The Woman With One Of The Most Important Jobs In The World

Her ancestors were slaves.

The word ancestors doesn’t seem appropriate. It wasn’t all that long ago. Her parents spent time being educated in segregated schools and drinking from segregated water fountains. Her father was called cruel, racist names by respectable pillars of the community. Once, her mother was assaulted for daring not to move off of the sidewalk when four young white boys came walking by. Her mother still has a small scar under her right eye to remind her of that day.

But those were different days. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no more. We all drink our water from the same fountain and share the same sidewalk. After all, it is 2017.

But not for her.

No, when she goes to work, it’s 1955 all over again.

She always did well in school. Helping others was what drove her. She knew what it was like to face one roadblock after another. She saw how bitter it made some of the people who she loved. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted to serve the weak, not keep them down. As she saw it, there was no better career path for her to take than nursing.

She dreamed of working in a busy emergency room in one of the big city hospitals. That didn’t work out. But she never gave up on nursing. She got as much education as she could. It just wasn’t enough to get her out of her small town. Eventually, she came to accept that small towns need nurses too. Sure, there’s no big hospital or busy emergency room where she lives.

But there is a nursing home.

So that’s where she went to work.

For the better part of four decades, that’s where she’s been picking patients up off of the floor, distributing medicine, cleaning out bedpans and helping folks go to the bathroom. She does it with a happy heart, even when smiling doesn’t come easy. She’s not much for talking but when she does speak, it’s never negative. The same can’t be said for her patients.

Every time she walks into room 4A, she gets greeted with a racial slur. She always responds with a smile and some comment about how this is the day that the Lord has made. She sees the irony in helping a man go to the bathroom who in his younger days wouldn’t use the same water fountain as her parents.

The lady in 1C frequently tells her in a creepy, whispery voice, “If you steal from me again I’ll have you killed and no one will care.” Of course, she never has stolen from the lady in 1C. But she has picked her up off of the floor five times in the last two months and gave the lady’s son a strong talk about coming to visit his mother more often.

3B is the hardest. She used to have nightmares about 3B. The guy in that room knew her parents. He’s the one responsible for that scar under her mother’s right eye.

She thought of recusing herself from that room, sort of like judges do when there’s some sort of conflict of interest. But then she thought better of it. She decided that instead of running away from the man responsible for her mother’s facial scar and countless other emotional scars, she would run toward him in his weakness. She remembered the passion that drove her into nursing. Instead of keeping the weak down, she would try to help them. This wasn’t what she had in mind. It is what God had in mind.

The man doesn’t know who she is. She thought about telling him once. It wouldn’t matter. He’s a shell of his former self. His memory, his strength and his family are all gone.

 

She doesn’t think that her job is all that important to the kingdom of God. If you asked her, she’d tell you that the ones with the really important jobs are the pastors and missionaries and famous Christian authors. She’s wrong. As far as the kingdom of God goes, this woman has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Every day before she walks into room 3B, she prays for strength. She asks her Lord to give her the strength to be like family to the lonely man who did so much harm to hers. She asks for God to give her the power to resist the temptation to turn a blind eye to the man’s suffering and let him get what’s coming to him. Day after day, God answers her prayers. And day after day, the light of Christ shines when a nurse walks into room 3B. By the time she walks out, she has loved her neighbor, loved her enemy and ministered to the least of these.

Just like Jesus did.

And he is pleased.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)

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When They Cry

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On Wednesday afternoon I had the privilege of picking up my sons from school. When they climbed into my truck, something wasn’t right. One son was his normal self. The other one was not. My parenting instincts kicked in. I asked if something was wrong. He said that there wasn’t. His answer did nothing to ease those nagging parenting instincts so I asked again. This time he said that he wanted to wait until we got home to tell me what was wrong. In private.

By this point, I really knew that something was wrong.

When we got home, I took him to the private place that he seemed to be longing for. When he sat in my lap, the tears poured out of him. And they came out loud.

