Tag Archives: trials

March 3; Let’s Do This

Numbers 11-13

Back in June of 2015 I wrote about a former student of mine who lives his faith in God out loud. (They Hated Me Without A Cause). This young man is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. I thought about him today as I read these chapters in Numbers, because my friend is facing giants today.

Thirty years ago he was born three months premature, weighing in at a whopping 1lb 12oz. The doctor told his parents he hoped they’d have better luck next time. But this tiny baby spent 120 days in the NICU, then went home with his parents and has lived a perfectly normal life. I knew him as a middle schooler and trust me, he was a normal middle schooler! ūüôā

He is a military veteran, married, and a hard worker. He has the most positive outlook on life of anyone you’ll ever meet. You never feel worse after spending time with this young man.

And he has cancer. Last week he was hit with the news that he will be fighting Stage 2 bladder cancer.

Moses sent out twelve men to spy out the land God had Promised to give them. Let’s not forget that fact. God had PROMISED to GIVE them the land.

You know the story: the twelve searched the land for forty days, came back with amazing fruit and a glowing report as to what that land offered. But instead of celebrating the good things God was giving them, all those men could focus on were the giants living there.

“It’s too much!” they complained. “We’ll never be able to defeat them.”

All the spies seemed to agree with this sorry assessment – except Caleb who exclaimed, “Let’s do this!”

I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, so I’m not going to pretend I know what my young friend is feeling. He says he’s worried, and scared. He has questions. Who wouldn’t? He admits he knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But he, like the Caleb we read about here in the book of Numbers, says, “Let’s do this!”

He is not cowering in fear in the face of this giant. If you would visit his FaceBook page you would see post after post of Bible verses declaring God’s power, God’s goodness, God’s love. He continues to be a voice of one who has put his trust in the Lord Jesus, and whose faith is stronger than his fear. He knows God has promised him that He has a plan for him, plans to give him hope and a future. (from Jeremiah 29:11)

With his permission, I’d like to share this young man’s name, because his parents gave him a name meant to fight giants. His name is Caleb Jacob. Caleb, one of the two spies who saw God in the land of the giants.

I know many of you are facing giants of your own. They come in all shapes and sizes. But they are intended by the enemy to get our eyes off the Lord, to replace our confidence with doubt, to question God’s love or maybe even existence. I would challenge you to search the Scripture for God’s promises to you. Just like he PROMISED to GIVE the land to the Jews, He’s PROMISED His presence, His strength, His power, and eternity with Him to those who know Him.

Are you facing a giant? Be the one to take God’s hand and say, “Let’s do this.” Would you pray with me for Caleb and his wife Kassi as they begin their own battle with cancer? I pray God will be glorified as they face this giant, and may He be glorified as you face your own.

 

January 6; If It Were Me…

Job 4-7

Eliphaz meant well. He’d traveled some distance to be with his hurting friend. He sat with Job in silence for a whole week. To me, that is a sign of real friendship.

But, like most of us, Eliphaz got to the point where he wanted to fix things. Maybe he was uncomfortable himself in the presence of such intense grief. Maybe he just wanted to make Job feel better. “Ok, Job. You’ve cried about this long enough. Let’s figure this thing out and do something.”

Whatever his motive, once Eliphaz started talking, he was little comfort to his friend. Maybe there is something we can learn from his example.

Like rethinking the blame game. Eliphaz, in effect, says, “Face it, Job, you deserve this.” Then if that isn’t bad enough, he follows that with the ever popular: “If I were you…

Actually, he said, “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” (5:8 emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing: when we know of people going through hard situations, examining ourselves is not a bad thing to do. Asking myself what I might do in a similar circumstance reveals some important things about me.

BUT YOU DON’T SHARE YOUR FINDING WITH YOUR HURTING FRIEND.

Because you are you. Your friend is your friend. Your circumstances are yours. Their circumstances are theirs. Besides, you DON’T know what you would do. Not really. Not even if you’ve experienced something similar. You are not them. What worked for you might not work for them.

You telling them what you would do elevates you, and further pushes them into their already hopeless estate. I can’t believe any of us would want to do that to someone who is already in that much pain. Even if they ask you what you would do, or ask what you think they should do, resist the temptation to tell them.

I find that saying something like, “I don’t know,” is sometimes the only truthful answer. “What do you think you should do?” is a much better response. Or, even better: “Let’s pray and ask God to show you what you should do.”

Eliphaz and his friends are going to have a bucket full of advice for Job. And really, none of it is all that good. But let’s read their words and learn to be better comforters, better counselors, better friends to people who are hurting.

