Where was Jesus?

sea-of-galilee

In Matthew 6:45-52 after feeding the five thousand we see Jesus ushering the twelve disciples into a boat to go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd. “After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night (between three and six o’clock in the morning) he went out to them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed. . .”
Jesus purposely put the disciples in the boat, knowing the seas may be rough as He went up the mountainside to pray. He was able to see the disciples straining against the oars, and the massive waves crashing upon them. So often we have a hard time believing God ushers us into a boat that will weather storms. We naively believe that once we’re on “Jesus’ team” we will have smooth waters until we’re gently roared into heaven. This wasn’t the case with His most intimate twelve disciples, so why would it be true of us?!
However, did you notice where Jesus was during this storm? He was up on the mountainside, watching and praying! Were the disciples ever really beyond His reach or care as they fought against the massive waves? Not at all! And neither are we. At any given moment, Jesus may appear in the midst of our greatest trials, calming the waves that threaten to crush us. Until He does appear, trust He is on the mountain, watching your every move, praying for you! And when He determines its time to come off the mountain, He will command the waves to be still and immediately take you to the desired destination.
Are we looking for Him with expectancy in the midst of our storm or are we too busy straining at the oars believing our survival will come from our own strength to endure? Keeping above the waves may be necessary, but it’s not our only hope. There is One greater than any wave or storm known to man.
Matthew’s account of the same events shed fresh insight, as there was one who was watching—Peter! “Immediately Jesus said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Are the storms we face not designed to have the same effect? Aren’t they ultimately designed to bring us to the same place where we can say whole heartedly, “Truly you are the Son of God” as we see He is the only One who can save?! And the courageous among us may even step out of the boat to meet our Lord, walking on the very waves that caused the hearts of men to fear.

Advertisements

Nine years ago, today

September 11, 2006:

I stood holding my diaper-clad twenty three month old daughter trying hard not to disturb the many wires attached to her small frame as our pediatrician’s words began to wield their way into my consciousness, “Keep praying Shannon. Please don’t stop! I don’t know how to tell you this but Eliza is very sick and I’m afraid she may not survive the transfer to Children’s Hospital.” The fervency of her voice combined with the evident fear in her eyes caused my world to come to an abrupt halt. Looking across the small hospital room I saw Joel slumped over in the bedside chair slowly running his fingers through his hair, seemingly in a far off land navigating his own thoughts. I longed for him to look at me. I willed him in my mind to offer me some source of encouragement, but there was none as he remained frozen in his own world. There was just the eerie, repetitive thumping of Eliza’s heart monitor ringing in my consciousness tying me to the little life she held.
What do I say? Each breath could be Eliza’s last and yet I found myself at a profound loss for words. My mind raced with the many things I longed for her to know and yet the intensity of the moment kept me silent. I held her tighter as if that would keep her from slipping away from this life. Just as quickly as she entered my world, she could depart. She wasn’t mine; she was a gift, a precious gift. Snuggling her close, stroking her wavy blond hair, I whispered quietly in her ear, “Mommy loves you dear one. We love you—please know how much we love you. Jesus loves you, you are His. He will meet you—look for Him love. We will see you there.”
Shattering the moment and demanding attention, Zoe our four-year-old daughter bound into the room, gushing with life as she skirted past the crash cart and overlooked the ominous machines surrounding Eliza. Looking to me for answers I offered a weak smile through my tears. How I wish she didn’t have to see me this way, she’s too young to understand. Sensing the weight of the room, Zoe turned and approached Joel, “Daddy, why sad? What’s wrong with Eliza?”
As quickly as Zoe entered, a good friend who was one of many scattered up and down the hallway bound after her to gather her and Eliza’s twin sister, Robin for an overnight ‘adventure’ at their house. Offering smiles of comfort they quickly departed, leaving an empty space in my heart. I longed to casually walk out of the hospital with the life I knew a few days ago. The sterile hospital walls were falling in on me like a prison, void of all feeling, echoing the lifelessness I felt.
Hearing their departing voices, I found myself jealous of Zoe and Robin’s naivety; to be able to live as a child free from the burden threatening the world I had carefully crafted. Many questions clouded my thoughts. Would they have a sister come tomorrow morning? How would we explain it to them? Just a week ago, Robin and Eliza had been playing together in their own mischievous way. Although they weren’t able to communicate verbally, they had a language of their own, which often led to many crazy antics and torrents of giggles. They were inseparable; although fraternal twins they had always been considered as one. How would Robin live without Eliza?

