Trust God Amidst Adversities

Trust God Amidst Adversities

Chapter One

Trust God Amidst Adversities
Trusting God's Goodness Amidst Life's Adversities 14 Trusting God Every Day 21
Doing Your Best And Leaving The Rest To God 16 God Is Able 23
That Big Front Porch 18 Grief: A Common Experience 25
A Big God For Bad Days 20 Discussion Questions 27

Philippians 4: 4-9

Trusting God's Goodness Amidst Life's Adversities

There are a few phrases in the American language which strike terror into the heart of the listener. Among these phrases are: "I'm from the I.R.S.", "I just want us to be friends," and, my all time favorite from the dentist, "This won't hurt." In less than five hours I will be sitting in that uncomfortable dentist's chair to have my teeth and gums examined. I think I'd rather have an audit!

I cannot explain why I have such a fear of seeing my dentist. We have been going to see him for twenty years. We have totally entrusted our teeth to his care and have rarely faced any problems. Perhaps my fear lies in an illogical assumption that I will have several cavities or will need another crown. I do know he will once again inform me that I need to have one of my wisdom teeth pulled. He has been telling me to have that done for the past five years!

Perhaps my fears go back as far as my childhood where I may have had a bad experience, or maybe I had childhood friends tease me about the torture I would face while visiting the Dentist. On the other hand, it just may be my own defiance against something which I know I ought to do, but do not want to do. Regardless of my fears, I will go. I will survive. I may even be pleasantly surprised!

What it boils down to is trust. I trust my dentist to care not only about my teeth, but about me as a person. I trust he will only make the recommendations which are absolutely in my best interest, not to mention the value of oral hygiene. And, if there would be some serious complication, I trust, even though there may be temporary pain, that his work on my teeth is to prevent further complications and perhaps even greater pain.

Commercials tell me that, if I use a certain brand of tooth paste or a particular style of tooth brush, I will have better check-ups. Whether or not that is true, there is one truth I have discovered: taking a friend with me is a valuable benefit. I always invite my friend Jesus to come with me to the dentist's office. There's just something about His presence that helps me through those stressful moments. I can always talk with Him, even when the doctor's fingers are in my mouth. He is better than novocaine and never says, "Rinse and spit!" He is my calming friend who always gives me a reason to smile.

Four and a half hours to go!

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"Father, in times of distress, comfort me. When I feel all alone, make Your presence known to me. When I face uncertainty, show me Your way. And when I do not feel Your presence… I will still trust in You. Through Jesus, my Lord. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: No matter how low I go, Jesus is lower still.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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1 Peter 1:3-9

Doing Your Best And Leaving The Rest To God

Yes, I am a typical male, but at least I am consistent at it! My wife went out of town for a few days, leaving me in charge of the household responsibilities. Big mistake!

It wasn't the stack of dirty dishes piled in the kitchen sink that prompted me to action. It was the fact that I was running low on clean pots and pans for cooking. I rinsed the dishes and placed them into the electric dishwasher. The problem began when I discovered that all we had was hand dishwashing soap. Well, soap is soap, right? I squeezed the bottle to fill the little cup in the washer, and being a very cautious man, put a little extra soap into the part titled "extra cup for dried on soil."

After turning on the dishwasher, I proceeded to wash by hand those few items which did not fit into the machine. For some strange reason I happened to glance down to notice a nice pile of soap suds flowing around my shoe. With lightening fast speed I grabbed an old towel and started to mop the floor. With keen observation I realized that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the flow, so I pulled out two cake pans and placed them under the dishwasher and emptied them into the sink every few minutes when they were full. If that wasn't enough, I had to leave the house in less than fifteen minutes to speak at a funeral. So there I was, on my knees for fifteen minutes, emptying cake pans filled with soap suds.

Finally, the soap seemed to stop flowing. I knew one of two things about to happen. I would either return home to a house full of soap suds, or the cycle was finished and the crisis would be over. As I walked out of the door praying that there would be no more soap suds to clean when I returned, I realized that we really only have two responses in times of trouble. First, to do the best we can, and second, to leave the rest in God's hands. That's what I had done. There is only so much we can do (especially when we caused the problem ourselves). But we can always turn to God for help. I don't think God expects any more from us than that. Just do what you are able to do and trust God for the final results. He always has a way of dealing with our problems.

