Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Method to the Madness

“We are hedged in … on every side – troubled and oppressed in every way; but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair;

We are… pursued, but not deserted…; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed…

Therefore we do not become discouraged – utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though our outer man is …wasting away, yet our inner self is being… renewed day after day…”

~ II Corinthians 4:8, 9, 16 (Amplified)

Last week I wrote about the storms of life we all encounter from time to time. Although I can’t pretend to understand the reasons for all the heartache in the world, this week I’d like to reflect on the value (yes, I said value) and purpose (yes, I said purpose) these storms often serve in our lives.

“Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange – unusual and alien to you and your position – were befalling you.

But in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory (full of radiance and splendor) is revealed you may also rejoice with triumph – exultantly.”
~ I Peter 4:12, 13

The Bible is full of examples of people who went through difficult trials and came out on the other side stronger and more equipped to face the next challenge life presented. Take the example of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and was later thrown into prison for fourteen years after being wrongfully accused of seducing his master’s wife. If I were Joseph, I think I’d be asking, “What was the point of that, God?”

" the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved he will receive [the victor's] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him." ~ James 1:12

There were lessons to be learned in prison, and they were all a part of preparing Joseph for the plan God had designed for his future. But did Joseph just waste away during his time in prison? No, he “bloomed where he was planted” and continued to utilize the gifts God had given him. When Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat cows and seven gaunt cows, God gave Joseph the interpretation of that dream. Joseph revealed that there would be seven good years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and he warned Pharaoh to build up ample reserves of food.

Pharaoh eventually recognized Joseph’s gift of wisdom, and appointed him to be second in command over all of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years, Joseph traveled to all the cities storing up food and grain.

In Genesis 41:51, it says that Joseph was blessed with two sons. He named his firstborn son, Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship…” He named his second son Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

When the famine arrived, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt in search of grain. They were terrified to learn that the brother they’d sold into slavery was now a great leader and Pharaoh’s right hand man. But Joseph chose to be merciful to his brothers, rather than vengeful.

Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” ~ Genesis 50:19, 20 (NKJV)

Joseph was able to recognize the good that came out of that very bad situation. This tells me that even though we may not understand it at the time, there is a method to the madness and God is with us – even in times of trouble.

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort, or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed (with no defects), lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4 (Amplified)

The story of David and Goliath offers another great example of this principle. When Goliath mocked God’s people, David was the only one who stepped up to the plate. But Saul tried to discourage David by reminding him that he was “only a youth.”
David replied: "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this …Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." Moreover David said, "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." ~ I Samuel 17:34-37

You see, David’s former conflicts were not in vain because they prepared him for the next battle and gave him the courage and faith he needed to face Goliath. Likewise, the difficulties we face on a regular basis are not in vain either, because they help us to develop our faith muscles so we’ll be strong enough to face the next giant that rears its ugly head in our life.

In the New Testament, Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh” that was given to buffet him so that he would not be “…exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations…” R.T. Kendall, former minister of Westminster Chapel and author of over 40 books, wrote an excellent book on this subject titled, The Thorn in the Flesh. He describes it as “God’s way of getting our attention.”

But Paul prayed three times that this thorn might be taken away from him and every time the Lord replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul said, “Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:7-10)

“Fear not, (there is nothing to fear) for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you (to difficulties); yes, I will help you; yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand.”
~ Isaiah 41:10 (Amp)

The Teacup
Author Unknown

There was a couple who used to go to England to shop in the
beautiful stores. They both liked antiques and pottery and
especially teacups. This was their twenty-fifth wedding

One day while they were shopping they saw a beautiful teacup.
They said, "May we see that? We've never seen one quite so

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke.
"You don't understand," it said. "I haven't always been a
teacup. There was a time when I was just red clay. Then my
master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and
I yelled out, “Let me alone!” But he only smiled and said,
‘Not yet.’

"Then I was placed on a spinning wheel," the teacup said, "and
suddenly I was spun around and around and around. Stop it!
I'm getting dizzy!” I screamed. But the master only nodded and
said, 'Not yet.'

Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I wondered
why he wanted to burn me, and I yelled and knocked at the door.
I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as
he shook his head, 'Not yet.'

Finally the door opened and he put me on the shelf where I began to
cool. 'There, that's better,' I said. And he brushed and painted
me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag.
'Stop it, stop it!' I cried. He only nodded, ‘Not yet.'

Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. But this
oven was twice as hot as the first one and I knew I would
suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried.
All the time I could see him through the opening nodding
his head saying, 'Not yet.'

Then I knew there was no hope. I would never make it. I was
ready to give up. Just then the oven door opened and he took me
out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later he handed me a mirror
and said, 'Look at yourself.’

And I did. I said, 'That's not me; that couldn't be me.
It's beautiful. I'm beautiful.'

'I want you to remember, then,' he said, 'I know it hurts to be
rolled and patted, but if I had left you alone, you would have dried up.

I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had
stopped, you would have crumbled. I knew it hurt and was hot and
painful in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked.

I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all
over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened and you
would not have had any color in your life. And if I hadn't put
you back in that second oven, you wouldn't survive for very long
because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a
finished product. You are what I had in mind when I first began.

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” ~ Romans 9:20, 21

Blessings ~