"God Makes Plans"
…all of life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment…He even watches the simplest actions…you will be tested by major changes, delayed promises…undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies...The good news is God wants you to pass the tests of life… every time you pass a test, God notices and makes plans to reward you in eternity.
To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune.
"The Upside of Life's Storms"
Rough seas make good sailors
"Our Blessed Harbor"
The worse the Passage, the more welcome the Port.
"Getting To Know You. Getting To Know All About You"
Adversity introduces a man to himself
"Like A Tree Planted Firmly Planted By Streams Of Water"
No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.
Seneca The Younger
Grief is itself a med'cine"
"Use Your Problems to Fulfill His Purposes"
Life is a series of problems. Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take its place. Not all of them are big, but all are significant in God’s growth process for you…We learn things about God in suffering that we can’t learn any other way…You’ll never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got... It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic, heartfelt, honest-to-God prayers. When we’re in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers...God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for evil, for sin, for suffering, or for their painful consequences in the world. Instead, God wants you to thank Him that He will use your problems to fulfill His purposes...It is vital that you stay focused on God’s plan, not your pain or the problem…Your focus will determine your future…The secret of endurance is to remember that your pain is temporary but your reward will be eternal. Don’t give in to short-term thinking. Stay focused on the end result.
Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.
"Light A Candle"
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
"Sing When You Are Barren"
God tells Israel to sing when she is barren (Isaiah 54:1). This is not because He is cruel, but because He knows something we don’t know—that our praise is the signal He waits for to release His grace more abundantly, particularly praise forthcoming when all hope seems lost (Romans 4:18). We are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), and that means our warfare is of a peculiar kind that is only effective when worship goes ahead of us into battle. The restoration of the dominion of the children of God over the earth under Christ our Head is related to constancy in worship. Nothing advances without praise.
The sweetest pleasure arises from difficulties overcome.
"Your Focus Will Determine Your Future"
God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for evil, for sin, for suffering, or for their painful consequences in the world. Instead, God want you to thank Him that He will use your problems to fulfill his purposes [and patient during times of distress, so vital in letting our troubles transform us]...It is vital that you stay focused on God’s plan, not your pain or the problem…Your focus will determine your future…The secret of endurance is to remember that your pain is temporary but your reward will be eternal. Don’t give in to short-term thinking. Stay focused on the end result.
"Learning To Sing In The Rain"
"...live in joy that's worthy of the gospel. The dog bites and the bee stings and you're feeling sad. But blest are those who praise God in the midst of it, who praise Him when their hearts are broken" [who have learned to 'sing in the rain' cd]
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
"He Awaits Our Choice To Worship"
...we are in Christ and now it’s a whole new ballgame—life on the spiritual plane. God has ordained that we secure His resources by our praise. He awaits our choice to worship—rather than to whine, complain, or give up—as an entry point for His presence and kingdom power.
He tells the “barren one,” the person in pain and affliction, to sing. The command “to sing in the face of such a state would be a cruel act, were it not for the power of song. Isaiah’s word is to deal with the barrenness through worship, to enthrone God in song in order to release His ... provision” (NKJV commentary on Isaiah 54:1).
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:4).
Genius sharpens itself on the whetstone of struggle.
"Don't Waste Your Pain"
People are always more encouraged when we share how God’s grace helped us in weakness than when we brag about our strengths.” (Pg. 247) “Only shared experiences can help others. Aldous Huxley said, ‘Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.’ What will you do with what you’ve been through? Don’t’ waste your pain; use it to help others.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
"Sing In The Rain"
The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Need To Readjust Your Load?"
Burdens will press less heavily upon those who bear them skillfully.
Seneca The Younger
It is most remarkable that those flowers which are most [emblematic] of purity should grow in the mud.
Henry David Thoreau
“Make Something Useful”
You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.”
A Three Dog Life
"For Those In A Miserable Relationship"
The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the Church and give His life for her (Eph. V, 25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is...least loveable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; He does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man's marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and suffering of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs...To say this is not to say that there is any virtue or wisdom in making a marriage that involves such misery. There is no wisdom or virtue in seeking unnecessary martyrdom or deliberately courting persecution; yet it is, none the less, the persecuted or martyred Christian in whom the pattern of the Master is most unambiguously realised.
"When He Has Tested Me, I Will Come Forth As Gold"
Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.
Happy is the man who can endure the highest and lowest fortune. He who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity has deprived misfortune of its power.
"We Are Sifted"
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22: 31-32).
There are several things to notice in this interesting aside between Jesus and Peter. One is that Ephesians 6 is not whistling Dixie when it says there is spiritual warfare in high places going on over your soul. This is no poetic drivel. As Francis Schaeffer said in True Spirituality, the supernatural world, though not normally seen, is as real in our lives as the person sitting on the other side of the door from you right now.
Another observation is that Satan asks permission to sift us. For His own reasons, God allows His favorites to undergo this abuse; indeed, He once sent His anointed Son into the wilderness for the express purpose of enduring everything Satan threw at him, that He might be battle-hardened for the ministry He was about to embark on.
