I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick. – Ezekiel 34:16 (NKJV)
Few days back, I was informed of an impending visit from some of our relatives. As we were praying, the Lord told me that I needed to give counselling to a teenage boy who is going in the wrong way. The Lord also gave me insights into his wounded mind, and gave examples that I must use from my own bitter experiences from my childhood. So, I surrendered myself to God’s will and was waiting for the boy to arrive.
But it so happened that as soon as they came, they had to leave right away to another city. But before leaving, the kid asked me if he could speak to me on Saturday afternoon as he would be back by then. I told that was fine. But again, their travel plans changed and I was informed that he would be arriving late in the night, and if possible, he would like to talk for few minutes with me. I agreed again as the Lord had told me to. Then Saturday night, I was informed that due to traffic problems, they were not leaving that evening, but would be reaching on Sunday morning, and would be leaving within an hour or so. Now, I was in a dilemma, as Sunday mornings are generally hectic and it would be difficult to accommodate time to talk with him, as I would be in the church by 9:45 AM to prepare for the worship service. But, I was assured this time, that they would be in the morning by 7:30, so just few minutes of my time would mean a lot. So, I hurried up all my processes so I could be ready by 7:30. Yet again, the dreaded phone call came, informing us that the traffic was severe than they had anticipated, and hence they would reach our home only by 10 AM.
Now I knew that I won’t be even able to say goodbye to the kid, as I would be in the church, leading the worship when they arrive and leave right after. But it also bothered me that the Lord had told me that I had to talk to the boy and gave words. The Lord is always true to His Word. So, I sought the Lord’s guidance in this matter… and something happened.
I suddenly became too weak and started feeling severe pain. As I told my wife rather eloquently, I had only 4 minor ailments that is bothering me: 1. I am not able to walk. 2. I am not able to stand. 3. I am not able to sit, and 4. I am not able to lie down. Though I am able to joke about it now, at that moment, the pain was intense and severe, I did not know what to do. Could not sit, stand, walk or lie down. What are the things you could possibly do when you are feeling severe pain? So, at the last minute, I had to give the worship to our assistant pastor who has been in training for just such emergencies.
At 10 AM, when the worship was starting, the teenage boy called me, asking if I could spare just five minutes of my time. Though I was in pain, I asked him to come, as my wife just then pointed out that the Lord has been truthful to His Word. As we spoke, he realized how many wounds he has suppressed in his sub-conscious, how he has been blaming himself for what has happened to his parents, how he had been subjected to severe physical beating in the name of being disciplined, and finally how it had led him to abuse his own body. As we spoke, I could see that the Lord was making a breakthrough in the kid’s heart, and we ended up talking for nearly an hour. As he left, I believe the presence and the grace of the Lord was with him, and the Great Physician will heal the wounds of that teenage boy.
However, the one thing that I realized was how in the parable of a lost sheep, the Good Shepherd leaves all the 99 sheep in safety and goes searching for that one last sheep. I never took it literally. But today, as nearly 100 believers were worshipping the Lord, He had made me indisposed so that He could reach out to one lost soul… it made me realize how important each soul is for our Great Shepherd.
If the Lord had asked me my preference, attending the worship of the Lord or to spend the same time counselling a lost soul, I admit that I would have preferred attending the worship of our Lord God. But today, the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, made me realize that every lost sheep in important to Him. All I can say is, “Thank You Lord for the affliction that You gave me this day, so that I could be of use to a dear lost soul. May Your Name alone be praised. Amen.”
“Unto you it is given . . .to suffer” (Philippians 1:29).
God keeps a costly school. Many of its lessons are spelled out through tears. Richard Baxter said, “O God, I thank Thee for a bodily discipline of eight and fifty years”; and he is not the only man who has turned a trouble into triumph.
This school of our Heavenly Father will soon close for us; the term time is shortening every day. Let us not shrink from a hard lesson or wince under any rod of chastisement. The richer will be the crown, and the sweeter will be Heaven, if we endure cheerfully to the end and graduate in glory.
