Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When Life Just Hurts

Every once in a while, as we are going along about our everyday business, enjoying life, something happens that puts us flat on our face. A crisis happens that is sometimes life changing in nature. The pain from such events runs deep, crushing the heart, and robbing us of whatever false sense of self-security we possessed.

I have faced such events. I was living in New Orleans in 2005, carrying out life as usual when in early August my grandmother died from brain cancer. A few short weeks later, Hurricane Katrina knocked me to my knees. Following that event, my family lived in devastated New Orleans East (including time in a tent and a fema trailor) helping to rebuild. Nine months later, my grandfather died with cancer. Seven months later, my other grandfather died with cancer. Six months later, God relocated us to another state (a great move, but a life change nonetheless). Seven months later, my dad died with cancer.

Trials come. As I write this, my wife recently had a miscarriage. She was pregnant with our fourth child. This was a crushing blow. Yes, sometimes life hurts bad!!!

One of the most challenging passages in Scripture is found in James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Consider it pure joy? That is a phrase that must sound like complete ignorance to the unspiritual mind!! But then again, the joy that James refers to is supernatural. This joy is not circumstantial, but flows from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. James MacDonald wrote concerning this joy, "A supernatural delight in the purposes of God means you know there is something bigger than yourself going on here. There's something unfolding that is so far beyond the here and now. God has a purpose. Joy in trials says, 'I'm going to find a way to trust Him even though I'm not seeing Him.'"

Life in Christ is the superior life. As Christians, we face the trials and difficulties of this fallen world like others. The difference is we understand and trust that God is doing something that our minds cannot comprehend in the moment. We trust that somehow, someway, He, in His Sovereignty, will work this thing out for our good and His glory (Romans 8).

Every trial gives us the opportunity to display the supremancy of life lived in Christ. Although everything in this life may fail, Christ remains!! The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 73, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart (and everything else) may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Bold in parenthesis mine). Horatio Spafford said it well in the great old hymn IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL, "Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul."

As you read this, maybe you are experiencing some trials. If you have not given your life to Christ, I do pray that you will repent of sin and place your trust in Christ alone for salvation. Until you do that, you will never experience the joy through trials mentioned above. That joy is reserved only for Christians. If you are a Christian, hang on! Don't give up! In the words of Charles Spurgeon, "There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, His heart beats with pity for your woe, and His hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help." AMEN!!

How's Our Welcome?

While watching the pre-game show leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, former Denver Bronco Shannon Sharpe interviewed Reggie Bush of the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints. Sharpe asked the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner what went through his mind when he was first drafted out of USC by New Orleans. Bush replied, "I didn't want to go!" He went on to explain that Hurricane Katrina had torn the city apart and certainly the Saints was not the most desireable of teams to play for.

When Bush arrived in New Orleans, he was given "the tour." As a resident of New Orleans, I had given many of those tours. It consisted of showing people all of the positive aspects of New Orleans, and all of the devastating scenery left behind by Hurricane Katrina. I can still remember the looks on faces when they saw with their own eyes what they had seen on TV. Bush stated that the tour certainly did not help his desire (or lack thereof) for wanting to be in the city.

Following the infamous tour, Bush was taken out to dinner at one of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants in the city. Bush said when he walked in the door of the restaurant, the people stood up, applauded his arrival, and began chanting his name. They were glad he was there. Bush stated that immediately his feelings about the city changed. Suddenly, he felt as if New Orleans was his city too. He was not simply welcomed as a guest, but was welcomed home.

As I watched that interview, I thought about people that come in to our church every week. Like Bush, they come with certain preconceived ideas. Some of them are convinced they will not have a great experience before they ever set foot inside the door. How are we at welcoming them? What are you doing to make sure that a guest coming into our church or into your Sunday School class feels like he/she is being welcomed and embraced?

When people enter Walker Baptist Church, they need a friend. They need someone who will come along beside them and break the ice. They need to sense that their presence is welcomed and that they can be a part of the family. Take the time to invest in the lives of the people that God places in our path. A wise old elder once told me, "People are not a hindrance to ministry, people are the ministry." Let's love them with the heart of Christ.