For My Good?

by R.C.Sproul

In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.

However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.

As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.

On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.

The comfort that I enjoy from knowing God’s providence is mixed at times with the knowledge that His providence may bring me pain. I don’t look forward to the experience of pain with a giddy anticipation; rather, there are times when it’s necessary for me and for others to grit our teeth and to bear the burdens of the day. Again, I have no question about the outcome of such affliction, and yet at the same time, I know that there are afflictions that will test me to the limits of my faith and endurance. That kind of experience and knowledge makes it easy to understand the tension between confidence in God’s sovereign providence and our own struggles with anxiety.

Romans 8:28, which is a favorite for many of us, states that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). There’s no other text that demonstrates so clearly and magnificently the beauty of God’s sovereign providence than that one. The text does not say that everything that happens to us, considered in and of itself, is good; rather, it says that all things that happen are working together for our good. That is the master plan of God’s redemptive providence. He brings good out of evil. He brings glory out of suffering. He brings joy out of affliction. This is one of the most difficult truths of sacred Scripture for us to believe. I’ve said countless times that it is easy to believe in God but far more difficult to believe God. Faith involves living a life of trust in the Word of God.

As I live out the travail that follows life on this side of glory, hardly a day goes by that I am not forced to look at Romans 8:28 and remind myself that what I’m experiencing right now feels bad, tastes bad, is bad; nevertheless, the Lord is using this for my good. If God were not sovereign, I could never come to that comforting conclusion — I would be constantly subjected to fear and anxiety without any significant relief. The promise of God that all things work together for good to those who love God is something that has to get not only into our minds, but it has to get into our bloodstreams, so that it is a rock-solid principle by which life can be lived.

I believe this is the foundation upon which the fruit of the Spirit of joy is established. This is the foundation that makes it possible for the Christian to rejoice even while in the midst of pain and anxiety. We are not stoics who are called to keep a stiff upper lip out of some nebulous concept of fate; rather, we are those who are to rejoice because Christ has overcome the world. It is that truth and that certainty that gives relief to all of our anxieties.

by R.C.Sproul

Real Faith – by George Mueller

Real Faith

TEXT: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1).

FIRST: WHAT IS FAITH? In the simplest manner in which I am able to express it, I answer: Faith is the assurance that the thing which God has said in His Word is true, and that God will act according to what He has said in His Word. This assurance, this reliance on God’s Word, this confidence is FAITH.

NO IMPRESSIONS ARE TO BE TAKEN IN CONNECTION WITH FAITH. Impressions have neither one thing nor the other to do with faith. Faith has to do with the Word of God. It is not impressions, strong or weak, which will make any difference. We have to do with the written Word and not ourselves or our impressions.

PROBABILITIES ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. Many people are willing to believe regarding those things that seem probable to them. Faith has nothing to do with probabilities. The province of FAITH begins where probabilities cease and sight and sense fail. A great many of God’s children are cast down and lament their want of Faith. They write to me and say that they have no impressions, no feeling, they see no probability that the thing they wish will come to pass.

APPEARANCES ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. The question is – whether God has spoken it in His Word.

And now, beloved Christian friends, you are in great need to ask yourselves whether you are in the habit of thus confiding, in your inmost soul, in what God has said, and whether you are in earnest in seeking to find whether the thing you want is in accordance with what He has said in His Word.

SECOND: HOW FAITH MAY BE INCREASED. God delights to increase the Faith of His children. Our Faith which is feeble at first, is developed and strengthened more and more by us. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God’s hand as a means. I say – and say it deliberately – trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of Faith. I get letters from so many of God’s dear children who say: “Dear Brother Mueller, I’m writing this because I am so weak in faith.” Just so surely as we ask to have our Faith strengthened, we must feel a willingness to take from God’s hand the means for strengthening it. We must allow Him to educate us through trials and bereavements and troubles. It is through trials that Faith is exercised and developed more and more. God affectionately permits difficulties, that He may develop unceasingly that which He is willing to do for us, and to this end we should not shrink, but if He gives us sorrow and hindrances and losses and afflictions, we should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more that Faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us.

