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The scriptures we’re going to proclaim tonight are James 1:2, 3 and 4. But when we make a proclamation, if it says “you do that,” we say “we do it.” You understand, we make it personal. We line ourselves up with what the scripture says.
“We count it all joy when we fall in various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. But we let endurance have its perfect work, that we may be complete and perfect, lacking nothing.”
Amen. How many of you want to be complete and perfect, lacking nothing? Well, the key is endurance.
Now we’re going back to the theme that we began to deal with in the afternoon, the shaking of all things which God has predicted through His prophets. I’m not going to go over the material we covered, just point out that God says, “I will shake all things, I will shake the heaven, I will shake the earth, I will shake the dry land, I will shake the sea, I will shake all nations, I will shake everything that can be shaken.” The purpose being that those of us who have received the kingdom that cannot be shaken may be, as it were, filtered out from the rest of humanity.
Now, this evening I want to deal with a practical response, how shall we respond? If we really believe that God is going to do what He so clearly says He is going to do, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to do nothing or are we going to seek from the Bible to know what the sensible and scriptural course of action is.
First of all, from what I said this afternoon, it’s obvious that if we want to remain unshakable we have to build a foundation on the word of Jesus, hearing and doing His word. So all that I’m going to say now follows out of that. In other words, in what ways shall we hear and apply the teaching of scripture?
I want to start with two verses in 2 Peter 3, a chapter which deals with this period, the period of shaking. I’ll read these verses, 11 and 12. 2Peter 3:11–12:
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
We’ll stop there. Peter asks a very sensible question, and he asks the right question. The question is not first and foremost what shall we do, but what kind of persons ought we to be? What we are is more important than what we do. And he gives a very simple outline answer which contains three elements. He says, first of all, in all holy conduct and godliness. Secondly he says looking for. And thirdly, hastening the coming of the day of God. So there are three things that he speaks about: holy conduct and godliness, looking for the coming of the day of God and hastening the coming of the day of God. That should be our basic response: holiness, looking for the coming of the day of God and hastening the coming of the day of God.
I will deal briefly with those, first of all, with regard to holiness. I’ll just turn to one scripture which is 2Corinthians 6, beginning at verse 17 and continuing on into chapter 7:1. You need to bear in mind the chapter divisions were not in the original text, they were put in many, many centuries later by translators. And sometimes they obscure the sense. So we’re going to start now with 2Corinthians 6:17. And most of it is a quotation from the Old Testament.
“Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean; and I will receive you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
So God makes a promise to be a Father to all of us who fulfill His conditions. But bear in mind there are conditions stated. And the first one is:
“Come out from among them...”
That’s the unbelievers. Not the other Christians but the unbelievers.
“...and be separate.”
Be set apart to God.
“Do not touch what is unclean; and I will receive you.”
There are many different ways we can touch what is unclean but one very common way which is a problem for nearly all of us is by our mental attitudes and the things we entertain in our minds. And also the things we look at. Particularly, I would have to say by my standards a lot of television programs are unclean. And if we deliberately expose ourselves to them we are touching what is unclean. If we can’t help it, that’s another matter.
I don’t say by no means that we never go to movies but very seldom can Ruth and I go to movies because they’re unclean. There was a movie some years back which was really excellent, it was called “Frisco Kid”—I don’t suppose most of you will remember it. Some of you do? Well, it was really hilarious. I mean, it was so good and it was based on the life of a young Jewish man who was due to become a rabbi and had to go to Los Angeles from Poland. I mean, it was so exact to the thinking of Jewish people, the story was excellent. And the acting was outstanding. But in the middle of it, for no necessary reason at all, there was some absolutely filthy language. It had nothing to do with the plot. Ruth and I said I’d like to see that again.
And incidentally, we saw it in Florida and I think 80% of the congregation—or the audience, not the congregation! Well, it was like a congregation in a way. At least 80% was Jewish because we live in a thickly populated area by Jewish people. But eventually we said to one another, “I don’t feel free to expose the Holy Spirit in me to the kind of language that comes from that movie.” That’s a personal decision but it’s an example of what can be meant by touching what is unclean. You don’t have to. Do not expose yourself to things that will defile you mentally if you don’t have to.
Now, I got saved in the British Army and I spent another four and a half years in the army. You cannot help being exposed to things that are unclean in the army. I mean, British soldiers are incapable of speaking without blaspheming and swearing, unless they’ve been saved. So, I heard that day after day for four and a half years. But, I did not expose myself to it. I couldn’t avoid it. I never deliberately, by the grace of God, I never deliberately exposed myself to something that will defile me.
Being a preacher, I’m particularly careful because I know that if I let anything in my mind, sooner or later it will come out of my mouth when I’m preaching. I guard my mind. Ruth will bear me witness. I do not deliberately take anything into my mind that could corrupt the word of God that God has given me to proclaim.
I suggest that all of us need to consider. You don’t have to take the same attitude that I take but you need to ask yourself am I touching the unclean? Am I unnecessarily exposing myself to things that defile my spirit?
