This is the first of five talks given at Lee Abbey in the summer, do take a listen here:
Have you had a bad day recently? Rebecca Dudley, editor of News Tribune, wrote:
“Paul Johnson, 37, a mechanic from Maitland, had a day to forget last Tuesday. During the morning, he pushed his motorcycle from the patio into his living room, where he began to clean the engine with some rags and a bowl of petrol. When he finished, he sat on the motorcycle and decided to start it to make sure everything was still OK. Unfortunately, the bike started in gear, and crashed through the glass patio door with him still clinging to the handlebars. His wife had been working in the kitchen. She came running at the noise, and found him crumpled on the patio, badly cut from the shards of broken glass. She called the emergency services, and the paramedics transported Paul to the emergency room.
Later that afternoon, after many stitches had pulled her husband back together, the wife brought him home and put him to bed. She cleaned up the mess in the living room, and dumped the bowl of petrol in the toilet. Shortly thereafter, her husband woke up, lit a cigarette, and went into the bathroom. He sat down and tossed the cigarette into the toilet, which promptly exploded because the wife had not flushed the petrol away. The explosion blew Mr. Johnson through the bathroom door. The wife heard the explosion and her husband’s screams. She ran into the hall and found him lying on the floor with his trousers blown away and burns on his buttocks.
She again ran to the phone and called for an ambulance. The same two paramedics were dispatched to the scene. They loaded Paul on the stretcher and began carrying him to the street. One of them asked the wife how the injury had occurred. When she told them, they began laughing so hard that they dropped the stretcher, and broke the Mr. Johnson’s collarbone.”
Has it been a tough year? When going through difficult or challenging seasons of life, I take comfort from Oswald Chambers words: “Trials are God’s vote of confidence in us!” He’s rooting for us, and believes we can get through them, so we need to believe it too. In any case, would life really be better if everything always went according to plan and we never faced any battles?
One day, a man sat observing a cocoon slowly opening as the butterfly inside struggled to force its body through the little hole. After several hours, progress came to a halt. Apparently, it would get no further. So the man decided to intervene and help the butterfly by making a shortcut – literally – as he snipped the end of the cocoon with a pair of scissors. The butterfly emerged without any further struggle, but its body was swollen and its wings were shrivelled. The man expected the butterfly to expand and fly away, little realizing that his “kindness” had signed the butterfly’s death warrant. The restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. In the verses above, James makes clear that life’s trials develop perseverance in us, which leads ultimately to maturity. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles or trials, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly.
Eldredge’s ‘Wild at Heart’: “Until we are broken, our life will be self-centred, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered.” Chinese underground church pastor to my friend: “Be careful, don’t be too wowed by this promising young man. Yes, he has potential, but he hasn’t been to prison for his faith yet. All the rest of us in this room have had at least a 3-year jail sentence. That was our Bible school.”
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume–it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner
William Carey is often attributed the title “father of modern missions”. He was born into a desperately poor family and consequently obtained a poor education. He was apprenticed as a shoemaker but simply didn’t make the grade. He tried his hand at running a school, but it was a flop. His marriage was an unhappy one, during which his daughter died early – an event which left him bald for life. He was a deeply committed believer, but his subsequent attempt at pastoring a small church lessened his chances of ordination, because by common consent his sermons were too boring for words!
Despite such an apparently flawed track record, Carey formed a missionary society, with himself as the first candidate setting sail to India. This feeble individual translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, as well as portions into twenty-nine other languages. At one stage, he lost ten years’ translation work in a fire. What did he do? He just started again. Then there were his contributions to literature, education, literacy, agriculture, getting infanticide outlawed, and more. This man’s obedience and perseverance were used to impact the lives of literally millions of people.
Before dying, knowing that one of his supporters wanted to write about his life, Carey conveyed his wishes: “If one should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
Adoniram Judson of Burma. When proposed to his wife, “Give me your hand to go with me to the jungles of Asian, and there die with me in the cause of Christ.” Reached Rangoon in 1813, 6 years language learning before preached first sermon, 7 years before first convert. 20 years to translate whole Bible. Twice widowed, lost 6 kids in lifetime. Illness, 2 years in prison camps during the Anglo-Burmese war. One return to USA in 37 years there. Then 7000 baptised Karen people in 63 churches, now 3 million.
“The reason for the growth of the church in China and for the outbreak of genuine spiritual revival in many areas is inextricably linked to the whole theology of the cross… the stark message of the Chinese church is that God used suffering and the preaching of a crucified Christ to pour out revival and build his church. Are we in the West still willing to hear? The Chinese church has walked the way of the cross. The lives and death of the martyrs of the 1950s and 1960s have borne rich fruit.” Tony Lambert