Jesus was with His disciples in Caesarea Philippi when He asked them a question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) The disciples dished out several names that people thought Jesus was – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Then Jesus looked at each of them and asked a poignant, forthright and candid question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
We can breeze through reading this question Jesus asked but if we look into it deeper, we realize that how we see Him directly affects how we live our lives before Him.
If He is merely a good teacher, we will appreciate the lessons, maybe even post it on our socials and get a few likes.
If He is just a good example, then we will always applaud His modeling but always feel we can never live up to it.
But if He is Lord, Messiah and King, then we know that salvation alone comes from Him and that the rest of our lives will be lived in subservience to His will.
Who is He to you? Because how you answer this question will spell the difference on how you will live your life the rest of your days.
“I wish had had what she had.” “If only I had more of what he has, I’ll be better.” “How I wish I had more.”
I remember visited a relative. She was talking about how her daughter now has 3 cars and a nice house. While I was throughly satisfied and grateful for my life, it was interesting how envy started to creep in my heart wanting what my relative had.
Dr. Richard Smith of University of Kentucky published an article describing envy. According to him, “envy can be a destructive emotion both mentally and physically. Envious people tend to feel hostile, resentful, angry and irritable. Such individuals are also less likely to feel grateful about their positive traits and circumstances.”
That was exactly how I felt – I started to feel ungrateful. Harold Coffin insightfully declared, “envy is the art of counting other people’s blessings instead of your own.”
If you sense that envy is beginning to take over, here are a few reminders:
1. Envy saps us of peace.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
Because we desire to have what we don’t have, we end up being dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is one of the quickest ways to drain our hearts of peace.
2. Envy comes from within.
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)
The problem is not our environment but our hearts. Even if we shield ourselves from other people, the core of the concern is from within not without.
3. Envy does no good to us.
Proverbs 23:17-18 says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
What brings hope is the fear of the Lord. When we have Christ as center, we will be content and see that envy has no place in our hearts.
4. Envy has no place in the kingdom of God.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 6:19-21)
As people who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, the items in the list the Apostle Paul gives no longer has place in our hearts. Part of the list is envy. Because we have been saved, everything after salvation is bonus. Every thing we have is something we are to be grateful for.
5. Envy has no part in love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Love rejoices in other’s victories and does not envy.
The next time envy knocks on the doorstep of your heart, you can:
– list down the things God has given you.
– shift your focus on what you don’t have to what you already have
I was in a meeting with a few men talking about temptation. Some of the questions arose included:
How do I resist?
What do I do when I’m tempted?
Is there a way to win over them?
As we discussed the chapter in 2 Samuel where David committed adultery with Bathsheba, here were a few things we discussed that may be of help to some of you reading this.
Jesus was not exempted from temptation. In Luke chapter 4, we see Him being tempted by the devil on several fronts. But at every temptation, He responded with “it is written” (v.4,8 &12).
What can we learn from this? Jesus fought the temptations of the enemy with God’s Word. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit. It is a weapon by which we may wield to defeat our enemy.
Question. Do you know what God says in His word enough that you can pull out the sword in times of temptation to defeat the enemy? If we don’t use the weapon, we won’t be able to slay the enemy.
Staying in the circumstance when the temptation is ongoing is not the best way to handle it. Staying in the porn site while praying for God to deliver you is not the best route. Hanging out with friends who love to drink is not the way to defeat drunkenness. Talking to your best friend who instigates gossip is not the best road to stepping away from that sin. Staying on your favorite online shopping site will not cure your materialism.
Joseph was tempted by Mrs. Potiphar in Genesis 39. But what did Joseph do when he was tempted? Argued? Shared the love of God? Explained how sexual immorality displeases God?
Joseph ran. No explanation whatsoever.
I remember my friend, Pastor Marc saw another pastor of ours in a car with another lady not his wife. Right there and then, he phoned the other pastor and asked who he was with. He shared that that was his wife’s niece and was bringing her home.
Because there was permission to call out, Marc didn’t hesitate. And because the other pastor gave permission, he didn’t take offense when Marc called.
Accountability is best when it is sought and not demanded.
If I demand accountability from another person, telling him he needs to call me every Friday to report what he did and didn’t do, at a certain point, this won’t be as effective as compared to when we personally give permission to people we trust and say that they have permission to call us out and keep us accountable.
When we seek accountability, it seems more effective than us being demanded of it.
4. TRUST IN GOD
Until we come to the point that only God can give genuine, ultimate and lasting satisfaction, we will always consider other options.
I say genuine because there are fakes. The earlier we can distinguish the fakes from the genuine, the better for us. God alone can give genuine and lasting satisfaction. Every other knock-off will not fully satisfy.
