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.

God’s Preference Is You

My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts. 

Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!

Then comes the Selah—pause. 

And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25). 

Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better. 

But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU! 

He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less. 

The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).

In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all! 

God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). 

Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!  

Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.” 

No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He loves you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you. 

9 Quotes From “Shepherding God’s Flock”

T.M. Moore has given pastors a phenomenal training resource in Shepherding God’s Flock. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The work of church leaders today—and especially of that class of leaders called elders, with which this study is concerned—has been shaped and conditioned more by the temper of our times than by the teaching of God’s Word.” 

“According to Paul, any church that does not have in place elders—and other leaders working with them—who are functioning as shepherds is a church that is not in order.… A church without a strong ministry of shepherding is a flock without genuine pastoral care, oversight, and equipping. It may be very active, even happy, and may be ‘growing’ in what some consider impressive ways. But without shepherding as the framework and integrating dynamic, such a church will always be something less than what God intends.” 

“Where the work of shepherding is being faithfully pursued, the gospel goes forth with power, lost sheep are located, and the flocks of God grow as He adds new souls to the fold.” 

“Where faithful shepherds are at work, the Lord’s sheep will be well fed. Both milk and the meat of the Word will be their daily diet, according to the needs and callings of each. Well-fed sheep are healthy, strong, and fruitful in their own contributions.” 

“The work of shepherding begins in relationships of mutual love and trust, spiritual friendships where sheep and shepherd know, love, and care about one another.” 

“Only when the people feel known and loved, and only when they know and love those who are called to lead them—only then will they be willing to follow where the shepherds of the church are seeking to take them.” 

“In the Christian life, people tend to live up to or achieve, not the level of their abilities, for their abilities are virtually limitless, given the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Rather, they tend to live up to the level of their vision—of what they see for their lives in Christ. Unless we are leading them into God’s vision for their lives, the people of God will settle for something less than the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

“When temptation arises we can follow one of two courses. Either we will fall through temptation into sin, or we will grow through temptation into a higher stage of sanctification. … The shepherd’s task is twofold: first, he must help the Lord’s sheep to recognize temptation, by grounding them firmly in the law and Word of God; second, he must equip and encourage them in finding the way of escape from temptation, so that they may grow as the Lord intends.” 

“Jesus’ approach to bearing witness was thus energetic, proactive, continuous, compassionate, and pioneering. Should we expect anything less from the shepherds He has left to bring other lost sheep into His fold?”

Stable In Any Circumstance

“Unstable people let circumstances control how they feel—cheerful in sunshine but depressed in rain. And this is the way of the unsound heart. A few trying situations weaken his spirit and destroy him as a cold winter kills feeble bodies. Afflictions, however, help the Christian grow by uniting him even more closely with Christ. Trouble sends him straight to the arms of the Lord, as the bee flies to her hive in a storm. He is glad who has such a comfortable pillow as the lap of Jesus.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor

Thursdays With Oswald—Spiritual Grit

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.

Spiritual Grit

     Salvation is God’s “bit,” it is complete, we can add nothing to it; but we have to bend all our powers to work out His salvation. It requires discipline to live the life of a disciple in actual things. “Jesus knowing…that He was come from God, and went to God,…took a towel…and begin to wash the disciples’ feet” [John 13:1, 4]. It took God Incarnate to do the ordinary menial things of life rightly, and it takes the life of God in us to use a towel properly. … And we can do it every time because of the marvel of God’s grace. …  

     A stoot hairt tae a stae brae (i.e. a strong heart to a difficult hill). The Christian life is a holy life; never substitute the word “happy” for “holy.” We certainly will have happiness, but as a consequence of holiness. Beware of the idea that so prevalent today that a Christian must always be happy and bright, “keep smiling.” That is preaching merely the gospel of temperament. If you make the determination to be happy the basis of your Christian life, your happiness will go from you; happiness is not a cause but an effect that follows without striving after it. … 

     There is something in us that makes us face temptation to sin with vigor and earnestness, but it requires the stout heart that God gives to meet the cares of this life. I would not give much for the man who had nothing in his life to make him say, “I wish I was not in the circumstances I am in.” “In the world you will have trouble; but be of good cheer! I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]—“and you will overcome it too, you will win every time if you bank on your relationship to Me.” Spiritual grit is what we need.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

If you have placed your faith in what Jesus did for you on Calvary, and if you have asked the Father to forgive you of your sins, then His Holy Spirit resides in you. 

