Test Trials

 

Child in medicine maskTest trials are also known as “Clinical Trials” and these are implemented when trying to find a specific drug or medical protocol that will attack a certain disease or illness. These are tests of sorts and often, they are “last ditch efforts” to help fight certain types of disease.

The book of James comes out of the gate with some crazy ideas regarding trials of life and suffering. This is a different kind of test. Check this out…

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

12 Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4,12 CSB)

I’ve been through a few trials and suffering in my life and I did not think they were great joy. I will submit that the trials and sufferings built somethings inside of me that weren’t there before. I admit that I was pretty “ticked off” at God because of the trials and suffering, but then when I settled down, I realized that He would not leave. He would walk with me through the trial and He always has a different perspective on my trials from where He “sits”. It is very easy to lose perspective during a trial.

I believe that God has taught me things during trials and suffering that I couldn’t have learned any other way. I learned a lot about me and what I was “made of”. I also learned a lot about the faithfulness of The Lord. He is so patient and understanding while I’m reeling and frustrated. He holds me when I’m hurt and angry. He sits with me when I can’t even talk. I have a different perspective completely on all of life. I want Him with me as I celebrate the joy of life and I know He will be with me when I’m in a trial time or suffering time. He helps me make lemonade out of lemons. He helps me navigate through the dark ally of trial and struggle.

In the middle of one particular trial this song blessed me. “Let Me Feel You Shine” by David Crowder Band.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Simple Faith

 

faith messageI have grown in my faith over the years. I remember trusting the Lord when I was a kid. I was baptized when I was in third grade. I grew up in a family full of faith. My parents and grandparents followed the Lord. Going to church was not optional for our family. We were very involved. I remember “pushing the envelope” and trying some things that were against our family rules. I learned later that my parents knew more about this than they acknowledged. When I went away to college and had freedom from my parent’s rules and regulations, I had some decisions to make. I can still remember where I was sitting on the evening when my faith became my own. I was watching a passion play at Johnson Bible College and I saw Jesus being punished for the sins of the world. I remember renewing my faith in God at that moment. I believed in God on my own. I had lived off my parent’s & grandparent’s faith up to that point.

Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible as the writer pulls the old testament characters into the context of the new covenant. These men and women brought much inspiration to millions over the years and their faith was simple and thorough. The writer speaks about this simple faith and its significance to my journey with the Lord. Check this out…

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.For by it our ancestors won God’s approval.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-3,6 CSB)

I believe faith is simple, but not necessarily easy. Faith is easy to talk about and even write about, but harder to live out. I believe that my faith is much like a muscle, the more I use it, the stronger it gets. Over the years of my life, I’ve leaned into my faith because I didn’t see any other options. I’m not in charge of the weather, the economy or even others. I do know the One Who is charge of EVERYTHING and I trust Him. He has walked with me through some dark valleys. He has protected me in some major storms of life. My faith grew profoundly during some of the darkest days of my life.

My simple faith reminded me of “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I want my simple faith to impress the Lord. I want to grow in my faith today as I live out what I say I believe. James reminded me that my faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) I want to work and live because I’m saved, not so that I can be saved by my works. I trust that the Lord created the earth and is preparing a place for those who trust in Him. I want to spend the rest of my days discovering more of Who God is and walking in simple faith before Him.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Suffering Can Build Strength

Child in medicine maskThere are times of suffering in my life that I thought was about to destroy me. I’ve not experienced a life-threatening illness, but one my kids has. I’ve not had a life-threatening injury and been air-lifted to a trauma center, one of my kids has. I have also had some personal suffering that has rocked the foundations of my world. I have been speechless and silent before the Lord. I have screamed at Him for help. I have screamed at Him in anger. He has NEVER wasted my times of suffering. He has NEVER left me when I was in the middle of suffering. I’m sure I’ve left Him a few times, but quickly realized the stupidity of that. I don’t always understand suffering, but I trust Him. I don’t understand why He doesn’t prevent it in the first place. I don’t understand why He doesn’t “swoop in” and save the day. During my suffering, He’s taught me to trust His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work.

Paul was a passionate follower of Jesus, a teacher & preacher. He started churches and served them and poured his heart and soul into them. They still didn’t seem to get it. He made his case again to them about his journey with the Lord through suffering. He wasn’t going to quit and he made that clear. He had suffered much but he wasn’t about to quit. Check this out….

24 Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. 26 On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers; 27 toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and without clothing. 28 Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 CSB)

Suffering can make you bitter or better – it’s up to the sufferer.

Suffering can give you new perspective.

Suffering can give you purpose.

Suffering can help save.

Out of my pain came my purpose…His Purpose for me. My purpose on this earth is to live to honor God and make Him known. I can’t stand during suffering without His strength. I remember another verse by Paul….

13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 CSB)

….and another:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 CSB)

This topic brought to my mind a song I heard years ago after suffering from a job loss….

