Charles Stanley – Discerning the Source of Our Trials

 

There are some lessons that can only be learned through hardship. Finding God’s reasoning for our suffering can be a daunting task, but when we view our trials from His eternal perspective, we can begin to understand them more clearly.

What was the last painful or stressful trial you experienced? Was it a struggle for you physically, emotionally, and spiritually? No one has ever lived a life completely free from pain, uncertainty, stress, and trials. The Bible makes this point abundantly clear. Jesus, Moses, Job, Peter, Paul, and all of the heroes of Scripture are portrayed as men and women who, at one time or another, underwent trying times of hardship and heartache. Now, thousands of years later, God’s servants are still undergoing hard times. Therefore, it is important that you learn how to cope with these harsh patches in life.

James 1:2 is a rather short verse, but it contains tremendous insight into the issue of life’s trials. The phrase “when you encounter various trials” includes three key words that demonstrate the universality of man’s hardships. First, it is significant that James uses the word “when.” This defines the issue; undergoing trials is not a matter of if but rather when. Second, when he says that you will “encounter” misfortune, he is stating that difficulties will arise unexpectedly; there may be no time to prepare for these dilemmas. Third, he uses the adjective “various” to denote the ever-changing, often-surprising forms in which trials appear.

There are lessons that can only be learned through hardship. Therefore, God will allow difficulties to enter into our lives for His purposes.

As you begin to examine the issue of life’s persistent difficulties, a reasonable question to ask is, “Where do these hard times come from?” There are, in fact, some specific sources of trials. The primary cause is simply making wrong decisions ourselves. Our God-given free will allows us the opportunity and responsibility of making our own choices. Unfortunately, though, even the most committed Christian will make mistakes when making decisions, and the result will be a period of hardship.

Another cause of trials is persecution by other people. This is certainly an impediment with which the early church was familiar. Writing to the suffering Christians scattered throughout the ancient world, Peter says, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14). Whether it is on account of your faith or for some other reason altogether, a sad fact of life is that the world is full of people who have the ability and desire to hurt you. This is certainly a challenge for Christians seeking to respond to their oppressors in a Christ-like manner.

A third source of trials is the fallen world in which we live. Sin has so permeated the earth that God’s original concept of paradise seems impossible. Tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, sickness, war, bloodshed, and crime are all the results of sin’s impact upon the world. Clearly, there is no way to escape the trials that seem to appear out of nowhere.

Not surprisingly, many trials often come straight from the Devil. After all, Satan is interested in ways in which he can torment us, and each attempt he makes has but one purpose—to draw us further away from God.

A final source of trials is the Lord. Many people resist this idea, believing that God desires only happiness for them. However, the truth is that God is more concerned with our maturity and development than He is our general happiness. That is difficult for some to accept, but our relationships with Him are far more important than our temporary well-being here on earth.

Often, there are lessons that can only be learned through hardship. Therefore, God will allow difficulties to enter into our lives for His purposes. Finding God’s reasoning for our suffering can be a daunting task, but when we view our hardships from our Father’s eternal perspective, we can begin to understand them more clearly. Therefore, the best starting point for understanding the rationale behind our trials is to prayerfully consider their source. The better we understand where these problems come from, the better we will be able to work through them.

Adapted from “The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible,” 2008.

Our Daily Bread — One Who Serves

 

 

Read: Luke 22:24-27
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 14-15; Luke 22:21-46

Yet I am among you as the One who serves. —Luke 22:27

“I’m nobody’s servant!” I cried out. That morning the demands of my family seemed too much as I frantically helped to find my husband’s blue tie, while feeding the crying baby and recovering the lost toy from under the bed for our 2-year-old.

Later on that day, as I was reading the Bible, I came across this verse: “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Jesus didn’t have to wash His disciples’ feet, yet He did (John 13:5). There were servants who did that job, but Jesus chose to serve them. Today’s society insists that we should aim to “be somebody.” We want the best-paying job, the highest position in the company, the top leadership in church. Yet whatever position we are in, we can learn from our Savior to serve.

