Saturday, November 1, 2008

They Loved Not Their Lives

Joseph Herrin (11-01-08)

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

The message contained here has been on my heart for a number of days, and I sensed that it needed to be written. Understanding and embracing what is shared here will be vital for all those who would pass through the approaching days of trouble as overcomers in Christ. It is a difficult message to convey to a church that has known very little in the way of suffering hardship, nor standing in faith when there is a cost to be borne.

I will share part of my own testimony in this matter, and I will freely tell you that there have been many who have condemned me for walking down a path that led not only to personal suffering, but to suffering in the lives of my wife and children. I do not doubt that some reading these things will continue to charge me with error, but before God my conscience knows no condemnation in these things.

The Spirit of Christ is testifying that what I was led to face in past days will become a common trial in days ahead. If you walk with God through what is coming, and do not shrink back, you will find my experiences familiar. A great many believers will be brought to similar trials. It is my hope that you might avail yourself of the grace to count the cost, and to follow your Lord to whatever end He may choose for you. The people of God will be called to endure many trials. God will not lead His people to avoid these trials, but they can be passed through successfully.

It is necessary to define what success is in God’s eyes. Many Christians have defined success in ways that are foreign to the mind of God. I know that success to a great many Christians is equated to a life of comfort, devoid of pain and suffering. Let me provide an example to illustrate this.

In 1999 the Lord called me to leave my employment as a computer professional and to enter into a ministry of writing while trusting Him for all the provision of my family. I had a wife and two children who were at that time ten and twelve years old. The experiences we went through for a period of six years were fraught with trials and difficulties. We rarely had enough money to purchase anything beyond bare necessities, but God always provided that which was necessary.

I have written of these experiences in the book Evidence of Things Unseen. My family and I were able to witness a large number of divine interventions on our behalf. God would bring us to some trial and then deliver us from the peril that threatened us, often at the very last second.

Over and over God led us into a crisis, testing our faith and obedience. I was tempted to turn back from the path God had directed me to walk down on many occasions. It was his grace, and a fear of falling short of God’s pleasure, that kept me from shrinking back. I found the path God directed me to walk very painful, and God did not spare me the reproaches and condemnation of fellow Christians, family members, and friends.

I could have turned away from the course God directed me down, but I knew to do so was disobedience. I knew that the promises of God are obtained by costly obedience, and I feared disqualifying myself for the crown set before me, and I feared influencing any of my family members to do the same. I could not bear the thought of being responsible for causing my wife or children to stumble in faith and obedience through the example of my own failure.

Many Christians choose to avoid such a life, for they do not view things from the same perspective as God. Many Christians are much too temporally focused, rather than looking to the future when we will all receive reward for the deeds done in the flesh. If brought to choose, many Christians would prefer a long life free of suffering that fell short of obedience, over a short life of great conflict and victory. In the end, none who choose the more difficult path will regret having done so, but those who choose to avoid suffering will experience weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth when they stand before the Lord of glory.

I am convinced that most Christians view death similarly to the unregenerate world. When a person dies at a young age it is considered a tragedy, even if the person died in faith, and was living a life of devotion to the Lord. Death is something that all must experience.

Hebrews 9:27
It is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment...

The Son of God was only 33 years of age at His death. His was a triumphant death, and precious in the sight of God. So too are the deaths of all of those who die while living a life of devotion, faith and obedience before the Father.

Psalms 116:15
Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of His godly ones.

Length of life is not a measure of value in the eyes of God. God looks at the quality of a person’s life. Did they obey Him? Did they drink the cup of suffering He presented to them? When brought to the test, did they choose to please Him rather than pleasing themselves? The Bible is filled with testimonies of the type of lives God esteems, and those He despises.

Hebrews 11:35-39
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;
and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith...

One thing the Father showed me through many trials and crosses is that the disciple’s cross must always be borne voluntarily. The sacrifices of the cross are all free will offerings. Yahshua could have avoided the cross. He could have refused to drink from the cup presented to Him, and so can you and I.

In the coming days, Christians will be presented with a choice. The Spirit will indicate that it is the Father’s will that they enter into a wilderness experience of suffering and hardship. There will be alternatives. The world will set forth its offer of peace and safety, but it will come at the cost of disobedience to the Father. The people in the wilderness under Moses’ guidance spoke of appointing themselves new leaders and returning to Egypt. The same temptation will be present in coming days.

You will have to choose to follow the course that you know the Spirit to be guiding you down, even though you see hardship and suffering ahead of you. There was a time when the Lord revealed that it was his will for my family and I to spend six weeks in Payne City. I immediately knew it was going to be “Pain City,” and this was what it truly turned out to be. Obedience to the Father provided no other choice but to follow where He was leading. I could have escaped the pain, but I would have lost all sense of being in the Father’s will, and such a condition seemed a far worse torment to me.

Many people have condemned my walk with the Father, for it brought my family and I to encounter difficulties that could have been avoided if I had chosen to go my own way. The majority of the people condemning me were professing Christians. They judged by sight, rather than by the Spirit. Most considered it a grievous transgression for a man to not provide his family a path of ease when it was in his power to do so. Believers today have no discernment of the ways of God, and His determination that they must be perfected through suffering.