Jesus said blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And the book of Proverbs says keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. Everything there is in life comes out of your heart. If you have a pure heart you will have a pure life. And if your heart is impure your life will be impure. That’s an unalterable law that governs all human conduct.
And remember, what you put into your heart determines the course of your life. You cannot have the wrong thing in your heart and live right. And, you cannot have the right thing in your heart and live wrong. So what you have in your heart determines the course of your life.
I think while I was a teacher in Africa, in Kenya, I got interested in various African dialects, including one called Looragoli, which is spoken by the Maragoli people. I was the principal of a college for training African teachers. I don’t know why but I walked into the dormitory of some of the students and in the Looragoli language I saw Proverbs 4:23 up in their language. It said, and their language was a little more simple:
“Guard your heart with all your strength, for everything there is in life comes out of it.”
And I have never forgotten that. Everything there is in life comes out of your heart. If you want a good life, have a good heart, have a pure heart, have a clean heart. And if you defile yourself, ultimately you are the one that will suffer the most.
Obeying the Bible is not really to be very pious, it’s to have common sense. Because, it works.
Then God says:
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
God does not offer to be unconditionally Father to anybody who wants it. He says I’ll be a Father if you meet my conditions.
And then Paul adds “therefore” at the beginning of chapter 7. And you’ve probably heard me say, some of you, if you find a therefore in the Bible you need to ask what it’s there for. And this therefore is because of the previous two verses.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves...”
Some things God does for us and some things we have to do for ourselves. There are many aspects of holiness which only God can do. But here is something which is our responsibility to do.
“...let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit...”
Filthiness of the flesh, I think most of us have a pretty clear idea of some of what’s entailed by that. Sexual immorality, drunkenness, anger, swearing. But what about filthiness of the spirit? I’ll tell you one thing that I think, that is, every form of contact with the occult is filthiness of the spirit. Many, many Christians today often unknowingly are involved in the occult. Many Christians read horoscopes, is that right? Maybe not the ones here. But let me tell you that if you lived in Israel under the law of Moses and you read horoscopes, you would have been put to death. That’s God’s estimate of it.
I’m not going to go into a list of occult things, it’s not my purpose. But I discovered in my own life that it took quite a lot of work on my part to eliminate the occult. For instance, at Cambridge my main subject of study on which I wrote my fellowship dissertation was the philosophy of Plato. And many, many people admire Plato. You find many Christians, in fact, there’s a form of Christianity called Neo-Platonism.
“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
So that’s a responsibility placed on us. I could spend the rest of this evening talking about how to do it but that’s not my theme. My theme is we’re responsible to do it. This is not something God will do for us, this is something He tells us to do for ourselves.
Then we’ll go back to 2Peter 3 and look at the second requirement, looking for the coming of the day of God. I just want to turn to two scriptures. The first is Titus 2:11,12 and 13.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
And notice that Paul calls Jesus God. The great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And the motivation for holy living is primarily looking for the coming of our Lord. I think if you analyze the teaching of the New Testament on holiness you’ll see that in almost every case it’s linked up with the expectation of the Lord’s return. And personally I believe that where the church loses the sense of expectation of the Lord’s return New Testament standards of holiness are impossible. Because I believe that is the key motivation.
And then likewise in 1John 3:1, 2 and 3:
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God, and we are. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God. And it has not yet been revealed but what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every one who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
You may tell me that you believe in the doctrine of the return of the Lord but I want to look for the evidence in your life. Because it says “every one who has this hope in Him,” that’s the hope of His coming, “purifies himself just as He is pure.” Again, the scripture puts the responsibility on us. There are ways in which God purifies us, there are ways in which we have to purify ourselves. And God has only got one standard of purity, that’s Jesus. Just as He is pure.
Then going back to 2Peter again, just once more, chapter 3, verse 12, it says:
“...looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
The old authorized versions used to say hastening unto. But that’s not a very accurate translation. The right translation is the one that’s used in the modern text, hastening the coming of the day of God. It’s not enough just to be expecting it, we have to be hastening it. How can we hasten it? The Bible tells us very clearly. Turn to Matthew 24, if you’re following in the scriptures. The beginning of this chapter, the disciples asked Jesus what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? And in His answer Jesus lists a number of signs: earthquakes, pestilences, lawlessness and so on. But He hasn’t answered the question till verse 13. What will be the sign of your coming? And in Matthew 24:13 He gives a specific answer:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”
When will the end come? When the gospel of the kingdom has been proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations.
Who is responsible to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom? I didn’t hear you. That’s right. So, how can we hasten the coming? By proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.
On the other hand, if we don’t do it we are not hastening the coming, we’re delaying the coming. And if you consider all the agony and suffering in the world today, to be responsible for prolonging that longer than necessary is a terrible responsibility. But it rests on us Christians if we do not do what we can to hasten the coming of that day.
And then one further answer in Revelation 19:7–8. This is praise that’s going on in heaven.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give God glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
So the marriage cannot take place until His wife, the bride, has made herself ready. The state of the church affects the coming of the Lord. The Lord cannot come for His bride until she has made herself ready.