“Help me to say as Job did, “Lord, you give and take away, but blessed be the name of the Lord.” This truth is going to be the only thing that gets us through this. Blessed be Your Name. It’s the first thing in the Lord’s Prayer; help us to bless Your Name first and foremost regardless of what is happening. My kingdom go, Your kingdom come. Our kingdom is so very fragile and crumbling around us Lord but Yours is eternal, sure and unchanging. May Your will be done, as black as this looks please use it for your glory. Our lives are in Your hands.”

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. -Hebrews 13:15-16

DSCN2463 DSCN2503

Beggar of Spirit

beggar

In Matthew chapter five, the very first words Jesus spoke in 5:3 were, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Greek word used for poor in this passage is Ptochos, which literally means beggar: one reduced to beggary, asking alms or destitute of wealth. The application intended is that the Kingdom of Heaven is meant for beggars of Spirit, those who come to the Lord with nothing of their own to offer, just themselves, empty of self, begging to be filled with His Spirit and life. A beggar only gets what he needs for each day, needing to return again and again to have their base needs met. They are humble and dependent on another.

After Joel and I graduated from college, I worked as the high school intern at our home church. That summer the students had put together a mission trip to Vancouver, British Columbia to work with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the inner-city. The main objective was to see God at work in the most destitute places of the inner-city. We served in homeless shelters, gave roses and prayed for prostitutes on Vancouver’s equivalent of skid-row and lived life as a homeless person for a day. We were sent out in groups without any money or food for a day in the inner-city to experience for ourselves what life was like on the streets. With maps in hand to the local shelters, we were encouraged to eat among the people and to ‘legally’ panhandle to see how people react. I admit it was a very humbling experience. No one was willing to give me money to buy a candy bar from the library’s vending machine. Now granted, my clothes weren’t the most run down and I may have appeared to have no true need, which was true, other than a day of grumbling for food.

It dawned on me as I was studying this passage, that there are true and false beggars in the Kingdom of God. There are many who come to Jesus, longing to get from Him what suits their best interest. They stand on the roadways and byways of God’s eternal highway, begging for this and that, only to reject that which God offers them in response—that which He deems best.

How many of us have given something to a beggar, just to have it rejected? We offer an apple but they truly long for money, or we extend the gospel but they choose their addiction. If this is true, then the opposite is equally applicable. There are beggars who are truly in need and consider whatever they may receive a blessing to behold—they stand with open hands of need, willing to receive. To be a true beggar before the Lord, we have to be willing to accept whatever He may bring to our open hands. Have we shut them? “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10.

Lord, I come to you broken and empty, please fill me with your Spirit, the living water I need to live and breath. I am thirsty, fill me with you. I come to you as a beggar, with nothing, in great need of your strength, power, wisdom and love. Less of me and all of you today, Lord. Beggars can’t be choosers, so help me except what comes from your hands as coming in my own best interest.

Rejoice Always!

Rejoice

Philippians 4:4 we’re told to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ In the midst of the storm, we have to be reminded to ‘rejoice always in the Lord’, not in our circumstances. They will always change, but God will not. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can rejoice in who He is—not in what we think He is doing. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 also tells us, ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ Hard times definitely helps us to pray without ceasing, but are we seriously going to look at rejoicing always and in everything give thanks? God makes it clear this is His will for us—to rejoice, pray and give thanks in all circumstances. What a call! How can we do this?

