The Thief Cometh (Part 1 of 2)

Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. Matthew 27:38

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Two thieves. God’s ways are perfect. And His perfection was certainly on display in the concluding scene of Jesus’ death on earth. Why two thieves? Because these two thieves are symbolic of the primal conflict of our life on earth. The scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the reaction of those witnessing it, encompass the totality of humanity’s condition as it responds to God’s two most profound and juxtaposing attributes – His mercy and His judgment.

Before we launch into this some background is needed on two subjects of great importance in our lives – faith and hope. If you hold on this will eventually all come together. Let’s take a look.

The First Thief Originated In Heaven

Heaven and not earth was the original source of thievery. It began eons ago with God’s most beautiful and wonderfully created archangel, Lucifer. Lucifer was the original thief. What was it that he wanted to steal? One thing, and the same thing he desires to steal todayGod’s glory. Lucifer saw something extraordinarily captivating in witnessing the angelic hosts, of whom he was chief, glorify and magnify the God of Creation. It has been said that one of the most spectacular light shows in Creation was on display when the illuminance of God’s glory passed through the precious stones and gems embedded in Lucifer’s breastplate (Eze 28:13). And he wanted the glory all for himself:

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the highest.  Isaiah 14:13-14

As he also does today. He attempted to overthrow God’s Heavenly kingdom by usurping the glory designed for God to be directed towards himself by deceiving one-third of the angels in the process:

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. Revelation 12:4 

This leads us to its relevance for us today – your faith.

Your Faith Is In the Crosshairs

Lucifer was the original thief, and now as Satan, continues his mission to rob God. But he has a problem robbing God directly since he lost his former position in Heaven. Being the resourceful and shrewd being that he is he has made adjustments. He now robs God indirectly by directly robbing what belongs to God – His people. What does he attempt to rob from God’s people? The source of God’s glory on earth – your faith because your faith gives glory to God. This statement simply cannot be underestimated (remember glory was the very thing Lucifer wanted in Heaven):

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; Romans 4:20

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it is tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 1:7 KJV

Which faith was examined by testing to be approved, that approval being much more precious than the approval of gold which perishes, even though that gold be approved by fire-testing, may be discovered after scrutiny to result in praise and glory and honor at the time of the revelation of Jesus Christ; Wuest

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Satan relishes in every successful attempt to derail or neutralize the faith you possess in Jesus. The thief is out to rob your glory-producing faith in God, indirectly robbing God of the glory due to his name. Faith is powerful. Faith has immense value on earth and in Heaven (I Pet 1:7). Your faith is valuable to you and your faith is valuable to God. At least Satan thinks it is.

It is no coincidence that the one description Jesus used to describe Satan’s work was that of a thief:

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. Mark 11:17

And the believer is admonished to be on the lookout for thieves and faith-robbers:

And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Luke 12:39

And Then There Is Faith’s Other Twin – Hope

The one thing in your life that will give glory to God like nothing else is to activate hope in God amid impossible situations. Faith shines in its finest hour when you ignite hope in God while in the middle of the impossible. In his most horrendous hour, faithlessness was not Job’s problem. Job’s faith was unwavering during his trial (Job 2:3, 27:5). Job did not lose faith in God. Job lost the God of his faith in the darkness! This always results in one thing – hopelessness. Hopelessness was Job’s problem (Job 6:11, 7:6, 14:7 & 10). Job lost hope amid his impossible condition because he lost sight of God. He could not see the promises of restoration or the light of deliverance while wallowing in the despair of his surroundings. Surely you have heard the saying: “You get so busy in the work of the Lord that you forget about the Lord of the work”. Job’s example shows us something – one can have faith and lack hope, but one with hope will always have faith standing nearby.

It is only when God is removed from the hope equation that uncontrollable situations and circumstances in life can give rise to hopelessness. Therefore, we must never lose faith. It is said that the voice of “doubt” says “I can’t believe”. And the voice of unbelief says “I will not believe”. As long as a trace of belief is alive, the miraculous can still happen. At least Jesus things so (Mar 9:23; Joh 3:16, 185:24,11:26, 14:12).

