While serving my country in a hostile land I saw God answer my prayers. Held against my will after being in pursuit of the ”mad dog of the Middle East” in 1987, Muammar el-Qaddafi and his family I prayed for a blessing to make it home. I saw God work while serving several prison terms on level four yards and being the focus of antagonism due to the color of my skin, I’ve seen God work in my life when death was not just a scene, but a smell, I’ve seen God heal and work when I lost my kids and I wanted to give up on Him.
As I have reflected over the events of the past few days and months and years of my life I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way.
No one has suffered more than our Father in heaven. No one has paid more dearly for the allowance of sin into the world. No one has so continuously grieved over the pain of a race gone bad. No one has suffered like the One who paid for our sin in the crucified body of His own Son. No one has suffered more than the One who, when He stretched out His arms and died, showed us how much He loved us. It is this God who, in drawing us to Himself, asks us to trust Him when we are suffering and when our own loved ones cry out in our presence ( 1 Peter 2:21; 3:18; 4:1 ).
The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away an unidentified source of suffering. But the Lord declined saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” said Paul, “most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul learned that he would rather be with Christ in suffering than without Christ in good health and pleasant circumstances.
Natural disasters. Terrorist acts. Injustice. Incurable disease. All these experiences point to suffering, and can cause people to question the love and goodness of a God who would let such things occur. In this publication, we seek to consider who God is, and why we can trust Him even when life hurts—and we don’t know why.
Loving parents long to protect their children from unnecessary pain. But wise parents know the danger of over-protection. They know that the freedom to choose is at the heart of what it means to be human, and that a world without choice would be worse than a world without pain. Worse yet would be a world populated by people who could make wrong choices without feeling any pain. No one is more dangerous than the liar, thief, or killer who doesn’t feel the harm he is doing to himself and to others (Genesis 2:15-17).
We hate pain, especially in those we love. Yet without discomfort, the sick wouldn’t go to a doctor. Worn-out bodies would get no rest. Criminals wouldn’t fear the law. Children would laugh at correction. Without pangs of conscience, the daily dissatisfaction of boredom, or the empty longing for significance, people who are made to find satisfaction in an eternal Father would settle for far less. The example of Solomon, lured by pleasure and taught by his pain, shows us that even the wisest among us tend to drift from good and from God until arrested by the resulting pain of their own shortsighted choices (Ecclesiastes 1-12; Psalms 78:34-35; Romans 3:10-18).
Suffering often occurs at the hand of others. But it has a way of revealing what is in our own hearts. Capacities for love, mercy, anger, envy, and pride can lie dormant until awakened by circumstances. Strength and weakness of heart is found not when everything is going our way but when flames of suffering and temptation test the mettle of our character. As gold and silver are refined by fire, and as coal needs time and pressure to become a diamond, the human heart is revealed and developed by enduring the pressure and heat of time and circumstance. Strength of character is shown not when all is well with our world but in the presence of human pain and suffering (Job 42:1-17; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-8).
If death is the end of everything, then a life filled with suffering isn’t fair. But if the end of this life brings us to the threshold of eternity, then the most fortunate people in the universe are those who discover, through suffering, that this life is not all we have to live for. Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not wasted their pain. They have let their poverty, grief, and hunger drive them to the Lord of eternity. They are the ones who will discover to their own unending joy why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1-12; Romans 8:18-19).
I was wondering if anyone else in this great expanse have difficult coworkers or neighbors? It’s trying to exude the righteousness of God while dealing with the trials of life. Keep your eye on the cross as I endure this crucible of trial today I solicit you to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The righteousness of God, one of the most prominent attributes of God in the Scriptures, is also one of the most elusive. Initially, distinguishing the righteousness of God from His holiness or His goodness seems difficult. In addition, the righteousness of God is virtually synonymous with His justice:
While the most common Old Testament word for just means ‘straight,’ and the New Testament word means ‘equal,’ in a moral sense they both mean ‘right.’ When we say that God is just, we are saying that He always does what is right, what should be done, and that He does it consistently, without partiality or prejudice. The word just and the word righteous are identical in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Sometimes the translators render the original word ‘just’ and other times ‘righteous’ with no apparent reason (cf. Nehemiah 9:8 and 9:33 where the same word is used). But whichever word they use, it means essentially the same thing. It has to do with God’s actions. They are always right and fair.
