Trial Before Deliverance

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There were mountains on either side, the Red Sea in Front and the Egyptian army behind.

Can you imagine the terror of that moment, the fear that must have gripped every Israelite heart? Wouldn’t it be exciting to have been there when God came to Israel’s aid by parting the Red Sea before them?

Imagine watching God work like that in your own life. Wouldn’t you love to have your own “parting of the Red sea” story to tell?

In our desire to see God move mightily in our lives, we often forget that trial comes before deliverance. If the Israelites had not been trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red sea God would not have needed to part the waters in front of them.

Think of all of the great stories of Scripture. If the children of Israel had never run out of food, God would not have provided Manna for them. If they had never run out of water, He would not have brought water out of a rock.

Over the course of his lifetime, George Muller opened multiple orphanages that collectively cared for over 10,000 orphans. His orphanages were run on faith and prayer alone. He never asked anyone for money even when his ministry was in the most desperate need.

One morning the housekeeper of one of the orphan houses came to George Muller and informed him that there was no more food in the house nor was there money to buy any. When the orphans assembled for breakfast, George Muller bowed his head and prayed, thanking God for the food that He would provide. As He finished, a nock was heard on the door. A milk cart had just broken down outside the orphanage. Since the milk was liable to spoil before it could be delivered the driver wondered if the orphanage could use it. George Muller joyfully dispatched several of the older boys to carry in the milk. A moment later a second nock was heard. This time a baker stood outside. He explained that he had been unable to sleep the night before because the Lord had impressed the orphans upon his mind. He had spent all that night baking bread for the orphanage.

I don’t know about you but I want that. I long to see prayers answered and impossible situations turned on their heads. But in order for God to deliver us so miraculously, we first need to be trapped in an impossible situation.

Far too often when things go badly I become fearful or frustrated. I forget that these are the very moments when we get to see God work.

Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;”

The psalmist declares that he will not fear even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances. Why? God is our refuge and strength. He is our help in trouble.

As believers, we never need to fear because our God is a very present help in trouble. We can rejoice in trials because our God is working in and through them to bring glory to His name.

Tested by Fire

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Do you trust God?

When the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the sky is clear it is easy to say that we trust God. When we have everything that we need and want and all of our dreams and desires are fulfilled it is easy to say that we trust God. When the road ahead is clear and smooth it is easy to say that we trust God.

But what about when things are not easy, when all of our dreams go up in flames, when life becomes painful and confusing?

In the good times, it is easy to say that we trust God but it is in the hard times that our trust is tested and proven. If we can only trust God when life is easy, we do not truly trust Him at all.

1 Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

In this passage, Peter tells us that we are grieved by various trials so that our faith may be proven genuine. According to this passage then, if our faith fails us at the time of trial it is not genuine.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith is something that is seen in response to something that is not seen. We cannot see God but we can see a believer’s calm assurance in the midst of pain, peace in the midst of chaotic circumstances and trust in the midst of heartbreak.

Just as a candle’s light seems brighter the darker its surroundings, so a believer’s trust in the unseen God shines brighter the darker their circumstance. Candlelight in the middle of the day is barely noticeable. In the same way, a believer’s confidence in God when all is going well is hardly striking. True faith is not snuffed out by trials instead it shines brightly in the midst of them.

Our faith is proven genuine and displayed for all to see when it is tested by trials and difficulty. The underground church in China has a saying, “real gold fears no fire.” Real gold is not destroyed by fire. It is purified by fire. In the same way, true faith is never destroyed by trials. It is only strengthened and purified by them.

What about you? Is your faith genuine? Is it built upon the unchanging character of your God or upon the changing circumstances of your life?

Willing to be Spent

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If God poured out the life of His Son why can He not pour out your life as well?

Many Christians believe that because God is good, their life should always be comfortable. A self-centered mindset permeates much of modern Christianity. Far too often we speak and act as if Christianity is all about us.

God’s greatest concern, however, is not our comfort and ease but rather the souls of men and women. Jesus suffered and died in order to bring people to Himself. His entire concern in coming to earth was the rescue of lost people.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.“

Jesus is the embodiment of this verse. He never sought his own well-being. He did not come to earth for Himself. He did not suffer and die for His pleasure. Jesus came seeking our well-being. He bled and died for us.

We are called to live as Jesus did, seeking the good of others. We are not to live self-protective lives. We are to give of ourselves.

When we come to Jesus we lay down our rights and relinquish control giving our lives to God to spend just as He spent the life of His Son.

