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Fighting the Fight II:

Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

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Question #1:

To my own regret, it's been some time since we last corresponded. I do hope you are fairing well.

The reason for this letter to you is to let you know what has transpired with me in the last several months, and because I have so very much respect for you and the grace and sincerity displayed in you in the Lord. The news is not very good, and I truly regret having to bring this burden to your door, but I have every confidence that you are a most valuable gem in our Lord's crown as one who has been redeemed by Him through His precious blood and His wonderful grace, and that you are a fine soldier in the Lord, and that you will continue your duty in a most admirable and noble way.

In late May I was diagnosed with MDS, which can best be described as a pre-leukemic condition.

As for myself, the particular type of MDS I've been being treated for has degenerated in an acute leukemia known as AML. It is highly resistant to treatment and the prognosis is not very good. The transplant itself is even more tenuous in it's success rate and if successful may extend my life another three years at best. If I survive this and an expected two other treatments similar to what I will be receiving, my life expectancy is about a year.

As I will be unable to get a response from you about this unfortunate news, which I'm sure is an additional and cruel blow in itself to burden you with, I still remain confident that you will forgive this belated news and that you will keep me in your prayers, especially that I might be continually comforted and maintained in our Savior's blessed presence, and that I might honor and rest in Him as I wait upon His will for me in hope. Thank you so much, Dr. Luginbill. If I do not survive this upcoming ordeal, I want you to know what an honor it has been knowing you in our own small way, and if I am brought home, how I will be also honored to actually meet you in glory, where we will rejoice together in Christ's magnificent presence. God bless you abundantly!

In Christ's Great Love, Grace, and Truth,

Your Friend and Admirer,

Psalm 25.

Response #1:

I will keep this brief, my friend, because from your email is seems it may be some time before you will be able to receive this or respond to it.

I am very sorry to hear your sad news, but I want you to remember that nothing is impossible for God, and so there is always hope. Our God can move mountains, and does so when we ask Him – assuming that mountains need to moved (as it seems they do in this case). So I will be praying for a miracle for you, and to that end I would like permission to post your letter to the site with a special prayer request.

I do want you to know, and I hope this gets passed onto you, that your courageous Christian spirit in the face of this terrible news is an inspiration to me personally. I have it from scripture (e.g., Elijah: 1Kng.19:4), and from some who have corresponded with me – and unfortunately from my own personal experience – that life can often seem not worth the living any more. But for someone who is actually under the sort of intense physical pressure you are now experiencing to exhibit such trust in the Lord and to give such an inspiring witness is testimony to the power of the grace of our Lord Jesus and the hope of eternal life which lives in Him alone.

I will be thinking about you and praying for you, my friend. Write when can.

May you feel His presence with you in this midst of this difficult trial – it is working out a disproportionate weight of reward and glory that will last forever.

In Jesus Christ who loves us and in the Father who has planned everything out for our absolute good, even in the darkest stretches of our path,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

This is the first opportunity I have had to read your response or respond back to you. I am so grateful to be able to do so. A couple of kindly people here at the hospital have arranged for me to have Internet access - something I was hardly expecting. This is my first email to anyone since I was admitted. I'm so very happy to be able to have access to others - it keeps me from feeling alone and lifts my spirits.

Thank you for your wonderful response. You certainly have my permission to post my prayer request, which I would be quite grateful for, along with your continued prayers. As for finding any of my words inspiring to you, I can only tell you how honored I am, but as for the reality of such a thing, I truly am so very completely unworthy of such accolades. I have been welling up with tears and despairings and regrets so much at times I hardly know whether I have any saving faith at all. And then - just as what happened just now - God sends someone by to help strengthen my heart against such unworthy thoughts and I begin to sense some comfort in my soul. I want so much to face my future with manliness and courage and yet I find myself so frail and weak - hardly what I thought my heart condition to be at all. I search the scriptures for that "wondrous word" that will lead me into God's presence and in His peace, but I don't find it or see it, and the despair threatens to well up once again. And then I might come across a portion of Scripture that tells me something I need to remember or have somehow forgotten - like earlier this morning when reading Psalm 27 where it says, "I would have despaired unless I had believed..." And I look at it now and think .... "wow ... aren't those few short words so much like a Martin Luther moment! "The just by faith shall live" ... "deliverance from despair is believing." So closely related, like twin titans crying out to one another as they sit on the great Sequoia tree of faith, and we in our unbelief weeping at the foot of it, like blind and ignorant children! And so it is at times as we travel through this veil of tears.

My doctors have been quite pleased with my progress. I've been getting some strong chemo treatments (2 kinds, one now completed) and haven't experienced any adverse effects like what I'd been expecting thus far: nausea, loss of appetite, hair loss, etc. I've only needed a couple of transfusions since I've come here and I'm actually feeling quite well under the circumstances.

The nurses are quite good to me and some of them are Christians also. Even the lady who delivered a couple of cards to me this morning is a believer. She loves to witness to others about Jesus. Please pray for her and the other sisters in Christ here. They have been such a Godsend to me in my moments of despair and loneliness, and I am sure they provide similar comfort to others here as well.

I am so glad I have been able to write you again, Dr. Luginbill. God bless you for praying for me. I surely would be blessed by an answer to your prayer for a miraculous recovery on my behalf as your mentioned. That would be wonderful. At the moment though, I would just love to be able to get home again, and await God's will in hopes for an extension of my time, and strength to see me through to honor Him who has done so very much for me in His great mercy, grace, and kindness.

In Christ our King,

Response #2:

Hello! I'm very happy to hear that you are no longer cut off from the world entirely, and I will certainly be keeping you in my prayers not only for your complete deliverance but also that you may be able to heal up enough from wounds et al. in order to be allowed to get home. That is always good tonic, regardless. The days I spent in hospital in the Marines (surgery for a shattered ankle that couldn't hold off an M60 tank) were long and unpleasant, and I am sure I got better quicker as soon as I was able to get out of that place.

I have posted your original email to the website as a special prayer request. You will find it at the link.

I do find your testimony inspiring. Testing is not really testing if it is easy. The Lord promises He will not put on our shoulders more than we can bear (1Cor.10:13), but that does not mean that the testing will not seem unbearable to us. That is where the trust comes in. I have seen some difficult testing in my life – and I am going through a very difficult period at the moment – but the Lord has always been faithful. I have never been good at figuring out what He will do or when He will do it or even how. But I have learned that He always does the perfect thing in the perfect way at the perfect time. Since we know we will be able to look back after the fact and affirm that this is true – in eternity if not in this life – it certainly behooves us to resolve to be courageous in the face of adversity, and defiantly so, not out of arrogance, but out of an absolute confidence that Jesus is not going to forget us. He never suffers the righteous to fall, and whatever "fire and water" He brings us through, He nevertheless always brings us through without fail – not necessarily in the way or at the time we would choose, but ever faithfully for those who prove faithful in the trial.

I remember when my dad was in hospital with multiple myeloma and congestive heart failure many years ago. I was trying to cheer him up and he bristled a bit and said, "It's not so easy to handle when it is you and not the other guy". Words of truth. I try never to even think about judging how others are handling pressure and adversity. I do try to encourage them, but I also realize that what is hard for one may be easier for the other and vice versa. We all have our weak and our strong spots. But God knows. He knows what we can handle and what we can't, and we have to be willing to respond to Him when He is teaching us the difference.

I think your attitude and your courage and your testimony in this matter are superb! And I do draw confidence from your resolute faith under such pressure. It is certainly OK to say and admit "it hurts!" when it hurts. The difference for those like yourself who are walking with Jesus is that you continue to trust Him and honor Him in spite of the hurt, in spite of the pain. And that makes all the difference in the world.

In the Name of Him who forgives all of our sins and heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3), our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Doctor Bob!

Thanks so much for your encouraging response to me and especially for sharing some of your personal experiences which have helped me put my own circumstances into a more realistic - I should say less self-centered as its so much closer to the truth - perspective. It saddened me to have learned for instance that you are going through a very difficult period, and I truly feel for you. I can only imagine the personal pain or grief or pressure you may be experiencing, perhaps long and sustained and with little respite, and like all the deep waters we must struggle through, there are portions we must ford alone. But I know also that the Scriptures remind us that we comfort others with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God, and you surely have comforted me in my own small trial, and I know also you have comforted so many others in such admirable ways, so I know that even so God is with you despite these things, and I rejoice with you in that, and pray your burdens will be soon lifted, and that your strength will continually be increased to bear up under them in the meantime as you patiently await God's deliverance. My heart is with you, my friend - may God bless you abundantly.

Today I'm expecting some family and friends to visit at various times of the day. I've talked a couple into bringing along a sandwich or something so I don't have to suffer this hospital food which will be a nice respite. Tomorrow will mark the last day of my chemotherapy regimen. I've borne up well under it thus far and hope these next few weeks will hopefully be the same. There will be dangers of fevers and infections I understand. Everyone has been very kind to me here-especially the nurses. There are Christians here too- a fine bonus when things seem their darkest. Yesterday I spent a number of hours in the end of Jeremiah and a bit in 1 Kings. That bad prophet in chapter 13 I think was a bit of a head-scratcher for me - it had been so long since I'd read that passage- but I got a better perspective on the whole affair from a JFB commentary I found online. Nice having Internet access!

