Category Archives: courage

THAT DAY

The apostles were left awestruck! All they could do was to keep gazing up into the clouds in amazement. Jesus had only moments before been standing with them and giving them instructions to be His witnesses unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:7,8). That, in and of itself was marvelous for just a little over a month before He had been crucified and raised from the dead. Now, on this last day, after having shown Himself alive by many infallible proofs for forty days and having spoken with them during that time, “while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus literally ascended up into the air and a glory cloud enveloped Him as He disappeared from view!

While they continued to gaze into heaven with astonishment, two angels brought them back to earth. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven” (Acts 1:11). In effect, they were saying: Don’t just stand here with your mouths hanging open, there is work to be done. “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The message: He is coming again! Now work!

The truly amazing thing about this event is the change which took place in these men. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 25:56). Peter, who had said “though all men should be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matt. 26:33), and “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee” (Matt. 26:35) denied the Lord that same night a little over a month ago! After Jesus had been crucified, the apostles apparently hid behind closed doors for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). They were a group of men cowering in fear behind locked doors. Some witnesses.

However, after Jesus’ ascension back into Heaven, the apostles went back to Jerusalem and waited for the promise of the Father of which Jesus had spoken (Acts 1:4-8; John 14:26; 16:13). On the day of Pentecost, these men, who before had cowered in fear of persecution and death, now, after receiving the promised baptism of the Holy Ghost, boldly and publicly proclaimed Jesus openly! “Ye men of Israel, hear these words,” they said to the multitude that had gathered:

Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it (Acts 2:22-24).

Later, Peter and John openly entered the temple (Acts 3:1) and healed a man who was lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 3:2-10). Peter then told them that “ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14,15). What boldness (cf. Acts 4:29,31)!

These were strong words. Powerful words! These words laid the responsibility for the death of the Messiah squarely at the feet of the “men of Israel” (Acts 2:22). Forty days ago neither Peter nor John nor any of the other apostles would have dared speak such words privately, much less publicly (cf. Matt. 15:12). Now, however, you could not keep these men from openly speaking what they knew to be true. When the council dragged Peter and John in for questioning after a night in a cell (Acts 4:1-5), they charged and threatened them that they never again speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17,18). Peter’s response: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19,20).

These men were changed men. What made the difference? They did not take a Dale Carnegie course on how to sharpen social skills and improve relationships. The High priest and their kindred said it best when they “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Undoubtedly their reception of the Holy Spirit endowed them with extra courage but their years with the Lord had ultimately prepared them for this occasion. When we spend time with the Lord in His word, we become changed men and women (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10; II Cor. 3:18).

Eric L. Padgett

CONQUEST OF THE STORM

The wind was blowing wildly and the violent waves were lapping over the side of the vessel. The little ship was creaking as it was being tossed to and fro on the sea. Maybe the apostles, trying their best to keep from sinking or capsizing, were thinking back, remembering when Jesus was with them in the ship on the sea of Galilee and had calmed the storm with a command. But He was not here now and they would have to try their best to stay afloat themselves.

Earlier, Jesus had sent the apostles down to the sea to get in a boat and go before Him to Bethsaida (Mark 6:46). They probably went reluctantly for Matthew says Jesus “constrained” or “compelled” them to go (Matt. 14:22). It would have been hard for the apostles to leave Jesus at that time. There was already a movement among at least some of the people to forcibly make Jesus king (John 6:15). Maybe the apostles were caught up in this to some degree, they, themselves, expecting an earthly kingdom (Acts 1:6), or, perhaps, they feared to leave Jesus alone with the aggressive crowd. Either way, Jesus had to compel them to leave while He dismissed the crowd, which, in itself might have proved no small task given their intentions.

After the crowd was sent away, Jesus went up to the mountain alone to pray (Matt. 14:23). Jesus not only taught the importance of prayer He gave us His example on its importance, for He was always praying. This was especially true when He was going to face some great challenge. Having been among the people, He also wanted to spend time with the Father. It is also possible that having been preaching to the multitude, Jesus prayed for the lessons to be effective. Regardless of the reason, we should learn the value of prayer as Jesus gave the example.

Mark seems to indicate that while Jesus was alone on land in prayer in the mountain, He saw the apostles toiling and rowing in the midst of the sea (Mark 6:47,48). It is possible that Jesus could have seen the ship on the sea from the mountain, but during a storm at night it would be difficult to see through the clouds and possibly rain and impossible to see them toiling in the ship (Mark 6:47). This, I think, rather demonstrates Jesus’ miraculous knowledge. It also teaches us that even though we seem lost and treading water sometimes, the Lord knows our needs (Matt. 6:25-33).

