Overcoming Disadvantages

It would be easy to look at what others have, and then to focus on what we don’t have, and to get down on ourselves. We might be tempted to think that something isn’t worth the effort because of how it might be more difficult for us that it is for someone else. 

In the updated version of the book Cradles of Eminence, a common trait of over 700 famous men and women who had a significant impact in their fields of work is that they had to overcome some type of disadvantage.

Look for the bright side of your situation. A professional woman who had a very stressful job had a plaque hanging on her wall which read:  “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. . . . Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus. . . .” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 14a).

“Never to Die Again”

Several accounts may be found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible of those who were brought back from death, such as: 

  • The widow of Zarapheth’s son (1 Kings 17:22; cf. Heb. 11:35a);
  • The son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:35);
  • Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 9:25);
  • Lazarus (John 11:1-54);
  • The reappearing saints (Matt. 27:50-53);
  • Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43); and
  • Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12). 

All of these would later again experience physical death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was unique: He rose from the grave never to die again:

“And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: I will give you the sure mercies of David.'” – Acts 13:34 (NKJV).

“Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:23-25

After Jesus rose again, He ascended to heaven to be seated at God’s right hand (Mark 16:19).

Jesus is our living Savior!

God’s Retirement Plan

A little plaque displayed in a Christian family’s living room read: “Working for the Lord doesn’t pay much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”  There’s a lot of truth in that observation.  But how does it pay to serve the Lord? Does God reward us materially so that we will serve Him?

The devil challenged God in the book of Job, when he insinuated the main reason people serve God is because He arranges things so His followers have an easier way of life and never experience pain.  Isn’t it odd how the devil uses the absence of evil to speak against God?  In Job 1, the devil’s position was the absence of evil proves how desperate God is for followers, to the point He “pays” them by making life really easy. Today, this is turned around: they say the presence of evil in the world proves the non-existence of God.

God hasn’t promised to make the circumstances of life easier for anyone. Those who live for Christ will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12). The Bible teaches we should welcome adversity, when it arrives, as an opportunity to grow spiritually (see James 1:2). However, God provides benefits in the form of spiritual blessings as we make sacrifices for Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Paul encouraged the Hebrews to live faithfully for Christ, in the same manner they had when it wasn’t financially profitable for them to do so: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:32-34).

The passage says they had compassion on those who had been imprisoned for their faith “and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (v. 34).  “This may refer (1) to the losses which the Hebrews sustained in consequence of their becoming Christians; just as it sometimes now happens even in our own day. ‘When a Jew,’ says Ebrard, ‘shows himself determined to become a Christian, he is disinherited by his relatives; his share of the property is withheld from him; his credit and every source of gain, withdrawn; and he falls into a state of complete destitution.’ This same kind of injustice was extensively practiced in primitive times by both Jews and Gentiles. But (2) it is probable that the Apostle refers here more particularly to the heavy losses of property which the Hebrew Christians had incurred in times of persecution.” (Gospel Advocate Comm.).

We can learn about enduring financial losses and making financial sacrifices, by the way they perceived their setbacks as spiritual investments.  What we use – or lose – in service to God bring a greater return in three ways:

(1) It appraises higher. Heaven is far more valuable (see Matt. 16:26). Unfortunately, “some know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

(2) It last longer. God’s spiritual rewards are “enduring.”  Jesus said no investments in heaven can be lost or destroyed (see Matt. 6:19-21).  “He is not foolish who will give up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.”

(3) It touches deeper. The Lord knows the meaning of real sacrifice, like the woman who anointed him with expensive oil (see Matt. 26:6-13). 

