Jacob Tanner

Prayer as God Intended

How can we define prayer as children of God? In this way: Prayer is a relational expression that vocalizes our trust in our Heavenly Father. At the same time, just as a son speaking with his father learns to think, speak, and act like him, so speaking with our Heavenly Father will conform us into his image. At the same time, prayer must be done wisely, according to God’s will, with an expectant faith and trust that he hears and answers his children in Christ, all for his glory alone. 

Prayer is, arguably, one of the greatest struggles of the Christian faith. While some may lament their poor Bible study habits, or their failure to share the gospel as frequently as they should, almost all would likely mourn over their poor prayer life. Almost no one will say that they feel they have reached the pinnacle of their prayer life; almost all are forced to admit that we do not pray as we should. And, yet, prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. Just as we need to breathe to live physically, we need to pray to live spiritually.
Prayer, however, is a privilege of the saint with many promises. For example, God promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” While that particular promise was given to ancient Israel through King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, the principle remains the same: God will honor the humble prayers of his saints. If the saints today would submit themselves to God in humble contrition and earnest prayer, would not God still send reformation and revival as he has done countless times in the past?
Yet, we do not currently have revival or reformation. We do not see a white harvest being reaped by many laborers, though Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest that is ripe and white and plentiful (Matt 9:36–38). Instead, we see the decline of Christendom in the West. We see morality on the downgrade. We see churches emptying and closing.
Ultimately, our culture partially reflects the failures of the Church at large. When our churches are healthy, functioning, and thriving, the culture is bereft of godlessness and full of holiness. But how does that happen? In part, it happens when our churches are full of saints who are warriors of prayer, praying as God intended.
Consider the great revivals of the past. When Martin Luther saw reformation, he was known as a man of prayer. One of his most famous quotes is, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” When Charles Spurgeon saw the Metropolitan Tabernacle filled with thousands in the nineteenth century in London, it was because he prayed earnestly. When the Puritans saw revival in England and America, it’s because they were men and women of prayer.
We must be people of prayer. We must be prayer warriors who pray as God intended. To borrow a line from William Carey, we must pray expecting great things from God, and then we must go forth to attempt great things for God, by his grace and for his glory. But it all begins with knowing how to pray, which Jesus fleshes out for our benefit in Matthew 6:5–9. Here, he aids us by offering us two warnings about what prayer is not and then shows us what prayer is.
Let us consider these truths and learn to pray as God intended:

1. Do not pray as the hypocrites do, to be noticed by others, but to be heard by God.

Jesus’s command in Matthew 6:5 is a simple one: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” This is a picture of how the Pharisees evidently prayed. They would stand in public spots and pray long-winded, elaborate, and noticeable prayers. As they did so, they would be seen by people—which is exactly what they wanted!—and they would be praised. Surely, some would say of them, “There are none more holy than they!”
But that was it. Their reward was being praised by men. There was no answer from God. As it turns out, even if the content of the prayer was theologically accurate, God had no interest in answering because it came from a hypocritical heart set on others, rather than focused on God.
Before dismissing this warning as peculiar to the Pharisees, we must see this as a danger common to man.
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How Calvinism Shapes Christian Ministry: Perseverance of the Saints and the Powerful Promises of God

It is the strength of the Lord that preserves and keeps us persevering. In this truth, let us also remember that it is “the joy of the Lord that is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and let us remain faithful to the Lord and his people wherever he has placed us. This, ultimately, is how Calvinism shapes Christian ministry.

