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Embrace the Trial – Part 6

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part two we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. In part three and part four, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” In part five we sought to understand the struggle of the ongoing trial. Here in part 6 we come to the topic of contentment in the trial.

Understanding Contentment – “Embracing God’s Sufficiency

Recently, I was in the process of preparing a Sunday morning message when I found myself struggling with being content.

In the midst of my current trial, as I battle with a number of health concerns, my three-year old accidently poked me in the eye and scratched my cornea. I found this painful and discouraging, but I also found myself on the wrong end of discontentment. This incident coincided with a busy week with a tight schedule and no room for distractions, let alone poor eyesight and additional visits to doctors and waiting rooms.

Looking back on the timing of things I see the wisdom of God. In my eyes this was absolutely the worst timing possible, but in God’s infinite and perfect wisdom He knew I would gain the most from having this personal object lesson to pave the way for change. I also see God’s humor as it made me the object lesson for the message I was preparing. A few weeks prior to this, the Lord had laid on my heart His will for our church to study Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. In the fourth chapter of he writes,

“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11b

I contemplated on the setting where these words were written and my heart was struck with rebuke. I know that the trial the Apostle Paul endured was far greater than my own, yet saw how he surrendered to God’s way and submitted to God’s wisdom and understanding. How did he do this? How could he write these words with such honesty without even a hint of underlying sarcasm or bitterness? Instead there is obvious peace and joy.

As I meditated upon this passage, a simple outline rose to the surface which explains the Paul’s contentment. It begins with the premise that I can be content in any circumstance no matter what (v. 11). It is then followed by two simple yet profound promises which speak of God’s sufficiency regarding His strength (v. 13) and His supply (v. 19). The reality of profoundly obvious truths in Scripture is that unfortunately they are often practically obscure in our lives. Often what appears so simple and clear on the pages of God’s Word and even in our minds remains hidden in our lives.

This was clearly the case, as I meditated upon this passage and was struck by how practically obscure these truths were, right at that moment in my life. With this realization I bowed my head in repentance. Then knowing God’s forgiveness, I smiled seeing God’s perfect timing, bringing me into a head-on collision with the details of my life and these truths that were so absolutely necessary to confront them and bring my heart to rest. The encouragement came as these truths began the twelve-inch journey from my head to my heart where they found a resting place and where my heart found the much-needed contentment even though the circumstances had yet to change.

Paul begins with a premise that on the outset is bold and daring. He says, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” It is a statement that, at first, comes across as “too good to be true” or may be only something that is for the “elite Christians” like Paul. But after further consideration and drawing in the promises that follow I see that this premise statement is meant for me—it is meant to be one of the statements of my life. It is meant for each of us “ordinary Christians.” God desires that my heart would rest content “in whatsoever state I am.”

Before we consider the promise, keep in mind that Paul’s statement isn’t a lesson that just came naturally to him but was one that he “learned” by experience. It was through trial after trial as he “learned” to rest in the stabilizing truths of God that he was able to, with a clear conscience and genuineness of heart, speak these words that, most often, seem to defy reality.

Now consider the promises, as pillars of truth, upon which the house of contentment is built. The foundation of these pillars is the sufficiency of God. Paul writes, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). The key to contentment begins first with a proper understanding of our inadequacy. Until we find ourselves to be lacking in our own ability to sufficiently deal with every detail of life we will never look outside ourselves and look to God. It is through the trials of life that God brings us to the end of ourselves—to the end of the façade of our own sufficiency and sovereignty as we turn to Him in dependent trust finding Him to be sovereign over all things and sufficient for our every need.

The first promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s powerlearning to rest in the strength of God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”—v. 13

This verse gives us both the strength and the source of contentment, which is the Power that comes from within—the indwelling Holy Spirit Who enables the believer to do all that the Lord calls upon him to do and go through. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). It is God working in us giving us the desire to do His “good pleasure” but also empowering us as well. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This is the grace of God at work in our lives as we humble ourselves before Him, for “God giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

Learning to rest in this truth of the sufficiency of God’s strength for every situation of life is vital to our contentment in life. When the temptation to give in to sin is seemingly greater than your strength to fight, run to Christ and remember that He has promised that His strength will be sufficient. Remember the promise that “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Whatever state you find yourself in, trust Him to be sufficient to carry you through. “Faithful is He that calleth you who will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s strength is more than enough. His strength is sufficient for me to stand fast against the temptation of discontentment and trust His providence to be right and best.

The second promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s provisionlearning to rest in the supply of God.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”—v. 19

In this verse we see the supply of contentment. I find it interesting to consider our American definition of the word, “need” as defined by how we use it. Quite often we use the word “need” where we should be using the word “want” instead. God has not promised to supply our wants but our genuine needs or those things that He defines as necessary. Once He stops providing it, it is no longer necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that our needs come in positive and negative qualities. The positive side of our needs are those things that God provides that we are lacking such as financial or health needs. On the negative side we see those things that are painful which God uses to teach us wonderful truths and help us deal with specific sin.

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s supply is more than enough. His supply is sufficient to help me rest in His providence and stand fast against the temptation to doubt that I have what I need or that God will fail to provide it in His perfect time.

In summary: Biblical contentment becomes a reality in the believer’s life when we become humbly dependent upon the Lord for both His strength, to endure our trials, and His supply for our every need. Biblical contentment is learning to thank God for our troubles while we are still in them.

 “So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 5

Understanding the Struggle – “Embracing the Tragedy or Triumph

I give up! This is too hard! What’s the use in trying anymore!

I don’t recall having actually stated these words, but the truth is my attitude, at times, has spoken these words loud and clear. Although my prayer and desire is to “embrace this trial,” the reality is that it is a continual, and grueling struggle. Embracing the trial is not a one-time-event-kind-of-lesson-learned where you “get it” and never have to go back to it. This is a process—a continuous, repeated action, repeated commitment, repeated surrender. My desire is to be faithful in this process, but often my attitude and actions betray my intentions.

