Tag Archives: hardships

Everything We Need

Psalm 34

Sounds like another health and wealth gospel. But don’t let that fool you.

In reality, there are Christians who are sick and starving, homeless and without means to provide for their families. So how can we make sense of verses 9-10 which clearly say if we fear God, we’ll have all we need. If we trust God, we will lack no good thing.

Tell that to the Christian living on the streets with a cancer diagnosis.

But why is it people who truly fear, worship, stand in awe of God, and people who trust God and submit to Him are some of the most joyful, most contented people around? It’s because God is true to His Word.

God does give us everything we need. The Apostle Paul expressed that beautifully in Philippians 4:11-13, and again in 2 Corinthians 12:9. I hope you’ll take time to read those verses and hear what someone who had a tough life says about what God gives.

Matthew Henry, on page 610 of his Bible Commentary published by Marshall, Morgan & Scott in 1960, that if we look at this psalm as merely promising physical comfort we miss the most important thing. God not only works FOR us, He works THROUGH us. To me that means God is right there with the Christian, leading, directing, comforting, strengthening, and revealing Himself in marvelous ways.

The psalmist encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and there is joy when we attach ourselves to Him in all circumstances. God is a personal God, intimate, present.

Romans 8:28 tells us that God works things out for our good if we love Him. 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminds us that our troubles today are leading toward an eternal glory that far outweighs any hardship we face in this lifetime.

So yes, God does give us all we need, and we lack no good thing when we taste and see that He is good!

It’s Not Forever

Job 42

I wonder how long Job suffered. From the moment he received the terrible news of his losses, to the moment he repented after hearing God speak, was it weeks? Months? Years? I don’t know. And I don’t pretend to know the degree of pain he endured during that time, however long.

But God pointed out something to me today I think some of us need to hear:

Job’s trial didn’t last forever.

Scripture tells us he lived 140 years after the events we read about in the book of Job. The reality is, as awful as it was, Job’s problems were a blip in the span of his lifetime. After God brought him through that period, he enjoyed life for another 140 years.

Are you going through something you feel might break you? You see no way out? No silver lining? If you know Jesus as your Savior, let God assure you this is a “light and momentary affliction.” Do you know who said that? It was the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:17. If you know anything about Paul, I don’t think you’d define what he went through as light, or even momentary. The man suffered for the name of Jesus, nearly all of his adult life.

Whatever it is you are facing, God is able to see you through, even if you can’t see how. I’m not minimizing the pain you are feeling. Some of you are going through hard, hard situations right now. And some of you who went through hard times in the past, still carry the burden of loss. I know.

But I think God would have you know there is hope. Do you believe that? Do you trust Him?

Yesterday in Sunday School we talked about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I’m not going to tell you their story, but if you don’t know let me encourage you to read Daniel 3. It’s worth your time!

As the boys faced the fiery furnace, they declared their total trust in God by telling the king three things:

  1. God can rescue us
  2. We believe He will rescue us
  3. We trust Him alone with however He chooses to do that.

God doesn’t promise to keep us out of difficult situations. In fact, He tells us to expect them. What He does promise to His children is His Presence every step of the way. The king could see God’s Presence with the boys IN the fire!

And what I learn from these boys and Job is that if God brings us through our trial and gives us 140 more years to enjoy life on planet Earth, we win. If He chooses us to take us home to be with Him, we win.

Your difficulty right now will not last forever. I don’t know how God will end it, or when, but if you are His through the blood of Jesus, if you trust Him, He’s got this. Do you believe that?

I am praying that you will rest in the confidence that no matter how difficult life is right now, God is with you, God loves you, and there is a blessed solution to the problem.

It’s not going to last forever.

(Ezekiel 29-32) I AM The LORD

Egypt was never identified with God. They worshiped idols. They were the enemy of God. Yet the Israelites went to Egypt for help instead of going to God. Big mistake.

But here’s what spoke to me today: God repeatedly sent word to Egypt, warning them what the consequences of rejecting Him would look like. Why? Why would God continue to warn His enemies about the devastation that was ahead for them?

“Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (28:23,24,26, 29:6,9,16,21, 30:8,19,25…)

I am reminded that God doesn’t want anyone to die without Him, that whosoever believes on Him will have eternal life, that anyone who believes on the name of Jesus will be saved.

