Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Praise Tests The Heart (Proverbs 27:21)


The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise. [Proverbs 27:21, ESV]

One of the most dangerous things for Christians is pride. When we begin to walk by faith, to trust God to do what He has promised to do, to trust that He knows best, and to pray for the things that He has put on our hearts, we will inevitably see great things happen around us. God may take longer than we expect Him to, but there is always a reason for God’s timing, and we know that His timing is perfect. When we begin to see what God is doing, and we begin to receive the blessings that come from serving God, pride begins to tempt us.

I do not believe that a humble person goes to bed one night, only to wake up as a prideful person. From what I understand, and from what I have seen, pride is something that sneaks into the heart, slowly expanding throughout the mind, until what was a humble person becomes a prideful person. Pride is incredibly good at laying low, sneaking into minds, and corrupting them from within. That pride destroys ministries, destroys friendships, marriages, families, and reputations. Pride is faith-poison, and we must remain vigilant in our fight against temptation in all forms.

In this essay, I am going to take a different approach than I would normally take. In the majority of my verse-by-verse studies, I will have some kind of introduction, then I will break apart the passage, examine each part, then give a closing statement. Today, however, I am going to be doing things a bit differently.

The reason for me choosing to change my style for this verse is because, due to the way the verse was written, it would not make sense if I broke it into smaller parts. With that in mind, let us examine this verse.

We should begin by examining the end of the verse, since that is where the point of the verse is located.

…and a man is tested by his praise.

As previously stated, the verse does not make sense when broken up, so let us reconstruct the verse, using what we just read. Proverbs 27:21 describes the way that a man is tested by praise, in the same way that silver is tested by a crucible, or gold is tested by a furnace.

I am not much of a metallurgist, but I do know a bit about melting metal (I have melted metals as a hobby). The crucible is the container that one would put the metal into, so that it can melt in the heat, without being wasted. In the context of this verse, one would put the silver into a crucible, and that crucible would be used to hold the molten silver. The crucible does more than just hold the liquid form of the metal, it is what one would use to remove impurities from metal.

For example, when I melt aluminum, I must take a crucible, place aluminum into the crucible, get the furnace or forge hot enough to melt aluminum, then I must wait for the metal to be completely liquified. When the metal has been completely melted, the next step is to use something called a flux, which is used to separate the metal from the various impurities that it contains. Borax is a common flux to use for aluminum, and when I put some borax into molten aluminum, the borax reacts with the metal and brings the impurities to the top of the crucible. From there, all that I would need to do is take a spoon or a graphite rod, skim the top of the crucible, and put the impurities into another container. At that point, the aluminum is shiny, clean, and ready to be cast (poured into a mold).

I find it interesting that this verse compares praise to a crucible and a furnace, rather than the heat itself. The reason for this being so interesting is that the crucible does not do the actual melting of the metal, nor does it refine the metal. All that the crucible does is hold the metal so that it does not go to waste and spill all over the furnace. In the same way that the crucible is not the thing that does the actual refining, the furnace is where the heat comes from, but it is also the thing that contains the heat so that the crucible can be heated enough to melt the metal.

In the same way, praise is not what refines a person, but praise can be used to test a person’s character. There are two ways that one could interpret this verse:

  1. Praise shows who a person’s friends are.

In the same way that (to quote my mother) “birds of a feather flock together”, the people who praise a person are often good at telling others what the person receiving the praise is really like on the inside. If a man is praised, but the praise comes from murderers who are serving life in prison, one would have to question whether the man who is receiving said praise is really worthy of that praise at all. The people who praise somebody could reveal more about the person being praised.

  1. Praise tests one’s ability to resist pride.

It is very hard for one to develop an ego when there is nothing to feed it. The more praise given, the harder it becomes to resist becoming prideful. There is always the temptation to become prideful, but that temptation will grow as one receives praise. We are all born into sin, and our desires are opposed to the desires of the Spirit. When we hear praise about us, we can be grateful, thank those who praise us, and thank God for the things that He has given to us, or we can become prideful. When one becomes prideful, he separates himself from God, from his friends and family, and from himself. Pride will take a good person and turn them into a mean, self-important, egomaniac. Pride is incredibly sneaky in the way it works itself into minds, and praise only makes pride harder to detect.

The point of this verse is simple, yet profound. Praise will test a person’s character, revealing who he truly is. It is easy to pretend that one is somebody different than who he really is, but that act becomes much more difficult to put on when he encounters hardship, or when he is praised by others.

