Trusting God When Life Hurts – Andrew Murray

 

Andrew Murray (minister)

Andrew Murray (minister) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“He brought me here. It’s by His will I am in this very place.
In that fact I will rest. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace
to live as His child.  Then He will make the trial a blessing,
teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn in His good time.
He will bring me out again how and when He knows.

 

So let me say: I am:
(a) here by God’s appointment;
(b) in His keeping;
(c) under his training;
(d) for His time.”

 

Amy Carmichael quoting Andrew Murray in her devotional book: Though the Mountains Shake, p. 12.

 

Submitting to the God Who Turns Calamity into Blessing

It is easy to submit to God’s will when everything is going well… when you are walking on sunshine and feeling good. But when you find yourself walking in the shadows, it is then that submission to God’s will finds its severest test.

The Psalmist states, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

English: Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas "Sto...

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson photographed at Winchester, Virginia 1862. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listen in on Stonewall Jackson’s convervation with his pastor, Rev. Lacy:

“You see me severely wounded, but not depressed, not unhappy.  I believe it has been done according to God’s holy will, and I acquiesce entirely in it.  You may think it strange, but you never saw me more contented than I am today; for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good.  I am perfectly satisfied that, either in this life, or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity is a blessing.  And if it appears a great calamity, as it surely will be a great inconvenience, to be deprived of my arm, it will result in a greater blessing.  I can wait until God, in his own time, shall make known to me the object He has in thus afflicting me.  But why should I not rather rejoice in it as a blessing, and not look on it as a calamity at all?  If it were in my power to replace my arm, I would not dare to do it, unless I could know it was the will of my heavenly Father.”

Coram Deo – Devotional Guide through Acts 23

Coram Deo – Acts 23– Click on this hyperlink to the left for a pdf file of this devotional guide.

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase which translated means “in the presence of God.”

To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in God’s presence, under God’s authority, and for God’s glory.

Coram Deo fosters a life of integrity and a clean conscience (v.1).

  • To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos. When we are in right relationship with God and others, we possess a good conscience.
  • Conscience – Moral awareness. The faculty by which we distinguish between right and wrong. Conscience is an irrefutable testimony to the existence of God. We can sear our consciences and make them dull.
  • How is it that the Apostle Paul had a clear conscience? Paul had a clear conscience with regard to his past sins because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross which he proclaimed.
  • Acts 24:16 – “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” 

Coram Deo fosters courage to bear up under hardship (23:1-11).

  • What special encouragement does God give Paul at this time?
  • Let us consider some of the lessons which are implied in this incident.
  • Even God’s most faithful servants suffer discouragement and despair.
  • Encouragement comes ultimately from the Lord. God often uses people to encourage us, but it is God who is the source of all comfort and encouragement. It is in His character, His power, His promises and purposes that we find our hope and comfort (see Romans 5:1-11; 8:18-39; 2 Corinthians 4:16—5:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 3:16; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:10).
  • God often encourages us by reminding us of something we already know, but have either forgotten or doubted. Paul was not told anything new by the Lord, but only assured that what he had already been told was still going to take place.
  • Our encouragement is not rooted in our success, but in our faithfulness – our obedience to the task that God has given us. Paul’s testimony in Jerusalem was not humanly successful, but the Lord told him that he had completed his task of “solemnly witnessing to His cause” in that city. His task was done, and in this Paul could find encouragement.
  • It is encouraging to know that God has a task for us to fulfill, and that He will use us in fulfilling His purposes. Paul’s task of testifying to the gospel in Rome was not yet complete. There is more work to be done. What joy one can have in knowing God, in his grace, has chosen to use us (see 1 Timothy 1;12-17).
  • How has God encouraged you in the past?

Coram Deo fosters hope in a sovereign God who orchestrates the details of our lives (23:12-35).

  • How does God rescue Paul from the guerrilla attempt to kill him?
  • What does this incident reveal about God’s work in the world?
  • What is the basis of your confidence amidst turmoil and trouble?
  • To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. Nothing can come into my life apart from the loving hands of a faithful and good God who providentially controls all.
  • This chapter underscores the sovereign control of God over history, in such a way that men are responsible for their actions, and yet God’s plan that He purposed from eternity past will be carried out. A sovereign God does not need perfect followers in order to achieve His will. He does not even need saints to carry out His purposes. And so God used the apostles, Paul, the elders in Jerusalem, Roman officials, and unbelieving Jews to spread the gospel to the Gentiles as far as Rome.

Jeremiah 1 – We Are Known Before We Know

English: Eugene Peterson lecture at University...

Eugene Peterson

This Sunday at Trinity is World Missions Sunday. Dr. Paul Chinchen will preach from Jeremiah 1 on “We’ve a Story to Tell.”

Eugene Peterson offers some wise counsel in his book on Jeremiah.

He writes:

Before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.’ This turns everything we have ever thought about God around. We think that God is an object about which we have questions. We are curious about God. We make inquiries about God. We read books about God. We get into late night bull sessions about God. We drop into church from time to time to see what is going on with God. We indulge in an occasional sunset or symphony to cultivate a feeling of reverence for God.

But that is not the reality of our lives with God. Long before we ever got around to asking questions about God, God has been questioning us. Long before we got interested in the subject is God, God subjected us to the most intensive and searching knowledge. Before it ever crossed our minds that God might be important, God singled us out as important. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. We are known before we know.
The realization has a practical result: no longer do we run here and there, panicked and anxious, searching for the answers to life. Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.

– Run with the Horses, pp.37-38.

What Matters Most

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it: The fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me.

There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.37.

