An attitude of thanksgiving is a way of life that focuses on being thankful for God and the gospel. As we grow spiritually we gain a greater appreciation for God. We learn to give thanks to God for everything. We learn to be busy in thanksgiving and give no time for complaining so that we can shine as lights in the world.
Revelation 4:9-11; 7:11-12; 11:16-18
The Focal Point Of Our Thanksgiving Is God And The Gospel
- Thanksgiving is the expression, in our attitude and actions, of our gratitude and appreciation to God. Thus, the core of thankfulness is to recognize and take joy in the good qualities of God and what He is doing in our lives. As believers, the focal point of our thanksgiving is the gospel because it has radically changed our lives and God is working all things for our good, thus as we identify with and take pleasure in the gospel we respond to God with thankfulness. Therefore, an “attitude of thanksgiving” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our gratitude and appreciation to Him because of His work of salvation in our lives and is ultimately reflected in the way we express our state of affairs.
Psalm 97:12; 136:1-3, 26; (Romans 8:28-31)
- Giving thanks to God is a natural result of true salvation. God the Father has made us fit or qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (the inheritance of His people in the kingdom of light). He hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated or transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son Jesus—in whom we have redemption, peace and the forgiveness of sins through the blood of His cross. We were once alienated from God and “enemies in our minds”—our entire disposition and attitude, the very core of our being, were opposed, hostile and hateful towards God because we loved our wicked works and not God’s righteousness. But through Jesus we have been reconciled. Paul prays and desire that our spiritual growth (in knowledge, wisdom and spiritual understanding) will result in “giving thanks unto the Father” because of this work of salvation He has done.
Colossians 1:9-14, 20-21
- Our thanksgiving should be abounding—abundant, plentiful and overflowing. As believers we confess Jesus as “Lord” and thus we should walk in Him—to live our lives after the manner of Jesus. The Colossians were to remember what they were taught, knowing that God caused them to be firmly rooted in Jesus and continues to build them up in Jesus, thus they are established in the faith—to be soundly and firmly grounded in the gospel and Christian doctrine. Again, this should result in abundant thanksgiving—which also serves as a reminder of the “Bible facts” and protection against “fiction”.
To Give Thanks To God In Everything
- We are to “put on” thankfulness. As believers, we are to put on the new man—which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Jesus that created us. We allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts—meaning that our “inner person” should allow salvation and God-given serenity that comes from it to fill us in such a manner that it produces a definite result—especially that of thanksgiving. We can do this by: (1) The Bible—letting the “word of Christ” dwell in us richly—abundantly, extravagantly, distinctively. The Bible has to enter our lives and find residence there—the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to transform our lives. (2) Scriptural Music—to teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace (thanks) in our hearts to the Lord. (3) Jesus Communication and Actions—to do everything, whether in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus—meaning all our interactions are lived in submission to and in the sphere of what Jesus approves of—not with an attitude of compulsory but with thanksgiving to God the Father through Jesus.
Colossians 3:7-17; Ephesians 5:18-20; (Psalm 18:49; 26:7; 30:4; 30:12; 35:18; 50:14; 69:30; 75:1; 79:13; 92:1; 95:2; 100:4; 105:1; 106:1; 106:47; 107:1, 22; 116:17; 118:1, 29; 119:62; 140:13; 147:7)
- We are to give thanks in everything because it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. We are to give thanksgiving in the good times and for all of God’s blessings, but we are to also give thanks (by God’s grace) even when we go through sufferings, hardships, bad times, misfortune, heartache, punishment or consequences of our sins. We can search and try our ways and turn again to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing He is good and in control. Paul exemplified this by enduring suffering for the sake of the Corinthians so that God’s abundant grace wouldn’t only change his life but also their lives—thus as God’s grace was reaching more and more people it would cause the thanksgiving of many to redound—overflow, abound—to the glory of God. Thus the purpose of our thanksgiving to God is His glory. It means to be focused on the good even in the midst of tragedy.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (8-11); 2 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Lamentations 3:37-40
To Be Busy In Thanksgiving Thus No Time For Complaining
- Our speech needs to be controlled and changed in Jesus. The following manners of speech are out of place for believers: filthiness (obscenity), foolish talking, jesting (coarse joking). Instead our manner of speaking should be the “giving of thanks”. Ungodly deeds are characterized by not thanking God but instead murmuring and complaining against God. Instead of humbly giving thanks to God, the ungodly speak “great swelling words”—inflated words of self-importance and pride. This is not to be characteristic of believers.
Ephesians 5:1-2, 4; Romans 1:21; Jude 14-16
- Complaining is the expression, in our attitude and actions, of our annoyance and dissatisfaction to God. Israel is a notorious example of this and their example was written for our admonition: don’t murmur—complain, grumble, talk under one’s breath. After Moses brought Israel from the Red sea and they went out into the wilderness (God liberating them from Egypt) Israel complained about what to drink and about what to eat. Instead of focusing on the incredible works that God had done to save them they lusted after evil things and evil pleasures which resulted in idolatry, fornication, tempting God and murmuring against God. Israel also complained about their leaders and ultimately God’s plan for their lives. All of this complaining displeased the Lord, but the Lord was both extremely gracious to Israel when they complained and at other times He exercised judgement on them. We are to “take heed” lest we fall into the same errors.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Exodus 15:24; 16:2-3; 7-12; 17:3; Psalm 78:17-25; Numbers 11:1; 14:2, 27, 29, 36; 16:1-3, 41; 17:5
- We are to be busy shining as lights in the world, not complaining like the heathen. As we work out our own salvation, we are to learn to do all things without murmurings and disputings—arguing, debating, quarreling. All such complaining comes from resentment, negativism, dissatisfaction, discontent, displeasure, unhappiness, bitterness or selfishness. We overcome these issues because we know that God is working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Thus as we change our conversation from “complaining” to “thanksgiving” we become very distinct from the crooked and perverse world and culture around us. We become “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke”—meaning our manner of speech becomes free from evil connotations.
Philippians 2:14-16; James 3:1-12
- Thanksgiving is the expression of what?
- Thanksgiving should be a natural result of what?
- When should we give God thanks?
- What example of complaining was written for us to learn from?
- We should learn to do all things without what? But with what?
An attitude of confidence is a way of life that finds strong and firm trust in the fear of the Lord. As this confidence in the Lord grows we learn to prominently seek after the kingdom of God above all else and to continually pray with thanksgiving about all things. This leads to a God-given peace which passes all understanding and keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Psalm 16:1-2; 65:4-7; 118:8-9; Proverbs 3:26; 12:25
There Is Strong Confidence In The Fear Of The Lord
- Confidence is the feeling and conviction of firm trust in someone or something. Thus, the core of confidence is trust—to strongly rely on—but trust is only as useful as its object—the person or thing you put your trust in. For believers, there is a strong confidence in the fear of the Lord. Fear means to respect. It means we have the highest reverential respect for God because He is the creator of everything and this respect demands trust. Therefore, an “attitude of confidence” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our firm trust and reliance in Him—which leads to seeking God above all else and relying on God in prayer with thanksgiving in all things which ultimately results in peace in God and courageous bold faith-filled living for the glory of God.