I've brought along with me my NASB bible, Matthew Henry's commentaries, and William Gurnall's Christian in Complete Armour. I plan on continuing to spend large blocks of time in the scriptures as I can (faith comes from hearing the word of God!) It seems to me that "bulking up" in faith seems the best & wisest way to spend the time I have. "Reading and prayer, prayer and reading; sow to the one, the other be feeding." Hey, do you think I might have made it in the Puritan Reader? Well, perhaps it could use some brushing up, I'll concede, but I will tell you this, Dr. Luginbill - I'm feeling pretty good over here and there's a smile in my heart, and for this I'm entirely grateful.

My best friend called me last night and we spent an hour in wonderful conversation. Talk about someone who has known physical suffering - she would put ten men to shame. Last year she was four months in the hospital in a coma - organs shutting down, lingering at death's door - the whole kit. The doctors call her their little miracle. She's been in car wrecks and declared dead at the scene. She has one malady after another - I can hardly begin to remember the list of things that are wrong with her, I really can't. She has amazing pluck and fight in her. She just won't go down! And She doesn't pity herself, either - when she relates all these amazing experiences that have befallen her over her life, she is like perfectly objective in this almost entertaining way as if she were talking about someone else even though she's talking about herself - quite an amazing person. Quite an inspiration as well, I'm sure you will agree. What a wonderful friend I've had the privilege to enjoy over so many years!

A student nurse has been by twice this morning to visit. I mentioned I was a Christian and related what I'd been studying and what was important to me - even a little plug about Dr. Luginbill and the Satanic Conflict. It was all a relaxing and fruitful conversation. She mentioned at one point she'd "like to get back to those things" - always hopeful and fine sentiments to hear, aren't they. Did my heart good.

Think I'll open up the Scriptures a bit now. Thanks Doc for lending an ear. So nice chatting with you once again. God bless you.

In Christ our eternal comfort and hope,

Psalm 103:14

Response #3:

You are certainly most welcome. And I really appreciate your fine attitude in all this. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, and even when things are going adversely, we know by faith that He is with us, walking with us, holding us by the hand, guiding us, helping us, delivering us in the way and in the time He knows is best, even when we have a hard time understanding it (Ps.73:23-28). The better we trust Him, the faster we grow. In Him we can walk on these stormy waters and not sink, and we can be confident that He will part the impassible sea and make a way through for us on dry ground when the perfect time comes.

This world is passing away, and all we see is dust. It only really exists to demonstrate and determine our true hearts, to winnow out the wheat from the chaff, and to determine the relative value of the wheat. Everything else is noise and confusion. It is hard to remember this when we are under the gun as you have been, but it is a reminder and an encouragement of the power of the truth when we see someone like yourself "waxing valiant in fight" (Heb.11:34), and a stirring motivator not to fail to prove resilient ourselves when our own day of refining comes.

I thank you for your excellent witness! Stand fast in the faith. In this there is the greatest reward (please see the link if possible).

In Jesus who is our absolute everything,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Good Morning Dr. Luginbill,

I just wanted to let send you a quick email for the time being to let you know I've been able to return home after a long 5 weeks in the hospital and to thank you for your continued prayers on my behalf. The chemotherapy treatments I have received have resulted in at least a temporary respite from my leukemia and it seems for the moment there are no longer and "blast cells" of the disease evident in my bone marrow. White and red blood cells, along with platelet counts have been steadily improving enough for me to be considered well enough to come back home. The abscess in my leg, although still painful, is getting better also and I've been self-administering antibiotics through a hookup device twice a day, which is scheduled to last another week or so. In the meantime I will be continuing with doctor outpatient visits and dealing with the question of receiving a bone marrow transplant. Today I will be returning to outpatient services to undergo yet a third biopsy to verify the condition I've reported above, which will hopefully turn out continued positive news.

Thank you once again for your continuing prayers for me as I make my way through these rather challenging times with the help and grace of our Lord and Saviour. I have and will continue to remember your friend and family whose child is facing some challenging health issues as well. It would be wonderful if they all could come to the states and get medical attention over here and my requests are to that end. God bless you abundantly Dr. Luginbill. I will hopefully be writing you in more detail to keep you updated and trust you will forgive the brevity of my present correspondence.

In Christ our King,

Response #4:

This is wonderful news, !

Nothing is impossible with our God. I will certainly be keeping you in prayer for your continued and continuing healing.

Your "courage under fire" is a wonderful testimony to the power of faith.

Thank you also so much for your prayers for Gaurav and his family – and thanks for your prayers on my behalf as well!

"We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests."
Psalm 20:5 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your kind response. I was especially blessed to read your scripture quote from Psalm 20. It touched my heart, especially so because it reflected your gracious attitude towards me in Christ Jesus. It is indeed a wonderful thing to "rejoice with those who rejoice." It breaks my heart at times, though, that in addition to such uplifting words there follows those that are also part of our lives as we travel through this veil of tears, that we are to also "mourn with those that mourn," and it grieves me to report that all was not as it seemed to be since I last wrote to you below.

How quickly "wonderful news" can turn into something else entirely. A scheduled bone marrow biopsy scheduled had been cancelled because my white blood cells weren't quite high enough to perform the procedure. After running my blood they found a certain percentage of 'blast cells' had shown up, which indicates I wasn't actually in remission as I'd been led to hope was the case. What it all amounts to is that I'll have to be re-admitted tomorrow morning for what I'm told will be for another month for a third round of chemotherapy. The object once again is to destroy my existing bone marrow and replace it with a donor's.

I've been reminded that in between and after these two goals are met (if they are met at all) are a number of small minefields - disasters actually- of potentially additional medical difficulties that can present themselves and threaten the hope of recovery. This is apparently however the only option and direction I have to provide what might be called a 'cure' which could extend my life in some significant manner.

I am once again grateful for your continued prayers on my behalf and look forward in hope of contacting you once again after this treatment is completed. As it is, I am not certain I will be able to contact you in the interim as I do not possess a laptop, and I cannot be sure that the same generosity and thoughtfulness from some of the nurses here (who arranged Internet access for me on the hospital's private network) will be available where I am going.

All this was expected and inevitable at some point. I was of course hoping for somewhat more of a reprieve in this more than reasonable healthy condition I'd begun to enjoy after my last hospital stay. I have regained some strength and my appetite has been returning to normal. Quite frankly, I can actually say that if I wasn't so sick, I'd never know I actually was so sick. And for that, I am grateful for God's generous care and mercy.

It seems though that my short 'reprieve" from additional hospitalization has come to an end, hopefully for just the time being. That is my hope, of course - that this is only temporary. Perhaps again, though, this is the beginning of the end. What can I say? What can anyone say? In truth, it is only God who knows. For myself, I can only retreat to every believer's place of refuge and comfort and surrender my future, my soul, and my hope of heaven into our Lord's merciful hand and enduring care. As Job said in faith and confidence - and as I pray I will continually say as well - blessed be the name of the Lord. So let me just say in turn to you, Dr. Luginbill, that once again, it's been my pleasure, and I hope to talk to you soon. God bless you abundantly.

In Christ Our Eternal Help and Hope,

Your friend and brother in Him,

Luke 10: 23,24

Response #5:

I don't know whether you'll be able to receive this, my friend, but I want you to know that I'll be looking forward to hearing of your victory through God's grace.

Your courage in the face of this heavy load with all its ups and downs is truly inspiring!

I will also continue to be praying for you – and thanks to you I have developed a short "emergency prayer list" which will probably be a permanent feature of Ichthys from now on (you are on it, of course).

Your continuing prayers for me are also very much appreciated. I am hoping for good news this week.

May you walk closely with the Lord through all of this trouble. He is the only true solace when the storm rages in the darkness – and He is Lord of the storm.

In the One who died for us that we might have eternal life with Him, our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I am a pastor of a church. I started having anxiety attacks about some time ago. They all centered around the fact that I failed to read the Bible to my children and regularly pray with them. They both made an early decision for the Lord, but I NEGLECTED to nurture them. They are in their teens now and they are both gradually sliding away from the Lord.

Then there's the matter of shepherding the church I've served more like a hireling than a good shepherd. The longer I've pastored the less I've cared about straying sheep. I've gone after a few, but precious few in comparison to the number that have left.

The last several years I've done little more than hide in my office besides preparing sermons. In fact, preaching is about the only thing I've done well.

Not to mention other stumbles.

Now looking back over the last ten years or so, I see how foolish I've been. The panic attacks have turned into an ongoing panic disorder and I am on antidepressant pills.

So…I hate myself with an intense hatred. I have so many regrets that they parade through my mind constantly. A year ago I was a pretty happy guy…at least I had peace and joy. But now…my heart feels like a desert wasteland, and I believe I may be apostate.

