Tag Archives: Trials

The Prerequisite for Spiritual Passion


alivebright_1024x1024The Prerequisite of Spiritual Passion

Text:  2 Kings 4:1-7

Since we have arrived in Zambia, I have heard several people make comment about wanting to experience a spiritual breakthrough.  It seems to be a common expression here and around the world, but what do people mean by it?  Well, there are many things, but here at Kitwe Church, what do we mean by it?

What is a Breakthrough? A breakthrough is a major advancement in your life.  Breaking past an obstacle that once hindered you.  Shattering that glass ceiling in your spiritual life to reach new heights. Some of the people who have said this to me were people who were not yet believers.  They know they need something bigger than themselves to make sense of the circumstances they face in their lives. Others who have said this to me are people who are genuine Christians.  They have experienced God’s power.  Many of them have even experienced great victories in their personal spiritual lives.  God has even used them in great ways for ministry.  However, they are now going though a spiritual slump.  They feel like God is far from them.  They want to experience God’s closeness and power again.  They want to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others…but they have become discouraged and disillusioned and wonder if God will ever use them again.  They need a breakthrough.

Often in sports we use a different phrase to express this desire for a breakthrough.  When you see an athlete who wants to move to the next level from secondary school team to the university team, from University to the professional teams, from the minor’s to the major’s you will often here the coach ask, “How hungry are you?”  They are asking about passion.  They don’t want someone who just wants to look good in a uniform.  They want someone who is passionate for success.  They want someone who wants to give what it takes to be a winner, not just reap the rewards of being a professional – the fame, the fortune, etc.

Well, as Christians, we should be hungry for victory also, not just satisfied to look over past victories.  We want spiritual breakthroughs.  We need to be hungry for God.   The question for today is: Are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want spiritual victory? That is what we will be looking at today.

Today we will examine our hearts to see if we are hungry for God; to see if we have a passion for God and His kingdom.

When there is a transition of power in Lusaka, there are new occupants that enter the State House.  The old residents leave and the new ones move in to make their home there.  Not long ago President Sata’s family moved out so President Lungu and his family could move in. I don’t know how much changes in the State House during such a time of transition, but in America almost everything changes.  There is always a period of transition designed to allow the new residents of the White House, particularly the First Lady, to redesign, remodel, redecorate and refurnish the White House according to her personal taste. It is understood that the taste of the new first lady is often very different from the taste of the previous one and so part of the transition is to allow her to reconstruct the internal elements of the White House according to her particular liking. But for that to occur, the old must first be emptied out so the new can come.

Years ago an American Pastor named Tony Evans preached a series on this topic that greatly impacted me and I later adapted it for a series of my own that I preached in the States.  Now I want to pass these truths on to you.

Today we are going to consider the prerequisite of spiritual passion.

As you probably know, the word prerequisite is just a big way of saying a requirement that must be met before you can participate in something new.  For example, in school before you can enter a university program there are some prerequisite classes that must have been taken and the student is required to have already completed grade 12 of secondary school.  Finishing grade 12 is a prerequisite for starting school at a university. Well, today we are going to look at the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  What do you have to have in your life before you can truly have a passion for God and be used by him?  What is the prerequisite that you must have before you get your spiritual breakthrough?

In order for you to have a break through; in order for there to be room for the new thing that God wants to do inside of you, the old things must go. You see, it is hard for a new thing to happen inside of us if we are still crowded out with the old things.

In our passage today of 2 Kings 4:1-7 we have a short but powerful story of scripture.  It is about yet another lady in crisis.  She is in a desperate situation.  She needs to hear from God in the most urgent of ways. Join me in seeing how this woman faced 5 struggles that tempted her to doubt God – to lose faith in His goodness and power.

1. The Problem v. 1-2 The first two verses outline the problem for us. Let’s look at this crisis a little closer.

A. She is in emotional pain – her husband has died.

B. She is in financial pain – the creditors have come.  She didn’t have enough money after his demise to make the payments.

C. She is in physical pain – she was hungry.  The refrigerator was empty.  There is physical debilitation when there is no food.

D. She is in maternal pain – the creditors have come to take her children as collateral to pay her debt.

E. She is in spiritual pain.

When she comes to Elishah, listen to the pain in her voice.  “My husband, your servant, feared the Lord…”  In other words, my husband’s spiritual beliefs and our present condition don’t match up. (He was an adult son of one of God’s prophets). Perhaps you can identify with this lady in one or more of these areas.  If you are in any of those categories and any that I have not yet mentioned, then this message is for you. We are told that this woman cried out to Elisha.  Her pain drove her to the preacher because her need was from the Lord. Her pain drove her to the Lord as her final option.

Now, what the text does not tell us is whether she went to Elisha first or if she went to him last, but this is something worth considering because there is a difference – a big difference. I don’t know whether Elisha was the first stop on her road to recovery or if she had been to the bank already and been turned down.  Whether she had already been to government agency and been declined, whether she had been to friends and family and been rejected before it occurred to her, I better go to church. I don’t know whether it happened that way or if it happened with her realizing the desperate situation she was in and then turning to God immediately.  But I know it was serious because she was not calling for an appointment. I know someone has a serious concern when they show up at my house in tears.  I know they are serious when they call and ask me if I can come to them at that very moment.  What they want is to hear from God and they are hoping I can help deliver that message. The text says she cried out to Elisha.  Why? Because she wanted Him to tell her a message from the Lord.  In the midst of her problem she focused her eyes on the problem solver – Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.

