“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
We never choose to suffer, rather we choose His will. We must do so whether we suffer or not.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
On a dirt road in the middle of a wide field stood a beautiful carriage, something on the order of a stagecoach but all edged in gold and with beautiful carvings. It was pulled by six large chestnut horses: two in the lead, two in the middle and two in the rear. But they were not moving, they were not pulling the carriage, and I wondered why. Then I saw the driver underneath the carriage on the ground on his back just behind the last two horses’ heels working on something between the front wheels on the carriage. I thought, “My, he is in a dangerous place; for if one of those horses kicked or stepped back, they could kill him, or if they decided to go forward, or got frightened somehow, they would pull the carriage right over him.”
But he didn’t seem afraid for he knew that those horses were disciplined and would not move till he told them to move. The horses were not stamping their feet nor acting restless, and though there were bells on their feet, the bells were not tinkling. There were pom-poms on their harness over their heads but the pom-poms were not moving. They were simply standing still and quiet waiting for the voice of the Master.
THERE WERE TWO YOUNG COLTS IN THE FIELD
As I watched the harnessed horses I noticed two young colts coming out of the open field and they approached the carriage and seemed to say to the horses: “Come and play with us, we have many fine games, we will race with you, come catch us.” And with that the colts kicked up their heels flicked their tails and raced across the open field. But when they looked back and saw the horses were not following they were puzzled. They knew nothing of the harnesses and could not understand why the horses did not want to play. So they called to them: “Why do you not race with us? Are you tired? Are you too weak? Do you not have strength to run? You are much too solemn, you need more joy in life.” But the horses answered not a word nor did they stamp their feet or toss their heads.
But they stood, quiet and still, waiting for the voice of the Master.
Again the colts called to them: “Why do you stand so in the hot sun? Come over here in the shade of this nice tree. See how green the grass is? You must be hungry, come and feed with us, it is so green and so good. You look thirsty, come drink of one of our many streams of cool clear water.” But the horses answered them not so much as a glance but stood still waiting for the command to go forward with the King.
COLTS IN THE MASTER’S CORRAL
And then the scene changed and I saw lariat nooses fall around the necks of the two colts and they were led off to the Master’s corral for training and discipline. How sad they were as the lovely green fields disappeared and they were put into the confinement of the corral with its brown dirt and high fence. The colts ran from fence to fence seeking freedom but found that they were confined to this place of training. And then the Trainer began to work on them with His whip and His bridle. What a death for those who had been all their lives accustomed to such a freedom!
They could not understand the reason for this torture, this terrible discipline. What crime had they done to deserve this? Little did they know of the responsibility that was to be theirs when they had submitted to the discipline, learned to perfectly obey the Master and finished their training. All they knew was that this processing was the most horrible thing they had ever known.
SUBMISSION AND REBELLION
One of the colts rebelled under the training and said, “This is not for me. I like my freedom, my green hills, my flowing streams of fresh water. I will not take any more of this confinement, this terrible training.” So he found a way out jumped the fence and ran happily back to the meadows of grass. I was astonished that the Master let him go and went not after him. But He devoted His attention to the remaining colt. This colt though he had the same opportunity to escape decided to submit his own will and learn the ways of the Master. The training got harder than ever but he was rapidly learning more and more how to obey the slightest wish of the Master and to respond to even the quietness of His voice. And I saw that had there been no training, no testing, there would have been neither submission nor rebellion from either of the colts. For in the field they did not have the choice to rebel or submit, they were sinless in their innocence. But when brought to the place of testing and training and discipline, then was made manifest the obedience of one and the rebellion of the other. And though it seemed safer not to come to the place of discipline because of the risk of being found rebellious, yet I saw that without this there could be no sharing of His glory, no Sonship.
INTO THE HARNESS
Finally this period of training was over. Was he now rewarded with his freedom and sent back to the fields? Oh no. But a greater confinement than ever now took place as a harness dropped about his shoulders. Now he found there was not even the freedom to run about the small corral for in the harness he could only move where and when his Master spoke. And unless the Master spoke he stood still.
