Faithful Obedience by Hannah Grieser

Hannah is a precious friend of mine, and having her share with us in this series of Faithful Obedience is a gift. I enjoy her conversations because they are always rich, thoughtful, and fun -always infused with the Scripture and the sure hope we share in Christ. Hannah has walked through some deep valleys and in all of them she has seen how in the hardest times , when the clouds we most dread  are heavy on us, we can always see God’s kindness leading us all the way through.

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Coveting Cancer and Taking Pride in Pain
by Hannah Grieser

When my oldest son, Jonah, was diagnosed with cancer at age 10, the blow to our family’s predictable way of life was sudden and severe. We ended up having to divide our family between two different cities for months, trying to figure out what to do about school, about money, about transportation, about housing, and about our sanity. With one forceful gust, our tidy little map for the road ahead blew out the window and sent us speeding toward the Great Unknown through back roads and precarious switchbacks, sometimes plunging us up to our axels in despond.

But as hard as those new struggles hit us, new blessings came at us just as hard. Overnight, we went from living an utterly unremarkable existence to standing at the center of a swirl of attention from concerned family members, kind friends, and generous strangers. People I’d never met started following our story on social media. My blog traffic spiked. Boxes of gifts arrived from churches on the other side of the country. Opportunities arose for us to meet famous people and travel to exotic places. And everywhere I went, acquaintances would stop to find out how we were doing, ask how they could pray for us, and tell me what an encouragement we were to them as we were walking through this trial in faith.

And this second list is where some truly unexpected temptations arose.

Obvious and not-so-obvious temptations

The trial was very real, it’s true, and all the goodness and grace we experienced throughout that time were very, very real, too. But the temptations that accompanied both experiences were real as well, and some of the temptations were not the most self-evident.

In a sudden crisis with an uncertain outcome, fear and worry are all-too-natural temptations. They certainly were for me, and I—and many others—have spent a great deal of time and ink on the topic, urging people to lay aside their fears and to find their joy and rest in God as they endure various trials. The Bible is full of such admonitions, and so these are things that need to be both said and read. But as yet, I have said and read much less about the more subtle temptations that can sneak in during times like these—the temptations to envy and pride. The Bible has more than a few words to say about these sins, too, so we must not forget them just because we have entered a period of suffering.

I’m sure the temptation to envy does make some sense because enduring a trial clearly means not enjoying the easy, painless lives that our friends seem to be living. Suffering can mean comparing our plight with others and resenting the chapter we are in. Why me? Why not the other guy? What did they do that I didn’t? And envy can gradually take hold when we turn our focus on those who appear to have a better lot in life. Envy is always an ugly and destructive sin, but these are not the objects of envy I’m most concerned with here.

Trial Envy

The envy I want to highlight is the envy directed not at those who are better off but at those whose stories appear to be worse than our own. Yes. You read that right.

On the face of it, this may sound crazy. (And it is. Sin is always a kind of madness.) But here’s the thing: if you’ve suddenly gained a kind of small-time notoriety, a freshly minted identity, and a heroic new status as She Who Has Suffered Well, then oh, how it can sting when somebody else suddenly comes along who threatens to topple that hard-earned title.

Here she comes (How dare she?)—with her bigger, newer, sexier trial and (Oh-ho! Well, lah-dee-dah!) a godlier, wiser, more long-suffering response to it all. When we’ve gotten comfortable with the attention, the pity, the respect, and the perks that can come from a period of suffering, we really do need to take care that we don’t start to find our identity and sense of worth in those experiences, or things may get ugly the minute something or somebody threatens to take them away.

There are women (and I’m afraid it very often is the women) the world over who must constantly and forever imagine themselves in the role of the martyr. They cannot bear to allow that anyone else has suffered more or could deserve more pity. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis paints an awful picture of self-centered and destructive grief when he introduces a bereaved mother who has turned a family tragedy into a form of tyranny to which all others must submit. She has destroyed lives by forming her entire identity around the pain of her loss. And in The Four Loves, Lewis also gives us Mrs. Fidget who makes sure that everyone sees how she suffers, working “her fingers to the bone” for her family—and thus drives them all away.

But suffering should not grant a free pass for selfishness, and grief should never be a weapon to hijack the joy of those around us. God has told us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Th 5:18). God has told us to look to Him for our peace and to supply all our needs (Mat 6:25-33). And the risen Christ told Peter, even as He prophesied Peter’s martyrdom, not to concern himself with how the other disciple was to suffer or not: “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22). This is a good admonition to all of us as we face the prospect of suffering: follow Christ. Fix your eyes on Him.

So when the next person comes along with her own trials, believe that the grace of God is big enough to fill both your needs. Do not take her story as an invitation to complain more and worry louder, lest the world forget you. God does not require our melodrama or Mrs. Bennett pity parties (“Nobody can tell what I suffer!”) in order to remember our needs. The one time that God tells us to outdo one another, it is in showing honor (Rom 12:10)—not in griping about our troubles and trying to steal the honor of others away.

