Christianity 201

September 14, 2021

For Times of Suffering and Affliction

Elsie Montgomery is one of the longest-running and most-quoted devotional writers here at C201. I have great respect for what she produces at Practical Faith. Her writing will have a key-word focus and the word for today is affliction. Other recent studies have included accessible, adopts, and admonishes. Do you sense an alphabetical thing going on?

I strongly encourage you to read this at the link in the header below and then click the tab at the bottom that says “older posts” and then keep reading.

What about calamity?

My hubby was at a Christian men’s gathering and said something about God afflicting people to get their attention. One man responded with, “God would never do that!”

But God did do that. The first appearance of this word is in the first book of the Bible. Abraham and his wife went to Egypt because of a famine in their land. Since Sarah was so beautiful, he feared she’d be taken by an Egyptian and he would be killed so he told her to say she was his sister. She was taken into Pharaoh’s house and this leader treated Abraham well because of her . . .

Genesis 12:17. But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

Isaiah 45:7 also says: “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

I know not to speculate but this story makes me wonder of our current pandemic is related to a current situation with God’s people, that as we live among those who do not know God we have fears for our own lives instead of trusting Him to take care of us? Being bold in a pagan land can lead to violent persecution and death. Consider daily news from places like Afghanistan and parts of Africa.

Today’s word is AFFLICTION, not the general hard stuff of life but the trials sent by God to humble His children and to bring us to repentance and contrition so we will trust Him instead of ourselves. The OT has several words for this. Some are translated affliction, particularly plague. Others are crush, or oppress or strike, hit, wound. Still others are more positive such as the challenges of fasting and prayer.

Leviticus 23:27. “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord.

Psalm 35:13. But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.

The psalmist is thankful for affliction, testifying that it leads to obedience. This is also noted in the NT.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word . . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes . . . . I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:67;71;75).

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9–10).

While we tend to blame Satan for suffering, I need to see that God sometimes (not always) uses it to correct me. I must also remember that Jesus was afflicted by God. The prophet foretold what and why:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted . . . . He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. . . . Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:4; 7; 10).

This tells me that affliction can have a far greater purpose than just making me miserable. It can be used by God for reasons I may not realize at the time. Unlike Jesus, I am not always given that awareness.

GAZE INTO HIS GLORY. Deeply considering Jesus changes my understanding of suffering. I do not welcome it, yet Jesus did say that when persecuted (a similar NT word to affliction meaning put into a narrow place of trouble, affliction or distress), I should rejoice:

Matthew 5:10–12. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

James 1:2–4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The bottom line is God’s sovereignty. He can prevent affliction as well as make it happen. Do I trust Him to the point of being willing to accept the tough stuff and use it in His plan as He sees fit? If not, I need to keep gazing into His glory and realizing this is an incredible and true reality.

 

 

April 6, 2019

God Didn’t Need It, But God Used It

Today we’re back with Jim Thornber, who’s website is called Thinking Out Loud. (Weird, huh?) This is the first devotional here that begins to focus our thoughts on christ’s path to Jerusalem. Click the header below to read this article there.

The Never-Ridden Donkey

“Go into that village over there. As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.” (Luke 19:30)

I’ve been teaching through the book of Luke at my church, and this one passage about Jesus riding the young donkey has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I like this part of the story about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem because it reveals a number of things. It shows how often Jesus requires the use of our possessions and why it is always an honor to give back to God a portion of everything He has given us. But the takeaway part of the story for me is to realize how God can use those things little things in our life the rest of the world wouldn’t say is possible.

Matthew tells us the two disciples looked for a donkey tied with its colt beside it and brought both the donkey and the colt with them (Matt. 21:4-5, 7). Now, I’m thinking about the owners of this young donkey no one had ridden. Did they look back after they understood the significance of the event and marvel, saying, “God used us! US! All we really had were two donkeys and Jesus used the smallest one, the one no one had ridden, the one with the least experience, the one no one else would think of using, and with the least of what we had Jesus used it to accomplish His purpose on earth. Wow!” Ponder this: Can you see God using those little things in your life everyone else has dismissed as unusable?

