Guest Blogging Today

I am guest blogging today on the website “All Mom Does.”  Check out my Thanksgiving devotional, “Giving Thanks in the Desert.”

https://www.allmomdoes.com/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-the-desert/

 

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Facing Trials With Joy

 

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

“God – I don’t understand this trial. Why are you making me go through this?” Ever said that before? So have I, and so have believers through the ages. And we will again and again because life on this rock is hard sometimes.  James says that as believers we are to greet every trial as a cause for joy.  Excuse me?   I don’t like trials and I’ll bet you don’t either.  But we can have joy because our trials are not without purpose.  God has a plan for every trial we face.

James follows up our key verse and gives us one reason for rejoicing in the face of trials: “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).  We become physically stronger when we work our muscles, and any trainer will tell you that resistance training is the best strengthening exercises.  Our faith becomes stronger when we have opportunities to exercise it as we strain against some resistant force – like a trial.  How will you know that God is faithful if you never have opportunity to trust Him?  Trials strengthen our faith and lead us into spiritual maturity. 

Trials also accomplish God’s wider purposes.  Joseph was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape and unjustly imprisoned.  But all of those very hard things occurred to position him to be in the right place at the right time – God’s place and God’s time.  Joseph was used in Egypt to save thousands of lives, most importantly the life of his own people – the Jews, through whom our Savior, Jesus, would come.   Through recent trials in our life, God moved us back home positioning us for many good blessings including placing me in a great job.  Trials often become the catalyst for a God-ordained redirection into His good plan.

Our trials prepare us to minister to others.  Paul said, “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I have benefited greatly from the wise counsel and comfort of others who have “been there, done that” and survived.  Their testimony brought me hope and confidence in God and they gave good advice drawn from their own experience.  Perhaps your trial today will give you wisdom to come along side someone in a similar situation one day and offer them hope. 

Sometimes trials are a means of discipline in our lives.  The psalmist declared, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word” (Psalm 119:67).  Hebrews adds, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).  Trials that come as a consequence of our sinful and foolish behavior are meant to teach us valuable life lessons.  Or as my mother used to say, “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons.”  If you can connect your trial to your actions, take that as a means of discipline and training.  God is being a good Father to you (Hebrews 12:5-10)

Most importantly, trials reveal God to the world.  When Jesus and His disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth, He declared that “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). When the Lord healed this man everyone knew it, and he became a living testimony to the power of God.  You and I are the canvas on which God paints His own portrait for the world to see.  Just as silver and gold show up most brilliantly against a dark backdrop, the power and glory of God is on vivid display in our trials.  Our difficulties become the means by which God shows up and shows off.

Beloved, I don’t know what trial you are facing today, but I know that God has brought you to it for a good purpose.  He is at work in your life, stretching your faith, moving you into His will, preparing you to minister to someone else, teaching you discipline, and making your life a display of His glory.  Every trial is an opportunity for you and I to draw closer to God, to walk in faith, and to point others to Him.  Yes, we can count it all joy when trials come, because we know God has a purpose and a plan – and we will be the richer for it.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Proven Faith

Image: Melted gold flows out of a smelter into a mould of a bar at a plant of gold refiner and bar manufacturer Argor-Heraeus SA in the southern Swiss town of Mendrisio

Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The most precious [metals] are tested in the fire . . . ” The Psalmist said, “For You, O God tested us; You refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10). Peter said, “These [trials] have come so that your faith – of great worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine” (1 Peter 1:7)
A “proving ground” is a military term. It is “an environment that serves to demonstrate whether something, such as a theory or product, really works.” Say a company has created something they want to market to the United States military. Do you think Uncle Sam is just going to take their word for it, buy this thing and put it into a soldier’s hands. No – they are going to take it into situations and places in which it will be used and they will put it through rigorous tests. They may discover a weakness and will work on that area to strengthen it. And they’ll test it again. Only after it stands up in the proving grounds will it be put into use.
When God wants to “prove” the faith of His child He uses the fires of adversity, struggle, trial, heartache, disappointment, discouragement . . . I think you understand. When you and I ask God, “What are You doing?” The answer will always be, “I am proving your faith. I am finding the weak places so that I can strengthen you. I am making sure you are fit for the good work I have for you.” God is not out to destroy you beloved, He is working to build your faith. The proving ground is the place where your faith takes root so you can produce fruit – fruit that will last. Fruit that will glorify the one who brought you all the way through the fire.

