Jairus’ Daughter is Not Dead, She’s Only Asleep

Jesus and Jairus arrived at the wake to sound of weeping and wailing.  And rightly so – Jairus’ daughter was only twelve years old when she was snatched away tragically. Friends and loved-ones were there to console and comfort.  Jesus walked into a whirlwind of calamity and devastation and said:

“She’s not dead, she’s just asleep.” (Mark 5:39)

Jesus is the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). He can speak to things that are dead and raise them up again – because, to Him, they are just asleep.

Maybe you feel like your hope and faith have died. Perhaps you feel like your future has no pulse or your ministry no longer has a heartbeat. You may feel your promise is lying lifeless. But the same thing Jesus spoke to those heartbroken parents, He is speaking to you: “It’s not dead…just asleep!”

asleepIt may have started with a little fever or tummy-ache.  “You’ll feel better in the morning,” Jairus told her as he tucked her in and kissed her on the forehead.  But in the morning she wasn’t better.  We don’t know how much time passed, but at some point, reality sunk in and Jairus realized that his little girl was dying.

Jairus knew what to do!  He laced up his sandals, grabbed his staff and went out to find Jesus.  When he found Him, Jairus fell to his knees and pleaded for Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

It May Get Worse Before It Gets Better!

Jesus agreed to go.  Jairus must have thought, “All is well. Jesus is going to take care of this. The worst is behind us.” But that’s not what happened. In fact, it was going to get worse before it would get better! As they were heading toward the house, Jairus looked ahead and saw one of his servants approaching. From the grim look on the servant’s face, Jairus knew the report before the servant ever opened his mouth – his daughter was dead.

Things sometimes get worse before they get better.

Have you ever declared your trust in God’s promises only to see things then take a turn for the worse?  This is how it can be in our own lives when we take a stand for God. Things sometimes get worse before they get better. It seems counterintuitive. We think that things should immediately begin to look up. But just as in the story of Jairus and his daughter, our situations can go from being “sick” to “dead.”

It is at this point that we, and those around us, typically give up hope. We throw in the towel, assume the end has come, and we are now left to deal with the devastation. But God has other plans!

When things have gone from bad to worse and the future looks grim, just hold on! Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up! Don’t lose your faith.  Your situation may have gotten worse since you put it in Jesus’ hands, but hold on to the promises you know to be true. Jesus is on His way. Your miracle is coming.

Just Get Out!

Jesus arrived at the house of Jairus to the sound of great wailing and sorrow. HeJairus asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping?”  When He declared, “The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep,” they laughed Him to scorn.  Their disbelief was obvious.

What Jesus did next teaches us a great lesson about faith and the miraculous. Jesus told all but the parents to leave.  He put them all out! He told all the scoffers, skeptics, and cynics – to get out! He put all the crying, weeping, unbelieving naysayers out of the house!

It’s hard to hear the Word of the Lord when we are surrounded with the voices of skeptics and scoffers.  The sound of naysayers can easily drown out the voice of Jesus declaring that our promise, ministry or future is not dead, but only asleep.

Sometimes we just have to say, “Get out!”  I’m not advocating being rude or unkind, but there are times when we must rid our lives of the voices that speak doubt and discouragement into our situations.  Our faith is too precious a commodity for us to let it be eroded by giving ear to the wrong voices.

So often the most vocal scoffers and skeptics are the ones who had nothing to do with the birth of our promise or ministry.

Perhaps there was another reason Jesus put out all the people except the parents.  Only Jarius and his wife knew first hand the travail and struggle of giving birth to the child that was lying lifeless on the bed.  They were the ones who had brought the little girl into the world – not all the scoffers and skeptics who were laughing at the prophetic Words of Jesus.

So often the most vocal scoffers and skeptics are the ones who had nothing to do with the birth of our promise or ministry.  Those who have had no vested interest in our purpose or destiny are often the first to voice doubt and unbelief.  But remember – they weren’t there when you gave birth to your promise or calling.  They weren’t in your prayer closet to hear the sounds of your spiritual travail.  They didn’t hear the voice of the Lord that you heard.  It’s easy for people to be skeptical of your dreams when they were not around when God spoke them into your life – when they have no investment in your destiny.