Therefore, you have all that you need to be successful every single time. The question is: Am I using the spiritual grit that God gives me to be holy? Or am I merely looking for a way to be happy? 

11 Quotes On The Gospel Of John

Alongside my daily Bible study time in the Gospels of the New Testament, I have been reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. You can check out my review of this book by clicking here. 

These are a few of the quotes I especially appreciated from Ryle’s comments on the Gospel of John.

“Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion and the source of every heresy. To be allowed to remove a few grains of ignorance, and to throw a few rays of light on God’s precious Word is, in my opinion, the greatest honor that can be put on a Christian.” 

“It is a real misfortune to Christianity when a Christian cannot smile. A merry heart and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften the prejudices, to take up stumbling blocks out of the way, and to make way for Christ and the Gospel.” 

“We must maintain firmly that God hates wickedness, and that the end of all who persist in wickedness will be destruction. It is not true that God’s love is lower than hell. It is not true that God so loved the world that all mankind will be finally saved, but that He so loved the world that He gave His Son to be the Savior of all who believe. His love is offered to all men freely, fully, honestly, and unreservedly, but it is only through the one channel of Christ’s redemption.” 

“Nothing so defiles Christianity and gives the enemies of truth such occasion to blaspheme as jealousy and party-spirit among Christians. Wherever there is real grace, we should be ready and willing to acknowledge it, even though it may be outside our own pale. We should strive to say with the apostle, ‘If Christ be preached, I rejoice, yes! and will rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18). If good is done, we are to be thankful, though it even may not be done in what we think the best way. If souls are saved, we ought to be glad, whatever be the means that God may think fit to employ.” 

“Well may we be told to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom! Well may we be told to long for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ! Then, and not until then, shall there be no more curse on the earth, no more suffering, no more sorrow, and no more sin. Tears shall be wiped from the faces of all who love Christ’s appearing, when their Master returns. Weakness and infirmity shall all pass away. Hope deferred shall no longer make hearts sick. There will be no chronic invalids and incurable cases when Christ has renewed this earth.” 

“The ‘Scriptures’ of which our Lord speaks are of course the Old Testament. And His words show the important truth which too many are apt to overlook, that every part of our Bibles is meant to teach us about Christ. Christ is not merely in the Gospels and Epistles. Christ is to be found directly and indirectly in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. In the promises to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David; in the types and emblems of the ceremonial law; in the predictions of Isaiah and the other prophets—Jesus, the Messiah, is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament. How is it that men see these things so little? The answer is plain: they do not ‘search the Scriptures.’ They do not dig into that wondrous mine of wisdom and knowledge, and seek to become acquainted with its contents. Simple, regular reading of our Bibles is the grand secret of establishment in the faith. Ignorance of the Scriptures is the root of all error.” 

“Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer—cold as well as heat—clouds as well as sunshine—are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity.” 

“Well would it be for men if they would act upon the truth they know. Instead of saying, as some do, ‘I must first know everything clearly and then I will act,’ we should say, ‘I will diligently use such knowledge as I possess and believe that in the using fresh knowledge will be given to me.’ How many mysteries this simple plan would solve! How many hard things would soon become plain if men would honestly live up to their light and ‘follow on to know the Lord’ (Hosea 6:3). … The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them and he shall be taught the deep things of God.” 

“Happy is he who never stifles his conscience, but strives to keep it tender! Still happier is he who prays to have it enlightened by the Holy Spirit and sprinkled with Christ’s blood.” 

“Let us resist procrastination as we would resist the devil. Whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with our might. ‘The night comes when no man can work.’” 

