Good Days and Bad Days: They are Not Always as they Seem.

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The good days are to be expected, and bad days are surprising and strange. Perhaps we have an unconscious assumption that is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jaber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today.

“As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”

Though many may wrongly interpret this as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, we have been promised the world by our politicians, and we have believed them.  It is true that we may chuckle at the thought that any one person thinks they have that much control, but conservatives and liberals alike often believe the that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This, of course, is false, there are good days and bad days ahead for all of us.  Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).

Moving to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust or our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to begin to feel our weakness. The problem is that when we don’t feel it, a false sense of our own competency begins to blind us.

Lousy days may not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much on our bad days as on our good days, we have no reason to lament the rough days like we are prone to do.

When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily connection to God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him.

Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world, even when the evidence is all around me. Those are the days I walk in a fog of self-sufficiency, and it is not until I am hit with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind.  If this is true, then some of my “bad” days are actually my good days, and some of my “good” days are actually my bad days.

Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I’m delusional.

D. Eaton

 

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Finding Hope in Weakness

Image result for Strength of my heart

And he [Samson] was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Judges 15:18

It seems that many times when we have been strengthened by God and have done something great for the Lord, we soon afterward find ourselves confounded by our weakness. That is why this passage about Samson is so encouraging. Here is a man that, by the strength of God, defeated many of the enemies of Israel, and then, moments later, finds himself about to die from the lack of something as simple as water. When God gives us some sort of victory in doing His work, it is easy to begin to see ourselves as stronger than we really are. So the Lord often allows situations to arise that keep us dependent upon Him. We often thank the Lord for His grace in times of triumph, but how often do we forget to thank Him for our times of defeat. If all things actually work for the good of those that love Him, then grace comes in many forms. It comes in strength, but it also comes in defeats by showing us our weaknesses.

When we are on top, it is easy to begin to think that this is where true life and happiness are to be found. We start to crave more of it. Success breeds the desire for more success. Until, if God does not show us our weaknesses, we begin to think that this is what we need to be happy. We start to believe that this is what life is about, and without it, contentment starts to disappear. In weakness, Christ calls out to us and says, don’t find your hope and peace in the good or the bad times, find it in Me, I am your salvation. Experiencing weakness has a way of shaking from our hands many of the earthly things we think we need because, through grace, it causes us to set our eyes on eternity, by realizing that we are not invincible.

I can remember one beautiful summer night we had a barbeque with the family. It was one of those times when you are usually at peace enjoying the cool summer evening. But this particular night I was miserable. I had been suffering from a chronic illness for some time. I didn’t know if I would ever have enjoyment again, but I remember at that moment, a thought came to me about finding my sufficiency in Christ. It didn’t matter if, through suffering, I would ever enjoy another moment of this life. I have Christ! What else do I need? Our real victory is not found in the conditions of this life, even if our victories are Godly. Our victory is found in Christ.

When the Lord opens up the hollow place, like he did to give Samson water, and the truths of Christ’s sufficiency begins to run toward us, we find ourselves revived even when the land is still parched.

D. Eaton

Hope Shone Forth From An Infant Child -A Christmas Poem

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Hope shone forth from an infant child,
In the manger that cold dark night.
In humility, God himself appeared mild,
Yet His plan moved forth in all its might.

Salvation to humanity was born;
The angels could not help but sing.
This Infant Child would bear our scorn;
The newborn Sovereign King.

Helpless was mankind in sin,
Until the star shone forth its light.
Our salvation to begin,
Bringing hope to the contrite.

The sin we bear has shown us guilty,
Under the righteousness of God.
Our defense is proven faulty
As He sees through our façade.

But this Child would fulfill
The law that we could not.
And by our sin, His blood we’d spill
to pay our debt and take our lot.

There is no guilt, which can’t be cleansed;
The darkest stains can be removed
When His Grace has been dispensed,
By Jesus Christ, in Him approved.