There’s about to be an awakening in your life.  Jesus is about to breathe His life-giving Spirit back into your destiny, promise or vision.  Sometimes you’ve just got to tell the scoffers and skeptics to get out so you can hear the reassuring words of Jesus: “she’s not dead, only asleep!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Unity’s Blessings and Benefits

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion. Today we’re moving on to chapter two!

Philippians 2:1–2: 1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (KJV)

Unity_TreatedChapter two opens with an appeal by Paul for unity among the Philippians. Paul knows all too well the negative impact that disunity and strife have in the church. He’s admonishing them to be likeminded, to love one another and to be of one accord and one mind. As we saw in chapter one, Paul had personally experienced the hurt and pain caused by Christian “brothers” who opted for personal gain and notoriety at the expense of Paul and unity within the church. Paul wants the best for the Philippians and he knows that unity in the church will invite an outpouring of God’s blessings.

The wording in the King James version can be a little difficult to understand. Let’s take a look at it in the NIV:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Paul begins his appeal for unity by asking a series of questions. He isn’t asking them because he or the Philippians don’t already know the answer. They are rhetorical questions. The answers are obvious:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?

Is there any comfort from His love?

Is there any fellowship together in the Spirit?

Is there any affection and compassion in your spirit?

The answer to all the questions is clearly, “Yes!”

Paul is using a series of rhetorical questions to drive home the point that there is encouragement, comfort, fellowship, and love found in Christ. And how are those things brought out and experienced to the fullest? – Through love and unity among believers.

Paul is asking if these things can be found in Christ.  The answer is obviously, “Yes!” And how are they experienced? By being:

“likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3

When the church is in unity and agreement, loves one another and is working together with one mind and purpose, then all the encouragement, comfort, fellowship of the Spirit and love of Christ is accentuated. The opposite is certainty true as well. Disunity will undermine and erode the joys of the Christian life.

Paul also reminds the Philippians that their unity in the church will bring him joyPhilippians as well. He said to “fulfill ye my joy” by being of one accord and one mind. When a church is working together in unity, it brings joy to the pastor and spiritual leaders of the church. Few things burden a pastor or are more taxing on his peace of mind than a church that is full of strife and division. And it goes to reason that if unity among the Philippians, brought Paul joy then unity in the body of Christ causes our Lord joy! Let’s fulfill our spiritual leaders joy by nurturing unity within our local church. Let’s fulfill our Savior’s joy by promoting unity in the body of Christ!

Not only does disunity and strife erode our joy, the joy of our spiritual leaders and the Lord’s joy, it makes enduring suffering so much more difficult. 

There’s another encouraging truth in this passage that is easily overlooked. Paul is connecting the end of chapter one with his call to unity in chapter two. He begins chapter two with the word “therefore.” Remember, he has just finished up chapter one by talking about suffering. He lets the Philippians know that, as followers of Christ, they will suffer for the cause of Christ. Then he starts chapter two with, “Therefore….”

It’s much easier to keep a good attitude during times of adversity and suffering when you are experiencing the blessings that come from unity with the body of Christ. It is the encouragement from belonging to Christ, the comfort from His love, the fellowship together in the Spirit, and the affection and compassion of our brothers and sisters in Christ that enable us to endure suffering. Imagine how difficult it would be to endure suffering without having the strength that comes from being unified with other believers!

Not only does disunity and strife erode our joy, the joy of our spiritual leaders and the Lord’s joy, it makes enduring suffering so much more difficult. It makes it nearly impossible to keep a good attitude during affliction. It’s like Paul is telling the Philippians:

You are going to suffer for Christ – make sure you stay in unity with your brothers and sisters, because that’s how you’ll make it through your tough times!  That’s what will bring real encouragement and comfort.

I’ve seen many Christians, pull away from the body of Christ or local church and isolate themselves when going through difficulties. That is the worst thing you can do during times of suffering. When we are going through tests and trials we need the body of Christ all the more – we need the strength of our local church all the more!