While this sounds like point number 3 on accountability, I would like to make a distinction. Transparency is the willingness to be open to the people you are accountable to… even to the people who are close to you.
For the husband, does your wife know all your passwords? For the student, does you bestfriend have access to your history folder? For the young man, does someone have the permission to call you out? For the young lady, does someone have the permission to check up on you regarding the struggle you currently face?
In this world, we will face temptations. But there is always a way out.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
You believed He was a provider but to this day, you don’t have a baby. You trusted His promise but up to now, you still didn’t get your promotion. You prayed that things would get better, but things have gotten worse.
Abraham received his promise – Isaac. But he was going to face another test. In Genesis 22, God asked him to sacrifice his son on top of Mt. Moriah. There are 5 things I’d like to mention as lessons from this narrative.
1. Our faith is going to be tested through our obedience.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” – Genesis 22:1
Not very many love taking tests. Do you? I don’t. But tests reveal what we have learned.
There are tests that produce faith. But there are tests that reveal faith.
When tests come, what does it reveal about you?
2. We can either reason on the basis of our circumstance or on the basis of God’s character.
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” – Genesis 22:5
“I and the boy will come again to you.” What a faith statement!
But did he know God’s plan- that God wasn’t going to really make him do it? I don’t think so.
But Hebrews 11:19 gives us a clue to what his through process was. “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham wrestled but came to a conclusion the night before. He logically concluded that God cannot lie. He made a promise (that he will be a father of many nations) and He will not turn back from that promise.
So he did not reason on the basis of his current circumstance but on the basis of the character of God – that He is faithful to fulfill His promise.
3. The promise given is as good as the Promise Giver.
Genesis 22:7. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When he resolved in his heart that God cannot lie and will not lie, he made this declaration: God will provide. He didn’t know how and he didn’t know when. But he was sure of it for some reason.
But since there is no one greater than God, He swore by His own authority and power. Genesis 22:16-17, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you.”
Because He is the ultimate authority and power, therefore, what He says, we can trust.
4. Obedience has to be immediate, persistent and ultimate.
Abraham woke up early. He continued walking up the mountain with Isaac. He drew the dagger when it was time.
His obedience was immediate, persistent and ultimate.
I love what John Calvin said, “We pay Him the highest honour, when, in affairs of perplexity, we nevertheless entirely acquiesce (yield) to his providence.”
5. God’s infinite provision is always greater than our finite problem.
Genesis 22:14. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Yahweh Yireh or the Lord will provide is a title given to God by Abraham. It does not only mean God being the One who supplies. Yahweh Yireh also means “God will see to it.” He will see to it that His plans and purposes will prevail in our lives.
Will it always be in the way we desire Him to provide? Will it be according to our timing or His? Not really. But one thing is for sure. He will see to it that what He has planned will be accomplished.
You lost your job because your direct report did not submit the project proposal on time.
You failed your subject because your group mate did not put in the work she should’ve.
You can’t claim inheritance because you just found out that your dad wasn’t really your dad.
Your boyfriend broke up with you because he fell for your best friend.
What do you do when what you’re going through was a result of someone’s irresponsibility or worse, wrong doing?
A garden variety of responses can come to surface which would include anger, revenge, bitterness, apathy.
In Genesis 16, we read the story of Hagar. She was Abram and Sarai’s servant. Because the couple was given a promise and it seemed like God was not fast enough in fulfilling His promise, they took matters in their own hands and thought of a way to make the promise happen – for Abram to have Hagar as a surrogate mom.
But this wasn’t God’s plan. He said in Genesis 15 that the heir was going to come from Abram and Sarai’s union. Somehow, they forgot what God said and made their own solution to the situation.
Painful experiences have a way of missing God or distorting what He said. The promise may have been taking some time but God’s delays are not necessarily His denials.
They may have gotten a baby (Ishmael) out of their solution but it wasn’t the plan of God. Whatever we attempt to do without God is going to be a miserable failure – or worse, a miserable success.
It caused a conflict in the household. Sarai felt miserable and all the more insecure because she couldn’t bear a child. Hagar felt contempt towards Sarai for whatever reason. Maybe because she felt superior because she was able to give Abram a child. But whatever the reason, the situation got ugly.
She was dealt with very harshly. She had to leave Abram’s household. She fled to the desert.
Out of the blue, she found herself without a home, without provision, without certainty about the future – and all these as a single mom.
She’s in this situation only because Sarai told Abram to do so. And she was only being submissive to her master and mistress. Now she’s in this dilemma.
Fortunately, God shows up in the desert and encounters Hagar. He gives a promise of blessing to Hagar.