Every pastor, at one point or another, stands in a similar position to the Prophet Elijah—looking at the enemies that surround us, the sheep that bite us, and the weakness within us, we often cry out, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD” (1 Kings 18:22). The trials of the Christian life can feel overwhelming and, when coupled with the dangers of pastoring, it is little surprise that many ministers and stewards of the gospel sometimes feel the crushing weight of despair. Our strength can seemingly fail, our hope grow dim, and our joy dissipate.
Often, we find ourselves like Peter. As the Lord calls us to minister in some extraordinary way (all ministering, at its heart, is extraordinary, whether it be seen by thousands, hundreds, tens, or one), we find ourselves sinking in the waves of fear and doubt. We are like Peter in Matthew 14:29–30 wherein, “[Jesus] said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’”
If it were up to us as Christians to keep ourselves saved, we would daily fail. We would be eternally lost. If it were up to our faith or our works to secure the continuance of our salvation, then none of us would ever prevail. We do not have the strength or power within ourselves to either be saved or stay saved.
Praise the Lord, then, that as tightly as we cling to Christ, he clings even more tightly to us still. If salvation hinged at all on our efforts, then we would not be strong enough to uphold our salvation. But salvation depends not on us. Salvation depends on Christ.
It is not the extent of our faith that saves, but the object of our faith—the Lord Jesus Christ—who both saves and secures us to himself. It not the number of our works that save or secure us, but the finished work of Christ that saves us eternally (Jn 19:30).
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints promises that our salvation in Christ is secure, that eternal life is ours and will never be lost, and that God will finish the good work he began within us (Phil 1:6).
Perseverance of the Saints and the Everlasting Certainty of Salvation
Perseverance of the Saints is the final letter of the TULIP acronym, and it outlines for the believer the certain and comforting truth that we who belong to Christ will never be lost by Christ. We who are saved are saved eternally.
Perseverance itself is a word that describes the everlasting continuance of something. It explains how those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ, who have been washed by the blood of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, been forgiven, redeemed, and saved, will continue within that salvation.
Philippians 1:6 provides one of the most encouraging verses in this regard, as it comfortingly promises, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God not only began the work of salvation within us, but he will complete the work. The Golden Chain of salvation will  never  be broken. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:29–30). The promise is that God, who foreknew and predestined us unto salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), elected us to an everlasting salvation.
Indeed, Perseverance of the Saints is the culmination of the other four letters of the TULIP acronym. We are born into this world as  totally depraved  sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins and absolutely incapable of saving ourselves or coming to saving faith on our own. Yet, God, by his gracious and sovereign will,  unconditionally  elected  a number of sinners unto salvation. Those whom God has  unconditionally elected—according to his providential purposes within predestination—he sent Jesus, the Son of God, to this earth to die for. At the cross, Jesus  limitedly atoned  for the sins of those whom the Father had elected and promised to him. At the time appointed by the Father, the Holy Spirit now effectually applies salvation to elect sinners through the preaching of the gospel by drawing them to Christ with an  irresistible grace. Those who are  irresistibly  drawn to Christ will be  kept  and  preserved  by this same sovereign and amazing grace of God.
This means that our salvation, from beginning to end, is a Trinitarian work of God. The Father planned our salvation, the Son purchased our salvation, and the Holy Spirit now applies our salvation. As Jesus promised in John 10:28–30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Because of these promises, we can know with absolute certainty that we who are saved are never in danger of losing our salvation. We will be kept by God because we are triply and eternally secure in Christ. Held in the hands of the Son, whose hands are wrapped in the hands of the Father, we are also filled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
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The Compass Christ Sails By

Remember, Christian: Your heart is not the compass that directs Christ. His love, Word, and promises are His compass—and so they must be ours. Your salvation in Him is secure because His covenant is sure.

