COMFORT IN CORINTH
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
THE SOURCE OF ALL COMFORT
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Acaia" (2 Corinthians 1:1)
Grace is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:1 before peace because grace is the sum total of the plan of God. Peace is mentioned second because the peace of God depends on the grace of God. The word peace in the Greek is EIRENE and means peace, satisfaction, contentment, tranquility and has the connotation of total blessing from God. God's total blessing for us is all predicated upon grace. You must have grace before you can have true peace.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:2-3)
The Greek word for praise in 2 Corinthians 1:2-3 is EULOGETOS. Our English word "eulogy" comes from this word. A eulogy is a blessing or a rendering of praise and glorification to God. God blesses us. He is completely self-sufficient. He is an absolutely solitary God. God does not need anyone or anything. He is totally complete in His essence. However, we very much need Him. As we use what He has provided for us, we can then give glory and praise to His name in everything we think, say, and do. Our intake and application of the Word glorifies and honors the Lord. This is really what EULOGETOS refers to. It means "worthy of praise and glorification always keeps on being the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of mercies."
The word compassion refers to God's grace and love in action. This is His divine unconditional love in action which is the basis for our understanding of encouragement. Encouragement is human unconditional love which is also the fruit of the Spirit. We can only love others unconditionally if we are walking in the Spirit. This is the basis of our encouragement of other people. God the Father is the father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
The word for comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:2-3 is PARAKLETOS. This word also means encouragement, consolation, and challenge. Paul's concept of comfort both for himself and others is that in the midst of our suffering, whether it relates to the physical life or the soulish life, the God of all comfort keeps on comforting us.
who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
The Greek word for "troubles" in 2 Corinthians 1:4 is THLIPSIS, which means the worst type of mental pain. This word means to hurt on the inside with intense sorrow. Deep soul pain can be much worse in many ways than intense physical pain. For example, when a romance goes awry, you actually hurt on the inside because of the cessation of that relationship. The same thing applies to the death of a loved one. God comforts us through His Word - Bible doctrine. God is not going to materialize in your presence and pat you on the head and tell you everything is going to be all right. God comforts us through the principles, teachings, and doctrines of the Scripture which is the Word of God. The Word of God is the thinking of Christ and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
God comforts us in all of our afflictions. He does this because of His perfect unconditional love for us. The result of our encouragement from God through His Word is our expression of comfort to those near us who are in deep soul sorrow. We give to others the same comfort by which we are comforted from God. The ultimate source of all encouragement is God through Bible truth.
God's primary means for encouraging us involves other Christians. Paul understood that the comfort provided for himself and others in the midst of all of his physical and psychological troubles was from God. Throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul outlines clearly the means God used to encourage him and his co-workers. Paul saw a specific purpose in his troubles. He knew he could directly identify with the troubles of other Christians and comfort them just as he had been comforted by the Lord through Bible doctrine. Paul was also encouraged by the prayer of fellow Christians. He was encouraged by his eternal perspective and knew that others were praying for him, but with eternity's values in view. That is how Paul lived. That was the great source of encouragement in his life.
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
The word "inwardly" in 2 Corinthians 4:16 refers to everything that we have in the spiritual life for spiritual growth. This is the believer's human spirit controlling the soul through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit while in fellowship. The Holy Spirit enables the human spirit to understand Bible truth and to transfer it to the soul. There, the believer's positive volition or belief allows the Holy Spirit to metabolize it in the soul for application to life. The believer's human spirit is everything that God has provided for us to mature spiritually and to be able to encourage other people.
COMFORT FROM THE BELIEVER'S ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, refers to the suffering, the heartaches, the difficulties, the adversities, and the things that break your heart as just momentary! Paul calls these things light affliction! Paul had been severely beaten several times. At one point, he had to be helped over a city wall in a basket in order to escape. He was hounded and persecuted at every turn. Men he had trained for the ministry had betrayed him. They had begun to teach false doctrine to the extent that he had to point them out by name! Paul warned believers in Corinth to avoid Hymenaeus and Alexander because they were apostate. His heart was broken over and over again.