2. The Problem Solver – God

Now, you will notice that this point is not addressed in any specific verse in our passage, but it becomes clear when we understand the core values of the Jewish culture of that day and the mindset of the Jewish religion.  So, let me share some details of the Jewish worldview with you. In Judaism you could not approach God directly.  You always went through a mediator.  If you wanted to speak to God then you went to a priest who would pray for you.  He would intercede on your behalf and offer sacrifices for you to communicate to God.  However, if you wanted to hear from God you would go to a prophet, because God spoke to His people through prophets. This woman thought – a prophet speaks on behalf of God. Sine the prophet spoke from God, she wanted to know from the prophet what God had to say and what God was going to do to alleviate her pain, solver her crisis and give her a breakthrough.   She went to Elisha to get to God because her situation was bigger than any man could fix.  Her situation was larger than the normal programs of life could resolve.  The creditors were at the door to collect her most prized possession – her children.  She had nothing…absolutely nothing…except God!

Now, here is an important lesson for us all. You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.  No, as long as you have your own resources and ideas you will rely on them.

So let me say it again, You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.

When you get to this point in your life you don’t pray formal patterned prayers anymore – you cry out.  You don’t conform to “high church” culture.  You abandon protocol and you cry out.  When you get in such a desperate situation that you recognize God is all you have, you don’t care what people think of you.  You don’t care if they think you are professional and sophisticated anymore – you cry out.

When you hear the Bible talk about crying out you are hearing desperation.  Sometimes the Bible says someone spoke or someone said.  But when you hear the Bible say that someone cried out you are hearing someone who is very serious, someone who is desperate.  This person recognizes their need and will not stop until that need is met. Think of how a baby acts when it is hungry. When that baby gets hungry enough it is not whimpering.  It is crying out.  It wants all to know that it needs to be fed.  It wants food..not a pacifier. God tells us in His word, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.  Blessed is He who hungers and thirsts after righteousness for he shall be filled.”

Let me tell you now the principle that we must not to lose sight of and that principle is this:  The amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling. 

So, why are we not seeing more of God’s power, more of God’s presence, more breakthroughs’ that can only be as a result of the hand of God? The answer is simple…We’re too full!  Now the question is, “full of what?”  Usually it is good things that we substitute for the best thing. When God allows a problem or a trial to come into your life, one of its primary goals is to make you hungry.

The problem is that when God brings things into our lives to make us hungry for him, too often we will settle for something less than God.  It is like being filled with ice cream & cake instead of being filled with meat and potatoes.  Both will make you feel full, but both will not satisfy your need for real nutrition.  Sweets are what, we call in America “junk food.”  We settle for a sermon snack here, a song snack there. We settle for encouraging words and compliments from others.  We look to our husbands and wives to meet the needs that only God can fill.  Is marriage a good thing?  Of course!  But not if we let it become an idol.

All of these good things will only disappoint us when it comes to times of trial, but God will not.  In our times of trials, too many of us settle for spiritual sweets instead of the bread of life!  Our trials are meant to drive us to Jesus Christ – the bread of life! God desires negative circumstances to drive us to Him.

Before the age of digital cameras, people used to take photographs with film.  The film would produce an opposite picture of what actually had taken place.  Things that are really black would look white on the film and things that were really white would look black.  A professional photographer would have to take his film into a dark room.  The reason he had to take it into the dark room where it is pitch black is because a photographer’s goal is to turn a negative into a positive.  He goes into the dark room in order to take raw material and turn it into a finished product.  It is dark inside there.  It is lonely inside there, but it is purposeful inside there because the darkness is designed to get you ready for the dark. But not only is there darkness in there.  There is often cutting and pasting of the photographs.  They are being cropped to get the desired result.

That is a good description of how things are for us when we go through trials.  It is like we are the film and God has us in a dark room.  When God has you in a dark room and there is no light it is because he is trying to take a negative and change it into a positive, but the question is how hungry are you. This woman was in the dark room.  So she cries out to the preacher.  Why?  Because she wanted to hear from God the prophet’s job was to say “Thus says the Lord.” The prerequisite to spiritual passion is spiritual hunger –  the prerequisite is emptiness.This woman was empty!  Her emptiness made her hungry for God!  She wanted her breakthrough.

The question for today is: are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want God? This woman wanted it so bad that she cried out and she was serious.

So what answer did she get?  She was about to go through a faith building process.

Let’s take a look at the process.

3. The Process v.3-5

Get jars from your neighbors. Get more than just a few! That sounds like something we preachers would say doesn’t it?  Leave it to a preacher to tell you to do something that doesn’t seem to have any connection to the circumstances you find yourself in, right? Can you imagine what was going through her mind?  “Elisha, come on now.  Are you crazy?  I came to you for help and you give me this.  I don’t think you understand.  I need money, not a bunch of borrowed pots.  I am empty!!! “And Elisha says, “I know.  Now I want you to get all the additional emptiness you can.”