I’m out of time for today. Next week we’ll look a little deeper and see that Paul actually tells us how to have unity in the body. He gives us the recipe for unity – a recipe so needed in this day where division, strife, and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Until next week,

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: How to Benefit from Suffering

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion. Today we’re examining chapter one, and verses 29-30:

Philippians 1:29 – 30: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (KJV)

PhilippiansThis passage is about something people don’t like to think about or talk about: suffering! Who wants to suffer? No one! No one enjoys suffering. No one looks forward to suffering. No one wishes for suffering. We avoid suffering as much as possible.

It’s difficult to fathom the idea that one can find benefit, even joy, in suffering. Before we explore that notion, let’s define what kind of suffering Paul is talking about. He is not referring to pointless or random suffering – he is talking about suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

Some people suffer but will find no benefit or blessing in it because they are suffering for the wrong reasons. Some people suffer because of their own poor choices. Bad decisions, unholy lifestyles, unhealthy habits, and damaging behaviors result in suffering – but that’s not the kind of suffering Paul is talking about nor the kind of suffering that will bring us any benefit. Paul is talking about suffering for the cause of Christ – and that kind of suffering can result in all sorts of spiritual blessings and benefits.

Paul did not mince words with the Philippians! He told them to get ready because it’s going to happen!

“For unto you it is given…to suffer for his sake;”

 As Christians, we will suffer. By standing for truth and righteousness, we will attract the persecution of evil people. When we follow God’s Word and Will, we will suffer adversity and opposition from the enemy. When we deny our flesh, pick up our cross, and follow Him, our carnal man will experience some suffering.

So it’s not a matter of “Will we suffer?”, it’s a matter of “Will we suffer for the right reasons and be benefited from it?”  We will be able to keep a good attitude through our suffering? Will we allow the suffering to produce something positive in us?

Paul told the Philippians they were going to experience some of the same difficulties that he had experienced:

“Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

Throughout chapter one Paul described the adversity and persecution that he wasPhilippians suffering. Yet Paul kept an excellent attitude through it all. He was able to find the silver lining in his trials. He demonstrated faith that God was going to bring good out of his afflictions.

Now he’s telling the Philippians he has suffered – get ready – you’ll have to endure some of the same things. I’ve suffered for the cause of Christ, yet kept the right attitude and spirit. Now you’ll have to endure some difficult things. Will you be able to keep a good spirit? What will your attitude be in the fire?

Paul, in essence was saying,

  • I was unjustly treated and falsely accused but kept a good attitude. You’ll experience similar treatment. What will your attitude be?
  • I was thrown in prison but still praised God. You’re going to be thrown into a bad situation. Will you be able to praise God?
  • My Christian Brothers talked poorly about me and used my imprisonment to advance their own ministry, but I responded, “What does it matter, Christ is being preached and for that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). Now somebody’s going to talk poorly about you! How are you going to handle it? Are you going to get all bent out of shape or bitter? Or will you say, “What does it matter?”

What will your attitude be in the Fire?

Suffering is inevitable. Benefitting from our suffering is not. 

Peter spoke of a joy that should accompany those who suffer for the cause of Christ:

1 Peter 4:12–13 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Why would we rejoice if we suffer? Because if we keep the right attitude, stay close to God, and remain steadfast through our trials, our suffering will work for us, not against us!

2 Corinthians 4:17 – 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

How does suffering work for us? Was does it produce? Peter gives us the answer:

1 Peter 5:10: 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

When we suffer for the cause of Christ and keep the right attitude, God will:

  1. Make us perfect (mature)
  2. Establish us
  3. Strengthen us
  4. Settle us

Suffering is inevitable. Benefitting from our suffering is not. That depends upon our reason for suffering (for the cause of Christ, not for foolish choices) and us keeping the right attitude through our suffering.

So if you’re enduring suffering right now because of your faith and your stand for Christ, be encouraged. Though you may not see or feel it now, your suffering will bring about a glorious result in your life, both here and in eternity.