I’ve lived in a lot of different cultures and nations. I’ve never lived in any culture or nation where a bride did not take some trouble to make herself ready for her wedding day. It’s universal, no matter what your color or your language. The same is true of the church. The church has to make herself ready.
And then in the next verse it talks about our wedding garment. Verse 8:
“To her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Notice the word, we have to wear linen, pure, white, shining linen. And the shining linen is the righteous acts of the saints. When you and I believe sincerely in Jesus, commit our lives to Him, His righteousness is imputed to us. And the scripture says we are justified, we are reckoned righteous. But that’s not what the scripture is talking about here. It’s talking about the righteous acts of the saints. We have to translated imputed righteousness into outworked righteousness. And that’s the material from which our wedding garment will be made. It’s the righteous acts of the saints.
I’ve permitted myself to say sometimes, according to my observation, the contemporary church has got just about enough material to make a bikini. But that’s not suitable for a marriage. So the other way in which we can hasten the coming of the Lord is by performing our righteous acts, providing ourselves with enough material to make the kind of wedding garment that we ought to wear.
Now, having laid that as a sort of foundation, I want to speak about four practical ways we can express our obedience to the word of God.
Number one is align with God’s purpose. God has a purpose which is clearly revealed early on in the New Testament. God has never changed his purpose, He’s working toward it consistently. And it’s stated in a very familiar passage which we call the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9–10:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
That’s the approach. That’s not a prayer, that’s an approach. And the first specific prayer is:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is the primary objective of God? It’s that His kingdom may come. And we can only align ourselves with God and with His purpose when we are aligned with the coming of God’s kingdom, when everything we do is ultimately directed towards the coming of the kingdom of God.
In the same chapter of Matthew, verse 33, it says:
“Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all the other things will be added unto you.”
And when God says first, He means first, not second or third. In other words, our primary concern in life is to be the coming of the kingdom of God.
I am naive enough to believe there is no other solution for the ills of humanity. We’re confronted every day through the media with all the agony and the turmoil of humanity. Personally I think people are naive who believe that man can solve that problem by himself.
I was somewhat shocked when President Bush, in connection with the Gulf War, said a new order was being initiated of justice. I consider that a remarkably naive statement for a leader of a great nation. I like to say I will not buy into his new world order, I’m not impressed by it.
But, man has entertained the idea for hundreds of years that he can solve his own problems, bring peace and justice to the earth. I would say today we’re probably further away from it than we’ve ever been at any time in human history.
So, I’m not ashamed to say that I believe the only ultimate, realistic solution for the human race is the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth under His appointed ruler Jesus Christ. I don’t feel intellectually inferior for believing that, I don’t believe it’s a pious superstition; I believe it’s a realistic appraisal of the situation in the world and the nature of man. So, I am committed to the coming of the kingdom of God. And insofar as lies in me, with many weaknesses and frailties, my life is directed toward that end.
I happen to be a preacher, I have a teaching ministry. And by the grace of God, my teachings are now reaching practically every nation on earth in various forms: radio, in video, in audio tapes and in print. That’s the practical expression in my life of my commitment to the coming of the kingdom of God.
Now you are not called to do what I’m called to do. But you are called to do something. And first and foremost you need to get your priorities right. It’s not seek the kingdom of God when it suits you or when you’ve attended to all the other things that concern you, seek it first. And when God says first, He means first.
As I was preparing this message I got a vivid picture in my mind of the prophet Jonah. I want to turn there for a moment. You know the story of Jonah, most of you. God said, “Go to Nineveh and preach what I tell you.” Nineveh was east and Jonah went the opposite direction, he went west. I think the reason why he didn’t want to preach to Nineveh was that he was afraid the people would repent. And, Nineveh was the number one political enemy of his people Israel. So he did not want to do anything that would forward their cause. That’s my personal opinion.
And the remarkable thing is when God eventually got His way with Jonah, the greatest experience of conversion recorded in history happened through him. An entire city—people believe at least six hundred thousand people—was converted.
But before that happened, Jonah had to learn a lesson. This is very interesting. He lived on the mountains of Galilee. And when he turned his back on God every step he took was a step downwards. He went from the mountains to the plains, to the plains to the harbor, from the harbor to the ship. And, that wasn’t the end. From the ship into the sea.
And let that be a warning to each and every one of us. When you turn your back on God every step you take will be a step downward.
Well, God was on Jonah’s case and when the ship took sail it said, “God hurled out a storm into the sea.” And all these pagans began to cry out to God and ask for help. Where was Jonah—the only one who knew the true God, the only one who had the answer. Let me read. Verse 5:
“Then the mariners were afraid and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down and was fast asleep.”
You know what made him sleep? A bad conscience. He couldn’t face life. I’ve met people who take refuge in sleep. I knew a lady who if things went wrong would sleep for sixteen hours. That was her escape from life.
“The captain [who was an unbeliever] came to him and said to him, ‘What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God. Perhaps your God will consider us so that we may not perish.’”