Now please follow what I am saying.  I am going somewhere with this.  He says, Call you neighbors and multiply your emptiness.  Take your emptiness, go to your neighbors to get their emptiness, and then bring their emptiness into your house. Some of us have multiplied emptiness.  I know my family does right now.  Another way of saying that would be, You’ve got a mess, your family’s got a mess.  Have you ever said, “Everyone wants to bring their problems to me and I’ve got my own.  I have enough to deal with myself.  I don’t need their emptiness.”

Remember the principle; the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.  If you are empty and there is emptiness that surrounds you – your neighbors, your family, your church family – when God connects your emptiness with their emptiness what God is doing is increasing the possibility of your filling because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling. What the preacher did was give her a new perspective – a new way of looking at things; a different approach to a normal problem.

We all have debts of some kind, we all have pain, we all have crisis; but his answer was not the same answer that she would have gotten at a bank or a psychiatrist or from a politician.  He comes up with the thought of increasing your emptiness.  And now she is faced with a question:  Do I believe the man of God?  It all boils down to that.  “Do I believe that what he is telling me God is what God is telling him?”  Do I believe that what he is saying comes from the mouth of God?  It is a matter of faith!  Without faith it is impossible to please God. All those that come to God, even those who come crying out, must first believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.- Hebrews 11:6

The question now is, do I believe Him – do I believe God, because when it comes to getting your blessing or your breakthrough God will often use odd methods to validate…to prove whether you trust Him or not.

If you are looking only for logic when it comes to living the Christian life you will find yourself often confused because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, as high as the heaven is above the earth so is the difference between us and God.  So when it comes to your spiritual breakthrough, when it comes to seeing God do what you need done in your life He may get you to take on new emptiness and new problems before He fixes the things you came to him for and you must step out on faith.  You must obey when you don’t feel like it.

How many of you use an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning?  I am not a morning person.  I have to use an alarm or I will miss appointments.  I love staying up late and working into the late hours of the night, but you see, especially in Zambia, everyone else seems to be an early riser.  When your alarm went off this morning saying to you it is time to get up, many of you, particularly those of you who are not morning people, decided to obey the alarm even though you didn’t feel like it.  You didn’t want to get up at that particular time, but the alarm went off and said it is time.  So even though you did not feel like you wanted to, you crawled out of bed and started getting ready to come to the church service.  Even though the alarm went off and may have interrupted one of your nicer dreams perhaps keeping you from the full 8 hours you desired to have you decided to obey the clock and got up because you wanted to come to worship God and hear from Him.

Well, trials are God’s alarm clocks for our spiritual breakthroughs.  Often God’s alarms go off at what we would consider the wrong time.  Often God’s methodologies seem to ring in the wrong way.

The question of faith is never the question of feeling.  The question of faith is never “how do I feel right now about what God has said to me.”  It isn’t that those feelings aren’t real.  They are real, but the question of faith is a matter of believing God.

Faith is always acting like God is telling the truth.  By the way, God always tells the truth!  We must then take action based on his truth.  That is faith – ACTING like God is telling the truth. If you get up when the alarm rings you have acted properly no matter how you feel.  We have to get to the point where we trust God to change our feelings when He asks us to act in faith.  We have to trust Him to change our attitudes from not wanting to do what He tells us to do because we believe that if we do what He tells us to do He will change how we feel about it. Well, this lady was hungry – literally and spiritually – because her crisis was deep.

You say, “I’ve been hungry for a long time.  I’ve been waiting a long time for my blessing – and it only gets deeper.  Things seem to be worse rather than better.”

Well remember, the amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling.  So if your emptiness is getting deeper that means God is going to poor more into it when He fills it. So Elisha says to her, lady you go out and get your neighbors empty vessels and don’t miss the point.  Don’t get a few!!!  You go get additional emptiness. Have you ever noticed that when you get hungry enough sophistication doesn’t matter anymore?  You do not care what people think of you.  Have you ever seen sophisticated, important, serious people real hungry?  You know, beggars on the street aren’t concerned about how they appear.  They aren’t worried about how begging is not the appropriate way to get the money they need to get their next meal.  They are out there on the street in the cold, in the hot, letting you know that they are desperate.  They have a need! When you get hungry enough you aren’t worried about what everyone else thinks.  This woman became a public spectacle.

How do you get your neighbor’s vessels? You have to ask. Everyone knew she had nothing and yet her children came around asking for empty vessels as if they had something to put in them.This woman was so hungry that the text says in verse 5 that she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons.  They were bringing the vessels, the pots, to her and she poured.