“Follow your heart.” We hear this time and again, the world’s mantra to find assurance in emotion and intuition. Yet this is hardly a consolation for the Christian who knows that the heart is ever-fickle and oft-misleading. When the weight of sin overwhelms, or when doubts arise, or when fears assail, what comfort is there to be had? When weary saints distrust their salvation, where can they look for assurance, rest, and peace?
The prophet Jeremiah would warn, contra the world’s call to “trust and follow your heart,” that the subjectivity of our feelings are no sure guide for our lives. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Or, to borrow the language of Samuel Rutherford, the heart is no sure compass:
Your heart is not the compass Christ saileth by. He will give you leave to sing as you please, but he will not dance to your tune. It is not referred to you and your thoughts, what Christ will do with the charters betwixt you and him. Your own misbelief hath torn them, but he hath the principle in heaven with himself. Your thoughts are no parts of the new covenant; dreams change not Christ.[1]
In a letter written in 1637 to Earlston the Younger, Samuel Rutherford penned these assuring words to remind his friend that our salvation depends on the steadfastness of Christ and not our unsteady hearts. Evidently, Earlston was a youth who felt like he was being beaten while struggling against all manner of sin and doubt. Rutherford responded to him in three ways: He encouraged Earlston to not listen to the lies of sin or Satan; he implored Earlston to turn to Christ as the Physician of his soul; and he offered several compelling ways to fight such doubts of the heart.
Beware the Lies of Sin and the Devil
Satan “cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” while Jesus comes, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Is it any surprise that Satan would aim to steal, kill, and destroy the Christian’s assurance in Christ? And what better tactic or strategy is there for the devil to employ than that of temptation? Is there any experience more subjectively deceiving than the momentary and fleeting pleasure of sin followed by extraordinary remorse, regret, and doubt?
The Apostle Paul had cautioned his youthful protégé Timothy to, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Rutherford’s warning to Earlston was similar:
I have seen the devil, as it were, dead and buried, and yet rise again, and be a worse devil than ever he was; therefore, my brother, beware of a green young devil, that hath never been buried. The devil in his flowers (I mean the hot, fiery lusts and passions of youth) is much to be feared: better yoke with an old gray-haired, withered, dry devil. For in youth he findeth dry sticks, and dry coals, and a hot hearthstone; and how soon can he with his flint cast fire, and with his bellows blow it up, and fire the house! Sanctified thoughts, thoughts made conscience of, and called in, and kept in awe, are green fuel that burn not, and are a water for Satan’s coal.[2]
To return to youthful lusts and passions is to dig up the devil. To do so is not only to give into the demands of a wicked enemy, but to return to an old life, though we be new creations in Christ. By turning back to Satan and sin, the Christian essentially gets on the ground alongside Satan’s burning coals and blows upon them with his own breath, causing the consuming flames of temptation and sin to burn brighter and spread. Is it any surprise that sin produces doubt in the heart?
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Psalm 127: Unless the Lord Builds the House

The one who trusts in the Lord will, like the Psalmist, know the joys of fruitful labor and the delight of sweet rest. They will, Lord willing, know the rich blessing and heritage of an abundance of children, far greater than all other material blessings this earth has to offer. Such are the blessings when the Lord builds the house.

The culture in which we live is diametrically opposed to the idea of the family as set forth in Psalm 127. Here, the Psalmist refers to a household, composed of a father and mother who married early and are blessed by an abundance of children, as a direct and wonderful blessing from God.
It is, in fact, good for Christians to get married and have many children while young. It is an evil sign of modernity that family life is put off so long. Contra the opinions of secularism, children are not a burden but a blessing. Christians ought to desire a household full of offspring. After all, a household full of children is far greater and grander than a life without, no matter how Instagramable it may appear to onlookers. While it is true that, occasionally, God does not permit Christians to have children of their own, it is no less a good thing for young Christians to get married, have children, and strive toward filling a Christian household with godly, covenant children.
Of course, all such things are impossible apart from God. Building a house, like building a church, cannot be blessed if God is not laboring in the work himself. Solomon, whose inscription this Psalm bears, was a man who understood this well. His father, King David, had long desired to build a Temple for God to inhabit in a special way upon the earth. But God did not permit David to build such a House. The right to build went instead to his son, Solomon, and Solomon knew that the Lord’s blessing was essential to building both his own home and palace, and the Temple of the Lord.
Thus, verse 1 begins with the warning that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” While there are two ideas here, they are closely related. Just as it is essential for the Lord to build a house or the laboring is done in vain, so too must the Lord defend and protect a city, or the watchmen watches in vain. In other words, if the Lord does not build the house, it will crumble regardless of the materials used and craftsmanship employed.
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Psalm 126: Set Free

Psalm 126 is an encouraging reminder to saints throughout all ages that, just as the Israelites were saved from Babylonian captivity, God now saves sinners from captivity to sin. We may sow seeds of the gospel in desert places but will one day bear witness to a great harvest with unparalleled joy in our hearts. Though we often find ourselves in hard trials, the Lord will turn our sorrow to joy in his own perfect timing and for his own perfect glory.