We hold different roles as parents, children, friends, workers, leaders, or students. The question is this: Do we carry out those roles with an attitude of service? Even though my everyday routine is sometimes tiring, I’m thankful the Master will help me because I do want to follow His steps and willingly serve others.

May God help us to do this each day. —Keila Ochoa

Dear Lord, I know that You did not come to be served, but to serve. Sometimes I fail to think of others, but I want to be like You. Please give me a heart like Yours.

We need a servant’s attitude to be like Jesus.

INSIGHT: Verse 24 says that the disciples argued about who was the greatest. This was an ongoing dispute because on two earlier occasions they had displayed their desire to be first. They fought while returning to Capernaum (Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48) and again on one of their trips into Jerusalem (Matt. 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45). Now here, just hours before Jesus was crucified, while the disciples were observing one of their most sacred feasts, the Passover meal, they quarreled over who was the greatest (Luke 22:14-24). Rebuking them, Jesus said that true greatness is determined not by hierarchical authority (v. 25) but by service and humility (v. 26).

Alistair Begg – Expect Trouble

 

In the world you will have tribulation.

John 16:33

Are you asking why this should be, believer? Look upward to your heavenly Father, and behold Him pure and holy. Do you know that you are one day to be like Him? Will you easily be conformed to His image? Will you not require much refining in the furnace of affliction to purify you? Will it be an easy thing to get rid of your corruptions and make you perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect?

Next, Christian, turn your eye downward. Do you know what foes you have beneath your feet? You were once a servant of Satan, and no king will willingly lose his subjects. Do you think that Satan will leave you alone? No, he will always be at you, for he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”1 Expect trouble, then, Christian, when you look beneath you.

Then look around you. Where are you? You are in enemy country, a stranger and an alien. The world is not your friend. If it is, then you are not God’s friend, for whoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Be certain that you will find enemies everywhere. When you sleep, remember that you are resting on the battlefield; when you travel, suspect an ambush in every hedge. As mosquitoes are said to bite strangers more than natives, so the trials of earth will be sharpest to you.

Lastly, look within you, into your own heart, and observe what is there. Sin and self are still within. If you had no devil to tempt you, no enemies to fight you, and no world to ensnare you, you would still find in yourself enough evil to be a sore trial to you, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.”2 Expect trouble then, but do not despair on account of it, for God is with you to help and to strengthen you. He has said, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”3

1) 1 Peter 5:8   2) Jeremiah 17:9    3) Psalm 50:15

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Regeneration

 

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 13:22-30

“Angels, principalities, and powers, would you be willing that men who love not God, who believe not in Christ, who have not been born again, should dwell here?” I see them, as they look down upon us, and hear them answering, “No! Once we fought the dragon, and expelled him, because he tempted us to sin! We must not, and we will not, have the wicked here. These alabaster walls must not be soiled with black and lustful fingers; the white pavement of heaven must not be stained and rendered filthy by the unholy feet of ungodly men. No!” I see a thousand spears bristling, and the fiery faces of a myriad seraphs thrust over the walls of paradise. “No, while these arms have strength, and these wings have power, no sin shall ever enter here.” I address myself moreover to the saints of heaven, redeemed by sovereign grace: “Children of God, are you willing that the wicked should enter heaven as they are, without being born again? You say you love men, but are you willing that they should be admitted as they are?” I see Lot rise up, and he cries, “Admit them into heaven! No! What! Must I be vexed by the conversation of Sodomites again, as once I was!” I see Abraham; and he comes forward, and he says, “No; I cannot have them here. I had enough of them whilst I was with them on earth—their jests and jeers, their silly talkings, their vain conversation, vexed and grieved us. We want them not here.” And, heavenly though they be, and loving as their spirits are, yet there is not a saint in heaven who would not resent, with the utmost indignation, the approach of any one of you to the gates of paradise, if you are still unholy, and have not been born again.

