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.

9 More Quotes From “Jesus Always”

Sarah Young does a masterful job of weaving Scriptures together and presenting them to us as though Jesus Himself were speaking to us in first person. You can check out my full book review of Jesus Always by clicking here. 

“The problem arises when you gaze too long into the future, trying to visualize and take control of those not-yet events. A future-focus can easily deteriorate into a problem-focus. Weeds of worry and fear spring up quickly in this sort of ‘soil.’ When you realize this has happened, turn away from your worries and back to the One Who is lovingly present with you. Rejoice that I will still be with you when you arrive at each coming stage of your journey.”

“When My followers are joyful, unbelievers are more likely to be drawn to Me. Joy shines in stark contrast to your ever-darkening world, and some people will ask you about it. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for your hope.”

“Treasure Me above all else. … To treasure something is to hold or keep it, esteeming it as precious. I am training you to hold securely onto Me, your Savior-God and constant Companion. … When you prize Me above all else, other things lose their grip on you.”

“Thank Me for all the challenges in your life. They are gifts from Me—opportunities to grow stronger and more dependent on Me. Most people think that the stronger they get, the less dependent they will be. But in My kingdom, strength and dependence go hand in hand.”

“For Christians, aloneness is an illusion—a dangerous one that can lead to depression or self-pity. The devil and his underlings work hard to cloud your awareness of My presence. It’s crucial for you to recognize and resist their attacks. Fight back with My powerful Word, which is living and active. Read it; ponder it; memorize it; speak it.”

“My followers often fail to see the many blessings I shower on them. They’re so busy looking for other things that they miss what is before them—or is on the way. They forget I am sovereign God and the timing of events is My prerogative.”

“Do not be frightened by world events or news reports. These reports are biased—presented as if I do not exist. News clips show tiny bits of world events from which the most important factor has been carefully removed: My presence in the world.”

“It’s important for you to grow not only more trusting but more thankful. A grateful attitude is essential for living near Me. Ingratitude is offensive to Me, and drags you down both spiritually and emotionally.”

“Stillness is a rare commodity in this world. Many people judge themselves and their day by how much they have accomplished. Resting in My presence is usually not one of those accomplishments. Yet how much blessing can be found in this holy rest!”

You can check out other questions I’ve shared from Jesus Always by clicking here and here.

A Surprising Way To Relieve Stress

Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!

When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.

But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!

The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!

First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:

  1. The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
  2. The Lord is near to help us.
  3. The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.

Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:

  • moderation
  • considerate of others
  • patience toward our situation and toward others
  • or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.

THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS! 

When anxiety builds:

  1. Honk
  2. Bless
  3. Repeat

Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!

Saturday In The Psalms—Overcoming Overwhelming Problems

…whom shall I fear? … of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Not just enemies are confronting David, but entire armies of wicked people had him surrounded! War and trouble are on every side, trying to overwhelm David.

Yet David is not just not afraid, he is filled with joy!

Why? He has heard God, even in the midst of the evil turmoil, say, “Seek My face.” And David responded, “Yes, Lord, I will seek Your face!” In fact, David declared there was nothing more fortifying for him than to be in God’s presence, gazing on God’s beauty and majesty, and learning more of God’s ways.

In this place David has peace, joy, protection, salvation, courage. In this place David’s overwhelming problems are overcome by God.

David’s conclusion is one for all who are experiencing overwhelming problems—

Wait on the Lord;
be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

A Leader’s Most Powerful Resource

…Sanballat…mocked the Jews… (Nehemiah 4:1).

Sanballat mocked. How did Nehemiah respond to the mocking? He told Sanballat, “                .” Absolutely nothing!

At least he said nothing to Sanballat. But to God Nehemiah prayed, “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads” (v. 4).

Once again the bad guys “conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion” (v. 8). And once again Nehemiah said nothing to the conspirators; “nevertheless we made our prayer to our God” (v. 9).

When the gossip and rumors about the conspirators begin to discourage the Israelites, Nehemiah redirected them back to God: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” (v. 14).

Even when the opposition was internal—with those who were looking out for themselves only and taking advantage of their brothers—Nehemiah again called them to look to God: “Should you not walk in the fear of our God?” (5:9).

Indeed, because of Nehemiah’s own example of the fear of the Lord, he had the moral authority to call them out, and to ask God for His blessing (vv. 14-19).

