Tragedies Can Test Our Faith

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

A doctor’s report of a major health problem, the sudden loss of a job, or the unexpected death of a loved one can instantly change our lives. When these events arise – with or without warning – they will certainly test our faith. This is why it is so important we take steps every day to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. Through time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word, we can build a solid foundation to help us withstand any difficulty or tragedy that comes our way.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalms 9:9).

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalms 46:1).

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).

Miracle Child (Lillian Grace)

by Tabitha Rudge Smith (and Florence Biros)

My husband and I were living in California and always wanted a big family. When we learned a third child was going to join us, we were so thrilled. I called the doctor and was told, “We would like to see you around 10 to 12 weeks in the pregnancy unless you have complications.”

I made my appointment to see the doctor for the first time, when I knew I would be able to hear my baby’s heartbeat. Besides, my morning sickness was so bad with this pregnancy that I couldn’t wait to see the doctor to get something to help alleviate it.
At the appointment, I saw a female doctor who tried to hear the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it. “Sometimes this early – around 10 weeks – the heartbeat is hard to hear. Instead, we’re going to do an ultrasound.”

How exciting, I thought, I can see my baby as well as hear it! That didn’t happen. When they did the ultrasound, the woman looked very solemn and said, “I’m very sorry. There is a pregnancy sac but it is empty.” Then she added, “There are no signs of life.”

I answered, “Well it is early and I could be off a few days.”

She looked at me and declared, “Well you’d have to be off at least 3 weeks.”

In my heart I knew I was not 3 weeks off of my cycle. Her next words cut me to the core, “Why don’t you go home and think about what you want to do – miscarry on your own or have a D&C?”

That weekend I had planned on going on a woman’s retreat. I didn’t feel like going. My husband suggested, “Why don’t you go to help keep your mind off all this?”

I went. By the second night of the retreat, I was so miserable from throwing up and crying that I had to leave during the evening message and run to the restroom.
A sweet, elderly lady asked sympathetically, “Do you have the flu?”

Do I tell her? I contemplated for a minute, then decided I didn’t feel like discussing it. Instead I told her, “I’m pregnant and having a terrible time with morning sickness.”

Taking my hand, she asked “May I pray for you?”

I just need to tell her that there is no baby. Why pray? I agreed, though. She continued to hold my hand and pray, asking God to take away my nausea, bless my pregnancy and then she placed her hand on my womb and said, “Lord, if there is something that needs to be in the womb that is not there, we ask you to place it there.”

At that moment I burst into tears and told her the whole story. She simply smiled, gave me a hug, then walked away.

A few days later I went to see the doctor who said, “I’ll schedule one more ultrasound before scheduling your D&C.” When she placed the ultrasound wand on my stomach, she seemed amazed. She not only heard the heartbeat, but saw a picture of our 11 week old baby in my belly.

We knew that God had performed a miracle and gave us our precious baby. She is now a beautiful, healthy 14-year-old who loves to tell her friends about Jesus.

The Prayer of a Haitian Woman

by Bill Rudge

IMG_0009About a hundred people were gathered outside a witch doctor’s hut in Haiti in a voodoo village. We formed a large circle and were about to pray when one woman became very agitated.“You didn’t bring us food and clothing!” she cried out in Creole. Having nothing left since we had already given away the food and clothes my team had, I responded through my interpreter, “If I give you food today, tomorrow you will be hungry again. If I give you clothes today, in a few months they will wear out and be tattered and torn. But what I came to give you today will last forever. I offer you spiritual food that will satisfy you now and for all eternity.” She nodded to acknowledge that what I said was good.

During my prayer, I glanced to see if this woman was participating. Her head was bowed and her eyes were closed. The thirst of her heart was greater than her need for food and clothes.

Giving water to someone who is thirsty is admirable, but unless we also offer the life-quenching water of Jesus Christ, we deprive them of their most crucial need. If we give a bottle of water or food or clothes to someone in need, we should do so in Jesus’ name. While we should care about people’s material and physical well being, we should be even more concerned about the condition of their soul.

