Affliction Is Certain, Faith Is A Choice

As I stood before the bailiff, staring him the eyes, he began to vividly explain the process in which they would incarcerate my wife pending a jail sentence. He explained how they would cuff her and walk her to a holding cell for processing. He explained the process for an appeal and for posting bail. The realization that my wife may be only moments away from being taken away from her husband and children became a stark reality. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, my thoughts raced, and fear began to fill my heart. It was at this moment I had a choice. Allow fear to overcome me and bow to affliction, or choose faith in knowing I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ!

Although this was a very unique trial in my life I am not alone. All of humankind faces trials in various forms everyday. It may not be losing a family member to imprisonment, but everyday people face physical, mental, economical, social and spiritual afflictions. It is not a matter of if we will face various trials and afflictions, but when. James 1:2 states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Trials will come. In fact as you are reading this blog at this very moment, you may be in the midst of a great affliction. You may feel it is too great a burden to bear. Your heart may be filled with fear and your faith dwindling. However, we should rejoice in the darkest of night for that is when Light shines brightest (Isaiah 60:1; Matt 4:16). You have a choice to make, let fear fill your heart or fill it with faith. For fear and faith cannot live in the same heart.

Things to consider while choosing faith:

1.    Jesus had the same choice to make and he chose faith (Matthew 26:46-36)

 There is this misconception that the only adversity Jesus faced on earth was during His crucifixion. God’s Word tells us this is false as his ministry started in adversity (Matthew 4:1-11) and was accompanied with struggle up to the resurrection. One of the most detailed moments of Jesus affliction is in the garden of Gethsemane. We see Jesus in a place he often went to pray. He is literally crying out in agony so great that Luke’s gospel tells us Jesus, “Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). On three separate instances between prayers Jesus goes to Peter, James and John only to find them sleeping. This was Jesus “inner circle” those closest to his heart, the ones he gave the most responsibility to, the ones he was depending on. Jesus finds himself alone, agonizing and crying out to the Father. He had a choice to make, give into fear and allow affliction to win or stay faithful to the mission that God the Father had given him. Alone, afflicted and agonizing Jesus chose to be faithful. Although affliction is certain, it does not determine the outcome, whether or not we choose faith does. What will you choose?

2.    The lord is on your side (Psalm 118:6)

As one of my good a pastor friends Anthony Milas once said, “God’s not mad at you, He’s mad about you.” God does not leave us alone to suffer with no hope of victory. In fact, He stands by our side reminding us there is nothing to fear. If God if for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)! No matter what the affliction you are facing, GOD IS BY YOUR SIDE! This is the same God who created everything in a weeks time and will sustain it for eternity. There truly is nothing to fear. Moses while writing in Deuteronomy brings an active response to affliction into perspective when he stated, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). No matter who or what “them” is your response should not be fear but a strong and courageous heart filled with faith. Why? Because God is by your side and he’s not leaving nor forsaking you.

3.    If you feed your faith it will starve your fear (Romans 10:17)

The author of Hebrews provides an adequate description of faith for believers when he writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Although faith is not a physical substance it has its way of making the unseen visible and its presence known. However, this doesn’t happen by chance. Faith must first be planted and grown (Luke 8:11). As the Apostle Paul so plainly stated, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). How can one claim to grow closer and stronger to a God they never spend time with? That question may have just hit you like a gut punch, but is an honest and valid question. For example, I didn’t marry my wife and then tell her I’ll see her again once my physical life is over and then we’ll spend time together. That would be absurd, but sadly that is what many “Christians” do. They repeat some words or pray a prayer and claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ whom they never spend time with. Some of the most favorite time of my day is getting to wake up next to my wife and start my day with her. Or going to bed at night holding hands and reflecting on our day while planning for the future. I continually search out my wife to understand her in order that I may love her more deeply and passionately. God desires us to do the same with him and has provided his Holy word enabling us to more efficiently navigate our journey. The more you ingest scripture the more you will learn how wretched you really are and how mighty and powerfully the God standing beside you really is. It is at this point faith will evaporate fear like the sun evaporates dew off the morning ground. What you feed will grow. Feeding fear builds mountains, feeding faith moves them. Affliction is certain, faith is a choice. What will you choose today?

 

Thoughts From The Bottom Of My Heart

This blog post was originally posted in February of 2016 and was deleted because of a website hosting glitch. 

As many of you know my wife, Victoria has a sentencing tomorrow morning in which she is facing 30 months in prison. Countless people have reached out to us to offer prayers, support and kind words. An online campaign by set up by a friend has had over 700 shares and has raised over $5,500 dollars in less than two weeks! Many have made known how unjust and terrible you feel with this situation is. Regardless of what tomorrow brings I would like to share some thoughts from the bottom of my heart.

1.    God is sovereign.

To believe that God is not in control of every single circumstance that exists is to say that God is not sovereign. This is contradictory with scripture. Colossians 1:16 states "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." God is in control, he always has been, he never won’t be. The sea roars because God tells it to, the wind blows because God tells it to, the sun rises and the sun sets because God tells it to. The air that is in my lungs is there because God allows it, and my heart beats because God has willed it. The same God that is in control of every millisecond that has ever existed is in control of what happens tomorrow and in that we find comfort. 

2.    God still loves us

God never promised being His follower would be easy. In fact, He promised the exact opposite. He stated, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This is not a call to prosperity and the easy life. This is a call to hardship and suffering. The cross is symbolist of suffering that ends in ultimate death. As the great theologian Rocky Balboa once said, “Life ain’t always rainbows and sunshine.” I believe life to be one big storm. The sun may shine at times, but the rain is coming. The wind is always blowing, it’s just fiercer at times. Victoria and I are learning to appreciate the storm and look for Jesus in the midst of it. God has promised us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39). Affliction does not prove God’s lack of love for us, but rather validates our love for Him.

3.    We still love God

Sadly, peoples love for God is often dictated by what God does for them. Our love for God is dictated by what God has already done for us. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Because of my sin I have a ransom to pay that I cannot afford. How incredibly humbling to know that God sent His Son to live a perfect life, amongst a fallen creation, to die a horrible death, in order to pay their ransom and set them free. I have physical life because God spoke it into existence, I have eternal life because God laid His life down on a cross and died for me. This is love that is truly indescribable and unfathomable. Regardless of what trials, temptations and afflictions come in my physical life, I will live eternally with the One who faced the greatest affliction and conquered all victoriously! For that, I am head over heels in love with God.