Reflecting on a Purpose-filled Life

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17)

bowThere is something incredibly profound in the relationship Paul has with Timothy that speaks of Paul’s integrity as a follower of Christ. After warning Timothy about those who are not true followers of Jesus, he reminds him of what is true, encouraging him to remain steadfast because of what Timothy has seen in Paul. I find this incredibly challenging and convicting in my own life, desiring to be able to say this to my children and those I disciple. Paul seems to have gotten it all right:

Teaching – Paul is confident that all he has taught is right and completely in sync with all that Scripture reveals.

Conduct – This takes the teaching to the next level, because he’s confident to say that his conduct has matched up with his teaching. One never points this out unless it’s demonstrable.

Aim in life – Timothy can see what Paul sees as his purpose and what is valuable based on his priorities and goals. Again, this must match up with both teaching and conduct. If the teaching is not right, the conduct not in line with the teaching, then the priorities will be skewed.

My faith – Paul clearly believes what he says based on his actions. He truly trusts the Lord in all things as demonstrated by the way He lives His life. This is obviously more than lip-service.

My patience – Now he’s getting personal. If he believes and trusts Christ, he is content to wait on the Lord which includes showing patience for God’s work in others. Rather than trying to “fix” someone or manipulate a situation, Paul will speak the Truth, live the Truth, encourage growth, but leave the results to God.

My steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings – In the face of great suffering and challenges, Paul stays the course. His faith and belief in Christ and the Word of God motivates Him to persist regardless of the circumstances.In spite of the fact that evil will continue and even increase, Timothy is to continue to become more Christlike through what he has learned and seen and what he has read through Scripture, the very words of God. Because of his life and discipline, Paul has “street cred” and can encourage Timothy, with confidence, to persist. Paul need not depend on the “do as I say, not as I do” cop-out. Rather, he can simply say to Timothy, “Follow me.” What power that carries and what a difference it makes in a life!

Admittedly, it is so hard to live this kind of life.  Frankly, though, if Paul can do it, anyone can. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that changed Saul, an enemy of Christ, into Paul, arguably the most influential of all of the apostles of Christ, and it is that same power of that same Holy Spirit that can do that in me!

Plan B

I like a backup plan.  Sometimes I feel I need a backup plan.  OK, I always feel like I need a backup plan.  Maybe you do, too.  After all, who’s gonna jump from an airplane without at least two rip cords, right?  

The question I want to ponder a little bit is this: Is it bad to have a “Plan B”?  Is it good planning or is there something deeper, at least for the disciple of Christ?  Is it sin?  Hm, that seems a little harsh, at best.  Consider something I ran across while reading in Ezra (8:21-23):

I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

Let’s analyze that a little bit: Ezra proclaimed a fast for a specific reason…well, two, really, but one was primary (and it might not be the one you would think).  One reason was for their protection.  That’s important. It’s clearly not wrong to pray for protection on a trip, but that’s not the primary reason.  His greatest concern was his testimony before the king.  He had been declaring the importance of faith in God (notice the condition: “those who seek Him”), now if he calls for a plan B (“hey, just in case God doesn’t come through, could you give us a couple of escorts?”), it would totally undermine his testimony of faith in God.  In other words, Ezra saw the importance of practicing what he preached!

After fasting and praying (not just assuming God’s protection), he then declared that God heard their prayer…before they ever left! He demonstrated his faith in God at the onset, knowing he didn’t need a plan B.  Look at what he said again: “So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” (verse 23).  Then they headed out.  

Now, skip down to verse 31 and see Ezra’s testimony of what God did after the journey:

31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 

I have to admit, there are many times I start off the way Ezra did, asking for God’s protection, then work out my contingency plan just in case.  That is nothing short of a lack of faith in God’s protection and deliverance.  Think about it this way:  What if by my disobedience, my plan puts me out of the will of God?  After all, is my safety the utmost in God’s mind?  What if, in spite of my request for safety, God is most glorified (which is my highest desire) by me not being delivered?  There are certainly plenty of accounts in history that demonstrate that.  The most important thing for me should be to be in the center of His will, so that whatever happens to me, I’m OK in His eternal care and He’s glorified.

