“I don’t know what to say!”

“No one said a word to him, because they saw
how great his suffering was.”
Job 2:13 (NIV)

A wonderful Christian man was in deep sorrow over his little boy in the cancer unit of a hospital. He would lose all 3 of his sons to various forms of tragedy but the suffering he saw in the eyes of his youngest son really tore him apart.

The father was a Christian man known to many people for his wonderful ministry to others. How could anyone offer comfort to a person who knew their Bible so well and had ministered so ably to others from it?

The father had confessed that if one more person quoted Romans 8:28 to him he would choke them. That verse reads as follows (NIV),

“And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him.”

The man did not need any more assurances of God’s presence and sovereignty in life’s issues. He was looking for something else.

People in pain are not always looking for answers when they ask, “Why?”. What they are trying to say is that this does not make sense. They are giving expression to the thought that the problem of pain cannot be adequately addressed. Human reason fails us when we seek to find answers to some events in life.

The father of the little boy mentioned above was riding the elevator down from his son’s room one day and a student nurse who had been attending his son happened to ride down with him. She felt she had to say something to the sorrowful father and commented, “Sir, I just do not know what to say.” The father responded, “That is exactly right.” Sometimes in grieving with someone there really is nothing to say.

When someone hurts extremely, we should not rush in and try to justify God or suggest He has nothing to do with the difficulty they are facing. The Lord can exonerate Himself when and if He so desires. Do not seek to make excuses for the Almighty.

The first reaction of Job’s comforters on seeing his extreme suffering is what we read in our verse today. They kept their mouths shut and wept with him. That is all they did for a week and it was wonderful.

Perhaps one reason that people without significant problems in life avoid coming into contact with people in pain is because they do not know what to say about the sorrow the other person is feeling. Not knowing what to say causes them to stay away from the scene of adversity.

I suggest that when you have opportunity, just go to the home of suffering, weep if you can or should, put a comforting arm around the one in pain, tell them you care, and leave quietly.

Do not, under any circumstances, tell them you understand their sorrow. Regardless of how you have suffered you do not know their pain. Point them to the Man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), our Lord Jesus, and urge them to make their complaint to Him. He invites all who are struggling to come and find rest with Him.

What to do?

“We do not know what to do
but our eyes are upon you.”
2 Chronicles 20:12 (NIV)

The nation of Judah was in the midst of a great reform movement to turn back to God. The king did much to get his people to serve God only. Just when he had it all together and was seeing the results of his religious reform, a dreadful enemy appeared on the horizon.

The king was informed of a great army that was poised to attack his nation and overpower it. Immediately the king called for the nation to cease eating, and to gather for prayer about the matter. It is interesting that the king did not first get his army ready for battle and then pray for success.

The king’s prayer teaches us much about how to prepare for an imminent crisis in life. He started with a wordy description of who God was. Over half of the prayer is a description of the sovereignty of God and His faithfulness to His people, among other things.

Before the king got around to mentioning the difficulty they wished God to get involved with, he spoke of how great and faithful God was. Those truths were exceptionally important to the nation right at that time. The bigger their God, the smaller the problem became.

People who find themselves always worrying about life, and its complications, are signalling to others that they have a small God. Here we read of the king’s prayer and in the 7 verses recording his prayer, he only has one verse that mentions what it is he wants from God for the nation.

We need to ask ourselves about our prayers for our own difficulties in life. Do our prayers major on the problem and minor on who God is? Are we so occupied with the issue that we obscure the vision of God in the process? We do so at our own peril.

The greater my view of God, the smaller the problem seems to be. Is it not time to build up our understanding of who God is so that we will be able to keep everything in proper perspective?

When I was a child I watched my father do many things. He framed, wired and finished off the family cottage without professional help. There was never anything that could go wrong with our family car that he could not fix. To me, he seemed to be a man who could do anything. When I became an adult I learned that there were a lot of things to be done in this life that my Dad did not know how to do.

Never think that prayer is the last resort when tragedy strikes. It is the first and most effective thing that can be done to resolve our issues in life. When we come to the place where we do not know what to do, then do what the people in our verse today did. They sought after God and were delivered.

Read the passage that includes our verse for yourself. 2 Chronicles 20:6-12. Learn what to do when you don’t know what to do. Do it today.

Who’s In The Picture?

“…they saw no one, except Jesus”
Matthew 17:8 (NIV)

I have some family photos taken in the late 1800’s. I received them from my grandmother when she was alive and I was living with her. I know they are relatives but I have no idea who they were.

How I regret the fact that I didn’t ask my grandmother at the time so I could have written their names on the back of the photos. All I can do now is look at them and wonder who’s in the picture.

The verse today speaks of a remarkable incident in the lives of Peter, James and John. In the preceding chapter (Matthew 16) Peter had received a stinging rebuke from the Saviour because he tried to tell the Lord that He would not go to Jerusalem and be crucified. Jesus had spoken to the disciples about the cross and His crucifixion that was going to take place in a few months time. Peter had rejected the very idea.