I cannot find anyway to forgive myself. I am now on a leave from my church and I'm going to lose most of my salary and benefits. I believe I'm the guy who built his house upon the sand and this whole thing is about to come down on my head.

I keep thinking that the Lord has rejected like He did King Saul. I have bad dreams and even a demonic spirit has been harassing me like one did King Saul.

Do you truly think there is hope for me. I feel like dying though I have promised my family I would not commit suicide.

Thanks for your help.

Response #6:

There is certainly hope! Saul had turned away from the Lord, and until his dying day he refused to change direction. Yet what does Samuel say to him? "Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me" (1Sam.28:19). Saul, despite all of his bad decisions, is in heaven. Apostasy is the complete loss of faith. Believe me, if you had ceased to believe in Jesus Christ you would not be concerned about your situation. Please remember that 1) none of us is perfect (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10); 2) we all have regrets about how we have handled things in the past – and none of us would be honest if we didn't admit we could have done a better job with just about everything; and 3) the evil one is quick to use our guilt against us. The latter is especially true of those in ministry, because ministers of the Word are one of the devil's prime targets. So while it is true that we make his job easier by fouling up and slacking off, it is also true that we have the advantage of special help as well. As has often been quipped, the first rule of getting out a deep hole is to stop digging. The prodigal son was as far away from the Lord as he could have been without apostatizing, but the Lord led him back just as soon as he was willing to come back. I cannot be an expert on your situation, but from my remote point of view it sounds to me as if you are being too hard on yourself by far. While some of things you have shared are slightly culpable, I have heard a lot worse (as I am sure you have as well). Also, it sounds to me as if the evil one is hammering away at you in order to turn minor slips into a complete melt-down. He's happy to do that if we let him. Remember that Jesus loves you, that our God is a God of great mercy, that you have a role to play in the Plan of God, and that is a wonderful privilege. Recovery from any sort of spiritual funk usually has to begin with small steps and continue with persistence and consistency. This is within your power inasmuch as it is a function of your free will. Just ask yourself what God really wants you to do NOW, not yesterday, then do it as best you can. What He wants is not impossible, and can be accomplished one step at a time and one day at a time. God is on our side, and that makes all the difference.

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
Proverbs 24:16 NIV

The righteous man may face many disasters, but the Lord will deliver him from them all.
Psalm 34:19

Here's hoping (and praying) for you to get back up on your spiritual feet, my friend. You don't have to do it alone. Jesus not only forgives us everything when we confess – He is our Advocate before the Father for all of our failures (1Jn.1:9; 2:1; cf. Ps.32:5; 103:3), and He is the One leading us through this valley of darkness safely to the other side (Ps.23).

In Jesus Christ who is our ever present help in trouble,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:

G'Day Brother!

Hope your keeping well. I am reading and studying your work on "Faith", it is amazing. I love the way you explain things, that are so TRUE. I am currently reading Peter's Epistles #26. You mention that God disciplines his true sons when they fall into sin after being tempted. And this discipline is to help them grow and not fall again in the same way. And I totally agree with you.

I'm not sure if I've been disciplined by him; I know I fall into temptation then quickly repent within a day. That does dampen and put resistance on my faith. But I keep asking him to help me to: "seek his face in everything I do, keep looking up". Maybe he has disciplined me. I just don't know how. What kind of discipline does he hand out?

Love In Christ

Response #7:

It's a good question, and one that probably every Christian who takes scripture seriously and has considered this issue thinks about from time to time. There doesn't seem to be any particular type of punishment per se that can be identified as necessarily divine discipline, but in my view of these matters (not to mention my personal experience) it does seem that by carefully listening to the Spirit and objectively considering our past behavior we can ascertain well enough whether or not some "bad thing" is discipline or not. There are two things to avoid in this process: 1) excessive feelings of guilt, and 2) failing to look forward rather than backward. We never have to worry about punishing ourselves since our Lord is perfectly capable of doing that, and of doing it in a perfect way. On the other hand it is also true that once we do confess our sins and turn back to Him, whatever comes our way in terms of discipline will be for our blessing rather than our cursing, training us to avoid the same type of lapse or lapses that brought the discipline in the first place, and demonstrating His mercy in bringing us through the trouble (Heb.12:1ff.). So to a very large degree it doesn't matter whether the "flak" we are getting is discipline or not (assuming we have come back to Him from wherever we have strayed) inasmuch as we need to walk our Christian walk the same way in any case. In practical terms it does make some difference since it may be easier for some Christians at some times to bear up more easily under suffering if they know it really is "undeserved" rather than something they "had coming" (Job, for example, might not have over-reacted to his poor comforters if he had been more solid on this point). Of course that is not always the case. If we think "I have it coming", we may in fact be more likely to accept it (even if in fact the trouble we are experiencing is a test), whereas if we think we don't deserve it, we may be tempted to be "upset with God" even if it is true that we don't deserve it (that was one of the things that eventually caused Job to stumble). My model in this is David who, although much of the suffering he endured in the middle of his reign he brought on himself, nevertheless acted in great faith and with great courage through it all. Even though many of his troubles later in life were the result of divine discipline, yet he made the most of these opportunities to trust God, grow in his faith, give a good witness, and, in short, demonstrate the walk of a an exceptionally strong believer. If we all took that approach, the distinction between being punished and being tested would end up being very small in practical terms. Here is the link where you find the most detailed explanation of these issue: in BB 3B Hamartiology: "Principles of Divine Discipline".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I read your posting at the link "Help my Unbelief" with sadness. I really do not like the taste of rosemary. I have tried time and again to like it. I just can not stand that spice, not even a little. If my salvation was contingent upon me liking rosemary there would be nothing in my power that I can do to like it. My only resort would be to lie and pretend.

My analogy is directly related to my faith. While I am not an unbeliever I have doubts. Sometime these doubts are nagging and bring me to the brink of unbelief. That scares me. I have had the opposite hold true as well. I sometimes get overwhelmed with the presence of God and the my doubts say that's not God its your desire to believe.

I have prayed and prayed for the doubts to go away but they don't. How do you get rid of them. I can relate to that father in the posting: "I believe, Lord help my unbelief!" Don't judge us.

Response #8:

Good to make your acquaintance. It is safe to say that many Christians have doubts; I have certainly had many emails over the years from Christians who doubted their salvation or some important point of doctrine. I will also say that even more common is the propensity for very many Christians to have doubts about something or other said to take place in the Bible. Jonah and the "big fish" is a typical example of something which, for some reason I personally don't understand, many have found "hard to swallow". When it comes to important doctrines – or if a believer is reluctant for whatever reason to believe that the Bible is God's Word – then these sorts of doubts can constitute major stumbling blocks that impede progress and spiritual growth. Having doubts about salvation, as I say, is a very common complaint, but usually what I receive are emails from Christians who are worried that, regardless of their faith, they are not / will not be saved, usually because of something they did in the past. Believers are all saved; unbelievers are not. So if you are a believer, you are saved, doubts and all. Either a person is a born-again child of God, which status is achieved by having put one's trust in Jesus Christ, His perfect divine and human person and His perfect work in expiating our sins, or one is not.

(17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:17-18 NIV

In the New Testament, the community of the faithful is very often described, literally from the Greek, as "the ones who are believing". Faith resembles a living organism, and that is the analogy our Lord uses in the parable of the Sower where the Word/gospel is planted in the heart/soil of an individual and a faith-plant grows up in those who believe. In the first category of soil the plant of faith never takes root in the first place (these are unbelievers from start to finish). However, like the seed planted in the shallow soil, sometimes this plant of faith does spring up but later perishes, and when it does dry up the person in question is no longer a believer, faith in Jesus having completely died. That is apostasy.

In your case, however, clearly there is still faith – otherwise there would not be doubts but conviction (in the wrong direction). The third category of soil in the parable are plants of faith that grow up but are choked by the weeds of worry and distraction. These can come in many forms. In our day and age, that of Laodicea (see the link), this is the most common situation. Those who put aside all such worldly troubles and focus on the Lord in spite of what they see, hear and feel, putting Him first, attending to His Word in all things so as to advance spiritually, progress in their walk with Jesus, and help others to do likewise through the ministries to which the Lord calls them are the "good soil/hearts", and their faith-plants grow tall, above the weeds, so as to produce a bountiful crop – these are the ones who not only believe but who develop and live out that belief to the full and earn a generous eternal reward as a result.

I think I see where you are going with your rosemary analogy, but since it seems to me that this misunderstands the true situation, please allow me to engage with it to draw out the important differences. Either a person "likes" something edible or they do not. There is no great benefit to preferring one spice to another and no great damage if some spice is not to one's taste. And since it is a trivial matter, it would seem somewhat arbitrary for anyone to make a great deal over my preference on something like this. Faith is not like this at all. Faith is a choice, and all choices, and all behavior patterns which result from a series of choices, can, like the faith-plant of the parable, be developed and nurtured or neglected and left to atrophy.

