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Monday, March 26, 2012

Standing Firm in the Face of Bad Times

Christians are not above telling lies. We sometimes act as if we never have bad times. Our public testimonies are often sugar coated. We make ourselves the heroes of faith as if all our circumstances- bad and good- have had no affect. We claim that our faith has made us superheroes who are able to jump all problems with a single bound. We tell others that we are fine when we are really in great pain. We say that we are depending upon the Lord when we are really scared.

Some Christians who haven't figured out the lying think there is something wrong with us  or them; they are not sure. They know that they are scared or hurting or doubting or whatever the circumstances dictate and wonder why they aren't feeling calm in the middle of their own storms. They feel inadequate and search for the strength to "keep a stiff upper lip" and bear their burdens as badges of honor. They desperately want to tell someone their feelings but either have to abandon the Christian community and "ruin" their testimony to the non-Christians or face derision and appear immature in their faith to believers.

Thus, the Christian life has become a curse to those going through their bad times. They have no one they can safely tell their anguish to. After awhile, they either learn to lie like the other Christians or their faith becomes less central to their lives. They still want to believe but they also know the truth.

Okay, so let's look at how Jesus faced His toughest time.

He told others what He was going through. Many did not understand Him. The man who raises the dead cannot be killed; can He? They assumed that the man who spoke so much about faith when the boat was sinking would not be concerned when He had to face pain. One of His best friends, Peter, rebuked Him for His statements of death. Peter thought that bad times could be prevented by the faithful. They can't.

He called for His best friends to join Him in prayer. Again, He was disappointed. They fell asleep because they did not realize the gravity of the situation. They had seen Jesus escape miraculously before and surely would see Him do so again. They did not join Him for long in His prayer.

He sweat poured like drops of blood. It may be that the small blood vessels near the surface of the skin actually ruptured. Jesus was under tremendous stress. He prayed that He would not have to face the agony which awaited Him in a few hours. He accepted the will of His Father regardless.

I have been in the Garden of Gethsemane a few times. A few steps out of the light would have provided ample cover for escape. Those arresting Jesus needed to literally "get their hands on Him" in order to prevent Him from one of His famous escapes. They needed Judas, one of His disciples, to point Him out in the dark. (Strange how it is often one of those you have trusted that will betray you; isn' it?) Jesus truly walked in His Father's will to the cross since He knew who would betray Him, when He would be betrayed and that His betrayer would know where He was. He could have avoided His arrest by changing His location. Jesus certainly stood firm in the face His great and terrible time.

But let's look at what happened: (1)He told friends who did not understand- does that sound like what happens today when Christians tell other Christians of the terrible times they are going through? Simple answers of, "Just trust God," and the quoting of scripture is all the comfort you sometimes get. (2) He was rebuked by one of His closest friends. This may be your greatest fear. Someone you tell will rebuke you for your "lack of faith" because you are in such stress about the thing you are going through. (3) He asks for prayer but they fell asleep. Again, have you heard another Christian say, "You are in my prayers" but later when you speak of what you are going through they can't remember your circumstances. It really sounds like they went to sleep.

Standing firm in tough times is stressful. It is terror in losing what you have. It is knowing that you are losing a loved one, a marriage, a child to sinfulness or your means of supporting your family. It is going through or watching someone go through a grave illness. It is having life drained from you through this stress.

Standing firm is expressing your desire to avoid and escape the hard road ahead while resolving to walk through it if it is God's will.

Mary and Martha went through a terrible time when their brother, Lazarus, died. He was in the grave for four days when Jesus arrived. Jesus did not rebuke them for their lack of faith. He listened to them. Then, when they wept, He wept with them. Wouldn't it be great to find some believers who would do the same with you?

Standing firm in the face of bad times isn't for sissies. It is often stressful and painful.

Why can't we just admit this?

Luke 22:41-44 (ESV) 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

6 comments:

high-expressions said...

Such a beautiful exposition, and truthful accounting of real-life situations. God bless you Ps Prentis.

I want to share in this connection, a couple of words of knowledge through pictures or visions I received, on last weekend services. The topic preached for the weekend by the youth pastor for the main adult services was "Prayer". “A basic enough topic but NOT easy in practice”, said the young Pastor.

