Tribulation Junkie

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  2  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  4  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  5  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Glory in tribulations? Does it not seem like a stretch to glory (boast or joy) in tribulations? Tribulations are defined as pressure, anguish, burdens, and/or trouble. Who glories in that kind of stuff? We all accept the fact that tribulations are a part of life. It is one thing to accept it, but it is another thing to glory in it. How does this happen? When can we come to a place where tribulations are not something we endure but something that we can find joy in?

Some people thrive under pressure. Some people love it when they are “under the gun” and need to rise to the occasion. Others avoid pressure situations like the plague because they know the stress that comes with it. It is important to know that people who thrive under pressure are not necessarily looking for pressure situations, they just look at them from another perspective. Having peace with God gives us the ability to see tribulations with an entirely different perspective. The burdens, difficulty, or trouble we encounter in life is not what God uses to crush us, but it is what God uses to make us better. Christians are the one group of people who are not crushed in tribulation, but they thrive during moments of tribulation.

We are standing in grace through our peace with God. The grace of God gives us the ability to glory in tribulations. Tribulation is the platform God gives his children to demonstrate and distribute huge levels of grace. One of the reasons Christians have the ability to thrive under tribulation is the fact that they know what it is capable of doing in the lives of others. Christians possess a love for God as well as the love of God, and the tribulations we experience gives us an opportunity to spread that love. Our tribulations enable us to comfort those in tribulations with the same comfort we ourselves become comforted. Christians are not what you would consider “tribulation junkies”. They are not going around the world looking for hardships. Hardships seem to find them frequently and when it does they thrive. We thrive during moments of tribulation because we recognize the fact that we have chosen to receive high levels of God’s grace and then distribute that grace throughout the world.

One of the reasons we find it difficult to glory in tribulations is because we lose focus and become self consumed. I am not going to lie and say this is not everyone’s greatest struggle. The questions of “why Lord?” start popping into our minds and then we start to question God’s love as well as God’s will. The perspective we possess through our tribulations is connected directly with our relationship with the Lord. The deeper and more intimate our relationship with the Lord becomes, the more ability we will have to thrive during tribulation.

The Throne of Grace

Hebrews 4:14-16  Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  15  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  16  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The grind is the platform by which God gives us grace. Humility is the channel by which grace is administered. We now need to know the process in which we obtain grace. What does God tell us to do in order to find grace during times of need? He tells us to come “boldly” before his throne, which happens to be called “the throne of grace.” Therefore, prayer is the process by which we can find mercy and grace during our time of need.

This scripture speaks of Jesus Christ as our high priest. In other words he is our intercessor. It speaks of His character as well as His position. We need to understand that Jesus experienced everything we experienced here on this earth but did it without sin. This is amazing within itself because doing this without sin would seem like an achievement that would not offer us mercy or grace. Most of the time, when someone watches another person struggle with something they get very little mercy. We use phrases like, “I did not have a problem with this, so I do not understand why you are having a problem with it.” Thankfully, Jesus went through the grind so that he could be able to help us with our grind. Jesus does not look at us and tell us that because he did it we should be able to do it. He actually is telling us that because He went through it then He will help us go through it. It is just up to us to request his help.

Coming boldly to the throne of grace is the process we need to utilize in our most difficult times. Jesus has told us that he is not going to scold us for coming to Him during our greatest moments of exhaustion and frustration. He knows the grind and He knows how to give us grace in the grind. Scripture gives us instruction. It is the prayer closet that gives us grace and mercy. Prayer is the process and the path that places us in God’s presence. When we get before the “throne of grace”, then grace is what will be experienced.

The Channel of Grace

James 4:6  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

One of the principles this verse teaches us is that God has an abundant amount of grace. Grace is something he is never short of being able to distribute. This scripture teaches us how we can receive grace no matter what life may throw our direction. God is teaching us that grace is not just an application that is administered during salvation. Grace is applied throughout our entire lives and in every aspect of life. We may not get the answers we want but we can alway have the grace we need. This scripture teaches us about the channel by which God distributes grace.

God tells us about his abundance of grace, but he also warns us that grace will never be experienced in the presence of pride. Matter of fact, God resists or opposes the proud. God creates distance between himself and those that are prideful. Grace and pride cannot coexist. If we want God’s unmerited favor on our lives then we must remove pride. Pride produces actions and attitudes that are completely contrary to God’s character and God’s will. Pride is divisive. Pride places a person on a false pedestal that will ultimately come crumbling down. Pride does not see other’s needs before its own. Pride has to always be right and always be in control. Pride ruins relationships, destroys marriages, and ruins lives. Pride is what keeps a person from getting saved when God is convicting and calling. God cannot nor will not apply grace when pride is present.