“It is noteworthy that the resurrection of our Lord in some places is attributed to His Father’s act (Acts 2:24-32), once, at least, to the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 3:18), and here [John 10:18] and in John 2:19 to Christ Himself. All leads to the same great conclusion—that the resurrection of our Lord, as well as every part of His mediatorial work, was an act in which all three Persons of the Trinity concurred and cooperated.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, on the Gospel of Mark here, and on the Gospel of Luke here.

9 Quotes From “God’s Promises”

God’s Promises by Jack Countryman is a wonderful resource to help you use the Bible to enhance your prayer life and build your faith. Check out my full review of this fantastic book by clicking here.

“Each day we can look forward to God’s Spirit going before, clearing the way, leading the path, and giving us the guidance we need. … But God doesn’t stop at mere survival. He doesn’t just satisfy and strengthen. Though there will be difficulties and times of drought in our lives, God guides us to His living waters. He enables us to flourish ‘like a watered garden,’ where His blessings always bloom.” [Isaiah 58:11] 

“When life darkens our door with its troubles and trials, satan wants nothing more than for us to feel forsaken and alone—but we are not! God stands by our side; He guides, counsels, and comforts. Rest assured, no matter what you face in the coming year, nothing can separate you from the love of your Father (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore walk boldly into each new day, knowing that you follow the footsteps of the One who never leaves you.” [Deuteronomy 31:8] 

“Troubles are never pleasant at the time, but they quickly turn into tools when entrusted to God. Our Lord will take our times of troubles and trials—even the hard feelings we experience in them—then use them to teach us to fully rely on Him and His provision.” [Psalm 138:7] 

“Our God is a loving God, but He isn’t Santa Claus or a genie in a bottle. Our God loves to give good gifts, but in His economy the best gifts are not tangible or material. Yes, our God feels compassion when we hurt, but He still allows hardships into our lives that will refine our character and strengthen our faith. Against the backdrop of these truths, we can better understand the often-misread statement that God will give us the desires of our hearts. The real promise of this verse is that, as we pray, read His Word, and grow closer to the Lord, He will change our hearts so that what we desire for ourselves is what He desires for us.” [Psalm 37:4] 

“Mercy. We don’t deserve it. We haven’t done—can’t possibly do—anything to earn it. And yet we are promised that this unbelievably lavish gift is ours when we choose to follow Jesus. Why? Why would such a perfect and powerful God gives such a gift to ones so undeserving? He tells us in Titus 3:4: because of ‘the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.’ And He not only gave us mercy, He also ‘poured out on us abundantly’ His own Spirit, to live and work within us, making us more and more like the Savior who died to save us.” [Titus 3:4-6] 

“Our God is not some fickle, capricious, changeable sort of God. He does not search out ways to be angry or displeased with His people. In fact, He so wants to be pleased with us that He gave us the example of His Son to follow.” [Ephesians 5:2] 

“When our burdens and sorrows seem too heavy for us to bear, God offers to carry them for us, inviting us to cast them upon Him (Psalm 55:22). And when the sorrow is so great that we feel we cannot put one foot in front of the other, God gives us this promise: ‘I will carry you; I will sustain you’ (Isaiah 46:4).” 

“Perhaps nothing is as devastating as being betrayed by someone you love and trust. Know that Jesus—betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter—fully understands. He will enable you to recover. The key, as hard as it is, is to pray for that person and ask God to bless him or her. When you pray to God—and you may have to do this again and again—you release the anger and disappointment that come with being betrayed. It is difficult to despise someone you lift up in prayer. And though retaliating is a natural response, it’s not a godly one. Praying is always the best option. Allow the Lord to receive your hurt and to replace it with His peace.” [Psalm 3:4, 6] 

“When we place our faith in Christ, the stormy seas of our lives—churned up by our own sins—are stilled. And while the storms may still rage around us in this sin-plagued world, they do not rage within us. That does not mean our troubles and tribulations are over, but it does mean we can rest in knowing God will see us through them.” [Romans 5:1] 

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