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Christian Trials and Testing

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Question #1: 

Dear Sir,

I am having a difficult time. But, thanks for all the encouraging letters and other materials on ichthys; they are of great help.

Keeping you in my prayers daily

In Him,

Response #1:  

I am sorry to hear that you are having difficulties, my friend. That is certainly not an uncommon thing in the case of believers in Jesus Christ who are making concerted efforts to grow spiritually. We know of a certainty that the devil aggressively challenges those who are seeking to make a difference for Jesus Christ. There are any number of cults, religions – even purportedly Christian groups – who promise material blessing and ease for participation (and especially for monetary contributions) . . . as if our Lord could be bribed. On the other hand, how many of those who love this world would ever think of flocking to a Lord who tells us at the outset to "count the cost" of discipleship (Lk14:27-33). We know for a fact that it is only "through many tribulations [that] we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22; NIV) – not a particularly attractive inducement for those who love this present world. Indeed, as the apostle Paul tells us, "if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1Cor.15:19; NASB). That is because our hope, our reward is not for the here and now, but for the life to come, and that is truly blessed beyond expression. Because no matter how well a person prospers in this life, he cannot take that prosperity with him to the other side. So even if a person could come to possess the entire world, what good would that do if he lost any claim on eternal life in the process? Unbelievers are walking around in a fog of denial. They act as if there were no death, no judgment, and no consequences for their decisions in this life. But we who have trusted Jesus Christ with out eternal future understand that the consequences for everything we think and say and do are profound, not in terms of a judgment of condemnation (for we have already passed from death into eternal life as sons of the living God; Jn.5:24), but in terms of reward. For what awaits us on the other side of this life is life eternal: resurrection and blessing and reward beyond our wildest imagination in the presence of the One we love so much, our dear Savior Jesus Christ (please see the link: "The Judgment of the Church").

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1st Corinthians 2:9 KJV

Thus it is that all we suffer and endure here in this very temporary world is working out for us "an eternal weight of glory" (2Cor.4:17), so that these earthly tribulations we endure for the Name of Jesus Christ are "not worthy to be compared" to all the wonders to come (Rom.8:18). We may not have come to the place spiritually yet where we can honestly say with Paul, "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (1Cor.12:10 TNIV), but we understand the principle, we know that the wait is very short in God's scheme of things (2Pet.3:8; Heb.11:35-37), and we also remember that Jesus has not left us as orphans to endure these trials alone: we have been given the gift of all gifts, the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, the One capable of turning all of tears of sorrow into tears of joy, and of comforting us even in matters wherein the world would pronounce us inconsolable (Jn.14:16; 14:26; 2Cor.1:3-7). This is our heritage as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ: victory through the tears in this short life, and celebration and reward beyond imagining in the New Jerusalem to come – if only we are patient in our sowing, that we may reap a bountiful harvest (Matt.13:8; 13:23; Gal.6:9).

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

You are in my prayers daily, my friend, for your help, your comfort, and your continued growth and progress in the Word, unto the day when the Lord brings you into your own field to sow and reap. May we each stand together and rejoice in our crops on that glorious day of days in the presence our dear Lord Jesus!

You may also find the following links helpful:

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

Spiritual Resiliency.

Waiting on God.

Feeling desperate and alone.

The Peter Series: Coping with Personal Tribulation

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill!

I've been a bit overwhelmed and down over the circumstances that have occurred over the past few days and I can't seem to make sense of how it all ties in with God's Will for my life. Romans 8:28 says that God uses all things that occur in our life for His good purpose for us. I heard a Pastor say that after he has studied that verse, he understood that the "all things" literally means all in the most literal sense. In 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul says that Satan hindered him and his brethren in the Lord. I can't understand why God would allow Satan to hinder Paul in his ministry if He allows all things to work for His good purpose. This brings me to my situation: I've been driving for over a year not knowing that my license was suspended. I got a mail from my auto insurance company stating that they would cancel my policy if my license was not reinstated within 20 days. I found out that my license was suspended because of 2 accidents that occurred in 1 day. This happened not because I was a lousy driver or lack of knowledge/skills (reason for suspension), but because my physician has prescribed me medication that resulted in these accidents. I shouldn't have driven that day (I was going to church to worship and learn God's Word). My doctor told me it was ok to drive when taking this medication, well...I would have to disagree with him, and by the way, I would never make this mistake ever again, nor am I taking this medication anymore. As a result of all these bad circumstances, I can't go to church because nobody will take me there, all churches are too far for me to walk, and I am injured to the point where walking in extremely painful, and more than likely it will be near impossible to reinstate my driver's license since the reason for the suspension (lack of knowledge/lack of skill) is almost near impossible for me to get my license back without consuming too much time which I don't have, too much money which I don't have, etc. Why would God allow for this to happen? for me to not be able to go to church anymore because of this (not being able to walk that far, no transportation). I would think that going to church to worship God and fellowship would be part of God's will. Now, I can't even go to the grocery store to buy food to cook because of the distance. I have this car sitting in the garage which I am paying monthly (financing) and paying for the space in the garage. I prayed to God and it seems as if He is not answering me. There was a time in my life where it seems that 99.99% of my prayers were answered, now it seems as if God has been closing His ears to me for quite some time and I can't figure out why, and why He allows such bad circumstances to occur in my life. I feel depleted of spiritual strength and almost feel like throwing in the towel so to speak. I pray for guidance, wisdom, spiritual strength (God's strength, not mine), strengthening my faith, etc., but is seems as if none of my prayers are being answered and that God is just allowing Satan to give me a beating. Why would God allow this and how does Romans 8:28 fit into all of this? Thanks again. My apologies for my whining, complaining and ranting.

