Being a Tough Christian

I was amazed recently to hear an interview with a man who is considered by many to be “the toughest man in the world.” The man’s name is David Goggins, who is described by Wikipedia as “retired Navy SEAL and former USAF Tactical Air Control Party member who served in Iraq and Afghanistan… ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete and world record holder for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours.”

I was impressed with Goggins’ description of the first time he had run a 100 mile race. He did this with no marathon training whatsoever. He was not even a runner.

He describes sitting down at one point and being unable to stand back up, so that he had to use the restroom on himself right where he sat. He describes the small bones in his feet being broken, kidney failure, severe shin fractures, and tendon inflammation so severe that he had to tape his entire lower legs into what were essentially giant, unflexing pegs for the last 20 or 30 miles of the race. He describes exactly the kind of intense pain that you would expect from someone who is running 100 miles without ever having trained as a runner before.

As I heard this tale, I had to question whether I was truly aware of my own ability for mental toughness. I thought of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Maybe when you read this passage, you think it means that God will give you a fairly easy and obvious way out of any temptation you might face. Maybe we want to believe that the paths through our trials will be simply a matter of trusting God and it will all be over in a jiffy.

But all that the text says is that He “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” And apparently, human beings are able to endure tremendous suffering and difficulty.

We are told that He, “with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This is a sure promise from the LORD. But bear in mind that humans have endured all kinds of long, painful situations such as being prisoners of war or being trapped for days or weeks under rubble before finally finding a way of escape.

You might or might not be physically able to run 100 miles, even if you truly gave it your all. But the temptations you face, with the LORD’s help, you can overcome if you refuse to give up. But do not expect it to be easy.

We will need to draw on the LORD for tremendous strength if we are to bear the tragedies and the ailments that are sure to come our way.

“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Peter 4:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

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Work Hard for God

The relationship between faith and works is an important Biblical concept that may require diligent study to understand. Paul states clearly that we are saved “not as the result of works,” whereas James insists that “faith without works is dead.” I have thought and written plenty on that subject before, and there are many resources available for those who want to understand what scripture has to say about faith and works.

But there is another, closely related subject that we may not think much about. We might call this subject “our efforts” versus “the grace of God.” This is an important subject because for many of us, once we understand that we are saved by God’s grace rather than earning our salvation through our own efforts, we start to feel that it is somehow wrong or disrespectful to God for us to put forth personal effort. After all, if God is to get all of the glory, then we should not be putting any emphasis on our own efforts, right?

In reality, when we try our hardest and do our best to serve him with diligence and effort, it is often in that very moment that God’s grace is truly working in us. Paul said “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Peter tells us twice in the first chapter of his second epistle to “apply all diligence” in the specific growth we seek in our Christian walk. Those words convey the idea of “making haste,” or as we might say, “showing some hustle.” In other words, do not just sit around waiting for lighting to strike. Get started. Show some effort. God will work through you.

The English Standard Translation of Peter’s words literally says “make every effort.”

In the first chapter of his letter to Timothy, Paul gives this instruction: “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Timothy had a gift, just as every last one of us has a gift from God. It is time for us to kindle that gift afresh. And we need not be timid about it. God’s children can work each day with power, love, and discipline. If you need an engraved invitation, it is already there in the words of scripture.

Maybe we feel like if the effort comes from us, then it takes the credit away from God. But just as Paul’s exceptionally hard work was rightly seen as a manifestation of God’s grace, so every good thing we could ever do, think, or say, is credited directly to the God in whom we live and move and have our being.

So work hard for God. Rely on Him for strength, look to Him for guidance, and give Him all of the glory. But work hard while doing it.

Scripture and Thoughts on “Mothers”

What does God intend to teach us through the example of mothers?

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

(Isaiah 49:15) Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

(Isaiah 66:13) As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.

(Ephesiasn 4:32) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Galatians 4:26) But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

(1 Thessalonians 2) Paul uses the illustration of a mother nursing her child as a picture of gentleness and affection

Is it possible for a woman to make motherhood more central to her identity than she ought to?

(Matthew 10:37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

(Luke 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

(1 Samuel 1-2) shows us a woman who wants desperately to be a mother, she is not content just to be a wife. But we also see that when she does have a son, she is willing to give him to the Lord.

(Psalm 127:3) Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

(Genesis 2:24) For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

(Song of Songs 3:11) “Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.”

What picture does the Bible paint of ideal motherhood?

(Proverbs 31) speaks of mothers demonstrating strength, hard work, planning, provision, wisdom, kindness, charity, and dedication to God.

(2 Timothy 1:5) I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

(1 Kings 3:24-27) The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”26 Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!” 27 Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”

            (The Bible speaks much about mothers giving teaching and instruction)
(Proverbs 19:26-27) Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

(Proverbs 1:8-9) Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

(Proverbs 6:20-21) My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

(Proverbs 23:22-23) Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well.

(2 Chronicles 22:3) He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly.

(Matthew 14:8) Having been prompted by her mother, she *said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

What role should mothers take in disciplining their children?

(Ephesians 6:4) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

(Deuteronomy 21:18-21) “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. 20 They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

(Proverbs 22:6) Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

(Proverbs 22:15) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

(Proverbs 29:15) The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

(Ephesians 6:1-3) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

 Does Mary deserve special recognition as the mother of Jesus?

(Luke 1:28-30) And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 

(Luke 1:42) And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

(Luke 1:46-48) And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,

What does it look like to truly honor your mother?

(Matthew 15:4-6) For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

(Ephesians 6:1-3; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

(John 19:25-27) Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

(Proverbs 23:22) Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.

