5 Truths about God’s Discipline

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The role of suffering and hardship is one of the most neglected issues in life, because we do not arrange for it to happen. Instead, life inevitably arranges it for us.

Have you ever considered that the tests, trials, and sufferings that you are facing may be for your benefit to help you grow and become stronger?

The writer of Hebrews stated, “Endure it as discipline” (Heb. 12:7 HCSB). In this case, discipline is not the spiritual practices like scripture memorization, prayer, solitude, simplicity, or fasting; rather, the discipline is hardship or spiritual conditioning that comes in the form of testing, suffering, trails, and affliction.

Discipline means training. The word is used in reference to a father training his children, or training in righteousness, or God training his children. The writer of Hebrews is saying that God lovingly disciplines his children to train them to become spiritual champions. It is meant to draw us away from what will cause us harm and lead us into the likeness of Jesus. It is a spiritual maturing process that God allows us to experience to become like Christ. It is God’s effort to realign our will to his.

Discipline is not punishment. Sometimes when hardships and calamity fall upon us we think that these sufferings are the punishments for our sinfulness. Hardship and suffering are not God’s way of getting even. Neither is it his means of retaliating for the wrongs we have committed. God’s discipline is not the sentence for our sin. The punishment for our sin was laid on Jesus at the cross, once and forever.

When God disciplines us he is not getting us back; he is drawing us back. He seeks to bring us back to his will, from that which will destroy us, and toward his likeness.

God filters the events of life through his sovereign fingers so that we might become more and more like his Son, Jesus Christ.

A novice once asked the great Michelangelo how he sculptured such beautiful statutes. Pointing to an angel he had just chiseled out of marble, he said, “I saw the angel in the marble, I chiseled until I set it free.”

In a similar vein, yet not as eloquent, a southern artisan had completed sculpting a horse out of rock. Bewildered by the transformation, a spectator said, “How in the world did you do it?” The artist replied, “I knock everything off that don’t look like a horse.”

Likewise, God wants to free us to be all that we can be. He has to knock off the rough edges of our sinfulness, chisel away the wrongful attitudes, and sandpaper our character flaws. For that to happen he disciplines us.

Here are five truths to remember about God’s discipline.

1. God is a disciplinarian.
He is like a coach who practices, drills, instructs, and corrects his players so that they can be in top shape for a game or a race.

2. God’s discipline is a sign of a personal relationship.
God’s discipline is compared to a parent’s discipline of a child. A parent only has jurisdiction over his or her own children. Because of the relationship, the parent has an intimate concern and understanding of that child. As a result, a loving parent administers the discipline with an eye on helping the child become all that they can become.

God’s discipline flows out of his love for us. We are his children. Unlike human parents, he never disciplines in anger. If he did he would destroy us, reducing us to nothing (Jeremiah 10:24). He may have to discipline us severely at times, but he would never kill us (Psalm 118:18).

When faced with the hardship of God’s discipline, we should accept it as God’s method of training and as a token that we are beloved children of God.

I remember scuffling home from a basketball practice one day, defeated and discouraged.

“What’s the matter?” my older brother, Jerry, asked.

“The coached yelled at me the entire practice. It seemed that I couldn’t do anything right.”

Then, Jerry gave me an insight that I had never thought of before. “Rick, don’t worry when a coach yells at you, worry if he stops. As long as he is correcting and instructing you he sees hope and potential. When he stops offering advice and is silent toward you he has given up on you.”

God loves us just the way we are, but he refuses to let us stay that way. He wants us to be just like Jesus. Don’t take his discipline as anger toward you, take it as affirmation that you are his child, that he believes in you, and that he wants nothing but the best for you. He’s a loving parent that refuses to give up on you.

3. God’s discipline is oftentimes painful.
I remember the switching I received from my mother. I can’t forget the paddling I got from a teacher. It hurt. Discipline is rarely painless. But, a double meaning exists in the word painful. Discipline hurts the receiver and the giver. I had to become a parent to understand the words my parents said before enacting a punishment, “This is going to hurt me as much as you.” Discipline hurts—God and us. God doesn’t like it any more than we do.

4. God disciplines for an ultimate purpose.
Never is the hardship and suffering sent our way capriciously. His ultimate purpose is to make us like his son (Romans 8:29). In order for that to happen, he has to change us. Ultimately, that is the purpose of all discipline, whether it is from a parent, or a coach, or from God. God seeks to change our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, and our motives.

It has been said that God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. God sacrifices our comfort to make us conformed to his character.

5. God’s discipline seeks a finished product.
God wants us to break through the tape by becoming a spiritual champion. The signs of that occurring are: sharing in his holiness, displaying a harvest of righteousness, and living a life of peace. Upward we are holy—set apart like God, outward we are righteous—acting like God, and inward we have peace—the calmness of God.

Don’t you want that kind of life—one lived right that has a profound tranquility? It all hinges on your response to God’s discipline.

What is our reaction when our loving Heavenly Father disciplines us? We have three possible reactions.

• We can resent God’s discipline bitterly.
My trusty thesaurus offers the following synonym for resent it recommends dislike, hate, take exception to, rail against. Yet many people do just that when the hardships of life come. As a result, they become bitter, hardened, scornful, and filled with hate.

Discipline not rightly received sours rather than sweeten the character.

• We can accept God’s discipline grudgingly.
When the pain and hardships come on our lives we can endure them but not be happy about it. In this scenario, we often question God, “Why are you doing this to me?” We know that we are God’s children; we just can’t understand why he would be putting us to the test. Somehow we have the attitude that as believers we are above the painful realities of life. That in some way our Christian credentials give us a primary status that is to protect us from the hurts and heartaches. Instead of asking God, “Why?” we would be better off asking, “What are you teaching me?”

• We can embrace God’s discipline willingly.
Discipline is always preparatory to blessing and can bring nothing but blessing when rightly received. To embrace God’s discipline is to understand that a loving God will never chastise his children capriciously. His discipline is to prune every branch in our lives that does not bear fruit so that our lives can increase its yield. His discipline is purposeful and brings us life.

When our attitudes are right, God can use those hardships to change us more like his son. When that happens we will cross the tape becoming a spiritual champion.

During my college tennis days, the running and practicing the team endured paid off. Our teams won the conference then the region earning a births in the National Tournament.