God Bless,

Response #2: 

I am very sorry to learn that you are having such a tough time of things. I do promise to remember you in my prayers, and hope to hear a good report from you soon. From your words, I think it is fair to say that you already know the answers I'm going to give you, but it is certainly the case that all of us Christians need encouragement from time to time, for it is impossible to live an upstanding Christian life and avoid trouble. Paul told us that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Tim.3:12; KJV), and that "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22; NIV). Why? Because Jesus does not love us? God forbid we should ever let ourselves come to think that way. Jesus went into the darkness on the cross for us. He went into the very flames of fiery judgment to purge away all of our sins, to suffer that we might not suffer eternally, to be wounded that we might be healed, to die that we might have life eternal. Is there any greater love than that? And if we do have eternal life (as we do), should we really allow ourselves to get overly exercised about what happens here on this pitiful, temporary earth? This is truth which is easy to understand and accept in principle, but difficult to accept and apply when the pressure is on. Which of us, no matter how spiritually advanced, would be able to do better than Job did under the excessive pressure that came his way? Which of us would do half as well? Yet these things are true. What we have as everlasting possessions as believers in Jesus Christ is not to be compared to these "light, momentary afflictions" (Rom.8:18). If I were currently under such pressure, I might not be willing to accept such reassurances from you just as you might have difficulty accepting them from me. But these truths are from scripture, and from a man whom our Lord gave to endure sufferings far beyond what I would ever even want to have to contemplate, the apostle Paul:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
2nd Corinthians 11:23b-30 NIV

Whatever reason you and I have to question the troubles which have fallen on our heads, they really don't come close to matching what Paul had to endure (and this is just the short list above as anyone who has read the book of Acts knows). Paul might well have asked why all this was happening to him. Wasn't he an apostle? Wasn't he trying to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? Didn't all these troubles merely make his lot more difficult? Wouldn't it have been better for God to smooth his path for the sake of the building up of the Church of Christ? But instead of taking that approach in the verses above, Paul says "I will boast of the things that show my weakness". Rather than questioning his lot, Paul embraces it, trusting the Lord that He really is "working all things out together for the good", even when it was not apparent – and there must have been countless times when it was not readily apparent – that such was the case.

Paul was the greatest of the apostles, and yet his prayer percentage was not perfect either:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV

Paul was suffering, unjustly, and it was most certainly the will of God. But while most of us would complain, and only a few of us would trust God that He was indeed "working all things out together for good" even though it didn't seem that way to us, who of us is of the mature Christian stature of a Paul to say "Thank you, Lord!". But if we saw things with God's eyes, that is what we would do. For there really is a purpose in our suffering, just as much as in our blessing. I know from scripture and from experience that things which seem to be disasters at the time later are revealed to have been blessings through which God accomplished wonderful things (and it is certainly possible that such is the case in your difficulties as well). With hindsight, many Christians see such things, but it takes a very active, vibrant faith to see things that way at the time because at the time they can only be seen with the eyes of faith. That is really the mark of the battle-tested, completely faithful Christian soldier, namely, a confidence in God that surpasses all earthly sense, a willingness to trust Him when the entire world is screaming that we are crazy to do so. Anyone can be a "good Christian" when the sun is shining. It takes true Christian character to stand up and trust the Lord when the sky is falling.

None of this is an accident. God the Father planned it all before He ever made the universe through Jesus Christ. His angels received orders to pick us up lest we trip over a stone before they were ever even created. So why do we ever run into stumbling blocks at all? God knew they were there, and knew that the devil would put them there. Why didn't He have them removed ahead of time? Why didn't He remove the devil and his minions as soon as they rebelled? Why are we even here, still living this earthly life when it is with Jesus in resurrection that we shall live all eternity?

The answer, of course, is that we are here to have our mettle tested. We are here to make choices. We are here to choose for Jesus . . . or not. And for those of us who have chosen for Him, we are here to keep choosing for Him, choosing to grow through the Word of God, to pass the tests He puts in our way, and to help others do the same through our production according to the gifts and ministries we are given . . . or not. Our salvation depends upon what we choose. And as believers, our rewards depend on what we choose. But if there were no opposition, where would choice be? If there were no difficulties, how could our faith be tested? How could it ever hope to grow?