You know, there are a lot of Jonahs in the world today. They’ve had a call from God, they know full well what God wanted them to do. But, it didn’t suit them so they’ve turned their back on God and now while the world is tossing in the tempest, where are they? Down in the bottom of the ship fast asleep. That’s a tragic situation.
We have some Jonahs here this evening. You know God called you and you deliberately turned your back on God. And who knows how you got here this evening? But I’m going to give you an opportunity later in this service to change your mind. So, you can think that over.
Think of it, the only man who knew the true God, the only man who had the answer. All the pagans around him were praying earnestly and he was down there in the sides of the ship fast asleep. What a vivid picture of multitudes of Christians today, down in the ship asleep because they’re not willing to face reality.
All right, that’s number one of my recommendations. Align with God’s purpose which is the coming of His kingdom. He’s never varied, He’s never changed. That is His objective.
Number two, cultivate endurance. We’ll turn back to Matthew 24. The verse that I quoted was verse 14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”
But the verse before that says:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
And Jesus has been speaking about all the problems and troubles and agonies that are coming on the nation. And then He says:
“And He who endures to the end shall be saved.”
That’s the English translation but the Greek is more specific. It says “he who has endured to the end shall be saved.” In fact, it’s more specific than that. Jesus says he who has endured to the end, this is the one who will be saved. The English translation doesn’t bring it out sufficiently and vividly. Who will be saved? The one who has endured to the end. So you’re saved now. But to stay saved you have to endure.
Luke 21, which is a parallel passage, it’s again the discourse that Jesus gave. He says in verse 17 and following:
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake...”
Obviously that must refer to Christians because it’s people who are hated for the sake of the name of Jesus. That’s one of those promises people don’t put in their promise box!
The next promise maybe you do:
“...but not a hair of your head shall be lost.”
Now that refers to the resurrection because lots of Christians who were martyred, their bodies were totally destroyed. But in the resurrection, if you make it through, you’ll come out with a full head of hair. Not one hair missing! That’s a guarantee from Jesus.
Then He says:
“In your patience possess your souls.”
But that really does not render the meaning. I’ll give you my version, the Prince version.
“By your endurance purchase your souls.”
I mean, you can check if you want to but I have looked at the words. That’s my understanding of it. In other words, what is the price you have to pay for the salvation of your souls? In one word, endurance, that’s right.
You see, there are things we have to buy but not with money. There’s other currency with which we buy some things. In Isaiah 55:1 it says:
“Come, buy wine and milk without money, without price.”
You have to buy them but without money. In the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins, the foolish who did not bring enough oil, the wise said to them, “Go and buy oil.” But while they were buying the bridegroom came and they missed it. But the oil we always understand to be a type of the Holy Spirit. You cannot buy the Holy Spirit with money but you have to buy the Holy Spirit with prayer, with seeking God, with time spent in the word. Otherwise, when your lamp runs out you’ll have nothing to refuel it with.
And then in Revelation 3, speaking to the church at Laodicea, Jesus says:
“I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment.”
That’s not bought with money but it’s bought. And as I understand it, here in Luke Jesus says you have to purchase the salvation of your soul by your endurance. If you don’t endure, you’ll be lost.
Then there was the scripture that Ruth and I proclaimed:
“We count it all joy when we fall into various trials.”
Can you say that. I mean, I know you can say the words but is it true? See, why we proclaim that scripture is because God convinced us, convicted us that it wasn’t that way with us. When we fell into various certain trials we, I don’t know that we complained but we certainly didn’t count it all joy. So we had to confess that as sin. And, we’re trying to do better. But James said count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Why?
“Because the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
I have observed in the New Testament that every test a Christian goes through ultimately is a test of faith. It may take many forms but what is being tested is your faith. And then James says:
“...let endurance have its perfect work...”
Don’t stop short, don’t start to endure and then give up.
“...let endurance have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
I asked you before, how many of us want to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing? What’s the condition? Endurance, that’s right. There’s no way around it.
And you know, there’s only one way to learn to endure, do you know what that is? Enduring, that’s right. One of the words used in the Old King James Version was longsuffering. And you know how you learn longsuffering? By suffering long. There’s no other way to do it. I mean, you can laugh at that but it’s exactly correct.
I know a brother, a sister came to him for prayer, a minister, and said, “Brother So and So, pray for me I get out of this situation, I can’t stand the boss I’m working for.” He said, “No, I won’t pray for you, you haven’t suffered long enough.”
I’d like to turn to the end of James for a few moments. I want to point out to you how closely endurance is connected with preparation for the coming of the Lord. James 5, just reading verses 7–11. Now the word that’s used here mainly is patience. And let me offer you a little English lesson for which I make no extra charge. There are three related English words: patience, perseverance and endurance. They’re related but they’re distinct and all of them have their place in Christian experience.