As a result, Hagar makes a declaration – “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13, NIV)
One of the names of God is El Roi which means the God who sees. And the word ‘to see’ is more than just being able to visually gaze but as a shepherd would watch over his sheep is how God, El Roi, sees and watches over His children.
1. Knowing that El Roi sees me, I can be secure under His protection.
Job 24:23 says, “He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways.”
2. Knowing that El Roi sees me, I can have significance because I know He loves me.
Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
When a child sees his parents watches over him, he can feel the love. Similarly, we sense His love as He watches over us.
3. Knowing that El Roi sees me, I can be satisfied in His presence.
Psalm 121:1-3 says, “1I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;”
He watches over you and me. Because of that, I can be assured of His presence over my life. He will never leave, forsake or abandon.
May we always be reminded that El Roi, the God who sees and watches over us is with us.
Hope is such a precious commodity these days. As we live in unprecedented times, it is very easy to slip into hopelessness and eventually spiral down to helplessness.
In 1965, Martin Seligman “discovered” learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to hard situations that they themselves cannot control, the eventually give up and stop trying to escape.
The Bible gives us reasons why we can continue to hope and not give up. There are so many but allow me to give you seven.
1. We can have hope because we will continue to see His goodness.
Psalm 27:13 (NIV). I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
God’s ways flow from His character. Because He is good, His ways are always going to be good.
2. We can hope because His goodness is abundant.
Psalm 31:19 (ESV). Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
His goodness abounds and it is unlimited. We can trust that His goodness is not just for a certain time but for all time. We are His children. Jesus said that if earthly fathers can give good gifts to their children, how much more our Heavenly Father.
3. We can have hope because what He started He will complete.
Philippians 1:6. NLT. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
What good work He began, He will complete. His power is never limited by any crisis or situation.
4. We can hope because He will fulfill His purpose in our lives.
Psalm 138:8a (ESV). The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Uncertainty brings a lot of insecurity. But in a time of uncertainty, there can be security! It can only be found in the Lord because He always… ALWAYS… has a purpose.
5. We can hope because He will guide us.
Psalm 32:8. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
This gives us so much hope. He will not just guide us along the best pathway. He will also watch over us. It is one thing to give instructions but it is another thing to know that He is with us through those pathways.
6. We can hope because the best is yet to come.
Proverbs 4:18 (NIV84). The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining every brighter till the full light of day.
We are righteous not because of our own merit but by the blood of Jesus alone. And because of that, we can claim that our path is like the first gleam of dawn. It starts like a flickering light but it gets brighter and brighter because we are with Him.
7. We can hope because He can work things out for our good and for His glory.
Romans 8:28. ESV. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
He knows the beginning and the end because He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. We can have this confidence that God doesn’t only sees all things but He knows all things. And this gives so much hope because we can trust in His plan – that He will work all things together for our good and ultimately for His glory.
When we don’t understand the worth of something, we don’t value it as much.
We’ve been given an incredible gift. The more we realize what we’ve received, the greater the appreciation we will have. The following are the 4 things Jesus accomplished for us through His sacrifice in Calvary.
1. PEACE WITH GOD.
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The peace Paul speaks about is the fact of peace more than the feeling of peace.
We were at enmity with God. We were at odds with God. Some may say, “I feel peaceful.” That’s true. But you may not necessarily be at peace with God.
It’s like sitting on a lounge chair, drinking your mango shake on the deck of the Titanic. You feel good for now but the boat is about to sink. It’s a temporary illusion.
But when we come to faith in Christ, we are reconciled to the Father through Him. We now have peace with God.
The peace with God is the fact. The peace of God is the feeling.
The peace with God is judicial. The peace of God is experiential.
The peace with God is objective. The peace of God is subjective.
2. PRIVILEGED ACCESS
Romans 5:2 says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…”
Dr. Kenneth Wuest, a New Testament scholar, describes the word access as a person having the privilege of having an audience with the king because he has the right set of clothing.
You and I can’t enter the presence of the King of kings without the right clothing. Our personal clothing is like filthy rags (Is. 64:6). But thankfully, He has given us the robes of righteousness (Is. 61:10) when we surrendered our lives to Jesus.
As a result, we have unlimited access to the Father through Jesus.
He has given us the keycard to keep going back to the presidential suite because of this privileged access.
3. PERSPECTIVE OF THE FUTURE
Romans 5:2 says in the JB Philips translation, “Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.”
We have a happy certainty of the glorious things God has for us. Hope is a confident expectancy and anticipation of that which we have yet to see.
When we see Him face to face, we will no longer be marred by sin, but freed from the corruption of our depravity and released from bondage of our sinful nature.
As Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic (paralazyed neck down) beautifully puts it,
“I still can hardly believe it. I, with shrivelled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness—powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.”
