SUBDUING ALL THINGS UNTO HIMSELF

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

Philippians 3:20, 21

Paul often wrote of the coming of Christ and the fact that he was looking for the Lord’s glorious return. When Jesus does return, an exciting thing will happen to the bodies of believers. The Scripture describes our present bodies as being “vile.” When Jesus comes back, our bodies will be transformed and “fashioned like unto his glorious body.” What an expression of God’s might, to change the body of every child of God into a glorious body. When that happens, this corruptible will put on incorruption and this mortal will put on immortality.

We need not wonder if this great transformation is beyond His ability, for our text reminds us “he is able.” Not only is He able to change every sinful body in a moment of time, but the passage also tells us that this is just one example of how He is able to “subdue all things unto himself.” To subdue means “to bring into subordination, bring under obedience, or bring into subjection.” Again we marvel at the greatness of our Lord. He is able to “subdue all things unto himself.”

This is a tremendous promise for Christians who long for a new body without the sinful tendencies associated with our present bodies. However, this promise is not just a promise of what God can do in the future, but of what He wants to do in the present. He is in the business of bringing things into subjection or under obedience to Him. One day our “vile body” will be changed, and we will receive a “glorious body” like the resurrected body of Jesus. This is possible because “he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

In the meantime, He is interested in changing many other things about our lives. He wants to change our thinking, our attitudes, our priorities, our character, etc. He is committed to conforming us into His own image. Can He conquer habits and character traits that have been a part of us all our lives? Certainly He can, if He is able to “subdue all things unto himself.” We can believe that God is able to give us the victory through His great power.

ASKING WITH CONFIDENCE

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
I John 5:14-15

Prayer is such an important part of our lives as children of God. It is much more than ritual or reciting memorized prayers. Prayer is conversing or communicating with the Almighty, Who becomes our Father at the time of our spiritual birth. It is spending time in praise and thanksgiving for the greatness and goodness of God. Prayer is petitioning or asking God for things, with the confidence that He hears us and will respond to our prayers. But how can we know that God hears us? How can we know that God will answer us? This passage and many others are given to us that we might confidently seek the Lord in prayer, being assured that He hears us.

Our confidence is based on our position in Christ. Because we know that God loves us and has accepted us through our faith in Jesus Christ, we can come boldly to Him in prayer. When Jesus was teaching His followers about the subject of prayer, He urged them to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). God is our Father.

We can also pray confidently when we are asking for things that we know are God’s will. The Bible clearly states, “if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” People can pray for many things because they want them, but if they are not certain that God wants them, they will lack the assurance and confidence in prayer. James said that one of the reasons we do not receive what we desire in prayer is because we “ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).

Prayer should be much more than just telling God what we want to do; it should be more of asking God what He wants to do. How then might we know whether or not something is God’s will? We must be willing to yield our interests and desires to the Father, and allow the Spirit of God and the Word of God to guide us. We can be sure that many things we might pray for are His will because the Bible clearly teaches it. The basis of our faith is not our feelings, but the unchanging promises of God’s Word. When we ask God for things that we know are His will, we can be assured that He hears us and that He will answer accordingly.

DAVID PERCEIVED THAT HE WAS KING

“And David perceived that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.”
II Samuel 5:12

David had been chosen by God as the successor to Saul, the first king of Israel. While Saul was still king, the Lord sent Samuel to the house of Jesse where Samuel anointed David as king. Later we read that the men of Judah anointed David as king over the house of Judah. Then the elders of Israel anointed David as their king in Hebron. All of this occurred before the passage that tells us that “David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.”

David demonstrated great patience concerning God’s will and his installment as the king of Israel. He knew that Samuel had anointed him to be the next king, yet he was never guilty of promoting himself. On several occasions, David could have killed Saul personally or had him killed, but he refused to exalt himself. He refused to touch God’s anointed leader of Israel.

It is good for us to be reminded that God not only has a will for each of us but also that He has a time for that will to be enforced. Jesus resisted every temptation to exalt Himself or permit Himself to be exalted prematurely to the Father’s will. It is quite common for those who know God has called them into a particular ministry to get ahead of God in fulfilling that calling. There must be a time of preparation and proving. Because God has called someone to preach His Word does not necessarily mean he is equipped. We should not rush ahead to do what we think God wants us to do without getting some clear direction from the Lord. Because we think we are ready does not mean God has determined that we are ready.

