Question: I know you are very busy with your writing, so I don't want to keep you too long here, but I wanted you to know how much I am enjoying reading your articles and answers to the letters others write you. I have just finished reading the letter someone wrote you on spiritual fainting. It could have been written by me, for sure!!! I was amazed to see the date of the letter was the exact same time I was going through some terrible times in my family (a myriad of things all going awry at once). I felt particularly abandoned by God.
I am still reeling through this and searching for answers. Your answer to that person helped me sooo much! I am beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel here, so that is good. Thank you for helping me see that God does help us to ENDURE through these times. Speaking of time, I also see that God helps us, but in His time and through the course of human/earth time - He doesn't do things immediately but works through the process of human/earth time. Therefore, it does take some or a lot of time for things to finally end or become resolved.
You mentioned in a church attendance letter that you knew some pastors who you could recommend who are pursuing the true word of God, teaching with proper preparation, insight and depth. Do you know of any teachers in my area?
The other question I wonder if you could comment on is Matthew 27:52,53. Only Matthew mentions this huge topic of the graves being opened when Christ died, and many bodies of the saints who were dead arose and came out of their graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many. Why would Matthew only describe this? This is a BIG thing!? Do you think these saints went up to heaven with Jesus when he ascended during Pentecost? I would appreciate anything you know about this important event and piece of Scripture.
Thanks for your time and looking forward to all your new writings, as well as finishing the ones you have already posted!
Thanks so much for your encouraging e-mail. Nothing pleases me more than to hear when these materials have proved to be some spiritual help to my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I am particularly encouraged to hear from your testimony that you did not lose faith or heart even when you were under such difficult testing. In my experience and observation, nearly every Christian I have ever come across who was genuinely trying to pursue spiritual growth and a deeper, closer relationship with our Lord - and who was doing so the right way through the Word of God - has had a similar story. I am not talking about the details of suffering and personal tribulation, but about the fact of it, and about the important aspect of it that you have understood so well, namely, that as Christians we have to be sensitive to God's timing; that if we could have all pain and suffering and tribulation removed instantly through a genuine prayer of faith, then there would never be any true opportunity for building patience and perseverance (cf. Rom.5:3-5; Jas.1:2-8). In order to draw closer to Jesus, we do have to come to the point of realizing - and fully internalizing - the fact that He is more important to us than anything else in this life. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" probably did more to exalt Christ in his thinking, in his heart, in his true priorities, than any other experience (2Cor.12). Paul, of course, kept asking the Lord for relief (three times, he says), and no doubt would have continued had not the Lord told him that this was part of the plan ("My grace is sufficient for thee"). What this says to me is that even the most wonderful believers would never ever choose to suffer, given the choice, even though they understand that it is spiritually helpful. When the unbeliever suffers, there is no hope, and, unless such suffering leads him/her to Jesus; there is no other (positive) point. But when we believers find ourselves in trials and tribulations, we can take heart and take comfort that God will comfort us (2Cor.1:3-7), that He is making a way for us through the sea of trouble (1Cor.10:13), and that this suffering is temporary, necessary, and beneficial, far beyond what the eye can see (Rom.8:18; 2Cor.4:17). That is why, to the great consternation of the unbelieving world, we believers can actually learn to be joyous in sorrow (Rom.5:3; Jas.1:2; 1Pet.1:6; cf. Matt.5:3-12; Heb.10:34). This is not the province of the baby believer or the weak believer, but when we begin to grow in Jesus, when we start to take in deeply the word of God from Him who is the Word of God, when we begin to really believe what we say we do and start to put it into practice despite the devil's opposition, then joy through the tears of life begins to be a blessed reality.
