Posts Tagged ‘Trials of life’

Blue sign points the way to happiness

I heard someone the other day make this statement to me about how unhappy his life is and all of the troubles he is going through right now. He said that after all the bad stuff he has had to deal with, he believes now he has paid the price and is due some happy times because he deserves to be happy.

Is that how our lives are supposed to be? We struggle with daily trials and difficulties whether we are married or single. We deal with our kids, our jobs, and our families and once we reach a certain point, the scale tips and then things start to go our way? Is that part of God’s plan?

But what does God think? Does He say, “Well this guy has been on my “bad” list for 6 months but now I am going to switch him over to my good list to balance things out”.

Sometimes I think we work hard in our minds to assume that God thinks like we do.

Everyday, all of us hear that something isn’t fair or, we need to balance that out when all along God never promised us happiness and bliss while here on earth.

I know what I am about to say will not excite anyone but the reality is, who are you or who am I that we would challenge God about anything? The idea that God needs to bring me happiness in this life or else is ludicrous and frankly, just selfish. I have said this before, God is God and we are NOT. If we approach God on those terms, HE WILL NOT HEAR US. The Bibles tells us to, humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. James 4:10

There is a character in the Bible that maybe you have heard of or maybe not called Paul. Before he was Paul however, he was called Saul and before he was an Apostle, he was on a mission to exterminate Christians from the early church (Acts 9:1). Saul was NOT a nice guy. But as we see in the same series of verses (Acts 9:1-17), God had a very different idea about who Saul was and how He would use him for His own purposes. God’s intent was to save Saul and use an actual enemy of Christianity as a force for His good.

My main point in using this story today is to simply draw your attention to a single verse from Christ at the point of Saul’s conversion.

For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. Acts 9:16

When I read this, my first thought was Christ was getting retribution from Saul for all of the persecution he inflicted upon Christians by making him suffer too. But then I realized that was not the case at all, Christ was foreshadowing the many statements that Paul himself would make as he walked his own Christian journey.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

 

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

 

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.     Philippians 1:27-30 (NKJV)

 

Through his own suffering, Paul experienced an amazingly, intimate relationship with Christ that he would never give up for anything he had before. There are so may examples of how Paul went through prison and torture and still praised God.

Read this from Paul’s own words:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move.

 I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27

 

So am I suggesting that we focus on just suffering for God? No, I’m not. What I am suggesting is that my original question is flawed because we are NOT on this earth to be “JUST” happy. God never promised us that. He never told us that life on this earth would be pure bliss and our existence is just about being happy. I do think the world we live in does make that a priority. What God did tell us is that HE WOULD BE WITH US as we walked down the path. One thing I can say with confidence, bad things will happen but in Him, we can find ways to move forward even though we may be in pain. God does NOT owe you or me anything. You have been given a freewill to choose either the easy path or the hard one. (Luke 13:24)

I encourage you to read what Paul wrote about the pain of his life and his journey as a way to help inspire you on yours. (Philippians 3: 7-11) If we can gain the right perspective about our life here on earth and NOT think that God owes us anything, it will change the way you think and pursue God but more importantly, the suffering you may experience along the way will be different. How?

God will use your suffering to make you stronger in Him. I know it sounds crazy but if you rely on God while on the path, He will get you through safely and over to the other side.

I leave you with one more word from Paul:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11

 

Until next time guys…

WTBtower-of-babel2Some of you may have read the Old Testament before and remember the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). To help you recall, this story comes right after the epic saga of Noah in Biblical sequence. What I have always found to be sad in this story is how in so few years after the flood, where we saw God destroy everyone and every thing because of evil everywhere on the earth (Genesis 6:5)… that here we see once again, the people of the earth essentially following the same path. When will they learn?

God had already promised to not destroy the earth again (Genesis 8:21) but when He comes down and sees what the people are doing and saying, I can only imagine what He was thinking, something like, “here we go again”. Possibly? But I would like to give you another perspective on this issue that I heard shared recently that I found enlightening.

All my life I just took this story at face value; In other words, God came down, saw these people full of themselves to the point that they decided to build a tower to Heaven. In their minds, they were working every day on this project and as it grew taller and taller, they hoped they would somehow meet God in the air? From our vantage point now, that idea seems extremely crazy but let’s go with it for a minute; In the meantime, God comes down, sees what they are doing and instead of wiping them out…again…He confuses them by changing their languages. In other words, one minute you can communicate with the guy next to you and the next minute he is speaking French. Very quickly after that happened, the people collected together in their language groups and then went off and settled elsewhere leaving the tower project unfinished.