Crying Out to God: Why We Can Believe in Prayer

Prayer requires opening our spirits and minds to God, and speaking to Him genuinely and sincerely. Numerous descriptions can be found in Scripture of the disposition and direction of our prayers:

  • Bowing the knees before the Father (Eph. 3:14)
  • Looking up to God (Psalm 5:3)
  • Lifting up our soul to the Lord (Psalm 25:1)
  • Pouring out our heart to God (Psalm 62:8)
  • Pouring out our soul to the Lord (I Sam. 1:15)
  • Calling upon the Lord (Gen. 12:8)
  • Crying out to God (Psalm 27:7; 34:6)
  • Drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28)
  • Crying to heaven (II Chron. 32:20)
  • Beseeching the Lord (Exodus 32:11)
  • Seeking God (Job 8:5)
  • Seeking the face of the Lord (Psalm 27:8)
  • Making supplication to the Father (Job 8:5; Jer. 36:7).

In order for us to experience the blessings God has in store for us through these types of petitions, we should pray to Him earnestly. James explained: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Consider three realities that can help us pray earnestly to God:

First, His interest in us. God loves us and wants to hear from us. Peter encouraged Christians to “[h]umble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When everyone else has forsaken us, the Lord will stand with us and strengthen us (2 Tim. 4:16-17). David recalled the reassurance of God’s nearness through prayer: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:4-5). The Lord is always only a prayer away.

Second, He inclination toward us. God wants to answer our prayers. He asks us to turn over every care to Him so that He can comfort us with peace (Phil. 4:6-7). John reminded us that the Lord is waiting to respond to our requests: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus assured every disciple: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). 

Third, His integrity with us. The Lord is faithful and will never let us down. The Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. For example, Paul prayed for relief from difficult circumstances, and rather than removing the problem, the Lord gave Him greater strength to cope with it (read 2 Cor. 12:1-10). Similarly, Solomon asked Him for wisdom to be a capable leader ,and the Lord provided this and in addition gave him great prosperity (read 1 Kings 3:5-15). God will exceed our expectations. Paul explained that the Lord “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

The Three “Bears”

  1. We should bear each other’s burdens“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
  2. We must bear our own burdens“For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal.6:5).
  3. Jesus will help us with our burdens “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Six Methods for Time-Effective Bible Study

If you’re interested in getting the most out of the time you have available to read the Bible, here are a half-dozen ideas you can try:

The Basic Approach: Try the old school method: Read the Bible through a chapter at a time. Begin in Genesis (or Matthew) and finish in Revelation.

The Alternative Approach: Use a translation other than the one you regularly use, and read through the Bible. If you usually use the King James Version, give the American Standard or New King James editions a try. The differences in expressions will be more noticeable, and will help you see more shades of meaning in a text.

Get Smart: Use your smartphone, desktop or laptop and  download a Bible-reading app. YouVersion, Olive Tree and Blue Letter Bible are popular options.

Listen Up: Find the Bible on CD – or cassette – and spend time listening to Scripture being read. You can also find it for smartphones or tablets on Audible or other online sources.

Book by Book: Select a Bible book and read it through more than once. You’ll see new features by re-reading it.

Keep Up with Class: Get involved in a regular Bible class and follow the Bible texts assigned for each  class. You’ll get the added bonus of being ready to participate or field questions about the text, and will feel better prepared to discuss the material.

More info on effective Bible Study is in our YouTube video: Three Keys for Profitable Bible Study (II Tim. 2:15).

I Believe in Jesus: Because He’s Going to Return

Probably the most misunderstood aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching is the subject of His return. Some say He has already returned, others say He isn’t returning, yet others say He is coming back – but only as part of a series of apocalyptic events.

If we confine the source of our information about Jesus’ return to what is revealed in the Bible, it is not too complicated or cryptic.

First, like every other event in Jesus’ life, the Old Testament prophesied He would return after His ascension.

Job did not fully comprehend the meaning of the scheme of redemption, but expected the Redeemer to bring equity after his death: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27). David prophesied the Lord would eternally repay His enemies (Psalm 2:9; 110:1).  Isaiah foretold of a time when “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” submission to the Lord (Isaiah 45:23).  Daniel foresaw a future resurrection and eternal consignment (Dan. 12:2-3). These are all references to Jesus’ second coming. 

