Sadhu Sundar Singh, of the early 20th century, has been called the St. Paul of India. His mother died when he was just a teenager and her death steeped him in overwhelming grief. In his despair, he planned his own death. After three days in silence, he exclaimed, “Oh God, if there be a God, reveal yourself to me tonight.” Fifteen minutes before he was leaving to carry out his plan, ‘a bright cloud of light suddenly filled his room and out of the brightness came the face and figure of Jesus.’ As a result of this vision, Sundar’s life was dramatically and irrevocably changed and he had one of the most remarkable ministries of the early 1900s.
He traveled from village to village proclaiming the good news of life in Jesus Christ. Like his Master, he had no home, no possessions. He belonged to the road, sharing the suffering of his people, eating with those who gave him shelter, and telling all who would listen of the love of God. Even his death is a story shrouded in mystery and adventure. More than once he had sought to bring the gospel message into the mountains of Tibet, with each attempt ending in failure. In April 1929, Sadhu Sundar Singh was seen on a high mountain trail that leads into Tibet. He has never been heard from or seen since.
When I read of the vision, ‘a bright cloud of light suddenly filled his room and out of the brightness came the face and figure of Jesus’, I asked the Lord to do this for four young men for whom I pray repeatedly. Perhaps you should ask God to give a revelation of Himself to those for whom you are interceding.
Biographical information from Devotional Classics
Madame Jeanne Guyon, of the 1600’s, married at age 15 to an invalid who was 38 years old. Unhappy in her marriage, she sought happiness in her devotional life. She also spent 25 years in confinement for her faith. Her writings help urge us to focus on the Presence of God.
Here’s a couple of her suggestions that I have been practicing.
1. Pray the scriptures. (a 15 minute exercise):
- Choose a simple passage b. Read it slowly c. Try to sense the heart of each verse d. When something is meaningful , turn it into a prayer. ( I used Proverbs 8)
- The other exercise is ‘behold the Lord’. a. Select a passage (I have been working through the Psalms of Ascent – 120 to 134, doing two a day.) b. Reread the words until you can focus on God’s presence. c. Keep your heart and mind focused on the presence of God. d. When your mind wanders come back to the Bible passage to help you refocus.
I have been journaling while doing these, writing my personal insights. Journaling helps me focus as this is not easy for me.
Matthew 7:13, 14 talk about two ways – a ‘broad way’ that leads to destruction and a ‘narrow way’ that leads to life. I always pictured the two ways as being separate; the two ways diverging into different directions. In conversation with a couple of volunteers in our office this week I got a completely different picture.
One said she asked the Lord what the scripture ‘narrow is the way to life’ meant. The Lord showed her that the ‘narrow way’ is just as wide as Jesus’s footprints. To follow the ‘narrow way’ we must stay in line with Jesus steps and not move outside of them.
In discussing this, and the ‘broad way’ with another volunteer, I was informed that the ‘broad way’ is very wide and the ‘narrow way’ is positioned directly in the middle of the ‘broad way’.
If we stay on the ‘narrow way’ we will enjoy relationship with Jesus. If we divert to the ‘broad way’, on either side, we will join the many who are being lead to destruction.
I like that explanation better than what I have believed all my life!
- Stanley Jones was one of the best known missionaries and religious writers of the first half of the twentieth century.
Jesus did three things by habit:
- He read scripture. He stood up to read as was His habit. The Word is God interpreting Himself to us. Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly, professor of gynecological surgery at John Hopkins, says of reading the Bible: The Bible vindicates itself because it is such excellent medicine. It has never failed to cure a single patient if only he took the prescription honestly.
- He prayed in private by habit. When we read scripture, God speaks to us. In prayer we speak to God. Then God speaks to us no longer through the Word only, but directly in words to us.
Abraham Lincoln said, I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.
- He taught. He taught them again as was His custom. He passed on to others what He had learned. It is important to pass on to others what has been given to us in the reading of the Word, and prayer. It is a law of the mind that what is not expressed dies. If you don’t share it, you won’t have it!
