Showing posts with label Suffering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suffering. Show all posts

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Quotable Bonhoeffer (and Metaxas)

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am reading Eric Metaxas' excellent book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010 by Thomas Nelson Publishers) which made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list in 2011.  I've only made it through the first nine chapters so far (there are 31 chapters in all), but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book.  The first few chapters establish time, place, and circumstances of his early life.  Once past that, the story picks up and becomes engrossing.  One to reflect upon and not read quickly. . . and one to use a highlighter and/or pen to mark important passages with.  I've done so. 

Bonhoeffer, to those who don't know, was a German pastor in pre-Hitler and pre-World War II Germany, as well as during the war.  He could have established residency in the United States in the 1930's, but declined to do so.  Instead, he followed the call of God to speak God's truth to the secular power of the age. . . Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich itself.  Bonhoeffer actually participated in a failed plot to assasinate Hitler just before Bonhoeffer himself died in a German war camp just prior to World War II ending.  Exciting times, and an eventful man with God's leading.  May we be the same in our generation!  With that background given, here's some worthwhile quotes.  All are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer unless otherwise indicated.

*  *  *

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.  (Page 85)

A summary from Metaxas: "In an attempt to be more sophisticated than the fundamentalists, whom they (theological liberals) hated, they had jettisoned serious scholarship altogether.  They seemed to know what the answer was supposed to be and weren't much concerned with how to get there.  They knew only that whatever answer the Fundamentalists came up with must be wrong.  For Bonhoeffer, this was scandalous."  (Page 103)

The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. (Page 106)

.  .  . 

In New York they preach about virtually everything: only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.  (Page 106)

So what stands in the place of the Christian message?  An ethical and social idealism born by a faith in progress. . .

The (liberal) church (is) as a social corporation. . . (Page 107)

From Metaxas: "Bonhoeffer quickly grew weary of the sermons in places like (theologically liberal) Riverside (Church, New York City), so when Fisher invited him to a service at Abyssynian (Baptist Church, New York City), he was thrilled to go along.  There, in the socially downtrodden African American community, Bonhoeffer would finally hear the gospel preached and see its power manifested.  The preacher at Abyssinian was a powerful figure named Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr."  (Pages 107-8)

Again, from Metaxas: "By the mid-1930's, Abyssinian boasted fourteen thousand members and was arguably the largest Protestant church of any kind in the whole United States.  When Bonhoeffer saw it all, he was staggered."  (Page 108)

Metaxas again: ". . . the only real piety and power that he had seen in the American church seemed to be in the churches where there were a present reality and a past history of suffering."  (Page 110)

I still believe that the spiritual songs of the southern negroes represent some of the greatest artistic achievements in America.  (Page 114)  I'll add this note: Bonhoeffer was so struck with the power and influence of the negro spirituals he listened to that he took these recordings with him back to Germany, to allow his students and others to listen to them as he first did so.  They were some of his most treasured possessions, according to Metaxas.

From Metaxas: "He seemed to want to warn everyone to wake up and to stop playing church."  (Page 122)

When I took leave of my black friend, he said to me: 'Make our sufferings known to Germany, tell them what is happening to us, and show them what we are like.'  I wanted to fulfill this obligation tonight.  (Page 128)

From Metaxas: (from one of Bonhoeffer's students) "Among the public, there spread the expectation that the salvation of the German people would now come from Hitler.  But in the lectures we were told that salvation comes only from Jesus Christ."  (Page 128) 

If you want to be pastors, then you must sing Christmas carols.  (Page 129)

From Metaxas: "He loved.  And by being with his disciples, he showed them what life was supposed to look like, what God had intended it to look like."  (Page 129)

From Metaxas, again: "Bonhoeffer aimed to model the Christian life with his students.  This led him to the idea that, to be a Christian, one must live with Christians."  (Page 130)

Leaders or officers who set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish.  (Page 142)

From Metaxas: "The words of the decree (Reichstag Fire Edict), produced and signed into effect before anyone had had time to think carefully about it, made possible most of the horrors ahead, including the concentration camps."  (Page 149)  Yup. . . there went the German people's individual liberties and civil rights, just like that!

