STAYING MOTIVATED IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE

STAYING MOTIVATED IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE
W.H. COOK

“IF”-THE BIG HINDRANCE TO MOTIVATION

A man is going nowhere as long as he lives in the realm of the conditional. His vocabulary will be full of words like “if,” “provided” “in case,” “if so,” “unless,” “in the event of’ until someone may well want to stop and ask, “Sir, is God dead?”

Why do you say, If God can use me.” Didn’t God use a rod, a jaw-bone, five small stones, a handful of oil and a little meal, five barley loaves and two small fishes?

A young preacher, now wonderfully used of God, was having it rough a few years ago. The church he was in was small, nothing exciting was happening, and the thought struck him, “If I could just change churches.”

Attending a pastor’s conference some months Later, he approached the pastor he most respected. “Dr. – my church is not going so well, and I don’t think I’II ever be able to get those people excited. If you happen to hear of some church in another state which needs a pastor, you might keep me in mind.”

Waiting anxiously to hear, “Sure I will, I’ll give you a great recommendation,” he received the surprise of his life. The highly successful pastor pushed a long finger right toward his face and said “Let me tell you something, young preacher, and don’t you ever forget it. You’ll never be happy anywhere until you get happy where you are!”

The young preacher went back to his small, struggling church field, spent a night in prayer on his knees, and dedicated himself to reach the unsaved of that town, and from that moment on God mightily blessed his ministry.

The believer must not allow anything to keep him from God’s intended plan of success. He must at all costs be the person God wants him to be, and achieve the goals God wants him to achieve. God’s plan for his life must not be sidestepped, for God’s plan alone will bring him maximum happiness. No new geographical location will bring it to pass.

Caution-if anything can keep you from achieving the goals God has for you, it is one word-If.

Twentieth-Century Success-Stoppers
The most prevalent word to prevent us from thinking positively-the most prevalent word to damage our effectiveness in being what God wants us to be and achieving what God wants us
to achieve is the word IF.

For a person to claim to be rightly related to the Lord and not allow God to achieve through him is tragic indeed. Yet most of us can readily locate ourselves in the following list:

If I only had time to read my Bible . . .

If I had more power . . .

If I was healthy like he is . . .

If there was something they would ask me to do . . .

If my work didn’t make me so tired . . .

If only I had the energy those young people have . . ,

If our church wasn’t like it is . . .

If I were talented . . .

If those other Christians I know would get on the ball .

If my job wasn’t so demanding . . .

If my kids would read that Bible and practice it . . .

If I made the money he does . . .

If I could memorize those promises . . .

If I had a better pastor . . .

If God did it like that in our day . . .

If my church had the prospects that other church has ,

If I didn’t live next door to them . . .

If my husband (wife) loved God more . . .

If I could forgive myself . . .

If I didn’t have to go to work so early . . .

If they bragged on me like they brag on him . . .

If only I could have lived when Jesus did . . .

If God didn’t have it in for me . . .

If I didn’t have to live with my past . . .

If my parents could just understand me . . .

If they ever elect me as a deacon . . .

If my boss didn’t have it in for Christians . . .

If I had the training and education he had . . .

If I could speak like the preacher speaks . . .

If I had not made that wrong move . . .

If I could have had an easier time growing up . . .

If we ever get to move to a better house . . .

If I had faith like that . . .

If I just knew what to say . . .

If someone would have taught me how to witness when I was young . . .

One common bond unites all those excuses. The blame for nonaction is elsewhere-never where it belongs.

How many of the twentieth-century success-stopper statements have you used?

The Most Destructive Word

“If’ is the word of delay. No inner voice need be totally negative. No one needs to tell us we “cannot” do a task. Enough delay will come through slight implication. “Fine, if you can do it,” a voice seems to say. Hearing that we don’t even attempt.

We are somewhat like the dentist who was bent over working on his patient. The patient in the chair cried “Here, Doc, you haven’t pulled the right tooth! ” The dentist replied calmly, “I know it, my good man, but I’m coming to it.”

