Improving Our Trust-in-God Quotient

by Patti Richter

She was unstoppable and courageous. At least her pink shirt said so. But my granddaughter’s sudden wailing revealed something else. She was rigid with fear after my sharp-toothed terrier rejected her affection.

When seven-year-old Molly suffered two wounds and received a few stiches for each, I gained a reminder about trusting my old dog. I had another refresher as well: not to trust myself. I had let my guard down.

That little accident was costly and disruptive since my visiting daughter and grandchildren missed their flight home that day. But we weren’t the only casualties in town—all fifty treatment rooms at the hospital’s ER were filled.

While God grants us a measure of physical strength, intellect, wealth, and influence, along with supportive families, friends, churches, and communities, any of these can fail us—sometimes in a moment. Like all created things, people are subject to evil, injury, loss, and reversal, besides the natural course of decay.

Our self-empowerment-loving culture plies us with assurances that we can accomplish whatever we aspire to—the power lies within us. While this idea is partially true, God’s Word adds wisdom: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong . . . time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV).

Sometimes we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the eighteen people who had climbed a tower on the day it collapsed. Jesus spoke of the awful event to instruct his followers that those who suffer calamities are no worse than others, warning that all of us sin sufficiently to merit punishment and that, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4, 5 ESV).

Those who love God are not immune to suffering and loss, and it’s human to respond to pain with howling. The writer of Psalm 73 confessed, “When my soul was embittered . . . I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless . . . you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel” (vss. 21 – 24 ESV).

The author C.S. Lewis observed, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is.” An accident or incident that wrecks our plans can trigger any tendency toward anger and the need to blame someone. Such emotions reveal a faith issue: Why did God allow it to happen? Sudden misfortune may leave us sullen or depressed, which speaks to our trust level, saying, Either God doesn’t care about me or else he can’t fix this.

While we know to trust in God above all else, it may help us to undergo a test now and then to prove whether our head knowledge has spread to our deeper fibers. An actual driving test exposes weaknesses unseen in the written exam we passed after some reading. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts” (ESV).

Any poor “test” results can help us improve our trust-in-God quotient, as we learn to no longer trust in ourselves. This will yield a better outcome after our next round of trouble, which will come as surely “as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7 ESV). Difficult circumstances, if we let them drive us toward God, allow us to experience his abiding presence. Then we’ll be courageous for the right reason.

In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What tests have improved your ability to trust God?

The Fellowship of His Sufferings

by Rhonda Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

“Rhonda.”

God called my name one Sunday during worship in what seemed an audible voice. I’ve only heard him speak so clearly a few times in my life, so he certainly had my attention. As I meditated and prayed the rest of the day, I received a crucial message which started my journey to healing.

Three years before that day, my soul had received a gaping wound. After twenty-three years of fruitful service in one local church, a web of powerful lies demolished my husband’s ministry. Repeated efforts at reconciliation had failed. Some people who once dearly loved us cut us off. Although we could prove my husband’s innocence, we never received a hearing.

Forced to move, my husband was stripped of his ministerial credentials. Some of our friends and colleagues shunned us. Shame and reproach stalked us like wolves after a herd of sheep. The false rumors broke our hearts because we deeply loved the church people and knew they were hurting, too. They believed we had betrayed them, and they shared our agony.

Grief and loneliness surfaced in my heart, bringing their companions—anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge against the perpetrator of the lie. My predicament seemed hopeless.

The day God called my name, I spent the following hours seeking him in prayer and meditation. The answer came to me through this verse: “That I may know [Jesus], and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10 KJV).

Jesus was rejected by his own (John 1:11). The congregation of our church felt like our own family. Jesus was driven out of his home town by those who sought His destruction (Luke 14:4-30). We were forced to pack in a hurry and depart our home of 23 years in a short span of three weeks. Jesus was subjected to cruel lies, betrayed by a dear friend, and crucified even though he was innocent. I had not died physically, but spiritually and emotionally, I felt dead.

However, my suffering had a redemptive purpose: Christ invited me to fellowship with him more intimately. I prayed, “Jesus, now I understand on some level how you felt. I’m so sorry.” Jesus endured pain for the sake of my redemption and the salvation of the whole world. It was hard to focus on the sins committed against me when I acknowledged that my personal sins had made Jesus so familiar with suffering.

God redeemed my anguish and used it to draw me closer to Jesus. Little by little, I repented of anger and bitterness, forgave those who had wronged us, and learned how to be thankful for my journey. When the pain surfaces—and it does from time to time—I praise God for allowing me to understand in a small way the magnificent sacrifice Jesus made for me. My scars pale in significance when compared to the joy of knowing him.  

