Monday, December 24, 2007

The Principle of Suffering-James 1

“Welcoming the chastening of the Lord and the sorrows and hurts of life as necessary for my maturity and future leadership.”
On August 1, 1993, 14 years ago, I experienced one of the hardest nights of my life…what some would call, “the dark night of my soul”.  I went to an Elder meeting where I thought they were going to ask me questions from my side of a story, only to discover that another staff guy, who was also an elder, was getting ready to publicly charge me of several things.
Let me back up just a minute…
-       In September 1992 I moved from being a “Senior Pastor” in FL to an Associate Pastor in Reston, VA
-       When I came into the new setting, I came in fast and furious and made another associate pastor very uncomfortable with me. He was also an elder…not a good organizational structure
-       In his discomfort with me, he started to make a case against me…accusing me to the other Elders that I was a liar, thief, rebellious and not a man of integrity or a man under authority.
-       The Chairman of the Elders, who was also a good friend of mine, called me and asked; do you know that this guy is making serious charges against you? I said, I had no idea because no one has said anything to me
-       I said why don’t you call a meeting, let him make his charges…let me respond…and you Elders make the call
-       He agreed but the night before the meeting, he called and said the other guy was not comfortable with us being at the same meeting
-       So I said, no problem…let him make his charges…then I will come to another meeting and answer…then you make the call…he agreed.
-       So on 8.1.1993, I thought I was going into a meeting to answer questions…only to hear this opening statement…”Now John, we just want you to be open to what we want to SAY.”
-       In that moment, if ever “I heard” God speak…I heard…DON’T DEFEND YOURSELF”
-       So with that I pulled out my pen and journal and said…what would you like to say?
-       This guy went down his list of charges against me in front of all the Elders and totally and completely dragged my reputation through the mud.
-       It was horrible. I was so brokenhearted, I could barely breathe.
The next day in great pain, I went out on our deck and started thinking and writing, “what in the hell just happened?” I cried out to God for help and wisdom and counsel in the midst of my pain and confusion…I came across this statement…
Welcoming the chastening of the Lord
And the sorrows and hurts of life
As necessary for my maturity
And preparation for future leadership
It was in that very dark and painful season that I learned the things about suffering that I want to share with you today.
Over the course of our lives and ministry we will suffer…and it will come from several places…different people and circumstances.
Nobody likes it. Nobody wants it.  We all want to get through it and we want to get it behind us.
I. Temptations from Me – Reap What You Sow (Galatians 6)…plus chastening
II. Trials from Others – Simply living in a fallen world…a victim (1 Peter 2)
III. Tests from God – Maturing and preparing us (Hebrews 11:17)
For some strange reason, having a perspective from where it is coming is helpful.  It brought some clarity and there are 3 different responses
1.    There is suffering that comes from me.
-      Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life  
-      My own temptations…giving in to them and then the consequences – a choice that has produced awful results and outcomes:
-      We reap what we sow…and part of that reaping may be the chastening of the Lord
2.    There is suffering that comes from others –
-      1 Peter 2:19  “It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”
-      There is unjust suffering – so much unjust suffering, so much injustice-
-      A most classic example is Joseph…thrown in pit, sold in slavery, falsely accused and thrown in prison…all preparatory…
-      God permits what He could have prevented
-      He has permitted the circumstance to mature and prepare
-      It is doubtful you will minister to “broken hearted people” unless your heart has been broken.
3.    There is suffering that comes from God.
-      Hebrews 11:17 – By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,
-      Some of the suffering you are experiencing is simply a test…a test from God to prepare you for leadership
Now What? How do I respond?
  1. Temptations from me: Choose life in the Spirit
-      Learn and grow in walking in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lust of the flesh
-      We have all we need for life and godliness…The Word of God, The Spirit of God, The People of God
  1. Trials from Others: Choose to forgive
-      Look past the offender…see God’s permission on this
-      God permitted what He could have prevented
-      Choose to forgive – “I forgive you”
  1. Tests from God: Choose to trust
-      Thank Him
-      Receive it vs resist it from God
-      He is – Maturing us
            Preparing us for future leadership
Are you suffering? From where is it coming? You? Others? God?
1.    You? - Choose to live in the Spirit
2.    Others? - Choose to forgive
3.    God? - Choose to thank God and trust Him for your maturity and preparation for future leadership.
So – for the next year I had to walk by this guy’s office EVERY DAY – thinking, feeling “I hate you”. The elders came back and asked my forgiveness for the way the conflict was handled. The other guy and I ended up asking and granting forgiveness to one another.
One year later…
-      Several young couples in our church wanted us to lead a marriage conference
-      We found out that they also invited this other guy and his wife to share too
-      The very first talk they asked me to give was…How to deal with conflict and this guy and his wife were sitting on the front row with Debbie.
-      I told the couples…you are seeing a modern day miracle…
Never in my wildest imaginations did I think I would go from that very dark night of my soul on August 1, 1993 to this incredible place called North Point Ministries. I have NO DOUBT that all of that was for my maturity and preparation for leadership.
What is the principle of suffering? Welcoming the chastening of the Lord and the sorrows and hurts of life as necessary for my maturity and preparation for future leadership.
Keep choosing to live in the Spirit
Keep choosing to forgive.
Keep choosing to trust.

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