The scene changed and I saw the other colt standing on the side of a hill nibbling at some grass. Then across the fields, down the road came the King’s carriage drawn by six horses. With amazement he saw that in the lead, on the right side, was his brother colt now made strong and mature on the good corn in the Master’s stable. He saw the lovely pom-poms shaking in the wind, noticed the glittering gold bordered harness about his brother, heard the beautiful tinkling of the bells on his feet — and envy came into his heart. Thus he complained to himself: “Why has my brother been so honored, and I am neglected? They have not put bells on MY feet nor pom-poms on MY head. The Master has not given ME the wonderful responsibility of pulling His carriage, has not put about ME the gold harness. Why have they chosen my brother instead of me?” And by the Spirit the answer came back to me as I watched: “Because one submitted to the will and discipline of the Master and one rebelled, thus has one been chosen and the other set aside.”
A FAMINE IN THE LAND
Then I saw a great drought sweep across the countryside and the green grass became dead, dry, brown and brittle. The little streams of water dried up, stopped flowing, and there was only a small muddy puddle here and there. I saw the little colt (I was amazed that it never seemed to grow or mature) as he ran here and there across the fields looking for fresh streams and green pastures finding none. Still he ran, seemingly in circles, always looking for something to feed his famished spirit. But there was a famine in the land and the rich green pastures and flowing streams of yesterday were not to be had. And one day the colt stood on the hillside on weak and wobbly legs wondering where to go next to find food and how to get strength to go. It seemed like there was no use, for good food and flowing streams were a thing of the past and all the efforts to find more only taxed his waning strength.
Suddenly he saw the King’s carriage coming down the road pulled by six great horses. And he saw his brother, fat and strong, muscles rippling, sleek and beautiful with much grooming. His heart was amazed and perplexed, and he cried out: “My brother where do you find the food to keep you strong and fat in these days of famine? I have run everywhere in my freedom, searching for food, and I find none. Where do you in your awful confinement find food in this time of drought? Tell me, please, for I must know!” And then the answer came back from a voice filled with victory and praise: “In my Master’s House there is a secret place in the confining limitations of His stables where He feeds me by His own hand and His granaries never run empty and His well never runs dry.” And with this the Lord made me to know that in the day when people are weak and famished in their spirits in the time of spiritual famine that those who have lost their own wills and have come into the secret place of the most High into the utter confinement of His perfect will shall have plenty of the corn of Heaven and a never ending flow of fresh streams of revelation by His Spirit. Thus the vision ended.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION
“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” (Habakkuk 2:2). “Harness the horses; and get up, ye horseman,” (Jeremiah 46:4). I am sure that many of you who can hear what the Spirit saith to the Church have already seen what God was showing in the vision. But let me make it plain. Being born into the Family of God feeding in the green pastures and drinking of the many streams of the unfolding revelation of His purposes is fine and wonderful. But it is not enough. While we were children, young and undisciplined, limited only by the outer fence of the Law that ran around the limits of the pastures (that kept us from getting into the dark pastures of poison weeds) He was content to watch us develop and grow into young manhood, spiritually speaking.
But the time came to those who fed in His pastures and drank at His streams, when they were to be brought into discipline or “child-training” for the purpose of making them mature Sons. Many of the children today cannot understand why some of those who have put on the harness of God cannot get excited by the many religious games and the playful antics of the immature. They wonder why the disciplined ones run not after every new revelation or feed on every opportunity to engage in seemingly “good and profitable” religious activities. They wonder why some will not race with them in their frantic efforts to build great works and great and notable ministries. They cannot understand the simple fact that this Company of saints is waiting for the voice of the Master and they do not hear God in all this outward activity.
They will move in their time when the Master speaks. But not before, though many temptations come from the playful colts. And the colts cannot understand why those who seemingly appear to have great abilities and strength are not putting it to good use. “Get the carriage on the road,” they say, but the disciplined ones, those in God’s harness, know better than to move before they hear the voice of the Master. They will move in their time with purpose and great responsibility.
And the Lord made me to know that there were many whom He had brought into training who had rebelled against the discipline, the chastising of the Father. They could not be trusted with the great responsibility of mature Sonship so He let them go back to their freedom, back to their religious activities and revelations and gifts. They are still His people, still feeding in His pastures, but He has set them aside from the great purposes for this end of the age. So they revel in their freedom feeling that they were the Chosen Ones with the many streams of living water not knowing that they have been set aside as unfit for His great work in this end of the age.
He showed me that though the chastising seemeth grievous for the time and the discipline hard to endure yet the result with all the glory of Sonship is worth it all and the glory to follow far exceeds the suffering we endure. And though some lose even their lives in this training yet they will share alike in the glory of His eternal purposes. So faint not saints of God for it is the Lord that doth bring thee into confinement and not thine enemy. It is for thy good and for His glory so endure all things with praises and thanksgiving that He hath counted thee worthy to share His glory!
Fear thou not the whip in His hand for it is not to punish thee but to correct and train thee that thou mightest come into submission to His will and be found in His likeness in that hour. Rejoice thou in thy trials in all thy tribulations and glory thou in His cross and in the confining limitations of His harness for He hath chosen thee and He hath taken upon Himself the responsibility of keeping thee strong and well fed. So lean thou upon Him and trust not in thine own ability and thine own understanding. So shalt thou be fed and His hand shall be upon thee and His glory shall overshadow thee and shall flow through thee as it goes forth to cover the earth. Glory to God! Bless the Lord! He’s wonderful! Let Him be Lord of your life, friends, and complain not at that which He bringeth to pass in your life.
Bill Britton served as Vice President of Pinecrest Bible Training Center for the first three years of its existence and was a great blessing in helping to establish the work at Pinecrest.
I first connected with this message in 1984, by a man named, Bob Mumford. As a young Christian, the allegory “nailed” me. What did I want for my life? I had to make some decisions. I sincerely wanted to follow the Father through this process. And this hasn’t changed in almost 40 years.
For more of these and other messages: Bill Britton P.O. Box 707 Springfield, Missouri 65801-0707. This is a faith ministry, made possible by members of the Body of Christ. Not copyrighted, may be translated or reprinted without further permission. All messages are free as the Lord provides.
“Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.”
Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary martyred by the Auca Indians of Ecuador in 1956. He was just 29 years old. This quote was found in a journal he kept.
“He makes His ministers a flame of fire.” Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul – short life? … Make me thy fuel, Flame of God.”
Jim Elliot, “Shadow of the Almighty”
A wonderful and intense quote. Passionate. Maybe we should dismantle it and consider what he was trying to say. There are some great insights to be found here.
First, he writes of asking God to be saturated with the oil of the Spirit. Jim Elliot wants to be set on fire with his life, heart, and spirit becoming the fuel.
Second, he writes of “dread asbestos.” Almost 2000 degrees F is needed to melt it. Now regarded as a carcinogen but because it’s basically fireproof it was used often. For the person walking by faith it illustrates sin.
Third, he writes about the brevity and shortness of his life and his need to live in the bright light of eternity.
The ponderosa pine needs fire to propagate. Their seeds are fire-activated.
Fire activates the cone that holds the seeds. Looking we see a tight little bundle which is covered in resin. To germinate they must be burned. Fire melts the exterior and the pine cone and releases the seed; and actually they can lay dormant for several years waiting for the heat.
The believer needs heat to grow.
I don’t think there is any other way. The Word and the Spirit, combined with the heat of the circumstances we face, creates a blaze that is often seen by others. The furnace is God’s way to bring lasting change to His people.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”’
Walking with Jesus to Emmaus, Luke 24:32
“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
God’s temple was now filled with an evil darkness. King Manasseh made the Lord’s holy place a fountain of sin and filth. Instead of holiness, it was an evil place.
He brought in dark things that were twisted, perverted and clearly forbidden.
“Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.”
2 Chronicles 33:9, ESV
His own darkness was now encouraged by others, it became accessible, available and promoted:
The high places were rebuilt throughout the land.
Altars to Baal rebuilt, using images of wood.
In the holy temple, altars to the “starry host,” astrology, plain and simple.
Human sacrifice of his own sons to Molech, a false god. Murder.
He practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists.