Pride is often difficult for us to see in ourselves, but it is obvious to others, and God knew our hearts before time began. In my life, I have seen pride work its way into my heart, and by the time I realized, it was too late. The best way to resist pride is to ask God to keep us humble, to give us wisdom, and to give us the ability to see ourselves as we truly are. It is better to prevent pride than it is to treat it, and the best way to prevent pride from taking root in your heart is to ask God to give you a humble heart, and to help you pay attention to the thoughts that go through your mind.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [James 4:7, ESV]

Monday, November 28, 2022

Standing The Test (James 1:12)


Blessed in the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. [James 1:12, ESV]

    In a previous part of this series, we examined James 1:2, which gave us quite the challenge:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

    In other words, rejoice when you go through trials in life. Why would anybody want to rejoice as he goes through some kind of hardship in life? More importantly, how could somebody rejoice during hard times? The answer to the former question will provide us with an answer for the latter. We have already covered James 1:3, and how the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, and how that steadfastness will ensure that we are complete, lacking in nothing [James 1:4], but there is more to have joy about than the prospect of one’s character being refined as a result of enduring through trials of various kinds. In James 1:12, we are given another reason to rejoice in our suffering. Steadfastness can only come from enduring for a time, meaning that one has to actually suffer for longer in order to gain it. One can not gain steadfastness if he only suffers for a moment, for example. It is after a prolonged period of waiting, of perseverance, of enduring trials, and relying upon God, that one can develop steadfastness.

    Steadfastness enables us to rely upon God, to trust in Him more, to seek Him diligently, and to be patient in times where it is difficult to remain calm. Furthermore, steadfastness ensures that future trials will be more manageable (and, perhaps, less frequent). Steadfastness will give us the ability to keep fighting, to keep seeking God, and to stand firmly in faith during times where our faith is under attack.

    The real subject of this essay is what James means when he describes the “crown of life” that will be given to those who stand the test, and who love God. Initially, I believed that the “crown of life” was a reference to the gift of eternal life that is given to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I am not convinced that such an interpretation is incorrect, but I do have reason to doubt my previous understanding of the verse in question.

    In preparation for writing this essay, I read some commentaries about James 1:12, including a commentary by Charles R. Erdman. I am only familiar with Erdman because of his commentaries, of which I own quite a few. After reading through the introduction to his commentary on the book of Galatians, I was so impressed that I went out and purchased every commentary that my local Christian bookstore had been selling at the time (every commentary that was not too worn, though I did return and purchase those later on). While I disagree with him on some of what he writes about, I cannot say that he was misinformed, nor can I say that he was deliberately ignoring context, or trying to push a narrative onto the reader. No matter how much I disagree with his theology, I must give him credit for the way he articulates his thoughts, and for how well he explains the Scripture.

    It was in a commentary by the gentleman in question that I came across an entirely new way of looking at the meaning of James 1:12. Rather than paraphrasing Erdman, I would like to quote him. In his commentary on the General Epistles (James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude), he writes the following:

“...he [James] speaks of ‘the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him,’ by which he means that one whose faith stands the test, one who views each event of life in the light of the wisdom which God gives, receives as a reward, as an inevitable result, life in ever fuller, larger degree, life more abundant, life for time and for eternity.” (page 23)

    I did not want to share this idea with others before I did some research of my own, so I read what some other people said about James 1:12. The most interesting thing that I found about this verse comes from, which describes the different interpretations of the verse in question. Their reason for the writers of leaning more towards the idea that the “crown of life” is meant to signify better circumstances on this side of Heaven, rather than eternal life itself, is a compelling one. In their description of the interpretation of the “crown of life” being a reference to eternal life, the writers claim that such an interpretation would be “an unlikely meaning”, as our salvation “is not hinged on our works or faithfulness”.

    I agree that, if we are discussing a Christian enduring hardships in general, the crown of life would not be a reference to his salvation. However, when I read this verse, my understanding has always been that the “test” that we are to stand is not a reference to the day-to-day struggles of life, but to the overall endurance of a person through life, against the pressures to turn away from God. If one stands the test, if he stands firmly rooted in his faith, then it would make sense that the “crown of life” would be the gift of salvation that he has accepted, but can only enjoy following his earthly death. In short, if one interprets the meaning of the test in question to be a reference to general issues in life, the reward would not be salvation. As previously stated, and as Paul writes throughout his epistles, we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works. James says the same thing in his epistle (which we will get to later on in this series).

    As I have previously written, the meaning of this verse hinges upon one’s interpretation of the “crown of life” that James speaks of. With the two major interpretations in mind, let us examine the Scripture.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,...

    Whenever I write these essays, part of me worries that I bore people when I get into the meaning of the original language, but I believe that the words used in the original Greek provide us with a much better understanding of James’ intended meaning. The word I want to look at is the word “blessed”, which is translated from the Greek word “makarios” (μακάριος). “Makarios” is an adjective that is used to describe “a person as experiencing positive circumstances or a happy disposition” (Lexham Theological Workbook). This is one of two words that is translated as “blessed”, with the other word being “eulogētos” (εὐλογητός), which is used in reference to God, and describes one who is praiseworthy.