I can affirm through personal experience along with the (incalculably more important) testimony of the Bible that it is a blessing to experience suffering that is so undeserved that it cannot possibly be the result of anything a person has done wrong (Acts 5:41; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.3:10; Col.1:24; 1Pet.4:12-13). For if we are suffering for discipline (as happens to us all from time to time: Heb.12), then we have to learn to endure it and bear up under it, trusting in God's mercy and forgiveness. But if it is definitely not a case of divine discipline, if we are being opposed by the devil because we really are following and serving Jesus Christ in an effective way (as was the case with Paul), or to demonstrate to the world of men and angels both that our faith in God and our love for Jesus Christ is pure and not dependent upon our present material situation (as Job was honored to do), then should we not rather rejoice?

The great secret of the Christian life is that we can rejoice in our sufferings! We are allowed to do so, and we are able to through the power of the Comforter who lives within us. We don't have to "feel bad" that we "feel bad". We can "feel good" that God is taking care of us and that He will take care of us no matter how bleak things look, no matter how difficult the road we tread, no matter how impossible the situation we face. For nothing is impossible with God. We don't have to put a time limit on our deliverance: today is the day of our salvation (2Cor.6:2), even if it takes a thousand years (which to God is but a moment: 2Pet.3:8). We are allowed to be joyful, even when we are crying. We are allowed to thank God, even when our prayers are not immediately answered. We are allowed to trust Him, even when our eyes tell us that our situation is hopeless. We walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor.5:7), for "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Cor.4:18b; NIV).

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV

If we are going to move those mountains, we have to learn how to let God build up our faith in the only way it is possible for that to happen: through testing. We know that we can trust Him in this process, moreover, because He really does have our best interests at heart at all times, so that while we may not be able to understand, He knows why everything is happening exactly as it is happening. We will never be able to "see" perfectly this side of heaven. But we can learn to trust the Lord that He does. Please also see the following links for help with this important perspective:

Strangers in the Devil's Realm

The Angels are Watching Us

The Judgment of the Church

I know that you have it very hard right now, and I most certainly do not mean to suggest that it is not hard and difficult. I can see that it is, and that is the point. I also do not mean to suggest that I am perfect and have always passed such tests with "flying colors". But I certainly wish that I had, and I certainly intend in my heart of hearts to do so in the future, and I most assuredly am very glad for those times I have put my faith in my Lord Jesus' concern for me above what my eyes were telling me. My prayer is for you to experience that joy of faith in this trial. Anyone can rejoice in the destruction of the Egyptians on the far side of the Red Sea. It takes a Christian of mature faith to appreciate by faith what God is going to do even before He does it, and so be thankful for the journey as well as the result.

In the One who endured more than we can know that we might live with Him in blessing for all eternity, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill!

I had to retake the written and behind the wheel tests to reinstate my license and I passed them both. Other good news is that some of my family members who I haven't seen in over 10 years had contacted me and were relieved that I'm ok. I was so happy that I got to speak with them. I said to myself, I can't be more elated at this moment in my life. Well, I knew that as a believer that this isn't going to last long and that more trials were headed my way, and I was correct. I have neighbors in my apartment building living next to me that slam doors and cabinets so loud that it jars me awake and I don't know why they do this. I've dealt with this for a while and endured it, but last night it was almost as if it reached a peak and Satan was using them to take my peace away. I was awaken at midnight by super-loud banging noises. At first I ignored it but it continued. I banged the wall back to let them know that they need to keep it down, and there were 2 more louder bangs, and this continued until the morning hours. I put my ears against the wall and heard the person on the other side as if this person was waiting for me to make a noise so they can retaliate with louder slams and bangs, and I also heard one of them sobbing or at least that's what it sounded like, could have been laughter, but I'm leaning towards sobbing. I confronted one of them before who apologized and seemed nice about it, but now this noise problem is escalating and it's driving me off the wall. I wonder why the Lord would allow this to happen to me if He knows I have high blood pressure and this situation is making my blood pressure shoot through the roof. Why would God allow harm to me? I was thinking that this is probably a trial to test my patience and long suffering, but it's like I try so hard to endure this and it just keeps getting worse. I don't know what to do and I've prayed for solutions many times to the Lord and I don't seem to get an answer. The Lord answers all my other prayers but seems to leave this situation to get worse for some reason. Sorry for whining and complaining but it's so difficult and I am wondering why would God allow something that may lead to my death (high blood pressure) get worse and allow it to happen? I am also being obedient to the Lord too.

