Through Many Tribulations We Must Enter The Kingdom of God

Some believers are very surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God, but all God permits them to do is to suffer. Just suppose you could speak with those who have gone to be with the Lord; everyone has a different story, yet everyone has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted by family and friends…another was inflicted with pain and disease, neglected by the world…another was bereaved of children…another had all these afflictions. But you will notice that though the water was deep, they all have reached the other side. Not one of them blames God for the road He led them; ‘Salvation’ is their only cry. Are there any of you, dear children, murmuring at your lot? Do not sin against God. This is the way God leads all His redeemed ones.

 Robert McCheyne

It Will Cost You!


In the days of hardship, particularly persecution, those who are in the process of becoming Christians count the cost of discipleship carefully before taking up the cross of the Nazarene. Preachers do not beguile them with false promises of an easy life or indulgence of sins. But in good times, the cost does not seem so high, and people take the name of Christ without undergoing the radical transformation of life that true conversion implies

 James Montgomery Boice
(Christ’s Call to Discipleship)

All Things Subject to Christ

There may be circumstances in your earthly lot which at this moment are peculiarly trying.  You look around and wonder how this or that circumstance will terminate.  At present it looks very dark–clouds and mists hang over it, and you fear lest these clouds may break, not in showers upon your head, but burst forth in the lightning flash and the thunder stroke!  But all things are put in subjection under Christ’s feet!  That which you dread cannot take place except by His sovereign will–nor can it move any further except by His supreme disposal.  Then make yourself quiet.  He will not allow you to be harmed.  That frowning providence shall only execute His sovereign purposes, and it shall be among those all things which, according to His promise, shall work together for your good.  None of our trials come upon us by chance!  They are all appointed in weight and measure–are all designed to fulfill a certain end.  And however painful they may at present be, yet they are intended for your good.   When the trial comes upon you, what a help it would be for you if you could view it thus, “This trial is sent for my good.  It does not spring out of the dust.  The Lord Himself is the supreme disposer of it.  It is very painful to bear; but let me believe that He has appointed me this peculiar trial, along with every other circumstance.  He will bring about His own will therein, and either remove the trial, or give me patience under it, and submission to it.”

J.C. Philpot
The Subjection of All Things Under the Feet of Jesus.

Pre-forgiveness is prerequisite before you can truly forgive someone

Article by Rick Thomas, Greenville, SC 

Have you ever granted forgiveness to someone who hurt you?

Did you mean it?

I mean, did you really, really mean it?

Here’s a test: after you forgave the person were you able to talk about the hurt in such a way that communicated you were no longer sinfully controlled by those hurts?

A sign of complete biblical forgiveness is when you can be hurt, grant forgiveness, and then talk about what happened to you without being sinfully controlled or bothered by what was done to you.

Too many times we grant forgiveness because it is the Christians thing to do. It is a better version of how our culture works through stuff.

I’m not saying that “forgiveness granting” is not genuine if it is not as I have described. I am saying that it is not truly biblical if we cannot genuinely let it go. But it must be more than just letting it go. We must not only grant forgiveness to those who have hurt us, but we must understand that what happened to us was part of God’s plan for our lives.

We must, by the grace of God, filter the events of our lives through the filter of God’s sovereignty. We then humbly accept those events as part of His good work in our lives. If we do this then we have a mature understanding and practice of biblical forgiveness.

Let me illustrate what real biblical forgiveness looks like:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I think most us know the context of this verse. The speaker in this verse is Joseph, the son of Jacob. He is talking to his brothers who initially tried to kill him only to end up selling him to slave traders.

Joseph spent 13 mostly horrible years away from his family, accused of a crime he did not commit, served time in jail, and was treated in many other cruel ways. Frankly, I cannot fully understand what Joseph’s life must have been like. Just being violently separated from the family he loved would be enough to whack me.

At this point in the story he is finally confronting his brothers after all the years of exile.

He really forgives them.

No…he really, really forgives them.