Proverbs 14:26; 25:19
- As believers, we have a “continual confidence” if we walk by faith and not by sight. This confidence is rooted in the truth and hope that if we are “absent from the body” we will be “present with the Lord”. This means that once our soul/spirit leaves our earthly bodies we are certain that God will give us a glorified, resurrected body in heaven. God gave us the “earnest” or deposit of the Holy Spirit to give us the confidence that this will come about. Therefore, in this good courage we labour, aspire, aim and make it our goal to be accepted of or to please Jesus—no matter if we are still in this body or present with Him. Also knowing that we will receive what is due (rewards not punishment) for what we have done in our bodies at the judgment seat of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18; 5:1-10; Philippians 1:6, 21; 3:2-12; (John 5:24; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
- As believers, we have a “confidence of access” through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. This confidence of access means that through the incredible gospel of Jesus we can boldly and confidently approach God. We are given the opportunity to have direct access and communication to God through prayer and the hope of one day literally being admitted into the presence of the Lord. Because of this, Paul tells the Ephesians to “faint not” or to not lose heart or be discouraged over his tribulations for them because it is preceding their glory—to know, experience and enter into our eternal state with God.
Ephesians 1:18; 2:7, 18; 3:7-13; 2 Timothy 2:10; Colossians. 1:27; 3:4; 2 Thessalonians. 2:14
- As believers we have “confidence in God’s sovereignty”—that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Paul exemplifies unwavering confidence in God, His eternal purpose and gospel plan. Paul confidently prays to the Father that the Ephesians might be granted three requests and each can also be applied to us and build our confidence in God’s sovereignty as we pray these requests: (1) Transforming power—out of the riches of God’s glory we will be strengthened with might by God’s Holy Spirit in the inner man, so that Jesus may dwell in our hearts by faith. (2) Thriving love—all who are rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, grasp, and know what is the breadth, length, depth, height and to know the love of Jesus. (3) Thorough sanctification—that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.
To Prominently Seek After The Kingdom Of God Above All Else
- Confidence in God leads to seeking God first. We are to “take no thought” for our lives—meaning we don’t need to be anxious and worry about our lives (such as food, clothes, etc.). God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to pray and trust Him to take care of all our needs. We are to trusts that God knows what our needs are and that He cares for us. But even though we aren’t worrying about these things but trusting God to provide for us, this doesn’t mean that He wants us just to be idle. Instead He wants us to use our time to seek first—as the most important—His kingdom and His righteousness (God’s will, not ours). When we do this—not only will all these things that we were anxious about will be added unto us (needs, not all desires), but we show forth our confidence in God.
Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 12:22-34
- Confidence in God leads to focusing on today. We don’t need to be anxious (take no thought) about tomorrow. We focus on today. Everyday we should defer our worries until tomorrow—meaning we are to never worry because worry never comes, it is always today and never tomorrow. This doesn’t mean life will be easy, because Jesus says that everyday has its own sufficient amount of trouble (evil). He is saying that everyday we should deal with that day’s problems and decisions and not worry about the future. How many people make decisions today based on tomorrow’s anxieties? This points to a lack of faith in God. If we can trust God in the big things (salvation) then we can trust him in the small things (daily necessities). We live by faith—confidence in God—not by anxiety.
Matthew 6:34; Proverbs 27:1
To Continually Pray With Thanksgiving About All Things
- Genuine confidence in God should lead to peace. Peace is to be harmonious, to be free from disturbances and disputes. The peace of God is a God-given serenity that only comes from Him. The opposite of peace is anxiety, likewise, the opposite of praying is worrying, thus peace comes through a lifestyle of thankful prayer to God about all things and not through anxious worrying about self, life, etc.
- Paul commands us to “be careful for nothing”—meaning that we are not to be anxious about anything. Anxiety is when we are worried—allow our minds to think at length—about difficulties or problems that often lead to unhappiness, uneasiness, and uncertainty. Thus, he is commanding us to not dwell on such “anxious thoughts”. Instead, he tells us to pray about everything with thanksgiving. This has three key components to battle anxiety: (1) Instead of worrying about something, we are to let it be made known to God. Prayer (petition), supplication (entreat) and requests (ask) are all different aspects of the same mode of communication to God. (2) All prayer should be done “with thanksgiving”. This puts our prayers into perspective so we come before God without murmurings and disputings but with gratitude and appreciation. (3) We are to come before God in prayer with thanksgiving about “everything”. Only through applying this manner of “thankful prayer” to every situation can we replace our habits of worry and anxiety. The direct result of this is that the peace of God, which is superior to all understanding, will keep, guard watch over our “hearts and minds” in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7; (1 John 3:19-24)
- We are to cast all of ours cares or anxieties on God. To do so means we have to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God but also know and trust that He cares for us. We have to reckon that problems are relevant and important to God and He wants me to hurl these worries on Him. He doesn’t want me to fret and worry about them, but instead to trust and have confidence in His sovereign hand.
1 Peter 5:7
- Where can believers find strong confidence?
- What are the three aspects of confidence that we have?
- Confidence in the Lord means to prominently seek after what?
- Confidence in the Lord means to continually do what?
- What are we do be anxious about? Why?
An attitude of joy is a way of life that rejoices in the Lord always. Joy is a fruit that has to be produced by the Holy Spirit but at the same time it is a command to be obeyed. As the Holy Spirit produces this spiritual appetite within us we are responsible to partake in Jesus’ joy through abiding in Him and willingly rejoicing in our tribulations without disgruntlement.
Psalm 16:11; 90:15; 97:1
Joy Is A Fruit To Be Produced, A Command To Be Obeyed
- Joy is an emotion or feeling of great happiness and great pleasure. Joy and happiness or gladness are interrelated and indivisible (for who can claim to be joyful and yet unhappy). The “stimulus” or “circumstance” that evokes or causes the emotional state of joyfulness is the determining factor to whether a person is joyful. Therefore, an “attitude of joy” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our happiness and pleasure in Him and leads to an unwavering state of being happy in God.
Romans 5:6-11; (Evil Joy—Hebrews 11:25; James 4:16)
- Joy is a fruit to be produced—the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes “joy” and against such there is no law. Naturally, joy is an emotion expressed in response to circumstances of delight in the temporal sphere of life—such as the birth of your child, eating your favorite food, listening to your favorite song, etc. Spiritually, joy is an emotion expressed in response to circumstances of delight in the eternal God and His workings—such as one sinner that repents, the statutes of the Lord, singing unto the Lord the rock of our salvation, etc. Thus, the Holy Spirit produces in us a joy of a new quality—one that has spiritual appetites, motivations, and expressions. He rouses “joy in God” in us.
Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (Luke 15:7, 10; Psalm 19:8; 95:1; 3 John 3-4; Acts 15:3)
- Joy is a command to be obeyed—we are commanded to rejoice in Jesus always. This literally means that we are given an order to feel happiness and pleasure because of our Lord Christ Jesus. We can accomplish this by not having any confidence in ourselves but by being content in and boasting with triumphant joy in Jesus’ achievements. Therefore, this is a command to anchor our joy to Jesus and His unchanging work of grace in our lives and not on other wavering and fleeting circumstances.
Philippians 3:1-3; 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; (Matthew 2:10; 13:44; 28:8; Luke 1:14, 44; 2:10)
To Abide In Jesus And To Be Filled With His Joy
- Jesus wants His joy to remain in us and our joy to be full—to have as much as possible. He wants us to share in the same “joy in God” that Jesus Himself experienced. So we need to know what is the stimulus for this “Jesus joy”. Jesus gives us the answer telling us that the key is “abiding in Him”—apart from Him this quality of joy is unattainable. This “abiding” has the following characteristics:
John 15:9-17 (1-8); 17:6-19; 20:19-20; (Isaiah 35:8-10)
- (1) True salvation—not everyone who says they are Christians really are. Do you have a true personal faith in Jesus alone for salvation? Are you a true believer? Consequently, a true believer finds that the foundation for lasting joy—that no one can take from you—is the resurrection of Jesus. Our hearts should always rejoice at the thought of the resurrection because Jesus has overcome the world and He now lives in us—greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world. We are to greatly rejoice in our salvation with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are to rejoice in being justified by faith and in this hope of the glory of God.