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things… I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…  Philippians 3:8b, 10 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: Has suffering helped you to know Jesus better?

True Communion

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV

Ten years ago, I took Communion with my almost-six-year-old son. It was his first experience with the bread and the cup after surrendering his young heart to Jesus. And it’s something I’ll never forget.

Jackson fidgeted as we waited to receive the elements. He cuddled up next to me and looked up at me with big, blue eyes. “Is it our turn yet?” he whispered.

“Almost,” I replied. When our turn came, Jackson and I followed our friends up the aisle. As we reached the pastor, Jackson looked at me to see what to do. I smiled at him and took the bread, then dipped it in the cup. Of course, Jackson did exactly what I did—a humbling reminder of the weight of my responsibility as a mom to two sons. As we made our way back to our pew, he took my hand and squeezed it. Happy tears filled my eyes.

In contrast, I remembered how Communion (or “The Lord’s Supper”) used to feel in the church I grew up in. We only took part in the tradition every few months. It seemed as flat and tasteless as the pasty-white wafers we chased with mini plastic shot glasses of grape juice.

However, about thirteen years ago, smack-dab in the middle of a crisis of faith, I went on a “Walk to Emmaus” retreat. When we took the elements, it was reverent. We didn’t rush through it, and it wasn’t an afterthought or something we did by rote. Rather, it was both an invitation and a response; one I finally understood. Obeying the Word, we came together to remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. And as we invited Him to join us, He invited us to share in His suffering…and His joy.

I had suffered a lot over several years prior to that retreat, and I was holding the losses I’d felt against the only One who could heal me. My faith was shaky, my marriage lonely, and my churchgoing spotty. But during the weekend, God reminded me that Jesus hadn’t suffered so I could be miserable. He had suffered so I could know the joy of overcoming. Each time I took the bread and the cup, the realization that Jesus died for even me overwhelmed me. I felt pure and clean, as if all the tears I cried over the weekend had washed not just my face, but also my insides.

I guess I’m a slow learner; after all, it took me about three decades of churchgoing to really understand Communion! Still, I’m glad I grew up the way I did. I don’t take it for granted now. It’s sacred to me—and that might not be the case if I had grown up differently.

As my sons have grown up, they’ve known their own share of suffering. But I’ve watched them also know the joy of the resurrected Christ, the hope of eternity with Him, and the truth of His mercy.

I pray they continue to serve Jesus, and I am grateful that we are not only family, but also brothers and sisters in Christ. As I Corinthians 10:16 states, the cup we drink is a cup of thanksgiving. There are many things I am thankful for—most of all, Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection.

Before we entered the church that memorable morning a decade ago, I had reminded Jackson that we should pause for a moment before Communion to thank God for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. “But Mom, we should do that every day,” Jackson said.

Communion, indeed.

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

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About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: What does Communion mean to you?

Make the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:29 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Could providing an opportunity to suffer be some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable?

Wait…what?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. He looked past the temporary to the eternal. Paul saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB).

We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to intimacy with Christ.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering can force us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and move us forward into the new.

The end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing in his glory as well! Romans 8:17 (NASB) tells us “if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided four years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we must choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship.

We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will not only give relief but peace throughout the process.

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Make the Plunge – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering or hard times changed you for the good?

The Card with a Cross

by Louise Tucker Jones

 “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand…” Isaiah 51:16 (NIV)

 It was my first time to speak at a Christian Women’s Club and I was a little nervous. I had never shared my testimony in such a format—telling about the difficulties in my life and how God brought me through them. Nor had I ever given a public message of salvation or offered a prayer to pray and become a Christian. I was a novice and it was a little scary.

I wondered how the story of how I coped with my middle son’s death, my youngest son’s disability and heart disease, and my own experience with clinical depression could touch someone’s heart. I thought they would walk out and say, “Whoa, glad that wasn’t me!” But it didn’t happen that way.

At the end of my testimony, I held up a card that each woman had been given when she arrived. As instructed, I asked them to fill out the card then hand it to me on their way out the door. I also asked if they would draw a cross in the corner if they asked Jesus to come into their heart that very day.

Many women stopped on their way out to chat, compliment, or even sympathize as I smiled bravely, thankful the talk was over. Then it happened. A lady placed a card in my hand with a small cross sketched in the upper corner. I couldn’t believe it! God had actually used my words to draw someone to Himself. I had never felt such an awesome experience.

