Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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25 Peace through the problems

John 16:33

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

From time to time in this life we will all encounter trouble. Sometimes it will come as trials and tribulations that test our trust. Sometimes they come simply for the glory of God, while at other times they come to bring us to the end of self so that we will surrender to the sufficiency of the Savior. We all struggle with self-sufficiency, that default of depending on our abilities instead of in the Almighty, where we reach not into His lavish riches but for our limited resources. When we go through times of trouble we have a tendency to focus on how rough the road is instead of our response. It’s not always the trials, temptations and tribulations that come, but rather our response to them that really matters. Often we just want to get through it so it can be over and done with and we can get on with the life that we like, but what if that crisis is there to challenge and to change us so we become more like Christ? What if it’s not the hardship that needs removed but the heart that need refined? The truth about trouble is not so much what we go through but what we can come out with. The truth about trouble is that it’s a:

  • Means Whereby God is Revealed

As believers we have a tendency to look inward when trouble comes and whine “why me”, but instead of looking inward we need to look upward. We need to acknowledge the Almighty and put our trust in Him to handle out present problem. Who do you trust in the trouble, where do you turn, to the Father or to the flesh? It’s in the challenging circumstances that we discover who is really in control. Instead of our first question being “Lord why me”, we need to ask “Lord what are you teaching me through this trial?” Is your confidence in Christ, are you trusting Him first and foremost to handle your present trouble? When trouble comes we have a tendency to panic and rush around instead of stopping so we can seeking His face and be still before Him. Psalm 107:24-29 says, “They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves; They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away” but then we see the healing ministry of trouble and the hope that comes out of the chaos, 28 “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” We will never have peace apart from His presence, peace that not only lightens the load but also lights our limited understanding. In the darkness sometimes God seems distant but if you open up your eyes you will discover that the mess only magnifies His message of peace. When His presence enters the trouble we discover that it was all worth it. When the “peace that passes all understanding” blooms in the darkness of our suffering the world gets to see a security that can only come from the Savior. Instead of focusing on the fear and feeling scared we feel safe in the midst of the storm.  I am thankful for the trials that force me to trust. I’m glad for those trials that trash my self-sufficiency and tear apart my ability to lean on self but drive me to the Lord. We need to realize that those tribulations that at first seem to toss us to and from were simply turning us back to truth. Trouble is a means whereby God is revealed and secondly:

  • Ministry whereby Growth is Reached

Jesus said “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus reminds us to focus on the truth not the trials, the truth that He has overcome, that we do not have to loose heart because we have hope in the victory of the cross. Trials can trip us up or trim away the fat in our lives and leave us fit. What seems like misery can actually move us to maturity. Trials strip away our ability to depend on self to get our God-given needs met forcing us to mature and depend on Christ to meet our every need. Galatians 5:16 says, “walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh” To walk in is to do live in Him, its total dependence on the Father and not on the flesh.  Christ has conquered the world, the flesh and the devil and He did it all by standing on the spoken Word of God. Every temptation you face forces you to depend more fully on the Father, it forces us to face the facts that without Him we will fail. We need times of trouble to move us to maturity. We need time in the sand blaster of trouble so that it can strip away all of our old paint layers of pride and position us for total dependence on Him.  The tough truth is that we can grow and mature more in our Christian walk through times of trouble than times on tranquility. The question is will we put our complete trust and faith in Jesus to carry us through and handle the difficulty? If we do then trouble will be a ministry whereby growth is reached, and lastly a:

  • Messenger whereby Grace is Received

The apostle Paul understood problems and pain, he knew what it was to have a thorn in the flesh that afflicted him. He prayed for God to remove this trial and it was while Paul persistence in prayer that God revealed to him that it was not the removal of the trial but God’s grace that he needed to receive. He said to Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness . . .” We like Paul can gladly glory in our trials when we realize that the power of Christ is best expressed in our weakness. Sometimes troubles train and prepare us to minister to others so that we can serve them out of our suffering and sorrow. Because we have gone through the troubles we are now prepared and positioned to provide the same comfort we have received from Christ. How will a lost and unbelieving world see the glory of God in our lives unless that which we claim to hold true is put to test? When our faith faces the fiery furnace we have an opportunity to walk unharmed and unbound before our God, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in Daniel 3. If we truly are His vineyard and He is the gardener then why would we whine and focus solely on the pain of the pruning and not on His purpose of bring forth more fruit? As clay in the hands of the potter experiences pressure so will we, but it’s the pressure that produces a vessel of purpose.  It was Peter who wrote “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  1 Peter 4:12-13 Things may go from bad to worse just look at the lives of any of the disciples, who become hated, pursued, persecuted and falsely condemned. But for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ they can experience something in the midst of the problems and pain that the world cannot dare to dream of, peace. What if we were to view trouble as the means, ministry and messenger by which God is revealed, growth is reached and grace is received? Would it change your perception of what is really a problem?


