|Volume 23 Number 7 July 2021
If you were going to measure the distance between your house and your favorite store, would you use a measuring cup or a ruler? If you wanted to find out how much you weigh, would you use a measuring spoon or a yardstick? At your annual performance review at work, does your boss only compare you to other employees? These are, of course, absurd examples. You would use a device to measure miles to find the distance to your favorite store, a scale to find your weight and your boss should use a set of standards for your job description. There is a correct measuring stick for each of these situations. Likewise, there is a correct measuring stick we must use in spiritual matters.
Consider for a moment the parable Jesus gave in Luke 18:9-14.
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous while despising others. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The Pharisee determined his righteousness by comparing himself to others. Jesus condemned him for using the wrong measuring stick.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught against unrighteous judgment (Matthew 7:1-5). He condemned anyone who would judge the seemingly small sin of another while ignoring his own significant faults. The individual with a plank in his own eye trying to remove the speck in another’s eye was using the wrong measuring stick.
If our righteousness is not found by comparing ourselves to others, what is the correct measuring stick? The first part of 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Paul made it clear Christians must compare themselves to something. James compared someone who hears God’s Word but does not obey it to an individual who looks at himself in a mirror but walks away without fixing any flaws he sees (1:23-24). The next verse explains to what an individual should compare himself. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” Clearly, God’s Word is our measuring stick. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Examine your life. Use the correct measuring stick for the job. Compare your words and actions to God’s Word. Make changes as needed.
No Fear – Just Faith
Can you imagine being in prison, knowing that your death is imminent, and writing a letter of encouragement to a young man on the outside? This was a first century prison; it did not resemble in any way, shape, form or fashion the prisons of today in the USA. That is exactly the situation Paul was enduring when he wrote his letters to Timothy.
In 2 Timothy 1:1-5, Paul began by acknowledging he was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God and stating that Timothy was his beloved son in the faith. Then, he told Timothy that without ceasing he remembered him in prayer day and night. Would to God that more of us had steadfast members of the church praying for us day and night! Paul remembered the spiritual heritage that was instilled in Timothy by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. There are not enough words to express how precious and priceless biblical teaching and upbringing is in a child’s life!
In verse 6, Paul reminded Timothy to stir up the gift of God that was in him to spread the Gospel message. He also told him that he would face persecution from authorities as well as dissension and deception from within the church. Then in verse 7, Paul wrote, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound [disciplined] mind.” Since God has not given us a spirit of fear, from where does it come? Satan!
Living Without Fear, by James M. Tolle, is the best book I have ever read on the subject. He makes this most profound, thought provoking statement. “No enemy of mankind has caused more misery and unhappiness than fear. In its devastating destruction and disintegration of personality and character, this major sin of humanity has plunged innumerable souls into a veritable [real] hell on earth. It is first, last, and always a curse and blight on mankind” (page 9). He further writes:
Many who have a fine intellectual grasp of the means of overcoming fear are still miserable, fearful, unhappy creatures. The idea that the mere ability to quote passages of scripture on the subject will drive away the demon of fear is preposterous as much so as the idea that Jesus drove away the devil merely by quoting the scriptures to him. When Jesus said, “It is written,” hurling the scriptures at the devil, the power He had over temptation was more than the fact of His understanding and verbal use of God’s word, but the fact that He had translated its meaning into His life… His life was a perfect, practical demonstration of the meaning of these scriptures. (11-12)
No fear – just faith – it depends on how you look at it. The account of the 12 spies sent into Canaan is a perfect example of all 12 seeing the same thing and yet returning with a divided report. This lack of faith on the part of 10 of the spies sent the entire nation of the children of Israel into a faithless tailspin that ultimately ended in the 40-year wilderness wandering!
“The aim of adversity or pressure is to strengthen us. But we do not always live and walk by faith… Many times there is difficulty in accepting that the aim of adversity and pressure is to strengthen us since our faith is not as strong as it needs to be. Jesus reached the goal that the Father had set for Him, and He did it through affliction” (Lincoln 6-7). That is precisely what Hebrews 5:8 declares, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” All of humanity past, present and future cannot appreciably comprehend how Christ suffered for us!
The Bible is filled with literally hundreds of Scriptures on the imperative of faith. Only three will be cited for the purpose of this article.
Romans 10:17 forthrightly states that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” What does that mean? How is that done? Notice that Paul said faith comes by hearing – not by praying. Nowhere are we commanded to pray for faith. We must embrace the teachings of God’s Word in submissive, thankful obedience.
Second Corinthians 5:7 plainly says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” What does that mean and how is that done? We must walk worthy of our calling. Walking in the light of God’s Word is a lifestyle. We practice it daily in our thinking, talking and acting.
Hebrews 11:6 declares, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Notice the writer did not say without faith it is difficult, problematic or demanding, but he said impossible – unfeasible, unattainable, unachievable – to please God without faith.
Scripture must become owned conviction before fear can be replaced with faith. We must meditate on Scriptures until the truth in them becomes personal choices in behavior and language. Jesus was the Word personified, and that is why His confrontation with Satan those 40 days in the wilderness was a total victory for Him and a crushing defeat for Satan!
What is the bottom-line answer to all our fears? Faith in God is the answer. “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). How does one seek God? In this verse David indicated prayer is the answer if God is to hear and to deliver.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” One source stated in essence this peace which comes from God – that surpasses all understanding – rises above our power of thought. This peace from God is beyond our ability to plan, produce or obtain by ourselves. This peace guards, keeps and protects the emotional and the intellectual facets of the Christian’s mind.
Paul stated prayer in everything is the answer for the anxious mind. Truth for Today Commentary, Ephesians and Philippians, by Jay Lockhart and David L. Roper, notes, “The anxious mind is pulled this way and that: It is tugged one way by hope and dragged the other way by fear. Often the result is a feeling of frustration and helplessness” (543). We are to be concerned about people, but never anxious about material things. God said in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isn’t that rich? It does not get any better than that!
Lincoln, C.W. “Abe.” 2 Corinthians Rx Prescriptions for Abuses and Disorders. Lubbock: Sunset Institute Press, 2000.
Tolle, James. Living Without Fear. San Fernando: Tolle Publications, 1977.
Lockhart, Jay and David L. Roper. Truth for Today Commentary: Ephesians and Philippians. Searcy: Resource Publications, 2009.