Saturday, April 7, 2018

Home

This blog all began with a Bible study on the expression, "the kingdom of God is like" this.  By putting together all of the similes the Lord used to compare to the kingdom of God, we were able to get a relatively good picture of God's kingdom -- a mosaic of sorts.  Later came other articles of a similar nature that helped to show us what the kingdom of God is like.  I hope these prove useful to you as you grow in your understanding of how things operate in God's kingdom.  If you have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, you need to re-learn how to live, since the way God works is very different from the world.

"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, 'Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.'"  (Luk 18:16-17)

The Kingdom of God is Like This The Secret Kingdom God's Supernatural Hand in Crisis
The Link Between Two Realms God's Supernatural Provision Using People The Kingdom of God as Revealed to James Agboola
A Time for Everything The Sudden Nature of God's Kingdom An Incomparable Inheritance
All of His Works Praise Him Thy Kingdom Come The Day of Small Things
Why is the Body So Divided? A Biblical View of the Poor Paradoxes of the Kingdom of God
God's Way to Greatness Faithful in the Little Things Multiplying Your Talents

You may also access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Image credit: "Suffer the Children to Come Unto me" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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___________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. Partner with us online by giving to DMI.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Multiplying Your Talents

The Lord compared the kingdom of God to a man giving talents to each of his slaves. Let's take a closer look at that passage in Matthew 25, and discover the implications for our lives. He said:

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 25:14-30)

The Meaning of the Parable
As in all parables, the parts of the parable each represent something in real life. The Lord had told the parable of the Ten Virgins just prior to this parable, which is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13, in order to describe what the kingdom of God is like. And He followed that with this parable of the talents, which is recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, in order to continue with His description of the kingdom of God. He began with the words, “For it is just like..." (v. 14). The pronoun "it" in this opening phrase of verse 14 refers back to its antecedent, which is the kingdom of heaven that he referred to initially in verse 1.

Master
The master in this parable represents the Lord. He is introduced in verse 14 as "a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them." It's important to note that the master entrusted his possessions to his servants. This illustrates that in the kingdom of heaven, the Lord, represented by the master in this parable, has entrusted His possessions to His servants.

Talents
In order to understand this passage, it is necessary to know what the talents are that the master gave to his slaves. A talent is a certain sum of money, such as a bag of gold weighing 200 pounds (91 kg) or a bag of silver weighing 100 pounds (45 kg). The true value of the talent cannot be known, and it varied in different nations, but it was a specific weight or quantity of money. Someone has speculated that a talent today would be worth 1.25 million dollars. It should be noted that in this parable, the talents, or possessions of the master, are also referred to as the master's money in verse 18, so it was literally money in this story.

The master gave different amounts of talents to each of his servants, based on their individual abilities, since they did not all have the same level of ability. "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey" (v. 15).

While the talents in the parable were literally money, they represent whatever gifts, skills, abilities, or talents the Lord has given to each of His servants who follow Him. It's interesting that the modern day word "talent" has come to mean those special abilities or faculties one has that are non-monetary. According to Webster's dictionary, a talent is: "Faculty; natural gift or endowment; a metaphorical application of the word, said to be borrowed from the Scriptural parable of the talents. Mat 25." Webster also defines a talent as one's eminent abilities.

Examples of Abilities
The following is a list of examples of abilities, skills, and talents that you may possess, which you may not have thought of or realized you had:

Biblical knowledge and understanding
Scripture memorization
Singing
Song writing
Scientific understanding
An aptitude for learning
Organizational skills
Administrative skills
Public speaking
Speaking a second language
Reading
Writing
Poetry
Drawing artistically
Calligraphy
Helping others, including the poor, the weak, and those in need
Feeding people
Loving people
Being a good listener
Driving a motor vehicle
Bicycling
Running
Using the computer
Technical skills
Mechanical skills
Carpentry
Playing musical instruments, such as the keyboard, guitar, etc.
Discipline
Photography
Graphic design
Website development
Cleaning
Cooking and baking
Food preparation
Knitting and sewing
Ironing clothes
Hospitality
Faith and healing
Shopping and purchasing (including online)
Frugality (saving money)
Teaching
Parenting
Encouraging others
Hair cutting
Typing (keying)
Proof reading and grammatical advice
Operating a cash register
Leadership

Of course, many more could be added to this list. Perhaps you have taken these things for granted, but I intentionally included common things in my list to show that these are all abilities in some way, even if they seem ordinary and not very glamorous. But not everyone can walk, run, ride a bicycle, drive a motor vehicle, such as a car or truck, and not everyone can operate a computer, fix things, build things out of wood, save money shopping, read, write, sing, play an instrument, compose songs and poems, create artwork, do cleaning, or iron clothes. Don't take anything for granted that you are able to do. It is all given to you by the Lord and was originally His possession. Don't underestimate or bury any of your talents.