Whatever criticism or opposition Nehemiah faced, his first response was to turn to God.

A mark of a godly leader is one whose first response to problems is prayer.

This is Part 6 in my series on godly leadership. To read my other posts, please click here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Out Of The Soup And Into God

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.

Out Of The Soup And Into God

     As long as we have our morality well with in our own grasp, to talk about Jesus Christ and His Redemption is “much ado about nothing”; but when a man’s thick hide is pierced, or he comes to his wits’ end and enters the confines of an agony, he is apt to find that there is a great deal from which he has been shut away, and in his condition of suffering he discovers there is more in the Cross of Christ than intellectually he had thought possible.

     Beware of believing that the human soul is simple; look at yourself, or read the 139th Psalm, and you will soon find the human soul is much too complex to touch. When an intellectualist says that life is simple, you may be sure he is sufficiently removed from facts to have no attention paid to him. Things look simple as he writes about them, but let him get “into the soup,” and he will find they are complicated. The only simple thing in human life is our relationship to God in Christ.

     Circumstances are the things that twist a man’s thinking into contortions. … 

     The problem I am up against is the muddle inside. Can I see a way out there? Is the God I have only an abstraction? If so, don’t let me treat Him as anything else. Or is He One with Whom I can get into a personal relationship, One Who will enable me to solve my problems? 

From The Shadow Of An Agony

Problems tend to make crystal-clear the difference between how we thought things worked and how they actually work.

This is equally true of those who think they have God all figured out. Then along comes a trial, a pain, a tragedy and they realize they don’t have all the answers. What then?

Then it’s time, as Chambers suggests, to return to something like Psalm 139 to see how intimately God knows you, and to see that your dark time did not take Him by surprise. Getting “into the soup” may be just the thing to help you get into God. It’s so true: “The only simple thing in human life is our relationship to God in Christ.”

May all your problems draw you deeper into Jesus Christ!

12 More Quotes From “Chase The Lion”

chase-the-lionI loved Chase The Lion by Mark Batterson! If this book doesn’t inspire you to do great things for God, I’m not sure what will. Be sure to check out my review of this book by clicking here, and then enjoy some more quotes from this amazing book.

“You may doubt yourself because of your lack of education or lack of experience. But if God has called you, you aren’t really doubting yourself. You’re doubting God. God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called.”

“An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity. It’s the decisions when no one is looking that will dictate your destiny. In fact, your integrity is your destiny! Killing Goliath was an epic act of bravery. Not killing Saul was an epic act of integrity.”

“One of the most important decisions you make every single day is what time you set your alarm to go off.”

“God doesn’t promise us happily ever after. He promises so much more than that—happily forever after.”

“In God’s kingdom the outcome isn’t the issue. Success isn’t winning or losing; it’s obeying. … In God’s book success is spelled stewardship. It’s making the most of the time, talent, and treasure God has given you. It’s doing the best you can with what you have, where you are.”

“Just as courage is not the absence of fear, success is not the absence of failure. Failure is a necessary step in every dream journey.”

“Fighters don’t walk away when the going gets tough; they fight to the finish for their convictions. Fighters don’t give up when everyone is against them; they fight against the status quo. And fighters don’t shrink back when the odds are against them; they fight for what they believe in.”

“It’s okay to talk to God about your problems, but at some point you have to flip the script. You need to talk to your problems about God.”

“Valor is less an action and more a reaction. If you judge a person by his or her actions, you’re judging a book by its cover. Reactions are far more revealing than actions. How you react in difficult circumstances is the litmus test of character. And you never really know how you’ll react until you’re the one who crosses paths with a lion. Valor is running toward trouble when everyone else is running away. Valor is going above and beyond the call of duty. Valor is putting yourself in the line of fire for someone else.”

“You know why some of us have never killed the giant, chased the lion, or walked on water? We’re afraid of looking foolish. But it’s the fear of looking foolish that is foolish!”

“Sometimes the circumstances we’re trying to change are the very circumstances God is using to change us. … Instead of expending all your energy trying to get out of them, get something out of them.”

“Don’t be in such a hurry to begin the next chapter of your life that you fail to ace the lessons the current chapter is trying to teach you.”

You can check out the first set of quotes I shared from Chase The Lion by clicking here. And be sure to follow me on Tumblr and Twitter, where I daily share quotes from all sorts of inspirational authors.

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