The Enormous Spiritual Power of a Thankful Heart

GIVE THANKS – IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST JESUS – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

IN EVERYTHING – The Greek word for “everything” is “pas” which means no exceptions. There is a silver lining to every cloud. God is with us whatever befalls us (Heb 13:5). It is God’s will that we find joy in prayer in Christ Jesus in every condition of life.

As Ruth Bell Graham well said “We can’t always give thanks FOR everything, but we can always give thanks IN everything.”

Job is a prime OT illustration of the supernatural response of thanksgiving even in the face of overwhelming troubles (If you are experiencing trials and afflictions [and most of us are!] read Job 1:13-20). IN the midst of his manifold afflictions, Job declared, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) And in the end “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee… And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning,” (Job 42:512) “Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:11)

Gratitude is always a God-honoring attitude.

For all the heartaches and the tears,

For gloomy days and fruitless years

I do give thanks, for now I know

These were the things that helped me grow!

—Crandlemire

Ephesians 5:20 says “ALWAYS (all times) giving thanks for ALL THINGS in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” How is this possible? Certainly it is not possible in my NATURAL inclination! But it is possible by God’s SUPERNATURAL provision. In other words, what is IM-possible, is HIM-possible! Paul had just commanded us to continually “BE FILLED with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18). What “fills you” will “control you” and in this case He enables us to accomplish supernaturally what we cannot accomplish naturally.

As John Piper asks “How can we not be thankful when we owe everything to God?”

Indeed, he who thanks God for His mercies shall never want a mercy for which to thank, for “Every stream should lead us to the fountain.” (M. Henry)

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

— J Oatman

Ray Pritchard writes that “The foundation of gratitude is the expectation of nothing. If one expects nothing then anything is bonus. If one expects more than he receives, then he is disappoint. We are so prone to complain because roses have thorns than to give thanks because thorns have roses! “In everything give thanks.” How do we do this in a practical sense? First, thank him for your blessings. Second, thank him for how he has helped you in your trials. Third, thank him for his presence every day. Fourth, thank him for his promises for the future. As a Christian, our whole life is to be one great, “Thank you, Lord.” This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.””

We should be ready to give the Lord thanks

For blessing as well as for test;

Hearts that are thankful is all that He asks;

Let’s trust Him to give what is best.

—Bierema

If you pause to THINK, you’ll have cause to THANK. God’s GIVING deserves our THANKSGIVING.

Paul exhorts us “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS (present tense = continually, as our habitual practice) through Him (Christ Jesus) to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) How is it possible to live a life of continual thanksgiving? As Jerry Bridges says we must “first renounce all confidence in our own power and then rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit. We must be ENABLED, not merely HELPED. What’s the difference? The word HELP implies we have some ability but not enough; we need someone else to supplement our partially adequate ability. By contrast, ENABLEMENT implies that we have no ability whatsoever. We’re entirely powerless. We can do nothing (cp Jn 15:5). But when by faith we renounce self-sufficiency and embrace reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive divine empowerment, enablement, and strength for personal transformation and ministry.” In short, the Holy Spirit enables us to continually manifest an attitude of gratitude.

Andrew Murray – A joyful, thankful life is what God has destined for us, is what He will work in us — what He desires, that He certainly does in those who do not withstand Him, but receive and suffer His will to work in them.

Notice that in 1Thes 5:16 (Rejoice always) and 1Thes 5:18 we see the combination of joy and giving thanks which Paul also links in Colossians 1:11-12 in the phrase “Joyously giving thanks to the Father.” Paul’s association of thanksgiving (eucharisteo) and joy (chara) is not surprising as both words are related to the the same Greek root (charis) which is our word “grace.” Indeed grace is the foundation for saints enabled by the Spirit to “joyously give thanks” when the circumstances are not very joy filled! And remember the lost world is watching. Will I respond naturally or supernaturally. The former draws attention to me, but the latter brings glory to the Father (Mt 5:16)! The secret to abounding joy is a Spirit wrought, grace based gratitude attitude. Remember, when you can’t change the wind, allow the Spirit to enable you to adjust your sails!

Thanksgiving is the vibration of the soul’s heart-strings under the soft touch of God’s benevolence.

F F Bruce – Ingratitude is one of the features of pagan depravity in Ro 1:21 (For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or GIVE THANKS; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.); the children of God are expected (and enabled by the Spirit) to “abound in thanksgiving” (Col 2:7Col 3:15174:2Eph 5:4,20)

J. C. Ryle – Thankfulness is a flower which will never bloom well excepting upon a root of deep humility.

Warren Wiersbe – An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him… We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening. “In everything give thanks” isn’t always easy to obey, but obeying this command is the best antidote against a bitter and critical spirit. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.”

Hiebert – When we realize that God works all things out for good to those who love Him and are yielded to His will (Ro 8:28Ge 50:20), thanksgiving under all circumstances becomes a glorious possibility “He who can say `AMEN’ to the will of God in his heart will be able to say ‘HALLELUJAH’ also.”‘

Consider what the Lord has done

For you and those you love;

Then give Him thanks with hearts of praise

For blessings from above.

–Sper

We don’t need more to be thankful for, we need to be more thankful.

God grant us the Spirit wrought grace to emulate Matthew Henry’s high standard who wrote in his diary the day he was mugged “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Beloved, one of the best marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to give thanks when it is difficult!

G. K. Chesterton was once asked what was the greatest lesson he had ever learned to which he replied “The greatest lesson I have learned is to take things with GRATITUDE and not take them for GRANTED.” Chesterton added that “You say grace before meals. All right But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, walking, playing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Thanksgiving is faith in action.

Thanksgiving to God comes (super) naturally when we count our blessings. We would much less apt to protest the command to give thanks in EVERYTHING if it were our habit to give thanks in ANYTHING. Empowered by the Spirit, we need to focus on our “haves,” not our “have-nots.” As the psalmist says “Bless (praise) the LORD, O my soul, and FORGET NONE of His benefits; ” (Psalm 103:2). Indeed, praise to God comes naturally when we count our blessings.

M B Babcock encourages us “Be on the lookout for mercies. The more we look for them, the more of them we will see. Blessings brighten when we count them. Out of the determination of the heart, the eyes see. If you want to be gloomy, there’s gloom enough to keep you glum; if you want to be happy, there’s gleam enough to keep you glad. Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles.”

David Cooper writes that “Thanksgiving delivers us from a victim mentality and gives us a victor’s mentality. I once read that nothing can help the person with the wrong mental attitude, and nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude. And the right mental attitude to overcome our obstacles and win our battles is thanksgiving.”

Missionary Benjamin Weir was held hostage in Lebanon and imprisoned under miserable conditions for 16 months. In his first interview after his release, he was asked how he spent his time and how he dealt with boredom and despair. His answer stunned the reporters. He simply said, “Counting my blessings.” “Blessings?” they responded. “Yes,” he explained. “Some days I got to take a shower. Sometimes there were some vegetables in my food. And I could always be thankful for the love of my family.”

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.

—Oatman

ILLUSTRATION – Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. A ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, when a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan. Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process and his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

ILLUSTRATION – As Pastor H A Ironside was about to begin his meal in a restaurant, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited in to sit and as was his custom, he bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.” The other man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.” The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!” Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”

ILLUSTRATION – A woman had a parrot who always complained about everything. It was Thanksgiving Eve, and she was preparing the Thanksgiving meal. The parrot complained about everything as she worked. Finally, she had heard enough. She took him out of his cage and opened the refrigerator to put him in to punish him, “You’ll stay in the refrigerator until you cool off and get control on your tongue,” she said as she put him and closed the door. The parrot was stunned. Shivering, he caught a glimpse of the Thanksgiving turkey, skinned, legs pointing upward from the pan. The parrot said to the turkey, “Good heavens, man! What did you say?”

“In Everything Give Thanks!”

Mid sunshine, cloud or stormy days,

When hope abounds or care dismays,

When trials press and toils increase

Let not thy faith in God decrease—

‘In every thing give thanks.’

“All things we know shall work for good,

Nor would we change them if we could;

‘Tis well if only He command;

His promises will ever stand—

‘In every thing give thanks.’

“He satisfies the longing heart,

He thwarts the tempter’s cruel dart,

With goodness fills the hungry soul,

And helps us sing when billows roll.

‘In every thing give thanks.'”

–Author Unknown

As David a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) said “I will GIVE THANKS to the LORD according to His righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High… I will GIVE THANKS to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Thy wonders… Therefore I will GIVE THANKS to Thee among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Thy name… The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall THANK Him… Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And GIVE THANKS to His holy name… I will GIVE THANKS to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Thy name forever… With my mouth I will GIVE THANKS abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him… I will GIVE THANKS to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 7:179:118:4928:730:486:12109:30139:14)

Father grant by Your Spirit through Christ Jesus that we might be enabled to be “imitators of those (like David who continually gave thanks to You and) who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb 6:12) Amen

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES ON

GIVING THANKS

David steadfastly affirmed…

I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)

Spurgeon commentsI will bless the Lord at all times. He is resolved and fixed, I will (Ed: God won’t force us to choose thankfulness. It comes down to a choice, but even that choice is motivated by His indwelling Spirit as in Php 2:13note); he is personally and for himself determined, let others so as they may; he is intelligent in head and inflamed in heart — he knows to Whom the praise is due, and what is due, and for what and when.

To Jehovah, and not to second causes our gratitude is to be rendered. The Lord hath by right a monopoly in His creatures praise. Even when a mercy may remind us of our sin with regard to it, as in this case David’s deliverance from the Philistine monarch was sure to do, we are not to rob God of His meed (a fitting return or recompense) of honour because our conscience justly awards a censure to our share in the transaction. Though the hook was rusty, yet God sent the fish, and we thank Him for it.

At all timesin every situation, under every circumstance, before, in and after trials, in bright days of glee, and dark nights of fear.

He would never have done praising, because never satisfied that he had done enough; always feeling that he fell short of the Lord’s deservings.

Happy is he whose fingers
are wedded to his harp.

He who praises God for mercies
shall never want a mercy for which to praise.

To bless the Lord is never unseasonable. His praise shall continually be in my mouth, not in my heart merely, but in my mouth too.

Our thankfulness is not to be a dumb thing; it should be one of the daughters of music. Our tongue is our glory, and it ought to reveal the glory of God.

What a blessed mouthful is God’s praise! How sweet, how purifying, how perfuming! If men’s mouths were always thus filled, there would be no repining against God, or slander of neighbours.

If we continually rolled this dainty morsel under our tongue, the bitterness of daily affliction would be swallowed up in joy.

God deserves blessing with the heart, and extolling with the mouth —

good thoughts in the closet
and
good words in the world.

So how does one emulate and exercise this Davidic attitude of gratitude?…

Through Him (through Christ, our Great High Priest – see study of through Him = through Christ) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips (What does this imply? As physical fruit is borne by abiding, so spiritual fruit is borne by us abiding in Christ and His Spirit in us – Gal 5:22noteGal 5:23noteJn 15:5) that give thanks to His Name. (Hebrews 13:15note)

Chrysostom – gave a practical illustration of this heroic temper by repeating (this attitude of gratitude), as he died in the extreme hardships of an enforced and painful exile. (Quoted by James Moffatt in 1Thessalonians 5 Commentary)

See Related Resources on a thankful spirit… :

Exposition of Ephesians 5:20 (Eph 5:20)

Exposition of Philippians 4:6 (Php 4:6)

A great many Christians although familiar with this command, have looked on it as a sort of counsel of perfection which is out of reach of most of us mere mortals. We offer our own practical paraphrase of Paul’s command saying something like “in most things give thanks” or “in some things give thanks” or “give thanks when you feel like it”! Let’s be honest, there are times when the thought of giving thanks is the farthest thought from our mind. We would rather grumble and/or complain. And often we have a “legitimate” (in the world’s way of looking at things) reason to gripe. And so we arrive at a “spiritual stalemate” because we really don’t want to do what Paul is commanding. It is at times like this what we need to remember the basic spiritual “law” that God never asks us to do something that He doesn’t enable us to accomplish. Thanksgiving is often an act of sheer faith. Our intellect says “get upset and complain.” But the Spirit says, “give thanks in all things and at all times.” If we respond to the Spirit in faith (God allowed it and He will cause it to work out for good) and genuinely give thanks (not legalistically but enabled by amazing grace), we are blessed. We will cease fretting and a beautiful joy and confidence in God sets in. Admittedly this describes the ideal response, and yet one that is within the reach of every believer because we all possess the Spirit and access to just the necessary amount of grace.

The opposite of giving thanks in all things is grumbling or murmuring, an attitude and response Paul addressed in his letter to the Philippians…

Do all things (how many? Just try to accomplish this naturally!) without grumbling or disputing; 15(Paul explains why this response is so important) that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (See notesPhilippians 2:141516)

Comment: Notice that “non-grumbling” is not optional and is not just a suggestion. Paul is commanding “non-grumbling” to be the believer’s continual response [present imperative]! Remember that when you murmur about your circumstances, in the final analysis, you are murmuring against the One Who has designed every circumstance of your life. So when the urge to murmur comes over you [the old flesh will always urge you in that direction – see Gal 5:17note], remember that you need to view the adverse circumstances with eyes of faith and an eternal perspective [cf 2Cor 4:161718], asking the question “Is God still on the throne?” Then make the volitional choice to “Give thanks in everything!”

Thanksgiving is also an excellent antidote for anxiety or worry as we deduce from Paul’s famous command in Philippians…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (see note Philippians 4:6)

Robert Morgan illustrates this spiritual dynamic…

When her children were rebelling against the Lord, Ruth Bell Graham found herself occasionally torn apart by worry. One night while abroad, she awoke suddenly in the middle of the night worrying about her son. A current of worry surged through her like an electric shock. She lay in bed and tried to pray, but she suffered from galloping anxiety, one fear piling upon another. She looked at the clock and it was around three o’clock. She was exhausted, yet she knew she would be unable to go back to sleep. Suddenly the Lord seemed to say to her, “Quit studying the problems and start studying the promises.”

She turned on the light, got out her Bible, and the first verses that came to her were these, Philippians 4:6,7. As she read those words, she suddenly realized that the missing ingredient in her prayers had been thanksgiving. “… in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

She put down her Bible and spent time worshipping God for Who and what He is. She later wrote, “I began to thank God for giving me this one I loved so dearly in the first place. I even thanked him for the difficult spots which had taught me so much. And you know what happened? It was as if someone turned on the light in my mind and heart, and the little fears and worries that had been nibbling away in the darkness like mice and cockroaches hurriedly scuttled for cover. That was when I learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart. They are mutually exclusive.” (In Everything Give Thanks)

James Moffatt wrote the following regarding 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – To comment adequately on these diamond drops would be an outline a history of the Christian experience in its higher levels.

To the natural man who lives for this present world Paul gives a startling injunction. As usual though Paul does not command them to do something he did not model for them as testified by numerous passages…

Ro 1:8 (note) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

1Cor 1:4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,

Ep 1:16 (note) do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;

Php 1:3 (note) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

Col 1:3 (note) We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Philemon 1:4 I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers

In everything (3956) (pas) (first in the Greek for emphasis!) means no exceptions! Every situation. All times. Every circumstance. Good. Bad. Happy. Sad. This all inclusive emphatic adverbial phrase lifts this admonition above the level of natural practice or possibility. The previous two commands are continuous as to time (always) and this one is universal in scope.

Really Paul, this is not humanly possible! To which Paul would probably reply “You’re right. It’s not. It’s only superhumanly possible!” Okay I see it now –

It’s impossible!

But it is…

Him-possible!

And so we’re not surprised to see the attitude of gratitude associated with a Spirit filled (controlled, enabled) saint for in the context of Eph 5:18note, Paul lists one of the “indicators” of Spirit filling writing that he or she is…

always (Same word as in 1Th 5:18 = pas = everything, no exceptions) giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (Eph 5:20note)

As alluded to at the beginning of this note, Paul said give thanks in everything not for everything. Paul is not calling us to be thankful for the rebellious kids, or for the terminal illness, etc. The preposition is in all things. In the midst of all things, we can give thanks because God’s indwelling Spirit will enable us to do so. Doing so is an expression of our trust in His Sovereignty and Faithfulness, that He will never test us beyond what we are able to endure! (1Cor 10:13note).

God is sovereign and is over all adversity and all prosperity. The upshot is that everything that is allowed into our lives either from His hand directly or is filtered through His hands of perfect love and infinite wisdom. And so we can give thanks in everything because He is still on the throne and is in control. He El Elyon: Most High God, Sovereign Over All.

William Law wrote in 1729 in his famous book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life wrote that…

If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. For it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it to a blessing. Could you, therefore, work miracles, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit, for it heals with a word speaking, and turns all that it touches into happiness

Richison makes a distinction that…

There is a difference in giving thanks “for” everything and “in” everything. If we gave thanks “for” everything that would mean that we give thanks for the Devil and his plan for the world!

Neither do we give thanks necessarily “after” everything. It does not require much faith to trace the hand of God with the benefit of hindsight. However, it takes faith to accept one’s lot with gratitude in the midst of circumstances… we need to have the attitude of Samuel in 1Samuel 3:18,

Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, ‘It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.

Whatever comes in our lives comes in by the will of God, otherwise, He would prevent it. God mixes with His divine compound the bitter and the sweet, the good and the bad, in appropriate proportions so that they work together for good. God knows just the right amount of sunshine and rain. He measures out these things with great precision… (1 Thessalonians 5:18 )

God designs all circumstances for the benefit of the believer. God thinks about your limitations. He knows the proper proportions of adversity that are right for you. We should not concern ourselves with the portion given to someone else. God works in each person’s life differently.

He custom designs the structure of their circumstances by divine design. God knows the straw that will break the camel’s back. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but He wants a tested product. Engineers of today’s automobiles test drive prototypes so that they know what these cars can tolerate. God wants to bring out the best in us…

God’s providential plan for our lives includes all contingencies. God foresees every circumstance that comes into our lives. Not only does He foresee everything that happens to us, but He providentially plans or allows each situation that comes into our lives.

There is no substitute for understanding the will of God for our suffering. Nothing can come into our lives unless the Lord allows it. God must put His initials on everything that comes into our state of affairs. We may give thanks through tears.

Our obligation is to believe God’s Word about these matters. The Bible teaches God’s providential care of His creatures throughout the Scriptures. (1 Thessalonians 5:18b)

Montgomery writes that Paul commands a “duty not dependent on gratifying times or circumstances. They must practice thanksgiving in every circumstance.” (And remember is we are filled with the Spirit “duty” is not a drudgery but a delight!)

There is a silver lining to every cloud. God is with us whatever befalls us, as was so beautifully recorded by William Cowper (John Piper’s description of his life or Audio version) in his hymn…

God Moves in a Mysterious Way (play)

God Moves in A Mysterious Way with Lyrics

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

As John Piper asks “How can we not be thankful when we owe everything to God?” (A Godward Life)

Give thanks (2168)(eucharisteo [word study] from eucháristos = thankful, grateful, well-pleasing – Indicates the obligation of being thankful to someone for a favor done <> in turn from  = well + charizomai = to grant, give.; English – Eucharist – root of these words is charis = grace) means to show that one is under obligation by being thankful. To show oneself as grateful (most often to God in the NT).

Moulton and Milligan note that eucharisteo originally meant “do a good turn to” or “oblige,” and in late Greek passed readily into the meaning “be grateful,” “give thanks”. Giving thanks is the quality of being grateful, with the implication of also having appropriate (Spirit filled) attitude.

This meaning is common in diplomatic documents in which the recipient of a favor reciprocates with assurance of goodwill. It is also used o express appreciation for benefits or blessings. Giving thanks was an important component of Greco-Roman reciprocity as demonstrated by a copy of a letter written by the Emperor Claudius to a Gymnastic Club expressing his gratification at games performed in his honour. The word eucharista was also common on ancient inscriptions.

Thanksgiving expresses what ought never to be absent from any of our devotions. We should always be ready to express our grateful acknowledgement of past mercies as distinguished form the earnest seeking of future mercies.

TDNT writes that “We first find eucharistos in the senses “pleasant” and “graceful.” Eucharisteo means “to show a favor,” but this imposes a duty of gratitude and the meaning “to be thankful” or “to give thanks” develops. We also find the sense “to pray.” The Greek world held thanksgiving in high esteem. With the ordinary use we find a public use (gratitude to rulers) and a religious use (thanksgiving to the gods for blessings). Thanks are also a constituent part of letters.” (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)

Don’t miss the fact that give thanks is in the present imperative which calls for this to be our habitual attitude and action! The active voice means that his is a personal choice (enabled by grace and the Spirit) we each must make continually.

Spurgeon admits that “I have not always found it easy to practice this duty; this I confess to my shame. When suffering extreme pain some time ago, a brother in Christ said to me, “Have you thanked God for this?” I replied that I desired to be patient, and would be thankful to recover. “But,” said he, “in everything give thanks, not after it is over, but while you are still in it, and perhaps when you are enabled to give thanks for the severe pain, it will cease.” I believe that there was much force in that good advice. (Ed note: I agree but would add that even if the pain doesn’t cease, one’s heart assumes a proper perspective to pain).

Paul writes to the saints at Colossae – “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (present tense) through Him (Christ Jesus) to God the Father. (see note Colossians 3:17)

The access we have is provided is through Him “by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (He 10:20note).

F F Bruce comments that “Ingratitude is one of the features of pagan depravity in Ro 1:21 (For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.); the children of God are expected to “abound in thanksgiving” (Col 2:7note; cf. Col 3:15174:2-see notes Col 3:15174:2Eph 5:4,20-see notes Ep 5:420). (Bruce, F F: 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated. 1982 )

Hiebert – The Christian should meet adverse circumstances of life not with a spirit of stoic resignation but with a spirit of unfailing gratitude. Paul and Silas had exemplified this spirit when imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16:25). Such an attitude is made possible only by the grace of God. It can become a vital reality only when the truth of Ro 8:28note is experienced. When we realize that God works all things out for good to those who love Him and are yielded to His will, thanksgiving under all circumstances becomes a glorious possibility “He who can say `Amen’ to the will of God in his heart will be able to say ‘Hallelujah’ also.”‘ It is typical of a life of unbelief that it lacks thanksgiving (Ro 1:21note), but a life united with God in Christ Jesus is characterized by a spirit of thanksgiving (Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book. 1996)

Barnes notes that believers…

can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning. Chrysostom, once the archbishop of Constantinople, and then driven into exile, persecuted, and despised, died far away from all the splendours of the capital, and all the comforts and honours which he had enjoyed, uttering his favourite motto — glory to God for all things. Bibliotheca Sacra, i. 700. So we may praise God for everything that happens to us under his government. A man owes a debt of obligation to him for anything which will recall him from his wanderings, and which will prepare him for heaven. Are there any dealings of God towards men which do not contemplate such an end? Is a man ever made to drink the cup of affliction when no drop of mercy is intermingled? Is he ever visited with calamity which does not in some way contemplate his own temporal or eternal good? Could we see all, we should see that we are never placed in circumstances in which there is not much for which we should thank God. And when, in his dealings, a cloud seems to cover his face, let us remember the good things without number which we have received, and especially remember that we are in the world of redeeming love, and we shall find enough for which to be thankful.

For this is the will of God. That is, that you should be grateful. This is what God is pleased to require you to perform in the name of the Lord Jesus. In the gift of that Saviour he has laid the foundation for that claim, and he requires that you should not be unmindful of the obligation. (cf note Hebrews 13:15). (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament)

J Vernon McGee writes that give thanks in everything means…

in all circumstances, not just once a year, but all the time. This “is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” If you come to me and ask what is the will of God for you, I can tell you three specific things that are the will of God for you: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything. That is the will of God for you. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson )

Gary Delashmutt writes that…

The New Testament teaches that gratitude is related to spiritual health in two different ways. We’ll use a medical model to explore this …

(1) Gratitude is a “thermometer” that indicates the state of your spiritual health. A thermometer is a tool that tells you whether you have one of the symptoms of physical illness (fever). It is not a medicine. You don’t put the thermometer in the freezer and then stick it into your mouth to break your fever. You put it in your mouth and it tells you if you have a fever. In the same way, the presence or absence of gratitude in your dealings with God is one of the most reliable indicators of your spiritual health. This is because it (along with serving love) is the normal and natural result of personally understanding and receiving God’s grace. Grace means charity—a gift to the undeserving.

(2) Gratitude is a “medicine” that promotes your spiritual health. Gratitude is not a feeling that dictates your choices; it is a choice that affects your feelings. This is what Paul is emphasizing in this passage. Most of the New Testament passages on gratitude are imperatives, addressed to our volition rather than to our emotions. He is not prescribing for us how we must feel; he is calling on us to choose to rejoice and thank God on the basis of what is true–regardless of how happy or thankful we may feel.

This is a key insight into biblical spirituality. It involves our feelings and experiences, but it is not rooted in them, because they are fallen and broken and unreliable. It is rooted in God’s truth and our choice to express faith in the truth, often in spite of what we feel. This is why the notion that it is unspiritual to thank God unless you feel grateful is false. Choosing by faith to thank God in spite of intense feelings of depression, disappointment, anxiety, etc. is deeply spiritual. This is why if you wait until you feel grateful to thank God, you will feel less and less grateful. But if you choose to thank God regardless of how you feel, you will feel more grateful more often. It is in this sense that gratitude is a key step of faith (along with serving love) that unleashes God’s blessing into your experience. (“Grateful servants are happy people.”).

Wiersbe wrote…

An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thes 5:16-18). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Bible Exposition Commentary Old Testament)

We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening. “In everything give thanks” (1Thes. 5:18) isn’t always easy to obey, but obeying this command is the best antidote against a bitter and critical spirit. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.” (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

(Commenting on Psalm 146:12 Wiersbe writes) God gives us life and breath (Acts 17:25), so it is only right that we use that life and breath to praise Him (Ps 150:6). To receive the gifts and ignore the Giver is the essence of idolatry. The writer promised God he would praise Him all of his life, and certainly this is wise preparation for praising Him for eternity (Ps 104:33). To live a life of praise is to overcome criticism and complaining, to stop competing against others and comparing ourselves with them. It means to be grateful in and for everything (1Th. 5:18Eph. 5:20) and really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Ro 8:28). A life of praise is free from constant anxiety and discouragement as we focus on the Lord, who is mentioned eleven times in this psalm. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

Steven Cole highlights the importance of our willingness to submit to God and to trust God if we are to truly give thanks in everything – David writes (Ps 86:12), “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart.” Similarly, right after telling us to pray without ceasing, Paul says (1Th. 5:18), “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We cannot give thanks to God from the heart unless we are submissive to His sovereign hand in our circumstances and we believe that He is working even our trials together for our ultimate good.