David was willing to wait for years, knowing God had chosen him for this task. None of us want to procrastinate and forfeit opportunities to serve the Savior by postponing our obedience. Nor do we want to bring damage to God’s work by getting ahead of His leadership for our lives. David was willing to wait for God to work out His will. When he was finally and officially in the position of God’s choosing, after being anointed by Samuel, the men of Judah, and the elders of Israel, “David perceived that the Lord had established him as king.”

IN QUIETNESS SHALL BE YOUR STRENGTH

“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”
Isaiah 30:15

The Lord was reproving Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion. They were guilty of looking to Egypt for their help and rejecting the Word of God. Rather than being still and coming to God with a heart of repentance, they preferred running from God and trying to manage without the direction and blessings of their Creator and Sustainer. God’s message to them was a promise of divine intervention. “In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Their salvation would be in returning to God and in trusting Him completely, but they “would not.” They would not listen, and they suffered the consequences.

This passage is a piece of timeless and transforming counsel for all who will take heed. We appear at times to have this innate tendency to exhaust all other resources and possibilities of solutions before we bring our needs to the Lord. Busyness is not a suitable substitute for quietness before God. Programs and innovations will not provide what waiting on God’s promises can produce. Running here and there and refusing to receive God’s wisdom cannot bring peace and rest, only frustration and weariness.

When our typical, stress-filled schedules do not seem to provide time for being still and quiet before the Lord, we must take seriously the challenge to prioritize our activities and make time for what is important. Though our calendars are full, and our time is committed to many obligations, we must schedule appointments with God.

Sometimes the problem with not spending quiet time with God is not a lack of time, but more a lack of interest or desire. People use their busyness as an excuse to avoid spending time alone with the Lord, an escape from doing what they know they need to do, but are not willing to do. It is not always that we do not have time to wait on the Lord; but more likely that we do not find it as important as other things.

God has promised to strengthen us in our times of quietness before Him. He strengthens us to endure the difficulties of life, to love and forgive beyond our human ability, and to believe and trust in Him during what might seem impossible circumstances. In quietness, we will find strength.

TRUTH NEVER CHANGES

“For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Psalm 100:5

The simple phrase, “his truth endureth to all generations,” is loaded with powerful devotional and doctrinal revelation concerning God and His Word. In every generation, the pursuit of truth continues. Philosophers of every age have asked the reoccurring question, “What is truth?” New generations often feel compelled to replace existing traditions with new and unproven ideas. This passage speaks loudly and clearly to these questions.

The Bible is God’s revelation for man. It is “his truth.” God, Who is the very Source of truth, has revealed His truth in the Holy Scriptures. Jesus said it simply and directly in John 17:17, “thy word is truth.” God has spoken, and He is speaking to us through His Word. Because it is His truth, He has precisely and perfectly given His truth to us. Paul spoke of this in II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

The confidence we have in the accuracy of the Scriptures is not based on the sincerity or the scholarship of the human writers, but more importantly in the power and promises of God Who gave His Word to man. Peter tells us that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Spirit of God.

The same Bible that declares the truth concerning God’s revelation and inspiration also declares it’s divine preservation, “his truth endureth to all generations.” God has promised that His inspired Word will be preserved to future generations. Those who claim to believe in an inspired Bible yet accept numerous spurious versions, do not understand this doctrine regarding the preservation of the Scriptures.

“Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5). Truth does not change. There are severe consequences to all who add to or take away from the Word of God. Each generation does not need “new truth” but a new commitment to living by the truth that God has promised would endure to all generations. False religions are based on what must be considered as “new truth.” Different and damaging value systems are accepted because proponents package them as replacements for “outdated truth.” If it is true, it is not new; if it is new, it is not true. The satanic ploy in the Garden of Eden is still being used, enticing people to doubt God’s ever-relevant Truth.

ANSWERED PRAYER

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
Luke 1:13

Zacharias and Elisabeth were now well stricken in years, and God had not seen fit to bless their home with children. They had prayed for God to give them a child, and now their answer finally came. What a powerful moment for this godly couple; after all those years God answered their prayers with the birth of a son!