Second, the second coming of Christ is proclaimed in the New Testament as a major feature of the New Covenant. The message of the Bible can be summarized in three statements: The Old Testament proclaims “Jesus is coming;” the gospel accounts declare “Jesus is here;” and the rest of the New Testament from Acts to Revelation announces “Jesus is coming back again.” Several passages focus on this major end-time event:

John 14:3: “And if I  [Jesus] go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Acts 1:11: “Which [an angel] also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Phil. 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

1 Thess. 1:9-10: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”

Heb. 9:27-28: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Rev. 1:7: Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”

Third, based on these straight-forward teachings, we should prepare for Jesus’ return. Knowing He is returning should compel us to:

    • Convert, by turning from our old life and seeking reconciliation through Christ (Acts 17:30-31).
    • Correct, and amend our ways before God, knowing we must give an account to Him (II Cor 5:10; II Tim. 4:1; II Peter 3:9-13). And,
    • Cope, through every trying circumstance, remembering that Jesus is returning to take His followers to a place of eternal peace and rest (Rom. 8:18-25; I Thess. 4:13-17; Titus 2:11-13).

More info about the second coming of Christ is in our YouTube video: Seven Reasons We Can Know Jesus is Going to Return.

I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Resurrection

One of the greatest chapters in the Bible is I Corinthians 15, which presents the facts, features and force of the resurrection of Jesus – He came back to life after His crucifixion to confirm that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Consider the three themes of this part of the Bible:

First, the resurrection of Jesus was verified (I Cor. 15:1-9). Paul insists we acknowledge the facts of the gospel, especially with regard to the resurrection of Jesus. He cites the prophecies of Scripture and other critical pieces of evidence. 

We are not left to wonder whether Jesus actually arose from the grave. Consider:

(1) His death was brutal and public (John 19:1-18). No one survived that type of punishment;

(2) His burial site was easily identified and well-guarded (Matt. 27:57-66); 

(3) His tomb was empty and His burial garments were left neatly folded where His body had rested (John 20:4-8);

(4) He appeared to numerous witnesses who knew Him well and to others who may not have met Him previously (Luke 24:13-52);

(5) His disciples were martyrs who would not renounce His deity or resurrection (Acts 12:1-2);

(6) His enemies were unable to disprove His resurrection so their focus was on silencing His followers (see, e.g., Acts 3:10 and 3:15-18); and

(7) Devout Jews, like Paul, who persecuted Christians changed their religion to follow Jesus (Acts 9:19-22). These changes included a new day for worshiping God: The first day of the week, the day on which Jesus rose again (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2).

The circumstantial evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus was vital (I Cor. 15:12-19). It would have been terrible for Jesus to have suffered the emotional, psychological, social and physical trauma He endured during His final 24 hours, only to have His story end that way. Bible critics assert the Book of Mark was supposed to end at Mark 16:8, but that would have ended in fear and despair. Jesus had to die, but it was also essential that He rise again. Paul pointed out that if Jesus did not rise again, we have no hope after death. The oppression experienced by Christians has no purpose if Jesus did not rise again (I Cor. 4:7-13; II Cor. 4:8-18). Paul explained they were “[a]lways bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (II Cor. 4:10). We can cope with the hardships of life because Jesus rose again for us.

Third, the resurrection of Jesus was victorious. When Jesus rose again from the grave, He declared victory over our greatest enemies. Paul pointed out how Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for eternal life, and proclaimed  “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57). Jesus’ resurrection also gives us hope for today – we can begin a new life through his resurrection. We die to sin in faith and repentance, and rise again to a new life through baptism (read Rom. 6:1-10). Jesus said, “I am the resurrection…” (John 11:25).

If we believe in our hearts that Christ rose from the dead, we should commit our lives to trust and obey Him (Rom. 10:10).

More about this great event is in our video: A Dozen Reasons to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection on YouTube.

I Believe in Jesus: Because He Died for Our Sins

Jesus didn’t have to die, but chose to do so because it would help others – including you and me – in ways we could not achieve ourselves.

1 – Jesus gave Himself for the sins of the world. One of the most familiar passages of Scripture emphasizes this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16, 17). Jesus said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). He gave Himself for sinners (Rom. 5:8-9).