One-upmanship as old as dirt

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. We humans have a tendency as old as Cain to want to out-do the other guy, to turn the spotlights that shine on others back onto our own sorry selves—and in ever escalating ways: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Gen 4:24). All of us are born with glory hunger, but in our fallen state, we would rather not pursue it the way that Christ commands: through humility and service and a cross (Mk 9:35). Instead, we settle for cheap substitute glories or attempt to steal the real thing from others. And, in the grip of envy, when we cannot steal glory, we attempt to destroy it—sometimes very subtly.

Some of my friends living down south have joked that they can never mention cold weather without some northerner suddenly appearing to inform them that “until you’ve spent January on the windward side of the Canadian Rockies, you don’t know the first thing about cold!” It reminds me of that old comedy bit about grandparents boasting, to their whining grandkids, that when they were young, they had to walk to school—barefoot!—through the snow!—uphill!—both ways!

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.” Sounds about right. As egocentric sinners, we really do hate it when our Story of Great Suffering—our conversational trump card—gets beat by the other guy’s Tale of Unparalleled Woe. We hates it, we does.

And we hate it because it strikes us where it most hurts—our pride. It’s amazing how the human heart can turn just about anything into a reason to puff ourselves up and to feed our arrogance, all the while deceiving even ourselves about what we’re doing. Am I really “just asking for prayer”? Or am I using my “prayer request” as an excuse to publicly complain about my situation and to draw everyone’s attention and pity back on me, basking in the accolades for what a suffering saint I’ve been?

I’ll tell you what. I’ve asked for prayer from both motivations, and both can look very much the same from the outside. God didn’t give me X-ray vision to see into the hearts of others, so this is not a call to presume the worst the next time your suffering friend shares a prayer request. Not at all. This is a call for those of us who are facing trials to examine our own motives. Consider the possibility that you’re deceiving even yourself about what you’re doing when you “ask for prayer.”

Pop quiz

A good self-test is this: Does it annoy you—even just a little bit—when somebody else announces that they are now facing a trial that very much resembles your own? Or one that is more socially acceptable than your own? Or more acute and attention-grabbing than, say, your own slow, chronic struggle? Are you bitter because the people with cancer get all the perks, while people dealing with Lyme disease or slander or abandonment are forgotten? Are you upset by women who talk openly about and receive pity for their miscarriages while nobody knows how you’ve quietly endured your own? Does all the fuss over that crippling car accident really bug you because nobody seems to care about the years and years of steady decline that are crippling you?

Does the outpouring of attention and care toward other people’s suffering and not your own bother you? Anger you? Frustrate you? Keep you awake at night? Then very likely, the word for what you’re dealing with is envy. Envy, impure and simple.

Custom-made trials

But here’s the truth of the matter: God has tailor-made your suffering just for you. Your devastating diagnosis that everybody on the internet knows about was made for you. Your silent struggle is the test that God hand-wrote just for you. Your lonely hours in bed with that chronic affliction are a trial that God put into your story for His own glory and your good. Death of loved ones, false accusations, debilitating illness, quiet grief, and public pain are given to each of us in turn because God knows each of us by name. He knows what we need. He knows how to refine us and prune us, even if we may not always understand what good will come from it as we feel ourselves melting or as we watch precious branches fall to the ground.

Sisters, some of us need stitches, and some of us need open heart surgery. But whichever lot is ours, it is ours because the Great Physician knows our exact diagnosis, body and soul, and intends, in the end, to make us whole—to make us perfect, just as He is perfect.

He has promised to be with us in our suffering—not in the suffering of that guy over there. He has promised to equip us to bear up under our trials—not under the trials we wish we had or under the trials we worry we might one day have. We are to concern ourselves with being faithful where God has placed us, not imagining how we would be faithful if only we were where He has placed somebody else.

Even we may not understand our own hearts in these things, but God does see the heart, so ask Him to root out any self-deception, pride, or envy that may have crept in during your season of affliction—however long and however severe it’s been. If we have been called by God, then all things—even my trials and your trials and the trials of the believers around us—truly are working together for good. Let us live as though we believe it. And when we’re tempted to both envy and downplay the trials of others, let us turn again to Jesus and remember His words: “What is that to you? You follow me.”

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You can find the index to the series here.

From the Pen of Samuel Rutherford

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.31.25 PMI have been reading and re-reading The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, and I keep jotting down notes, underlying -and over-underlying! the text, praying, and meditating on the words he penned from prison to his parishioners. What a gift for us to be encouraged by this man’s gift to point us to Christ and keep looking up to Him no matter how heavy our afflictions may be.

Here are a few quotes for your own encouragement and meditation:

“Now honor God, shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem weakest. Should such an one as you faint in the day of adversity? Call to mind the days of old; the Lord yet liveth; trust in him, although he should slay you. Faith is exceedingly charitable, and believeth no evil of God.”