BBC wrote that even the “Pagans who recognized that Fate or some god was sovereign over everything acknowledged that one should accept whatever comes or even give thanks for it. For Paul, those who trust God’s sovereignty and love can give thanks in every situation. (Bible Background Commentary)

Disciple’s Study Bible – God’s will is that we gratefully acknowledge His hand in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Circumstances change; God does not. The Christian has an obligation to remain aware of God’s goodness regardless of appearances. Continuous prayer involves an attitude of openness to God in all situations and a practice of talking to God about all situations.

Merrill Unger wrote that thanksgiving is “A duty of which gratitude is the grace. This obligation of godliness is acknowledged by the universal sentiment of mankind; but as a Christian grace it has some blessed peculiarities. It is gratitude for all the benefits of divine Providence, especially for the general and personal gifts of redemption. The very term most in use shows this; it is charis, which is the grace of God in Christ, operating in the soul of the believer as a principle and going back to Him in gratitude: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2Cor. 9:15). The ethical gratitude of Christianity connects every good gift and every perfect gift with the gift of Christ. Moreover, it is a thanksgiving that in the Christian economy, and in it alone, redounds to God for all things: in everything give thanks. This characteristic flows from the former. The rejoicing that we have in the Lord, and the everlasting consolation we possess in Him, makes every possible variety of divine dispensation a token for good. The Christian privilege is to find reason for gratitude in all things: “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians. 5:18). (Unger, M. F., Harrison, R. K., Vos, H. F., Barber, C. J., & Unger, M. F. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press)

James Smith – 1Chr 16:7, R.V. Prayer Study No. 8.

This Psalm is a compilation from three others. 1Chr 16:8-22 consists of first 15 verses of Psalm 105:23-33, quotations from Psalm 116:34-36 from Psalm 106.

David drew attention—

1. To Works of God (1Chr 16:8, etc.).

2. To Majesty of God (1Chr 16:23, etc.).

3. To Mercy of God (1Chr 16:34).

This latter is sweetest note of all. The chief work not to pray, but to praise. In everything give thanks. When He took the cup He gave thanks.

“In Everything Give Thanks!”

“‘Mid sunshine, cloud or stormy days,
When hope abounds or care dismays,
When trials press and toils increase
Let not thy faith in God decrease—
‘In every thing give thanks.’

“All things we know shall work for good,
Nor would we change them if we could;
‘Tis well if only He command;
His promises will ever stand—
‘In every thing give thanks.’

“He satisfies the longing heart,
He thwarts the tempter’s cruel dart,
With goodness fills the hungry soul,
And helps us sing when billows roll.
‘In every thing give thanks.'”
—Selected

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A Lost Art (Our Daily Bread) – Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersbe illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

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In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H. A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.” The other man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.”

The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!”

Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!” (Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith)

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In a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Gary Wilburn said: “In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years’ War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children:

‘Now thank we all our God

With heart and hands and voices

Who wondrous things had done

In whom His world rejoices.

Who, from our mother’s arms,
Hath led us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today

Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from love of God, not from outward circumstances. (Don Maddox)

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Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself…

Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.

Much to his surprise, however, Pastor Whyte began by praying…

We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.

That’s the habitual attitude of gratitude Paul is calling for in all of God’s children, beloved. Gratitude is an attitude that like all spiritual disciplines, needs to be consciously developed and deliberately cultivated in the dependence on the Holy Spirit and the grace in which we stand. There are some practical steps that can cultivate the gracious attribute of gratitude. For example, you can make thanksgiving a priority in your prayer life (Col 4:2note) rather than focusing only on petitions and requests. There may even be blessed times when your prayer time consists of nothing but gratefulness to the Almighty. You can always thank Him for the various wonderful aspects of your salvation (adoption & sovereign care, forgiveness, inheritance, the gift of His Spirit, freedom from sin’s power and Satan’s authority, etc) Have you had any prayer times like that recently? And you can thank Him for the “smaller” blessings of life, those things we all to often take for granted. You can ask Him to make you very sensitive to grumbling and mumbling complaints which are the polar opposite of a thankful spirit. You can utilize spiritual songs (Ep 5:20note) to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, allowing the words of a wonderful hymn to lift your eyes and heart in a way that nothing else can. Thank people who bless you in even the smallest ways. It will complete your enjoyment of the blessing, and it will increase your capacity to thank God. Reflect on and serve those less fortunate than you. This will remind you of how gracious God has been to you, how far He has brought you, and how much He has blessed you—which will in turn motivate you to be grateful to God.

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Give Thanks! (READ: Leviticus 23:15-22) – At harvest time it’s natural to thank God for the bounty of His blessings. The Feast of Weeks in ancient Israel, established in Leviticus 23, was a week of joyous celebration and feasting in gratitude for the harvest (Dt. 16:9101112). Even today as farmers gather their crops, many give thanks to the Lord for the abundance of their harvest.

But what if untimely and persistent rain keeps the farmer from getting his machines into the fields and harvesting the ripe grain? What if a sudden hailstorm flattens the corn? Or a summer drought dries up the fields?

The apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks” (1Th 5:18). That may sound unrealistic. But think about it. The Jews were instructed to celebrate the Feast of Weeks whether the crops came in or not. Likewise, we are to give thanks to the Lord “in everything.” After all, our praise is to God, not to a barn full of hay or a crib full of corn.

Yes, we can give thanks. We can do so whether the day goes smoothly or we meet aggravating problems. We can be grateful if we’re rich or poor, when we’re feeling well or if our health fails. In every circumstance, we can affirm God’s goodness and discover reasons to give thanks to Him. After all, our gratitude is to Him and for Him. — David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Consider what the Lord has done
For you and those you love;
Then give Him thanks with hearts of praise
For blessings from above. –Sper

We don’t need more to be thankful for,
we need to be more thankful.

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A Flat Thanks – The day before Christmas became a thanksgiving day for my family. The station wagon was packed with kids and travel stuff for the 400-mile trip to Grandma’s. As is our custom, before leaving we asked God to protect us on the road. He did, but in an unusual way.

As we were cruising down I-75 in Ohio, we ran over some debris in the road. It made a lot of noise, but did no damage—or so we thought. With every passing mile we figured that the crisis had passed. When we pulled off the expressway for gas a few miles later, though, we were in for a deflating surprise. I felt a sickening, sloppy feeling in the front of the car. Both front tires had gone flat.

We weren’t happy with having to replace the tires, but we were thankful for God’s care. Thankful that we didn’t have an accident. Thankful that the tires stayed inflated until we got off the expressway. Thankful for the tow truck sitting at the gas station. Thankful that a repair shop was open. We were thankful for God’s answer to our prayer.

Our trials were nothing compared with what the apostle Paul endured. Yet he gave thanks to God, and he said we should be thankful “in everything.” Any day can be thanksgiving day, even when things go wrong.— Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

We should be ready to give the Lord thanks
For blessing as well as for test;
Hearts that are thankful is all that He asks;
Let’s trust Him to give what is best. —Bierema

If you pause to think,
you’ll have cause to thank.

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Everyday Blessings – Missionary Benjamin Weir was held hostage in Lebanon and imprisoned under miserable conditions for 16 months. In his first interview after his release, he was asked how he spent his time and how he dealt with boredom and despair. His answer stunned the reporters. He simply said, “Counting my blessings.”

“Blessings?” they responded.

“Yes,” he explained. “Some days I got to take a shower. Sometimes there were some vegetables in my food. And I could always be thankful for the love of my family.”

We can understand why the reporters were astonished. It’s hard for most of us to be consistently thankful for the commonplace blessings that make life pleasant and comfortable–the unfailing supply of our daily needs, the provision of food and shelter, the companionship of friends and families. There are times when we may even forget the wonderful mercies of God’s redeeming grace.

Paul and Silas, though they were beaten, thrown into prison, and placed in stocks, were still “singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). May we learn from them, and from Benjamin Weir, to count our blessings no matter what our circumstances. We have many reasons to rejoice. — Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. –Oatman

Praise to God comes naturally
when you count your blessings.

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Thanks For Fleas – Corrie ten Boom was an inspiration and challenge to thousands of people after World War II. Hearts were stirred and lives changed as she told with moving simplicity about God’s sufficiency to meet her needs, even as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

Not only was the camp filthy, but there were fleas everywhere. Corrie’s sister Betsie, who was imprisoned with her, insisted that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 was God’s will for them: “In everything give thanks.” But giving thanks in a flea-infested place seemed unrealistic to Corrie—until she realized why the guards didn’t come into their barracks to make them stop praying and singing hymns. They wanted to avoid the fleas! So, the prisoners were free to worship and study the Bible. The fleas, yes, even the fleas were agents of grace, and something to be thankful for.

What are some of the “fleas” in our lives? They aren’t the big difficulties, but the petty annoyances. They are the little trials from which we can’t escape. Is it possible that they are one of the ways the Lord teaches us spiritual lessons and helps us to increase our endurance?

When we are tempted to grumble, let’s remember the fleas and give thanks. —Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

For all the heartaches and the tears,
For gloomy days and fruitless years
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow! —Crandlemire

If you pause to think,
you’ll find cause to thank.

FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL IN CHRIST JESUS: touto gar thelema theou en Christo Iesou eis humas:

For (gar) is a term of explanation which should always prompt a pause to ponder.

Take a moment and do a survey of some Scriptural passages related to God’s will (interrogate with the 5W’S & H [for many of the passages it will be important to check the context] and write down your observations/applications in your devotional notebook) – Mt 6:10noteMt 7:21noteMt 12:5026:42Mark 3:35Jn 4:346:407:17Acts 13:2221:1422:14Ro 12:2noteEph 5:17noteEp 6:6noteCol 1:9noteCol 4:12note1Th 4:3note1Th 5:18noteHeb 10:7noteHe 10:36noteHe 13:21note1Pe 2:15note1Pe 4:2note1Jn 2:17notePs 40:8notePs 143:10note

For (gar) introduces an explanation, in this case Paul explains why all saints should be motivated to continually be grateful. According to Hiebert the preposition for (gar) “introduces the fact that this triplet of commands is justified because of God’s will for the readers.”

Hiebert goes on to comment on this (touto) that “There is some uncertainty as to the intended scope of “this” (touto). Is it to be restricted to thanksgiving alone, or does it include all three injunctions?… The context favors this inclusive reference. Rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving form a trio that are closely related and must not be separated in practice. If the dove of Christian joy is continually to mount upward, it must fly on the wings of prayer and thanksgiving.” (Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book. 1996)

Guzik comments that “After each one of these exhortations – rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks – we are told to do them because it is the will of God. The thought isn’t “this is God’s will, so you must do it.” The thought is rather “this is God’s will, so you can do it.” It isn’t easy to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, but we can do it because it is God’s will. (Ref)

This is God’s will – Paul was not teaching that we should thank God for everything that happens to us, but ineverything. Even in evil circumstances, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that He will accomplish through the distress.

Will (2307)(thelema from thelo = to will with the “-ma” suffix indicating the result of the will = “a thing willed”) generally speaks of the result of what one has decided. One sees this root word in the feminine name “Thelma.” In its most basic form, thelema refers to a wish, a strong desire, and the willing of some event. (Note: See also the discussion of the preceding word boule for comments relating to thelema).

Zodhiates says that thelema is the “Will, not to be conceived as a demand, but as an expression or inclination of pleasure towards that which is liked, that which pleases and creates joy. When it denotes God’s will, it signifies His gracious disposition toward something. Used to designate what God Himself does of His own good pleasure. (Zodhiates, S. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG )

Thelema – 62x in 58v – Mt 6:107:2112:5018:1421:3126:42Mark 3:35Luke 12:4722:4223:25Jn 1:134:345:306:3839407:179:31Acts 13:2221:1422:14Ro 1:10noteRo 2:18noteRo 12:2noteRo 15:32note1Cor 1:17:3716:122Cor 1:18:5Gal 1:4Ep 1:1noteEp 1:5noteEp 1:9noteEp 1:11noteEp 2:3noteEp 5:17noteEp 6:6noteCol 1:1noteCol 1:9noteCol 4:12note1Th 4:3note1Th 5:18note2Ti 1:1note2Ti 2:26noteHe 10:7noteHe 10:9noteHe 10:10noteHe 10:36noteHe 13:21note1Pe 2:15note1Pe 3:17note1Pe 4:2note1Pe 4:19note2Pe 1:21note1Jn 2:175:14Rev 4:11noteNAS = desire(1), desires(1), will(57).

Thelema has both an objective meaning (“what one wishes to happen”) and a subjective connotation (“the act of willing or desiring”). The word conveys the idea of desire, even a heart’s desire, for the word primarily expresses emotion instead of volition. Thus God’s will is not so much God’s intention, as it is His heart’s desire. It is God’s gracious disposition.

Don’t complain about thorns among the roses!

Be grateful for roses among the thorns! (Jas 1:2notePhil 4:6note)

All the way my savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who thro’ life has been my guide?
heav’nly peace divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for ev’ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread;
Tho’ my weary steps may falter,
and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;

All the way, my Savior leads me;
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above:
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song thro’ endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song thro’ endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;

Do not meet adverse circumstances of life with a spirit of stoic resignation but with a spirit of unfailing gratitude. (Heb 12:567891011 see notes He 12:567891011 to help understand this powerful truth of God’s discipline & its ultimate purpose… then with that perspective you can offer thanks in everything, even though you may feel or be experiencing sorrow. It is “Him-possible”)

In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi and Luke records that “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25) Such an attitude is possible only by the grace of God and the empowering Spirit of God. As someone has said ”He who can say ‘Amen’ to the will of God in his heart will be able to say ‘Hallelujah’ also.”

Ray Stedman writes that “Twice in this letter we have had this phrase, “This is the will of God.” We had it first in 1Thessalonians 4:3, where Paul says, “This is the will of God for you, that you know how to preserve your own body in moral purity.” That is the will of God for your body! But here is the will of God for your spirit, your inner life — that you “give thanks in all circumstances.” If you want to do the will of God there are the two areas in which his will is clearly set out for you:

Moral purity for your body;
Continual thanksgiving for your spirit.

In Christ Jesus – Christ Jesus Himself is the pattern and source of a life of habitual gratitude. Gratitude to God found its supreme manifestation in Christ’s earthly life, and it is only in union with Him (see In Christand also in Christ Jesus) that such a life is possible for the believer. This life is the product of the new life received from Him and is made operative in believers by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In his description of Spirit filled or controlled believers Paul wrote that they are “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (Eph 5:20 note)

Comment: MacArthur commenting on Ephesians 5:20 writes that “To be thankful always is to recognize God’s control of our lives in every detail as He seeks to conform us to the image of His Son. Nothing must grieve the Holy Spirit so much as the believer who does not give thanks. In King Lear (I.ii.283, 312) Shakespeare wrote, “Ingratitude, thou marble–hearted fiend! … How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” When God brings trials and difficulties into our lives and we complain and grumble, we question His wisdom and love as well as His sovereignty… The only person who can genuinely give thanks for all things is the humble person, the person who knows he deserves nothing and who therefore gives thanks even for the smallest things. Lack of thankfulness comes from pride, from the conviction that we deserve something better than we have. [MacArthur: Ephesians]

James Denney comments that…

The third of the standing orders of the Church is, from one point of view, a combination of the first and second; for thanksgiving is a kind of joyful prayer. As a duty, it is recognised by everyone within limits; the difficulty of it is only seen when it is claimed, as here, without limits: In everything give thanks. That this is no accidental extravagance is shown by its recurrence in other places. To mention only one: in Php 4:6 (note) the Apostle writes “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Is it really possible to do this thing?

There are times, we all know, at which thanksgiving is natural and easy. When our life has taken the course which we ourselves had purposed, and the result seems to justify our foresight; when those whom we love are prosperous and happy; when we have escaped a great danger, or recovered from a severe illness, we feel, or say we feel, so thankful. Even in such circumstances we are possibly not so thankful as we ought to be. Perhaps, if we were, our lives would be a great deal happier. But at all events we frankly admit that we have cause for thanksgiving; God has been good to us, even in our own estimate of goodness; and we ought to cherish and express our grateful love toward Him. Let us not forget to do so. It has been said that an unblessed sorrow is the saddest thing in life; but perhaps as sad a thing is an unblessed joy. And every joy is unblessed for which we do not give God thanks. “Unhallowed pleasures” is a strong expression, which seems proper only to describe gross wickedness; yet it is the very name which describes any pleasure in our life of which we do not recognise God as the Giver, and for which we do not offer Him our humble and hearty thanks.

We would not be so apt to protest against the idea of giving thanks in everything if it had ever been our habit to give thanks in anything.

Think of what you call, with thorough conviction, your blessings and your mercies, — your bodily health, your soundness of mind, your calling in this world, the faith which you repose in others and which others repose in you; think of the love of your husband or wife. Think of all those sweet and tender ties that bind our lives into one; think of the success with which you have wrought out your own purposes, and laboured at your own ideal; and with all this multitude of mercies before your face, ask whether even for these you have given God thanks. Have they been hallowed and made means of grace to you by your grateful acknowledgment that He is the Giver of them. all? If not, it is plain that you have lost much joy, and have to begin the duty of thanksgiving in the easiest and lowest place.

But the Apostle rises high above this when he says, In everything give thanks. He knew, as I have remarked already, that the Thessalonians had been visited by suffering and death: is there a place for thanksgiving there? Yes, he says; for the Christian does not look on sorrow with the eyes of another man. When sickness comes to him or to his home; when there is loss to be borne, or disappointment, or bereavement; when his plans are frustrated, his hopes deferred, and the whole conduct of his life simply taken out of his hands, he is still called to give thanks to God. For he knows that God is love. He knows that God has a purpose of His own in his life, — a purpose which at the moment he may not discern, but which he is bound to believe wiser and larger than any he could purpose for himself. Everyone who has eyes to see must have seen, in the lives of Christian men and women, fruits of sorrow and of suffering which were conspicuously their best possessions, the things for which the whole Church was under obligation to give thanks to God on their behalf.

It is not easy at the moment to see what underlies sorrow; it is not possible to grasp by anticipation the beautiful fruits which it yields in the long run to those who accept it without murmuring: but every Christian knows that all things work together for good to them that love God (see note Romans 8:28); and in the strength of that knowledge he is able to keep a thankful heart, however mysterious and trying the providence of God may be.

That sorrow, even the deepest and most hopeless, has been blessed, no one can deny. It has taught many a deeper thoughtfulness, a truer estimate of the world and its interests, a more simple trust in God. It has opened the eyes of many to the sufferings of others, and changed boisterous rudeness into tender and delicate sympathy. It has given many weak ones the opportunity of demonstrating the nearness and the strength of Christ, as out of weakness they have been made strong. Often the sufferer in a home is the most thankful member of it. Often the bedside is the surmiest spot in the house, though the bedridden one knows that he or she will never be free again. It is not impossible for a Christian in everything to give thanks.

But it is only a Christian who can do it, as the last words of the Apostle intimate: “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.” These words may refer to all that has preceded: “Rejoice alway; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks”; or they may refer to the last clause only. Whichever be the case, the Apostle tells us that the ideal in question has only been revealed in Christ, and hence is only within reach of those who know Christ. Till Christ came, no man ever dreamt of rejoicing alway, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything. There were noble ideals in the world, high, severe, and pure; but nothing so lofty, buoyant, and exhilarating as this. Men did not know God well enough to know what His will for them was; they thought He demanded integrity, probably, and beyond that, silent and passive submission at the most; no one had conceived that God’s will for man was that his life should be made up of joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. But he who has seen Jesus Christ, and has discovered the meaning of His life, knows that this is the true ideal. For Jesus came into our world, and lived among us, that we might know God; He manifested the name of God that we might put our trust in it; and that name is Love; it is Father. If we know the Father, it is possible for us, in the spirit of children, to aim at this lofty Christian ideal; if we do not, it will seem to us utterly unreal. The will of God in Christ Jesus means the will of the Father; it is only for children that His will exists. Do not put aside the apostolic exhortation as paradox or extravagance; to Christian hearts, to the children of God, he speaks words of truth and soberness when he says, Rejoice alway; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks. Has not Christ Jesus given us peace with God, and made us friends instead of enemies? Is not that a fountain of joy too deep for sorrow to touch? Has He not assured us that He is with us all the days, even to the end of the world? Is not that a ground upon which we can look up in prayer all the day long? Has He not told us that all things work together for good to them that love God? Of course we cannot trace His operation always; but when we remember the seal with which Christ sealed that great truth; when we remember that in order to fulfil the purpose of God in each of us He laid down His life on our behalf, can we hesitate to trust His word? And if we do not hesitate, but welcome it gladly as our hope in the darkest hour, shall we not try even in everything to give thanks?

Matthew Henry – If we pray without ceasing, we shall not want matter for thanksgiving in every thing. As we must in every thing make our requests known to God by supplications, so we must not omit thanksgiving, Philippians 4:6. We should be thankful in every condition, even in adversity as well as prosperity. It is never so bad with us but it might be worse. If we have ever so much occasion to make our humble complaints to God, we never can have any reason to complain of God, and have always much reason to praise and give thanks: the apostle says, This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us, that we give thanks, seeing God is reconciled to us in Christ Jesus; in him, through him, and for his sake, he allows us to rejoice evermore, and appoints us in every thing to give thanks. It is pleasing to God.

Andrew Murray – A joyful, thankful life is what God has destined for us, is what He will work in us: what He desires, that He certainly does in those who do not withstand Him, but receive and suffer His will to work in them. (The New Life)

William Barclay – There is always something for which to give thanks; even on the darkest day there are blessings to count. We must remember that if we face the sun the shadows will fall behind us but if we turn our backs on the sun all the shadows will be in front.

A French proverb says “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”

Although he was not a Christian as far as I can discern, Cicero has some sage advice remarking that “A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.”

Chrysostom’s example of “Praise For All Things”…

Three hundred years after Paul lived John Chrysostom, a good and brave man who preached very plainly against iniquity of all kinds. The empress was not a good woman, so she schemed to have him falsely accused and banished. He died an exile from his home.

Thirty years later, his body was bought back to Constantinople for burial in the imperial tomb. Chrysostom’s motto was inscribed on the tomb: “Praise God for everything!”

As his friends testified, “When he was driven from home, when he was a stranger in the strange land, his letters would often end with that doxology, ‘Praise God for all things!’ “

Where did Chrysostom get his motto? From Paul—”In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians. 5:18). (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations)

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In Everything Give Thanks = Taking [a] “servant” attitude of thankfulness in all of life’s circumstances will help you react as old Matthew Henry did when he was mugged. He wrote in his diary, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” I wonder if I could be that thankful. Could you (or I)? One of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to give thanks when it’s tough.

G. K. Chesterton, when asked what was the greatest lesson he had ever learned in life, said, “The greatest lesson I have learned is to take things with gratitude and not take them for granted.” He also wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, walking, playing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Throughout the Scripture, we hear the call to give thanks. Thanksgiving is faith in action

A woman had a parrot who always complained about everything. It was Thanksgiving Eve, and she was preparing the Thanksgiving meal. The parrot complained about everything as she worked. Finally, she had heard enough. She took him out of his cage and opened the refrigerator to put him in to punish him, “You’ll stay in the refrigerator until you cool off and get control on your tongue,” she said as she put him and closed the door. The parrot was stunned. Shivering, he caught a glimpse of the Thanksgiving turkey, skinned, legs pointing upward from the pan. The parrot said to the turkey, “Good heavens, man! What did you say?”

Focus on your “haves,” not your “have-nots.” The hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” As the psalmist said, “Forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

Observe that in 1Thes 5:16 and 1Thes 5:18 we have rejoicing coupled with thanksgiving. This same combination appears in Colossians 1:11-12 “Joyously giving thanks to the Father.” Paul’s association of thanksgiving (eucharisteo) and joy (chara) is not surprising for they both derive from the the same Greek root (charis) which is our word “grace.” And so grace is the foundation for fallen men and women to be enabled by the Spirit to keep on rejoicing and keep on giving thanks when the circumstances are not very joy filled! And remember the lost world is watching. Will I respond naturally or supernaturally. The first draws attention to me, but the latter points toward the Father (Mt 5:16)!

Thanksgiving is eucharisteo, and joy is chara. If you don’t give thanks, what will you give? Anger, resentment, doubt, complaint? The secret to abounding joy is the gratitude attitude. “When you can’t change the wind, adjust your sails.”

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Be Filled With Thankfulness – Throughout history, many cultures have set aside a time for expressing their thankfulness. In the US, Thanksgiving Day originated with the pilgrims. In the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones, and meager supplies, they still believed they were blessed. They chose to celebrate God’s blessings by sharing a meal with Native Americans who had helped them survive.

We know we’ve lost the spirit of that original celebration when we catch ourselves complaining that our Thanksgiving Day has been “spoiled” by bad weather, disappointing food, or a bad cold. It’s we who are spoiled—spoiled by the very blessings that should make every day a day of thanksgiving, whatever our circumstances.

Billy Graham wrote, “Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible.” He then quoted Romans 1:21, one of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity. Then Dr. Graham added, “Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.”

Which condition describes you?—Joanie Yoder

A grumbling mood of discontent
Gives way to thankfulness
When we consider all God’s gifts
And all that we possess. —Sper

Gratitude is a God-honoring attitude

Courtesy of https://www.preceptaustin.org/give_thanks#Thankfulness

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Why Should We Trust in God?

Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Trust is to have confidence in someone or something that they will not harm you. All of us regardless of age, background, or location in life trust in something or someone. What do you trust in every morning when you get up? What do you trust in throughout the day? What do you trust in when you go to bed at night? Whose strength do you rely on? Who or what is truth in your life? All of us trust in things or people that we build our lives on? Sit down a minute, be honest and reflect what you put your confidence in day in and day out. What or who has the priority of trust in your heart? Trust is the bricks that we build our life on. Many trust their own abilities. Many trust their bank accounts and stock portfolios, many trust their relationships with people, many trust their intelligence and ability to discern, many trust a political idea or a secular philosophy, and many trust their religion. What or who do you trust?

Many of us have trust issues. We have been burned in the past in a relationship and are fearful to put our trust in anything. The world around builds mistrust. We are led to believe no one really cares about me. We fear to trust. We are afraid to get burned again. We are tired of trusting in the liars and the deceivers who we have believed the lie or the mirage and have been greatly disappointed. Things will always let you down, people will so often hurt you and fade away when you need them. Our trust issues lead to disillusionment and hopeless in life. Our trust issues build fear and worry in our lives.

You become what you trust in. Psalm 115:8: Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them. We reflect like a mirror the object of our trust.

We were created in the image of God and are wired to trust in Him. He does not lie. He is faithful to His Word. He is able. He is truth. He is 100% reliable all the time. He will never let you down. It is impossible for God to lie and it is impossible for him to be unfaithful to His Word.

Romans 10:11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].

Whoever means whoever. Anyone of any race, any location, any age, any gender and any occupation that trusts in God will never be disappointed in his or her expectations. No one else can make that promise.

Psalm 22:4: To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

“Put to shame” in the Hebrew means “to be disappointed, to be ashamed to the point you are pale and blush, to fail in hope and expectation, to be confounded, be troubled and disturbed, and to be confused.”