We have considered the why and Who questions which help us to embrace the trial, yet I am reminded of the need to understand the almost ever-present struggle of this process. With this understanding comes the reality of the choice of whether to embrace the triumph or the tragedy, dependent upon my embracing the truth.

As the trial continues, there are days of frustration and defeat. Often, at the end of the day, as I pillow my head, my thoughts are arrested by the battle between my flesh and my mind. The emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles of any trial often bring noise into the soul. Through this process, God in His mercy, seeks to rescue us from these noisy areas of defeat that emerge, seemingly at every corner. For me, He is using this trial to open my eyes to areas of sin that I need to address. Like curtains, He is pulling down to reveal something in the dark corners of my heart that I have yet to realize or have been refusing to address. This “ripping down of curtains” is part of the painful, purging process by which God uses to refine us, purifying us like gold.

At times I feel overwhelmed by this process, as if it will never end and it’s just no use in trying. I feel like Paul in Romans 7 where he bares his heart’s struggle in his battle against his flesh. It is a tiring battle—one that is strong and unrelenting—one that seems to gain the upper hand when I am the most vulnerable, one that has no mercy. Paul writes,

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will [the desire] is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would [I want to do] I do not: but the evil which I would not [I don’t want to do], that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. O wretched man that I am!”—Romans 7:18-20, 24a

Maybe go back and read those verses again. It has taken me some time, repeatedly reading, meditating, and asking the Lord for understanding about them to be convinced that I finally have a handle on them.

With these words, Paul express what my heart seems to say, all too often in this trial. Frankly, even when I am not in a trial like what I am going through now. It is the tug-of-war of my flesh and mind. I know what I am supposed to do, the attitudes I’m supposed to have, the example I’m supposed to set, but all too often I find myself doing what I know I shouldn’t, having the attitude that is opposite of what I should, being the example that is against what I should set. This battle is real and it rages with such strength that often victory seems hopeless and beyond the horizon, so far out of sight and beyond my reach, while defeat seems all too real, breathing down my neck, with its death grip embracing me.

What can I do? The truth is that I’m often simply tired and worn out with no fight left—or so it seems. Paul concluded, “O wretched man that I am!” The idea is that Paul cries out in exhaustion, as if he has been exerting his fullest effort in hard labor in this battle. Does this sound familiar? It is at these times that we fall prey to half-truths that can lead to whole-untruths. These are the times where we are often tempted to wonder, “Does God really care or even know what is going on?” Or maybe, “Is there really a purpose to all of this pain?” We might even ask, “Is the praiseworthy purpose of Christ-likeness even worth it?” These are the times that we need to fight these lies with truth.

Consider Paul’s word as he cries out for help, desiring victory for a problem that only presents defeat. He says,

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”—Romans 7:24-25

In these verses I find great hope and encouragement. Paul sees victory in Christ. I picture in my mind as the great apostle lifts his eyes heavenward and asks the question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then with a sigh of relief he smiles giving thanks for this transforming truth with which he triumphs, saying, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is through Christ my Lord, as I surrender to His way that I triumph.

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

What is the way of Christ that Paul is thankful for? Notice the triumphant path that Paul speaks of here at the end of Romans 7. He says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Paul draws attention to the question of masters. The key to triumph or tragedy is determined by whom I choose to serve. With a renewed mind I serve my Savior but with the natural mind I will give into my flesh and serve self.

The truth is that I can either embrace the tragedy or the triumph. I can either serve self as I give in to my flesh or serve my Savior as I embrace the truth of Who He is.

The realization that I am reminded of is that in order to faithfully embrace the trial, I must faithfully embrace the truth. This exercise at times, is moment by moment. This is the deliberate exercise of my mind being renewed with truth, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.” In Colossians 3:10, he uses the illustration of changing clothes as he writes, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after [or based upon] the image of Him that created him.” This renewal process is a replacement process.  The old mind needs to be exchanged with a new mind—just as dirty garments needs to be replaced with clean ones, thoughts of sin and deception must be replaced with thoughts of truth and righteousness.

There is a positive and negative side of this truth. The negative side is that I must embrace the truth that this struggle is real and relentless, raging stronger at times more than other times. There is one who seeks to defeat, destroy, and devour us, using our flesh as the battering ram to bring us to our knees in surrender. Jesus warns us of the devil’s intentions saying, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy[1] while Peter calls for vigilance “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”[2] We must never forget, “that we are [not] sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.[3]

The positive side of embracing the truth answers the painful reality of the trial. Yes, the truth is that our struggle is real and relentless, exacerbated by the enemy who roars and rages, yet our loving Savior stands ready and answers saying, “I AM come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly: I AM the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”[4] Our great “I AM” further infuses words of truth saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”[5] He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear.”[6] He says, “Be still, and KNOW that I AM God.”[7]

With these words, my tired soul is strengthened, my hopeless heart is revived, my depressed mind is renewed to once again take on the fight.

I must deliberatelyCast down,” destroying these “imaginations” or deceptive thoughts, “and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.[8] I must daily, “set [my] affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”[9] I must be diligentlylooking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith[10]holding fast the profession of faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised).”[11]

In obedience, I can triumph instead of becoming the tragedy of wasted suffering. With my mind renewed and stabilized upon Christ, the Rock of Truth, I can once again lay hold upon the trial, embracing the struggle, choosing triumph over tragedy.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”


[1] John 10:10a
[2] 1 Peter 5:8
[3] 2 Corinthians 3:5
[4] John 10:10b-11
[5] Isaiah 41:10
[6] Psalm 46:1-2a
[7] Psalm 46:10a
[8] 2 Corinthians 10:5
[9] Colossians 3:2
[10] Hebrews 12:2a
[11] Hebrews 10:23

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Embrace the Trial – Part 4

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing more of ‘Who’ God is”

It is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself.