We, the church (the church I attend), has been blessed greatly by the Lord these couple of years, as in our youth services, God has raised a number of youth pastors sensitive to His Spirit, and would give fully to His desiring to come to minister to the youths in services; and so, this youth pastor, at the end of his sermon, also encouraged and asked for the adults to approach the sanctuary front for prayer needs, citing examples of situations like relationship issues, financial needs, bodily needs (being sick) and all.

Pastors, do you do that for your services? Do you openly pray for those in your fold with needs? You know, Jesus did NOT hide away somewhere in the cave or in a hut to minister to people in need. Jesus would pray for people openly, even when He was of course, wanting to teach the ways of the Kingdom to the masses. Jesus, generally, did NOT approach this matter as a wasting of majority's time to address a minority's needs.

I cannot appreciate comments of people to the effect that in services when we pray for a few people in need, at the front of the sanctuary, with the rest of the congregation at their seats, we are wasting other people's time. No, if you are the Senior Pastor of the church, it is your duty to enlighten the flock, NOT for you to flow with the way of the world which is majority is right or has the right! If they are playing computer games on their I-phones, while we pray and minister to others at front, you should know what to do; don't tell us (ministers), NOT to give them the chance to play or idle away. Really, I have no qualm saying it to my Senior Pastor; I say, “You teach them about corporate atmosphere; you teach them about corporate anointing; you don't let the flock lead you; you are the shepherd, you lead them!

In NOT so many words, but I actually told my Senior Pastor that, recently, when the move of the Holy Spirit was NOT given, anymore, its due place. And things have began to come back; and we again is starting to see the flow of words of knowledge and prophecy, and ministry in services, where the Holy Spirit comes ministering, albeit the time allocated, was more of towards the end of the services (I accept that, as concession from the church leadership; but if you want to better that, I still think it is more honoring to Him, to give Him, a more strategic time spot, say, at the end of the praise and worship, before the announcement and sermon).

I will now come to the central thing I want to share; during the sermon I was given pictures of different women wanting to talk about their afflictions but somehow did NOT know where to begin or who to talk to. I stepped forward and released the word, and suggested those who could identify with that, to come forward to talk with a minister, and so that we could pray with them. Along with that, I also revealed that I sensed the Lord gave this word, “We are people of solutions, because we are people of God”. When I released that, it triggered a flow of many people coming forth to the front for ministry. The point is that church ought to be a loving environment where people can bear with one another and also, to bear one another up; and we are to encourage that environment, and to banish fear. The Holy Spirit wants to minister.

Cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

In another service (the next day), with the same sermon preached, I received the vision of seeing one (I only saw the person from chest downward, i.e. I don’t see the head) coming forth, with hands holding a rice pot. And I interpret it as there were people in the congregation, perhaps, several, they were petitioning for their needs (NOT their wants); in other words, they were somewhat desperate, concerning their needs. The word that came with the vision was “Then I was young, now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous go hungry, or their children go a begging” {there is a verse like that, in Scripture}. And so, as I released the word, I encouraged those in the category that the Lord’s word was to remain righteous, despite their desperation (It might be there were those who were tempted to turn unrighteous, because of their desperation; and so, that word of the Lord).

I ministered to a young married lady who was so very desperate; she was with minimal income (serving in a charitable family-life organization), with 2 kids, one bordering into being autistic, and her husband was away, studying overseas, and she was left managing; she wept as she related she turned to bank loan to meet her daily needs! When I finished, a lady pastor of the church took over to talk with the lady.

What I am trying to share here is that we can influence the atmosphere; creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could move people in affliction, to open up, and receive ministry from men (our show of love) and from God. When the church is big, unless effort is exerted, the atmosphere can appear to be cold, and people do feel “others cannot be bothered”. My suggestion is to effort along with the Holy Spirit. Let church be the place where God’s care and love can be seen manifested, and let church be the place where we show God’s love and care (even if we cannot, of ourselves, help the people in their afflictions like they are being sick, or are in relationship break-up), through our being sensitive to the move of the Spirit, and allowing God to work through us.

Indeed, at times, all we could do, is to provide the “listening” ear and to pray for the hurting people; but it makes such a big difference to them, even if the relief is NOT permanent. Ps Prentis reminded that Jesus wept with the sisters over Lazarus’ death, even though, He would subsequently prayed for him, Lazarus, to come back to life.