My parents were drove down to watch us play in Florida. While in Ocala in a conversation with my parents, my coach paid me a tremendous complement. My parents told me later that the coach had said, “If I ever have a son I would like for him to be like Rick.” All the running and hardship that I went through not only made me a better tennis player; it made me a better person.

Don’t you realize that God makes a similar statement concerning you? “For all my children, I would like for them to be like my Son—Jesus.” And to accomplish that purpose he disciplines his children. And for us his children to become like Jesus we must embrace his discipline willfully. Again and again.

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Why Discipline Is Important

 

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Athletics—football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring and summer—provided the competition with opponents and the camaraderie with teammates that I enjoyed as a teenager. What I did not like about competitive athletics, however, was the conditioning—repetitive calisthenics, endless drills, and habitually running.

A word that I came to dread in each of these running experiences was “Again.” Meaning we would run, all out to the point of exhaustion, thinking that was the last one only to hear our coach say “Again.”

Perhaps, you have forgotten that experience in your own life or maybe you have never had the pleasure. In the movie Miracle regarding the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team’s triumphant victory over the Soviet Union, Coach Herb Brooks handpicked a group of undisciplined kids and trained them to play like they had never played before. He broke them to make them. Following a tie with the Norwegian National team, Herb Brooks made his players stay on the ice and sprint “suicides.” He made them do it over and over, repeating the word “Again.”

I had a coach like Herb Brooks when I went off to college to play tennis. I was recruited to play at Martin College, Pulaski, Tennessee. Pulaski is an idyllic county seat town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Coach Johnny Jackson was determined that what we lacked in skill was made in conditioning. Every practice was concluded with running. Coach Jackson would have us run sprints, then run the lines of a tennis court, and to top it off, Coach Jackson mapped out a one-mile route for us to run through the streets of the college, into the neighborhood finishing with a steep hill that we affectionately called “Killer Hill.” The hill was about a quarter of a mile that appeared straight up. Some of the players could not make it all the way up without stopping to catch their breath and rest their aching legs.

Coach Jackson would often say, “If we get into a third and decisive set with our opponents, we will not lose because we were out of shape.”

Sometimes to foster his point, after running the mile concluding up killer hill, we would hear that gut-wrenching word—“Again.”

Coach Jackson’s tactics reminded me of Tom Landry’s definition of a coach. The former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “The job of a coach is to make players do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”

As other coaches have said, “No pain, no gain.”

Similarly, to become what we want often requires doing things that we don’t want to do, in order to achieve what we’ve always wanted to be.

Welcome discipline. It’s the way to becoming the best you can be.

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5 Actions to Take When You’re at a Crossroads

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Transitional moments come with growing up: the changes from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood. At other times these transitions are artificial. The ages of 16, 40, and 65 have significant implications. Transitional moments can be forced upon people—divorce, relocation, early retirement, loss of job.

Transitional moments impact a community: Growth and expansion or decline and decay. A community where significant racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic changes are taking place is in transition.

Chapters three and four of Joshua detail the children of Israel after decades of wandering in the wilderness crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. In this narrative the words crossing over is used twenty-one times. It marks a transition in their lives. It indicates an arrival in which they had been preparing for over forty years. It implies the entrance to a new beginning. The “cross over” required a new faith experience in order to occupy the new land God had in store for them.

Their experience will help us as we face the transitions in our lives.

1. Follow God.
Up until this time, during their time in the wilderness, the Hebrews followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. These two divinely instituted symbols now have been removed. The Ark of the Covenant takes the place of the daily cloud and the nightly fire. The ark symbolized God’s presence and power. It was the sign that God was leading them.

If we are to move confidently into new situations, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. We must follow him. He knows the way. He sees the road farther ahead than we could possibly ever see.

2. Purify yourselves.
Whenever we face new opportunities, God tells us “Consecrate yourselves” (Josh. 3:5 NIV). Then and now God calls his people to holiness, purity, and separation. For the Israelites on the edge of the Jordan, this meant washing themselves with water and practicing the ceremonial rites that would make them clean.

For us today, it means that we should come afresh to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus that washes away all sin.

Purification gets our soul in a position to be used by God.

3. Hear from God.
Often in our excitement, either from joy or worry, when undertaking new ventures, we fail to slow down and hear from God. We want to rush in, get busy, and move ahead. But, like Joshua instructed the people of Israel (v. 9), we need first to stop and to listen.

We live in a fast-paced, hurry-up world. If the devil can keep us busy and in a hurry, half his battle is won. We need to slow down and tune in to God. We need to hear from him.

4. Move ahead in faith.
After decades of wandering, the Hebrews were now ready to transition into the Promise Land. There was one minor problem—the Jordan River was at flood stage and there was no bridge, no boat, no ferry. The command from God came to Joshua to organize the people in a straight line behind the Ark of the Covenant and march directly toward the raging waters. And somewhere along the way God would intervene. First, the children of Israel had to step out in faith. In fact, only when the people in front stepped into the water did God miraculously part the waters.

Like the children of Israel, we want to move out toward our new opportunities, our new ventures. But doing so requires a step of uncertainty. Transforming faith happens only in the context of movement. The power of God comes to those who obey. Often God provides no solution until we trust him and move ahead.

5. Know that God keeps his promises.
Did God choose the time of the crossing when the river was at its highest to demonstrate his power? God never performs a miracle without a purpose. This miracle set the stage for the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land. Can’t you hear some of those Israelites saying, “If God can dam the waters of the Jordan, he can surely help us defeat our enemies.”

This miracle showed that God keeps his promises. The transitions of life cannot hide our faces from God. The transitions of life cannot change the purposes of God. The transitions of life cannot destroy the child of God.

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This One Thing is Needed to Go Deeper in Your Relationships

 

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In many respects an elevator filled with people is a microcosm of our world today: a large, impersonal institution where anonymity, isolation, and independence are the uniform of the day. It shows us that people can be surrounded by other people in a crowded setting, and not experience community. We can be a part of a company, a club, or a church and not feel we belong or are accepted. We can share a car pool, an office, and even a home and not have significant relationships.

