Publication: Pastoral Letter, January 2015
Dear Friend in Christ:
Happy New Year! I trust you and your family have had a very blessed Christmas season. We deeply appreciate your friendship and support.
I have just completed reading Endurance by Alfred Lansing. The book was given to me by Frank Eaton, a friend and CSM supporter. It is perhaps the most amazing story that I have ever read, outside of the Bible. Endurance is the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s adventure to the Antarctic in an effort to reach the South Pole. In 1914, 27 men accompanied Shackleton on this treacherous mission. In one sense, they failed in reaching the South Pole. But they endured, and two years later, all 27 survived an incredible journey. With endurance they succeeded.
Few people ever have to take on such challenges, but we all face serious issues that must be overcome. Where do we find the strength to face life’s issues and be, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:37, “More than conquerors”?
The apostle Paul had great challenges that are listed in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, such as prisons, stoning, beatings, and finally martyrdom. Where did he find the strength to endure? His answer was, through Christ Who loves us. The knowledge that God loves us with an everlasting love sustains us through every challenge, and through Him we have access to eternal resources!
The issue is TRUST. “Those that trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, unshakeable, it abides forever … so the Lord surrounds His people …” (see Psalm 125:1-2). If we trust in the Lord and His covenant love, we can endure whatever comes. I have watched people who trusted in the Lord in all circumstances, even death, and I have watched others who did not. There is an amazing difference! Trust is the key to all the other means of spiritual strength. Trust is an unshakeable peace in every storm.
The men who accompanied Shackleton believed in his leadership. He had confidence in himself andhis leadership; they did as well. They remained incredibly strong because of confidence.
IN QUIET CONFIDENCE
Isaiah 30:15 says, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Israel’s problem was that they often trusted in their own strength. Our strength will fail in the most daunting situations, but His never fails. The best evidence of our trust is peace, quiet, and confidence.
Flailing around is evidence of fear, the opposite of faith. Good swimmers know that when they become weary, they can float. Floating is trusting the water to hold us up. There are times when we have to “float in the Spirit,” trusting Him to hold us up. Fighting the waters is a sure way to drown. Drowning happens when what is all around you gets into you. Confidence comes when what God is gets into you.
The best evidence of trust is obedience. Shackleton’s men obeyed. They did what they were asked to do, even when they did not know the outcome. That can be difficult especially when we are following human leadership. Leaders make mistakes and Shackleton did as well. But it was working together under leadership that brought results.
The Lord often tells us to do what we do not understand. But trust will cause us to obey. Those who Jesus healed were often told to do something that sounded strange. “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (see John 9:7), or “Go show yourselves to the priests” (see Luke 17:14). The Lord often told His disciples to do things that they did not understand. When preparing to feed the five thousand, He told them to make the people sit down in groups of 50 (see Matthew 14:13-21). Or, “go catch a fish and you will find a coin in its mouth” (see Matthew 17:27). Apparently His ways are not ours (see Isaiah 55:8).
Obedience is the measure of our trust. If we only do what seems reasonable to us, we will miss the miracle. But it is important to note that faith comes by hearing from God (see Romans 10:17). Faith is not blind, presumptuous or foolish. It is obedience to God. Faith and obedience are righteous – right in the eyes of God.
Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him as righteousness (see Romans 4:3). Believing God sent Abraham on an improbable journey to a land that he did not know. His faith resulted in obedience, thus proving his faith and righteousness. He moved forward in a quiet confidence.
The righteous are as bold as a lion (see Proverbs 28:1). When we know that we have done the will of God we are bold and courageous. Disobedience leads to weakness. The double-minded are unstable (see James 1:8). The guilty flee when no one is pursuing. A major key to endurance is believing that we have obeyed and thus walk in righteousness. We therefore have the moral high ground. We can be bold in our actions, not timid.
I realize that we are counted righteous by faith in Christ, as was Abraham. But remember that Abraham embarked on a journey. Faith is not static, it is active. Passivity is not faith, it is fear.
Passivity may appear righteous in that it is the absence of obvious sin. But passivity in the face of instruction from God is sin. Israel’s refusal to go into the Promised Land because of the giants was sin. Passivity is a sin that besets much of the Church. The failure to go into the world and make disciples is a direct disobedience to Christ’s command. Going to church and passively waiting to hear a good message or sing along with some good music is no substitute for going into the world and making disciples to Jesus.