Let us worship the infant child;
Born, a life, to set us free.
By His grace, we are beguiled;
Infant born of sovereign decree.

– Doug Eaton –

The Pain of Childbirth & the Joy of Christmas

 

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The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are things should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

If this were where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

D. Eaton

 

Why Do Good People Suffer?

I recently had the privilege of giving an apologetics talk on the problem of evil. I was asked to address the following question.

If your Jesus is so good, then why do good people suffer, and why does sin take control of the world, and why do the elderly get sick?

The mp3 can be found here: Why Do Good People Suffer?

The following slide may be helpful as you listen to the audio.

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More from the Fight of Faith:

7 Questions to get to the Heart of Any Worldview

The New Atheism’s Leap of Faith

Defending the Resurrection of Jesus: The Core Facts Approach

 

 

Fight With A Strength Not Your Own

 

It does not make any sense to me or to those looking on from the outside. The storm is attacking from every side. Like the wind that hit the house of Job’s children, it is striking all four corners of my life and is attempting to beat me into submission, but in the midst of it all, I have joy. This storm may perplex me, but I will not be abandoned. Though I am struck down, I will not be destroyed.

Those of you who know your Savior, understand what I am talking about. If the darkness of your sin has had to flee because of the light of Jesus, you know that your greatest groanings have been relieved. I once lived under the condemnation of the law, and I was awakened to my depravity. It is much more grievous than I ever realized. This great burden weighed me down to such a degree that I could not lift my head. The burden of sin was not merely something that was attached to me; it was me. Any attempt to remove it was insufficient, until the day when he lifted my head to look at his cross. At that moment the wrath of God was removed, and I became a child of God.

In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, I am grieved with manifold heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). It is the testing of my faith, and the testing of that faith will be found to the praise and glory and Savior Jesus Christ. This Joy cannot be removed by pain. It cannot be removed by sorrow, and despair cannot quench it.

On top of the joy found in the redemption of my sins, I know that our Lord is sovereign over my trials. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, which is a comfort and a conflict. It is a comfort because I know these difficulties I am facing are not accidents. They are perfectly planned by the God of wisdom who makes no mistakes, and I know if he gave his life to save me, he will also be good to me even in the midst of these trials.

The conflict is this, how do you fight against the hand of God in your trials when you know that there is nothing you can do to alter his divine purposes? If nothing can stay his hand, what could my fighting do? There was a temptation at first to resign myself to these trials, but this Joy I am experiencing is telling me otherwise. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and it is leading me to fight.

Though he is sovereign over the battle I am facing, he is also equipping me with strength for the battle (2 Samuel 22:40). He has not called us to despair; he has called us to strength. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9), even in the midst of God-ordained trials. In fact, if it were not for the affliction he allows in our life, we would never know the extent of the strength he can give us. Once we get a glimpse of it, we exalt him all the more, which increases our joy and our strength.

So I will fight with a strength that is not my own. My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Therefore, lift your drooping hands, and strengthen your weak knees so that what is out of joint may be healed (Hebrews 12:12). The battle belongs to the Lord. Seek him and his strength. Seek his presence continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). He will equip you with strength for the battle. You will find a power not your own, and that which rises against you, will sink beneath you (1 Chronicles 16:11).

D. Eaton

 

When God’s Love Hurts

But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries. 2 Chronicles 12:8

In this verse, we find the nation of Judah in a humbling position. King Rehoboam had only been king of Judah for five years, but in that five years, he had forsaken the law of the Lord. Because of this unfaithfulness, the Lord sends Shishak, King of Egypt to capture the fortified cities of Judah. The Lord then says to King Rehoboam, “You have forsaken me, so I have forsaken you to Shishak”, and what we see next is faith revived, for they humbled themselves and said, “the Lord is righteous.”

Too often we take disobedience lightly, and most people do not like to talk about the times they have been under God’s rod of discipline, and you can understand why. With so much theology pushing for the elusive mountaintop experience, and Christian pop psychology teaching us “How to manage our emotions” or “How to find the champion within,” a Christian could feel like quite the failure in many of today’s churches to acknowledge that God’s discipline is upon them.