We will never be disappointed if we build our life on our trust in God and are not swayed by the rumblings of the world. We will never be embarrassed by our trust in God. We will never be ashamed when we trust in God. We will never be troubled or disturbed to trust in God for He will not fail us. Only when we trust in God does rescue and deliverance come. Only He can bring us to safety and is a rock and refuge in this troubled and uncertain world.

God wants us to put Him first in our lives. He wants us to put our confidence and trust in Him, all the time, in everything. God wants us to let go and let God and to trust Him without reservation. This is not something that is done overnight. It takes time to build trust. We need to build our trust in God one day at a time.

Psalm 31:15: My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

We must trust God and put our times, passions, desires, goals, and dreams in His hands.

Psalm 9:10: And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

The key is to know His name. Know who He is and what He promises. He promises He will never forsake you, ever. He will never desert you, never. Do you believe it? He promises that He will provide for you. Always. Do you believe it?

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

We cannot trust half-heartedly. We must be all in. We trust Him with all our heart and we have to not lean and rely on our abilities and our own understanding. It is a child-like confidence in our Heavenly Father. We learn to acknowledge Him every day in everything and He promises He will direct our lives. He will guide us to where we need to be to fulfill His plans for our lives. It all begins with trust.

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.”  Psalm 31:14  NASB

In Hebrew, aḥ (trust) expresses that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence. It is to be secure and fear nothing.

In general, the Old Testament contrasts the validity of that sense of confidence which comes from reliance upon God with the folly of any other kind of security. It is made plain that all such trust will end in disgrace and shame, whereas those whose hope is in God alone will be delivered from their enemies (Ps 22:4).

Notice how David expresses the sense of security and confidence. “You are my God.”  There is a lot packed into this declaration. First, it declares the YHVH is David’s only God.  In a polytheistic world, this declaration matters.  David is restricting any help from the divine to this God, and this God alone.  David is no Laban, keeping a few household gods on the side in case one or the other failed to perform.  If YHVH doesn’t come through, David is SOL.

Second, David asserts that he totally relies on YHVH.  His well-being and security, top priority issues in this poem, are going to be resolved only by YHVH’s hand.  He is placing no confidence in any other solution.  This is not a matter of believing some creed or dogma.  This is hope, David’s only hope.  While trusting in men may be expected to fail, with God everything is at stake.

Trust in God is more than a motto on the back of a coin.  In fact, we might wonder if biblical “trust” can even be understood apart from Hebrew thought.  The word here is batah.  It seems to have no cognates in other ancient languages.  That makes it uniquely Hebrew.  The fundamental meaning of the verb is to rely upon, to place confidence in, to experience well-being and security.

There are several Hebrew words that are translated “trust” in the Old Testament. One in particular, “batach”, stands out in terms of what it looks like to trust in God when viewed in its pictographic form.

Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon defines “trust” as; “to set one’s hope and confidence upon”, “to be secure fearing nothing”

Let’s next take a look at the pictograph of each letter that forms this word “trust” (batach) and see how it can help us to wrap not only our thinking but our actions around the valuable revelation of this Hebrew word.

The Hebrew letters in “betach” are “bet”, “tet”, and, a “chet”.

Bet: Inside

“Bet” is the first letter of the Hebrew word “betach” and it is a picture of a tent, home or family. It speaks of being on the inside, abiding, and rest.

There is no security or trust outside of Him. In Him, there is nothing to fear. We are safe and protected inside God’s tent and can enjoy the warmth of His presence.

Tet: Wrapped

The second letter of the Hebrew word for trust “betach” is a “tet” and it is a picture of something wrapped.

The concept of wrapping can be related to how a baby loves to be swaddled and wound tightly in a blanket. It seems to be soothing to babies to be bundled in this way. We are securely wrapped in the blanket of God’s love and protection when we trust in Him.

Chet: Fence

“Chet” is depicted with a fence or a wall and is attached to the concepts of surrounding and protecting. This pictograph differs in thought from “bet”, in that, it speaks more of boundaries. Our part of trusting God as it concerns this letter is for us to stay within the boundaries of God’s purposed and determined ways. God has placed a divine fence around us that protects us against our enemies. God is not obligated to protect us when we step outside of those fences He has built for our protection.

Trust in God is living without concerns.  It is the sense of confidence that comes from God’s total reliability.  It is participating in the community that depends on God’s past history. To believe is to remember. Faith is the feeling I have when I experience the reality of God’s care.  It does not exist independently of my experience.  It is not something out there, waiting for me to affirm.  It is the present-moment reliability of God’s hand in my life. My faith is the confident expectation that God is God, that what He does is good and that He cares for me. Trust is the continued expectation of deliverance.

Without trust, no relationship can last.  It really doesn’t matter if you have legally binding documents, a contract, a negotiated peace treaty or death-bed promises.  Without trust, it’s just so much air. We cannot have a relationship with God unless we trust Him.

So, what does it mean to trust?  If we look at the uses of batah, we find that it often describes false security.  The Bible tells us that men trust in riches, property, weapons (military strength), places and other people.  All of these are misplaced.  None will last.  Most importantly, the Bible condemns trust in myself.  Men who look to themselves for security are not only foolish, they are sinful.  When this use of the word batah was translated into Greek, the translation was pepoithenai (to put confidence in), but when the word batah was translated into Greek when it expressed trust in God, then the Greek word was elpizein (to hope in).  That distinction helps us understand the true nature of trust.  It is not principally about the context of my ordinary life security.  It is about the final outcome of my confidence.

God is completely different then anything else we trust in.  He is utterly reliable, completely faithful and totally trustworthy.  He is my only real hope.  God is Who He says He is.  That is my hope.  That is why I put all my confidence in Him. Without trusting in God our hopes and dreams eventually will vanish into thin air. Proverbs 10:28 says the expectation of the wicked will come to nothing and perish.

The hope in God is not a wish fulfillment, but a confident expectation.  God’s chief characteristic is His faithfulness and trustworthiness  These characteristics show themselves most clearly to a believer who recognizes that he is utterly without personal resources.  The believer must trust completely on a gracious and dependable God.  Putting one’s confidence in anything but the sovereign God is complete foolishness.  In the Bible, there is a long list of false grounds for security.  In particular, the Bible heaps scorn upon those who live in complacency, never having evaluated the flimsy basis for such complacency (Isa. 32:9-11, Ezk. 30:9, Amos 6:1).

Trust is a very serious word for a Christian.  We often say that we trust God, but our actions deny these claims.  Recovery begins when we honestly examine our lives and commit ourselves to do something about what we find.  A fearless inventory of our behavior usually reveals that we are still trying to take care of things by ourselves.  We really don’t think God is reliable in every area of life.  That is not trust.  Trust says, “God, you are able.  I put all my eggs in your basket.  I’ll do whatever you want me to do, but unless you come through for me, I’m finished”.   Start today.  Pick the one thing that you have tried over and over to fix in your life but nothing happens.  Decide to trust.

Do your actions show that you trust God, or is “trust” just another word in your religious vocabulary?

2 Kings 18:5,6: He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.

To trust in the Lord is to hold fast to Him in all circumstances, to cling to Him always and to not depart from following Him. He is at the forefront. He is the one who leads. He is the one who directs. We know his unfathomable love for us and that He will never let us down. He will never lead us astray. To trust God is to keep His Word.

Psalm 27 is a beautiful illustration of trust in the Lord.

Psalm 27:1ff The Lord is my light and my salvation—
Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life—
Whom shall I dread? Though an army encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, Even in this I am confident.

One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, To gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.
 
For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
In His tent I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy; will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; Be gracious and compassionate to me and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face [in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need],” my heart said to You,“ Your face, O Lord, I will seek [on the authority of Your word].”

Although my father and my mother have abandoned me, Yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. 

Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.

Psalm 37:5: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

God will always act when we trust in Him. God never sleeps. God is a mover, He will constantly act on our behalf when we trust in Him. We need to commit our way to Him always and not waver.

Psalm 62:8: Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah

Who do you pour out your heart to? Have you ever tried to pour it out before the Lord? He hears. He understands. He knows. He cares. You can trust Him at all times and in all circumstances. He will not fail you.

Psalm 118:5ff: Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.

What do you take refuge in when times get hard? Where do you run to for refuge? Who do you call on to set you free? Who is your helper? God is the only refuge that can set you free and deliver you from every burden and sustain you through every difficulty. No politician or philosophy can make that promise.

Psalm 56:3,11: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

We will never be afraid when we trust in God. Fear loses its hold on us when trust in God grows in our lives. Fear and worry is a manifestation of our lack of trust in God.

Psalm 112:7,8a: He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,

Trust in God is a firm foundation in the uncertainty of our times. We can be fixed, steady, stable and solid no matter what happens around us. Our confidence is in God, not the daily news.

Psalm 32:8: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

God promises His instruction and counsel if we only trust in Him. He will guide us every moment of the day if we trust Him.

Jeremiah sets forth a wonderful promise to those who trust in the Lord.

Jeremiah 17:7,8: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes,  for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Four Practical steps in learning to trust God.

 1) You have to make a decision to not worry or fear and make an intentional decision to trust God. Trust and worry or fear are mutually exclusive. You cannot trust God if you are full of worry and fear. The only way to truly trust God is that you have to decide to trust God. And you can’t trust God if you’re worrying about the things you’re trusting Him with. Once you make this decision, you’ll soon find yourself having to practice it regularly. The devil will begin to hit you with situations and stressors that cause you to worry and be anxious and you’re going to have to remind yourself of the decision you’ve made. Philippians 4:6,7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Pray is a key in trusting God. We are not be anxious, fearful or full of worry about anything. We give it to God and He will give us peace.

Matthew 6:25ff: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.                                                                       

Anxiety and trust cannot coexist together. God will take care of every need in our lives if we will only trust Him. Anxiety and worry never benefits us in anyway. They are traits of those who do not trust God.

2) Constantly monitor your thoughts and feelings.

The battlefield of life is in our mind. Our minds and thoughts are constantly speaking to us. We are also constantly bombarded by talking heads that are trying to influence us with words. We must refuse negative thought patterns and refuse to allow our minds to sink into thoughts of anxiety, worry, unworthiness and hopelessness. You control your thoughts and we can change the way we think. We must be the guardians of what we think. Proverbs 23:7: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. We must train our thoughts and minds to trust God and reject the noise of the world that builds mistrust in our Heavenly Father. God will help us to be aware of thoughts and begin to think right. Trusting God begins with our thoughts. Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Our transformation begins by not conforming our thinking to the world, but renewing our minds to trust Him and His Word.

3) Saturate your mind and heart with the Word of the God

In order to take those worrisome thoughts captive, you need something to replace it with. Reading the Word of God is such an important part of our learning to trust God. Matthew 4:4: But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Just as you need physical food to survive physically, you need spiritual food to live spiritually. We must feed on His Word daily, reading it, thinking about it, digesting it, meditating on it and memorizing it. The Bible is the Word of Life. It gives light, it gives wisdom. It reveals to us the heart of God.  Psalm 119:9,10,11,42 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

2 Timothy 3:16,17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of Godb] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We are feeding our minds daily. They are constantly being bombarded with the images and words of this world. We must saturate our minds with the Word daily. It starts with a simple reading of Scripture every day and builds from there. It starts with spending time with God and being still in His presence. These are the building blocks of trust that will transform your life.

4) Replace the negative thoughts and feelings with the promises of God

The Bible contains thousands of promises concerning life, relationships and the circumstances we face daily. How many do we know? We need to build the promises of God in our thought life. Each promise is built upon the faithfulness and steadfast love of God. God is 100% reliable on His promises. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2).

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? God’s name is Yahweh in the Bible and means the God who acts. God wants to fulfill His promises in your life but you must have faith in those promises. You must trust God that He is faithful to bring them to pass. Instead of dwelling on the negative or being filled with anxiety and worry, let the promises of God flood your mind and fill your heart.

God never changes His mind on His promises. His promises are God speaking into our lives.

2 Peter 1:3-4: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Romans 4:19-21: He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness[b] of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Abraham is considered the father of those whose believe because he never wavered on the promises of God. He was fully convinced that God was able and willing to do whatever He promised. He trusted God would bring it to pass His promises even in the most dire circumstances. God is always faithful to what He promised when we trust in Him and believe His Word.

Pray the promises of God. Claim the promises of God over your life. Our faith and trust in God is the key to God’s promises becoming fulfilled in our lives. The world is filled with lies many of which are very deceitful and alluring. But these lies will let us down when we need them the most. These lies cannot bring us peace. These lies cannot deliver us. These lies disappoint and can give us hope. These lies are built on sinking sand. The Bible says our spiritual enemy the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). He bombards us with these lies daily (You don’t need God; you are unworthy, you are worthless, you are not good enough; God hates you; God doesn’t care for you; you will never amount to anything; you cannot make it; no one loves you; God doesn’t hear you; you are a failure). We have to decide daily whose words are we going to believe. The father of lies or our Heavenly Father? The more we learn to trust in God, the more we trust His Word. His promises are true and cannot fail when we believe them without wavering. Our trust in God will blossom as we stand on His promises and have confident expectation that He will deliver on His promises in our lives.

Isaiah 41:13: For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

What a wonderful promise from God. It is His invitation of trust is to take Him by the right hand and let Him help you and lead you. What comfort to know we can go thru life holding God’s hand.

Deuteronomy 7:9: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

Yahweh is the faithful God, the God who keeps His promises, who is full of mercy and love and keeps His word to a thousand generations.

Lamentations 3:21-26: But this I call to mind,  and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Great is God’s faithfulness! It never ceases. God’s Word to you is to prove Him. Take Him at His Word. See if He is not faithful to His mighty promises. What do you have to lose?

 

 

 

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Give Me An Undivided Heart

Psalm 86:11: Lord, give us undivided hearts.

Integrity is derived from “integer” (a whole number as opposed to a fraction) and speaks of the quality of being undivided. O, to be men and women of integrity, lights shining in the midst of the darkness in such a way that the world might see our undivided hearts and this would bring glory to our Father Who is in heaven. (Mt 5:16note, cf Php 2:15note).

A great prayer to pray (daily) would be David’s words…

“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth.
UNITE MY HEART to fear Your Name.”

(Ps 86:11note)

The NIV has “Give me an UNDIVIDED HEART.” Pastor Ray Pritchard paraphrases Ps 86:11b “Put me together, Lord, because right now my life is scattered in a thousand directions!” (from The Undivided Heart)

An UNDIVIDED HEART, O Lord,
Is what we need each day,
For we are prone to compromise
And wander from Your way.
-D De Haan

The men of the tribe of Zebulon “helped David with an UNDIVIDED HEART” (literally “without a double heart” = undivided loyalty) (1Chr 12:33note) They were “all in,” of one heart, all the time, nothing held back.

Spurgeon commenting on Ps 86:11note said “Having taught me ONE WAY, give me ONE HEART to walk therein, for too often I feel ‘a heart and a heart’ (In Ps 12:2note “double heart” in Hebrew literally = “a heart and a heart”), two natures contending, two principles struggling for sovereignty (Gal 5:17note). Our minds are apt to be divided between a variety of objects, like trickling streamlets which waste their force in a hundred rivulets. Our great desire should be to have all our life floods poured into one channel and to have that channel directed towards the Lord Alone. A man of DIVIDED HEART is weak (cf Jas 1:6-8note), the man of one object is the man. God Who created the bands of our nature can draw them together, tighten, strengthen, and fasten them, and so braced and inwardly knit by His uniting grace, we shall be powerful for good, but not otherwise. To fear God is both the beginning, the growth, and the maturity of wisdom (Pr 9:10noteJob 28:28note), therefore should we be undividedly given up to it, heart, and soul (cf Mk 12:29-31Spurgeon’s sermon).”

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
(Play Fernando Ortega’s great vocal)

May we all be motivated and enabled by the Spirit (Php 2:13NLTnote) to imitate men like Paul (1Cor 11:1noteHeb 6:11-12note) who said “this ONE THING I DO. forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:13-14note)

And remember that “the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2Chr 16:9Spurgeon’s sermon)

Lord, by Your amazing grace and enabled by the power of Your Spirit, give us undivided hearts to fear Your Name, in the Name of Jesus, the Name above all names (Php 2:9-11note). Amen

Listen to Rich Mullins‘ great song “MY ONE THING” that speaks of an UNDIVIDED HEART.

JESUS’ DESCRIPTION OF
AN UNDIVIDED HEART

Jesus describes an undivided heart in the Sermon on the Mount

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. ” (Matthew 5:8note)

In Mt 5:8note the Greek word for pure is katharos which describes a heart that is pure in motive and which exhibits single mindednessundivided devotion and spiritual integrity. The idea is “This one thing I do” (as Paul said in Php 3:13 [note]). So although, “pure in heart” includes the ideas of moral purity or freedom from sensuality, that is not the primary idea in the word katharosPure (katharos) has to do with attitudes, integrity, and singleness of heart as opposed to duplicity and double mindedness (cf Jas 4:8note). Thus, one might paraphrase Jesus’ words in this beatitude as…”I desire a heart that is unmixed in its devotion and motivation.”

SPIRITUAL
“TUNNEL VISION”

The word undivided means not divided, separated, or broken into parts, not mixed with other feelings or intentions. The idea in Matthew 5:8note is that it is a heart that is concentrated on or devoted completely to one object, specifically the true and living eternal God not the idols of this fallen, temporal world. To use an medical term from my days in medical school, it is a heart with “tunnel vision” which is literally a defect of one’s vision, but which has a spiritual application. Wikipedia writes that tunnel vision “is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision.” Look at this depiction of literal tunnel vision which helps understand that while physical “tunnel vision” is a bad thing, spiritual “tunnel vision” is a good thing because it describes a heart fully fixed on the object of its devotion, specifically on God Himself!

See also the description of “Vertical Vision” which is the type of vision associated with an undivided heart.

Another description for an undivided heart is a single-minded heart, one having but one aim, a heart that is dedicated to God, a heart having one driving purpose which is to live pleasing to God, a heart whose attention is fixed on God alone and does not allow itself to be distracted or influenced by the passing pleasures of sin.

MacArthur adds (commenting on Mt 5:8 “pure in heart”) explains that in secular Greek usage katharos “was often used of metals that had been refined until all impurities were removed, leaving only the pure metal. In that sense, purity means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated. Applied to the heart, the idea is that of pure motive-of single-mindedness, undivided devotion, spiritual integrity, and true righteousness. (MacArthur, J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press)

SPIRITUAL
“DOUBLE-VISION”

In a similar sense Jesus said that “double vision” will radically impact your inner spiritual man, especially your heart (cf Mt 6:21) teaching that…

The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You (ABSOLUTELY) cannot serve God and mammon. (Mt 6:22-23noteMt 6:24note)

The phrase “if your eye is clear” is translated variously as – “if therefore thine eye is single” (KJV), ” If then your eye is healthy” (NET, ESV), ” If your eye is good” (CSB), ” if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect” (Young’s Literal). The key word Jesus used is the adjective “clear” (NAS) which is the Greek word haplous which strictly speaking means single (as rendered in the KJV) or without folds which came to mean simple, sincere, innocent, healthy, clear (“clear vision” – cp spiritual vision discussed above) and finally conveying the sense of generous.

BDAG says haplous “pertains to being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward i.e. without a hidden agenda.” Marvin Vincent a respected Greek scholar says “The picture underlying this adjective (haplous) is that of a piece of cloth or other material, neatly folded once, and without a variety of complicated folds. Hence the idea of simplicity or singleness (compare simplicity from the Latin simplex; semel, once; plicare, to fold). So, in a moral sense, artless, plain, pure. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and indecision condemned in Mt 6:24note.”

Wiersbe suggests that we “Compare Abraham and Lot in Ge 13:5-18 for an illustration of the “single eye.” The eye here speaks of the outlook of the heart. A single eye means one that is fixed on the spiritual (Ed: cp an “undivided heart”). It is the opposite of the double-minded person in James 1:8noteJas 4:4noteJas 4:8note. (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament)

Zodhiates adds that “Haploús stands in contrast to diploús (double or many). Even though we have two eyes, they are designed to pick up a single object, preferably the Lord Himself, as David counseled. Jesus connected the purity of the body with the holy character of an eye that does not vacillate between treasures on earth and treasures in heaven. Similarly, in James 1:8note we read that the “double minded [dipsuchos] man is unstable [akatastatos from a = without, not; and kathistemi = to settle] in all his ways” (cf. James 4:8note). A circularity of “unsettling” effects exists between the soul and the physical eye. Just as double-minded (“two-souled”) persons can direct their physical eyes between good and bad objects, so physical eyes can transmit good and bad signals into the soul (Ed: And I would add into our heart). If we think about the blurred and conflicting (double vision) messages our brains attempt to process when we merely cross our eyes, we can understand how our physical eyes can destabilize our souls (Ed: hearts) when they receive and transmit conflicting data. The “eyes of [our] understanding” (Eph. 1:18note)-our spiritual eyes-work in conjunction with our physical eyes to our good or to our detriment. (Exegetical Commentary on Matthew)

William MacDonald  applies the truth about haplous – “The good eye belongs to the person whose motives are pure, who has a single desire for God’s interests, and who is willing to accept Christ’s teachings literally. His whole life is flooded with light. He believes Jesus’ words, he forsakes earthly riches, he lays up treasures in heaven, and he knows that this is the only true security. On the other hand, the bad eye belongs to the person who is trying to live for two worlds. He doesn’t want to let go of his earthly treasures, yet he wants treasures in heaven too. The teachings of Jesus seem impractical and impossible to him. He lacks clear guidance since he is full of darkness.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary-excellent).

It follows that a single eye is necessary for an undivided heart. Do you need to schedule an appointment with the “Divine Optometrist” for a checkup of you spiritual eyesight. Perhaps you’ve been having “double vision” and are in need of a new “prescription” from the Spirit of Jesus Christ! He and He Alone can give you the desire and the power (Php 2:13NLTnote) to obey Paul’s command to “Set your mind (your heart) (present imperative = command to make this your daily delight!) on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2note) Truth be told we all still have fallen flesh and therefore daily wrestle with “spiritual diplopia” and thus are continually in need of casting off our natural tendency to rely on self (e.g, in a vain attempt to obey Paul’s command in Col 3:2note) and instead to wholly lean on Jesus’ blood and righteousness, trusting wholly in His Holy Spirit to correct our daily “diplopia!” Are you arising each morning firmly convinced that YOU by yourself cannot continually set your mind on the things above throughout the day? If you think for a second you can succeed, you are already deceived and will soon be defeated! If you think you are immune to “spiritual diplopia” then here is a little test – take a look at this picture – how many watches do you see? If you see more than one watch than you are afflicted with spiritual diplopia and must daily depend on the Great Physician to enable you to see with single vision (Mt 6:22-23)! Brethren the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (Jer 17:9) and the same can be said of our spiritual vision! So it follows, dear fellow follower of Jesus, if we desire an undivided heart, we need to resolve to arise each morning with the words of David’s prayer on our lips “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth. UNITE MY HEART to fear Your Name.” (Ps 86:11note)

SINGLE HEART
PURE HEART
Two songs for your heart

Take a moment to listen to this song, one of my favorites from Craig Smith, entitled Single Heart...

He had only one aim
In placing us here
This is His domain
And His message is clear.

Single heart, Single mind.
My eyes forward all the time.
Single heart, purified.
Undivided, unified.
Single heart, Single mind.

May You find in us,
Solitary trust
May you find a single heart!

Here is another song Pure Heart — take a moment to ponder your life in light the words sung by Craig Smith and make it your prayer to the Father today:

Over and over I hear it again
That the Father desires pure heart
Not to seek earthly treasure or the favor of man
But to be found with pureness of heart

Chorus
Pure heart is what the Father desires
Holy heart purified by God’s holy fire
Broken heart, proven to be faithful and true
Fashion in me a heart that’s thirsting for You

Search ever chamber, expose them to me
Create motives of honor and simplicity
May you find faithfulness, integrity
A heart which is worthy for Your eyes to see
Chorus

My only ambition is to stand before You
And find I was pleasing in Your sight
An obedient child of God, faithful and true
Found with pureness of heart
Chorus

THE NEW COVENANT AND
AN UNDIVIDED HEART

In Ezekiel 11:19note in a prophetic promise to Israel which speaks of the New Covenant

“And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

The NIV translates it

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

This description of one heart, an undivided heart, is the miracle that occurs at conversion when a spiritual and moral transformation takes place which enables God’s people to follow Him wholeheartedly. So an undivided heart is describes as it were our “position” but may not always describe our “practice.” That is where we must learn to relinquish all vestiges of self-reliance (“I will grit my teeth and follow God with an undivided heart.“) and instead learn daily (and even moment by moment) to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit Ezekiel describes in Ezekiel 36:26-27note

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

This is clearly a promise of the New Covenant and in that covenant we do well to carefully note “the spiritual cooperation” between God and man. So in Ezekiel 36:27 first God’s Spirit will cause those in the New Covenant to walk in His statues The New Testament parallel is described by Paul who teaches that the Spirit is in us continually giving us the desire and the power to be pleasing to our Father (to walk with an undivided heart) (Php 2:13NLTnote). The second part of Ezekiel 36:27 describes our responsibility to act on the provided “desire and power.” While we are 100% dependent on God’s Spirit, we are (somewhat enigmatically or mysteriously) 100% responsible to be careful to observe God’s ordinances. As we learn to walk by the Spirit’s enabling power, we will not carry out the desire of the flesh (a manifestation of a divided heart!) (See Galatians 5:16note).

In summary to manifest an undivided heart toward God and His law is our divinely given potential, and yet we must daily work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Php 2:12note), learning to depend on the Spirit Who will enable us to walk with an undivided heart. And this is a process of progressive sanctification that will continue all the days of our life on earth. And realizing our continual need for supernatural power and grace, we cry out to our Father as did David…

Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name. I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Thy name forever. (Psalm 86:1112)

Have you prayed this way beloved? It would be good for us to daily humble ourselves at the Throne of God beseeching Him to have mercy on us in the time of need and bestowing upon us by His enabling Spirit an undivided heart, a whole heart that gives thanks to Him and seeks to glorify His Name forever. Amen


“BAD FAITH”

Wikipedia has an interesting article on “bad faith” that essentially describes the opposite of an undivided heart:

Bad faith (Latinmala fides) is double mindedness or double heartedness in duplicityfraud, or deception.It may involve intentional deceit of others, or self-deception. The expression “bad faith” is associated with “double heartedness”, which is also translated as “double mindedness”. A bad faith belief may be formed through self-deception, being double minded, or “of two minds”, which is associated with faith, belief, attitude, and loyalty. In the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary, bad faith was equated with being double hearted, “of two hearts”, or “a sustained form of deception which consists in entertaining or pretending to entertain one set of feelings, and acting as if influenced by another” The concept is similar to perfidy, or being “without faith”, in which deception is achieved when one side in a conflict promises to act in good faith (e.g. by raising a flag of surrender) with the intention of breaking that promise once the enemy has exposed himself. (See full article)


AN UNDIVIDED HEART “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8note)

The apostle Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead …” (Philippians 3:13). Now there is a person who had an undivided heart. Many of us today could say, “These eight things I do …” or “These four things I do …” instead of saying, “This one thing I do. …” It’s the problem of a divided heart.
The word, “pure,” in Matthew 5:8 means “undivided.” In other words, blessed, or happy, is the person who has an undivided heart. Happy is the man or woman with a pure heart. Happy is the person who knows where he or she is going in life, who has priorities and lives by them. Happy is the person who isn’t trying to live in two worlds. We live in such a wicked time in which we are exposed to so many things that could be spiritually harmful. It seems that we are lacking purity today. But according to Romans 16:19, we as believers are “to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Another translation reads, “I would have you well versed and wise as to what is good and innocent and guileless as to what is evil” (AMPLIFIED). God is offering you true happiness, which is not contingent on how much you have, but who you know. If you don’t get your life properly aligned with God, you will always be chasing an elusive dream. But if you get your life aligned with God and start seeking Him, you will find purpose in life. You will find the happiness you are seeking. (Greg Laurie – For Every Season: Daily Devotions)


In Deut 18:13 God says “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” The NAS marginal note reads “Lit complete, perfect; or having integrity.” Wiersbe explains that “It speaks of integrity and an undivided heart, what David meant when he wrote, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Ps. 101:2NKJV). The Jewish “Shema” declared, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5NIV).”

