Resistance

by Bill Rudge

Giants and obstacles are like exercise. Exercise works because of resistance. The greater the resistance, the bigger and stronger your muscles become. The more giants we face, the more character and spiritual muscles we develop.

Often, what I have wanted God to deliver me from was what He used to make me stronger. Something happens in the wilderness, the valley, and the desert that does not happen on the mountaintop; God builds character, strength, faith and determination as He molds our lives to accomplish His will.

On the way home from seeing a specialist after my son tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) for the second time while playing soccer, with no alternative but extensive knee surgery, I told him that, “Trials, obstacles, and difficulties put iron in our blood and make us strong as nails.”

For about 10 years during our early Christian lives and ministry, Karen and I lived in extreme poverty. It looked as though we would never have anything. Over the years we faced many hard times, difficulties, obstacles, impossible circumstances and giants. But the Lord somehow always intervened in His time and way to enable us to overcome them.

I often wondered why, throughout my Christian life and in our ministry, God permitted so many difficulties. We seemed to do everything the hard way. Yet, God has taught me the reality that all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I have walked with the Lord more than 45 years, and I can honestly testify to the truth of this Scriptural promise.

I am glad we have persevered through our impoverished beginnings and many hard times. Since the Lord has greatly blessed my life and ministry, no one can say that I only serve Him for all the blessings He has given me. I served the Lord when we had nothing; with no hope of ever having anything, and I serve the Lord when He blesses. I will serve Him if He takes away everything He has given to me.

The WHYS of Adversities

by Bill Rudge

Bringing Difficulties On Ourselves

We make choices all the time: what we eat, where we go and what we do. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of those choices, such as the young man who called in despair because choices he made require him to appear before a judge who will determine jail time or probation.

Natural Consequences

If I get too close to the edge of a cliff, I am going to fall off. I did not fall because Satan pushed me over or God is punishing me. I violated the law of gravity and suffered the natural consequences.

Spiritual Warfare

There is a real enemy who seeks to defeat and destroy every person committed to Jesus Christ. When we face spiritual warfare, it can become intense. Bizarre things can happen with little or no explanation. At these times we must know the authority we have as believers in Jesus Christ and how to use the armor of God and the sword of the Spirit.

Refining and Molding

Scripture is clear that God purifies and prepares His people. Anyone used by God will go through wilderness experiences to be trained to stand in the midst of life’s challenges and temptations. Just like a soldier is prepared for battle, believers are trained through difficulties to face any circumstance. It has been accurately stated that there is no testimony without a test.

Discerning the Difference

When adverse circumstances rise up and I go through the “flames” of life, I get on my knees and ask, “Lord, is there sin in my life? Am I reaping the consequences of some attitude or choice I made in disobedience to Your Word and Spirit? If so, I repent. Otherwise, I evaluate whether this is “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” or am I in the midst of spiritual warfare. Has the enemy targeted me and designed a scenario to discourage and defeat me and thwart God’s plan for my life? If this is not the case, I realize that God is doing a work in me and I am going through a season of refining. Therefore, I submit to the process and ask Him to strengthen my trust in Him as He fulfills His purpose to use me as a testimony for His glory.

Reflecting On God’s Faithfulness

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The children of Israel in the Old Testament are a great example of why we should reflect upon God’s faithfulness in the past. Whenever they faced a challenge they were reminded to go back and reflect on God who had proven in the past to be greater than any situation they presently faced (see Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:18; 15:15; Joshua 4:19-24; 24:6-13). In fact, this is the reason why the Israelites were to observe the Passover, which was to be a reminder of how God delivered them out of Egyptian bondage (Exodus 12:14-17).

I utilize a prayer journal to help me remember God’s faithfulness. All of us know how easy it is to forget things so I started writing things down in my journal. It is encouraging to reflect on past requests and to see how God has responded. Sometimes God did not answer in the way I thought He would, nor in the time frame I wanted, but in each case I am reminded that I serve a God who listens and responds to the needs of His children (Psalm 34:17; Matthew 7:7; John 14:13-14; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15).

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone back to my prayer journal and been amazed at how God has worked in my life. For example, one of the greatest challenges my family had to endure was going through a miscarriage. My prayer journal helped me during that time, as I reflected upon how God brought us through other challenges. What a faithful God we serve (Psalm 36:5; 89:1; Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Pressing On in the Midst of a Storm

By Darlinda McDonald

This past Sunday, Bill and Karen Rudge were returning from Michigan where they had delivered a carload of books to Christian Resources International. As they reached Toledo, a fast-moving thunderstorm overtook their vehicle and did not subside for the remaining four hours of the trip. The torrential rain, high winds, and thunder and lightning made the driving very difficult. In addition, their visibility was impaired by the fog and commercial trucks on either side of the small Mitsubishi splashing huge amounts of water on their windshield. In several cities that they traveled through, their radio warned of tornadoes and flash flooding. While Karen wanted Bill to stop because of the storm, he chose to look at the drive as another adventure that God was taking them through.

The decision to keep pressing on despite the weather and treacherous driving conditions can be compared to our Christian walk. Sometimes life throws us unexpected situations that can either stop us in our tracks or make us determined to press on towards the goal. Our choice to walk by faith and not by sight will strengthen our faith and trust in the One Who watches over us and takes care of us.

In this life journey, we will have many decisions to make. As an example, Bill had stopped at a Service Center so Karen could get something to eat. After they left, the low gas warning light came on. Bill realized that he had been right beside a gas station but thought he had enough gas to get home. The next 20 miles were extremely stressful before he reached the next station. How similar this is to persons who have heard the message of salvation but paid no attention to it thinking that they had plenty of time to make a decision about eternity. We all don’t get second chances.