In addition to Lexham Theological Workbook, both the DBL Greek and the NASB dictionaries define “makarios” as an adjective for one who is happy and fortunate. Therefore, when James says that “blessed is he”, he is telling us that the one who does what he will describe will be blessed. The one who does what James is about to describe will experience “positive circumstances or a happy disposition”. I believe that this would suggest that the meaning of the verse is more likely to be that one who endures trials will be rewarded on this side of Heaven.

When one remains steadfast, he is making use of one of the results of enduring hardship, which would also suggest that James 1:12 is describing the rewards that we will receive on earth. If steadfastness comes by the testing of our faith, and if we are blessed when we are steadfastness during trials, would we receive more steadfastness? If we refer to James 1:3, the answer is clearly “yes”, steadfastness is produced when our faith is tested. However, if James wanted to reiterate what he writes in verses 2 and 3, why would he do so in the same chapter, using different language? Would it make more sense to conclude that James 1:12 is reiterating the point of James 1:2-3, or that James is returning to the topic of steadfastness in order to expand on what he has previously described?

…for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God promised to those who love him.

    In the first part of this verse, we established that the man who is steadfast during times of trouble will be blessed. In this part of the verse, we are greeted with the word “for”, which tells us that what follows is James’ justification for why he that endureth temptation (to quote the King James Version) will be blessed. When one perseveres, remaining steadfast in the faith that has been tested, he will receive the crown of life.

    As previously described, the meaning of the “crown of life” is where the two major interpretations of James 1:12 go off in different directions. The part about how the crown of life has been promised to those who love God goes against the idea that the crown of life symbolizes the earthly blessings that are given to those who remain steadfast in their faith. It is through faith that we receive the gift of salvation, not a result of our works. If the crown of life is given to those who remain steadfast under trial, and the trial is not life in general, then would not this interpretation imply that by works we are saved?

    On the other hand, one could interpret this part of James 1:12 to be about showing God that we love Him by keeping His commandments despite our sinful desires and the influence of an increasingly anti-Christian culture.

    So, what does James 1:12 mean? As I said at the beginning of this essay, I began researching this verse with the understanding that James 1:12 was describing the gift of eternal life that we will enjoy after we endure a lifetime of our faith being tested. However, as I continued to read about the meaning of the verse, my understanding of James 1:12 has changed. While both interpretations are based in Scripture, this essay is not about the Bible in general, it is about a single verse. In conclusion, I lean more toward the interpretation that James 1:12 is describing the way that life becomes so much more enjoyable when we remain steadfast in our faith. I have experienced the way the joy of the Lord affects life, and I believe that the more steadfast one is in his faith, the greater his joy will be. From the moment that I set my heart on God, asked for His guidance, and allowed Him to work in and through me, I have seen my life change dramatically. To be more specific, my life has not changed as much as my approach to life has. No matter how bad things get, I have joy in my heart, and that joy turns the hardest days into the greatest opportunities to grow in my relationship with Christ. That joy turns the best days into even better days. Everything I have I am able to appreciate more, and that which I lack I am not upset by. If God wills me to have something, I will have it. If I suffer, I have another opportunity to grow in my faith, to learn more about living as God called me to live, and to trust God more than before. The greatest joy that I have received through my suffering is the opportunity to encourage others who are experiencing things that I have been through. I have thanked God for the opportunity to encourage others from the moment that I felt called to do so, and I continued to thank God as I waited for Him to give me the opportunity that He had promised to me. Here I am, after all that suffering, and I have seen God do what He has said He would do. There is a joy that comes from trusting in God, being steadfast in faith, and putting God first in life.


Perishing in Pursuit (James 1:9-11)


Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For when the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. [James 1:9-11, ESV]

    One of the most upsetting things that I hear from Christians is that the book of Ecclesiates is depressing, nihilistic, or discouraging. In the case of Ecclesiastes, the purpose of the book is to tell us how there are many things which seem to matter, but will not matter in the end. Life is meaningless without faith in God, so we should focus on the Lord, on serving Him, and on living according to His commandments. We should receive the blessings that God gives us, we should rejoice, we should enjoy what we have been blessed with, and we should thank the Lord for what He has blessed us with, but we should not lose sight of the purpose of life: serving God.

    The thing is that the book of Ecclesiastes would be incredibly depressing, but only if one’s priorities in life are out of order. As a Christian who seeks to serve God in every aspect of my life, I was actually encouraged by reading through Ecclesiates. Whether or not one desires to serve the Lord in all his ways, in all his days, is what will determine whether or not today’s passage will be encouraging.

    Before we examine the meaning of the passage as a whole, let us go over smaller parts of the passage, understand what each part means, and then step back and examine the full meaning of the passage.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,...