“I would advise you ask of God a submissive heart.”

“…and though we cannot see a reason for it, yet He hath a most just reason.”

“Worthy and dear Lady, in the strength of Christ, fight and overcome. You are now alone, but you may have, for the seeking, three always in your company, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. I trust they are near you.”

“Therefore, I entreat you and charge you in the Lord’s name, pray!”

“I know Christ shall make Aberdeen [where he was imprisoned] my garden of delights.”

“Faith will trust the Lord, and it is not hasty nor headstrong. Neither is faith so timorous as to flatter a temptation or ti bud and bribe the cross.”

“I think it the Lord’s wise love that feeds us with hunger, and makes us fat with wants and desertions.”

“I know that He who sent me to the west and south sends me also to the north. I will charge my soul to believe and to wait for Him, and will follow His Providence and not go before it nor stay behind it.”

“My adversaries have sent me here [the prison in Aberdeen] to be feasted with love banquets with my royal, high, high, and princely Lord Jesus.”

“But I will yield to Him, providing my suffering may preach more than my tongue did.. I will hold my peace hereafter.”

“To pray and believe now, when Christ seems to give you a nay-say, is more than it was before. Die believing; die, and Christ’s promise in your hand!”

“I find it most true, that the greatest temptation out of Hell is to live without temptations. If my waters would stand, they would rot. Faith is the better for the free air and the sharp winter-storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity. The Devil is but God’s master-fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”

“[I have been helped] By praying for others; for, by making an errand to God  for them, I have gotten something for myself.”

“I have been really confirmed, in many particulars, that God heareth prayers; and therefore I used to pray for any thing, of how little importance soever.”

“I know it is no dumb Providence, but a speaking one, whereby our Lord speaketh his mind to you, though for the present ye do not well understand what He saith. However, it  be, he who sitteth upon the floods hath shown you this marvelous loving kindness in the great depths. I know that your loss is great, and your hope is gone far against you. but I entreat you, sir, expound aright our Lord’s laying all hindrances in the way.”

“My dear brother, let God make of you what he will, he will end all with consolation, and will make glory out of your sufferings; and would you wish better work? This water was in your way to heaven and written in your Lord’s Book: ye behoved to cross it, and therefore, kiss the wise and uttering Providence. Let not the censures of men, who see but the outside of things, and scare well that, abate your courage and rejoicing in the Lord. Howbeit your faith seeth but the black side of Providence, yet it hath a better side, and God will let you see it.”

“Your heart is not the compass Christ saileth by.”

“O sweet stability of well-founded salvation! Who could win heaven, if this were not so? and who could be saved, if God were not God, and if he were not such a God as He is? O, God be thanked, that our salvation is coasted and landed and shored upon Christ, who is Master of winds and storms!”

“I hold my peace here; let Him do His will.”

“I remain a still a prisoner of hope, and do think it service to the Lord to wait on still with submission, till the Lord’s morning sky break, and his summer day dawn.”

“Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as, “I imagine so” or “It is likely”; but the cable, the strong tow of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity.”

“It is easy to make conscience believe as you will, not as you know.”

“My dear brother be not frightened at the cross of Christ. It is not seen yet what Christ will do for you when it cometh to the words. He will keep his grace till you be at starit, and then bring forth the decreed birth of your salvation. You are an arrow of his own making. Let Him shoot you against a wall of brass, your point shall keep whole.”

“If we had more practice of obedience, we should have more sound light.”

“Slack not your hands in meeting to pray.”

“You say, that you know not what to do… Say, “Pray, Father, save me from this hour”. What course can you take, but pray, and trust Christ’s own comforts? He is not bankrupt, take His Word. “Oh,” say you, “I cannot pray.” I answer, honest sighing is faith breathing and whispering in the ear..”

“Say, ‘I shall rather spoil twenty prayers, than to not pray at all. Let my broken words go up to Heaven; when they come up into the angel’s golden censer, that compassionate Advocate will put together my broken prayers and perfume them,’  Words are but accidents of prayer.”

“Lend Christ your melancholy, for Satan has no right to make chamber in your melancholy.”

“There is no way of quieting the mind, and of silencing the heart of a mother, but godly submission. The readiest way for peace and consolation to clay-vessels is, that it is a stroke of the Potter and Former of all things… It is not safe to be pulling and drawing with the Omnipotent Lord. Let the pull go with him, for he is strong; and say, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

“It is the art and sill of faith to read what the Lord writes upon the Cross, and to spell and construct right his sense. Often we miscall words and sentences of the cross, and either put nonsense on his rids, or burden His Majesty with slanders and mistakes, when He minded for us thoughts of peace and love, even to do us good in the latter end.”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

PC: Aaron Burden via Unsplash

God Always Gives Sufficient Grace

We are back from church and ready to face a new week by grace through faith. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and Jesus explicitly commanded us not to be anxious about it. And yet, we ought be ready for what tomorrow may bring.