All of this reminds me of the famous quote by philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,"  the Apostle Paul advised in another context in 1 Corinthians 10:12, but one connected to the issue at hand: the allowance of evil and idolatry in one's life and in the culture at large.

I hate evil, because God does.  It's real.  C'mon. . . you mean to tell me that the Aurora, Colorado Batman movie theater killer was a good guy?  He was and is mentally troubled, for starters.  Or how about the Iranians rattling their sabers at Israel?  Is that good?  No!  Or how about what happened to Kelly Thomas, the homeless man who was beaten and killed at the hands of the Fullerton, California police department?  Is that good?  Look at all the demonstrations that event caused.  No!  How about the inclination of my heart to not be with God's people, the ekklesia, the called out ones of God, and share my life transparently in front of God and man as I do Sunday by Sunday?  Is that good?  No! 

See, evil is everywhere in every person, because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," Paul wrote in Romans 3:23.  "All our righteousness is as filthy rags," the prophet Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 64:6).  This is why Jesus came.  To allow us to exchange our filthy rags for a white robe, where we are judged "not guilty" by God the Father, because he sees "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow," Isaiah the prophet declared (Isaiah 1:8) 

This is the Great Exchange. . . one Bonhoeffer had, and I've had as well.  It's the best exchange you'll ever have in your life, to rid yourself of all your guilt and shame you have before God the Father and let Jesus bear the burden and the punishment of your sin. . . a subsitutionary sacrifice. . . which is one main reason why he is worshiped as God the Son, part of the Trinity.

Questions about the above?  Please do leave a comment below.  I do check regularly for them, and I'd be honored to help folks deal with this issue in a gentle, loving, compassionate way.  I know.  I've been in that position.  


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Encountering Disagreement

Now comes the time in this Wandering Pilgrim's journey where he encounters disagreement and discord from others.  The names aren't the important thing, and as a courtesy, I'm leaving the names out of this essay, remembering well the saying from my Al-Anon days of "principles above personalities." 

As you may know by now, my journal - my weblog here on the 'Net - is called Wandering Pilgrim's Progress. That's for a reason: I identify well with John Bunyan (b. 1628, d. 1688), who was jailed in 17th Century England due to his beliefs concerning the Christian Faith.  He endured much more persecution than I ever have as yet, and his classic Pilgrim's Progress (found under "Links for the Journey" to the right of this page) originally published in two parts in 1678 and 1684 retells his spiritual journey as he wrote it in his prison cell. 

Bunyan used a lot of imagery in his writing, since his work was allegorical.  Christian, the protaganist in the story, leaves the City of Destruction and journeys towards the Celestial City, the New Jerusalem.  On the way, he encounters several different characters, some good, others not so good.  He also travels along to new places.  Here in this part of the journey in Bunyan's classic work Christian is found in what is termed Vanity Fair, having to do with the fluff and surface elements of this present world that don't translate - aren't found - in Heaven.  So Vanity Fair is a distraction from his seeking the Celestial City, as well as a return to whence he came: Vanity Fair is actually the City of Destruction in a new light, with spiritual growth gained by Christian to the point he no longer sees things as he once did at the start of his journey.  No, he sees his old town with new eyes, and so it is termed Vanity Fair.  

What happens to Christian and Faithful, his friendly sidekick (or myself, in this case) when they travel to Vanity Fair?  I found a great commentary that tells the story.  It's below the break.

*   *   *  

(1) They are treated as objects of sport.

As non-participants, both their unusual clothing and uncommon speech are mocked.  Following his arrest, Bunyan was derided as a tinker, a biblical literalist, a pestilent fellow, as one ignorant of Greek, as one being possessed by the Devil.

(2) They respond with blessing and good words.