Furthermore, Jesus had sent the disciples out earlier that evening (John 6:16,17). They were now in the “midst of the sea” and had been rowing for some time when Jesus was alone in the mountain (Matt. 14:24,25; Mark 6:47). Now if they had been rowing for several hours and were now about 25 or 30 furlongs along their way, or about 3 1/2 miles (John 6:19), they could have been roughly in the center of the widest part of the sea of Galilee where the storm would have been the roughest. It was in the fourth watch of the night (3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.) that Jesus went to them from the mountain (Matt. 14:25). If they had been rowing for several hours and gotten along only 3 miles or so because of the headwind, for Jesus to leave and get there when He did must have involved a miracle of time and space to get Him there that quickly. We thus learn that God is not far from anyone of us when we need Him.

Now Jesus comes to them walking on the water! I will write that again: walking on the water! Seeing the disciples toiling in the ship from the mountain was remarkable. Getting to them as quickly as He did was amazing. But walking on the stormy sea is beyond breath-taking. It is no wonder that the disciples were “afraid” (John 6:19). It is no wonder that these grown men were crying, and screaming or shrieking (anakradzo) in fear (Mark 6:50). It is no wonder that what they thought they saw was a spirit or phantasm (Matt, 14:26; Mark 6:49). It seemed so surreal and yet is was quite real for they all saw Him (Mark 6:50). Jesus had once again demonstrated His power over nature.

As Jesus was walking on this storm-tossed sea, He would have passed by the apostles in the boat (Mark 6:48). Whether He intended to pass them by or whether it just appeared to the apostles that He was passing them by is not clear. But when they cried out in fear Jesus immediately talked with them to allay those fears (Mark 6:50). “Be of good cheer; It is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27; John 6:20). We all face storms in our lives, occasions when we are in need of help. Jesus let the apostles know that though they would face many storms, He would be there for them (Matt. 28:20).

Now when Peter heard the Lord’s voice, he asked “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). Peter is to be commended for his effort, for he stepped out of the boat into the waves and began walking on water, too! None of the other apostles tried this. Who among us would have tried it? But Peter, looking at Jesus, first set one foot and then another out of the boat and onto the stormy waves and he walked on water!

It must have been a triumphant moment for him, but it was fleeting. For soon he let his eyes drift from the Lord and onto the boisterous waves and wind began to sink because he was afraid (Matt. 14:30). Just then, as Peter began to drop into the water, Jesus reached forth His hand and caught Peter and saved him (Matt. 14:31). Nevertheless, Jesus had this rebuke: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt.” Why do we doubt when our Lord is the Master of the storms?

Though Mark’s account of this incident was probably given to him by Peter, Mark does not mention the incident of Peter walking on the water. Perhaps Peter was being modest or perhaps he was ashamed of the incident, but only Matthew records it. But when Jesus and Peter went back into the ship, the wind ceased (Matt. 14:32). One final, amazing incident during this miraculous occasion, is that when Jesus boarded the boat, “immediately the ship was at the land whither it went” (John 6:21). What the disciples could not do by working all night Jesus made possible by His presence. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Eric L. Padgett

DEBORAH

The time in which Deborah lived was notable for its lack of heroes. Apparently, there were no men qualified to lead. If there had been, it would have been likely that they would have been used by God to lead and judge the children of Israel. But since there was no one else, God used a woman named Deborah. That is not to diminish Deborah in any way. It is not to say that she was not a great leader, it is not that she did not shine as a virtuous woman, it is not to say that she was not wise enough to judge God’s people, for she was all these things. But God had set man into that leadership role and only in remarkable circumstances would a woman be required to fill it.

The times were desperate. After the death of Ehud, Israel was spiritually weakened, engaging once again in the numerous sins which haunted Israel nearly all its existence (Judges 4:1), and for this cause God sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:2). It is during troubled times like these that men turn to the Lord, and this time it was no different. The children of Israel, after twenty years of Canaanite oppression, cried unto the Lord in their distress and the Lord answered their prayer with the leadership of Deborah.

The name Deborah means “bee.” It was a rare name for only one other woman in the Bible wore it, Rebekah’s nurse (Gen. 35:8). We are told that Deborah was the wife of one Lapidoth, about whom we know nothing more (Judges 4:4). Some have rendered this “woman of splendors.” Others have suggested that this means “woman of Lapidoth,” signifying her place of birth. But if it is correctly translated as “wife,” then she was a married woman, possibly even the mother of children, though the role of mother mentioned here probably had more to do with her role as a leader in Israel (cf. 5:7). Thus, she had many roles in her busy life and was capable of balancing them all, as women have done all down through time.