Paul also endured continual bad health. This was a constant source of affliction within his life. What was his attitude toward his condition? He thought it was just a part of life and considered it nothing. Paul knew that all of his undeserved suffering was just momentary. To him it was just a drop in the bucket compared to the entire ocean of eternity. He felt every adversity in his life could be handled by the grace of God. He knew it was momentary and could be endured through God's grace provision.
Paul thought the suffering was nothing when compared to that eternal weight of glory and blessings he would receive in eternity. The blessings and rewards we will receive in the presence of God are like a great eternal weight of glory. Receipt of these blessings will honor and magnify God forever and ever. Keeping these principles in mind is living with eternity's values in view.
Your values cannot be rooted in materialistic things. They cannot be rooted in the details of life or in relationships with other people. What material thing do you have that you could not lose? You could lose them all! Anything you have now could be lost at any time. In contrast, what you have in union with Christ can never be lost! What you have as blessing in time can never be lost because it will be parlayed into rewards in eternity. One of the great sources of blessings in time and eternity is the believer handling undeserved suffering with Bible truth in his soul. It becomes momentary and light affliction when you keep your eyes on Bible truth and maintain your eternal perspective. This is the Christian's hope which is beyond any comparison.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE DOCTRINE OF HOPE
The wonderful blessings and rewards of eternity are the focus of the doctrine of hope. The doctrine of hope is made up of three parts and encompasses the plan of God for the believer.
Part 1 - The Hope of Salvation
Part 1 presents the first hope God provides for the unbeliever and begins at physical birth. When a person is born physically, God the Father creates soul life and imputes it to the newly born baby. This sovereign act of God creates human life at birth. He also imputes Adam's original sin to the baby's genetically formed Old Sin Nature. God's imputation of Adam's sin to our Old Sin Nature makes us spiritually dead at physical birth and under eternal condemnation from the Justice of God. Now, the only issue in life is the unbeliever's attitude toward the Gospel. God's two imputations give the unbeliever the potential of salvation. Through positive faith belief toward the substitutionary spiritual death of Jesus Christ for all of his or her sins, the unbeliever has the hope of salvation. The Holy Spirit then picks up that faith belief and converts the hope of salvation to reality in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Part 2 - The Hope of Blessings in Time
Part 2 involves the life of the immature believer following salvation. At the point of salvation, the believer receives two additional imputations from God the Father. These imputations are the very basis for his belief in Christ! On the cross, Jesus Christ received the imputation of all the sins of the entire human race from God the Father where the Justice of God judged them. Because our sins have been judged and the unbeliever's positive faith belief expressed toward the Gospel, God the Father is now able to impute His very own Righteousness to the believer's soul! Now, the potential of future blessings in time has been converted to the hope or confidence that God will provide those future blessings to us in life, if we achieve the spiritual capacity to handle them.
The singular issue is now whether the believer will learn and apply Bible doctrine to his life and grow spiritually. The believer can only achieve this capacity by learning and applying the Word of God. He can only learn Bible truth through the consistent positive volition toward the teaching of Bible doctrine. Understanding and applying the principles of the Word will cause you to grow spiritually. Just a few of the many results of spiritual growth are your encouragement of other people and living in the realm of hope or confidence.
Part 3 - The Hope of Blessings in Eternity
Part 3 involves the life of the mature believer. God the Father imputes eternal life to the human spirit at the moment of salvation. He also imputes blessings in time to our resident righteousness at the point of maturity. Now, the believer has the potential for blessings from God in eternity at the Judgement Seat of Christ. The believer has to continue growing in the Word of God through the intake and application of Bible truth. As a mature believer, God can now begin to turn the potential into the reality of imputing blessings in time to the believer. This is because of the believer's resident capacity to appreciate and use those blessings. This is where the believer's actions begin to glorify Jesus Christ.