Years back, my marriage was already with “rough” spots, and I “took a lot of bullets”, being the gentler one. I remember that at times, when the threshold was almost reached, the Lord, through His Spirit, would arrange an altar call for those with needs, to approach, and while at the front, my tears would run, and after the session, I would then be able to go back to face the hits. In other words, the Spirit healed and the Spirit sustained me through many years. Yes, some minister “came along side”, but it is the Spirit of God ministering through. The altar calls and the willingness of ministers to come along side, they become the means used by the Spirit to minister; ministers often do NOT even need to know and understand a lot of the details, but just to be present with the hurting one, and to pray for the afflicted one.

high-expressions said...

cont. from preceding page

I want to say, while we cannot help to reconcile splitting spouses of a marriage to reconcile when only one party is willing to come to the table, I have ministered to many, at altar calls, who were hurting badly, and in need of relief of their hurts at those moments. Church should minister comfort, and be God’s instrument of comfort, to these, for they are injured soldiers of God. We should NOT be thinking that because the chance of reconciliation is next to zero (because one party wants it, and NOT the other), that we do NOT accept such cases (fearing that it will bring down your success or achievement rate!). We ought to minister to these, apart from reconciliation. If we want such to be effective for God, they need to be restored to wholeness, despite their marriage break-up.

I have been, both the ministee and minister, in such situations, and I want to say, we are NOT to refuse request by such hurting people for us to pray with them, saying to them that “there is nothing (much) we can do for them”. They are asking for the thing that you can do for them – pray with them. I have been hurt like that by a pastor, but I forgave; but many might NOT; and if you are such a pastor, you have become a snare for the person; his/her unforgiveness for you, adds to his/her already big reservoir of hurts!

Lastly, I just want to say that recently, the Lord also, through a word of prophecy for the church, indirectly reminded me and others (since I released it) that the individuals, they made up the church. It is NOT just the church leadership who are supposed to help others to stand firm in the face of bad times, it is also the individual members of the congregation who must each be baptized, be filled and be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be His vessels for such moments as these – bad times of others.

May God richly bless this sharing, for His love for His people

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

high-expressions said...

Such a beautiful exposition, and truthful accounting of real-life situations. God bless you Ps Prentis.

I want to share in this connection, a couple of words of knowledge through pictures or visions I received, on last weekend services. The topic preached for the weekend by the youth pastor for the main adult services was "Prayer". “A basic enough topic but NOT easy in practice”, said the young Pastor.

We, the church (the church I attend), has been blessed greatly by the Lord these couple of years, as in our youth services, God has raised a number of youth pastors sensitive to His Spirit, and would give fully to His desiring to come to minister to the youths in services; and so, this youth pastor, at the end of his sermon, also encouraged and asked for the adults to approach the sanctuary front for prayer needs, citing examples of situations like relationship issues, financial needs, bodily needs (being sick) and all.

Pastors, do you do that for your services? Do you openly pray for those in your fold with needs? You know, Jesus did NOT hide away somewhere in the cave or in a hut to minister to people in need. Jesus would pray for people openly, even when He was of course, wanting to teach the ways of the Kingdom to the masses. Jesus, generally, did NOT approach this matter as a wasting of majority's time to address a minority's needs.

I cannot appreciate comments of people to the effect that in services when we pray for a few people in need, at the front of the sanctuary, with the rest of the congregation at their seats, we are wasting other people's time. No, if you are the Senior Pastor of the church, it is your duty to enlighten the flock, NOT for you to flow with the way of the world which is majority is right or has the right! If they are playing computer games on their I-phones, while we pray and minister to others at front, you should know what to do; don't tell us (ministers), NOT to give them the chance to play or idle away. Really, I have no qualm saying it to my Senior Pastor; I say, “You teach them about corporate atmosphere; you teach them about corporate anointing; you don't let the flock lead you; you are the shepherd, you lead them!

In NOT so many words, but I actually told my Senior Pastor that, recently, when the move of the Holy Spirit was NOT given, anymore, its due place. And things have began to come back; and we again is starting to see the flow of words of knowledge and prophecy, and ministry in services, where the Holy Spirit comes ministering, albeit the time allocated, was more of towards the end of the services (I accept that, as concession from the church leadership; but if you want to better that, I still think it is more honoring to Him, to give Him, a more strategic time spot, say, at the end of the praise and worship, before the announcement and sermon).

