Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lessons I've Learned

Since my firing from Olin {a factory in East Alton, Il.} in 2007, I have gone through testing and trials sent by God for my refinement, that firing being a part of His testing.
A few years back, I came across a wonderful article entitled ‘The Refiner’s Fire’, penned by Steve Camp. Here are some key excerpts from that article…
“If you are just now in the fire, dear soul, be of good cheer – it shows at least that you are silver, and are capable of performing more acceptable service in God’s holy Temple.”
"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." -Malachi 3:3
This verse puzzled some people in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the folks offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the person called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. They didn't mention anything about the reason for their interest beyond the curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As they watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained, "in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities."

The person thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then they thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

Asking the silversmith, "is it true that you have to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined?" The man answered “yes…” He not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The person was silent for a moment and then asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy
-- when I see my image in it."
“The sitting posture shows that the refiner may seem indifferent, but He is not. He is carefully working with the silver, burning off and scraping away the dross that that the flames bring to the top. “I think I see in the sitting down of the refiner a settled patience, as if he seemed to say, ‘This is stern work, and I will sit down to it, for it will need care, and time, and constant watchfulness.’” (Spurgeon)
So if today you are in the heat of the flame and are in the center of the blaze of His refiner’s fire, remember that God has His eye on you and by His grace will keep purifying you (He will not let it destroy you) until He sees His image reflected in you.
I want to close with the impacting lyric of the song, "The Refiner's Fire," that my friend Steve Green recorded in 1989 for his album called, "The Mission." It is written by Brian Doerksen and perfectly captures the heart and truth of this post. May it deeply encourage you today in your walk with Jesus. To paraphrase John Piper, "don't waste the flame; embrace it." The Refiner's Fire
There burns a fire with sacred heat
White hot with holy flame
And all who dare pass through its blaze
Will not emerge the same
Some as bronze, and some as silver
Some as gold, then with great skill
All are hammered by their sufferings
On the anvil of His will
The Refiner's fire
Has now become my souls desire
Purged and cleansed and purified
That the Lord be glorified
He is consuming my soul
Refining me, making me whole
No matter what I may lose
I choose the Refiner's fire
I'm learning now to trust His touch
To crave the fire's embrace
For though my past with sin was etched
His mercies did erase
Each time His purging cleanses deeper
I'm not sure that I'll survive
Yet the strength in growing weaker
Keeps my hungry soul alive