Blameless (without defect or blemish, perfect, integrity) (08549)(tamim) from the verb tamam = to be complete, entire or whole (literal sense in Lev 3:9Ezek 15:5), refers to a action which is completed) has both physical (without defect) and spiritual (blameless, devout, upright) significance. Tamim has the fundamental idea of completeness or wholeness. In Deut 18:13 tamim is translated in the Septuagint with  teleios means complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, in good working order. In the Septuagint (Lxx) teleios is used several times to describe a heart that is wholly devoted (Heb = shalem). This begs the question beloved “Is my heart teleios? Would God describe me as wholly devoted to Him? Or have become like Solomon, who began “wholly devoted” but ended his race not “wholly devoted?” David had a whole heart but Solomon a divided heart! And as a result God divided the 12 tribes into 10 northern and 2 southern! There are serious consequences for not seeking to maintain an undivided heart!


The antithesis of an undivided heart is a “Divided Heart” – Herbert Vander Lugt has a devotional on THE DIVIDED HEART – Hosea describes this heart

Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned. 9  Strangers devour his strength, Yet he does not know it; Gray hairs also are sprinkled on him, Yet he does not know it. 10  Though the pride of Israel testifies against him, Yet they have neither returned to the LORD their God, Nor have they sought Him, for all this. 11  So Ephraim has become like a silly dove, without sense; They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. 12  When they go, I will spread My net over them; I will bring them down like the birds of the sky. I will chastise them in accordance with the proclamation to their assembly. (Hosea 7:8-12)

The Israelites of Hosea’s day were trying to worship both pagan idols and the one true and living God. So the prophet Hosea used three colorful figures of speech to describe their divided hearts. First, they were like a half-baked cake—palatable neither to God nor the pagans (7:8). Second, they were like a proud man who can’t see the signs of his aging—they were unaware of their spiritual decline (Hosea 7:9-10). Third, they were like a senseless dove—flying from one pagan nation to another in a vain quest for help (Hosea 7:11). Today, we as Christians are often afflicted with the same divided-heart syndrome. We believe on Jesus but are reluctant to commit every area of our lives to Him. We go to church but don’t want to live out our faith each day if it deprives us of worldly success or pleasure. A divided heart, though, results in some serious consequences. First, we don’t please God or attract nonbelievers to Christ. Second, it may take a crisis to show us our true spiritual decline. And third, we live unfulfilled lives, even though we flit from one worldly pleasure to another. Let’s pray each day, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

An undivided heart, O Lord,
Is what we need each day,
For we are prone to compromise
And wander from Your way. 

—D. De Haan

A divided heart multiplies our problems.

Beloved, yes, we need an undivided heart each day, but the only way possible to humanly maintain an undivided heart is by continually relying on the superhuman power of the indwelling Spirit. When we wander (which we will) we need to quickly confess and repent, and even those actions are enabled by the Spirit, Who gives us the desire and the power to walk in a manner pleasing to our Father (Php 2:13NLT).


UNDIVIDED –  Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. ( Ps 86:11)

IN WORD – A divided heart. It’s a Christian’s greatest enemy, and it should be our greatest fear. It wreaks havoc on our contentment and undermines our devotion. It corrupts our worship because one side of our heart competes with the other. The competition causes us to tell God we want to love and honor Him, while simultaneously telling ourselves we can pursue our own agenda at will. A divided heart has multiple loves, and multiple loves are always weak. That’s what Jesus said too. He told His disciples they couldn’t serve two masters because they would end up loving one and hating the other (Matthew 6:24). That’s what divided hearts do; they are eventually compelled to choose one of their loves over the other. They have too many choices to start with, so they compromise. David prays in this psalm that God might give him an undivided heart so that he might fear God’s name. He knows that when a person tolerates other loves, it’s because that person has grown casual with God. An undivided heart solves the problem; single-mindedness toward God makes a person free to serve and love Him with everything at his or her disposal. It reintroduces respect and awe. It puts things in the proper perspective.

IN DEED – Pursue an undivided heart. Ask God for it. A divided heart will ruin your spiritual life, introducing apathy, removing godly fear, and tempting you with other loves. Worship cannot exist under such conditions. A divided love is hardly love at all. David’s remedy isn’t within himself. He knows that his heart is God’s domain, and only God can change it. He resolves to praise God with all his heart and glorify God’s name forever (Ps 86:12), but pure resolve isn’t the answer. So David asked God for His resources, His strength, and His work within him. We can too. We can trust Him with the greatest enemy to our worship and ask Him to give us a single, focused love. (The One Year Worship the King Devotional: 365 Daily Bible Readings to Inspire Praise – Chris Tiegreen)

Blessed are the single-hearted; for they shall enjoy much peace.
—THOMAS À KEMPIS


Blessed in Believing –  “She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”(Luke 1:45) In the kingdom of God, believing is a prerequisite to receiving. God spoke to Mary and gave the assurances He always gives when He assigns the impossible to His people. Everything was in place for God to act. Everything waited on Mary to believe Him. Once she believed, it was done! It takes an undivided heart to believe under such circumstances and a pure heart to see God (Matt. 5:8Heb. 12:14). This has always been God’s way with His people. Mary could not see all that had been arranged and assembled in the courts of heaven. She could not see the legions of angels prepared to protect her and her baby. She was unaware of the future and all that she and her child would face. All she knew was that God had spoken to her, and that was enough. So she responded: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When God speaks about His plans, He does so with everything already in place to fulfill His word. God never speaks hypothetically. He knows exactly what will come to pass. He simply asks you to believe Him. You will experience great blessing when you place your absolute trust in Him. Mary could not have dreamed all that would result from her faithful obedience. Likewise, you cannot possibly imagine all that God has in store for you when you trust Him. He knows exactly what He will do to bring salvation to someone you have prayed for or to heal your friend or to provide for your needs. God has everything in place. Will you believe Him? (Henry Blackaby – Experiencing God Day by Day)


AN UNDIVIDED HEART (Lutheran devotional published in 1799) – THE heart should not be divided. I say to the hypocrite, God has given you two eyes, that you may look both above and beneath you; that you may contemplate both heaven and hell. He has given you two ears, that you may hearken both to the accuser and the accused, when you have to judge between them; two hands, that you may raise one upwards to God, and receive, and stretch forth the other towards your neighbour, and give; two feet, that you may serve yourself and your master; but you have only one head, and one heart. God approves not of those who are double-minded, or double-tongued; from whose lips comes forth at the same time that which is cold and hot; and who speak not the same when they sit as when they stand; who divide their heart between Him and the devil. A double-hearted man is a monster, which God will not accept as an offering. God demands an undivided heart. Such, also, is the demand of Satan; for though he may not immediately persuade you that you should give him your heart, and seems to be satisfied with a part of it, yet he aims at the whole. He knows full well that God will not receive a divided heart, and that therefore the whole shall yet be his own, being rejected of God. The heart is but of small capacity; but if it were greater, it would be your duty to make it the undivided dwelling-place of Him from whom you have received it, and who alone can make it better. Who has given you authority to dispose of that which was not yours, but God’s? To Him the whole belongs, and not merely a portion. How is it possible that you can unite God and Satan within you? How can they both take a part of one heart? Satan tempts to that which is evil; God moves you to that which is good. God destroys the work of Satan; Satan, on the other hand, would throw down the work of God. Where God dwells is heaven, where Satan dwells is hell. How can your heart, at the same time, be in heaven and in hell? Where God dwells, he is served and obeyed; where Satan dwells, he also is obeyed. Can you serve two masters so opposite in every respect? God has given me my whole heart, not to use it at its uncontrolled possessor, but as a steward, answerable to Him. I will, by his grace, not abuse my trust; but restore him his own. My heart is His, not mine! (Henry Muller – Hours of Spiritual Refreshment)


Horatius Bonar writes that “God’s desire that we should be clean. He desireth truth in the inward parts. He is faithful to us, and he wishes us to be faithful to him. God is not indifferent to our unfaithfulness, as if it mattered not to him. Nor does he treat it as a mere affront, or only as a sin, with which he is angry and which he condemns and will avenge. He wants our heart, our whole undivided heart; he wants it all for himself; he wants to fill it. He is a jealous God. Moreover he pities us because of the misery which our unfaithfulness brings on us. He sees us gaining nothing, but losing everything by it; and he pities us; he yearns over us; for our own sakes he desires to see us faithful to himself. Such is the God with whom we have to do. He is one who takes a deep and loving interest in our welfare, and who pities us even when he judges us. (Light and Truth)

Ruth 1:14note  “And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung ( dabaq) to her.”  Bonar comments on Ruth and her cleaving. “Orpah kissed, but Ruth clave. Orpah kissed that she might not cleave. Ruth cleaves silently, and without show or demonstration. She lingers not nor halts. Moab is behind her, Israel is before her, Naomi is at her side. Her choice is made. She falters not either in heart or in step. Yonder are Judah’s hills; behind them lies Bethlehem; she presses forward. Jehovah must be her God, and Jehovah’s land her heritage. Nothing shall come between. She forgets her kindred and her father’s house. What are Moab’s hills, or cities, or temples, or gods? Jehovah, God of Israel, is now her God for ever. Here is cleaving; here is decision; here are faith and love; here is the undivided heart.


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THE UNDIVIDED HEART
Psalm 86:11

“Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).

Sermon by Ray Pritchard – visit his site – often uses wonderful stories to illustrate Biblical principles

The translators are divided on how to translate this phrase. For instance, the NASB says, “Unite my heart to fear your name.” The CEB gives a more general sense, “Make my heart focused only on honoring your name.” Then we have this paraphrase from the ERV, “Help me make worshiping your name the most important thing in my life.” Eugene Peterson (MSG) gives us this colorful rendering:

“Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.”

I like that because it sounds like the way I often pray: “Put me together, Lord, because right now my life is scattered in a thousand directions.” Most days my heart doesn’t seem “undivided,” and it certainly feels like it needs some kind of “uniting.”So I like this phrase both ways:

“Unite my heart to fear your name.”
“Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

The first speaks of my need.
The second speaks of my desire.

Because my heart is so often divided, I need the Lord to unite it somehow so that I might worship him with nothing held back. That is the situation many of us face right now. Our hearts are fragmented because we are pulled in so many directions at once.

Sometimes we treat trinkets as if they were treasure.

The world around us is no help. Last Sunday our pastor preached on “Trash, Trinkets and Treasures,” in which he commented that sometimes we are enticed by things that turn out to be trash, and sometimes we are distracted by things that are not bad in themselves, but when pursued as the goal of life end up being trinkets, little gaudy baubles that amount to nothing much when you look at them closely.

How hard it is to focus on the treasures of life!
How easy to mistake the trinkets for treasures!

In order to get some practical help in this area, let’s start with a very basic question. What are the marks of a divided heart?

1. Perpetual Ambivalence

It has been said that a narcissist is a person who is unable to commit to anything outside of himself. He flits from one relationship to another, from one job to another, from one friendship to another, from one church to another, from one promise to another, never staying in one place long enough to make anything stick. He’s here today and gone tomorrow. He promises and then makes excuses. He says, “I’ll call you tomorrow,” and then forgets and apologizes later. Or maybe he never remembers at all. He dates one girl after another, never able to pop the question because he’s so easily distracted and because he deeply fears making a commitment that will require him to stay married for the rest of his life.

He’s here today and gone tomorrow.

As I pondered this situation, a verse came to mind from 1 Chronicles 12, which lists the soldiers who came to David’s aid when he was in Ziklag and later in Hebron. These soldiers from various tribes in Israel realized that even though David was not king over Israel yet, God’s hand was upon him and he was bound to replace Saul sooner or later.

So you have the list of men from Benjamin, Gad, Manasseh, and so on. Perhaps the most famous are the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32) who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Many fine sermons have been preached in praise of these men from one of the lesser-known tribes. Then in the very next verse we find this note about the warriors from the tribe of Zebulon. They are described as

Experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty-50,000 (v. 33).

Here you have a great host of trained soldiers who came to David ready to fight. They showed up in full battle gear, shield and spears and bows, ready to go to battle at a moment’s notice. But that is not their finest quality. There is something even better to be said about them. They were men of “undivided loyalty.” The original Hebrew text emphasizes this in an unusual way when it uses the word for “not” and the word “heart” repeated twice.

Not heart and heart.
Not “double-hearted.”

Not partly for Saul and partly for David.
But having made their choice, it was one heart all the time, nothing held back.

Are you “double-hearted”?

These men said, “David, we are all in. Where you lead, we will follow. Say the word and we will go into battle. We serve at your command-and only at your command.”

Three thousand years after the men of Zebulon came to David, we remember them not for their military prowess (which must have been great) but for their hearts.

They were not “heart and heart.”
They were not “double-hearted.”
They were in all the way.

People with a divided heart can’t talk that way.
They are in and out at the same time.

There is a second characteristic of a divided heart . . .

2. Divided Priorities

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a parable about a man who went out to sow seed. Some fell on the path, some on the stony ground, some among the thorns, and some on the good ground. When Jesus explained the parable, he said that the four soils represented four responses to the message of the kingdom. Let’s focus on the seed sown among the thorns. Here is that part of the parable:

“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (Matthew 13:7).

And this is the explanation:

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22)

If you have ever planted a garden, you understand what Jesus is saying.No matter how good the soil may appear from above, weeds lurk just below the surface. If you do not pull them up, they will choke out the seed you have planted.

Weeds lurk just below the surface.

Jesus said that some people are like that. They are fence-straddlers. They say “Yes but . . .” when they hear the Word. Maybe they mean business, but they never pull the weeds out of their life. In this parable Jesus mentions two particular kinds of weeds. First, the worries of this life. This refers to any consuming concern in your life that catches all your attention. It could be something that in itself is not bad–such as a genuine concern for your job or your health or your personal financial situation. It could be a relationship that takes up all your waking moments. It could be a family issue that keeps you tossing and turning at night.

Second, there is the deceitfulness of wealth. Again, we all understand this. Money is addictive. The more you have, the more you want. You’ve probably heard the story of the rich man who when asked when he would stop working so hard, replied, “When I have enough money.” How much is enough? “Just one more dollar.” That is the deceitfulness of riches. And it’s not just a temptation to the rich man. The love of money comes to all of us, seduces us, whispers to us over and over again: “If only you had a little bit more , you would be happy.”

Money is addictive.

It’s important to remember that Jesus is not describing “unusual” or “strange” temptations. We all have things that worry us. Several months ago I happened to see the Wednesday night prayer list that our church publishes. It was printed on a legal-size piece of paper. The list of the sick took up one side of the sheet, printed in extremely small type, so small I could hardly read it. So many names, so many needs.

We all face sickness, family crisis, medical issues, financial troubles, marital problems, struggles with our children, disappointments, setbacks, career issues, and periods of doubt and anger and spiritual struggle.

We live in a very fallen world.

No one is exempt from the troubles of life.

No one is exempt from the troubles of life.
We get sick, our loved ones get sick.
Financial pressures weigh on all of us.
Death knocks on our door sooner or later.

How quickly the “thorns of life” arise to divide our heart and divert our attention. These problems, trials and difficulties can choke out God’s work and leave us spiritually anemic.

There is a third sign of a divided heart . . .

3. Unclear Identity

This follows logically.
When the heart is divided, you won’t know who you really are.

When the heart is divided, you won’t know who you really are.

You can’t decide what team you’re on.

You don’t know what uniform to put on.
You act single even though you are married.
You have two sets of friends that you keep separate.
You have two vocabularies depending on where you are.
You know how to fit in wherever you happen to be.
You are like the proverbial chameleon, changing your colors so you will always blend in.

Living with a divided heart messes up the mind eventually. When you join the devil’s team, you won’t feel comfortable going back to the Lord’s locker room at halftime. The strange, sad case of the Apostle Peter provides a prime example. On the night before the crucifixion, when Jesus met with his chosen men in the Upper Room, Peter took a look around and wasn’t very impressed with what he saw:

“Lord, I don’t know about these other guys. They look a little weak to me. I wouldn’t count on them if I were you. But don’t worry. You’ve got me. I’m your man. No matter what the rest of them do, I will never betray you. You have my word on it. I’ll never let you down.”

Or more simply put,

“Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you”(Matthew 26:33 NLT).

I’m sure Peter meant it. If you had asked him, I’m sure he would have said, “I know I’m a little rough around the edges, and sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. It’s true I’m a fisherman and not some Torah scholar, but I know my own heart, and I will never desert you, Lord.”

When you join the devil’s team, you won’t feel comfortable going back to the Lord’s locker room at halftime.

But that’s the problem. Peter didn’t know his own heart.
Less than five hours after proclaiming his loyalty, the bold apostle turned to butter.
All it took was a servant girl to bring him down.

When the sordid triple betrayal was over, Peter wept bitterly and went away to be by himself, awash in shame and regret.

Then came Easter morning when the women went to the tomb, little knowing that Jesus had risen from the dead. When they arrived at the tomb early on Sunday morning, an angel announced the good news and instructed them to “go, tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). What does that mean-“his disciples and Peter?” Peter’s denial has separated him from the other disciples. No doubt he wondered to himself many times, “What am I now? Am I a traitor or am I a disciple?”

How quickly he fell.
No wonder he is confused.
His divided heart has tripped him up.

That happens when we decide to play for Jesus’ team and for the Devil’s team at the same time.

At some point you’ve got to make up your mind.
Choose a team and stick with it!
Follow Jesus-or don’t!

But stop messing around with most basic commitments of life.

When You Know Who You Are . . .

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of teaching the book of Daniel to 120 eager students at Word of Life Bible Institute in Hudson, Florida. Whenever I teach Daniel, I start out in the first session talking a lot about Daniel’s decision not to defile himself with the king’s food.

But I don’t start with Daniel.
I start with a quote from Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:

“And now with God’s help, I will become myself.”

That leads to a question that is hard to answer:
“Do you know who you are?”
Until you do, you’ll never really know where you fit in.
Once you know who you are, you can fit in anywhere.

Do you know who you are?

That was the secret to Daniel’s greatness. He knew who he was, even in Babylon, hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, ripped away from his homeland, forcibly marched across the desert to the pagan city of Babylon.

There he was enrolled in a school he did not choose.
Leaning a language that was not his own,
Absorbing a culture both foreign and utterly pagan,
Being trained to serve in the Babylonian court.

Then he was given a pagan name. The name Daniel means “God is my judge,” which tells us that he was raised in a godly home. The Babylonians called him Belteshazzar, which means something like “Bel, protect his life.” It was a prayer to a pagan deity.

To all of these changes he either gave his assent or at least he did not actively protest. In the case of the deportation to Babylon, he had no choice. He and his friends were captured and taken by the Babylonians against their will. When they arrived in Babylon, he and his friends were put in a three-year, all-expenses-paid training program. Without doubt, it was a great honor to be chosen to serve the Babylonian king.

The King always eats well.

Part of that training involved eating at the king’s table. It would like eating at Buckingham Palace. The king always eats well. They give him the best of the best. So to eat at the king’s table meant the best food, expertly prepared, served with the best wines.

It meant eating well every day.
It was the best the world had to offer.

And Daniel said no.

“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8).

The King James version says he “purposed in his heart.”
You can only “purpose in your heart” when you have an undivided heart.

Daniel purposed in his heart.

You know the rest of the story. Daniel and friends ate water and cereal for ten days. They ended up looking healthier and stronger than those who ate at the king’s table. As a result, they were recognized and rewarded by the king himself (Daniel 1:17-21).

Good story. Happy ending.

One question hangs in the air. Where did Daniel find the strength to say no to the food from the king’s table? My answer is simple. Daniel knew who he was so he knew where to draw the line.

Daniel never forgot who he was and he never forgot where he came from. It was as if he was saying, “I may look Babylonian on the outside, but I’m 100% Jewish on the inside.”

Daniel never forgot who he was.

This teaches us that you can’t corrupt a man from the outside. You can change a culture but not a character. You can change his name but not his nature. Daniel may have looked like a pagan, but on the inside he was a servant of the living God. Even the mighty Nebuchadnezzar could do nothing about that.

We live in a world where biblical values are constantly under attack. We won’t change the world’s way of thinking any time soon.

But will the world change our way of thinking?
That’s the question that hangs in the balance.

When I taught all this to the students, I told them it finally comes down to one great principle:

When you know who you are, you can serve Christ anywhere.

And the reverse is also true: When you are unclear about who you really are, you will struggle to serve Christ anywhere.

A man with a divided heart cannot grasp his true identity.
He will be pulled this way and that.
Under pressure he almost certainly will cave in.

But the man with an undivided heart knows who he is.
Because he knows who he is, he doesn’t have to constantly make decisions.
Once you make up your mind, life becomes simpler (though not always easier).

Years ago I used to watch a preacher on TV who had one signature line that he repeated over and over again:

If you’re going to be a Christian, be one!

That strikes me as excellent advice.
It starts by having an undivided heart.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be one!

And that brings us back to the beginning, back to Psalm 86:11, “Unite my heart to fear your name” and “Put me together, Lord.” As Spurgeon contemplated this verse, he offered this succinct summary:

A man of divided heart is weak, the man of one object is theman.

The italics are in the original. Sometimes in our conversation, we will say of so-and-so, “He is the man.” We mean he is a man of one purpose, the man we admire and want to follow.

Such a man is the man.

After I shared some of these thoughts at our Men’s Bible study, the Lord seemed to grant us a kind of holy introspection. One man later told his wife, “I’ve got some business to do with the Lord.” Another man said, “I think we all have a divided heart.”

That’s why David prayed this prayer.
He looked within and saw his heart pulled in a hundred directions.

So he prayed, “Unite my heart, O Lord.”

We marinate in hate.

There is no prayer more appropriate and more needed in our day. Every honest man or woman must at times say, “My life is far from what I want it to be.”

We run low on love.
We find ourselves distracted, worried and easily confused.
We fall prey to little temptations that lead to bigger ones.
We marinate in hate.
We dawdle in our duties.
We make excuses for every failure.
We find ourselves both disagreeing and disagreeable.
We love the world more than we love God.
We live in unbelief instead of walking in faith.
We refuse to submit because our pride is at stake.

And so it goes, this struggle of the soul to find rest and peace.
No wonder we are frustrated.

When the heart is not united, nothing works right. Without God, we will be fragmented and torn and pulled and distracted.

A Prayer for a United Heart

We must do as David did. We must pray, “O Lord, take the scattered fragments of my heart and unite them so that I may praise you.” Only God can do this, but God can do it if we will come to him in humility and sincerity.

The hardest part is coming. Until you admit you need God’s help, you will be stuck exactly where you are.

We must do as David did.

So here is a prayer that may help us all:

Lord Jesus,

I need to hear these ancient words once again:

Unite my heart to fear your name.

I am so scattered, Lord.

Pulled in so many directions.

So easily distracted.

How quickly I forget who you are.

How quickly I forget your goodness to me.

Unite my heart, Lord.

Put it back together again.

Refocus my thoughts.

Clarify my purpose.

Grant that I should want you more than anything else.

Thank you for your many gifts, freely given.

Forgive me for loving your gifts more than I love you.

In confessing this I ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.

Here is my heart, Lord.

Come in and rearrange things.

Make me new from the inside out.

Thank you for loving me even when I seem to lose my way.

I love you, Lord. Do your work in me.

Unite my heart to fear your name.

Amen.

You might want to say that prayer aloud. Perhaps you should print it and post it somewhere so you can use it again when you need it.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.

These lines from Come, Thou Fount speak to our deepest need:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

If the first two lines describe our need, then the last two lines describe our prayer. May God take our scattered hearts and unite them, seal them by his grace, that we might serve him with joy on earth as one day we will serve him in heaven.

Do it, Lord. Unite our hearts to fear your name. Amen.

Courtesy of Precept Austin https://www.preceptaustin.org/give_me_an_undivided_heart#Integrity

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A Life Surrendered

Psalm 37:7 GWT

Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.

Our world is inundated with the cultural mindset that if you just work hard enough and make the necessary sacrifices, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. This “super-human,” “I am unstoppable,” “I’m the only one who can make it happen” mentality is completely self-reliant and dependent upon one’s own capabilities and dedication. If we think that we must grit our teeth and work as hard as possible in order to achieve our dreams and goals in life, and that simple brute force and sold-out commitment to the task at hand is the only way to make it happen, then why don’t we just keep working on Sundays and forget about God?

It’s All About Us

What many have been falsely led to believe is that success and achievement are among the highest goals we can aspire toward in our lives. Having a vision and making it a reality is the motivation that drives such things as the entrepreneurial spirit in society. If you can imagine it, then you can build it. This type of thinking can become completely centered on our wants and ourdesires. It can feed into our inner longing to be recognized and to accomplish something great with our lives. Now, don’t get the wrong idea; working hard and striving to improve society and offer goods and services to humanity are not bad desires to have. We all work to make a living to provide for ourselves and others. But if we’re not careful, our life priorities can begin to shift without our consciously realizing it.

Everyone Wants to Make It On Their Own

Sometimes we might feel that we are the ones who must face reality alone and figure things out for ourselves, and we can easily end up succumbing to a “make-it-or-break-it by the sweat of our brow” mentality. This decline into a self-focused lifestyle can happen fairly quickly and go relatively unnoticed. Many times we may not even realize that we are becoming self-dependent because it seems natural to just bear the weight of everything upon our own shoulders and do it ourselves. This is this model of the world that is so prevalent around us. We hear catchphrases like, “Work hard because it all depends on you,” or, “Success is the outcome of sacrifice.” This type of mindset isolates and weakens an individual, blinding us to the enslavement we have become trapped by because life is not all about what we can do on our OWN.