That Psalm 126 bears the heading “A Song of Ascents,” and is within the grouping of the Psalms of Ascent is a providential grace of God. Likely penned later than most other Psalms, it offers a great degree of hope and comfort to those weary saints who, like the Israelites of the Babylonian exile, long to be set free from their burdens and trials. It is a Psalm that promises the pious tears of troubled saints will turn to laughter and joy by the grace of God.
The Psalm is believed to have been penned around 530 B.C., about the time certain Jews began to make their way back to Jerusalem after their decades-long captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10, 14, 16).
This was a miserable time for the people of God, who were not only forcefully removed from their homes, but forced to watch their homes and places of worship desecrated by these foreign Babylonian invaders. Yet, this was the just will of God coming to pass. The people had long been in sin, and God was now fulfilling his promises to bring judgment upon his unrepentant people for their sin.
Of course, God would not punish his people forever. He promised to show his people mercy by visiting them once more and restoring them to their own land (Jer. 29:10-14). They would find joy in their God again.
It is believed that Psalm 126:1 describes the heart of those first Jews being freed from Babylon to return to Jerusalem: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Have you ever received such great news that you wondered if you were really just dreaming? That was the reaction of the Jews. They could hardly believe that God was showering them with such favor and blessing. They could hardly believe the time had come to return to their own land.
Yet, as they began to recognize the reality of their situation, their hearts turned to praising the Lord. The Psalmist says that “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” (vs. 2a). The one who experiences the grace of God cannot help but laugh with joy and praise God with song.
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Union with Christ and Participation in Christ’s Sufferings

We can rejoice when we participate in the sufferings of Christ, knowing that God has divinely ordered and appointed them for the good of both ourselves and Christ’s Body, and the strength to withstand the suffering steadfastly is made possible through our union with Him. God is making us perfect through both our union with Jesus and our participation in the sufferings of Christ.

One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is knowing that we have not only been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, but that we have been joined together to Christ by faith. We are counted as members of His very Body. The beauty of this consists in the fact that all who come to Christ—no matter who they were, what sins they committed, or where they’re from—are welcomed into His Body. We are made one with Christ and one with one another. As 1 Corinthians 12:13 succinctly puts it, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Yet, as glorious as union with Christ is, there is a neglected aspect of it that is ignored to our own peril: the fact that union with Christ means participation in the sufferings of Christ.
What Makes Union with Christ So Great?
Notice the language that the Apostle Paul used: “In one Spirit, we were baptized into one body, and we are made to drink of one Spirit.” In Romans 6:3-4, Paul elaborated on this idea by explaining that, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Therefore, our union with Christ consists of a spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are counted as having been joined together with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. Physical baptism symbolizes this great truth: as the minister takes us and lowers us into the water, our death is pictured. Held beneath the water, our death with Jesus is symbolized by the water surrounding us. Finally, as he lifts us from the water, our resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured.
We are, spiritually, now one with Christ. But our union with Christ does not end with a spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit. Our union with Him is an eternal union, with covenantal bonds no less dissoluble or breakable than God’s love for us is conquerable. This is a union to which we are permanently and inseparably joined.
We share all things with Christ: His righteousness is ours, His peace is ours, His standing before God is ours…We are led to continually boast in Christ alone for, in Him, “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21). Now, clearly, that does not mean that we become as God, or share in His incommunicable attributes, like His sovereignty or aseity. But it does mean that He has graciously poured out an incredible number of gifts upon us—including the gift of participation in His sufferings.
What it Means to Enjoy Participation in Christ’s Suffering
There are various texts that point to the suffering that Christians can expect to experience when they are joined together to Christ. From the hatred of the world (John 15:18-25) to the persecution of the godly by the ungodly (2 Timothy 3:12), there is a great deal of suffering to be experienced in the Christian’s union with Christ.
Of course, Scripture not only warns us to expect suffering, but encourages us to delight in it. Now, that may seem strange and even impossible at times, but consider the following from James 1:2-4, which states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
In other words, the suffering we endure on account of the trials we face is purposed by God to produce steadfastness, and steadfastness in Christ makes us mature in Christ so that we lack nothing. Therefore, we must rejoice! No suffering is without its purpose; all of it is divinely purposed and appointed for our good and God’s glory.
In Acts 5:41, we find the Apostles being persecuted for their faith in Christ.
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Inerrancy: Does God Matter to the Discussion?

