What Needless Pain We Bear

I hate to admit it, but I am an anxious person. When there is uncertainty, I am often filled with anxiety and fear. I always want the future to be crystal clear. It makes me uncomfortable and nauseous when the path is narrow and I am unable to see what lies ahead. Being a Christian, I’m always reminded and convicted by God that anxiety is foolish since God is in control, and I am His child.

When I feel the ground crumbling beneath my feet, the passage I often run to is Matthew 6, where our Lord says:

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more 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?

God Sustains Creation

Whenever I walk outside, I do not see birds falling from the sky. As I walk to my car, I do not have to step over bird carcasses. The Lord provides for His creation; He is our caretaker. Our Lord provides for birds that are infinitesimal in value compared to humans. How much more will He provide for His own children? There is no reason for us to be anxious if we are children of the living God.

Non-Christians are Anxious

The only people who have the right to be anxious are non-Christians. They do not believe God is in control, so they worry for their future. If I did not believe in Christ, then it is only natural for me to be anxious. After all, what is the basis for non-Christians to have peace? In the Christian life, the hope for peace is always rooted in the Word of God. Anxiety is permitted only for non-Christians, not for those who believe in the promises of God.

Anxiety Reveals Unbelief

Anxiety also reveals our lack of trust in the character of God. If we believe that God loves us and does not withhold any good thing from us, what do we have to be anxious about? Any situation or circumstance that comes our way is ordained and controlled by the living God. He will use it all for our good, and ultimately it is meant to draw us into His arms.

Hezekiah’s Anxiety

I do not want anything in this life that God does not want for me. If it is not God’s will, I do not want it. King Hezekiah is a great example of a man who pushed for something that was not good for him. He feared death and wanted to live longer in this world, so He pleaded and pleaded with God. The Lord answered his prayer and extended his life. Yet, the extended life he lived was terrible for the nation of Israel! The worst thing God can do to a human is letting him have his own way. God’s plan is better than anything we can come up with…

Saved from Hell

At the end of the day, we should always be anxiety-free because we have been saved from eternal damnation. If you have accepted Christ through faith, you will never see or experience Hell. The closest we will ever be to that place is the suffering we go through in this life. Joni Erickson Tada, a quadriplegic and cancer survivor says it this way:

Suffering is like a little splash-over of hell, reminding us of what Christ rescued us from—like a tiny taste of what life could be like for all of eternity, were it not for God’s graciousness.

She goes on to say, what is the splash over of Heaven? Is it when life is a breeze and things are going your way? No, it is when you find Jesus present in your splash-over of Hell. Even in our suffering and pain, Jesus is there! If the Lord has redeemed you, what do you really have to be anxious about? No matter what happens, you can say, “It is well with my soul,” and “I have Jesus.”

Response to Anxiety

It is easy to grasp this conceptually, but applying it is another task altogether. What is our response when we are flooded with anxiety and fear? A hymnist put it well:

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Take all the worry and anxiety you have to the Lord. I cry out to God when I am afraid, and He reminds me of His promises. We cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). As Christians, we have the privilege of coming before the Lord and casting it all on Him.

In the midst of our circumstances, we must always remember that God is in control and we are His children. Even though we may not know what the future holds, we know who holds our future. He is the ruler over creation, and He provides for His creatures. He has rescued us from Hell and He is transforming us into His image. He gives us the privilege as His children to lay all our anxieties before Him. Why then do we allow ourselves to be anxious?

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2 Essential Ingredients for Ministry

For any ministry in the body of Christ, there are two essential ingredients that are a must. Regardless of your position and station in life, you must be in the Word and you must love people. With these two ingredients you form the bedrock of your life’s work.

Love the Scriptures

As we study God’s Word we are able to equip and encourage other individuals. The guidance we receive is not from the world, but from God. If are ignorant of the Bible, it isn’t possible to bring the healing that comes from God’s Word. Our words apart from Scripture are meaningless; they are ineffectual in transforming the life of an individual. It is the Word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, convicting the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). In order to teach Scripture we must be in Scripture. Do we spend time growing in God’s Word?

In discussing knowledge there is always a danger of going overboard. It was Robert Anthony who said, “some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, some gargle, and others drown themselves.” We spend time in Scripture never just to acquire knowledge. Our goal is always to know our Savior cognitively and experientially. Our knowledge of Him through Scripture is the lens through which we interpret our experiences.

Love the People

By reading God’s Word, we grow in love and that manifests itself by showing love for people. Our love for people is what makes our theology warm and the lack of it makes our theology cold and distant. It is our love that distinguishes the body of Christ from the rest of the world. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). When a church has lost its love, that church has lost its ability to represent Christ. It may be a Baptist or a Presbyterian Church, but it is not Christ’s church. For the churches that bare the seal of Christ are marked by love.