She was hungry enough to obey the word of God.  Therefore they began pouring the oil into the vessels. How does this apply?  What does that mean? If you are going through a trial, I know you are hurting yourself, but the problem is that if you are like me, often when you are hurting you think there is no one who exists but me, myself, and I.  When you are hurting yourself it is then time to become a minister to others, specifically others who are facing the same thing you face. When God sees that you are willing to not only cry out for your emptiness, but willing to pick up the emptiness of others then you’ve given God that much more to fill up for you.  You see when we are so focused on our own needs we forget everybody else, but when we desire not only to receive a blessing but to be a blessing God sees within us his own heart.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  We have joined Him in His desire to bless those in need. Go to your neighbors find how you can be a blessing for them too, how you can intercede for them too, how you can minister to them too.  Increase your emptiness. You know, we don’t collect emptiness.  We don’t look for opportunities to go to our neighbor and see their empty pots; after all I have the same problem.  But oh, when God sees He can minister through you and to you He can’t wait to pour out those blessings, which is exactly what he does for this woman! Well, this woman stepped out on faith and she engaged in the process that God laid out for her.  Now let’s look at the result.

4. The Product v 6-7

In verses 6-7 it says, And it came about when the vessels were full that she said to her son bring me another vessel and he said to her there is not one more and the oil stopped.  Now you’ve got to picture this miracle.  This is what I call a breakthrough.  She has one little jar of oil.  That is all she has, but here is what God did.  As her sons brought in the pots that they had borrowed from the neighbors she poured the oil into the pots, but the oil kept coming.

All she had was one jar of oil but when she cried out to God for herself and was willing to take on the emptiness of others God multiplied the little that she had.  Now little was not little anymore.  Just like the song says, “Little is much when God is in it.” Pot after pot after pot is filled with oil.  She calls out for another pot because she got the point.

The oil will keep flowing as long as emptiness keeps coming.  When that is happening who wouldn’t want more emptiness?  But her son said there are no more pots and then the oil stopped.  Elisha said don’t get a few because he knew what God would do.  What was once empty is now full.

Then Elisha gives her a business opportunity because faith never means sitting down and doing nothing. Waiting on God does not mean being inactive.  It means being trusting.  It means do what you should do while you wait for Him to do what you cannot do.  Be active while waiting for Him to do what ONLY He can do. So, Elisha says, “Go sell the oil and pay the debt.”

Now, where is this oil located? In the pots.  Who do the pots belong to?  The neighbors.  Who is she going to sell the oil to?  The neighbors because the oil is in the pots and every housewife had to have oil.

Here are a few lesson we can get from this story:

A.  When God blesses one person that blessing flows out to meet the needs of others. At this time in Israel’s history the kingdom was going through tough times.  It is likely that most of these neighbors were lacking sufficient oil also.  Some might have had maize, some might have had tomatoes or other plants, but been lacking oil.  Now, by meeting this woman’s need God has also met the need of those around her.

B.  God had the solution before she came with her problem. Here’s another truth here that applies to our situations as well. The solution to her problem already existed before she cried out to God.  In other words, the answer to her prayer was already in her house and she didn’t even know it because she didn’t have the eyes to see it yet.  It was there all along but it just hadn’t been sanctified or set apart of God yet.   The answer was already there she just didn’t have the spiritual eyes to see that the prophet Elisha could already see. She hadn’t gotten empty enough yet.  She thought that just because she was hungry that she was hungry enough but until her hunger broadened beyond her, to consider others beside her, she did not see the depth of how hungry she could be nor the miracle that God wanted to perform. But when she got God’s divine eyesight everything changed.  You see, some of our breakthroughs are already in place.  God has already got it situated.  We just don’t see yet.

C. The blessings stop when the emptiness stops.  When we get filled with things then the blessings stop.  We need to view ourselves as clean and empty pipes that the blessings of God can flow through to meet our needs and the needs of others.

D.  When the blessings come, we must take care of our obligations first. She said, HELP!  I have no money. The creditors are coming to take my boys. Now notice what Elisha tells her.  Elisha said, get out of debt and you and your sons can live on the rest.You know, the tendency when you get a blessing is to forget your responsibility.  He says, You go and pay your debt and when you do there will be enough money left over for you and your sons to live on. She went to God for a debt break through, but he gave her that debt break through with a bonus.  That’s when you know it is from God, because it is exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think.  He gives you what you requested, but because your emptiness increased by taking on the emptiness – the needs of others – He multiplies that.

So here we are at the end of the message and again I return to the big question.

How hungry are you?

Now, I know you want God’s blessing.  But are you hungry enough to passionately pursue God and be used by God to passionately help someone else.  Are you that hungry as an individual?  Are we that hungry as a church? Are you hungry enough to go into God not caring about what others think of you and cry out to God because you view Him as your first and last resort or are you still trying things without Him because if you are you aren’t hungry enough yet.

So, what are you going to do with what you have heard today.  Have you recognized the things that you have been settling for?  Have you recognized the things that are crowding out what God wants to do in you?  Are you ready to get ride of them?  Are you ready for some emptiness?  Are you willing to take on the emptiness of others? Or are you going to leave here the same as you came.  You got your sermon snack for today.  You will be back for another next week?

I hope we will all leave here having met the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  I hope we will all be empty enough to be hungry because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.

So again I ask, Do you want God? Are you hungry for Him?

To listen to the audio of this message go to http://tinysa.com/sermon/719151242202

(I am appreciative to Dr. Tony Evans for his message by this same title which inspired much of what you have read here.)