Scripture is about God and His glory, and we can trust its inerrant revelation about Him precisely because He is without error and has inspired the Scriptures.

The physical act of writing out letters and then physically sending them in the mail to others is part of a bygone era. These days, fingers strike digital keyboards and send icons, and digital texts and emails are electronically sent. But while the format of writing and sending letters has largely changed in our digital age, two things have remained the same: Who writes the letter and what they have to say still matters a great deal.
We largely care about the content of letters because of who has sent them. If I were to receive a certified letter from the President of the United States and, within this letter, he was to present me with an invitation to the White House, wherein I was to be honored with a reward, I would pay special attention to every word written. As one in a position of authority and power, his words in such a letter would carry significance and weight. On the other hand, when I receive an email from the latest displaced Nigerian prince requesting I give him full access to my bank account, I give much less weight to what is written. The former writes from a position of power and authority; the latter writes with no authority.
The biblical doctrine of inerrancy has just as much to do with who has inspired the Scriptures as it does with what the inspired Scriptures have to say. If, for example, we were to contend that the Scriptures had been inspired by a mere mortal man, then we would place much less significance on what they have to say. Even if the man purported to have inspired them was generally acknowledged as good, trustworthy, and mostly faithful to the truth, we would still have to consider it likely that he had gotten certain facts wrong. We would even need to agree that his directions and commandments could be the result of his own faulty desires, and therefore not always good. We could hardly claim a book inspired by a mere mortal man was inerrant; on the contrary, we would be forced to admit that it was extraordinarily likely that there were multiple errors and inconsistencies to be found throughout.
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Unconditional Election & Shepherding

Unconditional election is a reminder that just as surely as God elected and then saved a Christian, He will bring about their conformity into the image of Jesus Christ by completing the good work He began in them (Phil. 1:6).  This frees me to preach expository sermons, trusting that the Lord can and will take my feeble efforts and use them to edify, strengthen, and conform the saints into the image of Christ. The edification of the elect is not an abstract possibility, but a definite reality. The chain of salvation is forever and always an unbroken chain.

Unconditional election, when rightly understood, is one of the most freeing doctrines for the under shepherd to embrace and one of the most assuring doctrines for the Christian to hold. It is beautiful because it reveals the beauty of our God whose grace is sovereign and whose mercies are new every morning. It reveals the immense power of a Father who has lovingly determined to give a certain number of sinners to His Son, Jesus, as an eternal gift (John 6:37). It proves that the Church is never in danger of failing, but always being built up as God has intended (Eph. 1:3-14, 2:19-22). Rightly understood, unconditional election is a powerful testimony unto the goodness of God and a tool for missions and evangelism. But what happens when it is ignored?
When Unconditional Election is Neglected
In my own experience, Calvinism is typically rejected because the rejecter cannot reconcile election with the free offer of the gospel. However, the result of rejecting Calvinism, or unconditional election, is usually detrimental to the pastor and his congregation.
I, unfortunately, write from experience. When I first started preaching, I was still young – both physically and theologically. I was sixteen years old and had grown up in Holiness circles which held firmly to a system of works-based-righteousness. Underneath this framework, I had been taught that it was basically up to sinners to save themselves through their own efforts and that salvation had to be maintained through a great deal of effort. One slip up, I had been taught, was enough to cast the saint away from Jesus. The Christian life became a game of hide and seek, where salvation was constantly lost and had to be found again.
The impact of this teaching upon my preaching at the time was obvious enough. I regularly preached doom and gloom sermons, warning of the wrath and judgment of God to come, but without any true lasting hope for the sinner; after all, salvation was likely to only be temporary until the next sin was committed. Similarly, I carried a very unnatural burden upon myself. I knew that Heaven and Hell were real destinations, and I even understood (at least fundamentally) that the gospel was the only real hope for sinners, but I thought the salvation of sinners literally depended on me preaching well.
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God Is Sovereign

