Archive for February, 2010

God Controls Even Our Suffering


God Controls Even Our Suffering

Steve Hall

Writer

In a previous article, I discussed the need for American Christians to recapture the truth from scripture that we are first and foremost citizens of heaven, not earth, and how that truth can free us to serve those inside and outside the Church during trying times. In this article, I want to look at how a biblical understanding of God’s love and sovereignty should encourage and sustain us during trials. If we understand God’s sovereign control even over our hardships, it should help us see God’s purposes for that hardship and help us realize that we are not beyond his grasp during trying times.

This is not to say that God directly causes all the suffering we experience, but none of those experiences are outside of his control. Both the Old and New Testaments teach this important truth. For example, Job’s sufferings were caused directly by Satan but only occurred with God’s permission (Job 1-2). In the midst of his sufferings, Job asked: “Shall we accept only good from God’s hands but not bad?” (Job 2: 7, 10). Joseph was wrongfully sold into slavery and imprisoned for years. But in the end, he learned all was part of God’s plan and what others meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). Amos’s statement is even more direct: “If a calamity occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?” (Amos 3:6).

The prophet Habakkuk shared this perspective when he looked into the near future and saw that his own country, Israel, was going to be devastated by a seemingly worse nation, Babylon.  But Habakkuk still said he would “rejoice in the God of my salvation” and praise him, even though Israel’s entire economy was going to be destroyed (Habakkuk 3:17-19). We would do well to remember this critical fact if God allows our country to suffer at the hands of seemingly “worse” people.

In the New Testament, Jesus said that not a single sparrow falls apart from our Father’s will (Matt. 10:29). If that is so, how could a company, or a country? Paul was harassed by a messenger from Satan, but Paul knew that God had a purpose for that, namely to keep Paul humble (2 Cor. 12:7). At the outset of Paul’s apostolic ministry, God told Ananias that God would show Paul “how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Even Christ himself learned from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8). We cannot think that we are exempt from this same school of learning.

It is important to remember that each of these men was deeply loved by God, but God had a divine purpose for putting each of those men, including his own Son, through trials. Roman Catholics have done a better job than many Protestants at understanding how God can use suffering as a blessing in the lives of his people. The entire American Church would do well to recapture that idea now, especially with the prospect of more troubled times ahead.

C.S. Lewis realized that even as his country was being bombed during World War II, the war had some positive spiritual affects on the Church:

War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past.  They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality.  I am inclined to think they were right.  All . . . schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration.  In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it.  Now the stupidest of us knows . . . . If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth . . . we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.[1]

Closer to home, we see a powerful example of this principle from a Christian military officer who was badly burned on 9-11 during the attack on the Pentagon. When he wanted to give up during the painful wound cleanings he had to endure after that attack, his wife reminded him that nothing had happened to him that did not pass through God’s hands first. This is exactly the perspective we need now and in the days ahead, especially since something much worse than 9-11 could still befall our country.

These truths are hard to comprehend when we are in the middle of suffering. Raw emotions and the pain of loss can overwhelm our reason and cloud our view of things. That is why it is so important to instill these truths in our hearts before hardship hits. Otherwise we will be more tempted to view suffering through the pain of our emotions, rather than through the lens of scripture.

In his book The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper shows how three saints from the past were better prepared for suffering because of their understanding of God’s sovereignty. Piper states: “For nothing glorifies God more than maintaining our stability and joy when we lose everything but God. That day is coming for each of us, and we do well to get ready, and to help the people we love get ready.”

Christian leaders in particular, and all believers in America, need to heed this warning now and embrace this truth as we head into what could be far more difficult times.

My Father, My Friend



I will be honest when I say this is something that took me a while to get use to, especially considering I was raised in a single family home, like many children these days. Now my mom did marry a wonderful man when I was 15, but by then I had already established my own ideas about what a father was and was not.

But as my relationship matured with my step father I begin to realize there was a correlation between a good earthly father and our heavenly father.

I soon realized that if we were to really see Jesus the way he sees us, we would come to know and understand him more. God wants us to look at him like our father. We always here how we are his children and he is our father, than why not treat him as such? Talk with him the way you would to someone you love and respect.

Don’t Be Intimidated
You don’t have to be intimidated by God. God just wants you to be ‘real’. If you were upset with your dad or didn’t understand something, you wouldn’t be disrespectful. You might say, “Hey what’s going on, you hurt my feelings why did you do that?”

You might not get the answer you want, but isn’t that just like a parent? Sometimes he may just say, “Because father knows best,” or “because I said so!” But know that it is for your own good. Now you don’t have to say these, long perfect religious words to talk to him. It’s ok to be angry or hurt, he wants you to tell him how you feel in your own words. Not what you think he wants to hear, don’t pacify him.

