Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 4
Study Guide, November 21, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
No doubt you have heard the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. That is a famous line of course from a poem by Robert Burns, who was like the Shakespeare of Scotland. The poem had overtones of the battle between the aristocracy and the masses, but in general, many people have simply used it to point out the need to allow for even the best-intentioned plans to sometimes go awry. That’s a good word: ‘awry’. That’s a poetic word for ‘wack-o’! Sometimes even good plans and good intentions can go ‘wack-o’. There’s nothing wrong with the good intentions, it’s just that people and things in this world are simply failed and flawed. Or, as John Ortberg entitled a book that he wrote: “Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them”.
One of the things that the sin-nature of human beings implies is that there is something wrong with everybody! And when a lot of those human beings, in whom something is wrong with each one of them, get together, for say, like in any group, or like in any ‘church’, then even in a church’s best laid plans, there will inevitably be things that may go awry, either in with plans or in the people. And while many people simply understand that and allow for that, some use that as a barrier to their faith life and then make the charge that the Barna Research Group found that a lot of people use as a reason they have not committed to a local church. Their claim is: “…because there are many hypocrites in church.” You’ve heard that one a lot of times, right?
Here’s a question: “Well, isn’t that where hypocrites ought to go to find help?” What other group of people is going to help them with their hypocrisy? The church is not only a training camp for Christian soldiers, it’s also a hospital for sinners, both yet to be converted sinners and those already converted, but who still stumble. The Apostle James reminded us that we all stumble in different ways. That’s one of the unique aspects of a church, and of a church’s ministry. It’s the one place where people who may seem ‘normal until you get to know them’ can come and be accepted, and the one place where ‘there’s something wrong with everybody’ people can come and be part of a body where everyone is finding help and support and encouragement and comfort from one another and being brought closer to the only perfect Person in existence, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves the failed and flawed people of the world!
So if someone ever says to you that there are hypocrites in your church, tell them, “Of course there are!” That’s where hypocrites have the best chance of being helped with their hypocrisy”, in church…in connection with other people who, although they don’t have everything together, or although they also haven’t arrived at being all that God created them to be, at least they are putting themselves in the best position possible to move forward in that direction more and more…as they try to follow Jesus Christ more and more.
Here is something that the church, and those in the church, ought to be showing both each other and the world around them. And the thing is, it is something that is really ‘rare’ in our world today. And it’s getting more and more rare in our society. In fact, it is so rare, that when you show it to people, they are pretty surprised and amazed and often even stunned by it. The Revised Standard Version puts it like this: “Let all men know your forbearance.” Phil 4:5 Or, “Let your forbearance be shown to all men.” ‘Forbearance’? What is ‘forbearance’? Forbearance is related to long-suffering, which is related to patience, which is related to gentleness, which is related to restraint, which is related to consideration, which is related to forgiveness, which is related to grace, which is related to God! And thank God for His forbearance towards us and with us!
Now, justice is also related to God. So, forbearance is not the elimination of justice. God calls us also to do justice, to hold others accountable for wrong-doing. So forbearance is not the tempering of justice; forbearance is the tempering of judgmentalism. And judgmentalism is a growing problem in our society. But as for justice, remember, Jesus carried out justice many times, like when He rebuked the false teachers and even physically drove the corrupt money changers out of the Temple. There’s a time and a season for everything, right? There’s a time to show justice, and then there’s also a time to show forbearance. And we have to understand those times.
But Jesus was also patient with the doubting; He was long-suffering with the mis-informed; He was gentle with the hurting; He was considerate with the confused; He was gracious with the irritating; and basically…He was forbearing with the undeserving. And then through the Apostle Paul He says to us: ‘Now, let ‘YOUR’ forbearance be shown to all men.’
When you show people around you what forbearance looks like, you’ll be showing them something that they don’t often see…especially in the world around them. Our society is not much into the virtue of showing others ‘long-suffering’. No, our society is more into making others suffer-longer. Our society is more into criticism than consideration. Our society is more into giving others grief and strife than giving others grace and space.
But this is where followers of Christ are to be different and are to show others how different we are by ‘letting our forbearing spirit be shown to all men’. Now, let’s bring it back to where we began, in recognizing that there’s something wrong with everybody, because even Born Again believers have to battle against their old sin-natures. Some of the sins of others are the same sins that you deal with. And then some sins of others may be different from those you deal with, but that doesn’t mean we put a ‘hypocrite’ label on them, and then use them as a reason we no longer worship and serve in a local church. If anyone is waiting to find a church without hypocrites, then the first church service they attend will be after they die, that is, if they were Born Again. And if they were ‘Born Again’, then they were expected to be a serving part of a local church where they worked with Jesus to help hypocrites grow closer to Jesus and thus become less hypocritical.
‘Forbearance’. By the way, you know that great passage in Philippians 4 that talks about those wonderful gifts and experiences of joy and peace? Yeah, those two wonderful grace gifts that every believer wants to have growing and thriving in their lives. Well, guess what? Linked in between the experience of joy and peace is the secret to both. It’s like hinge pin that swings open the doors to both joy and peace in our lives. And it’s quite surprising what it is, because right in the middle of the part about rejoicing and the part about being anxious for nothing, along with the peace that passes understanding is this command that we are supposed to be acting upon in order to experience that joy and that peace. Once again, it’s this: “Let all men know your forbearance.” Phil 4:5 RSV Or, “Let your forbearance be shown to all men.”
