He loved them to the end

He loved them to the end

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. – John 13:1

Galatians 6:2-9

 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.

 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

 7 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool [mocked]. For a person will reap what he sows. You will always harvest what you plant.

 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up.

Most everyone is familiar with what are called Soap Operas. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas there were actually sponsored by soap manufacturers. They are serial melodramas with multiple principal characters. Real-life situations and challenges are transformed into long-term storylines. They are often very sentimental, filled with unexpected twists and turns and cliffhangers that keep the viewers coming back for more.

“Love to the End” is a 2018 Korean soap opera with 104 episodes.

It told the story of unrequited love, which finally ended up for the best. The main female character falls in love. But the object of her love is uninterested. He has a girlfriend and does not return her love. But the protagonist remains true in her love for him, faithfully to the end. Because of her enduring love, she fights for and holds onto her love and perseveres. She never gives up, no matter what obstacles she faces. Finally, her love and determination are rewarded, and her love is reciprocated.

Often in real life, our challenges are so overwhelming that we are tempted to throw in the towel. We continually strive to do the right thing, but things seem to last only a short time. And things seem to revert, and we are back where we started. We seem to move three steps forward and then two steps backward. It tends to be tedious and highly discouraging. We get bogged down in the middle of dense woods. We cannot see the forest because of the trees. We cannot grasp the big picture because we focus primarily on the details, particularly those that annoy us.

But the view from above is quite different. Looking down and back, we can see how much forward progress we have made. This should be the source of renewed determination to love to the end and not give up. This is the perspective of the Father. He not only sees the progress, but He also sees the end result. And that is what He is determined to achieve in each of His children’s lives.

John 13:1 Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.

The Greek text reveals the subtle sublimity of this short sentence. The verb translated as loved is agapao. Agape is the noun form of this verb. In the first instance, having loved is an aorist participle in Greek. It sums up the Lord Jesus Christ’s relationship with His disciples. He continually loved them throughout His time with them. He had always loved them(UBS). He never stopped loving them, no matter what.

The second time the apostle John uses the term, he indicates that during the final hours of His life, the Lord Jesus Christ loved them to the very end.

John adds the phrase, the very end. The Greek words are eis telos. To the end has a dual meaning. In the temporal sense, He loved them until the very end. In modern English, until His last breath. It also has an adverbial quality. He loved them completely or utterly. We might say, to the greatest extent possible (Michaels).

The Lord Jesus Christ never stopped loving His disciples. He loved them completely right up until the very end.

This is the same love He has for each child of the King. He will never stop loving us.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Lord Jesus Christ always finishes what He starts. He never drops someone in midstream or gives up on a person halfway to the finish line (Stanley).

Father it is such a comfort to know that You will never stop loving me. I cannot make You love me more, and I cannot make You love me less.

INSIGHT

Contemplate for a moment the historical circumstances. The Lord Jesus Christ was about to be betrayed; He would soon be captured and arrested. All of his followers would then abandon Him. This would be followed by a mock trial, beatings, humiliation, and a horrid death by crucifixion.

Was He overwhelmed or distraught? Was He angry or bitter? Absolutely not. Instead, He saw this as the moment of His greatest achievement. It was the moment in which He would be glorified (John 17:2). It was the fulfillment of His reason for coming into the world. He came to die for the sins of the entire world and make redemption possible. He was carrying out the Father’s ultimate purpose for His life.

There was no moping about or sadness. Instead, He demonstrated the full extent of His love to the end. Knowing everything was about to take place, He did a totally unexpected and extraordinary thing.

John 13:4-5

 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,

 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

This is how the quintessential servant of the King lived, served, and died. He always thought of others and put them first (Philippians 2:3).

John 13:12-15

 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?

 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.

 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.

 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

Remember that night when you are tempted to give up and throw in the tongue because of seemingly unbearable circumstances.

Instead of throwing in the towel, wrap it around your waist and dig in.

