Struggle and Realize its Value…

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1 Peter 4:12-19 (KJV)

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

When you face a trial, what is your first response?

You probably would like to run away as quickly as possible to escape it.

Though this is a normal feeling, God has a different way.

It is not the trials in your life that develop or destroy you, but rather your response to those hardships.

How, then, should we react when difficulties feel overwhelming?

First, trust God.

Believe His Word and reflect on ways He has been faithful in the past. He assures us that He limits our trials and enables us to endure.

Second, persevere.

Even when we don’t understand and the suffering seems too great to bear, we should never quit. Continue seeking the Lord through His Word and prayer. Cling to hope in Christ, and praise Him in the midst of the pain.

Third, remember that our sovereign God is in control.

He’s allowing this adversity for a reason and will demonstrate His sustaining power through it. Even though the pain might feel intolerable, the Lord will always prosper His children. Scripture compares our growth to gold, which is refined through fire (1 Peter 1:7). Often, I hear believers reflect on a difficult time and admit that despite the intense hurt, they wouldn’t change the situation.

They see the beauty God created through the struggle and realize its value.

We will encounter difficulties—sometimes intense and painful trials that seem too much for us. Yet we can rely on our heavenly Father to deliver and grow us in ways we could never imagine.

He doesn’t demand that we endure on our own, but He does want us to respond and trust Him.

You Asked, but Nothing Happened…

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James 1:5-8 (KJV)

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

If we believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He has promised, why do so many of us habitually waver in our prayers?

Instead of exercising bold faith, we come to the Lord “hoping” He will hear us and answer our requests, but we’re just not sure He will.

With this kind of thinking, we cannot expect to receive anything from Him.

One reason we are so prone to doubt is that we fail to see God at work in our circumstances.

 

We asked, and nothing happened.

But the Lord is not some cosmic bellhop who jumps in response to our requests. He sees past, present, and future and knows the right time for every answer.

His invisible hand is already at work on our behalf–arranging situations to accomplish His will, opening hearts, and preparing us to receive what He wants to give.

Another cause for uncertainty is ignorance.

If we don’t know God’s ways, we will be disappointed in His response.

All too often our prayers are accompanied by expectations of how He will work. When He fails to intervene according to our timetable or anticipated method, we start to doubt.

But placing our faith in the Lord and trusting in His good and perfect ways gives us stability as we wait for His answer.

To overcome doubts, spend time in the Word to learn God’s principles and ways.

Then you’ll begin to grasp what He wants to achieve in your life and how He goes about it.

Examine your past from a biblical perspective–faith will grow as you see the unexpected ways He answered your prayers.

Strength to Endure…

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1 Peter 1:3-9 (KJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Some people have the wrong idea about the Christian life.

Once they become believers, they expect smooth sailing.

Yet Jesus made it clear that troubles are inevitable for God’s children. His own life was no exception: He endured false accusations, rejection by His own people, and betrayal by a close friend—to name just a few.

As His followers, we can expect difficulty.

The cause of tribulation differs with each circumstance.

Some problems arise from the fallen nature of the world, while others result from satanic warfare. And we can cause our own heartache from ignorance, sin, and poor decisions.

There’s also another possibility—sometimes God Himself brings trials. While this last option is difficult to accept during a painful time, the Lord never brings hardship unless He has a beautiful purpose.

And He gives strength to endure.

Remember, God allows struggles—whatever their source—for our benefit. Perhaps they are to purify and grow us for greater service. Maybe He has in mind to test our endurance and devotion to Christ, thereby strengthening our trust.

Or He might be revealing His sustaining power.

This side of heaven, we may never know the cause of each challenge. But we can trust God’s ability to deliver and mature us.

What trials are you facing?

Jesus understands your pain, and He longs to be the One you cling to through good times and bad.

You can choose to look elsewhere for comfort, or you can use your hardship as a source of growth.

No matter how painful the trial seems, don’t waste the opportunity.

Instant Results…

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Hebrews 6:9-15 (KJV)

9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Picture yourself waiting in a checkout line that hasn’t moved for ten minutes. Many of us would feel frustrated.

We live in a generation that expects instant results.

Everyone struggles with some degree of impatience.

We’re born with this trait–think about a three-month-old who wants milk in the middle of the night. The inborn reaction is to fuss at the first hint of discomfort and to keep at it until the need is met. Patterns from our old “flesh” nature make this a continual battle for most people, but one that is very worthwhile to fight.

Let’s consider the biblical definition of patience.

It can mean both longsuffering and perseverance, or not giving up and yielding under pressure.

In either case, it reveals itself when we are willing to wait without frustration while suffering or experiencing some strong desire.

In other words, we accept difficult situations without giving God deadlines. What’s more, patience means accepting what the Lord gives, on His timetable–or what He chooses not to give. This quality results in inner peace and lack of stress.

Meanwhile, we should pray, obey, and persist as we seek God’s direction.

The danger of impatience is that we might miss the Lord’s perfect plan and His blessing.