Let me use a different analogy and compare Christian faith to swimming. My father is taking me and my brothers to the pool to teach us to swim because He as he tells us, "it will be important in the future". My father does not take other children to the pool, only those who belong to Him. Since we are going to the pool with my father, we are not talking here about my status as His child. I may have doubts about getting in the water and about the whole process of swimming, but if I were not His son, He would not be taking me to the pool (if I were not a Christian, my faith would not need to be developed and would never be tested; the fact that it does and it will be is proof that I belong to the Lord). When we get to the pool, one of my brothers throws a tantrum and will not go near the water. Later in life he will blame all of his problems on this day and disown my father entirely and stay alienated from us despite my father's repeated attempts to reconcile with him. My other brother is fine with the whole idea and has no problem with the theory we are taught, but once it comes to getting in the water and swimming he resists; maybe he finds it too much effort, maybe he is scared, maybe some combination of the above. But I get in the water and I learn to swim. I'm not a perfect swimmer, especially at first. I have my ups and downs, but I keep going to the pool with my father, even though often I would rather not, because I trust him and I want to please him. Gradually, eventually, with a lot of work halting progress is made. In time, I get on a swim team, I win a trophy or two. I serve part-time in the summer as a lifeguard at the local lake. One day some year later, I am out fishing with friends and the boat capsizes during a sudden storm. Not only don't I drown, but I am able to haul one of my friends who is a weak swimmer safely to the shore. Dad was right.

I prefer the above analogy because it makes clearer that while we Christians all "have faith", that is, a living trust in the Lord which defines us as Christians, that faith always starts out as small as a grain of mustard seed, and will only ever get bigger and stronger if we let our Lord develop it for us. Just like a skill, just like a muscle, faith has to be exercised to grow. It won't grow stronger and deeper accidentally. It won't deepen and strengthen if we are not willing to "go to the pool", so to speak: we have to feed faith with the truth of the Word of God, believe the truth of what we learn in Bible-reading and of what we are taught from solid Bible-teaching, and apply that truth in faith to the circumstances the Lord brings to us day by day. God always starts us off small. He never throws a new believer or a weak believer off the deep end – or into the lions' den. If Abraham had any doubts when he was told to sacrifice Isaac, that is not apparent from scripture. Indeed, it is apparent that he absolutely would have done so but for the fact that God stayed his hand at the very last moment. Abraham is the standard to shoot for: trusting God completely in the most impossible of situations and leaving things entirely in His hands. This worked out for Abraham, despite all appearances to the contrary, and it will for us too, if we let the Lord build us up through exercising our faith in the truth the way He did with Abraham. Few of us are "there" in our faith yet, but if we respond to Him more and more day by day, there is no limit to the spiritual opportunities that beckon. The Lord wants us all to earn the top rewards possible here in this life. That is why we are here after being saved (see the link).

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

"Earnestly seeking" is the key to everything. The more we know and believe about the Lord's truth, making that truth our own by believing it, drawing closer to Him through His Word, the more we will grow and the more our faith will grow. And the doubts will recede (along with all of our other "issues"). Spiritual growth is the key to building our faith, to drawing closer to the Lord and walking closely with Him, and to producing for Him the crop of spiritual production He expects from us and has left us here to produce.

I strive earnestly not to judge others but to desire for my brothers and sisters in Christ just what the Lord wants for us all: our spiritual edification, progress and production to earn the rewards that glorify Him forever.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.
1st Peter 2:2 NIV

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2nd Peter 3:18 NIV

But while we should not even judge ourselves in this world (1Cor.4:3-5), we should certainly strive "for masteries" (as the KJV puts it: 2Tim.2:5), knowing that our dear Lord Jesus is most certainly going to evaluate how we did here on earth with the opportunities He gave us to build up and to use our faith.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
2nd Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV

Please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church".

In hopes of seeing you "down at the pool". To please Jesus Christ, we all need the "workout" of our faith building itself up in the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #9:

Thank you, you gave me much to chew on. Love the swimming pool analogy. I am earnestly seeking. I pray daily for my doubts to go away. I read the bible play in our praise band go to church regularly that's why I'm angry. Why wont these doubts leave me. I want so desperately to believe 100 percent all the time. What I don't want though is to pretend. I feel like the kid in the pool who just keeps getting mouth fulls of water but is dying to swim.

Response #9:

You're very welcome. I hope this will be helpful. It's impossible to "diagnose" these things third hand over email, but if you want my opinion on how to proceed, spiritual nutrition is the key to all spiritual maladies. Maybe more time dedicated to substantive orthodox Bible teaching, even if it means less time with the band, would be a good place to start.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:38-42 NIV

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Again, it is pretty pathetic that I turn to a complete stranger on the internet to share my heart with, being so lonely in my Christianity. My heart has been breaking of late and I don't know if it is a spirit of doom and hopelessness or just me feeling that the end is so very near and that time is so short.

This has just started within the last month or so, although I've pondered and sobbed over these thoughts before, many times. I look around me at all my loved ones and break into tears. I know that only God can draw their hearts and tear the scales from their eyes, but I also feel that my own life has not shown Christ's light the way it should. I know that my life could be touching someone's and I may never know it (Man on George Street), but it is so overwhelming that like so many times in my life (and it could be the co-dependence of living with an alcoholic), that I am putting this on my own shoulders. I know that I should NOT! I know there is nothing I can do and feel it is very wrong. My emotions become so convoluted that I don't know what I am feeling any longer and can't find my purpose or gift. I don't know how to be or to live; I can't find my bearing in the lives of so many. I'm finding I want to 'preach' any chance I get and I may be turning people off. If I can fit Christ into the conversation I will, but I just know I am doing it wrong. I am much better as an anonymous writer on forums speaking to strangers. I also know that my little family could one day be divided and this brings me into deep sobbing. These are the only people who have ever loved me, they were the family God gave me that I never had.

I think how long it has taken me to come to where I am at in my relationship with the Lord and knowing that it is still not perfect makes it all the more hopeless for those in my life. I know God can do anything and I know the possibility is there for all of them and I know some there is no hope and feel guilty giving up on them. I know you speak to so many people and don't remember the stories I've told you about them and others and that's okay. They are substance abusers of most anything they can get their hands on.

I know the scriptures but they aren't giving me any peace right now. I don't know what to do accept ask God to take these feelings away. If not, what should I ask for? It's like knowing most of the cliche answers to such things, but needing something deeper, like something is blocking my way to the answer. My sadness is a hindrance and a relief of such feelings at the same time. I almost feel it is making me hold back things that others may need in one sense and then going crazy on them about Jesus in another. Example. ____ watched the movie Ghandi the other day and was seriously weeping over it. He explained to me how it affected him and how he felt about this man and the things he did. I was hurt by this. I said something to the effect of, "Ghandi was a great man and did many wonderful things, but you can't weep over the life of Jesus Christ and what He has done?" He hates discussing religion and feels he knows everything he needs to know from his Catholic upbringing. He also feels that the more he knows the more he will be condemned or something like that. As if his ignorance will save him. I get so passionate and then he gets annoyed. I have to leave the room for what I may then say.

I already feel a bit better knowing you are reading this and that you will write me back with some comforting thoughts. You don't have to, but thanks for listening!

Response #10:

I do remember your previous emails, and I have been keeping you and your family in prayer.

Just because we know what is good and right and just since we are doing it does not mean that we are going to have a blissful, worry- and trouble-free life. Indeed, all those who are trying to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be opposed by the evil one (2Tim.3:12). We have to learn to trust the Lord to bring us through the storm, however dark and troubling. With time, we can have His peace in the midst of the whirlwind, but that is something that not only requires spiritual maturity and continued spiritual progress – it also requires an act of faith each and every time our peace is challenged. This is a choice: "Let us have peace", Paul says (Rom.5:1), and "[Do] count it all joy", James says (Jas.1:2). The Spirit will meet us more than half-way if we want to take steps to "enter into God's rest" (Heb.4:11), but when we are being pressured by the evil one and his minions we have grab hold of that peace, summon up that joy, and aggressively march into that rest which is ours by right in Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the issue of those we love, that is always a tough one. But consider: God knows everything, the end from the beginning, and every thought of every heart great and small from the creation of mankind to the end of history. He surely knows your heart and your genuine and legitimate desire for the salvation, spiritual safety and growth of those you love. My advice would be to pray without ceasing, and to trust the Lord that He will work it out for good in the end – which He most certainly will do if only we keep trusting Him. Patience means by definition waiting faithfully and not caving into the pressure of time and circumstances. Jesus Christ is Master of all these things, and will speedily bring deliverance to those who love and trust in Him. Our timetable, however, is not His. He accomplishes everything in His own good and perfect timing; our task is to wait for Him and to demonstrate that we really do trust Him completely by waiting beyond the point where those of lesser faith would buckle and give up.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:18-21 NIV

We are not as great as Abraham, and, God willing, we will not have to wait as long as Abraham had to wait, but in waiting on the Lord there is the greatest reward. When we endure in patience, trusting that He will grant us the deliverance we seek, we show the world of men and angels both that God's promise is of more weight in our hearts than everything the world, the flesh and the devil may scream against it. To the unbelieving eye we are fools. But we know by faith that the Lord will answer – if we but wait until the day He has set to accomplish our deliverance from on high, however long it may seem to human minds and however difficult it may be to wait for by human hearts.

