Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me HOPE.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
—Psalm 119:49-50, ESV
Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.
There was a time when I could not fully accept any explanation for evil and suffering that didn’t make sense to me, start to finish. However, over the years, and through the process of writing my book If God Is Good, I’ve come to trust my own understanding less, and God’s Word more.
I find a strange delight in being swallowed up by the immensity of God’s greatness and by the divine mysteries that once disturbed me. Knowing that I’ll sit before God’s judgment seat—not He before mine—I choose to trust Him. And the more I do, the more sense the story makes to me.
And I am certain about this: the best answer to the problem of evil is a person—Jesus Christ. I’m convinced He is the only answer. The drama of evil and suffering in Christ’s sacrifice addresses the very heart of the problem of evil and suffering. And one day it will prove to have been the final answer.
So whenever you feel tempted in your suffering to ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” look at the Cross and ask, “Why did you do that for me?”
In this excerpt from his 2018 book God’s Grace in Your Suffering, David Powlison writes about how God changes our “Why me?” questions in suffering. (My thanks to Justin Taylor for sharing this on his excellent blog.)
So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is
You’ve now heard God speaking with you. The real God says all these wonderful things, and does everything he says.
By Pat Knight
Thomas replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
On Easter Sunday evening, “When the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After this he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20). At first the disciples were paralyzed with fear, but Jesus reassured them, “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence” (Luke 24:38-43), demonstrating that He had a functioning physical body that desired food.
The disciple Thomas was absent from the group on the evening following Jesus’ resurrection. When his fellow disciples relayed to Thomas, “‘We have seen the Lord,’” Thomas replied, “‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it’” (John 20:25).
The following week, when Thomas was gathered with the disciples, Jesus again appeared to them through locked doors, then focused His attention on Thomas. “‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’” (John 20:27), an admonition which also applied to future believers. Jesus was patient and merciful to allow Thomas the same opportunity to feel His scars as He had provided the other disciples the previous week. Immediately, Thomas confessed a climactic, credible confession, “‘My Lord and my God!’” (v.28).
We have no indication that Thomas touched his Lord’s wounds. It wasn’t necessary; Thomas instantly recognized his Master—His voice, His authority, His love. Jesus tenderly and compassionately meets the honest doubts of believers. As with Thomas, He willingly provides proof without criticism. Often during a period of doubt in our lives, we are led to new spiritual enlightenment. It is important that we allow doubt to function positively to develop our faith in the sovereign Lord. “Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults” (Isaiah 51:7b).
God is compassionate toward a believer who seeks self-knowledge and the help only He can provide. Our Lord will supply answers through His Word, Christian literature, church sermons, and other Christians. His resources are unlimited, His love unfathomable. However, if the doubt aimed toward God is accusatory or tainted with unbelief, God will not respond. Faith involves submission, humility, and an open mind of belief in our Lord alone. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
God is a friend of believers, and He desires that we communicate with Him in that capacity. Are your prayers as natural with Jesus as conversation with an earthly friend? Our relationship with our Lord must be forthright and sincere, with our hearts consistently abiding in Him, searching God’s guidance and wisdom, absolutely convinced He will respond. “Ask boldly, believing without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-tossed, whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open” (James 1:6-8, The Msg.). The nautical comparison conjures images of believers tossed by waves of doubt.
Jewish rulers of the synagogue clamored for increasingly more proof that Jesus was the Son of God. Daily they witnessed His miracles of teaching and healing, but their doubt and suspicion only multiplied. Jesus refused to perform miracles on demand. He was all too familiar with hardened hearts, those unwilling to believe despite the evidence that convinces a receptive, pliable spirit.