J.R. Miller write this devotional that I have found very helpful to help us get ready for worried week-days. I hope you find it helpful too.

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We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life—when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life. It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures; but there are many who do these things—whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times—when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday—into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels. We must pass through experiences that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us. We must mingle with those who do not love Christ. We all meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances.

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life—in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path—without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly—amid the vexing and irritating things and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to ‘get along’ in any sort of way, to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day, happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy—and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked ‘what it was to be a Christian,’ replied, “For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live—and behave as Jesus would behave—if he were a little girl and lived at our house.” No better definition of practical religion could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would—if he were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, standing all day just where we stand, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness on its face to the genuineness of our piety.

How can we do this? We must first recognize the fact that our life must be lived just in its own circumstances. We cannot at present change our surroundings. Whatever we are to make of our lives—must be made in the midst of our actual experiences. Here we must either win our victories—or suffer our defeats. We may think our lot is especially hard—and may wish it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes, with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. Then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be—never to have a care, an irritation, a cross, a single vexing thing!

But meanwhile this fact remains—that our aspiration cannot be realized, and that whatever our life is to be made, beautiful or marred, we must make it just where we are. No restless discontent can change our lot. We cannot get into any ‘paradise’ merely by longing for it. Other people may have other circumstances, possibly more pleasant than ours—but here are ours. We may as well settle this point at once, and accept the battle of life on this field—or else, while we are vainly wishing for a better chance, the opportunity for victory shall have passed.

The next thought is that the place in which we find ourselves is the place in which the Master desires us to live our life.

There is no haphazard in this world. God leads every one of his children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences each particular life will ripen best. One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water’s edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. There is always adaptation in nature. Every tree or plant is found in the locality where the conditions of its growth exist, and does God give more thought to trees and plants than to his own children? He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar discipline to which we are each subjected—is the discipline we each need to bring out in us the beauties and graces of true spiritual character. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly—in a more easy and luxurious life—but God knows what is best; he makes no mistakes.

There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased—but there came a change over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best where to plant each flower, and so God, the divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what he would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms, some will only thrive spiritually in the shadow of worldly adversity, and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity, whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. He knows what is best for each one.

The next thought, is that it is possible to live a beautiful life anywhere. There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian, exemplifying all the virtues of Christianity. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly, wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us—he fits us for its peculiar trials. There is a beautiful law of adaptation that runs through all God’s providence. Animals made to dwell amid Arctic snows are covered with warm furs. The camel’s home is the desert, and a wondrous provision is made by which it can endure long journeys across the hot sands without drink. Birds are fitted for their flights in the air. Animals made to live among the mountain-crags, have feet prepared for climbing over the steep rocks. In all nature this law of special equipment and preparation for allotted places prevails.

And the same is true in spiritual life. God adapts his grace to the peculiarities of each one’s necessity. For rough, flinty paths—he provides shoes of iron. He never sends any one to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier—the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken—the angel draws closer. As the trials become sorer—the trusting heart grows calmer. Jesus always sees his disciples, when they are toiling in the waves—and at the right moment comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life—in any circumstances. Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true, in heathen Egypt—as Benjamin in the shelter of his father’s love. The sharper the temptations, the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship—in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.

Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a broken peace and a very faulty life—it should be the settled purpose of each one to live, through the grace of God—a patient, gentle and unspotted life—in the place and amid the circumstances He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials—but in rightly meeting and enduring them. The questions should not be, “How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?” There is nothing noble in such living. The soldier who flies to the rear when he smells the battle is no hero; he is a coward.

The questions should rather be, “How can I pass through these trying experiences, and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles, and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these reproaches and testings of my temper, and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?” This is the true problem of Christian living.

We are at school here. This life is disciplinary. Processes are not important: it is results we want. If a tree grow into majesty and strength, it matters not whether it is in the deep valley or on the cold peak, whether calm or storm nurtures it. If character develops into Christlike symmetry, what does it matter whether it be in ease and luxury—or through hardship? The important matter is not the process—but the result; not the means—but the end; and the end of all Christian nurture is spiritual loveliness. To be made truly noble and godlike—we should be willing to submit to any discipline.

Every obstacle to true living should, then, only nerve us with fresh determination to succeed. We should use each difficulty and hardship, as a leverage to gain some new advantage. We should compel our temptations to minister to us—instead of hindering us. We should regard all our provocations, annoyances and trials, of whatever sort—as practice-lessons in the application of the theories of Christian life. It will be seen in the end—that the hardships and difficulties are by no means the smallest blessings of our lives. Someone compares them to the weights of a clock, without which there could be no steady, orderly life.

The tree that grows where tempests toss its boughs and bend its trunk, often almost to breaking—is more firmly rooted than the tree which grows in the sequestered valley, where no storm ever brings stress or strain. The same is true in life. The grandest character is grown in hardship. Weakness of character, springs out of luxury. The best men the world ever reared—have been brought up in the school of adversity and hardship.

