Handling Suffering as a Christian…

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Handling Suffering as a Christian

The title of today’s challenge sounds a bit strange. And if you are not a ‘born again’ Christian you have no chance of understanding and accepting it. We live in a world where many teach that health, wealth, prosperity and the total absence of suffering brings fulfillment. And of course, our human nature totally agrees with that thought. There are even teachers professing to be ‘born again’ that teach the same. They teach that to experience otherwise reflects a weak faith or sin. While it can be a result of sin the scriptures never proclaim that if we suffer for the gospels sake it is a lack of faith. Actually, it is just the opposite.

When we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and we dig into His word to find meaning for our lives and we hear that, “”Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Wow, that stops us dead in our tracks. Many, who never study and never grow from the milk of God’s word to being able to handle the meat of God’s word never even address this question.

Can it really be true? If I am to live for my Savior who died for me can I expect some level of persecution? The answer from scripture is a loud yes. If the world disliked and even hated Jesus and we profess what He professed then the world will not like us either. That’s a tough one to swallow. Like you my flesh prefers that people would like me. And what if I am experiencing zero persecution. Does that mean my spiritual priorities are not correct? Yes, that could be the case. Ouch! We can only know that by asking God to answer that question and then we must do something contrary to our human will. We must truly be open to the answer. Remember the answers to prayer are yes, no and wait. Yes, is not the only option God has. When I hear no or wait it does not mean that God did not answer my prayer.

There are promises in the word of God that don’t seem much like promises to many believers. Persecution is one of them. Scripture proclaims that all whose purpose of heart is to live godly lives in this present world shall (certainly) suffer persecution, as did their Lord. Maybe we contemplate such verses and think they should say something like, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be appreciated for their goodness and rewarded with approval, good health and fortune while in this world.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul said to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We probably would be more comfortable if that were to read, “For unto you it is given…not only to believe on him, but also to be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity.” But it doesn’t say that. Reading and allowing the Word of God to change our lives are two entirely different things. Are you a reader only? Ouch, another convicting question.

So why would I want to be open to persecution??? As noted in James we are in this life but for a short time. Our lives are but a vapor that comes and disappears quickly. Our time to serve our Lord is short. This time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to eternity. And if you are a believer you will spend eternity with God. There is also a judgment seat or awards ceremony for believers. The judgment seat is not to judge our sins that Jesus took care of but to award us for services rendered while on this earth. I would rather hear, ‘well done’, than to hear how I missed the prize or to hear a silence because of lack of commitment on my part while on this earth.

We are to serve out of obedience. Disobedience is viewed by God as a tragic sin. Check it out over and over in scripture in both the OT and the NT. God never accepts disobedience. Our sins are washed away by Jesus blood so my salvation is secure. While works cannot save us they are very important after being ‘born again’. Serving Jesus while on this earth is now or should now be my focus! And when done correctly it will bring some level of persecution.

Remember persecution comes in many different ways including verbal, lost friendships, physical punishment, lost job opportunities, etc. In America at least for now the verbal, peer pressure and life style issues are the greatest persecution we see. So maybe all is not lost with that slap in the face that you just received, literal or figurative. Pray and think before you allow your fleshly frustration to take over. It may be that you are doing exactly what you should be for His glory!!!!!

Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Ways of Mankind are…

The ways of Mankind are….

Heb 12:2a “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…”

A Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet. Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

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A Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off.

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A Bee

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

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In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat, and the bee. They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there “above” them. Without Jesus as their Lord and Savior they only have themselves and the world around them to control their destiny. What an awful predicament!!!!

Prov 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Don’t be like the creatures and people who cannot see the forestry for the trees.

Heb 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

 John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 3:3-5 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Do you need a Counselor…

Do you need of a Counselor…

Where do I turn when I need help? When it seems like everyone and everything has failed me and I am lost for a solution. And yes, we all regardless of our mental state need counsel. So, where does the counsel we need come from?

Psalms 1:1, 2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

Psalms 119:9-11 “How can a young man cleanse his way? BY TAKING HEED according to Your Word. With my whole heart have I sought You; Oh, let me not wonder from Your commandments. Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I may not sin against You|”

There is only one Counselor Who never changes His counsel down through the ages and He recorded His counsel for us!!!!!!!! So the question this morning is where will I turn for lasting and true counsel. Much counseling in our world treats the symptoms and not the root cause of the issue.

Our God and His word will search for the root cause rather than treating symptoms. If your counselor does not have Jesus as their Savoir they can only treat the symptoms because God’s truths seem foolish to them. Why is it that those who have not trusted Jesus as their Savior cannot give me counsel that will help me with my issues?