As a judge, she was renowned, for the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (Judges 4:5). Earlier, in the days of Moses, when issues arose among the people, they would bring their concerns to him and he would settle the matter (Ex. 18:13). The same was true in the days of Samuel, who would act as a circuit judge and go between Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh (I Sam. 7:16,17). Later, when the number of cases increased, Moses added other judges to help, but all hard cases were brought to him (Ex. 18:14-26). The same was true with Samuel, as he grew older and the cases became too much of a burden, he made his sons judges (I Sam. 8:1). But Deborah apparently handled all these cases by herself.

She was also called a prophetess (Judges 4:4). The term “prophet” was applied to no other judge, though naturally these judges were in some fashion guided by the Lord (Heb. 11:32). There were other women throughout Biblical history who were chosen by God to be prophetesses. First, there was Miriam, the sister Moses (Ex. 15:20). After Deborah we find a Huldah during the time of king Josiah (II Sam. 22:14-20). When the book of the law was found, they went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah, though he was available (cf. Jer. 1:2,3). A prophetess named Anna lived during the period of the birth of Christ and spoke of the redemption that Christ would bring (Luke 2:36-38). Finally, the four virgin daughters of Philip, the evangelist, are referred to as those which could prophesy (Acts 21:8-10).

While Deborah was the judge of Israel, she also recognized the need for a military man to execute God’s plan of defeating Israel’s enemies. Whether it was God’s plan to chose Barak or whether this detail was left up to Deborah we cannot say, but he must have had some background in the art of war. He was able to gather ten thousand men out of Naphtali and Zebulon and march against Sisera. This was a command of God (Judges 4:6). While Barak had the skill, Deborah held the moral and spiritual influence to give Israel the confidence to act. Barak would not go up without Deborah by his side (Judges 4:8).

Curiously, in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, Paul mentions Barak but does not mention Deborah (Heb. 11:32). But it was Deborah who surely exhibited the greater faith in following the commands of God. It was she who motivated him to act. It was she who had faith to go. It was she who spoke the commands of God. It was she who judged Israel. It was she who was doing what Barak and others ought to have been doing all along. And while Barak had a major role in the defeat of Jabin, it was two women who were to truly instrumental (Judges 4:9). First, until Deborah, the villages ceased, the highways were empty, and there was no spear among forty thousand in Israel. She brought the country back to God and encouraged the defeat of Jabin. Second, it was Jael who delivered the final, fatal blow to Jabin (Judges 4:21).

Deborah is a great example to women and men of all ages. She was a faithful wife to Lapidoth. She cared for the people of Israel as her own children, and perhaps for her own children, as well. She judged Israel and guided them in difficult times. She motivated Barak to obey God’s commands to take back the country from foreign invaders. May God give us more leaders with the character and charisma of Deborah!

Eric L. Padgett

JOSHUA

More often than not, when an individual follows in the steps of some great person, whatever the situation may be, failure, or at least disappointment, is to be expected in varying degrees as critics compare the latter to the former. This was definitely not the case with Joshua following Moses as the leader of God’s people. While Moses remained unparalleled as a leader, a prophet and lawgiver (Deut. 34:10-12), Joshua came to be trusted as a great leader of God’ people in his own right (Josh. 1:16-18).

When we first meet Joshua (Ex. 17:8), he is apparently already a leader of some note. When Israel met their first foreign opposition coming out of Egypt in the Amalekites, Moses turned to Joshua to lead an army to defeat them. From the fact that out of all the men who came out of Egypt Moses chose Joshua to lead a group of men to fight, he must have already won a reputation as a warrior. The judgment as to whom Joshua would lead, was left up to his impeccable discretion (“choose out men”), implying that all things having to do with battle, could be safely entrusted to the capable hands of Joshua.

Joshua had been born a slave in Egypt and was relatively young (cf. Ex. 33:11), probably between forty and forty-five at the time of the Exodus. What circumstances lead to his being chosen as a leader are not revealed (just as Moses’ exploits are not revealed – Acts 7:22), but God seems to have had His eye on him early, for Moses was instructed to “rehearse” these things in the ears of Joshua and write them in a book for a memorial (Ex. 17:13). God would later charge Joshua to meditate in the things written in the book (Josh. 1:8). The great testimony to Joshua’s character and leadership is that during his days, and the days of those who lived with Joshua, the children of Israel served the Lord (Josh. 24:31).