(Ruth 1:16-17) For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

(Proverbs 30:17) The eye that mocks a father And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

(Ezekiel 22:6-7) “Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood.They have treated father and mother lightly within you. The alien they have oppressed in your midst; the fatherless and the widow they have wronged in you. 

How do we properly honor a mother who does not live honorably?

(Leviticus 19:3) Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

(Leviticus 20:9) For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

(Exodus 21:15) “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

(Romans 13:7) Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Are there those who are not owed honor, or are all owed it? Is this like David, respecting Saul as king even though Saul himself was not being honorable?

(Matthew 10:35) “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW;

(Luke 12:53) “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

(Psalm 27:10) For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.

            Notice that the church can provide mothers for those in need
(Ruth 1:16) But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

(Mark 10:29-30) “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

(1 Timothy 5:1-2) Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

(Matthew 12:48-50)But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

(Esther 2:7) He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.

Life is Not Fair

My fifth grade teacher used to tell us all that time, “the only person who gets to decide your future is YOU,” and “YOU are the one who determines whether or not you are happy and successful in life.”

Even at that age, something just did not seem exactly right about what she was saying. I knew enough about my own life and the lives of those around me to know that life is not at all fair, and a lot of the things that can hurt us deeply may not be under our control.

The Bible acknowledges this, too. Was it fair, when in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah’s death was secretly orchestrated by King David, who had his eye on Uriah’s wife? What about in Genesis 37-40 when Joseph was thrown into a pit, or sold into slavery, or framed for rape, or forgotten about to waste away in prison? What about in Joshua 7 when thirty-six men lost there lives at Ai because of a sin that Achan had committed in the previous battle at Jericho?

Yet in the midst of all of the unfairness, the Bible offers hope, and not despair.

Romans 12:19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in reminding us that God is aware of everything that goes on, and He will settle all accounts in the end, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Exodus 22:21-23 reminds us that he sees and cares about mistreatment, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry.”

Psalm 68:5-6 assures us that he cares for the downtrodden: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”

Not only does the Bible assure us that God sees that which is unfair in our world; it also reminds us to stop using our misfortune as an excuse, but rather to get back up and take responsibility for those things that we are able to control.

In Joshua 7:7-9, Joshua was in great despair because all of Israel was suffering and he did not know why. “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

God’s response was powerful: “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” He then gave Joshua specific instructions on how to take charge and be proactive about the situation, rather than whining.

Maybe that was what my teacher was trying to tell us. No, life is not at all fair. No, we cannot control what other people do. Just as people mistreated Jesus, they will mistreat us. But we can still take responsibility for our own actions, and we can go out in the strength of the LORD to do good in His name.

 

Biblical Womanhood

If society is confused about what make a real man, it seems equally confused about the true meaning of womanhood.

Pop culture, even with its endorsement of “feminism,” still uses women’s bodies pervasively to sell products. Music videos, television, and movies reinforce the idea that a woman’s most valuable asset is her looks, and that this determines her worth.

Even those who are deeply concerned with women’s rights are often confused about the meaning of womanhood. Rather than arguing for a powerful and beautiful picture of strong, biblical femininity, they argue for the abolishment of “gender roles” altogether so that women are free to act and think like men, and men are free to act and think like women.

The truth is that God designed men and women to be different but equal, to compliment each other. Here are some Biblical insights into womanhood.

Women are:
Strong – “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” (Proverbs 31:17)
Helpful – “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
Capable – “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” (Proverbs 31:15)
Deserving of love and respect – “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:19)
Compassionate – “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” – (Proverbs 31:20)
Submissive, yet persuasive – “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1)
Wise investors – “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:16)
Modest – “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:9)
Dignified – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:25-26)

There is understandable concern among some in regards to the Biblical model of wives submitting to husbands, but before we complain too loudly, let us remember that submission is a beautiful thing. The submission of men and women to governing officials preserves the peace. Each man and woman must submit themselves to Christ. Christ Himself submitted to His Father in His death on the cross.

Let us never be ashamed of God’s picture of womanhood. It gives honor and dignity to her body, her daily work, and her purpose in a way that contemporary society does not.

Beautiful Rose

Biblical Manhood

Society has its own ideas of what makes a man. But the Bible paints its own beautiful, powerful picture of what manhood should look like.

Society teaches that a man is someone who gets whatever he wants. He is surrounded by beautiful women, nice cars, and big screen TV’s. Jesus, however, the only perfect man to ever live, didn’t even get married or have a girlfriend, and he acquired almost no personal possessions. Instead, He was busy pouring Himself out for a broken world, speaking powerfully about His Father, and spending time alone in the wilderness.

The Bible contains a great deal of information about manhood. Maybe you did not have a father figure in your life, or maybe he was not a very good example. Even if you have a great father, painting a Biblical picture of manhood can help us understand even more clearly what God’s intentions are for men.

Men are:
Morally disciplined and upstanding. “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies.” (2 Kings 2:2)

Calculated in their actions.
“A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” -Proverbs 24:5-6

Concerned with the spiritual welfare of themselves and others.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Gentle and kind.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” – 1 Peter 3:7

Concerned with things of importance.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Mature.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” -1 Corinthians 14:20

Hard working.
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” – Lamentations 3:27

If we are tempted to think that Biblical men are emasculated, devoid of any real adventure or danger or passion, we need only look to the examples of Godly men in the Bible to find otherwise. What could be more adventurous than Paul’s ancient travels around the world, with the threat of death at every turn? What could be more dangerous that David’s rise to power, starting with a band of 400 thugs and ending in the uniting of the kingdom of Israel? What could be more passionate than the power with which Jesus gave His life up for us on a crucifix, knowing well that He could strike us all dead if He so desired?

Let us aspire to hold up God’s picture of manhood.

Statue of a Man