    When James refers to the “lowly brother”, he is not referring to a short man, or to a man who is depressed, or even to a man at all. The word “brother” is used as an endearing term for somebody (the Bible was written for both men and women), while the word “lowly” is used to describe one who is humble in spirit. The word “lowly” is translated from the Greek word “tapeinos” (ταπεινός), which is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “humble, lowly, in position or spirit (in a good sense)”. Lexham Theological Wordbook describes the same word as “...being in a low position socially…being humble.”, while explaining how “the literal meaning of low height does not appear in the NT”. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines the meaning of “tapeinos” as, “down-hearted, downcast, timid, lacking in hope”.

    When James addresses the “lowly brother”, he is speaking to those who are humble in spirit, who have put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, choosing to receive with meekness the Word [James 1:21]. It is my belief that James is also addressing those who are downcast, those who are struggling, and those who lack hope. My belief is not founded upon what makes sense to me as I read the passage in question, it is based upon the DBL, as well as my understanding of the way God desires to give hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and peace to the restless. The disciples of Jesus Christ (most likely, James was written by “James the Just”, who was not a disciple, but became a Christian after the resurrection of Christ, receiving the Gospel as it was given to the disciples) were told to continue the ministry that Christ had created while He walked the earth, so it would make sense that James would seek to encourage those who are struggling.

    To the lowly brother, James encourages him to boast in his exaltation. The word “boast” means exactly what it seems to mean, which is fascinating to me. The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to boast. Proverbs 27:2 says to let “another praise you, and not your own mouth”. In fact, James tells us not to boast, saying that we boast in arrogance, and that all such boasting is evil [James 4:16]. How then can the lowly brother boast?

    The lowly brother can boast because he is boasting in God, not in himself. We are not to boast in ourselves, or in our abilities, but we are to give God glory. In 2 Corinthians 11:30, Paul writes, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness”. When Paul boasts in his weakness, he mocks those who boast in their strength, while drawing attention to the way God has worked powerfully in the life of the apostle. Paul declares how weak he was, how flawed he was, and how he has suffered great hardships while spreading the Gospel.

    We are not to boast in ourselves, but we may boast in God. We may boast that God is above all, that there is none like Him, that He is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

    1 Peter 5:6 tells us that we should humble ourselves, “under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you”. God promises exaltation to those who love Him, to those who serve Him, and to those who trust in Him. Such an exaltation may not be in the form of earthly wealth, but even the lowliest of brothers can boast in the exaltation that they will receive in the form of eternal life through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

…and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of grass he will pass away.

    While the lowly brother is to boast in his exaltation, the rich should boast in his humiliation. My understanding of the meaning behind a rich man boasting in his humiliation is not that he should boast in humiliation itself, but in the pursuit of riches that will lead to his humiliation. This verse is not necessarily condemning wealth, but it is condemning those who spend the entirety of their life in pursuit of it. While the lowly brother can boast in his coming exaltation, the rich can only boast in that which will lead to his humiliation. Just as a blade of grass withers, so too will the rich man when he reaches the end of his life on earth. That which the rich man boasts in will vanish upon his death, but the lowly brother’s death will bring about the gift of eternal life that he has been promised by God.

As with sin in general, it is not the thing itself as much as it is the love of the thing. It is not wealth that is sinful, it is the love of money that is sinful.

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes.

    As wonderful and beautiful as the grass is, there comes a point when the sun rises, its heat withers the grass, and the beauty of that grass perishes. The sun rises every morning, sets every night, and never takes a day off. Unless you live in Antarctica (if you do, you should move), you can count on the sun rising every single day, 365 days a year. We cannot change our clocks and confuse the sun, and we cannot change our appearance in order to confuse God. We cannot confuse death by having an abundance of wealth, nor can we confuse ourselves into believing that a life spent in pursuit of wealth is worth living.

So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

    Just as the grass withers from the scorching heat of the sun, so too will the rich man wither as he pursues wealth and earthly possessions.

    The meaning of this passage is simple. Those who are poor, who are sick, who are low in spirit, should be excited that one day they will be able to experience eternal life in Heaven. Those who seek wealth and other worldly possessions can boast in their wealth, but that wealth will not save them, nor will that wealth hold any meaning when the rich man perishes.



Walking in Wisdom (Proverbs 28:26)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. [Proverbs 28:26, ESV]

    In this day and age, people are less likely to trust others than ever before. With the Internet growing in popularity by the day, and having a presence on social media becoming almost a necessity in the West, we have been exposed to an abundance of opinions, ideas, and perspectives. On virtually any issue, one can find somewhere online where people are arguing about it.

    The reality of ideas and opinions is that most of them are awful. There is a reason why, despite there being countless religions, only a few manage to stay relevant (by the way, the popularity of an idea does not mean that the idea is correct, or that the idea is even good). There have been more books written about politics and government than one could ever read, yet the majority of political science is founded upon untested ideas (or tested and consistently horrendous ideas), posited by people who have no way to verify what they are advocating for.

