The Right Response To Suffering

Peter recorded our right response to suffering through Jesus’ example. 1 Peter 2:21 says about suffering, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Verse 22 says that He committed no sin, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”

I want to pause right here. Suffering comes in myriad forms. We cannot put it into one category. I was thinking about this last night. When I was younger, if I was asked how I was, my answer would be ‘fine’ because it was an easy cop out. It didn’t require any further explanation. Usually, I found that the person was just asking out of rote.

I began my healing journey in 1983. At that point I was learning how to forgive those who had hurt me. If someone asked me how I was, my reply would be that I was pressing into Jesus. If that opened a conversation, I could explain what I was wrestling with at that time. I’m bringing this up because it is so easy to hide behind cliches or facades. 

Psalm 15:2 is a great template for a right response in our suffering. It says, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” Maybe we could practice being open. The next time someone asks you how you are, you might like to open your heart a bit. Your reply could be something like this: I’m glad you asked. Do you have a minute? That will give them an out if they don’t. If they say ‘yes’ then you can begin. Yesterday I heard discouraging news. How do you handle discouragement? 

Our suffering is an opportunity to reach out in a deeper way. The Lord set that up for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says that He is the God of all comfort. Verse 4 is the established pattern that He designed and desires. It says, “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

We can also begin a conversation with: is there a specific way I could pray for you today? That would be an enactment of Galatians 6:2 to bear one another’s burdens. Prayer is coming alongside someone. It is partnering with them in their suffering. It gives us an opportunity to ask and receive.

So much verbal exchange is surface. It is the way of the world. There is no depth because it is not a heart to heart conversation. I have friends whose love language is quality time. That is mine as well, so our conversations are not surface or superficial. We bypassed that stage long ago.

Paul admonished the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 6:11 he told them, “…our heart is wide open.” Then he disclosed their hearts. Verse 12 says, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.” When we keep our emotional pain buried, we lose out on God’s way to rightly respond to our suffering.

The Progression Of Tasting

1 Peter 1 ended with the power of the gospel. Chapter 2 started with ‘therefore’ meaning that we have to go back to what was previously said. My paraphrase of verse 1: You have heard the gospel, believed it, and accepted Jesus as your Savior. Now you have His power within to cast off any temptations to return to your former sinful behavior. 

1 Peter 2:1 in the Amplified says, “So be done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.” Ephesians 4:22 says, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct…” 1 Peter 1:14 says, “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts…”

As we come to verse 2 in 1 Peter 2, I want to link something. The Amplified says, “Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto (completed) salvation.” Linking verse 2 to verse 1, there is a clear distinction. Returning to our former way will block any craving after we have tasted His goodness through salvation.

Tasting His goodness is only the beginning. Think of food. There are folks who eat their food quickly. They eat because they are hungry, but they don’t take the time to savor it. Others will take a bite, and enjoy it. What is the difference? Value. If you truly understood that your food is your medicine, you would joyfully receive it. You would chew it carefully so that it would mix with your digestive enzymes.would joyfully receive it. You would chew it carefully so that it would mix with your digestive enzymes.

Let’s take this into the spiritual realm. Do you read your Bible because you know that it is a good discipline? On the other hand, do you read it because you know it is for your spiritual health? Psalm 19:7-11 is a great description of God’s RX for health through His word. Verse 7 says that it is His perfect tool to convert our soul. It is sure and makes the simple wise. Verse 8 says that it rejoices our heart, it is pure and enlightens our eyes. Verse 10 says, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

Jeremiah 31:14 says, “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.” We eat a meal until we are satiated or full and satisfied. Yet are we satiated if we just taste His word? Taking a nibble here and there will not help us grow in our walk with the Lord. No. We must taste, then savor it to digest it so we can absorb it.

As we read (taste) God’s word for understanding, the Holy Spirit will highlight what He wants us to (savor) concentrate on. We bring it into our mind and (digest) meditate on it. We (absorb) apply it to our walk. It then builds us up and makes us strong in the Lord. We are able to resist the (infections) temptations, because His word is active truth (good bacteria in our (heart) gut that keeps us healthy).

Tasting Of The Lord’s Goodness

1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that they may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” A newborn baby has to be helped to take its first drink of life-giving nourishment.

However, a newborn in Christ needs no coaching. Salvation comes with a desire for the milk of God’s word. My dad’s parents accepted the Lord when he was three. He grew up in a Christian home. He had no desire for the word. He dutifully went to meetings, listened to his parents and others talk about the Lord around the table. He had no interest.

