Have you ever gotten mail in your mailbox that isn’t addressed to you? You take it out of your mailbox and read that the address doesn’t have your name on it. It just says, “Occupant.” You get that piece of mail by virtue of you being the “occupant” of that home. Trials are a lot like that. Just by virtue of being an “occupant” on this planet in a fallen world, we will face trials.
Of course, no one likes a trial. No one wakes up in the morning, stretches and says, “Ah, what a beautiful day for a trial! I think I’d like to have a trial today!” That would be an unusual person who would do something like that. Yet no matter how much we want to avoid trials in our lives, trials are inevitable.
Trials are adverse circumstances that God allows in our lives to both identify where we are spiritually as well as to prepare us for where He wants us to go. There is no escaping them. You are either in a trial now, you’ve just come out of a trial, or you are getting ready to go into a trial.
But even though we all have to experience them, I want to remind you to take comfort in knowing that trials must first pass through God’s hands before reaching us. Nothing comes our way without first having received His Divine approval. And in order to get His Divine approval, there must be a Divine reason for Him to approve it. We need to trust that God has our best interest in mind when He allows us to experience a trial.
For His Kingdom,
Every summer I go to the doctor’s office for an annual exam. I sit in his office and he asks me, “Tony, how are you feeling?”
Assuming that it was a good year overall, I answer, “I’m feeling fine.”
But that’s not the end of my appointment. The doctor doesn’t take my word for it. Instead, he attaches electronic probes all over my body. Then he sticks me on a treadmill. Next, he makes the treadmill go faster and faster up an incline because what he wants to know is the real condition of my heart.
My heart might feel fine to me but at the same time, it might not be fine. The doctor can only determine the strength of my heart when he measures it under stress. So what he does is create a stressful situation where I’m walking for a long period of time. He’s testing my heart to see whether how I feel is how I really am. Because it’s possible to have good feelings yet still have a bad heart.
Living the Christian life is no different. It’s possible to come to church every week, sing worship songs, memorize Bible verses, serve on a variety of committees and assume that your heart, faith and soul is strong. It’s even easy to say things like, “I love you God. God, you are so good. I’ll follow you, God. I’ll do whatever you say.”
But God doesn’t want to just take your word for it.
He tests you, and me, because He wants what is best for us. He tests us because He is getting ready to do something amazing in our lives. The way that He tests us is by putting us in a stressful scenario … something we often call a trial. In a trial, God reveals how strong our faith really is.
For His Kingdom,
People’s words impact us every day. They either offer life, or they offer death. Maybe you have been the recipient of someone else’s negative words about you. Perhaps it was a parent, teacher, spouse or coworker. Those words are hurtful, and can frequently damage a person’s view of themselves, and even derail them from God’s destiny for them.
Yet I also know that God’s Word is more powerful than anyone on this planet. And what He has to say about you, and about me, matters the most.
My elementary school teachers didn’t always have a lot of positive things to tell my parents on my report cards. Apparently, I had a lot of areas that I needed to improve in as a child. One of those areas was in speaking. I stuttered frequently growing up and it was something that I needed God’s grace and a lot of work in order to overcome. But even beyond that, one of my teachers wrote on my report card that I did not know how to “express (myself) orally.” My mom saved all of my report cards.
I share this reality because expressing myself orally is my destiny. Teaching and preaching God’s Word is my very purpose in life. What God knew when He formed me in the womb was that He was going to raise me up to proclaim His truth in churches, on the radio, in stadiums and across televisions in America and around the world.
Yet God often will bring us to our destinies through challenges. He asked Moses to be His mouthpiece when Moses said he could not even speak. One of the reasons God does this is so that we know where our strength comes. We give Him all the glory. We depend on Him each and every day.
But another reason is so that He can teach us whose voice really matters. The voice of humanity or His own. People will tell us many things that contradict God’s view and His purposes in our lives. What we need to do is to acknowledge the truth in what they say, if there is any, but then let go of the rest. Let go of the perceived hindrances that often come with challenges because God is able to use each of us in a mighty way for His kingdom.
Friend, God made you on purpose. He gave you your gifts, talents and even your weaknesses. Because He wants you to look to Him for your identity and definition of who you are. Let God use you like He made you. He has a perfect plan for you.
Listen to His words because His words matter most. You are a treasure – a masterpiece. You are His “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand” so that you would walk in your destiny.
Destiny is one of my favorite topics to preach on. I love this subject so much because I’ve seen firsthand that God can do anything with anyone. He knows no limits. And that is a message I want to take to as many people as can hear it because it is a message of true hope.
I’m excited that you have chosen to pursue your destiny in Jesus Christ. May God grant you favor and insight as you seek Him and His will for your life.
For the King and His kingdom,
God will often take you from where you are to where He wants you to be at what can be called a divine intersection. This is the time and situation in your life where your gifts, skills, passion, experience and personality merge together into either the revealing of, or carrying out of, your destiny.