Moses described Joshua as his “minister” or “attendent” or “servant” (Ex. 24:13; Num. 11:28). It was Joshua who went up with Moses into the Mount of God while Aaron and Hur stayed back to deal with the issues the people raised (Ex. 24:13, 14). It was Joshua who remained at the Tabernacle, presumably to gaurd it from desecration by sinful hands (Ex. 33:11). It was Joshua who, when Moses learned that he would not enter into the promised land, was appointed by God as Moses’ successor (Num. 27:15-23). It was Joshua who lead the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the promised land (Deut. 1:38; Josh. 3). It was Joshua who led the children of Israel in the taking of the promised land (Josh. 1:1-9).

When the time came to spy out the land, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who brought back a positive, good report (Num. 14:6-10). They said “let us go up at once and posess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). All the rest cried in despair that the land “eateth up the inhabitants” and is posessed by giants and people that are stonger than they (Num. 14:31-33). While the report of the other ten fomented doubt and insurrection, Joshua’s report, along with that of Caleb, exhibted trust, courage and faith in God. But Joshua’s report was also rooted in a military background and was not just a fanatic’s rave.

The one word that is often associated with Joshua is the word “courage.” He is exhorted to be strong and of “good courage” (e.g. Josh. 1:6,7,9). Perhaps the constant use of this term with Joshua suggests that he had unspoken doubts and fears. No good leader leads with abandon. With the sensible, there are always reasonable fears. But courage allows the righteous to be bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). Paul encouraged us to stand fast in the faith, quit like men, be strong (I Cor. 16:13). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (I Tim. 1:7). Let us pray that we have the courage of Joshua.

The Bible tells us that the man we know as Joshua was originally named Oshea (Deut. 32:44). At some point, Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, either when he was sent to spy out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:16) or, perhaps, when he won his first victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16). Oshea means “help” or “salvation.” But “Jehoshua” means the same thing with God’s name attached to the beginning, meaning “Jehovah saves.” Another form of the name is “Jeshua” (Num. 8:17). In the New Testament, “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent to this Hebrew name. The name “Jesus” means “Saviour” “because He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Just as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the promised land, our Lord Jesus brings us into the promised land of Heaven. In Hebrews chapter four, when Paul wrote about the rest that the Lord had promised to His people, the translators of the King James Version correctly translate this “Jesus” (Heb. 4:8). It was Jesus, the Angel of His Presence, Who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land (Ex. 32:20-23, 14:19; 32:34, 33:2, 14; Num. 20:16; Josh. 6:2; Is. 63:9; I Cor. 10:4,9) and it is Jesus which will lead us into Heaven (John 14:1-6).

Eric L. Padgett

MOSES

It is commonly assumed that Moses was unaware of his Abrahamic heritage when he was growing up in Pharaoh’s court. But scripture indicates that Moses knew all along from whence he came. His adventure as an infant in an ark of bulrush, purposefully placed among the flags of the river, was probably not just an act of desperation on his mother’s part, but possibly all part of a well-laid out plan to save this special child alive. It just happened to be where Pharaoh’s daughter was wont to bathe and she just happened to want a son.

Furthermore, his sister was strategically placed to allow her to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter a very special woman to nurse the child–the child’s own mother! Would she, could she, withhold from her own son the knowledge that he was a Hebrew, a thing which Pharaoh’s daughter already knew? He apparently did know it for when he was grown the Text says “he went unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” (Ex. 2:13). Paul said Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” and chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God” (Heb. 11:24,25). Upon seeing the fate of his Hebrew brethren, he sought to rectify an injustice and slew an Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Ex. 2:12).

If he had some knowledge that God was going to use him to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, as some rabbinic traditions suggest (cf. also Heb. 11:23; Ex. 2:2), he may have thought he might do it on his own. But such a course of action never, ever works. God’s designs will be carried out in God’s own good time and in His own way (e.g., Gal. 4:4). Regardless, his actions incurred the wrath of Pharaoh and Moses’ own hopes of saving his brethren were dashed. Moses failed and fled for his life but God had His own plans for him.

Out in the dried up, harsh and unforgiving climes of the backside of the desert, on Mount Horeb, God appeared to Moses and informed him that he would deliver Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). Though he was once anxious to deliver his brethren out of bondage, Moses now only offered excuses to God as to why he was unfit to lead. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). “What shall I say unto them” when they ask “What is His name” (Ex. 3:13)? “But they won’t believe me” (Ex. 4:1)! But “I am not eloquent . . . but am slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10). “Send someone else, but not me” (Ex. 4:13). These are excuses, perhaps, with which none of us are unfamiliar. But when the LORD God almighty commands a thing, it will be done! And Moses went.