I would like to submit the idea to you that on that day, when God confused them with different languages, He saved them from sure destruction. Think of this scenario this way:

  • These people were doing what THEY wanted to do and NOT what God wanted them to do…
  • By pursuing what they wanted to do, they excluded God.
  • Because their pursuit was for their own glory and NOT Gods, this is a quick ticket to a very bad place.

Guys, I share this with you because I know it is easy to get sidetracked along the way in our lives. The pursuit of what we want to do is a very powerful thing and can or will overwhelm us to the point of complete exclusion from God. That is exactly what these people from the tower began to say:

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4

I am telling you that God saved mankind that day by confusing them with different languages. They were on their way to sure destruction with the intent inside their hearts…

I am telling you the very same thing today. If your existence is to make a name for yourself at the exclusion of God, you too are on the wrong road and I caution you right now to recognize this and refocus back on Christ.

Let me leave you with this verse in Proverbs:

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

An easier way to look at this verse is simply this:

Commit your plans to God FIRST…and they will succeed…

 

Until next time Guys…

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It occurred to me recently that after the last few years of posts here on IronManStrength that I could possibly be taking something for granted with my audience…Simply put, I write to men who as believers, travel down the road of life and deal with everything that entails…pain, difficulty as well as happiness and joy and all of the above. But one thing may be true about you that I have failed to address and that is the very simple act of becoming a Christian.

You see, you can read this blog and hopefully feel somewhat encouraged and even moved to change…but if you have not placed Christ inside your personal heart, then you have missed the crux of what I speak about. Otherwise, these posts are just stories for men who hope to feel better. Although I confess that my goal is to give a strong support to guys out there who just need a lift, at the heart of why I write is just simply…God. I believe that He changed me on the inside from a tough piece of old leather to someone who is a little bit more affected by the heart of God.

What that means to me is that all of us were put here for a reason…some of us know what that reason is…while others might still be searching…and that’s ok. As long as you are moving forward, that still counts as positive. My point is, along our way we gain callouses when dealing with life and that is NOT the way God intended things to be. His original plan was far better…but that’s another blog post altogether. God understands that the journey you are on can be painful and over time, that pain changes you, on the inside and out. The reality is that we, MEN, tend to become like that old piece of leather I was talking about earlier…literally so calloused ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
that we miss out on why we are here…that is where being a believer comes into this conversation. The only way we can hear Christ is to be tapped into the heart of God and the only way to tap in…is to be a believer…

So with the help of some friends, we put together a very simple “How to become a Believer” including the prayer you must pray in order to let God know YOU mean business. Please know this is a very simple process but once you commit, you will need to get connected with a church that believes similarly to you so you can keep your heart linked to Him. Walking with God isn’t one time and forget commitment. God desires a relationship with you, and that means everyday…

How to become a Christian

  1. Understand and believe in your heart that God Loves YOU. I know this can be very painful for some of you out there simply due to the fact that this world does NOT exude love. Plainly put, this world sucks at giving love. But please understand me when I say that the God I serve loved YOU, so much that He sent His son to die so that we might have eternal life. In my book, that is an exhibition of the truest love there is…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life(John 3:16)

  1. God has an amazing plan for your life! You were NOT put on this earth be just vanilla, with no color and barely any taste. You were put on this earth for something special. Now I understand that for some people, the word life and special probably don’t go together but hear me when I say if you haven’t had God in your life up to this point, He is the one who can put things together in a way that you would not have even expected.

I have come that they (YOU) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

There are 5 verses in the book of Romans in the Bible that explain the “Road to Salvation” for all of us. Read these next…

  1. Very simply…because you were born into sin, you are separated from God.
    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)
  2. The Penalty for your sin is death.
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord(Romans 6:23)
  3. I have good news for you…the penalty for your sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  4. If you repent of your sin and then confess and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved from your sin! It is that easy…

For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

Once you read these verses and confess your sin to God…and most importantly, believe in your heart that God can do all of these things…then pray this prayer with me:
Lord Jesus, I am like everyone else – I can’t make it through life on my own. I am imperfect and I’m prone

to sin. I have come to realize that there’s nothing in the world I can do to make myself acceptable to You.

