"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Raising The Standard: Determination Is Realizing That My Present Struggles Are Essential For Future Achievement

How Does Scripture Illustrate Determination In Using Struggles For Future Achievement?
The Angry faces of those who had come to debate stood out in the crowd. Their pride was fortified by years of study in the disciplines of their teachings.
As they observed the honor and the attentiveness which the crowd gave the speaker, their anger intensified. Then these men assumed facial expressions feigning humility and respect and began to lay their verbal traps. The role of the crowd changed from learner to jury. The speaker studied the faces of these unfamiliar visitors. His piercing eyes became uncomfortably distracting to them, and the debaters found it necessary to look into the distance to maintain their train of thought and finish their well-rehearsed questions. They were quite skilled in debate. For years they had reacted to the strict disciplines under which they lived. They spent long hours discussing with their friends and teachers the inconsistencies of their teachings and the merits of greater freedom in fulfilling their natural desires. Their manner of life and related philosophies had molded them into a cohesive and respected religious group. It was important to them that people understood their ideas and respected their way of living. All attentively waited as the speaker organized his thoughts to answer their questions. Then with remarkable insight, he exposed the folly of their thinking and living. He spoke with such practical wisdom and spiritual power that they were reduced to shame, and they left in humiliation. They had never been exposed to such an opponent, and they realized that their future depended on their ability to discredit him. To this end they gave their full attention. Hiring men to accuse him falsely, they united with others who wanted to see him and his colleagues silenced. Their contrived accusations were serious, and he was brought before city officials. His defense was so convincing and convicting that the mob which these men had stirred up covered their ears and ground their teeth at him in a rage. Their next action was destined to fan the fires of the greatest spiritual upheaval the world has ever known. They rushed against him, dragging him out of the council to the outskirts of the city. There they picked up any rock they could find and flung them at him until he died. That scene was indelibly imprinted in the mind of one young man who watched. He saw how the face of that martyr became more and more radiant as the pain from the final assault intensified. That bystander was the apostle Paul. The triumph of this determined martyr whose name was Stephen became a motivation for his life and an example for his death. (From Acts 6 and 7)
Why Was Stephen's Ministry So Effective?
The clue to the secret of Stephen's effective ministry is given in his address to the Sanhedrin. The address indicates a comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures. Stephen had evidently mastered the record of God's great acts from the time of Abraham to his present day. In addition, he quoted from memory passages of Scripture from the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Amos. Stephen was a responsible man of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3). He was also willing to serve and demonstrated faith, grace and power (Acts 6:5, 8). His ministry was successful because Stephen's mind was saturated with God's thoughts.
Why Was A Man Like Stephen Persecuted?
Stephen was persecuted because he spoke out against the corruption of temple worship. By doing so,he provoked the anger of officials who were profiting from these fraudulent practices. The priest's livelihood depended on the lucrative business of temple worship. "Pre-approved" sacrificial animals were sold at exorbinant prices. A fifteen percent fee was charged for changing foreign money into the required Galilean shekel for the temple tax (cf. Matthew 21:12, 13). These men formally accused Stephen of blasphemy against God, the temple in Jerusalem, Moses the Law-giver and the Law itself (Acts 6:11, 13). Stephen was also accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the temple and change of destroy the customs handed down from Moses (Acts 6:14).
What Were The Effects of Stephen's Death?
Because of Stephen's martyrdom, the message of the Gospel was given a great impetus throughout the world. The Lord had commissioned His disciples to go to every nation with the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20); Acts 1:8). After his death, the first organized persecution was directed primarily against Hellenistic believers (cf. Acts 8:1). As a result, the message of salvation spread throughout all of Judea, Samaria and eventually the entire world (cf. Romans 1:8).
How Does The Cecropia Moth Illustrate Determination In Using Struggles For Future Achievement?
The wealth of the ancient Chinese city could be attributed to one industry - silk. As early as 2600 B.C. the people of this country had developed the technique of softening the cocoon, locating the filament end and unwinding the delicate material. They then, combined several strands together to form a single, stronger thread of silk.
So important was this trade to these people that to maintain their monopoly they imposed the death penalty on anyone who tried to take the eggs or silkworms out of the country. In spite of this harsh penalty, the silkworm industry gradually became dispersed. In the fourth century a Chinese princess carried some eggs out of the country in her headdress when she married a man in Buchara, a medieval Islamic center of culture and trade. From there the eggs spread to other nations. A North American species of the silkworm is the cecropia moth. Their cocoons may be seen in trees and bushes during the winter months. They are often carried into homes for observation and study where the fascinating events of the emerging moth are attentively watched. On one such occasion a young viewer watched with awe as the top of the cocoon broke open and the moth struggled to release itself. As he watched the moth struggle to exert its newly-formed muscles, he observed that its progress was very slow. In an effort to help, he reached down and widened the opening of the cocoon to make it easier for the moth to get out. Within a few minutes it was free from its prison. The moths shriveled wings were wrapped close to its body. Soon the wings would fill out and it would be able to fly. But as the boy watched, the wings remained shriveled. Something was wrong. What the child did not realize was that the struggle to get out of the cocoon was an essential means of developing the muscle system of the moth's body. The pressure of these muscles working together was necessary to push the blood into the wings and fill them out to their full dimension. In an effort to relieve a struggle, the boy had crippled the future of this creature. He realized at the expense of the cecropia moth that present struggles are essential for future achievement.

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