Whatever else might have been racing through Moses’ excited mind, from this point on he acted in great faith. Paul said “he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). He faced great obstacles. His own people murmured against him ten times (Num. 14:22). Paul explicitly named Jannes and Jambres as having withstood Moses (II Tim. 3:8). Israel constantly joined themselves to false gods and acted sinfully. Enemies, like the Amalekites and the Midianites, constantly stood in the way as he led God’s people out of Egyptian bondage and to the promised land. But Moses endured and sang a song of triumph and faith after he and Israel were baptized in the sea and in the cloud (Ex. 14:21-15:19; I Cor. 10:1,2).

God spoke with Moses as He spoke with no other. God spoke “face to face, as a man speaketh unto a friend” (Ex. 33:11). This was not literal. What Moses saw was the similitude of the Lord, for no man could see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20; Num 12:8). But because Moses was faithful in all his house, he could speak to God intimately and freely, and God would not speak to him in dark speeches (Num. 12:6-8). In this respect, there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew (Deut. 34:10). However, Moses, by inspiration, did prophesy of One Prophet, like unto Moses, which was to come from among them and to Whom they should hearken (Deut. 18:15-18).

When the Lord stood on the Mount of Transfiguration, along with Moses and Elijah, Moses was able to speak with the Lord in person (Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4). Then Moses spoke to God face to face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the contents of their conversation! There, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter foolishly suggested that three tabernacles be built, one to honor Christ, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:4). But God spoke from heaven saying of Christ, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5). After Pentecost, Peter finally understood, that Jesus was the One to Whom Moses’ prophesy of another prophet like unto him pointed (Acts 3:19-24).

Moses gave the children of Israel the law. The underlying principles of that law are the foundation for all the laws in western, civilized society. The law, itself, however, was given to the Jews. It served it’s God ordained purpose to expose sin and bring us unto the Christ (Rom. 3:20; 7:7; Gal. 3:24). As John states, the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). That Old Covenant was nailed to the cross and now we have a better Covenant, based on better promises and better blood (Col. 2:14; Heb. 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:35, 40; 12:24). And now we, after we have passed through the waters of baptism, may sing the New Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 14:1-3; 15:3) as we strive to enter that better, heavenly country (Heb. 11:16).

Eric L. Padgett

JOSEPH

It is understandable, though not excusable, that Jacob would favor Joseph. Joseph was the son he had long sought from the wife he truly loved born in a time of great adversity in his life. But that special favor bestowed on Joseph served only to alienate him from his brothers. Of all people, Jacob should have understood that favoritism in the family by the parents can only lead to hurt feelings and betrayal.

The jealousy his brothers felt toward him was aggravated by Joseph’s own actions, albeit unintentionally. Besides the coat of many colors–which may have signified to them that their father had greater hopes for his favored son than just being well dressed–his report to their father of their evil actions further strained their weakened feelings of brotherly love. Then, his repeating his God-inspired dreams agitated his brothers’ feelings to the breaking point.

But in these things Joseph does not appear to have been malicious. When he brought back the evil report to their father he was simply relating the truth. When he repeated the inspired dreams, he was speaking only what God had revealed, not trying to goad his brethren. But sometimes, the truth is not easily accepted. Sometimes the truth even hurts. Paul had to ask the Galatians Christians, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). Even our Lord said that the world hated Him because He testified that it’s works were evil (John 7:7).

As Joseph was coming to his brethren, they colluded how they might take his life. How lonely and tragic it must be to have your own brethren despise you so much they want to kill you, especially when you have done nothing amiss. The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but Joseph must have heard their very hateful remarks as they forcefully stripped him of his robe and cast him into a pit. What kind of jealousy can lead to this kind of treatment? They were so calloused that they then sat down to eat (Gen. 37:25).

Our Lord must have felt so very alone when He came unto His own and they received Him not. Indeed, not only did they not receive Him but actively sought His destruction (e.g., John 7:1). He was scourged, mocked, had a crown of thorns crushed on His head, smitten with their hands, humiliated, despised and rejected of men, bruised, and spit upon. Even while in the last, agonizing moments on the cross, the crowds jeered Him. His loneliness was manifested when He cried out upon the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). All for simply speaking the truth.

Joseph faced many temptations and trials in his life and he persevered through each of them. Surely nothing could have been harder on his faith in God than having his brethren reject him and seek his death or sell him. But he also faced the temptation with Potiphar’s wife. He faced the temptation of being thrown into prison for something he did not do. He faced the trial of seemingly haven been forgotten about in prison. But through it all Joseph kept his faith in Jehovah and he kept his life pure. I know of no negative thing that is written about Joseph.