We can learn much from Zacharias and Elisabeth as we consider their answered prayer. For many years, though God had not granted their request for a child, they continued to serve Him faithfully. Elisabeth had been barren for such a long time, but to their credit, this disappointed couple had not become bitter and resentful. They were both dedicated to and lived righteous lives before the Lord, with Zacharias faithfully executing his office as a priest. Others might have let their disappointments lead to ill feelings toward God or His work. Although God may not answer our prayers and give us what we want and think we need, we must trust His goodness and wisdom, and by faith accept His will.

We are also reminded that because God has not answered, does not mean He will not answer. The Bible does not tell us that Zacharias and Elisabeth were still praying for a child – only that they had at one time prayed. It is certainly possible that Zacharias had given up on the idea of a child, for when the word came that a baby would be born, he had a difficult time believing the good news. God not only knows what is best for us, His timing is perfect. Because God has not answered some prayer for us is no indication He will not answer in time.

Another principle we see illustrated in this great victory is that sometimes God answers later so that it might be better. Zacharias and Elisabeth prayed for a child and God gave them a miracle. Their son, John the Baptist, was not only a blessing to them, but also a major part of God’s plan. He was both the fulfillment of their dreams and a fulfillment of prophecy. Their desire for a child was satisfied, and God’s promise of a forerunner to Christ was complete. God is able to do even more than we ask. If God has not answered our prayers, it is not because He has not heard. He can be trusted to work according to His perfect will.

THE LIMITATIONS OF THE ENEMY

“When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Luke 22:53

For some time, the religious leaders had looked for a way to destroy Jesus Christ. They were jealous of His following and resented His claim to deity. The opposition to Him was mounting, but they were unable to apprehend Him because His time had not yet come. God prevented them from taking Him until His hour had come. Now they were permitted to do what had been ordained of Jesus Christ. The power of darkness would have its turn.

This is a testimony of the sovereign control and authority of God. The most vicious of His enemies and all the power of Satan’s forces could not bring one thing against our Lord except with His permission. They were only able to take Him because He was willing to go. No one could take His life. He gave it freely.

This truth not only encourages us as far as Christ is concerned; it also comforts us about our own lives as believers. Neither man nor demons can touch us without the permission of God. Our heavenly Father has promised us that we will never be tempted above that which we are able, but He will with every temptation provide a way of escape. Just as God has put limits on the boundaries of the seas, He has set limits on the activity of the enemy. Satan does not have free reign to torment as he pleases or go unchecked in his assault on the righteous. He is limited by the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-seeing hand of God. Satan had his moment with Jesus because God had ordained it so; it would serve to fulfill God’s purpose.

We know the death of Christ on the cross was cruel and violent from man’s perspective. It also appeared to be a moment of victory for evil and the powers of darkness. In reality, it was a victory for righteousness. It provided eternal salvation for all who trust in Christ as Savior. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death and provided victory over sin and Satan. When the fullness of time was come, when the preordained time arrived for Jesus Christ to offer Himself as the sinless and eternal Lamb – and not a moment earlier – our Savior was apprehended and crucified. God can always be trusted to protect, guide, and provide for His children according to His will.

THE LIFTER OF MY HEAD

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”

Psalm 3:1-3

One thing that makes the Psalms so appreciated is the way the writer so often speaks of his personal trouble and emotional struggles. Many times it seems that the Psalmist somehow knows where we are, what we are going through, and how we feel. This passage is no exception. He was dealing with the opposition, discouraging rhetoric, accusations, and criticisms of many. The voices of his enemies were painting a very bleak picture and suggesting that even God could not help him. Those voices, if we believe their false information, can cause great distress to our souls.

The Psalmist made sure that his trust was in the Lord. Notice that these words are a prayer of David. He is speaking personally to the Lord, not only in pointing out the verbal attacks of the enemies, but also in expressing his confidence in God. David saw God as a shield of protection. The Lord would see Him through this battle as He had done in so many times past. God was his glory. It is said that David wrote this psalm on the occasion of his fleeing Jerusalem when Absalom stole the kingdom. David knew that God could restore his honor and position.