Romans 8:28 holds a precious key to victory for us found in Jesus. It’s a favorite of many, but is often misused. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Is Eliza’s illness really for our good? Illness isn’t good, so this e.coli must not be according to His purposes, right? What does this verse mean by good and purposes? If I want a car, do I get it because I think it would be good for me? And surely I could use it for God’s purposes by carpooling others to church, right? It’s easy to interpret this verse through our own lens, picking and choosing what we deem as ‘good’ and ‘God’s purposes’, but in order to really understand verse 28 we must keep reading verse 29, “. . . to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus!! He hasn’t promised any particular outcome other than conforming us to the image of His Son, our Savior and Brother! BUT, we can rejoice always, knowing that God is working all things for our good eternally, to make us look more like Him. Regardless of the final outcome of any given circumstance, God’s purpose is to make us look like Him. Once I get this truth from my head into my heart then I can start to see that I can rejoice always. No matter what, I’m the winner in the end. We can say a hardy amen with James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to lack anything, which is why I can sing, “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, I am pressured but not crushed, Persecuted not abandoned, Struck down but not destroyed, I am blessed beyond the curse, For His promise will endure, That His joy’s going to be my strength.

I have been greatly challenged by Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom’s example in their shared story, The Hiding Place written about their Holocaust experience during World War II.

The move to permanent quarters came the second week in October. We were marched, ten abreast, along the wide cinder avenue…Several times the column halted while numbers were read out–names were never used at Ravensbruck. At last Betsie’s and mine were called…We stepped out of line with a dozen or so others and stared at the long gray front of Barracks 28. “Fleas!” I cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light. “Here! And here another one!” I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’ “Show us. Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie. “Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!” I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. “It was in First Thessalonians,” I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen. In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck. “Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.” “Oh yes:…Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. “Such as?” I said. “Such as being assigned here together.” I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!” “Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.” “Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded. “Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.” “Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–” The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.” “Give thanks in all circumstances”, she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong……

Corrie later realized the truth in their confession of thanks as the fleas were the catalyst to keeping the Nazi officers out of their barracks, protecting them from further abuse. God had provided a place of rest and safety in the midst of horror. He had used the fleas for their good whether they saw it at first or not—they had reason to be thankful! The Lord was working for their good!
There’s great warning in Romans 1:20-22 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. . . (italics mine).”

We are all without excuse before the Lord concerning His nature and eternal power. There are those who know God, but choose to neither glorify nor give Him thanks—in all circumstances. When things don’t go their way, they scream and cuss out God—blaming Him for their pain. As we continue to read in Romans 1, this mindset leads to backsliding in the life of a believer, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” This depraved mind can continue to slide into all kinds of evil as the chapter continues. Where did this start? By choosing to not glorify God or give Him thanks—in all things. Which alter are we worshiping at—the Lord’s or our own? Lord, help me to rejoice in your love and presence always. Help me to be thankful for these ‘fleas’ in my life. They may be annoying and painful today, but will serve a purpose in the long run—I will choose to rest in that.

Reach up! Grace awaits. . .

 

reach There were moments in the midst of Eliza’s deepest pain that I begged Him to take her home. I couldn’t stand to see her suffering so deeply and I knew she would be better off in His arms, but He encouraged my heart to keep coming to Him on her behalf—that she would have life, His life both here and there in eternity. I longed for her to be protected from pain, to make it stop, but if God didn’t withhold His own Son from suffering, how could I do any less?

Hebrews 5:7-9 gives us a glimpse a rare glimpse into the personal life of Jesus, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once make perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him. . .” If God’s own Son lived a life crying out to His Father for help in the midst of His suffering, not just on the cross but in everyday living, then how much more so do I need to cry out to my Father in the midst of my own struggles? What a beautiful picture and example Jesus is to us in these verses – He learned submission through suffering!! Do I really think I can learn submission apart from it? Why do I run from suffering when it holds such rich hope in following Jesus? That I may learn to be obedient and submissive to the only One worth living for!

