Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey teaches from Psalm 34.
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey teaches from Psalm 34.
Bob: Are any of the circumstances that you are experiencing in life right now circumstances that God is either unaware of or that are out of His control? Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ – right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose. No sorrow will ever disturb me; no trial will ever alarm me; no circumstance will cause me to fret for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is – this is the rest of victory.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 12th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you are in a season of suffering and wondering what God is up to, you're not alone. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You spoke to our staff not long ago, and you had the opportunity to speak about whatever was on your heart that day, and you picked the subject of suffering. Why?
Dennis: Because that's what Barbara and I have been experiencing for the past couple of years in various forms, and I thought, you know, rather than speak about something that we haven't been that close to, why not come from the heart and talk about something that we are really in the midst of. So that's what I did.
Bob: It's been one of those seasons for the two of you, and we all go through them – seasons when the waves are a little choppier than …
Dennis: … choppy might be a little lower than I was thinking.
Bob: They're swelling pretty high.
Dennis: It's not the perfect storm – I wouldn't put it in that category. I know some friends who have been through the perfect storm, and the waves were pretty tall there. But, Bob, I think God does allow us to go through valleys, and He wants to teach us some things so that as we come out of the valley and journey up the mountainside, we're better because of it, and we're better equipped, we're more mature, we're arm-in-arm as a couple and as a family, and there's no question that tough times challenge our commitment to God, to one another, to our family, and really demand that we have a heart that is attentive toward God, and that's really what I was trying to do when we shared this message from Psalm 34 – I wanted our staff here at FamilyLife – and we have close to 500 staff and spouses there in the audience – as I shared this message. No one is exempt – no one is exempt from going through the valley.
Bob: And it can be emotionally and physically draining to go through the valley, and yet God is there. I think of Psalm 23 and how when we walk through the valley, He is with us. It is His rod and His staff that comforts us. Our staff responded to this message and asked us to feature it on FamilyLife Today. They said, "Our radio listeners need to hear what Dennis shared with us," and you actually began the message by telling a story that FamilyLife Today listeners heard just recently – the story of a couple who went through a significant valley in their lives – Brian and Mel Birdwell. Here is Dennis Rainey with a look at families going through suffering.
Dennis: Brian went to work just like you did on that day. He was sitting at his desk, tending to his business, when, all of a sudden, his world was turned upside down. Literally, his office on the second floor was suddenly filled with dark smoke and fire. His uniform caught on fire and, had it not been for the sprinkler system in that fourth corridor, second floor office in the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell would have been incinerated. But the sprinkler system helped put out part of the fire, and he stumbled and scrambled his way and collapsed where a friend found him. And he was moved to triage and ultimately to the hospital where he endured an incredible amount of suffering.
Lt. Col. Birdwell and his wife, Mel, know something of the healing power of the grace of God. Their lives were turned upside down by that crisis. It's interesting to me that nations and men are much alike. They seldom cry out to God unless they are experiencing a crisis. When a crisis visits us personally, however, it may be for the purpose of something other than just getting our attention. The words of A. W. Tozer are chilling but, I believe, are true. He said it is doubtful that God can use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.
Over my journey with Christ, I have seen Him use trials and trouble, difficulty, crises, to get my attention, to test me, to grow my endurance or, in the case of Barbara and me, to grow our patience and endurance to create new sections of our heart that are compassionate toward those who suffer.
There was a time when Barbara nearly died, and I sat in Baptist Hospital when this ministry was brand new, barely six months old, and I sat there in that hospital, not having many friends in this community, wondering what I was going to do with two children under two years of age, because I had a wife who was dying of a heart problem in the intensive care area. There was another time when we found out a teenage boy, Samuel, was stricken with Muscular Dystrophy and would no longer run, could no longer play tennis.
There were the struggles that some of you have had of raising a child or two or three that broke our hearts. Other challenges included the ministry growing and some people that Barbara and I loved greatly following God's call to another place. Years ago there was a moral failure – the grief of watching a comrade and an ally in battle be caught in deceit and lies. Financial challenges – God has a lot of things to get our attention. What about you? What has He used with you?
