How God Takes Care of His People Through Trials, Tribulation, and Trouble, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #12)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: Psalm 62:5-8

Last time when we checked in on the progress of Christian along his pilgrimage, you will recall that he was climbing up the Hill called Difficulty. We learned from Scripture that each of us will face difficulty and trouble in our Christian walk. But, what do you do when it seems like you are facing more than you can handle? What do you do when the trouble you are facing becomes too much to bear?

We serve a God who not only allows us to experience trouble, but He sustains us through the trouble that we experience. Many Christians who have come out of a difficult period in their lives can look back and say, ‘It is only by the grace of God that I survived. It is only by the grace of God that I got through that difficult situation.’

How does God sustain us through trouble? Let’s look at three ways from the word of God.

1. God sustains us by providing for our every need. The psalmist says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” The psalmist says that in the midst of his trouble, he will wait on God. What does it mean to wait on God? Well, the Hebrew word translated as “wait” in the King James Version means “to be silent” and “to be still.”

The psalmist tells us that in the midst of his time of trouble, he will not be complaining about his circumstances. He will not be trying to make things happen in his own strength. Rather, he will sit quietly and sit still and wait on God.

The psalmist is confident that God will provide for his every need. He stresses his confidence in God by saying he will wait “only” upon God. He is putting 100% of his trust in God. He is not leaning on God and making sure he has some eggs in other baskets. Sometimes, a situation is so dire and so troublesome that you know the only person who can deliver you from it is God.

In his commentary on this passage, Albert Barnes states, “The idea here is, that all that David expected or hoped for must come from God. He did not rely on his fellow men; he did not rely on himself. God alone could deliver him, and he confidently believed that God would do it. Often we are in such circumstances that we feel that our only ‘expectation’ — our only hope — is in God. All our strength fails; all our resources are exhausted; our fellow-men cannot or will not aid us; our own efforts seem to be vain; our plans are frustrated, and we are shut up to the conclusion that God alone can help us.”

We see this in the experience of Christian as he travels up the Hill of Difficulty. All of his friends have forsaken him. He is all alone. He starts out going strong, but eventually, he weakens, he grows tired, and he is looking for a reprieve from his troubles. God, who knows the needs of His children, duly provides a Pleasant Arbor for Christian so that he can sit down and rest awhile.

When Christian needed rest from his difficulty, God provided for that need. Philippians 4:19 tells us, “God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Like David, we ought to have an expectation that God will supply all of our needs even when we are going through difficult times. God sustains us by providing for our needs.

Trouble is Good, Part 3 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #11)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message

TEXT: Acts 14:19-22

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been talking about trouble in the Christian life. Everybody has experienced some trouble at one time or another. Dr. R.G. Lee once said, “Well-thronged is the road of trouble — traveled by many who find the road rough and the going tough.”

In this series, as we travel through Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, we saw that Christian was met with trouble when he came to the Hill called Difficulty. His two companions, Formalist and Hypocrisy, quickly abandoned him and took what appeared to be easier routes around the Hill. As we look at the issue of trouble in the Christian life, we find three reasons why trouble is good from the Word of God in the life of the Apostle Paul.

1. Trouble is good because it can solidify our commitment to Christ. Paul was a missionary and minister of the Gospel who faced much persecution and hatred, not only from nonbelievers but even from some who claimed to be Christians. Yet, he remained faithful to Jesus Christ. In our passage, he and Barnabas are preaching the Gospel in Lystra, when the crowd turns on him, stones him, and drags him out thinking he was dead. The trouble Paul faced did not cause him to run away from the faith. Rather, it caused him to draw closer to Jesus Christ as His source of strength during difficult times. If you persevere through trouble, that is one way you (and others) can know for sure that you are committed to Jesus Christ.

2. Trouble is good because it lets us know who our real friends are. Verse 20 of our passage states: “Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about [Paul], he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” Even though Paul had been stoned to within an inch of his life, he wasn’t alone. “The disciples” did not abandon him when he faced trouble. Sometimes God allows difficulty in our lives in order to show us who our true friends are and to separate us from people who could be a hindrance in our walk with Him.