What many of us try to do in our lives is rush ahead to the intersection, not realizing the importance of God’s perfect timing. Until your divine intersection comes, God is preparing you for that moment – for the people, tasks and purpose ahead. And He is also preparing your destiny, the people and places involved, for you. This is similar to what He did in Canaan when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. God had already provided for the Israelites because the Canaanites had dug the wells, cultivated the land and built the communities in that land.
Arriving at your intersection in life is a special time when you step into God’s manifest provision in your life. There, you will receive the Spirit’s power to carry out His plan for you. There will be a certain flow about what you do – it will feel natural to you in many ways. In sports, we call it being “in the zone.” As a believer, you enter the “zone” when God orchestrates your intersection – when all things merge. When God connects your gifts, skills, experience, passion and personality into His divine destiny just for you.
Friend, if you learn anything at all from this blog about reaching your destiny – learn this: Don’t go searching for your destiny. Go searching for your God. Because it is in locating God amidst the ordinary things that He may have you doing now that you will watch Him intersect them into the extraordinary purpose and destiny He has for you. In other words, fulfill the duties of your routine responsibilities and attach those routine responsibilities to Him. When you loop God into your routine, the natural becomes the supernatural.
You discover your destiny when the natural merges with the Divine. What is even better is that you will discover that God can even use the weaknesses, or what you might consider the faults, in your life for His purpose. He merges all things together for good when you love Him and walk in His destiny for you.
May God grant you favor and insight as you seek Him and His will for your life.
For the King and His kingdom,
When my wife, Lois, and I started dating, I came up with a strategy to encourage her to fall more in love with me. She was a lot in love with me from the beginning, but I wanted to increase that.
What I decided to do was to take her to the amusement park. Once we had wandered around the amusement park for a while, and had enjoyed some of the games and food, I coolly asked her if she wanted to ride the Wild Mouse. Lois had never been on the Wild Mouse ride before. But I had. I knew how wild the Wild Mouse really was. She didn’t have any idea because it looked like an innocent ride.
I knew Lois’ personality and that going on the Wild Mouse would be a tough situation for her. But I hadn’t told her that. I had only mentioned that we should go on a nice ride together.
So we got on the Wild Mouse. The thing began to shoot out making it seem like our small car was going to fly right off of the edge of the track. Lois screamed. Then she scooted closer to me. Our car veered to the right and then shot out again making it seem like we were going to zoom straight out into mid-air. Lois screamed again. Then she scooted even more closely to me this time. By the end of the ride, Lois wasn’t sitting far away from me at all. She was sitting as close as possible. That had been my plan.
I had wanted Lois to sit closer all along. The Wild Mouse accomplished that.
Sometimes God puts us on a wild ride. Life seems to be out of our control. At times, God allows these situations because He knows they will move us closer to Him and when we get closer to Him, we will discover that He is more than we ever imagined Him to be.
For His Kingdom,
The Christian life is a progressive movement toward spiritual maturity. Your experience of following Jesus should be taking you somewhere. The goal of your growth ought to be that you are being “transformed” into the image of the glory of God.
The question that needs to be asked is, what do spiritually mature disciples – or at least disciples who are moving toward maturity – look like? Well, some of them look like people who once did not know how to control their anger, but now they understand how to maintain self-control. Other growing Christians look like people who at one time struggled and lost against any sin that you can imagine, but now in the strength of Christ, they are living lives that are well-pleasing to God.
Spiritual maturity does not mean sinless perfection. Anybody who tells you that you can go through life and never sin has just sinned because that’s a lie. But what I am talking about is maturity, where the normal thing for you to do is bring every area of your life under the control of Jesus Christ.
So what is maturity? Very simply, it is growing to the place where you think, judge, and react biblically to every situation. When it is the rule and not the exception for you to apply the Bible to your life; when you place every area of your life under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls it Christlikeness, because Jesus is intent on making you like Him. Who else is worthy for you to pattern your life after?
For His Kingdom,
When a head coach on an NFL team perceives that the referee has made a wrong call, awarding a key play to the opposition, he throws out a red flag. This red flag signals that the referee needs to review the play again. Obviously the coach believes that the referee has made a mistake.
There are times in our lives, especially when we are caught between a rock and a hard place, when we want to throw a red flag out on God. We want to stop the game and throw down the red flag because it looks like God has made a wrong call. It looks like He has missed something. It looks like He didn’t know what He was doing because if He did, He wouldn’t have called things that way.
We think thoughts like - If God had known how this was going to affect me, He wouldn’t have allowed that thing to happen. If He had really known the pain that I was going to have to go through in dealing with this, then He would have made a different decision.
We want to reach into our pocket and pull out our red flag and yell, “God, you missed this one! You blew it. Review it, because you’re obviously wrong.” It is during those times that we need to remember that God often does some of His best work in the dark. He is also often the nearest when He seems the furthest away. It is during those times that our faith needs to carry us through. Because it is in those times that God is often waiting to see what we are going to do.
