Last week I spoke in North Carolina at C3 Church near Raleigh and in Atlanta at Creflo Dollar’s Ministers’ Conference. The messages were well-received and the pastors and the people were challenged and their response was most encouraging. This week, I spent time at Legacy Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with church leaders and members. The presence of God was heavy and the atmosphere was saturated with a sense of love, compassion, and deep concern for our future.
We are facing a very important election and as believers we all know Christ is the hope of the world. But even more important than the election is the direction we must go and the decisions that must be made in order to correct damaging policies and practices. The American people are going to have to come together as a family and if that is to happen, the inspiration will come from the family of God submitting to the direction that comes only from our Father in heaven.
As I’ve been travelling I’ve been amazed at the people’s response to the book INDIVISIBLE that was released earlier this year, co-authored by Dr. Jay Richards. It appears that it is being considered as a very clear way out of the deep ditch of debt we have dug ourselves into, and the sense of depression and desperation that seems to prevail in our country.
The other wonderful thrill is to watch people grabbing the just-released book God put on my heart to write entitled The God of All Creation. It was inspired by observing the very things God told us to observe. Consider the birds, ants, beasts of the field, birds of the air, sheep and wolves to learn important lessons. God said in Romans 1 that He reveals Himself in what He created. When people hear me talking about the life lessons that I have learned by living with my eyes and heart open as a sincere seeker and the contribution our pet dachshund made on my life, the images I share leap off the page and lodge in people’s hearts.
I highly suggest you consider getting a book for yourself, other family members, and those you know who love pets. You may find that it will lead them right into the loving arms of God
Let me share an excerpt from one of the stories:
The Whipped Puppy
A friend of mine had a dog that had been beaten and abused as a puppy. Years later, as an adult dog, he still cowered in the corner when strangers walked in the room. If he did approach, it was always with his head down and tail between his legs.
“Is that dog ever going to get over it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” his owner replied. “I’ve done nothing but take care of him and treat him well, but he still acts like he’s being whipped.”
A lot of people are like that. They suffer through some painful situation and spend the rest of their lives unhappy and afraid. Many of them have legitimate reasons: abuse, tragedy, loss or other horrible situations. Like the tempest that rocked the boat carrying Jesus’ disciples across the Sea of Galilee, they are understandably shaken by the terrible storm. But even when the rain and waves subside, they never reach the other side.
Paul told the church in Thessalonica that his friend and co-minister Timothy was sent “to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
Jesus warned us that trials and tribulation will come our way. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” he told his disciples. We will experience heartache, grief and perhaps great tragedy or abuse. But Jesus follows this warning with the powerful statement, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
James, the brother of Jesus, took our difficulties one step further. “When troubles come your way,” he wrote, “consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2)
Why would a good and loving God allow us to experience pain? And why would He expect us to have joy in the midst of suffering? I see three primary reasons:
First, we live in a fallen world and, therefore, suffer the consequences. Because sin is a part of our earthly existence, we feel the pain of mankind’s wrong attitudes and actions. We experience the valley of the shadow of death. Every day, we witness the results of sin around the world. People suffer, lives are destroyed and innocents die. Evil not only exists, but it does exactly what the Bible tells us the enemy came to do: kill, steal and destroy. The need for Jesus Christ should be obvious to us all. The “trials and sorrows” are clear, which magnifies our need for the One who has “overcome the world.” When our pets get sick, we understand the need for a doctor or veterinarian. When we see the suffering of this sinful world, we should likewise understand the need for a Savior, the Great Physician.
Second, the suffering can glorify God. Oftentimes, pain can help purify our hearts of the sin in our own lives. Ask anyone who has faced a terrible illness if their priorities in life have changed. Most will tell you that many of the things they once considered important fell by the wayside as the things that God considers important took on new significance. The specter of death can force even the most self-centered men to look heavenward. The suffering of a loved one can bring families closer. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragic or frightening situation to compel us to love, forgive or connect with others.
This is not to say that suffering is always the result of someone’s sin. When Jesus and His disciples came upon a blind man, one of them asked, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus answered, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:1-3)
Jesus then healed the blind man and many lives were touched by the power of God. Certainly, the blind man had faced a lifetime of difficulties. But in the end, Jesus was glorified through that man’s suffering. Whether pain eradicates sin in our lives or simply allows God’s power to be shown, trials and tribulations can serve to bring glory to God. And that, in the end, is a good thing.
Finally, suffering can build Godly character. Acts 14:22 says that “we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” If God is a good God – and He is – then how can this be?
Through His prophet Isaiah, God told His chosen people, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. I will rescue you for my sake—yes, for my own sake!” (Isaiah 48:10-11a)
Refinement is a process that brings out the value in a precious metal by burning off the impurities. God’s promise to carry us through the fire is not a guarantee that we will be rescued from the fire, but rather the assurance that we will prevail in Him in the midst of the fire. We will overcome, but our clothes may smell like smoke! Remember, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were delivered in the fire, not from the fire. Perseverance, patience, grace, strength, faith and other Godly qualities can all come out of the most difficult trials of life, if we submit to His leadership and allow Him to refine our hearts and renew our minds.
Once we understand the potential positive role of suffering in our lives, as long as we are living and abiding in Jesus, the words of James “consider it an opportunity for great joy” begin to make sense. We experience the joy of trusting God and discover the peace that passes understanding. This knowledge allows us to move beyond the permanent status of “victim” and accept the role of “over comer.” We no longer have to cower in the corner or walk with our heads down. We can live as children of the Most High God, free to be who He created us to be and empowered to complete His mission here on earth.