Perhaps an examination of the life of a man from antiquity, the apostle Paul, will shed light on our modern predicament. The modern corporate person who is upwardly mobile, with an emphasis on mobile, has nothing on Paul. He was born in Tarsus, educated in Jerusalem, lived in Damascus, spent formative time in the desert, moved to Antioch, and that was only the beginning. Professionally, he ventured out from Antioch on three extensive missionary campaigns, traveling from city to city. Yet wherever he went he established a band of people who huddled together in supportive and encouraging community. How was he able to create significant relationships even on the run, even in the midst of his mobility, even in his transient travels?

First Thessalonians, one of Paul’s most personal letters, identifies some of the key components for establishing and maintaining significant relationships.

1. Concede our need for others.
Just as a child needs a mother we need each other. This need for others is rooted deep within our souls. God planned it that way. That’s why God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18 NIV).

2. Cultivate deep relationships.
Healthy people do not take relationships lightly. They know that to survive in a cold and cruel world requires deep relationships. But those relationship do not just happen, they require effort. They know that they have to do more than just reach out to others; they have to share their lives with others as well.

This truth was one of the secrets of Paul’s establishment of supportive relationships. Here was a man that every time he wrote to a church, he would always call by name two, three, or four people that were very close to him. He had developed significant relationships with these people. Paul knew that to survive in a cold and cruel world would require deep relationships. But those relationships would not just happen; they would require an effort on his part. He knew he had to do more than just reach out to others; he had to share his life with them.

Found in verses seven and eight are three words—rhyming words—that form the basis for developing relationships which pass the test of time.

• Care—By practically getting involved in another’s life. Remember people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

• Share—By relationally getting involved in another’s life. The word picture of “sharing our lives” continues the mothering idea and paints a picture of a mother nursing her young. A mother cannot nurse her children without sharing a part of herself with her child. For us to share with others in deep relationship necessitates that we get up close and personal with another. One cannot share at a distance.

• Dear—By emotionally getting involved in another’s life. Paul loved these people. And when we love others we do not treat them as a means to an end, but rather as individuals of value. To communicate our love with others we must dare to talk about our affections. We must learn the gestures of love—a hug, a handshake, roughhousing, as well as many acts of kindness. May we never forget that love is something you do, not just something you say.

3. Commit to authenticity.
It is not enough to admit we need each other or say, “Oh, a few friends would be nice.” We must commit ourselves to getting beneath the surface talk and become interested and accountable to each other. Authenticity occurs when the masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited, and tenderness flows. It is where believers in the body of Christ really do become brothers and sisters.

Authenticity is becoming absorbed in the lives of others as an active participant, relating to, sharing with, and caring for others. The apostle Paul describes authenticity in five words, “We imparted our own lives” (1 Thess. 2:8 NASB). Paul did not erect barriers. He was not aloof. He opened his life to others. Reuben Gornitzke said of the need for authenticity, “We can’t simply cheer people on and give them our best wishes. We have to make room for them in our lives.”

It is when we make room for others in our lives that the walls of indifference and apathy come down. It is when we make room for others that we discover the best of others and the best in ourselves.

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The One Distinguishing Feature of a Real Man

 

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What is a man? It seems like a simple question, but many men don’t know the answer. Read the poem written by a young man to pastor and author Robert Lewis:

What is a man?
Is he someone who is strong and tall,
Or is taut and talented as he plays ball?
Is he someone who is hardened and rough,
Who smokes and drinks and swears enough?
Is he someone who chases women hard?
With a quest to conquer, but never dropping his guard?
Is he someone with a good business mind,
Who gets ahead of the others with his nose to the grind?
Or is he someone who tries his best,
Not really caring about any of the rest?
What is a man? Does anyone know?
TELL ME!
Who is the prototype? To whom shall I go?

Society? Current culture can’t make up its mind about men. Society has spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine.

History? History has displayed a caricature of manhood from tyrants to pirates. Occasionally a great man, like Socrates, Plato, Luther, or Lincoln, will ride onto the screen of time, but they seem to be few and far between.

Television? According to my wife, since Tom Selleck left the airways, there hasn’t been a real man on the screen in sometime. Instead we see a proliferation of whiners, and self-promoting and self-reliant types in every reality series.

Corporate America? Have we not produced a whole generation of people who are clamoring and clawing for a pot of gold that does not exist? Many are greed-filled, immorality-justifying, family-absent, ethics-lacking. They are hardly the models we desire.

Athletics? The world of sport produces the fastest, the strongest, and the fiercest of competitors. Their massive biceps are equaled only by their massive egos. Many athletes will readily admit that they want the lime light but refuse to be role models.

Church? “Christianity,” according to John Eldredge in Wild at Heart, “as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don’t know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming . . . a nice guy.” What man wants to grow up to be a really nice guy? Eldredge invites us to walk into most churches and what we will find is that most Christian men are bored.

Remember the questions: What is a man? Who is the prototype? To whom shall I go?

The Path a Real Man Takes
The confusion about manhood is laid to rest in the person of Jesus Christ. Take a look at him. Jesus was tough and tender, compassionate and committed, beautiful and bold. He was a man’s man. He is the prototype—God’s model for manhood. Like any great man, we want to trace the path that led to his greatness. Christ’s path to being a model for manhood was not a typical one. He traveled from highest to the lowest and back to the highest again. He left heaven and came down into this world to return again—from top to bottom to top.

A Road Less Traveled
We live in a world of self-promotion, defending our own rights, taking care of ourselves first, winning by intimidation, pushing for first place, and a dozen other self-serving agendas. That attitude does more to squelch our joy and destroy our manhood than any other.

God’s model of manhood understands that humiliation comes before promotion. Humility is a radical concept in America manhood. Our culture is full of people who think they are better than everybody else. We have elevated selfishness to an art form. True humility is not thinking lowly of ourselves, but thinking accurately of ourselves. Humility is not self-hatred of lack of confidence. Neither does it imply that a person becomes the proverbial doormat. Humility is thinking true and realistic thoughts about God and ourselves. A real man sees himself as he is—flawed, sinful, and inadequate. And they see God as he really is—majestic, sovereign, omnipotent, and gracious.

Real men eventually follow the path that Jesus followed. We may begin our journey with pride, confident that we can do anything. We shout out like Jack Dawson in the movie Titanic, “I am the king of the world.” But eventually we get knocked down—either by an iceberg or the sheer reality of life. Every man may begin the life journey with pride and arrogance, but eventually we will be brought down. The low points define us and make us.