As believers mature spiritually, they begin to understand doctrines designed by God for their spiritual level. An example is prophecy or eschatology. Eschatology is for mature believers. It increases hope and confidence and causes the believer to begin to realize what God has in the eternal future for them. This gives the believer the third hope or confidence of rewards in eternity. For the one who is retrogressive or backslidden, there are no rewards. For the spiritually mature believer, he has and holds the very happiness of God. He is the winner and all of that blessing in time becomes rewards in eternity. This is the reality of blessing throughout the eternal future. It becomes something fantastic to look forward to! In addition to all the indescribable provisions of heaven for every believer, the mature believer will have an eternal weight of glory that will honor and glorify God forever and ever. This is the believer's eternal perspective. This is one of the greatest sources of Christian encouragement - eternal perspective.
Life's issues like other people, circumstances, situations, wealth, prosperity, and the details of life are temporary. Whereas, the invisible things are eternal. The invisible things, such as the tremendous spiritual blessings of maturity, will be parlayed into the great blessings and rewards of heaven. This is the eternal weight of glory which was Paul's eternal perspective. His attitude was that he was just passing through this life and was on his way to a far better place. Paul never settled too far into this world because he considered his deep soul pain to be light. He considered it light because he knew it was momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory he knew would be his in heaven. Because of this, he kept his eyes on heaven and lived with eternity's values in view.
COMFORT FROM GOD'S SUSTAINING GRACE BLESSING
We are kept alive in this world because of the protection that God provides through the Laws of Divine Establishment and under the protection that God gives from His sustaining grace blessing. We have protection under establishment, but we have greater protection under sustaining grace blessing. It means God is going to protect, preserve and perpetuate our lives. This also means you should be practical and use common sense in your life. The following poem expresses this principle.
Anywhere with Jesus I may safely go
Anywhere He leads me in this world below.
Anywhere without Him there would be doubt and fear
But anywhere with Jesus I am of good cheer.
This is the protection of sustaining grace. Sustaining grace provides a wonderful encapsulation and confidence for the mature believer. Grace blessings even greater that sustaining grace blessings await the believer in time based on his or her spiritual advance. Spiritual advance requires testing to strengthen the believer's understanding and faith toward the Word of God. Because of the believer's spiritual advance in the Devil's world, undeserved suffering will occur. These light and momentary troubles handled by the believer based on the Bible doctrine in his or her soul glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and results in additional blessings in eternity that far outweigh them all.
Mature believers learn confidence from continued intake and obedience to Bible truth. This hope or confident anticipation from the Word of God, especially from eschatology, leads to absolute confidence of rewards in eternity. Undeserved suffering combined with confidence in God's grace plan for our lives merely stabilizes our confidence in God. There are blessings and rewards that we will receive from God that are beyond anything which we can even begin to imagine. These are blessings in time with rewards throughout the eternal future. These are all based on our response to the grace of God through Bible doctrine. This eternal perspective in a great source of encouragement to the believer.
However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF POSITIVE FEEDBACK
Positive feedback from other believers can be a great stimulus to our spiritual advance. This feedback from like-minded believers is a source of refreshment to our souls. We can be challenged and encouraged when we get positive feedback from fellow believers. In life, generally, there are three categories of friends - social friends, close friends, and intimate friends. Each category of friend must be handled in a different manner.
These are people that you might be with at a company function or other areas of social life. What if you know they are sexually immoral? The Bible says you should maintain your unconditional love toward them, but not associate with them. That is, do not maintain them as your social friends because they will lead you into thinking immorally as they do. When you have some type of social infidelity in the thought pattern of the soul, it is because you first had spiritual infidelity. You are first unfaithful to the Lord before you become unfaithful in your thoughts. The solution to this is identification of these thoughts as sin to the Father with the mental attitude that you do not want to do it again. This is true confession-repentance and you continue your spiritual advance so you can outgrow those categories of mental sin.