God calls us to a life of humility and a life that is submissive, sacrificial, and selfless. Humility is the channel by which God administers grace. If we want God’s favor then we need to put aside our pride and walk in humility. We need to understand that humility is not weakness. Humility is actually one of our greatest demonstrations of strength. It takes strength to admit when one needs help. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to request wisdom. We have to be willing to come to a place where we realize we are nothing and God is everything. When we are in the grind of life we must understand that it is the grind that God is using to humble us so that we can experience greater levels of grace. God has grace for every aspect of our lives. We just need to be humble enough to receive it.

Don’t Waste Your Grace

1 Corinthians 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

One of the greatest principles within the realm of this one piece of scripture is that God does not waste His grace. Have you ever thought to yourself “that seems like a waste?” Have you ever seen someone purchase something and think that the money seemed wasted because it could have been spent on someone else? Have you ever watched someone do something and think to yourself that they were wasting their time? There may have been times in your life you felt so unworthy, unappreciated, and undervalued that you thought God could have used His grace on someone else. There have been times when like Paul, I have felt like the least of the least and the worst of the worst. When God starts to distribute His grace we can oftentimes question His motives or purpose. This truth reminds us that God does not waste grace. Therefore, we should not waste grace.

Paul says “by the grace of God, I am what I am.” This is a general statement that comes with profound meaning. It is not just a verse that identifies him but it is a verse that reminds him of God’s purpose within the realm of our own lives. We must realize that when he says, “I am what I am” he is saying that I am where I am, I am doing what I am doing, and I am being what I am being by God’s favor. He is also saying that because of God’s grace that he is laboring harder and doing more than anybody. Someone may look at this and think Paul is sounding arrogant. You may think, “What gives him the right to think he is working harder than someone else?” We must realize that Paul is not bragging about himself, but he is boasting of God’s grace. At the same time, he is declaring that he refuses to waste God’s grace by doing nothing. I would go as far as to say that Paul is saying that it is grace that is causing him to labor harder than anyone.

I want you to think long and hard about something: are you wasting God’s grace. A person that declares themselves to be Christian and is doing nothing is wasting grace. The sideline was never a place for a Christian. God did not apply grace to our lives so that we could sit idle and do nothing. The application of grace is the catalyst that causes Christian service. The application of grace is what motivates us through the grind of life. A lack of labor is a waste of grace. A lack of Christian service is a waste of God’s grace. Don’t waste God’s grace.

When Life Becomes a Grind

2 Corinthians 12:1-10  It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.  2  I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  3  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)  4  How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  5  Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.  6  For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.  7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

There are three basic stages to any season within our lives. There is the excitement of new beginnings. There is also the enduring of the grind after the new begins to wear off. Finally, there is the experience that comes from maneuvering through both parts. Everyone can be energized at the thought of new beginning, but it is the grind after the new wears off that causes tempers to flare, exhaustion to occur, and weariness in well doing to set in. This pattern is seen throughout God’s Word. For example, it must have been exciting to be free from the bondage of Egypt and walk through the Red Sea on dry ground only to watch God crush the pursuing enemy by enclosing them in the sea. It became a grind to wander in the wilderness, having to pray food from heaven and strike a rock in order to get water. It was an exciting beginning of ministry for Elijah to pray fire from heaven. The grind started when Jezebel sought to end his life for the entire event. It is exciting to experience Pentecost, but the grind starts when the multitudes that were saved starts murmuring. The grind starts when you have to deal with persecutions. The grind starts when you have to use discernment between who is real and who is there to destroy you. You see it has happened throughout the Bible, and it is happening right now. We have the excitement of the honeymoon but then comes the grind of marriage when we realize the difficulty of commitment. We have the excitement of a gender reveal party but then here comes the baby, and the grind begins when they do not sleep and you are constantly changing diapers. The grind is when they become a teenager and begin believing they have all the answers. With every season there is some excitement, but we also know that there is a grind that is coming shortly after the new wears off.