These three things are basis for us to grow in our relationship to Jesus Christ.
This is short but very revealing and powerful.
Three reasons we are discouraged, or in a dark place:
- We have been tepid, slothful, or negligent in spiritual exercises.
- God may be testing our worth and progress.
- For God to give us knowledge and understanding that our relationship with God is a gift – not within our power to attain. (It keeps us from pride that we can achieve this relationship on our own.)
John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while being imprisoned the second time for preaching without a license. Pilgrim’s Progress is a monumental classic, second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold since its first printing in 1678. I’m reproducing here some of the anguish he wrote about being called to preach. These are important for anyone engaged in ministry.
- “I could not rest unless I was preaching. “ (He had a real call!)
- “The Holy Spirit never intended that people with gifts and abilities bury them and not use them.”
- “We preach according to our faith, – we can’t preach effectively what we haven’t experienced.”
- “I preached what I felt.”
- “It sometimes seemed as if an angel of God were standing behind me encouraging me.”
- “I suffered great loss when those I’d helped fell back into sin.”
- “Sometimes when I thought I have done the least, I have accomplished the most.”
- “I was interested in fruit. It mattered not the compliments if there was no fruit.”
- “I have struggled with discouragement and being tempted to not preach truth.”
- “I have been tempted to pride and vainglory.”
- “Great grace and small gifts are better than great gifts and no grace.”
I have been pondering the humbling sensations God causes us to experience in preparation for use in His kingdom. Moses was reduced to 40 years as a shepherd. He had grown up as an Egyptian prince, with everything done for him. Now as a shepherd he had to do everything for himself. He was holding the very job he had been taught to despise.
God was preparing him for leadership.
He learned the ways of the people he would be leading.
He learned about life in the wilderness where they would be wandering for 40 years.
My personal comparison was the ten years I spent teaching in the elementary classroom after completing a doctor’s degree in School Administration, majoring in supervision and curriculum development. Repeatedly I faced, “What are you doing teaching elementary school with that degree?” While humbling, those years were preparation for founding and directing Center for Women’s Ministries.
Jeremy Taylor counsels, “Never be ashamed of your birth, your parents, your occupation, or your present employment, or the lowly status of any of them. Be willing to endure whatever His will brings, to be content in whatever state you are in and be ready for change, when it arrives.”
God may use unexpected sources when communicating to us, whether people, thoughts, or experiences. Be open to God’s surprises.
In the Bible we find many people who had to ‘wait on the Lord.’ Just as believers today must patiently wait.
Noah waited for God’s timing before leaving the ark.
Moses waited on God on the mountain.
Job waited for God’s answers.
Isaiah waited for God to work in Israel.
Jeremiah understood the need to wait quietly for God’s salvation.
Hosea warned the people to return to God and wait for Him to work.
Micah waited for the God of his salvation.
Zephaniah explained that the Lord wanted His people to wait for Him.
Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for God’s kingdom.
The disciples were ordered by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Believers are called to wait for Heaven, for the promise is sure.
If you are waiting, you are in Heavenly company!!
From Bible Notes on Job
I am rereading the book of Job. These are notes from my new Chronological Life Application Study Bible.
Job was not meant to know the reasons. He would have to face life with no answers or explanations. It is better to know God than to know answers.
- We live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished.
- A good man can suffer for no apparent reason.
- Faith in God is justified even when our situations look hopeless.
- Faith must be built on the confidence that God’s ultimate purpose will come to pass.
- Believing and obeying God does not shelter us from life’s calamities.
- Adversity destroys superficial faith.
- God is never caught off guard by our troubles and is always compassionate.
- God created our emotions and it is not sinful to express them.
- Four reasons we suffer:
- Consequences for bad decisions and actions
- Suffering shapes us for special service to others
- Sometimes it is an attack by Satan on our lives
- Sometimes we don’t know why we suffer.
These are notes from only chapter 1. I’m expecting additional insights as I read. May these bring new understanding to you as you experience suffering.