John 16:19-22; 16:33; Romans 5:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 1 John 1:3-4; 4:4; Acts 16:34; (Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13)
- (2) Bearing fruit—bearing fruit is a natural result of repentance and faith in Jesus. Believers produce good fruit because Christ is good. Therefore, the fruit we bear gives evidence to the faith that we say we believe. What kind of fruit are you bearing?
- (3) Pruning—as true believers God cultivates our lives removing anything that would hinder us from producing fruit and making us holy which leads to producing much fruit and glorifying God.
- (4) Jesus’ words abide in us. This is the “renewed mind”—meaning our hearts are reestablished to know and submit to the truth of God as the foundation of all things right and good. Jesus’ words transforms our thinking which transforms our lives. Thus, knowing the Bible and its correct teaching affects our joyfulness.
2 John 12
- (5) Asking and receiving—those who are abiding in Jesus and His word have the privilege of praying, being heard, and getting their prayers answered. Jesus invites His disciples to an active prayer life so that our joy may be full. Are we not joyful (joy-filled) because we are not prayerful (prayer-filled)?
- (6) Obedience—we are to continue and abide in Jesus’ love. Jesus defines this by saying that if we keep His commandments and keep His words we are abiding in His love. This is summarized as loving God and loving others. Jesus is the greatest example of this—He joyfully obeyed God in all things including the cross.
John 13:34-35; 14:15; 14:21-24; Mark 12:29-31; Hebrews 12:2
To Willingly Rejoice In Tribulations Without Disgruntlement
- We are to glory or rejoice in our tribulations because of the spiritual virtues that it produces in our lives. Therefore, as we rejoice in our tribulations (trials, sufferings, persecutions, hardships) we produce patience—meaning we learn to correctly endure such hardships; and this produces experience—meaning we have been tested and have continued on in our faith thus showing proof of it (compare Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13); and this produces hope—an established and unwavering confidence in God; and this hope “maketh not ashamed”—meaning that it will not disappoint us because of God’s great love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is graciously given to all believers. Thus, to rejoice in our tribulations leads to a more mature and deeper hope in God which results in greater happiness, pleasure and satisfaction based solely in God alone.
Romans 5:3-5; 12:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-19; Hebrews 10:34; Acts 5:41; 13:48-52; Colossians 1:11; 1:24
- Therefore, when something bad happens, I can joyfully accept it because God and His faithfulness to me has not changed—this doesn’t mean that we won’t have other conflicting emotions, but it means that we do have a confident joy that sustains us in the hardest of trials. Even when our emotions fail to uphold joy in the midst of such devastating trials, we still have hope that the Holy Spirit produces this fruit in us. The joy of the Lord is our strength knowing one day we will enter into His presence which is fulness of joy.
Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 16:11; (Matthew 25:21-23; Luke 6:23; Revelation 19:6-8; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18)
- Sometimes we loose our joy and become disgruntled with our situation, dissatisfied with God, disillusioned by the gospel and full of bitterness. Often this is because we loose our focus or because of some unfulfilled expectations. At such a time, we need to re-align our focus to the hope that is in God, to become re-enchanted with the truth of the gospel and re-align our expectations with that of the bible (stop having wrong expectations about God). We need to stop listening to the wrong “inner thoughts” of despair and the voices of others who are telling us that we are cast down, but start preaching and speaking truth to ourselves, exhorting ourselves to put our hope in God, and proclaiming that we shall again praise Him—the health of our countenance (our salvation), and our God.
Psalm 42:5-6, 11; Philippians 2:16; Psalm 23:1-6; (Ephesians 4:30-32; James 3:11-15)
- What does it mean that joy is a fruit to be produced?
- What does it mean that joy is a command to be obeyed?
- How do we abide in Jesus and be filled with His joy?
- Should we rejoice in tribulations? Why?
- What should we do if we loose our joy?
An attitude of worship is a way of life that worships God from the heart. True worship is done in spirit and in truth. It thinks rightly and fearfully about God’s infinite worth which results in a life chiefly engaged in thought about God and not self.
True Worshippers Worship “In Spirit And In Truth”
- Worship is the expression, in our attitude and actions, of our reverence and adoration for God. Our attitude towards God (mindset, worldview, inclination) expresses what we truly think and feel about God. Our actions reflect our attitude, but our actions can be manipulated to express an attitude that doesn’t truly exist (hypocrisy). Furthermore, outward forms of worship (actions) can change because of time and culture, but the “attitude of worship” transcends all culture, traditions and time because it is rooted in the truth of God’s unchanging attributes (nor can any actions contradict these attributes to be counted as worship). Therefore, an “attitude of worship” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our reverence and adoration to Him because of our understanding and faith in His attributes—who He reveals Himself as—and ultimately this is reflected in the way we act.
Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7; Isaiah 29:13
- Jesus tells a Samaritan woman four things about true worship: (1) Worship is no longer confined to just a place. This is because, as revealed in other parts of scripture, upon salvation our bodies become the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in us—thus we can worship anywhere. (2) Worship is based on what you know. The Samaritans worshipped false gods, things they didn’t really know. But salvation came from the true God through the Jews. Thus knowledge of the Messiah—Jesus Christ—is required to worship. (3) Worship must be “in spirit”—meaning that we must worship God from our heart and in our attitude (inward passion). (4) Worship must be “in truth”—meaning that we must worship God according to truth. This truth is that which He has revealed to us in His Word. Therefore, true worship is towards God from the heart and based in a growing knowledge of the truth through the Bible and God’s Son Jesus.
John 4:19-24; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; Philippians 3:3
- Salvation should lead to an attitude of worship. We receive a “kingdom which cannot be moved”— a place where there is no more crying, no more death, no more mourning, and no more pain. All evil will be done away with. We will be in the presence of God’s glory with great joy. Therefore, we are to: (1) have “grace”—meaning to acknowledge our thankfulness and appreciation to God whereby we may (2) “serve”—to obey as an act of worship. This service or worship is to God and should be “acceptably”—in a manner that is well-pleasing; with “reverence”—very great and heartfelt respect; and “godly fear”—an overwhelming feeling of awesomeness, wonder, greatness, and holiness, knowing that our God is a “consuming fire”—His justice will bring final judgement on all evil.
Hebrews 12:28-29; Revelation 21:4; 23; 22:4
To Think Rightly And Fearfully About God’s Infinite Worth
- An attitude of worship recognizes God is incomprehensible. He is infinite and we are finite. Thus, for us to know what God is like, He must reveal Himself to us. God reveals Himself through natural revelation—letting us know the Someone greater than ourselves definitely exist. He also reveals Himself through special revelation—His Word and Jesus, so that we could understand He created us to know Him and enjoy a right relationship with Him. We are not equal to or greater than God, therefore we will never comprehend Him in His entirety. But in the context of His revelation He can be worshipped.
