Have you felt like you’ve been under a great amount of pressure lately? Do you feel like you are being hard-pressed on every side? Are you feeling like your best efforts are coming up short, no matter how hard you try? Do you feel like the current of life is coming against you and you are ready to surrender to the tide and let it just take you wherever it goes?
You are not alone. Paul, the apostle, wrote a letter once where he shared that it is exactly how he was feeling at one point. He wrote, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” It was like everything was coming in on him to destroy him, and in all natural understanding of these kinds of events, they would have, but they didn’t. David wrote a lyric about it writing “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because You Lord, are with me.” This is a powerful reality that helps us when we’re going through difficult times that seem like they are going to crush or destroy us. Since God is with you, who can be against you? Since God is with you, as a believer, who can destroy you? Since God is with you, then He knows what you are going through and He is able to keep you even in your life’s greatest storms.
More Beautiful than Pure Gold
Faith and love are so beautiful, but it’s tested faith and love that bring the greatest beauty and glory to God. Very few people as children enjoyed being tested in school and truth is, as adults, we still do not like to be tested. Peter wrote in a letter saying that “it’s the testing of our faith that is more precious than gold,” and that when we see Jesus, it will only be our “tested faith” that we’ll have to offer Jesus when He returns or our life ends here and we stand before Him. You see, faith is a substance that can’t be seen, but it’s more real than what you can see. Notice the storms of life always toss the things that can be seen, but it is the eternal things, which can’t be seen that are never tossed by life’s storms. For our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is our ever-present help in our times of trouble. Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you don’t see. For what we see, that which is tossed by life’s storms is temporary, but that which we don’t see, those things that are never tossed by life’s storms are eternal. Every storm is an opportunity for us to reach out and grab a tighter grip on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Surviving trials that test our love and still being able to love is a beautiful thing. It’s only when we go through trials with someone and they stay faithful to us can we know that their love is genuine. It is the same with the Lord. Jesus told us that in this life, we will have storms, but He has overcome this life.
The Anchor in Your Storm
Jesus is our anchor in life’s storms. Life storms do exactly what I just shared; they toss us, break us, bruise us, and damage us. There is nothing like the formerly solid things of your life suddenly becoming tossed like we’re in a ship on a rough sea. Everything that was once was solid begins to be tossed. Things you just laid around and didn’t pay attention to suddenly become missile hazards and they begin falling from the loosely placed positions on the shelves of your life. Forty-five-degree rolls of a ship and your life takes everything you once held tightly to, off-kilter. It is then, we realize that it’s Jesus and Jesus alone we’re to be holding on to. It is our love and trust in Him, the One who is with us through the storms. For no matter what, Paul writes, nothing can separate us from God’s love for us. It is God’s love we hold on to as a raft in a stormy sea. It is our love that we allow to be tested so that we have something to offer our Lord; something greater than pure gold, our tested faith.
The Love Test
I want to challenge you to begin to see the pressure in your life differently. Begin to see it as a “love test”, a “trust test”, for your confidence/faith in Jesus through it all. Remember, whatever you focus on becomes the biggest thing in your life. At one point, Jesus came to His disciples walking on the water in a storm. He asked Peter to step out on the water, in the storm. Peter did and began walking on the water, but at one point, Peter took his focus off Jesus and put it on the storm and the storm became bigger in his eyes than Jesus. Up to this point, Jesus had empowered him to walk on top of the circumstances of his life during the storm he was in. When Peter changed his focus, he began to suffer the consequences of the storm and lost the solid traction he had in Jesus which enabled him to walk upon the water and he began to sink. It’s important to know, Jesus didn’t change, Peter changed, he changed his focus from the One Who could empower him to walk on top of the pressures he was experiencing, the stormy waters, in his life at the time. Peter then returns his focus to Jesus, cries out for help, and Jesus reached out and saves him.
Shift Your Focus
Shift your focus from that which is causing you the pressure to Jesus to the pressure He went through for you. There was so much pressure on Jesus when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was so much pressure on Him that His blood began to come out of the pores of His body. He was about to take on everything that mankind, including us, had done wrong upon His life. He had never done one thing wrong. He was and is the “Perfect Son” to God. It was His love, now being tested, that led Him not only to leave the splendors of heaven where He was with His Father to be born as a man but to pay the price for the sin of the world. Here He was all God and all man, and though God, He never chose to operate in of His God qualities. He wanted to “feel” what we go through in life’s pressure and storms. He wanted to experience all the things that we go through and yes, even the temptations we have to give up and allow the current of life to take Him wherever it wants to, but He never let the current take Him away. His love for you, me, and all mankind and His love for the Father brought Him through this great pressure. For the Garden was the beginning of his pain, which really was the pain that He took in our place. He was beaten beyond recognition. He was bruised. He was whipped till His flesh came off His back. Why? Because He wanted to pass the test of love for the Father and you to make healing available to you. Then He allowed men to place Him on a cross, drive nails in his feet and hands and hang Him to be crucified upon the cross. His love was and is so genuine as His last few words were kindness towards those who were abusing Him and crucifying Him. He asked His Father, “Father, forgive them…” Wow, now that is love, that is passing the “Love Test” with an A+. Jesus demonstrated to us that in life’s greatest storms, we can trust God and even forgive those who are being used by the adversary to do these harmful things to us. Finally, “It was finished,” Jesus said, and then He committed Himself into the trust of His Father; God. Even in death, Jesus knew God can be trusted. When we shift our focus from our own storms and focus on what Jesus went through for us, His tested love for us, proven genuine on the cross gives us the love perspective of God. In our storms, under the pressures of life, we can say “Into Your hands, I commit myself.” In other words, “God, you’ve got this, and I love and trust you.” Paul wrote in a letter when the Holy Spirit led him to write it, “All things work out for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purposes.” It’s going to all work out just as God planned it when you trust Him through the pressure, through the storms of your life.
