What New Testament people's ability to trust God provide you strength? Do they include these people? Zacharius and Elizabeth, the elderly parents who gave life to John who baptized? Wonder if they were alive when their only son was executed? Mary, Jesus' mother, who conceived him prior to marriage? Her husband, and the son she conceived, died before she did. John, the man Jesus said was the greatest person ever born (Matthew 11:11)? He was beheaded. Jesus, God's son, the Messiah, the Christ? He was crucified. Peter, the apostles' leader? He was crucified upside down. Paul, Christ's apostle to non-Jewish people? He was beheaded.

Were Zacharius, Elizabeth, Mary, John, Jesus, Peter, Paul, or others like them weak people? No! They lived their lives in surrender to God's will with confidence in God's purposes. If those purposes included having a child when you were elderly, so be it. Elizabeth found it embarrassing, but so be it.

If God's purposes included conceiving a child as a virgin (which few believed), so be it. Mary responded, "Behold, the female slave of the Lord ..." (Luke 1:38).

If God's purposes included his execution, so be it. John understood the risk he took before he declared the condemnation that eventually resulted in his execution.

If God' purposes included crucifixion, so be it. It was not what Jesus wanted, but he still surrendered to "Your will be done" (Matthew 26:39).

If God's purposes included death, so be it. Tradition says Peter requested an upside down crucifixion because he felt unworthy to die as Jesus did. Paul said, "I will continue to be poured out like God's drink offering ..." (2 Timothy 4:6).

Weak in faith? No, strong in faith! Define strength. They were strong enough to give children to God's purpose, strong enough to die by execution. How did they measure faith's strength? How did they measure God's blessings? By homes, careers, jobs, prosperity, or the "good life" they lived? No. They measured God's blessings by their usefulness to God's purposes. The highest blessing God granted them in physical life was using them to accomplish His purposes.

Christian men or women who measure God's blessings primarily by the material, primarily by the physical, primarily by living standards, primarily by health, primarily by what happens in the lives of loved ones lean on a sword with its point directed toward their heart. God's priority blessings are not material or physical. Now God's priority blessings are forgiveness, redemption, atonement, holiness, purity, and spiritual life. God's priority blessing after physical existence is eternal existence with Him.

"If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:19).

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 January 2003

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