He explained to me that another kid at school was mean to him earlier that morning. I could barely make out his words between the wailing. I thought about whoever the guy was who made up the saying about sticks and stones and words that never hurt. That guy  obviously never had anyone say anything mean to him. The words spoken to my son earlier that morning had broken his bones.

I let him cry and held him tight. When he got a little quieter, I told him to cry some more. “Get it all out, son. It’s okay,” I told him. And so he did.

When all of the tears were gone, we had a good talk. All of it, the mean words that morning, the tears that afternoon and our private conversation, were an answer to prayer.

Minutes before I picked up my kids that afternoon, I said a prayer. Sitting in my truck in the car line, I asked God to help me to be patient. I asked him to give me the right words to say to my sons. I asked for words of grace. God rarely answers our prayers the way that we expect him to.

Sitting there in that room with my sobbing son on my lap and my shirt wet from his tears, God gave me what I asked for. He gave me not only the words to say but the opportunity to tell my son what he needed to hear.

I told my son that looking like everyone else is a dead end game. I reminded him about his true identity in Christ. I let him know that part of being a man who leads and does significant things means that people will take shots at you for no good reason. I reminded him how much his family loves him and how much more Jesus loves him. It was good to see him smile at the end our our talk and cry session.

On his way out of the room, I thought about my own childhood.

I thought about wrestling magazines.

I used to get bullied a lot. Once, after a nasty encounter with one of the neighborhood bad guys, I ran into my room and looked at wrestling magazines while crying. I grew up in a single-parent family. My mom had to work. I had to spend a lot of time alone. As I looked at those magazines, I wished that Ric Flair could somehow jump out of the pages and give me a few pointers on how to put the figure four leg lock on that bully. It sounds crazy I know. But it’s not uncommon.

A lot of kids today are growing up without a father around. Or if their father is around, all he has to offer them is tough talk on getting over it and a plea to shut up with the crying. I do a lot of counseling for my job. There are a lot of young men who have sat across the table from me who had dads like that. Dads who gave them nothing when the world was giving them its worst.

Dads, there is a difference between whining and crying. Our kids need to know the difference. And so do we. Whining is what kids do when they don’t get their way. When kids whine, they need to be corrected in love and told to stop. Crying is what kids do when their world caves in on them. When they cry, they need to be held and told that it’s okay to cry. Keeping pain bottled up isn’t manly. It’s foolish and dangerous.

I’m glad that God answered my prayer the way he did that day. I hope that through his tears, my son could see what his father had looked for and not found in a wrestling magazine.

I hope that he learned that the world can be a mean place.

I hope that he remembers that sometimes it’s okay to cry, no matter how old or how manly you are.

And I hope that our conversation the other afternoon gave him a vivid reminder that when the tears do come, he is still being held by his Father.

For I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)

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The Children Of God Myth

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Sometimes, in an effort to be comforting, Christians can say the dumbest things.

A mother gives birth to a baby three months early. The baby spends the next two months in the hospital, separated from his mother. When the mother is finally able to go to church with her baby, she’s met with, “I just don’t think I could be away from my baby that long.”

As if the mother had a choice.

A man loses his wife in an automobile accident. He stands next to her casket while friends and relatives wait in line to share their support and love. The hugs and tears of others bring him the most comfort. The comment that, “God just needed another flower in his heavenly garden” did not.

It just made him mad.

We would do well to follow the example of what not to do from Job’s friends. They were okay when all they did was sit and mourn with their suffering brother. It’s when they started speaking for God that they got themselves into trouble. That’s not to say that we should never use theology to bring comfort. We must. But when we do, it’s important to make sure that the theology is correct.

After the terror attack in Orlando, many Christians went to social media to remind us that we are all God’s children. And by all, they meant all. As in every human being on the planet. While this may bring comfort to some, it simply isn’t true. It’s dangerously unbiblical. It’s sort of like convincing the skydiver that the big thing strapped to his back will only weigh him down.