Patience is derived from the same Latin root which gives us the word passive. Patience is essentially doing nothing. And God expresses patience. Peter says that the patience of God waited in the days of Noah. God didn’t do anything. For a hundred and twenty years He let man go on. Lots of people have concluded God doesn’t care. That’s not so. The patience of God. Often God exercises patience, He doesn’t do anything. You say how could He let Hitler get away with it? The patience of God. So, patience, in a sense, in a good sense, is doing nothing.
And then there’s perseverance which you could interpret as doing something and persistently doing it, going on and on and on doing it. Not stopping.
And then there’s endurance which is the word we’re mainly dealing with. And the Greek word means remaining under. So you’re under all these pressures and endurance is remaining there. It’s holding out against them but it’s not trying to escape from them.
So we have these three aspects of Christian conduct: patience, perseverance and endurance. And they’re all involved in the preparation for the coming of the Lord. So I’ll read these few verses from James 5:7:
“Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”
You know, I find that for most men servants of the Lord, patience is the hardest thing to achieve. I think women are better at patience than men. It doesn’t mean they’re good. But I mean, I had been a Christian at least thirty years before I realized that my besetting sin was impatience. I wasn’t even convicted of it. And when I began to deal with it, dear Lord, I began to realize what a hold it had over me.
All right, we’re going on.
“See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient, establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the judge is standing at the door. My brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of suffering and patience.”
I run into quite a lot of people today who want to claim to be prophets. But I’m not sure that they’re following the scriptural pattern because there’s nothing very glamorous about being a prophet according to the Bible. It’s painful. It means isolation, persecution.
I preached once in Ghana, Africa, on the ministries of the body: apostles, prophets, evangelists... I had an audience, I think, of three thousand people, mostly young men, it was wonderful. So after I dealt with the ministry of the apostle for quite a while, I said, “How many of you would like to be apostles?”
Does anybody have an NIV here that I can borrow for a moment, someone close to me? I’ll give it back, I promise. Thank you very much.
So, a lot of them put their hands up. I said, “Wait a moment, let me read you the job description before you apply.” I turned to 1Corinthians 4, which is very vivid in the NIV. This is what it says—I think it applies really to the contemporary, Charismatic people. I used to call it the Charismatic movement but I don’t because I don’t think it’s moving anywhere. It was but it’s got bogged down somewhere. All right, this is 1Corinthians 4, beginning at verse 8:
“Already you have all you want [addressing to the Corinthian Christians], already you have become rich [they’ve had the full gospel]...”
Did you ever hear the perversion of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Movement which is the Full Businessmen’s Gospel movement? I love those brothers, I’ve spoken for them many times.
“...you have become kings, and that without us. How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ. We are weak but you are strong. You are honored, we are dishonored. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answered kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
That’s the New Testament description of an apostle. If you want a description of what it’s like to be a prophet, I think you can find it in Hebrews. Since we’re there, Hebrews 11, the last 2 verses. This is the prophetic ministry.
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two [that was Isaiah], they were put to death by the sword, they went about in sheepskins and goat skins, destitute, persecuted and ill treated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”
How many want to be prophets?
You see what I’m saying? What’s needed? I don’t hear you. Endurance, that’s right.
We’ll go on now with what we were reading here. We’ll go back to verse 10 of James 5:
“My brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of suffering and patience.”
Not an example of glamour but of suffering.
“Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You’ve heard of the perseverance [notice that word] of Job, and seen the end intended by the Lord, that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
If you go through those verses you’ll find the theme is patience, perseverance, endurance. And that’s the pattern for the people of God who are preparing for the return of the Lord.
I have to say that I preach these words to myself as much as anybody here. I tremble often when I hear the irresponsible way in which people are talking today about ministries and gifts. It’s tough to have a ministry in the body of Christ. The more harm you do the devil the more he’ll fight against you. If you’re not prepared for conflict and agony, just resign. You hear that, that’s an amen!
All right, we’re coming to the next, this is number three. This is worse still! Do you know what it is? It’s waiting. The importance of waiting is almost totally overlooked in the contemporary church—at least by the kind of people I mix with. And yet it’s a central part of our preparation for the return of the Lord. Hebrews 9:28:
“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.”
To whom will He appear? To those who eagerly wait for Him. Now, some translations don’t put in the eagerly but it’s a double preposition in the Greek. I think eagerly accurately represents the real meaning of it. It’s not just waiting for Him but it’s eagerly waiting for Him.
I have a friend who’s known to a few of us here, but I won’t mention his name, who is a preacher. He and I have worked together in the past. He has a rather droll way of expressing himself and he says when the Lord returns he’ll expect to hear something more from us than “Nice to have you back.” If we’re eagerly waiting for Him we’ll have more to say than that!
Then in 1Thessalonians, a very remarkable passage, chapter 1, verses 9 and 10, which is speaking about the testimony of the unbelievers to the experience of the Thessalonian Christians. 1Thessalonians 1:9–10:
“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
So these people turn to God as a result of the ministry of Paul to do two things. And there’s no suggestion that one is more important than the other. To serve the living God and to wait for His Son from heaven.