Our God is not like those despots or tyrannical madmen we know from history. Our God is more powerful than them and, thankfully, far better, for He is good and without sin. We can find confidence, hope, and trust in His sovereignty.

History is replete with the stories of despots and tyrants who wielded unbridled power with cataclysmic results. Everyone knows the horrors of the Hitlers of the world. Shakespeare famously wrote about a man who committed atrocious acts of paranoid murder to keep power in Macbeth. In both history and fiction, the adage “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” has proved true, time and again. Indeed, unchecked power often leads one down the downward spiral of destruction. Scripture itself speaks of such accounts, with the story of King Saul of Israel standing tall as a surprising example of how power may corrupt a man.
Thus, when we speak of the sovereign power of God, there are generally a few questions that people raise about God and His power. Those varied questions generally fall under one of two categories: 1. Just how far does God’s power extend? 2. Can we trust God’s power?
To answer the first question, we must remember that God is not like man. His power is not limited by any external factors. Nothing can interfere in history that could somehow stop God from completing something He intended to do.
Consider the time when Balak, king of Moab, tried to hire the prophet Balaam to curse Israel. God would not permit him to do so, instead leading Balaam to declare, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19). The extent of God’s power is such that once He has determined to do something, He does it. Period.
Though God does act in time and space, His sovereign decrees transcend time and space. From the Covenant of Redemption, wherein the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit covenanted to save sinners, to the rise and fall of kingdoms (Acts 17:26), to the number of our own days (Job 14:5, Ps. 139:16), God has ordained all according to His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power.
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Let’s Study the Beatitudes! Part 9, Persecution

When persecution occurs for righteousness’ sake, remember that there is every reason for blessed joy now, for we have been counted worthy by God to suffer for Jesus’s sake, we stand in a long line of godly saints who have experienced what we do, persecution strengthens our faith, and our reward in Heaven will be great.

There was a time when 2 Timothy 3:12 worried me. In it, Paul tells Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It wasn’t the idea of persecution that worried me, but the idea that, at that point in my life, I couldn’t really think of any great moments of persecution I had experienced.
I need not have worried. Pastoring, preaching, evangelizing, defending the faith, and writing for the glory of God have brought more than their fair share of persecution. I have been verbally lashed at (even by those within the church), ridiculed publicly for my faith in Christ, and mocked for my pursuit of holiness (usually being labeled a Puritan, which is more a compliment than they realized). There have even been times where I have been threatened. Perhaps the reader can relate.
There’s good reason Jesus said to both count the cost of following Him and to recognize that if we don’t love Him above all else, we cannot follow Him (Lk. 14:25-33). Those who desire biblical fidelity and faithfulness to Christ will be persecuted. So, it may come as a surprise to know that Jesus has promised that those who are persecuted are blessed.
While it is true that each of the Beatitudes is counter-cultural and a reflection of God’s economy rather than man’s economy, no Beatitude is more counter-cultural than the eighth: Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed.
Most try to avoid persecution. Even those with considerably great power are oftentimes fearful of being persecuted for their Christian faith. Consider how, in John 12:42-43, even the authorities who believed in Jesus were afraid to let it be known lest they suffer on behalf of their righteous confessions of faith.
Yet, there is wonderful encouragement for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: They not only will be blessed, but already are blessed.
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