What is Pre-forgiveness?
Before Joseph could get to the place of genuinely forgiving his brothers he had to “do business with God.” He had to work out what happened to him with God. If you don’t succeed in this indispensable step, then you will have a hard time “going the distance” with someone who needs your forgiveness.

You can’t be truly released from what happened to you until you understand that God was behind what happened to you. Your view of God must be established and you must be convinced that He is working good in ways that you did not expect or perceive.

Pre-forgiveness is the work I am describing here.

When bad things happen to me, the only way I can process and accept them correctly is after I have gained “sovereign clarity” on my troubles. Joseph had sovereign clarity.

•Do you have sovereign clarity on the disappointments in your life?
•When you review the tape of your life, can you now see with sovereign clarity?
If you cannot, then you’re a candidate for harboring such things as bitterness, anger, anxiety, discouragement, worry, criticism, resentment, cynicism, and even hate. And more than likely the person who offended you will feel some of these things from you.

It is very easy to look at the person who hurt you and become bound by the pain, anguish, and frustration of it all. If this happens, then your heart is not anchored in God’s sovereignty.

You will be like a kite in the wind. Your response to the offender will depend on how you’re feeling, the type of sin sinned against you, the kind of relationship you have with the person, their attitude, your attitude, and the cravings of your heart.

There is a 99.9% chance you will not respond humbly to the person if this is how you’re processing the disappointments they caused.

Pre-forgiveness illustrated
Leone’s husband committed adultery. It was the most devastating news of her life. It took many months of biblical care, among many friends, in the context of her local church to help her walk through the smashing anguish of her heart. She called it her nightmare from hell.

When Stephen repented, he eventually came back to Leone to ask for her forgiveness. What he did not know was that Leone had already “done business with God.” She was ready to grant forgiveness.

It was more than her Christian duty. It was God-centered, grace-empowered, Gospel-motivated forgiveness.

She was just like Joseph. When the time came, the hard work (pre-forgiveness) was over and forgiveness could be granted. It was the amazing grace of God working in her heart.

Let’s back up to over a decade earlier.

Leone had been praying for just over 13 years that God would make their marriage right. They had sex while dating and though she was not totally convinced she wanted to marry Stephen, it seemed like a better option than staying single. She was lonely. After their marriage, she became even lonelier.

In addition, to Stephen’s ongoing bouts with anger, their three sons were accelerating in their rebellion too. Their finances were never great, though they did manage to scrape by. They professed to be Christians and were moderately committed to their local church.

In God’s autonomous and non-manipulatable time He answered Leone’s 13-year, long-standing prayer request to fix her marriage. What did He do? He blew it up. God dropped a bomb in the middle of their marriage and blew it to smithereens.

The initial devastation on Leone and the children was hard to describe. From all perspectives it made no sense. To find good OR God in their mess seemed to be a stretch.

As the numbness began to wear off Leone, she began to seek God’s mind on what was going on in her life, marriage, and family. That was when she came to the story of Joseph.

Whose story are you living in?
She learned that God not only worked in the present, but He planned for the future too. What Joseph and his family could not know was that there was going to be a famine in the land. Therefore, Sovereign God needed to get someone to Egypt in order to set things up so the nation of Israel could be preserved.

As you know, God was not just doing this for the nation of Israel or Joseph’s family. He was doing this because of His promise to Adam (Genesis 3:15). Humanity needed a Savior and that Savior was going to come through Jacob’s line.

Therefore, it was essential that Jacob’s clan was preserved.

When God dropped the bomb in Jacob’s family, it blew it apart and Joseph landed in Egypt…according to God’s plan. Do you think it is odd or wrong for God to write bad things into people’s lives? …into your life?

If you think it is odd or wrong, then you do not understand the Gospel. Minimally you need a Gospel adjustment.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief… – Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)

What God orchestrated in Joseph’s life and did to His one and only Son is what He was doing in Leone’s life too. Somehow, someway Joseph and Leone grasped enough of this to know that God was working out something very special in their families.

