Tuesday, July 5, 2011

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He Giveth More Grace

He Giveth More Grace
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
- Annie Johnson Flint

This is a song written by Annie Johnson Flint who went to be with the Lord in 1932 after many years of suffering from the constant pain and affliction of the crippling disease of rheumatoid arthritis. Her last words were “It’s all right.” I heard a brief part of her story one day while listening to TV. It was told that in her last days, she was so crippled up that she could not even sit up. Yet, even in that state, she would continue to write poems and songs on a board above her while holding a large pencil, or other writing tool, between two curled up fingers. Not one word of her work was written in bitterness, resentment, complaining, or moaning, but rather characterized by glowing reverence and praise for Jesus, her Savior and Lord, whom she loved with all her being.

With this powerful vision looming in my mind and heart, I was overwhelmed with the desire to understand more fully myself, and also to impart to others this precious gift of mercy and grace that is only found in Christ our Lord. So often when suffering comes into ones life, it is hard to fathom the difference that it makes within each person’s life. I am struck by the realization that it is our response to suffering that creates two diametrically opposing outcomes within each person. One person responds with an attitude of blaming God, resulting in a life filled with bitterness and resentment. The legacy of such a life is to spread that same bitterness to all with whom they come into contact. Their lives are filled with misery and discontent. Then there are those, as exemplified by the life of Annie. Throughout her life, no matter how painful and debilitating her life became, she remained so focused on the love of Christ in her life, that anyone who had the privilege of spending time with her came away changed and encouraged themselves. O that more of us could capture that same spirit within ourselves as adversities bring suffering and trials into our own lives. If only we could see and understand that that same wonderful peace and comfort is available to all through the power of the Holy Spirit as we seek to ‘be being filled’ within by Him. It’s the Holy Spirit and His prevailing power that makes all the difference in how we will respond to each trial that is brought into our lives.

One evening recently, Rick and I were out on our porch enjoying the sounds of the rain and the beauty of the birds as they flitted gleefully from one birdfeeder to another. Our conversation gravitated to earlier days in our walk with the Lord when we had personal experiences of direct and instant healing of the Lord through prayer and the laying on of hands, just as in the days when Jesus and His disciples walked on the earth. Upon one occasion, Rick had sneezed and as a result slipped a disk. He had been flat on his back unable to walk for two days. Not getting better, he chose to call for prayer. Our pastor and an elder came to our house. After they laid hands on him and prayed, he was immediately healed and was able to rise and walk upright without any pain. I witnessed this and saw first hand that Jesus is still willing and able to perform miracles today.

At the same time, we had been caught up in the false teaching of health and wealth that some teachers did, and still do, proclaim. According to these teachers, if one’s faith is strong enough, a Christian should never endure sickness, and wealth was ours and a deserved right just by the asking.
Confess it, visualize it and possess it was the mantra of the day. I don’t deny that healing, health, and even material wealth can be a by product of faith in the Lord. But, through a deeper walk with the Lord, Rick and I have come to understand the deceitfulness of that kind of “see it, speak it, and receive it” teaching that has caused many young and immature Christians to fall by the wayside. They have been sold a bill of goods that could only lead to doubt and unbelief. If believers are rooted and grounded in the Word of God, they will learn from the author of our faith that being a Christian does not guarantee a life free of trials and tribulations. Look to the life of Jesus Himself. His sufferings, and a life of serving others, were never an example of earthly riches. His treasures were not of earthly goods which are temporary and fading, but of the eternal and incorruptible kind that are stored up in the Kingdom of Heaven with eternal value that will never fade. The lives of His disciples set forth that same example. The idea that a Christian should always experience a mountain top life with no valleys is more than bunk. It’s a lie straight from the devil that has caused hurt and harm to many, causing them to doubt and even turn away from God.

As our conversation deepened that evening, we began to ponder, which is the greater miracle – the one where one is miraculously healed by the laying on of hands for example, or the miracle of God’s grace and mercy as He holds your hand and carries you through each and every adversity that is brought into your life, all the while giving you the “peace that passes understanding” as you trust in Him to “work all things out” for your good. I contend that both are equally wondrous and miraculous, and that submission to the will of God, no matter what the case, is always of greater benefit to our lives. It is not what happens to us that is of importance, but rather our response to what happens to us. Look at what happened to some of those that were miraculously healed by Jesus. Some went praising and thanking the Lord, and couldn’t stop telling others of the wondrous things God had done for them. Yet there were others who, after being healed, just walked away and never so much as even gave thanks much less praise.

I consider the life of people like Joni Erickson Tada and Annie Johnson Flint to be an inspiration to all of us. Joni became a quadriplegic just two weeks before she was to enter her first year of college.
Annie was well on her way of reaching her goal to become a concert pianist, when she was struck with rheumatoid arthritis and suffered many years of pain from that dreaded crippling disease. The lives of both of these women provide examples of how God gives us strength to live our lives to overcome our circumstances rather than being victimized by them. They certainly make the Word come alive-
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I don’t say that God caused them to suffer. We live in a corrupt world where good and bad things happen to believers and unbelievers alike. I do proclaim that what Satan has meant for our harm, God can turn it around for His purposes to be worked out in and through us for our good. When adversity comes our way we have two choices: (1) open the door and invite bitterness, regret, and resentment to come in and set up residence within, or (2) ask Jesus to go to the door and welcome in His peace and joy to reside within you that you may give glory to God no matter what kind of “fiery darts” the enemy may try to send your way.