On January 8, 1956, five young missionaries—Pete Fleming, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian—were speared to death while trying to reach a violent tribe in the jungles of Ecuador with the gospel. Some years later one of the widows, Barbara Youderian, was asked the question, “when you found out that your husband had been speared to death and you asked God why, what did He say?” Barbara replied, “It never occurred to me to ask God why.”

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus we have given them to Him to spend in any way He might choose. Barbara understood this. She and her husband had surrendered their lives fully to Jesus. They were sure that he was leading them to reach out to the Waodani. They knew the danger but they trusted Him with their lives.

When her husband was speared, Barbara did not have to ask why. She had surrendered her own life as well as that of her husband to be spent by God. If God spent the life of His son why would he not spend Roger and Barbara’s lives and ours as well?

Are you willing for your life to be spent by God?

 

Give Thanks for Everything

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When we hear the word thanksgiving, many of us tend to think of a holiday rather than of an activity that we should be continually doing. Throughout Scripture, we are repeatedly commanded to give thanks.

Ephesians 5:18-21 says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

In this passage, we are told not to be drunk with wine but instead to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The passage then goes on to describe what being filled with the Holy Spirit will look like in the life of a believer. Giving thanks for everything is on that list.

If we are truly living a Spirit-filled life we will give thanks for everything.

This is hard to comprehend and even harder to live out. There are so many circumstances in daily life that are difficult to thank God for. Thanking God in every circumstance seems plausible but are we really to thank God for every circumstance?

Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland during world war two. She and her sister Betsie were arrested and put into a concentration camp because they had hidden Jews in their home and aided them in fleeing the Nazis.

Concentration Camps were horrific places. It is hard to imagine thanking God for anything to do with them.

However, Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom were surrendered to their precious Lord Jesus. Therefore when they arrived at the concentration camp the first thing they did was to begin thanking God.

They thanked God that they had been put in prison together. They thanked God for the cramped conditions because they would be able to share the gospel with more people. Then Betsie began to thank God for the fleas. Corrie was incredulous.

“Why on earth would you thank God for fleas?” She asked Betsy.

“Because” Betsie replied “the bible says to thank God in all circumstances, not just pleasant circumstances.”

Corry was troubled. As hard as she tried she could not bring herself to thank God for something as disgusting as fleas.

As the weeks went by the sisters were surprised by the lack of supervision. The guards never came into the barracks, which allowed them to hold Bible studies and talk openly about Christ. One day they mentioned their surprise to a fellow prisoner.

Chuckling she said, “it’s because of the fleas. The guards won’t come into the barracks because they don’t want to be covered in fleas.”

Romans 8:28, a passage with which many of us are very familiar says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

This is why we as Christians can thank God for every circumstance.

God is so big, so mighty, so powerful that no matter how horrible any given circumstance is He can turn it for the good of His church.

We can thank God for every circumstance, because we can trust Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In All Things Give Thanks

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With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching the question on everyone’s lips is; What are you thankful for? This is a good question. We ought to be giving thanks, all of the time. But what about those who really have little or nothing to be thankful for? What about those who are sick? What about those who have lost loved ones? What about those with financial problems?

1 Peter 1:3-6 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,”

Throughout Scripture, we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances. This used to be really hard for me to grasp. There are some circumstances that are so painful that it seems that it would be impossible to give thanks in the midst of them. How then can we be thankful in all circumstances?

This passage in 1st Peter brings a lot of clarity to this issue. It says that we rejoice in all that Jesus has done for us and in the salvation that He has purchased for us though we are grieved by various trials.

Peter says that what God has done for us is so incredible that no matter what happens we have reason to rejoice. All of the wealth that we have in Christ should be so large in our eyes that all of the trials of this world are very small.

Throughout Scripture, we see examples of people who lived this way. In Acts chapter 5 Peter and the other apostles are arrested and thrown into prison and beaten because they were preaching about Jesus. Verse 41 says, ”So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Jesus was so precious to them that even prison and beatings could not stop them from praising God.

Acts 16 recounts a similar story. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison for casting a demon out of a slave girl. Instead of being upset or dejected in prison as many of us would have been we are told that they prayed and sang hymns to God.

What they had in Christ was so good that no earthly circumstance could take away their joy.

If our thankfulness is dependent upon our circumstances, we will only be thankful occasionally. Life is hard. Circumstances change constantly.

If we are going to obey the command to be thankful always, found in Ephesians 5:20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18, our thankfulness must be based upon something that never changes. As Christians, we have one constant—Christ.

No matter what trial we are facing we can always be thankful for Him and for the salvation that He has purchased for us.

Be thankful always. This is a command. We can only obey it if Jesus becomes so big in our eyes that every circumstance, trial, and difficulty we face is very, very small in comparison.