God Bless,

Response #3: 

Great news about your license et al., but I am sorry to hear that you are having problems with your living situation. I know from experience that this can be very frustrating. Just remember that God never puts on us anything we are not able to bear (1Cor.10:13), although there are many times we may not think we can bear up under it. In my experience, once we truly do give the problem over to the Lord in complete faith that He will handle it even though we are having a hard time with it, then the effect the evil one is trying to achieve is diminished and things usually then move on to the next test. Because Satan is not allowed to kill us, we can relax in the sure and certain deliverance of God from all things that may seem frightful for whatever reason. During the Tribulation, of course, there will be many martyred for the Lord, but this too is all in His plan. We have to be ready to give our lives for Jesus, if that is our Lord's good pleasure. When we do get to that point, it is amazing how all of the other big things are revealed for what they are: little things. This is not an easy perspective to gain, nor is it an easy point of view to maintain. But if everything in our lives were proceeding without any "trouble" whatsoever, we would not have the testing necessary to grow. Astronauts who stay in space for long periods of time lose their muscle tone and in extreme cases have had to learn how to walk all over again when they return to earth. Christian testing is like gravity. It may weigh us down, and it may limit what we can do, but it is this resistance which builds our spiritual muscle – when we continue to push forward in spite of it, that is. So it all boils down to this: determining what is the right thing to do is in any situation, doing it, then leaving everything else to the Lord. When we truly have grown to the point of consistently adopting that attitude, we can laugh through whatever tears life brings, confident that God is working out for us an eternal weight of glorious reward that is not to be compared to any misfortune we experience here in this life. As I say, my friend, this is easier said than done, but if we are consistent in our taking in of the Word of God, our believing of the principles of truth, and our application of them to our lives, our faith will grow and we will be able to handle all manner of tests in the fashion of the great believers of the Bible – and in anticipation of a great reward as we produce for Jesus Christ and help our fellow Christians do the same.

Stand fast in Jesus – He won't let you down.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hello Dr. Lugginbill,

As always your website is full of great information, keep up the good work! I had a question about trials and testing today. I am a believer and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was very young. I had many years of triumph by following Him but at some point I strayed. Recently, within the past year I have been delivered from a sin that I couldn't shake for many years. But, after being convicted of my sin and after many years of patience and prayer the Lord graciously has cleansed me from this unrighteousness. Thank the Lord Almighty! Do you think that God allows us to be subjected to sin like this so that we might be stronger believers. I always like the verse in Revelation 3:18: "I advise you to (A)buy from Me (B)gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and (C)white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that (D)the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." I can honestly say that my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ has 10 fold been increased since my release and I now see how sin separates us from God the Father. I know that this sin was wrong, but I see now that this trial has drawn me closer to God and I thank him everyday for his promise in 1 John 1:9.

Response #4: 

Good to hear from you again. I think that it is not too much to say that our continued presence on this earth once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior cannot be fully explained or properly appreciated without reference to the issue of trials, testing and suffering. Life for the believer is the negotiation of a battlefield; that is what this world is, and that is why we are still here following salvation, namely, to fight this fight of faith in the cause of dear Savior Savior (please see the link: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm"). Peter puts things pretty clearly:

In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – the deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:6-9

Without testing and trials, there can be no spiritual growth. Just as there are three essential virtues in the Christian life, so there are three essential response patterns to the Will of God; faith corresponds to believing the truth of the Word (and this requires hearing it from the Bible and from a good source of teaching); hope corresponds to applying the truth we have learned and believed (spiritual progress in actually living what has been made real in our hearts through faith in anticipation of reward and a good report before our Lord on that day of days); love corresponds to the effective functioning of the personal ministries to which we have been called (the integration of our gifts with the plan of God out of love for our Savior and our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ). All of our forward progress in the plan of God for our lives will be tested, refining our faith, sharpening our hope, deepening our love. We will never be perfect in the way we respond (or react) to it, but over time we can get better at it as we draw closer to Jesus Christ day by day, as He and His truth and the reality of eternal reward becomes ever more real to us.

As to your specific questions, personal sin results in divine discipline, but all sin has been paid for by the work of our Lord in dying for us in Calvary's darkness. Therefore all sin is forgiven when we ask for that forgiveness (1Jn.1:9). However, the fact that our sins have been wiped out on the cross and forgiven through confession does not mean that we do not receive divine discipline for them. As Hebrews 12 tells us very clearly, God treats us as His own dear children (for such we are in Jesus Christ), so that just as we would discipline our own children for their own good, so He likewise uses divine discipline to train us unto godliness (the difference being, of course, that He behaves toward us in a perfect way, so that not only is the discipline entirely just, but it is also precisely calibrated to do us the most good). No one appreciates being "spanked", but if we acquiesce and accept what comes from His hand to train and instruct us in righteousness, then the experience will turn out for good in every way in the end (Heb.12:11). For it is true in every way that God is working out every single thing in our lives for the good, that is, for those of us who really do love Him and His Son more than our lives (Rom.8:28).