God is good. There were no more soap suds coming out of the machine. My only dilemma was how to explain it to my wife.

"Guess what I did, honey? I shampooed the kitchen carpet!"

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"Father, You have given me hope time and again. I thank You for the many times You have brought me out of despair into the light of Your hope. Nothing is too difficult for You, not even me. Lead me where I ought to be… in Your presence and abiding love. Through Jesus' love. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God can turn my mistakes into His victories.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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John 14:1, John 1:27

That Big Front Porch

Marvelous memories came flooding into my mind as we drove through the old neighborhood where I grew up. I remembered my friends and where they lived. I recalled some of the neighbors from down the street. We used to play football in the street right in front of our house. Trees, even then towered over the road. One branch which stretched nearly from sidewalk to sidewalk was used as a field goal. "Slow down, Dad, you're going too fast." I wanted the memories to last and it seemed like we were driving by too quickly. Suddenly we stopped. At first I didn't recognize it, but then it was all so clear. There before us was the house where I lived for the first sixteen years of life. Though it was painted a different color, it looked the same as I remembered, except for one thing. "What happened to the front porch?" I exclaimed with a sense of disappointment. "It shrunk!" I kept looking at it and I couldn't believe how small it really was. It had not been remodeled. My childhood memories were just larger than the porch.

Oh, how I played on that front porch. I would play with my trucks and toy soldiers all day out there. I used to sit on the rail and sing. I remember helping to paint the floor of the porch gray once a year. Three bicycles used to be parked on that porch during the winter months. My two brothers and I had our own "parking space," yet it still seemed like we had a lot of room left. It was home base when we played games and a great spot for watching the hail come tearing down from the dark summer clouds. Actually, now that I saw it once again, the porch was quite small. I felt a little disillusioned.

Our problems are just like that front porch. When we are right in the middle of them, they look so big and overwhelming. There seems to be no way out. Yet later, when we have passed through our struggles and look back at them, they really were not as big and oppressive as we remember. Like my old front porch, given time, the proper perspective will be revealed.

Jesus knew we would face all types of problems and trouble in our life. In order to keep the peace which he brings, we need to trust him. How do we trust God? By maintaining our focus on Him and not on our troubles. When we watch and worry about our problems, they seem to grow larger. In fact, we make them out to be larger than they really are. However, when we keep our focus on Jesus, knowing he will empower us to overcome every bit of turmoil we face, our problems will not grow out of proportion.

This experience of nostalgia is a gentle reminder to keep our problems in perspective. They really are not as big as we think, and God always provides a solution. He has never let me down. I have always been able to depend on Him. The Bible reminds us

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"And my God will meet all your needs…" (Philippians 4:19). He is faithful. He will be with you on your "front porch." Even if it seems overwhelming, it is not. In a little while you will look back and see how small the problem really was. Believe.

As we started to drive away from my childhood home, my eyes were drawn to the driveway. There was a little slope in our driveway which you had to climb to reach the house. We used to race our bicycles down that steep bank and across the street into our neighbor's driveway. In winters we would speed down that slope on the ice and snow. It used to be such a huge hill. That slope seemed to have shrunk as well. I remember that it used to be several hundred feet tall!

"Heavenly Father, enable me to see Your face today. Do not allow my mind to wander, for You are my help and in You I trust. When I worry, please remind me that there is nothing You and I cannot handle together. Keep my problems in proper perspective, for You are Lord and they are not. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My God is greater than any problem I will ever have to face.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Isaiah 44:9-20

A Big God For Bad Days

Fascinating are the stories of the Old Testament; profound are the lessons to be learned from them. In 1 Chronicles 14 there is this interesting statement: "The Philistines abandoned their gods (in the Valley of the Giants), and David gave orders to burn them in the fire."

The Philistines abandoned their gods because they had had a bad day… David's army had beaten them soundly. The Philistines had wooden-headed, fair-weather gods that could be acquired or abandoned according to one's fancy; they had no gods big enough or brave enough for the bad days in the Valley of Giants. How different was the God David served.

How big and brave is the God you serve? On how many bad days have you abandoned your God and walked lonely and defeated through the valley of giants? These giants may take many forms: fear, failure, sickness, tragedy, death, temptations fierce, disappointments, and doubts. These giants cause us to have bad days.

