God gives us all strong encouragement in our struggle to succeed in our Christian lives.
Is God's plan to reproduce Himself a bizarre idea that has no chance of success? Is it just a grand experiment that will end in a molten mass amidst consuming flame? Will God and Christ then be alone in the universe, saying, "It was a good idea, but just too much to hope for"? Or will the awesome plan God is working out succeed? Can God really reproduce Himself? Will the plan work? Will there be thousands, then millions, then billions of humans who will be made immortal members of the Family of God?
We all grow discouraged once in a while. Each of us feels, now and then, that we just can't make it. The way is too hard. There are too many temptations. We especially feel this way when we undergo trials or when the going gets rough. Many scriptures in the Bible deal With trial and tribulation, and they all seem to rush into our minds at times like that. Such as: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against... spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12, Authorized Version). Or we remember what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it" (Matt. 7:13). We may be very familiar with Paul's words: "In me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells" (Rom. 7:18). Or perhaps the most quoted of all verses when we are down on ourselves is: "O wretched man that I am!" (verse 24). We all feel this way at least once in a while. We are in a life-and-death struggle against Satan. We suffer persecution from time to time. We will be weak and sometimes tempted. But should we feel dejected? Discouraged? Want to give up and quit? By no means! Here's a test you can Try on yourself. Are you a spiritual pessimist or a spiritual optimist?
Spiritual pessimists and optimists
Turn to Acts 14:22. Read this verse and note how you emphasize the words in it: "Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'" How did you read it? Did you read, "We must THROUGH MANY TRIBULATIONS enter the kingdom of God"? If that's how you emphasized it, you could be a spiritual pessimist. Or did you read, "WE MUST through many tribulations ENTER the kingdom of God"? This is spiritual optimism — knowing there will be trial and trouble, but having the confidence that with God's help you can make it. The pessimist usually sees only the worry and woe. He doesn't see the silver lining in the cloud or the rainbow after the storm. The optimist knows he cannot avoid the storm, but sees success at the end of the trial. This article isn't about how easy it is to make it into God's Kingdom. You can't sit back in the old rocking chair and relax, thinking you have it made or that you have nothing to do. That is not true. According to God's Word there will be a struggle. There will be trials along the way. There may be persecution and difficulty. But you can make it! That's what this article is about.
God's unfailing plan
A common concept in religious circles is that God's plan was ruined at creation. Many believe Adam and Eve were created in a special, high state, and that when the serpent, the devil, tempted them to take of the forbidden tree, they "fell." And, those who hold this belief go on, God has been trying ever since to get mankind back to a condition as good as the one Adam was originally in. That is not what happened. Let's read an important passage in I Peter 1:18-20: "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." Adam and Eve sinned. But they didn't fall. They were created as physical, flesh-and-blood humans. When they took of the wrong tree, they disobeyed God. But they didn't fall. Since Adam and Eve, all people have sinned (Rom. 3:23). And the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). You see, we have all, just as Adam and Eve, been given free moral agency. We decide what we will do — whether we will obey God or not. Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil to disobey. We have all done the same thing — that is, we have all been tempted and have slipped. From the beginning God and Christ knew that Jesus would have to come and pay the penalty for man's sin. That's what we just read in I Peter 1. According to the apostle Paul, "When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). It was necessary for one member of the God Family to empty Himself of divinity and become a man (Phil. 2:7). Because the death of Christ was so great — He was God in the flesh — His death paid the penalty of sin for all men. It was then possible, through repentance and forgiveness of sin, for humans to grow and overcome and to be born into the Family of God.
But how can you be sure?
God has not left us without a great deal of spiritual encouragement. As we have already seen, the Bible tells of the persecution and trials we might face. But it also tells of the rewards for overcoming and remaining faithful.
You can't sit back in the old rocking chair and relax... According to God's Word there will be a struggle. There will be trials along the way. There may be persecution and difficulty. But you can make it!