From Steve Camp

I now understand so much more than the day I walked out of that meeting with Marla, the department head; the union, and the company. That was the beginning of God’s refining process for me, His child. I suffered persecution from Marla because I belonged to God; she is a child of Satan and attacked me as her father provoked her to do. Her position of authority over me was used by her for evil, however, God ordained this for that very purpose before the foundations of the world were laid.
I confess I also had a difficult time with Todd M., my shift foreman. Todd was quite a bit younger than me and hadn’t been with the company nearly as long as I had; yet, he was made foreman, replacing the departing Ed J., who’d taken a position elsewhere. Again, I understand and now see God’s hand in all of this; submission to authority is a tough lesson for me to learn and I will not learn it without the grace of God to get me through.
Not only did I have to deal with Marla and her continual false accusations, write-ups, and oral warnings, I also had a ‘young buck’ eager to brown-nose and score brownie points for himself, at my expense! That was how I viewed the situation, and there was some truth to that view.
I spent just over two years being harassed by Marla, to the point that even outsiders noticed. Part of my job duties was to load trucks, the truck drivers who came in on a regular basis noticed the treatment I received and commented on it frequently. I also will never forget my former shift foreman, Ed J.s’ parting words upon taking another job; he came to me, put his arm on my shoulder and said, ‘watch your back, Marla is out to get you’. WOW!! How would you like to live with that kind of pressure, knowing the department head wanted your head on a platter was not a comforting thought! Needless to say, it was a very stressful time for me; as a ‘babe’ in Christ, I did not fully understand what was taking place. I should have been in continual prayer and constantly seeking the Lord, and rejoicing over the trial; instead, confusion and doubt seemed to be what filled me.
It all ended August 24, 2007, the day Marla finally accomplished her ‘goal’. I was fired by Olin, after 13 years of dedicated, hard work, on a trumped up safety charge. Here is one of the things that always baffled me, whenever they accused me of wrongdoing, they would always say, ‘you’re a good worker, BUT’… or, ‘you’re the best group leader we’ve had, BUT’…how do you justify disciplining a good worker and overlooking the lazy ones?!?! I see now the hypocrisy of the situation, it wasn’t my work ability that they were condemning, it was the hatred in the heart of Marla that drove her to have management ‘watch’ me and purposely look for ‘things’ to charge me with.. This hatred stemmed from a sin-hardened heart that is dead to the things of God; my very ‘presence’ must have been repulsive to her. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, ‘for we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved; and in them that perish: to one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other a savour of life unto life’. By the way, this all started after I shared the Gospel with her on a Saturday; we were working overtime and she was there because Ed J., the foreman at that time, couldn’t make it in. I do not regret sharing the good news of Jesus with her, no matter what it cost me, it fails in comparison with what it cost the Lord for my soul.
I will never forget that final confrontation, the meeting between all ‘parties’ involved to decide my ‘fate’ with the company. Marla had brought what would be her final false accusation against me concerning a safety issue, this was the final blow; three strikes and you are out! I already had what seemed like a mountain of disciplinary action paperwork in my personnel file; the sad part is, 99% of it was made up. She’d nailed me with two other ‘safety violations’; you were terminated after three. Here is an example of how she worked; my job was primarily out on the loading dock. There were no machines out there, and NEVER had there been a safety rule saying you had to wear hearing protection while on the dock…never, that is, until I preached the Gospel to Marla. She had other members of management watching me, they’d come out on the dock to see what I was doing, or nose around the warehouse to ‘keep an eye’ on me. Talk about pressure!! The foreman from a nearby department walked out on the dock and informed me I must wear hearing protection, even though it had never been posted in this area. This is an example of how they work; all of a sudden rules were rules, without warning, simply because they ‘said so’; I was ‘guilty as charged!’
The final safety violation was another false accusation, brought about by the same foreman who nailed me on the phony hearing protection charge. He broke his neck to tell Marla when he caught me moving an empty metal tub without a pallet jack. What he didn’t know was that the dumper used to raise up these tubs so we could pack their content into cartons had been written up numerous times as unsafe by nearly everyone in the department. There was no way to remove the tub from the dumper with a pallet jack without the tub becoming jammed in the dumper almost every time because the ‘safety bar’ they welded was placed too low. The funny thing is, the day after they fired me, they fixed this ‘safety issue’. This was like a nail in my coffin because safety was the ONE THING you could NOT debate or disprove {after my firing, this foreman went to a co-worker of mine and said how sorry he was for what he’d done. I forgive him, but I wonder, what did he think Marla’s goal was?}.
Before the company had entered the meeting room, I had already told the union reps I did not want them to fight for my job, I’d reached the end of my rope and new my time there was done. Besides, I couldn’t take the stress any longer; I thank God I had the opportunity to share Christ with many lost souls there, including incoming truck drivers, people in the medical dept., folks in management as well as hourly employees; but somehow I knew He was going to remove me from this job.
So we went through the ‘legalities’ of the matter with little being said from my ‘camp’. I did get to say a few parting words to Marla, those words were simply this, ‘the bible says, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. If memory serves me right {it’s been four years since this took place}, those were my final words. I learned through a former co-worker that within a year of my firing, Marla was ‘let go’ by Olin. I do not gloat over her firing at all; however I do believe God ordained this due to her treatment of me. The cocky, arrogant foreman I had, Todd M., was also fired. I view these firings as being the work of the Lord; He placed these people in these positions of authority for my refinement, and when it was all said and done, they were removed as a judgment by God for their treatment of one of His own. May He be gracious to them, pouring out mercy and drawing them to Christ, saving their souls and bringing them into His glorious kingdom! By His grace, I have no animosity towards anyone I worked with at that facility.