“If ‘ is the word of despair. Delay an action once, and the chances of getting it done diminish. Delay it several times and we may never do it. When God impresses a task upon the mind, and we surrender to some “if, we will be frustrated and in despair.

“If’ destroys incentive, wrecks confidence, assassinates character, robs us of God-given dreams, ruins our adventuresome spirit. An unknown author cautioned:

On the plains of hesitation, Lie the bleached bones of thousands, Who, on the very threshold of victory, Sat down to rest, And while resting, died.

Great Men Not Exempt
One might suspect that great men would be exempt from “if” trouble. Not so. The great servants of God, though plagued with the problem, move beyond it by trusting the Lord’s power to be bigger than the problem. (See Eph. 3:20.)

If I were Satan, this is the one word I would seek to lodge in the minds of people more than any other, and my major emphasis would be to place it in the minds of God’s sharpest servants. The ones most plagued with “ifs” would be the ones God would otherwise most likely use to achieve.

Think how that one word must have plagued the prophets. They lived in ancient days, but Satan was alive and well on planet Earth then as now. I can imagine . . .

Elijah.- Shortly after his greatest victory, Elijah leaves Mt. Carmel where the men of Baal have been defeated. He heads for Southern Judah, arrives there extremely tired after running a good part of the way, and he says to himself, “I can win any battle except the battle over Jezebel. If Queen Jezebel had never been born. God, I’m scared. She has her soldiers out to kill me. God let me die. ‘

Elisha.- The same man who has prayed for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah has received it, but is skeptical as God’s power in his life is yet untested. Scared to death, just as he was about to perform his first miracle, he no doubt thought, “If only Elijah were alive.”

Hosea.- God had just shared a tough assignment. “Lord,” he must have prayed, “Let me off the hook this time. You know the situation I have at home. I just can’t do anything for you. I could and I would be the man you want me to be, if only I had a wife who was faithful to me.”

Amos.- Called to be a prophet while serving in his vocation of gathering sycamore fruit, he pleads with God, “I would be glad to if only I had a better education.” Isaiah.- God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The mind of Isaiah receives the temptation to reply, “You know you can always count on me, God, but the other day King Uzziah died. Now the whole nation may fall apart. We’re all running a bit scared. But if our national affairs were in better shape . . .”

Ezekiel.- The brilliant young Jew, captured in Israel, held captive in Babylon has just been commanded by God to write a book. “I would not mind writing for you, Lord, if I was back in Jerusalem. Talk to me seventy years from now, and if we get out of this place, and I’m back home . . .”

Jeremiah.- He is being told by God he must preach the truth, even though the people will not appreciate the news of their coming judgment and captivity. For hours he wrestles with the thought, “I know what I better do. I’II strike a deal with God. I’II tell him that I’II do it provided he keeps me out of prison. But if I get into trouble and wind up in prison, I’m through listening to God.

Of course the prophets had thoughts like that! They were human, weren’t they? Maybe not those same thoughts, but every way they turned they faced ifs. They became God’s giants by refusing to believe those negative thoughts. When God speaks, calls, and assigns, a negative thought must not be tolerated.

Adoniram Judson, early missionary to Burma, faced seven unbelievably tough years. Number of converts-none. With a touch of sarcasm a “friend” asked “What do you think the future holds for your work in Burma?” Judson replied, “The future is as bright as the promises of God!”

“If’s” of an Apostle

Since Paul was possibly the greatest Christian since the time of Jesus, one might assume he had no “ifs to overcome. Who said’?

The agnostic “if’ was probably Satan’s first game with Paul. Atheism doubts with authority but agnosticism doubts by always coming up with more questions. Before the Damascus Road experience, the question marks of agnosticism kept his brain working overtime. “Relax, Paul, you’ve got a religion. You’re a Hebrew of the Hebrews. If Jesus was for real, what would he do
for someone with as much religion as you have?”

The comparison “if’ may have been the second thought to get him. “I could never be like Stephen-he was something else. Why, he must have been the greatest Christian there ever was”
God had no desire for Paul to be like Stephen, or Stephen like Paul! God wanted Paul to be Paul, but a totally yielded Paul.

