It was 2:00 in the afternoon. I had an hour until the Vive+ television program began, and I had the privilege of answering ministry calls from people who wanted to know more about Jesus. I tried to start the car and I tried again with the same result. I called for a tow truck. It was now 3:00 and the program had already started. I was worried that I wouldn’t be there to answer the calls together with the rest of my colleagues from the Mexico office.
Finally, the truck arrived. The driver said that I had to ride with him in the cab. At that moment, I noticed that he had a statuette of “Santa Muerte”—the cult symbol of death on the control panel of the vehicle. In Mexico, this type of cultic practice is, sadly, common.
At that moment, I understood that God had a purpose for this incident. I prayed for wisdom to present His Word and a conversation began. At first, it was very tense as I asked him if he was a follower of the cult of death. He said yes. I wanted to know how he was doing.
He told me his story, about his job a few years back, how he got trapped in the drugs he used, how he lost his wife and two daughters because of his addiction, and that he had found the statue while he was digging up rubbish in the cellar where an uncle allowed him to sleep. He was grateful that he had overcome addiction and had his family back. I was silent for a long time and paid attention to every detail. I felt a genuine interest in the man. His eyes filled with light when he talked about his two daughters. It was something I could identify with. He attributed everything to the statue of Santa Muerte, but he also knew that the image had no more power than what he gave it.
“If you have faith in this bottle of water, good things will happen because you have faith in it,” he explained, very sure of himself. That afternoon, the traffic was particularly heavy for a Saturday. It gave us time to talk. Listening to him, I thought his reaction was very human. How many times have we missed the opportunity to see God or recognize Him because we are looking for our own explanations? We can miss the blessing by focusing on the reasoning that sounds appealing, but actually draws attention away from God and onto our own desires (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-18).
But this was not the time for reproaches or controversy. I prayed to God to give me love and the Word that He wanted to share with him. At that moment, the Lord brought Romans 10:17 to my mind, where it says
… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (NIV).
With that reminder, it was my turn to speak.
I explained that, in reality, God had been with him and had reached out to him at just the right time, by His grace. I told him that I was sure of that because the Bible explains it clearly:
Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).
We cannot let anything rob God of His glory. Later, I asked him about his relationship with his father and he told me that it was very bad.
“But to those who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to be children of God,” (John 1:12) was my response. I told him that God loved him in a way that was immeasurably greater than the love he had for his daughters and that He had given His only begotten Son for him, that Jesus’ blood was shed to pay for sin.
That day, he kindly declined my invitation to receive Jesus into his heart but promised to read the book of Luke that very afternoon. With a new battery, my car started. I asked God that the heart of that man would have a restart while reading His Word.
Later that day, reflecting on this experience, I realized something that I want to emphasize. There are two ways to live life; one is to see the hand of God in everything, and the other is to overlook it and attribute its blessings to other things such as circumstances, luck or chance. When we relinquish control of our lives to Jesus, we can expect Him to always have a purpose for every detail—even a car with a dead battery.
Living with Suffering – Streams in the Desert – August 28
- 202228 Aug
There he proved them (Exod. 15:25).
I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in the great ship, building, or bridge. He knew this because his testing room revealed it.
It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel, able to bear twisting and crushing to the uttermost without collapse.
He wants us to be, not hothouse plants, but storm-beaten oaks; not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind, but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms. To make us such He must needs bring us into His testing room of suffering. Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith.
–J. H. McC
It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life’s unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious. Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him.
What if God could not manage to ripen your life without suffering?
Ezra 4:1-3 1When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
When the people of God get serious about worshiping God, the enemy of our soul always incites our enemies to try and distract us. We see the same statements today. “We all worship the same god. All religions basically teach the same thing. Let us help you.” It may be possible to work together on some social issue, but when it comes to the temple of God, we have nothing in common. We do not serve the same God! We do not teach the same thing! The temple must be holy. That was the problem that brought about the captivity. The worship of Jehovah was mixed with religions of the nations they had displaced. We must be honest about the differences in our faith. If we believe Jesus is the only way to God, we should not be bashful about it, but instead have a loving boldness to share the truth for the sake of their eternal destiny.
Some pastors are not concerned if all the staff knows the Lord as Savior. They believe everyone has a natural gift and can use those gifts for the church. That idea ignores the spirit of this passage. When it comes to building the temple, we need sanctified servants of God, or we will find the work is corrupted and compromised by the enemy.
Once they were told that they could not help, they hired advisors to do two things. The first was to discourage. The second was to cause fear. That is the enemy’s tactic to this day. If he can’t directly get in, he will try to cause discouragement and fear. Those are attitude problems. Don’t give in to them for a moment.
Encouragement: Be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might and build!
By: Charles Sourgeon
“They… limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41
Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 3:13-28
He is not limited to means—to any means, much less to one of thy choosing. If he deliver thee not by calming the tempest, he has a better way in store; he will send from above and deliver thee; he will snatch thee out of the deep waters lest the floods overflow thee. What might Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have said? Suppose they had got it into their heads that God would deliver them in some particular way. They did have some such idea, but they said, as if to prove that they trusted not really to their thought about the deliverance—“Nevertheless, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not worship thy gods, nor bow before the image which thou hast set up.” They were prepared to let God have his will, even though he used no means of deliverance. But suppose, I say, they had conferred with flesh and blood, and Shadrach had said, “God will strike Nebuchadnezzar dead; just at the moment when the men are about to put us into the furnace the king will turn pale and die, and so we shall escape.” O my friends, they would have trembled indeed when they went into the furnace if they had chosen their own means of deliverance, and the king had remained alive. But instead of this, they gave themselves up to God, even if he did not deliver them. And, though he did not prevent their going into the furnace, yet he kept them alive in it, so that not so much as the smell of fire had passed upon them. It shall be even so with you. Repose in God. When thou seest him not, believe him; when everything seems to contradict thy faith, still stagger not at the promise. If HE hath said it, he can find ways and means to do it.
For meditation: Our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Where our ways can multiply complications, his ways can humble us by their straightforward simplicity (Numbers 11:21-23,31; 2 Kings 5:10-14; Luke 9:12-17). How are you limiting God?