You Need Adversity!

reflections on Christ - crucifixionThat’s right, you and I NEED to suffer more. The best thing that can happen is for us to have more hardship, difficulty, trial, and tribulation. If Satan had his way, we’d all have an easy life. In fact, he will hold the ladder for anyone willing to climb of the shelf. You leave him alone, and he will leave you alone. Serve Jesus and you’ll find yourself in hot water… quick.

Suffering for Christ is proof of salvation and a life of obedience to Christ. As it is written in Phil 1:29, “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake…”

God grants every genuine Christian two things, salvation and suffering. You can’t have one without the other. Every person who is saved will suffer. Without suffering for being a Christian there is reason to question being saved (If Phil 1:29 is true).

We’re not talking about getting sick, but being poisoned for sharing Christ. We’re not talking about losing your job due to economics, but getting fired for standing for Christ. We’re not talking about losing friends due to personality differences, but being ostracized because you won’t compromise your faith to be politically correct. Suffering isn’t dying from old age, but being killed as a result of sharing Jesus as the only way of salvation. Consider what Peter wrote…

1 Pet 2:19 This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Pet 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Being honest with ourselves, how many of our sufferings are due to living for Christ?

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When You’re Feeling Weak

We are weak and frail human beings.  Jars of clay that can be easily broken.

We live in a world that is harsh… difficult… stressful… and full of adversity.

We have an Adversary (Satan) who is aware of the first and does all he can to heighten the second.  The result for Christians is as found written in Acts 14:21-23…

When they had preached the gospel… they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

“Through many tribulations…”  Children go wayward and rebel.  Interpersonal relationships are broken.  Families go through dysfunction.  Work environments deteriorate.  Life is just plain hard.  At some point, everyone would love to be somewhere else… in a place where there is no anxiety, frustration, worry, or stress.  This is why it is recorded Jesus said…

Mark 6:31 Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (NIV)

Mark 6:34 When (Jesus) went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And He began to teach them many things. (ESV)

Emotional, spiritual, and physical weakness is nothing new to the human condition.  They increases for those who follow Christ.  Consider Paul from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10…

To keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Are you experiencing weakness?  Struggles?  Discouragement?  If so, consider the following…

1. That is life, don’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12 “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”).  Keep your eyes on Jesus’ soon return.

2. Make time to be alone with Jesus (Mark 6:31).

3. God knows what he is doing and is making you rely completely on Him (2 Cor 12:7-10).

4. The previous two points are best done through prayer and reading Scripture (Especially the Psalms).

5. The weakness God placed/allowed into your life is not about you… it’s about God’s glory to show the power of Christ (2 Cor 12:9-10A)

The Lord Gives And…

After all seven of Job’s children were killed and all his worldly riches taken, it is written in Job 1:20-22…

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

What has the Lord given you?  According to James 1:17 and 1 Corinthians 4:7, everything you have!  That would include…

Your salvation… life… family… job… intellect… retirement account… friends… food… seeing eyes… hearing ears… a beating heart… lungs that work… a house… food… car… etc ad infinitum.

Now, what does God have the right and power to take away?  Anything He desires to.  Why?  Because He is God.  That would include…

 Your life… family… job… intellect… retirement account… friends… food… seeing eyes… hearing ears… a beating heart… lungs that work… a house… food… car… etc ad infinitum.

There is only ONE thing God will not ever take away, nor can we lose it.  Did you notice the ONE thing left out of the second list from the first one?  Salvation!  That is the ONLY thing that cannot be lost by any Christian.  EVERYTHING ELSE is on the table and can be taken from us.

When we are satisfied that having Jesus IS our everything, losing anything or everything else won’t destroy us.  But when a person loves anything more than Christ… and loses it… they will be destroyed from the inside out.

I leave you to contemplate what is written in Colossians 3:1-4…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Tornadoes, Tragedy, And Faith

This is a bank I frequented and drive by every week after last Sunday night’s tornado in Center Point, Alabama.  It was on April 27, 2011 that tornadoes ravaged another part of town not far from where I serve.  Many homes were also destroyed, but by God’s mercy only two lives are known to be lost.  And without being unduly negative, it will happen again… to someone else… somewhere else… at another time… possibly tomorrow… possibly to you or me.

Whether it is a tornado, earthquake, tsunami, flood, drought, or some other natural disaster… they always have, and always will happen.  Other tragedies include terrorist attacks, crime, and injustices are the way life is.  Nobody goes through life without dealing with hardship, tragedy, or difficulty.  The question is this: How Will You Handle And Process It?

Once again I submit a series of foundational beliefs I have along with their applications.  These are personal for me as a result of some trials I’ve gone through.  When life gets hard… these are my “Go to,” “Fall back,” “Auto-pilot” beliefs that I do not doubt no matter what!  These are the kind of things you need to settle nowBEFORE the unexpected event that shakes your world happens.

God IS Good!  (Psalms 73:1).  “Nothing bad ever has, or ever will, happen to me.  Evil… yes.  Bad… no.”  (How can I say something is “bad” when in Romans 8:28 it is written that God causes good?!  See below.)

God IS Love!  (1 John 4:8, 16).  “It is impossible for me or others to mess up my life past God using for His glory.”

God IS In Control!  (Romans 8:28; Daniel 4:35; Is 46:9-10).  “God only allows into my life what is ultimately good for me.”

God IS Just! {Righteous}  (Ezra 9:15).  “Satan can only do what God allows.”

All God’s Ways ARE Perfect!  (Deuteronomy 32:4).  “I can rejoice in every circumstance by keeping a heaven theology.”