These friends are people that you not only socialize with, but you can talk to and have SOME rapport and compatibility with. You never share your soul with them. You maintain a close distance between them and yourself. They are not able to maintain your confidence by keeping your personal problems to themselves. They would probably give in to temptation and criticize you and tell others. They do not have the trust and integrity necessary for such personal information. If you share your soul with close friends, they will probably not reciprocate. This category of friends may only occasionally give any positive feedback.
With a social friend you can discuss personal matters that are probably public information anyway such as a divorce or a failure in business. With an intimate friend you can share your soul and discuss it thoroughly and they can handle it. They are able to encourage you with positive feedback from the Bible truth in their souls. We should all have the ability to do this. As advancing believers, we should always be relating the divine viewpoint of life to our friends. Jesus Christ has told us that Bible truth is His thinking and He is described as "Wonderful Counselor." When we have His thinking as our own thinking, we should be able to give wonderful counsel to other people. THAT is positive feedback.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM A BELIEVER'S TURN FROM CARNALITY
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)
Paul evidently wrote an epistle to the Corinthians that is not included in the Biblical record as indicated in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. These verses deal with the doctrine of separation. This doctrine teaches the believer that continued close association with those who are perpetually carnal and do not keep Bible truth as their priority in life will lead to disaster in their own spiritual life. For example, continued close association with sexually immoral people who are negative to the Word of God will cause you to become negative to the Word of God - not the other way around! Also, continued close association with those who gossip, malign and cheat in business will cause you to gravitate closer to their way of thinking - not the other way around.
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
You are not to associate with believers who continue to live a sexually immoral life. Nor are you to associate with swindlers, those who are greedy, idolaters, slanderers, or drunkards. You are not even supposed to socialize with them. The term "to eat" here refers to social life. The Word of God commands us to not have social life with these types of Christians.
Paul was quite frontal and specific regarding the failures and sins of the Corinthians. These sins were immoral and involved the phallic cult. There were many believers in the Corinthian Church that continued to stay out of fellowship. Because of this Old Sin Nature control of their souls, they followed their area of weakness which was sexual lust and the trend toward lasciviousness. This activity and close association with others with similar lust patterns lead to their involvement with the phallic cult.
The phallic cult had one of its strongest followings in the City of Corinth. There were hundreds of temples dedicated to the goddess of love and the whole function of the phallic cult. There were many professional prostitutes - male and female, old and young - that were devoted to the sexual immorality of the phallic cult. Some Christians had gotten back into this.
One Christian is singled out by Paul. This Christian was living in incest with his stepmother. His father evidently had taken a new wife because of divorce or death and this wife was involved in an affair with her stepson. Corinth was one of the most licentious cities, if not the most licentious city, in the ancient world at that time. The Corinthian Church held the all-time record for sexual carnality. Paul is referring to what he wrote in his first letter to them. He warned them not to associate with sexually immoral believers and he laid it on the line concerning their failures. Paul's report regarding their turn from the phallic cult and their return to Bible doctrine assured him and encouraged him. Paul was encouraged by their turn from carnality.
I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4)
This confidence is not like the confidence that we have in the Lord which is absolute confidence because He cannot fail. This is a confidence or a trust that we have in fellow believers who are advancing spiritually. Paul says he has had deep soul suffering. He had suffering on the inside that was so intense that it actually caused physical pain. However, through it all he shared the happiness of God. This inner happiness is not dependent upon overt circumstances which are free from pressure and heartache and disaster. You can be in the midst of the greatest pressures, heartaches, and disasters and perpetuate the happiness of God. This is what is meant by growing up spiritually, becoming a mature believer and sharing in God's happiness. This happiness knows no bounds. It is never restricted by anything circumstantial. People cannot destroy it, circumstances cannot destroy it, and objects cannot destroy it. The only way to destroy it is to take your eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ and start emphasizing people, circumstances and self above the Lord Jesus Christ. That is how you lose your happiness. When you lose your love for the Lord, you lose this joy that knows no bounds.
