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Posts Tagged ‘God’s purpose for troubles’

 

 

‘Ever drive on a highway carved out of a mountainside or high hill where craggy cliffs border each side? Signs along the way warn drivers: Beware of falling rocks.

 

 

I wonder how much good those signs accomplish. Is it really possible to stop in time, should a rock come plummeting down the hillside right in front of your car?

When falling rocks do cause accidents, insurance companies usually categorizes the event as an “act of God.” It’s considered an unavoidable natural disaster that no amount of cautionary measures could have prevented.

Not that God would deliberately cause such an accident. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17).  But he has set into motion certain natural consequences and laws that govern his creation. Erosion and gravity would be two examples at play in the case of falling rocks.

So what are we supposed to do when the road from Point A to Point B includes potential danger? (And doesn’t it always?)

 

 

For that matter, what are we supposed to do when the road of life includes potential danger? (Again, doesn’t it always?)

Many of us allow worry to niggle in our minds:

  • How many rocks do you suppose have fallen along this stretch already?
  • Does the Corps of Engineers check regularly for erosion?
  • Is that jutting rock up ahead breaking loose?
  • What’s up with that pile of rocks by the side of the road? That can’t be a good sign.

How do we steer clear of such thoughts? A good way to begin:

 

 

  1. Replace fearful thoughts with faith-filled thoughts.

“The only happy way to deal with [falling rocks and other such adversities] is the way of faith: faith in the purposes of God, in the presence of God, in the promises of God, and in the power of God” (Peter Marshall*).

  1. Affirm that God does indeed have loving purpose in it all. 

Even when rocks fall?

Yes, because God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19) and God is good (Psalm 145:9). Many saints through the ages have endured pain, suffering, and calamity, yet came to understand that God accomplished positive purpose(s) through it all.

 

 

Just one such saint out of many: Elizabeth Elliot.  Perhaps you already know the story. Her young husband, Jim, was one of five missionaries brutally murdered by Auca Indians in Ecuador, 1956. Their daughter was just ten months old. Yet Elizabeth was able to write this:

“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”

And no doubt, those two realities in Elizabeth’s life, the presence of God and the love of God, were precious treasures indeed.

In addition, hundreds of young men and women vowed to become missionaries as a result of the example and inspiration of those five young martyrs.  Most amazing of all, numerous members of the Auca tribe eventually became Christians, including the killers of Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries with him.  (You can read more of the incredible story here.)

 

  1. Decide like the Apostle Paul: the only thing that really matters is exalting Jesus (Philippians 1:19-21).

 

 

And exalting Jesus can be achieved in any circumstance.

 

  1. Understand that tests and challenges are “sheer gifts” (James 1:3 MSG).

Why? The testing of faith develops perseverance. And perseverance leads to maturity and strength of character (vs. 3-4).

I like the sound of that: maturity and strength of character. So when I’m the victim of falling rocks and start to give in to self-pity, worry, or complaining, please remind me of these principles.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Thank you, Father, for providing the way of faith on the treacherous road of life.  We can trust your purpose for all things, your presence in all situations, your scripture promises of hope and comfort, and your power to see us through.  Hallelujah!

 (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 13:5b; Psalm 145:13; Matthew 19:26b)

 

(1) Author, pastor, and chaplain of the United States Senate in the late 1940s.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pexels.com & Nancy Ruegg;  http://www.inspirationalchristians.org; http://www.pixabay.com & Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s nothing quite like a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. The best recipes (and a decent oven!) create a buttery crunch on the outside and a chewy, chocolate-and-walnut infused center.

Of course, every ingredient of the recipe is necessary—not just the chips and nuts. You have to include the flour, butter, eggs, and more. Leave one out, and the results will be hugely disappointing.

Take vanilla extract, for example. A batch of chocolate chip cookies is quite bland without that one teaspoon of flavoring. But have you ever tasted vanilla extract all by itself?  Whew!  It is shockingly strong and bitter.

Now try this idea on for size: Our lives are a bit like chocolate chips cookies!

(Stay with me–the simile will be clear in a moment!)

Just as it takes a variety of ingredients to make delectable cookies, it takes a variety of people and circumstances to make our lives into “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Some ingredients, like chips and walnuts, can be enjoyed all on their own. Similarly, God’s recipe for each of us also includes blessings, provided solely for our pleasure—all on their own.

But then there’s that vanilla. So awful by itself; so transforming when combined with the rest of the ingredients.

I see that vanilla as representative of the distasteful and bitter experiences God allows in our lives. Without them, we’d end up as bland and good-for-nothing as vanilla-less chocolate chip cookies.

Every person, every situation God allows into our lives has the potential to make us like Jesus. Even the bitter ones. No, especially the bitter ones. It’s those uncomfortable, challenging relationships and situations that transform us the most. For example:

  • Would Joseph have been as prepared to be second-in-command under Pharaoh—without being sold into slavery or thrown into prison? Probably not. He learned invaluable lessons about organization and leadership while overseeing Potiphar’s household. Those skills only increased while Joseph was incarcerated and given responsibility for all that was done in the prison.
  • Would David the shepherd boy have become the greatest king of Israel? Undoubtedly, his perseverance and faith grew strong as he struggled through fifteen years of waiting—and hiding in caves from Saul.
  • Would Paul’s ministry have been as effective to the persecuted Christians of the first century, if he himself had not been exposed to great suffering?

It’s true. Just a teaspoon of trouble can create great benefit. Trials offer us opportunities for:

  • Growing spiritually and emotionally
  • Ministering to others with understanding and empathy
  • Developing a closer relationship with God
  • Preparing for a God-ordained change-of-direction in life
  • Praising, as God engineers circumstances beyond our dreams

However.

We must be willing participants.

Perhaps our prayer could be based on Ephesians 3:20, a verse often quoted to give us hope for blessing. But this scripture also offers great hope for the good accomplished through difficulty:

“All glory to God,

who is able,

through his mighty power

at work within us,

to accomplish infinitely more

than we might ask or think.”

Just as a bit of acrid vanilla works wonders in the cookie dough,…

God uses the bitter moments to work wonders in our lives.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your infinite wisdom. You know exactly what to allow into my life to achieve your ultimate purpose. I thank you for the blessings but also for the trials. May I be a willing participant, like Joseph, David, and Paul. And may I become strong and resilient as they were—for your honor and glory. Amen.

(Photo credit:  www.thehealthyfoodblog.wordpress.com.)

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