Often times we hear from tv evangelists or even our own pastors that if we pray and obey God we will avoid troubles and horrible events. But in my somewhat young life, I haven’t really seen that to be true. So the question continued to haunt me… until yesterday.
Running an errand, I turned on the radio to hear the preacher Tony Evans speaking. I normally don’t listen to these radio sermons, but for some reason I left it on (I now know why : ) He was talking about angels and how prayer activates angels’ activity. He then said this, (my summary of the sermon):
Prayer is not a promise from trouble, but it is a promise for peace in times of trouble.
When I heard that, a weight in my heart was lifted. My spirit finally understood.
Scripture does not tell us that we will be free from troubles when we are Christians. We all seem to know that, but then when something bad happens we often act shocked and betrayed (I’m guilty of this). In John 16:33, the words come from Jesus, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” It does not say “might have” trouble, instead it says “will have.” But He tells us that in Him we MAY have peace through these troubles.
Jesus offers us peace amidst trouble, and that is why we pray, that we may indeed have His peace through these times.
The Bible is jam packed full of proof for this truth. The first example that came to mind was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found in Daniel 3. God could have kept them from the fiery furnace, but He didn’t. The words that came from the young men were this, Our God is able to save us “and if not, He is still good” (Dan.3:18). He is still good because if he does not keep you from the trouble, He goes with you through it, as seen with the young men in the furnace. Jesus was in it with them.
Even Jesus was not delivered from the trouble of his crucifixion, but when it came He did not utter a word, “like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth,” (Acts 8:32). I believe that Jesus did not utter a word during his death because He had the peace of God upon him. The same is for all the disciples who faced torture and persecution. They who had the greatest faith, John the Baptist, Daniel, Stephen, and the disciples, they were not kept from harm, but in the midst of it they had supernatural peace.
The same can be seen in modern day. Corrie ten Boom, mostly known for her book “The Hiding Place,” begged God from the Holland prison to not let her go to a German concentration camp for harboring Jews, but He did. And He went with her. When you read her story, God is part of her every moment in that camp. He was as near to her as air is to your skin. He gave Corrie and her sister, Betsie, a peace that went beyond what they could have imagined.
This week in the news came the first public statement from Dr. Brantly, a young medical doctor who contracted Ebola from his patients facing the deadly virus. He said, “When the result was positive,I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding. God was reminding me of what he had taught me years ago, that he will give me everything I need to be faithful to him.”
We see that God could, in his omnipotence, kept the young doctor from contracting the virus, but He didn’t. Instead, God is going through the virus with him, evident of the peace the doctor has.
There’s a story of a pastor who volunteered to pastor a church on a leper island. For ten years he tried everything in his power to get a convert or to have more than 2 people come to church. After ten fruitless years, he gave up, packing his things and heading to the dock. As he stood on the dock waiting for the boat to take him, the leper who ran the dock looked at him. He told the discouraged pastor, “Look at your hands! You have leprosy!” The pastor looked, and sure enough his hands were leprous. He walked back to his church pondering it all. The next day his church was full.
I think that this truth about prayer shows us how much greater God’s way of thinking is. If Christians’ prayers prevented harm, how could we explain to others the peace of God? If we never had troubles, we would not know what it is to have supernatural peace or joy or rest.
People don’t want to learn from perfect people. They need someone who knows what it is they go through. Even Jesus knew the power of relating to others. He came that He might suffer, that He might know what it is to be human.
I believe we have that we have that same calling. We are to go through the troubles that God allows, but we don’t go them alone. We go through them with God who gives us supernatural peace amidst the trials. Then when we go to share the Gospel, we not only know it but have experienced it! Then we can say to that hurting lost soul, “I know what it is you go through, but I also know the Hope of Christ. Come, taste and see that He is good.”
Just like those lepers, when people see that you are suffering with the same stuff they are but you remain at peace and can rest, that is when they see the glory of God and they begin to thirst for the Living Water.
Let us not give way to discouragement or depression when troubles come, rather let us thank and worship the Lord that He goes through it with us. Let us pray that the troubles we go through with God may cause such a thirst in others! For the promise is ever true:
“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You without money, come, buy and eat! Yes, come! Buy wine and milk without money – it’s free!” (Isaiah 55:1)
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37)
For, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will givee him will become in him a pring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14).