They both gave up trying to control their respective stories and humbly stepped into God’s story. Joseph and Leone had sovereign clarity.

Once they came to this place in their understanding of God, though they were legitimately hurting and most definitely living out the dysfunction in their families, they were ready to move forward with God’s new plans for their lives. The point became less about what was happening to them and more about what God was doing through them.

•When you think through your disappointments are you more aware and affected by what God is doing or are you more aware and affected by how you have been hurt?
•Can you humbly let go of the script you have been holding on to and expecting to come to pass and then grasp the new script that God is writing for you?
Where does the accent mark go?
There were three things that Joseph shared with his brothers:

1.What God did was for good.
2.What they did was for evil.
3.God’s good trumps their evil.
Therefore, he was able to genuinely forgive his brothers for what they did to him.

•What controls your heart: what God allowed or what the offender did?
•Where do you put the accent: on the good of God or on the evil of man?
How you answer these questions will determine the depth and quality of your forgiveness. In fact, if you can’t get to where Joseph was, I don’t think you can make a biblical case for forgiveness.

One of the ways I check my heart regarding my forgiveness of others for what they did to me is how I think about what they did to me. Initially, what was done to me hurts. I am usually disappointed, probably angry, and typically struggling with letting it go.

I then begin to bring the Gospel in view. I like to put the cross of Christ beside the offense against me. That helps me, always. If I can see my offense against God and then their offense against me at the same time, then my attitude begins to take a Gospel shape.

The cross has a way of shrinking what was done to me. It puts my problems in their proper place.

From there, the pain and disappointment begins to be absorbed by the grace of God. The same Gospel grace that saved my wicked soul flows from the cross onto my current disappointment and onto the person who perpetrated my current disappointment. In short, God softens my hard and deceived heart.

This is all a part of the “pre-forgiveness process.”

I highly recommend this before you approach your offender. The longer you stand before the One you offended, the better it will go for you when you stand before the one who offended you.

If you have done this correctly, then you’re in the perfect place to forgive the person who hurt you. It will really be real.

Pre-forgiveness, forgiveness, and beyond
Pre-forgiveness will not come easy. Getting your thoughts straightened out and aligned with God is the hard part. Forgiveness should not be the hard part if we have wrestled through pre-forgiveness. Note how Joseph was ready to forgive his brothers.

Don’t miss the fact that he had at least 13 years to figure this out with his God. I’m not suggesting you need 13 years to figure it out. But I am strongly suggesting that you need to figure it out with your God.

If you do, then when the time for forgiveness does come, it won’t be that hard. However, if it is hard, then you can guarantee that more time before God is required because you’re still struggling with God. Typically that means there is some form of anger between you and God.

We’re all Sovereigntist. Whether we consciously think about it or not, we all know that there is a God and He is ultimately in control. If we cannot forgive others for what happened to us, then there is an underlying issue that needs to be resolved with God first.

Once you have sovereign clarity and you can now freely forgive the person who hurt you, you will be able to go beyond the hurt and genuinely be reconciled to the offender. This is the good part. But it goes further than just being reconciled.

When Lucia and I make up the way I have described here, we then begin talking about the sin. The sin that caused the division becomes our servant: it serves us.

It becomes a practical, working illustration that we can talk about in order to grow and mature to the point where we can reduce the amount of future sinning that we sling on each other.

It should not be difficult to talk about the sin if the sin has been killed-dead[1] by the power of the Gospel. I think it is important that we revisit our past sins, not as a punitive reminder. That is first grade stuff. We’re in college now. We can talk about our sin in order to mature in Christ and to relate more effectively to each other.

Here are the steps:
1.Pre-forgiveness: allowing God to adjust your heart so you can forgive.
2.Forgiveness: genuinely granting forgiveness to someone who hurt you.
3.Reconciling: the relationship is no longer separated by sin.
4.Maturing: the sin has been neutralized so you can discuss it from God’s perspective, your perspective, and the former offender’s perspective.
If you can’t get to Step #4, I suggest you go back to Step #1 and start over.
Just as Joseph could talk to his brothers about what they did in a non-punitive way, you should be able to do the same. If you can, then you will not miss out on what God was up to and what He has planned for you in the future.