I will now come to the central thing I want to share; during the sermon I was given pictures of different women wanting to talk about their afflictions but somehow did NOT know where to begin or who to talk to. I stepped forward and released the word, and suggested those who could identify with that, to come forward to talk with a minister, and so that we could pray with them. Along with that, I also revealed that I sensed the Lord gave this word, “We are people of solutions, because we are people of God”. When I released that, it triggered a flow of many people coming forth to the front for ministry. The point is that church ought to be a loving environment where people can bear with one another and also, to bear one another up; and we are to encourage that environment, and to banish fear. The Holy Spirit wants to minister.

Cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

In another service (the next day), with the same sermon preached, I received the vision of seeing one (I only saw the person from chest downward, i.e. I don’t see the head) coming forth, with hands holding a rice pot. And I interpret it as there were people in the congregation, perhaps, several, they were petitioning for their needs (NOT their wants); in other words, they were somewhat desperate, concerning their needs. The word that came with the vision was “Then I was young, now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous go hungry, or their children go a begging” {there is a verse like that, in Scripture}. And so, as I released the word, I encouraged those in the category that the Lord’s word was to remain righteous, despite their desperation (It might be there were those who were tempted to turn unrighteous, because of their desperation; and so, that word of the Lord).

I ministered to a young married lady who was so very desperate; she was with minimal income (serving in a charitable family-life organization), with 2 kids, one bordering into being autistic, and her husband was away, studying overseas, and she was left managing; she wept as she related she turned to bank loan to meet her daily needs! When I finished, a lady pastor of the church took over to talk with the lady.

What I am trying to share here is that we can influence the atmosphere; creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could move people in affliction, to open up, and receive ministry from men (our show of love) and from God. When the church is big, unless effort is exerted, the atmosphere can appear to be cold, and people do feel “others cannot be bothered”. My suggestion is to effort along with the Holy Spirit. Let church be the place where God’s care and love can be seen manifested, and let church be the place where we show God’s love and care (even if we cannot, of ourselves, help the people in their afflictions like they are being sick, or are in relationship break-up), through our being sensitive to the move of the Spirit, and allowing God to work through us.

Indeed, at times, all we could do, is to provide the “listening” ear and to pray for the hurting people; but it makes such a big difference to them, even if the relief is NOT permanent. Ps Prentis reminded that Jesus wept with the sisters over Lazarus’ death, even though, He would subsequently prayed for him, Lazarus, to come back to life.

Years back, my marriage was already with “rough” spots, and I “took a lot of bullets”, being the gentler one. I remember that at times, when the threshold was almost reached, the Lord, through His Spirit, would arrange an altar call for those with needs, to approach, and while at the front, my tears would run, and after the session, I would then be able to go back to face the hits. In other words, the Spirit healed and the Spirit sustained me through many years. Yes, some minister “came along side”, but it is the Spirit of God ministering through. The altar calls and the willingness of ministers to come along side, they become the means used by the Spirit to minister; ministers often do NOT even need to know and understand a lot of the details, but just to be present with the hurting one, and to pray for the afflicted one.

cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

I want to say, while we cannot help to reconcile splitting spouses of a marriage to reconcile when only one party is willing to come to the table, I have ministered to many, at altar calls, who were hurting badly, and in need of relief of their hurts at those moments. Church should minister comfort, and be God’s instrument of comfort, to these, for they are injured soldiers of God. We should NOT be thinking that because the chance of reconciliation is next to zero (because one party wants it, and NOT the other), that we do NOT accept such cases (fearing that it will bring down your success or achievement rate!). We ought to minister to these, apart from reconciliation. If we want such to be effective for God, they need to be restored to wholeness, despite their marriage break-up.

I have been, both the ministee and minister, in such situations, and I want to say, we are NOT to refuse request by such hurting people for us to pray with them, saying to them that “there is nothing (much) we can do for them”. They are asking for the thing that you can do for them – pray with them. I have been hurt like that by a pastor, but I forgave; but many might NOT; and if you are such a pastor, you have become a snare for the person; his/her unforgiveness for you, adds to his/her already big reservoir of hurts!

Lastly, I just want to say that recently, the Lord also, through a word of prophecy for the church, indirectly reminded me and others (since I released it) that the individuals, they made up the church. It is NOT just the church leadership who are supposed to help others to stand firm in the face of bad times, it is also the individual members of the congregation who must each be baptized, be filled and be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be His vessels for such moments as these – bad times of others.

May God richly bless this sharing, for His love for His people

Anthony Chia, high.expressions