The Barrier to Greatness
When I was in the Rotary Club, often at our luncheons a junior or senior from the local high schools would come and tell about their dreams and aspirations. They would speak with such passion and conviction and confidence about college plans, major course of study, and how eventually they would become a success. Their desires were noble; their attitudes were repulsive. One day, as a young man was waxing arrogantly about his future exploits, an older Rotarian leaned over to me and said, “Give him a few years, let him have a little taste of life, a few failures, and some things not to go the way he planned, and let’s see if he will be so cocky.”

Pride gets in the way of real manhood: the thinking that we don’t need anyone. Self-made men are determined to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps even if they land on their backsides.

Not too long ago, there was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who pulled into a service station to get gas. He went inside to pay, and when he came out he noticed his wife engaged in a deep discussion with the service station attendant. It turned out that she knew him. In fact, back in high school before she met her eventual husband, she used to date this man.

The CEO got in the car, and the two rode off in silence. He was feeling pretty good about himself when he finally spoke: “I bet I know what you are thinking. I bet you were thinking you’re glad you married me, a Fortune 500 CEO, and not him, a service station attendant.”

“No, I was thinking if I’d married him, he’d be a Fortune 500 CEO and you’d be a service station attendant.”

Eventually we learn through the message of others, and our own mistakes, failures, disappointments, and death that we aren’t kings, but lowly servants. We can’t make it alone; we need the hand of another to lift us up, gets us on our feet, so we can move in the right direction. And this is what God does for us. He reaches down once we realize that we need his help, and then he sets us on the upward path. When we realize that, then, maybe, just maybe, we will be men.

In Jesus we find answers to the questions: What is a man? Who is the prototype? To whom shall I go? Jesus is the prototypical man that willingly humbled himself forsaking his pride for the sake of others. If you want to find answers for what it means to be a man go to him. Jesus is the answer.

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When There’s No Hope, What Then?

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In the fall of 1997 I found myself living outside of a Cardiac Care Unit. For seven nights I slept on the floor of the waiting room of a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama. I was not there because I was a pastor. Granted, I have spent my fair share of time at hospitals doing my duty. This time, I was there because I was a son, and my mother, eighty-three years of age, was lying in the bed of room six of the Cardiac Care Unit on the sixth floor with tubes running in and out of her body. She was dying.

For the prior three years, she had been in and out of the hospital every other month due to congestive heart failure. My two brothers and two sisters knew that this time was the most frightening. The night before I had left my home in Chicago to fly to Alabama. Her heart had stopped. Through the valiant efforts of the nursing staff it was restarted. She was in a most serious condition.

After several days of employing various drugs and treatments, Dr. Cash, the cardiologist, spoke with the family as he did each day. This time there was deep concern on his youthful face and his voice trembled. He described her present condition. She was weakening and not responding to the treatment. He spoke of how our mother had been very firm and clear in instructing him not to prolong her life through artificial means. He said very nervously, “There is still a slim chance for her recovery, but I am putting DNR on her charts.”

DNR. Meaning if her heart failed again the hospital staff was instructed Do Not Resuscitate.

DNR carries not only the overt meaning, but those three words also carry an unwritten message: There is no hope.

While I realized the severity of my mother’s condition, it still came as a jolt to hear those words and to understand their meaning.

A Man of Hope
The cloud of confusion and despair that hung over my family for the next several days is similar to the dark storm that pervaded the globe nearly two thousand years ago. The world was enveloped in a deep darkness.

Into that dark room of despair, there walked a Galilean carpenter, a miracle man, and a promise of hope. He proclaimed the stirring message of God’s love and God’s life. He demonstrated it by raising people from the dead. The ministry of Jesus of Nazareth instilled hope in the hearts of many. His presence gave birth to optimism. His actions righted wrongs and brought decency and order back to a crooked world. Perhaps, the future was not bleak after all. Perhaps, he was the one to resuscitate a dying world.

But the renewed optimism, the hope, was once again dashed. On a bleak Friday morning, Jesus’ enemies took him prisoner, and after a mock trial, soldiers nailed the hope-bearer to a cross. Once more, hatred and evil seemed to speak the last word. Do Not Resuscitate. Hope has died.

Three Words
On the cross Jesus’ final utterance was “It is finished” (John 19:30). Stop and listen. Can you imagine the cry from the cross? The sky is dark. The earth is rumbling. The other two victims are moaning. The jeering crowd is silent. Possibly there is thunder. Possibly there is weeping. Then Jesus draws his last breath, pushes his feet down on that rusty Roman nail, and cries three final words, “It is finished.”

I doubt that anyone on that hill with him would have disagreed with that observation.

Surely, the chief priests and scribes rubbed their hands together and agreed: “Finished indeed! No longer do we have to worry about this young upstart threatening the status quo of the religion of our fathers. He’s dead and gone.” The soldiers could see that it was finished. The distasteful duty of this execution was nearly over so they could return to their barracks. The friends of Jesus also saw that it was finished. Their hopes were dashed on the rocks of disappointment. Their dreams for a prosperous and peaceful tomorrow were finished. Hope had died. There wasn’t much to do but to go home and take care of the burial proceedings.

The disciples stood secluded, a far distance from the cross, like I stood with my family at the sterile nurse’s station, a short distance from my mother’s bed. The disciples heard the three words “It is finished.” I heard the three words “Do Not Resuscitate.” For both the disciples and me these words carried the same poignant meaning: There is no hope.

What was finished, though?

While the disciples heard one thing, Jesus meant another. What did he mean? The job of salvation for the souls of humanity was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over. Finished.

Was it a cry of defeat? Hardly. John is the only gospel writer that recalls these three words of Jesus—“It is finished.” But the other gospel writers mention how he uttered them: with “a loud voice” (Matt. 27:46, Mk. 15:37, Lk. 23:46). In Greek the words are phone megale, which transposed and transliterated, begins to look familiar: a mega-phone. This was not a cry, but a cheer. Jesus was not proclaiming tragedy, but heralding triumph. His was a shout, not of utter despair, but of undying hope. Had his hands not been fastened down I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky.

