For Real?

November 17, 2008

I must admit to you that my faith has been severely challenged during the past six months.  I know that statement is not supposed to be spoken because we are “faith people.” Sorry to disappoint you. I know that there are many of you who are also going through some very difficult times, so I will speak on your behalf, as well. 
There are disappointments that come into our lives on a regular basis. As ministers we tend to think that if we hide these disappointments we are helping those who follow us to walk strong in the word of God. I disagree. The greatest testimonies that have encouraged me the most have come from those who have not been afraid to relate their “downs” on the way to their “ups.”  Until I believe what God’s word says about a situation my words are not the truth. I cannot fake it until I make it. I must believe, and then say it; then I can make it (Mark 11:23 and Hebrews 10:23).
Ministers are plagued with the same problems that everyone else faces. The way we handle these problems can influence the growth and maturity of the sheep. In my experience I have discovered that the many challenges and problems in our lives fall into three basic categories:
§  Our relationships
§  Our health
§  Our finances (or resources).
During the last several months I have been challenged in all three.  I have had to fight drastically to not fall into a cynical pattern concerning relationships.  Some relationships have angered me; others have greatly disappointed me and then there are those that hurt so tremendously I felt cut to the quick.  I daily avoid the thought, ‘I will not extend my love ever again.’ Then I remember that it is God’s love that should be extended through me. Aha! Faith now kicks in and I take on, once more, the process of developing relationships.
At the age of 58 I must constantly decide on whether I want to give in to the creaking and cracking of a body that is growing older or do I want to be as Moses, whose eyesight was not dim and possessing strength at the age of 120. Every curse can be reversed. This includes genetic curses, too.  The other night I woke up with chest pains and was reminded that it was at my age that my mother experienced her first major heart attack. I had to push those thoughts away and remember that I had not yet fulfilled my destiny. Then faith kicks in once more and I am “good to go.” Not only will I trust God, but it will be easier as I begin to make smarter choices in what I do in and with this body.
Every minister has, at some point in time, trusted God concerning their resources, only to find their dreams caught in a prison called time. Of course our “needing it right now” and God’s giving it to us “right now” seem to cross in the eternity/time zone of our lives. As our dream seems to move further away from us, our faith is challenged. Did we really hear God say? What made me think I could do something like this? Was I out of my mind?
Sometimes the health of our body, mind and soul is wrapped up in the reality of unfulfilled dreams; dreams we were sure came from God. Now those same dreams seem rusty, out of date and completely out of our reach. After all, there is not one dream God gives that does not require the resources of time, talents and treasures. Where is my faith for this dream God gave me?
In the midst of failed relationships, creaking bones and dwindling resources the Holy Spirit has made sure that “my faith does not fail me.”
Several years ago when my church was going through a tremendous time of testing and trials Pastors Bud and Betty Miller of came for the first time to minister to my congregation. During the week that they were ministering I had a death in my family. They literally took over the church and ran things for me as I went through a very grievous time with my family. The other day I found the notes of one of their sermons during that time. It is helping me through a difficult time so I want to share it with you, too, in the event you, too, may be going through something.
Let me preface this by saying that I have known Bud and Betty Miller since 1995 and have walked with them through some extreme times that have tested their faith in every area I have been talking about. The victories of their faith are continuing to unfold on a daily basis. I have seen them with plenty and have seen them when “plenty” seemed very far away. I watched Betty minister under extreme physical discomfort. Yet her faith was not feigned. There was no “fake it ’til you make it” type talk. You knew when she spoke she believed the words of God she was saying. The following are the notes. I trust they will encourage you as they have been encouraging me over these last few days.
1.    Stay focused on God and the vision He gave you (know that your trouble is not coming from Him.)
2.    Avoid placing blame on others for the adverse circumstances you are facing. Be humble and open to God’s correction in your own life.
3.    Stay in a praising attitude and resist complaining.
4.    Receive your strength, guidance and encouragement from the Lord through prayer and staying in the Word.
5.    Discern and resist satan’s lies that are designed to demoralize an destroy you; especially through fear. (Guidance that is different from what your original vision is or anything that works against that is designed by the enemy).
6.    Look for God, alone, to come and save (deliver) you.
These are the supporting scriptures:
Isaiah 35 (the whole chapter);1 Peter 4:12-19; Peter 5:5-10; 1 John 5:18 
So, the process of developing faith only comes where there are trials, testing, challenges and suffering. The area of relationships is a place the enemy likes to get us in the most because we are easier to pick off when we assume we are walking alone.  Dr. Charles Trombley of Charles Trombley Ministries in Broken Arrow, OK says this: You and God are a majority. He says we should name our ministries, God and Sons, Incorporated.
I like that thought. You see, something that I am learning continually, is to do Hebrews 13:7-8: Heb 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday and today, [yes] and forever.
I am blessed to have a pastor, Apostle Melvin L. Tisdale, who does more than talk the talk; he also walks the walk.
I have mentioned these three ministries purposely because they are all precious in my life. They have exampled before me that difficult times come. Sometimes those difficult times may seem insurmountable. However, walking through them with God works every single time. I have seen the result of their conduct.  While the challenges of bruised and sometimes abandoned relationships abound; the health of their mind, body and soul is challenged and the resources for their dreams seem far away, they consistently move into faith toward God (not for the things), trusting their entire lives in the hands of their creator. Then they just simply trust Him for the outcome.
We all need people like this in our lives: Those in the scriptures and those who are leading us and those who are our contemporaries.
1 John 2:6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.