A word of encouragement
Over the last 18 months, the tragedy we have seen and felt during the pandemic, can feel like just too much. My colleague, Roshan Mendis, is the Head of Operations for Asia Pacific Baptist Aid and recently shared his thoughts. They were so powerful that I simply had to share.
Trusting God in the Worse Season of Your Life
As images of the devastating humanitarian catastrophe caused by COVID19 from the COVID crisis in India kept coming in, this image of a man next to the burning pyre of his family member, a victim ofCovid19 has become a mental afterimage on my mind.
Tell me, what will you do in the wake of the worst moment of your life?
At an intersection of tragedy or crisis, will that day drive you from your faith – or to a new depth of trust in God, who wants to use every moment for good?
In the early days of the church, many people who witnessed the murder of Stephen felt it was the worst day of their lives. Stephen had been one of the most popular and effective men in the early church. He was godly to the core and filled with grace, and love, and the ability to do signs and wonders as he prayed in the name of Jesus. Stephen was one of a kind, and many people looked up to him. Thousands of new believers worshiped in Jerusalem, and most of them must have loved Stephen.
Then in Acts 8 we see a flash of violence erupted at a key intersection for the church. Without warning, the unbelievable became a reality! Stephen was arrested, charged, and executed. The enemies of the church took off their gloves and stoned Stephen, breaking his body and leaving him lifeless on the rocks of the killing place.
The killing of Stephen then opened the door for all kinds of persecution. Men, women, teen-agers, boys and girls ran for their lives. Some of them couldn’t run fast enough. Some of them landed in prison. Some of them would eventually lose their lives, as Stephen had. If the early church had written a book titled “ Worst Days Ever,” many a chapter would have been hurriedly written around the events of Acts 8.
I’ve known several “worst days.” Perhaps you have, too. Or perhaps your “worst day” is just at the next intersection. When it comes to your worst day, know this: It is possible to trust God after the worst day of your life. In fact, trusting God on that day will be your only hope. If your faith can be proved in the wake of your worst day ever, then you’ve got a powerful faith. A mighty and powerful faith.
Interestingly in this passage, Paul who was Stephen’s persecutor and oversaw that whole operation…. Had an amazing change of heart and joined the band of believers and more than that became a promoter of the Gospel. As an apostle of the Church thereafter, he had his share of suffering almost getting a taste of the very thing he had inflicted upon the early church. Having described the ministry of the gospel as a mixture of suffering and blessing which eventually results in life coming to believers. In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul leaves with us three key lessons that I’d like to remind you of.
I. Remember who God is – 4:13
For the early Christians, Stephen’s funeral only promised more funerals; it now became open season on Christians. They escaped Jerusalem, but the persecution followed them throughout Judea. Then it followed them through Samaria. They ran toward Galilee, Asia, Egypt, and Rome, pulling up roots and trying to carry enough stuff to pay for the journey. Saul would be willing to travel more than 125 difficult miles – either on foot or on an uncomfortable donkey – to arrest Christians in Damascus. Imagine the hatred that would make a man travel that far. Imagine the fear of those who were hiding!
If life has declared open season on you, know this: It’s just an unfortunate part of life. Nothing in the Bible, nothing in the nature of God suggests that bad things won’t happen in the course of life. If you live long enough, some things will, in fact, nearly crush you.
But know something else: The worst day of your life does not change the nature of God, or the nature of God’s love for you. It doesn’t negate your existence, doesn’t change your love for others around you. Remember who God is, and you’ve begun the survival process.
II. Remember what God can do 4:14.
Paul then explained why (because) he believed as the psalmist did, that even in the midst of great suffering God would deliver the ministers of the gospel.
Producing fruit from worst days seems to be a pattern with God. Consider this verse from Acts: Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:4)
That’s it. Just a little sentence that represents an incredible movement of God’s people. Thanks to the persecution of God’s people, thanks to the worst days of those lives, the message of Christ became a world-wide phenomenon.
Why did good come out of bad, after the worst day in so many lives? Only because people remember what God could do. when you can’t see how he is working. Trust God on this one. He can bring good out of the worst day of your life. God is the only one, in fact, who can bring good out of such a day. God is in control, and God is good.
III. Allow God to keep working through you
Trust God with the answer. It may not be the answer you expected. It may not be the answer you wanted. But you need to trust God. He loves you, and he only wants what’s best for you. We like to be in control, and sometimes we think we are in control. But that can all change in a moment. Sometimes our best isn’t good enough. Sometimes our life spins out of control no matter how much we do, no matter how hard we try. What are we going to do then? We must keep trusting in the Lord! Keep trusting God through all of your troubles.
The most important part of the story about Stephen’s death and the persecution of the believers may be contained in a simple phrase from in Acts 8:5 “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.”
At first glance, these few words may not impress you, but consider: It’s believed this Philip is the same as mentioned in Acts 6:5, one of the seven deacons selected to serve the church. Philip, too, is the very first deacon listed after Stephen. Were they close friends? Very likely. Did Philip hurt to see Stephen murdered? It must have broken his heart to hold his friend, to see him wrapped in a grave sheet, to lay him to rest, to know he would never see the flash of his friend’s smile again.
But Philip did something we all must do if we’ll ever see good come out of the worst day of our lives. Philip kept breathing, kept moving, and kept living. When he got his breath, when he made plans for the next day of life, he kept his faith. He did not turn away from his God, he did not leave the family of faith, he did not lose his trust in Christ.
And that’s the point. When the worst day of your life comes, If you can make the courageous decision to keep putting one foot in front of the other, if you can make the important faith step of turning to God alone for your strength, you’ll discover a wonderful reality – God can use the worst day of your life to take your faith into new areas of strength, to work miracles in the wake of tragedy, to bring good out of something that is no good at all.
That’s power. That’s the kind of power you’ll find only under the care of the Holy Spirit.
When the worst day of your life comes, the pain will be beyond unbearable, and it will hurt forever. We are designed to hurt, to grieve, to cry, to panic, to scream, to fall on the ground and admit that we can’t take the pain. That’s the way we’re made.
And it’s true, too, that if you open your Bible on the day after, if you pray on the morning after, if you go back to church the Sunday after, the pain will still be there. It takes time for the grief process to work its course, and we grieve after any loss. It takes time for the smile to return, for the laughter to shake our bellies again. It just takes time and a working through of the process.
God grieves with you! But if you manage to read your Bible, to pray, to thank God for his goodness, and to be around your church family in the wake of your worst day, then you are exercising your faith, and – in time – that exercise of faith will bear wonderful fruit.
So when you wake up on the morning after the worst day, read your Bible. When you get over the shock, pray. When you gather your wits about you, spend time in praise of God, and thanksgiving to God, and in worshiping the Holy God.
The pain is only a season and is intended for a reason.
– Roshan Mendis
Thank you, Roshan, and your tireless work and that of so many around the world. Let your words be a reminder to all of us that control was never in our hands and that God has a GOOD plan for each of us. For more information about APBAid, click this link: APBAID
Many blessings and much hope,
Kristy Engel, Global Consultant for Health
International Ministries, ABC-USA