Hebrews 12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

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© Dr. H 2022

Unworthy belonging ∙

Unworthy belonging ∙

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your lovingkindness. – Psalms 51:1

Psalms 51:1-7

 1 A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being and teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Dr. Brene Brown developed The Shame Resilience Theory (SRT). She discussed it in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it is not): making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.”

Dr. Brown writes, “shame is the intensely painful feelings or experiences of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging . . .S Shame creates feelings of fear, blame, and disconnect.”

According to Dr. Brown, there are four elements of Shame Resilience:

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding our triggers.
  2. Practicing critical awareness.
  3. Reaching out and telling our story.
  4. Speaking shame is critically important because its survival depends upon remaining undetected (through secrecy and silence) (Brown).

When we practice these four elements, we can strengthen and expand our Shame Resilience. When people do not understand and acknowledge their shame and the expectations and messages that trigger it, they employ defense mechanisms for self-protection: fight, flight, or freeze.

David had mastered the art of Shame Resilience. He understood the amazing paradox of unworthy belonging. He successfully survived the revelation and consequences of his secret sins centered around his moral failures with Bathsheba.

He admitted his guilt and shame and acknowledged his utter unworthiness. He was shaken to his core. His response was to request mercy from the only one who could provide it, the Father. Although he knew he was undeserving, David had absolute confidence that he still belonged. He belonged to the Father God, who loved him dearly.

Psalms 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.

Two magnificent words are found in Psalm 51 that are the key for children of the King to grow and strengthen their Shame Resilience: mercy and compassion.

The Hebrew word translated as mercy is chanan. Chanan has the sense of showing kindness, graciousness, pity, and consideration. It is often translated be merciful, show mercy, be gracious. Mercy is all about not getting what you deserve.

The Hebrew word translated as compassion is racham. Racham is most frequently translated as compassion or mercy. It involves a deep awareness of and sympathy for the suffering of another. “The word carries a sense of intense emotion, of deep-seated feelings, which one has for a person who is especially near and dear” (UBS). It connotes deep heartfelt feelings of love and empathy.

Based upon the Father’s essence, His core character, and nature of compassion and loyal love, David beseeches the Father; he begs Him for mercy and kindness.

REFLECT & PRAY

Children of the King are the beneficiaries of an amazing and remarkable paradox. Because of their sin, they have no worthiness within themselves. Yet because of the Father’s great loyal love, they still belong!

Father thank You for Your unconditional love, which provides forgiveness and Reconciliation that I could never earn or deserve. Thank You that I belong to You.

INSIGHT

David knows that he is in a family relationship. He is part of the Father’s Forever Family. He has a personal covenant with the Father, which is binding. When our culture was more stable, it would be similar to a marriage covenant that was intended to last until death.

Because of the Father’s quality of unwavering, loyal love, and fidelity, He extends loyalty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation to all His children. It persists through thick and thin. He will never let us go or turn away from us because of the foibles of our human limitations and weakness.

Psalm 51 models how we are to pray for the forgiveness of sin. In transparent honesty and authenticity, David confesses his sins and pours his heart out to the Father. He appeals to Him based on who the Father is. Recognizing his own unworthiness, he confidently asks for forgiveness.

“David appealed to the Lord to cleanse him because of His loyal love and compassion. He knew he did not deserve the Lord’s forgiveness, nor could he earn it. Divine pardon comes to sinners by His grace alone. He asked God to blot out the record of his transgressions, namely sins that go beyond the limits that God has established for conduct” (Constable).

The Father loves us so much that He provided the sacrifice of His dearly beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is free to provide forgiveness and reconciliation because His Son died in our place.

The Father loves to forgive!

Each child of the King has experienced times when we are overwhelmed by guilt for something we have done. But at such moments, we confidently cling to the fact of the Father’s unending mercy and unfailing love. Because the Lord Jesus Christ died on our behalf, we can be cleansed and become “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). We know we do not deserve His mercy, but we can unequivocally depend on the Father’s unfailing love and compassion.