God’s righteousness (or justice) is the natural expression of His holiness. If He is infinitely pure, then He must be opposed to all sin, and that opposition to sin must be demonstrated in His treatment of His creatures. When we read that God is righteous or just, we are being assured that His actions toward us are in perfect agreement with His holy nature.
These words by Richard Strauss bring us very close to a concise definition of righteousness. Righteousness, in relation to men, is their conformity to a standard. Unlike men, God is not subject to anything outside of Himself. No one states this better than A.W. Tozer:
It is sometimes said, ‘Justice requires God to do this,’ referring to some act we know He will perform. This is an error of thinking as well as of speaking, for it postulates a principle of justice outside of God which compels Him to act in a certain way. Of course there is no such principle. If there were it would be superior to God, for only a superior power can compel obedience. The truth is that there is not and can never be anything outside of the nature of God which can move Him in the least degree. All God’s reasons come from within His uncreated being. Nothing has entered the being of God from eternity, nothing has been removed, and nothing has been changed.
Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation. . . God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity, and when He sentences evil men or rewards the righteous, He simply acts like Himself from within, uninfluenced by anything that is not Himself.”
We must then say the righteousness of God is evident in the way He consistently acts in accord with His own character. God always acts righteously; His every action is consistent with His character. God is always consistently “Godly.” God is not defined by the term “righteous,” as much as the term “righteous” is defined by God. God is not measured by the standard of righteousness; God sets the standard of righteousness.
23 And Abraham came near and said, “Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep [it] away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are [treated] alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” 27 And Abraham answered and said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am [but] dust and ashes. 28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, wilt Thou destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy [it] if I find forty-five there” (Genesis 18:23-28).
The righteousness of God is introduced very early in the Bible in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. This attribute is the basis for Abraham’s appeal to God for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is described anthropomorphically (in human-like terms) here as having heard the “great outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah” (verse 20). I wonder from whom this outcry came. One likely possibility is “righteous Lot, whose righteous soul was vexed by the wickedness of these cities” (see 2 Peter 2:6-8).
In the judicial terminology of our day, God was unwilling to act solely on the basis of hearsay. It was His intention to “go down” to this place and find out for Himself whether these allegations were true. Now of course we know God is omniscient. He knows all. He did not need to “take a trip to Sodom and Gomorrah” to see if these cities were really wicked. He knew they were wicked. But, from our point of view, God wants us to know He acts justly. He acts on the basis of information of which He has personal knowledge. Thus, when God judges these cities, He does so justly for they were truly wicked.
I find it interesting that verses 17-21 precede the account of Abraham’s intercession for these cities. God knew what He was going to do. What He purposed to do was righteous and just. But God wanted Abraham to be a part of what He was doing. If God was to act justly, He was simply acting consistently with His character. But involving Abraham was also consistent with His covenant with him and the goal of this covenant. God’s purpose for calling Abraham and making a covenant with him is spelled out in verses 17-19:
17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:17-19, emphasis mine).
God’s purpose for calling Abraham and making a covenant with him was for Abraham to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice and to teach his offspring to do likewise. Righteousness is the divine goal for Abraham and his offspring.
When God informed Abraham He was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham began to intercede for them. His concern was for the righteous in those cities. How could God possibly destroy these cities if there were righteous men and women living in them? If God destroyed both the wicked and the righteous without distinguishing them, then God would not be acting righteously or justly. And surely God, as “the Judge of all the earth,” must act justly (verse 25).
Abraham proceeds to intercede with God on behalf of the righteous. Beginning with 50 righteous, Abraham petitioned God not to destroy these cities if 50 righteous could be found. Eventually, Abraham was able (so it seemed) to lower the required number of the righteous to as few as ten (verse 32). But there simply were not ten righteous in these cities. There were but four (if one includes Lot’s wife). But God, in His justice, would not deal with the wicked in a way that punished the righteous as well. He did not spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but He did spare Lot and his family by rescuing them from the city of Sodom before the angels destroyed them.
We see here in the Book of Genesis God’s purpose in calling Abraham and his offspring: to raise up a people characterized by righteousness and justice. God not only showed himself to be righteous and just, He also worked in Abraham’s life to show he was a man who loved righteousness and justice.
God’s Righteousness and the Nation Israel
God’s righteousness was to be seen in His every dealing with the nation Israel:
6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. 7 So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers” (2 Samuel 12:6-7).
