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Posts Tagged ‘Testing of Your Faith’

praise

God has been faithful to teach us many, many things during our ten-year trial (see post).  There are three who share in our family business – Dana, his dad, and his brother, Larry.  It has been an unforeseen blessing that each has a vital Christian walk and each has placed himself under the teaching of God’s Word – when one of the three has been particularly harassed, one of the others seem able to draw from what God is teaching him and to bring a healing balm at the needed time.

Not all of God’s words to us have been soothing and re-assuring; more than our share have brought conviction and sorrowful repentance.  A couple of these verses, given early on in our trial, brought us face-to-face with our independence and a murmuring spirit which we know now to be dishonoring and grievous to our Maker.

One of the passages of which I speak is Deuteronomy 28:47-48 where the nation of Israel is being reprimanded.  Why? “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.”  The NIV translates verse 47 “…you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity…”

There’s a scene in the movie The Hiding Place where Corrie ten Boom is being dished up a thin broth in the Nazi concentration camp where she and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned in the last year of World War II.  The film shows previous scenes, times of prosperity, flash through Corrie’s mind as she recalls the feasts and fellowship which she had known before the war.

A similar thought was mine when I encountered Deuteronomy 28:47.  Scenes of past abundance flitted across my mind, days in which I was not careful to respond to God’s lavish goodness with “joyfulness and gladness of heart.”  I’ve written of this before, probably because it is a recurring theme in Dana’s and my training, but a thankful heart honors the loving care of our sovereign Father.   The ungodly and unrighteous are accused of this very thing in Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Because of our continued temptation to despair as we wonder if there will ever be a change to our present circumstances (a.k.a. failure to trust in the goodness of God’s purposes), Dana and I are trying to remind each other to look for every small grace that we encounter. I am praying for Dana that God would be the lifter of his head and he would raise his focus to see the gifts that surround us.

It’s a bit like Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God, though.  I’m convinced it would be life-giving, but in my frailty I seem only to be able to sustain the practice for short periods of time.  I pray that with use and Holy Spirit reminders, I might grow my capacity to see better my Father’s hand in the world around me.

To this end, I was particularly challenged by a prayer shared by Ravi Zacharius recently.  The prayer was written by Michel Quoist, a 20th century French Catholic priest and writer, as part of his book Prayers of Life.  Oh, that I might become by God’s grace an old woman who delights in the evidences of God’s care around me and my default way to walk through this world would be that of thanksgiving and gratitude. I pray that Quoist’s prayer will inspire you this Thanksgiving 2016 to similarly pray throughout your day.

– – – – –

Thank you, Lord, for all the gifts you’ve given to me today.

Thank you for all I have seen, heard, and received.

Thank you for the water that woke me up, the soap that smells so good, the toothpaste that refreshes.

Thank you for the clothes that protect us, for their color and their style.

Thank you for the newspaper so faithfully there, for the comics, for my morning smile.

Thank you for useful meetings, for justice done, and for the big games won.

Thank you for the street cleaning truck and the men who run it, for their morning shouts and all the early morning noises.

Thank you for my work, the tools, and my efforts.

Thank you for the metal in my hands, for the whine of the steel biting into it, and for the satisfied look of the foreman for the load of finished pieces.

Thank you for Jim, my friend, who loaned me his file, for Danny who shared his lunch with me, for Charlie who held the door open for me.

Thank you for the welcoming street that led me here, for the shop windows, the cars, and the passers-by, for all the life that flowed swiftly between the windowed walls of the houses.

Thank you for the food that sustains me, for the glass of water that refreshes me.

Thank you for the car that weekly took me where I wanted to be, for the fuel that made it go, for the wind that caressed my face, for the trees that nodded to me on the way.

Thank you for the boy I watched on the foot-path opposite, thank you for his roller skates, thank you for his comical grin when he fell.

Thank you for the morning greetings I received and all the smiles.

Thank you for my mother who welcomes me at home and for her tactful affection, for her silent presence.

Thank you for the roof that shelters me, for the lamps that light me, for the radio that plays, for the news, for music, and for singing.

Thank you for the bunch of flowers so pretty on my table.

Thank you for the tranquil night.

Thank you for the stars, Lord, and thank you, too, for silence.

Thank you for the time you’ve given me, Lord, for life, for grace, and for just being there.

Thank you, now, for listening to me, and taking me seriously, for gathering my gifts in your hands to offer them to your Father.

Thank you, Lord, thank you.

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Pilgrim's Progress Map

You may or may not know that the housing industry is a leading economic indicator.  That’s why housing starts and home purchases are a regular news item.  So when the nation began to reel under the housing crisis of 2008, those of us in the industry had already been feeling the downward effects since 2006.  Now, ten years through this, we no longer live moment-by-moment, wondering if we will still be in business in an hour; but because of the heavy toll the crisis and our weak economy has exacted on us, our small manufacturing business continues day-to-day, waiting to see how the Lord will provide for our daily bread (and that of our employees) and preaching to ourselves that God is good and does good (Ps. 119:68) even when he withholds provision.

Perhaps this is why today’s closing hymn affected Dana and I so deeply.  It was new to us, but is actually an old, old hymn written by John Newton in the 1700s.  As I understand it, the music has fallen into disuse, but we sang it set to the tune of the Water is Wide.  The song is titled These Inward Trials and took us completely by surprise.

It begins straight-forward enough with this simple prayer:

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

But the second verse hints at an answer to this prayer that in many ways reflects God’s answer to us over these last ten years.

T’was He who taught me thus to pray
and He I trust has answered prayer,
but it has been in such a way
it almost drove me to despair.

You see, we would seek, like Newton, to be transformed and gain victory over sin merely by our blood-bought association with Christ; but it does not seem to be God’s way to lead us untroubled to Christ-likeness, to bearing the image of his Son.

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request,
and by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Gratefully, long before God put us into the lab to test our head knowledge, we were carefully taught that one of God’s main means for our sanctification is to grow us by testing our faith through trial.  His intent, as Bruce Wilkinson taught us years and years ago, is not to break his children, but for us to come through on the other side with a deeper, more abiding and unshakeable confidence in the character and steadfastness of our God.

Instead of this, He made me feel
the hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds,* and laid me low.

The cry of verse seven mirrors feelings we have expressed in our darkest moments, moments (as recent as this month) when Dana was laid low in weariness, pleading for God to release him from his burden – a burden which places him in a position of responsibility to employees and lenders and yet allows him no earthly means to affect change, health, or growth.  Yet, as the verse goes on we see that this has been our road, by God’s design, to accomplish his high purposes in our lives.  And we stand to bear testimony that it has been only by God’s grace that his pilgrims have progressed!

‘Lord, why is this?’ I trembling cried,
‘Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?’
‘This in this way,’ the Lord replied,
‘I answer prayer for grace and faith.

And what comfort or ease can be greater than the Lord’s good and godly purposes in our lives?  Yes, my soul – He is good and does good!  

These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in Me.’

* [Jonah 4]

– – – –

…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:3-5).

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