Archive for July 2009

God’s Vessels of Mercy to a Groaning Creation

July 30, 2009

For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now (Romans 8:22).

Looking at the issue of common sufferings we have seen that we have been called, and left here “in Christ’s stead” to join in identity with “the whole creation” that “groans and travails in pain together until now.”

Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Father. The Lord Jesus Christ came and penetrated our darkness and brokenness so that we might know the light and life of the Father. He touches our frailty and emptiness with the love of His Father.

We have been made sons of the Father, too; but we are not taken to our inheritance yet, to our celestial home. Instead, we – members of Christ’s Body – have been left here as vessels of mercy to carry on the Sonship ministry of comfort and consolation.

So, when the tire is flat; when the children are sick; when the neighbor is hurtful; when the monthly bank statement has arrived; when the chores are too many and too harsh; when the physician’s office has called with the test results; remember why we are even here in the first place: We – members of His Body – find ourselves deep in the apparent vanity of life as the expression of our Head, illuminating to a groaning and travailing creation our most wonderful Father.

For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Ephesians 5:30).

What a union: He our Head, we His Body!

And He is the Head of the Body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

Head and Body united; we continue the great revelation of Father’s unceasing love and unbounded grace. We, along with our Apostle, enter into the “afflictions of Christ.”

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the church (Colossians 1:24).

As with Paul, we are led to long for “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10).

The “afflictions of Christ” continue. The Lord Jesus Christ still penetrates the darkness and brokenness, and He does so through us that others may know the light and life of the Father. Through our frailty and emptiness He touches others with the love of the Father. Live out – in the moments of apparent vanity – the divine revelation of the Father in the Person of His Son!

Hear again these most glorious words, afresh and anew!

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ. And whether we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation …

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh

As it is written, “For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (II Corinthians 1:5-7; 4:8-11; Romans 8:36-39).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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July 29, 2009

… Of myself I will not glory, but in my infirmities (II Corinthians 12:5).

As we have already considered, suffering has many aspects and dimensions. We are now looking at the category of common suffering, those which are common to all mankind. We have looked at the trials associated with basic human needs (i.e., food, shelter and clothing). We will now look at the sufferings associated with our frail bodies (i.e., limited, weak, aging, sickly, disease-prone bodies). Paul says regarding these,

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities … (II Corinthians 12:10).

The English word for “infirmities” means, “an unsound or unhealthy state of the body; weakness; feebleness” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828). Thus an infirmary is “a hospital or place where the sick are lodged and nursed” (Webster).

The actual Greek word used by Paul was astheneia (Strong’s Greek Lexicon, #769), meaning, “feebleness; by implication, malady; frailty” and is translated in other places in the King James Version as “disease,” “sickness,” and “weakness.”

We are talking about the natural problems associated with human frailty. Each of us must suffer through this, and increasingly so as we age. Paul was well acquainted with an infirmed body as he proclaimed God’s Good News. Yet because of Paul’s divine perspective, he learned to glory in these infirmities.

You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first (Galatians 4:13).

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my infirmities (II Corinthians 11:30).

… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (II Corinthians 12:9).

… I take pleasure in infirmities … (II Corinthians 12:10).

Paul knew all too well the infirmity of humanity. Why could Paul “take pleasure in” and “glory in” such a frail state? Because he could weigh the counter-abundant glory it would bring!

Do you suffer aches and pains? Are your steps getting slower? Is your physical strength waning? Is your body racked with illness and disease? Why so? – Only because we are not yet home. We suffer all of these things because we are left here on duty, “in His stead.”

… But we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2).

When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly (I Corinthians 15:49).

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself (Philippians 3:21).

Glorious hope indeed! One can rejoice when one sees things from the divine perspective!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Our Divine Vocation

July 29, 2009

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he is bond or free (Ephesians 6:5-8).

This is an amazing passage. In it Paul speaks to those who have the greatest disadvantage in their daily work – slaves. He covered the most extreme working conditions, so we would know that all work, no matter how difficult and trying, no matter how taxing and weary, can be done “as to the Lord, and not to men” – “whether he is bond or free.”

In fact, all we do is to be done “as to the Lord, and not unto men”

And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him … And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men … (Colossians 3:17, 23).

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

Even the most severe of working conditions can be conducted consciously for our Father. Our labors ultimately are to be for Him.

Paul wanted us to know something about our labor; for in the context of daily work he writes,

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he is bond or free (Ephesians 6:8).

And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Work which is done “as to the Lord” shall be rewarded. How can this not be, for with Him living and working through us, all our labors are “the work of the Lord.”

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).

Our labors can be alive with the very life of God – they can be His livelihood in us.

All of life is about Him! Revel in it!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Suffering: Paul’s Example

July 27, 2009

Yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me (Acts 20:34).

Work is so much more than a way of making money. It is the opportunity for God to live out His life in us. Labor is a part of His plan for us. Ultimately God is our employer, as we really work for Him.

Even Paul, the apostle to the nations (Romans 11:13), labored working with his own hands.

And labor, working with our own hands … (I Corinthians 4:12).

Paul walked away from his “dung” religion. He counted it all a “loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7). It was ecclesiastical waste. In the process he lost his “professional ministry.” Paul took up making tents for a living (Acts 18:1-3). He thereby taught us the divine value and purpose of work.

We, too, are “tentmakers” of sorts. That is, we work with our own hands to make a living. “Tentmaking” finds its own unique form in each of us. It matters little in the divine perspective of things what the particular details of our own “tentmaking” involves. The important thing is that we are “tentmaking.”

