Michael writes that last week's message emphasized that as followers of Christ, God will empower us when we realize that we are helpless and in need of a Good Shepherd. As the Apostle Paul said, "Thy strength is made perfect in my weakness; thy grace is sufficient for me."
There's a book entitled "A New Shade of Blue" about the 23rd Psalm. The new way of looking at this psalm is that the Lord is MY shepherd. He is personally comforting us through the trials of this life. As a good shepherd, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth the my soul.
How do you describe the average Christian? The descriptive word that comes to mind is "casual." The very next word in the dictionary is "casualty." Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. Trials and tribulations focus our minds on what's really important. God teaches us to maintain our focus on Him through the greatest trials of life. Are you fear-based or faith-based? Hebrews 11 is filled with the examples of Old Testament believers who were faith based. God looks past all of our failures and sins, and celebrates the grace and faith of the Believers ... ultimately our faith in what Jesus Christ did on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. God sees men and women not as they are but as they will be when Jesus Christ takes hold of their hearts. When our prayer becomes, Lord make me the person that you want me to be, God will answer that prayer. When it's not about us, but about Him, then God will bless our lives for His own honor and glory.
The Helmet of Salvation is the one piece of spiritual armor that the elect of God must put on before they can equip themselves with the rest of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ is God's gracious gift of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. According to Psalm 1, the secret to being blessed is to abide in Him: “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night. He shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of water. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” The mission field is not what missionaries do, but rather with whom and in whom they abide. It's not who we are but rather whose we are.
The rock of Jesus Christ builds character to joyfully respond to the trials of this life. Praising God and worshiping Him is a moment by moment choice. The love we have for our Lord Jesus Christ allows us to love our family and friends now, in this present moment. You cannot prepare to love them when the doctors say, "you only have two weeks left to live." Only with the love of God can you love them as Christ loved the church and know that they are clothed in dignity and strength and His divine beauty.
The only way that it makes sense of suffering is to know the suffering that Jesus Christ himself endured on our behalf. The cup of suffering that we must drink is to share in the fellowship of His suffering. When we walk in fellowship with Him, He will give us the love that we need so that we can love others with the love wherewith He loved us. Jesus said that to be His true disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. He said that when you do this, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. In the midst of the hurricanes of life, with Him there is peace in the eye of the storm. In the midst of the storm, our deliverance is to keep our eyes upon Him. Through the storm, we're given the gift of the fellowship of His suffering.
The Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) is built through living in proximity with our Lord and walking in the Spirit.
According to John 15:4-5, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” When we abide in Him, He will give us the grace, mercy, strength, compassion and faith to walk in fellowship with Him and with those we love in the body of Christ.
May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ, Michael