The Testimony of a Godly Man

power-of-prayerHe is risen – He is risen indeed!

I pray that you’ve had an encouraging Easter.  We had five great services at LifePark and I’ve included two songs that were a blessing to me and I pray they will encourage your heart:

Christ Is Risen

Victor’s Crown

Easter is time of hope as we reflect upon the resurrection.  I would like to request your prayers for a few significant matters.  I invite you to join us in prayer for a Godly man – our son-in-law Matthew.  Matthew is a great son-in-law and here are some excerpts from a recent letter why I consider him a Godly man how you can pray for him:

I am 33 years old and appear quite healthy. I never envisioned myself writing this email. Even as I write it, I am not without hope. In fact, Elisabeth and I both have a plan and expectation for success.

After work on Friday, I received a telephone call from the radiation oncologist in Atlanta. She called to inform me that the bone biopsy results arrived and confirmed presence of cancer in the bone. Not only was cancer found in the bone biopsy, but it’s the same kind as the tumor that we already knew about. She described it as stage 4 metastatic cancer. She, very compassionately, described what they would recommend for treatment but that there is no cure to be offered. They only have attempts to “control” or slow the progress of the cancer. The same, or very similar, combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery is all that can be offered, but without expectation of cure.

What do you do with news like this? Well, it was hard for us to receive. A real emotional blow. We have received the encouragement and support of Jesus and our dear friends and family . . .  You might ask, “Why do you feel safe right now, Matthew?” Here is why, another excerpt from “The Gospel According for Job” by Mike Mason: “The moral here should be evident: God’s surest protection can sometimes take the form of apparent obstruction, of darkness and difficulty and pain. Indeed there are times when the very safest place for a believer to be is in the midst of obscurity and suffering, to all appearances cut off from God . . .   I need to say one more thing here. Just in case you are concerned that I have a fatalistic, Que Sera, Sera kind of attitude here, I don’t. I intend to approach every obstacle and part of the sickness with the intent to conquer it. I want to destroy it like a hated enemy. Elisabeth is with me in this. You, our dear friends and family are with us.

With love and thanksgiving,  Matthew

I would also appreciate your prayers for these items:

Please pray for me as I’ll be leaving this week to teach Pastors in India. Pray for God to bring forth much fruit, fruit that will remain (John 15:16).

Please pray for the Lord’s anointing as I teach and disciple His people (both here and overseas).

Please pray for our family, that we will be strong in the Lord and a support Matthew and his family during this time and that God may bring His healing touch to Matthew.

Thank you for your prayers, please let me know how I can pray for you.  Thank you for your partnership in ministry.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Holy Land Key

Holy land keyThere seems to be a incessant fascination showing how world events intersect with the teaching of the Bible.   The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley reveals how the Bible provides insight into current events.

Bentley writes, “Two concepts revolutionized how I read the Bible and can be especially helpful in reorienting our study of prophecy:  learning to identify and read God’s patterns, and applying the principle of ‘first natural, then spiritual’”  (p. 113).  He applies this principle throughout the book as he discusses the phenomenon of lunar eclipses, “A total eclipse, as opposed to a partial one, causes the moon to appear blood red.  The very rare occurrence of four blood moons in succession in called a tetrad” (p. 190).  When a total lunar eclipse tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days there have been significant events in the nation of Israel (e.g.  the 1967 – Six-day war or shortly after Israel became a nation in 1948).   The next tetrad will occur in 2014-2015.  “After 2015, there are no more tetrads of blood moons on the Jewish feast days for the rest of this century” (p. 192).

Bentley  is not an alarmist as he acknowledges the truth of God’s word that we cannot make specific predictions, we can only know the season,

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.  (Matthew 25:13)

Bentley writes, “Will something happen in the Middle East in 2014-2015?  I don’t know.  Only God knows” (p. 192).   A cursory glance at the headlines reveals the Middle East is a geopolitical hot spot and a significant event involving Israel is a distinct possibility.