So, do you find yourself looking for “Plan B”?  Do you trust God enough to pray for protection, believing that He will come through, but OK with whatever He chooses to do in and with your life?  That takes a lot of faith, doesn’t it?  My encouragement to the Christ-followers is to realize that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that if you aren’t able to trust Him to that extent, start asking Him for it.

Planning isn’t a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, Proverbs teaches us repeatedly to do that very thing.  However, if our plans start undermining trust in the strong hand of the Lord, our trust in the “reserve chute” will lead us right into a deeper form of danger than anything we’ll ever face in our day-to-day lives.  That is living (and dying) outside the will and protection of God. It will be then that we find that pulling that second cord doesn’t work either.

Walking Through the Wilderness (and living to tell about it!)

Yesterday at The Gathering, I read part of an old post I wrote for my former blog, Espresso Roast, in which I was struggling through a wilderness experience.  Through it, I learned to trust God where I was, embrace the wilderness, and grow through it.  I hope it encourages you, as well. ~ dp

Originally posted July 26, 2006

A Walk Through the Wilderness

Years ago, my wife and I took our dog, Sydney, on a short hike up one of the nearby mountains in Massachusetts. There was a trail that led straight to the top after a short, twenty minute hike, giving a grand view of the breath-taking Fall colors.

As we finished our time on the mountaintop and turned to head down, Sydney decided she wanted to play “King of the Mountain” with another dog coming up the trail and took off chasing it down a different path. After finally catching up to her, we decided to continue down the trail we were on as opposed to climbing back to the top in order to go down the way we came. After all, they both went “down” and looked as though they headed in the same, general direction. 

Three hours later, after a grueling hike up and down hill after hill, our hearts sank when we came to a sign on one trail that said “Connecticut State Land.” We were supposed to be in Massachusetts! We were clearly on the wrong side of the mountain! Lost, as it were, in the wilderness. We eventually found a street only to see Connecticut license plates. After four hours of hiking, we made it back to Massachusetts and our car vowing never to venture off the known trail again (at least not without a compass!)

It is no fun being lost in the wilderness. It is frightening, lonely and leaves one with a feeling of hopelessness as though he will never be seen again! 

Though I found myself lost in a real wilderness, there are any number of times through our lives that we experience some form of “wilderness” or another. Just recently, I discovered that I have actually been in one for over a year.

As some of you may know, I graduated last May from seminary with a ThM in Apologetics and Worldviews. Since that time, I have been looking for a job…fruitlessly. I have wondered over and over why this was so hard and why God would not lead me to something.

Two weeks ago, it all came to a head. I very angrily told God that if He didn’t want me in ministry, then I didn’t want to be in ministry. I’ve tried and I’ve tried to follow Him and be obedient while He remained painfully silent. I held nothing back. I confess of this raw display of emotion because when I came to God honestly (He already knew how I felt inside anyway), He began to really deal with me. It led me to a place in which I could hear Him…really hear Him.

Though my feelings of anger lasted throughout an entire weekend (the weekend of my camping trip), a weekend in which I had nothing to say to God, my faith in Him did not deteriorate. I knew that He existed. I knew that He was real and that He was God, therefore being worthy of praise in spite of my anger. I knew that He could do something. I also knew that He was choosing not to. I was hurt because I felt He had abandoned me and that, perhaps, I had done something to cause that. 

Eventually I began to work through my issues, but it was not until the following Sunday that it all came together. We were sitting in our Bible Study Class at church talking about the Children of Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptians, led by Moses through the wilderness (do you see a theme developing here?). As we were discussing the topic, my eyes came across Exodus 13: 17-18:

  Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

At that moment it hit me…hard. God led them in the wilderness so that they did not become afraid and turn back. How many times does God lead His people into a wilderness experience either for their protection or their preparation? The wilderness was God’s doing, but it was not for their punishment but rather so that He could fulfill in them what He had purposed. He did so to protect them from themselves; from their fear in that even though God could have defeated the Philistines, they may have been too afraid at that point to go forward. They simply were not ready. They needed more preparation.

Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

God confirmed to me that I am, indeed, in a wilderness. The next day, I was mowing my yard listening to a sermon by Ed Young of Fellowship Church on the iPod in which he dealt with learning through, yep, the wilderness. Two days later, I had randomly downloaded a sermon which dealt with…you know already, don’t you?…lessons to be learned in the wilderness. OK, I got the message.