It reminds me how God continually works in the lives of every man, woman, and child to bring them to the realization that He is the Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one goes to God except through Jesus.

It reminds me that instead of praying God would take away the “plague” of COVID, I should pray that this virus will show the world that He is Lord. Simply praying that God will somehow say the word and the virus would disappear, might be praying against His will that we who have turned our backs on Him will humble ourselves, turn from our sin, so that He can heal our land.

Whether it is a virus, or war, or hurricanes and earthquakes, alcoholism, or cancer, or divided families and churches… whatever the consequences of sin might look like… may it do what God intends it to do.

May we hear Him say in the midst of it all:

I AM the LORD.

(Psalms 54-56) Faith

David knew about hardship. He knew danger and disappointment, betrayal and fear. But as he poured his heart out to God, even as he asked that his enemies be stopped by any means possible, David always declared his unwavering trust in God.

God: David’s refuge, strength, rescuer, helper, savior. Even in his darkest hours, David depended on the Light of life. When you read his psalms you can’t miss David’s faith in our Sovereign God.

I don’t know what you are experiencing in life right now. You may be living your darkest hours. I hope you’ll read these psalms and recognize that where David’s enemies were flesh and blood, yours are spiritual. But the same is true for your enemies as they were for David’s. They are not stronger than God!

May God annihilate Satan and his attempts at bringing you down. May you surrender yourself today to God, trust Him, place your faith in Him, and know that you can “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” (55:22a)

I’m praying for you today.

(Genesis 3-5) Because I Love You

I never considered God’s judgment on Adam and Eve an act of love before. Had He allowed them to continue to live in the Garden, and had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forced to live forever in their sin, struggling in this sinful world century after century, millennium after millennium. They would have had no hope of heaven, because they would not have died.

Yes, they were doomed to a difficult existence during life on earth. They were to experience sickness, loss, heartache, enemies, and death. Sin does that to a person.

But God, even as He sent them away, promised the Savior. God did not leave them without hope.

The writer of Hebrews, and Psalm 3:12 tell us:

the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God always punishes sin because He loves us. He wants us to turn from sin so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him in this life, and forever. We can’t do that if we hold on to sin. He is holy. Holiness and sin do not exist together. God wants us to exist together.

God didn’t wash His hands of Adam and Eve when they sinned. When He threw them out of the Garden, He didn’t turn off the sun, or destroy creation to teach them a lesson They still enjoyed sunsets, smelled the flowers, tasted the food. God didn’t stop blessing them. I’m sure they laughed again, were excited about the births of their children, enjoyed a romantic get-away to the mountains occasionally. (Well, I’m not sure of that last one, really. I’m a bit of a romantic.)

I think they even enjoyed a relationship with God eventually, although much different than the one they knew before sin separated them. God still was involved in their lives as seen in His conversation with Cain, giving Cain a chance to repent. (4:6-7)

I’ve gone through times of discipline because of sin in my life. Our world experiences the judgment of God because of sin. And often our natural response is to ask, “Why?”

“Why is life so hard?” “What did I do to deserve this illness, or this loss, or this hardship?”

“WHY ME?”

And I hear God answer:

Because I love you.

The Same Boat (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Solomon was so wrong about so many things. He was looking through the eyes of a natural man, out of the framework of sin, of self, of trying to outthink, outsmart, and out maneuver God. As wise as he was, Solomon wasn’t God. He would never be God.

Solomon seems to believe we are all in the same boat. We live. We die. We succeed. We fail. Life is good. Life is hard. But Solomon misses the boat, so to speak.

I recently heard someone say, “We are all in the same storm. But we are NOT all in the same boat.”

Some people are weathering the storm of life in cardboard canoes, paddling against the waves with plastic straws. Some are trying to fashion their own lifeboats by grabbing at driftwood while trying to stay afloat in the torrent.

But some of us are resting in a sturdy, sea-worthy, ocean vessel called, Salvation. Some of us are enjoying peace in the midst of the storm of life while in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Some of us will come out of this storm more alive than ever when we finally step on the shores of heaven.