 

Never Alone

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Daniel 3:24-25 says, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

Who was that fourth man in the fire? Although some might argue that it was an angel, I would argue that it was Jesus. He walked and talked with them in the fire. He was there with them.

A Chinese pastor was thrown into solitary confinement for more than a year because of his faith. Day after day, week after week, month after month he crouched in a tiny cell hardly big enough to stand up in. He remained there in total darkness. There was no light, no human companionship, and no human conversation. It was just him and God.
When he was finally released, he had nearly gone blind from the long lack of light, his body was weak and fragile, but his face was radiant and glowing. He seemed to radiate with joy and peace. His Christian friends peppered him with questions, “How did you survive solitary confinement for so long? What was it like?”
The frail pastor paused and smiled. “It was like a honeymoon with Jesus!”

One beautiful thing about the Christian faith is that we serve a God who is with us. We do not serve a distant God but instead a God who is close. We serve a God who promises never to leave us and always to be there.

The God who was there in the fiery furnace is also here with us today. Why could that Chinese pastor have so much joy in the midst of so much suffering? Because his God was there with him.

What a comfort to know that we serve Jehovah Shammah—The Lord who is there.

Hebrews 11:32-38 says, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

When we read the above passage we all want to be on the first list. We would much rather be among those who shut the mouths of lions and quenched the violence of the fire than among those who were tortured and killed.

However, the key thing to remember here is that all these people served the same God. He was Jehovah Shammah for all of them. He was there with them whether they were imprisoned or delivered whether they were stoned or set free.

Never forget the truth that whether you end up on the first list or the second God is still there.

Hebrew 13:5b-6 says, For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Because God promises never to leave us we can say with boldness that we will not fear. Because Jehovah Shammah is our God we can say with confidence that man has no real power over us.

Jesus said to Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” This is now true of us as believers as well. Men have no power over us accept that which God grants to them.

Why would we fear men when the living God is with us? He never changes. He is always the same God. He is always Jehovah Shammah, the God who is there.

 

Contented In Jesus

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Beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, starved. These are only a few of the many difficulties that the apostle Paul faced and yet this is the same man who wrote in Philippians that he had learned to be content everywhere and in all things.

Although Paul lived an extremely difficult life, he stated that he was content repeatedly throughout Philippians. Most of us are not content. We live in comparative ease. We have houses, cars, food, clothing, and freedom and yet we are discontented. Why? How is it that the apostle Paul who lived a life of pain and difficulty could be content and we who live lives of ease and comfort are not?

Conventional wisdom would say that contentment comes through having everything that you want but as we look at the life of Paul it becomes clear that that is not the case. How then, do we become content?

I would argue that contentment, at least the kind of contentment that Paul had, contentment that is absolutely independent of circumstances, actually begins with discontentment but it must be the right form of discontentment.

Most of us look to the world and everything in it as our source of contentment. We look to material things for peace, fulfillment, and happiness.

In order for contentment to be constant and unchanging, however, it must be based upon something that is constant and unchanging. The only thing that is constant and unchanging and always will be so, is Christ.

This is why I said that true contentment begins with discontentment. In order to gain the source of true contentment—Jesus, a person must first become discontent with the world and all that it has to offer.

It is only when a person becomes discontent with the world that they will look to Christ.

In order to become truly content a person must be wholly wrapped up in and satisfied with Christ.

Paul was content in every circumstance he faced because his contentment was not based upon circumstances. Paul suffered through extremely difficult circumstances. While writing the book of Philippians, where he speaks of his contentment, he was actually in prison.

No. Paul did not base his contentment upon his circumstances. Paul’s contentment was based upon Christ. While circumstances may change, Jesus does not. Although everything else may be stripped from you no one can separate you from Jesus. Thus because Paul was content in Christ no matter what happened to him he was able to remain content.

So back to the question that I asked at the beginning of this article. How is it that the apostle Paul who lived a life of pain and difficulty could be content and we who live lives of ease and comfort are not?

Paul’s contentment was based upon Christ whereas our contentment or lack thereof is based upon our circumstances. This is why Paul, who lived a far more difficult life than most of us, could be content while we are not.

How can we become content?

We must become discontent with the world counting it all loss and recognizing that it is all truly worthless in light of eternity. Casting all the pursuits of the world aside, we must instead embrace Christ as our all in all.

If Christ is truly everything to you and you are completely and totally satisfied in Him it will not matter what difficulties trial or blessings come your way. If everything you have is stripped away you will have joy, peace, and contentment because you will still have Jesus.

Romans 8:35-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Too many of us call ourselves Christians and yet are not content in Christ. If you are a Christian, Christ should be everything to you. You should be totally wrapped up and content in Him. Paul was. Are you?