God’s righteousness in His dealings with the nation Israel has various manifestations.
(1) God reveals His righteousness by revealing His will and His word to the world through the nation Israel.
5 “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. 6 So keep and do [them], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8; see also Psalm 33:4).
God deals with men on the basis of what He has revealed to them. He often tells men what He will do well in advance of the event so they will know God is God and that He has accomplished what He promised:
21 “Declare and set forth [your case;]. Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me” (Isaiah 45:21).
(3) God reveals His righteousness by fulfilling His promises.
8 “And Thou didst find his heart faithful before Thee, and didst make a covenant with him to give [him] the land of the Canaanite, of the Hittite and the Amorite, of the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite—to give [it] to his descendants. And Thou hast fulfilled Thy promise, for Thou art righteous” (Nehemiah 9:7-8, emphasis mine).
(4) God reveals His righteousness by judging the enemies of Israel.
27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones” (Exodus 9:27).
13 Before the LORD, for He is coming; For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, And the peoples in His faithfulness (Psalm 96:13).
God likewise shows Himself to be righteous when He judges the nation Israel for their sin and disobedience:
1 It took place when the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong that he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the LORD. 2 And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem 3 with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim, and the Ethiopians. 4 And he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. 5 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, ‘You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.’” 6 So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The LORD is righteous” (2 Chronicles 12:1-6).
15 “O LORD God of Israel, Thou art righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as [it is] this day; behold, we are before Thee in our guilt, for no one can stand before Thee because of this” (Ezra 9:15).
7 “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near by and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee. 8 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee” (Daniel 9:7-8).
(5) God reveals His righteousness in the way He rules.
6 Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom (Psalm 45:6).14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Thy throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before Thee (Psalm 89:14, see also Psalm 97:2).
(6) God reveals His righteousness in His hatred and in His anger.
5 The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates (Psalm 11:5).311 God is a righteous judge; And a God who has indignation every day (Psalm 7:11).
(7) God reveals His righteousness in His protection of the poor and the afflicted.
(8) God reveals His righteousness when He shows mercy and compassion.
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate; 6 The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me (Psalm 116:5-6).
18 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. The LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are those who long for Him (Isaiah 30:18).
(9) God reveals His righteousness in saving sinners.
2 The LORD has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Psalm 98:2-3). 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
I believe this to be a very significant aspect of God’s righteousness. God is righteous in saving sinners. So often we think God’s righteousness is revealed in His judgment of sinners and His mercy by His salvation of sinners. The Scriptures teach that God’s righteousness is the cause of both condemnation and justification. He is righteous in saving sinners, as well as merciful and compassionate. God is righteous in all His dealings with men, indeed in all His dealings.
The righteousness of God and the justice of God are not secondary matters; they are primary. The righteousness or justice of God is to be the guiding principle for the people of God. When the Old Testament prophets sought to sum up the essence of the Old Testament teaching regarding man’s conduct, it was that men practice righteousness or justice:
21 “I hate, I reject your festival, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24).
6 With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? 7 Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).
When summarizing the very essence of what the Old Testament Law was about, Amos and Micah both spoke first of justice and righteousness. God is not interested in a legalistic keeping of the Law, as though one might make himself righteous by so doing. God is interested in men seeking to know the heart of God and pleasing Him by doing that in which He delights and that which He does.
The concepts of the “Men of Old” contained in the bible is reference guide to building a healthy community and family.
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had an interesting rule for his teams. Whenever a player scored, he was to acknowledge the person on the team who had assisted. When he was coaching high school, one of his players asked, “Coach, won’t that take up too much time?” Wooden replied, “I’m not asking you to run over there and give him a big hug. A nod will do.”
To achieve victory on the basketball court, Wooden saw the importance of teaching his players that they were a team—not “just a bunch of independent operators.” Each person contributed to the success of everyone else.
If you have accepted Christ as a personal Savior, you are to forget yourself, and try to help others. Talk of the love of Christ, tell of His goodness. Do every duty that presents itself. Carry the burden of souls upon your heart, and by every means in your power seek to save the lost. As you receive the Spirit of Christ-the Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others-you will grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more you will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. —2 Peter 1:3
A college football coach in the Bronx (New York) built his team around good character qualities. Instead of displaying their names on the back of their jerseys, the Maritime College players displayed words likefamily, respect, accountability,and character. Before each game, coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes reminded his team to play by those principles on the field.