While I was working for Olin, I also volunteered as a disc-jockey at a contemporary Christian radio station. I did the weekend shift, both Saturday and Sunday night, from 6-12. I’d had some radio background; this helped me to get my foot in the door. This experience was an eye-opener as well; I was so-o-o green around the gills and thought things labeled ‘Christian’ really were! The superficiality of the whole thing started to become clear as time went on. I listened to some of the lyrics and researched the artists for their testimonies…I found none that were biblical!!
The music was programmed out of their ‘sister’ station up by Chicago, so all I had to do was go in and pre-record my stop sets every hour. I would use certain scriptures that called for repentance, being born again, crying out like the tax collector, etc. It wasn’t long before I was being ‘talked to’ by the program director; the station consultants were afraid I was being too offensive, so I should refrain from speaking certain things. I figured I had nothing to lose; I wasn’t being paid, so I was going to use that airtime for the glory of God and speak His truth. I did not change one thing! There was a full time position that came open, needless to say, I did not get it! Praise God!!!
I spent six months doing this before going to the program director and telling him I was leaving. I knew it was time to go; he was a Christian, but I think he was afraid to step out of the boat. He told me his wife had begged him to leave the station because of the garbage that was being played and passed off as ‘Christian’; to my knowledge, he’s still there. I remember one particular incident where the station promoter {I think that was her title} went to the Dove awards; when she came back she was in a state of shock.. She said she could not believe what she saw backstage…Christian bands drinking alcohol and carrying on just like their pagan counterparts. It wasn’t long after that, she quit. Poor thing, she must have been just as green as me!
I am thankful for my time there; it was my first exposure to superficial Christianity. It was also an opportunity to be used by God to speak truth through the airwaves; may He save many from this feel-good form of Christianity that saves no one.

I went from drawing unemployment from Olin to working a lesser paying job at Affinia, a place I’d worked at right after graduating high school some 3o years prior and hated with a passion! As I ran this machine which manufactured brake parts {probably the same machine from 3o years ago, I just don’t remember!}all the horrors of repetitious factory work came back like a flood. It was piece work; you got paid by the hour according to your output…more pressure! The only way you could make your quota was to cheat, which I knew I couldn’t do. So, I just ran what I could; they must have felt sorry for me because they always paid me what they paid those who made top rate. I went from making 20.00 an hour at Olin to making 14.00 an hour at Affinia; I cried out constantly to God to find me something else because I hated this job!! I look back now and am thankful He didn’t strike me dead; I understand now the testing was for my own good. Learning to deny self, to trust in Him, to be humble, to go where HE ordains regardless of my opinion or likes/dislikes…these lessons and others aren’t learned when we are comfortable and everything is rosy. You will never learn anything unless you go through the fire! Only then do the lessons become a reality; you don’t just say ‘Lord, I pray to be humble, loving, compassionate, patient, etc.’ and presto…you are. No, no, no!!! You want to be humble? God will put you in places and situations that will break your pride. Do you want to be loving? God will put someone in your life that is very hard to love to work love in you. Do you want to be patient? God will purposely tarry in situations, leaving you there until He has worked patience in you. It’s ‘hands on’ with God, you must go through trials and testing to remove the ‘crud’ so God can work in you the ‘good’. Being refined in His image is not a pleasant experience.
The job at Affinia only lasted around 8 months; I was laid off because they were moving to Mexico. Again, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak the Gospel by His grace to those I worked with there. I went in to work Nov. 4th, 2008 and heard from co-workers I was being laid off, so I went into the office to speak with the supervisor, Larry Meyers. He informed me it was true and I could leave that day, or I could finish out the week; I decided to go ahead and leave. I’d worked through a staffing service, Adecco, which is how I got this job. So I filed for unemployment {again!}and within a month or so, I received a notice from the unemployment office I was being denied because I’d quit my job! I had a phone interview with the administrative law Judge for the state of Illinois, as well as an attorney representing Adecco. Needless to say, I lost! Prior to this, I contacted Larry Meyer at Affinia and begged him to speak the truth, but he stayed out of it. Instead of being enraged, God prompted me to pray for all who were involved.

It was January of 2009, I had no job and no income whatsoever, but I still had a mortgage and other bills to pay. My next stop would be part time work at Wal-Mart. I started out working in the deli, and here is a lesson in itself for me. I am NOT a people person, so to wait on others and serve them was the lesson with this job. Humility was another lesson, going from 20 to 14 to now just over 9 dollars an hour was quite a blow; waiting on demanding, rude, arrogant people was another; here is God’s refining work being played out in me.
I worked just a short time in the deli before transferring to an overnight stocking position. I did this so I could take a class in being a certified nurse’s aide. The overnight associate position was demanding and fast paced, neither of which I cared for! I could not understand why I had to work like a mule stocking shelves, other than the fact that the more aisles I could stock, the less people Wal-mart had to hire! I did learn that this particular Wal-mart store does not treat its employees well at all. I witnessed them firing a deaf woman, which I found very troubling. Both this woman and her husband worked as overnight associates, and both were deaf. They were expecting their first child; soon after I started, their daughter was born. When this woman returned to work, they gave her a hard time. She was not very fast, but she did get her assigned aisle stocked by the end of her shift. That was not good enough for management; she hadn’t been back long from maternity leave and was called into the office and warned about her ‘speed’. Some people can only go so fast, as was apparent by this woman. Again, I reiterate, she got her aisle done, but she very seldom was done early enough to do another aisle. So, they ended up firing her: I was reading one of their flyers in the break room in which they boasted about hiring minorities and handicapped people and nearly lost it! More hypocrisy!