This quote comes from her book, “These Strange Ashes,” where Elisabeth Elliot writes,

Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now … the reward of my obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks into the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo …. It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself. This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.”

As I read these words, I am struck by her raw transparency as she struggles to reconcile Who God is with the reality of the pain of her suffering. God giving Himself to us in the trial speaks of His attitude toward His children, as He reveals more of Who He is. The truths of God bring great comfort in the trial, when we learn to embrace Who He is.

How will my attitude toward my trial change when I embrace the truth that God gives Himself? What changes in my mind when I embrace this truth? How will my response to my trial change when my focus shifts from off my pain to the Person in control of the process?

The shifting of our perspective from off the painful process to the Person Who is providentially seeking to bring about His loving purpose results in worship. In part 3, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” We considered Paul and his response to God’s negative answer to his prayer. His response is one of surrender as he embraces the trial in worship. The reason? He knew and trusted his loving, heavenly Father.

The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too
.”

The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He tenderly taught His disciples, seeking to prepare them for His departure, which was their greatest trial up to this point in their lives. Over and over He teaches them life-changing, stabilizing truths about His Father.

In John 15 we see a comforting word picture of the purging process. It illustrates for us both the purpose and the process of trials, but it also shows us the Person orchestrating the process for His good purpose. Take a few moments and read through these verses noting the Father and Son, as I have highlighted them to draw our attention.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:1-5

Amongst the many stabilizing truths in the passage, two great truths stand out, bringing great encouragement. In this passage Christ speaks of the loving relationships between the Husbandman and the Vine and branches.

The first, in illustration form, is that God is a vinedresser lovingly pruning His vine branches. What I find so encouraging about this word picture is the attitude of God the Father, the husbandman, going about pruning His branches. Picture in your mind a vinedresser coming alongside each vine with his pruning shears as he gets in close to the vine. He is very deliberate and methodical about where he cuts. He desires to maximize the fruit-bearing potential and quality of each branch so he cuts off only what is necessary—he applies only necessary pain to the branch. In this we see the careful attention the Husbandman gives as He wraps His loving arms around the Vine and prunes each branch—like a loving father embracing his child.

The second great truth is Christ’s desire for union and communion with His branches. Through this purging process Christ, the vine, is ever present and calls for us to “abide in Him,” ever seeking to draw us into closer, more intimate fellowship of dependency. From these words we see God’s attitude of love pouring forth like an unending fountain.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s love: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of our God in every action He takes—He is the unchanging, loving God.

In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks of the 70 years of judgment, in Babylon, that the nation of Israel will suffer through. He then reassures and reminds them of Who He is. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [desired] end” (Jeremiah 29:11). He is saying, “Remember Who I am! I Love you, and desire peace for you and not evil. I desire a good and purposeful end to this process. Trust Me, I love You!”

A few chapters later Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee [He lovingly encourages His people into a closer relationship with Him]’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds His servant that His painful actions toward His people are rooted in a love that will never end. It is with this love that He draws His people closer to Himself through the trials of life.

A second word picture has been helpful for me as I consider God’s praiseworthy purpose. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

I find it helpful to keep in mind that God is a master sculptor skillfully sculpting His masterpiece. A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A marble sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.”

This illustration pictures for us the process that is necessary to fulfill God’s praiseworthy purpose. It is a painful process but never forget that it is always with purpose from the hand of a loving God. Remember, “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints” (Warren Wiersbe). It is always for a good purpose.

Just as a master sculptor takes the necessary time to complete his masterpiece, so too, God the greatest, all-wise Master Sculptor takes only the necessary time, and necessary cuts to bring His masterpiece to completion. Remember the end goal for this painful process, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Let’s keep in mind that God’s masterpiece will only be fully completed once we see our Savior face to face, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, God is seeking to sculpt us into the image of His Son, day by day, trial by trial.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 2

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”.

Here in part two we consider the “why” question.

Understanding the “WHY” Question – “Embracing ‘Why’ I Am Going Through This”

God never wastes the sufferings of His saints.”—Warren Wiersbe

Is this statement true? Or could there be times when we go through unnecessary suffering? Is it possible that God could overdue my pain and suffering? Are there times when God steps back and just allows our times of suffering to go too far or for too long? How would you answer these questions? As read each question, do you feel a growing sense of uneasiness asking, “Could God actual fail at something or do something wrong?” Maybe these questions echo those you have already heard yourself asking.

The battlefield of the mind is filled with pathways of thought upon which we have repeatedly walked. These are often debilitating thoughts, tempting us to doubt God’s love and goodness promoting defeat instead of leading us to victory. Far too often, in trials, we find ourselves asking the unproductive question “Why?” instead of the questions that lead us upward to victory.

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

When we face a trial, the biggest question we struggle with is “why?” more specifically, “Why is this happening to me?” As I sought to come to grips with embracing this trial, I am seeing the necessity to look beyond this question of “why me?”. My desire is to encourage us to learn how to get beyond this question by considering its Biblical answer and in turn asking the better question of “Who is God?”.

I genuinely believe that when we learn to look at our trials in the light of Who God is and what His purpose for our trials is, we will then embrace our trials, understanding that they are for our best and for His glory. When we see our trial from God’s perspective we will see the value of the trial and in turn gain from it God’s best for us.

I am confident that “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints,” but what I am also sure of is that we can often waste our times of suffering, in spite of God’s best intentions. Often when confronted with a time of difficulty, whether financial, relational, physical or any other kind of trial, we can become angry and in turn bitter. Often, we rebel against the trial, fighting it at every turn. Instead of allowing God to draw us closer to Himself, we become distant to God and others.