Through the centuries since Thomas lived, he has been encumbered with an unmerited moniker as if he were the only doubter in history. Incredibly, there is an entry in our contemporary dictionaries for “doubting Thomas”, defined as an habitually doubtful person. Nowhere in God’s Word is Thomas identified as a repetitive doubter, aside from the single incident when Thomas sought confirmation that Jesus was the risen Lord, the same evidence afforded the other disciples a week earlier. Jesus didn’t rebuke His disciple, but patiently, lovingly offered Thomas the proof he was seeking.
Every life is more significant than to reduce the sum of it to one experience. Society has judged Thomas harshly and permanently. It causes me to wonder the reason Thomas was specifically singled out as a doubter when the doubt and unbelief of other characters in God’s Word had far-reaching consequences. Would any of us appreciate having our lives defined by one lapse of faith? God’s lack of spiritual censure assures us of His mercy and understanding.
Zachariah and Elizabeth were childless, a major disappointment in their lives, particularly disgraceful for a Hebrew woman. One day while performing his priestly duties at the temple, an angel appeared to Zachariah. “‘Your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord’” (Luke 1:13, 15a). Zachariah asked the angel, “‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years’” (v.18)? Even though the angel had been sent from God in heaven and had promised the most fabulous gift of their lifetime, Zachariah wanted more proof. His doubt overshadowed his belief. Thus, the angel struck Zachariah mute “‘because you did not believe my words which will become true at their appointed time’” (v.20). The future father was temporarily punished for his lack of convictions. Unbelief is blind and dumb, as illustrated by Zachariah’s lack of verbal communication until the day of John’s birth. Zachariah, a priest, who prayed at the altar of God for a child, questioned whether God’s answer was reliable.
Do we ever pray as Zachariah did, asking God for something specific, but not fully believing our request will be answered? Let us reflect on the belief in our hearts before we pray, to ascertain if we possess tenacious faith anchored in Jesus.
Following Jesus’ ascension, Thomas, like the other disciples, took the Good News of the Gospel into the known world of their time. With courage and convictions, Thomas planted churches in India, establishing Christianity that still survives today in a predominantly Muslim country, and there he was martyred. We owe a great deal to Thomas, who teaches believers by example that Jesus is not threatened by our sincere questions. He welcomes honest, searching inquiries that fuel our daily journey, as we reach out to touch and to be touched by Jesus’ nail-scarred hands. Then we know with certainty what Jesus assured. “‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’” (Isaiah 49:16).
All Bible references are taken from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.
Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.
By Randy Alcorn
Recently I listened to John Piper answer the question, “Why Do We See So Few Miracles Today?” on his Ask Pastor John podcast.
His answer is great. It also got me thinking about something else I would add to what John says: that visible miracles are reminders of the reality of greater invisible miracles, which in fact are happening all the time as God regenerates hard human hearts. Hence, God is doing far more miracles than we realize. That’s what this blog is about.
The Costly Miracle of a New Heart
Our Lord transforming human hearts, through stunning acts done daily around the globe, is every bit as miraculous as Jesus transforming water into wine. In fact, these redemptive acts make the dividing of the Red Sea, the falling walls of Jericho, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead actually pale in comparison. Is that an overstatement? No, because the greatest physical miracles cost our all-powerful God nothing, but the miracles of salvation, sanctification, and glorification cost the very life of God’s Son.
God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), makes us new in Christ (Ephesians 4:24), and changes our destiny from death to life, from Hell to Heaven (John 5:24). He takes drug-addicts, sex-addicts, pride-addicts, gossip-addicts, and every variety of sin-addict and works a transforming miracle in us.
As we yield our wills to Him daily, He provides yet another series of sanctifying miracles for us, so that cumulatively, if we have eyes to see, we’ll realize there have been thousands of intervening miracles of grace in just our own lives, and countless millions more in the lives of others. (For more on this, see The Wonderful Miracle of Conversion.)
When God drew me to faith in Christ, as a 15 year old, my life changed radically. One of the hundreds of verses I memorized was this one: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the only explanation of this was nothing less than miraculous. As the next verse says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (v. 18). Miracles are things which God does that cannot be explained by natural processes or human actions. Hence every true conversion—which is not the same as every outward profession—is by definition a miracle.