That verse is like the ‘hidden verse’ that few people think about when they are thinking about this amazing passage on joy and peace. But the thing is, the Apostle Paul says to us: “Think about it!” The key condition of experiencing personal joy and personal peace is related to this practice of interpersonal forbearance. Or, as the The Complete Biblical Library commentary puts it: “In other words, a person cannot enjoy the peace of God unless he can forbear other people.” What was that again? “In other words, a person cannot enjoy the peace of God unless he can forbear other people.” Do you realize the implication of this? It means that our practice of forbearance in our treatment of others eithers connects us to peace and joy in our own lives, or our failure to practice forbearance in our treatment of others will then cancel out joy and peace in our lives. That means that you cannot experience the joy of the Lord if you are not forbearing and considerate and forgiving with others. It means that you cannot experience the peace of God if you are giving others the grief of your grumbling. You cannot experience the peace of God in your spirit if you are dishing out impatience with others. You cannot culture the fruit of joy for yourself if you are harboring an inconsiderate spirit toward others. Or simply put; You cannot receive the joy of the Lord if you’re being cranky with others. You can’t be joyful and judgmental. You cannot have the peace of God while holding grudges against others. Those cancel out that very joy and peace and we all long to have in our lives.
But on the other hand, you can grow the fruit of joy in your spirit by showing more of the forbearance of Christ to others. You can be less anxious in everything by being more forgiving to others. You can experience more of the peace that passes understanding by passing on more grace and space to others around you that mess up your peace because of whatever is wrong with them.
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” There’s a lot of substance to that, but let’s expand it. When we connect our choices and decisions with what Paul has revealed here in Philippians 4:5 we find that we really do determine how much joy and peace or happiness we will experience. And we find that this is based upon how much joy and peace we try to pass onto others around us; particularly with those whom we find to be neither joyful nor peaceful to be around. But still, we are to show them our forbearing spirit towards them. And in showing forbearance towards them it them opens the doors to us of then getting to experience more of the fruit of joy and peace that we so long to experience ourselves. So in essence, here’s the deal: By showing forbearance and forgiveness to others you are actually assisting in the growing of joy and peace in yourself. That’s how big of a deal this deal about ‘forbearance’ really is!
Now then, we’ll finish this part up with this strange accusation that many people use as a barrier to the faith life and walk. They say: “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” Well, neither do I, but what’s that got to do with the Bible? Oddly enough, so many have attacked the reliability and authenticity of the Bible for so long that many believe these false accusations. As has been said: “Nothing is so absurd that if you say it long enough people will believe it.” This charge against the Bible’s reliability is one of the most absurd accusations there is because the Bible is the most credible and reliable and historically corroborated document in existence.
There are literally thousands of copies of the Scriptures from ancient times. The text of the Bible is better preserved than writings that most people take for granted as being reliable, like those of Plato and Aristotle. Like with Plato, only seven copies have survived. But from just the New Testament alone there are more than 5,900 Greek manuscripts that still exist today. And many non-Biblical ancient documents were copied more than 1200 years after their originals. But we have copies of eye-witness accounts of the Gospels that were copied less than three hundred years from the actual events and from the actual scrolls of the New Testament.
Then, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls really took the reliability factor up to another level when they found that after comparing these writings of the Scriptures to other copies, up to one thousand years apart, the only variations among them were in spelling differences. That’s all! The teachings and the doctrines and the accounts of the Bible’s authors were identical! That is absolutely amazing! Plus,
the more that Archaeologists dig in the lands of the Bible they discover more real places and real people and real events of the Bible. They have copies of Sumerian Kings from 2100 BC recording accounts of a world-wide flood, just as the book of Genesis records. And then, up to one hundred years ago some historians were claiming that the Hittites were an imaginary people made up by Old Testament authors. Well, they claimed that until Archaeologists uncovered the capital city of the Hittites near the city of Ankara, Turkey. They were forced to then withdraw their attack after that discovery.
And in Egypt there is the great Karnak temple. And along its walls are carvings dating back to 1200 BC. One carving in particular is of a Pharoah and a group of a foreign vanquished people…who just happened to be Israelites…who just happened to be living in Egypt at that very time, of course. And then one more, and this is one of my favorites, is the discovery of a pottery cylinder in ancient Babylon that dated back to 539 BC. It tells of King Cyrus of Persia’s conquest of Babylon and of his decree to let the captives of Babylon return to their lands and restore their temples. Well, well…It just so happens that over a hundred years before it happened, the Prophet Isaiah both named and predicted that a Persian King, again, before this King was even born…Isaiah predicted that this King named Cyrus would conquer Babylon and make a decree that the Jewish people could return to Judah and rebuilt their temple! And I love the passage on that: Isa 44:28 – “The Lord says to Cyrus, “You are my shepherd. You will do what I want. You will say to Jerusalem, ‘You will be rebuilt!’ You will tell the Temple, ‘Your foundations will be put in place!'” 45:4- “I do this for My servant, Jacob. I do it for My chosen people, Israel. Cyrus, I am calling you by name. You don’t know Me, but I know you.” ERV Whoa! Don’t you love that part? “You don’t know Me, but I know you.”
God’s Word always comes to pass! We’ll consider later some other barriers that people have. But it comes back to the fact that our faith is built upon facts! As Paul said, “None of these things were done in a corner.” God calls for all to ‘Come and See’. And when they come and see, then they can believe and receive…just like we have done and are now blessed to be children of God, both now and for eternity.
Archaeology information: Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Line,