The idea that we are all God’s children is only partially true. According to the Bible, apart from Christ, we are all children. Children of wrath fighting against God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

Here’s a quick experiment. Go to Walmart. I’ll wait for you to get back.

You saw a kid having a fit, didn’t you? I knew it. He was all upset because his mother wouldn’t let him drink his Red Bull before they got to the car. She was threatening him with a hairbrush she found in the cosmetics section. I know. I know. It’s almost like I was there with you.

And I bet I know how you responded to that screaming kid. You kept on walking. You got as far away from him as you could. And you came back home and hugged your own kids a little tighter. Or you gave thanks for not having any kids. The screaming kid wasn’t yours so you just carried on with your visit.

That’s because there is a difference between a child of wrath and a child of God.

A child of wrath is not a part of the family. A child of God is.

But before we start getting the big head, we must remember that the Christian’s status of child of God is not due to any quality of that individual over others. It is solely a result of God’s grace. It is a product of faith, not accomplishments or achievements. Even that faith is a gift from God.

One more experiment. If you have a kid, think back to a time when you heard him cry. You couldn’t see him. Maybe he was in the backyard while you were inside. But still, you heard that cry. You know that cry. Above all other noises on the planet, you know that cry. And when you heard it, you didn’t carry on with your day. You responded. It was not just any cry. It was your child’s cry.

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:6-7 (ESV)

In one way or another, everyone cries. But not everyone has a heavenly Father to cry to. Only Christians enjoy such a privilege. So, my fellow Christians, the next time something terrible happens, be careful what you say. Weep and mourn with those who weep and mourn before you get theological.

When that time finally comes, point your brothers and sisters in Christ to their heavenly Father who rules over all things and cares for them immeasurably. And point those who do not have that same hope to all that could be theirs in Christ through faith and repentance.

Speak hope.

But be extra careful to speak it in the right way.

They Have Seen Better Days

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This afternoon I’ll preach at a Good Friday service. It’s not at the Georgia Dome. No one is selling tickets to it. No Grammy winners will be there. But there’s is a very strong chance that a lot of the people there have been called Grammy a time or two in their lives.

This Good Friday service will be at the nursing home in the community where I live and work. There will be people singing off key. To be fair, I’ll be one of them. There will be people there who can’t hear or see very well. There will be strange requests for strange songs I’ve never heard of before. But, like the other years that I have been a part of this service, I’m really going to like it.

Being at that nursing home on Good Friday reminds me that Jesus didn’t just die for me. He didn’t just die for the younger generation. The cross wasn’t exclusively for church kids. Jesus didn’t die only for the young, fit and popular crowd. He also died for the old, the feeble and the dying.

He died for the lady struggling to play the role of mother for her aging mother.

He died for nurses and administrators who refuse to cut corners, even if no one else would notice, because they do their work as unto the Lord.

He died for his Church and some of the people who belong to his Church spend a lot of their days in a nursing home. Some because that’s their place of employment. Others because it’s where illness has left them.

But Jesus didn’t just die for his Church. He rose again for it. And that gives us a living hope, no matter how dire our circumstances are here on earth.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

I’m guessing that five minutes or so after I’m done speaking to this group, most of them will forget what I said.

Their memory isn’t what it used to be.

They have seen better days.

But because of the grace of God and an empty Middle Eastern tomb, the folks in that nursing home who belong to Jesus have not yet seen the best days.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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Encouragement For A Bad Day

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The brother of Jesus says it best.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 (ESV)

A Trump or Clinton presidency could happen. And it could mean that Christians, and a lot of other Americans for that matter, will face trials of various kinds.

More abortions.

More taxes.

More injustice.

More unconstitutional wars.

Less religious liberty.

While we should do all that we can to fight against these things, we must not lose hope, even if we lose a few of the culture battles. That’s what separates Christians from everyone else. When someone who is not a follower of Christ faces a trial, it usually results in anger, despair, apathy, self-centeredness or some combination of the four.

