Resurrected with Christ
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
1 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
Lloyd Ogilvie was a Presbyterian minister who served as chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He said, “The most powerful historical proof of the resurrection is the ‘resurrected’ disciples. Dull, defeated people became fearless, adventuresome leaders. Cowards became courageous; the timid became triumphant; the inept did the impossible.”
It’s been said that like the first disciples, our greatest need is not just to hear about the resurrection, but to have the resurrection happen to us.
I don’t have to take you to an empty tomb and show you that it longer bears the body of Jesus. I can just let you walk with me and tell you my testimony. I not only believe in a resurrected Christ, but I’m the testimony of a resurrected man. Things I used to do—I don’t do those anymore. And the places that I used to go—I can’t go there anymore. I can’t help but to love Jesus because I have personally found salvation at the foot of the cross. Like the old hymn, I declare,
At the Cross! At the Cross! where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!
I believe that Jesus is the resurrected Lord because I am a resurrected individual. I was dead in trespasses and sin. I was blind. I was headed to condemnation, but I heard the voice of Jesus and now I live.
I know that Jesus lives because He lives in me. I know He’s strong. I know He brings blessings. I know He opens doors. I know He makes ways. I know He has power. I know He heals sickness. I know He defeats enemies. I know He defends and protects and provides.
I know all of these things from experience because He lives inside of me. Does He live inside of you as well? When you establish an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, you will find that your life has just begun.
Don’t just hear about the resurrection; let the resurrection happen to you.
Lessons from the Valley
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
I confess there have been times when I’ve thought how different life could be if I had taken a different voyage. But then I look at the treasures I’ve accumulated along the way—the lessons God has taught me and the gifts that He has placed in my life during the journey:
• The revelations that have magnified God in my life.
• The blessings that have defined the quality and content of my praise.
• The losses that have proven life does move on, and things do turn around, and God does heal the hurt, and He can open doors, and the mind can be transformed.
I can’t regret anything in my life—the pains, the pitfalls, the vices—that has led me to these lessons. Not one day of it do I regret. Not one minute of it. Not one scar that is generated from it. Not one limp that I have to bear as a result of it. Because no matter how many failed expeditions and voyages I have had to manage, I’ve picked up some valuable treasures along the way.
I’ve learned that God answers prayer, that He can bring us back from excessively dark places, that He can turn things around, that He can take the worst of human experiences and use them for the best of what He’s trying to extract from us, that He can take us to places as dark as the valley of the shadow of death and teach us that we don’t have to fear any evil because His rod and His staff will comfort us. And right there, He’ll provide a place for us so that we can say, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Don’t you dare regret any of your pains or your hurts or your failures or your voyages that seemed to accomplish nothing. And even when you think you’ve reached a dead end, know that it’s not a dead end. It’s exactly where God intends for you to be so that you can collect the valuable lessons He wants to teach you. There is treasure to be found in the valleys of life!
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Mark 5:35-36 (NKJV)
How singularly focused are you in the pursuit of God’s kingdom? How intent are you on doing what God has called you to do and which ultimately brings glory to Him? How zeroed in are you on finding that “sweet spot” that helps you wake up every day knowing that you are walking in God’s absolute perfect will for your life?
It comes only as you focus singularly on the search for the “pearl of great price” in your life. Aside from your salvation, what pursuit drives your thoughts and motivates your actions and consumes your time?
Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, once shared that his father, pastor of a 15-member church in Sulphur Springs, Texas, was known as the man with no leather on the toes of his shoes. The reason he had no leather on the toes of his shoes was that he spent three to four hours a day on his knees in consecrated prayer. He would wear out the toes of his shoes before he walked out the soles on those same shoes.
That’s how singularly focused I want you to be on discovering the pearl of great price associated with your life and going after it.
Let me ask you this: How many different directions are pulling on your attention? How many people are you living trying to keep happy? How many people are you trying to explain and defend yourself to? How many personalities, public and private, are you trying to manage in the course of a day? How many diverging dreams can you chase at the same time?
Stop trying to equally distribute your focus. Let me tell you that if you are singularly focused in search of God’s ultimate divine will for you, you can’t make everybody happy. You can’t be on everybody’s agenda. You can’t go in dozens or hundreds of diverging paths and directions. You can’t be energized around one thing today, and then something diametrically opposing it tomorrow.
No, you have to be singularly focused. Put your hand to the plow and refuse to look back!
It Doesn’t Change a Thing
“Do not be afraid; only believe.”
Mark 5:35-36 (NKJV)
Jairus had requested Jesus to come to his house and heal his daughter, who was gravely ill. Interrupted on the journey to do so, Jesus stopped to speak with and heal a woman in need. While He was still speaking, some people came from Jairus’ house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
As soon as Jesus heard those words, He said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” The Amplified version says, “Do not be afraid; only keep on believing [in Me and my power].”
Jesus says the same thing to us today.
In this world of horrific, disheartening, and unbearable news, don’t you give in to your fear or become converted to other people’s cynicism. Don’t let other people’s devilish deliberations and decisions shape yours. Jesus bids you: “Keep believing in Me.” That’s His way of saying, “This extremely tough intersection you’re in, the awful news you’ve been given, this painful space in life is never worth giving up the rest of your journey. The news you just heard—it doesn’t change a thing.”
Your altered state of living, your understandable anger and angst, your doubts and human suspicions, your regrets and deep-seated pains, your fears and frustrations are all real. I’m not trying to deny those things. But when it comes to your possibility, the changes that are needed, the steps that must be taken, the attitude that will be necessary to steward the next chapters of your lived experience—when you’re walking with Jesus, they don’t change a thing.
God is still able to bring His power to bear on your circumstance and situation. And if you’ll trust Him and believe in Him, He’ll prove to you that it doesn’t matter how deep your condition is. He’ll bring His power to the depth of your condition and turn it around.
God is still going where He intended in your life. The pain you feel, the potential that bids you come closer, the opportunities that are before you—none of it changes with the awful news you are facing today. You need a faith, my brother and sister, that believes that it doesn’t change a thing.
The Pearl of Great Price
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46 (NKJV)
The pearl of great price was that rare find that made you sell everything else you possessed in order to buy it. That had to be a rare find! Can you imagine selling everything you own for one object?
This story is a parable told by Jesus to describe the value of the kingdom of God and how the kingdom of God, as defined by a relationship with Him, ought to have such value in a person's life that it is like finding a rare and beautiful treasure. After discovering it, your dreams, your ambitions, your goals, your desires, your motivations, your inclinations—whatever they might be, are now all sacrificed for the spiritual transformation, the call, the commission, the blessings, the provisions, the sense of divine purpose and clarity of life’s meaning in Christ.
God’s presence brings with it all that inspires and motivates us to release possession of everything else in our lives in order to live in a grace-connected relationship with God. This relationship is secured by our redemption through the expensive shedding of the blood of the unblemished sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
No plateau, no attainment, no connection, no position, no status, no title should hold a place in your life that you're not willing to give up everything for the kingdom of God in your life. The kingdom is the pearl of great price.
The challenge for you is to weigh the various parts of your life against such a pearl: Are the thoughts, ideas, and fears that you’re holding onto bringing you closer to or more distant from the pearl of great price? Are you being distracted from the pursuit? Are you too invested in what will not produce that pearl? Are your energies being best expended, or are you being depleted by lesser things—things that may be of value, but in no way compare to that pearl of great price? Are you searching in all the wrong places, and in exchange with all the wrong people, for a pearl of lesser price?
Pursue the pearl of great price. Seek first the kingdom of God.