Let’s be clear, trust in the Lord gives us the quiet boldness to obey Him in going into the world. Obedience is righteousness and gives us a clear conscience before God. His love will bring us through our sometimes treacherous mission to the world which is often so hostile.
“The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (see Romans 14:17). God’s government directs us to mission. We are born into His kingdom with a mission in our DNA, as Jesus was born into this world with a mission. A sense of mission gave Him strength to do what He came to do. It also gave Him joy.
JOY OF THE LORD
Another key to spiritual strength is joy. Our mission is serious, but engaging in it brings us joy. Jesus had joy in His work, even unto death. He endured the Cross for the joy that was set before Him (see Hebrews 12:2). We can have that very joy.
Nehemiah led his people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. As Ezra the scribe read the book of the Law of Moses to the people, they wept upon hearing it. But the people were told not to weep because the joy of the Lord was their strength (see Nehemiah 8:9-12). They could have the Lord’s own joy! That would give them strength.
Zephaniah said, “He will rejoice over you with singing” (see Zephaniah 3:17). The Lord our God in our midst is mighty and rejoices with singing. Imagine what God’s laughter and singing would be like! We can have that, and the strength and healing that it brings. It is medicine to our wounded spirits and to our bodies (see Proverbs 17:22).
Those who know me know that I enjoy laughter. I love a good story and can find humor in most situations. A friend once told me that laughter makes the devil angry. If so, I enjoy laughter all the more. The Lord laughs at the wicked. He sees that their day is coming (see Psalm 37:13).
The kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17). God’s government brings spiritual joy-with His own joy. This is not circumstantial joy; that is mere happiness. It is God’s transcendent joy that supersedes circumstance and allows us to overcome all adversity. The joy of the Lord is the source of endurance. When we lose our laughter, we are weakened.
I like being around joy; it is contagious. When we see or hear laughter it brings a smile. If it continues, we eventually begin to laugh even if we are not in on the joke. If you are in a public place with friends and begin to laugh, others will notice and often begin to smile. Joy is contagious and strengthening.
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (see John 16:33). He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven…” (see Matthew 5:11-12).
STRENGTH TO ENDURE
I was impressed by the book Endurance. I was impressed by the fact that even in the worst circumstance, the men in this adventure could still laugh and kid one another. They laughed in the face of death. No doubt, that ability was critical to their endurance.
For us who are believers, we must remember endurance is through Christ who strengthens us. He gives us peace and confidence in the storm. He gives us the courage to go on in the adventure against all odds. He gives us the boldness that comes with righteous obedience, and He gives us His joy to strengthen us. His joy renews our strength so that we can mount up as on eagle’s wings (see Isaiah 40:28-31).
So I have offered some spiritual keys to endurance. If you or someone you know is weary from the road remember these keys: Trust, peace, obedience, and the joy of the Lord. We will need these keys in the time ahead, and they will serve us in every season. We can be serious without being morbid or depressed in any season. The world needs all of this and we can both demonstrate these keys and offer them to others.
Please keep CSM in your prayers and in your giving throughout 2015, especially here in the beginning of the year. My prayer is that 2015 will be your best year so far, and it can be, whatever happens, if we will trust in the Lord.
P.S. YOU ARE INVITED to this year’s CSM GATLINBURG LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE, which will be unusual and, we believe, unforgettable. Please mark your calendar for May 12-15. We are extending the conference for an extra day, and we will be hosting author Nik Ripken (“The Insanity of God” and “The Insanity of Obedience”), as well as celebrating my 60th Anniversary in ministry, and also the 30th Anniversary of International Outreach Ministries. Our theme is “EMBRACING THE TRUTH WITH OUR LIVES”. Visit www.csmpublishing.org for more information. And, please visit our store for audio resources that will encourage and refresh you in the joy of the Lord.
All contributions to Charles Simpson Ministries (CSM) are tax deductible. CSM is a 501 (C) (3) organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 5:11-12, John 16:33, Romans 14:17, Psalm 37:13, Proverbs 17:22, Zephaniah 3:17, Nehemiah 8:9-12, Hebrews 12:2, Romans 14:17, Proverbs 28:1,Romans 4:3, ,Romans 10:17, Isaiah 55:8, Matthew 17:27, Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 17:14, John 9:7, Psalm 125:1-2,