Self-Centered is Not God-Centered

God did not intend for us to be self-dependent, self-reliant, or even self-motivated. Our culture seems to applaud the “self-motivated” individuals—those who are driven to achieve something based on their own enthusiasm or interest without compulsion or influence from others. Sounds pretty great, right? Don’t we all want to be that type of person? The downside is that this makes us prone to sliding into a “self-centered” mode. We may then look to ourselves most readily for the answers and solutions to life’s problems. Inside we are all broken and scared, and we think about ourselves a lot because we tend to hold onto the premise that “If I don’t look out for #1, who will?” We might think that if we hold on tightly enough, we can control what is going on, or fix it, or make it work somehow. But what we must realize is that every time we choose to take control and try to work things out on our own, we are pushing God out of the picture. Richard Neuhaus once wrote, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God.”[1]

Who is Sitting on the Throne?

So what does it mean to make ourselves “available to God?” It means letting Him be part of the picture—and there is no partial-picture with God. Either He is the One we are looking to or we are staring at ourselves for the answer. When it comes to letting go of our need to do everything ourselves and exchanging our self-dependency for depending on Him instead, we call that “surrender.” Surrendering is yielding to another, adopting their solutions, following their recommendations, and receiving their corrections by acknowledging their authority and complying with them. It requires abandoning our ideas and our desires and obeying those of another. Now, some might think that surrendering is a sign of weakness, but actually it is a sign of strength and maturity because we understand that when we surrender we are coming under the authority of someone stronger, wiser, and more capable than us. If we don’t surrender our lives to God, we become our own roadblocks for the ways in which God could work in our lives. In essence, we are telling God, “I’ve got this and I don’t need you.” Instead, we must learn to “let go, and let God.” This means we need to stop trying to sit on our own throne and submit to God who is sitting on THE throne.

Faith Involves Surrender

You may ask, “What if I am afraid to surrender my life to God? What if God’s solution doesn’t solve my problems immediately? What if God’s ideas are not what I want? What if God is telling me to change my course in life…but I am happy where I am?” Well, the thing about surrendering is that it requires TRUST. It requires trusting that God has the best intentions in mind for your life and that He knows what you need. “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”[2]

Choosing to surrender to God and trust Him is not solely about letting Him take care of your everyday concerns; it also entails obedience to His leading, even when He is pointing you outside of your comfort zone. Surrendering consists of your agreeing to forfeit the right to criticize God, to judge whether you like what He is telling you to do, or to compare how His ideas fit with yours.

Surrendering your life to God means:

  • Following where God leads you, even without knowing where you’ll end up.
  • Being patient for God’s timing, even without knowing when He will accomplish His plan.
  • Trusting that God will provide, no matter what, even without knowing how it will happen.
  • Expecting God to do the impossible (if that’s what it takes), but still acknowledging His constant goodness and grace even if what you pray for doesn’t come to pass.

Which Story Will You Choose?

Surrendering means choosing to recognize that God’s story for your life is better than any version you could come up with; it is being willing to exchange your dreams and life vision for His; and it is being okay with opting out of whatever choices you want to make if they aren’t the plans that He has in mind. Surrendering means losing sight of all that you want and replacing it with all that He wants, becoming a vessel for Him to work in and through to bring to pass unforeseeable things in your life and the lives of others. The more we seek to understand the ways in which God pours His favor upon our lives when we surrender to Him, the more we will start to see little fabulous things show up and surprise us in ways we least expect. When we try to maintain control and hold onto all the desires we have in our lives, we are likely missing out on the best parts of life that God can give to us.

Break Free and Go With God

Surrendering means letting God guide our lives and choosing to follow Him wherever He leads us and to do whatever He tells us. We must come to the end of ourselves, cut loose the safety line that tether us to the shore, and begin to sail to destinations where only God can take us, knowing that He is good and that where He is taking us is better than anywhere we could go on our own. Are you willing to go there with God?

[1] Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 90.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, Jesus: The Greatest Life of All (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 100.

Courtesy of : https://www.truthortradition.com/articles/a-life-surrendered

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Leaving My Regrets and My Successes

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7–11).

It is evident from the writings of the Apostle Paul that he had a preeminent desire in his life: to know Jesus and be found in Him. In other words, he wanted to be fully yielded to the living Christ whom he was now aware had taken up residence inside his earthly body. He wrote in the book of Acts, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Paul was aware of something that we need to rediscover today: We are not called of God to simply bring the knowledge of God to our generation, we are called to be a visible expression of who God is by allowing Him to demonstrate His power, wisdom, grace and love through us.

Leaving our Regrets Behind

Paul then goes on to make a statement which should encourage us whenever we feel mediocre compared to those we read about in the Bible: “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected” (Philippians 3:12). He was essentially saying, “I am not everything that I should be.” Paul was not, and neither are we! He continued, “But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14).

In other words, “God has a plan for my life, and I am moving forward to fulfill that which Christ has determined to do through me. Therefore, I must forget those things that are behind and reach forward to those that are ahead.”

One of the hardest things for us to leave behind is our regret. We tend to carry it with us through life—those constant thoughts of, “If only I had done this; if only I had not done that; if only I had been this; if only I had known; if only I had been there; if only I had not been so selfish.”

However, if anyone had a lot of reasons to live in regret, it was Paul. He says in the book of First Corinthians, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In the book of Acts, he said this, “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:10–11).

Imagine Paul visiting different churches, looking upon the faces of men, women, and children who would be just like the ones he had formerly hauled out of their homes. Would he be reminded of the mothers and fathers pleading for mercy, the children crying? At that time, Paul was merciless, torturing Christians until they reached the point of blaspheming the name of God. When the beloved disciple Stephen—a young man who was full of faith and was serving tables—enraged the religious crowd, Paul was the man who held the coats of those who stoned him. Surely Paul easily could have been plagued by the memories of what he had done. Yet he made the deliberate choice to forget those things that were behind.

There was a time in my life when I would go to my knees and weep almost every day. I would weep for the things I had done, the things I had not done, the deficiencies in my life. I would think about what I wished I had known as a young Christian, the places I should have gone but did not. I wrote it all down, and I would go in to my office and cry every day until one day, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Carter, if you succeed in what I have called you to do, you are not to touch the glory. You are to give it all to Me. But that is not the only thing you are to give to Me. I want you to give Me your sorrow, your failures, your struggles. You are not to touch the glory, and neither are you to carry the shame. Both of those things belong to Me. I took it all on the cross, and you are not to carry the sorrow of it in your heart any longer.”

It was true. Once I allowed Him to do so, God took the sorrow away. Yes, I still have the memory of what I have done, but I do not carry the sorrow of it anymore. The Lord once spoke to the Apostle Peter words that you and I must remember today: “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). If God has cleansed you, you have no right any longer to hang your head. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Your sins, your mistakes, and your failures are all cast as far away from you as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12). As a matter of fact, God says, “Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (see Hebrews 10:17). That means that one day when you get to the throne of God and want to give Him a list of all your failures in life, the Lord will look at you and say, “Well, I will have to take your word for it because I do not seem to remember any of it! When My blood touched your life, it blotted out all your transgressions.”

And so it is time to lay down that sorrow. If you are going to find the fullness of what God has destined for your life, you have to walk away from your regrets. Many women who have had abortions carry a deep inner sorrow when they become believers in Christ. They wonder what that life would have been like; what it would have been like to have that child with them at church. Men also need to learn to walk away from what happened because of what they did or did not do. Remember, Jesus died to take all of it from us. He died to give us a new mind and a new heart; He died to take away our sorrow. Now I am not saying that we should just pretend none of it ever happened or that we should never talk about it. What I am saying is that it loses its power to destroy us. It loses its power to imprison us behind walls of regret. Instead, it gives us an understanding of what really happened on the cross. Jesus took our captivity captive and brought us into a place where we can testify about the goodness of God, leading others out of their personal struggles and into the light of Christ.

Leaving Our Successes

The second thing that we must learn to leave behind is our success. Paul said, “Concerning the righteousness which was in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6). There were very few, if any, people in his generation who could make that claim. He was a man driven by success; he sat at the feet of some of the best scholars of his time. He was a leader among the Pharisees; he had accolades, he had diplomas, he had degrees, he had position, he had power. Nevertheless, he concluded, “I count all of it as rubbish.

Thank God for the past, but the past is not going to become my identity. My identity is in Christ. I do not want to know anything but Him; I do not want any power but His” (see Philippians 3:7–9). Many believers today find their whole identity in their success outside of Christ—in their diplomas, their occupation, what they used to be. When they meet with people, all they talk about is themselves and what they have accomplished. It is because their identity is not yet fully in Christ.

Sometimes it takes as much grace to walk away from success as it does from sorrow. Of course, this does not mean we must now go and burn all our diplomas, it just means that they are not our identity anymore. Thank God for them, but our identity is Christ and Him alone. The strength, grace, direction, compassion, and power we have is all Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Press On

Once we learn to leave behind our regrets and successes, we can “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The call of God is higher than anything offered in this world. Paul described it this way: “That I may know Him, that I may know the power of His resurrection, that I may know the fellowship of His sufferings, that I may be made conformable even to death if necessary. That I might win Him and be won of Him for the purpose for which He laid hold of me!” (see Philippians 3:10–11).

In other words, “I want to be able to yield up my will, my comforts, and even my life so that I can know the power of God. I want to experience the full measure of His resurrection life in my own life. If it leads me to suffering, let it lead me there, so long as I am conformed to the One who went to a cross for me. I do not want to be cut short on this journey, for I recognize that Jesus died for me and left me here to live for others. The very life of Christ lived inside of me—accompanied by His power, vision, and giftings—is to flow through my life for the sake of others!”

I hope that this walk Paul described is your desire today. Yes, it might be a difficult path, often accompanied with a measure of sorrow, but there is truly no better way to live. By the grace and power of God within us, let us leave behind our regrets and successes and reach forward to this incredible calling that is ours in Christ. Let us allow the Lord to lead us the full distance for the sake of others who still need to know Him!

Carter Conlon ©2018 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://tsc.nyc/sermons/48661_sermon-newsletter-201809-leaving-my-regrets-and-my-successes.pdf

 

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The Call to Love: The Wonders of God’s Love in Action

1Corinthians 13:4 Love is patientlove is kind and is not jealouslove does not brag and is not arrogant (NASB: Lockman)

Amplified: Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

NLT: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud (NLT – Tyndale House)

Phillips: – This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: Love meekly and patiently bears ill treatment from others. Love is kind, gentle, benign, pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing all which would have been harsh and austere; is not envious. Love does not brag, nor does it show itself off, is not ostentatious, does not have an inflated ego, (Eerdmans)

Young’s Literal: The love is long-suffering, it is kind, the love doth not envy, the love doth not vaunt itself, is not puffed up,


LOVE IS PATIENT: E agape makrothumei, (2SPAI): (Proverbs 10:122Corinthians 6:6Galatians 5:22Ephesians 4:2Colossians 1:113:122Timothy 2:253:102Timothy 4:2James 3:171Peter 4:8)

Spurgeon – Always try to put the best construction on other people’s actions and work. Let gentleness triumph.

Keep Paul’s flow of thought in mind…

The Primacy
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Perfection
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The Permanence
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Here are some of the ways this verse has been translated…

Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride (BBE)

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head (The Message)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. (Proverbs 10:12)

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1Pe 4:8note)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience (makrothumia noun form of “patient” below), showing forbearance to one another in love (Eph 4:2note)

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness (chrestotes = gives us what we need & related to word for kindness below), humility, gentleness and patience (makrothumia = a “long fuse” before it “blows!”) (Col 3:12note)

Paul had given Timothy an example and encouraged him by saying…

you followed (like a disciple) my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience (makrothumia), love, perseverance (see note 2 Timothy 3:10)

Paul went on to tell Timothy to preach with patience writing…

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience (literally “all patience” makrothumia) and instruction. (see note 2 Timothy 4:2)

You will observe that agape “love” is defined by verbs rather than adjectives–by what it does, instead of what it is. Note also that love is not a feeling and as you survey Paul’s description of agape love, you note that there is not stress on personal feeling. The kind of love Paul is talking about is seen and experienced and demonstrated.

Paul begins with 2 positive aspect of love love is patient, love is kind. The first is passive—not retaliating. The second is active—bestowing benefits. This twofold opening statement stands as a daily challenge to every Christian! But the “descriptive definition” does not stop here but is followed with a series of primarily negative aspects of love, each preceded by the negative particle in the Greek which conveys absolute negation—love never brags, is never arrogant, etc! This description of agape should drive every believer to the foot of the Cross and to a complete surrender to our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the perfect fulfillment of agape and Who Alone by His Spirit’s filling and control can enable us to work out this aspect of our salvation in fear and trembling to the glory of His Father. Amen!

Remember the context of the preceding three verses of this “crown jewel” of Holy Scripture for there we learn that love is indispensable and is more important than eloquent communication, spiritual gifts, or personal sacrifice. We may have all the trappings of true religion but if we don’t have love, we don’t have anything at all.

The Corinthians were impatient with each other, suing each other, tolerating sin in the church, and creating problems because they did not have love. Paul emphasizes that whatever gifts and/or qualities a believer may posses, they are nothing without love.

A T Robertson says that 1Corinthians 13:4-7 pictures

the character or conduct of love in marvellous rhapsody. (1 Corinthians 13)

Chrysostom adds that here Paul…

makes an outline of love’s matchless beauty, adorning its image with all aspects of virtue, as if with many colors brought together with precision.

Phillips has a pithy paraphrase…

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Pfeiffer has an interesting comment writing that…

One might almost say that love is personified here, since the description is practically a description of the life and character of Jesus Christ. However, the picture is directly related to the Corinthians. The observance of the truths of this chapter, as will be noted in the following remarks, would have solved their problems. (Pfeiffer, C F: Wycliffe Bible Commentary. 1981. Moody)

Hodge introduces this famous passage noting that…

Almost all the instructions of the New Testament are suggested by some occasion and are adapted to it. This chapter is not a methodical dissertation on Christian love, but shows that grace is contrasted with the extraordinary gifts that the Corinthians valued inordinately. Therefore, the traits of love that are mentioned are those that contrasted with the Corinthians’ use of their gifts. They were impatient, discontented, envious, puffed up, selfish, indecorous, unmindful of the feelings or interests of others, suspicious, resentful, censorious. The apostle personifies love and places her before them and lists her graces not in logical order but as they occurred to him in contrast to the deformities of character that the Corinthians displayed. (Hodge, C. 1 Corinthians)

Wiersbe suggest that the careful inductive student read 1Corinthians 13:4-7

and compare this with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal 5:22noteGal 5:23note. You will see that all of the characteristics of love show up in that fruit. This is why love edifies: it releases the power of the Spirit in our lives and churches. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

I like the practical way Joseph Beet explains the “patience” demonstrated through a man or woman (husband or wife) who is filled with the Spirit (Ep 5:18note compare filled with the Word in Col 3:16note) that they might be enabled to exude the fragrant fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22noteGal 5:23note), i.e., agape love which…

continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger. Hence, in the Bible, the word is often (Ro 2:4noteRo 9:22note etc.) used in this connection. (A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians – Online Version)

Love (26) (agape) is unconditional, sacrificial love and a love that God is (1Jn 4:8,16), that God shows (Jn 3:161Jn 4:9) and which God gives by means of His Spirit’s production in the heart of a yielded saint, the constituent elements of this fruit being described by Paul in this famous section of Scripture. Agape is the caring, self-sacrificing commitment which shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved. Jesus Christ, in His sacrificial death on the Cross, is clearly the epitome and embodiment of agape love.

Agape is a love which impels the one loving to sacrifice himself for the benefit of the person loved. God’s love must be seen in full bloom in the life of every disciple of Christ.

Agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) which is not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation and in fact is impossible to carry out unless one is genuinely born again.

Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for “love”. Nevertheless, believers can fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that a lover feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind. There are many reasons a proper understanding of the truth of God’s word (and of the world’s lie) is critical and one of the foremost is Jesus’ declaration that

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another. (John 13:35). (Comment: Agape is the badge of discipleship and the landmark of heaven! (Jn 13:35). )

Agape in the Greek classics spoke of a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. This is the idea inherent in the Father’s proclamation “This is My beloved Son… ” Agape is the love that was shown at Calvary. Thus agape is God’s love, and is the love that God is. It is not human affection but is a divine love, commanded by God, produced as fruit in the heart of a surrendered saint by the Holy Spirit (God Who is at work in us to will and to work to His good pleasure) (Ro 55-noteGal 5:22note), self-sacrificial in nature seeking the benefit of the one who is loved, a love which means death to self and defeat for sin since the essence of sin is self-will and self-gratification, a love activated by personal choice of our will (working out our salvation in fear and trembling) not based on our feelings toward the object of our love and manifested by specific actions as described in this section of 1Corinthians 13:4-7 where we see “love in action.”

Bible.org – The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention—a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Matt. 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christlikeness. (1 Corinthians 13)

Agape may involve emotion, but it must always involve actionAgape is unrestricted, unrestrained, and unconditional. Agape love is the virtue that surpasses all others and in fact is the prerequisite for all the others. Jesus when asked

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” replied ”You shall love (agapao – related verb) the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” (Mt 22:36-38)

John MacArthur explains that

Agape love is the greatest virtue of the Christian life. Yet that type of love was rare in pagan Greek literature. That’s because the traits agape portrays—unselfishness, self-giving, willful devotion, concern for the welfare of others—were mostly disdained in ancient Greek culture as signs of weakness. However, the New Testament declares agape to be the character trait around which all others revolve. The apostle John writes, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). (MacArthur, J. The Power of Integrity : Building a Life Without Compromise, page 133. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books) (Bolding added)

F B Meyer wrote the following regarding agape love

Wherever there is true love, there must be giving, and giving to the point of sacrifice. Love is not satisfied with giving trinkets; it must give at the cost of sacrifice: it must give blood, life, all. And it was so with the love of God. “He so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son.” “Christ also loved and gave Himself up, an offering and a sacrifice to God.” (See note Ephesians 5:2)

We are to imitate God’s love in Christ. The love that gives, that counts no cost too great, and, in sacrificing itself for others, offers all to God, and does all for His sake. Such was the love of Jesus–sweet to God, as the scent of fields of new-mown grass in June; and this must be our model.

Not to those who love us, but who hate; not to those who are pleasant and agreeable, but who repel; not because our natural feelings are excited, but because we will to minister, even to the point of the cross, must our love go out. And every time we thus sacrifice ourselves to another for the sake of the love of God, we enter into some of the meaning of the sacrifice of Calvary, and there is wafted up to God the odour of a sweet smell. (Devotional Commentary on Ephesians)

Kenneth Wuest describes agape love noting that…

Agape is a love that impels one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the object loved… (it) speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in the object loved, an apprehension of its preciousness.

Wuest explains that phileo love is “an unimpassioned love, a friendly love. It is a love that is called out of one’s heart as a response to the pleasure one takes in a person or object. It is based upon an inner community between the person loving and the person or object loved. That is, both have things in common with one another. The one loving finds a reflection of his own nature in the person or thing loved. It is a love of liking, an affection for someone or something that is the outgoing of one’s heart in delight to that which affords pleasure. The Greeks made much of friendship, and this word was used by them to designate this form of mutual attraction.”… “We gather, therefore, that agape is a love of devotion (Ed note: and volition), while phileō is a love of emotion. There is another distinction we must be careful to note, and that is that agape is love that has ethical qualities about it, obligations, responsibilities, where phileō is a non-ethical love, making no ethical demands upon the person loving.

In contrasting phileo and agape love, we might say that the former is a love of pleasure, the latter a love of preciousness; the former a love of delight, the latter a love of esteem; the former a love called out of the heart by the apprehension of pleasurable qualities in the object loved, the latter a love called out of the heart by the apprehension of valuable qualities in the object loved; the former takes pleasure in, the latter ascribes value to; the former is a love of liking, the latter a love of prizing.

(Agape is) a love that denies self for the benefit of the object loved.

(Agape describes the) love of the Spirit-filled husband, purified and made heavenly in character.

(Agape is) the love which the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the heart of the yielded believer (see note Romans 5:5)

The saint is to order his behavior or manner of life within the sphere of this divine, supernatural (agape) love produced in his heart by the Holy Spirit. When this love becomes the deciding factor in his choices and the motivating power in his actions, he will be walking in love. He will be exemplifying in his life the self-sacrificial love shown at Calvary and the Christian graces mentioned in 1Co 13:4-8.” (It is) a love that is willing to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of that brother, a love that causes one to be long suffering toward him, a love that makes one treat him kindly, a love that so causes one to rejoice in the welfare of another that there is no room for envy in the heart, a love that is not jealous, a love that keeps one from boasting of one’s self, a love that keeps one from bearing one’s self in a lofty manner, a love that keeps one from acting unbecomingly, a love that keeps one from seeking one’s own rights, a love that keeps one from becoming angry, a love that does not impute evil, a love that does not rejoice in iniquity but in the truth, a love that bears up against all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. That is the kind of love which God says one Christian should have for another.”

(Agape love) speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it. It springs from an apprehension of the preciousness of an object. It is a love of esteem and approbation. The quality of this love is determined by the character of the one who loves, and that of the object loved. (In Jn 3:16) God’s love for a sinful and lost race springs from His heart in response to the high value He places upon each human soul. Every sinner is exceedingly precious in His sight. “Phileo” which is another word for love, a love which is the response of the human spirit to what appeals to it as pleasurable, will not do here, for there is nothing in a lost sinner that the heart of God can find pleasure in, but on the contrary, everything that His holiness rebels against. But each sinner is most precious to God, first, because he bears the image of his Creator even though that image be marred by sin, and second, because through redemption, that sinner can be conformed into the very image of God’s dear Son. This preciousness of each member of the human race to the heart of God is the constituent element of the love that gave His Son to die on the Cross. The degree of the preciousness is measured by the infinite sacrifice which God made. The love in Jn 3:16 therefore is a love whose essence is that of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved, this love based upon an evaluation of the preciousness of the one loved. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans) (Bolding added)

John MacArthur has numerous excellent comments regarding agape love…

We have no capacity to generate (agape love) on our own. The Greek word for that kind of love is agape, and it is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice. (MacArthur, J. Drawing near: August 3. 2002. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books)

Biblical agapē love is not an emotion but a disposition of the heart to seek the welfare and meet the needs of others. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said (John 15:13). And that is exactly what Jesus Himself did on behalf of those God has chosen to be saved. In the ultimate divine act of love, God determined before the foundation of the earth that He would give His only Son to save us.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

(AgapeLove is an attitude of selflessness. Biblical agape love is a matter of the will and not a matter of feeling or emotion, though deep feelings and emotions almost always accompany love. God’s loving the world was not a matter simply of feeling; it resulted in His sending His only Son to redeem the world (Jn 3:16). Love is self-less giving, always self-less and always giving. It is the very nature and substance of love to deny self and to give to others… We can only have such love when Christ is free to work His own love through us. We cannot fulfill any of Christ’s commands without Christ Himself, least of all His command to love. We can only love as Christ loves when He has free reign in our hearts… When the Spirit empowers our lives and Christ is obeyed as the Lord of our hearts, our sins and weaknesses are dealt with and we find ourselves wanting to serve others, wanting to sacrifice for them and serve them—because Christ’s loving nature has truly become our own. Loving is the supernatural attitude of the Christian, because love is the nature of Christ. When a Christian does not love he has to do so intentionally and with effort—just as he must do to hold his breath. To become habitually unloving he must habitually resist Christ as the Lord of his heart. To continue the analogy to breathing, when Christ has his proper place in our hearts, we do not have to be told to love—just as we do not have to be told to breathe. Eventually it must happen, because loving is as natural to the spiritual person as breathing is to the natural person. Though it is unnatural for the Christian to be unloving, it is still possible to be disobedient in regard to love. Just as loving is determined by the will and not by circumstances or other people, so is not loving. If a husband fails in his love for his wife, or she for him, it is never because of the other person, regardless of what the other person may have done. You do not fall either into or out of agape love, because it is controlled by the will. Romantic love can be beautiful and meaningful, and we find many favorable accounts of it in Scripture. But it is agape love that God commands husbands and wives to have for each other (Ep 5:252833-see notes Ephesians 5:252833 cf. Titus 2:4note; etc.)—the love that each person controls by his own act of will. Strained relations between husbands and wives, between fellow workers, between brothers and sisters, or between any others is never a matter of incompatibility or personality conflict but is always a matter of sin… Loving others is an act of obedience, and not loving them is an act of disobedience. (Ibid)

“The absence of (agapelove is the presence of sin. The absence of love has nothing at all to do with what is happening to us, but everything to do with what is happening in us. Sin and love are enemies, because sin and God are enemies. They cannot coexist. Where one is, the other is not. The loveless life is the ungodly life; and the godly life is the serving, caring, tenderhearted, affectionate, self–giving, self–sacrificing life of Christ’s love working through the believer. (Ibid)

Agape love centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare.” (MacArthur, J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press; MacArthur, J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press)

Agape is the love that gives. There’s no taking involved. It is completely unselfish. It seeks the highest good for another no matter what the cost, demonstrated supremely by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.” (MacArthur, J. Saved Without A Doubt. Wheaton, Ill.: May, 2006. Victor Books)

Forbearing love could only be agape love, because only agape love gives continuously and unconditionally. Eros love is essentially self–love, because it cares for others only because of what it can get from them. It is the love that takes and never gives. Philia love is primarily reciprocal love, love that gives as long as it receives. But agape love is unqualified and unselfish love, love that willingly gives whether it receives in return or not. It is unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodness—love that goes out even to enemies and prays for its persecutors (Mt 5:43noteMt 5:44note). That is why the forbearance of which Paul speaks here could only be expressed in agape love.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Giving of oneself to others is the epitome of agape love. Biblical love is not a pleasant emotion or good feeling about someone, but the giving of oneself for his welfare (cf. 1 John 3:16). Divine love is unconditional love, love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit, attractiveness, or response of the one loved. Christ did not simply have a deep feeling and emotional concern for mankind. Nor did He sacrifice Himself for us because we were deserving. God’s love, and all love that is like His, loves for the sake of giving, not getting With conditional love, if the conditions are not met there is no obligation to love. If we do not get, we do not give. But God’s makes no conditions for His love to us and commands that we love others without conditions. There is no way to earn God’s love or to deserve it by reason of human goodness. Romantic, emotional love between husband and wife ebbs and flows, and sometimes disappears altogether. But loss of romantic love is never an appropriate excuse for dissolving a marriage, because the love that God specifically commands husbands to have for their wives is agape love (see notes Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 3:19; cf. notes Titus 2:4; etc.)—love like His own undeserved love for us, love that is based on willful choice in behalf of the one loved, regardless of emotions, attraction, or deserving. Romantic love enhances and beautifies the relationship between husband and wife, but the binding force of a Christian marriage is God’s own kind of love, the love that loves because it is the divine nature to love. It is the love of giving, not of getting; and even when it ceases to get, it continues to give. Where there is the sacrificial love of willful choice, there is also likely to be the love of intimacy, feeling, and friendship (philia)… Those who are given God’s nature through Jesus Christ are commanded to love as God loves. In Christ, it is now our nature to love just as it is God’s nature to love—because His nature is now our nature. For a Christian not to love is for him to live against his own nature as well as against God’s. Lovelessness is therefore more than a failure or shortcoming. It is sin, willful disobedience of God’s command and disregard of His example.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Agape is impossible for unconverted to manifest this divine love & in fact it is impossible even for a believer to demonstrate it in his own strength. It can only be exhibited by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. A believer has this love (divine nature) within (Col 1:27note) and it is progressively manifest more and more as fruit by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) as we obey God’s truth. Agape love willingly engages in self-sacrificing action to procure the loved one’s highest good.