~Matthew Ball

Bible Questions Answered

bible questionsAs a pastor and teacher, I get asked a lot of Bible questions.  I do my best to search the scriptures and provide accurate, biblical answers.  It dawned on me that the Bible questions I receive are likely the same or similar questions that others have, so I decided to post some questions I receive and my responses.  I certainly don’t know all the answers, but hopefully the answers I’ve given will be a blessing and a source of information for you in your study of God’s Word.

Question from JF:

I am currently reading through Matthew.  In Matthew 3:13, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus but doesn’t want to because he feels like he is the one that needs to be baptized by Jesus.  However, in Matthew 11:2, it states:  “John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing.  So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” 

How does John recognize who Jesus is when he baptizes Him, but then sends his disciples to question Him later?  

Then, in Matthew 17:12-13, it indicates that John the Baptist was Elijah who came back to set things in order.  I know I’ve heard people talk about this before.  How do you interpret that?

Thanks!

 

Reply:

Thanks for your questions, JF.  First of all, we see in the story of John the Baptist the effect that discouragement can have upon a person.  John the Baptist, of course, knew Jesus – John and Jesus were cousins.  At some point – whether early in life growing up together (which I think it the case) or at Jesus’ baptism –  John believes that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, after a season in jail, feeling left alone, betrayed, and offended, John begins to doubt that Jesus is the Messiah.

We need to do our best to ward off discouragement through prayer, devotion, worship, and faithfulness to a local church.

We can see how powerfully offense and discouragement can affect a person.  John was wrestling with offense, because Jesus said to John, “Blessed is He who is not offended in Me” (Matthew 11:6). When people get offended, wounded, discouraged, etc., it can breed unbelief, doubt and fear.  It can cause you to doubt your previous convictions and conclusions.  John was discouraged and wrestling with offense and that affected his faith and his vision of Jesus.  We need to be careful that bitterness and offense don’t creep into our lives.  We need to do our best to ward off discouragement through prayer, devotion, worship, and faithfulness to a local church.  We don’t want discouragement and offense to skew our perception of Jesus or make us doubt what we know to be truth!

In response to your second question, I believe the passage you referenced to be figurative.  John was not literally Elijah but had come in the spirit or anointing of Elijah. His ministry, purpose, and approach was so similar to that of Elijah that people remarked that John the Baptist was Elijah. In the Old Testament it was said of Elisha: “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.”  Elisha was not literally Elijah – they were two distinct people – but Elisha walked in the spirit and anointing of Elijah.  I believe this is what is meant by John the Baptist being referred to as Elijah.

I hope these answers help.  God bless.

~Pastor Ball

** If you have any Bible questions, feel free to post them in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Choosing a Bible Translation

KJV, NIV, NASV, ESV, NKJV, TEV, TLB  – The sheer number of versions can be overwhelming.  How do you go about choosing the right Bible translation?  The following article by my friend, Nate Whitley, will shed some light on the matter!

Choosing a Bible Translation

by Nate Whitley

If you are looking to buy a Bible, walking into a bookstore can be overwhelming. This is especially true in Christian bookstores. Shelves and aisles are full of different Bible translations, not to mention the specialty Bibles that range from student editions to camo-covered versions for hunters. Picking a Bible translation is sometimes like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

My intent is to help you choose an English Bible. This endeavor could be compared to rushing in where angels fear to tread. The terrain of opinions on English Bible translations varies far and wide. This article is not being written to change your mind about, advocate, nor denigrate any particular translation; but simply to guide you in making a decision. The Bible stands at the heart of the Christian faith, and a topic of such importance touches a vital part of our foundation. This article is not to poke and prod as much as it is to point and present.

Bible TranslationChristians should be very careful to belittle any translation of the Bible. God has used various translations to bless His people and to bring people to faith in Him. If Bible translations were a commodity, English-speaking people would be the owners of Bibles on a thousand hills. Not all English Bibles are created equal. Forced to choose, however, between not having any translation of the Bible, and having an inferior translation, I would choose the inferior translation. If Christians are reading the Bible, I believe we have succeeded. I do not believe anyone could argue that less people need to read the Bible in the United States. If anything, we need more people reading the Bible regardless of which English translation they prefer. Biblical illiteracy is rampant in our culture, and nowhere is that more visible than the church pew.