Ours is not a God to be abandoned on the bad days. We forget in the heat of our struggles that God is bigger than the battle, greater than the grief, mightier than the moment, and brighter than the bleakness.

It is strange business in religion whenever one's gods may be abandoned on the basis of a bad day. Such gods are weak and hardly worth the effort of acquiring.

It is another strange thing that David and his men gathered together the gods of the Philistines and burned them. Surely He is the greater God who enables his faithful to gather up weaker wooden gods and use them as kindling. Is the God you serve wooden or wonderful, kindling or kingly? Whenever the bad days come, it does make a difference how big and brave is the God who accompanies you through the valley of giants.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of giants, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will never exchange our wonderful and kingly God for a wooden, kindling god.

– William Jenkins –

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Ecclesiastes 3:11

Trusting God Every Day

Joy came and asked if she could borrow my auto harp. I was glad my seldom-used instrument could go on such a mission. Joy brought music each week to a children's hospital center ward. Her songs cheered the children. Asking later how it went, she told me about a small boy. When she asked the children to choose a favorite song, this little fellow called for "In His Time."*

The suffering boy, likely bald from his chemo treatments, wanted to hear those reassuring words again: "In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time. Lord, please show me every day, as you're teaching me your way, that you do just what you say in Your time."

What brought comfort to a bed-bound boy who would rather be out playing, spending time and energy doing those things boys love to do? A verse from wise King Solomon, written almost 3000 years ago! Talk about time! He also told us to remember God in our youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). That would give us a lifetime to serve Him. There are very good reasons to trust God with all the events and their timing in our lives – even when we don't feel like it.

In Psalms 139:13 and Psalms 139:16, we learn that God knows each detail of our lives:

"You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body, – with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do."

How is that for comprehensive insurance and assurance? God has 'covered the bases' for us.

I think the little boy in the cancer ward knew that God's care was big enough, long enough and loving enough for his life. He had time to endure his treatments because he saw the big picture – in His time God makes all things beautiful.

And that is another way of saying, "— we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28, NIV). Do you have something in your life that needs submission to God's time?

"Father, may my heart practice trust that will take me through the ugly things in life, knowing You will bring beauty out of them in Your time."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will trust God ALL the time.

– Beth Stewart –

*1983 Maranatha! (Music copyright)

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Acts 27:9-25

God Is Able

A fine Christian couple were sharing a desperate problem with me, their pastor. Finally, the husband said, "Our situation is pretty bad. Do you think we can work through this? Is God really able to help us?" I said I believed God could handle anything. The reason for my confidence was both the Word of God and my personal experience in which God had helped me in tough situations. I reminded them, however, that we have to do our part to make things better as God leads us. Then we prayed together and this couple laid their problem before the Lord. Over the next days and weeks as they were obedient and trusting him, God graciously worked a miracle in their lives. Since that time they have expressed thankfulness to a God who is able.

The storms of life hit each of us from time to time. Some storms are of our own making, but many are caused either by others or life circumstances. All we can do is ride through them, hang on and trust God to be at work for our good and his glory.

In our scripture today the Apostle Paul is a prisoner on a ship toward Rome when a great storm rages for days and nights. The boat is tossed rudderless and without sails on the sea. Passengers are fearful of losing their lives. But one night, the angel of the Lord stands beside Paul and assures him no lives would be lost. The next morning Paul reported in these words, "So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." Paul was saying, "I believe God!" He confidently asserted his trust in a God who is bigger than any storm or situation.

My friend, as you read this, remember that this is your assurance as well. You have the promises and power of God at your disposal. You can say with confidence, "My God is able!" Reflect prayerfully on these promises of God's Word:

"My God is able to save completely those who come to God through him." Hebrews 7:25

"My God is able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:18

"My God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound to every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

"My God is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy." Jude 24

"My God is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." 2 Timothy 1:12

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"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20

"Almighty God, I believe that you are able to meet my need today. I now place my problem in your strong hands knowing you want the best for me. With this confidence I rest in your love. Thank you Lord. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is able to do far more than I can ask or think!

– Robert A. Crandall –

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John 16:33; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Grief: A Common Experience

Perhaps you have heard it said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." But I would add one more, and that is "grief'. To live is to experience grief. Every human being has, or will in the future, know what it is like. Grief is a common experience of everyone.