When Sin Looks Normal and Righteousness Seems Strange

When we abandon friendship with God to become a friend of the world, sin looks normal and righteousness seems strange (James 4:4).

David Wells defines worldliness like this: “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange.  It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal” (Losing our Virtue, 4).

It is normal today to value tolerance. It seems strange to say that there is one path to God… that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6).

It appears tragically normal today for married folk to break their sacred vows. Having a different sexual orientation seems like finding your true self. But, one man, one women, together in a lifelong union of marriage seems strange and entirely old-fashioned!

To desire to grow rich and lay up treasures upon the earth is valued and affirmed. But Psalm 52:7 reminds us of a man who “made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches!” It seems strange and pushy to tell those who have wealth to be generous and ready to share so that they might store up treasure in heaven.

It is normal to fawn over the rich and court their friendship while being callously indifferent to the plight of the poor (James 2:1-4). Critical, slanderous and filthy talk is normal (3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:9). Cursing people made in the image of God seems like sticking up for your rights. Returning a blessing seems like losing your mind and something a wimp would do. Dissensions and quarreling is normal. Seeking the heavenly wisdom that promotes peace seems strange and unattractive. (3:13-4:3).

Who’s friend are you becoming? The world or God’s?

The Great Hindrance to Friendship with God – Gleanings from James 4:1-10

I am preaching through a series entitled: 2:42 – Routine Investments in Redemptive Friendships. This coming Sunday we will address “The Great Hindrance to Friendship with God.” Below are some gleanings and insights put together by our pastoral intern from Covenant Seminary, Nathan Lucy. They were very helpful to me personally and I commend them to you.

Gleanings from and paraphrases of
The Epistle of James
Joseph B. Mayor
Commentary on 4:1-10
Pages 225 – 227

The same surroundings may be to one [person] a channel of divine influence, to another the very embodiment of the worldly spirit…. Fashion, politics, religion; the criminal, the [student], the working-man; all have their separate worlds…. Incalculable mischief has been caused by the imagination that the worldly spirit could be avoided by keeping out of some particular society which [people] chose to identify with the world. The world is in the heart of man. (225)

My paraphrase: [Because sinful desires come from within our hearts, we would be mistaken to blame our circumstances (family life, friend group, pressure to climb the corporate ladder, school, university Greek culture, the hospital work atmosphere) for our worldliness.]

*

St. James in the text tells us that the cause of quarreling is our eagerness to get the world’s good things, which are palpably limited in quantity, and often derive their chief value in our eyes from their difficulty of attainment. The fact of this limitation inevitably leaves many disappointed of their desire. But even the successful are not satisfied. No sooner is the coveted object attained, that the procession of disillusion commences. There is a moment’s delight at the victory over our rivals, and again the cloud of disappointment settles over us. We feel that, once more, happiness has eluded our grasp, and we are filled with envy and jealousy of those whom we fancy to be in any respect more fortunate than ourselves, till in the end we find our nearest approach to happiness in striving to prevent or destroy the happiness of others. How is this to be remedied? The Stoics answered: “by ceasing to desire.” The Christian answer is: “By desiring to be, and to do, what God wills, and by desiring others’ good along with and as a part of our own.” (226)

My paraphrase: [The good things of this world, although genuinely good, are not good enough to fulfill our deepest longings. Whenever we try to get good things to fulfill those longings, we will be disappointed. Whether we fail or succeed, we will be disappointed. So should we numb ourselves to desire (like the Stoics)? No! We should desire the Lord, the Lord’s will—our glorifying and enjoying him, and becoming the others-loving people he made us to be.]

*

We think jealousy a defect in human love; how much more in Divine!… [James’ phrase] is really a parable in which the soul is represented as standing between two rival wooers, God and the world. The strongest human passion is boldly taken to represent the Divine longing for the entire possession of the human heart… for the expulsion of every thought and feeling which interferes with the recovery of the Divine image in man and the attainment of the perfect ideal of humanity…. The Divine jealousy… desires nothing but the best good of the beloved object, and hates nothing but that which would injure and degrade it. (226-227)

My paraphrase: [God’s jealousy is not the wicked kind of jealousy that distorts love. Rather, his longing for us to love him in return is so passionate that only the passionate word “jealousy” can describe his longing. He passionately longs for us to be restored in his image, to become as fully, perfectly human as Christ himself. He is jealous for our sake, and hates only what threatens harm to us.]

*

The Divine jealousy having ordained that the world shall never give satisfaction, he who seeks his happiness there cannot but feel himself continually thwarted in his ambitions, until at last he conceives himself to be the victim of some jealous and hostile power seated upon the throne of the universe. Yet “He giveth more grace.” Underneath the dark suspicion which blots out heaven from our eyes we are dimly conscious of an appeal to feelings long lost sight of and all but extinct within us. In the Prodigal’s heart there begins to arise a loathing, not only for the husks with which he has striven to satisfy the cravings of the immortal soul, but also a loathing for his own folly and sin, and a longing for the home which he has forsaken, joined with the sense of his own unworthiness, which makes him fear least he should have lost it for ever. To one thus humbled grace is given in full measure: the soul, which could never satisfy its thirst from earthly cisterns, finds never-failing supplies of happiness in that inner union with God which is typified by the well of water springing up unto everlasting life. (227)

My paraphrase: [God sovereignly prohibits people from finding satisfaction apart from him. When our selfish ambitions are thwarted again and again, we can become bitter and suspicious of him. Yet the ‘prodigal’ learns to loathe his foolishness, and at the same time awakens to his longing for the home he rejected, and also recognizes his unworthiness to return. This is the humility of the one to whom God gives grace. The prodigal leaves selfish ambition and comes home to fulfilling friendship with the Father.]