Psalms 19:1-6; 145:3; 147:5; 139:6; 17-18; Isaiah 40:28; 55:6; 43:7 Jeremiah 32:17; Ephesians 1:1-10; Exodus 33:18-33; Titus 2:11; Job 11:7-10; Romans 11:33-36
- An attitude of worship starts with “knowledge” and the beginning of knowledge is “the fear of the Lord”. Fear means to respect. It means we have the highest reverential respect for God because He is the Creator of everything. It means that everything has to be put into perspective: a high and lofty view of God (the incomprehensible Creator) and a low and timid view of mankind (the comprehensible creation). It is the ultimate concession—that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and God’s thoughts than our thoughts. It is through this “contrite and humble spirit” that God says He will have respect unto, He will revive the heart and the spirit, He will save.
Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 24:3-4; 138:6; 147:10-11; Isaiah 55:7-9;57:15; Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
- An attitude of worship learns and thinks about God’s attributes—to understand more fully and accurately what God is like. Logic and reason will eventually fail us in our attempt to fully grasp the “the beauty of holiness”. Thus it is through faith that we know and accept God and the attributes that describe who He is. This includes the following: God is the true God and there is no other like Him. He is everything beautiful and the source of true happiness and joy. God is a spirit and invisible. God is independent, unchanging, jealous, and sovereign. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. God is good, holy, perfect, righteous, and just. God is love, and God hates sin.
Jeremiah 10:10; 23:23-24; 32:17; Psalm 27:4; 29:2; 96:9; 99:9; John 4:24; 1:18; Acts 17:24-25; Numbers 23:19; Exodus 20:5; Isaiah 48:11; Ephesians 1:11; 1 John 3:20; Luke 18:19; Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 4:8; Romans 1:18
- An attitude of worship learns and thinks about God’s works—to understand more fully and accurately what God has done. From the beginning, God created mankind to be His people and for Him to be their God. But they rejected this when they sinned against Him. Thus God was on mission to redeemed them to Himself and save them from their sin and its penalty of death or eternal separation from Him. God has and will ultimately accomplished His mission by saving “whosoever will” from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. This is possible because through a virgin birth God became man in Jesus. He lived a sinless life. Mankind rejected and crucified Him. He was buried, but three days later He rose from the dead. He defeated sin, death and evil. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and whosoever wants to worship God must do so through faith in Jesus alone. God is to be worshipped for who He is and for His marvelous works among all people.
Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-21; 16:20; Revelation 12:9; 20:2, 10; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; John 8:44; John 1:29; 3:16-17; 4:42; 6:33; 8:12; 9:5; 12:32, 46; 14:6; Psalm 96:3; 111:1-4
To Chiefly Engage In Thought About God And Not Self
- An attitude of worship helps us overcome one of over greatest problems: selfishness. Worship is not about us, but it is about God. An attitude of worship means that we are going to chiefly be engaged in thought about God and His infinite worth and not about ourselves. Selfishness means we are lacking in heartfelt thought for others because we are concerned about our own personal gain and satisfaction (often without moral inhibitions). It is when our hearts orientation is focused on ourselves. But true worship changes this because it makes loving God as our primary orientation or thought and loving others as the secondary orientation or thought.
James 4:8-10; Mark 12:29-31; 1 Corinthians 10:24
- Selfishness is sin. As believers, we are to deny ourselves. We are not to do anything with “strife”—selfish ambition, but in “lowliness of mind”—humility, we are to count others better than ourselves. Thus through an attitude of worship we incline our heart unto the testimonies of God—overcoming our selfishness and respond to Him and others in love.
Matthew 16:24; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:2-4; Galatians 5:20, 26; James 3:13-16; 4:3; Psalm 119:36; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- What is worship?
- What four things about worship does Jesus tell the Samaritan woman?
- An attitude of worship recognizes what? And starts with what?
- An attitude of worship learns and thinks about?
- An attitude of worship helps us overcome what sin?
The biblical framework for christian thought starts in the heart. We need to teach our own hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel. Through the Holy Spirit, the word of God and biblical meditation we renew our minds and transform our lives so that we don’t conform to a sinful world system. Therefore, we need to learn to think on the right things so that we can shape our attitude and conduct to glorify God.
Christian Thought Starts In The Heart
- The heart is the wellspring of all our “inward attitudes”—meaning that the heart represents the “inner person” or the real orientation, belief, motivation and attitude of a person. It is from the heart that we think, feel and make decisions. It is the source from which everything we do in life is issued from (wether good or bad). The problem is our hearts are born sinful—meaning it is not neutral but deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked or incurable on its own and if left untouched will lead to destruction. But the gospel changes everything—starting with our hearts. Therefore, the goal for christian thought is to train our own hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel so that we can fulfill our reason for existence (to glorify God and enjoy Him forever through the gospel of Jesus) and guard it against our sinful inclinations.
Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:45; Matthew 15:8-9; Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 17:9; 24:7; Psalm 58:3; 51:5, 10
- The first step is being born again. You can’t just clean up your life morally and starting thinking positive thoughts. This leaves you empty inside and leads to a worse conclusion (self-righteousness and selfishness). But true salvation results in the permeant indwelling of the Holy Spirit who guides us in a radical “heart transformation” and causes us to change from the inside out. This causes the principle of replacement to take place: we stop thinking about the wrong things but we start thinking about the right things—which leads to us stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things—all for the glory of God.
Matthew 5:44; 12:43-45; Ephesians 4:28; John 3:3-8
Renewing Our Minds Leads To Transformed Lives
- As believers, we have experienced the incredible mercy of God through the gift of salvation in His Son Jesus. Because of the great salvation that we have received by the mercies of God (which are expounded by Paul in Romans 1-11) we as believers should offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice—meaning we completely give our lives over to God and live what is holy and acceptable to Him. Therefore, we are to be “transformed”—meaning it should be apparent that we are different and that we no longer walk according to the course of this sinful world. We no longer conform to the sinful world and society around us（all that is not oriented towards God and the gospel). The transformation starts with “renewing our minds”—meaning that our minds (hearts) need to be reestablished so that we can properly live out this transformed life. This transformed life results in a life that tests, discerns and lives according to the will of God—just like a priest would know what sacrifice was good, acceptable, and perfect.
Romans 3:22; 12:1-2, (3); Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:13-14; (Leviticus 22:19-25)
- What is the renewed mind? The renewed mind is when our hearts are reestablished to know and submit to the truth of God as the foundation of all things right and good. The “spirit of your mind”—meaning your mindset, attitude, worldview, and inclination come into submission with the word of God so that what we want to do becomes what we should do. Our longings and our obligations become one and the same—which leads to true freedom—thus we are to stand fast and have no other mindset or view.
Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 5:1, 10
- How do we renew our minds? (1) Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit works in a person’s life to allow the light of the glorious gospel of Christ to shine into their “blinded minds” and bring them to salvation. Once a person believes in Jesus they receive the Holy Spirit who continues His work of “renewing” them and bringing them into humble submission to the truth as our attitudes and actions come into alignment with our new identity. (2) The Word of God—the Holy Spirit before and after salvation works through the word of God. It is the word of God that provides the truth the Holy Spirit uses to cause God’s people to be renewed and thoroughly equipped to carry out God’s will. Therefore, we need to fill our minds with the bible (read the bible, listen to correct bible preaching and teachings, sing songs full of bible lyrics, memorize and quote scripture, etc.). (3) Biblical Meditation—the bible encourages us to actively and intently think about all the things the bible has to say. Through prayerful consideration we are to apply these “bible thoughts” to our everyday lives and decisions until we develop a “bible attitude”—a biblical disposition, propensity, or natural tendency towards the will of God.
Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 1:2; 19:14; 119:11; Colossians 1:28; 3:10, 16; John 16:13; 17:17
- What does the renewed mind do? The renewed mind puts everything to the test to see if it is the will of God or not. Your mind becomes a type of “biblical filter”—meaning everything is filtered through biblical truth. This helps in two main areas: (1) Conscious decisions—meaning we purposely think about something and try to make the best decision according to God’s will through the knowledge that we have; (2) Unconscious decisions—meaning all decisions we make without taking the time to think about it beforehand but make in an instant—thus the renewed mind allows us to automatically and unconsciously filter all these decisions through the “biblical filter” and change our sinful inclinations into godly ones (for example: lust, anger, pride, covetousness, anxiety, jealousy, envy, etc.). The general principal of the renewed mind is this: a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things—the renewed mind is the good treasure which allows us to live God honoring lives according to His will.
Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Matthew 12:33-37
Thinking On “These Things” Shapes Our Conduct
- Our thoughts govern us. Therefore, what we choose to think about, what we allow ourselves to ponder on will dictate what we do. If we think about the right things, it leads to us doing right, but when we think about the wrong things, it leads us to do wrong. Therefore, Paul tells us to think on certain things so that our actions will embody those same characteristics. These are not “relative” characteristics that change from person to person but are ultimately characteristics found in God and expounded through the bible. (Note: This isn’t “positive thinking,” “positive self-image” or some type of psychology that tries to manipulate reality to profit self.)
- Paul gives us several things to think about. Thus, “Christian thinking” should include: “any virtue” (moral excellence) and “any praise” (worthy of commendation). These are broken down into six characteristics: (1) “true things” (not false or deceiving things)—absolute facts wether positive or negative and is ultimately found in God and through His word; (2) “honest things” (not irresponsible or vulgar things)—the things that are honorable or worthy of respect because it has the qualities of applying biblical truth seriously and correctly; (3) “just things” (not evil or unrighteous things)—those things that are right according to the law and morality of the bible; (4) “pure things” (not immoral or defiled things)—those things the bible defines as moral and holy—all ethical purity—especially in relation to our body and sexuality; (5) “lovely things” (not rude or inhospitable things)—those things which are pleasing to others in a gracious and kind manner and communicates the love of God; (6) “things of good report” (not bad or contemptible things)—everything that can be defined as good and doesn’t contradict any biblical teachings but is in full alignment with it. Paul had exemplified these characteristics in his teaching and life and encourages us to not just constantly think on them but to also do them—to live them out—allow our thoughts to shape our actions.
- The heart is the wellspring of all our what?
- What is the first step?
- What does renewing our minds mean?
- What does the renewed mind do?
- Thinking on what shapes our conduct?
When you read the Bible it seems that all of us are called to live the life of the persecuted. But what determines why one would be persecuted? Paul pledged his allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and was constantly persecuted because he constantly preached the Gospel—no matter the cost.
What Did Paul Mean About Being Miserable?
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
- What did Paul mean when he said, “We are of all men most miserable?” Paul is addressing the false teaching that there wasn’t a resurrection, and he gives several points for a person to consider if Christ is not risen: our preaching is in vain; our faith is in vain; we would be false witnesses of God; there would be no resurrection of the dead; we are still in our sins; those who are already dead in Christ are perished. But then He also says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Meaning if we lived for only one purpose, one hope in life—that of the Lord Jesus—and we find out it isn’t true then we lived a very miserable life.
- But what would be our response if the resurrection wasn’t true? Would it be the same as Paul’s? Or would we say: (1) “If it wasn’t true, at least I lived a comfortable and content life with a few mistakes.” (2) “If it wasn’t true, at least I learned how to live my best life now and store up riches.” (3) “If it wasn’t true, at least I raised my children in a moral place and we lived good lives.” I’m afraid there wouldn’t be many “miserable” people because we are not “all in” for Jesus.
- Why was Paul’s response to the idea of the resurrection not being true that of being “miserable?” Paul said we are of all men most miserable if there was no resurrection because he lived a life of suffering—and if there was no resurrection His life of suffering was lived in vain. He held nothing back. We are also called to live a life of suffering. We are called to salvation but also to suffer. What kind of suffering? The same that we see and hear to be in Paul. That’s why he said we would be “miserable.”
Philippians 1:29-30; Paul’s Persecutions: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Why Was Paul Persecuted?
2 Timothy 3:11-12
- Paul names three cities in which he suffered persecution. A look at these three cities where he was persecuted gives us one common denominator why Paul was persecuted in varying degrees: preaching the Gospel. Thus, those who live “godly” in Christ Jesus are those who preach the Gospel. Not only was he preaching the gospel but he was preaching it to the world. He wasn’t just preaching it in the safety of the church building or in a Sunday school class but to the heathen. He preached where he was told not too.
- Paul’s example in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra:
- Antioch: Paul preached to the Jews starting in the Old Testament and then preached the gospel. After the message was done, many of the Gentiles couldn’t wait until the next Sabbath day to hear more about this message. Many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas. The next Sabbath day came and almost the whole city came together and the Jews saw the multitude and were filled with envy and spoke against Paul contradicting and blaspheming.
- Iconium: He spoke to the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue and a great multitude believed. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and made them think evil thoughts against the believers. Paul and Barnabas continued to speak boldly in the Lord and they did many signs and wonders. The city was divided, half with the Jews and half with the Apostles. The non-believing Jews and Gentiles got together with there rulers and planned an assault to use them despitefully and stone them. They fled to the next city and continued to preach the Gospel.
- Lystra: Paul and Barnabas fled into this city to escape being stoned in Iconium. They preached the Gospel. They healed the impotent man in his feet being a cripple from his mother’s womb. The people of the city saw the miracle that they did and they started treating them as if they were god’s come down from heaven. When Paul and Barnabas heard this they were very upset and ripped their clothes and ran among the people crying that they were just men and preached the truth. They were preaching to a non-Jewish crowd and therefore started at creation. The people restrained and did not offer sacrifices to them. The Jews who had persecuted them in Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra and persuaded the people against them and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But Paul stood up and went on preaching the gospel.
How Can We Endure This Type Of Life?
- Self-Denial: As a disciple it means you are willing to say no to what you want, desire, and/or need for the sake of the gospel and following Christ. You are willing to share the gospel in spite of what people think about you. You must die to wanting to always be accept by your peers and know rejection is a way of life.
- Take Up Your Cross Daily: As a disciple it means from the point of Salvation on, you are daily dyeing to yourself and plans and willing to bear “your cross” or God’s plan for your life. Just as suffering was part of God’s plan for the redemption of man, suffering is part of God’s plan to take the gospel to the world. Afflictions, trials, and persecutions are part of the Christian life and can be expected in a disciple of Christ just as evident as it was in the life of Christ.
- Following Christ: As a disciple it means you are willing to do anything He may ask of you to the point of death. You pledge your allegiance to the King of kings. Will you follow Christ in-spite of: (1) family and friends—we will be persecuted and hated for His name sake and this might include being persecuted by those closets to you; (2) government—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego followed God instead of the government and were willing to follow God if He delivered them (“If it be so”) and even if He didn’t (“but if not”); (3) death—Steven was the first to be persecuted after Jesus in the church and he was a layman. Where is your allegiance?