God As The Refiner


The RefinerMalachi 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. Background of Malachi:  Malachi was written to the Levites or to the priests because they had lost their respect for God in their worship (see ch. 1:6).  That was manifested by their offerings to God. They chose to dishonor God.  God, in His love for them, knew this was not good for them, so He purified them. By the end of Malachi we find that the refining did its work. The priests listened to God and obeyed and they were able to offer offerings in righteousness.” The next verse says, “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD.” In I Peter 2:5 it talks about NT believers being a “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” We have the same position as the priests in the OT did. The values God wanted to see in the lives of the priests in Malachi, He is looking for in us today. God puts trials in our lives for different reasons.

  • For Learning (Job 23:10 – When I am tried I shall come forth as gold.) God put him through a trial because there were things about God that he needed to learn.
  • For Chastening (Malachi)  There was sin in the way the Priests worshiped God. God got their attention.
  • For Teaching Others (Jn 9:3) The man blind from birth was created for the purpose of showing God’s power.  “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

All of us go through testing and trials in our lives. I would like us to focus on trusting God because of His love that is shown through His presence, purification, and purpose in trials. First of all we will see that …

God’s Love is shown by His Presence.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; We see God here pictured as a refiner of gold and silver as well as the refining process (vs2). When a refiner puts his gold in a pot on the fire he never, ever leaves the gold for any reason. He values that gold and wants to see that fire bring up the dross or the impurities in the gold. When God puts us as His children on the fire He doesn’t leave us there by ourselves. He stays right there beside us watching to be sure that the fire or the trial does what He wants it to. The work in progress has His full attention.

God Cares

God knows our limitations and will not put any trial in our path that He does not give the strength for. 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. There were two men in Rome long ago that were sentenced to be burned at the stake for being Christians. One of the men was an older more mature Christian and the other was a young man newly saved. As the two men were put in their cell they looked out the back window into the arena where their stakes were being prepared for them to be burned the next day. The young man nervously tried to light a candle and in the process he burned his finger badly. He turned to the older man and said, “If I have this much pain over a burn on my finger how will I stand it tomorrow when my whole body is engulfed in flame?”  The older Christian said, “Young man, God did not ask you to burn you finger so you do not have the grace to endure the pain. Tomorrow God has asked us to go out and burn for His honor and glory.”  And the next day the two men went into the arena and burned with songs of praise to God on their lips. God gives us the grace to endure what we need endure so that we will learn what God would have us to learn so that we can to offer to God an offering in Righteousness – serving Him with our lives. That does not mean that when we go through a trial that it will be easy. No, when silver gets purged it gets very hot and melts, and our trials are to melt us. But God will give the strength to go through it. “Don’t pray for lighter burdens, pray for stronger shoulders” –unknown author

God Comforts

God has promised us directly that He will be with us.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

We don’t have to be afraid of what we are going through right now because we know that God will give us the strength and He will always be with us. There was a train traveling through the mountain passes late one night. There was a bad storm raging and the water was starting to rise along the tracks. The passengers started panicking until one older man noticed a little girl sitting with a quiet smile on her face. He made his way over to her and asked her why she wasn’t afraid. She looked up at him and said, “My father is the engineer.” Whatever “storms” are going on outside or whatever mountains we are facing, we can have complete assurance that nothing will happen to us that God does not allow as long as we allow Him to “direct” our life. If verses like Isaiah 41:10 do not provide comfort, we do not know our “Engineer” very well.

God’s Love is shown by His Purification.

He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, God had a reason for the trials that the Levites went through. That was to purify them. To make them serve God with the respect that they were supposed to have. God has a reason for every trial that we go through.    Heb 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

God uses every circumstance for good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Well, whose definition of “good” are we following? Our understanding of “good” will set our expectations of God’s promise. Our definition of good often includes saying, “Well things will just turn out right and everything will be comfortable again.” God’s definition of good comes in the very next verse. In Rom 8:29, God shows us that His best plan for us, the greatest good in the light of heavenly values, is for us “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God takes all the seemingly bad things and all the seemingly good things and brings them together and it works out for good. We will be more like Christ.  So, if we know that the good and the bad work together for good then we can conclude that

God controls our trials.

“He shall sit” Nothing is going to happen to us that surprises God or that He is not ready for. When we are in a fiery trial we don’t get knocked over into the fire or the fire does not consume us. Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You find their story in Daniel chapter

Trials do not destroy.

The three Hebrews were thrown into the fire but they came out without harm. We may go through great times of testing, but they are designed to teach us something, not destroy us.

Trials free from sin.

The three Hebrews were cast into the fire with cords binding their hands. When we are in a trial often God uses it to show us the sin that weighs us down.  Hebrews 12:1 let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Trials make God’s presence real.

When the three Hebrew boys were in what seemed to be the toughest part of their trial, it was then that Christ walked with them and they were the closest to God. When our trials get the toughest, it is at that time that we draw the closest to God.

God’s Love is shown in His Purpose.