The report concerned the fact that the incestuous Corinthian believer had confessed his sins, had repented and returned to the Word of God. Because of his actions, many people in the church were repenting and returning to the Word of God. They were leaving their backslidden condition of immoral sexual activity and they were getting squared away. This was positive feedback and a good report to Paul. There were still some negative factors in the Corinthian Church, but for the most part, they had made a tremendous recovery from phallic reversionism.
Paul demonstrated to them how very human he was. Although he was the great apostle of the grace of God, he needed love from those to whom he ministered. He needed acceptance from those to whom he ministered. Undoubtedly, Paul felt rejected at times because of his unwillingness to compromise divine truth. This unwillingness caused him tremendous emotional pain. When the message of the Lord was well received, Paul responded like any of us would respond with great joy, a joy that knew no bounds. Paul was encouraged by the spiritual progress in the lives of those to whom he ministered.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE POWER OF GOD
Paul was encouraged by the power of God that was evidenced in his life when he felt weak. This is another great principle from 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 as it relates to suffering. This is because Paul saw meaning and purpose in his testing and pressures. Paul was able to accept the difficulties as a means to achieving a more effective ministry. He even learned to rejoice in the midst of them.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
This is acquired power. Being weak in ourselves is humility. When we are truly humble, meekness is not weakness, but true power under control. Through humility, we can use the power of God. Paul took delight in these things, but not in a sadistic or masochistic way. He did not like the mental pain, but was willing to allow the Plan of God to unfold in his life even with the testing and undeserved suffering that strengthened him.
How did Paul handle the people who were negative to the Gospel? How did Paul handle the people who were resentful of the Word of God and hounded him wherever he went? For example, the Judaizers persecuted him and tried to kill him. Many times, he had been sentenced to death, but the Lord delivered him. It was God's plan for Paul's life to be perpetuated under sustaining grace blessing and perpetuated under blessing in time. Because Paul was a mature believer, all of these intense soul sufferings were light and momentary. Undeserved suffering, as a blessing in time, enabled Paul to have the third hope which is the absolute confidence of that eternal weight of glory.
Strength is in the Lord and in the power of His might. Paul had the entire armor of God on. That is why he was a winner in the Christian way of life. The emphasis here is that Paul saw meaning in all of this testing and pressures. He was able to accept these difficulties and they led to a more effective ministry. This should be of great encouragement to each of us. At times, all of us face intense moments of physical and psychological distress. The comfort and the encouragement of the Word of God are always available for us. It is available to us, just as it was for Paul.
THE BELIEVER'S APPLICATION OF GOD'S COMFORT
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:3)
Jesus Christ comforts us, encourages, challenges, and consoles us in the midst of our deep soul suffering so that we might be a source of encouragement to others. We do so with the encouragement that we received from the Lord through His Word. How does this relate to you and me today? We need to see God's purpose in our difficulties. In times of troubles, we need to remind ourselves of what God has to say as in Romans 8:28.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We must look for the good in every situation no matter how difficult the situation. To be encouraged, we need to know when people we are ministering to are making spiritual progress in their lives. This is important if you are to be involved in doing something for someone else. This encouragement should not depend on how good or bad you feel. It is important for you to be an encouragement to someone else where you can see someone come to know the Lord and grow spiritually.