I am personally in a wilderness, wandering about while God does in me whatever it is that He needs to do. You know what? That’s OK. I may not be able to see the terrain for all the trees, but He does and He’ll lead me through mountains and valleys, through dried up ocean floors if necessary. But one thing is for sure: there is a “promised land.”

Through it all, just as God delivered men through history like Moses and Joshua, Joseph and Job, Daniel and the boys, King David and Paul, I know He’ll deliver me, too. See, the other thing I realized through the lives of these men is that God is a God of the wilderness. He has often used that as a tool; a training ground to prepare his chosen for the works He has appointed them to. So don’t be discouraged if you, too, find yourself in a wilderness. It just might be that the promised land is just around the bend.

Where Is Your Faith?

Last night, during Worship Out Loud at The Gathering, I spoke on Luke 8:22-25.  Here are the thoughts on that passage that led to that talk.

Jesus gave His disciples a command: “Get into the boat and let’s go to the other side of the lake.” They obeyed. First step of a good disciple…when you’re told to do something, you do it. These guys were called and they responded. In doing so, when you respond to a call and actually do what you’re told, you are expressing some level of trust in the Master that He knows what He’s doing and will take care of you. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t get in the boat. On the other hand, most of these guys knew the water. If there was ever a place they felt “in control,” it would be in a boat on the water (particularly Peter, Andrew, James and John who were fishermen). Of course, all that changes when a storm blows in!

Jesus has fallen asleep before the storm arises so it would appear that He is both unaware and, largely, absent the problem. How often does it feel that way? God has called you to do something and then left you alone in the trouble? (Here’s a hint at the Truth in spite of sometimes feeling abandoned: Joshua 1: 5,9 and Hebrews 13:5)

As the boat begins to take on water, desperation sets in as the danger closes in on catastrophic. The disciples do exactly what they should have done…just in the wrong way. They went to Jesus calling out “Master, Master…!” That was right of them to go to Jesus in this difficulty, but it was wrong in their attitude. It was not so much, “Jesus, we need you to deliver us,” it was more along the lines of “Jesus we’re going down!” This was not approaching Him as the one from whom salvation and deliverance is coming but a faithless act of panic.

Jesus responded in spite of their failure. He stood and calmed the storm. Jesus does not require our strength to deliver us to our appointed destination. He is compassionate and brings about His own purpose, but that doesn’t stop Him from using this as a teachable moment, asking them, “Where is your faith?”

So, where is my faith? Do I trust Him to complete in me what He has begun (Phil. 1:6) or when things go bad, do I declare in my thoughts, attitudes or actions that I’m going down! Do I come to Jesus with full certainty that He WILL calm the storm because of His purpose and compassion or am I simply calling out “Oh, God!” as I am certain I’m headed for a hard fall?

The disciples responded, asking each other in fear or awe of His power who this was that even the waves and winds obey His command. When someone like that has called and equipped me, who commands even the elements and they obey, is there really anything that should cause me fear other than the magnitude and extent of His own power?

Where is my faith?

A Rant.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of The Gathering and where we’re going and how we will get there.  I am incredibly encouraged by the spirit of the people who currently make up this Body and the excitement that is present about our future.

There is a focus on the Mission here that I have not seen over the past three years, a desire to seek God’s will and plan for us, and a hope to make a positive impact on our immediate community.  There is a unity like never before and, as a result, really much to celebrate about what God is doing.  We have developed some strong, healthy relationships/partnerships with some really great, missional sister churches in the area that I’m so excited about and grateful for.

We are getting somewhat serious about discipleship.  I think we are starting to understand that simply to gather together is not to be a church.  A church is made up of faithful, authentic followers of Christ who are committed to becoming more like Him every day and fulfilling His instructions that He gave us, including taking the Gospel to all nations.

But here’s the problem as I see it:  Though we are getting serious about taking the Gospel around the world, we are not yet serious about taking it around the block.

I am concerned because we are not yet focused on being a witness everywhere we go.  I am concerned that we are not looking for opportunities at every turn to tell people about the great news that there is hope in life, both here and for eternity, or living the kind of lives that make them hungry for something more.  We’re not there yet.

