Monday, June 15, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS? Through the Trial a Miracle Awaits
As the Grand Architect, God can direct our path into perilous situations so that he can reveal His power, enrich our lives, and allow our testimony to spread The Truth. Escaping poverty as a child and the recent death of his wife, revivalist Smith Wigglesworth explains the lesson learned from his personal experience, “Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great trials. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” God purposely brought the Israelites to a crossroads, so that He could reveal his power and work a miracle in their lives by parting the sea. The Israelites were terrified and did not understand why God would lead them to be trapped between the mountains and the sea with the Egyptians in fast pursuit. Exodus 14:1-4 “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ So the Israelites did this.” Are you standing at a crossroad in your life? God very possibly is bringing you to a place of humility—He is pruning away the unnecessary so that he can reveal His glory. It is very probable that if you choose the righteous path, God is waiting to reveal your miracle just around the bend.
Most of the miracles in the New Testament are multileveled. In the story of Jesus’ healing the man who had been blind from birth, we can see the act itself as miraculous; but we can also understand how God’s redemptive power is far reaching.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’ ‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.’
Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam’ (Siloam means ‘sent’). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’
… The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, ‘He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?’ So there was a deep division of opinion among them. Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, ‘What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?’ The man replied, ‘I think he must be a prophet.’
…And they threw him out of the synagogue. When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered, ‘Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.’ ‘You have seen him,’ Jesus said, ‘and he is speaking to you!’ ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’ the man said. And he worshiped Jesus. John 9:1-38
First, the healings and miracles of Jesus fulfill messianic prophesies to establish that he is the Savior. Secondly, Jesus challenges the religious establishment; the Law of Moses is transformed from outward rules into a righteous relationship with God. Thirdly, the healing transforms the recipients’ life. Lastly, the healed person becomes a living “case study” of God’s grace. It is not happenstance that the blind man was instructed to wash himself in the pool called sent. The physical washing symbolizes an internal cleansing of the spirit. It foreshadows the ultimate goal of Jesus ministry on earth, “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20. Also, the raising from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany demonstrates these four principals. Lazarus’s sisters contact Jesus, letting him know that his dear friend is gravely ill; however, Jesus waits patiently. When Jesus finally arrives four days after Lazarus’ burial, the sisters lament that Christ could have arrived sooner to heal him. Seeing the grieving sisters and the crowd of mourners, Jesus wept—waiting for his friend to die must have been difficult, yet he understood that this was God’s will. “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him” John 11:40-45. Once again, the miracle solidifies that Jesus is Lord, and as a result, the gospel is spread.
What the enemy of our souls intends for destruction, God uses for righteousness. “Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did.” Acts 8:3-6 Consequently, the crisis provides the opportunity for God to move; when God moves lives are transformed and the Good News travels.
Most importantly, the phenomenal example of God’s transforming negative into positive was Jesus’ crucifixion as the sacrificial lamb, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:1-3 Accepting Christ brings us freedom—we need to wholeheartedly walk in that freedom and proclaim the truth to others. God is doing all He can to convince us to repent—to no longer have “pent up” emotions and be condemned. “We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God….” Acts 13:38-39 Therefore, the daily miracle is forgiveness, perseverance, and guidance; “He comes to us, not to shield us from the harshness of the world but to give us the courage and strength to bear it; not to snatch us away by some miracle from the conflict of life, but to give us peace—His peace—in our hearts, by which we may be calmly steadfast while the conflict rages, and be able to bring the torn world the healing that is peace” (Advent Devotional Guide). I was answering the phones for the church and a quite, male voice asked, “How do I know I am healed?” I simply asked, “Do you feel better?” Yes, it is that simple! Leave your past of sin and guilt at the Cross—move forward freely with the love of Jesus in your heart.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS? Grateful Heart
“On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscious.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.”
