History tells of a courageous Christian who was standing before one of the Roman emperors who was persecuting the church. The emperor was demanding that Christians abandon their faith, deny the Lord, and declare Caesar as Lord. But this Christian refused. So the emperor threatened, "Give up Christ, or I will banish you."
Did you know that everything you have experienced up to this point in your life can be used for good? That isn't to say you haven't experienced hardship. That isn't to say bad things haven't happened to you. But it is to say that God can work them out for good.
Without a doubt, Romans 8:28 is one of the greatest verses in the Bible. It is one that is claimed quite often by believers, especially during times of hardship. And so it should be.
Have you ever had a significant reunion with a member of your family? Maybe it was someone you thought you would never see again or someone you had been separated from for many years.
An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. To say you are a follower of Jesus Christ and yet harbor unforgiveness in your heart is simply wrong.
The story is told of Sam Houston, hero of Texas history, who gave his life to the Lord in the later years of life and asked to be baptized. He was taken down to a little country stream, and the pastor said, "General Houston, you should take your glasses off because I am going to immerse you in water." There also were some papers in General Houston's pocket, so he took those out as well.
God specializes in putting us in situations where only He can delivers us. That way, we can't "thank our lucky stars" or compliment ourselves on our own cleverness or resourcefulness. Rather, we must say, "Only God could have done this." The Lord wants to receive the glory for what He does. And He clearly says in Scripture that He will not give His glory to another (see Isaiah 42:8).
I know it is hard to imagine sometimes what God is up to in your life. You see a blank canvas, but God sees a finished painting. You see a piece of coal, but God sees a refined diamond. You see an untalented person, but God sees a mighty man or woman of God.
A fisherman who caught crabs would keep them in a bucket without a lid. Someone noticed this and asked him, "Don't you have to keep a lid on that bucket?"
A mother who wanted to teach her daughter the joy of giving gave her both a quarter and a dollar to take to church one Sunday morning. She told her daughter that she could put in either one; the choice was hers. As they were leaving church, the mother asked her daughter what she ended up giving to the Lord.
A little girl climbed up on the lap of her great-grandmother and studied her white hair and wrinkles. She said, "Grandma, did God make you?"
One night, probably when David was watching over his sheep, he looked up at the incredible stars and made this statement: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (Psalm 8:3-4).
If you are planning your future right now, if you are thinking about what course you want to follow in life, ask God for His direction.
A minister who was conducting a funeral service wanted to speak of some of the wonderful things about the deceased. But this poor guy said the wrong thing. He boldly proclaimed, "What we have here is only the shell," gesturing toward the coffin. Then he added, "But the nut has gone." He didn't want it to come out that way. But that is a pretty accurate statement of what happens when we die.
I read a story about a little dog named Mugsy who was walking across the street one day and, tragically, was hit by a truck. His sad owners took Mugsy down to the pet cemetery and buried him. They were so sorry they would never see their precious little dog again.
In Revelation 6 we read about those who were put to death for their faith. They are in heaven, aware of the injustice, aware of the fact there were fellow servants still on earth being mistreated. So they prayed this prayer to the Father: "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?" (verse 10). In other words, Hey, Lord, this isn't right. When are You going to correct it?
The great British preacher C. H. Spurgeon said, "Any fool can sing in the day. . . . It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by. . . . Songs in the night come only from God; they are not the power of man."
When we find ourselves in trying circumstances, often the temptation is to strike out at the person who helped bring those circumstances upon us. Or, we want to blame someone for our state of affairs. We may even become mad at God for allowing this in our lives. Or, we might wallow in self-pity.
A number of years ago, we held a Harvest Crusade in Colorado. When we arrived, it was around seventy degrees, and the sun was shining. Our crusade was to begin the next evening. But as we watched the news that night, we learned that a cold front was moving in. The next morning there was snow on the ground. That is how quickly the weather can change in a place like Colorado. The sun is shining, and the next thing you know, there's a blizzard.
There was a time in my life when I could remember every week and month and year. Now I remember decades more easily than I remember individual years. Time seems to go by so quickly.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Babylon, which meant that he was in close proximity to the king at all times. A cupbearer would drink what the king was about to drink. If it was poisonous, then that was the end of his job — and his life, for that matter. But the cupbearer was more than someone who simply tasted what the king drank. He often would become an adviser to the king, someone who influenced him. It was a very prestigious position in the palace. A cupbearer would have lived in affluence and influence.
Years ago, when I was in military school, we were given five cents each week to spend at the canteen (that is where they had the candy). I tried to stretch that five cents as far as I could, but I really wanted to buy more. We also were given a dime to put in the offering every Sunday at chapel. But one Sunday when the offering came, I started thinking about how much candy a dime would buy. So I kept the dime. Then I bought a bunch of candy. I also got a stomachache, and I felt guilty all week long. Even as a small child, I understood that dime belonged to the Lord and that I had taken something that was God's.
Any time a pastor raises the topic of finances, some people get a little uncomfortable. But the Bible certainly has a lot to say about money. It is the main subject of nearly half the parables Jesus told. In addition, one out of every seven verses in the New Testament deals with this topic. Scripture offers five hundred verses on prayer, fewer than five hundred on faith, and more than two thousand verses dealing with the subject of money.
In Mark's gospel, Jesus made a fascinating statement that some have misunderstood. Speaking of believers, He said, "They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:18). Some, of course, have misunderstood this and have held snake-handling services. But that is not trusting the Lord; it is testing the Lord.
Some years ago I went to the Rose Parade. One of the most memorable sights of this impressive parade is when I saw a man riding down Colorado Boulevard on the back of a buffalo. I had never seen anything quite like it. I have seen buffaloes in the wild, but I had never seen anyone actually ride one. With nothing more than a bit and a bridle, the rider came galloping down the street on this beast. It was unbelievable. It just shows you what a little bit can do.