He is willing to help us even when we sin again: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2). But this makes willful sin much more egregious (see Heb. 10:26-31).

God is completely impartial and shows no regard between nationalities, cultures or status (Acts 10:34-35). The invitation to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice is open to anyone who chooses to follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:38-39; Rev. 22:17).

2 – Jesus gave Himself for the church. The value of the collective group of baptized believers who follow Him is seen in His sacrifice. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph. 5:25). And, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). His death was intended to motivate His followers to live loyally to Him: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14; see II Cor. 5:14-15).

Jesus said He intended to die for His followers: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (John 10:11). And, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

3 – Jesus gave Himself for those who are imperfect. This should lead us to be more patient with those who are still learning about His will. Paul reminded the stronger, more knowledgeable Christians: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died (Rom. 14:15).

Fourth, Jesus gave Himself for you and me. Our names may not be found in the Bible, but He was thinking of us on the cross: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4).  He offered Himself out of love: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Rev. 1:5). He offered Himself in our place as our example to love others: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Because God loves us (John 3:16), we should love others (I John 3:16).

Watch our YouTube video: Jesus’ Death in Five Words.

I Believe in Jesus: Because He’s the Promised Messiah

The early disciples were persuaded to follow Jesus because they recognized He answered the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah. For example, in John 1, as the first apostles were dedicating themselves to follow Him, this was a compelling consideration:

“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:43-45).

The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies of the Messiah, with 109 being highly detailed. And Jesus fulfilled them all. 

The Old Testament is so replete with forecasts of Jesus that He has been described as the only person who ever lived who had His biography written before He was born. Jesus recognized and declared He was fulfilling these prophecies (see Luke 4:14-22; 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Consider some eight categories of prophecies He fulfilled:

1 – The forerunner of Jesus – John the Baptist – was described in Old Testament prophecies.  The Old Testament ends in Malachi with a promise concerning the one who would precede and prepare the world for Christ: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). Isaiah described the forerunner’s work: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled these (see Matt. 3:1-3; 11:9-15; 17:11-12).

2 – The birth of Jesus was prophesied.  The Old Testament predicted: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; see also Gen. 3:15). It was also foretold He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It happened exactly as predicted so “it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” (Matt. 1:22).

3 – The childhood of Christ was prophesied. Jesus’ family lived for a time in Egypt, as foretold (see Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-15). Young children were slain, as predicted (see Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus’ family settled in Nazareth, just as the Old Testament had implicitly predicted (see Matt. 2:23).

4 – The method of teaching by Jesus was prophesied. He frequently taught in parables, which was predicted in the Old Testament (see Psalm 78:1-2; Matt. 13:34-35). See more about one of Jesus’ most memorable parables in our YouTube video on the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Ten Ways to be a Good Samaritan.

5 – Jesus’ miracles were foretold. The Messiah would heal in every form (Isa. 35:5-6). So did Jesus (Matt. 11:4-6).

6 – The mission of Jesus was prophetically described. The Messiah was foretold as a suffering, sinless Savior to sacrifice Himself for our sins (see Isaiah 53). He would be betrayed by His closest friend (see Psalm 55:12-15) for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). This is Jesus.

7 – The victory of Christ was prophesied. The Old Testament foretold the death and the resurrection of Jesus (see Psalm 22-24; I Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus explained to His disciples that all of this was foretold (Luke 24:44-49). One of the frequently cited prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection is: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10 NKJV). And Psalm 110:1 is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other single Old Testament verse, and it described in advance this monumental event: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

8 – The church of Christ was also foretold. Prophetic statements in Isaiah 2, Daniel 2 and Joel 2 all look forward to what transpired in Acts 2: a body of baptized believers formed around the common purpose of glorifying Jesus and serving others in His name. Paul explained that  one of the goals of his ministry was that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).

The fulfillments of these advance descriptions of Jesus and His work are meant to signal unmistakably that He is “‘the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:41).