Development or Deliverance?

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Romans 8:17

We live in the midst of the fallout of the Fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our Christian lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. The choice is ours: better or bitter. Do we simply want God to deliver us from trials or do we desire Christ-like character? We should know that it is God’s plan to develop us spiritually before he delivers us physically. God’s goal in our lives: character development before physical deliverance. Do we choice maturity over and against a life of emotional and physical ease?

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3). However, suffering for suffering’s sake is not character transforming. It is faith in Christ and his finished work on the Cross which transforms. Our weaknesses, failures, and struggles are channels for his grace-enabling power when we trust Christ in our circumstances.

Do we want deliverance or development? Our choice: a life of relative ease without the presence of Christ or a life of seasonal character-transforming difficulties lived in the experiential love of Christ?

What are you seeking in your trouble today? Is it deliverance or development? You may have the one and not grow, or you may have both and grow. Get the development first and the deliverance will be yours, too. Let this servant minister to you in a way no other servant can. Take the positive attitude and use your trouble as one of the most skillful and wonderful instruments God ever placed into your hands for the working out of the character of Christ to be duplicated in you.

John Wright Follette (2009-07-15). Broken Bread – Enhanced Version

True Spiritual Wealth

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich . . . .

Rev. 3:18 ESV

We live in a materialistic age: all the commercials, movies, and television shows declare that we will be happier if we use, buy, or own a certain product. We are persistently told that the more money we possess, the more happiness we will enjoy. But, the Bible speaks of a true spiritual wealth that fills the heart with a joy that never fades, a love that never falters, and a satisfaction that never grows empty.

True spiritual wealth, the sort that cannot rust or be stolen or suffer from a Wall Street crash or plummeting interest rates, is the gold that is purified of all dross and rid of every alloy by the refining fires of suffering (cf. Job 23:10; Prov. 27:21; Mal. 3:2–3; 1 Pet. 1:6–9). This is the gold of knowing Christ, enjoying Christ, savoring Christ, treasuring Christ, prizing Christ, and finding in him alone the fullness of joy that will never fade or lose its capacity to please.

Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3 [Kindle] (Crossway, 2008).

A Foot Upon the Thorn

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Rom. 8:16-17

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our Christian lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. The choice is ours: better or bitter.

If we want to be better, we do not play the victim, but recognize that our Lord is sovereignly operating through our circumstances to conform us into image and likeness of his Son. Myrrh and frankincense, suffering and glory, cross and resurrection go together. There is no growth in the Christian life without a willingness to walk in the way of the Cross.

Every one that gets to the throne must put his foot upon the thorn. The way to the crown is by the cross. We must taste the gall if we are to taste the glory. When justified by faith, God led them into tribulations also. When God brought Israel through the Red Sea, He led them into the wilderness; so, when God saves a soul, He tries it. He never gives faith without trying it. The way to Zion is through the Valley of Baca.

You must go through the wilderness of Jordan if you are to come to the Land of Promise. Some believers are much surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God; but all that God permits them to do is to suffer. Go round everyone in glory; everyone has a different story, yet every one has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted in his family, by his friends and companions; another was visited by sore pains and humbling disease, neglected by the world; another was bereaved of children; another had all these afflictions.

Andrew A. Bonar and Robert M. McCheyne, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne, (Christian Classics Foundation, 1996., electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1947), 216.

Precious Christ in the Midst of Precious Trials

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Pet. 5:10

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin affects every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. As a result, disappointment, problems, and trouble are significant ingredients of our everyday existence. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness.

Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going as expected. Can we trust a precious Christ who disciplines us for our good or complain that life is not fair? It is important to recognize in our trials not whether we are suffering, but whether we know the Suffering Servant who has come into the world to meet us in our pain. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better and more precious planned through our being ill-treated, misunderstood, hurt, and disappointed.

The Lord is working his purposes in and through our circumstances: the molding of our character, the testing of our faith, and the ministry of Christ’s life. Christ is precious for he makes every trial valuable by transforming for character and revealing himself in the midst of our suffering and trials.

Oh, let your heart and Christ’s heart be one heart! Receive as precious everything that flows from the government of Jesus. A precious Christ can give you nothing but what is precious. Welcome the rebuke—it may be humiliating; welcome the trial—it may be painful; welcome the lesson—it may be difficult; welcome the cup—it may be bitter; welcome everything that comes from Christ in your individual history. Everything is costly, salutary, and precious that Jesus sends.

Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ


And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Gen. 45:4-8

In a recent post, we discussed choices: reacting or responding (Heb. 12:14-15). Reacting is being angry at our circumstances, frustrated with people, and despondent at not getting our way (James 1:20). Responding is seeing the bigger picture: God has an appointment in our disappointment. It is not God’s will that people sin, but when God allows their sin to touch our lives, then their actions have become God’s will for us (2 Cor. 4:7-12).

To grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we must have a yielded will: a willingness to allow God to use our trials and tribulations anyway he wants in order to produce the life of Christ in us (Phil 1:29, 3:10). We must trust that in God’s sovereign purposes, he is using selfish people, hard places, and broken things to give us our heart’s desire: Christlikeness (Rom. 8:17). We must believe that God has an appointment in our disappointment.