This was another job that I really didn’t care for, but I wasn’t there too long. After nine months, I left Wal-mart to start a job as a c.n.a. in a nursing home. This is my current job; I’ve been there a year now and have mixed feelings on this type of work. I have witnessed much corruption in all my jobs, but especially the nursing home; the way they falsify documents, the fact that they only care about money, and the phoniness to their claim ‘home with a heart’ is sickening. But, I have learned to look beyond that and concentrate on the care of the residents; never would I have imagined myself taking care of the elderly, never would I have dreamed of cleaning up other people’s human waste, dressing them, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, giving them hugs, talking to them…this has been quite an adventure for me! Don’t forget, I said I am NOT a people person!! God can work miracles and I am proof of this work.
The Lord has worked humility in me most through my current position; it has also been the most rewarding of all jobs, even though the pay is considered at poverty level by America’s standards, the relationships built and lessons learned are priceless. When residents pass away, it is always heartbreaking and difficult; for this reason I do not like my current job. What angers me is that no sooner do they die than the facility has another ‘warm body’ in their room…it’s all about the almighty dollar; it’s a business and nothing more. I often pray for a different path because I get fed up with the poor care they receive and other issues, such as the business aspect of it. These are human beings, they have stories to tell, and they are lonely, tucked away in a 5x8 room they share with someone they don’t even know! All their life belongings could fit into a paper bag…70 or 80 years all rolled up in a grocery bag. Some have little clothing, so we are forced to put the same outfit on them every other day. What kind of family sticks someone in a place like this to begin with, then forgets about them, or doesn’t supply them with what they need?!?! I suppose the ‘busyness of life’ is much more important than the care of an elderly loved one. It is a very heartbreaking job, but here is the lesson for me….compassion, as well as humility. God is refining me; the lessons God teaches us are never easy to learn or easy to go through, and THAT is what I have learned and am learning as He takes me to places I never dreamed I’d be in. I have been blessed by God to speak the Gospel to people in every place He has put me thus far, and I pray He will do a work in the hearts of all who He brings in my path.
I like John MacArthur’s quote from his study guide entitled, ‘marks of true spiritual service, part one’ ---“Superficial servers, unlike Paul, are never satisfied with their situations, and are therefore thankless. They focus on their own insatiable appetites for glory. Show me a thankless heart and I'll show you a proud, self-centered individual. One who is thankful realizes that God has a cause for everything that happens”… I pray to have an attitude of gratitude.