One night, at the age of 19, he accepted the Lord. The next morning his folks found him reading his Bible. They knew. Being hungry for the word is a true sign of a new believer. I was saved at the age of 11. That evening and into the night I devoured the whole book of John.

At salvation, we indeed have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” His goodness was expressed through His death on the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Have you tasted of the Lord’s goodness, and then have had your spiritual palate dulled through the heavy sludge of this world’s food? I have a friend who used to be a chef. He has a very discerning palate. He can taste a sauce and tell what spices are in it. It also helps him to know what spice is needed to add to his culinary creations.

Mark 4:19 is a short list of what dulls our spiritual discerning palate. It says, “And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

When you are in the depths of your trial, struggling with emotional pain, what do you crave? Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” This ‘pant’ is from a deer who knows that if it can’t get to water it will die.

I believe that is how David felt when he wrote Psalm 63. Verse 1 says, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for  You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land  where there is no  water.”

The enemy seeks to use our trials to get us to turn from God. The Lord uses our trials to draw us closer to Him. He wants to be our sole source of comfort: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. May His love for you eclipse everything but Him.

The Power In Silence

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 1 KINGS 19:12
I’ve been thinking about Elijah in his mountain encounter with God, whose mighty power was displayed through a rock-breaking wind, an earthquake, and a fire. It didn’t seem to phase Elijah. However it was God’s still small voice that caused Elijah to wrap his mantle around his face. It was then that the Lord spoke to Elijah’s despondent heart and gave him a new commission.

The power in silence is the dynamic impact God’s still small voice has on our heart. Our whole being is awakened when the Lord whispers his wisdom. We are never the same.

David was a shepherd and understood the need for his sheep to be still. He wrote Psalm 131:2. It says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

The cares of this life vie for attention, and often disquiet our soul. They choke out God’s Word. He wants us to be still so he can speak to our heart. He wants us to rest and be restored in his presence. He is ready to speak, but we need to have ears to hear his still, small voice.

Holy Spirit, I ask you to help each one of us to learn the power of abiding in your stillness. Help us to quiet our hearts so that we do not miss any of your whispered words. Thank you for loving us so deeply and unconditionally. Amen.

Throughout This Day: Seek to go from task to task aware of God’s presence, open to his Spirit’s guidance. (this was my devotional today posted on PC2 on online ministry)

Designer Trials

Matthew 5:45 says, “…for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” When His sun shines, it shines on everyone. If a group is out in the rain, they all get wet. This verse emphasizes that God is not a respecter of persons. We all have trials.

However, there is a distinction for the believer. Our trials train us to be more like Christ. They are designed for each individual. They are unique, and tempered according to our spiritual maturity. Therefore whatever your trial’s magnitude is, it is divinely crafted to give you the benefits that you lack.

Trials are not a ‘one size fits all’ category. You cannot stereotype them. They are as unique as we are in our individual thumbprint. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. Our trial might be considered a thorn in the flesh, but it is nothing like Paul’s. His thorn came after he had the visions and revelations of the Lord when he was caught up into the third heavens.

Trials purify our faith for what lies ahead of us. We don’t know what the Lord has called us to walk through. That is why He brings the designer-trial. We have to be trained to fulfill what He has called us to. This may be why we go through one type of trial into another type. Like a kaleidoscope. He turns our life just a bit, and a whole new scope is revealed. 

As shocking as it sounds, I needed to fall into the ravine in 1977. It was His designer-trial to bring me to Himself. Before the fall I was a busy person serving the Lord. Yet, I knew nothing of intimate communion with Him. Through that trial He wooed me. He trained me to discern the moving of His Spirit in my life. He set me on a whole new course that I could never have imagined.

I have read that a shepherd has to take drastic measures with a sheep that continues to wander off. He will break one leg, then carry that sheep on his shoulders. The sheep so bonds with the shepherd. When it is healed it follows him wherever he goes. That sheep needed to have its leg broken. It learned obedience through its designer-trial.

Paul had to go through his designer-trials. The Lord told Ananias Paul’s future. Acts 9:16 says, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” If you need a refresher on his sufferings, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. That list makes me gasp every time I read it. Yet, we still are eating the fruit of his life in Christ. He wrote 13 books in the NT.

The designer-trial that you are in right now is essential for your spiritual growth. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I want to take a deep dive into 1 Peter 2:2-3. Here are a few questions for you to ponder: am I savoring the goodness of the Lord? Has my discerning palate been dulled by the things of this world? Am I drinking deeply of His love?