Not so for the Christian. James tells us to respond to trials with joy. Now that doesn’t mean that we have to laugh when President Hillary decides to give a few million dollars more to Planned Parenthood or President Trump starts a war in our streets or the doctor tells you that there is something terrible wrong with your body and he needs to operate to figure out what it is. What it does mean is that we have to remember that suffering for the Christian is a sign that Jesus is working on us.

Have you ever seen a kid who had an easy childhood? You know, the type of kid who never had to have a job, never had to take out the trash and never had a bedtime. For the most part, those kids are miserable. And when they grow up, well, they’re still kids.

Some of the happiest people I know had extremely difficult childhoods. Some of the hardest laughers I know are also the hardest workers. Resistance leads to growth. It’s true in the weight room, in the voting booth and in the hospital room. Nothing worthwhile is shaped in comfort. Completed masterpieces got the way they are through a lot of cutting, molding, burning and pressing.

You are no different.

When the TV preachers promise you a life of absolute comfort and no suffering, what they are really selling you is a life without maturity. That’s because maturity doesn’t happen without heartache and suffering.

So maybe things aren’t looking so hot for our country. Or maybe your trials of various kinds have nothing to do with presidents and more to do with your own broken body or a broken marriage or a child who just can’t seem to get it together.

Count it all joy.

Not because your suffering isn’t as bad as you think it is. James isn’t telling us to look on the bright side. What he’s telling us to do is to look to our Father. He’s telling us to look to the future.

Christian, whatever trials you are facing are evidence that God is working on you. He’s not done with you yet. He is growing you. He is making you stronger. And he will see you through to the end.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (ESV)

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A Word Of Encouragement To No Name Christians

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I’ve never met Billy Graham.

I don’t have one of the Stanley’s numbers in my phone.

But I know an awful lot of people who are just as important to the kingdom of God. They may never get a chance to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. The biggest crowd they’ll ever speak to is that collection of runny-nosed four-year-olds they teach a Sunday School lesson to every week.

The mark of someone who belongs to Jesus is not a ton of Twitter followers or a large platform. The mark of a true disciple is obedience. Sometimes obedience will carry you to a war zone to tell people about Jesus. Sometimes it will have you speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast. More than likely, obedience will have you telling a few people about Jesus in that war zone otherwise known as the children’s Sunday School class.

Wherever your devotion to Christ lands you, there is no better place for you to be than in that place.

Consider Ananias.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12 (ESV)

Ananias was eager to hear what God had to say. That might be because he didn’t yet know what God was going to say. When God told Ananias to visit a man named Saul, it was comparable to him telling us today to take a trip over to ISIS headquarters to lead a quick Bible study.

Like Moses before him, Ananias tried to talk God out of the idea.

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 (ESV)

Verse 15 does not say, “Suddenly the Lord realized that Ananias had a point and reconsidered his plan. After all, the Lord wouldn’t want his people doing anything uncomfortable.”

Here’s what verse 15 does say.

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15 (ESV)

Not, “Nothing bad will happen to you, Ananias.”

Just one word, followed by a little explanation.

“Go.”

There was no promise of safety or even worldly success. Just a command. Go.

And Ananias did just that. He didn’t buy a ticket to Tarshish. There’s no giant fish in this story. Just a simple servant of Christ who didn’t allow his fears to overshadow his obedience. Ananias obeyed. Even if obedience to Christ takes you to the home of an anti-Christian terrorist, there is no better place for you to be.

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. Acts 9:17-18 (ESV)

Saul would later become Paul. He would preach before many. He would suffer much for the kingdom of Christ. Thirteen of his letters are in our New Testament. Paul is a big deal. But so is Ananias.

I never got to meet Billy Graham. He’s a big deal.

But so is Gene Hancock. Before he died, he spent his free time sharing the gospel at a truck stop. I’m glad that I got to know him.