You see, as Christians we are all to serve but we are also called to wait. And I’ve spoken to Christian ministers and workers in many places, I sometimes ask this question, “Which takes more faith? To work or to wait?” And never have I ever had anybody answer it takes more faith to work than to wait. The real test of faith is waiting. And, it’s a test to which we will all be subjected because we are called to turn from idols to serve God, to wait for His Son.
Give me back my NIV for a moment. This is a verse in Isaiah 64, verse 4, which is so vivid in this that I like to quote it from the NIV. Chapter 64, verse 4. This describes one unique aspect of the true God. It says:
“Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”
What’s the one unique, distinguishing characteristic of God? He acts on behalf of those who do what? Wait for Him. Thank you.
All right. Turn to John 9:4. Jesus says:
That’s a better translation or better version than I.
“We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day. The night is coming when no one can work.”
Do you understand that? There is coming over the earth a night of darkness when work will be over and we’ll only do one thing; which is, wait, that’s right. We’ll wait content if we’ve done our job. But it will be intensely frustrating when the night descends and you say, “But I should have done this, I should have done that, I should be there.” Because, it’ll be too late. The night is coming when no one can work. The only thing we can do is to wait and we don’t know how long we’ll have to wait.
You know what I’ve noticed about God’s trials? He hardly ever tells you, “This is a trial and if you hold out for six months you’ll be through.” And some of us get to five months and twenty-nine days and we give up. We didn’t know we only had one more day. Never give up! There’s no precedent in the Bible for giving up. God determines how long the test will last, not we.
You see, waiting is one of the tests to which God almost invariably subjects the servants He intends to use. I’ll give you just a little list. Abraham. “You’re going to have a son who will be the head of a nation that will be unique in the earth.” How long did he have to wait? Twenty-five years. Meanwhile his dear wife Sarah tried to help him and complicated things. It’s interesting, she said, “Listen to me, do what I say.” First of all, have a child by Hagar and later she said get rid of the child. That’s the counsel of the flesh, it’s inconsistent. It tells you to do one thing and later cancels it.
But Abraham became the man he was by waiting. He had to watch his wife pass the age of childbearing and still wait. It amazes me that Abraham is so highly rated in the Bible because, what did he do? Well, essentially, he was a prosperous cattle farmer and he wandered around the area to the east end of the Mediterranean looking after his flocks and his herds. He did nothing very dramatic until the time came he was willing to offer up his son Isaac.
I’ve often asked myself what was it in Abraham that caused God to esteem him so highly that he was called the friend of God. I’m not sure that I really know the answer but I think one way he earned God’s favor was by waiting. Some of you are going to forfeit God’s favor if you don’t wait.
And then there was Joseph. I love the passage in Psalm 105 that speaks about Joseph. I think I can identify with this to some extent from my own experience. Psalm 105:17 and following:
“God sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, his soul came into irons.”
Somebody said the iron came into his soul, too.
“Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.”
See, that’s a test. The Lord gives you a glorious promise, tremendous. And after that everything goes the opposite way. Instead of becoming the ruler of your brethren you end up in jail in Egypt. And, I can’t think of a worse place to be in jail than Egypt. What was God doing? Testing him. What was the test? Waiting.
And then if you want to look at others, Moses. It says in Numbers 12:3, Moses was the meekest man on earth. How did Moses learn meekness? By waiting forty years.
Somebody asked a preacher friend of mine, “Why did God keep Moses waiting forty years?” The answer was, “Because He couldn’t do it in thirty-nine.”
God will not finish until the test is complete. When Moses first thought he could deliver Israel out of Egypt he was a very arrogant young man. Forty years later he was the meekest man on earth. And, no one except Jesus has ever exercised such authority as Moses exercised. So, if you want to have authority, you know what you need to cultivate? Meekness. God cannot trust His authority to the arrogant, the proud, the self assertive. We had a prophetic word that said that in so many ways.
You know the condition for promotion in the kingdom of God? It’s very easy. It’s abase yourself. Every one who abases himself will be exalted. But on the other hand, every one who exalts himself will be abased, that’s right. You have the choice. That’s an unalterable law that governs the universe. People talk about breaking God’s laws, that’s not true. We don’t break God’s laws, God’s laws break us if we break them.
And then let’s think about David for a moment, another young man who was given tremendous promises of God. And he spent the next I don’t know how many years, I think probably about fifteen years, living as he said himself, like a dog or a partridge on the mountains, running away from the man he was to succeed as king.
Why does God permit that? In fact, why does God ordain that, what is He looking for? In one word, endurance, that’s right. You cannot bypass endurance. You know whom I’m speaking to at the moment? Me. You cannot bypass endurance and enter into the promises of God. You can come so far but the completeness is only through endurance. And just when it seems impossible to hold up, that’s the time to hold out. Don’t give in. I would like to say that to several of you individually. You’re in the test, you’re doing all right, just hang in there. Don’t back out, don’t give up. God is faithful.
I’ve been asked sometimes if I had a message to leave for posterity, what would it be? I always say I can give it to you in three words, “God is faithful.”
