When Trials Come

Notice that the title of this post says “when” not “if.” Maybe this will be a newsflash for some of you (but I highly doubt it): Christians will face trials.

Even the apostle James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). Wait, trials are “an opportunity for great joy”? How can that be?!

→ Trials teach us lessons that we can learn in no other way! ←

How much more mature, and wise, and empathetic would we become if instead of trying to get out of the trials that come our way, we would instead see what we could get out of that trial!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)

“When trials come we can try to get out of them, or we can learn to get something out of them.”

—Craig T. Owens

So the next time a trial comes your way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lessons you can learn by going through the trial.

Truth Is The Source Of Freedom

“The university has traditionally been a unified place (Latin unum) where faculty and students gather in order to discover truth (Latin veritas). A generation ago, college was expected to be a place of freedom, particularly for expression of and engagement with different—even disagreeable—ideas. Sadly, recent events and numerous statistical surveys reveal that such days may be over. Today, many on university campuses expect to be protected or shielded from speech and ideas that could be deemed offensive, even if the free speech rights of others—as well as the pursuit of truth—are sacrificed in the process.

“The current climate, in which people are forcibly prevented from sharing ideas, has arisen because the Culture of Confusion has mistaken autonomy for freedom. In a post-truth culture, where preferences and opinions are elevated over facts and truth, anything that challenges our preferences, even if a challenge is laced with facts, is deemed offensive and oppressive. The Western contemporary concept of freedom is all about the ability to do, feel, and say whatever one wants, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. But this isn’t freedom—it’s autonomy (which literally means being a law unto one’s self). Freedom operates at its best within the confines of truth. The pursuit of autonomy is the root of the post-truth mindset that fuels the current Culture of Confusion. If each of our personal preferences is celebrated without truth as our guide, if we are all ‘laws unto ourselves,’ confusion is inevitable in at least three important ways.

“First, the culture seems to have lost its ability to reason—to think and act clearly and wisely. When feelings are vaunted over facts in the quest for autonomy, reason dies in the process. If the facts get in the way of unrestrained autonomy, then the facts will have to be ignored and any opposition will be silenced.

“Second, the Culture of Confusion has lost its moral accountability. If it’s true that ‘man is the measure of all things,’ as Protagoras proclaimed centuries ago, then we make the rules, not God. If there is no God to help us, then we have to help ourselves. There are atheists who claim that the ‘better angels of our nature’ will result in us reaching a rough agreement about moral values. But history has shown us that it’s only a short leap from secular humanism to self-worship and supreme authority. Moral clarity shows us the objective truth beyond our preferences. And we have to mold our desires and preferences to the truth’s boundaries. Because we don’t want to conform, moral clarity has become the vice of the day, and moral confusion the virtue.

“Third, in striving to go from bearing the Imago Dei (with accountability to God) to Deus Homo (with accountability to no one), we have lost what it means to be human and to value other human beings. When we become the measure of all things, then we determine which humans are valuable and which ones are not, meaning our sense of objective human value is lost in the process.

“There is a fundamental difference between limitless individual autonomy and true freedom. The Bible opposes the former and champions the latter (James 1:25; 2:12). The book of Judges demonstrates this well. Each time the people’s thirst for autonomy landed them in trouble, God sent a judge—a person who took his authority from God—to guide the people. But they rejected God’s authority time and again in favor of their personal sovereignty until the resultant chaos became too much. When we jettison truth as our guide, we will end up with autonomy and then chaos, but not freedom. Each one of us, individually in our hearts, needs to search for the source of freedom—truth.” —Abdu Murray, Saving Truth

The Devil Isn’t Scared Of You

This is part 2 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #2—Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Is that in the Bible? Yes, those words are there, but we need some perspective. 

First of all, demons are real and they are dangerous. No, the devil and his henchmen are not behind every calamity we face. C.S. Lewis explained it well—

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” —C.S. Lewis 

Some people think there is a struggle between Jesus and satan that has an uncertain outcome, almost like Jesus and satan are locked in an epic arm wrestling duel. But the victory is already assured—Jesus has already won (Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-58)!  

But while we are on Earth, we are living in a battle zone. Jesus said the devil’s agenda was pretty straightforward—steal, kill, destroy. He tries to accomplish this in a number of ways: everything from lying to us, to intimidation, to misquoting Scripture. 

And that’s where we need to be aware. Yes, the words “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” are in the Bible, but they are only valid when spoken in light of the first part of the verse—“Submit yourself to God.” 

“satan is not scared of your show of force toward him, but of your show of submission to God.” —Craig T. Owens 

There were some guys who tried to invoke the name of Jesus in a spiritual battle, and they ended up running out of the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:11-16)! 

Last time I said that God helps those who cannot help themselves. The prayer He loves to respond to is, “God, help!” If ever we face a situation that we cannot help ourselves, it’s dealing with demons. We can’t, but God can! 