(1) Luke 21:16-17; (2) Daniel 3:16-18; (3) Acts 7:54-60
- What did Paul mean about his “miserable” comment?
- Why was Paul persecuted?
- What happened in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra?
- What three things can we do to endure this type of life?
- Where is your allegiance?
We help fellow believers being persecuted through remembering them and loving them as ourselves. As believers, we identify with the body of Christ, thus we are to show empathy when other believers are being persecuted for righteousness sake. All believers are to find their comfort in “the God of all comfort” and comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received from God.
We Should Remember Believers That Are Persecuted
- We should remember believers that are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. The Hebrew believers were told to “remember” the persecuted because they were “also in the body”—this has two possible understandings: (1) Identification—we are to remember believers that suffer adversity (cruel and mistreated, etc.) because we also identify as part of the body of Christ with them—we are all part of the family of God. If someone in the body of Christ is persecuted for Jesus’ sake, then if we were in their same situation, we would also possibly be persecuted for the same reason because we identify with the same Lord Jesus and with the same mission. Persecution shouldn’t separate believers or cause division but it should unify us. (2) Empathy—we are to remember believers that are “in bonds, as bound with them” because we are also in a human body and can understand their feelings and share in their pain. Either way, we are to be active in remembering the persecuted and we do that through loving them as ourselves. Below are some examples:
Remember: Hebrews 13:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Identification: 1 Corinthians 12:26; Empathy: 1 Peter 3:8; Romans 12:14
- The Hebrews—The Jewish believers were already remembering the persecuted. Not only did they endure persecution and have a great confidence in God, but they also they had “compassion” on those in prison.
- Obadiah—When Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifties in caves, and fed them with bread and water.
Kings 18:13; Romans 12:13
- Ebed-melech the Ethiopian—When Ebed-melech heard that they put Jeremiah the prophet in the dungeon—(which was like a cistern for storing liquids), he went to the king to plead his case because he was afraid that he would die in there. This was risky move by him, but he was granted permissions to take thirty men to go rescue him.
Jeremiah 38:7-13; 39:15-18
- We should remember believers that are persecuted for Jesus’ sake because they are Jesus’ representatives. Jesus told His apostles that anyone who receives them also receives Him and thus receives God. They are official representatives of Jesus, therefore those who receive them should do so with the same respect due to those whom they are representing. Thus, those who receive a prophet or righteous man will also be partakers in their reward because they were a helper in the work. Therefore, there is incentive to receive and help the man of God. But also, anyone who serves a believer without the reputation like that of a prophet or a righteous man, but is just a disciple, will also be rewarded. Below are some examples:
Matthew 10:40-42; 2 Corinthians 5:20
- A Great Woman and Her Husband—When Elisha the prophet and a holy man of God went through Shunem, a women there would urge him to eat some food. Thus, eating at this families home became a normal habit for him when he visited this town. Then the women and her husband decided to build a chamber (upper room) on the roof of their house with a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. That way they could provide a place for him to stay whenever he came to them.
2 Kings 4:8-11
- Ahikam the son of Shaphan—Jeremiah and Urijah were both prophets that prophesied against the city of Jerusalem in obedience to the Lord. Urijah was apprehended and killed by Jehoiakim the king, but the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan (a government official) was with Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death. So Ahikam used his influence to support Jeremiah even when it was dangerous to do so.
Jeremiah 26:10-11, 20-24
We Should Find Comfort In “The God Of All Comfort”
Psalm 94:19; 56:8-9
- God comforts us in our tribulation (affliction). God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—He allowed Jesus to suffer on the cross, but used it for a greater purpose. God is the Father of mercies—He has great compassion on the suffering. God is the God of all comfort—He is the One who can give true consolation in times of suffering. We are persecuted because of Jesus, but our consolation also comes from Him. If persecution abounds, so does the consolation that He gives us. Thus, the comfort that is needed is never-ending and is given to us by a merciful God through His Son Jesus.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, 5; (Psalm 23:4; 86:17; James 5:11)
- God comforts us in our tribulation so that we can comfort those who are in any trouble. As we go through tribulations, sufferings, affliction, or trouble, God is working in our lives and as we trust in Him for strength, we learn what true comfort is. Thus, we are able to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:4b
- Paul and Timothy understood this truth. They knew that their affliction and comfort would be used for the “consolation and salvation” of the Corinthian church—meaning they knew that the comfort they experienced through persecution would function to help the church to also know how to have comfort and perseverance when they patiently endured the same types of sufferings. It would also confirm the gospel because they weren’t unashamed of it—causing them to endure in the comfort of their salvation until they are fully saved out of this world. There is hope for all believers because if you partake of the sufferings, you will also partake of the consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:6-7; (Romans 1:16)
- Paul and Timothy exemplified this truth. They didn’t want their brethren to be unaware of the trouble and affliction they had when they were in Asia. Something had happened to them that is was beyond their control and it threatened to end their lives. It felt that everything had fallen apart and they were sentenced to death. But all of this was done so that they would not trust in themselves, but in God who raises the dead. God delivered them from this deadly event. They believe that He will even deliver them again because they set their hope and trust in Him.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
- Prayer is a way we can comfort other believers in persecution. Paul told them that they could help through prayer. If God would answer their requests for them (“gift bestowed”) by the prayers of many, then thanks may be given to God by many on their behalf.
2 Corinthians 1:11; (Romans 12:12; Hebrews 4:16)
- God’s Word is a way we can comfort other believers in persecution. The Psalmist said that His comfort in His affliction was that God’s Word—His promises—gives him life (quickened). We are to think upon and obey God’s Words and take comfort in them—not forgetting them or forsaking them in the midst of persecution.
Psalm 56:10-11; 119:50-52, 76, 81-88
- Who should we remember?
- Why should we remember them?
- What are some examples of helping God’s people?
- Where do believers find true comfort?
- How can we comfort others?
Enduring persecution is part of God’s plan to evangelize the world, thus, we endure the persecuted life by: following Paul’s example; resting in the all sufficient grace of God; knowing there is a better and greater reward; and allowing God to avenge the persecuted.
We Endure By Following Paul’s Example
- Enduring the persecuted life was exemplified by Paul. Paul and the apostles lived “the persecuted life”—meaning they were constantly under siege from different types of suffering because of the gospel—“as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God”. It was as if they were on exhibit in a Roman arena where men are sentenced to death. It was a life that seemed foolish, weak and despised—but it was the will of God because it was founded on the truth of God. Paul even goes on to describe their life (His and probably Sosthenes’ life) at that time. They were hungry, thirsty, naked (poorly dressed), buffeted (beat or punched), homeless (no certain dwelling place) and laboured by working with their own hands (financially support themselves and others). There were made as “the filth of the world” (like scummy water) and “the offscouring of all things” (like dirty scrapings). But Paul didn’t allow all of this to defeat him, instead He tells us what he did to endure the persecuted life and then urges us to be followers of him.
1 Corinthians 1:1; 4:1, 9-16
- “Being reviled, we bless”—endure verbal abuse with verbal blessings—to respond with truth, kindness and a godly disposition.
- “Being persecuted, we suffer it”—endure harassment and attacks by bearing it—to patiently and tolerantly suffer it even though it is really unpleasant and difficult.
- “Being defamed, we intreat”—endure slander with entreatment—answer kindly in truth and love any false accusations brought against us or the gospel.