So I would completely agree with your comments in this respect, namely, that whatever happens to believers who are determined to move forward spiritually, everything will work to build us up and edify us spiritually, if only we are responding to God instead of reacting against Him. This is true of divine discipline, this is true of testing which comes upon us when we are completely innocent, and it is true of all "combination" situations as well. God has a "first best WILL" for all members of the human race, and that of course includes first and foremost our salvation in Jesus Christ:

(16) For God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His one and only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead]. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. (18) The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's one and only Son.
John 3:16-18

As these verses make clear, God does not violate our free-will in the exercise of faith, and that principle explains so much about human history and all the reasons why "things are like they are". God judged His Son Jesus Christ in our place, putting Him to death for all of our sins. He genuinely wants us to accept that sacrifice and so be saved. He will not, however, force us to believe. The same principle holds true for believers. God's first best WILL for us all after salvation is that we run a perfect race. Because we have a sin nature, we will not live up to that standard (none of us). But it is certainly true that the better we fight this fight (offensively in spiritual growth; defensively in sanctification – neither one really being possible without the other, so closely do these two essential behavior patterns complement one another), the happier we will be, the more pleased our Lord will be with us, and the higher our level of rewards in eternity as a result. Even if we lived perfectly, we would still be tested. If we were perfect, our testing would look more like what happened to Job – undeserved suffering coming out of nowhere, but God delivering us in the end:

(10) Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (11) As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:10-11 NIV

If we are doing a pretty good job, but have occasional, serious lapses, then the example of David comes to mind. For David "had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Ki.15:5 NIV). David received fourteen years of intense discipline for his adultery and murder. However, God continued to use David throughout that time, continued to bless David, even as he was receiving punishment; and David continued to grow in the Lord during that time, accepting the discipline as deserved rather than reacting against it. I think it is fair to say that David grew in no small part as a result of the trials he had to endure in the divine discipline which followed his outrageous conduct. This is not to say that he wouldn't have been happier if he had refrained from his impulsive and sinful actions (he certainly would have), nor that he might not have experienced the same level of spiritual growth had he kept to the straight and narrow (he certainly might have – and God certainly could have provided him with undeserved suffering to heighten his faith in place of this deserved discipline). But the key lesson I would wish to emphasize here is that once sin has been confessed, all discipline can be for blessing, confirming our relationship to the Lord and building our faith under suffering (even if deserved) as we trust Him to bring us through the trial even so.

We are all sinners. And in fact, no one avoids divine discipline in this life. So true is this fact that Paul says in Hebrews chapter twelve that anyone who has no experience of God's discipline is not a genuine child of God at all (v.8). Even Job, whose resistance toward giving into sin under pressure is proverbial, in the end succumbed under the false accusations of his "comforters" (would that we all had Job's patience in the face of such pressures even so!).

So I suppose what I am saying here is that I agree with you. Whether the hardships which come our way in life are entirely our fault, or in no measure our fault, or a combination of the two, or impossible for us to disaggregate, we know for a fact that our heavenly Father loves us, forgives us, and is working with us and for us every step of the way. Ultimately, therefore, other than possibly suggesting course corrections in our approach (in case we continue to be at fault), it doesn't matter what the source of our testing may be. We are still facing the same picture. Our job is to get up, get moving up that hill of spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production, accomplishing what Jesus has put us here to accomplish, regardless of the opposition. If we do so, not only can we justly anticipate a rich reward in eternity (please see the link: "The Judgment of the Church"), but also an ever growing closeness in our relationship with Jesus here and now, one that brings that inexpressible joy Peter talks about, even though it be through a temporary veil of tears.

In the One who is all-sufficient to deliver us from every trial, no matter what our emotions may say or our eyes may see, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hello Bob,

Me again. I know I've laid a heavy load on you since we've met, but I am in a predicament once again. I almost feel I need to tell you my whole story so that you can understand, but that would be pages and I know how time is not always on our side.

I just don't know what to do. I've prayed for both of my family members regarding all of these terrible problems I've shared with you, and have done so over these years and I feel I am to make some decision or am being tested to do what it is I have prayed for. That again, it is either a test for me from God, or a stumbling block from Satan.

I want to do right by my Lord, but I also need to do what is good for me, but feel I am suppose to put myself on the back burner for others.

Please, I need scripture of some sort or advice as to what you think a Christian should do. 

Thank you,

Response #5: 

I'm sorry to hear of your continuing struggles. It does seem to be the case that whenever we make efforts to improve, we always meet with resistance. Often these come from those nearest and dearest. I certainly do not know enough about your personal history to judge the reasons for this present crisis – indeed, going by personal experience, I confess to times when I have been in doubt about my own periods of testing and their precise origin and meaning. Really, it is not important to know, especially if we are truly moving forward spiritually and striving to please the Lord. If we are in such an attitude, then the history of the opposition we face means almost nothing; only the way in which we meet it is truly important, spiritually speaking. What it always comes down to is this: figuring out what the right thing is to do, and then doing it. As is evident from your email, that certainly seems to be the place you are at. What does Jesus want me to do?

