Monday, March 15, 2010

Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do!

Sorry, old coaching cliché's die hard. Whenever my teams went through rough patches of the season, we would try to encourage the players with this saying. Then I began to ask myself, is this statement really true? Do tough times always come to an end? Do only "tough" people make it through them? If it is a true statement, the Bible must certainly have something to say about it. Guess what, it does!

We know that the Bible teaches that all of us will go through trials and tribulations (Jn 16:33)…
"In this world you will have trouble"…We will have tough times in our lives. Not only that, but James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (James 1:2-4). Uh oh, you mean not only do we go through trials but we are supposed to be happy about it? Well, happy may not be the correct word but joy is. The word joy can be translated as cheerful, calmly happy or well off. But how can we possibly experience joy when we are suffering? I hope that I can help you with that question.

I have often asked the Lord, when going through one of those times, "Lord will this ever end?" Sound familiar? It is hard, when going through difficulty, to not want it to end quickly. Sometimes the trial may be physical, suffering through a particular disease. Other times it might be emotional, like going through financial struggles or divorce. Often times it is a spiritual trial, battling against a particular sin. We of course want these trials to end quickly because they can be so painful. Each of us has a different capacity to handle the type of trial we are in. Some people handle physical pain better than others. As an athlete, you are taught to "power through the pain" of minor injuries, so generally you can handle the physical pain. Other people don't always have that same threshold for physical pain but seem to be able to handle emotional situations better. These differences can be stressful because others may not understand why we have so much difficulty dealing with our circumstance and so they may not be very sympathetic towards us. That makes it even worse, because we think we are all alone in our trial. So, we just pray to get it over with and wonder if it's possible that this trial might never come to an end. So how do we possibly find any joy in these situations? One thing that I have found to be very helpful is to try to identify what the source of a particular trial is. The situation you find yourself in may have come from outside of you (the world), your own doing (the flesh) or the enemy of your soul (the devil). The reason that it is important to recognize the source is that your response should be different in each case. Let me show you what I mean.

In the book of John, Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind." A very interesting question since, if the man's sin caused him to be born blind, he must have sinned in the womb! Do you think maybe he kicked his mom too hard? Just asking. The reason they asked the question was because rabbinical teaching at the time said that sickness or disease was caused directly by someone's sin. Here was Jesus' answer, (John 9:3-4)"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. So we see in this case that this man's trial was not at all of his own doing. It really happened because we live in a fallen world that has diseases caused by the curse of original sin. But God had a plan to use what looked like a horrible situation, into a blessing, as Jesus healed the man and displayed God's great love for him. I'm sure this poor blind man needlessly spent much of his time in great distress believing that the blindness was his or his parents fault. That is why it is so important to identify the source of a trying situation.

Sometimes, the source of a trial is our own fault. We can ignore God's instruction, fall into sin and put ourselves into terrible trials. King David is a great example of this. In the book of 2nd Samuel starting in chapter 11, you can read the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. The story begins by implying that David should have been off to war with his army but instead stayed home. Then, seeing the beautiful Bathsheba bathing, instead of turning away, he intentionally broke God's law by bringing her into the palace, sleeping with her, impregnating her and eventually sending her husband to the battle front where David knew he would be killed. He then married Bathsheba, but went through many family problems due to his sin. Though God would forgive him, he paid severe consequences for his sinful actions. The source of these trials was clearly his own actions.

Sometimes the trial can come from Satan himself. In Job chapter 1, we read that Satan asks for God's permission to take away all that Job had, to prove that Job only feared God because of His hedge of protection around him. Satan thought for sure that he could induce Job to curse God. As you follow the story you see that God allows Job to be tested in this way. Job loses everything, including his family but prevails in the trial, refusing to curse God. He even says "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). He knew that the source of his trial was not of his own doing and was able to trust in God, no matter how bad it got.

This is the key to being able to rejoice, though you may be going through a very difficult time. If the cause is something that is out of your control, don't try to blame yourself. Go to the Lord and ask him to fill you with His grace and see you through the trial. Rejoice, knowing that He has promised that He will do just that. Remember that you are building endurance that leads to your spiritual maturity.