My first overwhelming experience with grief came suddenly. Life was going well for me. Just the week before I had assumed a much larger denominational executive responsibility. Then the dark invader hit. My wife of seventeen years became ill one night and before the next afternoon she was gone. Like the wick of a candle, a massive cerebral hemorrhage had snuffed out this beautiful life. In that moment all my hopes and dreams lay in ashes at my feet. My world was turned upside down. Left with three children ages fourteen, twelve and eight, I knew what pervasive, crushing grief was. Only the person who has experienced it first hand knows the anguish and heartbreak grief brings.

If you are grieving today you are human. Your age doesn't matter. I have an eighty- five year old minister friend whose wife passed away recently. And our eight-year old grandson who lives in Oregon learned that a former friend in Ohio had lost his father in an accident. Both are grieving.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians are exempt from grief. In fact, the Bible is replete with suffering and loss from the fourth chapter of Genesis where Cain killed his brother Abel, to the next to last chapter in Revelation where God promises: "He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes… There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

The Bible makes it clear that we will grieve! Jesus said, "In the world you will have trouble and grief. But take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) In today's lesson from 1 Peter we are assured that "now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." The Apostle Peter is here speaking of the entire spectrum of trials and temptations. He says that Christians will experience the "varied" or "many different colors" of grief, the whole rainbow of suffering.

If you are grieving today, God has a good word for you! Just as there are "manifold" or "many kinds" of grief, God's grace is more than sufficient! In 1 Peter 4:10 it speaks of "The magnificently varied grace of God!" (Phillips translation) For the whole rainbow of suffering, God provides the whole rainbow of his grace! For every "color of grief' God provides a "color of grace'! Believe! Cherish this truth and trust in God.

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"Lord, I am hurting today. You know the grief I am experiencing for myself or for my friends and loved ones. But you have 'borne our sorrows and carried our grief on your Cross. So, Lord I ask for, and receive, your abundant grace in my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I believe today that I can be more than conqueror in my grief, for I am confident that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-38)

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Share your experience of the 'calming presence of Jesus', during a troubling time of illness or loss or grief or tragedy. As you mature in your 'Christian Faith', are you increasingly learning to trust in God (for His strength and comfort and guidance) even though you cannot 'feel' the presence of God during your times of 'unexplainable sorrow and loss and disappointment'? Is it encouraging for you to know that 'no matter how low you go, Jesus is lower still'?

  2. During times of trouble and adversity, do you think the following 'advice' is both sound and Biblical? – "Just do what you are able to do and trust God for the final results."

  3. When you were facing problems, did they appear to be bigger and more overwhelming to you than they actually were, when you were able later to reflect back on those problems and see them with a clearer perspective?

  4. Why is it so vitally important, when facing your problems, not to 'focus' on the problems but instead to 'focus' on God and His resources? From a Biblical viewpoint, can you declare with certainty that your 'problems' are not as big as they seem to you because God always provides a 'solution' to your problems? (Note Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:10) From heaven's perspective, when you look back on earth (if God permits you to do so, after you die), do you think you will say: "When we see Jesus, life's trials will seem so small"? When problems seem to overwhelm you, will you 'take charge of your mind' and remind yourself that Jesus is the 'Lord' of your life, not your problems?

  5. When you go through the "Valley of Giants' (fear, failure, sickness, tragedy, fierce temptations, disappointments, doubts), is your God big enough and brave enough to cope with your 'giants'? Is your God adequate for you and your many problems, or is your God too small (too inadequate and too weak) to conquer your 'giants' (enemies)?

  6. Share a time (occasion) in your life when, following a 'deep valley of darkness' and a 'great sorrow of your soul', God made "everything beautiful in His time" (i.e., when God gave you "beauty for ashes" and turned your 'tragedy into a triumph' and your 'loss into gain'). (Note Romans 8:28)

  7. Even though God's power is able to accomplish great things, is it true (accurate) to say that "we have to do our part to make things better as God leads"?

  8. From your own personal experience, tell if you think the following advice is 'sound' and 'Biblical': "Some storms are of our own making, but many are caused either by others or life circumstances. All we can do is ride through them, hang on and trust God to be at work for our good and his glory." Do you believe that the God whom you serve is 'bigger' than any storm or situation you will ever face?

  9. Give your interpretation (and application) of the following statement: "For every 'color of grief' God provides a 'color of grace'."

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