The word “sifting,” when applied to men, sounds gruesome. It reminds me of the little hand sifter my mother had when I was a kid. This contraption consisted of a metal cylinder with a metal mesh stretched across its circumference toward the bottom of the inside. Just above the mesh, a thin whip turned by an outside crank would noisily scrape the sides of the cylinder and the metal mesh. Mom poured in the flour, and it came out the other end all fluffy in the bowl under the sifter, and a residue of unwanted matter left on the mesh. In other words, sifting involves fragmentation.
The demoniac at the tombs was a man fragmented by Satan. Jesus asked him his name and he said “Legion.” The man’s body had become little more than a trashed playground overrun by demons who amused themselves by having him cut himself and run around naked a screaming.
A wonderful observation from our verse is that Jesus prays for us while Satan sifts us. Speaking for myself, I can put up with the sifting of Satan only if I know that the praying of Jesus is going on simultaneously. As a matter of fact, I have been “sifted” lately, and it was during that time that this verse of which I write today came to mind.
It is very interesting to me that in the short run Satan seems to win. Simon is going down—for the moment. Jesus prays that Simon’s “faith may not fail”—and it fails! It at least stumbles. What about me, am I dispirited when my prayers at first seem to go unanswered, to be of no avail? Should I not take the long view like Jesus did? (Just think how long Jesus impassioned prayer for the unity of all believers is taking [John 17:21-22]).
Who is better qualified to help his brothers than the one who has been through sifting and “returned” by the praying of Christ? I know several such people—former homosexuals, former drug addicts. I find it very comforting indeed that Christ’s expectation is that the sifted Christian of yesterday is the strengthener of brothers tomorrow.
"Life Is Like A Grindstone"
"Like is like a grindstone: Whether it grids you down or polishes you up depends on what you're made of."
"Accepting And Offering Up The Sufferings Of Love"
We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.
"Sifting Gold From Sand"
Perhaps a new wave of plague or persecution is what is needed to sift gold from sand. In that day we shall see “faith” that Paul would think worth writing home about.
Ray Stedman writes in Authentic Christianity that the first mark of such authenticity is "unquenchable optimism." Unquenchable: "unable to be extinguished, terminated, destroyed, or satisfied." Optimism: "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome."
Joseph had unquenchable optimism when he went from favored son to Egyptian jailbird, and he just kept doing his little prison jobs, one day at a time, because he knew he had a prophecy hovering over him (Genesis 39-50).
Moses' mom had unquenchable optimism when she thought it might just work to fashion a floating device and launch her son down the river (Exodus 2:2-3).
Caleb had unquenchable optimism when the other spies to Canaan said it was not realistic to attack at this time, and he said, like a choir boy, yippee, let's do it! (Numbers 13:30).
Manoah's wife had unquenchable optimism when her husband thought they were going to die because they had seen an angel, and she sensibly said, "If the Lord had meant to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these" (Judges 13:23).
Even Samson, when he had made a mess of his whole life, and squandered his calling, and was broken and blind and in ankle irons pushing a grinding wheel around in circles— even he thought it was worth a try to call on the Lord one more time and ask for favor (Judges 16:28).
Jonathan had unquenchable optimism when he and his armor bearer broke off from the moribund Israelite army during Philistine occupation, saying, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6).
David had unquenchable optimism when Philistia was spanking Israel's finest (1 Samuel 17:26). And when the King asked him how a runt like him could kill a giant, he said because he used to kill lions and bears when they threatened the herd, and Goliath would be just like one of them (1 Samuel 17:34-37).
Elisha had unquenchable optimism when even the prophets kept telling him to give up following Elijah, but he wouldn't because he thought he might just get a double portion of blessing (2 Kings 2).
Mordecai had unquenchable optimism. What else can you say about a guy living in exile, with a contract on his head, who mulls over his cousin's fluky positioning at court and says to her: "Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).
Ezra had unquenchable optimism when he decided not to ask the king for an escort of soldiers to help them against bandits on the road from Persia to Israel, because he had bragged to the king that God would protect them (Ezra 8:22).
Simeon and Anna had unquenchable optimism when they grew old coming to the Temple every day, because they figured that one of these days the Messiah would show up (Luke 2).
A woman in Israel had unquenchable optimism when she thought if she only touched Jesus' cloak she would be healed of a 12-year disease that none of her doctors had been able to cure (Mark 5).
Paul had unquenchable optimism when he decided that his sitting in jail was a clever strategy on God's part for spreading the gospel to Caesar's household (Philippians 1:12-13; 4:22).
And Paul had unquenchable optimism when only decades after Christ's resurrection the church seemed to be coming unglued in Corinth and Galatia, and others wanted to go back to the old-time religion of slaughtering bulls and goats. He scolded them but expected better things.
I'll bet if someone like Caleb or Jonathan or Paul were not able to sleep worth a fig for the past five years, they would say to themselves something like, "Gee, I wonder if God is preparing me for some endurance test in the future where it will be an advantage to have learned how to make do with 4 hours of sleep a night."
People don't realize that doing what is right is no guarantee against misfortune.
"Flicking Away Flies"
Whenever I was upset by something in the papers, [Jack] always told me to be more tolerant, like a horse flicking away flies in the summer.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis