And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, 'They are my people';
and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'" (Zechariah 13:9. ESV.)
Do you ever find yourself wishing for a companion on your walk with the Lord? (It sounds a little silly when I put it that way.) But like in the book THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS by John Bunyan, Christian had other pilgrims along the way with whom to fellowship...travelers on the same path facing identical challenges. They were able to compare notes, work as a team, encourage one another, etc. That is what I catch myself desiring. Further, I get so excited and hopeful when I believe I have come across a fellow traveler on the route my King has assigned to me...only to realize that is not the case.
I have had to consistently preach Psalm 118:8 to myself over the course of the past, I don't know, four (plus) years I guess.
"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man,"has become my regular encouragement I suppose you could say.
God has been very faithful to provide provisions, protection, and sisters in Christ on various levels. For example, when I was seeking an AWANA program the Lord introduced me to a group of homeschooling ladies who told me about the AWANA program their children attend. It was a blessing on two planes: 1. Homeschool and 2. AWANA for which I am truly thankful. When I was struggling with prayer and being disciplined the Lord sent my aunt to teach me what she has learned about prayer. In the area of hospitality my King gave me yet another sister in Christ while my children and I had to travel. Not to mention, numerous family members and dear friends who form a support system in the arena of the day to day (i.e. food, clothing, shelter, work, commuting, child care, etc.) Because of all these people I am richly blessed and incredibly grateful!
Please do not misunderstand my sin here. It is not of unthankfulness....I am indescribably appreciative (to the point of my flesh barely being able to contain it). My sin rather is that of discontentment.
When Christian (in THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS) entered the city of Vanity Fair he was in the company of a companion named Faithful. Christian and Faithful were inflicted with the same adversity and had each other...someone who knew the struggles and feelings associated with them. A friend who listened and gave compassionate advice. In a word: Empathy.
...in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15. ESV.)
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15. ESV/)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:14-18.)
I was reading (in my opinion) an excellent sermon by John Piper which touched on empathy. In part he said,
"Let me say this even more radically and more universally. Without faith in Christ, there is not humility among men, but only pride. For this reason: If I cease be self-preoccupied and self-infatuated and self-exalting and become other-person-occupied and other-person-infatuated and other-person-exalting but don’t bring Christ into the picture, I am still locked in the prison of pride. Why? Because I am looking to other humans, beings like myself, for my joy, and not looking to Christ, my Maker and my God, and the one through whom and for whom all things exist (Colossians 1:16). There is only one word for humans who attempt to act humbly with no dependence upon their Creator and Redeemer and no desire that he get the glory. And that word is pride, no matter how other-oriented they appear....
"Rather Paul says, 'Be carried away with the simple, the lowly, the ordinary, the tedious things, and with those who do them.' Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself and was carried away with the lowly and the simple role of a servant even to the point of death (cf. Philippians 2:5-8). To be a Christian is to become lowly in dependence on Christ, and in imitation of Christ....
"This transformation—this wonderful, freeing, Christ-dependent and Christ-exalting humility in verse 16—leads us to think not mainly about ourselves but about what is beautiful and honorable. And that brings us to verse 17. (I will come back in the coming weeks to the part of verse 16 that we passed over.)
"But notice the second part of verse 17. After saying, 'Repay no one evil for evil,' he says, 'But give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.' This is what the Christian does who is freed from self-preoccupation. He gives thought to honorable things. The word means morally beautiful, and therefore honorable. The Christian mind breaks free from the lowlands and smog and disease-ridden mists of self, and rises—sometimes even soars—into the bright, clear sky of beautiful things, and honorable things. 'Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things' (Philippians 4:8). That’s what the humble, free, Christ-dependent mind does....
"In other words, the Lord is first. What he thinks matters most. But we hope and plan and pray that, as Jesus says, “men will see out beautiful works [same word as honorable here in Romans 5:17], and give glory to our father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The humble mind doesn’t delight to offend. It delights to win over. And so it gives thought to how both God and man might see something as beautiful and honorable....
"And now you can see that we have arrived at the sober, cautious, measured, realistic word in verse 18 about making peace. 'If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.' Christ-dependent, Christ-exalting humility does its best. It thinks about what is honorable in the sight of all. It rejoices with those who rejoice. It weeps with those who weep. It doesn’t repay evil for evil. It blesses those who persecute. It loves peace. But in the end, we can’t guarantee that there will be peace. 'If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.' It may not be possible." By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
To be continued....