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.

Fearless Living, Fearless Leading

fear notWashing dishes at a friend’s house last night after a lovely dinner, I was struck with a thought, a question, really, that I then turned and posed to my wife and friends. I asked them, “If I could lead us all out of fear what couldn’t we do? How would each of us respond to each other and to the world around us if we were completely fearless?” Okay, it was a downer of a question and every sense of frivolity and lightness fled the room. None of us had a great answer. After an awkward moment of silence, my beautiful, amazing, and dry-witted wife quipped, “Well, who died and made YOU Jesus?”

Since that moment I’ve been thinking about what really could happen if we just lost our fears instead of our car keys or our reading glasses. Wouldn’t we respond very differently than we do now to threats of economic hardship, terrorism, and even to our spouses and loved ones? I think we would. I think if we could develop a stronger belief in Jesus’ work for us and dig a lot deeper into what that means for us on a practical level, we would lead very different lives altogether. Perhaps we would lead lives like God fully intends for us to lead. Fearless lives. Child-of-God kind of lives.

For one thing, all competition would cease. We would realize that God has already anticipated every need we could ever have and has already provided for them. We would stop hedging our bets on getting what we need from Him and from the world around us, abandoning every temptation to manipulate anyone in any way for any thing. We would pray with confidence. We would love unconditionally. We would move from the “competitive mind” to the “creative mind.” We would become extreme givers, never takers. We would overwhelm the people around us with the kind of Spirit power rarely seen since The Book of Acts.

Our leadership would change, too. Transparency would be the norm. A compassionate kind of listening would become the hallmark of our husbanding, our parenting, and our ministries. People would flock to follow us because they would feel validated for being who they are, not just feeling used by us for their talents or dollars. If we were truly fearless, we could look someone deeply in their eyes and say, “Darling, I’m here for you” and mean it from the essence of our being. We would, in short, make the fearless kingdom of God in all that it means come to bear in very tangible expressions all around us. Life would come alive again.

No one died and made me Jesus.

But Jesus has entrusted me with leadership abilities with which to lead others toward all that He died to give us. Freedom from fear – all of it – is ours in Jesus. Best I can tell, Jesus said,”Fear not” about 15 times as recorded in the Gospels. Seems to me once would have been sufficient if we could only do it.

What kind of leader can you become if you begin to take steps, even small ones, toward eradicating fear from your life and ministry? How would that affect your leadership, the planning, the praying, the interactions with the people you lead? Are you ready for what fearless living and fearless leading will do?

 

Transformation by the Inch

You suffer a setback, a slip, a fall. An old addiction crops up. Your New Year’s resolution takes a nosedive. Instead of losing fifteen pounds you gain twenty. Instead of getting better, things get worse. Instead of winning friends and influencing people positively, it seems more enemies pop up each day. The depression lingers and the fears grow. Where is the change? What happened to the metamorphosis of the Spirit in you? Why does it seem like real Christlikeness is so far out of reach?

Truth is, real transformation is more often gained an inch at a time than by a mile. Though great strides may come from time to time, God’s instrument of perfecting us is often time itself– time in the furnace, time in the dungeon, time in the trials that perfect and refine. What is it about a hard-won victory that is so sweet?

James reminds us to “count it all joy”  (James 1:2) when we encounter the drudgery of trials and the endless miles of the marathon. The result is a steady faith that is not easily shaken. There is a crown of life (v. 12) that awaits us if we endure the tests and trials, a crown that you can see on the heads of those who have endured great suffering and trial in this life; orphans, widows, refugees, prisoners.

God’s ultimate purpose isn’t our comfort, but the “perfecting of our faith” , i.e. the purifying of our relationship with Him and distillation of that precious gold by the ounce. Transformation is costly. The miles often seem as if they are ticking off an inch at a time, but the result is more precious than silver or gold.