Did he know something that the disciples didn’t? Yes. Jesus knew that while the world was in chaos, heaven was calm. While Satan seemed to have the upper hand, God was still on his throne. While death was dancing its final number, life was about to spring forth into a new beginning. While despair lingered over the disciples like a storm cloud, hope was about to break through like the sun after a thunderstorm. The Son was in the tomb, the Father was preparing for his glorious resurrection.

The Miracle of Miracles
And on Sunday morning, the miracle of miracles happened. The stone sealing the tomb’s entrance was rolled away. The tomb was empty. Mary Magdalene saw it first. Then Mary, the mother of James. Then Salome. They came to anoint his body with spices. Jesus was not there. He was gone. They were bewildered. What happened? Where was the body? Who had taken it? An angel provided the answer: “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!” (John 16:6).

Three words: He has risen. But, oh, the impact of those words. In one grand “swoosh” the times were changed, B.C. became A.D. The impact of that moment can be felt like an earthquake through the centuries because hope came to life.

It is only three little words: He has risen. But because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his finished work on the cross, we can be resuscitated. The empty tomb changes our pessimism and despair into optimism and hope. It reminds us that there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. In the end, the last words don’t belong to doctors or death; they don’t belong to soldiers and syncs. The last words belong to Jesus.

A Message of Hope
On Sunday morning, September 21, 1997, ten days after I had arrived in Alabama to be with my family, my mother died. Her heart stopped. The nurses, per their instructions, did not resuscitate her. She slipped through the chains of death and entered a new life in a glorious resurrection. It was her Easter. She met her Savior. She was ready, prepared, for she had faith.

As with any death, the days following were difficult. Yet my family and I weathered this storm with the same courage and strength that our mother fought her battle with death. My mother worked every day of her life up until her last year when the doctors ordered her to stop. The last half of her life was spent operating a small-town shoe store.

When my twin brother and I walked into the store a few days after her death, getting her affairs in order, we noticed a sign she had written. Somehow in all the cleaning and removing of things this one had been left behind. I spotted the hand-lettered sign, hanging a little unevenly, just as she had left it. It spoke her final words to us. The sign read: “Gone for a little while. Will be with you soon.”

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5 Strategies for Defeating the Devil

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We fight battles with the devil every day. Sometimes it is over morality. Sometimes it is over being ethical and honest. Sometimes the battleground is out in the open with other people and how we could relate to them. Sometimes it is in the privacy of our mind as we are bombarded with ungodly and impure thoughts. Sometimes the battle is waged in a momentary furry such as a sharp criticism of another. Sometimes it is a prolonged conflict as a nagging doubt or a debilitating emotional pain.

The Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. Every day, every hour, and every minute we are under attack. We are in a war.  It is invisible, yet, real war.  We are fighting a foe with highly organized strategies, tactics, and battle plans.  If we do not understand these facts, we will lose the battle.

The fact is that we will never be sinless, but we can sin less. We can do this by understanding how to defeat the enemy. Our understanding has everything to do with our victory. As believers in Christ, we are in a position to defeat Satan and win this war.

Understand your power . . .

We are not wimps, who when attacked by the devil and his bullies have to turn tail and run. We are reliable, mighty, and powerful.  But this power comes not from ourselves. We are not strong in our strength but in the Lord’s strength.  We are not mighty and powerful in our abilities but in God’s.

Once we understand our power, we, therefore, refuse to be intimidated. We already have the victory. We as believers in Jesus Christ are not fighting for victory but from victory. The victory against Satan has already been won at Calvary through the death of Jesus on the cross. He fought the battle for us and won.

Satan is the ultimate source of evil and our ultimate enemy. He is a personal, supernatural spirit-being with great powers and strength. But, and hear this, he is a defeated power. While he is powerful, he is not all-powerful. While he strong, his strength is limited.

Jesus, on the other hand, is all-powerful and strong. We fight from his vantage point. We do not have to be intimidated by Satan. We do not have to be bullied around by him. We already have won the victory.

Put on your protection . . .

Many police officer’s lives had been spared because they were wearing a bulletproof vest. These vests are incredibly strong even though they are only about three-eighths  of an inch thick. They are made of dozens of layers of an extremely though fabric—Kevlar.

As believers, we have even better protection than a bulletproof vest when we do battle with Satan—the full armor of God. We are going to war. To go into the fight without the whole armor of God is as foolish as walking onto the front lines of a military battle dressed for a game of tennis.

Unfortunately, many believers chose not to put on the armor—their bulletproof vest. They are spiritual “streakers.” Doing battle in the buff.

In reality, this armor is not a “what;” it is a “who.” The armor is the person of Jesus Christ. Paul instructed the Romans, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom. 13:14 NIV). Jesus is not only in us, through his power; he is also on us, with the armor of God.

Once we put on our protection, we, therefore, resist the tempter. Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” We have been given this protective armor to resist them, not the temptation. The Bible says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). Nowhere in Scripture are we told to resist the temptation. The failure to understand and employ this strategy is where so many believers stumble and fall.

A little boy was asked how he overcame temptation in his life. The boy responded, “When temptation knocks on the door of my heart, I send Jesus, and Satan is gone.”

Be prepared . . .

An army that only digs in and holds the line will eventually be rooted out and defeated. In this battle with the devil, God not only provides us with a sturdy and protective defensive position, but he also unveils a potent offensive weapon.

The Word of God is a sharp sword that is used by the believer to cut the life and energy out of Satan’s attacks. This weapon unleashes supernatural powers to thwart the attacks.

Jesus used this weapon when he did battle with Satan in the wilderness. Three times Satan sought to trick and deceive Jesus, yet each time Jesus responded: “It is written . . .” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus did not resist the temptation. He went on the attack with the Word of God. Jesus won the battle by knowing God’s Word and putting it into practice and use. He was prepared.

Once prepared we, therefore, refocus our attention on God’s Word. If we redirect our focus on God’s     Word, the power of the temptation will be decreased. A psychological law states whatever gets our attention gets us. We may say I’m not going to eat that dessert but eventually we will. We may try to convince ourselves that we are not going to get angry, but ultimately, we do. We move toward whatever we focus on.

Practice the presence . . .

When we talk with God through prayer, we invite his presence into our lives. When we walk into the war, we never go alone. God goes with us. His presence accompanies us. God has promised, “‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5,6 NIV). We may not see him, but he see s us. He watches over us.