I have spoken at many public venues since that day. But it still amazes me when I find that my message at a retreat or conference or my words on paper have been used by God to draw someone to Him. Each decision is like a love message from God, telling me over and over that He can use any happening in my life to help others.

Though I would never compare myself to the apostle, Paul, his life is a perfect example of this. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and more, yet he kept preaching and speaking for the Lord, even writing letters to Christians from a prison cell. He never quit proclaiming Christ’s love or telling about the difficult things in his life that God used for others’ good.

Some of us have heart-breaking stories to share, yet we are often tempted to tell only the good things, being fearful that we will make God appear unfaithful through turbulent trials. But in truth, everyone is going through something difficult, and they need to know there is a God who will trudge through that deep valley with them. That He will bring them through the pain, the heartache, and even tragic events in life.

I am honored that God chose me to shine a light for someone walking through a dark tunnel that I once traveled. And in spite of the loneliness or pain that comes my way, I can know that God will bring good from it. Not that the incident was good. But God can and will use it for His glory.

Then, like Paul, we can proclaim: “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

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About the author: Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is an author, speaker and columnist. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise coauthored the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Extraordinary Kids: Nurturing and Championing Your Child with Special Needs, provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: How has God used you to shine light into the lives of others?

 

 

Our Refuge And Strength

by Sheri Schofield

“Um, what is this?” I wondered. I had just walked into my office. There, in the middle of the room, stood a tacky old stroller that looked like it was from the 1950s. Its dull metal and frayed fabric stood in sharp contrast to my lovely peach and burnt orange office sanctuary.

Was my husband, Tim, trying to hint at something? Were two grown children, plus three grandchildren not enough? My thoughts went to Abraham and Sarah who had Isaac when they were in their nineties. No. That couldn’t be it! But what was he up to?

That’s when Tim brought the chameleon home. A chameleon is a kind of lizard that changes colors, kind of like the GEICO gecko, only bigger – but it doesn’t do commercials. I was okay with that. Tim put it in a small terrarium. It seemed harmless enough . . . unless . . .

“Honey, why is there a stroller in my office?” I asked with suspicion.

“Oh, it’s for the chameleon,” he said. “It has to get some sunshine every day so that it won’t get a vitamin D deficiency, and I can’t carry the terrarium easily. So I am going to put the chameleon in the stroller and take it along with me when we go for walks.”

Uh-huh. I could just see it now. Tim and I walking along our mountain road and some neighbors jog by.

“Oh! Let me see!” they say, smiling and coming over to check if we have a new grandchild.

The chameleon starts to turn brown and fades into the dirt in the terrarium.

The neighbors’ eyebrows go up. “Uhhhhh… It’s a lizard!” The neighbors look at us peculiarly and hurry away. Now we have a reputation! We’re The Lizard People.

I called my daughter, Christy, who immediately sided with her dad. “Mom, we’re moving back to Montana next year. My dog and I will go on walks with Dad and his chameleon!”

Great. She was no help at all!

I love being a mother. But not to a lizard! My maternal instincts are reserved for my human children and grandchildren. For them, my love is wider than the ocean, higher than the sky, and, as Randy Travis puts it, “deeper than the holler”.

As I write, our nation is being swept with a pandemic. My heart is sharply focused on my own children and grandchildren. Our son, Drew, is a nurse manager at a large hospital, where they are treating growing numbers of virus victims with inadequate equipment and supplies. My prayers focus first on Drew and his nursing staff each day, our front-line warriors.

Many mothers around this country are also praying non-stop for their children during this crisis. Many are wondering, “Where is God?”

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Our Refuge And Strength – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Israel was about to go through a time of suffering. The prophet Isaiah received this word from the Lord: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”(Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV).

God does not promise we will not suffer. But He is with us in the suffering, holding us close to His heart of love, comforting us. He hears our prayers. So I am storming heaven for my children daily, trusting that God is in control, whether I see it or not. I can feel His presence. Emmanuel – God with us.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The LORD Almighty is with us. Psalm 46:1-3,7 NIV

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: How has God revealed Himself to you in these dark days?

Swallowed Up by Life

by Patti Richter

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened… that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  2 Corinthians 5:4 ESV

After weeks of floating in the Pacific in a deteriorating raft, the well-known Olympic runner turned World War II Airman tasted a heavenly peace as death approached. While gazing at the vast ocean and starry skies, he’d made a promise to God. If the Creator of so much beauty could save him from the dangers he suffered—starvation, thirst, the heat of day and cold of night, Japanese planes overhead and sharks beneath—he would serve him forever.