With the Spirit of Christ resting on them, they exchange good for evil, blessing for cursing, patience for hysteria, kindness for malice (Matt. 5:44; Romans 12:20-21; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21-23). 

(3) They draw a sympathetic following.

Through the agency of discriminating grace, some observers prove to be less predjudiced; consequently, they oppose the brutality of the baser sort.  Jesus Christ encountered this same timid support which, when put to the test, did not amount to much (John 7:12-13).

(4) They promote violent disagreement.

While Christian and Faithful remain calm and sober as objects of blatant injustice, yet their righteous testimony stimulates bitter division between the two emerging factions.  Jesus Christ is the universal divider of men (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19; Acts 17:4-5, 32-34: 28:24).   The two factions are:

(a) the moderate sympathizers .

     Like Pilate (Luke 23:4), they have a sense of justice that is able to discern injustice.  They know of thieves and pickpockets at the Fair who are far more worthy of this kind of condemnation.  However, like Pilate (Luke 23:23-25), they lack moral courage.   

(b) the militant antagonists.

Like the chief priests (Luke 23:10, 18), they are willfully blind to the evident godliness and innocence of the two pilgrims.  Their resulting fury knows no bounds; they even charge their neighbors with complicity; they physically abuse them so that worldly gaiety gives way to worldly savagery.  

*   *   *

The above is but a small excerpt of the following link, which is an excellent commentary on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.  Read the whole chapter 21 Vanity Fair commentary at 
In fact, the information and resources at are wonderful and edifying.  I encourage my readers to partake of the knowledge and wisdom available there.

The excerpt above is from Page 335. 

This Wandering Pilgrim's update of the above goes like this:

(1) They are disrespected and mocked.

As aliens and strangers to the world, yet in and not of the world, Christian and Faithful are told how to speak - in politically correct terms - and derided as not part of the cultural or geographic elite.  Worse than that, they are told their beliefs and speech are wrong and reprehensible.  Power through written expression is exerted and grasped for. 

(2) They respond through loving God and loving people. 

Knowing how depraved the heart of mankind is, as Jesus did, and aware of their own sinful state before experiencing new life in Jesus Christ and becoming a Follower of The Way, They know they first must pray for the souls of those persecuting them.  Jesus said so himself (Matt. 5:44).  Beyond that, they reach out and let them know there was no personal offense intended.  If one is offended, it is because of the Cross of Christ, not any human individual.  They remember the time spent together in restaurants, hotels, museums, tourist areas, and the like, knowing generous practical hospitality is one of the marks of a growing disciple of Jesus.  Distance separating them, all one may do presently is to generate some discussion items on the topic at hand in the hopes of the true light penetrating the darkness, and hearts might become soft in wanting to know more about what it means to be a Follower of The Way. . . and not necessarily choosing  to become a Follower right then and there, but to understand what that perspective is like and what it entails as a legitimate worldview.  All of this is done as Peter said, with gentleness and with respect (1 Peter 3:15). 

(3) They are talked about, but without much impact to how people act. 

Water cooler talk and talk radio - as two kinds of examples - verbally repeat the good that these two have done, but no one is willing to stick their neck out and commit to what they are doing, becoming like them in word and in deed.  "Lack of trust in corrupt and poorly managed institutions," they cry.  "I'm not a joiner," retorts another.   

(4) Their testimony creates deep division between the group or crowd.

Calmly stating one's case concerning unjust behavior on the part of others, with gentleness and with respect, and leaving the results up to God is bound to create two opposing factions.  They are:

(a) The morally uncourageous.

These are the "go with the flow" people who don't want to see the boat rocked.  They don't want to reexamine their lives, or make any changes.  They tell themselves they are content. . . but if they are really transparently honest with themselves, theirs are the lives of quiet desperation.  True peace, love, joy, contentment. . . are not theirs to be had.  A false sense of "happiness" may appear on the surface, but if one looks deeper, one may see the tracks of their tears.  I know.  I came from such a place decades ago.  I know what it's like to live in such a place.  And the thing is. . . one doesn't have to.   But again, such a person must desire change to become what one cannot become on their own strength.  The change comes from outside the person.  I'll leave it at that for now. . .

