How God Uses the Worst Things Imaginable

IMG_0402“Our greatest ministry comes out of our deepest pain.”                                                                                   ~Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life

There’s a joke about three young boys bragging on their fathers one day in the school yard. The first one says, “My dad owns the bank and  we have a million dollars!” The second chimes in with, “Yeah? Well my daddy owns a big company and WE have a million dollars, too!” The third boy, whose father was a pastor at the small local church, thought for a moment and then finally blurted out, “Awwww, that’s nothing! My daddy owns HELL ‘cuz he said the deacons gave it to him!”

Whatever the deacons were angry about with this third’s kid’s pastor-dad, chances are it constituted both a trial and an opportunity for him, as these things do for all of us. Trials, tests, and troubles are “equal opportunity employers” and hit each of us throughout life and every time one comes we have the opportunity to let God do His wonderful work in our hearts and behaviors. How will we react? Will we let the character, nature, and attributes of Jesus shine through us as we react to the anger of others, a cancer setback, or a relational meltdown?

In every situation there lies the hidden struggle of control-surrender, hope-despair, and sometimes even life-death. If we’re consumed with our own needs and wants, it’s all too easy to miss the bigger picture God has in mind for us and to disregard the admonition from The Book of James to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”

In my new song Mercy in the Fire the chorus sings, “There’s a mercy in the fire and there’s a promise in the pain/There’s a wonder in the weakness when we find His strength again/In every trial, test, and trouble hides the purpose He desires/And the gold will be revealed as we find mercy in the fire (Words and Music by John Chisum, Copyright 2015 by Donnaluv Music/ASCAP All Rights Reserved).” The mercy we can find in the fires of life, if we take time to look for it, is nothing short of the presence of Christ. The ultimate purpose of every trial is to reveal “Christ in us” (Colossians 1:27) and to reveal more of His love and power to us, in us, and through us as a testimony to the world of His overcoming power.

God uses the worst things imaginable in order to bring us to completeness and maturity in our faith (see James). He doesn’t cause them, but He uses them. Trials are always on the menu in the cafe of life, but our loving Father is discontent to let them destroy us if we will only trust His higher purposes to reveal His goodness, faithfulness, and loving presence through everything we go through. Remember – there’s always mercy in the fire, no matter how hot it gets.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

How to Get What You Really Want

gold“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:4

I’ve read a lot of self-help books lately. Taken at face value, each author has figured out how to make at least their first million and they’ve filled these books with the principles, rules, and magic steps I should take to make mine. Sadly, I still haven’t figured out how to be as successful as they are, but I ate Chinese today and my fortune cookie said I was getting close.

People often ask me, “What do you really want?”

In those moments, I imagine beauty contestants answering that inane question with “world peace.” Most of the time I’m just as clueless as they are about what I really want, especially when it comes to what I want that I could actually get. No offense to the beauty queens, but they’re not getting world peace anytime soon.  Whirled peas, maybe, at least until Jesus really comes back. I want a lot of things I’ll never get, too, like a penthouse off Central Park and the bank account to go with it, or maybe a personalized parking space at the mall. That would be nice.

That what do you really want question is hard for me because I really have gotten a lot of things I’ve wanted. I wanted to be a professional songwriter. I got that and a lot more, having enjoyed a long career in music publishing and recording. I wanted a happy marriage and I’ve had 35 awesome years (not perfect, but awesome) with my sweet wife who gave us a beautiful daughter. I wanted people to hear about the miraculous changes Jesus brought to my life. I’ve flown over a million miles so far, sharing with hundreds of thousands of people the power of His transforming love.

No, I’ve come to know that the real question isn’t what do I really want in order to make myself happy. The real question is “what have I been created to do in order to bring Jesus glory and to help others find Him?” Finding the answer to that question is the only thing that’s going to satisfy my deep heart. It’s the only thing that will satisfy yours, too.

So, to get you what you really want, you have to start by realizing that what you really want is to find out what Jesus made you for-to know Him and to make Him known. Nothing else fits that hole in your heart. Nothing else brings the joy and happiness you crave. Nothing else can take the place of knowing the One who will eventually bring world peace. Love Jesus and find out what He made you for. That’s how you get what you really want.

 

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

 

Widening The Circle of Suffering

circles“I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings. I am doing this on behalf of his body, the church.”    Colossians 1:24 God’s Word Translation

Donna and I were hiking in east Tennessee today. The weather was nice, mid-80’s with moderate humidity. We were talking about a sign I saw in a Nashville area coffee shop recently that reads, “People are going to hurt you. You have to decide which ones are worth suffering for.” As we managed the occasionally rocky and steep climb back up the path, we were discussing just who we would suffer for.

We named each other, for starters. Good married people begin there and work out. Our daughter made the list, of course. A few in-laws and friends later we were out of specific names of people we would choose willingly to suffer for. I then remarked, “That’s a pretty small circle of suffering. I’m glad Jesus’ circle of suffering encompassed all of humanity for all of time, including us.” We then spoke of missionaries, especially, that wonderfully selfless breed of people who intentionally widen their circle of suffering to include people groups and communities they have no familial connection with for the sake of the Gospel. The world has been changed by missionaries.

Not five minutes later, we passed a young lady on the path with a t-shirt that read, “Pray for Nigeria.” She had a beautiful dark-skinned girl with her, obviously not her own. Since I will be in Lagos next week for a worship tour, I spoke to her and questioned her about the country I’ve come to love. Turns out, she and her husband are missionaries in Jos, a city in northern Nigeria fraught with danger and Christian persecution, where they help young women there find freedom from human trafficking.

I’m just going over to sing. Maybe it’s time to think about widening my own circle of suffering. What about you?

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

 

My Sorry Sacrifice

lamb“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Funny how I always want to justify myself before God.

Whenever I run past the bounds of His love and will for me, I immediately feel it and want to atone for my actions. My first thought is, “What can I do to make Him happy with me again? Should I beat my back with a scourge or crawl up a thousand concrete steps on my knees? What will make me feel better about myself?”

Turns out, this is nothing but my human pride desiring to justify itself and be able to earn God’s approval. Impossible. Can’t be done. Will never happen. Only Jesus could ever do it, and, thankfully, He did.

Now the truest form of repentance is doing nothing when I sin except confessing it and believing deeply in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf (1 Jn 1:9). To drag my sorry sacrifices (“Oh, God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”) does nothing to eradicate the guilt I feel.

Only a fresh surrender to the total grace and forgiveness Jesus has already extended to me brings a sense of release from my guilt and a beautiful sense of belonging to Him. Try it next time you blow it. It’s awesome to feel loved even in the midst of the complete inability to justify yourself or provide a spotless lamb. God already did that for us. Praise Him!

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.