Bentley writes with a pastor’s heart as he points out, “The Bible has 365 verses that whisper, shout, admonish, exhort, comfort, and encourage us:  Do not be afraid.  Fear not.  God has not given us the spirit fear.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  Be anxious for nothing. (p. 187).   It’s a comfort to know that as we look at the events in the world that God is in control and He is working all things out for His good.   If you have an interest in biblical prophecy, then you may find this an interesting book.   (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Does God Always Answer Prayer?

answers to prayerAs a young Christian I was perplexed why some of my prayers went unanswered.  Have you ever experienced the frustration of a prayer that went unanswered?   As I’ve grown in the Christian faith, I’ve learned there may be a number of reasons why our prayers seem to go unanswered.

I find it fascinating that although Jesus’ disciples asked Him to “teach them to pray” that Jesus never mentioned the topic of unanswered prayer.  Jesus had the conviction that,

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.   (John 15:7)

So what happens when our prayers are not answered?  Perhaps one of the reasons is that we’re not abiding in Him – God answers our prayers but it may not be the answer we’re expecting.  We see one small part but God sees the whole picture.

Aren’t you glad that God has not answered some of the prayers you’ve prayed in the past?  It’s like the story,  of a married couple,  both 60 years old,  who were celebrating their 35th anniversary.   During their party, a fairy appeared to congratulate them and grant them each one a wish.  The wife wanted to travel around the world.  The fairy waved her wand and poof – the wife had tickets in her hand for a world cruise.   Next, the fairy asked the husband what he wanted.  He said, “I wish I had a wife 30 years younger than me.”  So the fairy picked up her wand and poof – the husband was 90.

If our prayers don’t turn out the way we expect we may come to three erroneous conclusions:

1.  God is not powerful – a cursory reading of Scripture refutes this statement.

2.  God doesn’t love us – again the corpus of Scripture reveals this is not true

3.  I’m not faithful enough – Satan can use this to put a load of guilt upon us.  You must realize that the reason God answers your prayers is not because of the effort of your prayers but rather it is because we come in the name and authority of Jesus.

If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  (John 14:14)

It is not because of your efforts that you are accepted by God, but it is because of what Jesus has already done on your behalf.  Many times we pray to change our circumstances when God is using your circumstances to change you.   Oswald Chambers emphasizes this aspect of prayer,

To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.  (My Utmost for His Highest, August 28)

 This can be especially challenging because we may hear from well meaning Christians that if you just pray hard enough God will answer your prayer (the way you wanted it answered).   They believe that faithful people don’t get sick – the corollary to this myth is that if I am sick it’s because of sin.  This is what the disciples believed in John 9 when they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”  Jesus responded,

It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  (John 9:3)

The myth that goes with this is that God will always bring healing if you just get the right prayer.  Why didn’t someone tell Timothy or Paul that truth so they could have been healed?  Paul prayed three times that God would remove his thorn in the flesh but God did something better.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Remember that God knows what He’s doing.  Reflect upon the  prayer of an unknown confederate soldier,

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was give life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for—but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

The Apostle Peter who endured a great amount of suffering gives this wise advice,

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.  (1 Peter 4:19)

May we always live with eternity’s values in mind.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Do you know that you don’t know?

cypress_logoThis past week a team from LifePark traveled to a Church Planting workshop sponsored by The Cypress Project.  It was a great opportunity to partner together with other churches to see how we could mobilize transformed people into a lost culture so that every man, woman, and child could have the opportunity to see, hear, and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We discussed what makes for an effective Church Planting movement as well as the barriers that we may encounter.  Our presenter asked the question, “What is the number one reason why leaders fail to develop a movement to reach a city with the Gospel?”  How would you respond to that question?

The number one reason he presented is a lack of self-awareness.  The Scriptures give credence to this assertion:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.  (Psalm 139:23-24)

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;
who can understand it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.  (1 Timothy 4:16)

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

We must realize that it’s only by the grace of God that we can effectively serve Him.  We need a humble reliance upon God and a willingness to listen to the body of Christ.  The truth is all of us have blind spots.  If you don’t believe you have blind spots you may be setting yourself up for failure (see my blog post entitled “Seeing the Unexpected” for a fascinating video that reveals how we can overlook the obvious).  How is your self-awareness?