Come Just As You Are
Just like a parent he has that sixth sense he knows when we are not being truthful. He wants you to come just as you are. He doesn’t care what you wear as long as it doesn’t disrespect yourself or your family. He doesn’t care what color your hair is this week or that you have a tattoo or piercing. He may not approve and he might even be disappointed. But just like a healthy parent, he loves you unconditionally.

And as a parent he wants to hear the, “I love you’s,” the “I’m sorry I hurt you, please forgive me, you’re an awesome dad thanks for everything.” All the things a parent wants to hear. Always remember, know matter what you’ve ever done to hurt him or disappoint him, there’s nothing you could do that would make him stop loving you.

You are his flesh and blood. Don’t ever let the enemy convince you that your sin is to great, because it is not!! No matter what you’ve done or how many times, if you ask your Father with all your heart to forgive you, he will. He has already.
He might correct you but his correction is only to teach you and protect you. But that’s only because he loves you. But he does need you to trust him, so comes as you are and just be you.

Be Encouraged and Be Blessed.
To God be the Glory

How To Cope With An Unsaved Spouse


Do you live with an unsaved spouse? Are you struggling to stay spiritual in a home that isn’t? Do you beg your spouse every week to go to church with you? If so your not alone. These are all questions that we have faced or are facing. So I hope I am able to offer some hope and encouragement in regards to this subject.

The first thing I want you to know is don’t give up!! Even though I know you are frustrated and don’t know what to do. And sometimes truth be told it would be a lot easier to just give in and not live a Christian life, due to the problems and arguments it causes in the home. But again I say don’t give up!! That’s what the enemy wants.

You see I understand first hand this message, I lived it. Like many woman I got saved first and I will admit it was hard to come home to an unspiritual man. Its hard to raise your children according to Gods word when your mate is not saved.

It was very hard to stay positive every day when my spouse didn’t understand me anymore. I had changed, I didn’t like watching the same TV shows or listening to the same music. I suddenly became aware of every vulgar word and it would literally make my skin crawl and I would get so irritable when I would hear all that garbage coming from a show he was watching.

But the most important thing I learned about that season in my life, is you CANNOT make them do anything they don’t want to do! The more I begged him to go to church the less he wanted to. The more I tried to “preach at him” the less interested he was. I was so frustrated, so I just began seeking the Lord in prayer asking the Lord to help me change him.

Then one day there was a quickening in my spirit and I felt as if the Lord was telling me, “Be Still, don’t worry about him YOU cannot change him, only I can change him, pray him through.”

So I did. I quit worrying about him. I began focusing on my walk and just began treating him with more kindness, I didn’t preach at him anymore and I became more forgiving. I just prayed for him every night that the Lord would change him.

And Praise The Lord, it worked!! My husband excepted Christ in our living room. That was a few years ago now. It happened for us, it will happen for you too. Just don’t give up on him or her, love them into the kingdom, pray them through!

This is quoted from one of my favorite preachers, Pastor Jentezen Franklin his new book Right People, Right Place, Right Plan.

“Every marriage has an assignment. God didn’t put you together just to have sex, a house payment and a two car garage. When you enter the kingdom of God, you receive an assignment. Your children have a divine assignment and the enemy wants to abort it. That’s why divorce is so devastating; it not only affects the husband and the wife, but it destroys God’s assignment for the entire family.”

Remember that God has a plan for both of you, as a couple. Don’t allow the enemy to cause division. Trust God to take care of your mate, release them to Him and He will do the rest!

**There is a fantastic book out there called “Mission Possible” that will encourage you through Gods word and a powerful testimony of one woman’s struggle to serve God while her husband had nothing to do with God. Its a quick easy read but powerful. You can find it on http://www.Godmissionpossible.com

Be Encouraged and Be Blessed
-To God Be The Glory

If You Were The Enemy Who Would You Use?


I think of all the eye opening things that God has showed me, this has been one of my most important lessons yet. And it is my prayer that you too will gain new understanding about this powerful message.

Maybe at some point in your life you have wondered why when things seem to be going well and your doing what you’re supposed to be doing, things go wrong. Your living for God your trusting God and as you share with the people you love they begin putting you and your ideas down.

You might have told them about what God is doing for you and what you know he wants to do through you. And to your surprise the people you love most, doubt you. They begin criticizing you and really making you feel bad about what you know God is doing for you.

They may laugh and say things like, “I know what’s best for you,” or “You’ll regret it and you’ll be sorry if you do it, “What makes you think you can do that?” and “, “Yeah, yeah we’ve been through this before.” And maybe you have been somewhere similar to this before, but in your heart you know this time is different.

You’re hearing this but you can’t believe what you’re hearing. What’s the deal? They are supposed to love you and support you.

And now your head is swimming with mixed emotions. So you begin to second guess yourself & believe them because for the most part they have always been right. Sound familiar?

