It Must Be Nothing Of Ourselves

Many of you who know me well, know that my Bible hero is the Apostle Paul.  His Holy Spirit inspired letters have greatly influenced me, rousing me to look to the heavens in the middle of adversity.  From that place of focus I have always, without exception, found the strength and courage needed to face anything at all.  I thank God for the example of Paul in helping me to determine always to keep looking up!  When I’m going through difficult times, I like to look again into Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth.

In Paul’s second letter, he shares with the church some of the tremendous suffering he has endured, all for the name of Jesus Christ.  In II Corinthians 11: 24-27, we discover that Paul has lived through being thrown in jail, given thirty-nine lashes during three different arrests.  He was stoned once and shipwrecked an astounding three times!  During one shipwreck he floated on pieces of the broken ship for a day and a night.  He faced floods from rivers and had to always take caution in his travels because many robbers were about.  How did all this affect Paul?  Look at what he writes in II Corinthians 1:8:  “I thought you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia.  We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die.  But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can even raise the dead.” 

Isn’t that amazing?  To have experienced any one of the above would be enough, we tell ourselves, for anyone to endure, but all those things?  I try to imagine how I would feel if time and time again some calamity, nothing of my own fault, were to fall upon me.  What would my attitude be?  What would yours be?

We can always encourage ourselves with the reminder that God allows nothing into our lives without using it for our good. He makes us stronger —  if we let Him.  God so knows the human spirit.  On this topic, my father wrote, “Many people will not turn to God until there is no one else to turn to.   Many people will not trust God until they have used up all other resources.  Many people do not learn that God is enough until God is all they have.”

When we read of Paul’s adversities, there is a theme that emerges.  It is a great truth to learn, that God’s purpose for His children, above everything else, is to destroy in us forever any possible confidence in the flesh.  God wants us to trust Him alone.  It’s not our gifts or talents, our abilities, our experiences, our knowledge or our own wisdom that will get us through life’s terrible times. The key is to know beyond all doubt, that getting through any suffering, is nothing of ourselves but everything of God.

Surviving The Storms

Do you remember the story of the Apostle Paul when he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta? The incident is recorded in Acts 27. Paul was actually shipwrecked three times in his life. He was beaten for his faith, arrested, imprisoned. He often went without food and was cold during winter days due to lack of adequate clothing — but Paul was a happy man. He always sensed God’s presence with him. He maintained peace and joy in the midst of every hardship. How could this be?

Many Christians make a grave mistake in their Christianity; the mistake is, they don’t really follow Jesus. Several weeks ago, a Christian said to me, “I don’t go to church or read the Bible very often, but I pray all the time.” A huge smile spread across her face as if praying in itself took care of everything. I felt sad inside. You see, she was building her foundation to face the storms of life on nothing more than sand.

Jesus talks about this in Matthew 7:24-27. It’s the story of one man who builds his house upon a rock. The foundation is sturdy. Then, when the storms come, his house stands strong. Another man builds his house upon sand. Then, when the storms come, his house collapses. We all face storms of life: financial concerns, family worries, health issues, career goals, the list can go on and on. In some people’s lives, when any of the above happens, they crumble. They question if God really cares, they fall into a heap of doubt and fear. You see, they built their faith upon sand.

The Apostle Paul, by contrast, built his faith upon all the teachings of Jesus. The Scripture was near and dear to his heart. He knew the holy instructions in how to live life well in the face of any difficulty. In Matthew 7:24, as a lead-in to the story of the two houses built on sand and rock, Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and follows it is wise, like a person who builds his house upon a rock.” We must remember that we can’t follow the teachings of Jesus if we don’t know what the teachings are; hence, studying God’s Word to really know what it says. When we discover the treasures buried within the pages of Holy Scripture, we come to understand that we have at our fingertips, everything we need to get through any storm at all.