We must in humility realize that there are areas in our lives that we don’t  know and may we not be like the individual who doesn’t know that he doesn’t know (see my post on “The Bed of Procrustes” for a development of this concept).  We must heed the words of the Apostle Paul,

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.  (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Who is a person that you know who can speak truth into your life?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Lean In

lean-in-cover-cropSheryl Sandberg  is the COO of Facebook and the relates lessons of  life and leadership in her best seller Lean In.   She points out how stereotypes are holding women back from senior leadership positions in the world.  She affirms that “This book makes the case for leaning in, for being ambitions in any pursuit” (p. 10).

Lean In is filled with a number of leadership principles for both men and women.   She poses the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” (pp. 12, 25).  Throughout the book she challenges women to respond with self-confidence.    She describes her own self-doubt realizing that her feelings were not based in reality, “It wasn’t until I heard the Phi Beta Kappa speech about self-doubt that it struck me:  the real issue was not that I felt like a fraud, but that I could feel something deeply and profoundly and be completely wrong” (p. 32).

She emphasizes the importance of initiative, “You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around.  The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have” (p. 35).  She underscores the truth that leadership involves change and the necessity of moving people from here to there.  She writes, “If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress” (p. 51).

She incorporates a number of helpful metaphors throughout the book,  such as the corporate world is a jungle gym rather than a nice neat corporate ladder.  As she describes the difference, “. . . a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top.  On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above” (p. 53).

Lean In provides a good perspective on mentoring as she points out, “. . . searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming” (p. 66).  Our emphasis on the necessity to have a mentor can teach us to become too dependent upon others.  “We need to stop telling them, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’  Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor’” (p. 68).

She has an excellent chapter on seeking and speaking truth with authenticity.   She maintains, “. . . the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance” (p. 84).

Sandberg points out a major way that women hold themselves back is that they leave before they leave – they mentally check-out through self-doubt and the lack of encouragement from others.  She compares a career to a marathon.  The people on the sidelines are cheering on the male runners “Lookin’ strong!  On your way!”  whereas the female runners are given another message, “You know you don’t have to do this!” (p. 100).

Throughout the book there is an emphasis that men and women  must respond with equality toward one another.  “Each partner needs to be in charge of specific activities or it becomes too easy for one to feel like he’s doing a favor instead of doing his part” (p. 109).  She encourages men to “lean in” to their families (p. 113).

Much of the frustration that men and women feel is the myth of trying to do it all.  “Trying to do it all and expecting that it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment.  Perfection is the enemy” (p. 123).  She encourages  readers to set reasonable goals and practice guilt management as well as time management.  She acknowledges the differences between men and women as she quotes Marie Wilson, “Show me a woman without guilt and I’ll show you a man” (p. 138).

She describes leadership as “. . . making others better as a result of your presence and making  sure that impact lasts in your absence” (p. 157).  Some may push back that this book emphasizes a feminist perspective; however, it’s difficult to argue with her definition of a feminist, “A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” (p. 158).

This book is a clarion call to both men and women to respect one another’s equality, “Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice” (p. 160).

Lean In does not encourage all women to enter the corporate world but rather for all women “. . . to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential” (p. 171).   The Apostle Paul points out,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:28)

 Sheryl Sandberg has presented lessons in life and leadership that are  helpful to both men and women.  If you want a sample of the content of Lean In, you may want to view her TED Talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.”  What are your thoughts on Lean In?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

How God Makes Men

how God makes menHow God Makes Men by Patrick Morley looks at the lives of ten Biblical heroes to examine how God developed their character. This book is filled with practical wisdom how you can develop those same strong character traits in your life.