Use of One's Talents
It's important to observe in the parable what each of the servants did with the talents they were given:

"Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more." (v. 16-17). 

It was good that these two servants immediately put their talents to use. They went out and traded with their talents, putting their talents to work, in order to gain more talents than what they were originally given. This showed that they valued their master's possessions and wanted to be able to give him a return on his investment whenever he returned. These servants represent those who put to good use the abilities they have received from the Lord and gain more with them for the glory of God.

Unfortunately for the servant who was given one talent, he did not have the same attitude toward his master. Instead of going out and putting the talent to work to gain more with it, he dug a hole and buried it in the ground. This was based on his twisted view of the master and his inappropriate fear of the master as a hard man (v. 24-25). He did not gain any more with it, but only had the original talent to show the master upon his return. He represents those who serve the Lord that don't put their talent to use, perhaps because they view themselves as not being very talented or not having much in terms of abilities.

Journey
The journey that the master went on in verses 14 and 15 represents the Lord going back to heaven after He rose from the dead. We read this in the book of Acts where His ascension is recorded:

"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'" (Act 1:9-11)

Return of the Master
The master's return from his journey represents the return of the Lord Jesus Christ or His second coming. It says, "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them" (v. 19). So we see that just as the master's return occurs a long time after he goes away on his journey, so the Lord's return happens a long time after He goes away to heaven. This is depicted the same way in the previous parable, in which the bridegroom's coming is delayed (v. 5). The Lord's return is also represented in the parable of the sheep and the goats that immediately follows the parable of the talents, in which the Son of Man comes back as King of all the nations (v. 31).

Settling of Accounts
The master returned specifically to settle accounts with his slaves, which represents the Lord returning to hold all of His servants accountable and render to each person according to what he has done with the Lord's possessions that were given to him. This refers to the coming judgment, which is also represented in the parable of the sheep and the goats. In that parable, he states,"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne" (v. 31). The Lord is depicted as sitting on His glorious throne with all the nations gathered before Him (v. 32).

There is coming a day soon when we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to settle accounts with Him. As the apostle Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” (2Co 5:10-11).

It's important to observe the the master in the parable of the talents held each of his servants accountable for what they did with his possessions that he gave to them. Likewise, when the Lord returns, He will hold each of us accountable for what we did with what He gave us.

Outcomes 
The outcomes were different for the ones who put their talents to use than for the one who did not, and who buried his talent.

To the one who was given five talents and who gained five more, "His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’" (v. 21). Likewise, the one who was given the two talents and gained two more was told the same thing. The master was pleased with them and told them that they did well, and that they were good and faithful servants. That's what I want to hear the Lord say one day to me. Don't you? They were told to enter into the joy of their master where they would be put in charge of many things, since they had been faithful with a few things. This represents the eternal reward of the faithful who put to good use what the Lord has given them. Those who are faithful with a little will be entrusted with much. They are depicted as the righteous sheep in the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which the king says, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (v. 34).

However, the one who buried his talent received a very different response from his master. “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’" (v. 26-28).

Sadly that servant's one talent was taken away from him and given to the one who had ten. He lost everything because of his inaction. His master did not view him as a good and faithful servant, but as a wicked and lazy servant, because he did not have any return on investment to show his master. 

The master said, “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (v. 29-30).

Not only was his talent taken away from him, not only did he fail to hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," but he was called a worthless slave and was thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That should put the fear of the Lord into all of us, lest we end up like him. May it never be that any of us be found wicked, lazy, or worthless to the Lord due to neglect of the talents He's given to us, or failure to put them to good use for His glory.

This same warning is given in the parable of the sheep and goats, in which the king says to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels... These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (v. 41, 46).

The righteous and wicked will be judged based on what they did and didn't do. The righteous are the ones who use their talents, money, gifts, and abilities to do good to others like feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick and those in prison, and clothing the naked. The wicked are those who fail to do these things, and to the extent that they fail to do so to the least of these, they fail to do it to Jesus.

Ways to Multiply Your Talents
The final thing in the parable that I would like to explain, as the title of this article implies, is the manner in which each of the good and faithful servants gained more with the talents they were given by their master. In our lives, here are some ways we can do that. You should use your talents to glorify God. If you can sing, then sing for the Lord. Do it around the house, and also in church. Do it to bless others, to encourage the saints, and to lead people to Christ. If you can use a computer, then do it for the glory of God. If you can drive a car, then use that for the glory of God. The same goes for writing. You can write articles that glorify God and post them on the internet. You can write poetry, too, if that is your particular ability. On and on the list goes, and the possibilities are unlimited. So get to work immediately and take stock of the talents the Lord has given to you, make a list of them, and then put those talents to good use for the kingdom of God.