Yes, there is a storm raging that effects us all, Solomon. But we are not all in the same boat. Not even close.

Not Equal (Leviticus 7)

I find it so interesting, and reassuring, that each tribe brought exactly the same offering to the altar, no matter the size of the clan, or its wealth. All had equal share in the altar, all were required exactly the same. It speaks to me of our own equal footing before God in regard to our sin debt, and His grace equally available to all.

But there was something not equal in this chapter, too, and I have overlooked it until today. God told Moses to give carts and oxen to each Levite clan, “as each man’s work requires.” For those families in charge of the lighter loads, Moses assigned two carts and four oxen. For those with the heavier burdens, Moses gave four carts and eight oxen. The holy things didn’t require a cart or oxen at all. Those things were to be carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites.

I have a friend whose husband died yesterday. Janie’s load is heavy right now. And I know God will supply exactly what she needs to carry on with a broken heart, and a burden too great to carry on her own.

The thing is, she has lovingly cared for her husband these past 20+ months since his debilitating stroke. She has spent every day talking to him, even though he could not answer her. She has read to him, or just sat with him day after day after day, assuring him of her love with kisses and by holding his hand or stroking his cheek. It has been a difficult time.

Many people may think, “I don’t think I could do that. I’m not strong enough.” And they are right to think that. When our life is about carrying a lighter load, God doesn’t give us four carts and eight oxen. If our circumstances require us to do what we need to do while carrying our burden on our shoulders, He will not give us the strength of two oxen.

But let me assure you, that for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, those of us who have a relationship with God Himself, we can count on all the oxen and carts we need when we need them. Not before. But exactly at the right time.

I’m praying for my friend today. She loves God, and Jesus is her Savior. I pray that she will recognize the strength that is hers through her relationship with God. I couldn’t do what she’s done, and what she is going to have to do in the days and weeks ahead. My burdens don’t require four carts and eight oxen right now. But Janie’s does. And I pray that she will find rest in the assurance of God’s strength, His love, and His Presence in her life.

I believe God gives His children what we need when we need it, that when we are at a place in life when we are crushed by pain, we find that Jesus provides exactly what we need to walk through it. One day my friend won’t need four carts and eight oxen. But she does today. And I trust that God is going to provide exactly what she needs.

 

December 12; Prison Ministry

Acts 28:11-31; Ephesians 1-2

I thought the wheels of justice turned slowly in our twenty-first century. Seems they didn’t move much faster in Paul’s day. He was arrested, sent to Rome for trial, then sat there for two years as a prisoner, waiting for his day in court.

I am reminded that Paul was truly an innocent man. What they did to him was unfair. It was just wrong on every level.┬áBut Paul didn’t let his situation paralyze him.

His prison was actually a house. His roommate was a prison guard. And Paul was able to entertain people in his prison/home. For two years Paul’s house was filled with people, and the preaching of the Truth about Jesus. For two years Paul wrote letters like the one we started reading today to the Ephesian church. Two thousand years later God’s words through Paul are still encouraging and convicting hearts.

Paul had an incredible prison ministry.

Too often I let the unfairness of life, or hardships prevent me from sharing Jesus. Those pity parties replace the joy that is mine from having my sins forgiven, and the Spirit of God living in me. Too often I let what is happening to me effect who I am, what kind of ministry I can have for Jesus’ sake. I end up letting circumstances paralyze me.

Paul didn’t make that same mistake. And I want to follow Paul’s example.

Do you think you are in some kind of prison? Poor health, financial struggles, relationship problems, situations that make life difficult as a result of your own choices, or as the victim of someone else’s?

Then ask yourself what kind of ministry you can have. Let’s not let our struggles, or the unfairness of life prevent us from making a difference for Jesus’ sake. You might be missing a fabulous prison ministry right there in your own home.

September 26; It’s Sin

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Sometimes when we read God’s Word we tend to think, “this account was written to people long ago,” or “this one is about things in the future,” and we neglect to realize God is able to speak to us concerning our lives in 2019 through every word He inspired men to write in Scripture.

I have to confess I was reading Joel this morning trying to put the prophet’s words into either the past category, or the future category. It was a bit frustrating. Now, I’m not saying Joel wasn’t speaking about historical events, or events that had not yet happened when the prophet allowed God to use his pen to write His words. But my prayer every day is that God would speak to me, too, through His Word about my walk with Him. And He always answers that prayer.

