Houston, TX (ANS) – In a recent conversation with a friend, we discussed some of the problems and challenges we are facing these days. My friend is a Bible scholar and historian. He was sharing about some of the conditions of our society and events just prior to the First and Second Great Awakenings here in the USA. Humanly speaking, things were really bad in those days. The spiritual and moral condition in the country were on a sharp decline. Evil and ungodly influences were expressed in many different ways. Reflecting on that conversation reminded me of a quote by Adoniram Judson, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
Seeing the Not Seen
It is encouraging to realize that God is at work in every detail of our lives. However, we must look past the seen and temporary, to the not seen and eternal. We are to walk by faith, not by sight. That, of course, requires us to have spiritual eye sight. There is a great need to see things from God’s perspective. Jesus said we must be born again in order to see the Kingdom. He also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” That could apply to seeing God in action on our behalf. The spiritual new birth enables us to see God at work, and to judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgement. One of the important lessons we emphasize in our orality training is the problem of spiritual blindness. The good news is that He can still heal blindness, both physically and spiritually. The blind beggar in Mark 10 received his sight and started following Jesus. In the spiritual sense, we must be born of the Spirit in order to follow Jesus.
A friend of mine use to talk about the need for having 50/20 Vision. It’s based on Genesis 50:20 when Joseph said to his brothers, after being abused by them, “You planned evil against me, but God meant it for good.” There are many examples throughout Scripture where God intervenes in human experience to bring good out of bad situations. One of my mentors years ago use to emphasize that every negative has a positive. Furthermore, the more negative the negative, the more positive the positive. So, when life’s circumstances get really bad, we can look to the Lord and expect that He will intervene and bring good from it. In our work with Living Water International, we often observe how God shows up in the most difficult times and the darkest places.
A lady ran into the back of my car on the freeway one time. While waiting for the police to arrive to do an accident report, I engaged her in conversation, shared the Gospel and had prayer with her. She was very open to the Lord and received Christ. As a result of that encounter, she immediately shared her experience with a security guard in the parking lot. A little later in the day, she shared her testimony with two police officers while processing the accident report. It was a great example of how the Lord can use negative experiences and turn them into positive results. It’s important to remember that when things really get bad, we can look to the Lord and trust that He will show Himself strong on our behalf. History is filled with examples of how God has used those crisis times and difficult experiences for His divine purposes. I ran across a tract years ago that was titled, “There are on accidents with God.” That truth should be a comfort to all of us.
God is working All things for our Good
I joined the Air Force right after High School. As I was leaving home for basic training, my Dad told me, “Remember that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” He shared that his Dad told him the same thing when he was leaving for the Army during World War II. I later encountered some difficulties and began to wonder, “Where is that verse in the Bible.” (I was not so knowledgeable of the Bible at the time). Of course, I discovered it was Romans 8:28. Over the years the Lord has brought that verse to my mind many times. The context of that verse has to do with His purpose of our being conformed to the likeness of His Son, the Lord Jesus.
More than 40 years ago, I heard a Bible teacher on the radio (I can actually remember the city I was driving in at the time). He was talking about the purpose of difficulties, suffering and problems in our lives. He talked about how God uses those experiences to; 1. Focus our Faith, 2. Fashion our Character, and 3. Fit us for Service. It is remarkable how a phrase, a statement or quote, or a story can stick in our minds and change our lives. It illustrates the power of a word or message, and how we should be aware and intentional about what we say and how it can impact people’s lives. God is faithful to bring to our remembrance His promises at just the right time when we need them.
It is liberating to realize that God is working all things after the council of His own will. All of our negative and positive experiences can be used by the Lord for His purposes. It’s our perspective, our 50/20 Vision, which allows us to be fruitful and make an impact for His kingdom purposes. Keeping our focus on the Lord enables us to endure hardships and difficulties. Having a 50/20 Vision also helps us to recognize God’s activities and His divine appointments for witness and ministry. Opportunities we might miss otherwise. Those opportunities may present themselves during times of crisis, disasters or difficulties of various kinds.
Bad Times can provide Spiritual Opportunities
Hard times and problems come to all of us. When they do, we can ask the Lord, “How do you want me to respond?” — “What are you up to, and how do you want to use me in this situation?” God will often use us in those times to demonstrate the love and truth of Jesus to those around us. There will be opportunities to make known the hope that is within us, Christ Himself. An automobile accident, a medical emergency or some other crisis situation can result in meeting new people and forming new relationships. Those occasions can often result in spiritual light shining into dark places. As followers of Jesus, and as His ambassadors, we can expect and trust that the Lord will be orchestrating our lives and circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Some mission and church leaders have suggested that we could be on the verge of the next Great Awakening.