The apostle Peter had his own list of Christian qualities (2 Peter 1:5-7) that he encouraged believers to add to their life of faith:
Virtue. Fulfilling God’s design for a life with moral excellence.
Knowledge. Studying God’s Word to gain wisdom to combat falsehood.
Self-control. Revering God so much that we choose godly behavior.
Perseverance. Having a hopeful attitude even in difficulties because we’re confident in God’s character.
Godliness. Honoring the Lord in every relationship in life.
Brotherly kindness. Displaying a warmhearted affection for fellow believers.
Love. Sacrificing for the good of others.
Let’s develop these qualities in increasing measure and integrate them into every part of our life.
Just as the body grows in strength With exercise each day, Our spirit grows in godliness By living life God’s way. —D. De Haan
May and I define a blessing as any expression of God’s goodness and love toward us. Answered prayer, miraculous provision, and unexpected favor are some examples. We easily recognize these as God’s gifts. But sometimes He chooses to bless us in different ways. For instance, He grants us strength and joy in the midst of hardship, and He uses our suffering to help us mature spiritually.
When we obey God, we can trust that He will display His goodness and love to us. Those who are wise will watch for His blessings in all their different forms.
A. Noah’s obedience saved his family from the flood.
B. Abraham’s obedience resulted in his becoming the father of a great nation, God’s chosen people, Israel.
C. Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.
D. Joshua won the battle of Jericho by following God’s supernatural strategy.
E. David refused to harm Saul, the anointed king.
F. Jehoshaphat relied on God’s word when the Ammonites attacked Judah.
G. Peter obeyed Jesus’ command to fish in the heat of day.
H. Paul followed God’s will and took the gospel to the Gentiles.
Types of Blessing
God’s gifts aren’t always obvious. But when you obey Him, He may bless you with:
A. Peace, joy, and contentment. These internal qualities often result when we step out in faith and obey God.
B. Spiritual growth. We will have more faith to obey the next time God challenges us to do something.
C. Eternal blessings. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be rewarded for our obedience (see Mark 9:41; Luke 6:21-23).
Suffering Before Blessing
Often, the first effect of obedience is not blessing, but suffering. Sometimes, what God requires of us will initially lead to pain and sadness. We shouldn’t assume that difficulty means we’ve made a mistake or that He has abandoned us. Let’s look at two significant examples of suffering as an initial result of obedience:
A. Moses followed God’s command to lead His people out of Egypt. Not only did the leader experience difficulty in freeing the Israelites from bondage; the people also complained bitterly about life in the dessert once they were released. Despite these and other challenges, Moses is known as the most important leader in the Old Testament.
B. Paul obeyed God by preaching the gospel. As a result, he suffered tremendous persecution, danger, and physical abuse (2 Cor. 11:23-27). However, because he was imprisoned, the apostle had time to write his epistles to the Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon. His obedience resulted in supernatural blessing (see 2 Tim. 4:7).
God’s Purposes for Our Suffering
A. To bring us to the end of ourselves. We become most useful to the Lord when we rely on Him completely. If we respond correctly to loss and suffering, we will find blessing through it.
B. To prevent pride. Suffering reminds us that all good things are gifts from God and not earned by our own efforts.
C. To remove idols from our lives. Worshipping anything other than God is a problem. He causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). So if He removes a good thing from our lives, He must have a purpose, even if we can’t see it at the time.
D. To deepen our understanding of His ways. When God does something and we aren’t sure why, we can anticipate learning something new about how He operates.
E. To demonstrate His faithfulness to His children. In suffering, you and I have the opportunity to become living examples of the goodness of God. As others watch how we respond to overwhelming adversity, they recognize His loving care.
If you obey God, can you expect His blessings? Yes. But remember that His choice of blessing may be different from yours. Perhaps He will use suffering to draw you closer to Himself. Or He may use it to remove from your life those things that hinder fruitfulness for Him. No matter what, if you walk in His will, He will bless you in surprising ways. We are speaking from a suffering spirit right now, but O’ how sweet it is to see His provision and peace all the while.