This is a great challenge to all of us as we become involved in evangelizing others. Once you see new believers come to know the Lord, you should have developed some means of followup. You should seek to get them involved in the intake and application of basic Bible truth. This can be very encouraging to both the new believer and the one who brought the Gospel to them. This is what will cause a spiritual awakening within our nation. When you are encouraged by another believer, tell them! That will encourage them.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE POWER OF PRAYER
Our understanding of encouragement from the life of the Apostle Paul indicates there are areas we can definitely address with prayer. In fact, we should make these things a matter of prayer so that we can better engage in mutual encouragement. We need to pray that we will see purpose and meaning in our times of disappointment and difficulty. These inevitable times have and will continue to come into our lives. We should then be able to identify with others and help them in their times of trial. Pray that you would see meaning and purpose in your times of difficulty and disappointment so you will be equipped to encourage others in similar situations.
We need to understand that it is important to seek prayer support from fellow Christians during times of distress and discomfort. Events will occur in your life that will be a source of great distress to you. If you feel free to make them known to others or if you make them known through a silent prayer request, other believers can intercede on your behalf through prayer. It is important that we bring our problems before God the Father in prayer. We should seek prayer support from other believers during these times of distress and discomfort. In our own prayers, we should faithfully pray for others who have similar needs.
We need to pray that we can develop an eternal perspective for our earthly problems like Paul did. We need to see that life on this earth is really short compared to eternity. We need to be confident that the blessings and rewards that await us in eternity are beyond description. We need to pray that we, like Paul, will have that eternal perspective for our earthly problems. Even if you live 100 years, it is just a little small drop in the ocean compared to eternity. Continual application of the Word of God will carry you through all of the tough times with an eternal viewpoint of blessings from God as Paul illustrated in 2 Corinthians 13:11.
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
We need to pray that we will be open to hear positive feedback from fellow Christians when we are disappointed and have heartache and suffering. If we share our disappointments and our heartaches with intimate friends and they give us positive feedback based on divine viewpoint, this is encouragement! However, if we are full of self-pity and do not hear their words of encouragement due to our carnal condition, then all we can do is look forward to more self-induced misery and divine discipline. God will provide His absolute unconditional love while we are out of fellowship to get us to wake up and confess and return to fellowship. As fellow believers, we can also encourage others to return to fellowship based on divine truth. We need to pray that we can become a source of positive feedback to those who also need encouragement.
In our prayers, we should also ask for opportunities to help other believers to progress in their spiritual life. Through this interaction, we can observe the progress and experience encouragement because of it. For example, leading someone to the Lord and then leading them to Bible class where they begin to grow on basic Bible truth is a fantastic source of encouragement - again to both believers. This form of our ambassadorship to others can lead to encouragement by watching other believers grow. We are to be a source of encouragement to them by leading them to where the Word is taught - the local church.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Finally, in our prayers we need to ask for the Lord's power in what we do and to thank Him for all that He has provided. Through our spiritual growth, we can even delight in times of weakness and difficulty just as the apostle Paul did. We need to pray that we will develop this capacity.
COMFORT FROM THE UNDERSTANDING AND APPLICATION OF BIBLE TRUTH
The intake and metabolization of God's truth in the life of the advancing believer is always a source of comfort or encouragement to himself and others. Perception, metabolization and obedience to the Scripture are the basis for becoming spiritually independent and self-sustained. The believer is, however, dependent on the right local church and that pastor-teacher for the primary intake of Bible truth.
The necessity of being under face-to-face teaching is commanded in the Word of God. The availability of books and electronic media such as video and audio tapes has never supplanted that command. We still have that mandate which is enjoined upon every Christian. You need to be in church to grow spiritually through the communication of Bible truth from the pastor-teacher. You also need to be in church for the encouragement that comes from mutual Christian fellowship. Spiritual independence does not mean you outgrow your need for your local church. It simply means that you do not live out of other people's souls. You should have no spiritual crutches in life. Your steering wheel should be God and His Word.
When you approach that rarefied atmosphere of spiritual maturity, you begin to help other people and encourage them in their spiritual lives. Being spiritually independent enables the individual believer-priest to solve his own problems by using the divine problem-solving devices learned from the Word of God. The faith-rest life and understanding God's plan for your life (i.e., the plan-of-God rationale) enable you to live your own life as unto the Lord.