That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. God brought the Levites back to a place doing what was right in a right way. He kept the heat on until the dross was dealt with. A man walked into a silversmiths shop long ago and went to the back of the shop to talk with the silversmith. He found the silversmith bending over a pot of molten silver skimming the dross off the top. The man asked the silversmith how he knew when the silver was ready to be used. The silversmith said, “Do you see how I am bending over the pot looking into it?” The man said, “Yes.”  The silversmith said, “When I can see my reflection in the silver then I know it is done.” When God puts us on the fire, He sits there with us cleaning the dross off the top of our lives. When God can look at us and see the reflected image of His Son Jesus Christ shining back, then He knows that the trial has accomplished its purpose in that area of our life. Romans 8:29 says that we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God puts people through different trials so that they can be in a position to do something for God that He will be pleased with. Look at Joseph. He was first betrayed by his brothers, and then he was falsely accused and sent to prison, and then was forgotten by friends. He went through all this so that he could be in a position to be of service for God at the right time. Think of what Hannah had to go through in order to be willing to give Samuel to God’s service. Think of Ruth leaving her country to live with her mother-in-law. She went to a new country where she was a Gentile in a Jewish country. All so she could help Naomi and God used her to be part of the line of Christ.

God’s purpose is to change us.

Our lives need to be a worthy sacrifice for God.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Our lives need to be holy and acceptable to God. This means that if we are living for ourselves, if there is sin in our lives, or if we are resisting God’s will that anything we do for God will not be acceptable. God values obedience over any service we do for Him. If we serve God with the wrong attitude or motive than we are doing what the priests did in Malachi.

I Sam. 15:22 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

We cannot come to God with the attitude that God owes us something. We need to realize that God owes us nothing and we owe God everything. God is in charge of our lives and He is in control of what happens in our lives. Let us serve Him with the realization that God is doing a work in each of our lives and we need to trust Him and learn what He is teaching us. God will be able to use more and more of our life as we yield it to Him. God’s purpose in trials is so that He can shape us and mold us to serve Him in the best way possible. That is an offering in righteousness.

God’s purpose is to make our sacrifice acceptable.

When our service is done with our efforts, our strength, our wisdom, our understanding, we contaminate God’s work. The work must be what God is doing in us and through us. There is nothing left for us to boast about. He is Lord, He is King, He deserves all the praise!

Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

The Pleasure of Thorns


Pleasure of Thorns.001

In my devotions this morning I came across notes I had written in the margin some time ago that challenged and encouraged me.  I wanted to give them to you in writing for your personal meditation.

In 2 Corinthians 12.7-10 Paul writes this concerning what he refers to as a thorn in the flesh:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul had a problem, He referred to it as a thorn in the flesh (7)

Paul had a problem and it was painful!

Was it a physical problem? Probably!  But it was more than that. Paul’s problem was most certainly spiritual as well.  It was something used by Satan to beat him up.  Does this not speak of Satan bringing spiritual discouragement to Paul?

Paul came to God with a petition – Remove the thorn (8)

Paul pleads with God earnestly in prayer on multiple occasions to remove this thorn.  He wanted to get away from it.  He longed to not have to deal with it any longer, so he came to God.  It was too much, the pain ran too deep!  Paul longed for relief and felt that the relief he needed was to have the painful situation removed by God.

Paul would experience spiritual power – Because of the thorn (9)

God reminded Paul that His grace was abundantly sufficient for him in the midst of the pain!  Imagine a little mouse at the base of Victoria Falls wringing his little paws as he frets that there might not be enough water for him and his little friends.  You can hear the roar of Victoria Falls saying, “Drink your fill little mouse, my water is sufficient for you!”

God also revealed to Paul that it was because of the thorn that God allowed to remain in his flesh that the power of God could fully rest upon Him.  It was  through the thorn that the power of God would rest upon His ministry.

Only when Paul understood God’s purpose could he take pleasure – In the thorn (10)

With God’s perspective Paul’s praying changed!  Paul’s outlook changed!  He could take pleasure in the thorn that had caused him such pain!

Paul came to understand that it was through this weakness that he would experience God’s strength.

Paul’s circumstances did not change from verse7 to verse 10.  What changed was Paul’s understanding of God’s purposes and thus Paul’s relationship to those circumstances also changed.

Your thorn is of God’s own choosing and is different for each one of us.  Those who would be greatly used of God and remain humble must bear some type of thorn.

God keeps us weak so that His strength and power might be fully poured out in us and through us.  As you understand God’s greater purpose you can embrace your thorn with joy that the power of God may rest upon you!

Christian, remember that God’s grace is sufficient for you in whatever painful circumstance you are facing today!  Lean hard into Christ and draw from Him that all-sufficient grace!

Navigating The Storms of Life


Navigating the Storms of Life.pdf.001 John 6:15-21, (Parallel Passages: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-56)

Storms are beautiful and powerful things – when you are watching safely from a distance. It is quite another thing when we find ourselves caught in the middle of one!

As boy I grew up in an area of the United States known as “Tornado Alley.”  More than once I watched a funnel drop out of a distant cloud and begin to destroy everything in its path. When rain storms come here in Zambia everyone runs for shelter. To get caught out in the open during a Zambian thunderstorm means there is a good chance you will get struck by lightening.

Everyone of us will at some point find ourselves going through storms in life. Someone has said, “You are either just entering a storm, in the storm, or have just come out of a storm,” and we know that to be the case!

