God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 18

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 9: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Question #1: In what kind of circumstances is it difficult for people to see “all things” as working together for the good of those who love him?  (See Romans 8:28)

There is no doubt that it is difficult for any person to see good in an event that we would classify as “tragic” or where great suffering is involved.  There is a quote that still haunts me from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies.  When King Theoden mourns at the side of his son’s grave, he says to Gandalf, “No parent should have to bury their child.”  I can truly empathize with Theoden as my wife and I buried our stillborn daughter (29 weeks in).  And then we feared for the life of our 12 year-old son who battled leukemia.

It can be very easy, and trite, for someone to say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Even though this old religious saying is ultimately true, it does little to comfort those who have lost a loved one.  And this is especially true, the younger the age of the one who has died.  So it is quite natural for people to feel anger towards God when they see no good reason for that death.

And yet I have seen in our life, and in the lives of others, what a tremendous impact it has on people when we rise up in these moments of despair and still hold on to the promises of the Bible that God is a good and loving God.  One verse that has meant so much to me is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.”  I believe that one day I will see my daughter again, and because all my children have a strong faith in Jesus, I know we will all live with God forever in a world where there will never be any more pain or sorrow.  (See Revelation 21:4)

Question #3: Which of your life experiences of privileges is God using, as He did with Paul, to His advantage?  How are you uniquely able to do what others may not be able to do?

Paul talked about having a “thorn in his flesh”.  Some say that was a spiritual temptation that he could not overcome.  But most believe that it was some physical ailment or condition that he sought healing for, but God chose not to heal him.  No matter what it was, God was still able to use Paul in great ways to advance the work of God and tell others about Christ.

Now I know that I cannot be compared to Paul, but I can empathize with him with regards to having a physical limitation.  For four years now I have lived with the challenge of the genetic muscle disease that has limited my mobility and causes me great pain.  (By faith though, I am believing that God is in the process of healing me, and I have seen some great positive progress in the past few months since some churches prayed with me and over me for healing.)

But these four years have not been easy.  And yet, I have seen God work through me to bless others in ways that I do not think would have been possible if I had been healthy.  When I travel over to Papua New Guinea to do the Bible translation consulting work, people are amazed at what gets accomplished on these trips.  I tell everyone that is is by the grace and strength of God that I can do what I do.

And then when I started this devotional blog site two years ago in November 2010, I had no idea that so many people would come to the site and read the stories.  In 22 months, there have been over 22,000 visits to this site.  Praise God!!  And I love how my wife Jill describes this work that I do propped up in my easy chair with my  laptop in front of me.  She calls this my “Armchair Ministry” to the world.  And for that, I am very grateful to God.

Question #4: How would you like God to sift and stir the difficult situations you see around you into a well-prepared ending to the story?  Describe the preferred future you would like to see in these situations.

This is a hard one.  I really am reluctant to paint a picture that I then turn around and expect God to fulfill it for me.  I have learned so much in these last four years to simply take one day, one week, and one month at a time.  In many ways, that has released me from worrying about the future.

But there is still part of me that is quite human, and I do have a couple of things that I talk to God about from time to time.  I do pray for my own healing and believe He is in the process of doing that.  I would have to say that I yearn at times to be able to walk and run like I used to.

But even if that doesn’t completely happen here, I know I will be running again when I get to heaven.  The other thing that Jill and I talk about frequently is the idea of being able to return to living overseas in Papua New Guinea again full-time.  This one too is possible, but we leave this also in God’s hands.

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Persevering With God’s Help

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The following devotion comes from my friend, Pastor Jim

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I am sitting at the desk in the office when the noise makes me jump. I should be used to the familiar “pop” on the window, but I am not. Another bird has collided with the window glass.  I wonder what it must be like to be flying along and all of a sudden the world ahead of you slaps you in the face.  It looks like the path ahead is clear, but just when we begin to think it is smooth sailing, “POP”!  We are knocked to the ground.

I do not have to wonder very long before I realize that so many of us know what that experience is like.  As Christians, we often face trials, but as James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

These trials may be tests of God, the work of Satan, or just life. These have the potential to make us better individuals.  We add fertilizer to our fields and gardens so we may yield a better product. Our suffering is like fertilizer – it feels horrible, smells terrible, and we cannot wait to wash it off.  [NW – as a city person, this sounds disgusting, but I know from talking to farmers and those who grow plants and small back yard gardens, that this is true.] 

I remember the very first time I sat on top of a horse.  I was in second grade and needed my dad’s help climbing into the saddle.  Her name has escaped my memory, but I remember she was beautiful and, in the mind of a young boy, she was huge.  I sat in wide-eyed wonderment as she took a couple of steps.  I was unsure of my place in the saddle, but then she took a couple more gentle steps and the thrill of riding hit me.  I have not had another opportunity to ride since that summer, but the memories of it are still in the forefront of my mind.

The term meek has been a difficult word for me to grasp, but I can now relate it to a broken horse; power and strong will that are directed for a purpose.  When we face stressors and crises, we do not have to feel like we are alone and spiraling out of control as we attempt to fight our situation using only our own strength.  When we are meek, we realize that God is in control.

When we humbly decide to take our place in His plan, then we too will be placed among the meek.  We can be pillars of example to the world as we overcome our difficulties by the grace of God, and not our own strength.  These words are easier to write than live.  I pray my will and strength are like that gentle horse I rode as a child.  May I be meek, focused, and reliant on God.

As we grab a hold of the reins of Christianity, we cannot help but realize we do not always understand God.  How can we?  As finite beings, we are nothing compared to His infinity.  If we can remember to simply pray that we do not lose any of the benefits of our trials, then we will grow.  We will become better apprentices of Christ with a better grasp on the reality of our station in life.  But, equally as important, we will become better examples to the world.

Sympathy and empathy are powerful tools to be used to nurture others.  If we do not persevere through our suffering, not only do we lose out on an opportunity for growth, but so do the people around us.  When I pray for others, I ask above all else that God be glorified through the situation.  May His will not be lost as He carries us through our trials.  May we recognize the situation as belonging to Him – being under His magnificent power – and use it for His glory and honor.

One of God’s many ministers,

Jim

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In this devotional thought, Jim provides us with two very good illustrations.  What I gained from this was that our lives can be hardened and unproductive (or meaningless) unless we allow the Farmer (whom I take to be God) to break up the hardened soil, and even allow Him to use the difficulties and trials of life to be sprinkled (fertilized) into our lives, so that our lives will be able to produce a harvest of good fruit.

The second illustration talks about us riding through life, as on the back of a horse.  If we try to pull hard on the reins of our lives, or try to force our animal (our lives) to be directed by our own brute force, we are more than likely to end up galloping off in the wrong direction, or worse, we are dumped onto the ground and our lives end up quite ruined and possibly seriously injured.

No, what we must do is to give the reins of our lives over to Jesus, submit to His Lordship, and He will tame the wild animal of life that we ride on and through His power and divine direction and providence, we find ourselves being led to the place of security, rest and spiritual nutrition.  As Jim mentions above, that takes a spirit of true humility, meekness and trust.  But know this, our God will never fail to give us what we need, if we entrust ourselves wholly to Him.

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