4. PURPOSE TO OUR SUFFERING
Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Was Paul out of his mind? Why would we rejoice when there’s suffering?
The only reason is when we understand that there is a purpose to the pain. We are averse to it. None of us wake up in the morning asking God for a painful day. When we’re going through suffering, our initial prayer is for God to take us out of it.
But Paul says that there is a purpose to the pain.
Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and You are our potter. All of us are the work of Your hand.”
Will you let your Father, the Potter, shape you? Will you allow pain to shape us or break us?
Having a relationship with Christ is not an escape from trials but a guarantee that those trials have a purpose.
May we be reminded of these that Jesus accomplished in our salvation.
But there are times God takes us through the storm.
Jesus healed Blind Bartimaeus.
But didn’t take Paul’s thorn out of his flesh.
But he did say “My grace is sufficient.’
But while we are in the midst of the storm, what do we do?
In Joshua 1:2-7, God was leading the Israelites into their promised land. Moses is dead. He was the one who led them through the desert for 40 years. Now Joshua, his assistant, has taken over as leader. They are facing giants in the land. It won’t be a quick take over. This took some time. There were miracles like the falling of the Jericho wall but there were still many lands and people groups to conquer.
We are in the middle of a pandemic and it seems like this may take some time.
In the midst of the battle, when it gets extended, what do we do?
When the battle is long, the command is to be strong.
How can we be strong in the midst of a battle?
1/ Hold on to God’s promises.
Joshua 1:3. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
We need to be familiar with the promises God has given us as his children.
And then hide them in our hearts.
It will get us through the hardest of times.
I remember going to Baguio with my family as a kid. Those days, we still didn’t have TPLEX and SCTEX, our nice highways. Thus, it would take 8-9 hours to get there. But the promise my mom gave was that I would get choco flakes from Good Shepherd. That kept me enduring through the gruelling journey.
2/ Be confident of God’s presence.
Joshua 1:5. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
One thing is for sure, because He is with me, I going to be okay.
In fact, no one or no thing will be able to stand before me… not even this pandemic.
HE. IS. WITH. ME.
Growing up in an all boys school, fist fights weren’t uncommon. Especially during basketball games, we would get into fights. But as long as I had Bien, my team mate and good friend with me, I was okay. He was strong and courageous. Magaling manindak.
But we have someone way bigger and stronger than a team mate.
We have the God of the universe by our side.
He is for us and not against us.
3/ Embrace God’s precepts.
Joshua 1:7. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
God has given us principles to live by.
Not because he is a cosmic killjoy.
He gave them so that we can live the full and abundant life he has prepared for us.
Sin will keep us from our destiny.
Disobedience will deter us from our purpose
But his Word will keep us aligned and calibrated that we may bring him glory.
As we study His word, it will do us well to obey his word.
We are commanded to obey His Word for our good and ultimately for His glory.
His Word is a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet.
His word doesn’t just teach us but also trains us for war.
This is so critical especially when times like what we have come, we can stand our ground and keep moving forward until we get to the other side.
When the battle is long, the command is to be strong.
Covid 19 will forever be remembered as a disease caused by a virus which led to a catastrophic event not just in China, but has spread throughout the globe. Hence, the Pandemic.
In 1918, more than a hundred years ago, a similar pandemic which lasted for almost 3 years, infected 500 million people.
These pandemics have caused painful disruptions in the lives of thousands and millions of people – businesses closing down, stocks plummeting, companies losing money, families going hungry, and lives being taken away.
In the midst of the crisis that we are facing today, where is the church?
History has repeatedly shown how the church, the body of Christ or the people who follow and love God, has been an extension of His hands and feet.
God has called us to be the salt and the light of the world.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
The goal is to bring honor and glory to God!
Even with the challenge of not meeting together in a particular place, God has brought our hearts together to continue to worship Him in the way we serve His people – by providing food to the needy, shelter to the frontliners, and prayer and comfort to the anxious and grieving. Through these, many will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as we continue to demonstrate and declare the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is more powerful and potent than the virus we are facing now. It does not only provide temporary relief or comfort, but offers hope of a fruitful life here on earth and a promise of eternal life.
Let us continue to spur one another in keeping the faith. The God that we worship, who created the Heavens and the Earth, neither slumbers not sleeps. He is in full control and will always be Sovereign above all. Let us fix our eyes on Him and continue to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as to what He wants us to do or say to the people around us – physically and online. How would God want us to respond in different situations we find ourselves in during this crisis?
A hundred years from now, this pandemic will be in the history books.
What will history say about the church?
I love what Ptr Adam Mabry said from our Every Nation Boston Church, “I believe this is our best moment.”