Love’s perfect expression on earth is the Lord Jesus Christ and He defines this sacrificial love for He left heaven, came to earth, took on a human form, was spit on and mocked, was crowned with a crown of thorns, nailed to a cross, abused, and had a spear thrust into His side. He loved the church enough to die for her. That’s sacrificial love.

Donald W. Burdick gives the following excellent summary of agape love:

It is spontaneous. There was nothing of value in the persons loved that called forth such sacrificial love. God of His own free will set His love on us in spite of our enmity and sin. [Agapeis love that is initiated by the lover because he wills to love, not because of the value or lovableness of the person loved. [Agape] is self-giving. and is not interested in what it can gain, but in what it can give. It is not bent on satisfying the lover, but on helping the one loved whatever the cost. [Agape] is active and is not mere sentiment cherished in the heart. Nor is it mere words however eloquent. It does involve feeling and may express itself in words, but it is primarily an attitude toward another that moves the will to act in helping to meet the need of the one loved. (Burdick, D W: The Letters of John the Apostle (Chicago: Moody, 1985, page 351)

As noted below Barclay has labeled agape as unconquerable benevolence for nothing the other person can do will make us seek anything but their highest good and to never feel bitterness or desire for revenge. Though the one loved even injure us and insult us, agape will never feel anything but kindness towards him. Agape gives & gives & gives. Agape takes slaps in the face and still gives even as Jesus did saying Father forgive them. Agapeis not withheld. That clearly means that this Christian love is not an emotional or sentimental thing. It is the ability to retain unconquerable goodwill to the unlovely and the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like.

William Barclay notes that agape indicates an…

unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodwill… If we regard a person with agape, it means that no matter what that person does to us, no matter how he treats us, no matter if he insults us or injures us or grieves us, we will never allow any bitterness against him to invade our hearts, but will regard him with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but his highest good.”… In the case of our nearest and our dearest we cannot help loving them; we speak of falling in love; it is something which comes to us quite unsought; it is something which is born of the emotions of the heart. But in the case of our enemies, (agapelove is not only something of the heart; it is also something of the will. It is not something which we cannot help; it is something which we have to will ourselves into doing (Ed note: enabled by the Spirit Whose “fruit” in yielded believers is “agape love”). It is in fact a victory over that which comes instinctively to the natural man. Agape does not mean a feeling of the heart, which we cannot help, and which comes unbidden and unsought; it means a determination of the mind, whereby we achieve this unconquerable goodwill even to those who hurt and injure us. Agape, someone has said, is the power to love those whom we do not like and who may not like us. In point of fact we can only have agape when Jesus Christ enables us to conquer our natural tendency to anger and to bitterness, and to achieve this invincible goodwill to all men.

Agape, is that unconquerable benevolence, that undefeatable good-will, which will never seek anything but the highest good of others, no matter what they do to us, and no matter how they treat us. That love can come to us only when Christ, Who is that love, comes to dwell within our hearts… ”

(Agape) … will never dream of revenge, but will meet all injuries and rebuffs with undefeatable good will. Agapeis that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every man no matter what he may be. If a man has agape, no matter what other people do to him or say of him, he will seek nothing but their good. He will never be bitter, never resentful, never vengeful; he will never allow himself to hate; he will never refuse to forgive.

Love, agape, is the virtue of the man who, even if he tried, could not forget what God has done for him nor the love of God to men.

Agape is the word for Christian love. Agape is not passion with its ebb and flow, its flicker and its flame; nor is it an easy-going and indulgent sentimentalism. And it is not an easy thing to acquire or a light thing to exercise. Agape is undefeatable goodwill; it is the attitude towards others which, no matter what they do, will never feel bitterness and will always seek their highest good. There is a love which seeks to possess; there is a love which softens and enervates; there is a love which withdraws a man from the battle; there is a love which shuts its eyes to faults and to ways which end in ruin. But Christian love will always seek the highest good of others and will accept all the difficulties, all the problems and all the toil which search involves. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary) (Bolding added)

F. E. Marsh writes that…

Love has not an irritating thorn in its hand, nor a jealous look in its eye, nor depreciating words on its lips, nor sore feelings in its heart. Love sees the best in others, and the worst in itself. Love will wash another’s feet, and think it is honored by so doing

A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, Blockhead, the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.”

Bible.org – 1 Corinthians 13

1. God’s Love Is Incarnational – God entered into our world and demonstrated love in a way we could visualize – understand. We must go where young people are and where they live out their lives. This in itself will demonstrate to our young people our love for them.

2. God’s Love Is Patient – We must not make impatient demands but allow young people to grow at their own pace.

3. God’s Love Is Kind – We must be gentle and sensitive to the needs and hurts of young people. We must allow them to be teenagers and not demand that they be something else.

4. God’s Love Is Not Jealous – Our supreme concern must be for our young people’s growth and not that they just attend our youth program or our activities.

5. God’s Love Does Not Brag and Is Not Arrogant – We must not spend our energies building up ourselves, but remember that servanthood is making the other person successful.

6. God’s Love Does Not Act Unbecomingly – We are not to try to act like teenagers. Teens do not want leaders who act like them, but leaders who act like leaders.

7. God’s Love Does Not Seek Its Own – Our desire must be to put others first. If we cannot do this then we cannot expect our young people to do it either.

8. God’s Love Is Not Provoked – At times this becomes a great difficulty, but we must learn as the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2. He stated that in every disappointment he learned to use that situation to reaffirm love for the person who disappoints him.

9. God’s Love Does Not Take Into Account a Wrong Suffered – Jesus suffered much wrong and rejection and we, too, must be willing to experience that same suffering.

10. God’s Love Rejoices With the Truth – Our young people will easily see our values by what we get most excited about.

11. God’s Love Bears and Believes All Things – We must expect the best and see people as God sees people – for the potential they can become with Christ’s help.

12. God’s Love Hopes All Things – We need to memorize Philippians 4:8 and recite it daily to ourselves.

13. God’s Love Endures All Things – Many heartaches will come our way, and the desire to give up and quit will often pass through our minds. But God’s love for us endures even our shortcomings. How can we do any less’ (1 Corinthians 13 – Bible.org)

Tertullian the early disciple wrote,

It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Look!’ they say, ‘How they love one another!’ Look how they are prepared to die for one another.”

People do not care how much we know
until they know how much we care
.

Is patient (3114) (makrothumeo from makros = long, distant, far off, large + thumos = temper, passion, emotion or thumoomai = to be furious or burn with intense anger) (See study of related word makrothumia) literally describes prolonged restraint of thumos, of emotion, anger or agitation. It means one’s temper is long (as opposed to “short tempered) and does not give way to a short or quick temper toward those who fail. It describes holding out of the mind for a long time before it gives room to action or passion. The picture of this word is that of a person in whom it takes a long time before fuming and breaking into flames!

Trench adds that this word refers to one who has the power to avenge himself and yet refrains from exercising this power.

Makrothumeo describes manifesting a state of emotional calm or quietness in the face of provocation, misfortune or unfavorable circumstances. Love never says, “I’ve had enough.” It suffers indefinitely. It is longsuffering and continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger.

Makrothumeo describes especially patience towards people who act unjustly toward us. Another verb meaning to be patient is hupomeno which describes patience under circumstances, although there can be some overlap for circumstances often involve people. In other words the emphasis of makrothumeo is not so much a call to patience with circumstances as to patience with people. The action indicated by both verbs is essential to development of our Christian character, for patience with people is just as important as patience with circumstances. Patience is the righteous standard God expects all believers to conform to no matter what person he places (or allows) into your life or whatever trying circumstance you might face.

NIDNTT has an interesting note on the noun makrothymia

Positively it expresses persistence, or an unswerving willingness to await events rather than trying to force them. Although perseverance and persistence were familiar to the Stoics, and were, in fact, highly valued by them, makrothymia does not figure in their vocabulary. This was possibly because of the widespread though erroneous belief that its basic idea was one of passive resignation. It must be said that in ancient Greece makrothymia is concerned primarily with the moulding of a man’s own character; it is not a virtue exercised towards one’s fellows. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

Vine has this note on makrothumeo writing that…

Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the fact of provocation which does not hastily retaliate nor promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Exodus 34:6, LXX; Romans 2:4 (note); 1 Peter 3:20 (note). (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Richards adds that the word group makrothumeo and makrothumia…

focuses our attention on restraint: that capacity for self-control despite circumstances that might arouse the passions or cause agitation. In personal relationships, patience is forbearance. This is not so much a trait as a way of life. We keep on loving or forgiving despite provocation, as illustrated in Jesus’ pointed stories in Mt 18. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

Makrothumeo is found 2 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Job 7:16Proverbs 19:11) and times in the NT…

Pr 19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger (LXX = A merciful man is long-suffering), And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

Matthew 18:26 “The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience(aorist imperative) with me, and I will repay you everything.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience (aorist imperative) with me and I will repay you.’

Luke 18:7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant (Comment: Patience with an element of constraint and thus forbearing).

1Thessalonians 5:14 (note) And we urge you, brethren, admonish (present imperative) the unruly, encourage (present imperative) the fainthearted, help (present imperative) the weak, be patient (present imperative) (makrothumeo) with all men.

Hebrews 6:15 (note) And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.

James 5:7 Be patient, (aorist imperative) therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient (present tense) about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient, (aorist imperative); strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (Comment: In this context makrothumeo includes not just being patient but with an element of expectancy. The idea is to remain tranquil while waiting.).

2 Peter 3:9 (note) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patienttoward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Hodge writes that love is

slow to be roused to resentment. It patiently bears with provocation and is not quick to assert its rights or to resent an injury. (Ibid)

Makrothumeo means to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish, exhibiting the element of restraint, forbearing and not seeking to retaliate. It is the ability to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person over and over again and yet not be upset or angry! It demonstrates a willingness to take someone’s unpleasant character traits in stride and to exhibit enduring patience. As God is forbearing with us (see note Romans 2:4), so we must tolerate our fellow man. Writing to the saints at Ephesus Paul exhorted them…

Therefore (because God in Christ also has forgiven you) be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (See notes Ephesians 5:15:2)

It is fascinating to note that in the Greek world self-sacrificing love and non-avenging patience were considered weaknesses, unworthy of the noble man or woman. Aristotle, for example, taught that the great Greek virtue was refusal to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense. Vengeance was actually considered a virtue! The world has always tended to make heroes of those who fight back, who stand up for their welfare and rights above all else.

Lenski notes that…

Only “longsuffering,” makrothumia and never hupomone is naturally ascribed also to God. Men may resist and antagonize God and thus arouse him to anger. When he withholds his anger he “suffers long.” Mere things cannot arouse God; trials, tribulations, persecutions do not apply to God, hence he cannot manifest hupomone, literally, “remaining under.” When Paul thus names the ability to suffer long as the first feature of love, we should note that this is a Godlike feature. The world is full of evil men, and even in our brethren much evil meets us. When this evil strikes us, and our natural reaction would be resentment, indignation, anger, bitter words, blows perhaps, then love steps in, “suffers long,” keeps calm, endures, and does this continually no matter how long the offense may persist. (Lenski, R. C. H. The interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second epistle to the Corinthians. Minneapolis, MN.: Augsburg Publishing House)

Barnett notes that makrothumeo

is a metaphorical word, literally ‘long burning’, as of a decent log burning for many hours in an open fire, as contrasted with light pine kindling that fizzes and sputters, sending showers of sparks in all directions. (Barnett, P. W. Focus on the Bible: 1 Corinthians)

Makrothumeo focuses our attention on the idea of restraint or the capacity for self-control (Spirit control for believer) despite circumstances that might arouse the passions or cause agitation. In personal relationships, patience is forbearance. This is a way of life especially as highlighted by Paul’s use of the present tense (calls for continuous action) a characteristic action made possible by the Spirit for…

the fruit of the Spirit is (present tenselove (agape), joy, peace, patience (related noun makrothumia), kindness(chrestotes), goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Pritchard explains that selfless love that is always patient…

describes the person who has been wronged, who has it within his power to get even, but chooses not to use that power. During the early days of the Civil War, Edwin Stanton was outspoken in his criticism of Abraham Lincoln. He held Lincoln in utter contempt, calling him a gorilla and a cunning clown. Although he knew about the slanders, Lincoln never retaliated. And when the time came to choose someone to oversee the war effort, Lincoln chose Stanton. When asked why, he simply replied, “Because he is the best man for the job.” After the president was assassinated in April 1865, Stanton stood weeping over Lincoln’s body and declared: “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” Patient love won in the end! (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

An early church father, Chrysostom said that makrothumeo

is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.

Makrothumeo expresses the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. It is the ability to hold one’s feeling in restraint or bear up under the oversights and wrongs afflicted by others without retaliating. It is manifest by the quality of forbearance under provocation. The related noun makrothumia is used of God’s patience toward sinful men (see note Romans 2:4) and of the attitude which Christians are to display.

Patience, long-suffering or being slow to anger is an attribute of God (Ex 34:6Nu 14:18; see Ro 2:4note1Pe 3:20note). In many places, God’s people are called upon to be patient (see notes Eph 4:2noteCol 3:12note1Th 5:14note).

The person exhibits makrothumeo who bears with annoyances or inconveniences without complaint and does not lose its temper when provoked but instead steadily perseveres.

Regarding the character of love that “Suffereth long, and is kind” the Pulpit Commentary writes that

Passively it endures; actively it does good. It endures evils; it confers blessings. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

J Vernon McGee writes that the idea is

“long-burning”—it burns a long time. We shouldn’t have a short fuse with our friends and Christian brethren. We shouldn’t make snap judgments.” (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Evans writes that this word group (makrothumeo, makrothumia)

could be translated “large emotions,” signifying wells of endurance that will not dry up, no matter how much is drawn from them. The Christian with this patience will have refreshing water to sustain continual effectiveness even in the face of unrelenting pressures. Those with such patience and faith are those who receive or “inherit the promises.” (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, New Testament. 2003; Thomas Nelson)

Matthew Henry describes the makrothumeo of love noting that…

It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Wesley wrote that…

The love of God, and of our neighbour for God’s sake, is patient toward, all men. It, suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end. And in every step toward overcoming evil with good, it is kind, soft, mild, benign. It inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection. ( Wesley, J. Wesley’s Notes)

Pastor Steven Cole writes that in this section Paul teaches us that…

Selfless love is the priority for every Christian. These verses are the most eloquent and profound words ever written on the subject of love. To comment on its parts is a bit like giving a botany lecture on a beautiful flower–if you’re not careful you lose the beauty and impact of it. In verses 1-3 he shows the preeminence of love, that love is greater than all spiritual gifts because without love, gifts are empty. In verses 4-7 he shows the practice of love, how love is greater than all spiritual gifts because of its selfless characteristics. In verses 8-13 he shows the permanence of love, that love is greater than all spiritual gifts because it outlasts them… While in English most of these words are predicate adjectives, in Greek they are verbs. Love is not talk; it is action. We’re all prone to apply verses like these to others: “My mate and my kids could sure use a lesson in love. But me? I’m basically a loving person. I’m really easy to get along with.” But I ask each of you to forget about everybody else and ask God to apply these verses to you. (Sermon on 1Corinthians 13:4-7) (Bolding added)

George Herbert (1593–1633) captures the notion of love as waiting patiently for the understanding of the beloved

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d any thing.
‘A guest,’ I answered, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes, but I?’ ”
(Herbert, Love, stanzas 1 and 2)

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Illustration of Love is patient – Paul Tan (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations) illustrates this trait writing that during the late 1500’s, Dr. Thomas Cooper edited a dictionary with the addition of 33,000 words and many other improvements. He had already been collecting materials for eight years when his wife, a rather difficult woman, went into his study one day while he was gone and burned all of his notes under the pretense of fearing that he would kill himself with study. Eight years of work, a pile of ashes! Dr. Cooper came home, saw the destruction, and asked who had done it. His wife told him boldly that she had done it. The patient man heaved a deep sigh and said, “Oh Dinah, Dinah, thou hast given a world of trouble!” Then he quietly sat down to another eight years of hard labor, to replace the notes which she had destroyed. Next time you think you’ve arrived at being patient, Dr Cooper’s example will give you something to imitate!

LOVE IS KIND: chresteuetai (3SPMI): (Nehemiah 9:17Proverbs 19:2231:20,26Luke 6:35,36Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:121Peter 3:82Peter 1:71John 3:1617184:11)

Love is kind – The idea is that the kind person is disposed to be useful or helpful, even seeking out the needs of the other person in order to selflessly meet those needs without expectation of being repaid in kind! This quality of love inclines one to be of good service to others.

Is kind (5541) (chresteuomai from chrestós = useful, gracious, kind and is related in turn to chráomai = to furnish what is needed) means to provide something beneficial for someone as an act of kindness. To be kind and gracious. It is an attitude of being willing to help or assist rendering gracious, well-disposed service to others. It is active goodwill. It not only feels generous, it is generous. It describes one’s “gentle in behavior” (A T Robertson) Such a person not only has the attitude of generosity but manifests it in their actions. He or she not only desires others’ welfare, but works for it.

In the second century the example of Christian love was so stunning to the pagans that they referred to Christians not as “christiani” but “chrestinai”, those made up of mildness or kindness. Would it be that such a name would be given to Christians in our day.

The present tense calls for this component of love to be a believer’s lifestyle, one that is only possible as we yield our rights to the Spirit Who controls us and brings forth this fruit.

Lenski

Trench remarks that this benignitas was predominantly the character of Christ’s ministry, which dispensed deeds of gentle kindness among all the lowly and the needy with whom he came in contact. Thus to Godlike “longsuffering” there is added Christlike “benignity.”

Paul does not describe love to us in the role of performing great, wonderful, and astounding deeds; he prefers to show us how the inner heart of love looks when it is placed among sinful men and weak and needy brethren. He does not picture love in ideal surroundings of friendship and affection where each individual embraces and kisses the other but in the hard surroundings of a bad world and a faulty church where distressing influences bring out the positive power and value of love. (Ibid)

Although this is the sole NT use of chresteuomai, it is interesting to see a use by Clement of Rome who wrote an epistle to the Corinthian church in which he quotes a saying of Jesus…

As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness. (1Clement 14:3)

Hodge comments that love is…

inclined to perform good deeds; it is good-natured. The root of the Greek verb means “useful,” and hence its primary sense is “disposed to be useful.” The excellence indicated here is the positive side of that already mentioned. Love is not quick to resent evil but is disposed to do good. (Ibid)

When Jesus commanded His disciples (that includes all believers beloved!), to love their enemies, He did not simply mean to feel kindly about them but to be kind to them or show kindness toward them, declaring…

And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. (see notes Matthew 5:405:41).

The hard environment of an evil world gives love almost unlimited opportunity to exercise that sort of kindness! How are you doing in this area?

Even the English dictionary definition of kind is convicting where kind is described as affectionate, loving, of a sympathetic or helpful nature, of a forbearing nature, gentle, arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance or of a kind to give pleasure or relief!

Chresteuomai is not merely passive but it is actively engaged in doing good to others. It’s the picture of a person who spontaneously seeks the good for others and shows it with friendly acts. It is considerate and helpful to others, is gentle and mild and always ready to show compassion.

Matthew Henry describes this kindness as…

benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.

Spicq observes that chresteuomai

suggests the warm, generous welcome the Christian always gives his brothers … does his utmost to be thoughtful, helpful and kind, always in a pleasant way … , and confirms the element of magnanimity in agape. (Agape in the NT, St. Louis and London: Herder, 1965)

Chrysostom sees this aspect of love as that which breaks the spiral of passion, anger, and resentment by showing kindness explaining that those who love this way do so…

not only by enduring nobly, but also by soothing and comforting do they cure the sore and heal the wound of passion. ( 1Cor. Homily, 33:1)

Ray Pritchard has the following thoughts on a selfless love that is always kind writing that chresteuomaimeans…

something like “sweet usefulness.” Love is quick to help others and eager to reach out to those in need. Perhaps you’ve seen this famous quote:

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Mark Twain called kindness

“a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read.”

He was absolutely right. Everyone can understand the language of love. It is truly the universal language, comprehended by people from every nation, by the rich and the poor, by the old and the young, by both male and female. Kindness is a universal language for it does not speak to the intellect, but directly to the heart.

In one of his news reports, Paul Harvey told about a man named Carl Coleman who was driving to work when a woman motorist, passing too close, snagged his fender with hers. Both cars stopped. The young woman surveying the damage was in tears. It was her fault, she admitted. But it was a new car… less than two days from the showroom. How was she ever going to face her husband? Mr. Coleman was sympathetic but explained they must note each other’s license number and automobile registration. The woman reached into the glove compartment of her car to retrieve the documents in an envelope. And on the first paper to tumble out, in a heavy masculine scrawl, were these words: “In case of accident, remember, Honey, it’s you I love, not the car.” (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

Cole writes that chresteuomai was used to describe…

mellow wine, and suggests a person who is gentle, who has an ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly in practical ways. (Ibid)

MacArthur notes that…

The first test of Christian kindness, and the test of every aspect of love, is the home. The Christian husband who acts like a Christian is kind to his wife and children. Christian brothers and sisters are kind to each other and to their parents. They have more than kind feelings toward each other; they do kind, helpful things for each other—to the point of loving self–sacrifice, when necessary. For the Corinthians, kindness meant giving up their selfish, jealous, spiteful, and proud attitudes and adopting the spirit of loving–kindness. (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

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Dress For Success – In 1975, John Molloy wrote a book called Dress For Success, which became the fashion guidebook for many people trying to climb the corporate ladder. Molloy’s advice centered on a basic premise–always dress like your boss. Every day, for work, school, or recreation, we all have to decide what to wear. And even in the dress-down 90’s, people strive for the right look.  But we must also make choices about another wardrobe–our attitudes and actions. If we claim to be followers of Christ, our spiritual apparel is of far greater significance than our physical clothing. Take a look at God’s dress code for us. As His chosen people, we are to clothe ourselves with “kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (see note Colossians 3:12). We are to demonstrate patience and forgiveness (see note Colossians 3:13). And above all, we must “put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (see note Colossians 3:14). Do I begin each day by acknowledging Christ as the Person in charge, the One for whom I work? Do I take time to clothe myself with attitudes that please Him? Am I wearing what people are most longing to see–compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love? If so, I’ll be dressed for success in God’s service. –DCM (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

O to be like Him, tender and kind,
Gentle in spirit, lowly in mind;
More like Jesus, day after day,
Filled with His Spirit, now and alway. –Ellsworth

Kindness is Christianity with its working clothes on.

AND IS NOT JEALOUS: ou zeloi, (3SPAI): (1Cor 3:3Genesis 30:137:11Matthew 27:18Romans 1:2913:132Corinthians 12:20Galatians 5:21,26Philippians 1:151Timothy 6:4Titus 3:3James 3:1415164:51Peter 2:1)

Now Paul begins a series of 8 negative definitions that do not spring from love, for love and jealousy, etc, are mutually exclusive. Where one is, the other cannot be.

Shakespeare called jealousy the “green sickness.” And even today we hear someone say “So and so is green with envy”! Love is the best antidote for jealousy in that it “does not envy”.

Is (not) jealous (2206) (zeloo from zelos [word study] = zeal in turn from zeo = boil; source of our English word “zeal”) means to be fervent, to “boil” with envy, to be jealous. It can be used commendably to refer to a striving for something or showing zeal.

Lenski

When love sees another prosperous, rich, high, gifted it is pleased and glad of his advantages. Love never detracts from the praise that is due another nor tries to make him seem less and self seem more by comparison. The practice of the world is the opposite. he negatives used in Paul’s description suggest corresponding positives. Instead of being envious love is satisfied with its own portion and glad of another’s greater portion. (Ibid)

Thiselton adds that zeloo

applies the notion of burning or boiling metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Whether it is constructive zeal or destructive envy depends on the context… The envy which is carried over from a status-seeking, non-Christian Corinthian culture into the Christian church is not “of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 3:1–3), and is deemed to be incompatible with love, which does not begrudge the status and honor of another, but delights in it for the sake of the other. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Zeloo takes the notion of burning or boiling and applies it metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Thus Williams translates this passage “Love never boils with jealousy.” People who are filled with the Spirit and have learned to love don’t begrudge others their earthly goods, their positions, or their spiritual gifts.

Whether zeloo is constructive zeal or destructive envy depends on the context. In 1Corinthians 13:4 zeloo clearly is used in a bad sense of a hostile emotion based on resentment which is “heated or boiling” with envy, hatred or anger.

Zeloo in the bad sense can be manifest in two forms, one in which the person sets their heart on something that belongs to someone else or a second form in which one has intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success.

Zeloo is used 28 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Gen. 26:1430:137:11Num. 5:143011:2925:1113Deut. 32:19Jos. 24:192 Sam. 21:21 Ki. 19:10142 Ki. 10:16Ps. 37:173:3Prov. 3:314:146:623:1724:119Isa. 11:1113Ezek. 31:939:25Joel 2:18Zech. 1:148:2) and 11 times in the NT

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him,

Acts 17:5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. (Comment: Because zeloo often has the negative connotation of coveting jealously or enviously and because the Greek indicative and imperative forms are identical, the verse could be translated, “But you earnestly desire the greater gifts” a rendering which seems much more appropriate to the context and is consistent with the tone of the letter and the sin of the Corinthians who clearly prized the showier gifts, the seemingly greater gifts. Thus it would seem foolish of Paul to command them to do what they already were eagerly doing.)

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy (noun – zelos); for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

Galatians 4:17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out, in order that you may seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.

James 4:2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

The Pulpit Commentary writes regarding jealous that…

Its negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy—“one shape of many names”—includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye, etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

Augustine wrote that…

The reason why love does not envy is because it is not puffed up. For where puffing up precedes, envy follows, because pride is the mother of envy.

Johnson writes…

How miserable is that envy which is made unhappy by the good fortune of another. Cain is an example. Love excludes it. A mother does not envy her child. (The People’s New Testament : With Explanatory Notes).