God doesn’t need to use what I have. He could use anything He wants. The Father could have created a donkey out of mud and placed it where Jesus needed it, but He didn’t. Instead, this story tells us He wants to invite us into the events of His purposes. He invites us to trust Him with the gifts He has given us. To be honest, if I was the owner of this little colt, I’d be wondering when I’d be getting my livestock back. “When are you going to return it, Jesus?” would be my question. Or, I might go selfish and wonder how the Lord will bless my donkeys. Will He bring back four donkeys? Will my donkeys always have healthy colts? What’s in it for me? You’ve heard preachers tell you, like with Job, “God will give you double for your trouble?” That might be true, but I don’t want to go through what Job went through to find out!

Furthermore, I want to be like the owners of the animals who, when they heard, The Lord needs them,” (Luke 19:31), they immediately (Matt. 21:3) let them take his possessions. While most people would consider the miracle part of the story being Jesus sitting on a donkey who had never been ridden without being thrown off, in my life the challenging miracle of the story is the “immediately” part. To be honest, I’m still working on my “immediately” responses. In too many ways, I don’t always believe Jesus can use my unridden donkeys, those areas of my life I don’t think anyone has any use for. But this story tells me differently.

Here’s the question I’ve been pondering, so I’ll share it with you. What is your unridden donkey, and how can God use it for His purposes? Then, when you find out, work on your “immediately.” I know I will!

 

August 15, 2016

An Earlier “Great” Commission

As we did last year at this time, we’re going to spend two days at the website GCD (Gospel-Centered Discipleship) and this time around the featured writer is Virginia Pastor Joey Tomlinson. Click the title below to read at source, and spend some time visiting the rest of the website.

Dominion Commission

As Christians, we understand that every single person on the planet is created in the Image of God. The Genesis account of man’s creation communicates this truth (Gen 1:26-28).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Even though most Christians are familiar with this passage, many are confused about what it actually means. In other words, what are the implications of being a man or woman created in the Image of God?

According to Genesis 1, God’s image bearers were called to express their identity by having dominion over the earth. This dominion commission is accomplished in two ways—filling the earth with children (28) and by subduing the earth (26, 28).

Dominion Commission
Think for a moment about this place in history. God created man and woman in his image and they are unhindered by sin and enjoy perfect fellowship with God, each other, and all of creation. God gives them the gracious task of ruling, and they found joy in the opportunity to procreate little image bearers and subdue the earth. They had everything they needed to be obedient to God’s dominion commission. And they were to do it for the glory of their Maker.

Think about this commissioning in light of Psalm 8:4-9:

What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.

Therefore, as Image bearers we are to have dominion and this is good. However, man’s ability to be obedient to this commission to have dominion has been paralyzed because his relationship with God is severed.

Christians are all too familiar with the dreaded Genesis 3 account of the fall of man:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

In three short chapters, Adam and Eve go from being naked and not ashamed to being naked and ashamed and unable to enjoy a relationship with God and fulfill the task God has given them to have dominion over the earth.

The story doesn’t end there, though. God does something incredible.

Pay close attention to Genesis 3:15:

“I [God] will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman [Eve], and between your [the serpent’s] offspring and her [Eve’s] offspring; he [Jesus] shall bruise your head, and you [serpent and his offspring] shall bruise his heel.”

What is God doing here?

God is preaching the gospel. In one verse, we come to understand that God has graciously saved the newly depraved Eve (puts enmity between her and the serpent); he divides the world up into two communities: those who love God and those who love self (Eve’s offspring vs. the serpent’s offspring). He foretells of a Deliverer we know in this verse as the snake-crusher, which is Christ.

Ephesians 1:7 states, “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” God through Jesus Christ has and is restoring the image of God to his church. This restoration was his plan before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).

After Christ died on the cross and bodily and eternally rose from the grave, securing salvation for his church, he gives this commission to his disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

Do you understand the significance of this truth? Because Christ has secured our salvation, we now have the ability to be obedient to the dominion commission.

The Great Commission is a dominion commission just as Genesis 1:26-28 is a dominion commission. Because of the authority of Jesus and the Holy Spirit indwelling believers we can joyfully make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teach them obedience.

