God wants you to see Him as your only real hope. — Stephen Arterburn in The God of Second Chances
Authentic Christianity in a Place of Pain
by Stephen Arterburn, from The God of Second Chances
Meet Stephen Arterburn
Change and struggle are necessary to the maturation process
What does it mean to have an authentic Christian faith? What does it require?
Some Christians act as though they have achieved a level of faith that places them above the tough realities of life. They lead us to believe they are “first-class” Christians who have found the secret to a near perfect life, devoid of pain. This concept is not only wrong; it is toxic.
The authentic Christian life doesn’t involve attaining perfection, and it doesn’t mean living free from struggle; instead, it deals head-on with the issue of pain.
Rather than trying to avoid pain, as authentic Christians we allow struggle to shape our hearts and our faith. We allow humility to draw us farther out of ourselves and closer to God. It is not an easy life, but it is a rich life, full of growth and tough moments that remind us of who we are and how far we have to go in our spiritual journey. In the face of pain and struggle, our faith will give us comfort, guidance, and hope.
The biblical view of life is that it often gets worse before it gets better. Salvation, the free gift of God, is sometimes painful.
Listen to the apostle Peter address the value of suffering:
Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:6-9
In Romans Paul also described this refining process of suffering:
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. — Romans 5:3-5
This, of course, does not mean we should act happy when we find out a leg has to be amputated or we have a terminal illness. It does mean that one day we will rejoice at the adversities we faced and the way Christ brought us through them.
In my life suffering has taught me some of the deepest lessons of faith. For seven years I waited for a child. I prayed and begged God, but nothing happened. For seven long years we did everything that the infertility doctors suggested, but nothing worked. With each passing month our despair grew as we realized we could never have children.
Finally, through circumstances only God could have arranged, we were able to adopt our daughter, Madeline. She has become the light of our lives. This child is even more precious to us because we know she is a direct gift from God. Nothing we could have done would have brought Madeline to us.
Although the suffering seemed unbearable at times, the ordeal taught lessons that could not have been learned otherwise.
Pain can be a powerful teacher because it forces us to understand that change and struggle are necessary to the maturation process.
The End of Self
Sometimes our lives seem to get worse because God wants to show us that He is our only hope. If we can control something on our own, we will never come to know the greater power of God. God loves to step in and prove His faithfulness to us. No matter what the circumstances, God is still in control and will act according to His eternal plan. Isaiah 30:18 tells us the Lord is a God of justice for those who wait on Him. He will not abandon us in our times of helplessness. We must trust that He is able to change the worst situation into a time of hope and joy.
Donna lived with her husband and two babies on the tiny pension he received from the navy. Their rent was more than half of their income. Needless to say, the money often ran out. One month, their financial situation was so bad that Donna literally had no money left to buy laundry soap to wash her babies’ dirty diapers.
Donna got on her knees in the kitchen and prayed, “God, I’ve never needed You like I need You now. I have nothing, and I need You to provide soap to wash these diapers.”
Hearing a noise at the front door, Donna got up and went to open it. Someone had left a sample of soap in a plastic bag on her doorstep. It was a promotional giveaway. But Donna knew better. In utter helplessness she had cried out to God for help. Some would call the provision a coincidence, but Donna knew it was an act of God.
God wants you to see Him as your only real hope.
Through the pain, God will act to show you that He cares for you personally and deeply. Rather than give up on Him, you must surrender faith in yourself so you can tap into God’s divine power.
When things appear to be most impossible, God can show us He is in control. Our trials can become landmarks on our spiritual journey.
We learn from Mark 10:27:
With man [it] is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.
Countless people in the Bible faced “impossible” situations, only to be delivered by a loving God. Gideon’s armies, greatly outnumbered, defeated their enemies. The Israelites, pinned against the Red Sea by a fierce Egyptian army, crossed to safety on dry land. Paul, imprisoned in a dark cell, was able to sing songs of praise. In our troubles we must find the courage to believe that nothing is impossible with God.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 11:39, which I like to paraphrase, “He stinketh.” If there is something in your life that stinks, just remember that Lazarus, four days dead, also reeked to high heaven. Even when all hope was gone, Jesus showed His remarkable power and love by resurrecting Lazarus. If He can do that, He can give you new life and hope.
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Excerpted with permission The God of Second Chances by Stephen Arterburn, copyright Thomas Nelson.
What stinks in your life? What feels hopeless? Lifeless? Impossible? In your place of pain, how is the Lord shaping and changing your heart? Join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you about authentic Christianity in the middle of struggle and suffering! ~ Devotionals Daily
Save 50% off The God of Second Chances: Experiencing His Best For the Best of Your Life
The God of Second Chances by Stephen Arterburn
Regular Price: $9.99
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A second chance . . . all of us have needed one at some point in our lives.
As children, we beg our parents to give us “just one more chance.” As adults, we turn our pleadings to God for another opportunity, just to start over again.
In this revised and updated version of The God of Second Chances, author Stephen Arterburn takes us through his own journey of pleasure-seeking and ambition to a life-changing encounter with the reality of God’s grace. Arterburn is painfully honest, sharing his personal experiences with sexual immorality that culminated in the abortion of his child. It was then, desperate and at the end of himself, that Arterburn cried out to God for a second chance.
Through his willingness to share his struggles, Arterburn helps us to confront our failures and reach out for God’s restorative touch. He encourages us to look beyond ourselves and discover the joy in serving others and investing in the things that really matter. In doing so, we will learn what it is to be restored to God through unconditional surrender and receive healing from the scars left by our own mistakes.
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