But I know that You have loved me so much that You were willing to submit to the cross and die on my

behalf. That is an act of grace so amazing, that I cannot understand it; I can only accept it. And I do. I

accept Your free gift, the gift of salvation and along with that, you into my heart, and I know that from this

moment on, I am saved. I am a child of God. And I give the rest of my life to serving You and experiencing

the joy that only You can offer. Fill me now, dear Lord, and raise me to walk in the newness of life. I thank

You and praise You! Amen.

Now that you are a “new creation” in Jesus Christ, the road ahead will be full of life-changing experiences. Growing in knowledge and understanding of the Bible and your Christian walk with God is essential for your spiritual growth.

If you prayed that prayer, I am so very happy for you. Your name was written in the most important book of all, The Lambs Book of Life and from this day forward, you are truly…not alone.

I have more for you next time but for now, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from IronManStrength Blog.

Until next time Guys…

 

 

 

 

 

 

penny-on-sidewalk

I found this story recently and I enjoyed it because it is a simple reminder for all of us to Trust God. I have written a great deal on IronManStrength blog about keeping our eyes focused on Him while in the midst of our storm. We have to trust in Him, no matter what we see going on around us…and as you will see from this simple story, sometimes God uses small, insignificant things to remind us to do just that…trust in Him. I don’t know who wrote this and it does appear to be a few years old, but I hope you receive its message as I did…

Several years ago, a friend of mine, and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at her husband’s employers home. My friend, Claudia, was nervous about the weekend because the boss was very wealthy with a very large home on the river as well as cars that cost more than her house.

The first day and evening went well, and Claudia was very happy to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The employer was very generous as a host and took them to only the finest restaurants. Claudia knew she would never have this opportunity to indulge in this type of extravagance again so she was enjoying herself immensely. As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Claudia and her husband when he stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Claudia wondered if she was supposed to pass him because there was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, he reached down and picked up the penny and he held it up and smiled while putting it inside his pocket as if he had found some great treasure. How crazy! What need did this wealthy man have for a single penny? What would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her and finally she could stand it no longer so she casually mentioned that her daughter had a coin collection and asked if the penny he found had some value?  A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before so what was the point of this?

20111207-PickUpPenny

“Look at it,” he said, “read what it says”

She read the words aloud, “United States of America”

“No, not that read further.”

“One cent?”

“No, keep reading.”

“In God we trust?”

“YES!”

“And?”

“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on an old coin. You see, whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it? God drops a message in front of me telling me to trust Him and who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I stop and pray to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick up the coin as a response to God; that I DO trust in Him. For a short time at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is Gods way of starting a conversation with me…Lucky for me, pennies are plentiful.”

When I was out today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up and realized that I had been worrying over things that I had no control over. I looked down and read the words, “In God we Trust” and began to smile. “Yes God, I get the message!”

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months…

I am very thankful that God is patient…

 

I hope you enjoyed…Until next time guys…

wimp

Guys, I am fixated right now on the idea of God making you and me stronger through trials and the difficult times in our lives. I would argue that the chaos of this world around us has ratcheted up its intensity to an even higher level right now…and from what I hear on the evening news, things look to only get worse. So now is the time to be strong in your faith and concrete in what you stand for. This blog has always been about sharpening, exercising and sparring in your Christian faith. I have never been silent about the fact that this life we are in is a war and you are in that war whether you believe me or not. You know whom we are fighting and hopefully, you know what the stakes are should you walk away…

That being said, I was reading recently one of Pastor David Jeremiah’s “Bible Strong” booklets where he spoke about the challenges we face in this life where many times God is at the center of the issue. What Pastor Jeremiah said was “God will take our problems and use them to make us better”, like iron sharpening iron, however before this can happen, God needs our cooperation. Instead of our normal human reaction of rebelling against Him because we don’t like what is happening to us, we should instead humble ourselves and allow God to carve and shape us into exactly the man He wants us to be.

Pastor also used the amazing example of Joseph in the Old Testament and all of the adversity he faced at the hands of both his brothers, who sold him into slavery and the Egyptians, who kept him prison for a long time. But through his time in prison, something happened to Joseph that would not have happened otherwise. Pastor Jeremiah alluded to this in his booklet and I would like to try to develop the thought even further.

While deep inside the Egyptian prison, Joseph spent much of his time in chains, which even included a collar around his neck. His days were dark and lonely spending the majority of his time alone in a cell…left only with his thoughts and his fear. Psalm 105:17-18 (NIV) says it like this:

and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles; his neck was put in irons.