(b) militant anarchists, New Athiests, practicing homosexuals, and various other Secular Humanists.

These are willfully blind towards any redeeming qualities of Christian and Faithful.  They are led by emotion first, facts (if any) second.  They alone know what is right, and they will force their beliefs, legislation, and social practices down your throats. . . "whether you like it or not," to quote the former Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsome.  Accuracy in naming people, places and things in a narrative of complaint means little to these furious folks.  As a result, coworkers, people sharing the same name, and neighbors get in the crossfire of their accusations.  What was once a healthy, growing workplace, school, or community becomes a place of fear, mistrust, and doubt as these misguided people take control of the institution or community.  Turnover becomes high, and morale sinks ever lower as the once blooming rose now simply stinks.   

*   *   *  

Well, there you have it.  Persecution, a rather common event in the lives of Christian believers in other continents, is alive and well in North America, though in a more subdued and oblique way.  Actually, there are believers in other parts of the world that are praying for persecution to come to believers in America.  It purifies the church - the body of believers - and makes them more ready for service, for one thing.  That is a good thing that pleases Jesus, so I'd say it's time for the church in North America to get ready for some more direct and in your face persecution.  God will help us. . . and he is always faithful and true. 

From Jesus' own lips in John 15: 

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

From the Apostle whom Jesus loved in 1 John 3:

13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[c] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

The next passage, also in 1 John 3, is a real practical one that gets rubber to road really well. . .no time for hypocrisy!

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Well said words by the sage Apostle John towards the end of his long life.  May God help me to do them the way John said.  Until next time. . .


Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirsting for Mercy

In the course of my teaching duties, I came across a most atypical young man.  This youth, incarcerated in a county youth camp like almost all of the students I have in my care, asked me a simple yet profound question.

"What word comes to mind when I say mercy?" he inquired of me. 

"Grace," I replied. 

"How is that?" he asked.

I pulled out a church business card from my pocket and gave it to him.  My church's name, by the way, is Grace Chapel - you'll find the link for it on the top right of the page here under "Links for the Journey" - so I explained to him the natural connection between these two words. 

"So what you're saying is that mercy and grace are equal - is that right?" he thoughtfully summed up.

"Essentially, yes," I replied.  "They are pretty much interchangeable words to a large degree." 

"Well, I always thought that grace and mercy were different.  Grace is being nice and stuff, and mercy is when you are really needing a way out of your spot," he countered.

"Interesting that you say that," I volleyed back to him.  "I can understand that in your life situation you have come to understand those two words that way.  But in the sense of how the Bible uses those words, they are more similar in meaning than different," I advised, praying a silent prayer that the Lord would use this situation to reveal himself and his perfect will to this young man, while asking for protection against anyone who might get upset and file a complaint with the ACLU, who has a presence in this one youth camp. . . and throughout the county camp system these days due to a recent ruling from a judge.

I looked around the room for some Webster's dictionaries.  There were none, surprisingly. . . the normal situation is to find several in each classroom.  Interesting. 

My student still verbally contending that grace and mercy are with different meaning, he reaches out to his probation officer, who is stationed in the classroom by the door - standard protocol for operating such a county camp classroom for the safety and discipline of the classroom.

"Valletine, come here!" he shouted.

The probation officer, Officer Valletine, saunters towards the student's desk with his handheld computer tablet with Internet access. 

"What you say about these two words - are they the same or different?" he readily asks.

"Oh, different," the PO replies. 

"See!  Valletine agrees with me!  You've got it wrong!" he glowered at me.

"Well, maybe on a common word usage basis, perhaps.  If you would look at a good concordance or get into the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, you'll find that in that sense I'm telling you the straight scoop."

"The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek?" he exclaimed.