This is my prayer and my hope for us.  I am focused on my own life and my own weakness in this area and praying that God will ignite within me a hunger for taking the Gospel to the world and a repugnance for the complacency that too often defines who I am.

I look around at so many churches with an apparent focus on that which does not make a healthy church and find myself getting disgusted.  If I am honest, though, we’re all pretty disgusting.  We’re all too often focused on things that are more in keeping with kingdom-building (small “k”) rather than the Kingdom of God.  Isn’t it really just time to get over it?  Isn’t it time for us just to embrace what we believe and actually live it consistently? Isn’t it really just that simple?

When does the Truth of the Gospel define us?  I mean that in contrast to the way followers of Christ too often define the Gospel, giving off a false perception of who Christ is and what He really lived and taught while He was here; of what was and is important to Him?  Is it just me or is anybody else just sick to death of the weak, country-club, self-centered, homogenized, pasteurized, ego-centric, Westernized version of “church” that has dominated the landscape for far too long?  Is this really what we’ve become?  Is anyone else sick of the dualism that we, as Christ-followers, live – acting, thinking and speaking one way outside the walls of the church than we do inside, compartmentalizing our faith from the rest of our lives?  Just look at our Facebook posts.  How often are principles found in passages like Ephesians 5: 3-4 taken very seriously there?  Gosh, I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that…it’s so “old school,” isn’t it?  So yesterday.  We don’t worry about those kinds of things anymore.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Scripture hasn’t changed…we have.

So, my rant’s over…but my frustration isn’t.  I don’t want to sound too harsh or for it to be misunderstood that this is focused simply on others.  It’s focused on the collective us.  The Gathering has to decide to be different from the status quo.  We have to determine that we are going to be authentic and honest, focused on Jesus…period.  That’s why our slogan has simply become, “A church. Following Jesus.”  That simple. We just have to remember that “to follow” is “to become like”.  We can’t forget that.

Trusting When It Counts

Most of my married life has been one of uncertainty.  I’m not talking about my marriage, specifically, but rather the circumstances we have been in most of our life together.  Two years after Karen and I were married, we were called up to New England, uncertain of what we were to do, why specifically we were going or for how long we would be there.  I know that sounds strange, but it was a very Abrahamic experience: go and I will tell you later where and why.

As things turned out, it was the most incredible character-shaping and building eight-and-a-half years of either of our lives.  We were involved in so many different types of ministries and had opportunities to learn so many different things, that I can’t imagine life without that experience.  It’s where I finished my Master of Divinity degree and where, as a church-planter, I was specifically called as a pastor (though I was called into ministry at age 15).  New England is where I fell in love with cross-cultural missions and apologetics and worldview studies.  It’s where I began to understand what it means to be a real friend, investing in people for years in order to reach their hearts (New Englanders aren’t called the “Frozen Chosen” for nothing).

Our time in New England is also where we were the most financially challenged.  In spite of Karen and I working throughout these ministry years in the northeast, we were often wondering how we would make our next house payment, how the bills would be paid, and how God was going to see us through.  We didn’t always know…but He always did.  There were times when, literally, money would come through the mail the day before a bill was due to be sent (one with the exact amount plus the exact change for the stamp!).

The point I am making is this: Faith isn’t faith until it’s put to the test.  We never know, fully in our own hearts, that God can be trusted until we really need to trust Him.  That isn’t to say that we don’t believe God is faithful in our hearts and heads prior to experience, but it is still theoretical until we experience it.  Sometimes, we walk into those experiences knowing that God will have to deliver us if we’re going to make it while other times, God does the pushing and prodding until He gets us to a place where we have no choice, only to teach us what it means to trust and to allow us the blessing of experiencing His all-sufficiency.

Most of us are in a situation right now, where it seems hard to see where things are going, economically, in these downward times.  After years of plenty (which, ironically, was when Karen and I were experiencing the least we’ve ever had), the economy has taken a dive and it is affecting everyone.  The question is how is everyone responding?  More importantly, how will I respond and how will you?

Here is where the rubber of your faith meets the road of your experience.  Is God to be trusted?  Are you going to trust Him when there is no safety net?  Our we going to declare with the Psalmist, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Ps 91:1-2)?  Is He still God when the 401K dries up and the stock market ebbs and flows, when the savings runs out and when the bills continue to increase?