If you recognize that your trial is of your own making, acknowledge that to God. Repent (turn from the sin that caused the situation and back towards God), and receive God's forgiveness. If you have received Jesus Christ as your savior He has already forgiven you, but your repentance leads to restoration of fellowship with Him. (1 John 1:9-10) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." As David did, you may still have to deal with the consequences of your sin, but you can rejoice, knowing that His love and grace are always with you.

As it says in Lam 3:19-33 "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust — there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love, for he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."

GAME PLAN: Read the book of Job in its entirety

If you are currently going through a trial, seek God to help you identify the source

Ask for God's wisdom in dealing with the trial

If your sin is the source of the trial, repent, receive forgiveness, and ask the Lord for His grace and direction in dealing with the consequences

Rejoice in the Lord! He loves you!

God bless you, Coach








Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Not of This World

I'm sure you have seen the bumper stickers with these words done in a very artistic way. When I first saw one, quite a few years ago, I wasn't sure if the car belonged to a Christian or someone who someone who believed in UFO's and alien beings. Well, maybe it's a little of both. You see, in a certain way, we are supposed to live on earth as an alien. I know it may sound strange, but it is true. The Bible teaches us that though we live in this world, we are not of this world. Look at these verses:

John 17:6 "I have revealed You to those whom you gave me out of the world."

John 17:14-17 "I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."

John 15:19-20 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

You can see that Jesus made it clear that we are not "of this world". This begs us to answer a couple of questions. One, if we are not of this world, what world are we "of"? The second question would be, if we are not of this world, why are we here in it? Let's see if we can answer these questions.

Jesus gave us some clues about the world we, as believers are "of." John 17:24 says "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." So we know for sure that the world spoken of here, is one where Jesus is. We also are told that it is our heavenly Father's house, with lots of rooms.

John 14:2-4 "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." The Greek word for rooms literally means residences. We don't know for sure what that looks like but we know that Jesus prepared it for us. That sounds good enough for me! All this leads us to believe that our real home is heaven, the place where God the Father dwells and Jesus sits at his right hand.

The book of Revelation gives us some more insight on what goes on in our heavenly home. Read Rev 4:2-16, 5:11-14, 7:9-12 and15-17. These give us clues about the throne room of heaven and what takes place. There is however, another interesting thought about where our eternal home really is. If you look at Rev 21 you will notice that after the great white throne judgment takes place (the event where unbelievers are judged and sent to "the lake of fire"), the apostle John sees a "new heaven and earth" and a "new Jerusalem" where God will be with His people. This seems to be where we will live for eternity. We may not know what that looks like exactly, but there is some description in verses 10-27 and in Chapter 22. We do know that there will be no mourning, crying, death or destruction and that we will be with our Lord Jesus. How awesome that will be!

OK, on to the second question. Why did Jesus leave us in the world? Jesus answered that question in John 17:18 "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." He was speaking of His disciples specifically but then to us who would follow as well (v 20). He goes on to explain in verse 21 that the reason is, so that the world may believe that God the Father sent the son to show His love. So our main reason for being in the world is to show people the great love that God has for them as demonstrated by Jesus. Jesus showed God's love by giving His life for the world (John 3:16). While he was here on earth Jesus showed His love by healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead. He gave up His life in every way imaginable to reconcile the world to Himself (Read Col 1:15-23).

The hardest part of all this, at least for me, is how to live in this world but not be of it. 1 John 2:15-17 says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." The world system has a way of luring us in, but the key to not allowing that to happen, is also contained in the verse. We can keep ourselves from getting too wrapped up in the world, by doing the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-3 says "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. So let us not spend our lives living for this world, but instead by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to do His will.

GAME PLAN: Using a concordance, look up every verse that contains the phrase "will of God" or "God's will."This will help you to see what God's will is for all believers.

Many people want to know what God's particular will is for their life. I think that what they really mean is, what is God's plan for my life? God doesn't usually lay it all out for us. What He expects is for us to spend time with Him in Bible Study and prayer while we continually seek his direction. In so doing He will guide you into His plan for your life. Therefore, make sure you are setting some time out each day just to spend with Him