To penetrate deeper in the experience of Jesus Christ, it is required that you begin to abandon your whole existence, giving it up to God. . . . You must utterly believe that the circumstances of your life, that is, every minute of your life, as well as the whole course of your life-anything, yes, everything that happens-have all come to you by His will and by His permission. You must utterly believe that everything that has happened to you is from God and is exactly what you need.

Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Gardiner, ME: Christian Books, 1975), 32.

What Is Important?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12 ESV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily existence. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going as expected. What is important in the midst of disappointment? Not whether we are suffering, but whether we know the suffering servant who has come into the world to meet us in our discouragement.

So it is not important whether or not misfortune befalls us, but whether we know the place of refuge and the space under the shadow of his wings (Ps. 57:1). It is not important whether we think we are being persecuted or that everyone is against us, but only whether the Head is our friend and we are beloved by God.

Helmut Thielicke, How to Believe Again, trans., H. George Anderson (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 99.

Not Designed to Destroy Our Faith

Trials and Tribulations

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer.

Rev. 2:9-10

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

The Bible teaches that is not God’s will that people sin. However, when people sin against us, their actions become God’s will for us. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better planned through our being ill-treated, misunderstood, hurt, and disappointed.

The Lord is working his purposes in and through our circumstances: the molding of our character, the testing of our faith, and the ministry of Christ’s life. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17 NLT).

Suffering isn’t designed by God to destroy our faith but to intensify it. That will never happen, however, if we fail to look beyond the pain to the purpose of our loving heavenly Father. His design is to knock out from underneath us every false prop so that we might rely wholly on him. His aim is to create in us such desperation that we have nowhere else to look but to his promises and abiding presence.

Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3 (Crossway, 2008).

The Wilderness of God

The Trial of Faith

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

Isaiah 30:20-21 NLT

The wilderness, or desert, is the lonely place where we think that God is rejecting us. This wilderness of soul is where the silence of God allows our demons of fear, worry, anxiety, anger, and self-rejection to be exposed. The wilderness is a trial of faith where God uses the stress in our lives to drive us to him for comfort, love, healing, forgiveness, and discipline.

The wilderness is the ordained place of training for the man or woman of God who desires to be used by God as a discipler of other Christians. A clear pattern emerges from scripture, God sovereignly uses the desert places to develop Christ-like character in the lives of his leaders: Joseph in prison, Moses in the Sinai, David with the sheep, and Paul in the Arabian desert, etc.

In the modern world, our desert is the jungle called day-to-day living in a stress-filled and an anxiety-ridden world: the pressures of work, school, family and finance are the tools God uses to teach us to trust him. In the desert, God seems far away, yet he is as near as the air that we breathe. Initially, the desert is a place of dread, but in the passing of time, it becomes a place remembrance of God’s grace and goodness.

Faith must be tried, and it is the trial of faith that is precious. If you are faint-hearted, it is a sign you won’t play the game, you are fit for neither God nor man because you will face nothing.

Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where [electronic ed.] (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1996), 36.

Sweet Fragrance

Sweetness Poured Forth

The house was filled with the fragrance.

John 12:3 NLT

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.

2 Cor. 2:15 NLT

You meet a Christian with a sweet spirit. You wonder when and where that godly nature was nurtured and developed. You compliment them and ask about their background. In the telling, they describe multiple trials and setbacks. Yet, they did not grow bitter, but better. They walked through their circumstances trusting God’s loving and gracious providence. They refused to believe that God was being unjust to them. They only could see God’s hand glorifying Christ in their midst. They found in their suffering their heart’s desire: more of Jesus. As a result, their character was transformed and a sweet spirit was developed. Their kindness, optimism, and faith rise up as a sweet fragrance of worship to God and an aroma of life to others.

By the breaking of that flask and the anointing of the Lord Jesus, the house was pervaded with the sweetest fragrance (John 12:1). Everyone could smell it and none could be unaware of it. What is the significance of this?

Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered — someone who has gone through experiences with the Lord that have brought limitation, and who, instead of trying to break free in order to be ‘used,’ has been willing to be imprisoned by Him and has thus learned to find satisfaction in the Lord and nowhere else — then immediately you become aware of something.

Immediately your spiritual senses detect a sweet savour of Christ. Something has been crushed, something has been broken in that life, and so you smell the odor. The odor that filled the house that day in Bethany still fills the Church today; Mary’s fragrance never passes. It needed but one stroke to break the flask for the Lord, but that breaking and the fragrance of that anointing abides.

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (CLC, 1977).

When Trials Befall Us

 

Refined by Fire

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

Some trials come upon without our choice: some trials are self-inflicted. Whatever their source do not become despondent, depressed, or despairing. God is giving us our heart’s desire: Christlike character, Holy Spirit intimacy, and Fatherly guidance.  By faith, we must trust that our Heavenly Vinedresser is sovereignly cultivating Christ in us.

Let us not then be disturbed, neither dismayed, when trials befall us. For if the gold refiner sees how long he ought to leave the piece of gold in the furnace, and when he ought to draw it out, and does not allow it to remain in the fire until it is destroyed and burnt up: much more does God understand this, and when He sees that we have become more pure, He releases us from our trials so that we may not be overthrown and cast down by the multiplication of our evils.

Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.

St. John Chrysostom (c.347–407), “Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof

HT: Christian Classics Ethereal Library