Tuesday, January 20, 2009
"All things work together for good to them who love God and are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). "Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything" (Acts 9:8-9). A study of church history reveals that most Christian leaders had an advanced degree in adversity. I believe God's purpose in allowing difficulty in a believers life is to advance their spiritual growth. Romans 8:28 is a conditional promise. For the person who shuns spiritual growth and spurns an intimate relationship with the Lord, there is no guarantee that "All things will work for good." "Good" may refer to character development or a faith lesson that results from adversity. These are things God values far more than health, wealth, or many other blessing we tend to place a high value on. If you lose your job you are not guaranteed you will get a better one. The true blessing may lie in your coming to a greater understanding of what it means to trust God daily. How many Biblical characters lives end with "And they lived happily ever after." Moses died in the desert outside of the Promised Land, Paul was beheaded by Nero, most of Christ's disciples were martyred. Does God care about our happiness? Of course, we have the joy of the Lord, as well as the deep happiness that a spiritually maturing believer experiences. However we must grasp God's purposes for suffering or we might become bitter toward Him, and end up blaming Him for our struggles. We must be careful not to see our trials as something God does to us. Rather we must realize they are tools the Lord uses for our benefit. Christlike living may result in changing our priorities from comfort and pleasure, to accepting difficult times as part of God's plan for our spiritual growth. Many times suffering opens the door to greater joy and peace. When we exercise the mind of Christ we begin to understand God's purposes and when the bottom seems to fall out we don't panic, or assume God has forgotten all about us. We know God could speak a word and all our troubles would be erased. But experience tells us that the Father doesn't choose to work that way. When we understand why God permits trying circumstances, we can face trouble with the assurance of His love and mercy. That's why James said "Count it all joy when you encounter many trials" (James 1:2). John Wesley (1703- 1791), fleshes out Romans 8:28. As a young man you wouldn't have thought of him as a great Christian leader. He was just over five feet tall and very thin. In his early years, he suffered greatly from feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and a morbid fear of death. Though he didn't understand the Christian gospel, he devoted himself to doing good works for the poor in an effort to earn his way to heaven. While in his early thirties, he sailed to America to do missionary work among the American Indians. While crossing the Atlantic, Wesley's ship passed through a violent storm that broke the main mast off its base and nearly sank the ship. As the waves crashed over the ship, Wesley huddled in terror, knowing he didn't have peace with God. He survived the storm, and continued to struggle in his relationship with God for several more years. Finally, back in London, he attended a meeting on Aldersgate Street, where he heard a preacher reading from the preface of Martin Luthers' book on Romans, Luther wrote that salvation comes by faith in Christ alone. At that point, he said, "I felt my heart strangely warmed." Soon after that, Wesley began preaching the gospel. John Wesley was well acquainted with adversity. He was married to a most difficult woman, on occasion she would physically beat him. He stayed married to her and provided for her all his life. As an itinerant preacher he spoke on an average of three times a days, and he wrote gospel hymns and sermons as he traveled by horseback. His own words give us a glimpse into his heart. "Lord, I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will. Let be employed by You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low by You. Let me have all things, let me have nothing, I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Yours. So be it." Amen John Wesley His fifty-two-year preaching ministry became the foundation of the modern evangelical movement. But it never would have happened if John Wesley had not been tossed on the stormy seas of adversity. Adversity is often God's fertilizer for spiritual calling. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.