It is important to keep in mind that the Word of God is infallible. Translators of the Word of God, however, are not. God used fallible men to write His Word, and He has used fallible men to translate and publish His Word. The Author and His Word are perfect, but there is not a perfect language and there is not a perfect translation. Nevertheless, we are not without hope. Thankfully, God has blessed us with many wonderful English translations that are more than adequate.

When choosing a Bible translation it is important to make a well-informed decision, not one based upon emotion, marketing, or tradition. Instead, there are a few basic principles to keep in mind as you make a decision:

Inspiration: Scripture is inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Inspiration speaks of the original writing process and text. Divine inspiration does not extend to the efforts to copy and translate the original text. The original texts were written in Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek and Aramaic in the New Testament. Although we do not have the original manuscripts of the authors, we can rightly affirm that the copies and translations we do have are accurate representations. This does not mean we do not have the Word of God today. It simply means that we do not accredit any errors of textual transmission to the original manuscripts, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Word for Word: When studying the Bible it is preferable to use a literal Bible translation. Since the majority of Christians do not know Hebrew and Greek we have to settle for a more literal English translation. Scholars tend to call this a “word for word” translation. A good literal translation endeavors to translate the original text, word for word, without sacrificing proper English grammar. Word for word translations are very useful for in-depth Bible study.

Versions such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the King James Version (KJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV) are just a few of the excellent choices among word for word translations. When choosing one of these versions, it is good to consider their readability. Some are easier to read than others, and others may be more difficult.

Thought for Thought:  Some translations are considered “thought for thought,” also called “dynamic equivalency.” By definition, the translators attempt to balance literal translation and idiomatic readability. Meaning, the translation is much easier to read. The translators are concerned with the accuracy of the translation, but also weigh the intended thought of the original writer. Translators of thought for thought translations take a little more liberty in making frequent modifications to make the writer’s thoughts more clear.

The worst kind of Bible is a neglected Bible.

If you are looking for a Bible that does not sacrifice accuracy but is much easier to read, then the New International Version (NIV), New Century Version (NCV), and New Living Translation (NLT) are excellent places to start.

Paraphrase: Finally, there are paraphrase Bibles. Technically, a paraphrase is not a translation of the original languages. A paraphrase is a restatement of a text or passage giving the meaning in another form. Paraphrase Bibles have become quite popular in the past few decades due to their modern vernacular and accessibility. The purpose of the paraphrase is to clarify meaning in a text. A paraphrase Bible is trying to communicate God’s message in a very clear modern language. However, modern vernacular in paraphrase Bibles often cloud theological truths.

Paraphrase Bibles have their place in Christian reading. However, paraphrase Bibles are not recommended for serious Bible study due to their attempts to explain the text rather than translate the original text. This results in the paraphrase adding or taking away from the original text for the sake of readability. The Living Bible and the Message are examples of paraphrase Bibles.

Conclusion: Christians should be students of the Bible. The study of God’s Word is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and correction and in training for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The same type of study and research should go into finding the most suitable English translation for your personal study and devotions.

God has graciously given to us His Word, and God in His sovereignty has used many different translations to build His church. The Word of God has adequately communicated in various English translations the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for this we should be thankful. We should be grateful that we have many translations at our fingertips, while there are many countries with people who do not have a translation of the Bible that they can understand.

It is better to have people, especially Christians, read a weak Bible translation than not to read the Bible at all. God can use any version to bless people. The worst kind of Bible is a neglected Bible. God forbid that we would neglect to read and study the Bible while we have such an abundance of riches!

~ Pastor Nate Whitley

Nate Whitley is currently earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.  He is the author of the book, “The Lost Art of Spiritual Disciplines” which you can find on Amazon: The Lost Art of Spiritual Disciplines