Sorry...couldn't resist. dp

Like John Piper recently expressed, I’m not one who puts much (read: any!) stock in the prosperity Gospel.  I don’t believe that God simply wants to punch your financial ticket so that you never have to experience want.  It is exactly those experiences that God most often uses to shape us into what He wants us to be.  Why would He short-circuit the process of preparing you for eternity just so you can experience the lap of luxury in this temporal environment?

So, should we expect more difficulty?  Probably.  Is God still in control? Definitely.  Will we learn through it? Hopefully.  I am praying for myself, my family and my friends and my church, that we will trust God when there is plenty and when there is uncertainty, just the same as though there is no different.

Paul said in Philippians 4:19-20, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Look at what that says:

God will supply (HE is the source and the provider).

all your needs (with the exception of nothing that you NEED, not necessarily want).

– according to HIS riches in glory in Christ Jesus (He has all of the resources that flow through our relationship with Christ)

– God gets the glory!

– Amen…so be it.

Trust is not easy.  I don’t like to put my hope in what I cannot see, but I’ve seen that that which I can see cannot always be trusted and God has given us His glorious promises to reveal to us that He will not drop us.  He can be trusted.  The question is will He be?

Piper on the Prosperity “gospel”

The so-called “Prosperity Gospel” sells millions of books a year for it’s proponents, but it is a counterfeit gospel.  John Piper pulls no punches in telling it like it is in this compelling video. (ht: Shane Waldrop, @fuelshane)

A Letter From Todd

I just received this from my friend, Todd MacDonald, who many of you know (and have been praying for) has been undergoing treatment for incurable mesothelioma in his abdomen.  Did I mention it’s incurable?

Todd MacDonaldHello everyone,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come
to an end” (Lamentations 3:22).

I received some very good news this morning! My second surgery has
been postponed indefinitely. While this morning’s CT scan did reveal
the smallest bit of residual cancer in my lower pelvis, it is of such
little concern to my doctors that at this point surgery no longer
seems necessary. In fact, the abnormality observed is so small that
it’s hard to know for sure whether or not it’s even cancer.

In three months I will return to Bethesda for another CT scan. It will
be determined at that time what additional treatment, if any, is
needed. For now, we are done.

So join me in praising God for healing. Join me in praising him for
his mercy. But join me too in praising him for turning an ugly thing
like cancer into a beautiful means of grace. For truthfully, as I
stand in faith now – on the other side of this valley – dying seems to
me a little less scary. And the comforts of this life seem a little
less important. My cancer may well return. I am content with this.
Health, wealth, prosperity – these come and go. I have Jesus. He is

And thank you once again for your faithful prayers and your steady
words of encouragement over these last nine months or so. Your faith lifted me when my own was weak!

Love in Christ,


Man, don’t tell me there is no God and He isn’t in control.  He doesn’t always choose to heal (and, like Todd said, it could come back someday), but sometimes He does to bring glory to Himself through a life He’s not done with here…and sometimes He does it just because He can.

For more on Todd, visit Todd MacDonald Music

Eight-Foot Ceilings

I don’t have the resources.  I don’t have the money.  I don’t have the time.  I don’t have the talent.  I’m scared of what will happen if it fails.  I don’t know how people will react to it.

Man, am I used to hearing these sentences.  Who am I kidding…I’m used to saying these things.  We call them excuses; reasons not to__________ (you fill in the blank).  Reasons not to do what I have the potential to do; to do what needs to be done; to do what I’ve dreamt of doing; to do what God has called me to do.  They are different excuses, but all have the same result: regret.

fearWhat is the motivator?  Fear.  Always fear.  Some might call it reality, or level-headedness, or good management.  I call it fear.  It is that thing that paralyzes us, keeping us from doing what can be done…what ought to be done.  It doesn’t seem to matter that fear is not of God and “if God be for us, who can be against us.”  The reality is that we still become neutralized into mediocrity.  We still get relegated to the sidelines of complacency because we would rather play it safe and deal with the minimal results than risk losing it all…or achieving it all.