At salvation, God the Father imputed His very own righteousness to each believer. Now, we have God's very own righteousness within our soul which is now the target for all blessing in time from the Father. In times of adversity, heartache, and disaster we are to keep our eyes on the spiritual goal of maturity. As we grow spiritually, God gives blessing to His imputed righteousness located in our souls. The imputation of our eternal rewards to our resurrection bodies will occur at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is the divine perspective. This and everything else are related to our relationship with the Justice of God. God's justice can give all blessings, as we have the capacity to receive them, to the righteousness of God resident within our souls. This is the plan-of-God rationale as a part of the faith-rest-life.
Many people misinterpret faith-rest and think of it from a selfish standpoint. They believe that if you trust and rely upon the Lord and live under the faith-rest-life, circumstances will be changed for the better and whatever they want is going to come their way. They think that everything is going to get better. They erroneously believe that under adversity and heartache, the light at the end of the tunnel is always vastly improved circumstances. Things may not get better! That lost job, lost loved one, or a broken heart because of a failed romance may be circumstances meant to test your spiritual advance. It may be divine discipline because you continue to remain out of fellowship! It may be self-induced misery and may have nothing to do with divine discipline.
You cannot think that because you are trusting the Lord that everything will suddenly get better. Whether it gets better or not when you are out of the will of God for your life is strictly up to you. The Bible teaches that you can have control of the situation by claiming, by faith, the promises and doctrines found in the Word of God. If you return to fellowship through confession of known sins, God will continue His plan for you based on your consistent intake, metabolization and obedience to the Word of God. If you are within the will of God and you are metabolizing and applying Bible truth in your life, then the circumstances of life may be testing or suffering for blessing.
As your faith reaches out and claims promises, the fear-panic ploy is eliminated. You clear your mind so your faith can take doctrine like the doctrine of encouragement and apply it to your situation. When you have self-pity or any other sin that you know is a sin, you confess it. This is the confession-repentance rationale. By claiming the confession-repentance rationale you know that you are forgiven, cleansed, and restored to fellowship. You have the faith to believe that confession-repentance really works. The sustaining grace rationale means that God will provide your needs. Claiming this rationale will give you control of the situation although you cannot change the situation.
Faith-rest does not mean you change the situation or circumstances. It means you have control within that situation or circumstances. When you have adverse circumstances of life, the faith-rest life enables you to deal with the pressure. Pressure comes from bad circumstances and situations that we would like to change. It is solely up to God to change the circumstances or not. Handling them with God's problem-solving devices is up to you and will give you contentment and tranquility without a change of circumstance. You gain control over the situation - not a change in the situation.
This is also true of the plan-of-God rationale. When using this rationale, you focus on the righteousness of God located in your soul which leads to spiritual advance. You know that God has a plan for you. You know that as long as you are alive, God has a purpose for you. You know that all the blessing that God has for you will be conveyed to you as you grow spiritually and develop the capacity to receive it. This is a tremendous problem-solving device.
The essence-of-God rationale is relying on who and what the Lord is. God is sovereignty, justice, righteousness, love, eternal life, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, and veracity. This is applying who and what God is to any situation of suffering. This enables your faith to come to doctrinal conclusions that control the situation. Will doctrinal conclusions always give you a change in the situation? They will not. The light at the end of the tunnel might not be deliverance. It might be the freight train that is going to run you over! You may think you are trusting the Lord, but you may not be correctly applying His doctrines. If you have lost your job and are trusting the Lord to give you a better one, you are trusting God to give you what you want. God might give you a worse job to test you further and to challenge you and encourage you from his Word to hang in there regardless of the circumstances.