You can also gain more talents or abilities by increasing and enhancing your existing ones through constant use and practice. Practice makes perfect, so as you use what you already have, you will become more proficient at it, and that will also constitute an increase of your talent.

Another way you can gain more talents, abilities, or skills is by acquiring new ones. You can take lessons, obtain training, apply yourself to learn new ones using the abilities you already have. Perhaps you can use your money to pay for guitar lessons or voice lessons. Or perhaps you can give someone help with learning to use the computer or you can repair their computer in exchange for keyboard lessons. Or you can use your reading ability to read a book and take a course on how to cook, so that you can use that new cooking ability for the glory of God. Then you can cook meals for those in need and bless them in the name of Jesus.

As I said, put whatever gifts, talents, skills, and abilities you have to good use loving and helping others. Teach others in the area of your ability, and thus multiply your talents in others for the Lord's glory. Learn from others in their area of ability. Help others to find and use their talents for God's glory. Be faithful with the abilities, skills, talents, and money the Lord has given to you.

Let's not forget that any money you have is obviously one of the talents the Lord has given to you, since the talents in the parable were literally money. Be sure to be a good steward with those resources by spending it wisely and putting it to use for the glory of God. That can include looking for ways to save money, being frugal, blessing others, giving to the poor and needy, giving financially to ministries that are advancing the kingdom of God, and investing in people to make a difference in this world for God.

Putting it All Together
The master gave each one a certain number of talents each according to his own ability. Each went and traded with them, and gained more talents. They were faithful with a few things, therefore, the master considered them good and faithful servants. He invited them to share in His happiness and put them in charge of many things.

He who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. His master considered him a wicked and lazy servant. The master took away the talent from him, and give it to the one who had the ten talents. The master threw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Whether the master's servants enter into eternal reward or eternal punishment depends on what they do with the talents he has given to them. The extent to which the master increased their responsibilities depended on their faithfulness to put to use and multiply the talents he gave them initially.

Therefore, it behooves each servant of the master to be faithful to put to good use the talents that he has given to them. It serves as a warning to us not to make the same fatal error as the wicked, lazy servant, by being like him and burying any talent the master has given to us.

Attribution noticeScripture taken from the NASB, copyright the Lockman Foundation Image may be subject to copyright. The "Bags of Gold" image is from Ballyfermot Community Church, and is used per the Fair Use Act for educational and commentary purposes. The image of the bag of gold from First Presbyterian Church of Edwardsville.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend reading my articles Faithful in the Little ThingsThe Day of Small ThingsGod Chooses the Weak Things, What is That in Your Hand?Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, The Kingdom of God is Like This, Multiplication, Multiplication Illustrations, Better a Little, and Success in God's Eyes. I also recommend reading two poems by my daughter adapted from Matthew 25 called Use Your Talents and The Sheep and the Goats. For more articles on this blog, please see the Home Page. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Faithful in the Little Things

In my recent article, God's Way to Greatness, I highlighted the lives of seven Hebrews whom God exalted to high positions. I emphasized that when He does that, it depends more on Him than on any striving for greatness on the part of the individual whom He is elevating. In fact, it is just the opposite. As I said in Paradoxes of the Kingdom of God, you must humble yourself beneath the Lord's mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time.

The Bible teaches us not to despise the day of small things, but rather be faithful in the little things in the place where we now find ourselves. The Lord said, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." (Lk 16:10). This is true regardless of what the Lord has called you to be, whether it is a king, a president, a prime minister, a preacher, a teacher of the Word, or a lowly servant.

Consider the examples I gave in God's Way to Greatness, and what would have happened if they had not been faithful in the little things. If any of these people had not been faithful, things would have turned out differently.

Joseph
If Joseph had become bitter toward God or toward his brothers for being thrown into a pit, sold into Egypt, or ending up in prison for doing the right thing, then things would have been quite different. The same is true if he had given in to the seductive demands of Potiphar's wife and compromised with her by sleeping with her. The same is true if he had held a grudge against his brothers, or if he had given up his faith in God during those long years in prison. He would not have been elevated to second in rank to Pharaoh, nor would he have been used to save the nations of Egypt and Israel during the seven-year period of famine. But he was faithful in the little things.