If it were me, I’d learn from their mistakes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

 

 

Job 38-42; Final Answer

The whole book of Job is a series of questions and answers. Job had questions: “Why is God doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? Where is God in my suffering?” His friends had answers (or at least what they passed off as answers): “You have done something bad and God is punishing you, Job. You deserve this, admit it.”

So after 37 chapters of this sorry exchange between friends, God is going to finally speak. Job is going to get his answer. But it’s not at all what he expects. Because God never addresses the “why” of anything Job is experiencing. God never tells about His conversation with Satan in chapter one. God never explains His reasoning, or plan to Job and his friends. The answer to Job’s suffering isn’t about the “why” at all.

It’s about the”Who.”

And it’s the same for us. If we are looking for answers to understand our pain, or our circumstances, we are looking in the wrong direction. Looking horizontally prevents us from looking upward.

A Swiss psychologist, Dr. Paul Tournier wrote, “For God’s answer is not an idea, a proposition, like the conclusion of a theorem; it is Himself.” (Guilt and Grace; Harper and Row, p 86)

God doesn’t owe us answers. He Himself is all the answer we need.

Unless you’ve experience His Presence and peace in the middle of a storm, you probably think this is just another example of “church speak,” that it doesn’t hold water when the reality of suffering sets in. And you would be wrong.

Warren Wiersbe (With the Word, p 303) said, “God cannot do much for us as long as we are busy telling Him what to do.” Sometimes we just need to shut our mouths, stop with our demands, and just be still and know that He is God, bowing before Him in complete surrender.

I hope you read these chapters in Job today, and ask yourself how you stack up when compared to God. I know I don’t come close. And it humbles me that the Creator and Sustainer of life wants a relationship with me, wants to spend time with me, wants to be everything I need in good times and in the worst of times.

God.

Final answer.

Job 32-37; Elihu

Ahh youth. Many of us older folk may wish we could go back to the days when we knew everything, too. Elihu, the youngest of Job’s friends, speaks boldly. He brushes off the arguments of the other three as though they were crumbs on the front of his shirt. “Pay attention, Job,” he keeps saying. ¬†“I will teach you wisdom.” (32:33)

Of course Elihu is going to talk about the “why” of suffering. But he puts a slightly different slant on the subject than the other three did. He suggests the trials of life are not always about judgment, reaping what we sow, or God’s discipline for sin. He says in chapter 36 that sometimes God is “wooing (us) from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction...”

Maybe God allows the trials of life to serve as a means of¬†preventing us from sinning. I think of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Did that pain (physical or emotional) keep Paul from pride, or self-satisfaction? Did that affliction help to keep Paul grounded so that he could be the fruitful evangelist he was?

Here’s what I get out of Job: ¬†Trouble and hardship and sickness and grief are a part of life on planet Earth. Accept it.¬†Then, instead of wasting time trying to figure out “why?” ask God, “what?”

What is it You want me to learn?

What do you want me to do with this that will help someone find You?

What danger is this situation keeping me from?

Then, Elihu speaks these words in 33:23-24:

Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, “Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a¬†ransom for him”…

Did you hear it? We have that mediator, that One who has ransomed us and keeps us from going down to the pit.

Yesterday my pastor shared from Mark 4 in God’s Word, where Jesus calmed the storm. Where were the disciples during this storm that frightened even those seasoned fishermen? They were in the boat with Jesus!

What did those disciples do when the storm became so violent? They called on Him!

Storms, battles, hardships, trials, pain, whatever you call it will come. But we never have to go through any of it alone. If you know Jesus as your Savior, He is in that rocking boat right there with you. He may choose to calm the raging storm that surrounds you, or He may command the waves of doubt and fear within you to “Hush, be still.”

But God, who does all things well, promises to never leave you or forsake you in good times or bad. Call on Him. Lean on Him. Surrender to Him.

Because in Him is joy and peace that transcends even the worst situations. I’ve seen it in the smile of a woman fighting cancer, in the eyes of a mother who buried her son, in the selfless actions of a widow, in the song of ¬†man mourning the loss of his dear wife.

My prayer is that, if you are going through a storm, you will let go of the “why,” and turn your eyes instead on Jesus. He will teach you what you need to know, He’ll be your strength, and He’ll calm the storm as only He can. You can trust Him.

Job 1-2; It’s Not The “Why” You Might Think

Have you ever asked the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I think most of us have at one time or another questioned why a God-loving, church-going, volunteer at homeless shelters, a giver to charities, and an all around nice guy gets ALS, or loses his job, or has a child addicted to drugs. Why does a godly church secretary find herself fighting cancer diagnosed late, effecting her major organs, in great pain, and having a severe reaction to chemo?