The affliction of poverty is also very tough for me, as I’ve already mentioned, I went from a union factory job that paid $20 dollars an hour {if I were still there, I’d be making close to $22 dollars an hour}, to my current pay of 9.50 an hour. I find it interesting that there aren’t many teachings in our present day on the affliction of poverty; Thomas Watson from days long gone has been an inspiration to me with this writing, “God sometimes afflicts with poverty, which is a great affliction. To have an estate reduced to almost nothing is hard to flesh and blood. ‘The Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty’. Ruth 1:20, 21. God tries His people with various afflictions, so that they have need of patient submission to His will’ – from Thomas Watson’s sermon ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, based on the text, ‘may your will be done’
Another inspirational piece I came across was written by J.R. Miller, ‘Often we do not learn the depth and riches of God's love, and the sweetness of His presence--until earthly joys vanish out of our hands, and beloved ones fade away out of sight. The loss of temporal things empties our hearts--to receive spiritual and eternal things!’
Here is a quote from Dwight Moody worth mentioning as well, ‘We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God’--- How true!! The love of money can lead to worldliness as well as a state of complacency. Being too comfortable tends to put one to sleep, which is opposite of what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 13:11, ‘knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed’.
More recently, A.W. Tozer spoke well on the blessedness of possessing nothing in his book ‘The Pursuit of God’, ‘The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. They are `poor in spirit.' They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word `poor' as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. `Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
Let me exhort you to take this seriously. It is not to be understood as mere Bible teaching to be stored away in the mind along with an inert mass of other doctrines. It is a marker on the road to greener pastures, a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to by-pass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit. We must ascend a step at a time. If we refuse one step we bring our progress to an end.’ –A.W. Tozer---here is a prayer Tozer included at the end of this chapter -- Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all Those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus' name, Amen.
I cherish this prayer and come away with this truth from it; if you do not willfully let go of your love of your stuff, God will take it away from you! Some may scream ‘legalism!’, or ‘asceticism!’ More than likely, that scream is motivated by their love of their stuff, the very thing God commands us to part with and die to, so Christ may take His rightful place in our hearts.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote a short piece entitled ‘being thankful for pain’ in which he states, ‘The Puritans used to say that this life was the gym, the dressing room, for the life to come and if suffering here and now better prepared them for the next world, then it was welcomed. It has been said that pain is the second best thing because it leads us to the best thing {God}; for it is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God, and it is only when we come to the beginning of God that we come to the beginning of life. The paradox of Christianity is that if you want to find your life, you must lose it. In the world’s economy, life precedes death; in God’s economy, death precedes life. The cross always precedes the crown, desperation always precedes deliverance. The good news, however, the thing that should cause us to be both supremely thankful and hopeful is this: when we lose our worldly comforts, we gain heavenly ones…Thank God!’ – Tullian Tchividjian
As Paul Washer puts it, ‘Although the Scripture {Matthew 6:24} teaches us that it is IMPOSSIBLE to serve God and wealth, the application is far reaching. There can be no competitors in the heart of the believer. We must constantly survey our lives and search out competing loyalties. When we find them, we must be careful to deal with them severely. We must not show them even the slightest compassion. If we spare them, they will become barbs in our eyes and thorns in our side (Numbers 33:55). We can never truly serve God while such things are hanging around our hearts. Even those things most precious to us must not be excused from our censure. Jesus taught that it is better for our right hand and right eye to suffer violent mutilation than for them to become stumbling blocks to the upward call of true discipleship (Matthew 5:29-30). We must put away anything that deters us from Him and His pursuits. Our lives are on the line and eternity is at stake! The Expositor’s Bible Commentary concludes:
“Both God and money are portrayed, not as employers, but as slave owners. A man may work for two employers; but since ‘single ownership and full time service are the very essence of slavery’ (Tasker), he cannot serve two slave owners. Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all. Attempts at divided loyalty betray, not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.”
From Paul Washer’s article entitled ‘Is Your Eye Clear?’ – Heartcry Magazine Vol. 55

Many Christians in America do not really understand Luke 9:23, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’; or Luke 14:33 ‘so therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple’. As I studied the word ‘renounce’ I was drawn deeper into the true meaning of the passage. The King James Version says ‘forsake’ {same thing}; this comes from the Greek word apotassomai and means ‘to say adieu [by departing or dismissing], bid farewell, send away’. It is made up of two Greek words ‘apo’ and ‘tasso’. Apo means ‘separation, departure, cessation’; tasso means ‘appoint, determine, ordain’. We must determine to separate our hearts from loving our stuff, our loved ones, our selves more than Christ; these people and things should no longer hold top billing in our lives. We say adieu to them by departing from them in our hearts, severing the ties to all that would keep us from total submission to Jesus Christ. How many in this country truly get that? Jesus Christ called His disciples to abandon their careers, their possessions, family, friends, and last of all…themselves. Peter echoed these words in Matthew 19:27, ‘see, we have left everything and followed you, what then will we have?’ How many of us can utter those same words? Ouch!! From his book entitled ‘Radical’ David Platt says- “We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus, we do have to love Him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. It is entirely possible that He will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor; but we don’t want to believe it. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives, so we rationalize these passages away, ‘Jesus wouldn’t really tell us not to bury our own father or say good-bye to our family. Jesus didn’t literally mean to sell all we have and give to the poor. What Jesus really meant was…’ This is where we need to pause because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with; a nice middle class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that He receives all our affection; a Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts because after all, He loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether; a Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream. Consider the cost when Christians ignore Jesus’ commands to sell their possessions and give to the poor and instead choose to spend their resources on better comforts, larger homes, nicer cars, and more stuff. Consider the cost when these Christians gather in churches and choose to spend millions of dollars on nice buildings to drive up to, cushioned chairs to sit in, and endless programs to enjoy for themselves. Consider the cost for the starving multitudes who sit outside the gate of contemporary Christian influence” – David Platt, from his book entitled ‘Radical’. I agree with David’s thinking, but I think those who sit outside the gate of contemporary Christian influence may be safer than those who sit inside the gate.