The Church of God is not aroused to see God as the beautiful and lovable One He is, and hence the littleness of blessedness. Oh, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, seek to learn for yourselves, for I cannot tell you the blessedness! In the darkest moments I am able to confide in Him, for I know what a beautiful and kind and lovable Being He is, and, if it be the will of God to put us in the furnace, let Him do it, that so we may acquaint ourselves with Him as He will reveal Himself, and that we may know Him better. We come then to the conclusion that God is a lovable Being, and we are satisfied with Him, and say: “It is my Father, let Him do as He pleases.”

When I first began to allow God to deal with me, relying on Him, taking Him at His Word, and set out fifty years ago simply relying on Him for myself, family, taxes, travelling expenses and every other need, I rested on the simple promises I found in the sixth chapter of Matthew. Read Matthew 6:25-34 carefully. I believed the Word, I rested on it and practiced it. I took God at His word. A stranger, a foreigner in England, I knew seven languages and might have used them perhaps as a means of remunerative employment but I had consecrated myself to labor for the Lord, I put my reliance in the God who has promised, and He has acted according to His Word. I’ve lacked nothing – nothing. I have had my trials, my difficulties, and my purse empty, but my receipts have aggregated thousands of dollars, while the work has gone on these 51 years. Then, with regard to my pastoral work; for the past 51 years I have had great difficulties, great trials and perplexities. There will always be difficulties, always trials. But God has sustained me under them and delivered nw out ofthem, and the work has gone on. Now, this is not, as some have said, because I am a man of great mental power, or endowed with energy and perseverance – these are not the reasons. It is because I have confided in God; because I have sought God, and He has cared for the Institution, which, under His direction, has 100 schools, with masters and mistresses and other departments which I have told you before.

I do not carry the burden. And now in my 67th year, I have physical strength and mental vigor for as much work as when I was a young man in the university, studying and preparing Latin orations. I am just as vigorous as at that time. How comes this? Because in the last half century of labor I’ve been able, with the simplicity of a child, to rely upon God. I have had my trials, but I have laid hold upon God, and so it has come to pass that I have been sustained. It is not only permission, but positive command that He gives, to cast the burdens upon Him. Oh, let us do it! My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.” Day by day I do it. This morning sixty matters in connection with the church of which I am pastor, I brought before the Lord, and thus it is, day by day I do it, and year by year; ten years, thirty years, forty years.

Do not, however, expect to obtain full Faith at once. All such things as jumping into full exercise of Faith in such things I discountenance. I do not believe in it. I do not believe in it. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN IT, AND I WISH YOU PLAINLY TO UNDERSTAND I DO NOT BELIEVE IN IT. All such things go on in a natural way. The little I did obtain, I did not obtain all at once. All this I say particularly, because letters come to me full of questions from those who seek to have their Faith strengthened. Begin over again, staying your soul on the Word of God, and you will have an increase of your Faith as you exercise it.

One thing more. Some say, “Oh, I shall never have the gift of Faith Mr. Mueller has got.” This is a mistake – it is the greatest error – there is not a particle of truth in it. My Faith is the same kind of Faith that all of God’s children have had. It is the same kind that Simon Peter had, and all Christians may obtain the like Faith. My Faith is their Faith, though there may be more of it because my Faith has been a little more developed by exercise then theirs; but their Faith is precisely the Faith I exercise, only, with regard to degree, mine may be more strongly exercised.

Now, my beloved brothers and sisters, begin in a little way.

At first I was able to trust the Lord for ten dollars, then for a hundred dollars, then for a thousand dollars, and now, with the greatest ease, I could trust Him for a million dollars, if there was occasion. But first, I should quietly, carefully, deliberately examine and see whether what I was trusting for, was something in accordance with His promises in His written Word.