In that moment, my view of successand creativity changed.I realized that success is a moment,but what we’re always celebratingis creativity and mastery.But this is the thing: What gets us to convert successinto mastery?This is a question I’ve long asked myself.I think it comes when we start to value the gift of a near win.
to Study the Rules of Etiquette;
to Serve a Relish for Breakfast or Supper;
to Plan a Dinner for a Large Party or a Small One;
to Cure a Headache;
to Make a Will;
to Get Married;
to Bury a Relative;
Whatever You May Wish to Do, Make, or to Enjoy,
Provided Your Desire has Relation to the Necessities of Domestic Life,
I Hope You will not Fail to ‘Enquire Within.'”
I am very grateful for the struggles I’ve overcome by way of a loving God. I remember crying out to God from a pit in a far a way country and in seven months and 32 men killed that were held captive with me I received deliverance. I remember the trials that assailed my life as a youth coming up decisions of what religion was true and maintaining a 4.0 grade average so I could still breath another day under my fathers rules. The pressures of obtaining position in life by acquiring a degree in engineering and the completion of BUD’s training to become a Navy Seal.
Progress, development, growth and achievement — these are all things for which we strive. We seek short-term gains in the hope that they will continue to move us onward and upward. The successes we experience assure us that we are moving in the right direction and that we are on track.
Failure, on the other hand, is precisely what we avoid. Nobody wants to fail. When we fail, it is an indication that we are not on track, that we have missed something and that we are not yet good enough. Failing is miserable and we would never contemplate celebrating it. But, maybe we should.
Reflect on some of your most memorable learning experiences and you will probably find that they came from situations of great challenge. It is through the obstacles, suffering and failures in our lives that we learn and develop most. In fact, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the potential gain to be had.
We actually learn very little from succeeding, other than the realization that we can probably repeat this success in a similar future scenario. When we fail, however distressing and painful it might be, the opportunity to learn from it is far greater than any success could conceivably be. It is this learning that inspires growth and development.
Failures are, of course, widely reported in the cases of celebrities. Everyone enjoys a great underdog story of someone who rises against the odds and achieves greatness in spite of shortcomings and unfortunate circumstances. Bill Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data, failed abysmally, while Albert Einstein was regarded as unintelligent during his childhood.
Thomas Edison famously failed more than 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb, whileOprah Winfrey was fired from her first reporting job after being deemed “unfit for TV.” Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime and Steven Spielberg was rejected from the USC School of Cinematic Arts — twice!
I would bet that every person has had not only to overcome obstacles and failures to achieve greatness, but that the very obstacles and failures inspired the greatness. So, why is it that we live in a culture that suppresses the idea of failure so deeply?
We place a large emphasis on winning, being right and not making mistakes. We treat failure like an unfortunate disease. We take measures to avoid its occurrence and when we do fail, we deny it, make excuses or counsel ourselves through it. We put ourselves under so much stress to avoid failure, yet paradoxically, failure could very well be the greatest developmental tool that we possess in the pursuit of greatness.
This requires a shift in mindset. Rather than viewing a stressful situation or new unknown with negativity due to the potential of slipping us up, we must recognize it as an opportunity for growth. Those periods of being overloaded with assignments, having to work with difficult individuals, embarking on a new and overwhelming projects or taking on a task that requires skills you lack are times when we grow.
But, rather than approach these situations with caution, anxiety and guards held high, identify the potential for growth and enjoy the challenge to come. If the struggle itself is not enough of an opportunity to spark development, the future mistakes and failures that will come certainly will be.
Our goal is to succeed in the short term. The bigger the challenges and obstacles we face, the less likely we are to succeed and the more likely we are to grow if we fail. This is not to suggest that we should not strive for success, but rather, success should be our end goal in the bigger picture. We should view the failures we encounter along the way as meaningful contributions to this end goal.
If we want to enjoy greatness, let’s begin by counting our blessings. Each and every opportunity we have allows us to fail and then to grow as a result.
I am occupying a dwelling “Today” that society said I didn’t qualify for due to my past record. I am sitting in this dwelling suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia “Crisis” and meditating on my past. I grew up in a home consumed with a polytheistic culture and a spirit of over achievement which resulted in me graduating at the ripe age of 16 and going on to pursue my career by attending Syracuse University while simultaneously serving my country. The past always has haunted my peace due to the many challenges I had to endure getting out of the home I grew up in. Once I graduated college I went on to become a Navy Seal. I had a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, but elected to turn down a commissioned officer rank and serve as an enlisted. I am pondering “Today” the decision I made that may have plagued my success in life. Once I received my orders to report to The USS Enterprise and then be detached to Desert Shield I was in contemplation once again, because the BUDS training never equaled to the reality I had to face once in the thick of combat.
