Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Refusing to HANG UP MY CLEATS (#2)

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! My prayer is that each of us will focus on the blessings of TODAY, and fulfill the potential of this wonderful day. You will NEVER have today back, so make the most of it! I don't want to miss a precious MOMENT of what God has for me TODAY.

Yesterday, we began to talk about "Refusing to Hang up my cleats". We discussed the importance of perseverance and determination during difficult times. I have made up my mind that I WILL NOT QUIT, but that I will "keep the faith" as Paul of the Bible did in his life time. Today, I want us to look closer at Paul's struggles, and BOY did he have some.

Paul kept the faith even in the midst of personal PAIN. Notice the following struggles:

2 Corinthians 11:23-33 Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can't believe I'm saying these things. It's crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I'm going to finish.) I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time.

He worked MUCH HARDER than the average person, he was jailed more often, beaten up more times than he could count, at death's door time after time. That is enough to get most people to hang up their cleats. But he is just beginning to tell his story:

(24) I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, (25) beaten by Roman rods three times,
pummeled with rocks once.

He was abused by RELIGION and religious people. It is a wonder that he trusted anyone anymore. One of the toughest things to endure is when you get hurt by someone in the church, or someone who is SUPPOSED to be a man or lady of God. We expect more out of them. I know too many people who have hung up their cleats and QUIT attending church because someone hurt them. My friend, maybe you are one who has done just that. Please allow Paul's words to encourage you today. He was hurt by the church, so was Jesus. In fact, Jesus was crucified by the church of His day. However, He stayed focused on His purpose and mission. Let's go on:

I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day.

He had many opportunities to get frustrated and angry at God. He could have said, or thought, "God, why all of these storms? It seems that every time things start going my way, another storm comes along and jerks the carpet out from under my feet. Why God? Are you angry at me? Am I not in your will?" Oh yes, he could of said those things. Haven't you at times wondered WHY you are going through certain storms? Remember, Jesus hanging on the cross asked His Father "Why" that He had forsaken Him. If Jesus was tempted to believe that God, the Father had forsaken Him, then you can count on you and me feeling that way at times. But we must determine not to hang up our cleats on God!

(26) In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes.

The hard traveling year in and year out I'm certain led to financial strains in his ministry and personal life. Then the daily frustrations that he faced: ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. Solomon 2:15 warns us to beware of the little foxes that spoil the vine. You see, it is the small things that have a cumulative effect on us. Where we find ourselves thinking, "What else Lord?" And the enemy in those moments whispers, Hang up your cleats! Give up, throw in the towel, it is over!

I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers.

Paul then shares about his constant danger, being betrayed by family and regular attacks against the PEACE OF GOD in his life. Again, another opportunity for the enemy to say, give up, it will never get any better! There are some reading this blog today who are struggling with massive attacks against the peace of God in your life. Remember the verse yesterday we discussed from Isaiah 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is STAYED on thee: BECAUSE he TRUSTED in thee." The reason that the enemy is attacking our peace is that he doesn't want us to continue to TRUST God. You cannot and will not be able to keep your mind fixed on Jesus, IF you don't trust Him! Even through betrayal, hurt, and constant frustrations, determine that you will never hang up your cleats on your faith! I will KEEP THE FAITH!

(27) I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

Paul then explains how he has had very long and lonely nights without sleep. He has had many missed meals, blasted by the cold, no clothes to wear at times. Wow! This man has had some massive battles in his life. I can just hear the enemy speaking to Paul, "You know, when you were a Pharisee, you didn't have these problems. Your problems started when you began to live for this Jesus. Why don't you go back to your old way of life?"

(28) And that's not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.

After everything that we have listed, Paul then says, but that's not the half of it. I have daily pressures and anxieties from my job as pastor and overseer of the many churches that I am responsible for. These represent professional frustrations at our job. Things that hit us in the face every single day, that cause us to think, "I just need to stay in bed and not face today." This attitude can lead to depression!

(29) When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.

Now Paul shares with us his intense burden of caring for other people. He admits to feeling desperation and intense anger. This was the great Apostle Paul that struggled with these issues. You and I struggle with the same things. Some reading today's blog are care givers of someone who is desperately sick, and you are tired physically and completely drained emotionally and spiritually. You hear the whisper of the enemy of your soul, "hang up your cleats." You need to look at the enemy and say with confidence, I will keep the faith!

(30) If I have to "brag" about myself, I'll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. (31) The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I'm not lying. (32) Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? (33) I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.

Paul then shares that each of his humiliations and struggles are making him "like Jesus." In other words, he has an eternal perspective. He knows that God is allowing him to face many struggles not because He is mad at Paul, but because God is molding Paul into the man of God who will impact many in the kingdom of God. Paul is able to look at hurting people and say, "I have gone through what you are facing, and I survived! I made it, and now I am thriving!"

Paul isn't through just yet, however. Listen to what else he faces:

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. [Job. 2:6.] (8) Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; (9) But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

Paul has been praying and praying for an answer to a battle that he is facing, but nothing has changed. Can you imagine the attack upon his faith then? There are some today who have been believing, praying and expecting an answer to your prayer. Maybe you went through the Daniel Fast and you haven't seen anything change yet. My friend, the Holy Spirit of God sent me today to tell you to continue to keep the faith. Listen to what Jesus told Paul, "My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness."

After all of this, listen to Paul's words from a Philippian jail...

Philippians 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

And that is why Paul was able to say at the close of his life..."I have kept the faith..." He was saying, I refuse to HANG UP MY CLEATS regardless of the difficult time that I find myself in. I lean on, and trust in God...PERIOD! My prayer for you today is that through your struggle today you, along with Paul, can say, "here is my purpose, that I may know you Lord in a more intimate way." Hang in there my friend, keep the faith, and refuse to HANG UP YOUR CLEATS, and you will be victorious!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

If it isn't beautiful yet, it just means it isn't His time for it to be beautiful yet. Be patient, full of hope, trust…and remember to keep the faith! God hasn't forgotten about you! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: Tuesday-April 8, 2008: Ezra 1:1 – Ezra 2:70

This weeks' memory verse to "Hide in my heart": 2 Timothy 1:12

2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.


Treasure Seeker said...

Thanks for the encouraging word!

In HIS time.


love ya!