David knew the Lord as “the lifter up of mine head.” The phrase the lifter of my head means that God is the one that raises us up when we feel cast down. He lifts us from the state of discouragement or despondency. In times of trouble, the head is naturally bowed down. Psalm 35:14 says, “I bowed down heavily,” and Psalm 38:6 says, “I am bowed down greatly.” Problems come in many different shapes and sizes. It might be physical setbacks, financial struggles, the loss of a friend, family conflicts, ministry disappointments, betrayals, etc. Those problems can cause our heads to hang low, both figuratively and literally.

David knew the One who would be able to lift up his head from despair. Should we not also turn to Him and trust Him to be the lifter of our heads? Sometimes we forget that He is the primary source of our encouragement. When circumstances cause our heads to stoop, we can turn to God and know that He can lift us up, enable us to rejoice, and we can find courage and hope in Him.

GOD MAKETH MY HEART SOFT

“For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me.”
Job 23:16

Job was a man in great conflict of soul, both emotionally and spiritually. He had lost all of his earthly possessions and almost all of his family. His health was gone, and his friends were not helpful. He felt at times that God had deserted him. He had gone through so much. The Scripture tells us that God used this experience to do something powerful in Job’s life. Job said, “God maketh my heart soft.” Through his trials and troubles, Job was weakened, humbled, and crushed.

As with all of His children, God uses trials and difficulties to change us for the better. None of us want to go through anything like what Job experienced, but we all share one thing in common. We need hearts that are tender and soft, as opposed to hard and resistant. We do not need hearts that are prideful and stubborn, but hearts that are weak and dependent on God. It is not natural for a man to have a heart that is surrendered to God. This is the work of His grace in our lives.

We know that things can happen that cause our hearts to become hard. We can sometimes be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Sin that is not confessed and forsaken can make our hearts hard. Sometimes circumstances and offenses have been the cause of hardened hearts. In any case, God wants our hearts to be tender and soft.

In the parable of the sower, when the seed fell on stony ground, the hardened heart did not bring forth fruit. God told the people in Hosea’s day to “break up your fallow ground” (Hosea 10:12). Revival will not come to a people whose hearts are hard and stubborn. If we learn anything from the Bible, we learn that the condition of the heart is the key to seeing God work in a life. Job testified that God made his heart soft. Heartache and hardships can do that. They can soften our hearts and make us more tender.

God does not need people who are calloused and stubborn; He wants and uses servants that are sensitive and broken. We need to be alert to the needs of others; however, most importantly, we need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God. Prideful and unyielded hearts are not prone to receive God’s Word or be responsive to His leadership. None of us like to go through trying times, but when we do, perhaps God will use our adversity to soften our hearts.

WHAT WILL WE HAVE?

“Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?”
Matthew 19:27

Peter felt like he and the others had forsaken all in order to follow their Savior. What would his reward be? How would he be compensated for his sacrifice? It is a question that has crossed many minds at one time or another. Sometimes the subject might surface in a period of discouragement or doubting, or perhaps in times of serious trials or disappointment.

Of course, some will probably never think about this because they have given nothing of great value in order to follow Jesus. They have never sacrificed their family or leisure time to serve the Lord. They have never given significant money or resources to the Lord’s work. However, for those like Peter who have made substantial investments in the work of God, it is a legitimate question.

Thankfully, for everyone who has ever sacrificed and then asked, “What shall we have therefore,” Jesus gives the answer. He promised Peter that he would be given a special place of responsibility in the future kingdom of Christ, and that everyone who had ever forsaken houses, family, or land would be rewarded abundantly, both in this life and in the life to come.

The question was a legitimate one, and the answer was direct. In every way, those who choose to serve Christ over self will be blessed. We are blessed in this life. This is the best life there is. If we had one thousand lives to live, we would want to live every one of them as a child of God. We never knew the meaning of joy and peace until we met the Lord. We have been blessed beyond all measure, with a new family, brothers and sisters in Christ. God has been so good to us. He daily loads us with benefits. We who have faithfully served the Lord in this life, will, as Peter was promised, be able to serve the Savior during the time of His millennial reign on this earth. For a thousand years, we will reign with Him on the earth. We will also be blessed throughout eternity. Forever we will experience the rewards of faithful service.

We, who serve Him because we love Him, hope to one day hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” A follower of Christ may give up temporal things, forsaking them out of love and devotion to his Lord. He can be assured that God will reward him abundantly for time and for eternity.