Through these series of humbling incidents, Joseph went from the pit to power. He was sold and imprisoned but was ultimately raised to be second only to Pharaoh over Egypt (Gen. 41:40,41). How like our Lord Who was rejected but then exalted by the Father to His own right hand. The life of Jesus was truly pure for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Joseph’s trust in God is clear all the way through the account of his life. In the end, after all is said and done, while his brothers cower in fear for any retaliation Joseph might take, Joseph humbly forgives them all. Just as our Lord said while on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”(Luke 24:34). Joseph saw his life in terms of God’s providence. While his brothers “thought evil against” him, Joseph said “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

The life of Joseph, and hopefully ours, is one of purity, perseverance and and trust on God’s providence.

Eric L. Padgett

Don’t Pull Your Punches, or Don’t Cushion the Cross

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9-10).

The church of Christ, the church of our Lord (Matt. 16:16-19; Acts 20:28), is very special. We have in our possession the things which the prophets of old desired to look into, the very things that have now been revealed to us in His word (I Cor. 2:7-13). Those holy men were deprived of that sacred knowledge and yet inquired and searched diligently into the things revealed to them but which they, themselves, could not alone understand (I Pet. 1:10,11). Moreover, not only the ancient prophets but even now the angels still desire to look into these things (I Pet.1:12). Now that is special! That is very special!

Is there any conceivable, intelligible reason why we, as His servants, would not want to make this known to every accountable human being? Paul said it was God’s plan “to make all men see” these truths. This is why He commanded His apostles, and consequently us through them, to take this good news into all the world and to preach it to every creature, and to teach all nations (Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20). The great commission gives us the marching orders for the church. It is why we, as the church, exist (Acts 2:47)!

Faithful men and women of God willingly sacrificed their lives to fulfill the great commission. That commission was why Stephen was stoned to death in the great persecution against the early church which was at Jerusalem (Acts 7:59 – 8:4). That is why Christians were assaulted and thrown into prison at the hands of it’s arch nemesis, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:3,4). That is why James the brother of John was slain with the sword, when Herod stretched forth his hand “to vex certain of the church” (Acts 12:1,2). That is why Antipas was horribly martyred because he held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny His Faith (Rev. 2:13) and the early church faced the Great Tribulation which resulted in the deaths of many a faithful child of God (Rev. 2:10; Matt. 24:21).

How many preachers, how many elders, how many Christians today would preach the truth and let the chips fall where they may, as these brethren did long ago? How many today would be willing to hazard their lives for the name of the Lord (Acts 15:26)? If the answer is that there are many today who would do this, then why are there so many apparently so timid now when it comes to professing the name of the Lord and His church to the world? Does courage somehow blossom in the bosom of timidity when the danger increases? Is he who is unfaithful in the lesser more likely or less likely to flourish in the greater (Luke 16:10)?

It is hard to conceive of a time when the apostle Paul would have cloaked the message of the gospel in some dress that hid it’s power and truth from men either to avoid confrontation or to lure the unsuspecting prospects by “good words and fair speeches” (Rom. 16:18). It is hard to imagine Paul ever downplaying the importance of the Lord’s church. Certainly, he said our speech should always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Col.4:6). But that does not mean we pull the punches!

Paul pulled no punches when he spoke to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17). He reasoned with them out of the scriptures and opened and alleged that Christ must needs have suffered (Acts 17:1-4). He did not shy away from the truth even though the unbelieving Jews suborned certain lewd fellows of the baser sort against him (Acts 17:5,6).

Paul did not pull his punches when speaking to the Athenians but told them plainly that they were worshiping in ignorance (Acts 17:23). He did not feel it audacious or presumptuous or harmful to instruct them in their religious inscience.

Paul pulled no punches when he, no doubt in exasperation, shook his raiment, as if to shake off the dust of the responsibility for the Corinthian Jews, and declared that he would henceforth go the Gentiles, saying “Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean” (Acts 18:6). Even if he had been tempted to dull the edge of the Spirit’s sword for whatever reason, the Lord would have disallowed it, for He enjoined him to “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9).

Brethren, is it not plain? Could it be any clearer that the truth is to be spoken, in love to be sure, but spoken without compromise? Let us not be afraid to boldly proclaim either the name of the Lord or His church or His gospel. Let us never soften the edges of the old, rugged cross in order to ease the discomfort of those that seek a soft road to heaven. Let it not be said of any child of God that he willfully withheld some vital truth to lure people with some false sense of comfort.

Don’t pull your punches or cushion the cross.