Daniel
If Daniel had not refused to eat the king's food and drink his wine, things would have turned out differently. If he had not been a man of prayer, who continued to pray to God daily even when it was illegal, things would have turned out differently. What if he had feared being thrown into the lion's den and to save his own life had stopped praying to God? What if he had succumbed to fear rather than trust in God when they did throw him into the lion's den? What if he had not given the accurate interpretations to the king's dreams for fear that the king would put him to death? The Lord would not have exalted him to the third highest ruler in the kingdom. But he was faithful in the little things.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Likewise, if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had not been faithful in the little things, their lives would have turned out differently. They too, refused to partake of the royal food and wine, but lived on vegetables and water instead. But things would have been different, if they had bowed down to the idol for fear of being thrown into the blazing furnace, rather than trust in God. They would not have been promoted to administrators in the province of Babylon. But they were faithful in the little things.

Esther
The same could be said of Esther, too. If she had been a coward and feared for her life, refusing to go before the king on behalf of the Jews, they would have been annihilated, and even she and her family would have been killed. If she had not humbled herself with fasting, before she sought an audience with the king, things would have been different, just as they would have also been different if she had not first prayed for three days. Things would have been different if she had not given Mordecai the credit for exposing the assassination plot against the king. They would have turned out differently if she had not followed the advice of Mordecai and not kept secret her national identity during the king's selection process when he was in search of a wife. They would have been different, if she had not followed the advice of the chief eunuch assigned to the king's harem during the period of preparation before she appeared before the king, and if she had not taken with her only what he recommended she take. But she was faithful in the little things.

Mordecai 
Likewise, if Mordecai had not reported to Esther the assassination plot against the king, things would have turned out differently. Perhaps the royal officers would have succeeded at assassinating King Xerxes and made Haman king in his place. If Mordecai had bowed down to Haman like all the royal officials at the king's gate did, things would have turned out differently. If he had not raised his orphan cousin like a daughter, things would not have turned out the same for him. If he had not humbled himself with fasting and had not prayed to God when he discovered Haman's evil plot to destroy all the Jews, things would have turned out quite differently. But he was faithful in the little things.

Putting it All Together
Thank the Lord that each of these seven people were indeed faithful in the little things, and the Lord did exalt them to positions of greatness, in which he used them to save many lives. The same holds true for God's Amazing Plan for Your Life, too. Let this be an encouragement to each of us not to seek positions of power, not to seek greatness, but to bloom where we are planted and be faithful in the little things right where we are now.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Image may be subject to copyright. I would like to thank my wife Jennifer Lacroix for her contribution to this article.

Author's noteThe Day of Small ThingsGod Chooses the Weak Things, What is That in Your Hand?, Multiplying Your TalentsThe Ebb and Flow of Ministry for the Lord, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, The Servant of the Lord, The Kingdom of God is Like This, Multiplication, Multiplication Illustrations, Better a Little, The Beauty of Brokenness, One thing, The Secret Kingdom, and Success in God's Eyes. For more articles on this blog, please see the Home Page. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Monday, February 19, 2018

God's Way to Greatness

There are many paradoxes in the kingdom of God, as I have stated in my article Paradoxes of the Kingdom of God. One of those is God's way to greatness. It's quite contrary to the world's way to greatness. In the world, men step on others in order to put themselves up higher, as they climb the ladder of success. Men make it their aim to be great and aspire to positions of power. They love the praise and recognition of men, and seek after it, rather than the praise that comes from God. They seek to please men rather than God and flatter others to their own advantage. But this is not so in the kingdom.

Let's look at some examples in Scripture of those who followed God's path to greatness. I have chosen to highlight the only seven Hebrews recorded in Scripture who at one time held positions of authority in secular government. I chose these as my examples, rather than those who were kings in Israel, because holding positions of authority in secular government has more relevance to the people of God today, since there is currently no nation on earth with a theocratic government under the one true God, and we essentially all live under secular governments.

Joseph
We begin with Joseph. Although God showed him through dreams that he would rule over his parents and brothers, they didn't believe it. And since his brothers were jealous, because he was the favorite of his father, they threw him into a pit. But they later changed their minds and sold him to Midianite traders. Then the traders who brought him down to Egypt sold him as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard.

While he was serving in Potiphar's house, Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him. But because he was a man of integrity and refused to go to bed with her, she lied to her husband and falsely accused Joseph of trying to sleep with her. This got him put in prison. So as you can see, he was not taking steps to become a ruler, he was living for the Lord at any cost, regardless of the consequences.

Then because of his godly character, the prison warden put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. No matter where Joseph went, he was always promoted by God. This shows us that no matter how the enemy tries to push you down, when you live a godly life for the Lord and walk in integrity, He will always see that you do well. It's the Lord who exalts you, not yourself.