God’s Miraculous, Empowering Grace
Often when someone dies it’s said, “We prayed for a miracle, but for some reason God chose not to answer.” I understand this, and indeed it’s true that God sometimes doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.
When that’s the case, I think we would do well to realize this: “While he didn’t perform the miracle we asked for, He performed many other miracles of grace and encouragement, inspiration and comfort, personal transformation and increased dependence on Jesus, worship and deepened relationships, faithfulness and perseverance, empowerment, and open doors of evangelism…and almost certainly many other miracles we don’t yet know of but one day will. And some—perhaps many—of those miracles happened because the miracle we prayed for didn’t.” (See “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”)
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
—Psalm 42:11, HCSB
I think a lot about my Mom these days. The Lord took her home over eleven years ago. I recall one time that Rick and I joined my sisters in a visit to our parents who lived in Florida. Mom suffered with congestive heart failure, angina, arthritis, and a host of associated illnesses. During the final season of her life, she was on oxygen 24/7, slept most of the day, and was under hospice care.
When she was awake, however, Mom was amazingly sharp and a real chatterbox. She would apologize for talking too much and made all of us laugh when she said she needed to get all her words in before she fell asleep again.
In spite of her strong faith in her Lord Jesus Christ, there were times when she despaired of all her pain and frustration and wondered why God had not yet taken her home. She was becoming weary of the daily struggle, the fight sometimes to just breathe.
And yet, she never hesitated a minute to praise God in spite of her pain and difficulties. How did she manage that? Because of the HOPE she had that God would soon replace her pain and suffering with supreme joy and celebration.
Beloved, our HOPE is in the God who truly cares for us and does not allow us to go through our pain alone. Here is a simple way to always hold on to Jesus Christ, our HOPE:
Where is your HOPE?
2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.
What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:
“The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.
“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”
Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:
Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.
The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]
Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.
BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.
As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.
Where is God in all of this?
“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org
So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.
To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.
I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV
And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV
Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.
Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?
My Redeemer lives!
If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.
[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]
Sharing from Desiring God today.
Article by Greg Morse
Content strategist, desiringGod.org
His body didn’t work.
How long had he been known as “the paralytic”? How long had his legs not obeyed? How long would he be held a prisoner in his own bed?
But the word on the street was that the Messiah was coming. When the paralytic heard of it, he couldn’t help the impulse to do what he had been scared to do for some time: hope.
Story after story testified that Jesus could heal him. He could raise a cripple from his bed, he could resurrect fallen limbs — but would he? These legs? Forsaking caution, the paralytic enlisted his friends to carry him to his only hope.
The house was full. They couldn’t get through the door — but going home was not an option. They climbed to the roof, bore through the ceiling, and his friends lowered him down through the roof. Though many pressed in on the miracle-worker, Jesus, delighting in their faith, called out to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son . . . ”
As the Messiah began to speak, rain began to fall upon the desert; the sun was cresting the horizon; hope, his estranged friend, drew near again. Unknown to even his closest of friends, the years had worn on him. His spirit lay nearly as limp as his legs. But Jesus commanded him to take heart. He knew. In the crowded room, the Messiah himself called him “my son.” Certainly, the healing was about to come.
“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Then came the pause that felt like an eternity to a man with no use of his legs.
Imagine yourself standing there. You just made a way through a roof for your paralyzed friend to get to Jesus. As the Pharisees balk about his authority to forgive sins, you might wonder, “Does he not see him lying here on the bed? Does he not know our purpose for coming all of this way? Is he unable to heal? Would our friend not ‘take heart’ and feel more like ‘his son’ if Jesus healed his broken body as well as forgave his sins? What’s forgiveness when your legs don’t work?”
How often, in our own pain, have we been tempted to wonder the same thing?