by Mike Ratliff
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)
Despite what the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity preachers say or those who preach nothing but positive messages to all who are Christians, the Word of God promises something very different. Like what? How about trials of various kinds? How about fiery trials? How about thorns in the flesh? These are used by God to produce in His children a stronger faith and a deeper steadfastness. Why is this necessary?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Spiritual maturity is the goal. If we view this walk with that motive then we will view our trials as necessary and will see that God us using them to drive a wedge between us and our dependence upon self and our flesh while depending entirely on Him by faith. These trials are designed to challenge our faith. That is their purpose. Therefore, when we see rampant apostasy all around us and the temptation comes to despair then that is trial designed to challenge our faith in the faithfulness of God to sustain His people and continue to build His church. If we give in to the despair then we have taken our eyes off of God and put them on the circumstances and that causes us to despair. On the other hand, if we turn to God in faith and simply trust Him through all this, we will not despair at all. The apostasy will still go on, but our rock is Christ, not these apostatizing Christian leaders. When we do this our faith grows stronger and we remain steadfast. This produces the effect of making us more mature in Christ.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8 ESV)
The ones who lack wisdom here are those who are struggling in their trials of various kinds. If they will turn to God instead of despairing, God will help them in their trial, but if they allow their emotions to control them causing them to go out of control then they will fall even further into despair.
As we studied the continue collapse into apostasy of the visible church we saw many come very close to this despair as there remained no church in their area that was untouched by this evil. I understand. I have been there. However, I also want to share with each one reading this that our God is good to us. He knows what is going on. He hears our prayers and cries of despair. He also provides.
From the time that my wife and I were ostracized out of our old church that was going Purpose Driven for at least two years we were churchless. Oh, we visited churches here and there, but neither of us could get our hearts into it. It was really interesting. I asked her one day how her walk was doing, her daily prayer time, her worship, et cetera. She said she was doing fine. She actually did better when we did not try to become part one of those churches that were not right for us. I told her that it was the same for me. God was taking care of us. I worshiped and prayed and studied my Bible. I listened to sermons. However, when we visited those churches it was as if there was a part of us taken over by what they were doing and we stopped doing what we were doing. It’s hard to explain. In any case, It was not until we found the church we attend now that all that changed. Our pastor preaches the Gospel. We worship the Lord. There is no gospel contextualization going on. There is no Diaprax allowed.
However, until we found that church, God did provide for us and it was because we both prayed and sought Him and stayed in His Word. We do not need to be in a Church building to do that. God answers the prayer of faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!