Due to Joseph's gift of interpreting dreams, he eventually interpreted dreams for the baker and the cup bearer for Pharaoh, who had both been put in prison with him. He said that the king would put the baker to death and restore the butler to his position, and he asked the butler to remember him, when all went well. Although the butler did not remember Joseph initially, he did remember Joseph later when the king had a dream and needed someone to interpret it.

Joseph was brought forth from prison to interpret the Pharaoh's dream, which he did correctly. The Lord gave him wisdom to know that the dream meant there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Therefore, he was promoted and became second in command only to Pharaoh, and he was put in charge of the national grain program to stockpile and prepare for the famine. He did so well at it that it not only saved the nation during the famine, which did come as he predicted, but it even helped his own family back in the land of Canaan as well.

During the famine that eventually spread across the whole region, when his father Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent his sons there to buy grain and bring it back to feed their families. When they appeared before Joseph in Egypt, while not recognizing him as their brother, they bowed before him just as God had previously shown him as a young man through dreams that they would one day do so. The brothers who had hated him, thrown him into a pit, and sold him to traders, were now bowing in fear at his feet.

When Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, they were shocked and wondered if he would use his power to take revenge on them for the way they had treated him earlier in life. However, he assured them that his being there was by divine design. He said, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt." (Gen 45:8).

At Pharaoh's command, his whole family was then allowed to move to Egypt and remain there with him, which ultimately saved their lives. Only God could do this. And this shows that it was not something that Joseph actively sought after. Rather it was a fulfillment of God's purpose for Joseph.

Daniel
Another example is Daniel. He was endowed by God with good looks, wisdom, an aptitude for learning, and a noble birth. He was well-informed and quick to understand. By divine appointment, he was also among the exiles of Israel that were carried off to Babylon. Therefore, when the Babylonian king had the chief of his court officials select men with these qualifications to serve in his palace, Daniel was among those selected.

Yet Daniel did not go along with the program without raising objections. He refused to eat the king's meat and drink the king's wine. Using his tact and wisdom, he negotiated with the chief official to exempt him and the other three Hebrew young men -- Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, from eating the royal food and drinking the king's wine. He got permission to let them eat only vegetables for ten days and drink only water.

At the end of the ten days, they were found to be looking healthier and better nourished than any of the other young men who had eaten the royal food.

"To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus." (Dan 1:17-21).

So all the glory goes to God for their opportunity to serve in the king's court. And later when the king had a dream, he wanted his magicians and wise men not only to interpret it, but to tell him the dream itself. None of them could do that, so the king decided to kill them all. But Daniel and the three other Hebrews fasted and prayed for divine intervention, and God gave Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. As a result, his life and the lives of the three Hebrew young men with him were spared.

"Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court." (Dan 2:28-29).

All the glory goes to God for their promotion to these high positions in the Babylonian government, because they were not seeking these positions. In fact, due to the king's decision to kill all the wise men, they would have been put to death along with the others, if God had not intervened. So it was the Lord who promoted them.

Once Daniel was in his high position as the third highest ruler, he did not compromise his faith. He remained true to the Lord all the way. When King Nebuchadnezzar became proud and had a dream, the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation. Even though the dream meant that the king would have to go through a terribly humiliating experience of being driven from men and living like an animal for seven years, Daniel did not fail to give him the message. He could have sought to protect himself and only tell the king what he wanted to hear. But he spoke the truth and called upon the king to repent.

When King Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar was having a banquet with his chief nobles, getting drunk, and saw a hand writing a message on the wall, Daniel was called upon to interpret the handwriting. It was the king's mother who suggested the king summon Daniel, because she remembered him. Again, Daniel did not hold anything back, but told the king what the Lord had decreed for him, because of his sin. He said:

“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription." (Dan 5:22-24)

He told the king that God had numbered his days and brought his kingdom to an end. He told him that he had been weighed on the scales and found wanting. He told him that his kingdom had been divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Anyone else who was looking out for themselves would have been afraid to say such things. As a result, Daniel was once again promoted.

"Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom." (Dan 5:29). God kept rewarding Daniel for his faithfulness and obedience. That prophecy came true that night and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom.

Daniel was a man of prayer, who prayed to God three times a day on his knees with the window open. When his enemies in government got a law passed that forbade anyone to pray to anyone but the king, they had the king throw Daniel into the lion's den. But Daniel prayed in the lion's den, and God sent His angel to shut the mouths of the hungry lions. As a result, the king was overjoyed and had Daniel's enemies, who had falsely accused him, thrown into the lion's den with their wives and children. Before they reached the floor of the lion's den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. "So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian." (Dan 6:28).