Prayer Accomplishes Great Things

by Bill Rudge

Doors of opportunity open and victories are realized when you pray for us. Effective ministry happens through lives saturated with prayer. In fact, virtually every miracle we have seen through this ministry has occurred during or right after a time of prayer and often including fasting.

Obstacles have been overcome, the impossible made possible, victories won, strongholds broken, and lives changed as the Lord does amazing things through earnest and persistent prayer.

PRAYER is the privilege we have to enter boldly into the presence of the Master of the Universe. PRAYER is acknowledging our dependence on and surrendering our will to the King of kings and Lord of lords. PRAYER is crying out to our Creator for His help, protection and empowerment. PRAYER is entreating the only One who can meet all our needs and fulfill the pure desires of our hearts. PRAYER is sometimes saying, “Lord, I don’t know what You are doing, but I trust You.” PRAYER releases our faith in God, who has ultimate power and authority. PRAYER is a catalyst in deploying heaven’s resources to assist God’s saints. The PRAYERS of believers in Jesus Christ have tremendous power.

Purpose in the Midst of the Unknown

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the greatest questions that you will ask in life is, “Why am I here?” In other words, “What is the purpose of my life?” As Christians, we know that we have an eternal purpose. We have been given the task by Jesus to be His ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) – a task that calls us to be His representatives in sharing with others the truth of who He is and why He came. Despite our acknowledgment of this divine purpose, we often find ourselves facing challenges and trials that cause us to question why God is allowing us to go through them. Surely an all-powerful and all-loving God could bring about His plan in a different way, so “why” would He allow this to happen?

This very question was at the center of a conversation that I recently had with my 14-year old daughter, Moriah. She was going through a difficult time in her life. Besides having to deal with a concussion that prevented her from completing her first year of soccer at her school, she was also about to undergo a third surgery on her left ankle. For the past three+ years she had struggled with chronic pain and lack of mobility in her left ankle, which not only limited her physical activity but also impacted daily activities. Now she was weeks away from another surgery where she would be receiving a full bone fusion that would bring with it a long recovery process. Not knowing the final outcome of this procedure is why she chose to play soccer. Since running caused excruciating pain, she decided to play goalie. After weeks of hard training she was ready to play in her first game. But in the process of making a diving save, she hit her head on the ground and not only missed the next game, but the rest of the season. Although my daughter is not one who complains, the emotions of all of this eventually came weighing down on her. In a moment of exhaustion, she asked “why would God let this happen?”

As her father, I tried to reiterate to her that sometimes we do not always know specifically why, but this does not mean there is not a purpose. I shared with her how God could use these challenges in her life to help her grow in her faith and allow her to encourage others going through similar situations. These were the same words that my dad shared with me when I faced a similar ankle surgery around the same age. Remembering how I responded, I figured these words would also make sense to her sometime in the future. However, God showed me that He was working much faster in my daughter’s life than He did in my life.

A few days after my daughter and I had talked, my wife was emptying our trash. In my daughter’s trashcan, my wife found the rough draft of a letter that Moriah had written to Ryan Shazier. For those who do not know him, Ryan plays football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recently suffered a severe back injury. Below is just an excerpt of what my daughter wrote to Ryan:

Dear Ryan Shazier,

I wanted to let you know that I am praying for you every day and supporting you too. I know how it feels to go through a difficult time. I am going to be having a third ankle surgery because of a birth defect. It causes me to have a lot of pain when I do physical activity. So I have to pretty much rest and ice my ankle every night…  Sometimes we don’t know why God has us go through difficult times. My favorite singer, Tauren Wells, had helped me to understand more why God has me going through all of this. His song “God’s Not Done With You” reminds us though you might be going through something difficult God has a plan for us and he will use it to bless us and others…  Even though no one knows why you had to be the one to hurt your back, God knows and He will use it for the plans He has for you!  I will continue to pray for you and I hope you feel better soon!       

We will experience difficulties in our lives, but as we go through them, may we never forget that we serve a faithful God. A God who has a purpose in all that we face.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me (Psalm 57:1, 2).

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!