Practicing And Preaching In Difficult Times

…the things which happen to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).

About 4-5 years before Paul wrote this, he wrote to the church in Rome: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Paul said, “All things” were being used in God’s plan for his life.

If I was one of those Philippian Christians I might respond, “Even in imprisonment?! C’mon, Paul, your liberty has been taken away and you can’t travel and preach anymore—can God use even that??” 

Paul would give me an emphatic “Yes! 

A mark of a godly leader is one who practices what he preaches.

Paul said even his imprisonment was being used by God…

  • … the palace guards heard the gospel  
  • … others became bolder in their Christian testimony
  • … more people began preaching the good news about Jesus (see Philippians 1:13, 14, 18)

It’s still true today: God has a plan for your life, which He will work out even in the most difficult trials. 

How powerful it is when a leader continues to practice what he preaches even in the toughest of circumstances!

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Rejoicing In God’s Unchangeableness

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Rejoicing In God’s Unchangeableness

But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him? And what He wants to do, that He does” (Job 23:13 AMP).

     Some shallow thinkers dream that the great plan and design of God was thrown out of order by the fall of man. The fall they consider all accidental circumstances, not intended in the divine plan, and thus God, being placed in a delicate predicament of requiring to sacrifice His justice or His mercy, used the plan of the atonement of Christ as a divine expedient. … I am persuaded that the very fall of man was a part of the divine purpose: that even the sin of Adam, though he did it freely, was nevertheless contemplated in the divine scheme and was by no means such a thing as to involve a digression from His primary plan. …  

     And when later the gospel was sent to the Jews, and they resisted it and Paul and Peter turned to the Gentiles, do not suppose that God had to take down His book and make an eraser or an amendment. No, the whole was written there from the beginning. He knew everything of it. He has never altered a single sentence nor changed a single line of the divine purpose. … 

     It is a sweet consolation to the mind of one who muses much upon these deep matters that God never has changed in any degree from His purpose.

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose 

God has a plan for all of His creation. ALL of His creation—that includes you! 

You were made on purpose and for a purpose. God’s original plan of sending Jesus for your salvation still stands. God’s original plan for your particular life—with all of your talents, gifts, personality, and uniqueness—is unaltered by any circumstance. 

YOU have immeasurable value and worth because God created YOU. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Purpose Prevails

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Purpose Prevails

But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth (Job 23:13 KJV). But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him? And what He wants to do, that He does (AMP). 

     Now the fact taught here is that in all the acts of God in providence, He has a fixed and a settled purpose. ‘He is in one mind.’ It is eminently consolatory to us, who are God’s creatures, to know that He did not make us without a purpose and that now, in all His dealings with us, He has the same wise and gracious end to be served. … 

     O believer, ever look, then, on all your sufferings as being parts of the divine plan and say, as wave upon wave rolls over you, ‘He is in one mind!’ He is carrying out still His one great purpose. None of these comes by chance; none of these happens to me out of order; but everything comes to me according to the purpose of His own will and answers the purpose of His own great mind. … 

     We sweat, we toil, and we fail. How often do we come back weeping because we have toiled, as we think, without success! Yet, Christian man, you have not been without success, for ‘He is still in one mind.’ All this was necessary to the fulfillment of His one purpose. You are not lost; your labor has not rotted under the clod. All, though you see it not, has been working together toward the desired end. … 

     From every evil, good has come. And the more the evil has accumulated, the more has God glorified Himself in bringing out at last His grand, His everlasting design. This, I take it, is the first general lesson of the text—in every event of providence, God has a purpose. ‘He is in one mind.’ 

     Mark, not only a purpose, but only one purpose—for all history is but one. There are many scenes, but it is one drama. There are many pages, but it is one book. There are many leaves, but it is one tree. There are many provinces, yes, and there are many lords and rulers, yet there is but one empire and God the one Potentate.

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose

All of history is His storyand your life is a part of that Grand Story as well. God doesn’t miss a thing. He is working all things out to accomplish His purpose (see Romans 8:28). Even when it seems nothing is happening, turn your thoughts back to God Whose plans never fail, Whose purposes are never frustrated, Who is always working out His grand plan.

Do Not Dwell On The Past

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! I am a God of surprises—infinitely more creative than you can imagine. … As you journey along your life-path with Me, refuse to let the past define you or your expectations of what lies ahead. You may feel as if the road you are on is tiresome or even a dead end. That is because you’re projecting the past into the future. The roadblock you are straining to see up ahead is really just an illusion. The future is in My hands, and I can do surprising things with it! …

“You need My presence each moment to accomplish My purposes in your life. Sometimes you are tempted to take shortcuts, in order to reach your goal as quickly as possible. But if the shortcut requires turning your back on My peaceful Presence, you must choose the longer route. Walk with Me along paths of Peace; enjoy the journey in My Presence.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s 40 Days With Jesus)

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“Follow Me”

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

“Follow Me”

     “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him” [Matthew 9:9]. … I know another man, not named Matthew, but Charles, and the Lord said to him, “Follow Me,” and he also arose and followed Him. I do not know all that He saw when He looked upon me. I fear that He saw nothing in me but sin and evil and vanity, but I believe that He did say to Himself concerning me, “I see one to whom I can teach My truth, and who, when he gets ahold of it, will grip it fast and never let it go, and one who will not be afraid to speak it wherever he is.” So the Lord saw what use He could make of me. There is an adaptation in men, even while they are unconverted, that God has put into them for their future service. Luke was qualified to write his gospel because he had been a physician, and Matthew was qualified to write the particular gospel that he has left us because he had been a publican. There may be something about your habits of life, and about your constitution and your condition that will qualify you for some special niche in the church of God in the years to come. Oh, happy day, when Jesus shall look upon you and call you to follow Him! Happy day, when He did look upon some of us, and saw in us what His love meant to put there, that He might make of us vessels of mercy meet for the Master’s use! 