If we love God’s Word and love people we will have the foundation for a fulfilling ministry.

 

True Love Judges

When you think of judgment, what words come to mind? Christians, religion, church? I’m sure that “love” was not the first word that popped into your head. The words “love” and “judgment” in our minds mesh as well as oil and water. They seem to be an unrelated pair. However, the paradox is that love exists only when there is true judgment.

Michael Ramsden from Oxford articulates it this way:

Love doesn’t exist in the absence of judgment, but in the presence of it. What makes the words “I love you” meaningful is when it is spoken by someone who has truly judged you, and knows you completely. This is the way God loves us. He knows what is going on in our hearts and [despite the junk] He loves us.

Love and judgment in this context provides us with great comfort. God knows all our flaws, weaknesses and sins, yet He still loves us. His love is not conditional.

Knowledge of a person always involves judgment; judgment about their character, actions, beliefs and values. I cannot love what I do not know. And I cannot know without making judgments. Love only exists when there is true judgment. How beautiful it is then that God has judged us.

Perpetual Encouragement

As we go through life, we will experience all sorts of scrapes and bruises, heartbreaks and dashed hopes. The question is not, “Will suffering happen?” but rather “When?” and “How will we respond to it?” When we are thrown into challenging situations, our view is often narrow-minded. All we see is the problem that is ahead of us. This is why we feel discontentment and at times even anger about our circumstances. Moreover, when there is no meaning or purpose for our suffering, the heartache and pain is compounded. It is only those that have an anchor in Christ that can find lasting joy amidst ongoing suffering.

Our perspective determines how we respond to the difficult situations of life. For those who are in Christ, there is a perspective that enables one to look at life with joy, despite all the scrapes and bruises. It comes by viewing life in light of eternity and seeing God’s purpose and plan for His people.

God Works for Good

When we are in Christ, we know that God works all things together for good, for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  It is not that all things are good, but that in them God is at work for good. Calvin said it well: “Whatever poisons this world might create; God uses it as medicine for His elect.” No matter what situations we are in, as Christians we take comfort in saying, “God will use this for my good and His glory”:

“When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

The Enemy’s Goal

I enjoyed the perspective of Amy Carmichael when she said:

Everywhere the perpetual endeavor of the enemy of souls is discouragement. If he can get the soul “under the weather,” he wins. It is not really what we go through that matters, it is what we go under that breaks us. We can bear anything if only we are kept inwardly victorious. … If God can make His birds to whistle in drenched and stormy darkness, if He can make His butterflies able to bear up under rain, what can He not do for the heart that trusts Him?

The Future is Secure

The Lord loves His children and their future is secure in His hands. It may seem like an obvious statement but it is worth mentioning: God knows the future… He knows what will be and He is in control of it. In any given situation, we do not know how things will turn out in ten to fifteen years. But God knows, and He has a plan that will bring Him glory and His children joy. The ultimate goal in the Christian life is not success as the world defines it; rather it is becoming more like Christ. At the end of the day, what matters is not all the money, power and sex, but rather looking more like Christ. He called us before the foundations of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4).

We Don’t Know Why

It is true that the question “Why is this happening to me?” is never fully known. We can paint the general picture but we don’t know the “Why” of a particular situation, and the truth is that we may never pinpoint exactly why we suffer and why things fall apart. It is interesting that history can tell us what happened, science can tell us how it happens (sometimes), but no one can tell us why it happens (Haddon Robinson). God doesn’t promise answers… What He does though is give us Himself. The Christian life is impossible without the Spirit of God. Do you not know that you are a temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

An Unforeseen Opportunity

There was a humorous story not too long ago about an 80-year-old woman, Margaret Geary that made headline news. Her sisters had gone out to a Bible conference for four days and she had to stay behind to watch the home. After they left, she went to the kitchen to get a snack, a jar of water with celery sticks, and went upstairs using an elevator. As she was going up, the power went out trapping her inside. She quickly reached for her cell phone, but there was no cell reception… Then she tried to pry the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. Stuck with nowhere to go she said, “Either I can pray or panic. And it seems that I’m going to have a four-day prayer retreat, and I didn’t have to reserve the space.” So she prayed, ate celery, prayed, ate celery, for four days! When her sisters finally came back, they asked her what it was like. She responded, “Well, I finally realized that God provided me an opportunity to draw near to Him.”

It is possible that you may feel trapped in an elevator, you are banging on the doors screaming at the top of your lungs, and your cell phone doesn’t have reception. All you want is an immediate rescue… However, if you would view your situation in light of God’s Word, you will see that this hard and difficult situation is an opportunity to draw near to Him.