Considering the trial before me, I know I need to be led by God in order to not “waste this suffering.” But how? What is necessary to be a faithful steward of this trial? What is necessary to gain from this trial the truths that God desires to show me and the lessons He desires to teach me?

The first step is understanding what’s wrong with asking the question, “why”? What’s wrong with genuinely desiring to understand the reason why something difficult is happening to me? I believe that in and of itself this question can be innocent, yet it really depends upon the heart and mind behind the question.

The reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s often asked with the wrong perspective. Unfortunately, all too often when this question is asked, it is with a heart that is really asking, “Why me”? When asked this way, we are implying that we don’t deserve this trial based upon any number of reasons that all make sense to us at the time. We may be tempted to say, “I haven’t done anything to deserve this!” The question, “why me” truly is the natural first question but asked with the wrong perspective and attitude. With this statement, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus in on my self instead of on my God.

Another reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s asked with the wrong theology. When our trials are due to punishment or chastisement, in our heart of hearts the answer seems more understandable. It is easier to see that God is dealing with a specific sin. But when the trial seems beyond our understanding, or when it continues on with no end in sight, in weariness we are tempted to doubt the wisdom of God in allowing this to take place. If we are not careful, we can allow the pain of the Refiner’s fire to redefine our theology about the Refiner Himself. We therefore question who God is by questioning His love for us because it doesn’t feel like He loves me. There are other things that we question, but usually we start with His love. This is where we begin to waste the suffering. It is important to listen to what God is saying to us.

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

God responds by encouraging us to surrender. He wants us to stop focusing on the painful process and instead look to His praiseworthy purpose.

The next step is understanding the Biblical answer to the “why” question? Biblically, the why question has a simple answer which gives our times of suffering great purpose. Consider what Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s purpose for our suffering is the development of Christlikeness.

Why would He desire this purpose, one might ask? The answer comes from Revelation 4:11, which reads, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were created for God’s pleasure—that we should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12). The way that we can accomplish this purpose is by submitting to God’s process—His process of developing the likeness of Christ in us, through the trials we face, in order to faithfully display the likeness of Christ, to others we face.

Sometimes this answer isn’t enough for us. Sometimes we still want to know “why me?” As the struggles of the trial continues, we plead with God for answers. We often plead with God, “I can’t do this! This is too much for me! Why does this have to be so hard?” Our conversation, with Him, may go something like this…

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

It is in these times that we must yield our will to the will of God and trust Him. I find that a right perspective, based on right theology, is vital to overcoming this ongoing struggle against embracing the trial.

So, what’s the right perspective?

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”—1 Peter 1:7

The right perspective comes from a proper understanding of Who God is—He is the Divine Refiner skillfully purifying His children like gold. As I study through God’s Word I am amazed at the word pictures that are used to help us learn important truths. Peter speaks of a refiner to illustrate the process of the “trial of our faith.” The refiner heats the gold with fire to reveal the impurities, speaking of the areas of our lives that need to be changed. He then removes those impurities, purifying the gold. The purer the gold, the more reflective it becomes. God, as the Master Refiner, desires to see His own reflection as He looks into the lives of His children being purified in the furnace of suffering. His praiseworthy purpose is to see the likeness of His Son clearly displayed as His children respond in obedience to this painful process.

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

Next time we will seek to begin to look at the “Who” question, embracing “Who” God is to help us as we embrace this “why” question.

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Embrace the Trial – Part 1

Honey, I think we need to go to the hospital!” This was a statement I had heard four times before, as we anticipated the arrival of each of our wonderful children, God has blessed us with. This day, I found myself on the other side of this statement—I was actually saying these words!

At times, in life, we find ourselves looking squarely into the head-on collision of an unforeseen trial that may appear overwhelming in its uncertainties. What do you do? How do you respond? Is there purpose? How can we know? The list of questions seems daunting as we ponder the endless possibilities.

The words, “embrace” and “trial,” when put together, seem so foreign and contrary. Yet these two words were on my mind. A “trial” speaks of a hardship, something unwanted and unsolicited. An “embrace” speaks of warmth and love. For me it brings memories of my mother’s loving embrace—something I long for. So, how can these two words coexist in the same thought?

As I began the process of coming to grips with this current trial, the phrase, “Embrace the trial,” kept repeatedly coming to mind. It was something I couldn’t get out of my head. Soon I found myself taking this before the Lord to find His purpose of this seemingly contradictory phrase. What the Lord showed me was both refreshing and humbling. The fog began to burn off with the view before me coming into focus. And then with great clarity this purpose statement came to rest at the forefront of my mind. “Embrace the trial—that I may know Him and glorify Him.”

In the process of coming to grips with this trial, a dear friend of mine challenged me to write a poem. Naturally, I laughed at the thought. Actually, I think I laughed out loud when he said it. Writing isn’t my area of expertise, although I enjoy sharing God’s truths through the written word. Later that evening, I found myself actually considering his challenge.

So, with pen in hand I began to pour my heart out on the page. I was amazed at how therapeutic I found the process, as it was good medicine for my soul. What came out was the struggle of the trial expressed in a conversation with my loving, heavenly Father. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. With the recurring line “Embrace the trial,” God has been reassuring me of His love, like the tender reminder of a father encouraging his son to embrace what is best, despite the painful process. With His gracious Word of truth, He was reminding me to trust Him because He is trustworthy. Paul states, “Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Through these words He continues to remind me of His sovereign purpose of conforming me into the image of His dear Son.

God’s GOAL for me is to KNOW HIM, in order to GLORIFY HIM, as I am changed to be LIKE HIM. This is His goal for every soul in every trial. This is the purging process—the crucible of affliction that God, in His loving providence, sees fit to bring about the change that He desires. It has been said that this is the process by which the Spirit of God, takes the Word of God and transforms us into the likeness of the Son of God.