Only when we trust our Father’s will and timing can we rest peacefully.

What causes you stress?

Carefully examine whether you are taking matters into your own hands or releasing the circumstance to almighty God. Listen to Psalm 37:7, which says, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Seek His way and His timing.

Anything else can be destructive.

Hope For Today and The Future…

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Luke 18:18-23 (KJV)

18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Three of the four gospels contain an account of the young man who asked Jesus a very important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).

A ruler with great wealth, he considered himself a moral man because he had kept the Lord’s commandments.

However, he was operating under the false assumption that good works bring salvation.

He seemed to be asking Jesus what else he had to do to secure his place in heaven—besides all the good things that he had already accomplished.

This is what I refer to as the “great deception”—the false belief that eternal life can be earned through our own efforts.

If we give credence to this lie, then we do not understand the problem of our sin and how it separates us from God. Scripture tells us that we have inherited a sinful nature from the first man (Rom. 5:12). Ever since that time, humanity has been in rebellion against the Lord and under His judgment.

There is nothing we can do to pay for our sins.

If this were the end of the story, we would be a people without hope for today or the future. But the good news is that the heavenly Father recognized our plight and mercifully provided the way to heaven (John 14:6).

When God made us in His image, He created us to live forever.

So, though our earthly bodies will perish, our spirits will never die.

The question about eternal life is important, as we’ll spend eternity either with God in heaven or in an insufferable state, separated permanently from Him (Matt. 25:34, 41).

Hesitation to Give to Others, Makes us Reluctant to Receive…

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2 Timothy 4:9-22 (KJV)

9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Independence is a prized attribute in our culture, but biblically, it isn’t a worthy aspiration.

Nowhere in Scripture will you find the erroneous quote, “God helps those who help themselves.”

The very fact that the Lord formed the church–a community of believers–should tell us that He did not create people for self-sufficiency or isolation.

When we place faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us so we can have a fulfilling relationship with the Lord and satisfying friendships with one another.

In God’s design, a close, committed biblical friendship between two believers serves to build both toward Christlikeness.

Look at any of the saints in Scripture, and you will find evidence of reliance upon a close friend or confidante for support.

Paul, in particular, spoke freely and often of his dependence upon dear companions and encouraged others to form intimate partnerships as well (2 Tim. 2:22).

It’s interesting to me that our modern culture seems to be headed in the opposite direction.

The farther our nation drifts from God, the more pervasive our self-sufficient attitude becomes.

Neighbors treat each other with suspicion instead of congeniality, and that mindset has invaded the church as well.

We’re hesitant to give to others, which in turn makes us reluctant to receive.

Scripture tells us to love one another, bear our brothers’ burdens, and confess our sins to fellow believers (John13:34; Gal. 6:2; James 5:16). In other words, we’re to give ourselves away to others and receive from them in return.

That’s how church members can stimulate one another to Christlikeness. 

Assurances with Expectation…

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Deuteronomy 7:8-10 (KJV)

8  But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9  Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
10 And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.

God is the only One who never disappoints.

From the beginning of time, His Word has remained true. Every prophecy is a promise that has been or will be fulfilled.

Perhaps the greatest of these foretelling were the ones that told of the Messiah, and throughout the ages, believers longed for His coming.

Prophets spoke about the Anointed One (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa.7:14; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 9:25 NIV; Micah 5:2). Although there was no further prophecy on the subject during the four centuries leading up to Christ’s birth, when the time was right, Jesus came to reconcile mankind to the Father.

Surely, people must have questioned whether the Savior would ever come.

After all, 400 years is a long time to wait without any word. But, as history proves, God never falls short on His promises. He is trustworthy, even when His timetable differs from what we hoped.

Knowing this, we can read Scripture’s assurances with expectation.

For instance, if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and choose to follow Him, the Bible promises our salvation. We can rest assured that we are forgiven and redeemed. What’s more, nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39), and we can trust that He will provide everything we need to accomplish His purpose in our lives.

These are but a few foundational promises; the Word contains many more.

Consider God’s faithfulness throughout the Bible and in your own life, and realize that He will be steadfast in the future as well.

By living obediently, you can have full confidence that He will do all He has promised.

Have You Slipped Away From Him…

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2 Peter 3:17-18 (KJV)

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back.

That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son–the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32).

Perhaps ruin has not yet come to you, but you know that your heart has grown cool to the things of God.

Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you point yourself back to the Lord.

As with any sin, the first motion toward getting back on course is to acknowledge that you have slipped away from the Lord.

Then you confess and repent, which is like turning your boat in the opposite direction and paddling toward God with all your strength.

If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, I suggest a strategy I use every morning. Before I step out of bed, I give myself to God by acknowledging, I surrender my entire life to You for this day. 

When something comes up that runs counter to His plan and I consider pursuing it, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own.

Only God’s way will do for me.

Every day we choose whether to row or drift. As for me, I choose to vigorously pursue God.

Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Peter 3:17).

Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat toward the Lord by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently.

Practicing the spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.