Besides, it is no heroism to live patiently—where there is no provocation, bravely where there is no danger, calmly where there is nothing to perturb. Not the hermit’s cave—but the heart of busy life, tests, as well as makes character. If we can live patiently, lovingly and cheerfully, amid all our frets and irritations day after day, year after year, that is grander heroism than the farthest famed military exploits, for ‘he who rules his own spirit—is better than he who captures a city.’

This is our allotted task. It is no easy one. It can be accomplished only by the most resolute decision, with unwavering purpose and incessant watchfulness.

Nor can it be accomplished without the continual help of Christ. Each one’s battle must be a personal one. We may decline the struggle—but it will be declining also the joy of victory. No one can reach the summit—without climbing the steep mountain-path. We cannot be borne up on any strong shoulder. God does not put features of beauty into our lives—as the jeweler sets gems in clusters in a coronet. The unlovely elements are not magically removed and replaced by lovely ones. Each must win his way through struggles and efforts—to all noble attainments. The help of God is given only in cooperation with human aspiration and energy. While God works in us—we are to work out our own salvation. He who overcomes, shall be a pillar in the temple of God. We should accept the task with quiet joy. We shall fail many times.

Many a night we shall retire to weep at Christ’s feet—over the day’s defeat. In our efforts to follow the copy set for us by our Lord—we shall write many a crooked line, and leave many a blotted page blistered with tears of regret. Yet we must keep through all, a brave heart, an unfaltering purpose, and a calm, joyful confidence in God. Temporary defeat should only cause us to lean on Christ more fully. God is on the side of everyone who is loyally struggling to obey his divine will, and to grow into Christlikeness. And that means assured victory, to everyone whose heart fails not.

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Thanks be to God for the way His grace strengthens our hearts!

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

Thanks to the editor of Grace Gems who encourages all Christians to freely distribute all the content on their website.
Photo by Brett Jordan via Unsplash

Faithful Obedience by Noai Meyer

I am grateful for the gift of having Noai sharing with us in the series on Faithful Obedience. Noai has walked through a very hard road with much joy and unwavering trust in the Lord. Her life is an example of faithful obedience.

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Being Faithful with the Illness God Has Called You To

Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

In 2018, shortly after the birth of my second daughter, we had the privilege of having my Multiple Scleroses come back with a scary vengeance. My vision was affected, my gait was affected, my arms and hands, and many other muscles and nerves. I remember one day sitting on the couch and crying because I had trouble even holding my newborn daughter. I did not feel so privileged at the time. But, through much prayer from the saints, and crying out to God, we look back on it now and can honestly say we wouldn’t have it any other way. It is good for me to have MS.

I think the biggest lie that we buy into all the time boils down to “God is not good.” We fear that He will take our child, or we fear that what we eat is killing us slowly, or we fear that we won’t find the right thing to help our bodies heal. Another lie is “I deserve something better”. I found myself thinking, “I just want to be normal!” Or I would think “but I want be a normal mom who can walk, all the other moms can walk!” I deserved to be like everyone else.
I was plenty able to walk; I just was projecting into the future…not a good idea. God’s grace and goodness were supplying my needs now, why should I go to a spot where He wasn’t? If I get there some day, He will be there and it will be good, and He will provide.

We so often forget that we don’t deserve any of this. Not even the opportunity to do dishes! I disliked doing dishes, and when God took that gift away, I realized even work was a gift. Every minute of every day is a gift and yet we brazenly complain when we don’t get the life we want. Many times I have cried out to God that He would heal me, and several times I have felt the answer to be “..for He knew what was in the heart of man” (John 2:25), or “You lust and do not have…that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). Did I really want God more than healing? Did I put Him as my “chief end” and goal? Or, was I wanting healing so I could go back to my “normal” life and spend it on my desires? Healing is great and God loves to give those kinds of good gifts, but He will always give good gifts, and sometimes that looks like MS. We must stop listening to the lies that health is good without God, or life is good without God.

God will do whatever it takes to draw you to Himself. He gives each of us unique trials that are fit just for us. As His children, He doesn’t withhold any good thing from us. If we have a chronic illness, it is because it is good. If He chooses not to heal us, it is good. It is so comforting to know that all of this is a part of God’s plan. We are under the skillful Surgeon’s knife, as T. S. Elliot put it. It is wonderful that “our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). What could be better than God Himself?

“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will deliver us” (2 Corinthians 9-10). He has “delivered us from so great a death”, what more could we ask for? And, of course he will deliver us!

Don’t ask, “What can I do to get out of this trial?” Instead ask, “How is God using this trial to bring me closer to Him?” Sometimes rampant fear and unbelief in God sneak in when we research how to get better. I often fell into this. I told myself, “I’m just trying to figure things out.” It is easy to find peace in activity instead of in God. The truth was I felt it was up to me to control my life. I couldn’t trust God to do it right. When we think like that, we lose that precious opportunity to throw ourselves on God and humble ourselves before Him “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7). There is nothing wrong with researching how to get better, just be aware that fear easily creeps in the back door at the same time. Stress and anxiety are good indicators of when you are putting your trust in the wrong things.