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© Dr. H 2022

Genuine concern∙

Genuine concern

I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. – Philippians 2:20 

Philippians 2:20-21

 20 I have no one else like Timothy who genuinely cares about your welfare.

 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

The contestants in the Special Olympics are developmentally or physically disabled. But they are special in a far more critical way. They have genuine care and concern for one another. In the Special Olympics, in the 100-meter dash, the runners all start together and move together down the track shoulder-to-shoulder.

During one of these races, a young woman tripped and sprawled on the track. She was in a bit of pain and somewhat embarrassed.

The rest of the contestants moved on for a few more feet. Without any communication among themselves, they all stopped, turned around, and jogged back to their fallen friend. They picked her up and took her off the track, comforted her. Then and only then did they continue together, arm in arm, to the finish line. These special runners would rather finish together than win individually.

One, and only one, of Paul’s friends, was just like that.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was a prisoner in Rome. He had heard good things about the believers in Philippi and was eager to learn more. He wanted to share his appreciation and affection for them. He wanted to send a small group of fellow believers to them. He looked for volunteers. Only two showed any interest, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Why was that so?

Paul knew firsthand the believers who were part of the local church in Rome. He knew them too well. They were not just self-centered; they were pathetically self-centered. They were only concerned about their own interests.

I can hear the whining now: “Philippi, you want us to go to Philippi? Do you know how far away Philippi is? We would have to walk the whole way or possibly take a boat part of the way and then walk the rest of the way. The trip would be long, hard, time-consuming, expensive, and hot. What’s in it for us? Not to mention the possibility of being eaten by lions or mugged by thieves and robbers. Oh, and I forgot to mention the dangers of pirates, being shipwrecked, or being marooned on Malta.”

The Romans were nothing but motorboat believers, “but, but, but, but” (as Charles Stanley so often says).

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father scrutinizes all of His children, looking for the few special ones who are genuinely concerned with the needs of others.

Father I long to be like Paul and Timothy and ultimately like You. I long to be “a chip off the old block.” Your block. Please make it so.

INSIGHT

Why was Timothy different? After observing, learning, and maturing, Timothy finally got his priorities straight. His life was to be a life of service. He was all in! He had one all-consuming passion: serving Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ. He was ready to go anywhere, anytime, and do whatever it took to fulfill his appointed responsibilities. Further, he was content being number two to Paul’s number one. He was more than willing to be in the background, working from the shadows.

He was genuinely interested in the spiritual and physical well-being of others. Paul modeled this attitude in his words and actions time and time again. Timothy wanted to be just like Paul. Paul wanted to be just like the Lord Jesus Christ.

No one instantaneously becomes a mature and devoted servant. A submissive mind does not appear suddenly or automatically in any child of the King. It has to be cultivated and developed. Why? Because it is not natural to be a servant! It is natural to desire to be served (Wiersbe). But as Timothy grew to maturity, walked with the Father, and worked with Paul, “he became the kind of servant that Paul could trust, and God could bless” (Wiersbe).

Paul did not merely say that he and Timothy were “like-minded.” Instead, he said that he and Timothy were “like-souled.” All faithful servants of the King are to be “like-souled.” This is one of the instances where examining the original Greek adds layers of depth, beauty, and color not seen in the English translation.

The Greek term translated as a kindred spirit or like-minded, is isopsuchos. It is derived from isos – equal, and psuche – soul, mind. It means to be equal in the soul, activated by the same motives, character, affections, or sharing the same mindset. The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek isopsuchos with the Latin term unanimous. In modern English, we might say Timothy was “a chip off the old block.” Paul was his block. Paul was also “a chip off the old block,” the Lord Jesus Christ was Paul’s block.

One of the components of becoming a link in the Father’s chain of service is a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Such concern is not only real and sincere, but it actually becomes second nature. To genuinely serve the needs of others becomes natural and the new normal for all children of the King who become His committed servants.

Serving others as Lord Jesus Christ serves us is perhaps one of the most challenging things to do. There are many hardships, difficulties, and obstacles. Often service to the King involves persecution and verbal and physical abuse.