Evil was being encouraged and something wicked was replacing all that was good and true. The analysis of Manasseh’s policies was way beyond disturbing. Of all the kings of Judah, he was the most sinful and the most corrupt. He was at the bottom of the barrel.
The Hebrew word for “led astray” can be translated seduced.
Manasseh was an incredibly immoral man, a king who ruled for 40 years. “He did all he could to pervert the national character, and totally destroy the worship of the true God; and he succeeded.” (Clarke)
It’s believed that he put Isaiah to death by cutting him in two.
Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.
1 Kings 21:16
But then something happened.
And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.
2 Chronicles 33:10-11
Assyria came knocking on Manasseh’s door. I think there was a certain mercy here, but also discipline. Manasseh had “hooks,” inserted through his jaw and out of his mouth. Like a fish he was led to Babylon, a trophy of the power of the army of Babylon.
It was from a dark dungeon that Manasseh cried out to the Lord and repented.
There’s a Jewish fable that when Manasseh cried out to God the angels boarded up the windows in heaven. They wanted to block out his prayer so God wouldn’t be able to hear. But God, rich in mercy, bored a hole in front of His throne to hear Manasseh’s desperate cry.
The Lord’s intention was to forever show His kindness and grace given to the most awful repentant sinner.
I believe that Manasseh was the “Prodigal Son” of the Old Testament.
God is not at a loss when He moves to bring us back to Himself. He can woo or whip. He can draw or drive. He can work rapidly or slowly, as He pleases. In other words, He is free to be God! And in His own way, at His own pace, He brings us back.
“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’
“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”
— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.
Ministering to these extreme sufferers can be a real challenge.
What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in unbelievable pain?
Perhaps a very simple word of calm encouragement is the only real way to touch their hearts. They often don’t need another teaching or a link to a website. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact, I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.
He refused to preach or counsel me. The light he carried was more than enough.
He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should become our own method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway. (If you hear someone quoting Philippians 1:6 in heaven, that will probably be Fred.) 🙂
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”
It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.
But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,
A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.
The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.
Isaiah 50:4, CEB
Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. He will give you, in His time, a good word for them.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.“
“Once we have come through the ‘furnace of humiliation,’ desperately, fearfully clinging to Christ for all He is worth, then we are fully equipped to march into somebody else’s furnace.”
‘Blessed with Bipolar”
Becoming a real and authentic person starts with the responses that we’ve made in the presence of Jesus. Amazingly, this simple faith becomes the prerequisite, granting us the right to enter into the promises of the Lord. If you have those promises you may enter. However, without faith in those promises, you won’t find anything real.
You will not be able to handle the Kingdom of God unless you’re walking out of a life of brokenness and humility!
Furnace people will often recognize those without any real and tangible connection with God’s work. There are furnace promises, but many, without truly understanding will walk around in unreality. Often ‘they get religion.’ These are those who land on “the rocky soil.” They become ‘quasi-disciples’ who will do and say things that they really don’t really understand.
But furnace people have a connection to that which is honest and true. The Holy Spirit refuses to give up. These people can’t tolerate anything false or manipulative. Their own hearts are being transformed by the fire, and it seems only then are qualified to minister God’s grace. Only furnace people can enter. You will know them by their scars.
The Church has a tremendous need for those who have withstood the furnace of humiliation.
After we endure its ugliness and its great evil, we’ll discover that we’re in an altogether different place than when we first started. The Church is waiting for those who went in and then come out on the other side. Again, the furnace of affliction will have done its work.
I was thinking today about Joseph, and his ordeal, as found in the Book of Genesis chapters 37-50. He was a rare kind of person. Perhaps, one in a thousand. You may emulate but never exceed his faith. His confidence in the Lord was true and came from his lousy circumstances.
Furnace people have the ability to function gracefully at this particular stage.
Furnace people are sovereignly brought to a place where they can minister the grace of God into desperate situations. We must convince ourselves, that furnace people have a gift. They have been through the worst. They may be battered and bruised. But they still stand. We must look to those who are the gracious agents of a loving God.
Our brothers and sisters have carried the Word with wisdom and grace. They come to us, through the fire. But will we receive them?
