“He….encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Acts 11:23
A sizable share of my ministry over the past several years has been to assist churches find pastors. The question that I am often asked regarding prospective candidates is, “What are their strengths and what are their weaknesses?” Strengths have a tendency to be more observable while often weaknesses more imperceptible. Strengths are generally visible while weaknesses are more hidden. Strengths often can be detectable through casual acquaintance, weaknesses, on the other hand, usually only surface when there is a more familiar relationship. It is not uncommon to converse about our strengths while discussing our weaknesses lies outside our comfort zone.
A careful study of Scripture reveals the weaknesses of many of God’s most faithful servants. There is something about serving the Lord, and the enormity of the task, that makes us feel so inadequate. I have certainly felt that way in every ministry that has been placed on my doorstep. And that is the way we should feel for as our Lord declared in John 15:5, “….without Me you can do nothing.” Earlier John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). David, distraught after the death of Abner said, “I am weak today, though anointed king, and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me…” (II Sam. 3:39). You well recall the story of Israel’s battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17, and how they were victorious when Moses’ hands and rod were raised, but how the Amalekites gained the edge when his hands became heavy and were lowered. So Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill to support his hands, which they did until the going down of the sun and thus Joshua defeated the Amalekites. Interestingly, each of these openly admitted their weaknesses.
Any true servant of the Lord knows that his weaknesses are many. It is impossible to run away from them therefore we must run to the One who can help us. This is one purpose of the throne room made available to us in Hebrews 4:16 where we may obtain mercy for our failures and grace for our fears in the time of need, or more aptly, in the nick of time. The prayer of an unknown puritan preacher has been of great encouragement to me during times of weakness. May it also hearten you.
O Spirit of God, help my infirmities; When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow, perplexed and knowing not what to do, slandered and persecuted, made to feel the weight of the cross, help me, I pray Thee. If Thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged, any evil desire cherished, any delight that is not Thy delight, any habit that grieves Thee, any nest of sin in my heart, then grant me the kiss of Thy forgiveness, and teach my feet to walk the way of Thy commandments. Deliver me from carking care, and make me a happy, holy person; help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step, and to wrestle successfully against weakness; teach me to laud, adore, and magnify Thee, with the music of heaven, and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to Thee. I do not crouch at Thy feet as a slave before a tyrant, but exult before Thee as a son with a father. Give me power to live as Thy child in all my actions, and to exercise sonship by conquering self. Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity; sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from Thee. Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom, not asking whether the road be rough or smooth. I request only to see the face of Him I love, to be content with bread to eat, with raiment to put on, if I can be brought to Thy house in peace.
From Where I Stand
Maynard H. Belt
MARBC State Representative
Exposing The Myths Of The Church
The Seven Deadly Sins Really Aren”t That Deadly Anymore!
I once read of a pastor who announced in a sermon on sin that there were 789 different kinds. That week in opening his mail there were 94 requests from members of his church desiring a complete listing of all 789 sins! Concerning the seven deadly sins, Norwegian Lasse Tonnesson, in 1982, somehow managed to successfully commit all seven deadly sins in a record-setting 32 minutes and 19 seconds! He earned himself not only the respect of his countrymen, but also several lucrative endorsement deals and a short-lived daytime television talk show. The seven deadly sins – where did this list originate? Seven in Scripture speaks of perfection. Does that mean a sinner is only a complete, or prefect sinner if he indulges in all seven? How deadly are these sins? Maybe another appropriate question in the light of today’s culture might be, is there really any such thing as “sin” anymore?
The phrase, “seven deadly sins,” originated centuries ago, but not necessarily from Scripture. Proverbs 6:16-19 declares: “These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” However, this list is not what most people understand as the “seven deadly sins.” In Rick Ezell’s interesting book entitled, “The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People,” he states that, “The church fathers of the Middle Ages listed seven sins and called them the “deadly sins.” They believed that all other sins grew out of them. They urged people to purge themselves of these sins. What the medieval church fathers knew then, social scientists are now admitting: we are defeated today by these same sins. The seven deadly sins are just as prevalent today as they were in the past. If left unchecked they will not only defeat us, they will destroy us.” 13th century theologian, Thomas Aquinas, is the one recognized as having coined the expression “seven deadly sins” as they are known today: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, lust and gluttony. Really, as we examine Scripture, there could be several different kinds of sin that we could put into categories of seven, but these particular seven have gained notoriety and certainly are worthy being preached upon from our pulpits. For those of you who have read them, several years ago, one author discovered an interesting relationship between the seven deadly sins and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. He states that within this classic work, C.S. Lewis has taken these seven deadly sins and shown to us their destructive power, and set before us examples to avoid.
Are these seven deadly sins still deadly today? Not necessarily deadly to us in a physical sense but certainly deadly to us morally. Very briefly let me define them, give an example and a warning from Scripture to avoid them. Pride – excessive self-esteem, conceit, the sin from which all others arise. Pride originated with Satan in heaven (Isa. 14:12-15) and certainly was manifested in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar who boasted of his power and kingdom but was stripped of both by God (Daniel 4). “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,” – Prov. 16:18. “When pride comes, then comes shame,” according to Prov. 11:2. Puritan Thomas Watson well said, “The devil never tempts us with more success than when he tempts us with the sight of our own good actions.” Envy – resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. Would not both Joseph’s brothers (Gen. 37) and the prodigal son who stayed home (Luke 15) fit this description? Someone said it is very hard to behold our own gifts without pride, and the gifts of others without envy. God says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is…willing to yield…without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:16-17). Anger – an intense emotional state induced by displeasure, fury, rage. Those who stoned Stephen to death were angry (Acts 7:54-60). The Pharisees were filled with rage when the Lord Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Lk. 6:11). William Jenkyn said, “Anger should not be destroyed but sanctified.” Paul said, “Be ye angry and sin not, let not the sun do down upon your wrath.” (Eph. 4:26). Sloth – disinclination to action or labor, spiritual apathy and inactivity. Prov. 19:24 has always intrigued me, “A lazy (slothful) man buries his hand in the bowl, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.” This text reminds me of the lazy man’s field that was overgrown with thorns and the Lord’s warning that because of slothfulness poverty would come like a prowler and take all that he had (Prov. 24:30-34). Oh, the talents that some of God’s saints have wasted due to dormancy. Greed – a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed. In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira fit this scenario very well in lying and retaining some proceeds from the sale of a piece of land. It cost them their lives! A great weakness today is to distinguish between our needs and our greeds! “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house” (Prov. 15:27). Lust – unbridled sexual desire. Solomon well said, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned……so is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife, whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Prov. 6:27,29). What better example than David’s lustful look recorded in II Sam. 11. Yes, “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15). Gluttony – excessive indulgence, consuming more than that which one requires. We are to pray, “God, give us this day our daily bread,” (Lk. 11:3), but we also are to remember Paul’s words in Phi. 3:18-19 that we are not to walk as those who are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly! If you want to chew, chew on Prov. 23:1-2 sometime! Are the seven deadly sins still deadly? Without a question, my friend – and that is not a myth!