The wonderful grace of our Lord is seen in the fact that a few days after He rebuked Peter He gave Peter the privilege of going with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration. The scene in Matthew 17 is of Jesus being transformed. Peter and the two other disciples witnessed the appearance of Jesus becoming luminous or shining like the sun. They were frightened by the change in Jesus’ appearance.

Then they saw Moses and Elijah and heard them talking to Jesus about His coming death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Jesus was very concerned that Peter be fully restored to Him after the rebuke recorded in Matthew 16, and also that Peter would come to accept what Jesus had said about his death.

There is a lesson we can take from this action of Jesus helping Peter accept the truth of the cross. We learn here that sometimes when sorrow comes our way and we rebel against the Lord’s sovereign will, we may rest assured that the Lord will give us further opportunity to submit to what He is doing in our lives.

Peter tried to change Jesus’ mind about the cross and insisted that Jesus would not go through with the crucifixion. It was clearly an act of rebellion on Peter’s part. Although Jesus did rebuke Peter immediately, He did not reject Peter.

When the Lord rebukes one of his children it is always with the intention of producing positive change. However the Lord also encourages us for the same reason and Peter’s privilege of attending with the others on the Mount of Transfiguration was just such an encouragement.

The scene in Matthew 17 was obviously frightening for the disciples at first, but it became a restorative action to Peter. When the vision ended they all heard the voice from heaven telling them to listen to Jesus (Matthew 17:5). Thus Peter had it reaffirmed to him that what Jesus said was to be accepted and not rejected as he had done a few days earlier.

What every weary child of God needs is to have a clear vision of Jesus without anything or any one else in the picture. Pray for yourself today that you will have a clear vision of Jesus and that something of His glory will be seen by you. Pray that you will have a submissive spirit to what the Lord brings into your life whether you like it or not.

As long as you see the glory of our Lord, you will find it much easier to cope with the problems you face in life.

Where Is God When You Need Him?

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’”
Psalm 42:1-3 (NIV)

Some Christians think that a believer should never be discouraged or downcast. They seem to always have a grin on their faces and can be overbearing with pilgrims who have come to a dark time in their pilgrimage.

Is it sin for a believer to lose their sense of the Lord’s presence? Are we supposed to go around smiling and happy in all circumstances? Do we have a lack of faith when we feel alone and vulnerable to the forces of evil?

When you read the stories of the Lord’s people in Scripture you soon find out they wrestled with the Lord to gain peace of mind and the sense of the Lord drawing near to them.

The vast majority of Christians who find themselves in a spiritual wasteland turn to the Psalms for comfort and to know they are not alone  as they struggle to keep their heads above water.

Here we are in familiar territory as the Psalmist pours out his heart and cries for the Lord to come and comfort him. He struggles and seems to get nowhere. Day after weary day he calls into the darkness and all he hears is the sound of his own voice mocking him.

In spite of the fact his efforts produce nothing he carries on hoping against hope for an answer from the living God.

The Psalmist knows that the Lord answers prayer and is full of compassion to the weary. But why are the heavens as brass with his cries echoing back to him? Back and forth he goes from despair to hope day in and day out.

The very important lesson we learn from the Psalmist is that you press forward regardless of the silences of the Lord. The man does not give up. He pushes on regardless of the fact his prayers feel useless.

Can you push on my friend? Can you trust the Lord when you cannot understand Him? The Psalmist concludes with these words. May they echo the sentiments of your heart also.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God.”

Lay Preachers

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.’”
Luke 2:15-17 (NIV)

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him,
they spread the word concerning
what had been told them about this child…”
Luke 2:15-17 (NIV)

In most Christian denominations there is a clear distinction between the “clergy” and the “laity”. However, as we study the Scripture we see that all kinds of people preached and taught the Gospel who were not of a special class of church members.

From the lowly shepherds preaching about Jesus at His birth to the woman who went to the empty tomb and returned to Jerusalem and told about the resurrection of Christ, we read stories of ordinary followers of Jesus proclaiming the truth about Him.

We should never think that the only ones who can tell the old old story of Jesus and His love are trained “clergy”. In fact what all Christians are charged with is the responsibility to be witnesses to the Saviour.

A witness does not need to have special training to testify nor do witnesses require lessons in public speaking. All the qualification a witness needs is to remember a situation they experienced. A witness is qualified to testify simply on the basis of being at an event and seeing or hearing something happen.

All the lowly shepherds did was relate the message they had received from the angel and how they verified the angel’s story by going and finding the child. This is all the expertise the shepherds had.

As Christians we need to follow the example of the shepherds and simply tell others what we know about the work of the Lord in our lives. We do not need to be experts in the art of persuasion. It is the work of God to produce acceptance of our testimony in the hearts of our listeners.

You may be a lay preacher today as you tell all you know about how the Lord has come into your life and what you have learned from the Bible about Him. Go and witness about Jesus today and you will find the Holy Spirit blessing your testimony to the good of others. The Christmas message is something to be shared not hoarded.