–Theodore L. Cuyler
Who can bear a broken spirit? – Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)
Imagine the life of Job’s wife just a day before calamity struck her family. Her husband was prosperous, well-respected – both in this world and in the presence of God, and he was the greatest of all the people of the East. She had seven sons and three daughters, who lived in such a unity. Each son’s birthday was celebrated by all the brothers and sisters together. From what Job said later, we understand that they treated their servants well, and in turn they were respected well. From the outset, it would look like that she would be the poster woman for “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31. Life was good. Serene. Blessed.
Then 24 hours later, she had lost everything. All her children were killed; all their valuable were raided by the enemies and all their servants were dead. Just in 24 hours, her life changed from being perfect to completely void. Yet, the Scriptures do not record her of wailing, or cursing God, or berating Job for their losses. Even when Job said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21, NKJV), she did not rail against him. She suffered her losses stoically, reflecting that she was, indeed, noble in nature.
Then one day, she saw her loving husband covered with boils, from bottom to top, sitting in the middle of the ashes, scarping himself hard with a potsherd. It is one thing to suffer a sudden loss, but to suffer a war of attrition, where you are witnessing your loved one suffer, right before your eyes, without an end in the sight, is entirely a different thing; such an attrition will break even the strongest of the spirits. And who can bear a broken spirit?
If you have seen your loved one suffering in pain every day, withering away daily, right before your eyes, with no hope whatsoever, you already know how difficult it is.
Our Immanuel, Jesus Christ, knew that the death and the eventual burial of Lazarus was going to bring great glory to our Father, that the Son of God also would be glorified, and that Lazarus would come back alive and his entire family was going to rejoice. Yet when He saw Mary and Martha were weeping, John records that the Lord groaned in the spirit and was troubled (John 11:33) and eventually, the Lord Himself wept (John 11:35). If our Lord, knowing what He was about to do, groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and if the Lord Himself wept, then imagine how much He understands how brittle our hearts. Jesus knows our weaknesses more than we do. And He sympathizes with us and is compassionate towards our broken spirit.
Suffering and afflictions are at times hard. But waiting without any sliver of hope is also equally hard. If afflictions affect our body and mind, attrition breaks our spirit. It is with a broken spirit, Job’s wife uttered those six words. But, even then, she did not speak against the Lord or even against her husband. As they say, something was lost in translation. God willing, may the Spirit of our Lord lead us to the Truth as it is in the Scriptures.
The Lord our God created us. There is nothing in us that would surprise the Omniscient God. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord knows everything about us. We cannot hide anything from our Creator. Everything is naked before His eyes. Even from far off, He understands our thoughts. Even before we speak a word, even as it is formed in our tongue, the Lord knows. That’s why David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139:6, NKJV).
In His mercies, our Father in Heaven also understands depression. Whether it was Moses, the great prophet or David, the man after God’s own heart, they had suffered depression. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, declares Solomon (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Even the great heroes of faith suffered from depression, as things did not turn out as they expected. As time ran out, they had to endure their hearts losing their confidence.
In his utter depression, a broken-hearted Elijah pleaded with God to take his life as he was not better than his ancestors (1 Kings 19:4). And there is something we need to notice here. Though Elijah said that prayer in depression, the Lord never reprimanded him for that. More importantly, He did answer Elijah’s prayer: the Lord did take away Elijah, except not in the way the prophet wanted. This is our God. This is our Father in Heaven.
The Lord understands depression. When we utter certain things because we are depressed, He knows the broken heart behind those utterances. When we say few things that we would not normally say, our Father in Heaven knows that we are saying such things because we are downcast. What the Lord does not like, what He hates is murmuring against Him. But a broken-heart, the Lord does not despise. In face, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Our Great Physician binds those who are heart-broken, and heals them.
Of course, the greatest depression we see is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Savior Jesus Christ came for one purpose – to die on the Cross, so that we are saved. Yet the night before, He suffered so much in his anguish, he sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Our Teacher’s soul was so deeply grieved to the point of death, in His depression, He asked the Father “to remove that cup from Him.” But regaining His composure, He added, “Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). Again God our Father did not reproach His Son for that prayer. Since we know that our Lord Jesus is without sin, His utterance “to remove that cup from Him” was not a sin.