“As laborers together with Him” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

21 Discoveries I Made – Parts 8-14

by Terry Somerville

When I was saved I received an inner sense of adventure. I was heading into great things with God! I knew He called me to preach,  do miracles, and see revival.  Where would He take me? What would we do?

At first, God took us into pastoral ministry. Over the years that adventure descended into a secure routine,  and often a painful endurance. Yes, God was there, we saw awesome things, and had a reliable income. But I became deeply unsatisfied.  I felt like a sick kid looking out the window, longing to play again.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.  Matthew 13:45,46

After twenty-five years I said ” If I don’t “go for it” now and go through the doors in front of me, I never will.  I don’t want to be an old man looking back, wishing I had stepped out.”  So Karen and I left security and predictability  and entered  the adventure of the Kingdom.

Shortly after stepping out of the pastoral ministry Karen had several visions.

In the first one she and the Lord were standing in front of a vast green valley. She had an armload of charts and maps and the Lord said to her “You might as well throw these away. You have no clue where you are going. You will have to rely on me for every step you take.” Adventure!

A year or so after the first vision Karen  saw herself in the valley again, still holding an old fluted map. It was “Total Change Ministries”  This map was  also of no assistance.   When she told me this vision I was upset. I had been holding onto the provision of ‘para-church’ ministry. It wasn’t working and  God kept providing in other surprising ways.  Finally we abandoned all our expectations and every sense of human security.  Now we were  just depending on Jesus.

Peter, James and John went through this. When they saw the miracle of a “boat sinking, net breaking load of fish”, they were able to leave it all!  Jesus is the source and our security.

So when they brought the boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.  Luke 5:11

In another early vision, Karen saw people organizing an old west wagon train. The buckboards were loaded high with furniture, pump organs, and chests full of fancy clothing. The wagon master told the people to dump them and said “You can’t use those things where we are going”.  Then he handed them a strange looking bar. No one could see a use for it, but they dropped the other stuff and took the bars. The vision shifted to a later time on the journey. The wagons were stuck in the mud. Out came the bar and it freed the wagons.

A few years into our journey the Lord told us to incorporate a company.     For over a year we had no idea what it was for, and it just sat there. Eventually it got us out of the mud and we started our business!

A year after we formed our company the Lord led me to take a profitable investment  and start stock trading.  I had visions of a great income for my family and ministry, but God had other plans.  I studied diligently and began to day trade.  But I was was not free. I was controlled by my fear and greed, I found I could not do what I knew I should do!

I would buy a good stock and watch the technical indicators. When it came time to sell at a profit, I knew it.  But, in greed I would hold out for more, then lose it!  Or, I would buy a stock, and it would drop. Rather than quickly cutting my loses, I would hang on in fear, expecting a turn around that almost never happened.  I knew exactly what to do, but fear and greed overcame me. I had never seen this in myself before! Why couldn’t I do what was obvious??

My wife said she used to get up in the morning and find me praying in the living room in the presence of God. Now she would find me stock trading under a darkening cloud!

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:13

Who would have thought stock trading would expose my heart. Fear and greed was a pattern I learned from the world. In my youth I learned to be a “self made man.”   and mammon had a grip on me.  I would repent and break it off, but I needed to die to the old man!

Mammon and the world are enemies of God’s Kingdom. We have learned their ways and often find them in the church as well.  Entering the rest of God’s grace, goodness and love is the real remedy for fear and greed.

Karen and I desperately needed to know the Kingdom of God lifestyle. We were being pressed into financial dependence on God, and going deeper into debt!  We sought God deeply in a two day retreat in the mountains.  The main struggle was how to walk in Kingdom finances. Tithing wasn’t working and like layers on a rotten onion, we discovered several reasons why.

First, I discovered genuine biblical tithing is impossible.  I’m not jewish. I don’t have agricultural produce. I don’t live in Israel, and there’s no priesthood or temple to take my tithes to.  In fact the law imposes a 20% penalty if a person brought money to God instead of produce! What were we doing???  I had been serving a spiritualized religious version of the Mosaic law, and was expecting grace as a reward.