As I mentioned, Barbara and I have been through a bit in our 31-plus years of marriage together. I would not begin to think that our suffering, our trauma, our difficulty is greater than another's in this room, for others in this room have battled life-and-death situations for not just months but for years. But during our time of going through struggling with pain, suffering, trials, trouble, crises, nine points have become very clear.
Number one – the pain of suffering pierces every heart. The pain of suffering pierces every heart. James, chapter 1, verse 2 says, "Count it all joy when you encounter various trials." You do not have to go looking for suffering. It will find you. God will allow those things to come into your life. He has many purposes – some of which we understand, most of which we don't. If you're not suffering right now, rejoice. Don't feel guilty, don't start looking over your shoulder, but you can go to the bank on it. The pain of suffering will pierce every heart.
Secondly, God's timing and our timing seldom have the same calendar. God's timing and our timing seldom have the same calendar. You and I can't guarantee our next breath. We can't be assured of what the next phone call brings. We're not in control. I think life is one long process of God wrapping our fingers away from our own lives saying, "Don't you get it? You're not in control. There is someone else who is in control, and the quicker you recognize Me as the one who is in control and stop trying to live it and make it happen according to your calendar, the more you can enjoy the ride." The problem is, when a crisis hits on the day, and we pray, when do we want the deliverance? Now – not tomorrow, not next month, not at the end of the year. And I'm going to tell you something, two years ago right now, Barbara and I were crying out to God, and I'm glad we didn't know how long it was going to last. It was a day at a time. We have to give up to Him to say, "You know what, God? You do know what You're doing, and I will leave it to You for your timetable."
The third thing about suffering is ultimately suffering is an issue of faith and obedience. Suffering is an issue of faith and obedience. Speaking of Jesus Christ, the writer of Hebrews says, "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Did you hear that? "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Jesus Christ, the God-Man, learned obedience to the things He suffered. And what did He say? "A servant is not greater than his master, is he?" And if Christ be our Master, and we be His servants, will we be taken to the school of adversity to learn obedience as well?
Alan Redpath wrote a book called "Victorious Christian Living." It's a classic, and he wrote something I wanted to share with you this morning. He said this – "There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but I refuse to become panicky. As I lift my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose, a blessing to my own heart. No sorrow will ever disturb me; no trial will ever alarm me; no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. This is the rest of victory."
A fourth thing that we find about suffering, trials, and trouble is that although we will always try to understand why, although we will always try to understand why, no one will ever grasp all of what God is doing. No one will ever grasp all that God is doing. The great passage for this is the very familiar one in Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 5 and 6 – "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don't lean and rest upon your understanding – why? Because it's going to give out.
There was a time about, I would say, about eight months ago, when Barbara and I were back in the valley, and if I would have been leaning on my own understanding, I would have been in trouble, because circumstantially, it didn't make any sense. He says, "Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight." He didn't promise it would be without chuckholes, without ups and downs. He said he would make your path straight.
A Norwegian fisherman by the name of Carl took his two teenage sons out for fishing. It was a beautiful day when they started, but the day turned nasty, and the clouds hung low, and the wind-whipped sea began to work into a frenzy until finally he and his sons were battling for their lives and dark had fallen, and he could only make out the lighthouse, and he began to go towards the lighthouse, but the storm knocked the lighthouse out. At the very same time this was occurring, at his home where his wife and the mother of those two teenage boys resided, their house caught on fire. It completely burned to the ground. Later that evening, when the father and his sons stumbled onshore exhausted and spent by the storm, his wife shared with him the news that their home had completely burned to the ground and all their possessions were gone. But Carl seemed unfazed. His wife said, "Why is that bothering you? What's wrong with you?" He said, "Don't you understand, sweetheart? When the lighthouse went out, there was a glow on the horizon that became my compass, and it burned brighter and brighter. It guided us home." He said, and I quote, "The same fire that destroyed our house created the light that saved our lives."
The very weakness that has been created in your life by the suffering you're going through may be the weakness that saves your life. How do I know that? Let's just say that God has knocked the props out from under me a few times. In the midst of that, you begin to realize, you know what? God is up to something here. We don't always understand what's happening, but we do trust that He is in control.
Bob: Well, now, we've been listening to part 1 of a message that, Dennis, you shared recently with the staff here at FamilyLife, and that we wanted to share with our radio listeners. Undoubtedly, there are some listeners going through circumstances, events, right now, where they are saying, "Why? Why, Lord?" I mean, David asked it in the Psalms, you know?