There is much to be learned in afflictions, trials, and sufferings ordained by the Almighty; they aren’t sent to be wasted, nor or they ordained by God to show His superiority over those He saves. As John MacArthur says in a way that only he can, ‘God uses suffering to draw us to Himself. This is a very special thing that happens in suffering; he [the Apostle Paul and his thorn in his flesh] was immediately forced into the presence of God, and that’s the best place you could ever be, isn’t it? Have you noticed how good times don’t do that? The severer the trouble, the more likely you are to have an increase in your prayer life, is that not true? When you strip away the blessings, and you strip away the successes, and you strip away the prosperity and you strip away the health and you begin to peel it all back; then you’re going to find out what somebody’s made of spiritually. You see, what you really are shows up when everything goes wrong, doesn’t it?
Job was just humbled to ashes, wasn’t he? He spent the first part of his life building up this fortune, the Lord just wipes it all out, kills everybody in his family but his wife, then humbles him…just unbelievable humiliation. All that had to happen because God wanted to make His point, that his servant would be humbled and never lose his faith. Then, of course, in his humility, Job says, ‘I repent in dust and ashes’. He was sitting in an ash pile full of repentance, right where God wants us…no trust in his flesh, no confidence in himself; helpless, hopeless, clinging to the mercy and grace and power of God. He was at the end of all his resources, then God opened up the floodgates and greater blessing fell on him than he ever knew even before…so God uses suffering to humble us. When you go through sufferings of life God has a purpose; His purpose is to manifest the character of your spiritual life to everybody around you and to you as well. His purpose is to humble you because of His multitude of blessings poured out on you; His purpose is to draw you into the intimacy of His glorious presence.’ – John MacArthur, from his sermon entitled ‘How God uses Suffering, Part 1’

After I read that, how could I not be anything but thankful for the affliction of poverty?!?! May I always be humble, thankful, and content with what the Lord allots for me. He loves me, and He saved me, isn’t that enough? May I be like Job and never lose my faith, may it increase all the more with each affliction, trial, and test.

the heart of the matter

So, I come away at this point with this…God puts me where HE wants me, not where I want to be. I would not have chosen any of these paths for myself, I would have preferred to stay in my comfort zone at Olin, making $20 plus dollars an hour, working straight days with weekends off{for the most part}, seeing the same faces day in and day out. BUT, if I stayed there, then how would the folks at Affinia hear about Christ; people like Lynn whose husband was dying of cancer…she needed to hear a message of hope; or those co-workers like Mary from Wal-mart who was a Roman Catholic but questioned some of their practices; how would she have heard the true Gospel had God not sent me there? How would those where I am at now hear about this Jesus who died for them, especially after a charismatic Pentecostal c.n.a. was telling many they were going to hell if they didn’t speak in tongues: they needed to hear the true gospel based on grace, not works! How could I have shown the elderly the heart of Christ if I was still at Olin; after all, I never visited one single person in the nursing home…ever!! Shame on me, and shame on you if you desire to stay in your comfort zones and stick to your normal routines. We will never have an impact for Christ, nor will we grow if we stay in one place. Step out of the boat, follow Him to the ‘low’ places, go where He leads you, and do not be like me, stubborn and dull! I am learning to be content, not to complain, and to go where He desires me to go. Tough lessons? YES! it has been the hardest four years of my life, but also the most rewarding. I want Christ to be precious to me, I want to know Him, to get into His presence, to have sweet communion with Him; to pant, thirst, and hunger for Him: there’s only one way to go deeper into the things of God… Pray, Pray, Pray!! And get out of that comfort zone! May He continually refine me ‘til Christ be fully formed.
I look forward to serving Christ wherever He may take me, I pray to go without opposing Him; this is a lifelong battle with eternal benefits…let the Lamb receive His reward!!!!