24 Preparing for Peace – Part 2

2 Chronicles 32:6-22

6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! 8 He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people. 9 While King Sennacherib of Assyria was still besieging the town of Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah and all the people in the city: 10 “This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? 11 Hezekiah has said, ‘The Lord our God will rescue us from the king of Assyria.’ Surely Hezekiah is misleading you, sentencing you to death by famine and thirst! 12 Don’t you realize that Hezekiah is the very person who destroyed all the Lord’s shrines and altars? He commanded Judah and Jerusalem to worship only at the altar at the Temple and to offer sacrifices on it alone. 13 “Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power? 14 Which of their gods was able to rescue its people from the destructive power of my predecessors? What makes you think your God can rescue you from me? 15 Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you! Don’t let him fool you like this! I say it again—no god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” 16 And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult. 17 The king also sent letters scorning the Lord, the God of Israel. He wrote, “Just as the gods of all the other nations failed to rescue their people from my power, so the God of Hezekiah will also fail.” 18 The Assyrian officials who brought the letters shouted this in Hebrew to the people gathered on the walls of the city, trying to terrify them so it would be easier to capture the city. 19 These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands. 20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. 22 That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land.

Where will you turn when trouble comes and what will you cling to in crisis will determine whether you experience peace or panic? As we have already seen Hezekiah kept his focus on the One who is faithful, the One who never fails. Last time we saw the first of three practical things that Hezekiah did which provide a pattern for us today. First put your house in order and second:

  • Get your heart in order

The number one emotion that gets expressed in every crisis is fear. Fear causes us to flee or freeze. Fear wants to take charge and be in control, it wants to run and rule our life. But fear always runs us into the ground, because it runs over us and ruins relationship. Yet often what we fear is not reality, its simply our emotional response to what we think we know. There is an acrostic for fear that through the years has helped me to navigate through the fog that fear produces, FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. What fear does is to keep us captive. Often the media will break with some sensational story that seems to sweep through our society, generating a plague of panic. Back in 2009 when the story about swine flu broke and reports of a possible pandemic started to surface it created mass panic. Emergency rooms were flooded with people suffering from false symptoms, the real culprit for many turned out to be fear not flu.  Now this is not a bash on media but we need to remember that there is a sinister side to their story telling, what we could call the shadow mission of media.  That shadow mission is to sell, to keep us interested and coming back. Fear gets our attention and this is the same tactic that King Sennacherib used during Hezekiah’s day. He sent a letter to the people inside the walls of Jerusalem, he tried to publish panic by telling them how frail and feeble they were compared to him. He reminded them that nobody else’s god had been great enough to stand up to him. He broadcasted his message of fear attacking what they believed, because belief affects behavior. If they freak out and focus on the fear chances are they would not fight. So he had his soldiers try to scare them by yelling over the wall in Hebrew. His plan was simple use psychological warfare to create panic, because if you disseminate fear you will divide and conquer. So how did Hezekiah respond to this message designed to dismay, demoralize and drench the people in doubt?  “He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! 8 He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.” 2 Chronicles 32:6-8. Hezekiah turned to truth; he found his security in a Savior that scripture reminded him was stronger than Sennacherib. He told the people to be courageous and not to cower for their God was in control. This was a call to put their faith in God the Father and not in the flesh.  We need to remember to listen to voice of truth, the voice that reminds us that we are not the victims we are the victorious. Why would we listen to the rubbish when we have a Redeemer that has already won the war?  As Hezekiah calls the people to assemble he surrounds them with the words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.”  This is more than just circling the wagons to preserve and protect, these are words that focus our faith that point us to a power greater than any problem. Hezekiah chose to voice the victory before the battle ever began. Sennacherib did everything in his power to discourage the people, but Hezekiah countered with courage. When the enemy taunts you turn to truth, stand on scripture and be steadfast. What wise people do in those times of uncertainty is listen to the Lord and limit the voices of influence. They determine who they will and will not listen to, they stick to what they do know instead of speculating on what they don’t. When fear falls and covers your country as a Christian you end up living in favorable times because there is no better time to live our faith than when others are living in fear. A crisis tends to crush the things that bring comfort and cause people to cry out to God. When everything that they trust in is swallowed up in tragedy they tend to turn to God. Fearful times can be fruitful times when we walk out the Word in front of a world that is frozen in fear. We should be a people of faith not fear because even though we don’t know what tomorrow holds, we do know who holds tomorrow. We need to get our house and heart in order and then:

  • Humble yourself before heaven

“Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven” 2 Chronicles 32:20. Instead of focusing on the fear they focused on the Father. They looked past this heathen king to a higher authority in heaven. Hezekiah did what he knew he was called to do and then he rested in what God would do. Hezekiah was busy with the defenses but the offence he left to God. He trusted God to do what only God could do, bring peace. Hezekiah wasn’t afraid to cry out to God in the crisis and this was not some popcorn prayer at the last minute no it was purposeful and powerful.  Philippians 4:6-7 tells us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is a promise based on faith not a formula where we are called to:

Present – This means that we need to reveal not just our request but what is driving it. We need to wrestle in prayer and go beyond the request to the motives behind the request, not just what you want, but why you want it. It’s easy in the crisis to put your trust in the answer, that new job, a raise, the restoration of a relationship, rather than trusting in God.

Guard – This means to watch over, God guards over our heart and minds, yet often if we will admit it we act like what we really want is for Him to guard our request instead of our heart. We often forgo peace because we care more about guarding our request than our heart. We have to surrender more than just our wants, we have to surrender our will and say “not my will, your will be done.” Is that the point of your prayers? We need to pray, not just until the answer comes, or the circumstances change, or until things go our way but until our faith rests in God and not the request, until our trust changes and we are focused solely on the Father. This is when we experience peace, when we find that we are okay not because the world changed but because our hearts changed. Peace comes not from the absence of problems, but because of the presence of God. So whatever it was that you wrote down the other day is that what you are trusting in or do you believe that you will be okay even if it is never resolved? Where is your trust, is it in the answer or in the Almighty?