If Satan cannot destroy your faith, he will attempt to take you down through the byproduct of shipwrecked faith – hopelessness. Satan’s second tactic is to destroy your hope while facing your impossible situation. The only way out of hopelessness is to call out to God in faith that He will intervene and speak direction into our hearts. God did it for Job (Job 38:1), Peter (Mar 16:6-7; Joh 21:15-18), and the apostle Paul (Act 27:23-24). And he can do it for you.

Hope is the byproduct of experience distilled from life’s struggles (circumstances & situations) (Rom 5:3-4) while still trusting and hopeful that God has everything under control (Rom 8:28).

Can this explain why hope is a prevalent theme in The Book of Job? Of all the books in the O.T., The Book of Job ranks #2 with 15 references to “hope”. The only book with more references to the word hope is The Book of Psalms with 22 references, which has over twice the number of words and verses as Job. This gives us a good idea of the importance hope played in Job’s life and God’s intentions in communicating the subject.

In the N.T., the word hope is the Greek word “ἐλπίζω” (elpizō) and is oftentimes also translated as the word “trust”. It is interesting that Jesus only spoke the word hope (ἐλπίζω) 2x (Luk 6:34; Joh 5:45) and its near cousin, the word, trust, 2x. And when he did use the four words, it always referenced trust or hope in things outside of himself (armor Luk 11:22; Moses Joh 5:45; riches Mar 10:24, Luk 16:11). Yet, Jesus spoke the word “faith” 26 times!

Hopelessness is the soul’s death knell. Hopelessness is literally Satan’s killer app. But there is yet hope in hopelessness. Oh, yes there is because we serve the God who knows all things and is greater than the pain, confusion, uncertainty, and doubt swirling within a heart troubled by hopelessness:

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Romans 4:18

Who, being beyond hope, upon the basis of hope believed, in order that he might become father of many nations, according to that which has been spoken with finality, In this manner will your offspring be. (Wuest)

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!” The Message Bible

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 1 John 3:20

The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Psalms 103:19

Make note of those last two verses. God, not the devil. rules heaven and earth. And only God KNOWS ALL THINGS! Satan may challenge God’s kingdom, but the Kingdom of God will never be defeated. The very gates of hell cannot contend with the angelic protection Jesus empowers his church with. You are not in this fight alone. You have God, two-thirds of the angelic host in Heaven, and the Church on earth on your side!

Hope is born by believing in the fulfillment of a distant promise that presently seems impossible, but because of an inner belief that irrespective of circumstances, faith that God can intervene is enough to turn around and give HOPE within those circumstances.

As another writer put it: ” biblical hope is a reality and not a feeling” (https:// www.gotquestions.org/Bible-hope.html). Activating a dogged determination to believe and have faith that GOD IS, is able in itself to restore hope. It’s that simple. Just believe that regardless of the situation that dictates otherwise, GOD IS STILL ABLE because HE IS GOD!

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

There are some peculiar things about hope worth mentioning. Faith is both a spiritual gift and a spiritual fruit (I Cor 12:9 & Gal 5:22). Hope is neither. Another interesting aspect of hope is – you either have it or you do not have it. Hope manifests itself as a binary phenomenon and is unlike faith, which can occur in degrees (little faith (Mat 16:8), great faith (Luk 7:9) and no faith (unbelief (Mar 16:14)). Another uncanny attribute about hope is it can be stripped from our lives and rendered ineffective (Eze 37:11; Acts 27:20; Eph 2:12 & I The 4:13). And God can and will allow it to happen. Why? Because hopelessness demands a call for supernatural faith to intervene and revive hope in our lives.