Kept By God’s Power

1 Peter 1:3 says that we have living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Verse 4 describes what type of inheritance we have: incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away. It is reserved in heaven for us. Verse 5 says, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Our salvation is secure. We are anchored in hope. Our inheritance cannot be touched by anything or anyone. What we have now and will have throughout eternity is rooted in the gospel. 2 Timothy 2:19 says, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Ephesians 1:13 says that those who believe the gospel are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

There is no reason to ever doubt our salvation. However, the enemy of our soul hates God, therefore he hates us. He will send fiery darts of doubt to disrupt us. He wants to shake our faith. Let me go back to Jesus’ words to Peter. In Luke 22:31 Jesus told Peter that satan wanted to sift him. Verse 32 are such glorious words for Peter and for us. It says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Adverse circumstances may shake us, but we are kept by the power of God. We are bound to the One who cannot be shaken. I love Abigail’s words to David. 1 Samuel 25:29 says, “…but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.”

Here is another verse. Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, Destroy!” Put that in capital letters in your heart! We are KEPT by His power. He is All Powerful. That means that no one, and no thing, has any power. He has it all!

Psalm 121:5 says, “The Lord is your keeper…” Verse 7-8 says, “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” 

Kept, protected, preserved, sustained, undergirded, upheld, anchored, rooted, and secured. Everything is orchestrated by the Lord in our lives. All trials are carefully designed and tempered. What He has allowed, and will allow in the future, has His purpose stamped on it and sealed with His signet ring. Nothing can break His seal. May we rest in His provision for our lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” He calls, He keeps, and He empowers us to do what He has called us to  do.

Strength For Adversity

Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Adversity comes in myriad ways. There is no sign that calls out a warning. “Adversity Ahead” doesn’t exist. Therefore we have to be prepared and ready before it comes. How do we do that? 

Ephesians 3:16 Amplified tells us how. It says, “May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the (Holy) Spirit (Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality).” I love the word ‘reinforced’ because it makes me think of rebar.

Our relationship with the Lord is daily reinforced with His strength as we read His word, lean hard on His grace, and put on expectations on Him. He is our Rock Strength. I was reminded the other day of a book that I read called Hurricane. It took place in Hawaii. The natives would strap themselves to certain trees when the hurricanes came. They chose a tree that would bend with the winds and not break.

Are you bendable when the winds of adversity blow tempestuously against you? I learned something about the Sequoia Trees. Their roots do not go straight down, they go sideways. A grove of Sequoia Trees are linked by their roots. What a picture for the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:14 says, “For in fact the body is not one member but many.”

Ephesians 3:13-14 says, “Till we all come to the unity of the faith of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

O my! Does this resonate with your spirit in our day right now? We must link our roots together because a strong wind of adversity is blowing against our nation. The enemy is seeking to divide that he may conquer. If we judge others, we will become just like them. It is time. It is past time. We are being bombarded with the ‘doctrine of demons’ or man’s destructive ways.

Here is our wisdom to help discern the evil being forced upon us. James 15-16 says, This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Here is our wisdom to stand in this adversity. Verse 17-18 says, “But wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Our enemy is rampant. We must remember, as a member of the body of Christ, the words Paul wrote in Romans 12:18. It says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” I have Titus 3:2 on a card taped to my kitchen cabinet. It says, “To speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” In all things, may we exemplify the Lord.

Redirecting Discouragement

Discouragement is often rooted in disappointment. If we don’t redirect our discouragement it will carry over into loss of hope. That is exactly what the enemy of our soul has designed. Life is full of disappointments. We think something is going to go a certain way. When it doesn’t we are disappointed. 

The Lord redirected Elijah’s discouragement. We see in 1 Kings 18 that there was a great victory as God overthrew the 450 prophets of Baal. Then in chapter 19, Jezebel said that she would take Elijah’s life. He went from high victory to deep despair. He ran for his life. Verse 4 says that he sat down under a broom tree and said, “…It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life…”

He laid down and slept. An angel touched him and instructed him to rise up and eat. There, when he looked, was food and water. He slept. The angel came again. Verse 7 says, “…he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” Note: it was on Horeb that God intercepted Moses’ path with a burning bush.

Verses 11-18 recorded Elijah’s encounter with God on the mountain. In verse 15 God redirected Elijah with three new assignments. Though Elijah was thoroughly discouraged, the Lord put courage in him to finish his course well. Let me recount how he left this earth. 2 Kings 2:11 says, “…suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Are you discouraged? What disappointment preceded it? Why were you disappointed? Our disappointment comes from broken expectations. Naaman had it all planned out in his mind. He went to the prophet Elisha to get healed. 2 Kings 5:1-19 is the account. Elisha told Naaman to go wash in the Jordan. Verse 11 says that Naaman became furious. Watch this play out. It says, “…Indeed, I said to myself, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.”