My hope is that you will personally grasp what God has worked for you. That really is your truest calling. The things good or bad, that have happened are part of how you’ll understand grace. He waits for you to respond. Will you come to Him, through the grace you find in flames? The most gracious people you’ll ever meet are those who endured God’s furnace.
“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”
38 “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
He isn’t a ghost, a hallucination, or some sort of fabrication of hopeful desires. He’s real! As real as you or I–solid, flesh and blood, and real bones. That may seem like a small thing, but it reveals to the disciples (and us) so much. When his resurrection happened, it didn’t alter Him or change his physical attributes. The disciples were floored when the solid Jesus showed up to be with them.
It was a late Sunday evening.
The doors were shut tight, and the eleven were hiding out there–scared and wallowing in doubt. That’s a lousy mixture. Jesus doesn’t knock on the door, he just pops right into their gathering. That must of been a bit of a shake-up in itself. I know I would have freaked. (And I would’ve taken a serious look at that door.)
At the core, they couldn’t believe that he was real. Maybe a ghost, His spirit, or something else? I’m fairly certain that even if this “man” was really Jesus, it would, maybe be something mystical or ethereal. He wouldn’t be flesh anyway. That was a real stretch for them–and me too.
If it was really true, it meant that physical things are really spiritual.
What I mean by that earth was now combined with heaven. Jesus, the King of the known universe–the One who sits on the throne–is solidly human. Concrete and quite tangible. He’s not a vague kind of spirit, but he’s just like like us. Finally, something physical!
Let’s not get confused about this; I think it’s a critical point. Eternity will not be a vague and misty reality–nebulous and celestial. It’s now quite relatable. When Jesus walks with you on the golden paths of his heaven, you’ll not be walking with a ghost. He’ll be as you and I are right now. He’ll be real. You’ll be real.
You’ll be able to touch him. And if you really want to you can stick your finger into his wounds (verse 40.) I love what this solid Jesus told Thomas in John 20:27:
“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.
This should shatter any misconceptions you might have. Thomas had real doubts, and instead of getting rebuked, Jesus invites Thomas to discover His reality of himself. This is really quite profound when you think of it. I’m so glad that this happened, I needed to hear it for myself.
I may be a very silly preacher and writer, but that’s the way I see it.
A light shining in this heart of darkness A new beginning and a miracle Day by day the integration Of the concrete and the spiritual
Some time ago I came across a story that connected. A visiting speaker stood in front of a congregation and shared a painful incident from his childhood. He wanted to bring healing. After he spoke, an elder came and spoke to him–
“You have learned how to become a proper steward of your pain.”
The visiting speaker was profoundly touched by this. Finally, something came together in his heart and soul. Yes, he did learn how to deal scripturally with those ugly things from his past. He was becoming a proper steward of his pain.
The word for steward in the original Greek is oikonomos. It literally means “a keeper of a home.” It describes a manager, a superintendent to whom the head of the house or proprietor has entrusted the management of his affairs, the diligent care of receipts and expenditures.
The issue for us is managing these awful things for the Kingdom of God.
No question about it, we live in a world of darkness. Each of us has been touched by hard things. Scars are part of our lives. When we come to Christ they come with us. All of these grim things are a real piece of us, we have been hurt (or maybe we’ve wounded others?)
Are you a good steward of who you are? Whether it’s a trauma, a physical, sexual, or perhaps a mental illness. It’s a scar you carry from your past, and no one is immune from them it seems. You’ll find freedom if you can use these things for Him and his Kingdom.
We must see and understand that Jesus has taken everything and redeemed it all for His glory.
He understands us fully–our past, present, and future. He ‘knows’ us–the real and hidden us. The challenge I suppose is to take these sad events to the throne. He alone can heal and then use that which has devastated us.
Satan has afflicted you in his dark attempt to destroy you.
Jesus intervenes to save. As we grow to accept this, the Holy Spirit comes as our comforter and guide. He starts to teach us true redemption, and the incredible healing that he brings with him. It really is his work, not ours. We finally understand. It’s then we become broken healers that God can use.