So once again we can see that Daniel refused to compromise with the world, and kept up his godly life of prayer, even when it became illegal to do so and meant being thrown into a lion's den. God was pleased to rescue him and be glorified through Daniel's life. So he prospered during that king's reign, as well as that of Cyrus. None of this was due to any efforts on Daniel's part to become a high ranking government official.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
I have already mentioned Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were known in Babylon as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They initially entered the king's service for the same reasons as Daniel, and not because they were seeking it. Later at Daniel’s request the king appointed them administrators over the province of Babylon.

Afterward they were tested when the king built an idol ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, and set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

"He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it." (Dan 3:2-3).

He ordered everyone there to bow before the idol as soon as they they heard the sound of the musical instruments being played. And the punishment was death for those who did not do so. The herald proclaimed, "Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” (Dan 3:6).

Of course, they did not bow down to the idol. They did not compromise their faith in God. The Lord commands us in His Word not to have any idols or bow down before them, and they determined to obey God at all costs. This brought attention to them in a negative way, and they were brought before the king. He gave them another chance to bow, but they maintained their position, refusing to do so. He became angry and reminded them that if they did not bow to his idol they would be thrown into the blazing furnace.  Their response was not politically correct, and they did not give in for a moment.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18).

They had faith that the Lord would deliver them from the king's hand, but even if He did not do so, they still refused to bow down to the idol he had set up. So the king had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded his strongest soldiers to bind the three Hebrews and throw them into it. When they did so, the soldiers were killed by the heat, even though they themselves did not go into the furnace. But the three Hebrews remained alive walking around unbound and unharmed inside the furnace. And the king saw an angel inside there with them, whom he described as a fourth man that looked like a son of the gods.

Ultimately the king called them to come out of the furnace and he gave praise and glory to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God had rescued them and the king acknowledged it. Scripture records:

"So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.' Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon." (Dan 3:26b-30)

It is obvious from this passage that they were certainly not seeking positions of power or trying to do all the right things in the eyes of the king to get promoted. In other words, they were not trying to be popular or score points with the king. In fact, they defied the king's command, and were willing to die for it rather than worship any god but their own God. Amazingly, as a result of this the king promoted them further. That's a wonderful example of God's way to greatness.

Esther and Mordecai
Another wonderful example is Esther, who was among the Jews living in exile. She was raised by her cousin Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, when her father and mother had died. It happened that the queen wife of King Xerxes there so displeased the king that he banished her from his presence and needed to find another wife. A search was made throughout his kingdom for beautiful young virgins to be gathered into a harem for him to choose from, and Esther was among those selected. She pleased the eunuch in charge of the harem and won his favor, following his advice in all that she did.

After a rigorous, final selection process, she was ultimately chosen by the king to be his wife, for by the grace of God she had a lovely figure and was beautiful. "Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti...But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up." (Esther 2:17,20).

Meanwhile, Mordecai, who used to sit at the king's gate, happened to discover that two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway had become angry with the king and were plotting to assassinate him. Mordecai reported this plot to Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving Mordecai the credit. This ultimately saved the king's life, who had the two guards executed for their treachery. All this was recorded in the annuls in the king's presence.

At the same time, there was in that kingdom a certain evil man named Haman, who was highly favored by the king. The king honored him and gave him a seat of honor higher than all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king's gate bowed down to him when he passed by, since the king had ordered it, except for Esther's adoptive father Mordecai, who was not a royal official and refused to do so. This infuriated Haman, who did not realize Mordecai was related to Esther. When Haman discovered that Mordecai was a Jew, he passed a law with the king's approval to kill all the Jews in the kingdom on a certain day. He did not realize that Queen Esther was a Jew, too.

"When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly." (Esther 4:1). When Esther's eunuchs and female attendants reported this to her, she was in great distress. So she sent one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her to go and find out what was bothering Mordecai and why. Mordecai sent word back to her through the eunuch about Haman's evil plot against the Jews, and he asked her to go into the king's presence and beg for mercy for her and her people.

Although she did not want to risk going before the king without being summoned by him, since that was against the law and punishable by death, Mordecai persuaded her to do so, suggesting that this could be the very reason why God had brought her to her position of royalty. He sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)

Queen Esther then requested that Mordecai and all the Jews in Susa fast and pray for three days for her. She also agreed to fast as they did, before she would seek an audience with the king about the matter. She made up her mind to do so, even if it would cost her life. Her attitude was, "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16b). After the three days, she entered the king's presence, and he extended his royal scepter, which meant that she was welcome to approach him. When he asked to know what her request was, she very carefully and wisely invited the king to a banquet that she had prepared for him and Haman, his royal official.

