Friday, July 8, 2016, 6:37 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Thessalonians 3 (ESV). We Are Destined (vv. 1-5) Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. When we truly follow Jesus Christ with our lives, not in name only, and not just casually, but with our whole hearts, Satan is going to come after us to try to break us down, in hopes we will falter in our faith, or that we will abandon the faith altogether. He will pull out all the stops, i.e. he will go all out and will hold back nothing in his effort to try to destroy us and our faith. Yet, we must know that God is absolutely sovereign and is in power and control over all things and all powers. Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. Satan cannot even exist if God does not allow it. God could have destroyed Satan after he rebelled against God, or after he tempted Eve and Adam to sin against God, but God allowed Satan and the fallen angels to exist and to live to tempt us and to cause havoc in our lives. So, why does God allow this? Well, scripture teaches us that when we are weak, God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We are taught that these things happen to us that we might learn to rely on God and not on ourselves. We also are aware that through tribulations we learn to persevere, to be patient, and that we are strengthened in our faith. As well, God “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” “To those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12). We also know that when we go through trials, and God comforts, strengthens and counsels us through them, that we can then give the same comfort to others when they go through their times of grief, sadness, pain and suffering. Mostly, I believe, God allows trials in our lives to humble us, to get us to turn to him, and to mature us in our walks of faith. It would appear to me that our trials also help us to not live selfish lives, but to care about one another. When we go through suffering, we are able to empathize with others who are suffering, and we are able to show them greater compassion. And, that is what we need to do. When those within the family of God are going through tough times, or when they are being tempted by Satan to give way to fear, we need to encourage them in their walks of faith. We need to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to know that there is hope, and that they should not give up the fight. And, then we need to teach them how to fight, i.e. that we are all in a spiritual battle, and that God has given us spiritual armor to put on daily so that we can fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us (Eph. 6). We also need to let them know that Jesus already won this battle for us, so Satan is already defeated. We just have to live like we believe that, and not give way to fear and intimidation. Standing Fast (vv. 6-10) But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? I know that I want nothing more than to see my brothers and sisters in Christ walking in the Spirit, not being controlled or led by the flesh, and following our Lord Jesus Christ in surrender and in obedience to his will and purposes for our lives. I want nothing more, as well, than to see my unsaved loved ones come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, to be crucified with Christ in death to sin, and to be resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” I long to see my brothers and sisters in Christ living in victory and in the joy of the Lord, and serving God’s purposes for their lives. I see so many who call themselves Christians living utterly defeated lives because they regularly give way to sin and the flesh and live not much different from those who make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and it breaks my heart. So, I pray consistently for them, believing God to revive their hearts. I echo Paul’s statement here that “now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” This is why I do what I do, first out of obedience to my Lord, and then because I want to see all who profess the name of Jesus to stand fast in their faith in Christ Jesus and to not live wishy-washy or defeated or roller-coaster spiritual lives. It brings me great joy to see my fellow Christians standing fast in the Lord, meaning to stand or to hold a firm position in the Lord and in their walks of faith, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). So many within the church are being led astray by such craftiness and deceitfulness, and are believing lies instead of following after the truth. Satan is very clever, and he has worked his way into the church to try to destroy her, so we need to pray for the church to be revived and to stand fast in the Lord in these trying times. In Holiness (vv. 11-13) Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. We need to be praying for each other more, and not just for physical ailments. I have been to many prayer meetings in church gatherings over the years where the prayer requests mainly revolve around those who are going through physical suffering. This is good that we pray for those who are suffering physically, but what is being neglected greatly in the church is honest confession of sin and of spiritual struggles, and prayer for one another to be victorious in battle over Satan’s evil schemes against us. Many people are afraid to admit their failures or their weaknesses for fear of rejection, and rightly so, because when we do admit our weaknesses, there are those who will reject us. And, so Christians end up keeping their struggles a secret, and the sins increase and abound, and the church ends up going downhill spiritually because even so many pastors are struggling with sin addictions, and they are not living spiritually victorious lives. They may be afraid to admit their sins, and so they can’t lead their sheep to victorious Christian living. And, then the gospel gets compromised in order to pacify guilt over sin, and then Christians don’t end up standing firm in the Lord or walking in holiness. So, they need help! Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah / William Williams / John Hughes Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain, Whence the healing stream doth flow; Let the fire and cloudy pillar Lead me all my journey through. Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer, Be Thou still my Strength and Shield; Be Thou still my Strength and Shield. Lord, I trust Thy mighty power, Wondrous are Thy works of old; Thou deliver’st thine from thralldom, Who for naught themselves had sold. Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer Sin and Satan and the grave, Sin and Satan and the grave. When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside; Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction, Land me safe on Canaan’s side. Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee; I will ever give to Thee. Amen.