Storms crash into our lives in various ways: It may be the unexpected death of a loved one or sickness or the loss of a job or a broken relationship with a member of your family – husband/wife/child.

In Scripture we are introduced to people who faced days of deep trial. There is a book in the Old Testament that bears the name of a man who knew something about storms that unexpectedly to our life. His name is Job. In a day Job lost his wealth, his children were all killed, and shortly after he lost his health. His wife suggested that he should forget his faith, curse God and die. His friends showed up to tell him that the storm he was facing had to be a result of his sin!

Jesus just fed 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch. The disciples had been part of this miracle by distributing the food as it was miraculously multiplied! Wow, what a thrilling thing to participate in!

For the disciples feeding of the 5000 was a lesson for them: God is in control of His creation and provides for his creatures. Now the as they headed across the Sea of Galilee they ran into a life-threatening storm: The storm was the exam after the lesson.

Often we are like the disciples! We hear about Jesus and we give mental assent to His claims to be God. We acknowledge that Jesus’ works prove beyond doubt that He is Who He claims to be – the Son of God – yet we do not apply these realities personally!

Regardless of where you are today – heading into a storm, in as storm or just coming out of a storm, here are five truths that will help you navigate through the storms of life.

JESUS SENT THEM OUT INTO THE STORM (15-16, Mt. 14:22)

Jesus knew the storm was coming

The people were planning to come and by force make Jesus King (15). Knowing how great a temptation this would be for His disciples He sent them away across the Sea of Galilee by boat, while He dismissed the multitudes. (Mt. 14:22) Jesus knows knows all things, He knew what the people were planning, and He knew the storm was coming (15)! He had just demonstrated his power as God over Creation by feeding 5000! We cannot doubt that He knew of the coming storm and was completely in control as He sent the disciples into the Sea.

Jesus sent them into the storm!

In obedience the disciples climbed into the boat and headed out onto the Sea of Galilee. Before long they were in the middle of a frightening, life-threatening storm. It is important to recognize that the disciples were in this storm because they were IN the will of God. They were in this situation because they obeyed Christ!

There are two types of storms mentioned in Scripture:

  • Storms of Correction – God disciplines us because of disobedience. Jonah is an example of this. God told Jonah to go and preach to the city of Nineveh. Jonah hated the Assyrians, and instead of obeying God, Jonah purchased a ticket to Tarsus – the exact opposite direction (Jonah 1:1-4). Before long Jonah found himself in a storm that ended when the sailors threw Jonah overboard! After three days in the belly of a great fish, Jonah decided to obey God and preach to Nineveh!
  • Storms of Perfection – There are other storms though… storms that God brings to strengthen our faith and produce spiritual growth in our lives. This is the kind of storms the disciples find themselves in.

Though the disciples were fearful for their life, they were safer IN the storm, IN the will of God, than on shore with the crowd, out of the will of God. Safer in the storm.jpg.001 The disciples looked at their circumstances and felt overwhelmed and afraid! Never judge your security on the basis of our circumstances alone! When you find yourself in a storm because you have obeyed the Lord, remember that He brought you there and He will care for you in the storm!

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

JESUS WAS WATCHING THEM AND PRAYING FOR THEM WHILE THEY WERE IN THE STORM. (15b, Mt. 14:23; Mk. 6:48)

Jesus was watching over them!

Mark 6:48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.

Jesus sees and feels the weight of our burdens and knows what you are going through right now!

Hebrews 4:14-16. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus knows our fears, He sees our needs. When the Hebrews had been in cruel bondage in Egypt for over 400 years, God came to Moses and assured him, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” (Ex. 3:7)

No matter what storm you are in today, Jesus is involved! He knows, He cares and He is in control of the situation.

Jesus was praying for them!

Matthew 14:23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.

Not only was Jesus watching over them every moment they were battling through this storm, but He was also praying for them! The same is true for you in your storm! Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven and He is continually beseeching the Father on your behalf!

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans 8:34. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25.

JESUS CAME TO THEM IN THE STORM (19)

Jesus came to them at the point when all human hope was gone!

It was the fourth watch of the night – this was somewhere between 3 am and sunrise. This was the time of night when it is the darkest! The disciples were facing the darkest hour, and Jesus came!

Matthew 14:25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.

By this time the disciples had been on the Sea for up to 9 hours. They were completely exhausted! As they strained to row, the wind was against them, blowing them back, again and again.

Matthew 14:24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

They had expended all their efforts, but they were getting nowhere!

Mk. 6:48 – “ straining at rowing”

Jesus came to them in the midst of their storm.

Have you ever just wished that the storm would end? You cry out in weariness but it just seems the storm will go on and on? God’s timing is perfect, He knows what is best and what best will meet our need and fulfill His purposes!

I have often wondered why Jesus walked on the water! Certainly He could have just snapped his fingers and appeared in the boat with them. But instead Jesus walked 3-4 miles on the raging water to get to them. I think Jesus came walking on the water in order to show them that the very thing that they feared was simply a path for Him to come to them.

No matter how dark it becomes, no matter how exhausted your feel, remember this: you will never find yourself in a place where Christ cannot find find you and will not come to you! Someone has well said: “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God will not sustain you.” Will of God.jpg.001

They were so focused on their problem that they did not recognize Jesus when He came.