Turk Holt is a big deal too. He has spent most of his life pouring the gospel into young people. I’m glad that I got to learn from him.

When we die, Jesus will not ask us how big our platform was or if we had enough Twitter followers. He’s more concerned with our obedience. Here on earth, there’s no telling where our obedience will take us. But when our time here is done, this much is certain. By grace, our obedience will take us the the welcoming embrace of an accepting Savior.

So no matter how frustrated you are or how unappreciated you feel, don’t quit. Sometimes obedience to Christ and worldly success go together. But when they do not, always remember that there is no better place to be than the place where obedience takes you.

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:22-23 (ESV)

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The Christian’s Guide To Being Called All Sorts Of Ugly Names

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It’s inevitable.

It doesn’t matter how loving you are or how articulate you are. No amount of charity and goodwill on your part will help you to avoid it.

If you are seriously committed to following Jesus, you will be called names.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Hater.

Lunatic.

Neanderthal.

Caveman.

Bigot.

And then there are the ones that I can’t print here with this being a family blog and all.

The first step to responding to the name calling is simple. Simple to understand, that is. It’s not always simple to apply.

Rejoice.

When Paul was on trial for his faith in Christ, we are told that he was cheerful in his defense (Acts 24:10). Peter tells his readers to rejoice because their suffering is a reminder of their union with Christ (1 Peter 4:12-14).

So the next time someone calls you a right-wing, hate-filled Bible thumper because you quote a Bible verse, take it with a smile.

When religious leaders brought Paul before the governor, they referred to him as a “plague.” Although much has changed in the hundreds of years since the Paul Plague, some things have not. The world still sees Christians as a plague.

In a world where it’s completely normal for grown men to self-identity as six-year-old girls, the absolute worst thing that could be said about any Christian is that they fit right in. But still, that’s what many leaders in the church are trying to do. So we have pastors pretending to be celebrities on the Oprah channel and so-called Christian professors wearing Muslim headgear because, “we worship the same god.”

The Church will not make a difference in the world by acting just like it. Difference comes by being different. That’s what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to be salt and light. Salt is different from the decay around it. Light is different from the darkness. If not, what’s the purpose?

The call to follow Christ is a call to be different. Not by making signs that tell people who God hates and screaming on some college campus. And not by dressing like it’s the 1800s. No, the difference we are called to make comes by living a lifestyle that reflects the gospel. And no matter how kindly you do that, you will face hardship. Salt and light aren’t always welcomed guests.

At best, you will be called names.

But you could also lose your job.

Or family and friends could abandon you.

And you could even have your head removed from the rest of your body.

Regardless of the package that persecution comes to your door wrapped in, take it with a smile. Jesus was ridiculed, abandoned by loved ones, beaten and murdered. Why should you expect to be treated any different from your Master?

It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:25 (ESV)

Jesus didn’t come to give you a life of ease. He didn’t come to make you popular. And he didn’t come for your glory. He came for his glory.

And a real good way for that glory to be seen is on the smiling face of one of his followers who has just been called some terrible name.

So the next time you are called a hater, a bigot, a plague or worse, just remember, you’re in good company.

And whatever hardship you face on this earth is no match for the eternal joy that awaits you when your time here is done and you are with Christ forever.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19 (ESV)

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More Than You Think It Does

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You wish that there was a magic word. If only there was something you could say to make everything better. But there isn’t. So what do you say to the person you love while he is suffering?

 

What do you say to your friend you have known since the first grade when she finds out that she has cancer?

What do you say to the guy you work with who just lost his son?

What do you say to your best friend while he fights to save his seemingly doomed marriage?

Nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. The time will come to say something. And it better not involve trite phrases about, “Feeling your pain,” or God needing another kid to play on heaven’s playground. No, when the time to speak does come, you’ll need to speak truth from the Bible. You’ll need to share honest examples from your own life when God made his faithfulness and power known in your immense suffering.