When we are on the mountain top, humans congratulate themselves on all the hard work they did to place themselves there. One of the major flaws of the human condition is our forgetfulness…we forget the source of all things good…we forget the lessons learn from the last trials. The story of Job serves as an example of how trials serve to remind us that God is in control. In Job 1:10-11 the devil says, “You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!’ ‘All right, you may test him,’ the LORD said to Satan. ‘Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.’ So Satan left the LORD’s presence.” Through the life of Job we can learn that God works as a filter, nothing can happen to us without His permission. As always, these struggles’ purpose is to shape us into the likeness of Christ and produce the fruits of the spirit. Later in Job 42:1-6, after complaining and repeatedly questioning God, “Job answered GOD: ‘I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes? I admit it. I was the one. ..I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise…"’ Trust me if I had to endure Job’s suffering I would complain even more so…it is an incredible story. As a result of his confession, God blesses Job even more than what was taken away and he lived another 140 years. The story of Job firmly explains to me that God is more concerned about our spirit, than our physical condition~ His concern is who we are rather than what we have. In addition, the lesson of what the devil had intended for evil, God used for good is powerfully illustrated; Job was stripped of all his material possessions so that he could be humbled and grateful. One can easily infer that Job’s torment was prolonged by his rebellion and complaining; the sooner he accepted God’s omnipotent power, the sooner the trial would have ended and the devil lost the bet.
As Americans in the age of instant gratification, we feel God has abandoned and punished us when our water or electricity is being turned off. We stand in front of the microwave wondering why it is taking so long. Like you, I am in full blown panic mode when my bank account runs dry, but do you realize how few people world-wide have clean drinking water or reliable electricity? How grateful are you for the blessings you do have? We feel the American Dream is a guaranteed blessing. We compare ourselves to our neighbors and constantly chase the carrot of success. The current economic crisis is a result of Americans living beyond their means. Financial expert Suze Orman highlighted the problematic attitude behind the economic crisis, “Suze commented that the economy is built on lies and deceit. A lack of regulation for banks, mortgage companies, etc combined with greed at the very top of the system all worked out to mean trouble for the American economy. Main Street America is not so different from Wall Street. Families have been buying homes they couldn't afford, leasing expensive cars, putting purchases on credit and basically living off of money they don't actually have but that is borrowed…Suze's tips for what families can start doing to protect themselves are very simple. First of all, stop living financial lies - Suze shared that if you are living an honest financial life, you will be fine no matter the state of the economy” (Elizabeth Borer, About.com, Recession-Proof Your Family with Suze Orman - Show Recap Tuesday, September 23, 2008). As humans are both physical and spiritual creations, our spiritual attitudes impact our physical lifestyle.
So I plainly ask you, what are your eyes watching—TV commercials, your neighbor’s new car, pornography, the gloom and doom newscasts? If our eyes are the lamp, then they are the gateway to coveting and jealousy as well.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:21-34
As with any journey, change begins with the first step. Living an authentic financial life will bless you physically and spiritually. Many times in the Bible restoration and thanksgiving are inextricably linked: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” Jeremiah 17:14. In Luke the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers tells us that only one came back to thank Jesus. As a result, the thankful man not only received physical restoration, but spiritual healing as well, “Where are the other nine?...Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17-15-18 After all, humans original design was for communion with God; it is no wonder that when we lose sight of this priority, our lives are out-of-focus and chaotic.
Most importantly, the last part of Matthew 6, offers a promise. Are you seeking His kingdom first? Thankfully give God your first fruits—the first 10% of your salary, day, time— and come back and tell me how your life is changing. I’m not endorsing your saying to God, Now God, I gave you $20, now where’s my $200?—that is not a grateful heart. Think about your relationship with your children, when they open up the Christmas gifts and ask, Is that it? How eager are you to give them more? Do we look to God with a sense of entitlement? Have we forgotten that God’s chosen people wandered the desert, the early church fathers were jailed for following the Great Commission and so on, why do we expect to be treated any differently? Even while imprisoned, Paul encourages others with the grateful heart, strength and peace he has found in relying on Christ to supply his needs, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:11-13 Pray that God will change your point of view and give you a thankful heart.