We Endure By Resting In The All Sufficient Grace Of God
- Our infirmities, His strength: Paul gladly boasted in his infirmities because of the sufficiency of Jesus’ grace. Jesus’ strength is made perfect in weakness. Thus, Paul was wanting the power of Jesus to rest upon him. He realized that when he is weak, then he is strong through Jesus. Thus, for the sake of Jesus, he learned to be content with or take delight in infirmities, reproaches, necessities (hardships), persecutions, and distresses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- Our weakness, His power: As believers, we have “treasure” in earthen vessels. The treasure that we possess is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. The earthen vessels or jars of clay represents our human weakness. Thus, God works through us who have received His salvation to show that the excellency and all-surpassing power belongs to Him and not to us. Paul was constantly being persecuted because he was always bearing in the body the death of Jesus—meaning that because he was being persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Through this suffering “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”—meaning that it would serve as a witness to others of Jesus. He evens says that they were always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake—meaning that believers are always going to face the potential of death if they live boldly for Jesus and try to reach the world with the gospel (like Paul and the other Apostles did). Through this risk of death “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”—meaning that we are willing to put our lives at risk of death so that others might receive life. God’s grace gives us the faith to say the following:
2 Corinthians 4:6-12
- “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed”—endure difficulties and suffering with hope in God knowing that He provides grace for us in the time of need.
- “We are perplexed, but not in despair”——endure doubts and confusion with faith in God knowing He gives you the needed emotional and mental composure to endure.
- “Persecuted, but not forsaken”——endure harassment and attacks with confidence in His presence, He will never leave us or abandoned us.
- “Cast down, but not destroyed”—endure being thrown down with victory—we are never defeated because we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
We Endure By Knowing There Is A Better And Greater Reward
- Believers who endure the persecuted life will be rewarded. Jesus promises a great reward in heaven for those who are persecuted. Also, the Hebrew believers knew they had a better and an enduring substance in heaven—eternal salvation. When they first believed they endured a lot of persecutions. Then Paul encourages them that they are to continue in this “confidence”—their relationship with Jesus—and not cast it away because of continuing persecution because there is a great reward for them. To do this we need to patiently do the will of God, and in the end we will receive the promise of eternal life. As believers, we live by faith to the saving of the soul.
Luke 6:22-23; Hebrews 10:32-39; 11:23-28
- Our persecution is noticed by Jesus and rewarded. Jesus praises the church Smyrna for: enduring tribulation—being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus; enduring blasphemy—being accused of doing wrong and slandered by unbelieving Jews; enduring poverty—being financially poor, most likely due to following Jesus. Jesus warns that more persecution is coming. They will be cast into prison for “ten days” and may even face death. He advises them to “fear not” and to be “faithful unto death.” A reward for enduring this type of persecution is the “the crown of life,” which probably refers to eternal life or a literal crown, either way it would be a just reward from Jesus Himself.
James 1:12; Revelation 2:9-10
We Endure By Allowing God To Avenge The Persecuted
- God will avenge the persecuted and the martyrs. We don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. In Revelation, the souls of the tribulation martyrs—those that were “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” are described. They were killed because they were faithful to the Bible and boldly proclaiming Jesus in spite of the opposition to the message they preached. They cried out from under the altar and asked God when He was going to avenge their blood. They were told to rest for a little season because there were other believers who would also be martyred like they were. But afterwards, He is coming to judge and avenge their blood.
Romans 12:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Revelation 6:9-11
- How did Paul exemplify the persecuted life?
- Why did Paul gladly boast in his infirmities?
- God’s grace gives us the faith to say what?
- We endure persecution because we know what?
- We should allow God to avenge who?
After persecution we need to (1) learn how to respond appropriately—without retaliation so that we may be children of our Father who is in heaven; (2) rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus and blessed by God; (3) at all cost, refrain not from boldly living for Jesus.
Respond Appropriately And Don’t Retaliate Inappropriately
Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-28
- We are not to retaliate against those who persecute us. The Bible says that we are not to “render evil for evil unto any man” but instead we are to always strive to “follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Also, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” thus we don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. Jesus and the Apostles help us to understand how we are to appropriately respond to persecution without inappropriately retaliating against it.
Romans 12:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
- Respond with love. We are to love our enemies—those who hate us and wish to hurt us. God demonstrated His love to us in that while we were His enemies Jesus died for us. Jesus was hated, persecuted and crucified, but He only responded with love.
- Respond with blessings. We are to bless them that curse us. We are not to respond with the same negative manners of speaking that invoke harm and evil to a person, but instead we are to use positive manners of speaking that invoke favor, kindness and ultimately God’s blessings—of which the greatest blessing is to know Jesus.
- Respond with doing good. We are to do good to them that hate us. We are not to respond with the same kind of great dislike and aversion towards our persecutors, but instead we are to act and behave in a way that treats them well and in a proper manner. Our behavior helps us win people over to Jesus. We should be willing to adapt that we might “by all means save some”.
Romans 12:20-21; Right behavior helps converts others: 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Peter 3:1-2
- Respond with prayer. We are to pray for them which despitefully use us (verbal abuse) and persecute us (physical abuse). We are not to respond by using verbal or physical abuse, but instead we are to passionately call out to the Lord in prayer. Remember: before, in the midst of, and after persecution, we are still “on mission”—we desire to see even our persecutors repent and believe in Jesus. Prayer is powerful and we have three strong examples that hep us understand this point: (1) Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him; (2) Stephen prayed for those who stoned him to death. (3) Paul prayed for the Jews who beat him with 39 stripes five times.
(1) Luke 23:34; (2) Acts 7:60; (3) 2 Corinthians 11:24; Romans 10:1
- Our motivation to respond appropriately to persecution is so that we are like our Father in Heaven. He is our Father and we are His children—thus we need to act like it. We are to be living the victorious Christian life—a life that is radically being transformed into the very character of God. God, our Father, is a merciful, gracious and good God. He makes the sun to rise on the good and evil. He also sends rain to the just and the unjust. We are to do more good than sinners do. If we only greet other believers and ignore unbelievers, what change has taken place in our lives. There is no reward for loving those who already love you, anyone can do this, but there is reward for loving those who don’t love you. This is a growing process to be more and more like our Father. The standard is to be perfect like God. Thus, persecution and our right response to it helps make us more like Him.
Rejoice Because You Are Counted Worthy And Blessed
- Respond with rejoicing because you are counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. The apostles were arrested and put into prison, but an angel set them free. Then they were arrested again and brought before the authorities to be questioned. They were being persecuted for teaching in Jesus’ name. Peter even taught Jesus to the authorities when they questioned Him. This only made them more mad and they wanted to kill them. But a man named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stood up and advised them to not kill them. They heeded his advice. So they beat the disciples, charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. After being persecuted, the Bible says that, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” We should rejoice if we are counted worthy.
Acts 5:17-38; 39-41; Colossians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
- Respond with rejoicing because, as a believer, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Blessed are believers who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—those who receive any form of action that punishes them for being a believer or obeying God’s will. We are blessed when, for Jesus sake, men revile, persecute or says all manner of evil against us falsely. We are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is ours—we will be saved and God rules in our hearts and lives. We can rejoice and be exceeding glad because great is our reward in heaven. Thus, we can rejoice because true happiness is found in a real relationship with God—no matter the cost of obtaining or maintaining it, knowing that one day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. Finally, He reminds them that the prophets which were before them were also persecuted, meaning as they experience persecution they will be numbered with the people of God.