"Certainly.  It sure wasn't written in English. . . only Archie Bunker believed that!" I replied. 

"What's a concordance do?" my student inquired.

"It tells you what the words mean with precision so you know what the text actually says in words you can understand and relate to," I answered. 

"Oh."  He slumped back in the chair as if in resignation, realizing there was a lot more in the world that he had never realized existed or had seen yet. 

He looks at his probation officer and asks, "You get a concordance thing up on that computer?"

"Yup, sure thing.  We can go look at one when you get out of class and see what we can find, OK?" he reassuringly replied.  

A moment of calm in my student heart was thus achieved.  Relief that he could find out what he wanted to find out.  It was important, because he was writing lyrics in his dorm time hours, and he wanted to do the best job he could in expressing himself and his yearnings for freedom and release from camp and its walled, barbed wire confinement.  But not mere physical freedom. . . the kind of spiritual freedom which is found only in Jesus Christ. "So if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed," Jesus said in John 8:36. 

*  *  *

Well, my student's question has been richoteting in my mind the last few days.  Let's answer it by looking at some applicable verses. (All in ESV unless noted otherwise)

From Hebrews 4:16:

 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Strong's Concordance lists our word "mercy" from the above passage as eleos, meaning

mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them
  1. of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one's self merciful
  2. of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ
  3. the mercy of Christ, whereby at his return to judgment he will bless true Christians with eternal life
Contrast with "grace" which Strong's identifies as charis, from where we get our English word "charity":

that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech

  1. good will, loving-kindness, favour
    1. of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
  2. what is due to grace
  3. the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
  4. the token or proof of grace, benefit
    1. a gift of grace
    2. benefit, bounty
  5. thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward
From Titus 3:5-7:

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Grace and mercy again appear in our text above.  Here, the sense is the same.  The exact same Greek words appear as before.  

Perhaps it's best to restate the above verses from Titus this way: "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own  clemency of God in providing and offering to men Salvation by Christ, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ or Savior, so that being justified by his loving-kindness and merciful kindness which turns them to Christ we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Clemency.  Salvation.  Lovingkindness.  Isn't that what all of humankind yearns for?  And that word "clemency" is a well used term in the prison systems across the United States. 

Finally, from James 2:13:

 Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Another way to put it is "The clemency of God in providing and offering to men Salvation by Christ triumphs over judgment."

Clemency is, of course, another way of expressing the notion of redemption, an important Biblical theme in and of itself.  Hey. . . even a major motion picture deals with the topic in a gritty but emotionally moving way: The Shawshank Redemption. 

Was I correct in my initial response to my student in what grace meant versus mercy?  Strong's does mention that part of the definition of grace is merciful kindness. . . so in that sense I got it right.  In the larger sense of the words' meanings, I needed to be clearer in my definitions.  That's what you get when you work in a tax supported public school system environment, though.  But I am thinking about the possibility of purchasing a tablet and taking it to my next work assignment for a situation like the one I had here.  The Lord will provide, as he always does. . . in his time.  Until then. . .


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Kindness Club

My wife, who is a Registered Nurse, referred to me, her loving husband, a patient of hers who for reasons I won't go into couldn't get transportation to the doctor.  So I took this woman to her doctor's appointment, which is some 70 miles away from her residence.  As is my habit, I brought along a book to read while waiting in the waiting room.  Lately I've been reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas whose link is here: .  I'll be posting my reflections on the book, a very engrossing and captivating read, in the days to come.  But I digress.  

While I was in the doctor's waiting room, I was asked by a woman patient, "who's that on the cover on that book?"     

"Bonhoeffer.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Do you know who he was?" I asked her kindly. 

"Was he Russian or something?" she replied.

"No, he was German," I answered back. 

"Oh, what kind of German?" she inquired. 

"The kind who gave up his life to be against Hitler and the Third Reich," I matter of factly stated. 

A long pause ensued.

"So Hitler killed him?" she timidly exclaimed.

