Lisa Barry: Have you ever been lying in bed in the morning when you've got a serious case of the 'I shoulds'? You know what I mean; when you open your eyes and say to yourself, I should get up and have quiet time, but then you succumb to your unwilling eyelids that droop closed again. A few minutes later your eyes open and you say to yourself, I should get up and do some exercising, but the words drift off into your subconscious and the eyelids close again.
Would you call that a struggle? Maybe, but what would you say if someone were to label that "delayed disobedience." Today on Gateway To Joy Elisabeth Elliot has some important thoughts to convey on this issue. Let's get started.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you again today about being kept by the power of God.
On Monday I gave you 1 Peter 1:5, on Tuesday Hebrews 13:5, Wednesday 2 Timothy 1:12 and now Thursday it's Jude 24. This is what that passage says:
"Now to Him who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present you blameless and faultless before the presence of His glory with unspeakable, ecstatic delight in triumphant joy and exultation, to the one and only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and dominion, power and authority, both now and forever. Amen."
Think of those three words, able to keep. Our loving Lord Jesus, our Heavenly Father is completely, thoroughly, fully able to keep you and me without stumbling or slipping or falling. But when we stumble and slip and fall, He's there to help us up. Well, today's passage in the New Testament is a very powerful promise not to be broken. It's the Lord Himself who makes this promise. Let me read it to you:
"Now to Him who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present you blameless and faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding or unspeakable, ecstatic delight in triumphant joy and exultation, to the one and only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and dominion, power and authority, both now and forever."
So many of my listeners' letters describe their struggles and, of course, we all struggle. What is struggling? Well, I looked it up in the dictionary. "A violent effort or exertion," "an act of earnest struggle, as with disease." It also means, "to put forth great efforts to struggle with adversity."
I think a good deal of our struggling is really just delayed obedience. Now I'm not saying all of it is. Be careful about that. But I hear so many stories from women who tell me that they are struggling with things that I don't think they ought to be struggling with, they ought to be finished with it. They should take it to the foot of the cross. We need to examine ourselves. Is what we call struggling merely delayed obedience?
It might be, in your case. God has been calling you to do something or to change something or to help somebody, and you have been struggling rather than just getting up and doing what God has told you to do. I don't know what that might be. Of course I don't, but God knows. Perhaps there is more than one person listening to me today who needs to stop struggling and do whatever it is that God has been telling you that you must do.
In Lincoln's Gettysburg Address he said, "The brave men who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract." That describes a magnificent effort, a struggle literally to the death. But this common complaint seems most of the time to be nothing more than a refusal to let go.
I have here a letter from somebody who wrote, "Through the caregiver job that I have for my mother-in-law, she is a very difficult person and submission is not in her vocabulary much less behavior. She also is demented. I am struggling with resentment from the way she treats me. She is harsh, bitter and argumentative. How can I make this work?"
My suggestion to this dear lady, who certainly does have a difficult situation--how about just looking at Isaiah 53. Talking about our struggles, just think of this, Isaiah 53. I'll start with verse 10, "It was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer." Speaking, of course, of God the Father allowing His Son to be crushed.
"And though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities."
How wonderful to think that God Himself, through His Son Jesus, is willing and able to bear my iniquities. Countless iniquities in my long life, He bears them. "Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death."
Can we ponder that for a moment? "He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors," crucified between two thieves as though He Himself were merely another wicked thief. "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." The Lord Jesus did that for you and me.
In Fenelon's little book called Let Go, he tells us how to bear suffering peacefully. "Concerning our friend, I pray that God will give him a simplicity of trust that will bring him peace. And when we are careful to instantly let go of all needless worries and restless thoughts--that is self-centered thoughts, rather than loving, outgoing ones--then we shall find ourselves on plateaus of peace even in the midst of the straight and narrow. We shall find ourselves walking in the freedom and innocent peace of the children of God, not lacking wholesome relationships either toward God or man.
"I willingly apply to myself the same advice," Fenelon says, "the same advice I give to others. For I am convinced that I must seek my own peace in the same direction. Even now my soul is suffering, but I am aware that it is the life of self which causes us pain. That which is dead does not suffer. If we were really dead, and our life hid with Christ in God, (as in Colossians 3:3), we would no longer struggle with those pains in spirit that now afflict us.
"So we must learn to bear all sufferings with composure, even those that come upon us through no fault of our own. But we must be aware of that restless spirit which might be our own fault. We can add to our God-given cross by agitated resistance and an unwillingness to suffer. This is simply an evidence of the remaining life of self."
Those few paragraphs made me think of a little child who has to be punished. He has to be punished if his mother or his father recognizes that this child needs a spanking. Of course, the Bible is quite clear that spankings are quite necessary for children.
"We can add to our God-given cross by agitated resistance and an unwillingness to suffer." Every parent knows what agitated resistance on the part of their little child is; I certainly remember that my mother kept a little switch about 18" long over the door in every room in the house. It didn't very often get used because all mother needed to do would be to lift her eyes to the top of the door and usually we would be galvanized into action.
This is simply an evidence of the remaining life of self and an unwillingness to suffer. A cross that comes from God ought to be welcomed without any concern for the self. When you accept your cross this way, even when it is painful, you will find that you can bear it in peace. But when you receive your cross unwillingly, you will find it to be doubly severe. The resistance within is harder to bear than the cross itself.
If you recognize the hand of God and make no opposition to His will, you will have peace in the midst of affliction. Happy indeed are they who can bear their sufferings with this simple peace and perfect submission to the will of God. Nothing so shortens and soothes suffering as this spirit of non-resistance.
May God give us grace to accept that, and God bless you.
Lisa Barry: Isn't it refreshing to hear such common sense and spiritually sound advice? Each day I walk away from this program with a boldness, to follow Christ, and I can't say that about too many programs. In fact, let's hear what this listener from Washington had to say about Gateway To Joy. She says, "As a nineteen-year-old young lady in a single-parent home it's often difficult to wade through the myriad of philosophy and advice that is thrown at me from an amazing variety of sources. Thank you for being a haven of wisdom in a world full of folly."
I know many of you echo that same kind of sentiment. That's why I want to encourage you to step forward and say what Gateway To Joy means to you. We depend on people like you to meet the obligations of radio time and materials. It's a labor of love, but we can't do it without your help. If God is nudging you today, or if you found particular benefit from the program today, would you make our joy complete by calling to say that you would like to support Gateway To Joy financially? We would be delighted and humbled.
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Elisabeth talks more about God's provision for His own, next time on Gateway To Joy.