Matthew 5:10-12; Revelation 21:1-4
Refrain Not From Boldly Living For Jesus
- Respond with boldly preaching and teaching Jesus no matter the cost. Before the disciples were released, they were commanded to not speak in the name of Jesus. But they didn’t allow the persecution they suffered or the fear of future persecution to keep them from obeying God. After they were released, they Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
- Respond by intentionally, boldly and openly living for and bearing witness of Jesus that all men through this witness might believe. Even though Jesus tells His disciples they will be persecuted, He also tells them they are “the salt of the earth”—meaning as His disciples, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they should be willing to forsake all, endure persecution and live as peacemakers in the world. Jesus uses another metaphor to further explain this, saying they are “the light of the world”—meaning it is their responsibility as believers to shine the light of the gospel so that unbelievers can see the truth and be saved. Jesus says that a city that is set on a hill can’t be hid nor do people light a candle and put it under a bushel (basket). Finally, He concludes saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Thus, this is an unashamed, bold and public witness for Jesus in our words and actions.
Matthew 5:13-16; Psalm 27:1; Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 12; 4:1-2
- Should believers retaliate to persecution?
- How should believers respond appropriately to persecution?
- What is the believer’s motivation to respond appropriately to persecution?
- Why should believers rejoice when persecuted?
- After persecution, should a believer refrain from boldly living for Jesus?
Before persecution we need to prepare our minds, emotions, hearts and intellect to be ready for suffering and be in submission to the Bible. Also, we can be prepared by having a “now” and “then” mindset—meaning that we need practice these truths “now” and make them a habitual part of our Christian lives so that they are natural actions we take when we are persecuted “then”.
Prepare Your Minds, Emotions, Hearts And Intellect To Be Ready
1 Peter 3:13-17
- Prepare your mind to know that persecution is not fair but it can be a blessing. The moral should be: the wicked is punished and the righteous is rewarded. Thus, the question should be, “If we are eager to do good and be righteous who will harm us?” But we know that this world’s morals are not aligned with God’s, so even if we do right there is a chance for us to be persecuted. But even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we will be happy or blessed—meaning that we are honored to be counted worthy to suffer for doing right or for being identified with Jesus. It is God’s will that we do right, even if that means to suffer for doing it. Therefore, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”
- Prepare your emotions to not fear persecution. Fear is an emotion caused by the thought or feeling of something dangerous or bad is going to happen. Fear can cause us to be paralyzed in our ministry and witness for Jesus. But we are told not to fear. We are not to fear them, their threats or their terror. We are not to let it troubled us—meaning the anticipation, anxiety and distress of living the persecuted life should not hinder us.
Isaiah 8:12; Matthew 10:28, 31; Luke 12:7, 32; John 14:1; Acts 27:24; Philippians 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 11:27; 13:6; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 2:10; (Fear Hinders: John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42-43; Galatians 2:12)
- Prepare your hearts to sanctify Jesus. The Bible says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”—this means that we are to be dedicated and devoted to Jesus as the Lord of our lives; it means to reverence, honor and trust in Him even in our most difficult situations and persecutions; it means believing that He is in control and not the persecutors. Thus, we are not to have fear of men, but to have a holy confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty.
Isaiah 8:13; Matthew 10:26-33; Luke 12:4-7
- Prepare your intellect to always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason of the hope that is in us. When we are persecuted, the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus often comes suddenly and we need to be prepared to give a defense to prove our belief is reasonable and right. We are to give this answer with meekness (gentleness) and fear (respect), having a good and clear conscience (a holy life before God) so that those who speak evil of us and falsely accuse our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame—meaning their slander will be silenced and hopefully cause them to consider the true nature of the gospel.
Examples of being ready to give an answer: Acts 22:1-21; 24:10-24; 26:1-23, 25b-29
Ways To Prepare “Now” For Handling Persecution “Then”
- Now: Expect persecution; Then: Don’t be caught off guard. Persecution and suffering as a “Christian” is a normal part of following Jesus. Thus, we shouldn’t think that it is strange or be surprised as though something weird was happening to us when we have to endure it. Persecution is to be expected. Peter calls it a “fiery trial which is to try you”—meaning an ordeal that causes agony and pain like a burning sensation causes. But persecution isn’t just suffering, but it is suffering with a purpose. God allows us to be tried through it and it builds our faith.
1 Peter 4:12
- Now: Establish an attitude of joy; Then: Keep an attitude of joy. Believers are to rejoice always and Peter also reminds us that inasmuch as we partake, share and participate in the sufferings of Christ we are to rejoice. If we are suffering for Jesus then we are suffering like He did—the righteous being persecuted by the wicked. If we rejoice in His sufferings, then when Jesus’ glory is revealed—meaning at the “second coming” we may be glad also with exceeding joy. Our focus is on that victory that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Peter 4:13; (Rejoice: Philippians 4:4; Partakers of Christ’s sufferings: Matthew 5:10-12; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 1:29; 3:10; Colossians 1:24)
- Now: Be filled with the Holy Spirit; Then: Sense God’s special blessing. Believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter also reminds us that if we are reproached, insulted or harshly criticized “for the name of Christ,” then we are happy or blessed because “the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us”—meaning that God’s presence is with persecuted believers in a special way. Thus, through the Holy Spirit’s work in the believers life, although the persecutors might be saying evil things about God, on the believers part God is glorified.
1 Peter 4:14; (Be filled with the Spirit: Ephesians 5:18; For the name of Christ: Acts 4:12; 5:41; 9:15, 16; 15:26)
- Now: Unashamedly glorify God in everything; Then: Don’t be ashamed but glorify God. As believers, we are to be living the victorious Christians life today and Peter also reminds us we are to suffer “as a Christian”—meaning because of identifying with Jesus and obeying the will of God. We shouldn’t be involved in activities that cause us to endure suffering if it isn’t for the name of Christ, such as being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a meddler (“a busybody in other men’s matters”). When we suffer for the right reason, we have nothing to be ashamed of (to feel guilt, embarrassment or remorse) but instead we are to glorify God on this behalf—that we proudly bear the name of “Christian”. Know this, often when someone persecutes us because of Jesus it verifies that we are following in His footsteps. Thus, we need to glorify God for this.
1 Peter 4:15-16; (Not Ashamed: Romans 1:16; 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:12; Glorify God: 1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Now: Understand the temporal and eternal perspectives; Then: Remember trials are temporal but God’s rewards are eternal. God judges His church (the house of God) for the purpose of purifying and cleansing it. Persecution is a type of “examination” that refines us and helps us grow. If God allows believers to be persecuted to help make us holy, then how much worse will the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?—meaning that even though enduring persecution here on this earth is hard, it far outweighs the eternal punishment and damnation in the lake of fire that unbelievers will receive. But we will receive eternal reward in God’s Kingdom with Jesus.
1 Peter 4:17-18; (Perspective: Proverbs 11:31; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:9-11)
- Now: Commit your works unto the Lord and trust Him with all your heart; Then: Continue to obey God’s will and entrust your life to Him. We are to commit to God with our souls for our care and protection. When we suffer according to the will of God, we are to commit our entire lives to God who is our faithful Creator—the one who gave us life, and to continue to do good. Peter also reminds us that it is better to suffer for doing good according to the will of God than for doing evil.
1 Peter 4:19; (Commit and Do Good: Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:3; Psalm 37:3; Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 2:22-23)
- How should we prepare our minds?
- How should we prepare our emotions?
- How should we prepare our hearts?
- How should we prepare our intellect?
- What are some ways to prepare “now” for handling persecution “then”?