The appearance “if” was no doubt his biggest hang-up. There was nothing suave about Paul. His face may have been so common he could not stand himself. Second Corinthians 10:10 (Godspeed) has Paul quoting back to the Corinthian people the exact crude words they had been saying about him. They had said, “His personal appearance is insignificant and as a speaker he amounts to nothing. ” The Amplified Translation has the Corinthians’ comment, “His personality and bodily presence are weak, and his speech and delivery are utterly contemptible of no account!”

Paul could not fake it. Night and day he was tempted to be nervous about his weakness. But he believed God could use even the uncommonly common face. It was a case of, “Here I am, God. If you can use me, great. It’s up to you. I’m not much, in fact, I’m not anything, but maybe that way you will get all the credit for what’s done through my life. Have a go at it, God!”

The ability “if” was the other half of the Corinthian slur. “As a speaker he amounts to nothing!” The sequence of events may have been -(1) the first night he heard their remark he wept; (2) the thought came that God could not use him because of his lack of ability; (3) he remembered that God had all power; (4) he realized it was not Paul but “Christ in Paul” which the world desperately needed to see; (5) he determined anew to let Christ use him in whatever way he could; and (6) what God thought about him was the important thing, not what somebody said.

It was A.B. 58 when he wrote 2 Corinthians and only two years later (A.B. 60) he was writing to the Colossians saying, “Christ worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). Corinth’s comments didn’t stop Paul

Thinking Straight

If . . . if . . . if-ad infinitum. Satan has one “if” to cause us to doubt God, another to cause us to doubt God’s ability, another to destroy any thought that God could use weak vessels, and on and on it goes.

When a believer is Spirit-filled, however, new thoughts should engulf his brain:

(1) Jesus Christ lives in me.

(2) Jesus, with all the talent and ability he has-lives in me.

(3) Jesus, alive with power, indwells my life through the Holy Spirit.

(4) Jesus has always chosen to do great accomplishments through human vessels, provided they are fit for the Master’s use -(2 Tim. 2: 15-23).

(5) Jesus can accomplish through me provided I will be clean, forgiven, usable; filled with his fullness; ask him, allow him, and expect him to work through me.

One sentence turned Dwight L. Moody on. A speaker said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with one life totally yielded to Jesus Christ.” Terrible in speech, poor in grammar, but with a heart hungry to be used, Moody said to himself, “By the grace of God I’II be that man. ”

Summary Questions

1. Why wait until all “ifs” are removed? At least one “if’ plagues every person. The greatest Christian you know-or the most handsome-or the most talented-or the greatest achiever-has some feature about himself he would love to see changed. But he relies on God’s overcoming grace.

2. Why should the achiever always be someone else? God has a wonderful plan for your life.

3. Why should the one little word “if” be allowed to destroy the motivation the Holy Spirit has implanted within your life?

HOW TO GET MOTIVATED

Real motivation comes from a man knowing where he’s going and how he’s going to get there. You can see it in a man’s eyes when he knows where he’s going.

-W.O. “Bill” Menefee Home Care International

As he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

mo’ti-vate (mo’ti-vat), v.t. To provide with a motive; to impel; incite. mo’tive (mo’tiv), n. [OF. motif, fr. ML. motivus moving, fr. L. movere, motum, to move] 1. That within the individual, rather
than without, which incites him to motion; any idea, need emotion, or organic state that prompts to an action. Webster is sharing several basic truths:

(1) Man frequently needs an outside force to move him (implied).

(2) The force which acts from without is not real motivation. It will last for awhile but something else must take over.

(3) Real motivation needs to come from within.

(4) Action is the end result of motivation, the goal sought for.

Necessity for Right Kind of Motivation
Spencer Goodreds tells of an old gentleman riding on the ocean liner. When a storm blew up at sea a young woman, leaning against the ship s rail, lost her balance and was thrown overboard. Immediately another figure plunged into the waves beside her and held her up until a life-boat rescued them. To everyone’s astonishment the hero was the oldest man on the voyage-an octogenarian. That evening he was given a party in honor of his bravery. “Speech! Speech!” the other passengers cried.