She held the banquet over a period of two days, during which time it just so happened that the king could not sleep, and at his command his attendants read to him from the chronicles. They just so happened to come across the part documenting how Mordecai had uncovered the assassination plot that saved his life. Just as the king discovered that nothing had ever been done to honor Mordecai, Haman was entering his court, but did not know what the king had just been discussing. So the king asked Haman what should be done for the man the king delighted to honor. Haman assumed the king was talking about none other than Haman himself, so he recommended an elaborate ceremony for the man the king delighted to honor. The king then ordered Haman to do for Mordecai the very things he recommended. This humiliated and further infuriated Haman so much that he followed the advice of his wife to build a gallows seventy-five feet high, on which to hang Mordecai.

Meanwhile, by the second day of the banquet that Esther held for the king and Haman, the king was very eager to know what it was that Esther wanted, and he promised in advance to grant it to her, even up to half the kingdom. Esther eventually told the king about Haman's evil plot to destroy her and all her people. This infuriated the king, who left the banquet hall and went out into the garden. Haman knew the king had decided to kill him, so he fell on the couch where Esther was laying, in order to beg for his life. Just then the king returned from the garden to find him in that position, which appeared as if he were attempting to molest the queen. The king was told that Haman had prepared a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, the very man whose intelligence report had once saved his own life from the assassination plot. So the king ordered that Haman be hanged on his own gallows and he was immediately executed. After that the king's fury subsided.

"That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate." (Esther 8:1-2). So the tables were turned, and the destruction that Haman intended for Mordecai and the Jews came upon himself, while the honor, wealth, and authority that had belonged to him was given instead to Esther and Mordecai.

Then when Esther begged the king to do something about Haman's evil plot to destroy all the Jews, he authorized her and Mordecai to issue a decree and seal it with his own signet ring to avert the disaster, which Modecai did. Not only did the edict make it illegal for anyone to kill the Jews, but it authorized the Jews in every city "to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies." (Esther 8:11, NIV). Thus Esther and Mordecai administered justice, and the Jews were spared from annihilation.

"When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration." (Esther 8:15, NIV).  God was truly glorified by this whole turn of events, including Mordecai's rise to power as second in rank to the king.

The account of Esther and Mordecai ends with these words: "King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews." (Esther 10:1-3)

Only God, who has lifted up the humble, could do this. And this shows that it was not something that either Esther or Mordecai actively sought after in any way. Rather it was God's fulfillment of His purposes for them.

Putting it All Together
Therefore, in the accounts of all seven of these godly Hebrews, who held very high positions of authority in secular government, we see a common theme. They were not seeking to be great or to hold government positions. Rather they were seeking to live godly lives, refusing to compromise, walking with integrity, in obedience to God's commands, and the Lord is the one who exalted them in due time. He did so in each case for a specific purpose that brought glory to His name and saved many lives.

Joseph went from the pit to Potiphar's house, and from the prison to the palace. Daniel went from being an exile to administering justice as the third highest ruler in the kingdom. He was a man of prayer, in whom no fault could be found, whose faith shut the mouths of lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also went from being exiles to being administrators in the province of Babylon. They refused to compromise or bow down to an idol, and God brought them out of the blazing furnace. Their faith quenched the fury of the flames.

Esther went from being an orphaned exile to a queen. Mordecai went from being a persecuted minority to second in rank to the king. They were both humble people of prayer, who loved God and loved their neighbors as themselves, who risked their lives for the sake of others. They were both godly people, whom God elevated to positions of greatness in a secular government, where they were able to use their authority to save many lives. They worked for the good of their people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. Indeed it was for such a time as this that they we brought into the kingdom.

None of these people I have just highlighted set out to become rulers, but God had a plan for their lives to exalt them. The way He did so was something only He could do, and not something they could have manufactured or ever imagined. The same is still true for us today. The God of Joseph is the same today as He was then. If it is God's will for you to hold a top position of power in secular government, then He will bring it to pass in His timing, and it's not going to depend on your efforts. That should not be something you set your heart on. In fact, He may need to bring you through many afflictions beforehand, so don't be discouraged or dismayed if you find yourself in a pit, a prison, a fiery furnace, or amidst persecution.

The same goes for anyone who serves the Lord, because God has an amazing plan for your life, no matter who you are. It doesn't matter if you are destined to become a ruler or a lowly servant. Your part is to please the Father by seeking to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, being a man, woman or child of prayer, having faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ, obeying His commandments, and refusing to compromise. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Pe 5:6, NIV). This is God's way to greatness.