Keep up the good work of ministry. In this there is great reward. None of us is perfect in precisely how we do these things, but, God helping us, we will get better with practice and also better as we continue to grow spiritually and walk more closely with the Lord day by day. No race is easy. No fight is painless. But we have our gaze riveted on the prize of the high upward calling to which we have been called, and are looking forward to a sweet "well done" on that great day from our dear Master who died that we might live eternally with Him.

Stay in the fight. You and yours remain in my prayers day by day – and I am ever grateful for yours.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello Sir,

I am praying for you daily. And I know the Lord will answer. I will continue to pray till deliverance comes. In fact, last night I was thinking of writing to you.

Things are not good here. Health, Business & Spiritual Growth, everything is in bad shape. I have started blaming my self for everything.

In Him,

Response #11:

I thank you so much for your prayers, as things are at a critical pass here. I am hoping and praying that they will work out for the good and in time – and I have full confidence in the Lord that this is so. It is certainly true that "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22 NIV). But there is nothing to compare with entering the kingdom of God! Especially considering the alternative. That is our hope: deliverance from judgment, and the anticipation of resurrection and reward and a blessed eternity together with all of our dear brothers and sisters forever . . . in the presence of our dear Lord Jesus.

That said, I am surely grieved to hear of your continuing troubles (and I have been and will continue to be keeping you, your situation, and your family in my prayers). I know that God has not forgotten you and that He will deliver you at just the right time. He always does so. The problem does lie with us in that we do not have His sense of timing; for us, we hurt, so just like a small child who cannot understand that the pain is bearable and will soon go away under his loving parents' tutelage, we too are all often guilty of not having enough patience and faith in our dear Lord. But please do not "blame yourself". If you have been called upon to share the sufferings of Christ, that is because you have chosen the good the part and have been fighting the good fight – it is something you can glory in. This is entirely counter-intuitive to the way the world thinks – and not the stuff of spiritual immaturity – but as believers who are walking with Jesus we have the duty and we have the right to have peace in the midst of the storm, and to have joy in the midst of the pain.

I have been noticing lately just how often and how emphatically the New Testament talks about the joy we have a right to have in our dear Lord and in the salvation we have in Him; and how often it talks about the peace that we ought to have as we walk hand in hand with Him. Neither of these two blessed attitudes comes without effort; they have to be continually grasped for and stubbornly held onto. Neither of them is even attainable until a believer gets to a certain basic level of spiritual maturity. But for those of us who have, and I certainly include you, my friend, it is essential for our spiritual health and the survival and thriving of our faith to be joyful when the world says we are crazy to act that way, and to be at peace in Jesus when the world seems to be crashing down around our ears. We do not have to feel bad that we are occasionally pushed off this "hill"; but we should take care to understand and realize that we will be happier when we are happy in Christ; and that we will be more at peace when we take pains to center our peace in Him. And we can do this – with the power of the Holy Spirit – thinking about the things to come and not about the things we see. For what we see lasts only the blink of an eye, but what we know by faith is coming will be forever.

Don't let your spirits drop, my friend. I know things are hard, but we are being tested and refined so that our faith might grow stronger, not weaker, and so that we may experience a joy and a peace in walking on this stormy water hand in hand with Christ which the world will never know and which is all the more blessed and powerful precisely because of the fiery trial we are going through.

Your brother in the fight from here until His kingdom comes.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hello Sir,

Things are really bad. Give me a few more days, I will get back to you. I am reading your previous reply again and again. Its very helpful.

In Jesus Ji,

Response #12:

I will wait on your reply, my friend – and will be keeping you in prayer.

Jesus is sufficient to our every need. A friend just wrote me: "Faith is not about everything turning out OK; it's about being OK no matter how things turn out". There's a lot of truth there – because in Jesus Christ, God is "working all things out together for good for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28): faith is understanding that this is true and that it will be true no matter how terrible the present storm may be.

Your friend forever in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello Sir,

I am keeping all this in mind and applying aggressively. Still I end up feeling guilty, guilty about things which really aren't in my control because of accusations. I want to love Jesus more than my life.

In Him,

Response #13:

Hello my friend,

Apologies for the delay. This message didn't get forwarded to me, and I was out of town for some time last week.

I know you love our Lord, and that is a great encouragement to me. Being under pressure such as the pressures you are under is never easy, and such pressures do tend to make all manner of negative emotions well up. That is when we need to hold onto the peace and the joy that are in Jesus; that is when we need to be thinking of our eternal reward and all the glories to come. These troubles last only a moment – but the wonders of the resurrection and our eternal life together with the Lord will last forever.

(35) So do not throw away this conviction of yours – it leads to a great reward. (36) You need to keep persevering so that you may carry off in victory what has been promised – after you have accomplished God's will. (37) For yet a little while, how short, how [short the wait], and He who is coming shall come, nor will He delay. (38) "Then shall my righteous one live by his faith, but if he shrinks back, My heart takes no pleasure in him (Hab.2:3-4)." (39) Now we are not possessed of cowardly apostasy which leads to destruction, but we have faith which leads to [eternal] life.
Hebrews 10:35-39

Keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day, my friend – and remaining confident in our mutual deliverance.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hello Sir,

I Thank you for the encouragement you always provide. You always remind me of important facts. I will definitely continue to grow. I will not stop growing. But, spiritual growth is becoming difficult. Things I use to do effortlessly (like thinking of things from above, or 2Cor.10:4-5), now even with conscious efforts I am unable to do. I am not saying that my mind wanders, but that it goes blank as if I am unknowingly blocking these thoughts myself (I doubt) or is it thing else. I know it gets difficult with each level. But This happening with many other things and not just spiritual things. I don't know if all this makes any sense.

[details omitted]

How are things at your end? I am praying for your deliverance. Let's wait and see how and when he delivers.

Thinking about the Lord and reading the bible always gives peace without fail. 100% satisfaction guaranteed for a believer

In Him,

Response #14:

Hello my friend!

I too draw great encouragement from you! It is always a lift for me to see you battling away in spite of all opposition. This is such a short life. Our time in the New Jerusalem, and in the new heavens and new earth, and with the Lord and with each other, will be limitless in eternity. What a poor bargain most of humanity makes – and completely unnecessary too inasmuch as Jesus paid for everyone to have the same blessed resurrection into a perfect eternal body and the same wonderful eternal future (it's only the level of rewards which will be different in distinguishing believers).

"Family problems" are often among the most difficult things to handle if only because they are "near and dear" and cannot easily be ignored. It is sometimes hard to keep our focus on the track we are running, but the increase of pressure is actually a compliment to your spiritual growth – Jesus never makes those who cannot handle it share His sufferings. It can be hard to "count it all joy" (Jas.1:2) under such pressures, but when we realize that the additional problems are really a vote of confidence in us from the Lord (remember Job), and that they also mean greater reward in the future, it is a little easier.

Thank you for your prayers, my friend! The next two weeks or so will be critical, and I hope to have good news to report.

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Robert:

Thank you so much for your words of wisdom concerning what I wrote to you about. Your Godly advice has been very helpful in giving me guidance with the young lady I am meeting with. I now have a much different concern. Our family has been falling on hard financial times lately. I can say for the first time I am really scared. There is a good chance we will be losing some personal assets, possibly including our home. BUT I know God is sovereign, and nothing will happen that He first doesn't allow. I would greatly appreciate prayer for our family in these challenging times. That we would remain steadfast in Jesus. And be moldable to what He is trying to teach us.

Also ... If you had any encouraging scriptures you could send, I would greatly appreciate it.

God Bless,

Response #15:

What has sustained me through such troubles is the knowledge of God's complete control and superintendence of all that happens, and our Lord's particular care for all of us whom He loves, loves and loved so much that He gave up His life for us. Having done the most for us even before we were His, we know that now as His Bride He will most assuredly work everything out together for the good for us who love Him. We are commanded not to worry not because that is not a natural human thing to do (which it certainly is), but because worry exhibits a lack of faith in God: He is well aware of what we are going through and He is not only fully capable of looking out for us in all circumstances but has also incorporated our every deliverance into His comprehensive plan even before He created the universe; that, after all, is the only way that Christ could die for every sin of every human being who has ever lived. Having done the most for us on the cross, our dear Lord Jesus is certainly not going to leave us in the lurch in regard to much lesser things (and everything else is "much less" compared to His atonement of our sins which would otherwise have condemned us), and we need to remember the certainty of that truth in faith no matter what our eyes see or our ears hear or our feelings feel.