You cannot always change the circumstances or the situation. However, you can always have control over the situation by the doctrinal conclusions that you reach. You can always know that you are in fellowship because you have confessed all known sins to God. You can then walk in confidence with the Lord under the power of the Holy Spirit and know that He is going to supply your needs. You can trust Him to supply your needs regardless of the situation and whether it changes or not. That gives you control of the situation. God has blessing for each of us as we advance. Have the faith to believe it. That gives you control of the situation.
God's sovereign will can permit suffering in your life. He is absolute righteousness and moral perfection. He is always fair. If God permits suffering, it is always for the believer's blessing. Suffering teaches us to rely on God's Word and His promises. The suffering will be for His glory and our benefit if we continue to trust Him and rely upon Him through the faith-rest life. God's love for us does not mean He will change our situation. Through the power system of the Christian way of life that He has given each of us, we have the ability to handle the circumstances of life. Paul understood this principle very well as he stated in 2 Corinthians 12:10.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
This is not borrowed strength from the energy of the flesh of the Old Sin Nature. This is the acquired strength of living the Christian way of life. This is the essence-of-God rationale. God has the power to provide for any situation. God has the power to give the believer who believes and trusts in Him control of the situation although there is no change in the situation. It might get worse, but the believer can have control of the situation through doctrinal conclusions. I cannot emphasize this principle enough! Many believers do not believe in the faith-rest life and say it does not work for them. It failed for them due to their unbelief. Faith-rest ALWAYS works. You must have faith that it will!
Many people are confused. In their minds, they think that trusting the Lord means He will change the situation. God will change the situation only if it is His sovereign will to do so! Handling the situation through trust in God's problem solving devices learned through consistent metabolization of Bible truth is what glorifies God.
Unbelievers take notice when, under the deepest type of adversity imaginable, the mature believer still has tranquility and peace. The outward appearance of tranquility and contentment under stress is the opposite of what human viewpoint would expect. That is control over the situation. That impresses the unbeliever and causes them to want what the believer has. This is very important when we think of the principle of comfort from the Word of God. The Word of God has these personal problem-solving devices. The faith-rest life is an important part of this.
Virtue is also important. Personal love toward God is motivational virtue. Personal love toward God results from metabolized Bible doctrine. The believer gains Biblical self-respect from the metabolized doctrine in his soul. The daily intake and obedience to God's Word causes us to grow spiritually. The early church met every day for face-to-face teaching. It is sad that believers today cannot even have consistent intake of Bible truth two or three times a week. Your schedule and priority given to the study of Bible truth are between each believer and the Lord. Whether the believer gets doctrine face to face or through tapes or literature, it must be a daily commitment to result in normal spiritual growth.
Bible truth in the soul results in a tremendous relationship with self. You learn to have Biblical self-respect which is bona fide. The characteristics of Biblical self-respect will make you feel confident that you are placing the correct priority on the Word of God. You will be satisfied with yourself, but understanding that you cannot rest on your laurels. You have to keep on keeping on with Biblical self-respect. Biblical self-respect is a wonderful spiritual self-esteem, which produces the operational virtue of unconditional love toward all people. We are to press on by daily intake of doctrine and application to our lives. If we keep our eyes on blessing in time at maturity and rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will have the divine perspective. The divine perspective enables us to handle any problem in life. We keep eternity's values in mind knowing that things will not be this way in heaven. Time is just a drop in the ocean compared with eternity. The things that are seen are temporal. The things which are unseen are eternal. Moses became such a great believer because he kept on seeing the "invisible one."
He was occupied with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the basis for it all. Without that love of God, the believer can never have Biblical self-respect. Without Biblical self-respect the believer will never have unconditional love toward others. It is impossible to love others without Biblical self-respect. We are to love ourselves in the sense of respect, not with an arrogant or egotistical vanity that results from positive mental attitude, possibilitizing, and other manifestations of the New Age Movement. Biblical self-respect comes from the doctrine in the soul which enables believers to love others and brings the believer to the point of being spiritually self-sustained.