Paul writes about this process of change, saying, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are changed into the same image that we spend time gazing on. The challenge is to spend time gazing upon the image of the Son of God found in the Word of God so as to be “changed into that same image from glory to glory.”

I love the results, David writes of in Psalm 40:3, that God brings about. He writes, “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” In my case, “He has put a new poem of praise in my mouth.” My prayer is that those who read it shall “worship and shall trust in the LORD.”

Here is what the Lord spoke to my heart about. My prayer is that it will be a special blessing to you, wherever you find yourself, whether needing to embrace a trial or simply continuing life’s journey.

“Embrace the Trial”

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know, just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

“Look up and see your Savior’s face, and gaze upon My Word.
In time, you’ll be the change I see, committed to your Lord.”

“Look up and see My eyes of grace, I look from up above.
Fear not, My child, the pain you feel is sent because I love.”

“Rejoice! My mercy never fails, enduring to the end.
My grace you’ll find sufficient in humility you bend.”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

In case you were wondering…No, I’m not through having this conversation but I am truly grateful for how we have begun. I know the road ahead will be marked with areas of failure and repentance. I know there will be times where I am tempted to misplace my trust. I know there will be times that I will need to refocus my perspective on my loving Savior’s face and the purpose that He is seeking to accomplish. The bottom line is that I know that I will need to “embrace the trial,” time and time again in order to achieve the goal for which God has purposed. His will is for me to know Him, in order to glorify Him, as I am changed into the image of His Son. By God’s grace and with the prayers of His saints I will “embrace the trial—that I may know Him and glorify Him.”

Can you relate? It is very possible that you have had a similar conversation with the Lord. Or maybe it is time to have this conversation with our good and loving God. I want to encourage you to read over and meditate upon the truths of God’s Word, then take Him at His Word. I want to encourage you to “embrace the trial.

Look up and see God’s eyes of grace, He looks from up above. Fear not, God’s child, the pain you feel is sent because He loves.” And then “Rejoice! His mercy never fails, enduring to the end. His grace you’ll find sufficient in humility you bend. So, embrace the trial, God’s dear child, His best is what you’ll see, beyond the suffering you feel, God’s Son they soon shall see.”

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Christmas Sunday Worship—To go to church or not to go?

This year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. Are you planning on taking your family to church this Christmas Day?

Some questions for us to consider in light of Christmas Sunday

  1. The reason for the season: When we cancel church services on Christmas Sunday or choose to stay home on this day are we as Christians showing that JESUS is truly the REASON for the SEASON?

In the gospel of Matthew we read, “And she [Mary] shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the reason for this season.

  1. The value we are placing: What are we showing that we value? How do we show that we value our Savior when we cancel Christmas Sunday service or choose to stay home on the day we claim to celebrate His birth? What value are we placing on Christ?

The value of Christ is spiritual life to those who place their faith in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

  1. The message we are sending: What message are we sending to our children and unsaved family members when we choose to stay home instead of going to church just because Christmas falls on a Sunday?

When the message of Christmas is, Christ putting of flesh, dwelling among us in order to one day be our PERFECT SACRIFICE, shouldn’t we take this opportunity to celebrate this message with our church family and also to invite others who normally don’t attend church to hear this life-changing message?

  1. The love we are showing: The message of Christmas is the message of God’s amazing love for us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Making a sacrifice to go to church to celebrate the birth of our Savior shows the importance that we place upon the first advent of Christ and the purpose for which He came to this earth. It is a way of displaying our love for Christ. After all, our gift of eternal life is the precious gift of the Son. Shouldn’t we show Him how much we love Him?

I want to urge you to consider attending a Bible believing church this Christmas Sunday and celebrate the birth of the greatest Gift ever given—God’s greatest Gift of His Son. O come, let us adore Him!

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How Long, O LORD?

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever?” Have you ever asked this question? Most of us have said these words in one form or another given the various challenges we may find ourselves in.

So, where do you find yourself today? In what challenging situation of life are you confronted with as you set down to read these words? Do you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand with the struggles of life continuing to go on and on and on and on…? Is hopelessness and despair knocking at your door so frequently that you are on the verge of giving up in defeat? Maybe you have already quit—maybe you have resigned yourself to the thought that this is your lot in life that will never change. I know…I’m often there as well. As of late, my health has been a trial for me that is challenging me in areas that I didn’t think I needed help in. It has been weighing upon me in a way that I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t care to admit. But here I am—coming to grips with my weaknesses and frailties. I’m coming to grip with the reality that I am a man often in need of hope and encouragement.

If you are like me, something is happening where you feel beaten down with the cares of your life? It could be your health or mounting bills due to lack of finances. It could be family struggles—marital difficulties and challenges with your children. Or maybe other relationships are suffering and adding another set of stressors to your already stress-filled life.

Whatever it is, the answer is near. Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is comfort. Although I am in the midst of this battle I have found comfort in the words of my Savior when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The word “labour” speaks of one who is beaten down, fatigued and worn out. One who is “heavy laden” speaks of one who is overburdened with the cares and struggles of this life being “stressed out.” These are the ones to whom Christ is speaking. Notice the promise that He gives, …and I will give you rest. …and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” So let’s go to Him and see His remedy for our struggles—the “rest” for our weary souls. Let’s approach God’s Word with an openness to see the stabilizing truths of His Word and see where they speak to the pain of life—where they speak to life’s difficulties that beat us up, burden us down and bring us to a place where we question everything we thought was true.

Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS help from God’s Word!

It is always fascinating to me, as I approach God’s Word, where I find myself in a passage that is timely and filled with the healing balm of God’s stabilizing truths. I am blessed to know a God who loves me with an unending love; a love that is never distant or faint; a love that is satisfying and real; a love that is genuine and always what I need. I may not always feel these truths about His love, but as I step back and think—as I move from feeling to thinking—I can always find God’s love to be more than enough…ALWAYS!!