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like reading Faithful in the Little ThingsParadoxes of the Kingdom of GodGod's Amazing Plan for Your Life, What is That in Your Hand?God Chooses the Weak ThingsSuccess in God's EyesThe Day of Small Things, Multiplying Your TalentsThe Beauty of BrokennessWhat is That in Your Hand?, Persecuted or Popular?, Walking in the Perfect Will of GodThe Ebb and Flow of Ministry for the Lord, Whatever You Do, Do All Like ThisThe Kingdom of God is Like This, and Having a Servant's Heart. For more articles like this one, please see the Home Page of this blog. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Paradoxes of the Kingdom of God

There are many paradoxes in the kingdom of God. These are truths that appear to be self-contradictions, which in reality are not. They are fundamental aspects of life that go against natural reasoning. Let's look at some examples of those in Scripture.

Dying to Live
If you want to live you must die.

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." (Rom 6:8)

"For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom 8:13)

"And [Jesus] was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.'" (Luk 9:23)

Losing to Save
If you lose your life for Jesus' sake, you will save it.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?" (Luk 9:24-25)

Confessing Guilt to Be Justified
In order to be justified, you have to confess your sin.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:9)

"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Pr 28:13, NIV).

The Scarlet Turned White as Snow
Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow.

"'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD, 'Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.'" (Isa 1:18)

Hungering to Be Filled
If you want to be filled, you have to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Mat 5:6)

Wisdom Revealed to Little Children
"At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.'" (Mt 11:25, NIV).

The Foolish Shame the Wise
God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

The apostle Paul wrote, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise..." (1Co 1:27a).

Strength in Weakness
God uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong. God's strength is made perfect in weakness.

"And God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong..." (1Co 1:27b).

Paul wrote: "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9a, NIV).

The Desirable is Detestable
That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in God's sight.

"And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.' " (Luk 16:15)

The Servants are the Great
If you want to be great, you must be a servant, and the greatest one is the servant of all.

"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.'" (Mat 20:25-27)

The First Are Last
Jesus said, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Mt 20:16, NIV).

The Poor are Rich
Jesus said to the church in Smyrna, "I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." (Rev 2:9, NIV).

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:3)

James said, "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (Jas 2:5)

"Now the believer of humble means should take pride in his high position." (Jas 1:9, NET)

The Rich are Poor
James continued, "But the rich person’s pride should be in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a wildflower in the meadow." (Jas 1:10, NET). One can be rich in terms of earthly wealth, but be poor in the sight of God, as was the case with the church of Laodicea.

Jesus said in part to them: "'Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." (Rev 3:17-18)

The Path to Destruction that Seems Right
"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Pr 14:12, NIV)

The Path to Life is Narrow
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mat 7:13-14)

Treasure in Jars of Clay
God puts treasures in jars of clay.

"But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (2 Cor 4:7, NIV).

The Broken Things are Beautiful
When the woman broke the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and poured it over Jesus' head, He said it was beautiful in God's sight.

"A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. 'Why this waste?' they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.' Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.'" (Mar 14:6-9).

David prayed, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." (Ps 51:17, NIV)

The Lord says, "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My word." (Is 66:2, NIV).

Negatives Turned into Positives
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28)

Trials are for Your Perfection
"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10, NIV)

Loving Your Enemies
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Mat 5:43-44)

Tough Love
"Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." (Pr 13:24, NIV)

The Generous Prosper
Those who give without sparing lack nothing.

"One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." (Pr 11:24, NIV)

Pride Comes Before a Fall
He who puffs himself up will go down to destruction.

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Pr 16:18, KJV)

The Way Up is Down
And the way up is through the downward path of humility.

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time..." (1Pe 5:6).

Walk by Faith and Not by Sight
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2Co 4:18)

"For we walk by faith, not by sight—" (2Co 5:7)

Putting it All Together
By definition, a paradox is a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory. As we have just seen from Scripture, there are many such paradoxes in the kingdom of God. This is why those of us who have entered the kingdom cannot rely on our own natural, logical reasoning or our own sense of what seems right in order to make decisions in life. Neither can we rely on worldly wisdom.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, God's ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Therefore, we must rely on the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit of God to direct us, which will always go against what our flesh wants, and may sometimes make us look crazy, absurd, or foolish to others who don't understand. As we do so, we will find ourselves taking steps of faith that go against our natural reasoning, while trusting God with the results.

I hope this has helped to encourage you in your walk with the Lord, so that you may always be pleasing to Him.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures from the Holy Bible NIV and King James Version. I would like to thank my wife and children for their contribution to this article.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like reading God's Way to GreatnessGod Chooses the Weak Things, The Beauty of BrokennessThe Kingdom of God is Like This, God's Amazing Plan for Your LifeMultiplication, Multiplication IllustrationsWhat is That in Your Hand?, The Ebb and Flow of Ministry for the Lord, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, The Servant of the Lord, Being a Witness for Christ, Fruit in Every Season, Better a Little, Hidden Treasures, One thing, A Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul, The Secret Kingdom, and Success in God's Eyes. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.