So I started to read it again, and in verse 2 God seemed to ask me, “Has anything like this happened to you?”

“Like what?” I thought. “Locusts?” God prompted me to think again.

Verse 4 stood out as a picture of devastation. One bad thing happened, then another, and another. Has anything like that ever happened to me? Have I felt at a loss with nowhere to turn, crushed by life’s hardships?

Yes. Who hasn’t at one time or another? “Then read on,” God seemed to say. “Wake up and weep, you sinner. Sin has invaded your life.”

“Now wait a minute,” I argued. “I’ve repented of sin. You promised to forgive me. I am wearing Jesus’ righteousness. What sin are you talking about?”

As I continued to read I saw that sin has invaded God’s creation. At prayer meeting last night, someone prayed that God would shatter the teeth of Satan, and here in verse 6 God reenforces that idea by saying the enemy, sin, has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It is sin that has destroyed what God created as good. It is sin that brings the heartache and loss. Sometimes we experience the consequences for our own sin, but sometimes we are hurt as a result of living in a fallen, sinful world. It’s my sin, your sin, the sins of the world.

God seems to be saying, “Wake up! Call sin sin. Identify the enemy. Don’t pretend it isn’t there.”

“So,” I think, “Social reform isn’t the answer? Tolerance isn’t going to bring peace?”

“Exactly,” He seemed to say. “Sin has taken the joy of mankind.”

“So, what is the answer, Lord? Where do we find that joy again?”

I read words like mourn, grieve, despair, wail. And I ask myself if I am truly broken over sin in the world, and in my own life. Am I truly grieving the state of hearts that are dried up, withered, ruined because of sin?

Then in verse 13 God says, “Come.” He asks us to fast and pray, go to church and cry out to God. To turn to Him to come and heal our land, which is really the lives of people in our families, and communities, and the world.

“Heal our parched and worthless lives God, when we turn to You according to Your Word,” I pray. “To you, O Lord, I call, for sin has devoured our hearts, sin has burned up all the good You created. We, Your creation, pant for you. You alone are the answer.”

It’s not about luck, or Karma, or positive thinking, or tolerance. It’s sin that is the problem, and the repenting of sin that is the answer. It is sin that causes all the bad, and only through the blood of Jesus can there be any hope of anything good.

We have got to stop playing around with sin. It is the enemy. It is the cause of all the bad that happens in this world. And God, through Jesus, has destroyed sin’s hold over us. We just need to turn to Him according to His Word.

So today, God has brought some personal sins to mind, and I have repented. I want my heart to be fed and nourished by the living water that is Jesus. And God has challenged me to stand up for what I know is true according to His Word. I don’t want to take lightly the very thing that is destroying the people I love and the world God created.

It’s not God that is causing bad things to happen. It’s sin. It’s not God that is to blame for hardship and loss. It’s sin. My sin. And yours. What are we going to do about that?

 

June 9; Good, Bad, and Trust

Ecclesiastes 7-10

Bad things happen. Good things happen, too. We have successes, and we have failures. Some days the sun shines, and some days the sun hides behind clouds. Let’s face it. There are just some things that are out of our control.

Solomon says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecc 7:14)

We who have placed our faith in the Lord know that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. We count on that with assurance.

Some people question why God allows sin, or tragedy, or hardship. Honestly, I don’t see how He could have done it any other way. If it wasn’t for the night, would we even notice the day? If it wasn’t for sickness, would we appreciate health? If it wasn’t for bad times, we’d take good times for granted. If it wasn’t for sin, how could we understand grace?

Solomon seems to be saying, let God be God. “Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” Quit fighting against God, or wasting your time being mad at Him. He is God. And He’s got this.

King Solomon has a dismal view of life. I don’t. And you don’t have to, either. Do you trust God? He absolutely can be trusted with every detail of your life. You can rest assured that, whether the sun is shining, or if you are in the middle of a storm, God wants to show you what He can do, He wants to draw you to Himself.

Good things happen and bad things happen. Trust God in every circumstance. He can be trusted.