Trials tend to be great purging grounds for the dross of God’s people. They kick all your props out from under you, revealing what foundation you are really on. We are so easily distracted and subtly tempted from our first love. But God is merciful to teach us and lead us in just the way we need so that we might gain Him. Once those props have been knocked out, and your lack of faith revealed, start shifting your weight to the foundation of God’s promises.

So how can we be faithful with the time of illness God has given us? First, I think we need to recognize those lies that creep in easily when we are sick. Then we must run to Scripture and begin steeping ourselves and saturating ourselves with God’s promises. My husband counseled me not just to do this when the hard times hit, but especially when things are going well, because we all receive trials at some point if we are God’s children. Clothed in His armor we will be able to stand. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 13).

I love promises about His promises: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). This was just after Balak tried getting Balaam to curse God’s people and he couldn’t. There is nothing that can touch us that hasn’t been permitted by God. Another promise on promises is: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). You can and must put your trust in His promises.

Another good tactic for battling the fears is to get counsel or read books by Christians who have gone before us and conquered in these things. Some of the books that really blessed me during the hardest times were, “The Clouds Ye So Much Dread” by Hannah Grieser; “God is the Gospel” by John Piper, and “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs.

In the end, what do we really want? Do we want to see Jesus? “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). And, can we say with David, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Because this is his desire, David can say at the beginning of the psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

If God is good, and He is, what do we have to fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19). God’s loving hands are the ones that perfectly crafted your illness for you. He will complete His work in you (Philippians 1:6) and use whatever is necessary to give you what is truly good. Lean into the flame that consumes the dross.

Noai Meyer


You can find the index to the articles for this series at the bottom of the introductory post.

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A More Potent Way than the Oily One

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I am reading this book, Letters from Spartanburg, which is a collection of letters that Arthur W. Pink penned to a dear friend when he was writing his very important book, The Sovereignty of God. I have found some really fascinating insights in this book on different subjects. Last night, for example, I came across the letter in which Pink is telling his friend how he disagrees with the author of the book they are currently reading and discussing together, and writes, “I feel like that this book will call for a brief (article) reply… A reply is called for in the interest of truth.”

So, just like Pink here, I think that another article about the oily business is pertinent, for the sake of truth.

On my first post, No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not for You, I wrote about the heart of the problem: the whole world of oils is becoming a false religion that encourages people to use oils to deal with issues that in the Scripture we clearly see we are to deal not with oils, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and the grace that we have in Christ to mortify sins that will never die if we apply particular oils to our wrists.

Then I wrote a follow-up post, Slippery and Oily Slopes. In this one I veered a bit from my original post, not because I was shying away from what I wrote in the first one and tried to soften my view. No, if you read it again, you will see that I started it explaining that I was going to address some questions that had been raised.

On this second article I also  focused on the danger of not seeing that the lady who is selling you that one oil, belongs to a company that has core values, core principles, and a mission, a company that rewards her (with more money) if you buy three more oils, and then rewards her even more if you also become a sales lady.

I read some comments of people disagreeing with me here saying that we would not agree either with the vision, mission, and purpose of most of the companies from whom we buy our stuff, and yet we still get our lattes from them. True. The difference here is that when I but a latte from them, I am not being asked to embrace their vision, mission, and purpose. I am only asked to handle my  beverage with care because it is hot. And, they don’t ask me to start selling lattes to others, which I appreciate.

The most renown companies that are marketing oils for physical, emotional, and spiritual health, are structured as multilevel companies. They are shaped like pyramids. And if you pour gallons of oil on the side of a pyramid and try to walk carefully on it, you will notice that it is almost impossible to get a hold of the rails and there are no stoppers to be found around.  You buy one oil, and the company has trained these sales ladies to sell you the next oil, and then the next, and then they will  proceed to warn you of the toxic ways you are eating and doing laundry, which means that you will need to buy more oils, and then you are in. Without giving much thought, you are, all of a sudden, part of the community, part of the company. And when you are part of the company, you will have, by necessary consequence, to embrace the company’s vision, mission, and purpose.

So that is why it does matter -a lot- that you to consider all these things before saying yes to going on a hike on the oily pyramid.

Now we are on this third post that you owe to A.W. Pink. And as in my previous post, I will address some other concerns that have been raised by dear Friends and thoughtful readers. And then give you some more food for thought.

In my previous posts I was careful to include many links to the statements and product descriptions that the company from whom most of the people I know, who are in the business of oils, belong.  I encourage you to click on those and read and judge for yourself if I am misreading or misrepresenting what is written there.