God through Jesus has restored his image to his church and has reconciled us to himself for his glory. Furthermore, he has reasserted our purpose to have dominion on the earth—for his glory. We do this by faithfully heralding the good news of the gospel in the authority of Jesus Christ.

Christ won’t return until all of his children from every tribe, tongue, and nation proclaim his kingship (Ps 110:1). He has appointed that glorious day, long ago (Mk 13:32; Acts 17:31). Our commission to spread the glory of God to all nations will be successful. Christ died so that it would be. Embrace your identity and find fulfillment and joy in the task that God has graciously called and equipped you for.

 

September 5, 2015

Pursuing God’s Agenda

Today’s article is from the blog Disciple All Nations which came recommended. Russ Mitchell serves as Assistant Director of Research for One Challenge www.OneChallenge.org. The article I would have liked to post here, On the Study of God’s Great Works was a bit longer than what we usually run here, but I hope you will check it out if you have time. As always, you’re encouraged to click the title below and read this at source…

Spiritual Leaders Must First of all Pursue God’s Agenda in Unity

My last posting highlighted two characteristics of spiritual leaders found in 1 Chronicles 12:32, namely that spiritual leaders understand the times and know what God’s people should do. Considering this passage in its context, a third characteristic of spiritual leaders emerges: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda.  So let’s see how this idea emerges from the passage.

1 Chronicles 12:23, which introduces the entire passage, says: “Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD (NASB). The last few words are key, as they provide insight into why these leaders of Israel took the action they did. They understood that it was God’s revealed will to make David king.

agendaThe fact that David was chosen by God to rule over all Israel was not new news. More than a decade had passed since God revealed to the prophet Samuel that David was to rule instead of Saul and Samuel anointed David as king (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:13). So the fact that David was God’s choice to rule all Israel had been known for some time.

Instead, we see that for a period, Israel’s leaders pursued a different agenda. At this point in time, seven and a half years passed since the death of Saul, from which time David reigned over only the tribe of Judah. These seven and a half years were characterized by conflict and civil war as the leaders of the other eleven tribes attempted to maintain the kingship of Saul’s house, whom God had rejected, instead of making David king, as God directed. Thus we have a significant amount of time where un-spiritual leaders were seeking to do their own will rather than pursuing God’s revealed agenda.

So the action that we see here in 1 Chronicles 12 was not immediate action based on a new revelation, but rather the leaders and people finally (!) coming into alignment with God’s long ago revealed will.

Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership, state that effective spiritual leaders move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda. I find this description of spiritual leadership very helpful. But this passage in 1 Chronicles 12 brings to light the problematic issues that emerge when the majority of spiritual leaders choose to not pursue God’s revealed agenda. The intervening seven and a half years between Saul’s death and David being made king over all Israel involved civil war, assassinations and needless death and suffering, all because Israel’s leaders would not accept God’s revealed word. Instead they pursued their own agenda – to their own detriment.  In this context, spiritual leaders must first choose to pursue God’s agenda; then they are able to move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda.

In my experience two plus decades of working with Christian leaders, I have observed that it is frequently necessary to persuade spiritual leaders to pursue God’s revealed agenda. One would think that this should not be an issue; but it is. There are many possibilities of why this is so. Some may be ignorant of God’s revealed agenda. Others have forgotten or neglected the pursuit of God’s will or have a list of excuses of why God’s  revealed will does not apply. A few have outright rejected God’s word in order to pursue a self-seeking agenda.  Maybe the pursuit of God’s agenda is “politically incorrect” or challenges the status quo of those who are positional church leaders. So the first task is to help spiritual leaders wrestle with what God wants, to take God’s revealed word seriously, to lay down their own agendas to pursue God’s agenda in unity. I ‘ve observed that a primary factor that derails church planting and disciple making initiatives is that leaders are unable to come together in unity to pursue God’s agenda. Is it any wonder that there is so much disunity in the Body of Christ when its leaders are unwilling to pursue God’s agenda?

So this is the key point: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda in unity; then they will be able to move the rest of God’s people to accomplish what is on God’s agenda.  We see this happening in 1 Chronicles 12, where hundreds of thousands of people come into alignment with God’s agenda to make David King of all Israel. Would it not be more wonderful to see hundreds of thousands – even millions –  of God’s people working together today to make Jesus king of the whole earth!