We must, however, see this for what it is. To be under the heavy hand of God is a blessing because the Lord only disciplines those He loves. In this text we see His discipline had a specific purpose: to teach. There are many things we must be taught by the hand of the Lord for our hearts are deceitful and prone to wander, but our Shepherd knows how to lead us. When we learn the difference between His service and the service of the prince of this world, we find that His yoke is easy and His burden in light.

There is also the unfortunate fact that many people live their lives based on subjective feelings and do not live according to the Word of God. They feel that they are spiritual because they get goosebumps during their worship service, but they are living in sin and feel no remorse about it. Living in disobedience with warm affections in worship is a much worse place to be than under the rod of God’s discipline.

Today, if you find yourself under God’s Rod of discipline, humble yourself, and know that He is righteous. Don’t try to run, for it is God’s love that is dealing with you, not His condemnation. Praise Him for He is good, and if the world looks down on you because you have been brought low, and if many in the church are too busy chasing affluence under the guise of Christianity to understand, remember victory is yours because He is your shepherd. It is God’s grace that teaches us these crucial lessons, and we know “the broken and contrite He will never turn away.” Praise God, for He disciplines those He loves, we are kept by the power of God, and we will never be lost.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. -Hebrew 12:4-11 

D. Eaton

More From The Fight Of Faith

 

He Is Not Here For He Has Ascended

He is gone! Jesus is no longer here because He has ascended. There are tensions in the Christian life that we are meant to feel, and the ascension presents us with one of them. It is true that Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, but He did not mean that He would always be with us bodily. Though He is with us in one sense, His absence is something with which every believer must wrestle.

We feel His absence daily as we look at this world. He has left us with His word which speaks authoritatively to everything we need to know regarding faith and practice, but if we could see Him, some of our concerns would probably begin to fade. Though there are those who claim to have taken His place while He is gone, their fraudulent claims are evident by how far they fall short.

While we are left to wrestle with the truth of His absence, we begin to get a glimpse of how important the ascension is to Christian life and doctrine, and while His absence is painful, we must also remember that it is good. Jesus Himself said it was to our benefit that He go away. (John 16:7).

So why is the ascension so important, and how does it benefit us? First, He has sent us the Holy Spirit. Though we are consciously aware of His absence, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our distress. The Spirit continually points us to Jesus and His word. He guides, convicts, and keeps us at all times. It is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation. He never leaves us. In this way, we are never truly alone, even while we long for Christ’s return.

In the ascension, we also see Jesus properly crowned as king. When He took on flesh and came to walk amongst us, He emptied Himself of His rightful glory to do so. The ascension returns Him to His glorious state, seated at His Father’s right hand. From there He rules and reigns over all things until His enemies are made his footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13). We live during the time when the Kingdom has been established but not yet fulfilled, and we are to march on with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and as we march as citizens of His kingdom, the gates of hell will not prevail. Our King is on His throne and will reign forever.

The ascension shows us that our greatest hope is real. We long to be with the Father, and through the ascension, Jesus enters the presence of His Father on our behalf. We see this in the fact that Jesus is seated with the Father. His sitting down shows us that the atonement He made for our sins is complete, for no other high-priest in the old covenant was ever allowed to sit in the holy place. Since we are in Christ, we see our acceptance before the Father as well.

Finally, in the ascension, we hear the promise that He will return. He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come back for us as well. At that point all things will be set right, the kingdom will reach its full expression, and we will spend eternity with our Savior. Though His absence has its difficulties, those difficulties find their comfort in the Holy spirit and they cannot outweigh the glory that awaits. As believers, this tension should move us to worship. We glory in His ascension while longing for His return.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:6-11

D. Eaton

Gehazi’s Leprosy

Some sermons you preach never leave you. They are messages with which you identify for the rest of your life. For me, this is one of those sermons.