One more concern that has been raised is that by writing about this, I am adding one more reason to cause unnecessary division among the church; that maybe those who are not using oils will now feel more righteous than the ones who do, and will start looking down on them. Well, the answer is that if that is that is the case,  then those who feel more holy because they never ever use oils like the others, will have to deal with that sin themselves. And the only way to deal with any kind of sin is repenting and believing on Christ’s perfect work.

Another question I have received: Do you have oils in your house? Yes, I do,  I have bought a few of them on different stores (never through people) because I love their smells, but have never let the sales lady explain to me what they are for. I always warn her, if you try to explain what benefits I will get if I use this oil, I will not buy it. They never know what to do with that.

I want to give you one more piece of meat to think and pray about. I want you, as a Christian, to consider that there is a more potent way to give your soul emotional and spiritual support than the way that the oils offer.

If you have read all your Bible you have noticed that the root of all kinds of sin is unbelief. Unbelief has different ways to manifest itself. It can show up dressed up like fear, anger, bitterness, ingratitude, etc. And unbelief likes to talk to us and make us doubt what God has said. For example, envy will say something like, “I don’t believe that what I have and where I am is God’s lot for me, so I envy your life.”

Oils offer you a way to deal with these bad emotions (which in reality are manifestations of the sin of unbelief that we all struggle with), and the company says  that there is scientific evidence to confirm that their oils will indeed help you and give you great support to deal with those bad emotions or feelings. But, here is what I want you to think and pray about, Christian Friend: why use oils when there is a more potent and sure way to deal with these sins (manifested through our emotions)? We don’t have to re-invent a new way, or a better way when the Bible is clear, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Please read Colossians 3, a super important passage here) and, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:14), and  this, “..do not be anxious about anything, but let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Paul to the Philippians)

Unbelief says,  “No, what those passages say cannot be enough. I must do something else.” So we try to add all sorts of other things, including oils that promise emotional and spiritual support, to help God deal with these bad attitudes in us, which at the root are sinful habits, sinful inclinations from our old nature. Unbelief will try to convince us that prayer cannot possible be enough to stop worrying and stop being anxious. What will we do then? Whom will we obey?

So, Friend, please, I want today to encourage you to choose the most potent and sure way. Choose God’s way to deal with fear, anxiety, anger, envy, ingratitude, discontent. Put to death these sins; by the grace of God it is possible, and put on Christ. His work on the cross is finished and is potent. By His blood we have been redeemed and have been made free. Let us live then like people who have been set free, and let us not put ourselves under the yoke of something that promises what only God can give. Do not believe the words of Unbelief, but trust the Lord!

One last thought. In Hebrews 3 (please consider reading Hebrews today) we read the strong admonition, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin...· (emphasis mine).

I emphasized two things in the passage above that are related among them: unbelief and deceitfulness of sin. See the connection? Unbelief is many times manifested in ways that are deceitful, hard to discern, hard to see. Unbelief’s natural response will always be, “No, that cannot be true. I am not being deceived.”  So be suspicious of yourself when you hear those words playing in your mind.

Now about the exhorting part in the Hebrews passage. Yikes. That is a hard one, right? For example, try exhorting others to consider if the whole philosophy behind the oil movement is deceptive. Hard thing to do right? Now add to that one more layer of complexity: this oil thing is an important means of financial gain for many. To see how difficult things can get when money is involved read Acts 19:21-41

Thanks for reading, dear Friends. Praying that the Lord will direct our hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thess. 3:5)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not For You

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We read in our Bibles, in the epistle Paul wrote to the Galatians this: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” And we immediately think of the obvious ways in which the gospel has always been distorted. We think of those who deny the Trinity, on those who teach that we need works to be saved, on those who think that we need to go back and do some OT rituals, etc. But what about this one distortion that is creeping in our midst smelling like lavender and orange peel?

What about Jesus + oils?

I know this is not an easy topic to discuss -at least not on a blog- but I will make an effort to explain why this is the case.

Why do I dare go all the way to what apparently looks like the other side and say that when we come to the topic of oils what we have is an issue of a false gospel creeping into the homes of many Christians? I dare say that the main way in which  Christians are promoting them and consuming them resembles a distorted gospel that preaches that to fully live the life we have as Christians we need to add oils to the already finished work of Jesus. And I say this with confidence after having carefully read what several Christian women who promote oils say.

For example, consider these statements made by Christian women talking to other Christian women:

Are your emotions taking control over your mood and are making your mornings hard? No problem, use x and y oil and you will see a difference! No more moody mammas and wives!

In this case they are saying that the provision of the Gospel is not enough to help you bring your emotions under the submission of the Word. You don’t need ten more minutes in the Word and in prayer, what you really need is the particular oil they sell. The heart of the problem is not the heart anymore, but hormones.

Here is another statement:

Are you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with your life?
No problem, there is an oil, an oil business, and an oil community that will take care of that.

If you have heard something like this, consider how these sales women are selling not only a product but a way of living. “Satisfaction” and “happiness” can be achieved through oils.