Adding this perspective to our previous observations from 1 Chronicles 12 about spiritual leadership it is seen that spiritual leaders must:  (1) pursue God’s agenda in unity, (2) understand the times and (3) know what God’s people should do.

I see that several practical applications that follow from these observations. So the next piece will focus on three practical questions every spiritual leader must be able to answer.

June 25, 2014

How God Views Our Place in Time

clock spiralWhile researching yesterday’s article, I came across this larger article by Dr. Don Lynch and felt it worthy of its own presentation here. You are encouraged to read this at source, where it appeared under the title Generations (click to read and then look around the rest of his blog.)

To understand what God understands, we need to think like God. We don’t need to think everything God thinks – impossible! – but we need to think what God thinks. So, God reveals His thoughts to us, then He speaks to us in the same context of Divine thinking. The word used to speak of “generations is ancient and about as basic as Hebrew can get.

To understand the ancient meaning, we begin with the pictorial expressions of the letters. The first letter is a tent door. The second represents movement, in or out or back and forth. The third represents the head of a man or man himself. The combination means “the movement of man.”

The generations remain open. Purpose passes from one generation to the next. Both recompense and restoration arrive through the generations because a generation has the movement of man in it.

“After that generation died, another generation arrived who did not know the LORD or have memories of the mighty things He had done for Israel.” [Judges 2:10]

When a generation has little or no awareness of what God has done in a culture, a generation must arise to reintroduce that generation to the mighty works of God. We are that generation!

“And with many other words did He testify and exhort , saying , ‘Save yourselves from this untoward generation.’” [Acts 2:40]

The term for “untoward” here is skolios upon which we base the medical term scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. The base word is leg but the meaning is dried out like a dead tree limb, lacking life, unconnected to the tree. Hence, the basic idea is “separated from the root supply system of the tree.” The “untoward generation” cannot be the source of God’s purpose anymore, so we separate from them and expect to be a remnant who resets that purpose of God in our generation.

Jesus reset the kingdom of David. The disciples understood that He was resetting kingdom but they misunderstood the blueprint. They ask, “Will You restore the kingdom now to Israel?” That Israel didn’t have the kingdom was pretty much a given – and Jesus had received kingdom from His Father, giving kingdom to them. So, they went in search of answers He didn’t give them.

Beware of this tendency to expect or demand answers God isn’t giving you while pondering answers God has already revealed. Consider that you conclusion that you need more information before you proceed is simply disobedience you’ve relabeled “wisdom,” fear you’ve relabeled “caution,” and pride you’ve relabeled “excellence.” You just need to do it!

When a remnant generation begins a reset, they can only function by revelation because what remains of testimony has been lost to history and exaggeration. The previous moves of God didn’t mature, else a reset wouldn’t be needed! So, the reset remnant must depend upon revelation completely. Completely. Did I mention that the remnant generation must be prophetically mature? To mature the move of God we must mature prophetically.

Right now, a move of God is maturing in Brazil. Will this generation mature prophetically in order to mature the move of God, or will this generation tend toward institutionalizing that move of God in ways that short-circuit its fullness? To lead prophetically is to know the “what-God-wants” for your culture, prepare the Lord a people ready to respond in the new season, and to join the generations by the spirit and power of Elijah by turning the hearts of fathers and children toward one another. The “turning of the hearts” prepares for a “generation to generation” fullness so there can be a “generation to generation” fulfillment.

“David served God’s purpose in his own generation, then he died and was buried with his ancestors. He experienced death’s decay,” [Common English Version, Acts 13:36]

David was a reset leader, a true pioneer. Without any history or framework of experience, he introduced a kingdom that Jesus made eternal. Each step he took required him to do something for which there was no precedent in his life. He prepared to face a giant by facing bear and lion. He prepared to wield a sword by becoming expert with a sling. He moved from shepherd to warrior to general to ruler to kingship so he could move Israel into kingdom. God put something into history through David that generations delivered to Jesus. Jesus delivers that kingdom through generations to us. Here we are, right now, in kingdom.

Beware of thinking that visiting a place where a move of God began will set you up to reintroduce this move of God. That move of God is over. You can learn from it – best practices and worst atrocities – what to do and what not to do, but that move of God is over.