We believers have responded to our Lord's call to "get out of the boat" and come to Him. We are walking on the water with Him through this world, and it does get very dark and stormy at times. The wind blows, the waves rise, the thunder and lightning threaten, and the darkness terrifies. But Jesus is holding us by the hand, after all, and even if we do doubt from time to time and begin to sink because our faith is flagging, just as He lifted Peter up He will ever lift us up as well. So we don't have to worry about sinking – and even if we do worry and think we are sinking, it will all be alright because He will keep us from harm.

We are walking through the valley of the death-shadow, but our Shepherd is right here with us and we can take comfort in His skill and power – they comfort us because we know that whatever threats come, He is mightier to an infinite degree than anyone or anything that could wish to harm us. We "cannot want" for anything because He is our Shepherd; when we accept that ineluctable logic with unreserved faith, worry and fear melt away.

We have been called to peace, and we have been called to joy. If only we grab hold of that peace and take pains to celebrate that joy at all times, we will sail through these difficult seas, and prove good witnesses to the world of men and angels all that our faith in Jesus Christ is greater than anything else in this temporary world.

Thanks for your good words. They are appreciated. I will certainly continue to keep you and your family in prayer will be praying for your deliverance from these difficult times – I can certainly use prayer along the same lines myself!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Good morning Bob.

A friend shared with me that He believes Jesus forgiveness of sin is part of being forgiven, but is incomplete without our admission of sin. He quotes James-

James 5:15-17: (NIV) 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I have a problem with the notion that we can do anything to be forgiven, other than to believe in the One that God has sent.

I have also quoted a number of passages that refer to just that. The adulteress woman, the man carried on the mat, the proof that Jesus gave saying –‘to show you that I have the power to forgive sin, pick up your mat and go’ and he healed the crippled.

Thanks for your time and insights on this,

Response #16:

Always good to hear from you. To be saved, we need to be forgiven our sins. Christ's sacrifice paid the price for all the sins of all mankind so that in order to receive that forgiveness all that is needed is that a person accept that Gift through faith in Jesus, His perfect Person, human and divine, and His perfect work on the cross in paying the penalty for every single sin. Once we are saved, we no longer need "blanket forgiveness" since we are now members of the family, adopted as sons and daughters of the living God. But sometimes, even in our worldly families, our children mess up and need to be disciplined. Admitting their mistake is the first step to restoration into our good graces (although they may incur some tangible discipline, depending upon the offense, in order to train them not to do it again). It is similar for us in our relationship with the Father. When we sin – and we all sin – we need to confess those sins to God in private prayer. When we do, He always forgives us (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5; 103:3), although we may incur some divine discipline for the sake of our spiritual growth and safety depending on the sin and circumstances (Heb.12:4-11). It is, however, critical to make the distinction between the forgiveness of all of our sins at salvation whereby we become part of Jesus Christ, and the day by day forgiveness of specific post-salvation sins which negatively affect our fellowship with our Lord. Jesus compares the former to a bath and the latter to the washing of our feet in John 13:3-10: we only need one bath (the forgiveness of salvation) but, life being what it is and the sin nature being what it is, we will need to wash our feet many times (confession of sins as we commit them). This is similarly illustrated at Exodus 30:18-21.

A long way of saying that I agree with you in that admitting or confessing sins is not part of salvation. Repentance is an attitude of turning away from the world and our previous way of thinking (see the link), an attitude which is essentially the "flip side" of believing: we have to reject the world and our sinful life in it to receive Christ and receiving Christ is impossible without rejecting the world and our sinful life in it. How we are to behave in this world after salvation is where confession of sin comes in.

Finally, the James passage is neither here nor there in this conversation since it is talking about the specific instance of corporate prayers for healing in cases where the individual afflicted has not been walking in close fellowship with the Lord and has not confessed (or made a practice of turning away from) sin. As a result, the sickly person in James is close to death and has need of this special intervention (cf. 1Cor.11:29-32: and 1Jn.5:16-17).

This is the "short story", although there is a lot to say about this subject. For what the Bible has to say about sin in general, please see BB 3B Hamartiology, and for the salvation aspects of this issue please see "The Saving Work of Jesus Christ" in BB 4A. On confession, please see "John's primer on sin", "Sin and Repentance", and "Sin, Confession and Forgiveness".

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus who died to save us from all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Just read your writing on Hebrews 10:26 - I'm so thankful that there are people who treat scripture with great care so as to not unnecessarily discourage the believers who may not know scripture so well.

I was watching a video on youtube (last July) and this man had me convinced using this passage and Hebrews 6:4-6 that because there had been a recurring area of sin in my life, that I had no hope whatsoever, I might as well brand "hopeless" on my forehead because I had willfully committed these sins. To be honest, they were willful disobedience rather than slip-ups. I've just struggled with physical purity since I was a teenager and so that is an area I continued to struggle in after becoming a believer. So when I saw this (false) teacher's video, I was stunned, my heart sank and I almost fell to the floor. I literally "knew" for an entire weekend that I WAS going to Hell and there was now no hope for me. So I thought to myself I would become an evangelist who's message would be: "Repent! Don't do as I have done or you'll end up in Hell like where I'm going." I'm not kidding.

Fortunately, I continuously searched on google for other possible interpretations of this passage. Sadly, many of these are quite lacking. I even called Hank Hannegraph on CRI's bible answerman. His response was pretty good but due to a tech problem, I didn't really hear much of what he said. But I think your in depth treatment of this issue is precious to me and anyone who reads this passage. Where you went beyond Hannegraph (I think - couldn't really hear him!) was that you do say that it DOES apply to us today. You stated: "any pattern of choosing a life of sin against God will lead eventually and inevitably to the same place". So really, to put it in my words: If we continue sinning, it is possible that our hearts will become so calloused that we will not care about our relationship with God anymore - our faith will have died. But if we still concerned (deeply in my case for sure!) about that terrible sin in our lives, then our faith is alive and we CAN repent. The danger is that if we continue to sin too long, we become calloused and we don't care anymore (faith dies). Would you say that's about correct?

I have to tell you. I love that you took the time to write this. It has helped me sooo much. And in as much as I plan on being completely crazy for Christ for the rest of my life, sharing the Gospel with every piece of flesh I meet, I promise you others will be blessed by your teaching too! I will not allow my brethren who truly seek to repent and have a wonderful relationship with God be lied to like I was! To me your interpretation fits exactly the God I know - the one who is long-suffering, patient, graceful. He really was gracious with me for such a long time. And so you know, I have become so much more obedient to him and that issue - I've had 6 weeks of victory. I have hope I may never do that particular sin ever again. That would be an amazing miracle let me tell you. But I know that if I slip again, he will forgive me then too. So I guess I should thank that false teacher too. He really did make me take a closer look at some long term sin in my life and for that I'm grateful!

Response #17:

Very good to make your acquaintance – and thank you so much for your inspiring testimony and for all of your good words.

As 1st John 5:4 says: "And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith [in Christ]!". So yes, I think you have understood this correctly: all believers are saved; only unbelievers are lost. Unless and until our "plant of faith" that has sprouted from the Word of the gospel perishes (as the apostate's does in the rocky ground in the parable of the Sower), we belong to Jesus and nothing can snatch us out of His hand.

At the end of the posting you mention, "Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?". There are a large number of links there, and I invite you to explore them. Sanctification is only really possible through spiritual growth, and spiritual growth is the reason we are still here on this planet after accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. The two go hand in hand. Many Christians seem to think that they can ward off sin by standing still, but in fact there is no successful defense without a potent offense – except that the devil is not as concerned with lukewarm, static Christians as he is with those who are making a true difference for Christ by advancing spiritually, walking with Jesus, and helping others do the same.

Keep running a good race through the power of the Spirit and the Word of God!

Your brother in Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #18:

December is a month of disaster for some armies and victory for others. It was 200 years ago when Napoleon was retreating with the pitiful remains of his Grande Armee from Russia, which was the beginning of the end for him. 70 years ago the Russians again where destroying an invading army, this time at Stalingrad; the Germans were surrounded and doomed thanks to the stupidity of their leaders. 150 years ago the Union army was beginning its withdrawal across the Rappahannock after Burnside’s ill-fated assault on Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg. Have a Merry Christmas and don’t be a December loser.

Response #18:

Picking the right side is indeed the key to everything. An important thing to remember for sure, especially in this culturally clogged and emotionally overloaded season when it is easy to be distracted from the purity of the truth. We have cast our lot with the Lord and persevere through thick and thin for better or worse will have an inestimably blessed future of no regrets – even if at present it is our lot to suffer through trouble on behalf of Jesus Christ, sharing His sufferings to His glory.

Hope you are doing well, my friend.

You and your family are in my prayers day by day.

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I think you should add Godandscience.org to your resources page. It's an apologetics website. I think I mentioned it before. I know you say apologetics isn't your strong suit. That website has scientific apologetics. The guy that runs it is a scientist or something. I'm not exactly sure. It helped me a lot though when I was struggling with my faith. I think it might help other people who are in the position I used to be in. I don't know if you know about it already, but I think you should check it out.