Eric L. Padgett

The Foundation of God Standeth Sure

Life is full of uncertainty (Prov. 27:1). At any given moment we may receive news that shakes the very foundation of our lives (e.g., Job 1:13-19). Our doctors may give us devastating news about our health. Our employer may give us unwelcome news about our jobs. Our families may be challenged by loss or suffering. Spouses may prove untrue. Nature’s forces may deal us a blow and deprive us of our substance. So many things to trouble us, so many things about which to worry, so many things to shake us.

And yet as uncertain as life often is, there is a confidence we have as Christians which transcends all the worries, trials and heartaches we face (Rom. 8:18). Just as Paul and Silas could pray and sing praises to God at midnight in a damp and dark Philippian jail, even when all seemed bleak (Acts 16:25), so, too, can we face the anguish and disappointments of life courageously and with great inner joy. From whence is this unearthly confidence and joy derived? Paul wrote:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Though everything about us seems as uncertain as the shifting sands, as Christians we have a confidence and joy derived not from our own sense of ability or power (Jer. 10:23), but from trusting in the One who holds the world in His hands (Ps. 92:4). Those who build their lives on the uncertain sands of mere mortal merit are sure to ultimately find disappointment and collapse. But those who build upon the solid Rock foundation can rest assured that their labors will not fall (Matt. 7:24-27).

The apostle Paul declared that though the world devolves into ever increasing ungodliness (II Tim. 3:13), and many people’s faith is overthrown, there is one thing we can trust, one verity of life that never changes–the foundation of God (II Tim. 2:16-19). Paul further declared that, as Christians, we are of the household of God and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19,20). For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11).

Throughout the Old Testament, our God is described as a Rock. The Mighty God of Jacob brings forth the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24). “He is the Rock, His work is perfect” (Deut. 32:4). “The Lord is my Rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (II Sam. 22:3). “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation” (II Samuel 22:47). The Rock that was cut out of the mountains without hands was to break in pieces all the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 2:44,45).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ is that “foundation…stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” (Is. 28:16). In the words of Peter, he that believeth on Him, “shall not be confounded” (I Pet. 2:6,7; cf. Rom. 10:11). If our lives are built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and His teaching, there is nothing that can move us, as long as we choose to remain there.

We express our confidence in our Rock when we sing our hymns, which are replete with references to the Rock. “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, thirsty land.” “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” “O Thou blessed Rock of Ages, trusting now dear Lord in Thee, Keep me till my journey’s ended, Till Thy blessed face I see. Hide me O Blessed Rock of Ages, Till Thy blessed face I see, When the storm around me rages, Rock of Ages hide Thou me.” “The church’s One Foundation, is Jesus Christ her Lord…” “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Do we believe what we sing?

If you would find stability in your life, if you would have confidence that you cannot be moved (Heb. 12:28), then build your life on the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19).

Eric L. Padgett

A Great Man Fallen This Day

It was with great sorrow that we received the news that brother Garland Elkins passed from this life on Friday, October 28, 2016. Because he dad such a profound impact not only on me, but also on the brotherhood, I feel compelled to mention a few things in his memory. Brother Elkins was a prolific writer, dedicated editor, capable debater, sound Gospel preacher and faithful child of God. The value of his work in the kingdom of God is inestimable.

I have spent many hours listening to brother Elkins in meetings and in lectureships and when ever I had the opportunity. Some years ago, I spoke with him on several occasions when he held meetings where I attended, discussed doctrinal and brotherhood issues while eating with him or driving him to his hotel, and generally picked his brain whenever possible. I will forever be indebted to him for his wonderful Christian example and for the truth I learned from him.

Four things impressed me about brother Elkins. The first was his love of the scriptures. As a new Christian, I had heard others quote the scriptures before, but not the way brother Elkins quoted them, nor so prolifically. No matter what the issue was, brother Elkins would quote the scriptures. I remember when Brother Elkins was on the Donahue program, Phil Donahue sarcastically quipped, “I’m gonna guarantee you the minister’s got a section of scripture that covers that in the Bible.” But brother Elkins, with what little time he was given, unflappably quoted the scriptures and spoke the truth. Truly, the word of Christ dwelt in him richly (Col. 3:16).

Second, he was a very kind person. His presentation was always with meekness, yet firmness. When he spoke about an issue with me that I had inquired about, though he knew the truth about it, he would say something to the effect, “Don’t you think that’s right?” He didn’t need my affirmation, but he was trying to gently nudge me in the right direction. He often humorously observed about certain individuals, “Some people are so disagreeable, even their stomachs disagree with them.” He followed Paul’s teaching, “Let your speech be always with grace” (Col. 4:6).