"Those under his authority, yes," I answered calmly.  He was executed in prison weeks before the Allies had a chance to find him and to set him free."

Another long pause ensued.

"Who wrote the book?" she asked.

"Eric Metaxas," I replied.  He's a guy the late Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship mentored, who now shares the commentator duties like Chuck did on the Breakpoint program found on the radio and the Internet."

"Charles Colson?" she excitedly exclaimed.  "Prison Fellowship?"  Her eyes grew wider and her expression of recognizing a friend was unmistakable. 

"Yes, Charles Colson of Watergate fame and Prison Fellowship Ministries.  You've heard of him?" I asked.

"Oh, I certainly have!" she exuded.  "I have a son who is a young adult in State prison in Delano."  I gave a sad looking look of recognizance in reply.

She gave her story of woe to me about her son.  Long story short, she is concerned that he will reoffend again and break the law, landing himself in prison once again, becoming an habitual offender and be locked away for years. . . maybe decades.  His heart is not at peace with God, and even though he has watched the thought provoking film The Shawshank Redemption over and over while in prison, is in contact with the chaplain there and sees Prison Fellowship volunteers, he has yet to truly give up control of his life and turn the control over his life to God.  This is the stark reality he is in in the midst of the extreme lack of privacy and the confinement prison affords.

Funny that my employment happens to be behind bars these days as an education professional. . . well, no.  Serendipitous, actually.  The Lord knows what he is doing, and placed such a one as this mother in my purview while I was waiting for the one in their doctor's care.  Get this: seated right next to this woman was another lady, whose husband is locked up in prison for a longer period - decades, from what I heard.  In his case, he has made his reconciliation with God and has received forgiveness for his many sins, and though he is a prisoner and locked up for many more years, the Lord has truly set him free in his heart and spirit!  Across the aisle, yet another woman knew of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship. . . I don't remember any of her other details right now.  Was this a God moment or what?

The most natural thing to do in a moment like this, after our first lady poured our her heart concerning her fears about what could happen to her son, and seeing the literal "cloud of witnesses" that shared in her suffering and related to her situation. . . was to pray.  I led us in doing so, all of us holding hands right there under the watch of the medical office's receptionist, who I suppose didn't bat an eye!  (smile)  Tears of joy were shed at the end, and warm hugs as well.  

This kind of moment I'll call "The Kindness Club."  To become a member of it, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew so well, one must endure suffering.  But not suffering alone. . . hope is present as well.  Hope in the things of Eternity, where there is no prison except in Hell. . .  and we shall feast at His table, rejoicing at what the Lord Jesus did for us in remitting our many sins. The Apostle Paul knew of suffering and its connection with hope, to wit:  

(Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James also knew of trials and suffering through the testing of one's faith, and its response in (unnatural from the world's perspective) joy:

(James 1:2-4, NASB)

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [a]trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [b] endurance. 4 And let [c] endurance have its perfect [d]result, so that you may be [e] perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

John records Jesus saying these immortal words on our subject:

(John 16:33, ESV)

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John, later in his life, undoubtably reflected some more on these words of our Lord in this part of his letter (1 John 5:4, ESV):

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.

Hence the title from the old Gospel hymn, "Faith is the Victory!"  I love indeed the refrain from that song so much. . . in fact, the whole song.  Here it is:

Wonderful to see folks from the United Arab Emirates who are - I take it - literate or becoming literate in English partaking of the Christian faith and singing this marvelous, uplifting old Ira Sankey hymn.  This is how I learned the words to 1 John 5:4. . . and how you can too!  It is part of the "music rumbling through my head," as I mentioned awhile back in a previous post. 

It's not how polished you are in singing it - or living out your faith.  It's about taking His hand and letting him completing the journey with you, taking his yoke upon you, and having a lighter burden, since you allow Jesus to carry the load.  Trusting Jesus, walking with Jesus. . . all the way.  That's how to have true freedom in a place like prison, my friends!  Out of prison too. . .   Until next time. . .