What you are looking for is the inheritance of that move of God. Consider how a move of God moves through the generations, not how a move of God looked, sounded, smelled, manifested, or matured in another generation.

Consider that pioneers arrive at places that are bleak, empty, covered with the dust settled upon them by centuries of neglect. No one sees what the pioneer sees in those places or people. The pioneer appears “off his rocker” to invest time, passion, money, and heart in a wilderness, but the pioneer knows something about what’s coming next that others do not. The pioneer, in his generation, inspires as a dynamic of leadership. He inspires people by prophetic revelation: “here’s what’s coming next and we need to prepare for it.”

Generations depend upon maturing God’s purposes in their season, to move people and cultures toward God’s purpose as a means of fulfilling both personal and corporate destinies.

Moves of God get sidetracked into denominations, doctrines, and darkness when they are hijacked by human imagination rather than continuing to mature the prophetic revelations that birthed them.

October 3, 2013

God Lets Us In On His Plans and Purposes

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7 (NIV)

The Reformation Study Bible says that God acts, God reveals himself and God interprets his actions through the prophets. In the first such instance,

God revealed His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham, the first “prophet” so designated in Scripture (Gen 18:17, 20:7) Moses, the supreme Old Testament prophet, was called “the servant of the Lord” (Deut. 34:5). Subsequent prophets were characterized by the similar phrase, “my servants the prophets”

On this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

The secret of God is with them [the prophets]; it is in some sense with all the righteous (Prov. 3:32), with all that fear God (Ps. 25:14), but in a peculiar manner with the prophets, to whom the Spirit of prophecy is a Spirit of revelation. It would have put honour enough upon prophets if it had been only said that sometimes God is pleased to reveal to his prophets what he designs to do, but it speaks something very great to say that he does nothing but what he reveals to them, as if they were the men of his counsel. Shall I hide from Abraham, who is a prophet, the thing which I do? Gen. 18:17. God will therefore be sure to reckon with those that put contempt on the prophets, whom he puts this honour upon.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:15 (NIV)

There is a connection between this New Covenant verse and the Old Covenant verse quoted from Amos. Although we refer to Jesus’ closest followers as “The Twelve,” “disciples,” or even “apostles,” there is a real sense in which we could describe them as “prophets,” since they received considerable revelation of God Himself, even if we don’t speak of ‘the prophet Matthew,’ or ‘the prophet Nathaniel.’

However, at the same time, this verse breaks the connection between “prophets” and “servants,” because in this New Covenant, the relationship between God the Son and The Twelve is going to be more relational, hence “friends.” Again, the Reformation Study Bible states,

No longer do I call you servants There is no previous record of Jesus Christ calling the disciples “servants,” except possibly 12:26; yet Jesus had a right to do this, as He had the right to be called “Lord” (13:13). “Friend” suggests a close relation, and the language of brotherhood is closer still (Heb. 2:10, 11).

all . . . I have made known Christ did not have a higher revelation reserved for an inner group; He revealed Himself to the disciples unstintingly.

If the U.S. President wants to let people know about some plan or scheme or program the government is initiating, he can choose to make it known through his Press Secretary. We often see this man standing in the Press Briefing Room, and clearly he is speaking for the President. However, he is doing this as a servant.

But imagine if you knew the President as a friend. He might let you in on the same information, but he would be confiding in you as a friend. Then, when the information can be released, you would share it with your friends as you heard it, not under orders, or under a requirement to do so, but out of the overflow of your heart from what the head of state shared with you.

From the first days of creation, God asked Adam to name the animals, making him a partner in creation. In the New Testament we are called friends of God.

Click the link to read a previous post here containing the video for the song Friend of God.

January 12, 2012

Strength of Character

Anyone who can’t find Biblical encouragement and devotional material online isn’t looking very well!  Today we dropped by the devotional site of Campus Crusade For Christ International…

Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.


Bible Reading:

James 1:5-12

New International Version (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

 12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 


 

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

…and found not one, but two devotional readings to share with you…

Nothing You Cannot Do

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:13, NLT).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “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, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).


Bible Reading:

Philippians 4:6-12

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.


Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).