The God of My Life

“Therefore we do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  2 Corinthians 4:16, 17

I have been thinking a lot about struggles and trials in our lives, and judging by the feedback on a recent devotional about suffering, I am not the only one who is seeking answers and a measure of understanding for times of hardship and heartache.  I have heard it said that in life, you are either about to go through a trial, in the middle of a trial, or just coming out of a trial.  It’s not scriptural, but I think it has a ring of truth to it nonetheless.  In case you didn’t get the memo: Trials are a part of everyone’s life.

One of the questions we so often ask in times of trouble is “What good can possibly come out of this?”  Isn’t it a little easier to endure difficulty when we know something good will ultimately come from it?  A mother endures the pain of childbirth, because she knows that her baby will soon be born.  College students endure the intense work of school because a good education prepares them for a successful future.  Our military men and women fight in battle because they know they are ensuring freedom for their loved ones.  I believe our struggles and sufferings always have potential for good in God’s hands.

Paul gives us one good end to our suffering in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.”  Though it’s hard to see in the midst of trouble, God is shaping us to be His arms of comfort for others who are enduring trials.   Who better to comfort a young woman grieved by an abortion that another woman who has done the same; a woman who can testify to the power of God over that situation.  Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Teen Challenge work because those who have been freed from addiction can offer help, accountability and hope to another addict from their own similar experience.  I have a lot of difficult things in my past (and present); abuse, rebellion, divorce, infertility, financial hardships, and rejection.  I have suffered from the choices and actions of others, as well as from my own decisions.  They were hard things to go through, but they have enabled me to reach out to others who are struggling in the same ways and offer them the comfort and hope that God gave to me.  I can look a hurting person in the eye and say “I know how you feel,” and I have their trust.  I can share in their suffering because I’ve been where they are.  I can reach out to them with the love of Christ as a fellow divorcee or abuse victim or rejected friend, and I can tell them how God worked in my life through that situation. It gives them hope, and brings meaning to my struggles.  When I allow God to turn my suffering in ministry, my friend is encouraged, my faith is strengthened, and my Father is glorified.

Times of struggle and suffering are also meant to turn us to God.  We were created with one purpose above all else: for a love relationship with God, and He often uses difficulties to turn us back to Himself when we have wandered away.   You can see the pattern throughout the history of Israel, God’s people began to be enticed away from Him, they sought other gods that seemed to offer them the pleasures they craved, but they didn’t realize the dangers these idols posed.  God gave them over to enemy nations, to hardship and slavery, and they eventually cried out and turned back to Him.  Psalm 119:57 says “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word. Sometimes God allows us to suffer the consequences of our choices so that, in our misery, we will seek Him again.  How often I have run back to God after a season of rebellion, and He welcomes me into His loving and comforting arms, He forgives me, cleans off my skinned knees and sets me back on the right path.  He has never rejected me or turned me away, no matter how messy I am or where I have been.

One of the sweetest blessings that has come out of suffering is that I have learned more about God in times of difficulty than I ever could otherwise.  How would I have ever come to know God as Jehovah-JirahThe Lord my Provider, if I never had a need? Would I know Jehovah-Rapha – The Lord my Healer, if I had never been sick?  I discovered that God is Jehovah Shalom – The Lord my Peace during a time of turmoil and chaos, and that He is EmmanuelGod With Us, when I felt abandoned and alone.  He is Yahweh TsuriThe Lord my Strength when I am at my weakest, and He is Jehovah OriThe Lord my Light when the darkness of depression surrounds me. When the enemy is attacking me, I know that Jehovah Gibbor MilchamahThe Lord Mighty in Battle is at my side.  David wrote in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know Your name will trust in You.”

The sufferings of my life have shaped me like nothing else ever has.  Struggles have driven me to my knees, and I stood to my feet as a prayer warrior.  Disappointments in my life have driven me to God’s Word for comfort and encouragement, and I am a Bible teacher and writer today because of them.  I have come to see the hardships and sufferings of my life as God’s sculpting tools, and because I know that He has brought victory from past struggles, I can trust Him in the difficulties I face today and tomorrow and all the days to come.

My favorite name for God, the name that means everything to me, became most precious when my life fell completely apart and I was surrounded by the shards of my hopes and dreams.  It was there that He came to me – El EmunahThe Faithful God – and He has proven Himself to be so ever since.

By day Lord, You direct Your love for me, at night Your song is with me – You are El Hayyay-The God of My Life; my joy and my delight.  Psalm 42: 8; 43:4