“Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?” These are the three most important questions anyone could ask themselves at any time. Fifty years ago, I came to the realization that for these questions, I had no answers. Over time, this troubled me more and more.
Through my process of reasoning, I had always believed there was a God – but I did not know Him personally. You can only know God as He chooses to reveal Himself, and He has chosen to reveal Himself through His written Word, the Bible. Fifty years ago, I was given transforming exposure to the Bible by someone who believed it to be God’s inspired Word. As my friend presented it, verse by verse and page by page, I listened.
I finally decided that if what this man was teaching me was true, and that I could in fact know God personally, I wanted to know Him, even being willing to meet Him on his terms, rather than my own. Basically, as someone has described it, “I came out of the cave with my hands up.” Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
In response to this invitation, by a simple prayer, I asked Christ to come into my life – to take control of my life and make me the person He wanted me to be. I then began to read and study the Bible for myself and eventually found answers to the three important questions above and many other questions as well.
I often hear people say that if you will just allow God to take control of your life, everything will be wonderful. That, however, has not been my experience; I have known the hardest times in my life since coming to faith. To me, the challenges I have faced since becoming a follower of Jesus were a lot harder than flying combat over North Vietnam.
My first major faith crisis involved one Scripture verse that seemed very troubling to me. It said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I prayed during difficult and painful circumstances, and even gave thanks, but then I would have to tell God: “You know I don’t really mean it God, because how can I be thankful for this situation.”
Then I began to consider a verse in the book of Hebrews: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews11:6). I realized that I could live much of my life without needing to exercise a great deal of faith. It did not take much faith to move on in life when things are going my way. It was quite different, however, when it felt like my world was coming apart.
At those times I could continue only by trusting God and leaving the outcome in His hands. That requires a lot of faith. When we understand faith is the only thing that pleases God, those hard times we each encounter can be seen as opportunities to please Him, rather than obstacles. I discovered that I could then give thanks in difficulties and every other circumstance I might face and truly mean it – because God must really love me to give me so many opportunities to please Him and to grow/mature in my faith.
What about you? When you face difficult challenges, when times of adversity confront you that cannot be easily overcome, do you see these difficulties as obstacles – or as opportunities?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more, consider the following passages: Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11-13, 33:3; Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:2-7
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