When we are in the presence of God we, therefore, request God’s attendance. We can’t defeat Satan ourselves. We need help. Through prayer, God builds a hedge around us. In the Bible, a hedge was constructed around vineyards and growing fields much like fences or walls today that keep animals and unwanted intruders out. When the hedge was trampled or removed, ruin came to the precious possessions of the landowners.

How does the hedge of protection work? Simple. God’s presence sensitizes us to the things of God and the things that dishonor God. The hedge created by the presence of God is like an invisible fence that many homeowners have. It can’t be seen, but once the pet goes beyond the limit, the undetected alarm goes off. A hedge or boundary has been established. Or, it could be compared to radar. As we travel through life and encounter enemy attacks, a warning light goes off. Our spirit is sensitized to what pleases him, and we keep on doing those things, and it sensitizes us to what displeases him, and the warning signal goes off, so we know not to cross that boundary.

We’ve all had an internal alarm go off warning us incoming danger. This is God’s way of warning us. The signal is strong as long as we are in close contact with the Father.

We can either pray to the Savior or become the prey of Satan. Remember that Jesus fought the most significant battles in life, and he prayed the most.

 

Align with partners . . .

One of the most overlooked tactics of fighting this battle with the evil one is thinking we fight this battle alone. We are not to engage the enemy single-handedly. We not only need God’s help. We need the strength and support of other bel ievers.

The war being waged is not a solo event. We struggle and fight as a platoon, a team, a family. We all are engaged in the fight.

As in any conflict, there is strength in numbers. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12 NIV). The power, the protection, the preparation, and the presence are heightened in partnership with other believers.

When we have partners we, therefore, reveal our struggles to a trusted friend. One of the most helpful tactics in defeating Satan is to enlist the aid and help and support of a fellow believer. This can’t be just anyone, but someone who can pray with us and for us and hold us accountable. It needs to be a man-to-man and woman-to-woman relationship. This person must hold confidences and be extremely trustworthy.

Defeating the devil means having Jesus in your life, putting him on your life, allowing him to work through your life, sensing him with you at all times. In essence, Jesus is to be your life.

 

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5 Strategies for Defeating the Devil

596135209_640[1]

Her defenses were down. She had kissed guys, but not like this. She had never wanted to go all the way before, but now she did. Was it love? It must be. She had never felt like this before.

Karen grew up in Sunday School and church. She was not a tramp. She was not cheap. She could be anybody’s sweet girl next door.

She knew all the “thou shalt not’s” including the seventh. But in a moment, she threw it away. Why? Was it the mood? The moment? The man? No. It was none of these things. Karen had a battle with the devil and lost. Oh, she never knew it was Satan. Never. In fact, if someone would suggest that as the reason she shed her virginity like an old coat, she would have laughed it off. But that is what happened.

We all fight battles like the one Karen fought every day. Sometimes it is over morality. Sometimes it is over being ethical and honest. Sometimes the battleground is out in the open with other people and how we could relate to them. Sometimes it is in the privacy of our mind as we are bombarded with ungodly and impure thoughts. Sometimes the battle is waged in a momentary furry such as a sharp criticism of another. Sometimes it is a prolonged conflict as a nagging doubt or a debilitating emotional pain.

The Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. Every day, every hour, and every minute we are under attack. We are in a war. It is invisible, yet, real war. We are fighting a foe with highly organized strategies, tactics, and battle plans. If we do not understand these facts, we will lose the battle.

The fact is that we will never be sinless, but we can sin less. We can do this by understanding how to defeat the enemy. Our understanding has everything to do with our victory. As believers in Christ, we are in a position to defeat Satan and win this war.

Understand your power . . .

We are not wimps, who when attacked by the devil and his bullies have to turn tail and run. We are reliable, mighty, and powerful. But this power comes not from ourselves. We are not strong in our strength but in the Lord’s strength. We are not mighty and powerful in our abilities but in God’s.

Once we understand our power, we, therefore, refuse to be intimidated. We already have the victory. We as believers in Jesus Christ are not fighting for victory but from victory. The victory against Satan has already been won at Calvary through the death of Jesus on the cross. He fought the battle for us and won.

Satan is the ultimate source of evil and our ultimate enemy. He is a personal, supernatural spirit-being with great powers and strength. But, and hear this, he is a defeated power. While he is powerful, he is not all-powerful. While he strong, his strength is limited.

Jesus, on the other hand, is all-powerful and strong. We fight from his vantage point. We do not have to be intimidated by Satan. We do not have to be bullied around by him. We already have won the victory.

Put on your protection . . .

Many police officer’s lives had been spared because they were wearing a bulletproof vest. These vests are incredibly strong even though they are only about three-eighths of an inch thick. They are made of dozens of layers of an extremely though fabric—Kevlar.

As believers, we have even better protection than a bulletproof vest when we do battle with Satan—the full armor of God. We are going to war. To go into the fight without the whole armor of God is as foolish as walking onto the front lines of a military battle dressed for a game of tennis.

Unfortunately, many believers chose not to put on the armor—their bulletproof vest. They are spiritual “streakers.” Doing battle in the buff.

In reality, this armor is not a “what” it is a “who.” The armor is the person of Jesus Christ. Paul instructed the Romans, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom. 13:14 NIV). Jesus is not only in us, through his power; he is also on us, with the armor of God.

Once we put on our protection, we, therefore, resist the tempter. Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” We have been given this protective armor to resist them, not the temptation. The Bible says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). Nowhere in Scripture are we told to resist the temptation. The failure to understand and employ this strategy is where so many believers stumble and fall.

A little boy was asked how he overcame temptation in his life. The boy responded, “When temptation knocks on the door of my heart, I send Jesus, and Satan is gone.”

Be prepared . . .

An army that only digs in and holds the line will eventually be rooted out and defeated. In this battle with the devil, God not only provides us with a sturdy and protective defensive position, but he also unveils a potent offensive weapon.
The word of God is a sharp sword that is used by the believer to cut the life and energy out of Satan’s attacks. This weapon unleashes supernatural powers to ward off attacks and reveal the flaws and weakness of the assault.

Jesus used this weapon when he did battle with Satan in the wilderness. Three times Satan sought to trick and deceive Jesus, yet each time Jesus responded: “It is written . . .” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus did not resist the temptation. He went on the attack with the Word of God. Jesus won the battle by knowing God’s Word and putting it into practice and use. He was prepared.