Obviously, there are no specific scriptures for the complicated, intertwined circumstances that life often presents us. Regardless of whether or not we have made them better or worse, they are often very difficult to disentangle. It is certainly the case that we are responsible for the relationships we have undertaken, marriage preeminently, and it is also true that we are responsible to help family members in genuine need. However, we are not responsible to put up with the sinful and self-destructive behavior of others, whether in marriage or in terms of family relationships. Where and how we draw the line is generally a matter of personal judgment. On the one hand, we do not want act precipitously out of anger, self-serving motivations, or a lack of love. On the other hand, we are not helping ourselves or those we attempting to aid if all we are doing is enabling them to destroy themselves and drag us down too in the process. When we find ourselves hanging in-between the two with no clear path forward, things can be uncomfortable in the extreme. In such cases, what we need is divine guidance – but not only that: we also need the resolve to do what we discover it is right to do, whatever that may be. What does Jesus want us to do? For if we really are willing to commit ourselves to the Lord's will body and soul, even if that requires difficult decisions or the continuation of difficult circumstances, we can have absolute peace in doing so because it is what He wants us to do. But, absolutely, before we even start seeking such answers, we have to be completely resolved to His will when He reveals it to us. The Jews who asked Jeremiah to inquire of God as to whether or not they should go to Egypt received the opposite of the reply they desired and the action they intended; it would have been better for them had they never asked. We have to be certain in our faith before we ask, in effect, to have that faith tested.

Honestly, it is impossible for me to say which way the Lord is pointing and what He would have you do. But I do know that He is most certainly with you in this trouble, and is able to sustain you whether you are being called to quietly endure, put up a fight, have someone move on or move on yourself. The Christian life is really amazingly simple once we remove our own strength, wisdom and egos from the mix. But it takes great spiritual character and faith to carry it through in a way that does honor to the Lord who bought us.

(14) "Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. (15) He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. (16) With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Psalm 91:14-16 NIV

I will most certainly continue to keep you in prayer for guidance and deliverance, and for your continuing growth in and service to our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Name of the Lord Jesus with whom all things are possible.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Dear Bob,

I am sorry to disrupt this wonderful email from you with one of sorrow. I am at a point in my personal life where my faith is in tact, my love of Jesus is in tact, and I do not blame or accuse God for these sorrows.

It is a feeling of impending doom. It is like a crossroads, but one who's directions are cloudy. My hope is here that God is working, but something troubles me. It's like I can't move and I don't want to. I trust nothing of myself, especially my thoughts. I feel like I've been blind. I am confounded. I can't pray, for I know not what to ask. I feel very lost and can find no comfort. I feel the joy slipping away from me and it scares me. Where I could see a light before me, no matter where it led, I see only this cloud or mist.

I want to cry, but I don't know for what I would be crying. It is not a depression. It is not a feeling of not knowing...it's a feeling that I am just about to know. This too scares me. It's hard to explain. I feel so alone.

The problems I have shared with you are only becoming worse and being compounded by other new and serious difficulties. I've reasoned that God will provide me a way out, if it were His will. And as I've stated to you before, I remain, feeling that I'm where I'm supposed to be, waiting on Him. In the meantime, I feel as if when others look upon me, I show no fruit of any kind. My life proves just what this world must think...I am a weak fool, whose faith has brought about nothing. This bothers me beyond anything. I can feign happiness and speak of hope. I can say everything will be okay and that God works in His own time. But, in the meantime, what they see, is far from what I say or do.

I know that God is with me. I know that He loves me. I know He is working this out for good. I just don't know how to act, how to be or live. My life is like eggshells. And I have lost who I am, if I ever knew in the first place. I have prayed for patience, but I know God will give me even tougher instances in my life to produce it. I have been patient a very long time now.

And I don't know exactly what I expect from writing you. I have no Christian friends and I think I need a word from one. I guess anything at this point will do me good.

Thank you for listening.

Response #6: 

I am very sorry to hear about your troubles! I will make this short, mostly because I shudder to give other people advice on major life decisions like this. As I often say, only the person involved has a chance of "getting it right" since there is so much a third party cannot know.

I do want you to know that I will definitely be keeping you in prayer in all this. I also want to assure you that your walk with the Lord and the sacrifices you are making for Him are not in vain. Everything you do for Jesus will last forever to your eternal glory and blessing. It doesn't matter what I or anyone else sees or thinks (even yourself) – Jesus sees the truth. And it doesn't matter how I or anyone else or even you feel about things – the important thing is to do what is right regardless of the emotional consequences (or of any other such consequences). I know of others who have found themselves in comparable situations whom the Lord has delivered without their own drastic intervention; when He does so, He does so in His own good time. Of course I also know of situations where it was right and proper for the person concerned to take decisive action and that was indeed in my view what the Lord expected. What your proper course is, is not something I not know. What I do know is that the Lord will give you the guidance you need. Just continue to keep asking Him in complete faith that you will receive the answer you are looking for. And when you receive it, be sure to act on it decisively, whether that means enduring the status quo or escaping while you can. Circumstances need to be interpreted in all this as does scripture. Everything that happens, happens for a reason, and everything that has been written has been written for our edification.