I Cor 2:14 “But the natural (unsaved) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Why would God direct us to not listen to the counselors of the world? As with all important questions we find the answer in God’s word. Real and lasting truth cannot only be found there.

John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The counselors of this world by not knowing Jesus as their Savior do not hold the word of God to be their source of knowledge and truth. So they counsel you with the best they have which can never get to the root cause of the problem and solve it. Their counsel is based on the wisdom of the world. Which is ever changing. God’s truths or absolutes never change.

Malachi 3:6a “”For I am the Lord, I do not change…”

While there are some government organizations that can offer assistance in trying times our ultimate and only pure source of help is found by seeking a loving God who wants to restore the relationship with Him that sin broke and ever recorded and protects His word of truth so that we have it.

Mat 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Enjoy your reading today and listen for its truths and directions. God’s word is our Counsel! If you need help check with your church to identify counselors who will guide you with truth that never changes and to counselors who understand where lasting help comes from. And remember, no reading or studying equals no enlightenment from God!

2 Tim. 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Fires of Life that Build and Restore…

Hebrews 12:11 “Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

Fires of Life that Build and Restore…

Each summer we read of fires out west and around the world. We frequently think of them as being disasters. Did you know there are fires in our lives that are intended to develop us spiritually? And yes, we frequently view those as disasters also. There are some misguided souls that teach that if you have fires in your life it is not a good thing or it is because of weak faith. The biblical reality is that some fires in our lives are noted in scripture as trials and tribulations and are required for our spiritual development of our faith.

When we view the reports of the wild fires or drive by where one has been we see that over time they actually renew life. If you’re going through a fire in your life right now, that will be something very important for you to mentally grab a hold of. If you don’t, all you’ll see is the damage and you’ll lose any sense of hope. And then instead of renewal or development the fires bring on discouragement.

It may be that those fires (trials and tribulations) have burned through your family recently, or your church, maybe your business or your relationships. Maybe they have affected your health. And there is no doubt that the fire has taken away a lot. There’s no denying the pain from the fire, but that’s never the whole story. You need to know the “rest of the story”. Maybe what we view as damage is actually development. What a paradigm shift!

1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”

God describes the fires of life as trials. If you are a believer the only fire in your life not from God are those that are a result of sin. God sees us as valuable like gold. The fires are not forever; they are “for a little while”. And notice what the purpose of the fires or trials is. The purpose is not to destroy but to “refine” the gold or to get the impurities out so that it increases its value. And if we are honest with ourselves we have many impurities that we need to be purged from our lives.

The challenge we have is to view those fires as trials and tribulations sent from God. To count them as joy as James 1:2, 3 says. That’s a tough one but if you believe that God is doing a work in your life that knowledge will give you the courage to say thank you to endure. God sees us as worthy of purifying, improving, and getting ready for greater things. But that requires denial of self and spiritual development on our part. The fire that appears to take away so much, actually brings new life if we stay close to God during the fire.

What kind of new life does God bring out of the flames? For one thing, He helps us focus the rest of our life on the things that really matter. Everything in our lives goes in one of two columns. One column for things that really matter and another for the things that don’t. A lot of times we get those columns confused. When we ask God for the wisdom to know the difference we then can set God focused priorities. When we look to God we then can emerge from the fire more committed to His glory instead of self comfort and glory.

The fire often forces you to sort out where your identity is really anchored. Is it in a person, your job, or your title, or your performance, or your appearance, or in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Or putting it another way the fires help us to see where our real priorities in life are. Are they in self or in serving our Savior? The flames often drive you to a new closeness to Jesus.

Yes, the fire destroys. But it only destroys the parts or things of our lives that have no eternal value. And thank God, that is not the end of the story. The fire also renews!

Portions from Ron Hutchcraft Ministries and “Renewing Fire.”

II Cor 12:9 “And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Who can I Trust…

Exodus 20:3-4 “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  Thou
shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the
earth.”

Who can I trust in?

God created us to live in a social environment, and to be “knit together
in love.”  I know that I need other people.  But I also know that I’m a
sinner (saved by grace through faith) living in a fallen world full of sinful people.
I know that we have an adversary who constantly seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.

In the final analysis, I must place my complete trust in the Living God and in
Him alone.  The danger in trusting other people is that they can become gods.

If we are careful, we can start living and planning our life based on “their”
leadership, “their” opinions, and “their” performance.  And when things don’t go as
planned or hoped, we are all capable of going into an emotional, mental,
physical, or spiritual tailspin.