 But another translation (Amplified) puts it in a different way…

He hath sent before them a man, for a servant hath Joseph been sold. They have afflicted with fetters his feet, Iron hath entered his soul,

Iron had entered his soul? I read that a few times before I began to grasp what the writer was saying…While Joseph was in that prison cell, he was changing. Obviously, it would be almost impossible not to. Prison hardens a man. Makes him mean and angry right? Not with Joseph…Even during what were the worst and the lowest times of his life, slavery and prison, Joseph never cursed God because of his situation. Honestly, cursing God would have been a very normal HUMAN reaction, but rather he simply stayed the course by serving Him knowing that God had a plan for him. But yet, he was still in prison, and that prison experience was shaping him into a very different man than when he had entered. The Psalmist said it perfectly and I repeat, “Iron had entered his soul”. So what does that really mean? As a result of the time spent in that hardened environment, God honed and carved Joseph into a leader of men. God used those lonely years to reach down deep inside Joseph, into his inner core, and transform him into a new man;

The kind of man who could handle the adversity of the next challenge;

 The kind of man who would not wilt or falter at the first sign of difficulty;

 The kind of man who knew that true strength was using God as his anchor.

Remember, God admires and blesses strength of character and faith. Faith that in this case, was prison forged into something iron strong. God had taken Joseph through one of the worst experiences one could ever have on this earth and prepared him for his next challenge, to be second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt…But that could NOT have happened without prison.

Worst to First…

Guys, clearly stated…God does not care for “Wimpy Christians”. I challenge you today to follow the mantra of this blog from the verse in Proverbs 27:17, where we are told that “as iron sharpens irons, so one man sharpens another”. Be strong in what you believe and understand that the trials of this life are intended to make you stronger…IF…you keep your eyes on Him…

Until next time guys…

Many years ago I worked for a company that decided they wanted to improve the teamwork amongst their management group. The ownership believed there were some folks in positions that didn’t play well together which makes for a difficult work environment. As a result, the owners decided to send the entire management team to a 2 day bonding experience high in the mountains. Personally, I had a great time because the majority of these challenges were  physical and very self challenging. For example, we got to scale a 100 foot tree and then repel back to the ground. But the exercise that truly impacted me, as well as the rest of us, was the fall back challenge. I remember standing up on a small 4 ft. high stand facing away from the group. The objective was for me to simply fall backward and trust that the group standing behind me, would catch me. As it turned out, I did fall and they did catch me, but for that split second, I wondered if they could handle my weight or what if there needed to be more people to catch me? All of those concerns ran through my mind right before I let go…

Now I know this is a very simple example of what I am trying to illustrate here but I think it will work. What if those questions I mentioned earlier never crossed my mind for this reason…because there was never any question that my teammates would catch me? What if I had NO fear and complete trust they would be there for me? What kind of relationship would I have had with them in order to have that kind of faith in them? That is exactly the kind of faith I marvel at when I look at the example of young David as he prepared to face the giant, Goliath. Fear was never the issue in his mind whereas any other soldier, it was paralyzing. He absolutely knew that when he stepped onto that battlefield he would be victorious…with no doubt whatsoever…total childlike faith in his God. I believe that even if Goliath would have had a Howitzer on that day, David would have beat him.

This is what David told Saul the King below:

The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the Lion and the paw of the Bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:37

So how does one come to that kind of faith in God? What did David do or for that matter, what did God do in order for David to believe in him with such utter childlike dependence? Can you imagine if you approached your own Christian walk like that? No matter what you attempted, your faith in God was so solid with the knowledge that he would catch you if you fell…The kind of faith that is almost as natural as breathing…its just automatic.

Guys, all of us face challenges and adversity everyday both at work AND at home. I would also be safe in saying that some of those challenges are almost beyond what we can bear…I challenge you today to face your life’s challenges as David did without fear and ready to believe in what God has for you. I certainly will not say it will all be glorious and wonderful by any means…but what I can tell you is that faith in Him is truly sustaining. We WILL make it through our trials and challenges because we believe HE will overcome for us…just like he did for David. I assure you that when David got up that morning, he had no idea that he would be fighting the largest human being on earth. Honestly, getting to know David after some study, I would say that he got up that morning,  knelt down, prayed and said, “Let’s  do this!” and headed off to face his day…

So guys, let’s get excited everyday in anticipation of what God has in store for us…and when the going gets tough…keep in mind that what God did for David…he will do for you!!!

Until next time Guys…