We all know what it feels like to experience hopelessness to varying degrees. In fact, many people define hope as looking forward to something that they know that they will never get. Hopelessness is when you look out in front of you and you can’t see any possibility for improvement or change. Many of us today are drowning in a sea of hopelessness surrounded by a land of emptiness where there seems to be no way out.
That reminds me of a story. In the summer of 2000, a Russian Oscar II Class Submarine, the Kursk, sank in the Barents Sea due to an internal explosion. Divers made several attempts to go down and assess the situation to determine if anyone had survived. When they were finally successful, they discovered a group of twenty-three men who had survived the explosion. These men had gone back as far as they could to the end of the submarine, and had gathered together in the last remaining pocket of air.
But the rescue team hadn’t made it to them in time. All twenty-three men had died. On the inside wall of the submarine, they found this note that had been etched there by the Captain-lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikova. It said,
“It’s too dark here to write, but I’ll try by feel. It seems like there are no chances . . ..”
The hopelessness we hear in Dmitri’s words has been shared by many of us. We’ve all faced similar feelings at some time or another where there seems “like there are no chances.” Hopelessness in the middle of life’s storms is a human experience that is common to most of us.
It’s one thing to be in the middle of a trial that has been brought on by yourself through a bad choice or action. But it’s an entirely different thing to set your heart on serving God only to discover that it seems He has abandoned you in the middle of a storm. In times like those, remember that although God may be silent, He is not still. Wait on Him. He may just come walking to you on top of your storm.
For His Kingdom,
Dr. Tony Evans
by Jonathan Evans
As a kid growing up in the Evans household, it's safe to say that I had a fear of my father. I don’t mean that I was scared of him, but I do mean that I highly respected him. Whenever I was disobedient, whether in school or at home, I knew that not only would my father be disappointed in me, but that I would also be reprimanded for my actions.
I never wanted to disappoint my dad because I valued our relationship, but I also didn’t want to be reprimanded for my actions because of the pain! I quickly realized that doing things my own way without first getting instructions from my father was not a good idea. I learned that respecting my dad while skipping his instruction was not respecting him at all. True respect and reverence for my father would mean going to him upfront to receive the knowledge that I needed in order to apply to the decisions that I was making.
When I began to operate this way, people would say, "For a young kid, you are wise beyond your years." However, I knew on the inside that I was just a regular kid with a very wise father.
Fearing or respecting God does not mean that you just say that you respect Him. It is not displayed by simply going to church on Sunday or having an occasional Bible study. Neither is it displayed by simply feeling that you respect Him or by participating in a lot of religious activities. It does mean; however, that you go to Him FIRST! It means that your entire mentality is derived off of His mentality. It means that your goal is to not take any steps in life that are outside of the instruction given by Him. It means that your Father in heaven has the only say and the final say over every area of your life.
Many people will claim that they have a fear or respect for their Father in heaven while they simultaneously skip his instructions. Yet if you fear God, He will become the beginning of all of your knowledge. He will be FIRST. And then people will say to you that, "You are wise beyond your years.”
But that's when you can reply, " I am just a kid with a very wise Father."
Think about it:
Do you respect Him or do you RESPECT Him?
In the book of Mark, chapter six, we read that the disciples got into a boat, at night, and took out across the sea. In their obedience to Jesus, the disciples ran directly into a storm. Their obedience literally took them into the nucleus of a disaster.
I wish I could tell you that following Jesus means you will never have to face any storms. I wish I could tell you that following Jesus means that the waters of life will always be calm. I wish I could tell you that following Jesus means life will be rosy and all of your days sweet.
But I can’t.
These disciples were following Jesus, and they ran right into rough-seas. The disciples discovered, as many of us have also discovered, that:
You can be both in the center of God’s will, and still in a storm.
There is a lot of preaching today as well as many Christian books that tell you that if you follow Jesus, than you will never have to face any challenges in life. That wasn’t true for Jesus, or for anyone else I know who has followed Him. Following Jesus doesn’t offer immunity from troubles. What it does give is the opportunity to experience Him in the midst of the trouble.
Life comes with troubles, regardless of whether or not you follow Jesus. You get to choose if you want Him to join you in your troubles, or if you’d rather go through them alone.
What I want you to remember as you face life's storms is that Jesus is with you. You are not alone. And, rather than focus on the problems, focus on the promises. If you focus too much on the problems, you will lose sight of the promises. Fix your eyes on Jesus and His Word and He will bring peace and calm to the struggles you are facing. I guarantee it. Because He says so.
God has a purpose for pain. He doesn’t always reveal it when we want Him to. In some cases, we won’t discover what it is until we get to Heaven. But He has promised us that if we love Him, He will use the good, the bad and the bitter winds for our good, His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.
When you feel like giving up, look up. Fix your hope on Him.