I remember while sitting under the glare of the moon in a hostile country wondering if being here was better than being at home with all the pressure and dysfunction I ran from. I heard a voice within my inner man say Aaron I am here, “trust” me to set your life in order. Uncertainty about what the future held for me at the age of 21 with a 2 year old son and wife back home depending on me and I am here fighting an enemy that hasn’t done anything to me.
I am asking this question tonight, What keeps me from being content where God has placed me “Today”? There are so many other challenges that took place in my life to get here where I am tonight, like imprisonment as a soldier and a civilian, drug addiction to cocaine and addiction to fame and fortune. The deaths of 3 children a mother and two brothers while serving my country and as a civilian. I received my call to Christ at the age of 8 years old, only to be restricted in how and who to worship.
Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives.
After going to prison and losing several homes and other securities my life had gotten accustomed to I blamed my dad and his influence he once had on my life. I am going to pursue release from this fog by looking to the healer of our souls.
The Message (MSG)
The Very Tree of Life
13-18 You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom,
when you make friends with Madame Insight.
She’s worth far more than money in the bank;
her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
her life wonderfully complete.
She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!
Psychologist William Marston once asked three thousand people, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to discover that 94 percent of the people he polled were simply enduring the present while they waited for something to happen–waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year, waiting to take a trip, waiting for someone to die, or waiting for tomorrow. They had hope, but no ongoing purpose for their lives.
Only 6 percent of the people identified relationships and activities in the present tense of their lives as valuable reasons for living! The 94 percent would be wise to recall the words of this poem by and unknown author:
During all the years since time began,
Today has been the friend of man;
But in his blindness and his sorrow,
He looks to yesterday and tomorrow.
Forget past trials and your sorrow.
There was, but is, no yesterday,
And there may be no tomorrow.
Instead of dwelling on your past mistakes, make a new start by thanking God for all the good in your life. I thank God for the ability to write and focus through my pain, I thank God for my trials and His deliverance through them all. I thank God for His word that renders so much solace when I am perplexed and confused. Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present. I have new mercies “Today” to escort me through difficulties from yesterday. Thank you ABBA for Your “Grace” to press onward..
New International Version (NIV)
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.
Steel is the product of iron plus fire. Soil is rock plus heat and the crushing of glaciers. Linen is flax plus the water that cleans it, the comb that separates it, the flail that pounds it, and the shuttle that weaves it. In the same way, the development of human character requires a plus attached to it, for great character is made not through luxurious living but through suffering. And the world does not forget people of great character.
I once heard the story of a mother who brought a crippled boy with a hunched back into her home as a companion for her son. She warned her son to be very careful not to refer to the other boy’s deformity, since this was a sensitive matter to him. And she encouraged him to play with his new friend as if he were a normal child. But after listening to her son play with him for a few minutes, she heard him ask his companion, “Do you know what that is on your back?” The crippled boy was embarrassed, hesitated a moment, but before he could respond, his friend answered the question for him by saying, “It is the box that holds your wings, and someday God is going to break it open, and you will fly away to be an angel.”
Someday God is going to reveal this fact to every Christian: the very things they now rebel against are the instruments He has used to perfect their character and to mold them into Perfection, so they may later be used as polished stones in His heaven yet to come.
Suffering is a wonderful fertilizer for the roots of character. The great objective of this life is character, for it is the only thing we can carry with us into eternity. And gaining as much of the highest character possible is the purpose of our trials. The mountain of vision is won by no other road than the one covered with thorns. I went to court facing 24 years today, and God delivered me from the injustice of a corrupt system. The church prayed and my wife and I fasted and prayed and just like Daniel I was vindicated. This case has been pending for 2 years, we have struggled to maintain peace and positioning within my God. We suffered all the while we were trusting. This has built enormous character within our soul. Mine eyes have seen the rock that is higher than I.
King James Version (KJV)
20 Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
God makes you “see troubles.” Sometimes, as part of your education being carried out, you must “go down to the depths of the earth” (Ps. 63:9), travel subterranean passages, and lie buried among the dead. But not for even one moment is the bond of fellowship and oneness between God and you strained to the point of breaking. And ultimately, from the depths, He “will restore [your] life again.”