It covers three main topics. 1. The danger and lure of sin, 2. The consequences of sin. 3. The grace of God for the child of God even in the consequences of sin.

The MP3 can also be downloaded at the link below.

Gehazi’s Leprosy

D. Eaton

When God Hinders You From Doing His Will

When the dark skies rolled in, there was one thing that confused me more than any other. Before the storm, I was at a point where I wanted to give my all to the Lord. I started praying that he would fill me with His Spirit and make me a man after His heart. I was ready to go into all the world and make disciples, and to some degree, I was doing it.

Then the thunder started to roll, and the lightning struck, and I was held back from doing what I wanted to do for Him. When it hit my life, it became evident that this was going to be long-term. After an extended period of questioning and evaluation, I came to the biblical conclusion that God was sovereign over all of it. Did God know that this storm was going to hit my life? The only biblical answer to that is, yes. Did He have the power to stop it if He wanted to? Again, the only possible answer was, yes. Had He stopped it? No. The one truth that could logically follow from these questions was that God was sovereign over everything that came into my life. It does not matter if you want to say that God allows it, or brings it, into our lives. The logical conclusion is that God is the final decision-maker of everything we will face.

On one level this is a tremendous comfort. There are no mistakes that happen to us. Everything is within His control, but here is what sent me reeling. I was trying to do what He has called us to do, and the storm he allowed/sent was hindering me from doing it. I could understand that trials come to produce endurance, character, and hope (Rom. 5:4), but in my mind, all of that was to help us do His will. So why would these trials limit me in doing those very things?

I think I first saw it in the life of Job. As I read through Job chapters 25-28, it became clear that before Job was afflicted, he did quite a bit to help the poor and take care of the fatherless. He incontestably lived in a way that was glorifying to God. In fact, God commends him to Satan because of his faithfulness. Then, when tragedy struck, he was no longer able to be that man of good works. It became so bad that those who used to look to him for help began to look down upon him because of his affliction.

The problem was that Job did not give me perfect clarity on the issue, though it did open me to the idea that sometimes God is accomplishing something bigger than what our good works could have achieved. It is much like when God calls us to tend the ground but curses it with thorns to make it more difficult. As Romans 8:20 says, He subjected creation to futility in hope. Those last two words, “in hope” make all the difference, and God does not hope the same way we do. His “hopes” always come to pass. As we work, something He has called to do, He wants us to experience futility (thorns) and He does it as part of His good plan.

Then another passage of scripture clicked into place in a way I had never noticed before. Paul was given a thorn in the flesh. A messenger of Satan to buffet him. Who gave it to him? It was clearly a messenger of Satan, but God was still the final decision-maker. God had given him the thorn in the flesh. First, God called Paul to be a missionary of the Gospel and then gave him an adversity to buffet that work.

There it was. God gave Paul something that limited his ability, for the sole purpose that he could accomplish more. Without this thorn in the flesh, Paul would have grown conceited. He would have been working in the power of his flesh, which was exactly where the barb was placed. Now he saw his weakness, and it was in his weakness that God’s strength was made perfect.

When the thought crosses your mind, that if you did not have to face a certain affliction, you would be able to accomplish much more for the Lord, think again. You may be accomplishing more in your fleshly inability. Job was unable for a time to help those in need, but how many of us has he helped in our moment of need with his answers to his friend’s accusations. His time of limitation was written into God’s eternal word to guide His people. Paul might have been held back in his strength, but now he moved forward in God’s. What Paul accomplished could not have been done in any other way.

Like Jacob, you may have wrestled with God and because of it you now walk with a limp, but is that limp what the Lord now uses, or plans to use, to speak deep into the hearts of people with whom you come in contact? God usually uses shaky voices to resonate His truth deep into the hearts of the hearers. When God sends us limitations, they never limit His ability to work through us. The Lord may be hindering you for the very purpose of helping you advance His kingdom.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

D. Eaton