Trials and Joy

Re-posted from InTouch, by Dr. Charles Stanley, September 16, 2014

My pastor is currently preaching from the book of James and Dr. Stanley’s message today is a perfect reminder that through out our lives we all suffer under a variety of difficult trials and hardships. But, if we consider that those times of suffering can be used as a catalyst to help us be mindful that the Lord uses them to mold us into what His desire is for our lives, they’re so much easier to bear.

Trials and Joy

James 1:2-4,12

“Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2)—what a preposterous statement! How can that make sense when joy and trials don’t fit together? But James is presenting a divine vantage point, not a human one. There are some surprising benefits in suffering, which aren’t easy to discern.

First of all, we need to understand that these verses are not telling us to be happy in our pain, but rather to rejoice in the blessings that accompany suffering. The word consider is an accounting term that means “to evaluate.” When we look at hardships from God’s perspective and place the proper value on them, we can rejoice in the beneficial outcome, even while experiencing pain. Humanly speaking, trials hurt; but from the Lord’s point of view, they help.

The only way to rejoice during trials is to understand what God wants them to accomplish. Regardless of the difficulty’s source, we can know that the Lord wants to use it to test our faith and thereby produce endurance and spiritual maturity. In every trial, He has hidden a precious character gem, but whether we receive it depends upon our response. Those who want to be transformed into the image of Christ can rejoice in the many benefits that accompany suffering.

How about you? Does your hunger to know the Lord and be transformed by Him exceed your dread of suffering? None of us want to experience pain, but since it’s an unavoidable reality in this fallen world, why not respond in a way that produces eternal benefit? Let’s not waste our suffering.

Book Launch Invitation & two reader comments…

 

Made New Book Launch flyer

…I laughed, I cried, my heart and soul ached for all that you went through and I felt boundless joy reading about how your relationship with Christ has evolved and is continuing to grow daily. When you asked questions, you asked the hard questions that require soul searching for answers. Thank you for doing that as I don’t think we ask enough hard questions in this present age. Thank you so much for obeying God and telling your story. This book has the potential to help so many people who are hurting because of choices they have made. ~ Patty

I spent the weekend with you and your friend, Judy!! What a journey – what courage – what a faithful God to bring you to this place!! It has given me such insight into who you are and how God has brought you here – for such a time as this. I found myself in parts of your story – the me I had forgotten even existed. Your journey was a tough one, but look at the victory!! Amazing grace, no doubt about it. ~ Cathy

Voices

A parental voice from my childhood repeats, like a broken record. “You’re nobody!” or, “You’ll never be anything!”

I answer, “Don’t listen Child of the King! God knows who I am.”

I’m reminded of the scripture verse in 1 Corinthians 2:12.

I’ve have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that I may understand what God has freely given to me. And, verse 15, “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement:
For, in verse 16, God’s Word says “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But, I have the mind of Christ.”

Take that, evil one! Flee from me! My mind belongs to the One who created me.

God’s Purpose or Mine?

Four boxes of Made New ~ A Hippie Chick’s Journey of Forgiveness arrived via UPS yesterday and this morning they’re sitting in my basement, seemingly staring back at me each time I walk by. I find myself struggling with overwhelming feelings of despair, and how God will open the right doors to share their message. 

Last Sunday, a godly man from church told Pete and I how important it would be to pray over them before we even thought about opening the first box. So, Pete and I lay hands on the stack and specifically prayed, thanking God for the perseverance to witness this accomplishment in our lives, as well as what He will do in lives we’ll never know anything about. 

Despite my anxieties, the Lord had some reassuring words to impart to my soul from my devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. This message reminded me of exactly what my heart and weary soul needed. 

A quote from the words of Oswald Chambers,

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself. 

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish-His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49) It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God. 

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees the goal itself. 

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious. 

Writing Made New ~ A Hippie Chick’s Journey has been God-inspired indeed. Yet, the purpose of this book isn’t about my goals, but about what God wants to accomplish, while I trust Him for the outcome and His desire for my life! 

Where can I go from your Spirit?

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Psalm 139: 7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Rockhound State Park and Spring Canyon, New Mexico.

It was our second day of vacation and the middle of May. Dry, arid, windy, sun-scorched cacti for far as the eye could see. Nothing alive could grow here, could it?

Dried up ground, covered with a rainbow of colored rocks. Hunting for a treasure – a perfect turquoise stone. Turquoise wasn’t found, but beautiful green and red treasures instead, brought to life with a few drops of moisture applied. To remember this day I’ll take some home for my shade garden.

Animals were scarce, except for several enormous black ravens, catching the high winds rushing into the canyon, in hunt of something to eat. Surely, rattlesnakes and lizards slithered for cover.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how anything or anyone could live in such a harsh and deserted land.

Tall rock formations and deserted caves, rocky crags, some with what seemed like a type of arid moss, chartreuse in color.

Is that a cross in the side of a magnificent rock? It is! I see you Jesus, even in the middle of nowhere.

No matter where I go, YOU are there. Your love and faithfulness fill my soul anew every morning.

Thank you for the bountiful and beautiful reminders of your perfect love.