Never doubt God! Never say that He has forsaken or forgotten you or think that He is unsympathetic. He “will restore [your] life again. “No matter how many twists and turns the road may have, there is always one smooth, straight portion. Even the longest day has a sunset, and the winter snow may stay quite some time, but it will finally melt.
Be steadfast, “because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. He will turn to you again and comfort you. He has shown Himself real to me so many times. And when He does, your heart that has forgotten how to sing will break forth in thankful and jubilant song, just like the psalmist who sang, “My tongue will sing of your righteousness” (Ps.51:14).
Though the rain may fall and the wind be blowing,
And chilled and cold is the wintry blast;
Though the cloudy sky is still cloudier growing,
And the dead leaves tell that the summer has passed;
My face is fixed on the stormy heaven,
My heart is as calm as the summer sea,
Glad to receive what my God has given,
Whatever it be.
When I feel the cold, I can say, “He sends it,”
And His winds blow blessing, I surely know;
For I’ve never a need but that He will meet it;
And my heart beats warm, though the winds may blow.
Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
In this time of trial we need to be encouraged and comforted by one another. The temptations of Satan are greater now than ever before, for he knows that his time is short and that very soon every case will be decided, either for life or for death. It is no time now to sink down beneath discouragement and trial; we must bear up under all our afflictions and trust wholly in the Almighty God of Jacob. The Lord has shown me that His grace is sufficient for all our trials; and although they are greater than ever before, yet if we trust wholly in God, we can overcome every temptation and through His grace come off victorious.
If we overcome our trials and get victory over the temptations of Satan, then we endure the trial of our faith, which is more precious than gold, and are stronger and better prepared to meet the next. But if we sink down and give way to the temptations of Satan, we shall grow weaker and get no reward for the trial and shall not be so well prepared for the next. In this way we shall grow weaker and weaker, until we are led captive by Satan at his will. We must have on the whole armor of God and be ready at any moment for a conflict with the powers of darkness. When temptations and trials rush in upon us, let us go to God and agonize with Him in prayer. He will not turn us away empty, but will give us grace and strength to overcome, and to break the power of the enemy. Oh, that all could see these things in their true light and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus! Then would Israel move forward, strong in God, and in the power of His might.
God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them. It is a bitter draught, and they can make it still more bitter by murmuring, complaining, and repining. But those who receive it thus must have another draught, for the first does not have its designed effect upon the heart. And if the second does not effect the work, then they must have another, and another, until it does have its designed effect, or they will be left filthy, impure in heart. I saw that this bitter cup can be sweetened by patience, endurance, and prayer, and that it will have its designed effect upon the hearts of those who thus receive it, and God will be honored and glorified. It is no small thing to be a Christian and to be owned and approved of God. The Lord has shown me some who profess the present truth, whose lives do not correspond with their profession. They have the standard of piety altogether too low, and they come far short of Bible holiness. Some engage in vain and unbecoming conversation, and others give way to the risings of self. We must not expect to please ourselves, live and act like the world, have its pleasures, and enjoy the company of those who are of the world, and reign with Christ in glory.
We must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings here if we would share in His glory hereafter. If we seek our own interest, how we can best please ourselves, instead of seeking to please God and advance His precious, suffering cause, we shall dishonor God and the holy cause we profess to love. We have but a little space of time left in which to work for God. Nothing should be too dear to sacrifice for the salvation of the scattered and torn flock of Jesus. Those who make a covenant with God by sacrifice now will soon be gathered home to share a rich reward and possess the new kingdom forever and ever.
Oh, let us live wholly for the Lord and show by a well-ordered life and godly conversation that we have been with Jesus and are His meek and lowly followers. We must work while the day lasts, for when the dark night of trouble and anguish comes, it will be too late to work for God. Jesus is in His holy temple and will now accept our sacrifices, our prayers, and our confessions of faults and sins and will pardon all the transgressions of Israel, that they may be blotted out before He leaves the sanctuary. When Jesus leaves the sanctuary, then they who are holy and righteous will be holy and righteous still; for all their sins will then be blotted out, and they will be sealed with the seal of the living God. But those that are unjust and filthy will be unjust and filthy still; for then there will be no Priest in the sanctuary to offer their sacrifices, their confessions, and their prayers before the Father’s throne. Therefore what is done to rescue souls from the coming storm of wrath must be done before Jesus leaves the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.