But the joy of being a “good and faithful servant” cannot be measured (Matthew 25:23).

Each and every child of the King can aspire to be “a chip off the old block,” like-souled. It is a lofty goal to aspire after. How are your aspirations?

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© Dr. H 2022

Human challenge trials ∙

Human challenge trials

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

Mark 10:42-45

 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.”

 43 “But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,”

 44 “and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.”

 45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the race began for a vaccine. Confidence is high that an effective vaccine could be developed. But the timeframe was initially projected to be 12 to 18 months until it could be thoroughly tested and approved for use by the general population.

During that time, perhaps hundreds of millions of people became ill, and millions died throughout the planet.

But an uncommon but not novel idea which seems somewhat outlandish at first gained ground as a way to hasten the development of a coronavirus vaccine: Human challenge trials.

Human challenge trials require a group of volunteers to receive a dosage of a potential vaccine and, at the same time, be deliberately exposed to the virus. This simple human challenge would test the vaccines’ efficacy.

In April 2020, 35 House legislators urged the FDA to allow such testing. It was compared to dangerous, if not suicidal missions undertaken during a time of war.

There was no shortage of volunteers. By late September 2020, there were 37,254 volunteers signed up from 162 countries on the website 1daysooner.org. This was so even though some might become seriously ill or even die.

Scientists could shave months off of final testing by intentionally giving humans a dose of the virus and the vaccine in a laboratory. However, many doctors were very uncomfortable with the proposal, considering it “ethically unthinkable.”

For the volunteers, it was an entirely different affair. Their focus was on the results, not the risk. Untold lives could be saved by putting their own lives on the line. If they could move the vaccine’s release forward by even a day, thousands of lives could be saved. Such extreme altruism is rare but not unprecedented, particularly during times of war. One of the volunteers commented, “times like these call for people who are able to be brave and put themselves forward for the greater good of society – this may be the defining period of my lifetime.”

There are cases when that which is “ethically unthinkable” becomes “ethically imperative.”

Such personal sacrifice for the good of others seems almost unthinkable. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The precedent was set for all-time 2000 years ago.

REFLECT & PRAY

 John 15:13

We were ruined by sin and helpless. The Lord Jesus Christ rose to the challenge, rescued us from sin and death, and gave us eternal life.

Father thank You that You loved each of us individually enough to send the Lord Jesus Christ to die in our place, the One for the many. As a result, we will not perish but have everlasting life.

INSIGHT

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Greek word translated as ransom is lutron. Lutron signified the money paid for the release of slaves. The New Testament focuses more on the results of the price paid, that is, redemption, deliverance, or release (UBS).

The Greek word translated as for is anti. Anti is commonly translated for and has the added meaning of instead of, on behalf of, in the place of, or in exchange. It includes the concept of substitution.

The Lord Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price; He laid down His life to provide redemption and release for all children of the King.

It was the greatest act of love ever performed in the history of the human race.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

But Christ did not just die for His friends. He died for the whole world.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Many people throughout the ages have given their lives for others, particularly for people they love or causes that they believe in. It is the ultimate act of altruism.

The apostle Paul realizes this and discusses that in-depth.

Romans 5:5-8

 5 For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for an especially good person.

 8 But God demonstrated his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

One of the many things that stands out about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and sets it apart from other acts of altruism is that He died for us while we were still the Father’s enemies (Romans 5:10).

The great challenge laid before the Father and the Son was: what could They do to reconcile wayward, rebellious, defiant sinners to themselves?

The answer was the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father’s love made it “ethically imperative” to send His one and only Son as a sacrifice for the many. It was a “suicidal mission.”

Romans 5:18 Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.

“All humanity was involved in a situation from which there was no escape; sin had human beings in its power, and there was no hope. Into this situation came Jesus Christ, and he brought with him something that broke the old deadlock. By what he did, by what he is, by what he gives, he enabled men and women to escape from a situation in which they were hopelessly dominated by sin . . . it is completely true that the world was ruined by sin and rescued by Christ” (Barclay).