Some questions they might raise to sell their products are these:

Do you find it hard to forgive? There is an oil for that. Do you need courage, Christian Friend? There is an oil for that. Are you struggling to fight the sin of discontent and ingratitude? There is an oil for that.

It breaks my heart to see that every day many more women are offering these as an alternative to the power of the gospel. And it is sad to see many others buying these promises. These Christian women, I am sure, would deny that this is the case, that they are not denying the power of the gospel, but I beg you, pay attention to what they are saying. They are not proclaiming that victory over sin is possible for those who are in Christ Jesus; they are indeed offering other Christian women (and others who are without Christ) a big lie. They are offering victory in their lives and over their sinful attitudes and feelings based on the use of these oils.  Yes, Jesus, maybe, but also these oils. Read their testimonies, read how these oils have changed their lives. Pay attention to their words and testimonies.

And we all know that it is easier to say, “Use this oil and feel well, victorious, joyful,” than saying, “Friend, because of Christ, you can mortify your sins. Victory over these bad attitudes and sins is possible when you abide in the Word and put your trust solely in the finished work of Christ.”

These women offer also a mix of some oils that promises “to help release buried emotional trauma resulting from accidents, neglect, the death of a loved one, assault, or abuse.” And then the product description continues saying,  “Left unchecked, emotionally draining episodes may be at the root of fatigue, anger, and restlessness.”

See what is going here? This is absolutely heartbreaking. How can Christian women dare to sell this oil to women who are bound to past traumas? Really? O, that these Christian women may see what they are doing. If they know Christ, if they know their Bibles, they should know better than to do this, than to sell lies. They would be fervently telling others not about this false idol, but about Jesus Christ our Savior who came to seek and save the lost, a Savior who bled on the cross so that we may be healed by His wounds.

How can someone who knows the Gospel dare to say that an oil can help cure abuse, or traumas, or assault, or the death of a loved one? How is that even a possibility? The fact that more and more women in our churches are consuming these, tells me that a huge number of women need to go back to the rudiments of our faith. I wonder what would happen if the women promoting these or those feeling the need to buy these studied more their Bibles and the Puritans. Why is no one talking about Owen’s book on The Mortification of Sin with their friends anymore? Or Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, or Thomas Watson’s, All Things for Good? Or this other one, a book by Jeremiah Burroughs entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment?

It is a lie to tell others that the root of our emotional problems is other than our sinful nature. We don’t need oils to heal these roots, we need a new life. We need to be cut out and be transplanted to a new soil. We need the life that is only found in Christ Jesus. We need to be feeding our soul with the Living Waters found in the Word of God, not with the expensive drops of oil that will soon be gone.

I live in Mexico where, sadly, the prosperity gospel has found millions of followers, and when I hear and read these Christian women selling these oils, I see another expression of the same false gospel. It goes something like this:

“Use this oil -that I can sell you!- and you will be healed, you will be made whole. ”
“Get this set of oils that promote “spiritual health” -and feel the difference”
“”Diffuse or wear [White Angelica oil] on top of shoulders, along spine, on crown of head, wrists, behind ears and on the back of the neck” to encourage “feelings of protection and security” and “enhance your body’s aura, which brings about a sense of strength and endurance.”
“We have the perfect oil for your Bible reading and praying time. Try this one, a blend that “promotes feelings of reverence and spiritual awareness with a blend of essential oils formulated to open the subconscious. This blend, considered a gift by many, enhances emotional equilibrium as it soothes and uplifts the heart.” (Who needs the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word, if there is an oil for that, right? See the danger? Why do you choose not to see the danger?)

This is heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. Why do many have chosen to believe this? Why are so many willing to sell this as the “perfect add-on” to the gospel? Why many can’t see that with their fierce promotion of these oils and their strong faith in them, are actually denying the power of the cross, the power of godliness in the life of the believers (2 Timothy 3)?

I would like to add one more thing. Friend, if you are reading this consider also how these people selling these oils are using fear as a means to drive you to buy their products. They encourage you to detox not only your body, but all your home to avoid cancer. Do not succumb to fear. Do not let your heart be troubled, Christian Friend. It is in this Land of the Living, in this present age in which God has given us life, that we will see the goodness of the Lord. If the birds of the air are still finding their food today, and the flowers of the field are still being dressed even more beautiful than Solomon in all his splendor, and if the ants are still able to find food to store for the winter, then God will not leave us, nor forsake us. We will not die before our appointed day, a day God has chosen for each one of us. And in the same manner, we cannot add a day -not even a second!- more to that timeline, no matter how clean we might choose to live. Let us not yoke ourselves to fear, let us not. If we are Christ’s we are safe in His hand. If we are living under the shadow of the Almighty, why are we so afraid?

Dear Christian woman, look up, look to Jesus. Only Christ can satisfy your soul.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

NOTE: Two follow-up posts are now available: Slippery and Oily Slopes and A More Potent Way than the Oily One.