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

What was true of the apostle Matthew and Charles Spurgeon in past history is true of you today! 

God has plans for you. He has implanted a combination of gifts, talents, and personality in you that is unique to anyone else on this planet. He did this because He foresaw how you could be of use in fulfilling His plans for His kingdom.

Listen! Do you hear Him calling? He is saying to YOU, “Follow Me.” Will you answer that call? 

8 Quotes From “When Faith Fails”

We’ve all been there: an unexpected calamity has rocked our faith, making us question what we previously believed to be true. What do we do with these times of doubt? Dominic Done has given us a helpful resource in his book When Faith Fails. Please check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“An anonymous fourteenth-century mystic once said that we find ourselves ‘in a cloud of unknowing.’ That is why we doubt. We don’t always see the sky. However, what we have to be reminded of here is that all of this was part of God’s design. He purposefully made it like this. He built limits into the system. It wasn’t an accident. He knew we would have to live with so many unknowns. And yet He chose for the human story to look this way. … When God decided to create, He could have said yes to a thousand other possibilities. But He didn’t. He chose this world. He chose you. He chose me. Limits and all. And still, He called it ‘good.’ All of this means that doubts are normal. They’re a natural consequence of living in this world.” 

“If all we care about is certainty, we lose the beauty of mystery. If all we value is explanation, we lose the joy of exploration.” 

“We need to stop vilifying those who live in the tension of conflicted faith. Doubt isn’t a malevolent demon that we need to exorcise out of our brothers and sisters with sanctimonious words. It’s part of their story. It’s part of my story. Jude 22 says, ‘Be merciful to those who doubt.’” 

“What if God made the world like this to push us to deeper faith? … Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

“What’s vital to note here is that when the Bible uses the word doubt it’s different from the word unbelief (Matthew 14:31 and Hebrews 3:19). This is important because some Christians assume that doubt and unbelief are synonymous. They’re not. Doubt can lead to unbelief, just as doubt can lead to faith. But the two are not the same. Doubt says, ‘I am unsure of what is right.’ Unbelief says, ‘I don’t care about what is right.’ Doubt is searching for the light. Unbelief is choosing to gouge out your eyes. Doubt is pursuing truth, wherever it may lead. Unbelief is content with a lie. Doubt exists somewhere between belief and unbelief. Doubt is the moment of tension, which in and of itself isn’t good or bad. It’s somewhere in between. … Doubt isn’t the end of the story; it’s the suspense within it.” 

“Doubt’s greatest strength is secrecy.… But if we name our doubts and drag them into the light, we may find resolution, or we may discover the tension of authentically living in a doubt-filled faith.” 

“Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise (Genesis 17:17-22; 18:10-15). Gideon doubted his calling (Judges 6:36). Job doubted God’s character (Job 7:20-21). John the Baptist, whom Jesus called ‘the greatest of all the prophets,’ doubted if Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-6). Peter doubted his faith (Mark 14:66-72). Thomas doubted the resurrection (John 20:24-29). The list goes on. Scripture doesn’t edit out the stories of those who struggled to believe. It weaves their heart-rending struggles into the narrative.” 

“If your faith is being shaken by the suffering you see, don’t be content with cheesy Christian truisms or Facebook clichés. … Lean into the chaos. Cry out to God. Talk to people who have gone through pain and have come out on the other side awash with hope. Immerse yourself in Scripture’s lament and redemption. Dare to say, ‘I will not let You go until You bless me.’” 

Poetry Saturday—Unanswered Prayers

Like some schoolmaster kind in being stern,
Who hears the children crying o’er their slates
And calling, “Help me, master!” yet helps not,
Since in his silence and refusal lies
Their self-development, so God abides
Unheeding many prayers. He is not deaf
To any cry sent up from earnest hearts;
He hears and strengthens when He must deny.
He sees as weeping o’er life’s hard sums;
But should He give the key and dry our tears,
What would it profit us when school were done
And not one lesson mastered?

     What a world
Were this if all our prayers were answered. Not
In famed Pandora’s box were such vast ills
As lie in human hearts. Should our desires,
Voiced one by one in prayer, ascend to God
And come back as events shaped to our wish,
What chaos would result!

     In my fierce youth
I sighed out breath enough to move a fleet,
Voicing wild prayers to heaven for fancied boons
Which were denied; and that denial bends
My knees to prayer of gratitude each day
Of my maturer years. Yet from those prayers
I rose always regirded for the strife
And conscious of new strength. Pray on, sad heart,
That which thou pleadest may not be given,
But in the lofty altitude where souls
Who supplicate God’s grace are lifted, there
Thou shalt find help to bear thy daily lot
Which is not elsewhere found. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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