The old gentleman rose slowly and looked around at the enthusiastic gathering. “There’s just one thing I’d like to know,” he said testily. “Who pushed me?”

It should not be too difficult for the intelligent man to understand why he needs to be acted upon. Both psychology and Scripture agree man needs a push and a pusher.

Psychology (the science of human and animal behavior) reminds us of the negative factors fixed within us, stored away somewhere within the twelve billion cells of the brain. Man has been taught “you can’t,” “you must not,” and “someone else can do it better than you,” until something of the basic push God implanted within has departed. This is not to say that all of the negatives we were taught while young have been necessarily bad. In fact, some of them have been startlingly good. But now man needs a Bible-textbook direction as to what is good for him and what is not.

The average parent teaches in four ways-by his habits (which are not always good), by his words (not always wholesome), by his temperament (sometimes explosive), and by the whim of the moment!

“Friends” have done their share of feeding false information into the brain also. Boyce Evans is a traveling evangelist. I heard Boyce speak on the subject, “Why Worry?” The message stressed proper mental attitude and suggested, “Man is primarily the sum total of his thoughts.” He shared an illustration from his seminary days.

Three ministerial students decided to use a friend as a guinea Pig to test whether a man’s physical makeup could be changed by his mental attitude. Their “victim” pastored a small country church each weekend and they set their trap when he returned to school at the start of the week.

“Didn’t you sleep well last night?” the first friend asked, as the victim came whistling up the walk.

“Sure,” he replied, and went on in.

A second man was stationed at the turn of the stairs. He started walking up the stairs with the pastor, and asked, “Bob, are you having trouble in your church?” Bob replied, “Well, I don’t think so! At least not much.”

The third man was stationed in the rear of the classroom. When Bob came in and took his seat, the third friend came over and said “Friend, I am not a psychiatrist, but I can listen and if there is something you need to talk about, I would be glad to listen and try to help.”

A bit of gloom settled over the victim s face. He answered, “Thank you, but I believe I can work it out.” About forty-five minutes later he left class, whispering to one of the friends, “I’m going home. I’m sick.”

Man is going to be motivated-the only question is how.

Kinds of Motivation

That which seeks to motivate from without is not real, lasting motivation.

Psychology tells us that man has basic organic drives-drives which must be satisfied. Drives such as hunger and thirst, activity, rest, sex, physical labor, the body craving for a certain temperature range, all fall into this physiological category.

Self-satisfaction of these drives is important and if God instilled these drives, he apparently intended they would find their outlet. But in every case he either built in saturation points or else gave specific governing rules. It is interesting that if there was not a Bible (book with specific direction as to how to act and what to do) man would have to invent one. So God gave us one-with wisdom straight from the storehouse of his knowledge-and all for our good.

Aside from the physiological needs, man also has psychological needs, He longs for accomplishment of tasks and achievement of goals. Fundamental to his makeup is a desire to achieve. Even the infant in the crib expresses satisfaction when he has achieved

At this point we need to be reminded that behavior is caused. “A stimulus leads to some sort of inter-action with an organism which is followed by behavior that we call a response. This response is also fed back to the organism as a stimulus.”

The S-0-R (stimulus-organism-response) idea continually sends us searching for the right stimulus to motivate man. Consider a business corporation seeking to motivate an employee. What approach would be used?

To motivate man, a corporation invariably uses fear. Industry must lay down the rules of a job and rules invariably imply fear! A job description is placed in a man’s hand. He is told, “This is the job to be done.” The implication is that if the job assignment is not met, the person is fired. This type of reality therapy has him “living under the hammer.” He works, he gives the desired response, but as time goes on something additional is needed.

Industry may also stimulate the man through hope of reward.-Reward (long term benefits, salary raise, or both) is great-for awhile. Let a blue Monday come, when the employee is coming apart at the seams, and the hope of reward, whether given at age sixty-five or in tomorrow’s paycheck, seems to make no difference. He slows down in his work and unless something additional happens, may well walk off the job-unmotivated.

Real motivation is motivation of the spirit. When a man is motivated (moved toward action) from within, he will far surpass any achievements he would otherwise have accomplished. Which brings us back exactly to what Mr. Webster was saying in his definitions. Prompting toward an action needs to work from the inside out.