Hope When Life is Falling Apart

by Bill Rudge

No matter what we face, God will take care of us.

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Photo by Frank Rudge

Many Christians feel like their lives are falling apart. Loss of loved ones, marriages on the brink of dissolution, wayward children, economic distress, inflammation and pain throughout theirs bodies, struggles with addiction, emotional stress, panic attacks and loneliness are just some of the issues facing believers today.

Shortly before His crucifixion Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation [trouble, pressure, affliction, difficulty], but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The apostle Peter admonishes: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The apostle Paul encourages us that no matter what our circumstances:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7).

Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Let’s take a closer look at that verse. When you truly trust in the LORD, you will keep your mind stayed on Him instead of your problems. And if you keep your mind and thoughts stayed (focused) on Him, He will keep you in perfect peace – a peace that surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7).

A young mother of two toddlers lost her husband to cancer. She told me that in the midst of her grief and sadness she has realized how BIG her God is. She praised Him for His blessings in the midst of her intense pain.

I recently talked to a man whose wife died in his arms from cancer 10 years ago, his 39 year old daughter died of lupus 4 years ago and his son overdosed on drugs and died one year ago. Yet he had an amazing attitude of faith and trust in the Lord that transcended his heartache.

This young mother and man, in the midst of trials and tragedies, learned to triumph. Through their tears they fixed their eyes on Jesus. They looked beyond their current circumstances to what eternity holds for them. They realized this world is not their home, but they are merely passing through – hopefully taking as many people as possible with them into the Kingdom. They are awaiting with confident faith, the blessed hope, of which Marvin Rosenthal gives us an elegant glimpse:

The blessed hope embodies the fact that at Christ’s coming, the believer will be made perfect (faultless) and as a result, be able to stand before God whose power and wisdom created the universe and who is awesome in His holiness, and yet not be consumed….The believer will see the full manifestation of the glory of God – not the “back parts” of God’s glory as did such a luminary personality as Moses (Exodus 33:20-23) – but the full glow of the intrinsic, eternal perfections of God.

Just think, we will see our Creator face to face as every tear is wiped away; all pain, suffering and death forever banished. We will inherit the “fullness of joy” promised by God and the pleasures of living with Him forever. He will be our God and we will be His people.

First Peter 1:3-9 sums up our trials in this life as well as the joy and hope we can have in the midst of them because of the eternal inheritance awaiting those who believe in Jesus Christ:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Face with faith the many difficulties experienced in this world because:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. The LORD of hosts is with us (Psalm 46:1-3, 7).

The apostle Paul assured the church at Rome:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

Hebrews chapter 11 provides many encouraging examples of the heroes of faith. Also, if you have not read my book Overcoming the Giants in Your Life, request a free copy. It will strengthen your faith and encourage you in the midst of challenging times.

A great study to help you have a biblical perspective on suffering and affliction is to look up and reflect upon the following verses:  Job 13:15Psalm 34:19Psalm 119:67, 71Psalm 120:1John 16:33Romans 5:3-5Romans 8:16-18 and 28-39Romans 12:12-15; 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9 and 16-182 Corinthians 12:10Philippians 3:7-11Philippians 4:112 Timothy 3:121 Peter 1:3-91 Peter 4:1, 2 and 12-191 Peter 5:7-10  and  Hebrews 4:14-16.

The trials and troubles in this life, however severe, are nothing in comparison to the glory that will be revealed to those who are God’s children. Romans 8:16-18 conveys this concept clearly:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The God who created us and died for us can be trusted with our lives, our futures and our eternity!

Behind the Words

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Sometimes more important than the words we use are the meanings behind those words. Let me explain. I opened my door to two individuals who greeted me with a smile. They said they were Christians and believed in Jesus. However, after asking them a few questions, it became apparent we did not believe in the same Jesus. While I recognize Jesus as the eternal Son of God (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17), they saw him only as a created being. On another occasion a man walked into my office claiming to believe in Jesus, but after several minutes, I learned that his Jesus is simply an enlightened individual and not the Son of God and Savior of the world (Luke 2:10, 11; John 3:16, 17).

Define terms so you understand what the other person is saying and also communicate your faith clearly. Know what you believe so you do not find yourself, like the Corinthians, being deceived by a different gospel:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).

Spiritual Addiction

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Similar to those struggling with physical addiction there are those who struggle with spiritual addiction. They develop an unhealthy pattern of seeking spiritual highs through “experiences” and phenomena. An acquaintance of mine is on a spiritual “roller coaster” because her relationship with Jesus is solely dependent upon her feelings and emotions. Instead of focusing on the revelation and truth of God’s Word, she chases after dreams, visions, prophecies and mystical experiences. She freely admits to spending little or no time reading the Bible or praying.

Jesus used the term “deception” to describe the time before His return (see Matthew 24). Today, we often see people seeking after signs, wonders and spiritual experiences rather than seeking after God Himself. This was exactly the case when Jesus rebuked the crowd in Galilee:

Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe (John 4:48).

In the day and age we live, it is crucial to not let “experiences” or phenomena become a substitute for time in the Word of God and prayer. Christ’s Spirit, who abides in us and empowers us, cautions that in latter times some will depart from the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Therefore, we must exercise discernment and examine everything to determine truth from error and the genuine from the fake.

First John 4:1 clearly states:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

You can experience the peace of God, the joy of the Lord and the power of His Spirit and also avoid deception and the “roller coaster” of spiritual addiction. Build your faith and life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, His immutable Word and the leading of His Spirit. In Christ and Scripture you will find true contentment, essential discernment and the unlimited power. A deep and abiding relationship with Him supersedes anything the world or false religion has to offer.