Psalm 13 is medicine for the despairing soul—the soul that is on the verge of giving up; the soul that is facing defeat—at the point of hopelessness, wondering, “Is it really worth trying; is it really worth the effort to take the next step?”

In this psalm, David says what I have been thinking, feeling, battling. He articulates the emotional struggle of a trial that seem like it will never end; a trial that often in my eyes has gone on long enough; a trial that at times can seem to be without purpose. BUT has it gone on long enough? It still continues! Is it without purpose? Although it may feel like it, I realize that there is always purpose especially as I look back and see that God is growing me through this. The challenge that I am confronted with is my need to think based upon what God says instead of how I feel.

David’s Plea—Consider David’s questions in the form of a plea to God.

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 1-2)

He is struggling with feeling alone as if God is distant, having forgotten about him. He starts out by pleading to the Lord as he pours out his heart.  His feelings seem to be the driving force as he cries out to the Lord, “Where are you?” and “When will this end?”

In verse 2 David speaks of taking counsel in [his] soul, having sorrow in [his] heart daily. Literally he is speaking about his thoughts that are a source of constant oppression. It is a daily struggle with no intermission—no reprieve as this trial continues without any hope of conclusion. This is a state of hopelessness which stems from both internal and external oppression. The internal oppression is rooted in how he thinks based upon how he feels. The external oppression comes in the form of persecution from his enemies.  For us the external oppression can be persecution, but more often it is something physical, financial or even social.

Often the saint comes to the point of despair as he begins to lose hope. His feelings betray him as he feels that the Lord has left him.  As the trial continues with no end in sight his soul wearies and his faith can seemingly begin to wane.

David’s Prayer—Next, in verses 3 and 4 we see David’s prayer to God.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (v. 3-4)

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts are being driven by emotion and feeling. Now in this prayer we can see David’s perspective changing. As a humble man, he is acknowledging his own need—his weakness. In these words, he cries out to the Lord, praying, “consider and hear me!”  He is saying, “Pay attention to me and respond to my prayer.” But notice what he asks next. He says, Lord, lighten my eyes.” With this request he seems to be saying, “Lord, shed light upon this next step upon this path that You have set before me.”  He is asking for the Lord to help him see with spiritual eyes what God is purposing through this trial. Notice that He doesn’t ask God to take away the pain and suffering but instead he prays for spiritual sight in the suffering. His prayer is for help to look at his own situation from God’s perspective.

In verse 4 his prayer continues with purpose. He speaks to God about what he fears will happen if God does not help him. He says, Lest mine enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him;’ and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. His concern is his testimony. If he succumbs to defeat—if he gives up in hopeless despair—his Godly testimony will be marred. His Godly influence will cease. I believe that his concern is that God will not be glorified through him.

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts driven by his feelings. Starting in verse 3 we see a change in perspective. His thoughts begin to be guided by truth. With each additional verse his mind becomes more and more engaged in God’s stabilizing truths.

David’s Praise—In the final two verses we see David’s praise.

“But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (v. 5-6)

In these last two verses we see three key points of David’s praise. David turns his mindset to truth.  He fixes his mind upon God through the truth of His Word and the peace of God begins to transcend his circumstances, just as God’s Word says.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength [the rock of ages]:” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

He goes from feeling to faith—from how his heart feels to what his heart knows.  He looks back to a point of trustI have trusted in Thy mercy. David knew his God. He knew that He was a God of mercy and that He was the source of his salvation. In the beginning of this Psalm David is feeling as if God is not there; as if God has left. Now his mind rests upon the truth of God instead of his feelings being dictated by his circumstances. He begins to think upon the stabilizing truths of God which dictate his praise to God in his time of suffering.

He then looks forward to a promise of truthMy heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He looks forward with the eye of faith—with anticipation that God will rescue him. His mindset has changed from a perspective of hopelessness to one of patient hope and confidence. In another psalm David writes, “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2). Notice in these words of triumph how David describes his great God. With each description he makes it personal; He is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my buckler, my salvation, and my high tower.” These are stabilizing truths to David as he focuses on each one as God’s benevolence toward him. This is who God was to David.

As a result of his meditating upon the sufficiency of his great God, notice his commitment to praise. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (Psalm 18:3).

Finally he looks beyond to his praise of triumphI will sing unto the LORD.” As David relies upon what he knows to be true about God, the result is worship.  Through the trial, that David had gone through, he felt as if God was distant, but his knowledge of God brings him to see the reality that God cannot be any closer for HE is intimately close to David and through this trial David sees that HE is ever closer.

In closing, consider David’s words in Psalm 40. He says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies” (Psalm 40:1-4).

Throughout Psalm 13 we have seen David move from the pit of “miry clay” to the “Rock” of truth. His mind finds rest in the stabilizing truths of God. In tragedy he triumphs, not because his circumstances have changed but because his mindset has changed. His feelings have been replaced with facts and his trembling has been replaced with truth. Herein lies the victory.

Although the storm still rages all around him, the storm has ceased within him. Through a right perspective he has found the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Though his storm still rages his heart is resting—resting upon the stabilizing truths of God—resting in His precious promises.

Whatever storm you find yourself in, always know that God is there with you. When you take your eyes off the storm you will see your loving Savior walking with you and often carrying you. Trust Him for He is the Master of the storm. He is the God [who] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Let us learn to be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10)—the Almighty God.

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Is Christ Found In Me?

American Christianity has found itself in a state of apathy, resting in the wonderful truth of being “found in Christ.” Although to many, this truth seems to be more of a surface truth lacking the depth of transforming truth. This modern American Christianity, that we find ourselves surrounded by is consumed with a kind of faith that doesn’t stand out too much. It’s the kind of faith that is a convenient kind of “fire insurance” Christianity. One that states, “I have my ticket to heaven, yet in the name of Christian liberty, I can live any way that I want as long as the Bible doesn’t specifically say anything against it.”

