Yesterday I shared some personal information regarding some physical difficulties I am experiencing, not so I could get your sympathy, but rather for you to see that all of us, even the “super-spiritual” folks like me, (tee-hee) can experience times of struggle, even suffering to some degree or another. None of us is immune, despite what your prosperity and faith teachers will tell you.
I will tell you what, I have sat under some of the prominent faith teachers out there, and I have not drifted from my messages of faith, because I still teach the same lessons I have always taught, but the Lord wants me to offer some help to those of you are going through tough times.
What that in mind, let me ask you what you are supposed to do when one of your friends or loved ones is dying with a terminal illness? What about the heartaches of those involved in the break up of their marriage? What do you say to the parent who has lost a child . . . or experiencing the misery of their teenager on drugs or incarcerated for a crime they committed? What about the anguish of living with an alcoholic parent–or mate? Or a failure in school or college? How about the loss of a business? Who on earth understands these things?
As I said, I sat under the teachings of the most prominent faith teachers out there, as well as the members of the fellowships I pastored . . . but you know what, they had no idea what to do. Those kinds of experiences didn’t fit into their concept of what it means to walk by faith. In their minds, those kinds of thing only happen to those who have no faith. I know, it’s sad . . . but true.
What happens when your “faith” meets real life? I’ll tell you, you will either rebel and leave or you will become so arrogant, nobody will call on you to help them. They believe you will use your “faith” to simply condemn them, not help them.
So once again, who on earth understands the reality of life? I’ll tell you who–the person who has been through those experiences wrapped in the blanket of God’s comfort and Grace. That’s right. Someone who has “been there,” someone who was walked that road successfully through faith and Grace, is better equipped than anybody else. Once you have endured the stinging experiences of life, you become the perfect counselors God can use.
Years ago, every Monday morning my senior Pastor and I used to go disc golfing and while out on the various courses, we enjoyed our time of fellowship and prayer. We shared the events of our lives had some great times together. He helped me through some very difficult times we were having with our twin boys.
Now he knew I had been a pastor and helped start several fellowships, but years later, he confessed that when he first met me, he saw me as being very arrogant and so self-reliant (instead of completely surrendered to the Lord). However, through the years of struggle and growth, he stated that he would be comfortable with me as his pastor. I was of course deeply touched and very honored by that, but that is when I learned a great truth: Our Father will not cause our troubles, but if we will continually submit to His leadership and seek His wisdom and comfort, we will eventually be prepared to bring encouragement and comfort to those who come across our path and enduring similar situations. Remember that!
Tell me, how anyone, such as a single guy and no children, possibly pastor a brother with his marriage or family? Yet, that is what many are expected to do. Thank about it. We suffer or experience some type of difficulty . . . our Father comes alongside to comfort and encourage us . . . others suffer . . . we then step alongside to comfort and encourage them! With my Father’s arm firmly around my shoulder, I have the strength and stability to place my arm around the shoulder of someone else. Similar experiences create mutual understanding.
This is the reason we can confidently say that our difficult circumstances are never in vain. Sure, the bruises may hurt, but they are not without redemption. Our Father is uniquely preparing us for the comfort of others will need from us. In one sense, we are all “preparing for the ministry.” Our Father will prepare us to meet the deep inner needs of others by bringing us through the dark places first.
Go back to II Corinthians 1 and turn to verse 8:
We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we had been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part (II Corinthians 1:8-11)
I don’t know about you, but I wish Scriptures told us more about Paul’s experiences in Asia, but what we do know is that he was battered, abused and pushed to the very edge of endurance (and maybe a little bit beyond even that!) No, I don’t know how he did it . . . well, maybe I do!
He was pushed so far he no longer had a wall to lean on, no water left in the well, no fine phrases left to repeat in the face of crisis and any other cliché I can think of–in other words, he was pushed to the face of death! Paul said, “This is it. The End of the rope, the end of the line . . .”
How about you? Have you been there–are you there now? Are you standing with Paul at the most desperate point beyond your own strength? Is your hope dwindling away, evaporating like a pool of water under the blazing sun? Well, do you believe it is beyond repair? Do you believe you have reached the end of endurance?
Okay, maybe I am pushing this too hard. If I am, I am sorry, but as unbelievable as it may seem, our Father is able to rescue you, even now. Read that passage above, again. In verse 9 Paul wrote, “Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally.” Once you reach that point, when like Paul, you will find your answer.
When Paul reached the end of his own strength and wisdom, he found his Father’s care and comfort. When he reached rock bottom, he discovered that he was in the palm of his Father’s hand. He could never sink any lower than the Everlasting Arms of his God.
My friend, if I have described the circumstances of your life, calm yourself and sit by a still creek and listen to the voice of your Father. He will give you the Grace to endure and the wisdom to overcome. That is all it will take, peace, that satisfying and wondrous gift of shalom–where according to Colossians 3, [that peaceful state] to which as members of Christ’s one body you were also called to live!