Second, and far worse, I had linked myself to  the curse of the law in Malachi 3:9  Since I sought to keep this one point of the law,  I had become guilty of the whole law. Our lives, and finances, were under a religious obligation, not grace!

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10

Those of you who are trying to be justified by the law have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:4

No wonder I could not receive grace in my finances. I had put myself under “the law of the tithe” and potentially the curse of the whole law.  When we said ‘but Lord, we tithed and gave offerings, where are the finances?” we were saying we were justified  by our own works.  I finally saw this truth but  was afraid to renounce tithing.  Fear of the law still ruled me!  Finally I made a violent breakthrough into the Kingdom and repented.

As we were working  through this  issue we found  some Kingdom teachers saying “the tithe is God’s tax on citizens of the Kingdom”.   But, Jesus was clear when asked about the temple tax.  The foreigners pay, but the citizens or “sons” are free!

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Matthew 17:25,26

If you are a member of a  church organization, go ahead and pay your dues, it can be a tenth, half or whatever you desire, but never give under compulsion of the law. We are not under the law, we are under grace. Every Christan must renounce the “law of the tithe” to fully participate in the Kingdom of God.

The truth about tithing exposed my spiritual performance legalism.  Religion says “my performance brings God’s blessing” But in the Kingdom, everything comes through  God’s grace and love.  I had spiritualized works of the law into a Christian theology for victory in life. I was a “self made man”, and this included spiritual things!”  I believed  my ability to do the right thing released  His grace! How wrong I was.  That’s not grace at all!

Here are some examples:

  • I tied God’s financial blessing to my works of tithes and offerings.
  • I tied spiritual freedom to my ability to confess the right words,  know the right scripture and do the right program.
  • I  tied Gods victory over the devil to my ability to identify the strongholds, find  and repent of every sin that may bind me. Name the demon, and use my authority.
  • I tied God’s  ministry and power in me, to my ability to know, speak, walk and work rightly.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

Surely my Heavenly Father will provide for me, protect me, and lead me, JUST BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  I needed to repent of my own works of righteousness and become child like.  In the Kingdom of God there is a higher road than my fallible ability to do it all properly, it is called faith.   Our own righteousness does not release the Kingdom, God’s love does.

As Karen and I continued to press  into the Kingdom we discovered  more and more of God’s grace. We are not “paying our dues” hoping God will bless us, but, we live  in His security knowing that He loves us and will take care of us.

The Lord gives salvation, healing, deliverance and provision  out of His great love!  He desires us to do the same.  Joyfully! It’s a great blessing!

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give. Matthew 10:8Every man Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:7 

Recently Karen was wrestling over giving $200 to help a needy friend. The Lord said “give $300.” Suddenly there was joy! The larger amount now seemed  easy! It was God’s gift to us to give. Kingdom living truly is a life of grace!  Grace to us and grace to others.

Even the well used scripture “give and it shall be given to you” has been misused. It is actually about giving to our enemies because that is God’s gracious character, and you belong to God.   Check it out.

But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. ….. give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:35;38

To fully enter the Kingdom requires a radical rethinking of how we do things.  It requires a radical love of evil men. It is joyful receiving and joyful giving.

When I began this pursuit of  the Kingdom of God, I was looking for a system.  I was looking for  the proper method to do things. A kingdom program to use in the church. (duhh!) God was drawing me, but I thought the answer was reforming the church and adding the five fold ministry.  I looked for the system and principles to operate the Kingdom by.  (Thats me in control again…..) The Lord graciously frustrated every effort in this direction. The Kingdom, and the church, are not systems.

I was saved by following a person… Jesus… but I had added all kinds of things to it.  Now I began a walk of repentance, laying down my ways and means, to live the relationship once again. The Kingdom of God is simple, the King ruling in the hearts of men. All things will be summed up in that King!

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.  Ephesians 1:10

If you want the Kingdom, live with the King.  It’s time for His people to leave the outer court behind and enter in.

Parts 15 to 21 in the next issue.