    The human mind is incredibly susceptible to deception, to coercion, to manipulation, and to control by another person or group of people. Minds change at the drop of a hat, and long-held beliefs can be changed in order to suit that which the individual can observe in the short-term. Whether you are in your twenties (as I am), or you are in your seventies (as I hope to be some day), we have all made mistakes, we have all judged a situation incorrectly, and we have all failed at one point or another.

    However, we have a God who knows all, Who has always existed, Who created wisdom, Who created us, Who has given us all that we have. While no man can experience success throughout his life, God has never faced anything but success. All that God is, all that God does, and all that God says is perfect.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool…

    This is true. If I had a dollar for every mistake I made, I would be poor, as I would have spent my dollars on something silly. There is no limit to human stupidity, so there is no point in testing the boundaries of our capacity to make mistakes. Most people would agree with the maxim, “trust nobody”. Unless one is a secret agent or something, it is not very reasonable to not trust anybody, and it is certainly not a practical way to go about life. In reality, we should trust certain people, but we should always subject the ideas of others (and even of ourselves) to those of God. When we walk according to what we know, what we see, and what we think, we will lead ourselves to destruction. No matter how smart a person is, he can never know everything, nor can he see everything, so what business would he have in thinking about anything? When we walk according to what we think is best, we will lead ourselves to failure, to sadness, to regret, to misery. The road that we lead ourselves down will end in death, so we must take a detour while we still can.

    …but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

    The detour that we need comes through walking in wisdom. If one should not walk according to his mind (which he should not), and the pathway to deliverance is paved with wisdom (which it is), the next question he should ask himself is, “Where do I get wisdom from?”

    Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”, so we can start there. In order to begin walking in wisdom, we must find the beginning of wisdom. In order to begin the journey of wisdom, we must have a holy fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord can mean several different things, but that is a topic that deserves its own essay. The simplest explanation of a “fear of God” is also the explanation that is most relevant to this essay: a reverence for God, for His holiness, for His power, and for His perfect will and judgment. In order to gain the wisdom of God, we must begin by knowing the Character of God. As we grow in our understanding of God, we develop a reverential fear of Him, which will allow us to receive the wisdom that God gives freely and without reproach.

    James 1:5 tells us that, if any of us lacks wisdom, “let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach”. As for what will happen when one asks God for wisdom, the end of James 1:5 makes things very clear: “...and it will be given him”.

    James 1:6 tells us that, in order to receive the wisdom that we have asked for, we must ask God in faith. If we do not ask God in faith, we should not expect to receive the wisdom that we have asked Him for [James 1:6-8]. But where do we get faith?

    Romans 10:17 gives us a very straightforward answer to this question:

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [Romans 10:17, ESV]

In conclusion, Proverbs 28:26 tells us that the way we should go about life is by walking in wisdom. In order to get wisdom, we must have fear of the Lord, which we develop through knowledge of God. Through our knowledge of God and our fear of Him, we are able to ask God for wisdom, knowing that He gives wisdom to those who ask, without reproaching them for asking.    In order to actually receive the wisdom that we have asked God for, we need to ask in faith, with no doubting. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

So, how can one apply this verse to his life? I believe that the key to walking in wisdom is knowing God and developing a relationship with Him, which can be accomplished by knowing His Word, speaking to Him in prayer, and by asking God to take the lead in his life. The path to walking in wisdom is not a linear one. Rather, by studying the Word, by spending time in prayer, and by seeking God’s guidance, one develops a holy fear of God, a better knowledge of Him, and the faith that is required in order to receive wisdom from Him. God has given us the Bible so that we can know Him, and through knowledge of His Word we can walk according to His commandments. By honoring God’s Word, we walk in wisdom, and for that we shall be delivered.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Squandering Our Faith

In the previous entries of this series, we have discussed the meaning of faith, the origin of faith, and the power of faith. In this entry, we will go over the ways that one can squander the gift of faith. The purpose of this essay is not to encourage others to intentionally squander their faith, but to help others understand the things that will prevent them from seeing all that God wants to do.

The word “squander” is a strange one, but I have chosen to use this word for a reason. In my planning for this series, that word came to my head whenever the subject of this essay came up. To squander one’s faith, he must waste his faith, or fail to take advantage of all that his faith offers to him.

Before we get into the main portion of the essay, we must understand something that is incredibly important to not just this essay, but to the life of the Christian in general: the devil is always seeking opportunities to prevent God from working in our lives.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:12, ESV]

It is not secret that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” [1 Peter 5:8, ESV], so we must pursue Christ and His righteousness on a consistent basis, know His Word, and keep His commandments. We must be alert, ready to respond to the working of the enemy.

With that in mind, let us go over the major things that will prevent one’s faith from being used to its full potential.