It is in this light, we need to look at the utterance of Job’s wife. By the Spirit of God, hopefully, before we finish this series, we will be able to see that her ‘irate’ directive to Job was actually very similar to the prayer of Elijah, and to an extent, and I am saying this with utmost humility and trepidation, is similar to our Lord’s prayer asking that the cup be removed from Him.
But to reach that point, we need to understand one of the well-known words in the Bible; a word we all know well for nearly a decade now, thanks to the American politics.
The student in the lower grades who is always idly dreaming of the time when he will be a senior, and thus neglects his present studies, will never be prepared to take his place with any distinction in his senior year. If we scholars in the larger school of life are so fascinated by revelations of the unseen world that we lose interest in the present one, we will never be prepared for its highest enjoyment.
Live a faithful, overcoming Christian life in this world today, and you will be ready for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!
A believer recently came to our church and was complaining to the ministers of God, how the devil has been sabotaging his business; whatever he earns is lost because the devil is creating one loss after another. How his family members have become sick one after another and hence could not take care of the business and all these are because the devil is working against him. And the ministers of God also prayed, rebuking the devil in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, I have suffered enough due to many demonic attacks, and moreover, our ministry itself is deliverance ministries. So, I am not going to say that devil cannot do anything to saved Christian, who obeys the will of God. If Satan could hinder the plans of Apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:18), then he could certainly hinder our plans. But there comes a point where we blame everything on the devil, instead of taking responsibility for our actions. There are times what we reap is what we sow. The same Apostle Paul tells in no uncertain terms in his Epistle to Galatians.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. – Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)
Now, this believer is known for his avarice. He already has few lands, but when he got a chance to buy one more land next to his home, he borrowed money from many and bought it. Some people may say that it is the right thing to do. But there are couple of problems.
Before this, he borrowed money from two women in our church. One is a widow and the other one suffers from marital problems because she has become a Christian. Both are tender hearted and when he asked them for money, they gave him happily; the second lady even lent him some of her jewels, with the assurance that he would return them within 6 months. Since her husband is against her going to church in the first place, if he comes to know that she has given her jewels to some believer as a loan, she would be in serious trouble. The widow is also in a poor situation as she has two daughters who are going to college now. She also gave the money, again hoping to get her money back within 6 months. Now, it has been 3 years since that, and he does not even talk about the money he owes to these poor women. Yet, he went ahead and borrowed more money from others to buy a land, and still had the temerity to stand in the church and witness that the Lord has blessed him with a land, while these two innocuous women watching him helplessly. The ministers of God have told him repeatedly to pay back those hapless women, but he does not care.
Then two years back, he bought a pickup truck for his business purpose – this time, he managed to get a loan from the bank and he needs to repay it in instalments; that debt will be cleared in another 2 years. Even then, some people pointed out that it was a costly venture and he would trouble making the payments; but he assured them that with his two sons and his wife working hard with him, he would be able to pay all those instalments easily.
But then last year, he went ahead and bought another pickup truck, again in a loan from another bank and again, it is going to take him 4 years to pay back that debt. His reasoning is if he has two trucks, he and his sons would be working around the clock and would be rich sooner and will be able to pay back all the debts within a year or two.
Then he became terribly sick and the doctors have advised him not to work hard. His wife became too weak from years of hard work and not eating properly. One of his sons met with an accident and is incapacitated for few weeks from driving a vehicle. The other son, who is a good student, got an apprentice from the Government of India and left.
Now he is having trouble to make the payments. Whatever they earn, they have to spend for the health of one or the other person in the family. Since he loves to take shortcuts to make a profit, he did not get the Fitness Certificate (FC) for his trucks; now a honest officer has been transferred to our area and is fining any vehicles which do not have a current FC. Since the FCs for this believer’s trucks have expired 5 months back, he has to pay a huge amount as fine now.
So, it is the devil that is making so many losses in his life. He wants to give to the ministries and support the church, but the devil is trying his best to stop this believer from doing that.
Yes, we can blame everything on the devil. But the LORD knows the truth. God cannot be mocked. We reap what we sow. It is time believers take responsibility for their actions. Our father Adam and mother Eve tried blaming others for their sins; but the Lord saw through their “blaming others” tactics. What makes us think we can fool the Omniscient God now?