The unfortunate reality is that many “Christians” fail to take the time to read God’s Word to even see if what they are doing in the name of Christian liberty is actually forbidden by God let alone trying to see if any Biblical principles apply. In a great way there tends to be little emphasis placed on these Biblical principles found in Scripture and their application to one’s life. The assumption is simply that God didn’t specifically say it so it must be okay. This has led to a kind of Christianity that is entertainment driven, seeker-friendly, Bible Lite, doctrinally weak, “feel good” Christianity. We may claim to “be found in Christ” but the question that we must be asking is, “Is Christ found in me?

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8-9, saying, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The beautiful reality of being “found in Christ” is the salvational truth that when God looks upon us He sees the righteousness of His Son—He sees Christ. This great truth is that, by faith in the righteousness of Christ and His finished work on our behalf, Christ’s righteousness is placed on our account. This is the means by which we are brought into the family of God with the confident hope of eternal life with Him. This is a glorious truth!

On the other hand, we are called to be transformed by this salvational truth and therefore Christ is to be found in me. The Bible tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a “new creature,” Christ will be found in me as other people see Christ in me. They will see Christ-likeness on display in my life. They will see the love of Christ in the way that I treat others. They will see Christ’s kind of peace (John 14:27 & 16:33)[1] as I go through the trials and tribulations of life. The will see Christ-likeness in the way that I strive to obey God through His Word, seeking to follow Christ’s example (John 6:38 & 14:31).[2] Ultimately, others will see the light of Christ in me and give glory to my “Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).[3]

So then, how can Christ be found in me? How can you and I keep from falling into this apathetic Christianity that seems to be all around us, almost consuming us? How can we row against the current of this culture of convenient Christianity—this culture that seems to be rushing further from genuineBiblical Christianity more like a raging river toward the destructive waterfalls ahead? How can we live a visible, genuine Christianity that is more than fire insurance but one that faithfully represents our Savior as we seek to be used as an instrument of God’s grace, rescuing others from the wrath that is to come? How can we live a life of loving Christianity whereby others see our love for our Lord and each other and in turn are encouraged and challenged to do the same?

I believe that the answer is seen in Paul’s mindset in verse 8 where he says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” This “excellency of the knowledge of Christ” was Paul’s daily pursuit. His goal was this “excellency” or the surpassing greatness of being transformed by the “knowledge of Christ.” He wanted to be changed into Christ-likeness whereby having Christ consistently found in him.

Paul goes onto speak of this transformation—this sanctification truth—in Philippians 3:10  when he says, “That I may know Him , and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Paul is saying that Christ is found in me when “I know” and “follow after Him. Christ is seen in me as I pursue the “excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”[4] He is seen in me the more “I know Him”—as I personally  experience Him in His glorious resurrection power, as I fellowship with Him in His life of suffering and as I learn to die to self being like Him in His death.

Christ will be seen in me as I “follow after[5] Christ or passionately pursue Him as “I press toward the mark.[6]  The same Greek word that is translated “follow after” and “press” in verses 12 & 14 is also translated “persecuting” in Philippians 3:6.  Paul was zealous in his efforts to please God as he persecuted the church.  He maintained this zealousness in seeking to please God after His conversion but now with a more complete Biblical and spiritual understanding of what truly pleases God. He pursued a life of obedience rooted in his supreme love for his Savior. He had experienced this great salvational truth, being saved from a life of pursuing self-righteousness in order to please God. He now found Himself in a state of amazing grace having God’s favor upon Him. As a result he wanted nothing more than to bring honor and glory to the name of Christ by having Christ found in him as Christ-likeness was more clearly and consistently displayed in his life.

In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul says to Timothy, “but thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”  When God’s children, by His grace, first “follow after” or passionately pursue the things of God we will die to self by “fleeing” the pleasures of this world. When our love for God is a supremely exclusive kind of love, our love for the world and its temptations lose their powerful enticement. Christian character will then be cultivated in our lives. Our faithful, humble obedience to God’s Word will result in Christ being found in us.

Have you found yourself caught up in this apathetic kind of convenient Christianity? Have you found your faith looking more like a kind of hypocritical Christianity? Have you found yourself falling back on your rights justified by unbiblical Christian liberty? Have you found yourself taking for granted your “ticket to heaven” yet little or no desire to understand more about what God has to say to you in His love letter to you?

If the answer is “yes” then run to Christ. “Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Get back into God’s Word and see the glorious yet tragic truths of the Gospel. Be reminded of the “mercies of God” as you read through Isaiah 53, Matthew 26:47–27:50, Mark 14:43–15:39, Luke 22:47–23:47, and John 18-19 seeing the crucible of suffering that your Savior endured on your behalf. All that He suffered so that you could enjoy a relationship with Him—a relationship which displays your love for Him and brings Him much glory. A relationship in which you show your value of the cross as you see it in light of what He accomplished for you by dying in your place.

Read the accounts in the Gospels of His resurrection along with 1 Corinthians 15 and see His path of torment ending in triumph over sin and death. Meditate upon these triumphant truths at the end of this resurrection chapter as Paul writes, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)

Let these refreshing words of victory wash over you cleansing and stabilizing you as they renew your mind with these triumphant and transforming truths. May these passages of Christ’s torment and triumph renew in you a gratitude for your Savior and a supreme love for your Lord. I beg of you as Paul does in Romans 12:1-2, based upon these “mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living [transformed] sacrifice, holy [set apart from sin], acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. [Stop being] conformed to this world—[this anti-God culture that you find yourself in]: but be ye transformed—[changed into something useful that brings glory to God] by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

As you have placed your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation you are “in Christ.” But it doesn’t end there. Let Christ be found in you as you take hold of the sanctifying truths of the Gospel. Passionately pursue these transforming truths by “put off concerning the former conversation [the ways of] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the [ways of] new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Passionately pursue Christ-likeness as you meditate upon the “mercies of God” and learn to rest in these powerful, stabilizing truths found in God’s Word.