Also, I know we are supposed to read our bibles consistently as Christians. I don't read mine nearly enough. I know you've probably heard some variation of that too many times to count. I have the intention of reading my bible, but I never get around to doing it. The funny thing is, I like to read a lot. In fact, I love to read. I've been a "bookworm" for years now. I just don't like reading my bible most of the time. Sometimes it is enjoyable, but that's the exception. It feels like homework. I know that I should do it, but I put it off until the last minute. When I finally get around to it, I just wish it would be over with as soon as possible. To sum it all up, reading my bible is boring for me. Now that I think about it, that is likely the reason why I seem to have a hard time growing spiritually. I neglect the word of God. I read a few passages in my bible this morning. When I finished I felt like, phew that's a load off. I hadn't read my bible in at least a week. Two Sundays ago a girl at the church I'm going to asked me to read John every night for a whole week. I said that I would do it, and I most certainly have not.

I can't put my finger on the problem. I ordered some books by Kay Arthur. I enjoy reading religious material such as devotionals and what not. I just don't like to read the Bible itself. I also still have negative feelings associated with prayer. For me, praying is like having to go to the dentist to have your teeth pulled. I suppose deep down the real reason why I don't pray is because I think it's useless. For example, you know how Jesus said that if you have faith you can move a mountain? Well, I'd sooner start digging that mountain up than bother asking God to remove it. I figure it would get done in the same amount of time. That's my facetious way of saying not ever.

Dr. Luginbill, what are your thoughts on this?

Response #19:

I have added the link you suggested to the "other resources" page (thanks!).

As to your question about Bible reading and related issues (I notice prayer is still a concern), yes, I have heard and seen this before often enough. In fact, I think it is very common for believers to be resistant to all the good things we ought to be doing for our spiritual growth. That explains why almost all churches in our Laodicean age are entertainment based and focused. The only thing that really differentiates them is the manner in which they entertain.

In your defense, I think the fact that you struggle with this has a lot to do with the system in which you came up. And I will further say that in my opinion the fact that you are willing to continue to struggle with this is an indication of your generally positive attitude which is so rare among the Laodiceans.

When we are brought up in a system which stresses obligation in a vacuum or for questionable reasons, and when the means of fulfilling the obligation is itself questionable or done in a questionable way, then I actually despair for people who are not struggling with the whole concept of what passes for "being a good Christian" in most churches and denominations in our day and age.

For example, the only person who should put any sort of pressure on you to read your Bible is you – and the Spirit interacting with your heart. The worst reason to read the Bible is out of pure (human) obligation, wherever that pressure comes from. Christians need to "want" to read their Bibles. That is not saying that it will ever be easy. To use a loose analogy, if I don't want to exercise but am being pressured into it by my family or whomever, I am going to find it hard to enjoy, and harder still to give the sort of effort I would need to in order to get better at it. On the other hand, if I am self-motivated to exercise, well, it still isn't going to be easy to get into good shape and maintain that shape, but my desire to do it will make absolutely all the difference in the world.

Wherever we are in the Christian life, we will always have some things which are relatively easy for us to do and pursue (and to avoid if they are things to be avoided), and other things which are hard and seemingly onerous (or difficult for us to stop or avoid doing). If we are involved in some religion which tells us to hue the line on such things, those with good self-discipline may do a "good job" of it while those who have a harder time policing themselves will do more "poorly", but it won't matter in any case because it will be just that, religion rather than spiritual growth. The R.C. church is a good example of this sort of approach, but all of the mainline denominations and nearly all of the independent churches have fallen into this same sort of trap: check the box on each "necessary thing to do" and earn your self-righteous "brownie points".

The only motivation that really counts in the Christian life and the only motivation that really can result in genuinely good things happening is that which comes from within us stimulated by the Holy Spirit. And an extremely important part of producing that sort of genuine self-motivation is looking to our spiritual reward:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26 NIV

The crowns of victory we shall receive from our Lord Jesus on that wonderful day to come will bring with them His "well done" and also at present unimaginable tangible blessings that will be ours for all eternity as a reward for doing what we really ought to be doing here on earth in this life.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

The treasures we are looking forward to so far exceed anything we might find attractive in this life, that it is good and right and biblical to start motivating ourselves to achieve for Jesus Christ as the only really important thing we could ever do on this planet. And the way to win those rewards is spiritual growth, progress and production (see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").

So when it comes to good things like reading one's Bible, being consistent about accessing solid Bible teaching, making an effort to walk more closely with Jesus day by day, and setting ourselves to the question of our spiritual gifts and how we can use them to help our brothers and sisters in Christ do likewise, while I suppose we all "ought" to be motivated in this direction in any case – and while it is true that as we grow spiritually our motivation to do these genuinely good things will grow organically as a matter of course – it is not for no reason that the Bible has so much to say about looking to eternal rewards for just this reason: we need the motivation.

Once a person gets "het up" to win the three crowns, Bible reading (for example) and anything else that seems difficult or onerous, becomes a part of the process in getting from point A to point B. I may not enjoy driving through Kansas, but if I want to get to my vacation spot in Colorado, I'm motivated to do it.

Once we get fully "on the road", lots of these pieces begin to fall nicely into place. I think your reluctance to be enthusiastic about things done in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons or motives may actually have been a positive in helping you steer to the right course (something that most believers in this day and age are very happy not to be doing at all).

In Jesus whom we are eager to please,

Bob L.

Question #20:

G'Day brother

Hope you and the family are keeping well. As I continue my study on "Faith" and reading through your work which is amazing, a question has come up. As you state in Peter's Epistles #24 Faith Dynamics: "Faith is the basic virtue, the building-block virtue, upon which all other Christian virtues rest (e.g. hope: Heb.11:1; love: 1Cor.13:1ff.)."

I totally agree and love the way you explain things.

Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Rom 10:7).

Help me dissect this please brother:

We hear the Living Word of God, the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it by storing it in our heart (believing). The Holy Spirit empowers us to put it into practice when we need it. This is the complete cycle of "FAITH". Is that correct? I.e. when we hear the 10 commandments; we store them into our heart (by believing) and put them into practice by faith. Thus, practicing the Word of God produces "Love". So Love is a by-product of Faith in the Word of God. Is that correct?

This verse has confused me a little: 1 Cor. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Can love exist without faith. If I'm not hearing the word and putting it into practice by faith, can I "Love"? I would of thought faith is greater than love, as one is dependent on the other.

Am I on the right track, or have I got things confused? Further to my previous email to you, I also find this verse to contradict my understanding of Faith. Maybe I don't have a clear understanding. 1 Cor. 13:2; how can one have faith to move mountains and have no love? Faith to move mountains, requires the uttermost abiding in Christ and him in you. The only way one can abide in him and have that kind of faith is by loving him and having a heart after his own heart.

Isn't faith and love two sides of the same coin? Can one have true faith in the living God and not love those that are around him? Am I on the right track?

Love In Christ

Response #20:

Apologies for the delay! I agree that faith and love are inseparable. Consider this passage:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Galatians 5:6 NKJV

A better translation of "faith working through love" here from the Greek would be "faith being empowered by love". In truth, the Christian virtues, while progressive to some degree, cannot really be disaggregated. The heart responding to the Spirit is virtuous; the heart responding to the sin nature is not. The reason for speaking about these things separately is for our benefit in order to be able to consider and understand the various and important aspects of proper Christian behavior. Faith, hope and love are different things, but they are all manifestations of a proper response to God being empowered by God.

So I would say that it is impossible to have faith strong enough to be "moving mountains" and truly "have not love". This is a hypothetical advanced by Paul to teach us the relative importance of these virtues lest we misunderstand them and come to lack them all. In this particular case, if a person feels they "have faith" and that is sufficient so that they can now go about their life however they want with near utter disregard for the truth and for other Christians, that would not be "love" – but it would also not be true "faith" (James makes a very similar point in chapter two of his epistle). The virtues expressed as they are in scripture are valuable in terms of giving us something to shoot for, something to emulate, and also in giving us guideposts to let us know when we are falling down on the job, so to speak. If we would walk as Christ walked, we should emulate all of the virtues (cf. 2Pet.1:5-8); and if we become aware that there is any particular virtue which we are not accomplishing satisfactorily, then we need to reconsider our Christian applications.

As to the essential process of the Christian life: hear the truth, learn the truth, believe the truth, apply the truth, all of which steps are supported and empowered by the Holy Spirit in combination with our spirit, yes, I think you are right on track!

Feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for answering again, and will make sure to read the links you have provided for me. I'm aware of the dangers of taking lightly certain scripture that may be hard on us, and make sure not to do so, though I have noticed a tendency to go in the other direction and be too hard on myself about the past, but it is a habit that is slowly fading away. Usually, it's now only things in my past which I've "newly" found out I was doing wrong, for the most part, whenever such an incident occurs, but they have been fewer and fewer now. Though, just to make sure, does the covenant involving circumcision still apply? How does it apply to Christians? I only ask in this reply because I was going to ask about something else anyway, and I hope it's not a bother.