3. Trouble is good because it puts us in a position to encourage others. Look now at verses 21-22: “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

God raised Paul up after he was nearly stoned to death. What did Paul do? He kept right on preaching. He went back to the same cities he had preached in before — the same cities where the Jews and some of the Gentiles protested the Gospel message. But, this time, he went to confirm and strengthen those who had turned to Christ because of his preaching. Perhaps these new believers had seen how Paul had been treated, and this was causing them to falter in their faith. Or, perhaps, they were now subject to some of the same persecution that Paul had experienced. What an encouragement it must have been when Paul and Barnabas came back through town still fearlessly preaching the Gospel.

Because of his experience, Paul was able to say to these new believers, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Paul did not make the mistake that some church leaders make today. He did not allow these new believers to think that because they were now following Jesus Christ, their lives would be free from hardship and difficulty. No, Paul said, that we must through MUCH tribulation enter the kingdom of God. Paul knew this because he had experienced that tribulation all throughout his first missionary journey.

MUSICAL SELECTION: “Awesome” by Charles Jenkins and “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

Trouble is Good, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #10)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #188

TEXT: Acts 14:19-22

For first century Christians, following Jesus Christ was not easy, and no one then expected it to be. Jesus Christ Himself had warned His disciples that they would suffer as He had suffered and that they would face tribulation. Christians today sometimes forget that the history of Christ-followers has been a long, bloody, difficult road. Many millions have gone before us sacrificing their comfort, sometimes to the point of giving their lives, in order to remain true to their Christian faith. But, I believe we are being reawakened to the trouble inherent in Christianity today. In America, we see increased assault on the expression of our faith in public. Abroad, we see Christians being driven out of their homes, beaten, jailed, and killed because they identify with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, God is calling the church to embrace difficulty, pain, and suffering as a part of our Christian experience — not to run from it, but to accept it, persevere through it, and even to think of it as something good.

In this series, as we travel through Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, we saw that Christian was met with trouble when he came to the Hill called Difficulty. His two companions, Formalist and Hypocrisy, quickly abandoned him and took what appeared to be easier routes around the Hill. As we look at the issue of trouble in the Christian life, we find three reasons why trouble is good from the Word of God in the life of the Apostle Paul.

1. Trouble is good because it can solidify our commitment to Christ. Paul was a missionary and minister of the Gospel who faced much persecution and hatred, not only from nonbelievers but even from some who claimed to be Christians. Yet, he remained faithful to Jesus Christ. In our passage, he and Barnabas are preaching the Gospel in Lystra, when the crowd turns on him, stones him, and drags him out thinking he was dead. The trouble Paul faced did not cause him to run away from the faith. Rather, it caused him to draw closer to Jesus Christ as His source of strength during difficult times. If you persevere through trouble, that is one way you (and others) can know for sure that you are committed to Jesus Christ.

2. Trouble is good because it lets us know who our real friends are. Look at verse 20 of our passage: “Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about [Paul], he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Remember, Paul was stoned by the people of Lystra. He was beaten so bad that they dragged him out of the city and left him to die. He was likely unconscious and at death’s door. But, Paul wasn’t alone. In verse 20, we see that he was surrounded by “the disciples.” Perhaps they were trying to make sure his body wasn’t abused anymore. Perhaps they were about to prepare him for burial. Perhaps they were praying for a miracle and for Paul to survive. But the important thing is that they were with him during his difficulty. They did not abandon him when he faced trouble. They were prepared to stand by him until the end.

If you have ever wondered how loyal your friends are, just wait until difficulty comes your way, and you will be sure to find out. Just wait until your name is dragged through the mud, and see who wants to be associated with you. Just wait until you lose your house, your job, and your finances, and you will find out if your friends were just with you because of your money or because of you. Your true friends are people who will stick with you during rough times. False friends are those who will scatter at the first sign of trouble.

It is a shame, but there are people in the church like this. They want to be around you and be seen with you as long as you are being praised and applauded. But, as soon as some trouble comes, even if it is no fault of yours, they are quick to abandon you and act as if they don’t know you in order to protect their own “good name.” When this happens, don’t get down in the dumps about it. Perhaps, one of the things God wants to accomplish through the difficulty you are facing is to cut you off from people who are truly not on your side.