We are currently living in the transition between excitement and the grind. When Covid visited our society several months ago, we embraced the change with energy. We realized that getting out of school a little earlier, spending more time with family, and becoming creative with the gospel was something we all could use and apply in our lives. We embraced it, and I believe the expectation was this would all be over soon. Well, now we are four months into this season and it has not gotten better. It has gotten worse. Now the new has worn off. The schools are questioning how they are going to get kids back to learning. Masks are the hot topic of conversations these days. Now Churches are being considered the ultimate enemy. The few outdoor or online events were new and exciting. Now setting up church in the gym is a grind. Feeding 500 people a week through a food distribution is an exciting idea to get me out of the house during quarantine, but now the commitment is suddenly interfering with summer plans and it’s a grind. It is exciting to see people’s life change with the gospel and drawing people to Christ using creative methods. Now, the grind is convincing people to quit living and operating in fear and that church is a priority. The grind is real, and it is here to stay. We have to determine what God wants us to know and apply through this process.

  1. We have to understand the complications in the grind. The problem with the grind is that it’s challenging, difficult, and grueling. The grind is defined in some cases as doing the same thing over and over in order to reach a goal. In our text Paul experienced an abundance of revelations. He had an out of the body experience. He heard things that were so extraordinary that he could not even utter with human words. After that came the grueling grind with a thorn. It beat him, hindered him, and hurt him. Dealing with the thorn became a grind. It made life complicated. Psychologically speaking the grind is taxing because psychology defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We call it a grind, but God identifies it as spiritual discipline. When we accept the change of a new thing, we also have to accept the difficulties of when the “new thing” is not so new anymore. What we thought would be fun is not so fun anymore. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he told us to consider the cost of following him. Sure it is exciting to start, but the grind is coming and it comes with a cost. The grind is where things get hard. We need to know it as well as accept it.
  2. We need to realize that there are God given connections to the grind. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” When we read 2 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 15 we see that the grind comes with a partner. It is called grace. When we fail to accept the complications of the grind we are actually wasting God’s grace. In other words, where there is a grind there is also grace through the grind. God did not tell Paul he would remove the thorn (the grind). God told Paul that he would give him just enough grace to deal with the thorn. God is teaching us that where there is a grind there is grace. It works in every aspect of life, not just in ministry but also business, marriage, health, and parenting. There is grace no matter what your grind looks like. There is grace when dealing with Covid. There is grace when dealing with cancer. There is grace when dealing with the withdrawals that come from rehab. Wherever there is a grind there is also grace. They come in the same package. We just need to be careful not to waste our grace by failing to accept the challenges of the grind.
  3. We need to accept the change that comes from the grind. I find it amazing that Paul’s situation (thorn) never changed. However, if you read all the verses correctly you will see that Paul definitely changed. He went from wanting the thorn removed to rejoicing in the infirmities, persecutions, and reproaches. What caused the change? It was God’s grace. Through the grind Paul learned that the experience of God’s grace was so rich and wonderful that if it took the grind to experience this level of grace then he would not reject the grind but accept it with gladness. Too often we fail to see the purpose of the grind because we waste the grace. The grind is there to humble us and according to James 4:6, humility is the channel by which God gives us grace. If we ever learn to enjoy the sufficiency of God’s grace we will learn to accept the challenges that come with the grind.

Let us be honest. Life right now is frustrating, fearful, and extremely fluid. We are allowing the things that once excited and energized to divide us. It is all because we are so focused on the grind that we have forgotten how God administers grace in the midst of the grind. This week we need to learn to identify God’s grace in the midst of times of uncertainty.

Trapped By Fear or Free through Faith

Proverbs 29:25  The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Fear is a trap. It prevents movement and progress. Operating in fear is what keeps us from trusting God. This verse speaks specifically about the fear of man. We fear how we are perceived by others. We fear being rejected by others. Ultimately we have such a fear of others that we are willing to ignore God in order to make sure others do not cause us harm emotionally, mentally, or physically. God teaches us to stop fearing man and start trusting Him. He assures us that those that will place their trust in Him will be safe.

I want to take a moment and address the panic within our world at this present moment. Covid-19 is not the cause of our fear. There have been viruses lurking around our planet for centuries. Covid-19 is real, and in some cases it is very dangerous. It is also so new and so unknown that nobody knows how to maneuver through it sensibly. Mixing the narrative of the media along with the agenda of power hungry people is a breeding ground for a lot of fear. We have people that are afraid of getting sick. We have people afraid of getting others sick. We have Christians afraid to attend church services. We have division about ideas revolving around all this. If you wear a mask you are not trusting God. If you do not wear a mask then you are arrogant, careless, and rebellious. The reality is nobody knows what to do and how to think. They have allowed false narratives and fearful messages to control their way of life. Ultimately, people have quit living for fear of dying, getting sick, or even getting someone else sick. When you mix in the riots throughout the major cities fear becomes the mainstream. We fear having our opinion because of the opinion of someone else. We fear expressing our beliefs because of the way someone may perceive our beliefs. Fear lurks at every turn. It has trapped us. It has caused immobility. It has caused a lack of progress.

