point) if you will keep your thoughts firmly fixed on God and trust Him fully.

  6. Live by the Spirit, not by the Law.



NOTE: The last part of this study was a shortened version of the Living by the Spirit study. There are many links in that study for further reading.


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Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11



© 2012 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 2/1/2012. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.

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