God Speaks…if we’re willing to listen!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few believers who are able to proclaim that they knew when the Lord revealed his purpose for their life. Without a doubt, I’m completely aware of when He revealed what His purpose was for my life.
Over the past several years I felt an inward tug to somehow share what the Lord did, and is still doing, with my life and with our hurting world. I didn’t know if I would be conscious of how God would orchestrate it, or if I would even be aware of any of the details surrounding it.
October 30, 2011, my husband and I enjoyed the last morning of a whirlwind four-week trip through California, Oregon, and Washington. We planned to visit a newly planted church where old friends were attending, but, for some unknown reason, that particular morning we felt more compelled to stay inside our cozy cottage snuggled together on the sofa watching In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley.
Dr. Stanley’s forty-minute message centered on our lives being used for the glory of God. He ended his sermon with a question that radically changed my life, “One day you will stand before the Lord your God. All-knowing God will look you eye to eye and heart to heart, and ask, “What did you do with the life that has brought glory and honor to me?” He’ll continue, “What did you do with the spiritual gifts I so generously gave to you, my child? Who did you tell the Good News of the gospel, possibly leading another precious soul to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? What will be your answer when He asks that all-important and soul- searching question?”
Suddenly, I heard God’s voice, the words pounding deep in my heart, loud and clear. “Have I not blessed you with a firsthand knowledge of my forgiveness, by my grace and mercy? I’m sending you to tell others about the forgiveness I offer to each one of my children. And that it is I alone who can and do forgive your past, present, and future sins!”
Wow! It was as if I had been hit with a two-by-four! I immediately knew the answer. A loud, reverberating, voice inside of me screamed out, “Write this book, telling others about events of my life and how today I’m able to see that my Lord was with me along every step of my journey. Talk about how deep my pain was, including the answer to the essential question for someone who has been abused, ‘How do I possibly forgive the person, especially somebody who abused me so deeply?’
Throughout the last few years, I’ve discovered that I can truly trust what God’s word promises to those who call him Savior; namely, that Jesus does love his children unconditionally. He knows that we’re sinners in need of His mercy and grace, and without him, we’re lost.
Following Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 26: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”
Most of us have heard the poem, Footprints, when a child of God asks, “God, why, during the hardest and most difficult times of my life and during my most painful experiences are there only one set of footprints, and not two?” God lovingly answered, “Because, that’s when I carried you.”
Go back to those years with me as I recollect a tragic, heart-wrenching journey, as well as many celebratory moments, when I was Made New.

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

Joan began attending another Baptist church, near Caruthers, and we quickly followed. We were attending this church when our son was born in 1980. I became very involved in the young married couples’ group and made several lifelong friends. Another married couple, Bob and Bernice Pierce, began mentoring me in my spiritual growth. This godly couple proved to be a true blessing throughout the next few years of my life.
Although I don’t recall specifically what I was going through emotionally at the time, one evening I found myself crying near the church parking lot, having my first conversation with Bob. He was such a loving and tender man. His height, thin build, and gentle tone of speech reminded me of Abraham Lincoln. He put one long arm around me and said, “Judy, I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But, I want you to know that we have a promise from the Lord that we can lean on when times are tough. It’s Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“Okay. Thank you, but I’m not good at remembering verses, but I’ll try to memorize it.” Not trusting in myself.
“If you can memorize it, you’ll always have a verse that you can cling too, when times aren’t so good.”
I’ve never forgotten the impact this verse has had on my spiritual journey through the years. Up to that point in my life no one outside of my family had had such a profound impact on my spiritual life as this couple did. Bernice Pierce was just as precious as her husband was. Shortly after we met, she told me that she was a breast cancer survivor, not once, but twice. I knew that this woman truly knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She seemed to have God’s Holy Spirit emanating from deep within her heart and it manifested itself in the way she spoke and in the way she prayed. Any time I had the privilege to be with her was a memorable one. Those times left an imprint in my heart and they were beautiful representations of Christ’s love for me.
My last memory of Bernice centers on a warm and breezy afternoon as I drove my ‘69 Corvette convertible towards Fresno Community Hospital to say my final good-byes to my dear friend. I walked into her hospital room, and as I entered her smile and the precious glow of her face, gave me a peace in knowing that she knew she would be making her journey to heaven soon. Though her skin was pale and she wore a covering over her head because of what the chemotherapy treatments had taken from her.
“Oh, Judy. Come here and let me hug you.”
Crying, I said, “Bernice, I had to come and see you one last time.”
Other close friends were present, as well, and we talked about old times; social get-togethers, swimming parties, Bible studies, Mary Kay parties, and Mexican feasts at Sal’s in Selma, California after church on Sundays.
She said, “Some day, we’ll all be in heaven together having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at one long table, big enough for all of us, and Jesus will be at the head of the table!”
I said, “Eating Sal’s Mexican food!”
Everyone laughingly agreed especially Bernice.
Bernice and I hugged and cried together. We knew that we wouldn’t see each other again on this side of heaven, and we both knew that she was ready to meet the Lord. Within a week, she did.

Excerpt from Made New: A Hippie Chick’s Journey From Abuse to Forgiveness

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