When we feel safe is when we are able to move freely. Our trust in the Lord is what gives us our mobility. We have to understand that there is freedom in faith. The reason there is freedom in faith is because of the safety promised by our Lord. Here is an example: I am afraid of heights. Really, I am afraid of falling from such high altitudes. Anyway, climbing ladders makes me real nervous. The higher I get, the slower my climb becomes. When someone is holding the bottom of the ladder, I have more confidence to climb higher. I feel safe knowing who is holding my ladder. If I have no confidence in the person holding the ladder then I cannot successfully climb. Now, who is holding our lives? The Lord is not holding the bottom of our ladder. The Lord is in complete control of our lives. Knowing that the Lord has got me gives me the ability to climb, go, and continue to move forward for the Kingdom sake. Look at it this way: If we trust the Lord and His will then we know everything is operating through His plan and His divine purpose. We may get sick, but the Lord has the ability to heal. We may die, but the worst thing that can happen to us if we are saved is heaven. God did not want us to stop living because of what someone is saying through a news broadcast. He wants us to live free through faith in Him because that is what His Word has declared over our lives.

I want to close with two principles I am personally operating over in these times of uncertainty:

  • I cannot be so afraid to die that I forget how to live.
  • I would rather be free than safe. My freedom is my safety.

When There is No King

Judges 21:25  In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

This is one piece of scripture that must be held in the backdrop of every part of our lives. This verse teaches us how dangerous it can become when we operate outside of those that have authority over us. When there is no authority then there will be complete chaos. Doing what is right in our own eyes is a very dangerous practice. More and more people through humanistic influence are operating with the philosophy: “I do not see anything wrong with this.” When there is no “king” or “authority” in our lives then we will live in a state of lawlessness. Lawlessness is sin.

God has instituted government as a means of maintaining order and preventing lawlessness. Recently we have seen what has happened in the major cities of our country when people operate in a state of lawlessness. Riots, murder, theft, vandalism, and violence take place when governments refuse to do what God has instituted them to do. If we read Romans 13 properly we understand that God’s purpose for government is to insight terror on that which is evil and praise on that which is good. The problem I am seeing within our country is people are being punished for doing what is right and praised for doing what is evil. For example, one couple stood on their own property with guns in order to protect their property and lives, never fired a shot, and now is facing criminal charges. We need government. I am going to say that whether it is a dictatorship or democracy we need government authorities in order to maintain order or else people will do whatever they want to do. I want to go a step further and say we need bosses, leaders, teachers, and especially parents as authorities in our lives. I personally believe that what is needed more than anything are parents operating as authorities and not friends. Ultimately, without authority we will live in a state of lawlessness which leads to the practice, promotion, and praise of sinful living.

God gives and institutes authority in our lives. However, God and His word is our ultimate authority. Our allegiance to God is to be submissive to those God has placed over us. There are times when that submission to God will override the rules and mandates of Government. When our government starts placing demands on us that hinder worship, evangelism, and the equipping of the saints then it has overstepped its God-ordained boundaries. Our obedience to God will not promote riots or protests. Our obedience to God will humbly state: “I must obey God rather than man.” and then walk in that obedience with an understanding that consequences could ensue.

Kingdom Citizens

Matthew 22:15-22  Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.  16  And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.  17  Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?  18  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?  19  Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.  20  And he saith unto them, Whose isthis image and superscription?  21  They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.  22  When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Here is a situation where a group of people tried to use governmental authority as a platform to entrap or entangle Jesus. Jesus faced what was perceived to be a no win situation. If he would have said it was not lawful to give tribute to Caesar then they would have thrown the law back in his face and then they could have used that against him. If he would have said it is right to give tribute to Caesar then they would have questioned his allegiance to God. Either answer he would have given would have been used against him. Jesus dropped a truth bomb on them that sent them walking away defeated. The truth that Jesus presented is the exact truth we as Christians need to utilize through these times where our liberties are being slowly removed.