Paul J. Meyer, President of Success Motivation Institute, states; “No matter who you are or what your age may be, if you want to achieve permanent, sustaining success, the motivation that will drive you toward that goal must come from within. It must be personal, deep-rooted and a part of your inner-most thoughts. All other motivation, the excitement of a crowd the stimulation of a pep-talk, the exhilaration of a passing circumstance is external and temporary. It will not last.”

Henry Ward Beecher suggested, “God made man to go by motives and he will not go without them, anymore than a boat without steam, or a balloon without gas.” Mack Douglas adds, “Find what motivates men and we can touch the button, we can turn the key that makes men achieve miracles.”

Back to the example of the factory worker. When the employer shared the job description and suggested they would be thrilled to have him as an employee, but only so long as he carried out the requirements, he was using motivation by fear. “Was it wrong for him to do it?” Not at all. Some would call it fear motivation, but an even better definition would be fact motivation. He would do the job, or he would be fired, and sharing the truth is a help, not a hindrance. The employee should forever be grateful the facts were shared (and the implications of dismissal) at the time of hiring-rather than not know about his job expectations and discover them later after he was fired.

Fear motivation in relation to accomplishment is not wrong, provided it is based on fact.

Is there anything wrong with reward motivation? Of course not. Again the same requirement must be met-the hope of reward must be based on fact. Reward motivation (offer of raise in salary or advancement in position) is absolutely wrong, even if it gets more work out of the man, if the employer cannot produce the reward.

Motivation of the spirit (attitude motivation) is, however, the best kind of motivation and cannot be surpassed by any other. S-0-R (stimulation-organism-response) has been set in motion but this time the response is a response from love. There is a “want-to” changed on the inside. A man is motivated to work harder, achieve more, because his heart is in the company! And what employer isn’t searching for that in his workers!

“How do you change a man on the inside?” becomes the $64,000 question. What kind of power can remake man? What is there that causes him to Love the assembly line in spite of the fact it is boring and repetitious? Only a motivation of the spirit. When that has happened a man is impelled to respond whether or not circumstances are favorable.

Motivation by Application of the Bible

The secret to real motivation has been in the Bible for centuries. Not only does the Bible teach that man must be spurred to action from the inside, but God even sends his Holy Spirit to dwell within and provide the motivation.

The same is true whether we speak of the physiological needs or the psychological.

God’s help in the physiological area is twofold: first, he lays down laws which make for man’s ultimate happiness; second, he thrusts his power within, enabling man to be able to keep those laws.

In the psychological area, the story of motivation is the same. As the power of God resides in the life through the Holy Spirit, man is motivated to accomplishment. The one who daily reads God’s Word, and daily applies the “Three C’s” (see chap. 15) discovers fantastic inner motivation.

In summary, the Bible attempts to direct man in some stunning principles of achievement. Too often we have considered that the Bible knew nothing about success and accomplishment of goals. When, in fact, if we heed its commands, we will discover every command was for a purpose.

Principles of Achievement

1. Man is meant to achieve, Immediately after creation, man was told to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it.

2. Man must be motivated to achieve. Satan has many ways of implanting negatives in the mind, and the path of least resistance is the most well-trodden path.

3. Inner change is the beginning of the motivation process. Jesus designed the inner change idea as being converted and becoming as little children” and as “being born again.” Paul said to the Corinthians, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” Salvation is when we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2: 10).

4. Motivation must be through daily repetition, feeding the brain with habits, thought patterns, and desires. “Pray without ceasing” and “rejoice in the Lord always” are not idle commands. The psalmist and Daniel each had daily habits of prayer, men in Berea searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), and the disciples went about sharing Christ with others on a daily basis (Acts 5: 42). Repetition is essential in motivation.

5. Goal-setting is the necessary pointer to keep man moving in the right direction. From the time Jesus began his public ministry he seemed to have his goals set-he would please God, defeat the devil, and die for the sins of man. Six months prior to Calvary, he stated that he “must go into Jerusalem, and suffer, . . . and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21). Earlier he had stated that the goal of his ministry was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

6. Believe in God’s power to accomplish through you is a must. Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind of man can believe, it can achieve.” Jesus said, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:2@) and again, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).