I’m working through Mark Batterson’s book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, with our men’s group on Tuesday mornings, and am challenged yet again to stop settling for all that the enemy wants for me.  Did you hear that?  Usually, Christians talk about all that God wants for us, but the reality, we usually settle for all the enemy wants for us.  See, if he can keep me so afraid that I never attempt God-sized goals, I’ll always fall short of what I was created for.  So, exactly what is a God-sized goal?  I guess it depends on how big God is to you.  To quote Batterson, God is the size of your biggest problem.

We’re about to celebrate Easter.  Actually, a more accurate statement would be to say that we’re about to observe Easter (after all, as the President told the Turkish people, “we don’t refer to ourselves as a ‘Christian nation,’ but a nation of citizens…”).  Well, true or not, many of us will be celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus.  The question we must ask ourselves is whether we believe the same power that could give life back to Jesus can breathe life into the impossible in my life.  In your life.  Can God do the impossible?  If we believe that He can, can He do it in you?  How, then, do we get from the point of believing it in our head to acting on it everyday?  If we only believe it in our heads but it is not a reality in our lives, can we really say we believe it?  I mean, really, big deal!

If I believe that, I’m going to prayerfully be expecting the supernatural.  I’m going to begin attempting things that should not be able to happen.  hopeI’m going to begin to expect things that are not according to my limitations, but are based upon His limitless power and provision.  I’m going to begin asking Him to do things that I know are otherwise impossible.  It’s time to get past the platitudes!  I’m sick of hearing…of saying…how much God can do, but “I’m just not there yet.”  That’s a cop-out.  If God can, then God will do much more than I have seen Him do in me for His glory.

It’s long past time to stop expecting less than what we say we believe.  It’s unbecoming for one who says he’s put faith in an omnipotent God.  Maybe that’s the reason Newsweek has declared “The End of Christian America”.  Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten too caught up in an institutional religion and forsaken the real God who changes lives and makes an impact in not only us, but the world around us.  If that’s the case, then I hope that Christian America does die and can be replaced with people who want and expect an America where those who claim to know Jesus will look for Him to move within and through us; that we become the organism, rather than the organization (which is a terrible representation of who He is and what He does in a life anyway).  Now that’s the kind of America I want to live in.

May it start in me!

Grace Really Is Amazing

I had a conversation the other day with a very dear friend of mine who has recently begun a steep, uphill battle with cancer.  Though the prognosis is not great, his outlook is.  I was amazed as I listened to him describe the ordeal that lies in front of him and to hear him tell me of the grace of God that was instantly manifested in his life.

It’s one thing to read about it, study about and to even claim to have faith in the grace of God.  It’s apparently a whole “nother” thing to experience it.  As we spoke, I admitted to him that, in spite of the strength he was exhibiting, I was struggling a bit with it, fearing the worst while hoping and praying for the best.  His response to me was that he was so strong during this because, walking through the shadow,  he needed the grace…and it was there for him.  I guess it seems odd for me to even say this because I preach about it so often, but what Scripture says is really true. How many times do we actually stop and consider the pragmatic nature of faith in the real world?  In 1 Corinthian 10:13, Paul said the following:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

As I look at my friend’s battle, I see the temptation to doubt, to fear, to rage…yet he doesn’t.  Sure, he has his moments of weakness, but not beyond what he is able to bear.  Why is he so strong?  Because he needs to be and God has made it so.

He expressed to me how his pastor preached last week on Romans 5 and glorying in our suffering.  Do we ever think about that?  Glorying and rejoicing in suffering?  Yet because of the grace of God, my friend is rejoicing in the fact that, in his words, God hand-picked him to endure a disease that affects, literally, only 1 in a million people.  He rejoices in knowing that God is going to be glorified through his suffering because God has given Him the grace to trust and to rely on Him.  My friend doesn’t really know that he will survive beyond two years, yet He is praising God for His faithfulness and thanking Him for drawing him closer to Himself, now more than ever before!

I think that is true discipleship:  getting to the point that not only do we not blame God for bad things that happen, but we actually thank Him when they do, knowing that He is working through it for our good and His glory.  True discipleship is when we stop looking at people who have extreme faith during adversity and saying, “Man, I could never respond that well,” and trust that if God allows or causes such adversity to come our way, we would respond just as well because in that same hour, the grace would show up, too.

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