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. – John 11:5-6 (NKJV)
As the narration shifts to the sufferings that the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the ordeal they had to suffer, the Bible tells that Jesus loved them. Yes, dear friend, all these pain, sufferings and afflictions that you are undergoing, is not because the Lord has ceased loving you, but because Jesus loves you.
At the very heart of all Lord’s dealing with you, is His loving heart; the very foundation of our Lord leading you through this valley of death is His loving hand. Eternal God is your Refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)
The situations may be as dark as they can be; the reasons for the delay in the Lord’s deliverance may be mysterious to you; but dare to believe in the unmerited, infinite, immutable love that God has for you, that He showered on you on the Cross when His only Son was crucified for your sake.
Human love tries its best to avoid pain, especially to those who we love the most. That’s why the sisters informed Jesus that “he, whom You love, is sick” (John 11:3). From their understanding of how love works, they were very sure that Jesus would do everything to heal Lazarus and prevent them from any pain. Yet the Bible tells us, “Jesus loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus. So… He stayed two more days.”
So… how much import is there in this one little word. So… Jesus delayed not because He did not love them, but because He loved them. So, He delayed. It is His divine love that kept Him from sending His Word and heal Lazarus at once. It is His immutable love for them that kept Him from rushing to their home, take hold of Lazarus and healing him. Dear friend, as the Lord delays His deliverance, when everyone is telling you that the Lord has forsaken you, that He does not love you anymore… remember this. “Jesus loves you. So, He delays.”
Why does He delay? Because He knows that this situation will not lead to your death; this will not be the end of your life; but this path is allowed in your life for the glory of God; that the Son of God will be glorified through you (John 11:4). You will become a living testimony to the love of God. Many will see what great things that the Lord has done for you, and they will accept Him as their Savior – because of you. Yes, the Lord loves you. So….
Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? – Job 2:10 (JPS)
As I wrote yesterday in my blog, I was pleasantly surprised by the blessing that the Lord gave me. But something else happened, that disquieted me. After the phone call, we were about to start our morning prayers, and clearly I and my wife were very nervous. How would the day be? Would I be able to travel for a whole day? How about eating out? We were very nervous and even thought of asking our cousin to postpone the trip. Then as we started to pray, something happened.
Suddenly the Spirit of the LORD moved us to realize our errors. Say, if the LORD has given a severe affliction yesterday, like I had to endure last year, what would have we done? We would have accepted it as a lesson that the Lord is teaching us, that He would give enough grace and strength to go through the trial, we would have praised Him for considering us worthy to stand such a trial and we would have thanked Him for the lesson He taught us using the trial. Yes, we would have accepted the evil from the hand of God, because we know His loving hand is behind the rod that chastens us.
But the moment a blessing comes our way, something good comes our way, we are wary of so many things that could go wrong. Our attitude is so tuned out, that till we started praying and the Holy Spirit made us realize, we did not understand that this good, this blessing is also from the same loving hand of our Father. That He may choose this very blessing to teach a valuable lesson to us. That He would give enough grace and strength to go through the day. That if I praised Him for the affliction, then I must praise Him more than ever for this blessing; thank Him that He considered this poor man’s prayer and is showing me a favor that I do not deserve; that even in this blessing, the good Teacher has a way to teach His lessons.
Yes, the Lord rules over everything – both good and bad; whatever reaches you, who is under His mighty arm, reaches you only because God our Father allows it; whatever we receive, an affliction or a blessing, it is only because our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ has given us enough grace to sustain, to endure without falling.
So, for the last one year, the Lord taught me that He is the Ruler over everything and whatever He allows in my life is aimed at my sanctification and edification; but my mind has taken it only for the afflictions and trials. Yesterday the LORD corrected my learning. God our Lord is the Ruler of EVERYTHING. And, if we humble ourselves, we can always learn from our blessings as well as from our afflictions. True devotion is not only accepting evil from God, like Job did; but also accepting the two-fold blessing in an equanimous manner, just like Job did. Amen.