Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Storms of Life

I have been bombarded lately with a common message coming at me from a variety of areas.  I listen to Charles Stanley’s radio message at 5:30 every morning on my ride to work.  I also listen to a local Christian radio station that does a Daily Devotion every morning.  I also have a Bible app that has a Bible verse of the day.  These three different forms of media have all come together with a common message this week. The Storms of Life – their cause and meaning.   There are three types of storms that God allows in your life. 

There are Protecting storms – as in you did not get that job that you were hoping and praying for – you feel at the time that it was a storm or an unanswered prayer but perhaps instead it was because the company was going to close and you would have been left jobless.  Or perhaps you prayed for things to work out in a relationship with a certain person but that did not happen and you are disappointed but you later meet the love of your life.  Your seemingly unanswered prayer was actually a form of God’s protection.  I’m sure if you think back you can recall a time when you have asked God for something only to find out later that you were thankful He did not allow you to have whatever you had asked for.

Then there are Correcting storms – storms that hit your life as a direct result of some sin or some wrong choice that you have made.  God is not trying to destroy you with these storms of correction but instead guide you to the best choices for your life for your own benefit. - Proverbs 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction for who the Lord loveth, he correcteth even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.  Ask yourself this about whatever you are going through – Is this a storm of correction?  Is there something in my life that needs correcting.  Is this a disciplinary storm that God has allowed in my life to open my eyes to something I am doing that is out of His will or is pushing me farther away from my walk with Him?  His purpose is to move us constantly in the direction of a closer walk with Him. Our goal should be to be more Christ-like.  Is there something in your life; gossip, lust, envy, an addiction or an error in thinking that may be blocking that goal?  If so, He will do whatever it takes to get your attention and get you back on the right track.  That is a correcting storm.

And then there are Perfecting storms – A storm that has come into your life as a test to refine you like gold in a fire to remove the impurities in your life or like in Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus tells the Apostle Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  This was an Apostle of Jesus Christ who had listened to his teachings and left his personal life to walk with Jesus for three years.  But Simon Peter had such a love and loyalty to Jesus he began to be arrogant about it.  In the next verse 33: Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”  In Matthew 26: 33:  “Though all men shall be offended because of thee yet will I never be offended.”  And in verse 35 he goes on to say “I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee.”  But when Jesus asked him to come to the garden with Him and watch and pray – he fell asleep.  And when the guards came and arrested Jesus Peter in fear for his own life, denied even knowing Jesus three different times.  So though Peter loved the Lord, he was arrogant and prideful about that love and his faith.  He was not nearly as strong as he had thought.  So Jesus agreed to let Satan “sift” him as wheat – to test and try his faith not so Jesus would know the depth of that faith for He already knew but so that Peter could see his own shortcomings.  So he could no longer hide from his failures as a loyal friend and follower of Jesus.  I’m sure this was an eye opening experience for Peter.  I’m sure he was filled with confusion, remorse and shame.  But it gave him an honest assessment of how his strength, bravery, loyalty and faith was tested and found lacking. God knew that Peter’s pride was going to have to be destroyed if he were ever going to be of any real use.  Peter suffered a Perfecting storm.

And yet again this morning still another confirmation as Charles Stanley spoke of “works” making you feel justified when in fact nothing but what Jesus did on the cross could ever justify you.  There is nothing you, personally, can ever do to make Him love you more or make you right in His eyes.  Nothing.  He was saying that just because you go to church three times a week, tithe 10%, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir --that does not justify you to Jesus.  He was making the point that you were made “free” from the bondage of the law but it hit home with a different message to my heart entirely.

I have spent nearly thirteen months assessing the Tsunami that decimated our lives August 2014; initially just trying to survive the storm - dodge flying debris, tread the rising flood waters, cling desperately to whatever small pieces of solid ground I could find and then after I survived the first waves of destruction I began trying to make sense of it. 

Prior to that storm I, like Peter, would have sworn nothing could shake my faith. I pretty much felt like I too, would have gone to prison or faced death in a minute.  I was “secure” in my faith and my relationship with God was, I thought, unshakable.  I was in church almost every week for the past 22 years, I tithed, and did all of the other things that I thought was expected of me as a Christian. I cared about people, I gave to charities and tried to help people in need.  I was proud to be able to do what little I did in the church and while I never consciously thought I could “work” my way into Heaven or gain brownie points with God or even work to make restitution for any sins in my life, I apparently did think it would somehow keep disasters of this magnitude away from my life because the first thing that hit me was the unfairness and the devastating feeling that I had been betrayed by the God I loved and trusted. 

Obviously, I had a huge issue with pride as well.  Let me tell you there is absolutely nothing that can humble you right down to the dirt like the devastation of losing three members of your family at once and the shame and horror and yes, even guilt of having the whole world believe the son you love with all your heart --took the life of his wife and child. 

While I recall thinking I would gladly give my life for God – I can confess here and now that I absolutely never entertained the illusion that I would be willing to give the life of my child or grandchild.  Giving one’s life sounds like the maximum sacrifice but let me assure you it is not.  I know first-hand what a maximum sacrifice looks like and it is certainly not my life.  My life has not meant two cents to me this entire year.  Sacrificing my life would seem like a cheesy consolation prize.

Like Peter, when three times he denied even knowing Jesus, I have come to the humbling conclusion – that my faith, love and loyalty has been “sifted as wheat" and found seriously lacking.   

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