When we walk by faith, we are living according to our trust in God, our trust in God’s power, and our trust in God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom. If we try to control our lives, control situations, or to deviate from God’s will in any way, we must not expect to see God work in our lives (at least, not to the extent that He would work otherwise). God’s will may not make sense (it usually does not), but if we knew what God knew, we would understand why His will is what it is. In order to truly walk by faith, we must submit to God. Submission to God includes submission of one’s desires, one’s goals, and all else that he holds dear. As frightening as it may be to surrender to God, we know that God will always provide for us, always take care of us, and will never put us to shame [Psalm 25].

In Genesis 16, we read about the story of Hagar, and how she was sought out by God after she had fled her mistress. The context of this chapter is that Sarai is Abram’s wife, and she is unable to conceive. In verse 2, Sarai tells Abram that she cannot have children, so Abram should lie down with their servant, so that Sarai can have children through the servant. That servant was Hagar, and Abram did what his wife had asked him to do. In verse 4, we read that Hagar, after having conceived, began to look “with contempt on her mistress”, which upsets Sarai greatly, which she makes clear in verse 5. Verse 6 depicts Abram telling Sarai that she may do to Hagar as she pleases, and how Hagar flees after Sarai has “dealt harshly with her”.

As for what the Bible means when it describes Sarai dealing harshly with Hagar, there is room for interpretation. All that we know is that Sarai was harsh with Hagar, Hagar fled, and that Hagar was probably returning to Egypt, as she was an Egyptian. As Hagar was by a spring of water, the Lord found her, and He asked her where she has come from and where she is going. Hagar tells the Lord that she is fleeing from Sarai, her mistress. In response, the Lord tells Hagar to do something that was likely the last thing that she would have ever considered doing:

The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” [Genesis 16:9, ESV]

The Lord does not give Hagar a command without giving her some kind of encouragement. In verse 10, the Lord tells Hagar that He will multiply her offspring “so that they cannot be numbered for multitude”, which gave Hagar great joy. Hagar proclaims that the Lord is “a God of seeing”, and names her child Ishmael (“God hears”).

Hagar had fled her mistress, had been on the road to Shur, and had no intention of going back to her mistress. However, when the Lord met Hagar, He gave her a promise, He gave her a command, and He gave her the faith to do what He had called her to do. In order to receive the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise, Hagar needed to submit to the will of God.

If God reveals part of His will for us, we must allow God to take full control of our lives, we must allow Him to work in us, and we must allow Him to work through us.

In addition to submitting to God’s will, we also bear the responsibility to act when God tells us to act. For example, if Hagar had heard the Lord and disobeyed, she would not have seen the things that God wanted to do in her life. There is a difference between God’s will and God’s plan. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us about how the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise (that He will return one day), He is being patient with us. God’s will is that none should perish, and He has sent His Son to die for our sins, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish. However, if one rejects the free gift of salvation, he will perish. Regardless of what an individual chooses to do with the free gift of salvation, God’s plan is that His Son shall return to earth one day. God’s plan will happen, but we must strive to do God’s will.

Failure to act upon God’s revealed will will prevent us from seeing the full extent of God’s power in our lives.


There is a big difference between having a repentant heart and being complacent with sin. While we are told to go and “sin no more”, God knows that we are fallen beings, that we will always fall short of God, and that we can never be perfect. We cannot save ourselves from the penalty of sin, which is why Jesus came to die for our sins, so that we may be redeemed, forgiven of our sins, and justified in God's Eyes.

All that to say that it is not unusual to be a Christian and sin. However, the Christian’s response to sin should be to seek God’s forgiveness, to repent, and to go and sin no more. The Christian is called to live his life in a way that honors God. When a Christian falls short, he is called to turn away from his sin, and to seek the righteousness of Christ.

On the other hand, unrepentant sin will prevent one from being able to grow in his relationship with the Father. 1 John 1:6 tells us that those who claim to walk with God, while walking in darkness, are liars who do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:8-10 summarizes the main point of this part.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10, ESV]

In order to walk with God, in order to discern His Voice, in order to know His will, in order to walk in faith, one must repent of his sin, turn to Christ, and ask for forgiveness. God will forgive those who ask for forgiveness. Repentance is an attitude that we are to have. We sin, we fall short, but we must always seek to turn from our sin, to turn to Christ, and to walk according to His commandments.

