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“The LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.” Exodus 14:30–31
Let’s begin today by reading about a couple of people who have gone through tough times. What can we learn from these people? What can their experiences teach us?
Read what a man who suffered in a communist concentration camp says. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian novelist, records his experience in his book, The Gulag Archipelago: All the writers who wrote about prison but who did not themselves serve time there considered it their duty to express sympathy for prisoners and to curse prison. I . . . have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: Bless you, prison, for having been in my life. Did you hear that? "Bless you, prison, for having been in my life”?
Now read the observations recorded by the author, Flannery O’Connor: I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place . . . and it is always a place where there's no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies. Did she really write that? "Sickness . . . is . . . one of God's mercies”?
What do you think when you hear people say things like that about concentration camps or chronic illnesses? My first reaction is that these people are crazy. Who in the world would say that prison is a good thing or that sickness is one of God’s mercies?
But then, on second thought, I have to admit that these people have tapped into something truly significant. I make that admission not because they are both famous authors. No, I say that because they are merely stating in their own words what God’s Word teaches.
Red Sea Rule 9: View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
What does God's Word teach us?
Let's look at some passages from the New Testament. We’ll start with one written by Paul.
". . .we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4).
Now let’s think about what the writer to the Hebrews says in his letter.
"Endure hardship as discipline. . . No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:7, 11).
Hardship is one of the ways that God makes us into the people that He wants us to be. The writer of Hebrews comes right out and states that it is not pleasant. It is no fun. Don’t pretend that it is. But, if we will allow it, it will produce within us both righteousness and peace.
Let's read about another New Testament writer, James, and what he has to say about suffering.
"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" (James 1:2-3).
There is the same teaching. Trials refine and purify our faith.
“I know He tries me only to increase my faith.” —J. Hudson Taylor
Think about those four passages. Each one was penned by a different New Testament writer: Paul, the unknown person who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, James, and Peter. But each of those writers teaches the same lesson. It doesn’t make any difference which Christian leader does the teaching, sooner or later, that early Christian teacher tells those under his instruction that they will suffer and that their faith will grow and mature through that suffering.
These passages give us a basic principle about the Christian life. This is Christianity 101. This is Red Sea Rule 9. View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
“What exactly is faith? . . .in Fort Worth, a gunman walked into Wedgewood Baptist Church during a youth rally. Among those killed was fourteen-year-old Cassie Griffin. I later read in a brief account of her life that she collected frog figurines, frog trinkets, frog jewelry. According to her parents, the word FROG summarized her philosophy--Fully Rely On God. That’s an apt definition of faith.” —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
I have a love-hate relationship with Red Sea Rule 9: View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future. I know that it is true. I know that! There’s no question in my mind that it’s true. I've seen it in action, in my own life and in the lives of those around me. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it—particularly when I am going through some kind of trial. It doesn’t make any difference what the trial is. Whether I am facing some serious problem or whether I have just gotten stuck at a stoplight when I’m in a hurry, I don’t like this rule. But I do have to admit that it is true.
God is interested in more than our happiness
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then God is making you into a person who will live with Him for all eternity. That’s the way that God looks at us, and that’s the way that we need to look at ourselves. We are creatures being prepared to live in the heavenly presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords for eternity. That doesn’t mean that things on this earth and events of this life have no value. It doesn’t mean that at all. It doesn’t mean that happiness on earth is something bad or something that should be shunned. God created this world, and we should enjoy His good creation. But as believers, we also have to recognize that God has more in mind for us than our happiness. That’s why Red Sea Rule 9 is so important. God is preparing us for eternity with Him. Therefore, view your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
Early in my adult life I read a book that was one of the most influential things that I have ever read. It’s titled Knowing God, and it’s a classic. The author, J.I. Packer, makes an observation in that book that I have come back to time and time again:
"God . . . is very gentle with very young Christians, just as mothers are with very young babies. Often the start of their Christian career is marked by great emotional joy, striking providences, remarkable answers to prayer, and immediate fruitfulness in their first acts of witness; thus God encourages them, and establishes them in “the life.” But as they grow stronger, and are able to bear more, He exercises them in a tougher school. He exposes them to as much testing . . . as they are able to bear—not more . . . but equally not less . . . Thus He builds our character, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to help others. . . . There is nothing unnatural, therefore, in an increase of temptations, conflicts, and pressures as the Christian goes on with God—indeed something would be wrong if it did not happen. But the Christian who has been told that the normal Christian life is unshadowed and trouble-free can only conclude . . . that he must have lapsed from normal. “Something’s gone wrong,” he will say, “it isn’t working any more!” —J.I. Packer, Knowing God
Do those words ring true to the Bible and to your own experience? They do to me. Red Sea Rule 9 is a solid biblical principle that we need to hold onto with a firm grip. View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
Train yourself to expect hardships and difficulties
Program this principle into your mental software. Don’t entertain notions that the Christian life should be trouble free. Expect hardships and difficulties. Don’t be surprised at them.
“Faith lives in a promise, as the fish lives in the water.” —Thomas Watson
Putting Red Sea Rule 9 into practice
How do we put this principle into practice with the hardships that we are already facing? This is where it gets difficult. This, is where it gets REAL! I have in no way mastered this rule, but here are four steps that I would suggest to you:
It’s this fourth step that we need to be sure we get to. Don’t be satisfied with just the first three. Keep working on yourself until you get to that fourth one. We haven’t really put Red Sea Rule 9 into practice until we can thank God for the trial that we are facing. It’s not that the hardship itself is good. I’m not suggesting that you thank God for cancer or automobile accidents. No, you are thanking God that He is going to develop perseverance and character in you through your trial. You are thanking God that through your current crisis He is building you up in your faith and making you fit for eternity.
Those four steps will take time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t immediately zip through them. They take work. They take time. Just be sure that you keep moving in the right direction.
“We can say therefore that faith is making reasonable assumptions. When we take our morning shower, we assume there’s going to be water, preferably hot. When we eat our cereal, we expect it to be healthy and wholesome. Driving to work, we proceed through green lights, assuming they are red for intersecting traffic. Every single day we live by faith in a hundred ways.” —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
An example of Red Sea Rule 9
Listen to the experience of a woman who went through tough times. Her name is Vera Mae Perkins. She and her husband lived in Mississippi. They had little money with which to raise their eight children. Vera saw her family being refused service at motels because of the color of their skin. Her husband, John Perkins, was an evangelist and social activist. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, John was jailed and sometimes beaten in those jails. But here is what she learned from those experiences:
Our struggles were painful, but I grew to expect them and—believe it or not—even appreciate them. Many young couples, especially wives, believe that suffering should be avoided at all costs—that God wouldn’t want them or their children to suffer. Although this is a natural inclination, it is far from the truth. Suffering builds character and faith.
It’s amazing to hear someone say that kind of thing. But it’s true. It’s Red Sea Rule 9: View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future, because suffering builds character and faith.
“J. I. Packer stated, “In the days when the Bible was universally acknowledged in the churches as ‘God’s Word written,’ it was clearly understood that the promises recorded in Scripture were the proper, God-given basis for all our life of faith, and that the way to strengthen one’s faith was to focus it upon particular promises that spoke to one’s condition.” Faith, then, is simply finding and claiming the promises of God in every situation, and, based on those promises, making logical assumptions, being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised.” —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Get the book: Knowing God
"For over 40 years, J. I. Packer's classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals.
This week's discussion questions:
Can I challenge you to memorize Romans 5:3-4 with me this week?
". . .we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
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