One spark of faith in God’s promises (through the light of His word) is more powerful than what the forces of darkness can unleash upon your soul. A light of hope in God is more powerful than all the weapons of Satan’s darkness. The word of God is a Laser-Saber. Weaponize the word of God in your life and it will repel the spiritual darkness commissioned to destroy you, your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your world. As you know, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God! (Rom 10:17)

In Conclusion

To recap, we discussed the following:

  • The original thief was the archangel, Lucifer in Heaven and he attempted to rob the Lord of glory, the glory He alone is worthy of.
  • Your faith gives glory to God and His glory is very important to Him.
  • Satanic attack is always meant to directly demean God and bring accusation to His Being. Remember, Satan’s #1 motive was for Job to blaspheme God. It was not about Job, it was ultimately about the Lord (Job 1:11 & 2:5).
  • Satan indirectly attacks God by directly attacking a source of His glory, which is your faith.
  •  Hope and faith (and love) are inextricably linked to each another. We are saved by hope (Rom 8:24). And one can have faith and not have hope (Acts 27:20). But one with hope will always have faith.
  • God can willfully take hope away from your life to refine your faith and take it to a higher level. The result is always greater blessings, clearer revelation, purer faith, and deeper hope. The process does not necessarily make us greater, but it always makes God grander.

In the next and final installment on this subject, we will look into two diametrically opposed attributes of God’s nature – His mercy and judgment and how the two thieves next to Jesus on the cross synthesize at that moment in time humanity’s two possible responses when faced with the most astounding substance God ever created- His own blood. Stay tuned!

And Samson

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Samson.

Every child who has ever attended Sunday School knows all about Samson. What child’s imagination does not get sparked by his mighty exploits? From the setting afire the tails of a skittish skulk of 300 foxes (Judges 15:4-6), the killing of 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:15-17), ripping out single-handedly the gates of the enemy’s fortified city (Judges 16:3), and the breaking of ropes as if sewing thread (Judges 15:12-13, 16:11-12). Purely fantastic fodder for the imaginative mind.

And God had a divine and outstanding mission planned for Samson before his birth:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Judges 13:3-5

Samson had it all. From the beginning he had both Heaven’s anointing and destiny imprinted upon his soul. Samson was called to deliver Israel from her enemies the Philistines. And to a degree he did.

Moreover, Samson was both one of the most enigmatic figures ever recorded in the Old Testament and Samson was also one of the most tragic figures recorded in the Old Testament.

And Samson.

The Pillars

If we could go back in time ourselves and embrace the imagination of a child we just might see what God possibly saw in the last scene of Samson’s life:

But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Judges 16:21

There he is swarming within all of the theatrics and drama of life. A pitiful figure Samson is. Where his laser sharp and dark piercing eyes once were are now scarred and disfigured eye sockets. Where freedom once allowed the man to tromp over his enemy’s heads in vengeance, he is now bound like an animal in a parade of mockery.

Let us also imagine and wonder how the Lord perceived this. How did God feel while looking at this pitiful scene? It had to have broken His heart. The God of Glory had to have wept and mourned for Samson. The promises. The anointing. All the hope vanished in a moment. Only a heart-less king and ruler would respond otherwise.

But, God is God and not man.

And Samson.

And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Judges 16:26

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29

Perhaps in Samson’s mind thoughts of his troubled past interlaced with divine thoughts of future hope and glory. And maybe he uttered these words:

“Lad, let me feel the pillars. I cannot see them, but just let me feel them because I know a God who still performs miracles. I’ve seen Him do them in my past, and by God’s grace and mercy, He can do it again. Because I know a God who is still in the miracle-working business.”

He was physically blinded, but somehow Samson miraculously sensed pillars in the room, and one more important pillar, a spiritual one. The pillar of his God was also present, for his one true Pillar of truth had not forsaken him and gave him renewed hope exactly when he needed it most.

And Samson

Maybe you were wondering by now why the repeated, maybe even disruptive repetition of the phrase “And of Samson”? (the word “of” is not in the original Greek) Here is why:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Hebrews 11:32

Nestled on the wall of Heaven’s Champions of Faith as recorded in Hebrews Chapter 11 is a most unlikely person. He was perhaps God’s most colossal failure. He stumbled. He fell. He embarrassed himself, he embarrassed Israel and He embarrassed Jehovah God. So why would God care? Why would the Lord waste more time and divine resources on a fallen hero? There is one reason:

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. Hosea 11:9

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

When man would say: “Let’s move on. Done deal. The damage is done. No damage control in the world can rectify this situation.” Heaven says: “Not so fast“.