They were not looking for Him, but they should have been! The disciples could only see their circumstances: the raging waves, the howling wind, the water swamping the boat. They were not waiting for Him by faith. They had forgotten that He had sent them “to the other side” (Mt. 14:22). So when Jesus came to them, they did not recognize Him!

“Fear and faith cannot live in the same heart, for fear always blinds the eyes to the presence of the Lord.”

JESUS HAD A PURPOSE FOR THE STORM – THEIR GROWTH (28-31)

He wanted them to recognize what they had been seeing and knew about Him and apply it to their own lives!

He was testing their faith

When Jesus identified Himself, Peter cried out, “if it is really you, command me to come to you on the water!” Jesus said, “Come!” Peter’s request was a demonstration of his affection for Jesus resting on his confident faith in Him. (Mt. 14:28)

Peter took a step of faith when he responded to Christ’s command, and stepped out of the boat (Mt. 14:29)! I can almost hear the other disciples! Peter stop! I mean we all believe in Jesus, but don’t go overboard with this thing! Be reasonable man! You can’t walk on water, no one can. Peter responded in faith and stepped out of the boat – and walked to Jesus! The majority of disciples however clung to the boat!

You see they are like so many of us! The boat meant security for them! BUT JESUS WAS NOT IN THE BOAT!! Many times we are like the eleven, clinging to the boat of:

  • human reasoning – we trust in our own logic and human wisdom.
  • human effort – we think if we just try harder.
  • human comfort – we chose what appears to be the safer and more comfortable route.
  • human achievement – perhaps you are trusting in some religious activity that you faithfully carry out, you feel safe in your achievements for God.
  • human ingenuity – you think you are more clever than most, that somehow at some point you will figure this thing out and all will be well.

Whatever you are trusting in today – apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, this account is challenging us to take the step of obedient faith – get out of the boat! Peter walked with Jesus on top of his circumstances – by faith! (Mt. 14:29).  You are better off out in the storm with Jesus, than “safe” in the boat without Him!

“Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, but believing in spite of consequences!”

  • I Jn. 5:4 – Victory that overcomes – our faith
  • II Co. 5:7 – We walk by faith not by sight
  • Heb 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please Him.
  • Eph 1:22, 2:6 – In Christ, God has put all thing under our feet! We live above the circumstances!

Peter took his eyes off the Lord and began to look at his circumstances – the water, the driving rain the howling wind, the waves – and he began to sink (Mt. 14:30,31). Without hesitation Peter cried out to Jesus – his prayer was short and to the point, “Lord save me!” His prayer was immediately answered! Jesus reached down and pulled him up out of the waves and together they walked to the boat to join the other disciples.

Peter’s prayer is one that God always hears and answers! Perhaps today you realize that you are in the dark waters of sin, that your own human efforts have only pushed you further into the problem! All hope of you saving yourself is gone! Cry out like Peter, “Lord, save me!” God always answers that desperate plea! (Mt. 14:31)

He was revealing Himself as the object of their faith. (Mt. 14:33)

The result of Jesus coming into the boat and calming the storm was that the disciples fell down and worshipped Him.

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.

JESUS BROUGHT THEM THROUGH THE STORM (Jn. 6:21, Mt. 14: 32-33)

Matthew 14:32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

When Jesus entered into the boat the storm ceased! There was peace and a strange calm when Jesus entered the boat. The peace that each of us need today begins with being justified by faith! To be justified by faith means that God declares righteous all those who believe in Jesus.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We can have peace even in the midst of the storm because we know God and we understand His purposes for the storm in our life.

Romans 5:3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

As we pass through the storm the Spirit of God pours out the love of God into our hearts & He pours it out abundantly!

Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Peace.001 When Jesus entered the boat they were immediately at their destination (Jn. 6:21). When Jesus came in, they arrived with no further effort of their own. Their own efforts had merely got them further and further into the storm. Where they were powerless He was powerful.

Listen to the testimony of news anchor Dave Benton as he shares the storm of brain cancer that he is facing!  He gladly confesses the trust that He has in Jesus and the peace that he is experiencing in the midst of his storm!

So what do we take away from our study today?

Do you find yourself in a storm this morning? Have you abandoned all hope of being rescued? Have you taken your eyes off Christ and put them on your circumstances? Are you desperately trying to get through your storm by some effort of your own? LOOK TO JESUS IN FAITH! Remember:

  • Jesus sent you out into this storm.
  • Jesus is watching over you and praying for you in this storm.
  • Jesus will come to you in the storm.
  • Jesus wants you to grow as a result of this storm.
  • Jesus will bring you safely through this storm.

Christian Is there some area of your life where you are refusing to take a step of obedient faith? Have you heard His command, yet refuse to get out of the boat? Obey Him today!

Friend, are you are drowning in the dark waters of sin? Will you, like Peter cry out to Jesus, “Lord, Save Me”? If you will call to Him He will reach down and lift you up, cleanse you of your sin and carry you safely through this life and into heaven.

For more information, or counseling for the storm you are passing through email us or in Kitwe ring 0976153466.

Download this study as a pdf here: Navigating the Storms of Life