Snapshots: Day 120

Snapshots: Day 120

The Snapshot: “do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9) Discouragement is a tactic of the enemy as he whispers into our minds, “you failed yesterday so you will fail tomorrow,” or “this problem is too great, give up now,” or “nobody loves you so give up on them,” or “this church is full of hypocrites just like you, what hope is there?” And so it goes on, words that discourage, words that are often blatant lies, or words that are sometimes half-truths, but what these words all forget is that the God who sent His Son to redeem us, and sent His Spirit to empower us, is still here with is, for us, working to bring us through into a place of victory, assurance, love and blessing. Hold the whole picture.

Further Consideration:  Encouragement is a vital weapon in the armoury of God’s people. A dictionary defines it as, ‘an action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope’. When Paul taught on personal prophecy he said, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” (1 Cor 14:3) One of the things that such words should do is encourage, bless, build up, strengthen, bring fresh hope, fresh confidence.

The greatest word of encouragement that I think can be brought is, “the Lord is with you.” When it comes as a word of prophecy it takes it from dry doctrine and transforms it into life-giving energy that lifts the soul and the spirit and puts new purpose into the day.

Of course, some say, the Lord is always with us, He indwells us by His Spirit. Absolutely but there are different senses of meaning. When the word comes, “the Lord is with you” it brings the sense that He is here with approval and encouragement, and you have to wonder if that wasn’t true why ever would there be so many times when those words were brought with such significance? (see Judg 6:12, 2 Sam 7:3, 14:17, 1 Chron 22:18, 28:20, Amos 5:14, Zeph 3:15,17, Zech 8:23, Lk 1:28)

But then some might say, why do we need encouragement? Very simply because we live in a fallen world and have an adversary whose goal is to disarm us with discouragement. If it wasn’t so the Lord would never have said to Joshua, “Don’t be discouraged.” The word had already come through Moses (see Deut 1:21, 31:8) and will yet come again to Joshua (see Josh 8:1) and Joshua would pass it on (see Josh 10:25) It was a word that often arose – see 1 Chron 22:13, 28:20, 2 Chron 20:15,17, 32:7) – simply because the need was there.

We live in a fallen world where things go wrong, opposition arises and so on, and so in all of this we need encouragement, we need to hear the words, “do not be discouraged” and we need to remember, He is with us. Be encouraged &  be an encourager!

25. Encouragement

Ephesians Meditations No.25

Eph  3:13-17 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

To take in the context and meaning of these verses, we need to remind ourselves of the beginning of the chapter where Paul had begun, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…..” (3:1) and had then sidestepped to talk about his ministry. From verse 2 to verse 12 he had spoken about the revelation that produced the ministry that he had, delivering the Gospel which had been a mystery until the coming of Christ. There is a sense in those verses of Paul marvelling at the privilege that had been his and so when we come in verse 13 to the end of that ‘sidestepping’ and says, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you”, it’s like he is saying, “So you see you don’t have to feel sorry for me when you hear of any sufferings that I am going through because that is the very small price I pay for the wonderful privilege that is mine.”

Now the talk of sufferings may be a reference to him being in literal prison or it may just be the general opposition that he so often received. Elsewhere he listed some of the things he suffered: “I have…. been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Cor 11:23-28).

Now having mentioned his own sufferings, he says they “are your glory.” Now that is strange. They are not God’s glory or his glory but their glory. What does that mean? Perhaps another way he might have said it was, “they are for your blessing and your honour.” i.e. they bring honour to you. How? In the same way that anyone with high reputation adds to the glory of the body. Paul’s reputation would bring glory to the whole body. He’s aware of that and is blessed for them. He is a prisoner of Christ and suffers for him, but he counts that as nothing for the privilege that is his. (Can we think like that?)

As he moves on, it is as if he steps back to where he had started out in verse 1 where, as we’ve just seen, he began, “For this reason…” and now he picks that up again and goes to speak about his prayer for them: “For this reason I kneel before the Father.” When we looked at verse 1 we suggested that he was referring to the outworking of the Gospel of grace and the bringing about of a community of God’s people that he has just been speaking about previously.  Of course in verses 2 to 12 he had then spoken about his role in bringing the Gospel to them and it is because of this relationship that he has with them that he now prays for them, but his prayer comes out of a sense of awe and thankfulness, for that is what kneeling probably refers to here, for men stood to pray in his day, but bowed to worship. It is the wonder of what God has done that makes Paul bow down before the Lord and which then motivates him to pray.

Before we note what he prays, let’s note how he describes the Lord. See what he said: I kneel before the Father from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” He refers to God’s whole family in heaven and on earth – all the believers past and present. God has revealed Himself as our Father and therefore when we refer to the church as God’s family or His household, it is because He has fathered us and brought us into being. We can call ourselves ‘children of God’ because God is indeed our Father.

It is then that he moves into the subject of his prayer but we will leave verse 16 onwards until the next meditation. Let’s conclude by just observing the heart of this incredible man. He sees himself as a prisoner of Jesus (he may have been a literal prisoner then, for the book of Acts tells us he was several times) but his concern is not for himself. It is for his readers. If he had been like many modern comfort-concerned Christians, he would have been full of concern for himself, but instead he is just concerned to encourage and bless these believers with explanations of what has happened to them and the wonder of the Gospel. Self concern is not for Paul; just concern for others to be built up and strengthened. May we be more like that!