Once prepared we, therefore, refocus our attention on God’s Word. If we redirect our focus on God’s Word, the power of the temptation will be decreased. A psychological law states whatever gets our attention gets us. We may say I’m not going to eat that dessert but eventually we will. We may try to convince ourselves that we are not going to get angry, but ultimately, we do. We have a tendency to move toward whatever we focus on.

Practice the presence . . .

When we talk with God through prayer, we invite his presence into our lives. When we walk into the war, we never go alone. God goes with us. His presence accompanies us. God has promised, “‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5,6 NIV). We may not see him, but he sees us. He watches over us.

When we are in the presence of God we, therefore, request God’s attendance. We can’t defeat Satan ourselves. We need help. Through prayer, God builds a hedge around us. In the Bible, a hedge was constructed around vineyards and growing fields much like fences or walls today that keep animals and unwanted intruders out. When the hedge was trampled or removed, ruin came to the precious possessions of the landowners.

How does the hedge of protection work? Simple. God’s presence sensitizes us to the things of God and the things that dishonor God. The hedge created by the presence of God is like an invisible fence that many homeowners have. It can’t be seen, but once the pet goes beyond the limit, the undetected alarm goes off. A hedge or boundary has been established. Or, it could be compared to radar. As we travel through life and encounter enemy attacks, a warning light goes off. Our spirit is sensitized to what pleases him, and we keep on doing those things, and it sensitizes us to what displeases him, and the warning signal goes off, so we know not to cross that boundary.

Have you ever gotten into a situation, engaged in a conversation, or become entangled in a set of circumstances and thought something was wrong? You might say, “This just does not feel right. I can’t put my finger on it, but I need to get out of this situation.” That is your spiritual alarm going off in your spirit. That is God’s way of warning you of danger. And the signal is strong and felt as long as you are close in your relationship with God. When you veer away from his presence, the signal becomes weak. So, if you want the message to remain loud and clear stay in close contact with the Father.

We can either pray to the Savior or become the prey of Satan. Remember that Jesus fought the most significant battles in life, and he prayed the most.

Align with partners . . .

One of the most overlooked tactics of fighting this battle with the evil one is thinking we fight this battle alone. We are not to engage the enemy single-handedly. We not only need God’s help. We need the strength and support of other believers.
The war being waged is not a solo event. We struggle and fight as a platoon, a team, a family. We all are engaged in the fight.

As in any conflict, there is strength in numbers. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12 NIV). The power, the protection, the preparation, and the presence are heightened in partnership with other believers.

The Bible depicts Satan as a lion. Lions in Africa prey on weak, unsuspecting animals who have wandered away from the protection of the herd. Likewise, the devil prowls around to deceive and devour those unsuspecting, weak Christians who have strayed off from the pack of other believers. Believers who refuse to submit to the accountability of other believers in the local church find themselves isolated and defenseless— good prey for the crafty deceiver.

When we have partners we, therefore, reveal our struggles to a trusted friend. One of the most helpful tactics in defeating Satan is to enlist the aid and help and support of a fellow believer. This can’t be just anyone, but someone who can pray with us and for us and hold us accountable. It needs to be a man-to-man and woman-to-woman relationship. This person must hold confidences and be extremely trustworthy.

Defeating the devil means having Jesus in your life, putting him on your life, allowing him to work through your life, sensing him with you at all times. In essence, Jesus is to be your life.

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What Are You Thinking?

Man in lake water at sunset. Beautiful sunset with man silhouette

Solomon wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Prov. 4:23 GN). It’s been said, “You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Mohandas Gandhi wrote, “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

The way we think determines the way we feel, and the way we feel determines the way we act. So if you want to change your actions, change the way you think. If you want to change your attitudes, change the thoughts you put in your mind.

Granted this is easier said than done. But let me give you some practical steps for positive thoughts.

1. Make your first thoughts God-directed.
Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you crawl out of bed, crawl into his presence. C. S. Lewis wrote: “the moment you wake up each morning . . . [all] your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life comes flowing in.”

2. Focus your waiting thoughts on uplifting-ideas.
Consider that by the time your life is over, you will have spent six months at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, a year and a half looking for lost stuff, and a whopping five years standing in various lines. In the waiting moments, the common becomes the uncommon, by becoming a cathedral as you pray, or a classroom as you learn from a teaching CD or read a book.

3. Center your repeated thoughts on the winning outcome.
We all talk to ourselves often saying the same thing over and over again. Make sure those repeated thoughts are positive and will benefit you not bring you down. Positive self-talk is one of the most powerful tools we can use. We are going to talk to ourselves (some of us will even answer ourselves). The point is to make those words uplifting and encouraging. We, in many respects, are the benefactors of self-fulfilling prophecy. We become what we think and say to ourselves.

I remember when I was playing competitive tennis I had a few phrases that I would repeat to myself. I would say, “One point at a time” or “Concentrate on the ball and hit a winner” or “Racquet back, watch the ball, follow through” or “You can do this. You’re a winner.” I would repeat those phrases throughout the course of a match. These repeated thoughts helped me to stay positive and focused.

Likewise, we need to utter repeated positive thoughts so we can stay positive in everyday life.

4. Give your final thoughts to God.
Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God. Thank him for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his forgiveness. Seek his wisdom. Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psa. 121:4 NIV).

 

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When You’re Suffering

dreams.metroeve_suffering[1]

We all exhibit different characteristics. We don’t look alike. We don’t act alike. We don’t dress alike. We have different tastes in food, in music, and in the books we read. We have dissimilar backgrounds, goals, and motivations. We have different philosophies, politics, and religions. Our weights vary. Our heights vary. So does the color of our skin.

But there is one thing we all have in common; we all know what it means to hurt. Suffering is a universal language. We can’t escape its abuse.

What do we do when suffering comes our way?

Don’t be perplexed, prepare.
Don’t be upset when suffering comes. Don’t be frightened, don’t be shocked, don’t be caught off guard. Pain is just part of living a Christian life.

This may come as a surprise to you. A myth has circulated for years that because I am a Christian, everything will be peaceful and calm. Another tale is that if I have everything right in my life, then things will go smoothly. Neither is true. You can do everything right in life and still have problems.