God answered Leone’s prayer. She had enough Christian maturity about her to get it. It has been 7 years since the bomb went off. What happened during those dark days has almost been completely swallowed up by the incredible selfless and God-glorifying marriage that she and Stephen have today.

Related Article: Pre-forgiveness does not mean you will reconcile

A Prayer For The Weary

O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls. Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit. Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling. Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.

The Benefit of Storms – JC Ryle

Your trials may be many and great. Your cross may be very heavy. But the business of your soul is all conducted according to an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. All things are working together for your good. Your sorrows are only purifying your soul for glory; your bereavements are only fashioning you as a polished stone for the temple above, made without hands. From whatever quarter the storms blow, they only drive you nearer to heaven! Whatever weather you may go through it is only ripening you for the garner of God. Your best things are quite safe.

~ J.C. Ryle

Tract: Never Perish

The Bruised Reed – Richard Sibbes

God’s children are bruised reeds before their conversion and oftentimes after. Before conversion all (except such as, being brought up in the church, God has delighted to show himself gracious to from their childhood) are bruised reeds, yet in different degrees, as God sees fit. And as there are differences with regard to temperament, gifts and manner of life, so there are in God’s intention to use men in the time to come; for usually he empties such of themselves, and makes them nothing, before he will use them in any great services.

WHAT IT IS TO BE BRUISED?

The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end The Reed and the Bruising when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in him- self, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption makes him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man. This is such an one as our Saviour Christ terms ‘poor in spirit’ (Matt. 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice. He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and there- upon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it.

THE GOOD EFFECTS OF BRUISING

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we ‘begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the Judge.

Why Wait?

The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools. – Paul Tripp

Well Enough to Complain (via KBC Life University)

FROM R.C. Sproul Jr. Aug 26, 2011 Desperate times call for desperate measures. When we are in fear for our lives, there is precious little we aren’t willing to go through to make it out alive. We will endure long hardship. We will put up with humiliating procedures. We will grit our teeth through pain. We will bite bullets, all hoping to get to that place where the worry will subside, and we can move forward knowing we’re going to be okay. At wh … Read More

via KBC Life University

Sickness For His Glory – J C Ryle

Another principal responsibility which sickness requires of you, is that of “living a life that is constantly ready to bear it patiently.” Sickness is no doubt a trying thing to flesh and blood. To feel our nerves weakened–to be obliged to sit still and be cut off from all our usual pastimes–to see our plans destroyed and our purposes disappointed–to endure long hours and days, and nights of weariness and pain–all this is a severe strain on poor sinful human nature. Is it any wonder that irritability and  impatience are brought out by disease! Surely in such a dying world as this we should study patience.

How will we learn to bear sickness patiently, when it is our turn to suffer sickness? We must lay up stores of grace in the time of health. We must seek for the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit over our undisciplined tempers and personalities. We must make a real business of our prayers, and regularly ask for strength to endure God’s will as well as to do it. Such strength is to be had for the asking: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” [John 14:14]

I cannot think it needless to dwell on this point. I believe the passive graces of Christianity receive far less notice than they deserve. Peace, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, are all mentioned in the Word of God as fruits of the Spirit. They are passive graces which especially glorify God. They often make men think, who normally despise the active side of the Christian character. Never do these graces shine so brightly as they do in the sick room. They enable many a sick person to preach a silent sermon, which those around him never forget. Would your beautify the doctrine you profess? Would you make your Christianity beautiful in the eyes of others? Then take the suggestion that I give you this day. Store up a reserve of patience for the day of sickness that is sure to come. Then, though your sickness does not end in death, it will be for the “God’s glory.” [John 11:4]

JC Ryle on Sickness

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