Matthew Henry comments that…

Charity suppresses envy: It envieth not; it is not grieved at the good of others; neither at their gifts nor at their good qualities, their honours not their estates. If we love our neighbour we shall be so far from envying his welfare, or being displeased with it, that we shall share in it and rejoice at it. His bliss and sanctification will be an addition to ours, instead of impairing or lessening it. This is the proper effect of kindness and benevolence: envy is the effect of ill-will. The prosperity of those to whom we wish well can never grieve us; and the mind which is bent on doing good to all can never with ill to any.

MacArthur writes that…

The second sort of jealousy is more than selfish; it is desiring evil for someone else. It is jealousy on the deepest, most corrupt, and destructive level. That is the jealousy Solomon uncovered in the woman who pretended to be a child’s mother. When her own infant son died, she secretly exchanged him for the baby of a friend who was staying with her. The true mother discovered what had happened and, when their dispute was taken before the king, he ordered the baby to be cut in half, a half to be given to each woman. The true mother pleaded for the baby to be spared, even if it meant losing possession of him. The false mother, however, would rather have had the baby killed than for the true mother to have him (1 Kings 3:16-27). (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

Barclay phrases it this way writing that…

There are two kinds of envy. The one covets the possessions of other people; and such envy is very difficult to avoid because it is a very human thing. The other is worse—it grudges the very fact that others should have what it has not; it does not so much want things for itself as wish that others had not got them. Meanness of soul can sink no further than that. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

How significant is the sin of jealousy? Proverbs explains that…

Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)

It is therefore not surprising to observe that the Bible is filled with illustrations that portray the disastrous effect jealousy has on personal relationships, beginning with Cain’s envy of Abel resulting in his murder of his own brother! (Ge. 4:3-8).

Moses records the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers writing…

And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind… 20 “Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”… 27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. (Genesis 37:112027)

In the NT Luke records other jealousy motivated acts (in Acts) writing that…

the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. (Acts 5:17-18)

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. (Acts 13:45)

What you are filled with clearly will control you. When one is filled with jealousy, their actions are controlled by that green monster. Not surprisingly we see that the divine antidote for one filled with jealousy is to continually be being filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul instructing the saints at Ephesus…

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (See notes Ephesians 5:185:195:205:21)

Spirit borne Christian love does not manifest this attitude, again the present tense signifying this negative trait is never to be a part of the Christian’s “wardrobe”. Love does not desire for itself the possessions of or control over people. A loving person is never jealous but is glad for the success of others, even if their success works against his own.

Prichard writes that jealous

This is the sin of those who think others have too much and they have too little. By contrast, love is generous. It does not begrudge others their gifts. How do you respond to the good fortune of others? If they do better than you, if they prosper when you don’t, if their family seems happy while yours is torn apart, how will you react? If they achieve what you cannot, if they gain what you lack, if they win where you lose, then the truth will come out. Can you lose gracefully? Can you walk away from the contest without bitterness?

If you live long enough, you’ll probably find someone who does what you do better than you can do it. You’ll meet people with your talents and your gifts-only much more of them. You’ll find people who surpass you in every way. What will you do then? This is one test of love. And if you live long enough, you are certain to encounter people who are less talented and less gifted than you in every way, yet they seem to catch all the breaks and end up ahead of you in the great game of life. How will you respond when an inferior person passes you by? This is an even sterner test of love. (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

How do you react when other Christians receive blessings or benefits that we lack? Do you allow the sparks of envy to burn and then come to a full flame?

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No one is more miserable than someone filled with jealousy or envy. They rob us of happiness and make our good accomplishments seem bad. Furthermore, they exact their own punishment.

On the wall of a chapel in Padua, an old city in northeastern Italy, hangs a painting by the Renaissance artist Giotto. The painter depicted envy with long ears that could hear every bit of news of another’s success. He also gave to Envy the tongue of a serpent to poison the reputation of the one being envied. But if you could look at the painting carefully, you would notice that the tongue coils back and stings the eyes of the figure itself. Not only did Giotto picture Envy as being blind, but also as destroying itself with its own venomous evil.

Jealousy was one of the sins hurting the church at Corinth. The people had divided into factions because they were jealous of one another’s gifts. Each believer strove for preeminence. Paul therefore instructed them to follow the “more excellent way” of love (1Cor 12:31), telling them that “love does not envy” (1Cor. 13:4).

If we resent the success and accomplishments of others and find ourselves striking out at them with damaging words or insidious innuendoes, we have a problem with jealousy. But God wants to administer the antidote of love. That alone will keep us from becom­ing jealousy’s victim. —D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

If we shoot arrows of jealousy at others,
we wound ourselves.

LOVE DOES NOT BRAG: [e agape] ou perpereuetai, (2SPMI): (1Samuel 25:21,22,33,341Kings 20:10,11Psalms 10:5Proverbs 13:1017:1425:8910Ecclesiastes 7:8,910:4Daniel 3:19202122)

  • Selfless, sacrificial love does not brag
  • (love) is not pompous (NAB)
  • It doesn’t sing its own praises (GWT)
  • (Love) makes no parade (Moffatt)
  • (Love does not) play the braggart (Moulton and Milligan)

Does (not) brag (4068) (perpereuomai from a word not in the NT = perperos = vainglorious, braggart) means to talk with conceit or to behave as a braggart or windbag, exhibiting self display and employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively. Love doesn’t try to prove itself and say, “Watch how loving I can be” but instead works behind the scenes. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Christian love does not vaunt (is derived from Latin vanus = vain and means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments) oneself so as to parade one’s imagined superiority over others.

In the context of spiritual gifts being discussed in this section of the letter, love does not vaunt itself even regarding the gifts which it really possesses. Paul is issuing an indirect (perhaps direct) rebuke of those believers in Corinth who were prone to use their spiritual gifts for display or self-aggrandizement. In stark contrast to self-aggrandizement, Spirit empowered Christian love produces a genuine self-effacing stance (attitude) and not a “stifling” air of supposed superiority. Beloved, do you ever catch yourself, vaunting yourself, in a sense reaching around to “pat yourself on your back”? It can happen very subtlety and suddenly, for though the old tyrant, Sin , is in fact dethroned and “defanged” as it were, it is nevertheless, ever crouching at the door of our heart ready to pounce (cp Ge 4:7fallen flesh) (I know – I’m confessing that to you as you read this note).

Ostentation is the chief idea and ostentatious boasting leads easily to the next point (arrogance).

Lenski rightly comments that love…

never becomes a perperos, a braggart. The very idea is foreign to its humble nature. (Ibid)

Thiselton writes that…

Again the verb underlines the issue of status seeking and triumphalism at Corinth. Even believers seemed to come to act the part of braggarts, which was at odds with cruciform, Christlike love. (Ibid)

BDAG says this word means “to heap praise on oneself, behave as a perperos (‘braggart, windbag)” (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)

Love is not a windbag or an exhaustively talkative person who constantly talks about themselves.

The Pulpit Commentary adds that…

The meaning would probably be most nearly expressed by the colloquialism, does not show off. It does not, for instance, “do its alms before men to be seen of them” (see note Matthew 6:1). The Latin perperus, which is from the same root as this word, means “a braggart,” or “swaggerer.” Cicero, speaking of a grand oratorical display of his own before Pompey, says to Atticus, “Good heavens! how I showed myself off (eneperpereusamen) before my new hearer, Pompeius!” (‘Ad. Att.,’ i. 14). (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

Love does not parade before others any supposed superiority of our own. When one boast of superiority, the result is separation, whereas the result of selfless love is unity!

Barclay writes that…

There is a self-effacing quality in love. True love will always be far more impressed with its own unworthiness than its own merit. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

Thiselton comments that…

Again the verb underlines the issue of status seeking and triumphalism at Corinth. Even believers seemed to come to act the part of braggarts, which was at odds with cruciform, Christlike love. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Kistemaker adds that…

Such a person parades his embellished rhetoric to gain recognition. His behavior is marked by egotism, subservience toward superiors, and condescension toward subordinates. A braggart exhibits pride in himself and his accomplishments. But such bragging is devoid of love to God and to one’s fellow man, and is a blatant sin. Further, bragging and arrogance go hand in hand. (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. NT Commentary Set. Baker Book)

MacArthur has an interesting note explaining that…

Bragging is the other side of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up. It is ironic that, as much as most of us dislike bragging in others, we are so inclined to brag ourselves… C. S. Lewis called bragging the “utmost evil.” It is the epitome of pride, which is the root sin of all sins. Bragging puts ourselves first. Everyone else, including God, must therefore be of less importance to us. It is impossible to build ourselves up without putting others down. When we brag, we can be “up” only if others are down. (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

AND IS NOT ARROGANT: ou phusioutai, (3SPPI) : (1Cor 4:6,185:28:1Colossians 2:18Philippians 2:12345)

(love) is not pompous, it is not inflated (NAB)

(love) gives itself no airs (Moffatt, Goodspeed)

(love is not) inflating its own importance

nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance (Phillips)

It is difficult to surpass the vivid picture drawn by the KJV’s rendering that love is “not puffed up” with the implicit emphasis on its own importance.

Wesley wrote that love

yea, humbles the soul to the dust.

Goodspeed has a colorful paraphrase writing that love

gives itself no airs.

J B Phillips also nicely conveys the idea with his rendering that neither does love…

cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Arrogant (5448) (phusioo from phusáo = breathe, blow, inflate from phusa = bellows) means literally to puff up (like a pair of bellows) and is used figuratively to describe one who becomes “inflated”, proud, haughty or puffed up with pride. It means to cause one to have an exaggerated self-conception. In the passive voice as in this verse phusioo means to become conceited or proud. Love protects us from having an inflated view of our own importance.

As noted the Greek uses the absolute negative (ou) for each of these negative attributes and couples it with the present tense which means that this is never to be a trait of agape love.

Lenski

Behind boastful bragging there lies conceit, an overestimation of one’s own importance, abilities, or achievements. Hence the next step: “is not puffed up.” From envy to boasting, from boasting to puffing oneself up is a natural sequence in the psychology of love-lessness. He that exalteth himself shall be abased; he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Thus in this case the positive virtue is Christian humility and lowliness of mind. (Ibid)

Hodge explains that arrogance

is the root of boasting. Anyone who has a high opinion of himself is apt to be boastful and to desire praise. Love, on the other hand, is modest and humble—modest because humble. (Ibid)

Barclay illustrates the complete opposite of arrogant writing that…

Napoleon always advocated the sanctity of the home and the obligation of public worship—for others. Of himself he said, “I am not a man like other men. The laws of morality do not apply to me.” The really great man never thinks of his own importance. Carey, who began life as a cobbler, was one of the greatest missionaries and certainly one of the greatest linguists the world has ever seen. He translated at least parts of the Bible into no fewer than thirty-four Indian languages. When he came to India, he was regarded with dislike and contempt. At a dinner party a snob, with the idea of humiliating him, said in a tone that everyone could hear, “I suppose, Mr. Carey, you once worked as a shoe-maker.” “No, your lordship,” answered Carey, “not a shoe-maker, only a cobbler.” He did not even claim to make shoes—only to mend them. No one likes the “important” person. Man “dressed in a little brief authority” can be a sorry sight. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

This ugly trait of puffing one’s self up, of overestimating or of flaunting one’s self was clearly a problem in Corinth. Love however is free of this vice which characterized the Corinthian Church a vice Paul repeatedly alludes to…

1Cor 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

1Cor 4:18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

1Cor 5:2 And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.

1 Cor 8:1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant (phusioo), but love edifies. (Comment: Kistemaker concludes that “Without love knowledge degenerates into obnoxious arrogance; with love it is a valuable asset. Arrogance is inflated selfishness, while love is genuine humility. Arrogance is devoid of love and love is devoid of arrogance; indeed both are mutually exclusive.” – Ibid)

The only other NT use is Colossians 2:18 (note) Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Thiselton comments that…

Paul hammers home the incompatibility of love as respect and concern for the welfare of the other and obsessions about the status and attention accorded to the self. How much behavior among believers and even ministers is actually “attention seeking” designed to impress others with one’s own supposed importance? Some “spiritual songs” may appear to encourage, rather than discourage, this preoccupation with the self rather than with others and with God. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Matthew Henry adds that those who exhibit agape…

will do nothing out of a spirit of contention or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind will esteem others better than themselves, Phil. 2:3 (see note). True love will give us an esteem of our brethren, and raise our value for them; and this will limit our esteem of ourselves, and prevent the tumours of self-conceit and arrogance. These ill qualities can never grow out of tender affection for the brethren, nor a diffusive benevolence.

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THE CRY FOR LOVE – A father sat at his desk poring over his monthly bills when his young son rushed in and announced, “Dad, because this is your birthday and you’re 55 years old, I’m going to give you 55 kisses, one for each year!” When the boy started making good on his word, the father exclaimed, “Oh, Andrew, don’t do it now; I’m too busy!”

The youngster immediately fell silent as tears welled up in his big blue eyes. Apologetically the father said, “You can finish later.” The boy said nothing but quietly walked away, disappointment written all over his face. That evening the father said, “Come and finish the kisses now, Andrew.” But the boy didn’t respond.

A short time after this incident the boy drowned. His heartbroken father wrote, “If only I could tell him how much I regret my thoughtless words, and could be assured that he knows how much my heart is aching.”

Love is a two-way street. Any loving act must be warmly accepted or it will be taken as rejection and can leave a scar. If we are too busy to give and receive love, we are too busy. Nothing is more important than responding with love to the cry for love from those who are near and precious to us. Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, teach us the secret of loving,
The love You are asking today;
Then help us to love one another –
For this we most earnestly pray. – Anon.

Nothing is more costly than loving -except not loving.

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LEARNING HOW TO LOVE – Tracey Morrow, who goes by the name of Ice-T, delights in his role as a controversial rap singer whose lyrics are blasphemous and obscene. Yet, inspired by a truce between two violent gangs in Los Angeles, the Crips and the Bloods, he wrote a surprisingly sentimental song, “Gotta Lotta Love.”

Orphaned when young, and brought up by relatives who considered him a burden, Ice-T never experienced loving care. “I first found the word love in a gang,” he told an interviewer. “I learned how to love in a gang, not in a family atmosphere.”

No matter how little or how warped the love we may have known in childhood, it is never too late for any of us to learn how to love. In God’s sovereignty we may catch a glimpse of love through some individual or a support group (even a gang!). But to learn the full meaning and reality of true love, because [Jesus] laid down His life for us” (1John 3:16). The death of Jesus, in all of its sacrificial unselfishness, discloses the heights and depths of love.

We will know better how to show love when we think of how much Christ loves us, and when we trust Him as our Savior and Lord. -Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Unfailing is Christ’s matchless love,
So kind, so pure, so true;
And those who come to know that love
Show love in all they do.- Dennis J. De Haan

We learn the true meaning of love
when we look at how much Christ loved us.

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THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT – A third-grade science teacher asked one of her students to describe salt. “Well, um, it’s… ,” he started, then stopped. He tried again. “Salt is, you know, it’s… ” Finally he said, “Salt is what makes French fries taste bad when you don’t sprinkle it on.” Many foods are like that — incomplete without a key ingredient. Imagine pizza without cheese, strudel without apples, a banana split without bananas.

The Christian life also has an essential element: love. Paul emphasized its value as he wrote his letter to the Corinthians. Right in the middle of a section about spiritual gifts, he paused to say that even if we have gifts of service, speech, and self-sacrifice but don’t have love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). We’ve missed the “more excellent way” (12:31). A follower of Jesus should love his family, his friends, his fellow believers, those who don’t know Christ, and even his enemies (Lk. 6:27-31). A true Christian is
known by his love.

Doctrinal purity is important. Faith is a magnificent quality, as are actions of obedient service to the Lord. But without love, we’re about as bland as French fries without salt.

Ask God to help you grow in love until it flows from your heart to others. That’s the essential ingredient. — David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, grant me a loving heart,
A will to give and share,
A whispered prayer upon my lips
To show I really care.– Brandt

As Christ’s love grows in us His love flows through us.

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When To Speak Up – Good communication is essential for a happy marriage. Poet Ogden Nash seems to have hit on a formula to help us remember how to communicate effectively. Nash, in his witty style, wrote:

If you want your marriage to sizzle
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up!

There’s some immensely helpful truth in that four-liner–truth that is supported by Scripture.

Let’s look at the two major points. First, if we are wrong we need to admit it. Not only marriage, but all relationships benefit from this kind of honesty (Pr 12:22). Protecting ourselves when we’re wrong makes resolution impossible.

On the other hand, we can be equally hard to live with if we insist that we’re always right–and afraid to let our spouse know that we are fallible. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, “[Love] does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” No one likes to be around someone who always seems to be patting himself on the back.

Two simple guidelines for a marriage that pleases God: Admit wrong and keep quiet about being right. It’s a good way to keep the relationship strong. –J D Brannon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Button up your lip securely
‘Gainst the words that bring a tear,
But be swift with words of comfort,
Words of praise, and words of cheer. -Loucks

Let your speech be better than silence; otherwise be silent.

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CONCRETE LOVE – The story is told of a child psychologist who spent many hours constructing a new driveway at his home. Just after he smoothed the surface of the freshly poured concrete, his small children chased a ball across the driveway, leaving deep footprints. The man yelled after them with a torrent of angry words. His shocked wife said, “You’re a psychologist who’s supposed to love children.” The fuming man shouted, “I love children in the abstract, not in the concrete!”

I chuckled at the alleged incident and groaned at the play on words, but the story rang true for me. While I agree in principle with the concept of self-giving love, I find myself failing to express it to the people I live and work with each day.

First Corinthians 13 describes Christian love in terms of its tangible expression: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1Corinthians 13:45).

As a theory, love isn’t worth much; as a practice, it is the world’s greatest treasure. When footprints are in the driveway, people discover whether our love exists in the abstract or in the concrete. –D C McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of Him whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude. –Whittier

Love is an active verb!

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A man selling individual books of the Bible was stopped and robbed one night as he passed through a forest in Sicily and was ordered to burn his wares. After lighting a fire, he asked if he might read aloud a brief portion from each before surrendering them to the flames. Given permission, he read from one the twenty-third Psalm, from another the Sermon on the Mount, from another the parable of the Good Samaritan, and from another Paul’s hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13. After each excerpt the outlaw exclaimed, “That’s a good book. We won’t burn that, give it to me.” So none were destroyed but all were taken by the thief. Some years later the robber appeared again, but now as an ordained minister. Reading the Bible had accomplished the miracle.

Courtesy of Precept Austin at https://www.preceptaustin.org/1corinthians_134#Love

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The Fourth Soil of the Heart: The Good, Tilled, and Fruitful Soil

Now let us return to the Parable of the Sower for a discussion of the final and most important soil of the heart. This fourth soil of the heart is what every Christian should strive for in their walk with God for this is the fertile ground that bears fruit for our Lord. In this soil the Word of God abundantly grows and flourishes and produces a bumper crop that blesses, nourishes and strengthens the heart. The critical question for the health of our heart is how do we cultivate this fourth soil in our heart?

The Three Soils Did Not Prevail

Here is the first important key of getting to this fertile soil. The other three soils were not allowed to dominate the heart. The soil of the heart was not so hard that the Word of God was taken from it and devoured by the Enemy. It was not so shallow that intense pressure and persecution caused the Word of God to shrivel away and die. The heart did not allow any of the five thorns to take root, spread and dominate its soil to the point where it choked and suffocated the Word of God. To get the fourth soil, we must vigilantly guard our heart against the dangers of the other three soils. Any of these soils ultimately causes the death of the Word of God in the heart and no production of fruit for the glory and honor of God.

It is easy for the soil of our heart to be contaminated and either remain or regress into one of these spiritually hazardous soils. But the soil of the heart can change. It is never doomed to stay in any of these soils for a lifetime. Even if your heart is the fertile ground of the fourth soil, there is no guarantee that it will not lapse into one of the other three soils.

We can never be careless with the soil of our heart for the soil determines whether the Word of God will produce fruit. Our heart is God’s field and we are farmers together with God. We must cultivate the soil of our heart with Him so that it continually produces a harvest to His glory.

In this parable Jesus gave some additional keys on how to keep the soil of our heart in this forth category where it never ceases to yield fruit.

And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15, REV)

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23, ESV)

And those sown on the good (well-adapted) soil are the ones who hear the Word and receive and accept and welcome it and bear fruit—some thirty times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some [even] a hundred times as much. (Mark 4:20, AMP)

Hear, Receive, Understand and Hold Fast

We must hear the Word of God, gladly receive it into our hearts, understand its message of truth, then hold fast to it in order to bring forth fruit reaping a harvest thirty, sixty, a hundred times of what has been sown. This is the pattern in Scripture.

We must first hear the Word of God. But we cannot hear it if we rarely read and study it. I am not talking about a simple devotional where one verse is read a day or the Bible is only opened on Sunday to follow the Pastor’s sermon. We must devote a significant amount of time to the reading, studying, meditating and confessing His Word if we want our heart to reap the harvest of the fourth soil.

Open the Book! Let it speak to our hearts! Hear what it is saying! Jesus Christ commanded us to “search the Scriptures” for in them are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God (John 5:39). The words in the Bible are spirit and life, and they contain the revelation of the heart of God. It is the most exciting and amazing book ever written for God breathed life into every word. Every time we read and study His Word, we should rejoice with great anticipation of what God will teach us.

For the heart to enter the fertile territory of the fourth soil, we cannot be disproportionately filling our heart with newspapers, novels, magazines and Internet articles and only reading the Scriptures a few minutes a week. We must be like the believers in Berea who according to Acts 17:11 received the Word of God with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily. As the prophet Isaiah declared, we must “seek out the book of the Lord and read it,” knowing that not one word of His promises shall never fail us (Isaiah 34:16).

According to 2 Timothy 2:15, we must study the Word of God with all diligence showing ourselves approved of God as we rightly divide the word of truth. To hear God, we must open the Book of Life daily and allow God to sow His words into the soil of our hearts. We must prepare the soil of our heart to seek the Word of the Lord and keep the ear of our heart tender and receptive to hear Him speaking through His mighty words.

Receiving the Word with Great Love, Joy and Excitement

We must also receive this word into our hearts to enter into this blessed fourth soil. The Greek word for “receive” means to accept deliberately, willingly, favorably and readily and to embrace with favor and delight. It is far more than an indifferent or apathetic reception, but is a loving reception with great delight and love. Picture a beautiful homecoming where a child or close family member is lovingly welcomed home with great celebration and joy. Our heart must roll out the welcome mat to the words of God sown in our heart. With abundant joy and gladness, we lovingly embrace the Word of God and take it close to our hearts. Like beloved children, we receive it with great respect, adoration and meekness. We allow it to become engrafted to our very being as we digest and assimilate it into our heart.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted in your hearts contains the power to save your souls. (James 1:21, AMP)

So do away with all impurities and remnants of evil. Humbly welcome the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. (NJB)

Welcome ye the word fitted for inward growth, which is able to save your souls. (EBR)

The Tilled Field

In order to properly welcome the Word of God into our hearts, where it can take root and grow without obstruction or hindrance, the soil of our heart must be prepared to receive the implanted Word of God. Charles Spurgeon said, “our heart by nature is a waste field and a waste field produces no harvest.”[1] The condition of the heart in this state cannot produce one single piece of fruit to the honor and glory of God, as it is overgrown with weeds, thorns, thistles, and wild grass. The heart is a barren field that produces no harvest and is desperately in need of a master farmer to till and prepare the soil for the seed. The heart must be made ready in order to become a beautiful vineyard for the Lord.

O Lord prepare the soil of my heart! Plant your vineyard in the center and make it fruitful and strong for you! God is the master farmer our heart so urgently needs. He cries out in Ezekiel 36:9: “For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown.” God’s great desire is to till the field of our heart and then sow the seeds of His Word. As a fellow-laborer with us, He wants to nurture the seed until it grows into a strong tree of righteousness.

We are God’s most beloved sons and daughters in Christ. He has turned to us in love and is ready to be the chief agriculturist of our heart. We are God’s tilled field according to 1 Corinthians 3:9. Only God Almighty can turn the wasteland of our heart into an amazing vineyard of luscious fruit and abundant harvest. For the heart to receive the Word of God and begin the wonderful journey of growing into the garden of God that never ceases to produce fruit, it must first be tilled. Charles Spurgeon in his sermon The Vision of the Field describes this wonderful process of God’s tillage on the human heart:

So, when God turns to any man in His mercy, there has to be an operation, a tillage, performed upon his heart! The farmer, unless he is a fool, would never think of sowing his corn upon a field that remains just as it was when it lay fallow. He plows it first … Now, what is the plow needed for? Why, it is needed, first of all, to break up the soil and make it crumble. It has gotten hard—perhaps it is a heavy clay and then it is all stuck together by the wet and all baked and caked together by the sun that shines on it … and the more thoroughly pulverized it becomes—the more hope there is that the seed will take good root. In such-like manner must human hearts be broken. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” The more thoroughly pulverized the heart becomes the better … Thus you must be tilled, then, that the heart may be broken, for the Seed of God will never get into an unbroken heart! And the plow is also needed to destroy the weeds, for they must be killed. We cannot have them growing. To spare the weeds would be to kill the wheat. The plow comes and cuts some weeds in two. Others it turns over and throws the heavy clods on and leaves them to lie there and be buried. It turns the roots of others up to the sun, and the sun, by the brightness of its shining, scorches them and they die. Some soils need cross-plowing—they need to be plowed this way and the other way, and then they need someone to go through the furrows, afterwards, and pull up the weeds, or else they will not be all rooted out of the soil.[2]

For the heart to be the fertile soil to receive the seed, it must be plowed first. Then God can sow the living seed of the Word of God into the tilled soil of our heart. This fertile soul is perfectly fitted for inward growth and a harvest of abundant proportions.

We are fellow-laborers with God in the husbandry of our heart. With the help of God and His mighty holy spirit that lives within us, we must clear the soil of our heart and get rid of any weeds, thistles and thorns (impurities, wickedness and remnants of evil) that have not been planted by our Heavenly Father. We must repent and turn from our sin, and allow God to purify the soil of our heart by His heavenly tillage.

Epidemic Crop Failure in the Hearts of Christians

Simply being a Christian, does not guarantee that the soil of your heart is in this fourth category. We have a responsibility before God to guard the soil of our heart and, as James says, “get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness.” We must put off from the soil of our heart all evil and corrupt ways of thought and behavior. We must not allow sin to exercise any power by standing firmly in Christ and his finished work on the cross.

This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3, NLT)

I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12, NLT)

The Word of God is too precious to waste. Yet there is an epidemic crop failure in the hearts of Christians today. The treasure of the seed of God’s Word is failing to produce fruit because the soil is hard and overgrown with massive thorns. The time of plowing is now! The plowing begins when we seek the Lord and turn from every sin that has corrupted our walk before God. The weeds of bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, greed, envy, jealously, strife, gossip, pride, anger and idolatry must be plowed over and uprooted. When the soil of our heart is broken up and the weeds and thorns are rooted up and removed, we can receive the Word of God in perfect humbleness. The tilled soil will allow the seed to take root, grow and produce fruit. The seed becomes the engrafted Word in us, and this living, powerful Word changes every part of us.