Let’s face it.  Who among us has had a career or a business plan
that panned out “perfectly?”  Who among us has not experienced major business
curve balls?

Perhaps you were just overlooked for a promotion or raise.
Perhaps you are being mistreated by an unreasonable boss.
Perhaps a valued colleague just made a big blunder-and you’re caught in
the painful aftermath.
Perhaps you expected a customer to sign a big contract, but it fell
through at the eleventh hour.
Perhaps you expected to get paid on-time by a client, but you’re still waiting.
Perhaps your company was just sold, and you’re finding it difficult to
adapt to the new culture.
Perhaps your company just announced that your division is closing or
moving elsewhere…or going through another
infamous “reorganization.”

Be of good cheer: God sees everything and knows everything.  Your 100%
solid Shield of Faith in the Lord will quench all the fiery darts and equip
you to keep moving forward regardless of what other people do or don’t do!
God has a wonderful way of working things out for good-often in mysterious
and unexpected ways!

– William Beckett

“Trust and obey…there’s just no other way…to be happy in
Jesus…than to trust and obey!”

 Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on
your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Pride goes before Destruction….

Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

I Peter 5:5-7 “Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.”

Pride goes before the Destruction…

Pride sounds like a good thing but is very dangerous. Wrongful pride has us depend on self over God. “There is a proud heart in every person. The pride that was in Adam and Eve’s hearts is the same as is in his sons and daughters. That is us. Pride is sin, and from there arises this overinflated and self-controlled opinion of our spiritual state and condition. It is ok to feel good about what God is doing through your life, but it is sin to credit that good to our own abilities and strengths.

Luke 18:11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

This is the unsaved person’s motto. A proud man has an eye to see his beauty–but not his deformity. He sees his abilities–but not his spots. He sees his seeming righteousness-but not his real wretchedness.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.”

It is only by God’s work of grace that we see our lack of humility. The haughty eye looks inward–but the humble eye looks upward for strength, and therefore this is the believer’s motto, ‘I am the least of saints–and the greatest of sinners!’

Luke 18:13-14 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner!’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God!”

A Baby’s Tiny Hands…

Hebrews 12:1,2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and  is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

 A Baby’s Tiny Hands

While pregnant with her son
Beneath her heart within,
She’d often feel his hands
Moving inside her skin.

He’d stretch his arm and hand
and push out on her side
she’d lovingly push it back
with a smile so sweet and wide.

She could hardly wait
for his upcoming birth
to touch his tiny hands
and welcome him to earth.

Then it finally came,
the night that he was born.
With joy she couldn’t contain,
she held him until morn.

She explored his tiny fingers.
She counted all his toes.
She wanted to get to know him,
His ears, his cheeks, and his nose.

The wonder of it all,
at this new baby boy!
She could not hold back.
She wept with tears of joy.

She touched his tiny hand,
a miniature of her own.
He squeezed it tight on her finger.
Such joy she had never known!

The time passed and he grew.
As a toddler, it was grand
to walk along and hold
His fleshy little hand.

She taught him many things.
Together they spent hours.
She’d take his little hand
and touch it to a flower.

When she would hold him close,
He soon developed the knack
of hugging her ’round the neck,
His tiny hand patting her back.

As her son grew older,
His young hands also grew.
He learned many ways to use them.
Each day brought something new.

She helped him learn to read.
She helped him learn to write.
Then, as the day was ending,
she’d pray with him at night.

He learned to use a hammer
with which to drive a nail.
He’d sometimes strike his finger
and let out quite a wail!

Her son continued growing
and soon became a man.
She loved him just as much
As when his life began.

His hands were now full grown,
so strong, yet tender, when
He, with deep compassion,
comforted a friend.

She was extremely grateful
when his hands would fold;
and bowing his head in prayer,
to his Father in Heaven he’d hold.

As the years flew swiftly by,
she watched her son with pride,
His strong but gentle arms
and hands there at his side.

She then thought her life was over.
She suffered unspeakable loss
when her son’s beloved hands
were nailed to a wooden cross…

But that was just the beginning.
for he died and rose again.
Her sorrow then was ended,
and joy replaced her pain.

For, you see, her son was Jesus,
God coming to earth as man,
to save us from our sins
according to His plan.

We cannot save ourselves.
Our sins would lead to death.
God put our sins on Jesus,
the perfect and the best.

With this came our forgiveness
if we believe in Him
He will take away our sins,
and come into our lives,
As He was resurrected,

Eternal Life He’ll bring
to all who have faith and believe
and to His hand will cling.

John 14:6 “And He said unto them, I am the way, the truth and the life,
no one can come unto the Father, but by Me.”