Morley looks at the lives of ten different men from the Bible with a special emphasis on the . . .

faith of Abraham
perseverance of Joseph
humility of Moses
courage of Gideon
heart of David
wisdom of Solomon
zeal of Nehemiah
integrity of Job
boldness of  Peter
passion of Paul

Each chapter focuses on a Bible character and how God developed that specific character trait in his life.   This book is filled with wisdom that the author has gained over the years from working with and discipling men.  Here is a representative sample of the timeless principles throughout the book:

Because God is good, your life will not turn out like you planned.  (p. xii)

God can use an inadequate man once he realizes he is inadequate.  (p. 50)

We see ourselves as we are,  but God sees us as we are going to be.  (p. 56)

God and you constitute a majority in any situation.  (p. 58)

Despite your asterisk, you can be forgiven.  (p, 74)

(God is) calling ordinary men into an extraordinary relationship.  (p. 140)

The Apostle Paul informs us,

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  (Romans 15:4)

Morley has provided instruction and encouragement to give not only hope but also instruction for daily living.   The writer of Hebrews reminds us to,

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.  (Hebrews 13:7)

This book provides encouragement for you to consider their conduct and imitate their faith.   I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to develop a biblical character and especially for those involved with discipling others.   This book includes a brief Discussion Leader’s Guide and a corresponding website.   (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Joshua’s Advice

joshua-225The book of Joshua chronicles Israel’s conquest of the promised land.  As the soldiers returned home from battle Joshua gave them a new assignment.  They were not to let down their guard but they were to realize their new adversary was not external but internal – it was their tendency to go astray and forget about God.   Joshua’s advice that was given 3,000 years ago is just as timely for us today.  Pay special attention to the verbs,

 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Joshua 22:5)

If Israel would have carried out the commands in this verse it would have spared them much grief; but the truth is if we carry out the commands of this verse it can save us from much grief.  Let’s look at each of the commands:

You are to be very careful to observe the commands of the law which Moses gave.  You may be thinking, “But I don’t know all of those commands.”   Jesus summarized the law in two cogent commandments,

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31)

Jesus’ answer ties in with Joshua’s next words of advice,  to love the LORD your God.  My love for God is often demonstrated when I keep His commandments,

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.  (John 14:21)

The next two verbs reinforce each other as we “walk in all His ways and keep His commandments” we are living lives of obedience to His word.  Throughout the Bible we see the principle that obedience to God’s word brings blessings and departure from God’s word results in consequences.

Joshua then encouraged his audience to  hold fast to Him.  What does it mean to “hold fast”?  Years ago I was free climbing up the side of a mountain to set up a top rope climb for my students.  When you are free climbing there is no safety rope, it’s simply you and the rock.  Knowing I had no protection I held fast to the rock surface so that I would not fall.  That’s how God wants us to hold fast to Him – desperately clinging to Him so that we don’t fall.

Finally, you are to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  This implies a joyful and willing spirit.  Our relationship with God is often demonstrated in our service to God and for others.

How does your life match up with these six imperatives?   If you’re like me you’re constantly working on them – making progress but also seeing room for improvement.  Don’t grow weary in doing well but keep on following Joshua’s advice.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Knowing and Doing

wca 2Tucked away in 1 Chronicles is an amazing verse about the men of Issachar,

Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.  (1 Chronicles 12:32)

We see that the men of Issachar understood the times in which they lived – they properly discerned their cultural context.   We often see our circumstances not as they are but as we are.   A few years ago I was visiting a church and one of the leaders was bemoaning the fact that the young people were not coming to the church.  He said, “This is a great church.”  I replied, “This is a great church . . . for 1950 – the problem is we’re in the 21st century.”

It’s not enough to understand the times, you must also know what to do.  You must have a strategy to apply the principles of God’s word to your cultural context.  The men of Issachar knew what Israel should do.  Do we as church leaders know what our church should do to fulfill the great commission?