For meditation: Matthew 13:41-43; Luke 16:23-26 — at best the unsaved will have a distant view of heaven which will only add to their torment.

Sermon no. 130
3 May (1857)

John MacArthur – Overcoming Spiritual Inadequacies

 

“Having summoned His twelve disciples” (Matt. 10:1).

Jesus can overcome any inadequacy you might have.

Most people think of the disciples as stained-glass saints who didn’t have to struggle with the faults and frailties of normal people. But they had inadequacies just like we all do. Seeing how Jesus dealt with them gives us hope that He can use us too.

One inadequacy common to all the disciples was their lack of understanding. For example, Luke 18 tells us Jesus gave them details about His future suffering, death, and resurrection, but they didn’t understand anything He said (vv. 31-34). Jesus overcame their lack of understanding by constantly teaching them until they got it right.

Another inadequacy was their lack of humility. More than once they argued among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (e.g., Mark 9:33-37). Jesus dealt with their lack of humility by His own example. He likened Himself to a servant, and even washed their dirty feet.

In addition to their lack of understanding and humility, they also lacked faith. Jesus often said to them, “O men of little faith.” In Mark 16:14 He rebuked them for not even believing the reports of His resurrection.

They also lacked commitment. Just prior to Christ’s death Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the others deserted Him. Jesus dealt with their lack of commitment by praying for them (e.g., John 17:15; Luke 22:31-32).

Finally, they lacked spiritual power, which Christ overcame by giving them the Holy Spirit.

Those are significant inadequacies, but despite all that, the book of Acts records that the disciples turned the world upside down with their powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. They were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means “Little Christs.”

Jesus still transforms inadequacies into victories. He does it through the Spirit, the Word, and prayer. Don’t be victimized by your inadequacies. Make those spiritual resources the continual focus of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for your inadequacies because they help you realize your dependence on Him.
  • Ask for grace always to rely on your spiritual resources rather than human abilities.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 20:20-28.

  • Who spoke to Jesus on behalf of James and John?
  • What was His response?
  • How did the other disciples respond?
  • What was Jesus’ concluding principle?

Joyce Meyer – Be Prepared

 

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Preparation equips us to move confidently. Many women lack confidence because they are not properly prepared for what they attempt to do. There could be a variety of reasons for this lack of preparation. They don’t realize the importance of preparation, they are lazy, or they are too busy doing things that don’t help them accomplish their goals and then have no time to do what would help them. Imagine a doctor trying to be confident if he never had any training or preparation. Anyone who is serious about playing a sport always practices and gets prepared.

As a teacher of God’s Word, I never go to the pulpit without being thoroughly prepared. I study, pray, and go over and over my notes. Quite often I don’t even look at the notes while preaching, because by the time I stand up to teach, they have become such a part of me that they flow out with ease. Knowing I have done my best to be prepared helps me minister with confidence.

Lord, whether or not anyone else notices, I will do everything in my power to prepare myself for what You have called me to do. I want to be confident that I am always being the best I can be and that I’m ready for more. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Perfect Harmony

 

“Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Martha had a very poor self-image. The distress she felt because of her physical appearance was compounded by the guilt of being grossly overweight. She hated herself and was despondent to the point of seriously considering suicide.

I counsel many students and older adults who are not able to accept themselves. Some are weighted down with guilt because of unconfessed sins. Others are not reconciled to their physical handicaps or deformities. Still others feel inferior mentally or socially.

My counsel to such people is this: God loves you and accepts you as you are. The love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit enables us to love ourselves as God made us. We can be thankful for ourselves, loving ourselves unconditionally as God does, and we can love others unconditionally, too.

It is Satan who is the great accuser, causing us to hate ourselves and others. God, having commanded us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, and our enemies, will enable us to do what He commands us to do as we claim His promise.