Third, he was dedicated to the Lord’s work in saving souls. I remember in one lesson he recalled how he was with another Christian and he saw a member of their congregation who had become unfaithful. He told the brother that was with him that if they had the opportunity, they would have to encourage that person to return to the Lord. It just so happens that they all got on the same elevator with other people, yet he spoke softly but clearly, and urged this unfaithful child of God to return back to the Lord. He was always trying to convert the sinner from the error of his ways and save a soul from death (James 5:19,20).

The fourth thing that stood out about brother Elkins to me was his energy. He was always going somewhere to preach or else coming from somewhere having preached. He was forty years older than I was but he had much more energy and purpose. I remember one year at the Spiritual Sword lectureship that the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair was in Memphis on a radio talk show in town, and he encouraged others to call her and challenge her. I don’t remember if he did or not, but if he had the time, I am sure he would have tried. On another occasion he stayed late after the lectureship was over playing tapes of some false teacher for others to be informed. He epitomized Paul’s direction to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

A couple of years ago I wrote about brother Elkins (and other preachers who influenced me) in an article entitled Honor to whom Honor. “Brother Garland Elkins has also had a profound impact upon me. I can listen to brother Elkins preach for hour on end and never grow tired. His nimble recollection of scripture and his meek but forceful presentation of the truth and defense of it are a pattern for me in my preaching, though I fall far short of his example. His lessons are filled with book, chapter and verse preaching and quotation of scripture, but they also contain the occasional anecdote that brings the point home. He has a great sense of humor, as well. I remember on one occasion in Kentucky when he was encouraging others to attend the Spiritual Sword lectureship, he said “You want to go to heaven, don’t you!” Every young preacher ought to listen to his sermons and learn from them.”

I always checked to see if brother Elkins opened my newsletter. I was proud to know that he, with some other beloved brethren, received and looked at this newsletter. He always did until some time ago and I wondered then if he perhaps didn’t like it.  But I later learned that his health was poor and that this was the reason why.  When Abner fell at the hands of Joab and Abishai, David stated: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (II Samuel 3:38). And so it is today that a great man is fallen this day in Israel. Brother Elkins will be missed in the years to come. We need more men like him to stand for the truth and defeat error. May God bless and comfort his family in their time of mourning.

Eric L. Padgett

See You At The Finish Line!

I like to win! I don’t like the feeling of losing, do you? Who does? Unfortunately, our society is currently plagued with political correctness regarding this subject. The politically correct thought is that everyone ought to win. But honest competition implies that some will lose and that cannot be tolerated by the philosophical left because it might hurt someone’s feelings. So those in our society who attempt to control thought have tried to remove the concept of losing. Nowadays, every child gets a gold star, every athlete wins, every participant gets a prize, etc. However, that is not reality nor is it scriptural.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about winning and losing. Adam and Eve were accepted of God until they broke His commandments. They lost God’s favor and He expelled them from the idyllic garden paradise He had created for them (Gen. 3:24).

Cain lost when he did not offer the sacrifice God had commanded (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:4). God plainly told him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Gen. 4:7). He became a fugitive and a vagabond (4:12).

Even though Abel was murdered by his brother, Abel won. He won because he was righteous and accepted of God. God testified of his gifts and “by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).

Enoch won! He walked with God and was not because God took him (Gen. 5:24). He had this testimony, that pleased God (Heb. 11:5).

The world in Noah’s day lost badly. The world was so wicked and sinful that God saw fit to destroy it utterly (Gen. 6:7). In contrast, Noah won the confidence of God and was allowed to escape the destruction of the world and was even entrusted with the monumental task of repopulating the newly cleansed earth (Gen. 9:1). This list could go on for quite some time but the point is that some win and some lose. That’s life and that’s Bible!

But it should be understood that God really wants all men to win (I Tim. 2:4). He has put into place the means whereby we can be saved and win, but it takes a great deal of effort. Paul wrote, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil 3:8). Notice what Paul had to sacrifice in order to be in the running to win! Like many high level athletes, he suffered the loss of all things in order to win.

Furthermore, he did not count himself as having already won or attained to his goal (Phil. 3:12-14). He was striving for it, reaching for it and pressing toward it. Paul often compared living the Christian life to competing in a game. For example, he wrote, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Timothy 2:5). And again, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24). Scripture tells us the Christian life is a continuous battle for victory and triumph.

When Paul neared the end of his life, he was more confident. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8). He could be confident because God wants us all to win, but we must first keep the faith, fight the good fight and finish the course!

God wants all to be saved but He is not going to award a gold star to everyone just for participating. In fact, the majority are going to lose and it is not going to be pretty. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:13,14). The majority will be lost but sadly they do not have to be. There will not just be one winner. As many as want to may win, but the rules have to be followed and we must finish the course.

See you at the finish line!

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).

Eric L. Padgett