But until God opens the door for those moments, just be silent.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)

Don’t confuse silence with distance. You can lock yourself in your house, throw away your phone and be very silent. But that’s not what your suffering friend needs. They need you to be there. So in your silence, be present.

There’s a soul mechanic in all of us. We want to fix what’s wrong with the ones we love. And sometimes, we just want to fix it so that we can get the credit for doing what no one else thought of or had the ability to do.  We must remember that it’s not our ego that will offer any encouragement during our loved one’s trials. It is our presence.

If someone you love is hurting, don’t feel bad because you don’t know what to say.

Feel bad because they feel bad.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)

And feel bad with them.

Your friend will let you know when she is ready to hear from you. And if you ask him, God will give let you know too (James 1:5-8).

Until that time, just keep showing up.

Your presence says more than you think it does.

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The Worst Thing God Could Do To You

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What is the worst thing that God could do to you?

Give you cancer?

Make you go through a bankruptcy?

Send you a letter from the IRS?

Here’s another question. Imagine how your life would look if God gave you everything you ever wanted.

You would be wildly popular. And fit. And rich.

And dead.

And maybe even in hell.

Hell, in case you are unaware, is one of only two places where popularity, fitness and wealth do not matter.

The worst thing that God could possibly ever do to you is to give you everything you’ve ever wanted. Take a moment to think about all of the bad things that have happened to you. Think about all of the bad things that have happened to family and friends that you would rather have had happen to you.

The endless nights in tiny ICU waiting rooms.

Speaking to the long line of well-meaning friends when you would really rather just be speaking to the person in the casket behind you.

The rejection.

The failure.

The heartache.

Think about all of those moments from your life. Now, think about where you would be without those moments. It’s not as pretty as you might think.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say something about your Fight Song or about whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

I’m not.

The message of the Bible is not whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

Instead, the Bible tells us that whatever tries to kill us reminds us of our weaknesses, not our strengths. And it tells us that sometimes what seems to make us stronger is what kills us (Proverbs 16:18). But it is in our weaknesses that we find a strength greater than we could ever possess.

The strength of Christ.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

And the strength of Christ is something that we will never know if we’re busy merely counting our blessings, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps or singing our Fight Song.

Christians are given a simple promise from God. It’s not a promise of a new Bentley on 26-inch rims with Slow-n-Low written on the top of the tinted windshield and a tag on the front bumper that reads #TrulyBlessed. His promise is much better than that.

His promise is his presence (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the presence of God. We can be reminded of it while we sit back and look at a beautiful sunset with our family at our side.

But, too often, we miss it. Our supposed strength tends to get in the way sometimes. Thankfully, the faithful presence of our good God is not confined to sunsets on the beach.

We can know his presence in the funeral home. We can know it in the ICU waiting room. We can know it in the actual ICU room.

If God always gave us everything that we ever wanted, we would all believe that terrible lie that we can make it on our own. God sometimes sends pain our way (2 Corinthians 12:7). But that pain is never an end in itself. And it is always grace. It is grace because it points us to a strength greater than our own and a Savior greater than our possessions.

 

The worst thing that God could ever do to you is to give you everything you ever wanted.

The best thing that God could ever do for you is to give you more of himself. To make you more aware of his loving, sovereign presence. To make you more like Jesus.

Jesus.

He is the beginning of our journey. He is the heart of our journey. And he is the objective of our journey.

Sometimes that journey will lead you through beautiful beaches.

Sometimes it will lead you through the ICU.

But God’s promise is always true.

You are never alone. Jesus is with you and his power if perfect in you.

I have no idea why some people have to walk a path through hospital waiting rooms while others spend their nights enjoying moonlit beaches. I’ve been in both places. And if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change either one.

That’s because the beach and the waiting room have something in common.

Jesus is in both places.

But sometimes he’s easier to recognize in the waiting room.

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)

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