One occupation is no higher or more pleasing to God than another. All work has meaning when it is done for the Lord. The life of God in us makes all things we do sacred.

Although Paul made his living making tents, that is not what defined his life. He was not “Paul, the tentmaker.” No, he was defined by heaven in light of his divine calling and vocation: “Paul, the apostle.” He just made tents so he could do the work of an apostle.

As believers, we are to regard our “secular” work as divine“as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 6:5‑8; Colossians 3:22‑24; Titus 2:9-10). Thus, each believer’s vocation is indeed a high calling of God (Ephesians 4:1). As William Carey (1761-1834) would say, “My business is preaching the gospel, and I cobble shoes to pay my expenses.”

Often the man who teaches God’s Word is looked down upon, as if he were not genuine, if he is not religiously “salaried.” It is amazing how the tables have turned. The fact is that Paul was not for “hire.” Rather, he was the bond-slave of Jesus Christ, making his living as a humble laborer.

Witness Lee brings his own testimony,

Paul worked with his hands at making tents in order to support both himself and those who were with him. He worked in order to help his young co-workers. This indicates that Paul’s way was not that of today’s clergy who make a profession out of preaching – Life-study of Acts, p. 479.

Paul reminds us that we, too, have a heavenly vocation. He implores us to “walk worthy of the vocation” wherewith we have been called. We must not confuse what we do to make a living with the purpose of our lives. Our occupation is just the context in which we carry out our divine calling. The circumstances of our earthly labors are but the backdrop of God’s working in our lives. They are the stage of the Master Performer.

Every believer has been called into “full time” ministry in the context of personal daily life. We are all self-employed full-time servants. Every area and every aspect of life belongs to Him. No matter what the circumstances of life are around us, regardless of what earthly occupation we may use to supply our needs and those of others around us, we have a divine vocation to which we have been called.

We have the wonderful opportunity of living our lives for the Lord, serving Him in the context of “tentmaking.” More often than not, this context can have the appearance of a monotonous, daily routine; but the very life of God running its full course in our day-by-day circumstances will make our lives anything but monotonous and routine.

For yourselves know how you ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought [i.e., nothing, or, for free, without payment]; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample [i.e., example] unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (II Thessalonians 3:7-12).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Working for Provisions

July 26, 2009

… Let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that has need (Ephesians 4:28).

Food, clothing and shelter, of necessity also bring into view our daily labors for provisions. Making a living is a vital part of our divine assignment.

Not only must food be grown or purchased, it must be cleaned, prepared and preserved. Not only must clothing be bought, it must be washed and cared for. Not only must shelter be secured, it must me maintained. For the believer, the entire process is about our Father, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of these details are about the maintaining of our lives here “for His sake.” We do this all “for Him,” so that we may have the privilege of being His “vessels of mercy.”

We serve our Lord – at least for the time being – at our own expense. We must provide our own sustenance so that we may live for Him. This is because we serve Him on hostile soil. We must do so “undercover” as it were. We are not recognized for the high and lofty positions that we hold in the celestial government. We are not acknowledged as the sons of God that we are. Our positions and functions are currently veiled. This is presently a covert operation to the world, but when the unveiling our true identity takes place – “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19) – then the subjected vanity will be removed and we will be amply repaid – abundantly reimbursed.

Don’t allow the commonplace to we wasted. Don’t let their value and wealth conversion pass you by. Grasp the divine viewpoint! Be,

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

And that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you (I Thessalonians 4:11).

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful (Titus 3:14).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Basic Human Needs

July 26, 2009

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

The believer, along with the rest of creation, must deal with trials associated with basic human needs (i.e., food, shelter and clothing). We would not need to have the burdens connected with these needs were we in our homeland. We share in the experience of these necessities simply because we are here. We are here “for His sake,” and by faith we do so “with Him.”

Our Father teaches us essential lessons in the experience of these necessities. He adjusts our perspectives as to what is of real and lasting value, and teaches us divine contentment.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4:11-12).

The circumstances of life that revolve around our basic human needs take up much of our time and energy. They are the lot of our existence, and this is so by divine design. Yet we are able to redeem this time from the vanity of Adam’s descendants and have it transform unto that which is of celestial value.

And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him … And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:17, 23).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Venues of Suffering

July 26, 2009

Suffering has many aspects and dimensions. For the purpose of our study we will divide suffering into two basic categories: Common, and Special. There are the sufferings which are common to all mankind, and then there are those that are special and unique to us as believers.

We will look first at the common sufferings.

For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now (Romans 8:22).

The believer, because of the duty to which he has been called, must face the same types of suffering which all men must face. We must bear the pain, inconvenience and loss associated with life “under the sun;” for we too have been “made subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20). This comes with the territory,

For every man shall bear his own burden (Galatians 6:5).

We are not exempt from all the apparent vanities of this dark-land. We have our share of the dark-side – suffering, pain, discouragement, difficulties, weariness, pressure and the like – but these are not a waste. As we go through the various details of our earthly lives, we can make the most of them, offering up every aspect of our lives for His glory. We do so with even those areas of life that appear to be mundane and commonplace.

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him … And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:17, 23).

All of the trials of life take on new meaning when done “as unto the Lord,” “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” “to the glory of God.” Every detail of life – down to the most basic elements – then becomes heavy with a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17).

With God having passage to live His Own extraordinary life through the everyday trials of our ordinary lives there is produced for us lasting value for all time. This is divine life flowing through the most basic necessities of our lives – a vital part of the venues of His sufferings in us.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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