I’ll tell you another thing about waiting. It causes us to realize more and more our dependence on God. I can’t do anything. I can’t make it happen, I don’t know when it’s coming, I just depend on him.
I don’t know whether you ladies ever have problems in your house but we do in Israel. Sometimes our electricity fails for reasons we can’t analyze. And we’re in the middle of cooking something or somebody is doing the ironing, we phone and we eventually catch up with our electrician. It’s midday, he says, “I’ll try to be there by 4:00 p.m.” So what do we do for four hours? We wait. And by the end of four hours we know one thing, we need the electrician. We’re dependent on him.
So, waiting causes us to realize in an altogether new measure our dependence on Jesus.
All right. Finally, brethren, and I’ll try to do better than Paul who said finally, brethren, and wrote two more chapters! I think it’s necessary to say this because what I’ve said in many ways has been hard to take. But the fourth recommendation I have is cultivate a positive attitude and expectation.
You know, somebody said everybody is born either an optimist or a pessimist. I know full well what I was born. I was born a pessimist. Furthermore, I was brought up to be a pessimist. I mean, my parents were good people but in my home if you weren’t worrying, you should be worrying about the fact you weren’t worrying. And I was saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit and had a ministry but I had not overcome pessimism. And the expression it took in my life was depression. And although other people were getting saved, I was struggling ceaselessly against this dark cloud that settled down over me. And I did everything. I mean, I knew the scriptures fairly well. I knew that you had to reckon yourself dead and I reckoned myself dead so many times it just didn’t have any meaning. But it didn’t solve the problem.
And then one day I was reading Isaiah 61:3 and I read:
“...in place of the spirit of heaviness the garment of praise...”
And when I read the phrase “the spirit of heaviness,” the Holy Spirit said to me, “That’s your problem.” I suddenly realized I wasn’t dealing with myself. It wasn’t my mental attitudes, it was a person that was tormenting me day and night. I realized he was a person that had known me from childhood. He knew my every weakness, he knew just when to attack me.
Furthermore, I realized it was what we would call a familiar spirit. It was a spirit that had come down through my family. I identified exactly the same condition in my father. I called on the name of the Lord and I was delivered from that demon. Oh yes, I was saved, I spoke in tongues, I preached the gospel. But I needed to be delivered from a demon.
I was so ashamed of that that I didn’t tell anybody for ten years. And then the Lord forced me out into the open by confronting me with a demon possessed woman in front of my pulpit on Sunday morning. I had just been preaching that no matter what the devil does, God has the last word. There was this woman writhing like a snake in front of the pulpit, the same woman who used to play the piano for our worship meetings. I knew I either had to prove it or stop saying it. And that was when I was thrust out into the open. And, that woman was delivered. But it took me ten years from the time I was delivered myself before I was willing to face the issue in public.
But why I say that is because once I was delivered God showed me He had done for me what I could not do for myself. But He would not do for me what I could do for myself. And He showed me I had to change the way I thought. Every time negative suggestion or reaction came to my mind I had to meet it with something positive out of the scripture. And that did not happen overnight, it took at least three years. But by the end of that time I was no longer a pessimist.
So I understand what’s involved. I would say, as a matter of fact, if you’ll forgive my saying it as a Britisher to Britishers, one of the main problems of Britain is pessimism. The British are more prone to pessimism than any other major nation that I’ve dealt with. I think it’s something, it’s a spiritual influence somewhere.
Anyhow, let’s not get involved in that.
Let’s just come to this business of having a positive attitude and close. Romans 12:21 says:
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by good.”
So we have two options and only two. We can overcome or we can be overcome, but there’s nothing in between. And when we’re confronted by evil there’s only one thing that’s strong enough to overcome evil and that is good. We cannot take a negative attitude, we cannot simply say it’s not my problem. We have to actively practice that which is good. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by good.
And Romans 8:35 and following says:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for your sake we are killed all day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.”
That’s pretty negative teaching, isn’t it? Some people object to negative teaching, they say, “Brother, be positive.” But the negative is also true. People who sell phony shares in the stock market are very positive but they’re dishonest. I believe as Christians we have to face the negative. We cannot close our eyes or avert our heads.
There is trouble ahead. I believe there’s much more trouble ahead than most of us can even comprehend at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we have to be pessimistic.
What is Paul’s comment?
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
What is “all these things”? There’s a list. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword. And then Paul says in all these things we are more than conquerors.
I once asked the Lord what it meant to be more than conqueror and I felt the answer He gave me was this. To be more than a conqueror means that you go into a trouble, overcome it and come out of the trouble with more than you went in with. You’ve taken spoil.
1John 4, I’ve only two more scriptures. 1John 4:4:
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them [all the forces of evil] because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
Actually, it’s incredibly stupid of the devil ever to think that he could take God on. I mean, we can’t absorb the stupidity. The God who created the whole universe and keeps it in perfect order, and some created being challenges this God. It was an American philosopher who said about the devil, “He’s a consummate ass.” I’m not using empty words, I’m just pointing out it’s the height of stupidity what the devil has done.