Joni Erickson Tada, when asked if she would rather have the Lord heal her, responded that she would in the natural love to have the use of her
body. However, knowing all that God has done in her life, she would always choose that His will and purpose for her life be fulfilled. Through her weakness, she has lived a life that demonstrates the love and strength of God, and many other lives have been touched and changed because of God in her. She may be the only “Bible” that some have ever seen. How much more meaningful and successful would each of our lives be if we truly learned to live it with the attitude of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. When good things happen to us do we fret then and wonder why God allowed those circumstances to come into our lives? So when the unexpected and painful circumstances of life come in like a flood, instead of dwelling upon “Why me Lord? Why did you let this happen to me?” try focusing upon, “Okay Lord, what do you want me to learn in and through all of this? Whether it is your will to take me out of this or walk with me through it, may You have Your way, and work all things out within me that I may glorify you in all my ways in thought, word, and deed.” Look at the words of King David when he was experiencing one of the valleys in his life. “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.” (Psalm 69: 1 – 3) He does not try to hide his true feelings, but is honest with the Lord. He does not try to act like something that he is not, but acknowledges his problem and his need for the Lord in his life. However, he does not stay helpless and hopeless, but calls upon the Lord for he knows he serves the almighty living God who is able to deliver him. “Hear me, O Lord; for thy loving kindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.” (Psalm 69: 16) Because of who He is, we can endure, for He is our strength and our salvation.

God has forewarned us that we will have trials and tribulations in this world. Jesus said, ”These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Knowing He is the Potter and we are but the clay, shouldn’t we trust that He alone is able to melt us and mold us that we may become the persons He has purposed us to be? “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience: and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5: 3-5) Instead of being destroyed by the fiery darts of the enemy, Satan, or by our own flesh or the pride of life, thinking more highly of ourselves and our own opinions, submit ourselves to the Refiner’s fire having faith that He who has created us is also able to perfect us.

The following is a comparison between the refining of metals and the refining of our character by God as given in the Life Application Study Bible (relative to Mal.3: 3) “In the process of refining metals, the raw metal is heated with fire until it melts. The impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are then skimmed off, leaving the pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. As impurities are skimmed off the top, the reflection of the worker appears in the smooth, pure surface.

Similarly, as we are purified by God, His reflection in our lives will become more and more clear to us and those around us.” Since God knows the beginning from the end, even though the purifying process may be hard and even painful at times, doesn’t it make sense to trust in Him? He has promised to be with us and never leave us. He has also given us this assurance: “being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1: 6) He began His work for us on the cross. He began His work in us when we repented and believed in Him as Savior and Lord. He continues His work in and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit who lives within us and leads and guides us into all truth until the day we meet our Lord face to face in Heaven. Therefore, we are encouraged to “count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1: 3, 4) God, in His infinite wisdom, is merely providing another opportunity for us grow stronger in our faith and closer in our relationship with Him.

There is nothing that we can suffer on earth that Jesus has not known or suffered Himself. He is fully acquainted with all our circumstances of life. Through the scriptures we can learn to be content no matter what our circumstances may be. Our happiness does not depend upon our circumstances, for we have the joy of the Lord to be our strength. We have His peace – not as the world gives, but the kind of peace that passes all understanding. Because we are but humans, we are going to experience times of depression and periods of time when we feel we are trapped in a tunnel that has no beginning or ending. Perhaps even these times are a part of the refining process during which we must explore our feelings and come to the realization that we have a problem that must be recognized and dealt with. We are encouraged to bring all things out into the ‘light’ that the ‘darkness’ can be dispelled. Shoving things under the rug, acting like they don’t exist, never accomplished anything. Pity parties become detrimental to us when we let them consume us to the point that we wallow in them. The times when we are walking through the valleys of life can become valuable life lessons during which we can learn how to work through them, with the help of the Lord, in order to become stronger and better equipped to live through future trials in life that will surely come. When we do fall into the pit of self pity, we have the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the power of His word to remind us that ‘this too shall pass’ and is only temporary and for a moment in time. Romans 8 is filled with encouragement from our Lord to help sustain and strengthen us throughout times of trouble and suffering, I single out the following: (Romans 8: 18, 26, 27) “For I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us.” “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings that can not be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

The following scriptures express so well the overcoming power of the Lord. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying or the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things that are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.(II Cor. 8 – 11, 14, 16 – 18) “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Cor. 5: 1) Reflect once again upon the words of any ‘light affliction’ that we might bear in the here and now and recognize how it does pale in the light of the glory which is to come.

Once again, I contend that whether we are healed or delivered instantly, or by holding the hand of God as He takes us through the illness or trial; either way we do forever have His comfort to turn our sadness into joy as He gives us the spirit of praise to deliver us from the spirit of heaviness.
Therefore, the one is as miraculous as the other. The success in our lives, or greatness of our faith, is not based on how many or few trials and tribulations we experience, but rather how obedient we are to the Lord as we endure them, and continue to stand in faith to the end. Whenever you and I may feel that we are sinking into the mire, let us think of people like Joni Erickson Tada and Annie Johnson Flint, and understand how rejoicing in the Lord has helped them overcome their circumstances, rather than being overcome or destroyed as a victim of circumstances. All things are possible with God. God is great and forever and always worthy of honor and praise. Knowing this, joy and gladness can fill our hearts to dispel the darkness that would try to overcome our souls. As the Scriptures say, may our hearts sing now and forever, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!”

Ginger Rahn


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