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© Dr. H 2022

Overcoming evil, bias, and discrimination

Overcoming evil, bias, and discrimination

Every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. – 1 John 5:4

1 John 2:12-17

 12 I am writing to you, who are God’s children, because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.

 13 I am writing to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I am writing to you who are young in the faith because you have won your battle with the evil one.

 14 I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father. I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ . . .. I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong. God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.

 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father but are from this world.

 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Igor Stravinsky was a Russian-born Jewish composer whose work transformed musical thought and sensibility in the 20th century. Two of his more notable works were The Firebird (1910) and The Rite of Spring (1913) which incited a riot upon its premiere. Stravinsky was a revolutionary force who brought something radically new to classical music. He created music with constantly changing rhythms, metric imbalances, and drastically dissonant harmonies. He immigrated from Russia to Paris in 1920. He fled Paris and immigrated to the United States in 1939 to avoid the Nazi juggernaut in Europe. Stravinsky contributed to the rise of classical modernism.

Stephanie Dabney’s gift for movement transcended boundaries. As a principal ballerina for the Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH), she regularly wowed audiences and critics – but never more than when she performed The Firebird. She was the first Black ballerina to dance the title role in the Stravinsky ballet. Her soaring, passionate portrayal of a fictitious red bird who protects a prince from evil vaulted her to fame.

One New York Times critic called her “the most incandescent Firebird imaginable,” adding, “one knew that this was a wild bird.” Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa told the company’s artistic director, “she was wonderful as if created for this role.”

Dabney started dancing at age 4, but “being Black limited her opportunities, even in school recitals” (nytimes.com). In 1975, when she was 16, she joined the company of the Dance Theater of Harlem. She danced the part of The Firebird in the opening ceremonies for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The Firebird, though, was always part of her. She said, “This is a role where you get to really dance and be the music. It pushes you and fills your insides, and it makes your emotions come out.”

Both Stravinsky and Dabney were the victims of intense discrimination and prejudice. However, they were overcomers. Innovative magnificent music and superlative performances were born of bias and inequity.

John 16:33 In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Children of the King are called upon to be overcomers.

REFLECT & PRAY

Belief and trust in the Father are not so much taught as it is caught.

Father life is filled with tribulation and adversity. Strengthen me to be an overcomer. Let my inner red bird sore like an eagle.

INSIGHT

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

The peace that the Lord Jesus Christ offers is unique and far different from that commonly available to us in the world. In the world, the best we can hope for is the absence of open hostility and warfare. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It is not merely the absence of war but a sense of completeness, fulfillment, well-being, ease, unaffectedness, success, wholeness, and even prosperity.

Shalom encompasses that which makes for humanity’s highest good. There is but one source of ultimate peace in the world, the peace of God. The Father actualizes His peace within our lives as we do His will.

The peace the Lord Jesus Christ provides “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) because it has a supernatural source in the heart of Christ Himself. His peace keeps us from fear and worry because it brings us straight to Him (Stanley).

John 14:1 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.

How do children of the King face and overcome the everyday, ubiquitous trials by fire that we face in this present age?

1 Peter 4:12-19

 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.

 13 Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

 14 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.

 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

 19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

In the first century, “In the nature of things, persecution must have been a much more daunting experience for Gentiles than it was for Jews. The average Gentile had little experience with it, but the Jews have always been the most persecuted people on earth. . .. It is never easy to be a Christian. The Christian life brings its own loneliness, its own unpopularity, its own problems, its own sacrifices, and its own persecutions. It is, therefore, good to have certain great principles in our minds” (Barclay).

James 1:2-3

 2 Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters when you encounter various trials.

 3 You know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Trials challenge our faith. They are designed to produce spiritual maturity. The Greek word translated as testing is dokimion. Dokimion is used here to evaluate the genuineness and strength of our faith (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). It is not intended to cause you to fail. But instead, to demonstrate that our faith is genuine and effective. The intended result is perseverance, “a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions” (ESV notes).

Hebrews 10:36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

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© Dr. H 2022

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