Publication:Pastoral Letter, June 2020
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray that this letter finds you well and at peace. No doubt, this year has been filled with challenges for all of us, and we are only now reaching “halftime”. We can face the remainder of 2020 with fear or faith. My prayer is that we can receive the gift of faith from the Lord so that we may withstand and overcome any storm that is raging now or any that may be ahead.
Our friend Michael Coleman is teaching a Transition Roadmap Course, and he has gained many excellent, practical insights from personal times of trial and difficulty. One of the truths he is sharing is that God works in the night. Biblically speaking, the new day begins at night, and so many miracles happen in darkness. Michael reminded us that when it is dark, that is the time to recognize that God is doing a new thing. That puts a whole new perspective on these days in which we live, doesn’t it?
Nearly 2000 years ago, during another hard time in history, Paul the Apostle was writing to the Christians in Rome, and he encouraged them this way:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
When we stand in the faith we have been given by God, we can rejoice—even in tribulations, because we understand that these tribulations are producing something in us: perseverance, character, and hope. This hope is not shallow or circumstantial. It is precious and enduring, because it has been forged and tested in fire. It is unshakable, even when everything else around is falling away.
Some years ago, a dear friend—a brother I was pastoring—was suffering terribly with cancer and had not long to live. I would visit him and we would sit in his den, talking, watching the birds outside, singing worship songs, and reading Scripture. One day, he asked me to read all of 2 Corinthians 4. “I want to get this,” he said. He began to quietly weep when I read verses 8-9 about how Paul was “pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” But he began to worship and shout, hands raised to the Lord, when I read Paul referring to his own extreme suffering as “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Even as I write this now, with tears, I rejoice in knowing my friend is walking in the reality of those verses, completely healed, singing and shouting, and at home with the Father. But I want to tell you, I saw him filled with the goodness of the Lord “in the land of the living”, rejoicing even in his tribulations because he had a revelation of something greater that God was doing.
Some years after writing to the Romans, Paul found himself in yet another prison, likely in Rome. He was no stranger to trouble! But, he wasn’t sulking; he wrote a letter to the Church in Philippi (which itself had actually started in jail). This letter is often called Paul’s “rejoicing letter” because he talks so much about rejoicing, and the spirit of the letter is filled with joy and hope.
He talked about his mission, his challenges, and how his life might be in danger. He summed up his outlook by saying, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul understood that as long as he was alive, no matter where he was, he was still anointed by the Holy Spirit, still “on mission” for Jesus, and that God would make a way and create “Divine Appointments” for him. And if Paul died? Eternal joy and glory in God’s presence!
Now, how are you going to defeat a guy like that? Impossible! No wonder the devil hated Paul so much. Now, get this: we can also rejoice because have that same Holy Spirit and that same promise in our lives! But, do we have the same perspective? If not, what is holding us back?
Paul had a beloved spiritual son named Timothy. As Paul was nearing the end of his life and mission, he had some important things he wanted to tell Timothy. Since ZOOM was not available, he decided to do the next best thing — Paul wrote a letter! In his letter, Paul reminded Timothy of Timothy’s heritage, natural and spiritual, and he urged Timothy to “stir up the gift” that was within him.
In his commentary on this letter, Matthew Henry says, “stir it up, as fire underneath embers.” Timothy had a Holy Spirit fire within him; Paul is reminding him to exercise the gifts, to cultivate them and watch them explode in and through his life.
And what were these gifts that Timothy had received in the past, when Paul had laid hands of blessing upon him and prayed over him? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Paul had opened his letter stating that his own calling and authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ came only as a result of God’s will and promise, and he declared grace, peace, and mercy to Timothy from God the Father and Jesus the Lord. Paul could declare this over Timothy because Paul had himself received it from God. What have you received from God? With whom have you shared it?
God has not given us a spirit of fear. Yes, all of us can become afraid at times. Life’s circumstances can sometimes seem very daunting. Pain, disappointment, danger, loss … these are all very real and major challenges we all face.
As King David was facing grievous and life-threatening circumstances, he cried out to God and said, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). Have you ever felt overwhelmed? David understood that he needed a higher perspective; he knew that God alone was his refuge and strength.
In his first Inaugural Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” General George S. Patton put it this way: “Fear has killed more people than death.” Fear is a spiritual force that steals our hearts away—our courage—and paralyzes us. When we yield to this spirit, we are unable to see or fight our way through whatever circumstances are facing us.
I’ve often heard my Dad say, “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is overcoming your fear.” This is a battle we all face, but we must know that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear; He gave us gifts in the Holy Spirit that shatter fear and deliver us.
And Paul says, “a spirit of” power, love, and sound mind (wisdom, self-control, peace, sobriety, clarity, discernment). It’s God’s Holy Spirit continually filling my spirit (heart) with His power, love, and wisdom. “A spirit of” is not just a cup of water; it is a mighty, ever-increasing river that not only provides temporary solace, but it is abundant and deep, filling our hearts and overflowing through our lives as a gift to others.
POWER, LOVE, WISDOM
As we abide in God’s presence, we receive His power. He doesn’t call us to go out and face our battles in our own strength. In fact, He tells us, “It’s not by your might or power, but it’s by My Spirit” (see Zechariah 4:6). Our own strength—or our own false bravado—will not suffice in the scorching heat of the spiritual battles we must face. If we try it our way, we will be overwhelmed with terror; but, receiving and walking in His power will drive fear away.
God’s power is revealed in God’s love: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). God doesn’t just give us His momentary, circumstantial affection based on how well we can “perform” for Him. No, His love is unconditional, selfless, everlasting, covenantal … the love of the Father for His children. Because we are His, and we have received His perfect love in Christ, we need not fear anything or anyone.
Likewise, we are called to “walk in wisdom”—which begins in reverential worship of God. Fear is not overcome by pride, recklessness, stubbornness, or false confidence. The spirit of power comes upon us when we first humble ourselves before the Lord, thank Him for His grace, repent of our sin and waywardness, and seek His will. God doesn’t anoint apathy, ignorance, or arrogance.
Here at CSM, we love and appreciate you, and we are praying for you during these most extraordinary and challenging days. Please pray for us also; like you, we want to walk in the truth and power of God’s Word. And, as the Lord leads and provides for you, would you consider supporting this ministry financially as well?
Thank you for being with us on this journey. I am confident that together, in Christ, the best is yet
SCRIPTURE REFERENCED: ROMANS 5:1-5; 2 CORINTHIANS 4:17-18; PHILIPPIANS 1:21; 2 TIMOTHY 1:7; PSALM 61:2; ZECHARIAH 4:6; 1 JOHN 4:18
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.