When Christian came to the Hill of Difficulty in Pilgrim’s Progress, his two companions, Formalist and Hypocrisy, immediately took off on other easy-going paths. Christian had to go on alone, but the truth of the matter is, no Christian who is serious about their walk with Christ ought to be traveling with Formalist and Hypocrisy anyway. That difficulty was the means of separating Christian from two people who could have a negative effect on his spiritual growth.

So, difficulty is good. It is good because it can solidify your commitment to Christ. And it is good because it can show you who your true friends are and separate you from people who you should not be associated with in the first place.

MUSICAL SELECTION: “Nobody Greater” by VaShawn Mitchell and “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

Trouble is Good, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #9)

Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim's Progress

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #187

TEXT: Acts 14:19-22

In the seventh message in this series, we touched on the issue of church leaders not informing young Christians of the difficulty that is inherent to the Christian faith. Many new believers come into the body of Christ thinking that their life is going to be Heaven on Earth until they get to Heaven in Eternity. However, as we read Scripture, we learn that those who are committed to God will face difficulty. In fact, Peter tells us that ‘because Christ suffered for us, he left us an example, that we should follow his steps.’ In Pilgrim’s Progress, the classic Christian book that we are using as a companion guide throughout this series, we also see that the main character, Christian, came upon his first difficulty not too long after he had been relieved of his burden of sin. The author, John Bunyan, writes:

I beheld, then, that Christian, Formalist, and Hypocrisy went on till they came to the foot of the Hill Difficulty; at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof, to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill.

The other two also came to the foot of the hill; but when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go, and supposing also that these two ways might meet again, with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill, therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of these ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So Formalist took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood, and Hypocrisy took the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.

Whether we believe we ought to or not, whether we believe that we deserve it or not, the fact of the matter is that we all face difficulty in life. Generally speaking, people view difficulty as something that is negative. However, I would like to share with you from the Word of God how that difficulty can be a good thing for the Christian.

The first-century believers experienced many difficulties as they preached the Gospel across the then-known world. Our passage tells us of some events that took place during Paul’s first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas traveled more than 700 miles by land and 500 miles by sea to take the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles of the Roman Empire. During their travels, they faced opposition, persecution, and trouble. However, just as we saw Christian choose to continue his journey over the Hill of Difficulty, Paul and Barnabas pressed on with their missionary activity. From their example, we see three reasons why difficulty is good. Continue Reading…

Some “Christians” to Avoid (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #8)

Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim's Progress

PART A

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PART B

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #186

TEXT: Matthew 15:1-9

It is sad to say, but you have to watch out for some people who call themselves Christians. Yes, there are some people who act Christian, look Christian, and talk Christian, but are not truly committed to the teachings and the spirit of Jesus Christ. In fact, our Lord told us to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Throughout your journey as a Christian, you are bound to meet some of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. It was not too long after he had been saved that Christian, the main character of Pilgrim’s Progress, met two of these types of individuals — Formalist and Hypocrisy.

Formalist and Hypocrisy are representative of people who want to receive all of the benefits of being a Christian, but they do not always want to live the Christian life the way the Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed. I want to share with you three problems with these types of believers in hopes that you would not have these traits yourself and that you would be able to spot these traits in others and avoid them at all costs.

1. These types of believers value form and function over faith. The Bible tells us that “scribes and Pharisees [came to Jesus] saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.”

2. These types of believers are not sold out for Jesus Christ. Reminding His listeners of the words of Isaiah, Jesus say, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” The scribes and Pharisees were all about religious appearances and making sure they looked holy before the people, however their hearts were far from the place where God wanted it to be.

3. These types of believers are in it for their own glory. Finally, Jesus says, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” One of the reasons why Christians remain stuck on tradition, formality, or hypocrisy is because they are seeking their own glory. They are seeking to be noticed. They are seeking fame for themselves.

Ask yourself, today, dear friend: What kind of Christian are you? Are you just a formalist, only concerned about the outward appearance? Have you surrounded yourself with other people who are formalists? Are you a hypocrite? Are you trying to be something that you are not? It is my prayer and hope that you will live the life of a true believer, for that is truly where the blessing is.

MUSICAL SELECTION: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” by Maurette Brown Clark and “Pass Me Not” by Ann Nesby

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