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every-way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus set an example for us of approaching the throne of grace. He didn’t require mercy from His Father since He never sinned, but He sure needed God’s grace to help Him overcome as is pictured in the Hebrews 5 verses—He was tempted in every-way, yet was without sin. I’ve heard these verses explained in relation to mountain climbing. Once we’ve accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, having professed our sinful state and need for salvation, God gives us His Spirit and word as equipment to begin our mountain climb towards knowing Jesus better, our sanctification. There will be many times in our journey when we slip and fall, losing our grip and tumbling back to the base of the mountain. But, not all hope is lost! This is when God sends us His ambulance of mercy—the gift of healing and cleansing from our wrongdoing. We receive the beautiful gift of not receiving the just punishment we deserve for our sin as He cleanses our self inflicted wounds and sends us back to the mountain. As we continue to climb, we begin to learn how to ‘find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Heb 4:16) when we begin to feel ourselves slipping, we can call out to God for help and in His grace, an unmerited favor, He will reach down and help us to climb. He will help us to overcome our greatest barriers as we cry out for His help! We need His grace to overcome. Jesus’ life was a living example of one overcoming through the power of God’s grace. Jesus didn’t overcome sin by using His ‘God’ powers – He was fully man, like us. He showed us how to walk with the Father in continual grace! The question these verses beg us to answer in retrospect, am I seeking to live in God’s mercy or grace? Do I desire to overcome through God’s grace or am I content to live in His mercy?

“We. . . plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1) The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”—that is where our patience is tested (6:4). Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? Are you saying to yourself, “Oh well, I won’t count this time”? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you—it is taking the grace of God now. We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now—draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action to your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace for prayer.”

“The Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Then why should we ask? The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him. If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God. We receive an answer every time we pray, but it does not always come in the way we expect, and our spiritual irritation shows our refusal to identify ourselves truly with our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove that God answers prayer, but to be living trophies of God’s grace.” -My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, The Cross in Prayer, August 6th

Radiate the Light

Revelation 12:11 says, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” We overcome first by salvation: entrusting ourselves to Jesus, and second, by the word of our testimony. Our testimonies are the many ways in which Jesus has walked us through the trials and tribulations of life. They are the places in which we have entrusted ourselves fully to His saving grace and in turn, He has entrusted the treasures of His character, grace, mercy and love to us! “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are One,” John 17:22.

In John 3:19-21 when Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, He tells him, “This is the verdict (the judgement), Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear his deeds will be exposed. But, whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be SEEN plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Testimony!

Once one is fully entrusted in Jesus, they are filled with light that will be plainly seen. That light will naturally lead to testimony. A light can’t be hidden and that which He has lit can’t be veiled. Moses literally glowed after spending time with God, “they saw that his face was radiant,” Exodus 34:34

A lamp is a great illustration of a radiant believer. Without Jesus, we are all dead lamps, but once we become saved, we’ve been plugged into the power source of God – all His riches are waiting there. But in order for a lamp to have light, it has to be switched on – engaged with it’s power source. Many Christians are plugged into Jesus – they have salvation, but they haven’t learned to switch their light on through the power of the Holy Spirit by seeking daily to live in His presence. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt 5:3. Blessed are those who realize they have nothing in themselves to offer the Lord, we are all poor in Spirit – we don’t have it! Once we admit this, the Lord can fill us with His Spirit – the true power to radiate light!

Is He good, or what?! Just the very thought that He – the God of the universe would entrust His reflection to me, or even long to do so is amazing! “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord,” 2 Cor 3:18. So, go, and radiate the light, testifying before men all that the Lord has done in your life!

I think we all doubt at times if the Lord is working or moving in our lives, but I’ve found if I take the time to stop and reflect in prayer, I begin to see that He never stopped orchestrating. Last year I started a ‘Sovereignty’ journal that I plan to fill with testimony of God’s goodness, grace, refining fire and love for me. I continue to be amazed at how clearly the Lord’s hand holds my world together. It is truly becoming a book of testimony. One that can be passed down for generations to come.