Read and meditated upon what God says. Listen to the words of James as he writes, “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding [looking carefully at] his natural face in a glass [a mirror]: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. BUT whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [the Word of God], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a [obedient] doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22-25).  Commit yourself to doing everything that God has said in His Word. Start applying the principles of Scripture to your life and enjoy the blessings that come from a life of loving obedience.

If you questions whether or not you are “in Christ”—in God’s family—consider taking the time to read The Most Precious Truth as well as How do I get to Heaven? See what God has done for you. Place your faith in Christ ALONE for salvation as you rest ONLY in His perfect, sacrificial work on your behalf. Then take Him at His Word.  Believe all that He says and be stabilized with these sanctifying truths as they transform your life.  This life of loving obedience will give testimony of Christ being found in you.

See the blessed life as a reality instead of something always just out of your reach. The blessed life is a life where Christ is consistently found in you. It is a life of obedience generated by a supreme love for your Savior. Don’t just settle for being “in Christ.” Let Christ be found in you today!

[1] Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

[2] “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” (John 6:38)

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” (John 14:31)

[3] “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

[4] “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

[5] “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12)

[6]I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

 

 

Knowing God’s Forgiveness

How often is your life burdened down by a guilty conscience? Do you struggle with moving on from past sins? Do you find God’s forgiveness seemingly just out of reach? King David knew the struggle of being burdened down with a guilty conscience. He understood the weight and struggle of living a burdened life not enjoying God’s forgiveness. From his own experience he gives us a precious truth to consider.  He shows us how we can go from burden to blessing in Psalm 32:1-5.

Consider the Blessed Life:  These first two verses give us the result of forgiveness which results in a blessed life. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

When someone is “blessed” their life is a life that is envied by others because it is a life filled with peace and joy. The life that others look upon and desire to have is the life the one who knows they have been forgiven as they live in the reality of this truth.  O how very happy is the man who knows he has been forgiven.

The person “in whose spirit there is no guile” is the person who has dealt honestly with his sin.  He has confessed his sin before God. In other words, he has defined his own sin just like God defines it.  This is a humble response to God’s convicting us of our sin. He then has taken God at His Word where it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To be forgiven from our transgressions, sin and iniquity is to be free of a life of guilt.  That is a person who is to be envied.  We all should desire to be in this state for it is a state that God desires for us to be in.  This is His will for each of our lives. Consider how far God removes our sin that has been confessed and that He has forgiven…“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). The eternal distance between the east and the west is the distance that God removes the sin which He forgives.  The reality of this in one’s life is blessing—this is the blessed life!

Consider the Burdened Life: In these next two verses we see the results of a life of consumed and weighted down by guilt. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the daylong. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4). This is the burdened life!

The heavy hand of God was David’s conscience bearing witness against him as it pressed down upon him convicting him of his sin.  A guilty conscience can bring physical discomfort along with the obvious mental discomfort.  A guilty conscience is designed by God to reveal to us the intrusion of sin into our lives in order to move us to deal with that sin.

Consider your conscience as a smoke detector. The smoke detectors in your house are designed to go off when smoke is present.  Our conscience “goes off” when the intrusion of sin comes into our lives.  To roll over and cover your head with a pillow when the smoke detector is sounding would be tremendously foolish.  So too when our conscience is guilty, to disregard it is to act foolishly. Consider reading “Silencing the Sin Detector” here.

Consider the unBurdened Life: Here in verse 5 we see the remedy as David shares with us the process of getting right with God therefore going from burden to blessing.  We must confront the intrusion of sin through confession of sin. He says, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

To “acknowledge my sin” is to take responsibility for my sin by saying the same thing about it that the Lord says.  It is to see my sin as the Lord sees it.  My sin is a trespass against His infinite holiness. My sin is an act of “cosmic treason”[i] against the holy God in which I fail to achieve His holy and righteous mark of obedience that He has set for me.

David speaks of his openness before the Lord.  He had concealed his sin, in that he did not confess it for about a year.  His actions, now in humility, are to lay bare his heart and mind before the Lord as he confesses his sin and seeks reconciliation.  He stopped trying to cover his head with his pillow in hopes that the “smoke” might go away.  Instead he took action, confronted the intrusion of sin and found peace in his life once again. He returned to the life of blessing.

The precious truth of this verse is the fact that God ALWAYS forgives the sin of a repentant heart.  Keep in mind that David was forgiven for his sins of adultery and murder.  God desires to forgive ALL the sin that is in your life, even the ones you don’t feel like He can forgive. We must move past feeling and rest in truth. Move beyond living in the reality dictated by your feelings and learn to live in the reality based upon what God says.

Because of our “forgiving God” we can have great joy and peace as we learn to find it in Him.  When we confess our sin He, in His great grace, forgives us and covers our sin as if it never existed.  In His great mercy He removes from our account the record of that sin.  What a Great God we serve!

The wisest man who ever lived stated, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). The truth of this verse is foundational to moving from burden to blessing. A pastor friend of mine put it well when he said, “When I cover my sin, the Holy Spirit will uncover it.  When I uncover my sin, the Holy Spirit will cover my sin with the blood of Jesus Christ” (Steve Motes, Pastor of Chadds Ford Baptist Church).

It is the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). When you rest in the stabilizing truths of God’s Word you move from living a reality based upon how you feel to a reality based upon truth. Let His truth truly set you free and move from a life of burden to a life of blessing.


[i] “Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we had offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence. The slightest sin is nothing less than cosmic treason when we realize against Whom we have sinned.”—Jonathan Edwards