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s

First of all, the people that would put you and I in this kind of position are a bunch hypocrites that want to divide and cause a greater amount of deception. Be very aware of these people. They do not care about you and they do not care about the laws of our land. They care about themselves and their own personal agenda to discredit others. Secondly, we must realize that this statement can give us a compass to hold up in the backdrop of times of uncertainty. We must understand that the coin had Caesar’s image on it. Humanity has God’s image attached to it. The coin belonged to Caesar, but we belong to God. We can pay tribute to Caesar with the things that belong to Caesar, but God has called us to be his image bearers.

We are maneuvering through some days where our loyalties are going to be in question. There are going to be groups that do their best to entrap Christians in order to discredit their message. Make no bones about it folks, our priority and focus is the message of the gospel. We must understand that the mark of God’s image on our lives puts us under his authority, not man’s. In a nut shell, we can give tribute to that which our government requires as long as it does not interfere with our obedience and honoring the Lord. In order to do this we have to make sure our hearts are surrendered to the Lord. A surrendered life to the Lord will have the discernment to understand when and where to make that decision.

As Kingdom citizens we become the greatest of earthly citizens. Kingdom citizens operate by a standard that is a lot higher than that of our civil government. As kingdom citizens we proudly serve as citizens within our own country, state, and community. There are going to be times when our allegiance to God contradicts our allegiance to our country. In our country we cannot be more American than Christian. We have to be more Christian than American. My obedience to God and the gospel is the ultimate priority.

Allegience to God, not Man

Acts 5:29  Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Read Acts 5:17-29)

There are going to be times throughout our lives where our allegiance to God must override our compliance to the law’s mandates. In this case the apostles were given a mandate to which they should not share the gospel with others. God had already commissioned Peter and the other apostles to preach Jesus in every part of the earth. This is an example when a command of God contradicted a government mandate. While God has instituted civil government, we need to be very aware of when our obedience to God will take precedence over the demands of government.

We need to first understand the purpose of this governmental mandate. Peter and the other apostles were preaching Jesus and thousands of lives were being changed. The problem it caused among the governmental officials and religious leaders was that it caused them to lose control, and ultimately following Jesus would have put them out of a job. These people who were following Jesus were not going to cause a revolt or overthrow their government. We must realize the government rule was mingled with religious greed. These religious leaders had gotten very wealthy while governing these people. Allegiance to Jesus was not threatening the governmental institution authorized by God, but it was threatening an ability to get rich. Therefore, in order to prevent losing control they made a mandate against the preaching of Jesus. The problem was this mandate backfired on them. The apostles ignored the mandate and preached Jesus anyway. Even though persecution began to swell, these apostles continued to preached Jesus. Rather than obeying man they obeyed God and the results were changed lives for the glory of God.

This is a case where failure to comply did not hinder the gospel but it actually spread the gospel. You must realize that this one statement opened the door for necessary persecution that scattered the gospel to every part of the known world. Christians want to maintain a godly testimony. They do not want to hinder the gospel. Please, Please, Please, understand that our obedience to God will never hurt the testimony of the Gospel. It may make people mad or offended but it did not threaten the Gospel. We have to realize that our obedience to God is not going to influence everyone to jump on board the gospel wagon. Sometimes our obedience to God is going to infuriate people and at times offend people. Keep in mind it is not that Christians wake up and say, “Who can I upset with the gospel today?” We simply want to be obedient to our Lord, and that obedience can cause people to hate us. After all, Jesus even said that would happen.

I want to make sure we all understand the principle: “obedience to God is not about the prevention of making people angry, it is about the preaching of the gospel.”. I want to make sure we realize the gospel was priority number one in Acts 5, and it must remain priority number one today. Make no bones about it, there are sketchy things happening with our country right now. There are governmental leaders and there are politicians. One is instituted by God to fulfill his purpose. The other is there because they have been bought by an agenda. We are commanded by God to respect both. However, when they ask us to do things that seem more about control, it should cause eyebrows to raise. We as Christians are not called to debate political agendas, we are called to preach the gospel. Do not lose focus. Our focus needs to be the gospel.

Personally, I am watching things slowly hinder the church’s ability to share the gospel. Creativity has allowed the church to expand its ability to reach people. We need to stay alert and stay focused. The gospel must be preached. The Bible must be taught. God’s people must stay united. Do not allow the mandates of civil law to keep us from being the salt and light in a lost world.