Jesus called us to peace, and in any long term situation, regardless of the problems, we have to be able to reach out aggressively and claim that peace at all times, and, if we are in the will of God and growing in Him, we will be able to do so regardless of the troubles we face.

I do have to ask one thing. You speak very disturbingly of "doom". Are you in any physical danger? Because if you are, then it is not a question of opinion or interpretation: you need to get to a safe place ASAP.

In our dear and merciful Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Bob,

I hope you remember me. The reason I am writing is that I feel I have finally received a revelation from above, and again, it was during a very desperate time and one I didn’t ask for. It just enveloped me and I just seemed to know. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I believe my life has changed because of it. It hurt and yet it relieved. It is hard to be in the dark about one’s life and to have the patience to wait for the Lord’s guidance and mercy. I believe I needed His mercy very much.

I can sit and type forever about myself and the "poor me" and "woe is me", and although the words "it isn’t about me" are in my heart, as a sinful person, it never really takes hold until the Lord wishes it to. Well, it did last night and I had to fall on my knees in forgiveness when it did.

My whole life it seems has been one of "Yes, Lord, I understand, but "what about me?" "What about all the terrible things that have happened and when do I get to feel better?" "Why do I have to "forget about myself" and focus on others?" "Who is going to take care of me?"

[details withheld]

Sometimes I thought I was just plain crazy. So, what to do? Go to the scriptures. That would seem logical, but only if one understands the scriptures. For the most part, I have come to know and believe that when we do read them, we are guided, we know what is truth and what it means. It envelops us as this revelation did. I never doubt this for an instant. The Father knows how we need to understand or feel when it comes to Him and maybe we are each different. For me, I just seem to know. It’s strange and difficult to explain to someone. Somehow, I think of all people, you will. It’s like when I read all the differing views on the internet. I can read them and just know what is lies and what is truth. I can try to explain the difference to someone and when they can’t see it the way I do, I just have to stop...they will never change. But, the interesting thing is that it is still truth to me, I still just know what is in my heart and what is the truth. This is how it is when I read the scriptures and this is how I know that I can trust you and what you put forth on your site. I just know

This knowledge allows us to "let go" so that we can be free to completely allow ourselves to let go of the whole "me" thing and focus on loving and bringing others to Him. Knowledge of being one of His "elect" should give us such freedom, letting Him take care of all the things we need so that we have no worries, nothing to question and this is what I think has been missing from my life. Relishing it and then living by it. So, no, although there will be those who fall away in the times to come, it may be those, who like I have, continue without welcoming this freedom, who will be the ones with no fruit, no works that come from faith and with no secure life-line that connects us to Him, and to walk knowing this and to completely let go and allow ourselves to completely forget ourselves and focus on following Christ and walking as He would. He did have that complete trust, faith and life-line from the Father and we are to be like Him, walking this same way. And this is what I didn’t know.

In Christ, my true light and freedom,

Response #7: 

I have been keeping you in my prayers about all this. I have been praying that the Lord would give you to see a way out or a way through. Sometimes the Lord delivers us out, sometimes He delivers us through. It is human nature always to want the former, but more often than not God's true deliverance consists of the latter. It is hard for somebody to tell us which to look for when we very often can't really even be sure ourselves, especially in the initial stages of testing. But I do believe and know for certain that God answers prayer, and that the process of refining us and purifying our faith is most certainly why our prayers on major things like this are not necessarily answered immediately and on the contrary can be very long in coming (when seen from our finite human viewpoint).

I am very happy to hear that you are coming to have peace about what exactly you are supposed to do. I know from experience that these sorts of situations are very difficult to deal with. Coming to a personal sense of peace, finding a Rock in the flood upon which to wait until the raging waters abate, is blessed, and is often the beginning of deliverance. From what you have written here it certainly seems to me that your faith has indeed been strengthened and refined by this difficult process, no matter what else can be said.

As to the question of "what to do", my answer has to be pretty much the same as before. The only advice I ever feel comfortable giving in such cases is separation from physical and extreme emotional abuse. In the absence of such factors, only the person in question can really figure out what is right.

One thing I do feel comfortable in saying quite emphatically is that the behavioral quirks of other people are certainly not your fault, and I would be very careful about how you internalize the situation in that respect. For it is certainly the case that we influence other people by what we think, say and do, but it is also very much the case that every person makes his/her own decisions. We can't reach into another person's heart and throw a magic lever. They have their own free will, and that is the decisive thing, not our actions. Understand, we are very much responsible for how we behave and how we minister, or fail to do so, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that other people's bad behavior is the result of misinformation, or lack of a little help/encouragement, or only in need of a better witness or better model. That's the stuff of TV and Hollywood. In reality, God never allows the desire for truth or the desire for repentance and faith to go unquenched or unfulfilled. Hard-hearted negativity towards God and the truth is the result of personal decision-making of the most willful kind, not the failures of others, real or imagined.