James says this implanted, engrafted Word will “save the soul” (James 1:21). The Greek word “save” has the basic meaning of rescuing one from great peril. This word also means to protect, to make whole, to preserve life, to deliver and to heal. It means to make a person whole and complete in every respect. This is what the Word of Truth is able to do: delivering believers from the destructive consequences of sin.

The Word of God is the greatest medicine on earth for the human heart. It has the power to deliver us from all physical, mental and spiritual bondage. The Word of God imparts the life of God into the soil of our hearts. We should receive it gladly! We should welcome it by plowing and tilling the field of our hearts so that nothing can hinder its growth. The Word of God should be the joy our hearts and we should rejoice in receiving it more than if we found the greatest treasure on earth or won the biggest lottery. We should receive the Word of Truth like a country that has a royal reception for its king, for the King of Kings is coming home to occupy his rightful throne. The Word of God prepares the heart for the presence of the King. The Word of God prepares the heart to praise, worship and serve the one true God. Oh, what a welcome reception we should have for the Word of Life, for it will transform the inner chambers of our heart to be a magnificent garden and vineyard of the King.

Understanding the Word of God

The Word of God must also be understood if we to abide in this fourth category of soil. All spiritual growth comes by the way of understanding the Word of God. Without understanding, the seed cannot grow and produce fruit.

So what is “understanding” and how do we obtain it? The Greek word translated “understanding” means the special faculty of intelligence or insight, which discriminates between the false and the true, and grasps the relations in which things stand to each other. Understanding is an acute spiritual discernment and comprehension of the heart of God concerning His words in Scripture. Understanding is the flowing together of concepts, ideas, images, words and truths where you comprehend their meanings, relationships and impact. It is reflective inspired thought where you grasp the meaning and purpose of God’s truth, and see how it all relates.

Picture many creeks, tributaries and streams that wind through the countryside and finally flow together into one mighty river. All of Scripture fits together perfectly, and the mighty river of understanding sees the whole amazing tapestry of the Word of life and all the building blocks of truth.

The Hebrew word adds critical insight into the meaning of “understanding.” The Hebrew word encompasses understanding, discernment, comprehension and righteous action. In the Hebrew to exhibit understanding is to act in accordance with God’s revelation. Understanding is not intellectual knowledge alone, but involves hearing, obeying and applying the truth to your life. From the Hebrew perspective you do not understand until you are obedient to what you received. Understanding is putting revealed truth into action in our lives.

Psalms 119:100 proclaims: “I understand more than the aged, because I keep Your precepts [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying them]. Psalm 111:10 says: “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” Spiritual understanding cannot be separated from obedience to God. This is exhibited in turning our hearts away from evil as Job 28:28 declares, “to turn away from evil is understanding.”

As we see with our spiritual eyes the precious gems of Scripture and the panoramic picture of the God-breathed Word, we cleave to it as a great treasure, and observe, follow, and act upon it. Psalm 119:34: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” If we simply feed our fleshly appetite and turn to our own way and seek our own selfish gain, we have no understanding, even if we are a self-proclaimed shepherd or pastor of God’s people (Isaiah 56:11).

There is a desperate need for a reformation and awakening of true spiritual understanding in the Church. A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous says that the lack of spiritual discernment and understanding is the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles and the reason Christianity is suffering such a rapid decline in our times. He says:

I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles … The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How can there be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today … Why? The only answer can be from a lack of spiritual vision. Something like a mist has settled over the Church as “the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7) … He cannot trust His work to blind men … We must have a new reformation.[3]

The Apostle Paul saw this great need in the early days of the Church and some of his dynamic prayers in the Church epistles deal with the urgent plea for spiritual understanding and enlightenment for the Christian believers.

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, Asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. (Ephesians 1:16-19a, NLT)

So you will understand that since we heard about you we have never missed you in our prayers. We are asking God that you may see things, as it were, from his point of view by being given spiritual insight and understanding. We also pray that your outward lives, which men see, may bring credit to your master’s name, and that you may bring joy to his heart by bearing genuine Christian fruit, and that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper. (Colossians 1:9-10, PHILLIPS)

Paul prayed day and night for the Christian believers that God would give them spiritual insight and understanding and that their hearts would be flooded with light so they would see as God sees and understand the incredible truths of the gospel. Then their outward lives would bear genuine Christian fruit bringing joy to their Lord. Paul knew that without spiritual understanding there is no spiritual growth and no fruit for the Christian. He admonished the Church to grow up and be mature in their spiritual understanding so that they would know God’s will and live in a fruitful way.

Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20, NKJV)

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17, KJV)

The words of Jesus Christ “are you still without understanding” sound out to the Church today and set forth one of the greatest crises that plague the Church and hinder spiritual growth. There is no excuse for a child of the living God to have little or no understanding of the Scriptures. Spiritual blindness is a disease of the heart that has been rampant in the Body of Christ for way too long. The veil must be lifted and we must see with our spiritual eyes and hear with our spiritual ears and seek understanding with all our hearts.

Without understanding, the Christian walk crumbles, opening the door for the religious doctrines of men and the philosophies of this age to take root and darken our spiritual understanding. This lack of spiritual understanding must come to an end if the Church is ever to advance the kingdom of God on the earth.

So how does the heart obtain spiritual understanding? Is it a product of our own human reasoning? Do we all have to go seminary and get degrees in theology? Can we go to a college campus and find the secret of spiritual understanding? Does it come from harnessing the powers of my mind? Absolutely not! The source of all true spiritual understanding is God and only from His heart comes the fountain of understanding. There is no limit to God’s understanding as the Scripture declares that no one can measure the depth of His understanding (Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 147:5). Who better comprehends His Word than God? The words of God come from the very breath of God, and only He can breathe understanding into our hearts.

But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. (Job 32:8, NIV)

For the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6, NIV)

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore. (1 Kings 4:28, ESV)

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything, (2 Timothy 2:7, ESV)

Spiritual understanding is a revelation from God Almighty of the breathtaking thoughts, nature, will and purposes of God in the heart of a person. It awakens the heart to see with the eyes of God. Spiritual understanding requires the birth of the gift of the holy spirit in a man, woman or child. Unless we are born again we cannot perceive the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Without the Spirit of God dwelling in a person, there is no comprehension of the things of God, for the Holy Spirit must reveal and teach them to us. Romans 3:11 says that mankind is under the weight and curse of sin, and there is no one who understands for they do not seek after God. Their understanding is covered with complete darkness and deprived of any spiritual light. They will remain in a perpetual state of spiritual blindness until they open their hearts to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Every heart in the world needs the mighty gift of the Spirit of God living and breathing in them and enlightening them. Jesus Christ said the Father would give us the Spirit of truth and it will dwell within us, teaching and guiding us into all truth (John 16:13).

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2, ESV)

These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, For, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:10-16, NIV)

Only the Spirit of God knows the thoughts and deep things of God. The Spirit of God searches out all the wonders of God and teaches us the beauty and depth of the words that are in the Bible. All revelation of the heart of God comes from the Spirit of God, which we have received as a free gift from God at the time of our new birth in Christ so that we can understand the magnificent things that God has given us. The Spirit of God enables us to understand what God is thinking, what He is feeling and what He desires. Once we are born of the Spirit, we have infused into our heart the very mind of Christ, where we have the ability to think, see and understand like He does. We can spiritually discern what is really going on and make spiritual judgments based upon Christ’s understanding.

One of the most exciting adventures of the Christian life is growing in spiritual understanding and exercising the mind of Christ in all we think, say and do. How breathtaking and awe-inspiring is it to awaken our heart to the spiritual reality that we have the mind of Christ and the Spirit of understanding, wisdom and knowledge dwells in us as a vital part of our new life in Christ. The Spirit of God prepares the soil of our heart to bring forth an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit to the glory of our God.

Holding Fast to the Word in an Honest and Good Heart

The next requirement of this fourth soil of the heart is that we keep and hold fast the Word of God in an honest and good heart. The Greek word for “keep” means to hold firmly to avoid relinquishing something, to take possession and to not let go, and to seize something and embrace it tightly. It is the tenacious clutch of the heart on the words of God. The same word was used in Luke 4:42, when Jesus went to a secluded place and the crowd was searching for him. When they found Him, they held unto Him and tried to keep Him from leaving. The word is also a nautical term in the book of Acts describing a ship that steers toward the right destination and is holding fast to its course.

Our thoughts, imaginations, and hearts are always holding to something throughout the day. The tragedy of many a Christian’s life is that they hold onto fears, worries, anxieties and other evil things more than they hold unto the precious words of life from their Lord. The ship of their hearts is off-course because our heart has embraced the wrong image or things instead of the words which God magnified above all His name. We should hold tightly to the Word of God in the same manner as we will hold fast to Jesus the first time we meet face to face in the heavens. As Simon Peter said in the Gospel of John, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Proverbs 4:13 exhorts us to take hold of God’s Word of instruction and to not let go, but firmly embrace them as the prized possession of the heart. The Apostle Paul urged Timothy to hold fast and retain the standard of sound words, which Paul had taught in faith and love (2 Timothy 1:13).

For the words of life to have a transforming impact, we must hold unto them and not let them drift away. Often we are blessed with a tremendous study of Scripture, but within a few hours we have forgotten everything we have studied. We have not held unto the words of God as our minds are bombarded with daily distractions of living, causing them to fade away. There is no spiritual growth if we do not hold fast to the words of God. We must exercise discipline of mind to think, mediate and hold firmly to God’s promises for our enemy is trying to rip those words from our hearts. We must set our eyes to the heavens for eternity is not as far away as it seems. The day of Christ is approaching. As we hold fast to His marvelous life-sustaining words, God will write them on the tables of our hearts. His words become etched in the very fiber of our beings. Spurgeon said in his sermon Holding Fast our Profession: “That exhortation ‘Let us hold fast’ might well be written on the cover of every Christian’s Bible.”[4]

Jesus said in order for the seed of God to bear abundant fruit, it must be held fast in a good and honest heart. This kind of heart soil is fundamentally different from the other three soils described in the Parable. The soil of the good and honest heart is fertile and rich, presenting the perfect condition for the Word of God to grow and produce fruit. This is a heart made good and honest by the labor of the heavenly husbandman who tills and cultivates it to receive the seed. God has prepared the heart that trust in Him, softening and enriching its soil with His grace and love. The soil of this heart has been purified by God through faith, cleansed from all idols, and infused with the Spirit of God. It is ready to be the habitation of God.

The Greek words for “good” and “honest” are agathos and kalos which give us a deeper understanding of the type of heart Jesus required in order to produce fruit, Agathos means intrinsically good, inherently good in character, moral and spiritual excellence, and goodness that is beneficial, useful, and benefits others. Bullinger, in A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, defines agathos as “an inner harmonious perfection, which is its own standard and measure and belongs to God.”[5] Agathos is uprightness in heart and life according to God’s right standard. John MacArthur in Galatians says: “Agathos is the internal goodness produced by the Spirit in the hearts of obedient believers, which then finds expression in external goodness spoken by the mouth and performed by his hands.”[6]

Kalos means a perfect inward nature manifesting itself in an outward shape that is exquisite, beautiful, and genuine. Kalos is the visible and outward manifestation of goodness that produces something beautiful and magnificent. A.T. Robinson, in Word Pictures in the New Testament, says that kalos “calls attention to the beauty in character and service.”[7]

Wuest, in Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, further explains the difference between these two words:

Agathos which speaks of intrinsic goodness and kalos speaks of goodness as it is seen from without. The word kalos has also the idea of “beautiful.” It was used by the Greeks of anything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, as to be pleasing. Hence, it can refer to anything which is handsome, useful, excellent, suitable, commendable, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore, well adapted to its ends … Kalos is a goodness seen on the outside as it strikes the eye, a beautiful pleasing goodness. It was work that … possessed true moral beauty … Agathos always includes a corresponding beneficent relationship of the subject of it to another subject … Kalos speaks of goodness as seen from the outside by a spectator.[8]

The Agathos Heart

The Word of God must be kept in a heart that has moral character and spiritual excellence according to God’s righteous standard. It is a heart where God lives and His character abounds in words and actions. It is an upright, undivided and focused heart that obeys God without reservation. It is a heart that has been purified by the fire of God and circumcised from sin by the Master’s hand. The inner sanctuary of this heart has been made ready to reflect the glory of God.

It is not a perfect heart, but one in which God is moving, sculpting and molding into His image. This heart closely resembles the heart of God in love, kindness, tenderness and compassion. It is constantly reaching out with the heart of God to touch the lives of others. The soil of our hearts is most fertile when it is living love by helping, caring for, rescuing and comforting others. This heart gladly lays everything on the line as a living sacrifice for others. This heart is a wonderful image of the goodness of God, having no selfishness, pride or self-exaltation, but is broken for others. It longs to be a spiritual rescuer in the darkness of this world, becoming the hands, feet and mouthpiece of God to our generation.

The following verses paint a wonderful picture of the agathos heart of the Christian.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:5, 36, 40, RSV)

For I assisted the poor in their need and the orphans who required help. I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows’ hearts to sing for joy. Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban. I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame. I was a father to the poor and assisted strangers who needed help. I broke the jaws of godless oppressors and plucked their victims from their teeth. (Job 29:12-17, NLT)

If our hearts are hard toward others and not compassionate to their needs, then the soil of our heart is not conducive for the Word of God to take root and grow. Without a heart dedicated to service to God and others, we cannot produce fruit for God. The essence of the gospel is being redeemed and reconciled to God so we can go to a dying world and allow God to bring restoration, salvation, deliverance and liberty through our lives. We become the instruments of God to bring his glory and love to a world in desperate need. This is the agathos heart.

The Kalos Heart

Secondly, the Word of God must be kept in a heart that is a beautiful representation of Jesus Christ so people can see our good deeds and glorify our Heavenly Father. This is a heart that is the light of the world, a city upon a hill that shines brightly in the midst of this crooked and perverse world. This heart is a visible manifestation of the majesty, beauty, glory and goodness of God.

Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration, Volume 3, says: “Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to live as pure men and women so that the entire world will marvel at the acts of God through us.”[9] This is a heart that is a picture frame and the character of God is the beautiful photograph. This is a heart that reflects the masterpiece of God’s love and grace in word and action. The light and glory of God are brilliantly seen drawing people to Jesus Christ. This is a heart that is free from hypocrisy and deceit and wears no mask to hide its true condition. This is a heart where you see the face of Jesus Christ.

Eric Ludy said in When God Writes Your Love Story: “We are here on earth to know God intimately, fully, correctly and contagiously; to house His holy person in our bodies, allowing him to showcase to the world around us His loving nature, His attitude, His thoughts, His emotions, and His actions through the way we live every moment of our lives.”[10] Oh how the Word of God thrives and grows in this kalos heart.

Psalm 1 illustrates the agathos and kalos heart where the Word of God is kept as a treasure day and night. This heart never ceases to bear fruit and never withers or fades for our Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)

Bringing Forth Fruit with Patience

The last requirement of the fourth soil of the heart is that it brings forth fruit with patience. The Greek word for “patience” means steadfastness, perseverance, and to remain or abide under. It portrays a picture of steadfastly and unflinchingly bearing up under a heavy load, and describes that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb to trial. It is the characteristic of a person not swerved from the holy purpose and calling of God on his life, and he remains loyal to his faith even in the face of the greatest trials and sufferings. The spiritual endurance of the new life of Christ is unshakable, immovable, and unbreakable. It stands firmly with unswerving strength, never growing weak in resolve, enduring to the very end.

Patience is spiritual staying power that endures with vibrant hope, for its eyes are focused on the glories of eternity. It is rock-like perseverance that contends triumphantly with the tribulations, persecutions and pressures of this world and the inward desires and passions of the flesh. It does not flinch. It does not cave in. It does not give up. It is not discouraged. It does not lose heart. It does not throw in the towel. It does not burn out. It never breaks under pressure. It never surrenders to the enemy. It stands firmly on the rock of Christ and is not moved. The cry of patience is “I shall not be moved!” We cannot bear fruit for God and do His will without this patient endurance.

We live in a society that lives and breathes impatience. This worldly attitude has seeped into the church and contaminated many a Christian’s hearts. We have forgotten the beauty of waiting on the Lord. We have become the microwave generation where we want everything instantly and demand our needs and wants be met now. This age has bred human hearts that cannot stand trials, pressures or conflict of any kind. They go into meltdown mode at the slightest resistance to their agenda. The hearts molded by this age break into pieces and are crushed by the weight of any burden. When tested by fire they crumble into ashes. Oh how the heart needs a spiritual infusion of godly patience to fortify the heart with the steel of God Almighty so it can endure the storms of life with the rock-like steadfastness of Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5 states, our God is the God who is the source of all patient endurance. Only through Him will patience ever blossom in our hearts. Our generation has become weak and intoxicated with impatience, and this has caused an epidemic of people wearied with life, discouraged in the midst of adversity, and losing heart.

God’s great exhortation to His children is “Don’t lose heart; don’t faint; don’t be moved; don’t be discouraged; don’t be troubled; don’t be weary; hang in there; I will strengthen you; wait on me, I am here, I am with you; I am in you; be patient; I am the faithful one who will never forsake or desert you!”

As Andrew Murray said in Waiting on God:

Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, and by waiting patiently for Him. This patient honors Him greatly; it leaves Him as God, on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands … Patience then becomes our highest blessedness and our highest grace. It honors God, and gives Him time to have His way with us. It is the highest expression of our faith in His goodness and faithfulness. It brings the soul perfect rest in the assurance that God is carrying on His work.[11]

Patience is proof that we believe God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. He is faithful to His promise of a coming harvest of spiritual fruit if we obey and trust Him without wavering. We cannot allow tribulation, persecution and pressure to cause us to faint and lose our hearts in the day of adversity for the appointed season of reaping is coming. At the heart of patience is this rock-like confidence of waiting on God.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. (Galatians 6:9, AMP)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV)

In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19, KJV)

There is a great harvest of blessed fruit awaiting those who do not lose heart and faint, but in patience possess their souls and wait upon their Lord with great joy. We shall reap the fruitful harvest if we steadfastly abide in Him and cleave to Him, never letting go of our patience. We cannot lose courage and become cowardly in the midst of tribulations, pressures and trials for we have the Lion of Judah on the throne of our hearts.

The Patience of the Farmer

Look at the patience of the farmer! He does not plant his seed and then rushes to his window the next day expecting to see a full harvest. The growth of the seed takes time. He knows the harvest is coming. The farmer is not impatient with the growth process. We must trust the God of the Harvest that His wonderful fruit is coming in His season not ours. All spiritual fruit originates from God, and is part of a day-by-day growing process that is completely in His hands. God’s desire is that we bear much fruit, and this is His faithful promise. But we cannot fast-forward the process or speed-up the timetable.

But be patient, my brothers, as you wait for the Lord to come. Look at the farmer quietly awaiting his precious harvest. See how he has to possess his soul in patience till the land has had the early and late rains. So must you be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty. The Lord’s coming is very near. (James 5:7-8, PHILLIPS)

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised. For a little while (a very little while), and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. (Hebrews 10:35-37, AMP)

At the root of patience is the wonderful assurance that the Lord is coming. This hope gives us strength to endure as we await the precious harvest. We look to the heavens and see the wonders of eternity. Our heart soars in hope of the coming glorious day of the Lord when He sets up His eternal kingdom and we live and reign with Him forever in a perfect heavens and earth. Our heart needs steadfast patience and endurance to finish the race God has called us to and fully accomplish the will of God in our lives. Then we will receive and enjoy the rich harvest of spiritual fruit that the soil of our heart is producing. Without this patient endurance our heart’s soil will fall into the second or third category of soil in the parable of the sower and the seed. It will either be scorched and wither away by the heat or be choked and suffocated by the thorns.

The Patience of Jesus Christ

No one exercised more patience when he lived upon the earth than Jesus Christ. He is the rock of patience and was immovable and unshakable when it came to doing the will of God. Timothy 1:16 says Jesus has unlimited patience. If we are to follow in his footsteps and have a heart like his, we must walk in patient endurance in all of life’s trying circumstances.

Jesus Christ even approached the agony of the cross with patient joy, for He saw the great prize of our redemption. He is the source of this supernatural patience that needs to flow through our heart.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, who have borne testimony to the Truth, let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy of obtaining the prize that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. (Hebrews 12:1-3, AMP)

Only when we look to Jesus can we run the appointed race with patient, steadfast endurance and not grow weary, faint, or lose heart. We must strip off everything that hinders, enslaves and entangles the heart and let patience do its perfect work. Patience allows God to perform His transforming work in our hearts and finish his purpose for our lives. Without patience we become incomplete in fulfilling our calling to manifest the glory of God in all that we say or do. Without patience we never become the outward masterpiece that represents and reflects the amazing grace of God given us in the new birth and the treasure of the living Christ within us. We are like the unfinished house that the Master’s hand was preventing from completing because we had no steadfast patient endurance, and we failed to wait upon the Lord. When we are impatient we are telling the Heavenly Sculptor to stop His precious work. Our lives become the piece of marble that never captured the vision in the heart of the sculptor. We need patience so God can mold our hearts into His image. How many lives have been wasted by a lack of patience!

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

The Extraordinary Harvest

When all of the requirements of the fourth soil are met, Jesus makes an astounding promise that we shall reap a harvest thirty, sixty to hundred times what was sown. This is a yield of three thousand, six thousand and ten thousand percent. This phenomenal harvest of fruit is reaped where the seed was sown and that is in the human heart.

Have we been seeing this type of harvest in modern day Christianity? Is this the return that we are having in the church? Do you see this overflowing crop of spiritual fruit in your own heart? What would be the impact of Christianity in the world if we saw a harvest that was thirty, sixty, to a hundred times greater than what was sown? The church would shake the very gates of hell and wreak havoc on Satan’s kingdom to a degree that has not been seen in our generation.

No wonder the Devil marshals his entire kingdom to attempt to hinder and prevent the growth of the Word of God in the human heart. This is his strategy. He always tries to steal, kill, and destroy the Word of God in the heart. This is the bottom line of every scheme of the enemy. This has been the Enemy’s modus operandi since the Garden of Eden with his deceptive remark to Eve “Did God really say?” The Word of God must be stopped at all costs from living in the heart for this type of harvest is too dangerous for his kingdom.

Can you imagine a human heart that blossoms with the spiritual fruit of love one hundred times more than the seed that is sown? The world would be turned upside down! A spiritual revolution changing lives of countless souls and igniting a move of God like the world has never seen would flow from this abundant harvest of love. This is the type of growth the Word of God promises. Do we dare to believe it?

Think about this type of harvest with the spiritual fruit of kindness. How different would our churches be if we had a harvest of kindness with a ten thousand per cent yield? The ramifications of even one heart with this abundant crop of kindness would rock Satan’s kingdom to the core. Lives would be touched, causing a radical turning to Jesus Christ. Loving deeds of service would alter lives. The true heart of God would be manifested upon the earth. Are we ready for this type of harvest in our hearts?

How about a radical harvest of immense proportions with the spiritual fruit of self-control? This spiritual fruit of self-control is the ability to take a grip of oneself and have power over one’s passions, appetites, and desires. It is restrain and control over the sin nature. It is a supernatural inner power to control the cravings of the old nature inherited from Adam. Self-control is to get a grip of our thoughts, words, and actions so they reflect Christ in us. It holds off the sudden impulses of the flesh, resisting the urge of the flesh to do the works of the sin nature. We hold off anger and pride; we hold off sarcasm and strife; we hold off envy and bitterness. With God’s help, we take power over all actions that do not bring glory to God.

Would Christians be addicted to pornography if they had this overflowing harvest of self-control? Would sin be wreaking havoc on so many Christian lives and destroying their testimony if their hearts were producing a hundredfold return of the spiritual fruit of self-control? Would so much corrupt communication come forth from our mouths hurting others if our hearts demonstrated a radical transformation of self-control? Would our emotions be running wild, setting in motion the kingdom of hell, if we reaped self-control in such abundance that God was in perfect control of our hearts. We would live what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection by crushing the power of sin, and not allowing it to exercise one ounce of power in our hearts. The devil’s plans would be harmed beyond repair.

We have not even examined the other spiritual fruit of joy, peace, faith, longsuffering, meekness, and goodness. Can you imagine a yield of ten thousand percent with any of these amazing fruits! Oh how that heart would brilliantly reflect Jesus and shine like the brightness of the sun in the cold night of this world. A Christian’s life should not have just one of these fruits, but all nine in such abundant proportions that the distinctive character of Jesus Christ comes bursting forth from the heart. This is the growth that Jesus promises when the soil of our heart is in this forth category.

So Few Have Reached the Fourth Soil

Sadly, very few Christians have ever reached this forth soil. The condition of their hearts languishes in one or a combination of the first three categories and they have never experienced the breathtaking glory, majesty and power of a heart that is producing a thirty, sixty and hundredfold bumper harvest of spiritual fruit. I think it is time for a spiritual awakening of our hearts so the soil is fertile, waiting for the Master husbandman to produce His astounding harvest in our hearts. The world with all its philosophies, mantras, formulas, and education can never manufacture, replicate or create the fruit of the spirit in the human heart. Only God can, and only when we meet the conditions set forth in His Word, and obey Him without reservation.

Our heart is like the farmer’s field and will either produce the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the spirit. The soil of our heart is the key to which fruit is being harvested as the condition of our heart is always directly tied to what type of soil dominates it. Tell me the soil of your heart and I can tell you the condition of your heart.

This is why the Parable of the Sower is one of the greatest of all parables for in it lays the key to the condition of our hearts. It perfectly illustrates the four basic conditions of the heart of every person that ever lived. You must now choose where your heart will abide. What is the soil of your heart? What is the soil producing? Everything in our Christian life is directly tied to the condition of the soil.

It’s time you get alone with God and allow Him to reveal to you the true condition of your heart and the content of its soil. God will show us the results of His soil testing and the way to this forth soil so that our hearts can be a beautiful representation of our Heavenly Father. We earnestly desire for our hearts to be like His, so that out of it flows the very life of God in all its amazing colors. I pray that in our homes, families, churches and communities, the forth soil of the heart becomes the prevalent soil in Christianity again. What a glorious day that will be for the kingdom of God!

 

[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Vision of the Field, A Sermon published August 16th, 1906, delivered at the Metropolitian Tabernacle, Newington, 1864.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 2006), Kindle, 1132.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Holding Fast our Profession, Sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 1886.

[5] E.W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 336.

[6] Ibid.

[7] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 137.

[8] Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1961).

[9] Skip Moen, Spiritual Restoration: Reclaiming the Foundations of God’s Word, Volume 3 (Maitland: Xulon Press, 2008).

[10] Eric and Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Love Story (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2009).

[11] Andrew Murray, Waiting on God (Radford: Wilder Publications, LLC, 2008), 73.

Excerpt from Tim Rowe’s book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”

 

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