Hopeless? In “the world”, yes. In Heaven, absolutely NOT.

For God is God and not man.

Man may, but God never extinguishes even the faintest glimmer of hope or faith in anyone. A raging forest fire can be started by one small spark. One spark of faith and hope in a heart can be the beginning of new life in impossible situations and when facing insurmountable odds.

It was one last spark that changed Samson’s world. And one last spark was all Samson needed:

Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Judges 16:27-30

Samson’s final act was his very best. Up to this point in his life is it not mentioned where he ever prayed. But, here we see Samson prayed to his God. And his God heard it.

Because of his prayer and faith in God, the Lord honored it, gave him the victory and saw fit to place his name on His wall of faith. Samson got a piece of the wall and became one of God’s pillars of faith. His name is nestled right smack in the middle of the godly and victorious company of Gedeon,  Barak, Jephthae and Samuel.

Why? Because the faith Samson exercised at the end of his life simply pleased God. For without faith it is impossible to please Him.

The Lord took the crumbling wreckage of the pillars of Samson’s life and transformed them into a pillar of faith for all of time and eternity.

It is not over until God says it is over. And God is still in the miracle-working business. Our God is the Master of turning Messes into Masterpieces!

God is God and not Man.

And Samson.

Be Blessed!

Love Is A Fight

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? I Peter 4:18

Love is a fight. A fight to the finish. You don’t believe it? Hopefully, after further explanation of the above verse you will be convinced.

A song was released several years back entitled “Love Is Not A Fight” that was a soundtrack pick for the popular move ‘Fireproof.’ It is a great song, great lyrics with an upbeat rhythm. And from the song’s perspective on love in general, and for marriage in particular, the message makes a lot of sense.

However, in retrospect, love for some things in life are indeed a battle to the finish line. What are we talking about here? We are talking about a love that goes beyond the bedroom and into a throne room. The throne room of God where Jesus Christ is seated:

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. The Book of Revelation 1:12-16

This is the source of love being spoken of here. Jesus’ love is not cheap. This love is not merchandise. Jesus’ love is pure. Jesus’ love is precious. Jesus’ love is perfect. This love was forged in a furnace of affliction, shrouded in a cacophony of shame, and purified by pain beyond imagination:

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5

People of faith are going to have to fight with everything they have to keep this love alive to the finish line, and not let up until the enemy of our soul is beaten all the way to the 10 count.

Many years ago the following scripture was shared with a group of teenage Sunday school students:

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? I Peter 4:18

As explained to them, from the surface the initial interpretation that comes to mind when reading the word “scarcely” is: barely, by the skin of one’s teeth, or just about “making it in”. However, further inspection reveals that the Apostle Peter had something else in mind here when penning the words about “making it” into heaven.

The word ‘scarcely’ used here is the translation of the Greek word μόλις (molis) which means “with difficulty: – hardly, with much work”. The Word is the Word and you just cannot twist it or airbrush it. What does this mean?

It means that to “be saved” is going to involve a battle. To make it into heaven is going to involve much work, toil, difficulty – in short, a fight. The Apostle Paul was inspired under the same vein of thought when addressing his young protégé and “son in the Lord” Timothy:

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I Timothy 6:12

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: II Timothy 4:7

Right before his pending execution Paul penned these final, parting words intended for encouragement, admonishment and heart-felt compassion for his son – remember, to keep the torch of truth and the love of Christ alive a fight would have to be won.

Is it any different for us living in the 21st century with the world around us fulfilling the prophetic words of Jesus:

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Luke 21:25

The words “the sea and the waves roaring” sounds like a description of hurricanes and typhoons. We have to be awake in this hour. We might put on a pair of boxing gloves and start fighting for our lives, for our families and our neighbors who are positioned on later half of the opening verse of I Peter 4:18 – where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

May Jesus helps us all.