That doesn't mean that people don't change. It does mean that people almost never ever change, and that in the case of very long-standing life patterns, it usually takes a very abrupt "wake-up call" from God for them to do so – and in the case of the vast majority of the human race who have chosen against God, even such experiences don't and won't make any such difference. That is in large part what human history is designed to demonstrate. True repentance from someone who truly needs it is so rare that our Lord told us it causes all the heavenly angels to rejoice.

In short, I appreciate what you are saying, and it is clear to me that you are making spiritual breakthroughs. What I would wish to temper, however, is a out-sized feeling of responsibility on your part, or an out-sized confidence in what can be accomplished in respect to another person's spirit. Simply put, you are not nearly as "bad" as you make out, and other people are not nearly as likely to respond to a perfect (or near perfect) witness as you may hope.

I will continue to keep you and your situation in prayer about all this, and look forward to the day when we can "shout for joy" and "lift up our banners in the Name of Lord" in celebration of your victory (Ps.20:5). Until that day, hold onto the Rock. He can see you through any flood, no matter how deep, no matter how long.

In the Name of the Lord who bore all our sins in His body and washed them clean away with His blood, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your reply. It means a lot to me. I hear you.

[details withheld]

I hope all is well with you and your family. May God bless you always.

In Christ,

Response #8: 

Thanks for your email and for being so forthcoming. Believe me, I know from experience how it is when emotional issues and pressures such as this rise up and consume a person's life. It can feel that "the issue", whatever it may be, is the only thing in a person's life.

Here is what I know about that: God expects us to soldier on regardless of whatever storms scream through our lives – even if they settle over us and storm continuously. That is to say, what are we here to do? We are given one day at a time and on each and every day the Lord expects us to 1) grow spiritually (through taking in and believing in the Word of God); 2) progress spiritually (that is, apply what we know to life, passing the tests He gives us, great or small, long-term or short-term, orienting ourselves to divine truth and trusting in Him); 3) minister to others (putting our particular spiritual gifts to work in the particular ministries that we are given to perform). And if we are not in the place where we are/can do all three, then He expects us to get to that place in a deliberate and honorably way ASAP.

I know your situation is uncomfortable in the extreme, but that does not mean that the Lord does not have a plan for you and a particular use for you. We are all going to be evaluated before Christ's judgment seat in the resurrection, and that great day of days is not very far off now. For those who grew above the weeds, passed the tests, served the Lord, there will be crowns and accolades. For those who did not, well, just being saved, resurrected, having a place in the New Jerusalem, having a full share of Christ and being a full-fledged member of His Body, sharing eternity with Him and with each other, will be wonderful beyond expression and no cause for regret. Still, the best way to honor and glorify Him is to do precisely what He wants us to do now without demur.

Many people make the mistake of seeing "what God wants" only in negative terms, and it is certainly the truth that sanctification to some degree is necessary even to maintain faith. But forward progress in the Christian life is what really separates the heroes from the rank and file. Whoever we are, wherever we are, and whenever we are in our lives, now is the time to take up the challenge of growth, progress, and production. The Lord makes these things available to all believers who are interested in responding to Him, but they have to be done His way. They take time, effort, consistency, energy, and they will be opposed. But there is no other reason for us to be here. If a person has a blissful relationship, great material wealth, fame, fortune and success, what does that profit him or her in the long run, the only way Christians should look at things? As Jesus said, there is no profit for a person to gain the entire world if it costs them eternal life. And for believers, there is no point, no profit in being wonderfully blessed in life if it results in a loss of all reward in eternity. Better to have a difficult life bereft of all the things the world prizes, if so wills the will of God, if in the process spiritual growth, maturity, and effective ministry are the result. These are the things that lead to eternal reward, these are the things that please and glorify Jesus Christ. Figuring out the particulars of spiritual gifts and proper ministries are often complicated and chronic processes, but all the best ministries, all the most highly rewarded ministries of necessity follow spiritual growth and progress in any event, so that by the time a person has advanced to the point of trusting Jesus completely (maturity of faith) and of putting their hope entirely in eternity instead of time (seasoned maturity of focused hope), then the proper venue for one's own ministry to the Body of Christ out of love for Jesus Christ and His sheep will have become much more clear.

Everything you do is important, every day is important, every word, every thought, every deed. And every day brings an opportunity to push forward in this sacred cause of Jesus Christ – just as it brings us one day closer to Him.

In hopes of your achieving lasting peace in Jesus Christ in all of this.

Bob L.

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