The great tragedy of many families is that resentment, bitterness and hate overtake their members like an all-consuming cancer, ultimately destroying the unity among husband, wife and children. Love of the husband and wife for each other, and of parents and children for one another, is so basic that it should not need to be mentioned. Yet, sadly and alarmingly, children are alienated from their parents, and even many Christian marriages are ending in divorce – in fact, in greater numbers today than at any other time in history.

God’s kind of love is a unifying force. Paul admonishes us to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:18-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Since God commands us to love Him, our neighbors, our enemies and ourselves, today I will claim that supernatural love by faith on the basis of God’s command to love and the promise that if I ask anything according to His will, He will hear and answer me.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Mercy Plea

 

God is not a stone idol. He sees, hears and speaks. He looks upon the good and the bad done on Earth. Like He saw the evil in Noah’s time, He sees the wickedness in present times as well. Jesus said His return will happen in days similar to those of Noah (Matthew 24:37).

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth.

Genesis 6:5

Everyone sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), so He provided the gift of righteousness in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6). Those who put their trust in Jesus are forgiven, cleansed, and have the hope of eternal life (Acts 10:43, I John 1:9, John 3:16). Yet everyone’s actions will be judged; though their works may perish, their souls will live.

The word “sin” is rarely used now because so much of what the Bible describes as sin has become acceptable and even encouraged. Pray for God to have mercy on this nation and to cause a great spiritual revival among this country’s citizens and leaders. Then thank God for your salvation and set your heart to do the good works He has called you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 3:10-17

Discovering God’s Design –  The Earth Is the Lord’s

 

Psalm 24:1–10

Nothing at all existed until God “founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (Ps 24:2). The Creator-King exercises benevolent ownership over his subjects, giving generously of himself and of his bounty (cf. Ps 65:9–13). As such, he deserves what to the psalmist is the ultimate accolade: King of glory.

Evangelical theologian R. Scott Rodin concedes that all of creation glorifies God in a certain sense but stresses the particular obligation of human beings, created in God’s own image, to do so consciously and purposefully:

While it cannot be said that the animals were created in the image of God in the same way as humans were, it must be said that all creation bears his image in the sense that its interdependence and its robust vitality all glorify God as the Creator of all things. Therefore, there is obligation to glorify God in our relation to and responsibility for his creation.

In the chapter “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” the authors of Acton Institute’s Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition deal in depth with the issues of God’s sovereign ownership and of humanity’s call to environmental stewardship.

God, the Creator of all things, rules over all and deserves our worship and adoration (Ps 103:19–22) … Fundamental to a properly Christian environmental ethic … are the Creator/creature distinction and the doctrine of humankind’s creation in the image of God. Some environmentalists, especially those of the “Deep Ecology” movement, divinize the earth and insist on “biological egalitarianism,” the equal value and rights of all life forms, in the mistaken notion that this will raise human respect for the earth. Instead, this philosophy negates the biblical affirmation of the human person’s unique role as steward and eliminates the very rationale for human care for creation …

Our stewardship under God implies that we are morally accountable to him for treating creation in a manner that best serves the objectives of the kingdom of God …

As Francis Bacon put it in Novum Organum Scientiarum (New Method of Science), “Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over creation. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some parts repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences.” Sin, then, makes it difficult for humans to exercise godly stewardship, but the work of Christ in, on, and through his people and the creation makes it possible nonetheless.

Think About It

  • Why do you think God created humans to have dominion and stewardship of the earth? Why have a hierarchy? Why not have all life be created equal?
  • In what ways does this role of humans as stewards make human choices so important?
  • Can the effects of the fall be repaired? In what ways? How much?

Act on It

With other believers—a small group or accountability partner—determine how your stewardship of the earth is affecting your home and community. Brainstorm ways in which you can make better choices to reflect your role as steward.