When You Have Christ

When we have Christ, we are able to trust what we can’t trace, step where we do not see, and undergo that which we may never understand (Haddon Robinson). Despite what the world may say, God does not owe us anything. If you are in Christ you are more blessed than you can ever imagine.

“So near, so very near to God, I cannot nearer be. For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He. So dear, so very dear to God, I cannot dearer be. The love with which He loves His son – such is His love for me [and for you]”

You have been adopted into God’s family and are loved infinitely by Him. He is working out everything for your good and His glory. The sufferings of this life, as hard as they might be, are nicks and bumps in light of eternity.

Wrong Medication Kills

We live in a world that tells us that we can do everything on our own. The solution offered by our society is to try harder, and if we fall pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, but there’s a problem. We are weak sinful human beings. We try hard to change our lives but things aren’t really changing. The new years resolutions for overcoming sin keep repeating… Why does this happen? We are taking the wrong medication. Let me explain, this world does not believe that we are sinful. In fact the world believes that we were born perfect. If the problem is misdiagnosed, how is the solution given valid? People die when they take the wrong medication. The truth is that we’re sinners and we need a Savior. We needed this Savior the moment we began the race, and we need Him just as much when we’re running.

You Always Need Jesus

When I was a child I was really lazy, and so I would never really chew my food… I would always just swallow it (Looking back I don’t know why, really how long does chewing take?). As you can imagine, a day came when I choked on some food. In that moment I really needed some oxygen. What’s funny is that I always need air, but it’s just that I don’t realize it until something dramatic happens. In the same way, we always need our Savior. There is no moment when we have outgrown our need for Christ. He saved us on the Cross and He is saving us daily.

Recognize the Problem

What is our responsibility when we find ourselves struggling with sin? Do we just need to try harder and bite our lip? If you think by trying harder and believing in yourself you can overcome sin, I guarantee you that you will fail. For an individual to truly change there must be a realization of our depravity and the power sin has in our lives. The lie propagated by Satan is that we are self-sufficient: we do not need anyone except ourselves.

Key to Victory

I love the story told by Lewis Sperry Chaffer. Chaffer spoke of his mentor CI Scofield and the bullying he experienced as a child. Scofield went to a country school, and he had to walk almost a mile to get there. On his way to school, he would constantly get beat up by a bully. One day he got sick of the shoving, teasing, and punching and decided to fight his bully. The problem was the bully was significantly bigger than him, and so he was quickly put to the ground and the pounding began… With all his power Scofield tried to fight, but he was no match. Then with all his might he called out to his brother, who was bigger than the bully, and he came and took the fight. Scofield just stepped aside and watched. That day Scofield learned to turn the fight over to someone else. What’s the use of being all mangled up and never having victory said Scofield. The battle is always won by faith in Christ and depending on Him who conquered death. No matter what we are going through it is vital that we cry out like Scofield to our ‘true elder brother’ Jesus Christ. When we depend on Him, and trust in Him alone we are able to have victory in the struggles of life.

When you struggle with sin don’t take the wrong medication. We are born sinners and we need a Savior. If we could save ourselves, then Christ died for nothing. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Are you trusting in Christ or yourself?

Contentment in a Fallen World

We live in a world that is always telling us that we need the next best thing. People are always trading up and saving up for something better. But what’s interesting to me is that we are never satisfied. No matter what we have it doesn’t fill that void in our heart. It’s true that we may enjoy it for a little bit, but if we’re honest we’ll admit that after a while it gets dull and we want the next best thing. It is an endless cycle that we often fall into… I know that I am definitely guilty of it.

I honestly thought that after I bought the Iphone 2g I would never buy another phone… Needless to say I have an Iphone 5.

Lack of contentment also plagues our relationships. In our society, how long do relationships between men and women last? People get bored so quickly. Men especially jump from one relationship to the next seeking a woman that exists only in their imagination.

How do we break this cycle? How do we do find contentment in a world that tells us what we need is the next best thing?

True contentment is found in our identity with Christ. When we have a relationship with Christ and know Him we can be content. When we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ we become adopted into His family. We are loved infinitely and are invited into God’s plan of redemption for mankind.

When we have a relationship with the God of the universe what more do we need? We have an inheritance with God and we will spend eternity in His presence. In the busyness of life, we forget that this world is temporal. It’s a way station at best. No one ever makes a way station their home. Let us never forget that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and sojourners on earth.

When we are discontent it’s because we have what Luma Simms calls “Gospel Amnesia”. We have forgotten what God has done in reconciling us to Himself. We forget the price that He paid on the cross. It says in Colossians 1:13-14 that “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We have been rescued from darkness and placed into His kingdom!

When you feel discontent or discouraged remember that if you have trusted in our Lord and his saving work, then you are a child of the living God. You have been given all that you need for bringing Him glory. It says in Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”. In Christ we have all we need! Why do we need the next best thing?

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16