I had the opportunity last week to invest some time with the Willow Creek Association to better understand the times and develop a strategy of what the church should do.  I learned about cultural trends such as the millennial generation and multiculturalism.  Henry Cloud gave an interactive  presentation how leaders can experience true connection in their life and ministry.  Bill Hybels led a question and answer session coupled with a presentation on  cutting edge ministry ideas.   We closed our series of meetings with a presentation of the Global Leadership Summit faculty for 2014 (I will be saying more about the faculty in forthcoming blogs).  Mark August 14-15 2014 on your calendar for the Global Leadership Summit – it will provide you with the ability to better understand the times and give you the tools to know what your church should do.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Knowledge of the Holy

knowledge of the HolyThe Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer is a cogent treatise on the majesty of God.  As you read this book you are filled with awe concerning God’s greatness as well as provided  with practical applications for daily living.  Tozer opens the book by writing, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

If you have not read this book I strongly encourage you to read and meditate upon these great truths to gain a fresh view of God. Here’s a  sampling of some pearls of wisdom:

“Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith.”

“. . . because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological.”

“We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasoning of the theological mind.”

“So as I stretch my heart toward the high shining love of God someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope.”

“Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.”

“Teach us to know that we cannot know, for the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Let faith support us where reason fails, and we shall think because we believe, not in order that we may believe.”

“Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its faith not in the living God, but in dying men.”

“To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being.”

“As a sunbeam perishes when cut off from the sun, so man apart from God would pass back into the void of nothingness from which he first leaped at the creative call.”

“The various elements of truth stand in perpetual antithesis, sometimes requiring us to believe apparent opposites while we wait for the moment when we shall know as we are known.”

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”

“Faith must precede all effort to understand. Reflection upon revealed truth naturally follows the advent of faith, but faith comes first to the hearing ear, not to the cogitating mind.”

“The truth is that the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity, but of perfect humanity.”

“To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn.”

“Until we have seen ourselves as God see us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing.”

“The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.”

“The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid – that is the paradox of faith.”

“God’s being is unitary; it is not composed of a number of parts working harmoniously, but simply one. There is nothing in His justice which forbids the exercise of His mercy.”

“The focal point of man’s interest is now himself.  Humanism in its various forms has displaced theology as the key to the understanding of life.”

The Apostle Paul realized the significance of knowing God as he wrote to the Philippians,

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  (Philippians 3:10)

Calvin wisely observed in the  Institutes of Christian Religion  that without the knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, “. . . it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”  (Book I.1.1)

Teach us, O God, that nothing is necessary to Thee. Were anything necessary to Thee that thing would be the measure of Thine imperfection: and how could we worship one who is imperfect?  If nothing is necessary to Thee, then no one is necessary, and if no one, then not we. Thou dost seek us though Thou does not need us. We seek Thee because we need Thee, for in Thee we live and move and have our being.  Amen.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

 

Affliction

Psalms-119-Verse-71pI don’t like affliction.  I don’t like it when my family or friends experience affliction.  But I also realize that we live in a fallen world and we will experience affliction and hardship.   The Psalmist gives us God’s perspective when we face affliction,

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.  (Psalm 119:71)

Later on he reflects on the truth that God’s word enabled him to endure his affliction,

If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.  (Psalm 119:92)

It’s interesting that affliction led him to God’s word and then God’s word preserved him in his affliction.   Sometimes it is in the desert of Sinai that you find the mountain of God.

C.S. Lewis writing in The Problem of Pain wisely observes, “We can ignore even pleasure.  But pain insists upon being attended to.  God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Years ago in the navy I learned that smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.   In your life you’ve probably noticed that the roots grow deep when the winds are strong.

I am learning that God designs what we go through, but we decide how we go through it.  Viktor Frankl in his classic book,  Man’s Search for Meaning, writes,  “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:   the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ”  I am learning  that adversity can produce Godly character and endurance,

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (Romans 5:3-4)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

Adversity feels you’re taking the test before you’ve finished studying.  Life doesn’t get easier but you get stronger.  The Apostle Paul puts our earthly affliction into perspective,

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

May you realize that the sufferings of this present age are not even worthy to be compared to the glory that will one day be revealed to us.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5