Bob: Why is this happening? How long, O Lord, will this go on? It's not wrong to ask the question, but it's wrong to doubt the goodness of God.
Dennis: Bob, I think it's okay to ask why. It's just not okay to camp there. In other words, you can ask, and you can ask again, you can ask again and again, but just not pitch your tent there and stay in that constant, perpetual state of asking him why. Because, at some point, the why becomes distrustful, and it ultimately says to God, "I don't believe you know what you're doing," and yet the nature of who God is, if I know anything, if my close to 35 years of walking with Christ has taught me anything, is that God can be trusted.
We may never understand that He is perfect in His justice, His righteousness, His judgments, His wisdom. He knows what's best for us, He knows what's best for His plan and you know what? It may not look that way from my vantage point, but I've had enough illustrations from being a parent myself and my kids questioning me to realize that my children don't always understand what the facts are and what really is taking place. But it's my children's responsibility to trust – to trust me – and it's our responsibility, as His children, to ultimately embrace Him and His character and His way and say, "God, I don't know what you're up to, but I will place my faith in You.
I'll not become a cynic, I'll not perpetually shake my fist at you and yell at you and scream at you, though I may question You." I don't think God is really hung up on us questioning Him. I personally believe He welcomes the relationship, as long as we're honest, as long as we're seeking Him and genuinely wanting to know Him.
Bob: I can imagine that some of our listeners would benefit from getting a copy of this message on cassette or on CD, listening to it again, maybe listening to it together with a husband or a wife or with the whole family.
Dennis: They may know of a friend – I know some of our staff, after hearing the message, said "I want to send that to my parents or to a brother or a sister." And I think the reason is it points people practically to who God is in a very real way. You know, again, Barbara and I have been walking through and journeying through a valley of sorts, and we are still – have a smile on our face though the journey is difficult from time to time, but it's knowing the God that we spoke of in this message that has kept us joyful in the process.
Bob: We have the message available in its entirety on CD or cassette in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you'd like to get a copy, you can go online at FamilyLife.com or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY. I know you and Barbara put together a 30-day devotional for couples who are in the midst of storms. It's called "Weathering Life's Storms Together," and that's designed, Dennis, to give a husband and wife an opportunity to remind themselves of what is true each day as you walk through tough times.
Dennis: The nature of suffering is that we tend to go through it as individuals and not share with one another what's going on and what God is teaching us. Bob, I think this 30-day devotional can really be used by God to not only draw individuals as a husband and a wife to God but draw the husband and the wife together to God. Now, think about it – how many things, when you're going through a difficult time, really pull you together as a couple, to pull in the same direction. There aren't that many. And so we put this together in hopes that, as a husband and a wife, read these devotionals. They'll take less than five minutes to read the passage of Scripture, the devotional, but then there's a couple of questions at the end of each of these devotionals that allow a couple to process together what they're thinking, what they're learning, what they're feeling, and some conclusions that they're coming to.
Bob: Again, the title of the devotional is weathering life's storms together, and you can request it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com. There's also a book in our FamilyLife Resource Center that I know you have profited from reading called "Where is God When it Hurts?" by Philip Yancey.
Dennis: It may be the very best book I've ever read on negotiating a time of suffering. Philip Yancey is a great writer. This is not an easy book. This is not casual reading; this is hard work. But, you know what? It's necessary work. If you're going through a difficult time, if you have a friend or a family member who is facing a valley and has been in a valley for a length of time, I've given this book to a lot of people, Bob, because I think they need some frame of reference to know how to interpret their circumstances – to make sense out of them. I don't know how a person who is not a mature follower of Christ handles the valley, the journey, when they're going through a difficult time, especially when the time of suffering lasts for six months, a year, or two years.
Bob: Well, for any of our listeners who want to order both books – the devotional, "Weathering Life's Storms Together," and Philip Yancey's book, "Where is God When it Hurts?" We'll include, at no additional cost, the CD or the cassette of your message. Call us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information or go online at FamilyLife.com, and we can get these resources sent to you.
Well, tomorrow we will hear part 2 of your message on suffering, Dennis. We'll look together at five more lessons you've learned as you've walked through some of life's valleys. I hope our listeners can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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