So before anything else submit yourself to God. Hide under the shadow of His wings, let Him be your shield and your defender. Only then will the devil flee from you (see Psalm 91). 

Remember: the devil lies. He can even use Scripture to lie. His lie is getting you to believe you can resist him on your own. The truth is he’s not afraid of who you are, but he flees when he sees Whose you are!

The Devil’s “Likes”

But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” —what God said about satan (Isaiah 14:13-14)

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” —satan (Genesis 3:5)

No wonder, for even satan disguises himself like an angel of light. —what the Apostle Paul said about satan (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —what the Apostle Peter said about satan (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus is all reality. He is the All-Sufficient I AM. He knew the end from before the beginning. He is THE King of kings. The devil is only like a king, or like an angel, or like a lion.

The devil can only pretend to have answers. Everything he produces is a counterfeit. No wonder Jesus called him the “father of lies,” since lies are all he has to offer. 

The devil tries to look like God, he tries to lure us to disobey God, he pretends to be what he’s not. So don’t fear his pretend roar. Instead, give yourself completely to God’s care, then you can stand firm against the devil’s attempts to seduce you, and he will be forced to flee from you (James 4:7)!

How To Get Wisdom

Steve Martin had a comedy routine where he said, “I will tell you how to have a million dollars and never pay one cent of income tax on it. First, get a million dollars.” 😂 

Solomon says something in Proverbs 4 that on the surface sounds just as comical: “I will tell you how to have wisdom and reap all the amazing benefits from it. First, get wisdom.” 

Here’s what he wrote: “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (v. 7).

The Hebrew word for “get” means acquire, create, buy, possess. But Solomon uses this verb in the imperative sense—which means it’s not a suggestion, but a command! He doesn’t say, “It’s a good idea to get wisdom,” but, “There is no other way: you must have wisdom.”

Throughout the Proverbs, Solomon personifies wisdom as Lady Wisdom. She is constantly calling out to people, “I have what you need. Come and get it.” James tells us the same thing, “If you need wisdom, ask God for it” (see James 1:5).

So… how does one get wisdom? Simply by wanting to have wisdom, and then going to the right source. In the rest of Proverbs 4, Solomon echoes the same thought—

—“Prize her [Wisdom], and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” (v. 8)

—“Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.” (v. 13)

—“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.” (vv. 20, 21)

—“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (v. 23)

How do you get wisdom? You go to Wisdom and get what she has to offer!

Thursdays With Oswald—What Is Mammon?

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

What Is Mammon?

     You cannot serve God and Mammon [Matthew 6:24]. A man of the world says we can; with a little subtlety and wisdom and compromise (it is called diplomacy or tact), we can serve both. The devil’s temptation to our Lord to fall down and worship him, i.e., to compromise, is repeated over and over again in Christian experience. We have to realize that there is a division as high as heaven and as deep as hell between the Christian and the world. ‘Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ [James 4:4]. … 

     Never compromise with the spirit of Mammon. When you are right with God, you become contemptible in the eyes of the world. Put into practice any of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and you will be treated with amusement at first; then if you persist, the world will get annoyed and will detest you. … What is Mammon? The system of civilized life which organizes itself without considering God. … 

     When we become mature in godliness God trusts His own honor to us by placing us where the world, the flesh, and the devil may try us, knowing that ‘greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world’ [1 John 4:4].

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Mammon wants to get what it wants to get, without considering God and without regard to the long-term consequences. Mammon wants satisfaction right now! 

Mammon is the system of the world. People are constantly driven by what they can get for themselves right now, with little—if any—thought to what God thinks or to what the inevitable outcome is going to be. 

A Christian is different. 

A Christian is focused on something which cannot be seen right now. But just because the rewards cannot be seen doesn’t make them any less real. In fact, Jesus teaches that the rewards He gives are Reality itself. 

When a Christian insists on doing things God’s way, the devil will sneer and people will laugh. But God’s Spirit in you is greater than all of that, and He will help you to stand firm in Him, not compromising with the lure of Mammon. 

An Awesome Privilege And Responsibility

…Joshua the high priest… (Zechariah 3:1). 

The way that God talks about Joshua the high priest is quite informative for anyone in a position of godly leadership. 

From this passage [Zechariah 3:1-10] we learn that God’s leaders are…

  • … standing in God’s presence 
  • … opposed by satan
  • … protected by God
  • … anointed, empowered, and inflamed by God
  • … cleansed by God
  • … admonished by God to live up to the highest standards of righteousness
  • … given rewards for their righteousness
  • … used by God to accomplish His plan

Being a leader is an awesome privilege and responsibility! This is not a position anyone should seek for themselves (James 3:1; Jeremiah 45:5). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who feels the weight of God’s calling. 

This is part 31 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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