We’re being taught (sometimes very slowly) to carry all of these things and plead the blood of Jesus over our past. He covers us completely. He has redeemed us. Luke 1:68 explains much clearer than I can:
“Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel because he has visited and provided redemption for his people.”
Becoming a steward of our pain is his doing. We’re able to touch others with these things that would cripple and destroy others. He has made us “managers” of these things, and we are taught to teach others, declaring that God has completely saved us. He works miracles!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
We’ll sovereignly meet those who need to hear our story. We’re being transformed into authentic witnesses. Yes, at times these awful things still hurt, and I suppose that’s to be expected. But we’re learning to manage them. We’ve become real-life stewards of our pain.
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
Once I was punched in the face while preaching. I served as a full-time evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and the it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.
Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.
Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.
That message seemed appropriate for this place, and especially on this street. God loves these people very much.
A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.
The punch came unexpectedly.
His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.
The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.
One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.
About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.
The Father was reaching him while teaching me!
God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16
I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.
At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.
“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”
“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”
“You have given me many troubles and bad times, but you will give me life again. When I am almost dead, You will keep me alive.”
Psalm 71:20, NCV
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Isaiah 53:3, NASB
Everyone hurts sometimes. We all will face our special sorrows. But there are times when our pain pounds us intensely, and it can get really bad. The darkness rolls in on our souls like a caustic fog. We might devastatingly discover that there are things that are worse than terrible.
I have never spoken out like this, but my wife and I had a daughter who died— she was stillborn. She was doing great, up to a week before her due date. We knew that in seven days, we would be able to see her– face-to-face.
But that was not to be. Elizabeth Grace Lowe died from strangulation (from her own umbilical cord.) Nothing could have been done. My wife had noticed a moment of very frantic activity, as Elizabeth fought for her life. We plummeted from ecstatic joy to devastating sorrow in just seconds. It came “out of the blue,” totally unexpected.
We were completely undone.
“For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.”
Lamentations 3:32-33, NASB
There is pain, but there are also promises.
There can be brutal sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing for all those who grieve. This topic deserves far more attention than this simple post. (If you’re in the thick of things, I’m trusting the Holy Spirit will help you to your next step.)
There can be such sorrow in this life, much more than the human heart can possibly contain. But our Savior has a title (one of many.) He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He is the one who is “on point.” He leads us through such intense hostility. He is there when the switch is flipped and it becomes instantly dark. He can’t, won’t, and will not leave you to face your pain alone.
There are a few things that I want to communicate to you. These have come out of great darkness. I have tried awfully hard to be a disciple, even through the worst of it. They may be right, wrong or just okay, I don’t really know…
God takes the full blame for our pain and sorrow. He doesn’t shift the blame or deny His presence in our sufferings. Sometimes you need to adjust your theology. Maybe it’s hard to trust Him right now–that’s more than understandable. In eternity, I believe, it’ll make perfect sense.
Jesus has fully shared our sorrow. All that you are feeling right now, He feels. If you feel you are at a minus 10, then He does as well. As you suffer, He is your shadow. He knows. He feels it all.
Nothing is ever wasted. We really shouldn’t treat these moments of sorrow as a waste. Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ ‘economy’ after the 5000 were fed? He assigns value to the leftovers. The disciples pick up their baskets and collect everything again. Nothing will go to waste.
This pain, this sorrow is the intensive crash course in becoming a person of mercy. You now will always walk with a limp. At times the scars will be quite visible to those who can really see. This will become forever a healed wound (but a wound nevertheless.) It helps to seek out others who have walked this same path. I don’t think I will ever fully trust a person who doesn’t walk with a limp.
You will need (but maybe not accept) the transformation of your suffering into glory. This will take some time, and it almost feels like you’re not progressing at all. I encourage you to re-think each of these simple points. The Holy Spirit may be working, perhaps behind the scenes.
Finally remember this: God is not a monster, stomping on us like a boy crushes ants. He has carried all of our pain and illness. He clearly comes alongside every suffering believer. It is Satan who would suggest to you that God is a Celestial Menace, not worthy of our love. I will be very blunt with you, that idea has to be implicitly rejected. Its origins are satanic.
*“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 147:3, NLT
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”