See when God plants a seed in your heart, the enemy wants to destroy it at its earliest stages. So he will use the people closest to you to do it. Understand that it is not a personal thing but a spiritual thing. The enemy doesn’t care about you, but he most certainly cares about who is inside you.

So don’t be misled! You can bet he will use, your spouse, parents, siblings, children, grandparents and best friends etc. All of whom you love, respect, admire and most importantly trust. No one is excluded from this.

Now you might be wondering how a Christian can be used by the enemy? I had wondered that myself. My pastor would tell me they could but I didn’t understand how.

Well they can, because they are human first of all and we are all fallible. But anger, hurt and jealousy are key emotions that the enemy will use against us. When we become angry for the wrong reasons, (like selfishness for example.) It causes spiritual weakness that allows the enemy a foothold into our lives if even for a moment.

So because they are hurt or angry they say things they don’t really mean.
This of course doesn’t mean they don’t love you or that they are possessed. It simply means we are all vulnerable and were not perfect.

But whatever they try and convince you of remember, God is truth, he will convict you in the spirit, reminding you of things you’ve done wrong, so you will ask his forgiveness for those sins. But he will never condemn you! He will never make you feel less of a person or try and intimidate you.

How ridiculous would that be, for him to put something in your heart only to turn around and make you feel bad about it? That’s not how God works; he loves us unconditionally and only wants the best for us.

God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
— Jeremiah 29:11

God loves you and will only speak good things into your life; success, growth, happiness, peace, self worth. Things to encourage you, never things to discourage you. God will never depress you or oppress you, that’s the enemy’s tactics. Things of God will lift you up; they will inspire you and motivate you.

So begin thinking about that person in your life who has so much influence over you, who you trust completely, who you love dearly and who you know loves you too… Think about this…If you were the enemy who would you try and use?

Be encouraged and be blessed-
To God be the Glory

The Christian Response to Disappointment


 If you’re a Christian, you’re well-acquainted with disappointment. All of us, whether new Christians or lifelong believers, battle feelings of disappointment when life goes wrong. Deep down, we think that following Christ should give us special immunity against trouble. We’re like Peter, who tried to remind Jesus “We have left everything to follow you.” (Mark 10:28). Maybe we haven’t left everything, but we have made some painful sacrifices. Doesn’t that count for something?

Shouldn’t that give us a free pass when it comes to disappointment? You already know the answer to that.

 As we’re each struggling with our own private setbacks, godless people are thriving. We wonder why they’re doing so well and we’re not. We fight our way through loss and disappointment and wonder what’s going on. Asking the wrong questions after many years of hurts and frustration, I finally realized that the question I should ask God isn’t “Why, Lord?” but rather, “What now, Lord?” Asking “What now, Lord?” instead of “Why, Lord?” is a hard lesson to learn.

It’s hard to ask the right question when you’re feeling disappointed. It’s hard to ask when your heart is breaking. It’s hard to ask “What now?” when your dreams have been shattered. But your life will begin to change when you start asking God, “What would you have me do now, Lord?” Oh sure, you’ll still feel angry or disheartened by disappointments, but you’ll also discover that God is eager to show you what he wants you to do next. Not only that, but he’ll equip you with everything you need to do it. Where to take your heartaches in the face of trouble, our natural tendency is not to ask the right question.

Our natural tendency is to complain. unfortunately, griping to other people rarely helps solve our problems. Instead, it tends to drive people away. Nobody wants to hang around a person who has a self-pitying, pessimistic outlook on life. But we can’t just let it go. We need to pour our heart out to someone. Disappointment is too heavy a burden to bear. If we let disappointments pile up, they lead to discouragement. Too much discouragement leads to despair. God doesn’t want that for us. In his grace, God asks us to take our heartaches to him. Complaining to God is wise because he’s capable of doing something about it, while our friends and relations may not be.

God has the power to change us, our situation, or both. He knows all the facts and he knows the future. He knows exactly what needs to be done. The Answer to ‘What Now?’ When we pour out our hurt to God and find the courage to ask him, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?,” we can expect him to answer. He will communicate through another person, our circumstances, instructions from him (very rarely), or through his Word, the Bible. The Bible is such an important guidebook that we should immerse ourselves in it regularly.

It’s called the Living Word of God because its truths are constant yet they apply to our changing situations. You can read the same passage at different times in your life and get a different answer–a relevant answer–from it every time. That is God speaking through his Word. Seeking God’s answer to “What now?” helps us grow in faith. Through experience, we learn that God is trustworthy. He can take our disappointments and work them for our good.

When that happens, we come to the staggering conclusion that the all-powerful God of the universe is on our side. No matter how painful your disappointment may be, God’s answer to your question of “What now, Lord?” always begins with this simple command: “Trust me.”

–A devotional by Jack Zavada.

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