Philippians 1:29
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake...

Luke 21:16-19
"But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Romans 8:16-17
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

The Spirit of Christ has been testifying that the experiences He has led me through during the past nine years have been a foretaste of what is coming to all who will obey Him in coming days. There will be trials of provision. There will be trials of shelter. There will be trials of health. The people of God must face many things, but none of the experiences are without a very grand purpose. It is all for the perfecting of a body of believers, and the removal of all infirmity and impurity.

Three times during this none year period the Father brought me to a trial of life and death. In order to overcome I had to consider faith and obedience to God of greater value than life itself. Twice this test came as I faced a severe health issue, and once as my wife experienced the same. Of these, I would judge that the experience with my wife was the most difficult of all. I have found that it is easier to cast one’s own life over into the hands of the Father, than to do so with another whom we love.

People of God, these were severe trials, but God gave me the grace to stand and to trust Him. God delivered me from death both times I trusted Him, and my wife turned away from trust in God during her crisis as fear drove her back to Egypt. In order for me to pass through my tests successfully I had to not count my life as precious. I was content with the Father’s will whether He chose to take my life, or let me live. I have found that this too is necessary in order to not be driven away from a path of obedience. There is no tragedy for one who dies obeying the Father and trusting in Him. Yet, to disobey God to prolong one’s life is a great tragedy.

Lest some misunderstand me and the circumstances I was in, I am not suggesting that Christians should never go to a doctor. I think we should all be led of the Spirit. If you have any questions about what the Bible teaches in this matter, or what I teach, I would recommend the writing on Faith and Healing that can be found here:
In my own particular circumstances God had spoken a clear word of direction, and therefore I had a word out of which faith could arise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God told me to not go to the doctor, but to look to Him as My source of healing, and that of my family. Yahweh had proven His faithfulness to us already as He brought healing to the bones of my son who had broken 12 bones by the age of seven.

What do you value? Do you fear God more than you fear suffering, and even death itself? Is prolonging your life of greater importance to you than obeying God? Those who overcome in the days ahead will do so because “they loved not their lives, even when faced with death.”

The Spirit did not record these words for no reason. God will test us to see if we have any idols in our hearts. He will prove us to discern if we value our own skin more than we love Him. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. God was willing to sacrifice His Son, and Yahshua was asked to lay down His life. Such costly obedience staggers the mind. It is a measure of the great love the Father has for His children that He would conform us all to the image of His firstborn Son. We are partakers in His suffering, and in His obedience.

Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

A people who value obedience to God above the love of life itself, will strike fear and terror into the heart of Satan’s kingdom. A people who value life above faith and obedience will be terrified and tormented by the fear of death. They will fall into disobedience. We must come to understand that death is not the tragedy that the world views it as. The only tragedy is to die in disobedience. The godly need not fear death.

I Corinthians 15:54-57
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yahshua Christ.

The fear of death leads to slavery. The fear of death keeps many Christians in bondage when they should be walking in victory knowing that Christ has triumphed over the grave.

Hebrews 2:14-15
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

In the days of trouble which are coming upon the earth, Christians will be enabled to overcome only as they lay aside a love for life itself. They must not count their lives as precious to them, but must count the will of God, faith and obedience, as supremely valuable. There is a great freedom and liberty that comes to the spirit of a man or woman when they are content to let God choose the course of their life. When we are content to leave the matter of our life and death in Yahweh’s hands, then we cease striving. Peace replaces anxiety, and Satan’s ability to torment us is greatly diminished.

From the beginning of the church the cost of discipleship has not changed. To be a disciple a man or woman must hate their own life, not counting it precious.

Luke 14:26
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

I have known many trials in these past years, and the body of Christ will know greater trials in the days ahead. Christ has promised all those who trust Him the grace to endure, not the privilege of avoiding hardship and suffering.

Matthew 24:12-13
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”

Revelation 2:10-11
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”

Those who avoid suffering here will not escape the second death, which is the Lake of Fire. There is great reward for presenting oneself as a free will offering to God in this life. There is no reward for those cast into the Lake of Fire. Those who think they can avoid suffering are deceived. All must pass through the first things as they travel toward the glory and joy that awaits.

Revelation 21:4
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Yahweh is promising us the grace necessary to endure the trial and pass through it successfully. Our success may be sealed with the passing of our own lives. Words are totally inadequate to convey how surpassing precious are the deaths of Christ’s godly ones. What awaits them is so far superior to anything suffered that Paul declares that these present sufferings are not even worthy of comparison.

I have found that there is a certain benefit to embracing the disciple’s cross. This world begins to lose its luster when we find that it offers uncounted trials, difficulties and sorrows. We come to the place where we can truly say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” My love for this world has waned as I have followed Christ closer. But those who have not known the fellowship of His suffering, preferring the fellowship of this world with its passing pleasures, will not be desirous of departing to be with Christ.

A choice will confront all the people of God in the coming days. There is nothing new under the Sun. What has been done, will be done again.

Numbers 14:3
"Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?

Hebrews 11:24-26
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

What will your choice be?

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Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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