MOTIVATION-EVEN IN TIMES OF SUFFERING

I am filled with comfort I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.

The Apostle Paul 2 Corinthians 7:4

There wouldn’t be a brook without rocks. -S. M. Lockridge

A cartoon showed a man and a woman at a counter marked “Educational Toys.” A clerk was showing them a box filled with odd-shaped fragments. “It’s designed to prepare children for today’s complex world. No matter how they put it together, it doesn’t come out right.”

Right at this point someone might plead, “Is this book going to be like some others I’ve read? Don’t just talk about the good. What about my suffering? Nothing in life s puzzle makes sense to me due to my difficulties. Where does that fit in?”

“You see, I can believe God is interested in my success when my definition fits his. I can believe he is interested in helping me achieve goals he helps me set. But why my pain? I’m his!”

“If God wants me to live on the mountaintop, to possess an inner thrill and radiance, to be surrounded by joy and peace, then I should have no suffering. Right?”

Wrong.

Suffering definitely relates to success and motivation. But not in the way the average man thinks.

Life Without Pain?

If you could have one wish, what would it be? High on the list of answers received to such a question would be, “Just give me life without pain.” You wouldn’t want that!

Little Beverly Smith, born in Akron, Ohio, almost never cried. She never cried when she fell down; she never cried when she bumped her head she didn’t even cry when she burned her hand on a hot stove. She cried only when she was hungry or angry.

The doctors soon discovered that she had a defect in the central nervous system for which no cure is known. She could not feel pain. The doctors told the mother she must watch Beverly constantly; the baby might break a bone and continue using it until it could not be set properly; she might develop appendicitis without nature’s usual warning of pain. Spanking her to make her more careful about hot stoves and knives would do her no good; she wouldn’t feel it. Life without pain would be perpetually dangerous

And up until now, you’ve no reason to expect you’ll ever have life without pain. Only the abnormal never hurt.

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” That’s not the same as saying that you might have it. You positively shall. Tribulation, trouble, pain, and perplexity is a very normal part of life.

Of all people, Christians are certainly not exempt. If any person came to Christ believing life would automatically be a bed of roses, he received quite a surprise! Years ago, one of the professors at the Seminary used to tell his young ministerial students, “Boys, be kind to everybody. Everybody’s got problems.”

A study of the life of the apostle Paul would indicate that he had more than most anyone! Second Corinthians 11:23-27 reveals that on different occasions he was stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, and one time left for dead! Instead of life being easy, life was tough. He further said he had been “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness.” If God meant to exempt Christians from problems, he forgot to tell Paul about it!

A life without pain is apparently not God’s intention.

Joy in Spite of Circumstances

Furthermore, the Christian is commanded to be joyful. Instead of joy ceasing when trouble begins, joy is commanded in the midst of and in spite of suffering.

Jesus seemed to begin the idea of New Testament times, As a part of his Sermon on the Mount, he proposed, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad” (Matt. 5: 11-12). In the last week before the cross, Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer” (John 16:33).

From a Philippian jail cell, God inspired Paul to write, sharing not despondency, but thrill. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3: 1). “Rejoice in the Lord away: and again I say,  Rejoice” (4:4).

In other writings, the same theme is echoed. The situation or circumstance surrounding the writing seemed to make no difference-the command was still the same. “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thess. 5: 16). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (v. 18). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering” (Gal. 5:22).

John may seem even more shocking on the idea of suffering than Paul, particularly when the background is studied. Scholars tell us he did his writing about A.D. 95 when the persecutions of Emperor Domitian were in full swing. History reveals that by then approximately fifty percent of the population of the Roman empire were slaves. Slaves in the Roman world were not considered people (personaoe) but things (res). And to an audience in which at least 50 percent were slaves, God says, “These things are written that your joy may be full!” (1 John 1:4).

The conclusion can only be one-God expects the believer to have joy no matter what!