We must also understand that God makes all types of light. In our homes we have multiple light sources, but each is important and plays a unique role – from the chandelier in the dining room to the nightlight in the back hall. We tend to admire the chandelier and think we could never be of use like ‘them’, but it’s often the nightlight in the back hall that keeps people from stumbling.

“For shall the thing made say of him who made it,
“He did not make me”?
Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? (God, You didn’t really mean to make me this way. . . surly I’d be of more use if I was a . . .”)

Isaiah 29:16

God doesn’t make mistakes, and He has a purpose for every light!

lamp

I Hope You Dance

During a quiet moment at the hospital in 2006 as I was crying and feeling defeated over Eliza’s illness, the Lord gently reminded me, “Shannon, you’re not the one defeated, the enemy is—I crushed him, remember? You have a choice to make, you can either continue to feel defeated and fall for the lies of the enemy or you can choose to rejoice and trust me.” Right there and then I made my choice. I stood up and began dancing around Eliza’s crib with such unexplainable joy! I was dancing with the angels that surrounded her. They never stopped dancing, I did. The angles are forever before the Father in heaven crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

No matter what is happening here on earth, this fact still remains. God is holy and will remain so forever! Nothing can defeat us or God, He has already won. For those of us found in Jesus, this world is the worst it will ever get for us—heaven awaits, beckoning us.

My prayer is that we would continue to dance. If you don’t know this Savior of mine, I pray that one day you will dance as I have danced – free and uninhibited by the cares of this world. There are no words to express the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus, even at dark times as these. I long and desire for everyone to know taste and see what I have seen over the past two decades. My Jesus is real and He’s too good to keep to myself. For those of you who do know my Savior, remember, we are already seated in the heavenlies with Jesus (Ephesians 2:6), once we accepted Him into our lives, we were seated next to Him where there is NOTHING that the enemy can do to remove us from our heavenly position! Praise Jesus, we have already overcome!

In the midst of hard times, I picture myself already seated there, in the heavenlies next to Jesus, looking down on my own life. Am I happy with what I see or do I wish He wouldn’t look? For the day will come when these words penned on paper will turn to light and I will be there, presenting my life before my King. I pray He sees a life danced in step with Him.

“Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance and when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” Lee Ann Womack

Lord, help us to choose to dance! Help us during the dark hours when this world and its many trials block the vision of our dancing shoes and the many worries of life drown the music in our hearts. Nothing happening in this world stops the activity in Your throne room. May we be about Your kingdom as we dance our way to heaven’s door. Amen. 

Sifted Like Wheat

In Luke 22:31 Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, indeed Satan has asked for you that he may sift you like wheat,” Satan had to ask for permission. “But I have prayed for you…” we have an advocate in Jesus! He is always praying for us. “…that your faith would not fail”, Jesus didn’t pray that Simon wouldn’t fail but rather that his faith would not fail. Jesus knew that Simon would fail Him, not just once but three times! But He also knew He would work it for his good as later Peter would become a pillar in the church. “…and when you return to me, go and encourage the brethren,” our sifting is never in vain! God allows sifting so we can mutually encourage one another in our faith. It makes us God sufficient, not self sufficient so we can encourage others in their faith.

In Job 1:20 we see Job’s response to receiving horrific news, not just once but four times, one immediately preceding the other. His world had crashed in on him and yet scripture tells us his first response was, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship…” This was pre Holy Spirit! In the moment of his most dyer pain he chose to worship the Lord. What a powerful testament to us. When lightening strikes in our life, is our initial response to fall on our knees in worship of the One true, living God? Or do we allow anger and self reliance to reign?

I once heard a missionary talking about her time serving in communist countries. A woman once told her that the problem with us Americans is that we have so much heaven on earth that when suffering comes, we assume God is punishing us. In communist countries their perspective of suffering is very different; it’s just a part of daily life. But the beauty for the believer is that God is sovereign and will use it for their good and His glory. What a precious promise!!