His Strength Is Perfect by Steven Curtis Chapman

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

___________________

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Convinced

Discussing the truthThere are times when I simply don’t believe what I just saw. When I see a magic trick and I don’t know how the person pulled it off – I’m still convinced that he/she simply tricked me. I think this word convinced is a “1st cousin” to the word conviction. When I’m convinced about a truth it is usually related to a conviction.

Paul writes a second letter to the church at Corinth and he realized that he probably ticked some of them off or hurt their feelings with his first letter. His second letter, he doesn’t really “sugar coat” things but he does own the fact that he might have hurt them with his previous letter. Check this out…

For even if I grieved you with my letter, I don’t regret it. And if I regretted it—since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a while— I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 CSB)

I’m not really “preachy” with my conversations. I have found that discussion and dialogue produce more long-term results than one-sided rants from the Word. That is just not my style. I am convinced that the Lord will do what He needs to do to get my attention. He will allow some crazy stuff to come my way. He will allow suffering in my life because it drives me to my knees before Him.  I don’t believe that the Lord causes the suffering but I do believe He could protect me from it (and often does), but He never wastes a moment of my suffering. He uses that to build and develop my God-honoring character that produces a repentant and moldable heart for Him.

I’m convinced that the Lord loves me more than I know how to love my kids. He showers me with grace and mercy that I don’t deserve. He is so patient with me as I keep working on my walk with Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of my heart. I have suffered and grieved in this life, and I always ended up crying out before Him seeking His help and His direction through the suffering and struggle.

I’m convinced that suffering, grief and struggle are tools meant to destroy me but end of building me and making me stronger.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Suffering Struggles

quarreled couple in their living roomWhen I think back through my life at the struggles, I get a bit tired, yet inspired. I can now see the hand of God through the struggle. At the time of struggle, I couldn’t think straight and couldn’t see His perspective. I could only muddle through the suffering. I think suffering is one of the hardest realities that everyone battles – both the Christian follower and non-believer. Suffering is not a respecter of my faith. I believe that suffering is a result of a fallen world. I do not subscribe to the angle that God causes my suffering – for me that just doesn’t fit with what I know about Him. I do believe that could prevent or stop my suffering, but He doesn’t always choose to do that. This is a hard topic because when I revisit my struggles – even though they are in the rear-view mirror – it brings up a lot of painful memories.

Paul speaks about suffering in the opening chapter of his second letter to the church at Corinth. His writing has helped shape my view of suffering. Check this out…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 CSB)

I know people who have suffered more than I have. I know people who are in the middle of suffering right now. I don’t have all the answers for people in the middle of suffering, but I do know that the Lord never wastes times of suffering. I’ve learned more about His heart in the middle of my past experiences with suffering. When I’m on this side of suffering, it looks so different.

I know that one of the big wins in my personal sufferings is my ability to help others who are suffering. I have learned some life lessons in my suffering that I’m not sure I would have learned any other way. I started spending time in the Word of God many years ago and the Lord built into me some perspective and inner strength that I didn’t even know I had. My beliefs in Him are more solid today because of my sufferings in the past. I choose to trust Him with today and every day. During suffering and struggle, I choose to trust him. When I can’t see a good outcome, or ending to my suffering – I will still choose to trust Him.

This is not all that easy because suffering and struggle take its toll, but I will still trust Him with whatever comes my way. My faith is stronger because of struggle and suffering in my life. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. He never leaves me or forsakes me in the middle of struggle and suffering.

Pressing On

Dwayne

Mercy, Refuge & Rescue

 

God's mercy at the CrossI can remember in my life in the not-so-distant past when I felt like I could not stand under the strain of suffering. I remember having a job one day and the next it was gone. I remember clearly the devastation of divorce nearly 25 years ago. I remember the news of my son having cancer. I remember the call from the ENT telling me that they are air-lifting my son to Atlanta because of injuries he incurred when he fell from a tree.  I could go on and on about suffering and struggle in my life, but those are in my top 5. I have learned that my strength to stand comes from kneeling down before the Lord in surrender and worship. I believe that King David felt the same way. He was hiding in a cave and penned a great psalm/prayer of mercy, refuge & rescue. Check this out…

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, ‘You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.’

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me. (Psalm 142:1-7 NIV)

I can do nothing without the Lord. I can’t possibly navigate through the ups and downs of life without Him. The longer I walk with Him daily, the more convinced of this I am. His Presence and His Strength are beyond measuring. He helps me understand the struggle. He helps me through. I believe in His mercy. I believe He is my refuge – I can ALWAYS lean into Him. I can always count on Him for rescue. The way He supplies mercy, refuge and rescue does not always come when I command or ask – His timing and His plan is always spot on – even when I don’t understand.  I look back at the big struggles in my life and see how the Lord made good out of bad situations. His plan is way bigger than my plan. He’s used my struggles to teach me and build me for sure.

Pressing On!

Dwayne