Become a Source
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son, though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV)
Notice, though Jesus is and was God’s Son, He learned obedience. If Jesus the Son of God had to learn obedience, we too have to learn. You see obedience is how we love God. Jesus spoke about it saying, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:9-10 (NIV)
Training for Reigning
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV)
Hardship, trials, pressure, and life’s storms are not a surprise to God, they just are to us. He uses them to help shape us, mold us, and yes, discipline us. The word discipline has become a negative word to so many in today’s society. Denying God’s discipline doesn’t eliminate it, it just confuses you when it happens.
A good father or parent disciplines their child if they love them. How would the child know unless he or she was taught? How would they know how to read, how to have good hygiene, how to treat others, how to be safe, how to know God, less their parent disciplined them? Discipline is teaching; teaching someone something. Human fathers or parents are imperfect, but God, our Father is perfect. He’s proven His love for us by giving His One and only Son, Jesus, to die for us to pay the price for our sins, so we can choose Jesus to be the Lord of our lives and be in relationship with Him. Now that is tested and proven love of our Father. Though God may not cause the storm, He never allows a storm or trial to go to waste. He will use it to teach us more and more about Himself, ourselves, others, and His Kingdom. He is not only training us up for this life, but for eternity. This life is a time to learn and be discipled so that in the life to come, eternity, He can entrust us with greater things. As Jesus explained in the parable of the talents, when we are faithful with a few things in this life, God will place us over many things. You could call life’s hardship “Training for Reigning,” not just for this lifetime, but even for the lifetime to come; in eternity.
Jesus learned obedience by what He suffered. There is something about going through times of suffering, storms of life, trials that bring us to a place of making clearer decisions. These are the times we are able to see more clearly the things we once thought we couldn’t let go of or just had to have, including relationships, we are able to see what God is leading us to do in these matters. I once heard a minister say something that really fits right here in what I’m sharing with you. He said, “When I first got into ministry, I had a lot of answers and very few questions. But now that I’ve been in ministry for these many years, I have lots of questions and very few answers, but I will give my life for those answers.” Life’s trials humble us and make us more dependent on God. A person’s pride would see this as a negative thing, but God sees it as a wonderful thing. For He rejects the proud but gives grace to the humble. He will never turn away from a humble person. Humility is defined as being totally dependent on God and having respect for other people. It is a good and right thing to trust God, and trust God we must even under great pressure. He was God before your great pressure, or life storm, He is God in your storm, and He will be God after your storm when the pressure is gone. The question is, will your faith, your love, stand the test? If Jesus is who you focus upon through the pressure it will, and you’ll be the better for it.
When we go through trials and stay faithful to Jesus, it is in these moments we are getting to “know Jesus” more in the “fellowship of His suffering” as Paul wrote when He was longing to know Jesus better. It’s not the suffering as much as it is “loving through the suffering” keeping your faith through it all.
Once you make it through these intense times of pressure, life’s storms and your faith and love remain, just like Jesus, through Jesus, you too become a source. This is more of what Paul was writing in his letter when he mentions the pressure he was under. He wrote, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV)
It is the trials of our lives and us staying faithful to our God in them, even storms meant to destroy us but doesn’t succeed, which magnifies Christ Jesus to others. It is then, like the writer of Hebrews wrote, we like Jesus, become a source for others. Our trials, once completed, bring us to a place of transcendence, where we no longer see life or life’s pressure and storms the same again. It is then, this transcendence gives us a greater understanding of the Lord, life and our mindfulness or as Paul wrote, where we “know Him more” or more about Him and we are able to be there for others in their life’s pressures and storms more effectively. It is when we “feel” the “pressure” that someone else is going through, empathizing with them, they will be able to understand our compassion for them and we can minister to them, even out of our own brokenness and under our own pressures. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to know Jesus more intimately when life’s pressures and storms begin to toss your life. This is your one chance, one life; you have to demonstrate your love for God by imitating those who have gone before you to God and others.
Greg Lancaster Ministries