Why do you suffer? Why do I?

If you read the book of Job hoping to get those answers, you will be disappointed. Job never finds out “why” those things happened to him. Oh his friends think they know “why.” But they don’t. Not really.

If you read the first two chapters of Job you’ll discover the deeper question that Satan asks of God: “Do people follow You, God, because You bless them? Do they worship You so they can feel good? Do they obey You for what’s in it for them?”

Satan’s premise is that as soon as hard times hit, people turn their backs on God. Is he right to think that?

What about you? Have you given God an ultimatum: “I’ll serve You, God, as long as you don’t mess with my health, or my family. I’ll worship You, but don’t touch my career. If you do, I’m outta here.”

The question isn’t “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The question is “What do good people do when bad things happen?”

I am looking forward to spending some time in Job. I want to hear what the world has to say about worship. I want to define the “why” of my worship of God. And I want to hear from God about why He deserves my worship in every circumstance of life.

When all is said and done, I want to say with Job:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised,

and mean it.

2 Samuel 22-24; Blessed

I wrestled a bit with 22:21-25 this morning, because David is indicating God has rewarded him for good behavior. Clean hands, David? I seem to remember something about a girl named Bathsheba. Check under your fingernails, my friend. I’m not so sure they’re as clean as you’d like to think.

But there are other places in Scripture that equate righteous living with blessing: I Samuel 26:23, I Kings 8:32, Psalm 24, Proverbs 11 are just a few.

Then you have Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:10, 23 that tell us none of us can claim righteousness. Besides, life itself tells us good things don’t always happen just to good people.

I just watched a YouTube video from Nabeel Qureshi, a young man dying of cancer. If you don’t know him, I encourage you to check him out. A former Muslim, he gave his heart to the Lord and has had a fruitful ministry sharing Jesus. It would seem he should have many more years to talk about his Savior, yet unless God performs a miracle, Nabeel’s life on this earth is at an end.

The recent hurricanes that have and are causing destruction in this part of the world are not just picking out criminals and atheists to hit. And I’m sure you could come up with examples in your own life when good Christian people are hit with hardships. So where does David get off talking about how God has blessed him for following the rules?

He was forgiven.

David was not delusional. How did God reward him for obedience? I found the answer when I read on.

God had shown Himself as faithful, blameless, pure, shrewd, saving. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

Those are the real blessings of a right relationship with God. God may choose to miraculously heal Nabeel at the eleventh hour. He may choose to spare my home from Hurricane Irma. But the reality is Nabeel will die some day. My house will crumble and fall some day. Neither are going to last forever.

I have the same assurance David had in that I know God blesses His people with Himself. We can stand before him righteous, blameless, pure, holy when we allow Jesus to clothe us with His own. So, with David, I can say:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior, from violent men (and storms) you save me. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. (even Irma regardless of the outcome)

Yes, I am blessed.

 

 

November 18 – Seeing God

Acts 7-8

Bad things happen. People get sick, some die. Wars and terrorism are in the news all the time. Tragedy strikes across the world, and in our own homes. Life isn’t fair.

So where is God in all of this?

When Stephen was being pummeled by rocks, he “gazed intently into heaven.” He was dying a painful death. His world was as out of control as is ours. But Stephen saw what I pray we all can see. That is Jesus, seated next to God the Father in all His glory.

Stephen didn’t focus on the stones being thrown at him, or even on the people trying to kill him. His attention was on God.

I’m not going to question God about why bad things happen. He’s already made that perfectly clear in His Word. What I want to see is Jesus, ready and willing to heal our land and our lives if we only humble ourselves and let Him.

It’s not God causing bad things to happen. He didn’t force any of those people to pick up rocks and hurl them at Stephen that day. He doesn’t force anyone to be a terrorist, or an abortionist, and He doesn’t implant cancer cells in people’s bodies to make them suffer.

Bad things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. It’s mankind’s¬†disobedience that has taken God out of the picture and we are left with the consequences.

So where is God when tragedy strikes? Right there, waiting and willing to draw us to Himself, to comfort and strengthen, and ultimately to take us to be with Him forever. If we, like Stephen, gaze intently into heaven, into the eyes of our Savior, it’s God who gives us everything we need in the midst of the heartache and pain.

Circumstances might not change, but we might. Our hearts might be broken, but our hearts might also be healed by an encounter with the Savior, and other hearts might be healed as well because of our testimony. What Satan intends for evil, God can use for good in and through us. No matter what is happening, God wants to give His children everything we need for this life and eternity.

He wants to give us Himself. And if you think that’s not enough, dear one, you are wrong. It’s everything.