Let's see what God expresses as His will for all mankind: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:3-4). Frankly, we know in advance that not every single human who has ever lived will be saved. Jesus said that some in His day would "see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). And God revealed that "the day is coming, burning like an oven [a great lake of fire], and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up" (Mal. 4:1). So not everyone will make it. It seems there will ultimately be some who just will not obey God. In His mercy, God will make them as though they never were. The lake of fire is not eternal flame where evil souls are sent. It is the final conflagration, which will consume physical matter and those incorrigibly wicked who have not been changed to spirit. But surely that will not be many. But what about you? If you have set your desire on God and His way of life, Christ says to you: "'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" (Heb. 13:5-6). As Christians we sometimes stumble. We are occasionally weak. But Christ will not leave us alone. Now turn to Philippians 1:6. The apostle Paul constantly had to encourage the congregations in his day. We need encouragement, too: "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." God will not give up on you. He will not cast you off. Not unless you totally give up and quit — become incorrigibly wicked. In Isaiah 59:1 we find this encouragement: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear." God is never out of reach. He never has to say, "I'd really like to help, but I'm just not powerful enough." He is there to hear our needs and to intervene on our behalf.
Paul wrote on how to prepare for the future — how to continue toward eternal life: "Storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (I Tim. 6:19). You can't just let the future happen. You have to build Christian character. And you have to build on the right foundation. There are two things to consider in this regard. First, Christ said there are two foundations upon which we can build. There is a foundation of sand and a foundation of solid rock (Matt. 7:24-27). If you don't build on the right foundation, any building you erect would be worthless. Second, the apostle Paul tells of two different types of building materials. You can build out of wood, hay or straw. Or you can build out of gold, silver and precious jewels (I Cor. 3:12). If you build out of the former, even on a good foundation, your building cannot withstand the storms. But if you build on a firm, solid foundation out of durable, quality materials, you can make it through whatever comes. The apostle Paul added: "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those. who hear you" (I Tim. 4:16). There is something for you to do. You have to continue in God's way. You can't, as mentioned earlier, just sit in the rocking chair. You must find God's way of life, then live it. You have to continue and overcome to the end (Rev. 2:26).
Not all called now
God is working out a plan here below. It is going to succeed. Right now God has not set His hand to call all the world. For the past nearly 6,000 years mankind has been permitted to write the lesson of human history apart from God's laws. From Adam and Eve to our day, most human beings have decided to go the wrong way. This has not been their day of salvation. God has only called "firstfruits" at this time (Jas. 1:18). Because many have not understood that God is not calling everyone now, it has appeared that God's plan is not working. But God's plan is right on schedule. The next major phase of that plan is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When that occurs, all the dead in Christ will rise from their graves. Those in Christ who are alive will be changed to immortal spirit beings. Together, they shall rise to meet Christ in the air (I Thess. 4:13-17, I Cor. 15:50-52). Then, according to the prophet Zechariah, "In that day His [Christ's] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem... Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You.... And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be — 'The Lord is one,' and His name one" (Zech. 14:4-9).
Revelation 5:11 describes a heavenly choir... singing praise and honor to God and Christ and singing... about the plan God is working out. God is extending to you, now, the opportunity to be part of that fantastic plan.
There is an inspiring passage in the book of Revelation showing how desirous God is of your making it into His Kingdom.
A song of triumph
In Revelation 5, the prophecies of the book of Revelation are likened to a scroll that only Christ is worthy to open. Those prophecies are about the time yet ahead of us when Christ will return to set up God's government on the earth. They are about the time when the saints will be raised from the dead to meet Christ and to rule with Him for 1,000 years. There is a slight mistranslation in the Authorized Version of the Bible in verses 9 and 10 of Revelation 5. These verses are truly inspiring verses and have a great deal to do with your future. I would like to quote them here as they should be translated. The elders at the throne of God, while giving honor and praise to Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, sing a majestic hymn. Notice: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed them [the saints] to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made them [the saints] unto our God kings and priests: and they shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10). Had you ever thought of it before? You just might be the subject of a song that is sung at the throne of God. Peter wrote about the plan of God being worked out here on earth, "things which angels desire to look into" (I Pet. 1:12). The angels must find it fascinating — how God took mud of the earth and, in His own image, fashioned human life. For nearly 6,000 years the angels have observed it all. Man has been permitted to go his own way and follow Satan's deception. But when Christ comes to set up God's government, the devil will be taken and bound for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2). Everyone will have a chance to know the true God and live God's way. The great part is that you can learn and live God's way now. You can be among the "them" the 24 elders sing about. Revelation 5:11 describes a heavenly choir of more than 100 million angels singing praise and honor to God and Christ and singing about God's plan. God is extending to you, now, the opportunity to be part of that fantastic plan. Yes, there may well be struggles and trials along the way. But you can make it. God is on your side. He is there to help — to pick you up — to give you encouragement. The elders sing about you. Millions of angels cheer the plan of God and your part in it. You can make it!