As mentioned in a previous email, I do have a weakness in certain sin: for the most part, but I don't just 'make an exception' with this, and I am still fighting it.

[details omitted]

This was a long one, and I apologize, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Response #21:

It's good to keep a tender heart before the Lord. And it is certainly not uncommon for Christians to read things in the Bible and 1) realize that they themselves are imperfect and would have a hard time becoming otherwise completely, or 2) wonder about certain commands, orders, provisions, descriptions as to whether and how they are applicable and just what they mean. For all past sin, confession out of a genuine desire to stay out of trouble in the future is the solution. Once forgiven, we can and should move on. For all "problem passages", patience coupled with continued growth in the knowledge of the truth through attention to Bible teaching and believing what one is taught will eventually answer most of our questions. Where we need to adjust course, we will then be able to do so, but on the basis of truth we believe, not responding to worries and doubts about things we don't entirely understand.

As to circumcision, this is the mark of the Jewish covenant to Abraham. It is not required for Christians today (read: Acts 15:1-end).

As to the other issue, I believe all this illustrates the truth of the principles "is it not good for Man to be alone" and "it is better to marry than to burn". Coping with desire before marriage is a difficulty for most Christians, some more than others. Being tempted on this (or any other) score is not a sin; giving into temptation is what is sinful. The more we flirt with temptation, the harder it is to resist and move on from it; the more we are adamant about giving sin no quarter, no attention, and no opportunity in any given area, the easier it becomes to "back-burner it". As Paul encourages us to do:

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Romans 13:13-14 NASB

The Holy Spirit is our ally in this fight, as long as we give our will over to Him instead of to our flesh:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Galatians 5:16-18 NIV

This is all much easier said than done, of course, but if we are actually advancing spiritually, growing in the truth, the "offense" part of the Christian life, then we will also find sanctification, the "defense" part of the Christian life, an easier proposition. It is a fight we shall always have, even if the particulars of the battlefield differ from person to person and change with age and circumstances. But, God helping us, we will win victory in this area as in all others and become sanctified vessels useful and well-pleasing to our Lord.

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2nd Timothy 2:20-22 NKJV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Bob,

I'm reading through Exodus and Luke, and I just came across the description of the Passover Meal Festival. Just to make sure, this is a Jewish holiday/ceremony, but do Christian's still celebrate it and follow it? Also, today, I read Luke 13:1ff., and the Parable of the Narrow Door, and would like to ask whom Jesus was speaking of, exactly? Are these simply unbelievers?

If this is on Ichthys somewhere, I again apologize for not looking it up. Part of me just enjoys directly speaking with you like this.

Response #22:

In my view, Christians should not celebrate Passover. There is a growing tendency for Christians to do so, but in my view this is a poor witness. That is because Passover, as in the case of all of the other Jewish rituals of the Law, proclaims a Messiah who has not yet come and has not yet died for the sins of the world. We know that Jesus is in fact the Messiah and that He has already died for this sins of the world. The book of Hebrews is specifically aimed at Jewish Christians who were doing just this sort of thing, namely, continuing to participate in rites which, after the cross, were essentially blasphemous because the symbolism has been fulfilled. Here are some links on this topic:

Should Christians celebrate Jewish festivals?

Grace versus Law: Jewish Festivals

On the parable of the narrow gate, this is our Lord's way of telling us that there is only one way to be saved, namely, by grace through faith in Him. So to that extent it applies to everyone: unbelievers must not think that "being good" or "being not as bad as someone truly evil" or "doing good works" or anything else outside of putting their faith in the One who died for their sins will avail them anything on the day of judgment; believers need to hold true to the One who is their only Savior, and not allow themselves and their faith to be swept away from Him by the temptations and disappointments of this life – for there is no other Name given by which we must be saved.

As to your first and previous emails, I'm not sure what to write you beyond what I already have. This is a question of applying the truth you have learned and believed in the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with your conscience – so it is very much an individual thing, and, as with all matters of applying the truth of the Word to our lives, an issue that will become more apparent and more readily clear as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (but without growth, no amount of advice and no plethora of rules and regulations will ever suffice).

There is much in this world that is sinful, and there is much in this world which, while not sinful, is not profitable (for a good parallel see the link: Satanic Influence in Video Games and Television):

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.
1st Corinthians 10:23 NIV

In other words, the Christian life is all about choices. Prudent Christians stay away not only from sin but also from things that might very well lead to sin (especially in respect to things that have led them in that direction in the past; cf. 1Thes.5:22). In doing so, however, it is also important to take one's particular level of spiritual growth into account on the one hand (i.e., no one who is just learning to run should start with a competitive Marathon), and on the other hand there is only likely to be trouble and failure in going to extremes. Eschewing marriage if one does not have the gift of celibacy or becoming a hermit to get away from the influences of the world are two particular extremes that ought to be eschewed. The Muslims teach that a man can look at a woman "once" – because that might be an accident, after all – but looking "twice" is a sin. I think that pretty much sums up the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of trying to boil these things down to a legalistic formula. We have the Holy Spirit, and if we are listening to Him as we should be, He will stir our consciences against all that is unwise and dangerous, but will also give us victory over false guilt – provided we are diligent in learning and accepting by faith the truth of the Word of God which is His "sword" (Eph.6:17).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hello sir

I have no problem using the Ichthys website on my Blackberry. I have no idea about Tablets and Notebooks, never used them. Although, my brother who is in Johannesburg working as system administrator at IBM Has sent us a used Apple ipad through courier, but the Custom office has detained it.

My wife is fine. My son is fine, at least he looks fine to me. Other people find him weak though.

Business is not fine. Production has still not started. Everything is going wrong there. On the very first day, people wanted me to break a coconut (some kind of ritual), and to offer incense sticks to the machine. I didn't do it. I said " God is with me, and I don't need all these rituals". I face such situation everyday at home and at my work place. So many superstitions I get bombarded with. I haven't faltered yet. But Jesus has not shown anyone that he is with me. To people, my words seems as if they are hollow. I fear that some day in my subconscious mind I will start giving in to superstitions and rituals, I can already see few symptoms. Believe me Dr. Luginbill, things are happening in excess. I noticed yesterday that I was reluctant to pray, I think I said In my mind " why should I pray? Its not going to be answered, why am I expecting anything? Why will he give me anything, I am not even Reading the bible consistently?" Guilt? Maybe yes. I was so frustrated yesterday and so angry, I was going to the workshop on my bike, and from inside my helmet I was yelling, shouting at top of my voice ( my throat is still paining), saying bad words, abusing evil spirits (I knew they were there troubling me), people walking were looking around to see who was shouting. There was a truck coming from the wrong direction, and I literally wished it killed me. I realized quickly that this behavior is not acceptable and confessed quickly

I am not blaming God; no one can blame Him.

But I think that deep within, I am becoming weak and breaking.

I have tried to correct my thinking last night while lying down. And I am happy now

I don't know what else to say. Thank you

In Him,

Response #23:

Unfortunately, I know exactly how you feel as I am undergoing a similar test here. Everything seems to be going wrong, and there are even bigger problems ahead which seem almost insurmountable at present. I know the Lord is with me, but as you relate sometimes we have to fight through the natural inclinations of our fleshly hearts and conquer these bad emotions with the truth in a more "manual" and aggressive way than we should like. But the advancing Christian life is never "automatic" because it is all about choice. Who will we believe? God and His Word or what we see, hear and feel – and what everyone else tells us? But I do know that it is true that "those who honor Me I will honor" (1Sam.2:30 ESV). Therefore I have personally determined to be obstinate in my faith and meet every (seeming) defeat with a confidence in the Lord which may be completely unwarranted – in the world's eyes – but one I have been given to see in the past is good and just and right – and I know this truth by faith in His promises as well.

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5b NIV

When a storm arose on the sea of Galilee and the boat they were in began to be swamped, the disciples rushed to the front of the boat and woke Jesus up – no doubt so that He would do something about it. His response? "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matt.8:26 NIV). This used to be a verse I didn't quite understand, but now I think I do. Jesus is right here, indwelling our bodies, and we belong to Him. He not only knows very well everything that is happening to us and everything that is going to happen – these things were all decreed before He created the world, and God has "programmed" everything into His plan in just the right way for our benefit, so much so that "all things are working together for the good" (Rom.8:28). When the storm grows wild and the difficult tests come and come in waves, we want to wake Jesus up. It is very tempting. Instead, we need to understand that He is with us in the storm and that He is working it all out for our good, even when – and especially when – we can't see how it can possibly work out at all. He would not let anything happen to us if it were not for good, God's true good with eternal consequences for good for us and all concerned. Whenever we don't see that, we are the ones who need to wake up.

He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:3-4 NIV

The resilience of your faith is an inspiration to me, my dear friend! I draw great encouragement from the way you are fighting the good fight, and count it a privilege to have the opportunity to know you as a brother in Christ and to do battle for you in prayer as you are doing for me.

Keep fighting that good fight of faith.

In the Name of the One who holds us in His hands and will never let us fall, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.
 

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