Job, for instance, was a righteous man. He had vast wealth, and in Old Testament times that was a symbol of God’s blessings. He had had robust health, a large and loving family, and a sterling character. He was one of the best men that ever lived. Then through a series of tragedies, he lost everything—his wealth, his health, his children. All hell broke loose in his life, and he was doing everything right.

Jesus, another example, was perfect, sinless, yet was crucified.

Get the point? We are not shielded from the tragedies and misfortunes of this world just because we are right or because we are Christian. We all get hammered occasionally. If life hurt Jesus and Job, who are we to expect exemption?

Mark my words, suffering will come. No one is exempt. So, what are we to do?

Be prepared. The Boy Scouts’ motto is fitting for the trials of life—”Be prepared.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “I want to live in such a way that when I am called, I’ll be ready.” About the trials and sufferings in this world, “I want to live in such a way that when the misfortunes strike, I’m prepared.

Don’t complain, celebrate.
When suffering comes, don’t have a pity party, have a party. Now that may sound a little ridiculous. The Bible is always telling us to rejoice. There is a big difference between enjoyment and rejoicing. Enjoyment means getting pleasure out of something. Rejoicing means choosing to have a positive attitude in spite of it. We are not to enjoy suffering, but to rejoice in it, to keep a positive attitude in the midst of our pain.

It has been said, “No society has ever developed tough men during times of peace.” Suffering is prosperity to those who possess a positive attitude in the midst of their misery.

Few people knew Abraham Lincoln until the enormous weight of the Civil War showed his character. John Bunyan was imprisoned for his faith, but in jail, he wrote the timeless classic Pilgrim’s Progress. Martin Luther was also imprisoned for his beliefs and teaching that ignited the Protestant Reformation, but while confined in the castle of Wartburg he translated the Bible for the common man.

Each of these individuals had reason to complain. Yet they chose to celebrate. To demonstrate a positive attitude in the midst of their suffering.

They knew what we learn as kids. Kites rise against the wind, not with it. When the adverse winds blow, allow it to be to you what a blast of wind is to the kite—rejoice because you have a force that lifts you higher and higher.

Don’t quit, partner.
Often when suffering rears its ugly head, we become overwhelmed and give up. “I can’t take it,” we say. And that is right. But we have never been told that we have to face the suffering and pain of this evil world alone. We have a helper. A confidant. A partner.

Ask any war veteran. The suffering the soldiers went through in war binds them to their fellow soldiers. Or when people go through a disaster together, it brings them closer together. Or when families experience the same problem, it unites them. Likewise, when we suffer, it helps to face it with someone who loves and cares for us.

When we suffer, we have an intimate ally. Jesus suffered, too. He knows what we are going through. He has been there before. During these times of pain and turmoil is the time to connect with him, draw strength from his partnership. He is our partner who has given us a promise of his presence.

When David Livingstone returned to his native Scotland after sixteen years as a missionary in Africa, his body was emaciated by the ravages of some 27 fevers that had coursed through his body during the years of his service. His left arm hung uselessly at his side, the result of being mangled by a lion. Speaking to the students of Glasgow University, he said, “Shall I tell you what sustained me during the hardships and loneliness of my exile? It was Christ’s promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.’” Then he said, “This is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end of it.”

Don’t be ashamed, praise God.
When we are put down for our faith, refuse to be ashamed. We don’t need to be intimidated by critics or by cynics. We don’t need to run from situations that put our faith on trial. We don’t need to be outraged when we claim to be a believer and unbelievers throw stuff at us just to see how we react.

If we live our lives in disobedience to God and his Word, we will pay the price. When we are faithful to our spouse, when we refuse to cheat a customer, when we are devoted to our word, when we remain sexually pure before marriage, when we are positive about our situation in life—we might suffer because of that stand. In those times, we are not to be ashamed. We are not to be embarrassed about our faith, our convictions, our character, or our values. When those character traits are put to the test, we should praise God. Praise him that we are worthy to be tested. Praise him that there is something about our Christian life that can be tested.

Don’t despair, commit.
Yes, sometimes suffering is a part of God’s will. Why? Because God is more interested in our character than in our comfort. Sometimes suffering is redemptive. God wants us to grow and mature and be a blessing for other people. And for that to occur, we must endure the hard times of pain and disappointment.

So during those times of struggle and suffering, don’t despair. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Instead during those times, commit yourself to God’s plan and his will. Commit to our faithful Creator and continue to do good. The word commit sometimes translated entrust, is a banking term that means to deposit. The idea is that of storing a treasure in safe and trustworthy hands. When it comes to trials, we deposit ourselves into God’s safekeeping. And that deposit yields eternal dividends.

When it comes to depositing yourself into God’s eternal hands, you need to ask, “Am I a trader or an investor?” A big difference exists between investors and traders in the stock market. A trader in stock is making decisions minute-by-minute in the hope of shaving off profits measured in fractions of a dollar. An investor, on the other hand, typically buys or sells a stock based on views about the company and economy at large. In other words, traders are wheelers and dealers. They pursue short-term profits. By contrast, investors are in it for the long haul. They “chain themselves to the mast.” Investors commit their money to stock, believing that over a period of years and even decades the stock will pay substantial dividends and steadily grow in value.

In the kingdom of God, there are also investors and traders. They come to Christ with different goals. Traders in God’s Kingdom want God to improve their lot in this world. If following Christ means pain or hardship, they sell out.

But investors in the kingdom stay true to Christ no matter what happens in this world, knowing that eternal dividends await them.

A final word.
When suffering comes in our lives, and it will, and we ask, “Why are you doing this God?” be careful not to lay the blame for all affliction at the feet of God. Some suffering comes because we are humans living on a fallen planet. Some pain comes because we are sinners suffering from the consequences of sin. But some distress slips through the fingers of God into our lives because we are believers in Jesus Christ. Remember that God never intends to harm us or destroy us.

There is an old story about a physician who was the only surgeon available to operate on his son who was very ill. The father knew that the procedure would cause his son severe pain, but it could save his life. He also knew that the young boy might not understand why his father was hurting him. Trying to explain, he told the boy: “I may hurt you, but I would never harm you.” It is doubtful whether the little boy understood, but the father said it for himself as much as for his son. Then he did what he had to do and saved his son’s life.

The Chinese have a proverb that says, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” When suffering comes, allow God to use it to perfect your life.

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