The Anguish of Defeat

One type of suffering often overlooked in a discussion of the problem is the suffering caused by defeat. Failure has to be spelled with capital letters in all our vocabularies. Who hasn’t suffered because of himself

Paul did. Prior to his conversion he failed God in a number of ways. To say that he later hated himself for previous actions would be the understatement of the year. But believing in the thoroughness of God’s forgiveness gave Paul a brand new beginning.

In the matter of a saved person disappointing God, John Mark has to be one of two classic examples. Acts 13: 13 tells the sad account of his starting on the first missionary journey, and then turning back. More than that, his action almost split a beautiful friendship between Barnabas and Paul. But bounce, did he bounce! When Paul writes his last letter prior to death, he urges Timothy to bring Mark “for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). In addition, God used him to write a book of the Bible!

Simon Peter denied Jesus, but Jesus forgave him. For Simon not to forgive himself would have compounded his sin. He learned to believe Jesus, accept his forgiveness, and the once defeated Simon became the preacher of Pentecost, and God’s leader in the thrilling events to follow.

When Satan has won one victory, some throw up the white flag of surrender and let him have the whole war! Not Simon Peter!

If Mark and Peter, and even Paul could forget “the things that are behind,” so can you. Just don’t forget them until you have confessed your sin to God and received his promised forgiveness and cleansing according to 1 John 1:9.

Tears and Brokenness

What about tears? If a man is a success, does this mean he will never weep again?

Contrariwise, the successful man will be a concerned man. He will be concerned about the will of God, the walk of his friends, and the way the world is going. the more successful he is, the more concerned he will be! A person can weep and be joyful at the same time. Joy is a fixed state of the heart, whereas tears are a God-given emotional outlet. One may be joyful over a thousand blessings God has given, plus joyful and excited about being a Christian, but when he stands in the presence of God he may well become Broken.

Pity the poor man who thinks he is so successful he cannot show concern. He is not successful- he is proud, haughty, calloused, self-righteous, and blind to human need.

God’s great men have always been men of concern. They have known joy as a state of the heart but have, at the same time, been brokenhearted over conditions around them.

David wept over his son Absalom, Jeremiah wept over a nation, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and Paul shed many tears in Ephesus over a space of. three years. God’s promise to the concerned soul-winner is, “He that goeth forth and weepth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him ‘ (Ps. 126:6).

Fullness of joy will never be discovered by one who runs from human need. God will resist the proud, but give grace to the humble! (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

The Big Jobs

God is on the lookout for people he can trust with giant problems. Giant tasks are everywhere in this world. There is, however, a prerequisite before you can be chosen for this job.

Allow an explanation.

Recently the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar airplane was finished and the company began 18 months of rigorous testing costing $1.5 billion dollars. To test the strength of the jetliner, Lockheed has an airplane torture rack. It bends, twists, and pulls the structure of the plane to simulate the roughest treatment it will encounter in commercial operation.

Hydraulic jacks, electronic sensors, and a computer put the airplane through a fatigue test for a minimum of 36,000 flights. A lower wind joint of the jet liner underwent five lifetimes of simulated flight without failure, amounting to more than a hundred years of airline service.

Thirty-one 250-gallon water tanks were placed inside one of the test aircraft. The water tanks are connected by a series of pipes and pumps for transferring the aircraft’s center of gravity in flight. Flight tests showed that the aircraft could handle a wider range of gravity than predicted by designers.

One of the planes was flown into ice clouds by test pilots. They wanted to check operation of the anti-ice systems and see how the aircraft would respond to ice accretion. The flight test crew permitted heavy chunks of ice to break away from the nose of the aircraft and enter the rear mounted engine. They permitted heavy ice build-ups on one wing while keeping the other ice-free.

That plane has been through it! I wouldn’t mind flying on it, would you? Life is sometimes like that, and the testing times no less easy.

But wouldn’t it be just like God . . . to take one look at the totally yielded Christian who had walked through sufferings and tensions, take another look at a giant task which desperately needed doing, then cast his eye back toward the Christian and write across his life-tested; trustworthy; yielded; motivated from within; ready for the big job!

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