The sea did not swallow Louis Zamperini. Readers of his survival story, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, hope his suffering will end as a boat comes into view. Instead, Japanese sailors hauled up his skeletal but yet-alive body. He would spend two long years enduring the wretched holes and brutal conditions of prisoner-of-war camps.

The late evangelist Billy Graham once answered a question about suffering by drawing a horizontal line to represent eternity and then placing a dot on that line to mark an earthly lifetime. The Apostle Paul provided a similar perspective: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV).

The best outlook on suffering typically comes from those who have been through it. In the process, they discovered wisdom, strength, or some other gain they deem a worthy result of past travail. Giving birth is one such example.

In our human perspective, Zamperini’s afflictions do not seem to us as light nor momentary. But Paul had plenty of experience to qualify him to speak of hardship: he had survived beatings and imprisonments; he was shipwrecked, adrift and in danger at sea; he endured hunger, thirst, and exposure to cold (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:25-27).

In the post-World War II years, Louis Zamperini descended into bitterness, anger, and alcoholism. His wife begged him to go with her to hear Billy Graham present a gospel message under a circus tent in Los Angeles. In the crowd on that evening, the nearly broken man heard the young preacher speak about earthly suffering and a loving God who knows the number of hairs on our head.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, Zamperini found redemption. With God’s help, he overcame his crippling hatred of former captors, and he finally fulfilled the promise to serve God he’d made while tossing in the ocean. This man who’d suffered so much lived in peace until his death at age 97.

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Swallowed Up by Life – Encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: How did trusting in Jesus Christ change your life?

Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush

by Patti Richter

The year 2020 arrived with more than a bang: a US embassy attack followed by ballistic missiles and the resulting loss of a passenger plane. Meanwhile, as Australia battled wildfires, several other countries experienced either earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Closer to home, we watched a troubling impeachment trial and grieved the death of a beloved sports icon.

Most of those bad-news events involved countless people who suddenly found themselves in adverse or worse circumstances. Daily, many people must fight for their lives, evacuate, or deal with disaster.

Others face a more private heap of trouble, like a mountain of debt, a broken relationship, or an unhealthy addiction. Difficult challenges require perseverance or, as one longsuffering friend says, “pushing through a puddle of mush.”

As we scroll through social media, we see online prayer requests and calls for help. We can pray and offer support, or we may feel called to put aside our personal well-being to enter someone’s world of pain.

The Old Testament includes an account of such a mercy mission. Nehemiah, a royal cupbearer in Persia, grieved from afar over his people’s “great trouble and disgrace” on account of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV). After fasting and praying, he received permission and support from Persia’s king to leave his palace position to go help those exiles who’d returned earlier to their devastated homeland.

Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah found willing but weary workers; the ongoing threats of enemies who opposed the rebuilding of the city wall had taken their toll. Their resolve was further weakened by the negative words of their own people: “There is so much rubble” (4:10).

Nehemiah directed these workers in two ways. First, he stationed them at regular intervals behind the wall, “with their swords, spears, and bows” (4:13). He also encouraged them to fight for their families and their homes, with assurance: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (4:14 NIV).

They finished the wall in fifty-two days. Nehemiah wrote says, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid… because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16 NIV).

Like Nehemiah, the Son of God left his royal abode for the sake of others. Jesus came to earth to confront the rubble of man’s sin, and He sacrificed his life to atone for it. Before accomplishing this, he struggled against the suffering that awaited him. On the night of his arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV).

With these stories in mind, the writer of Hebrews offers all of us help in persevering when discouragement leaves us hopeless:

  • “Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22 NIV).
  • “Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23 NIV).
  • “Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24 NIV).
  • “Let us not give up meeting together” (10:25 NIV).
  • “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3 NIV).
  • “Through Jesus… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (13:15 NIV).

Our fears and our foes diminish in size when we remember that God is with us because of his Son, who took our greatest burden upon himself.

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29 NIV

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Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What has been a source of discouragement to you lately?

 

Proper Framework  

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“According to His great mercy [He] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

Parent-Teacher conferences were always a challenge when I was teaching. By the end of the first marking period, my students had made themselves known. The honeymoon was over. The good, bad, and the ugly had all come to light.

Through the years, I found that a positive parental response to what I had to share depended on the delivery. So I always began the meeting with three positive things I saw in the child: maybe an excellent work ethic, or a soft heart toward God’s Word; things that went beyond behavior to the content of their character. I wanted parents to know I noticed the positive and had sincere concern for their child’s welfare. We were on the same team.