God IS Trustworthy! (2 Sam 7:28; Ps 62:8; Pr 3:5-6; Jn 14:1).  “This gives me great hope & peace.”

God Does Not Change (Num 23:19; Ps 33:11; Mal 3:6; Is 59:1; Ja 1:17).  “My salvation & faith in God cannot be lost.”

Count It ALL Joy?!

This is a followup to yesterday’s post (CLICK HERE).

“Count it ALL joy my brethren WHEN you encounter trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2).  That applies when… Your business is failing, your family is falling apart, your future is uncertain, people lie about you, you have a tough day… week… month… year, and when the circumstances of your life are completely out of control.  THAT is when (As Christians) we are to be joyful.

That is not Pollyanish… looking at the world through rose-colored glasses… living in a state of denial nor BLIND FAITH.  It is truth from personal experience.  By experience I know what it is like to not know if your child is going to live or die… I know what it’s like to have people doing everything they could to run you off… I know what it’s like to have family situations so dire you are at a complete loss as to what to do… I know what it is like to be uncertain how to pay your bills… I know what it is like to lay in bed, for days to weeks, looking at the ceiling… crying your eyes out… wondering why God seems to be ignoring your plea for deliverance.

And while all that is going on James 1:2 seems to be a slap in the face to all your human senses… present experience… and reality.  But I affirm from experience that James 1:2 IS TRUE AND IS POSSIBLE AND takes place by God’s grace.  Here’s a brief recounting of my journey to see how James 1:2 has been true in my life…

First… I reaffirmed that regardless of what circumstances present to me… I know God loves me.  He proved that on the cross.  John 3:16, 1 John 3:1.

Second… I reaffirmed that God is 100% sovereign over all things… all people… and all situations.  He IS God!  Isaiah 46:9-10.

Third… I reaffirmed that God is providential.  Always has been… always will be.  Daniel 4:35-36.

Fourth… I reaffirmed that “Just because I don’t see how something can be good doesn’t mean it isn’t good.”  Proverbs 3:5.

Fifth… I reaffirmed that “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.

Sixth… I continued to pray according to Philippians 4:6-7.

Seventh… I continued to worship God because He alone is worthy of worship… (I spent a lot of time in personal worship).

Last… I reflected on these things: A) God always wills my ultimate good {Romans 8:28}; B) God controls every test {1 Cor 10:13}; C) Nothing… NOTHING… can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus {Ro 8:39}; D) God works everything according to His good, gracious, & loving will {Ephesians 1:11b}.

I determined (By God’s grace) that these truths will inform, control, and direct my thinking and how I process life… for God’s glory!  Oh… and I have to remind myself of these things often…

Dark Days

This is copied from another website and I thought worth passing along.  The Title is… “The Days Of Darkness Will Be Many.”

One thing the Bible isn’t is utopist about life in this world. It gets unfairly criticized for encouraging a pessimism that makes people passive about doing anything to improve things; people who are “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”

Of course, that’s a lot of hogwash. History has shown that those who have a hope of heaven are far more likely than their agnostic or atheist neighbors to willingly make the personal sacrifices necessary to seriously address the horrors and hopelessness in the world.

But the Bible doesn’t gloss over horrors. Reading the whole Bible through, we wince a lot. And it is pretty frank about what we can expect during our sojourn on earth:

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:8)

When Jesus walked the earth he was not a bouncy, positive-thinker.  He was “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). And he promised his followers, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).

Life is hard. The days of darkness will be many. And you know what? That’s hopeful.

When we find ourselves experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Cor 12:10), something strange isn’t happening to us (1 Peter 4:12). It is what we must expect living in a creation subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).

But it was subjected to futility in hope—hope “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). And yes there is deep groaning as we wait for the completion of our redemption (Romans 8:22-23). But it is a hope-infused groaning, full of anticipation for what is coming.

And it’s this Spirit-empowered dynamic in the soul that allows us to be both “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).  We expect sorrow from the world and redemption from our Savior, who will work even our sorrows for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

So in your days of darkness, Jesus understands (Hebrews 4:15) and wants you to take heart:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

When Life Falls Apart

Life can fall apart around you… and it not be your fault… it not be God punishing you.  That is what this message is about.  How to keep on keeping on when the dominoes start falling one upon another and there is no end in sight.

There are a couple of misconceptions that need to be addressed.  Some think when life falls apart it is some form of God’s punishment.  Others think it is an attack of Satan.  On the flip side…

If you do everything right, things will go well.  That it is God’s will to provide material and financial blessings for His children (Health, Wealth, and Prosperity gospel).  What I’m saying is that God is does not will for us to have our best life now.  He is much more concerned about His glory and our sanctification than short term ease, blessings, or a temporal life of financial security (Wealth).

Just because life falls apart, it does NOT mean God is punishing you.  Here the Biblical examples are Joseph and Job.  In both cases their life fell completely apart…

Satan can only do what accomplishes the opposite of what he intends. God wills every believer to be conformed to the image of Christ (Ro 8:29).  God so wills this that Paul describes our Christ likeness as being predestined (Ro 8:29 is not about being saved, but sanctification).  As John Piper writes, “Satan is God’s lackey in our sanctification.”

In Joseph’s case, he was thrown into a pit by his brothers… almost murdered… sold into slavery… falsely accused of rape… thrown into prison… & forgotten for two years by a man who promised to help him before being elevated to Vice-Pharaoh.  All of this happened over the course of thirteen years![i]

CLICK HERE for the rest of this post…