We can imagine how things will go. We can play them out in  our mind in perfect detail. We set ourselves up with great expectations. It doesn’t happen that way at all and we slump in disappointment. Feeling disappointed is like the red engine light on your dashboard. It means that something is wrong.

The ‘wrong’ is that our eyes were on ourselves, others, or our circumstances. Our enemy uses disappointment to drag us down into the pit of discouragement so that we will lose hope. The Lord uses our disappointment to alert us that we have lost focus on Him. Psalm 62:5 says, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” When our expectation is on Him, our hope is anchored steadfastly. It cannot be moved because He is our Eternal Hope. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) and Colossians 2:3 says that our life is hidden in Christ in God.

Defeating Discouragement

Daniel 6 is a very interesting chapter. It dives deeply into the character of Daniel. The new king, Darius, was considering putting Daniel second in command. He talked it over with all his advisors. The ugly head of envy rose up and sought a way to thwart the king’s desire. Daniel 6:3 says, “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.

The other advisors looked for a way to find fault with Daniel. Verse 4 says, “…but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful…” In verse 6 they knew that they could find fault with the law of his God. So they devised an evil plan. They convinced the king to sign a decree that anyone who petitioned any god or man for thirty days except the king  would be cast into the den of lions.

Once the decree was signed, it could not be changed or altered according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. Verse 10 says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home…” Did he go home discouraged? No! He never changed his pattern of life. You see, Daniel had developed a deep abiding relationship with the Lord. He was a man of purpose. His character was forged long before he ever faced the temptations set before him in his captivity. 

Verse 6 continued. He went to his upper room, opened his windows toward Jerusalem, knelt down on his knees, and prayed. It says, “…and gave thanks before His God, as was his custom since early days.” He never broke his established pattern of worship. The advisors found Daniel praying and making supplication. In 1 Kings 8, king Solomon prayed. Verse 30 says, “And may You hear the supplication of Your servant…when they pray toward this place…” Verse 32 says, “…condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head…”

King Darius was distraught. He tried every way possible to free Daniel. He finally had to concede because of the decree which could not be altered. Daneil was thrown into the lion’s den. He spent the night there untouched. The Lord shut the mouths of the lions! Verse 24 says that the king threw all his advisors and their families into the den. “…the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den.” May the Lord do that for His enemies that are attacking our nation!

Romans 5:3-4 is a written progression of God’s purposeful path in our trials. He uses them to deepen our hope so we can defeat all temptations to be discouraged. Tribulation produces perseverance. Perseverance produces purified character, which deepens our hope. Verse 5 says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

The Fall Of Pride

After I finished reading Daniel 5 last night, I had a cascade of examples in the Bible come to mind. Man’s ways are finite. God is Infinite in all His ways in dealing with man. King Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was standing in flagrant pride. Watch what happened when he saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the wall. Verse 6 says, “The king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.” His pride fell in a moment.

Daniel was called in to interpret the writing. He reminded the king that he was there when his father was driven out into the field. Verse 20 says, “But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.”

Verse 22-23 says, “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven…and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” Then Daniel gave him the interpretation. Encapsulated it was: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it; you have been weighed and found wanting; your kingdom has been divided and given to another. Verse 30 says that very night the king was slain.

The writing speaks to us. God holds our breath in His hands. He owns all our ways. Isaiah 43:7 says that we are all created for His glory. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” James 4:14 says, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life?…” The Amplified says, “…You are (really) a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears (into thin air).”

Pride resists God and His ways. Pride comes in myriad suits of clothing, costumes, and masks. I encourage you to ask this question: Lord, what is the pride-plague in my heart? 1 Kings 8:38-39 was part of king Solomon’s prayer when he dedicated the temple. It says, “Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven…”

Did you note the ‘when each one knows’ was connected to God’s hearing? The Lord always hears us. Does He hear faith and humility, or proud-fleshly words? It is essential that we walk in humility, or the Lord will use circumstances in our lives to humble us. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar lifted up their hearts in pride. God caused their pride to fall in accordance with His word in Daniel 4:37, “…And those who walk in pride He is able to pull down.” Our nation exudes pride in unbelievers and believers alike. Let us not be caught up in this sin against the Lord.