Of course, every child had areas that needed improvement. But when delivered within a carefully laid framework of the positive, parents received the negative as constructive. They were more than willing to join forces with me in guiding the child to positive change and growth.

Proper perception is dependent on a proper framework.

Paul sets up a proper framework for us in his letter to the Romans. He wanted his readers to view their present struggle within the proper framework of hope. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NASB). Hard times are an inevitable part of following a suffering Savior. But when understood within the context of the larger picture, they have meaning and purpose.

What is the big picture, the framework in which we should contextualize our struggles? Our hope of glory. “[We] groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body… we hope for what we do not see” (Romans 8:23b NASB).

Life on earth is no picnic. Struggle is a part of reality, especially for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. We have several enemies working against us. There is the ever-present Satan, tempting and accusing us at every turn. There is the world, deriding us as we hold to the truth and follow Christ, both things which they have soundly rejected. But the enemy within is our own flesh. Paul describes the struggle between good and evil within us in Romans 7. We struggle. We fail. Again and again. There are days when we wonder: is it worth it?

It’s easy to lose sight of the forest when we are surrounded by the trees. The struggle may be what’s easily seen at the moment. But there is more than what presently meets the eye.

God has promised an unbelievable future for those that believe. He has adopted us and given us a hope: we will share in the inheritance of His Son. Someday our flesh will be redeemed. It will finally fully match the new life God has created in us. Unimaginable glory will be ours-we will share in the glory of Christ!

He has left a deposit, a guarantee of this glorious future: the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Our future is secure.

In that context, our present struggle becomes tolerable. When viewed within the kind intentions of God, knowing what he has already done in the past and will do for us in the future, the pain suddenly pales. We follow him willingly through the hard, knowing the framework of the big picture.

After all, it’s exactly what Christ did. Philippians tells us he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Why? He understood the bigger picture, the reality of what was not yet seen: “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 NASB).

Future glory. The promise of God. The framework makes all the difference.

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Proper Framework – insight and encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What part of God’s framework is the most important to you?

The Pursuit of Joy

by Sheri Schofield

Tim and I were soon to be married when we began talking about our spiritual gifts. This was a hot topic back in the early 80s and the recognized variety of spiritual gifts was very broad. Tim laughingly told me, “Yeah, I took a spiritual gift test once. It said that I have the gift of martyrdom!”

We both laughed. Tim was calm and patient, and he had a great sense of humor. We couldn’t see the connection with martyrdom.

I don’t have the spiritual gift of martyrdom. I’m admittedly a wimp about pain. Headache? Run to the cupboard and get some aspirin. Problem solved. Why should I suffer needlessly? And martyrdom? No, no! Not for me!

Our Founding Fathers felt the same way, for they stated the right to pursue happiness right into our Constitution’s Bill of Rights! Pain is not happiness, so I reach for the painkiller. My avoidance of pain extends into all parts of my life: avoiding painful situations, avoiding difficult people, avoiding challenges that might cost me something. I tend to go toward the easy.

But Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 NIV).

Does that sound like the pursuit of happiness? Not to me. But is happiness what I want? Or is joy better than happiness?

What is the difference anyway? Happiness is the feeling we get when life is peaceful and everything is going our way. It is like playing in a calm, quiet lake. Joy is the feeling we get when we have successfully accomplished something difficult. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the joy.

Happiness is what we want for our children. Joy is what we hope they will discover as they grow up. Joy is not found in playing at the lake, but rather in climbing the mountain next to the lake, with all its obstacles. Joy is standing at the top of the mountain looking out over the view. Joy is learned through maturity and challenge. Joy is for grown-ups.

My husband, Tim, did indeed become a martyr – one who suffers greatly for his testimony and faith. He took a stand for Jesus that cost him dearly, and almost cost his life. Now he has severe PTSD and major depression. And I have walked side by side with him each step of the way.

This is not the path I would have chosen! Nobody deliberately walks into pain. But in the suffering, I have come to know God in a deep, abiding way that has brought me far greater joy than the easy life would have brought me.

I have discovered the joy of His presence because of the pain.

Now in this New Year, I stand near the top of the mountain, huffing and puffing, pausing for fresh wind, looking back over the way God has led me. The view from here is terrific! I see the challenges of the past as well as new goals ahead. I would not go back to playing at the lake for anything! I’m going to conquer this mountain and discover the treasures of joy on the way to the top!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12: 1-2 NIV

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The Pursuit of Joy – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: When has pain produced the by-product of joy in your life?