If you have some kind of sin in your life that you have been living with, and you need help, you can ask God. God wants us to keep His commandments, so if you struggle to do so, ask God to help you. Pray that God works in your heart, that He guides you, and that He strengthens you. Walking by faith will inevitably involve dealing with temptation, attacks from the enemy, and other difficult things. In order to stand strong in our faith, we must seek God’s guidance and strength on a regular basis.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2, ESV]


So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. [2 Timothy 2:22, ESV]

By nature, we are sinful and wicked, we desire to act sinfully, and we fall short of God’s commandments. When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are justified through faith. As we pursue Christ and His righteousness, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It is through the process of sanctification that we are able to resist the desires of the flesh. In Galatians 5, Paul writes that when we “walk by the Spirit” we will not “gratify the desires of the flesh”. In order for us to walk in the Spirit, we must surrender ourselves to God, receive the gift of salvation, and allow God to work in and through us. We must develop the habit of spending time with God every day, and we must live according to God’s Word. As we continue to seek the Lord, as we continue to walk in the Spirit, we will see fewer works of the flesh, as we see more of the fruit of the Spirit.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul describes the works of the flesh, including sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and “things like these”. The phrase “things like” is what makes this passage applicable to sinful desires in general. The works of the flesh are produced by the desires of the flesh, which are desires that are against the Spirit [Galatians 5:17]. If we continue to have the desires of the flesh, we will be unable to have the desires of the Spirit. If we cannot have the desires of the Spirit, we will not see the fruit of the Spirit. If we have the desires of the flesh, we will see the works of the flesh, and “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”.

As previously stated, we are all sinful, we are all wicked, and none of us can save ourselves. Through the gift of salvation (through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ), we are able to have eternal life. In the same way that we are unable to save ourselves, we are unable to resist the desires of the flesh. However, through the working of the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resist the desires of the flesh.

While we can never be perfect, we should strive to be perfect, as our Father is perfect. In order to pursue Christ and His perfection, we must resist our natural desires, lest they lead us away from the Father. The desires of the flesh include physical desires, emotional desires, and spiritual desires. The desires of the flesh include all areas of life, so we must seek the desires of the Spirit in all areas of our life. If we do not resist our sinful desires, we cannot know the desires of God.


And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. [Galatians 6:9, ESV]

Part of submitting to God’s will is that we must also submit to God’s timing. God’s timing is perfect, and God knows best. The hardest part of walking in faith (for me, at least) is waiting for God. When God gives somebody a desire, that desire is incredibly powerful. That desire will not lose its appeal, it will not come and go, it will not be something that is on the mind for a moment, only to be missing the next.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon, when one receives a calling from the Lord, “is it an intense, all absorbing desire for the work.” He also describes the way it feels to have been called by God as “an irresistible, overwhelming craving, and [a] raging thirst”. Spurgeon was describing the way it feels to be called to preach the Word of God, but I believe that his description of feeling God’s calling applies to more than just preaching. I heard that quotation when I was listening to a lecture about expository preaching, and that quotation has stuck with me since. As soon as I heard it, I knew that what I had been feeling had been the same feeling that I have heard other Christians describe, and that really encouraged me.

Similarly to the way the Lord found Hagar, one does not choose to go into ministry, rather, he is selected by God. God calls us, we do not call ourselves. It is because of this “raging thirst” that patience becomes such a difficult part of walking in faith. When God calls somebody to do something, the person knows that the desire to do whatever it is that he has been called to do is a desire that is entirely different to anything he has felt before.

In times of waiting, we must pray for God to help us. We must regularly ask God to give us patience, to give us His peace, and to help us trust Him during our season of waiting on Him. If you have been called to become a preacher, sure, God could drop you in front of a pulpit, in front of a congregation that He has brought to the church that He has just brought into existence. However, unless God says otherwise, we should not seek to escape our current situation before God guides us out of it. I have found that the best way of waiting for God is to focus on what He has done, what He is doing, and glorifying His Name. Ask God to give you patience, trust in Him, and allow Him to work in your heart, and in your life. Through your season of waiting on God, you will be strengthened in your faith, you will be prepared for what God has for you, and He will prepare that which you will receive some day.

Wait on the Lord.


It can be very difficult to forgive others, especially when they have hurt us recently, or when they have hurt us in a very severe way. However, we are called to forgive others, to pursue peace, and to turn the other cheek. We are not called to defend our name, to stand up for ourselves, or to fight for what we desire, we are called to be merciful, to be forgiving, and to put others above ourselves. If we do not forgive others, we will not be able to see all that God wants to do in our lives. In Mark 11, Jesus tells Peter,

“...whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” [Mark 11:25, ESV]

As we have previously discussed, one of the ways we can squander the gift of faith that we have received is by failing to repent from our sins. If we wish to repent, we must ask for forgiveness, and if we want to receive forgiveness, we must forgive others.

In my experience, there are many things that are hard to forgive somebody for. However, whenever I have needed to forgive somebody, all I needed to do was ask God to help me forgive the person in question. God has always answered my prayers for help in forgiving somebody, and His answer came very quickly. Some of the hardest things to forgive became incredibly easy when I prayed and asked God for help. If you are struggling to forgive others, go somewhere where you can be alone with God, pray, and ask God to help you. Tell God exactly what you are struggling with, tell Him how you feel, and trust that He hears you, He loves you, and He answers prayers.


Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1 John 2:9-11, ESV]

Nothing will prevent the joy of the Lord from filling your heart quite like having a heart filled with hatred for others. James 3:11-12 describes exactly why we cannot have hatred in our hearts if we want to receive all that God promises to those who love Him:

Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salad pond yield fresh water. [James 3:11-12, ESV]

1 Corinthians 13 is all about the necessity of love, how love is pure, how love is everlasting, and how love is more important than faith and hope. If you have ever been to a wedding, you have almost certainly had this chapter read to you (I read this chapter for somebody’s wedding, if I am not mistaken). The word “love” is translated from the Greek word “agape” (ἀγάπη), which is where the term “agape love” comes from. Agape love is a type of love that is entirely selfless, humble, forgiving, and everlasting.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV]

If you hold hatred in your heart, it will be impossible for you to take full advantage of your faith. God is love, He does everything in love, He sent His Son to die for us because He loves us, He loves when we are close to Him, and He loves us in general. God corrects us in love, restores us in love, and tells us to love others more than we love ourselves. If God loves us unconditionally, who are we to deny others love?

My friends, if you have any hatred in your heart, pray for God to help you. Ask God to remove the hatred from your heart, pray that He gives you a heart that is filled with love, and when He gives you that heart of love, share that love with others. Never cease doing good, never cease showing love and kindness to others, and give glory to God always.


When God gives us the gift of faith, when we are walking in that faith, when we are pursuing God’s will for our life, we must seek His counsel on every decision. There is a story from the book of Joshua that has always stuck with me, and it is perfect for explaining why we must seek God’s counsel on everything. In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites (those who lived in Gibeon) heard about how Joshua had led the Israelites to victory over Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites devised a plan to trick the Israelites into forming a covenant, which would prevent the Israelites from attacking the Gibeonites. Throughout the book of Joshua, one reads about how God will give nations into the hands of the Israelites, how God will deliver the Israelites from trouble, how God will provide for the Israelites, and so on. The Old Testament describes many instances where God tells His people that He has gone before them, that He fought for them, and that His people will be victorious over their enemies. The only thing that the Israelites must do is follow God, trust Him, and allow God to go before them.

When the Gibeonites approached the men of Israel, the Gibeonites pretended to be people from a distant nation. The trick was that the Gibeonites were not from a distant nation. The Gibeonites were understandably concerned about the idea of the Israelites conquering them, so the Gibeonites pretended to be from a nation that was far away, that would not have mattered to the Israelites, and would not pose a threat to them either. The Gibeonites said that they had heard of what God had been doing, and that they wanted to make a covenant with the people of Israel. The Gibeonites had brought with them provisions, in order to create a friendship with the people of Israel.

The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and all that Israel had had been given to them by God, for the purposes of God. God did not give the Israelites victory over other nations so that the Israelites could enjoy wealth and fame throughout the region, He gave them victory to bring glory to Himself, and to accomplish that which He had planned. The Israelites served as stewards of God’s gifts, rather than being the owner whatever God gave to them. A home-owner owns the home, but a steward manages the home and that which is contained therein. The Israelites were to steward the gifts of God, using them in accordance to God’s will, and obeying the commands of God. Instead, the Israelites abrogated their responsibilities as stewards of the gifts of God by choosing to make a decision without consulting Him.

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord,... [Joshua 9:14, ESV]

Due to the Israelites acting impulsively, rather than taking the time to ask God for direction, the Israelites ended up forming a covenant with one of the nearby nations, which prevented the Israelites from being able to conquer the Gibeonites. Had the Israelites asked God before taking action, the Gibeonites would have been unsuccessful in deceiving the people of God.

The problem with impulsivity is that we do not know all that we need to know in order to make the best decision. When we walk by faith, according to the revealed will of God, we are not seeking something good, we are seeking what is best. We are not seeking what is best according to our will, but according to God’s will. When God gives us faith, He gives us a gift. It is our job to be good stewards of that gift, to use that gift to accomplish the intended purposes of God, and to wait for God’s guidance. God knows all, and He has the perfect plan. When we take action without consulting Him, we are essentially telling God that we know better than He does, and that we are able to make decisions for ourselves. God honors us when we honor Him. If we dishonor God by rejecting His will for our lives, how could we expect God to honor us? It is through submission to the will of God that we are able to see all that God desires to do in and through us.

When confronted with a decision, we must remember to stop, ask God for guidance, and allow Him to lead us. When God gives one the gift of faith, He has something planned for him, and all that he must do to receive that which God has prepared is to allow God to take the lead. When we act impulsively, we act foolishly. When we go our own way, we go the wrong way. When we seek God, we see Him accomplish His perfect will for our lives.

Introduction (Philemon)

It may seem strange that I would bother writing about Philemon, considering its brevity, as well as its apparent lack of meaning. I have r...