I am very happy to hear that, in looking back, you can clearly see that God was with you all the time, and I hope that you can also see that these experiences, while painful at the time, all had a purpose, a very positive and salutary purpose, to bring you closer to God and to strengthen your faith. Many Christians, sad to say, wilt under the pressure of testing, and some even fall away from the faith (cf. Matt.13:20-21). "Why or why me God?" is a very common cry, and just as wrong-headed for us today as it was for Job. God was well-pleased with Abraham who, without any weeping, wailing or breast-beating, followed orders and took his only son to sacrifice him according to God's command. God was not well-pleased with the children of Israel who grumbled and complained when there was no water. In both cases, God had made provision before the earth was formed. In neither case did any lasting harm come to the people of God. The difference is that Abraham trusted God even when things looked humanly impossible, while the children of Israel - who had just seen Him part the Red Sea - wouldn't trust Him to do what was impossible for human beings to do. You are certainly right - God never abandons us. He does give us opportunities from time to time, however, to show how quickly and how easily we are willing to abandon Him - or that in the blessed alternative He really is more important to us than life itself. Ultimately, we have to learn as believers that the only point in our still being here on planet earth after committing ourselves to Christ is to serve God in the way He wants us to serve Him. And as long as we draw breath, then His plan and purpose for our lives endures; as long as we are here, He has a job for us to do. And whether it is in sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, in happy times or in sad, in easy times or hard, all things revolve around Him, not us. He is willing to work with us, no matter what our hang-ups, past failures, weaknesses or limitations. The only question is, how willing are we to respond to Him? God is here, right now. He is in us, Christ is in us, His Spirit is in us (Jn.14:17; 14:23). He is closer to us than the world we see, and He is more real than the things we fear the most. We have to get to the point of seeing Him who is invisible more clearly than the world in which we temporarily reside (Heb.11:27; 1Pet.1:8).
On your question about the resuscitation of believers after our Lord's death and resurrection, what we have here is a case of revival after death of the physical bodies of these believers. In the same way that Elijah and Elisha revived the sons of boys of the widow and the Shunammite respectively, that Peter and Paul each revived a departed believer, and that our Lord revived a number of the dead (e.g., the widow's son and Lazarus), so these believers were restored to their original physical bodies, now "quickened" or revivified. In all such cases, there is every indication from what I can see in scripture that all such individuals including those of Matthew 27 went on to live normal lives after their miraculous resuscitation. At the conclusion of their mortal lives, we must assume that they passed on just as if they had never died and been revived. We know of a certainty from 1st Corinthians chapter 15 that only Christ has been as we should say "resurrected", by which we mean having received the new, eternal, "spiritual" or "resurrection" body that will never know death or decay (see esp. 1Cor.15:20-24; and please see the link: Peter #20: The Resurrection).
As to why Matthew has this detail (I agree that it is important - but then everything in scripture is), I can only say that this is a phenomenon repeated over and over again not only in the gospels but elsewhere in the Bible as well. Certainly, we would love to have a variety of witnesses to every point of scripture, and sometimes we do. Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem, for example, is found three times in scripture (Is.36-39; 2Ki.18; 2Chron.32). And this is the case with some of the information in the gospels (although you might be surprised to do a study and see how many bits of information even in the gospels only occur in one of the four). About the only thing I can tell you on this is that, on the one hand, I have seen believers troubled by both things, that is, one time occurrence and multiple occurrence. On the other hand, in my experience, every such question in the Bible has a perfect answer, and everything in the Bible serves a perfect purpose. We may not see or understand either one immediately, but with the passage of time, the growth of faith, and the persistence of study, most of our questions along these lines do come to be answered eventually. In particular with reference to the gospels, there is great benefit in seeing these things from four different points of view - all inspired by God and all planned by God, but all written through the personalities and instrumentality of four separate individuals. This way, we have a richness and depth and a clearer view of this bright and shining light than might have been the case had there only been one gospel, even had it included all the details of the four. In the particular point you ask about, it is very interesting that only Matthew sees fit to tell about these temporary resuscitations - but all of the gospel writers rejoice in the permanent resurrection of our Lord, an eternal state that all who love Him are destined to share.
Finally, I am sorry not to be able to give you any guidance in regard to appropriate churches in your particular area. My network is relatively small. It is not an easy thing in our day to maintain a "church" based upon teaching the Bible like this. It is a bit like pouring new wine into old wineskins. As I say, a number of my dedicated friends and acquaintances have tried it, and those who did not have a traditional (or even non-traditional) group or denomination to tie into have generally had a rough time - not because of any particular failing on their part (quite the contrary in my view), but because of a lack of response (and in some cases hostility in response). What is to be done about all this is a problem that occupies my mind quite a bit, but that is no great help to you at the moment, I know. What I can say is that God will certainly provide all the spiritual food you need to grow. One of the reasons that I began this ministry was to offer an alternative for those who wanted truly substantive Bible teaching but could not find it in an accessible local church.
I commend you for the resilience of your faith - keep fighting the good fight in Jesus Christ. You may also gain some further encouragement from the following links:
On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials
The Peter Series: Coping with Personal Tribulation
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.
Waiting on God.
Sharing the Sufferings of Christ.
Yours in Him,