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.”


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


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)