But, He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. I’d like you to say that after me because I think you need to say it. “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” Say it again. “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.”
Now, if you would like to do this, find somebody near you, turn to them, look them in the eyes and say, “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.” All right? Amen. All right. You know why I do that? It’s because it’s pretty easy to look up to God and not be embarrassed. But when you’ve got to look somebody right between the eyes and say it, that give you some idea of whether you really mean it.
One other scripture and then we close. Revelation 21:7:
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.”
I have searched the New Testament, I cannot find any promise there except for those who overcome. And you only have two options: either overcome or be overcome. So we, all of us, each of us, has to make up our mind. I can overcome, greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world, but I have to make my mind up. I have to meet the conditions.
Now I just think I need to apply what I’ve been saying, very briefly. I felt when the Lord gave me this message that there would be some Jonahs here tonight who’ve heard the call of God and refused it. And maybe where you’ve been is down in the sides of the ship fast asleep. But by some act of God’s providence you got here tonight and you’ve listened to the description and you realize that is me. I’m a Jonah. I’m running away from God. And every step I’ve taken since I’ve turned my back on God has been a step downward. But now tonight I want to turn back to God. I want to acknowledge my rebellion and turn back to Him and submit my life to Him.
Christians, will you be praying? If there’s any Jonahs here tonight, we want to tell you that God loves you still. We love you. We want to help you but you’ve got to make a decision. If you want to come back to God tonight, do just one simple thing. Wherever you are in this auditorium, stand to your feet right now and say, “I’m a Jonah. I’ve been running away from the Lord and I want to come back.” Wherever you may be. I am quite sure there’s at least one here tonight. God bless you. God bless you. Anybody else? Another Jonah. Bless you. I said I was sure there was a woman here tonight. Just keep standing because this is an important moment. There’s another. God bless you, my dear sister. God bless you, God bless you. God bless you.
Now, don’t stand unless you answer that category, you have heard the call of God and you’ve run away. Now you want to come back. Praise God. God showed me there would be Jonahs here tonight.
Listen, I want you to do something else. This won’t be altogether easy but it makes the difference. I want you to get out of your pew and by whatever means possible come down and stand in front of the pulpit here. Please. You’ve got to move out from where you are, you understand, just to stay in one position—
Brother Ken, where are you? If we have counselors here—well I tell you what, I think we need to send them into another room. I didn’t know we’d get this number of people.
I just want to tell you that it makes me very happy to see you here tonight. I want you to know God loves you. He’s never given up on you, you understand? You may have given up on Him but He has never given up on you. Thank you, Lord.
I would like all of you to say this simple prayer after me. We’ll wait a moment or two as people come.
I know some of you need to get out, it’s late. But try and hold fast if you can. Don’t be embarrassed if you have to go.
Ruth, come and stand with me. Now, very simple prayer, praying to Jesus, not to me. I’ll give you the words, you say them after me.
“Lord Jesus, I am sorry that I turned my back on you and went my own way. Tonight I repent. I turn back to you, I submit myself to you and I ask you to have your way in my life. Take me as I am and make me what you want me to be.”
I want you to say those last words again.
“Take me as I am and make me what you want me to be. In the name of Jesus, amen.”
Now Ken, is there a place to which they can go if they want to? Would you show them how to go?
Now, while they are being directed, I just want to give one further opportunity. If there is anybody here tonight, you’ve never been born again, you’ve never become part of God’s new creation, and you want to be part of that new creation—
There’s people that came forward as Jonahs, would you go out that way? Christians, would you be praying for these? Some of us know from experience it’s hard to come back to God when you’ve turned away. But tonight is their night. God showed me, put that bit in about Jonah because there are going to be some here tonight.
Now, we’re not going to prolong this but if you have never been born again, you do not know for sure that your sins have been forgiven for the sake of Jesus, you’ve never personally yielded your life to Him as savior and confessed Him as Lord. You don’t know the peace that comes through the forgiveness of sin but you would like that tonight. Would you just do the same as the others did, would you just stand to your feet wherever you are. Don’t be embarrassed, do not be embarrassed. It would be a tragedy if you were to go out of here tonight without having come to know Jesus personally. We’re not going to prolong this, I have a feeling there’s at least one person and you’re struggling. Christians, let’s pray for a moment, shall we?
“Lord, if there is somebody here tonight who needs to be born again but is held back by some Satanic pressure, by a spirit of fear, whatever it may be, in your name, Lord Jesus, we loose them now from anything that holds them that they may be free to make their own decision. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Now, if you want to receive Jesus, you can. All you have to do to indicate this is to stand to your feet. We’re not going to prolong this. I have such a strong feeling there is somebody here. Oh, there’s somebody standing. God bless you. We couldn’t have gone home without you!
Now, is there some mature Christian here who can counsel that dear lady, I’d like you to go back to her. Do we have somebody? Yes, all right. See the lady that’s standing, go back and talk to her. Pray with her and help her.
Now how many of us can say thank you, Jesus?