"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Have you ever wondered if God has a plan or purpose for your life? Lately, I have been asking myself that same question. You see, for years, I thought His plan was made perfectly clear to me when, at the age of 17, He revealed that I would sing for Him. I was in church on New Year's Eve. During prayer, I heard the Lord say to me, "This year, you will begin to serve me with your voice." I thought, "Cool! I love to sing, and I would be willing to do that." But my immediate thought after that was, "How?" Well, God had it all figured out beforehand, and I never had to worry about the "how." The day after New Year's Day, I received a phone call from a Christian organization asking me to come to sing for a weekend at their camp. I said I would but that I had never done anything like that before. They said, "Then come practice on us." They would provide meals, a room to sleep and a way to get there.
Well, you didn't have to tell me twice that God was up to something. Especially when to this day, I still don't know how these people heard of me or got my number! I suspect one of my friends wanted to jump-start my ministry and recommended me, but no one owned up to it, which has always made me feel God's hand was at work. So I accepted, despite my inexperience at performing. You see, up until then, I had been vocally trained and knew how to play the guitar. I had even written twenty or more songs. But I had never performed them in front of anybody. I was nervous, but God had a plan.
How to Survive a Desert Experience
We call them “desert” or “wilderness” experiences, which are normal for most Christians. They start innocently enough – through illness, death, job loss, even the hormonal changes that come after a child’s birth can bring it on through postpartum depression. And somewhere along the way, we lose our feeling of closeness to God. We become disinterested in anything to do with the church or the Bible. We make excuses to avoid our Christian friends because we don’t feel “spiritual” enough. Before we know it, we are wandering in the desert, wondering if we have lost our faith in God forever or if we were ever saved in the first place. But there is good news. By looking at Jesus’ desert experience, we can have victory over Satan’s attempts to lead us away from God. Today, if you are going through one of those times, it is my hope that you will be encouraged by what you find.
I read an interesting article the other day that has calmed my fears somewhat in regards to Justin Trudeau's recent attack on Christians. It reminded me that even people like Trudeau who think they are in control - really are not. God has the final say, and way before Justin came into the world, God had already set his plans in motion. Much like he did with King Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel).
For the last little while I have been studying the book of Jeremiah and sharing my insights here. Jeremiah was a prophet who lived during Daniel's time and he was charged by God to warn the people of their impending destruction if they didn't repent and turn back to God. They refused to heed Jeremiah's warnings from God and their eventual destruction came at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, a man who did not acknowledge God at all, yet God used him for His own purposes. God sent Jeremiah to warn the people of what was going to happen to them if they didn't repent and turn from their sins, but they did not listen. We have not had a Jeremiah sounding an alarm of God's impending judgment, but we have been hearing the cry of Jesus' return and God's ultimate judgment for years. The warnings have always been there.
Which brings me to Donald Trump and his unexpected win as the next President. Christians are saying God put Him in power. Which is true. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power (Daniel 4:17; Daniel 2:21; Romans 13:1). He put Obama in power and unfortunately, He has also put Donald Trump in power.
During the last election, when Obama won Christians on the right wondered aloud why God didn't answer their prayers, while those on the left were thrilled that their prayers had been answered. This time however, the situation is reversed. The Democrats did not get their candidate elected and they are not accepting defeat gracefully, nor are they acknowledging the electoral process. Instead, they are behaving like children who, because they didn't get what they wanted, are throwing the biggest temper tantrum the world has ever seen before. How could God let someone like Donald Trump become President? Did God not hear the prayers of the Democrats or does He perhaps have something else in mind?
There is no question that Donald Trump is an arrogant man. In fact, many compare his attitude to that of King Nebuchadnezzar who bragged about how great he was (Daniel 4:28-30). Trump's rhetoric and election tactics are eerily similar to those of Hitler and there is a legitimate fear among Americans that Trump will run his government in much the same way that Hitler did. This is frightening to imagine, but I think we are forgetting something very important - as hard as it is to accept, even evil governments are put there by God (Romans 13:1). It may not be apparent why God appoints them, but appoint them He does. One hundred and fifty years before the birth of Cyrus the Great, God was already calling him by name and promising to set him on the throne of Persia (Isaiah 45:13). Cyrus was a pagan king who did not acknowledge God at all. Yet God’s sovereign plan included pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. One king would destroy the Jews' homeland and temple, and take them captive for seventy years. And the other would restore the Jews to their homeland and temple. Each had a purpose that God used them for to carry out His plans, despite whether they believed in God or not. And yes, God's plan even included evil kings like Herod the Great and Nero. In Romans 13:1 Paul said, "There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." This is an incredible statement when you realize that at the time Romans was written, Nero was rounding up Christians and lighting them up as torches for his garden. Yet Paul insisted God put Nero on his throne. This is a hard thought to digest. What good would God possibly have in giving such an evil man that kind of authority?
Well, for starters, Nero's persecution of Christians resulted in Christians being scattered and the gospel being spread. If there had been no persecution of Christians whatsoever, we would never have known about Jesus because the impact of any message about Him would have been lost. What about people like Hitler? How could someone who killed millions of people be part of God's plan? I think the better question to ask is, how can God turn evil that He knew was going to happen, into good? Why didn't he stop Hitler BEFORE he killed six million Jews? I don't know the answer to that, I only see the end result. Hitler's persecution of Jews ultimately resulted in them returning to their homeland and Israel becoming a nation again after more than 2000 years. Yes, these men were evil and at the time of their reign no one could fathom why or how God could place them in power. Nevertheless, God used their wickedness for His purposes.
In my book Unlocking the Truth of Daniel I take you throughout history to see how God's plan unfolded for the Jewish people. Prophecies made were fulfilled and yes, evil people brought destruction in their wake, but ultimately it would result in the birth of Jesus and redemption for mankind.
Which brings me back again to Donald Trump. There is one constant in the universe that we can cling to during these tumultuous times. God has a plan. He is still in control and Jesus is coming back. So how should Christians behave during these uncertain times? We must trust in God and accept the fact that He has placed Trump in power (for now) and God will use him for His purposes. Only time will tell what that will mean for the world.
When God Says No . . .
Read Jeremiah 15:1-21
The terror that awaits God’s people builds in this chapter of Jeremiah. We catch a glimpse of how angry God is with His disobedient children and what is about to happen to them. We also hear Jeremiah questioning why he has to suffer along with his people when he has been obedient to God. God answers him, and Jeremiah soon discovers that sometimes we suffer not because we are disobedient towards God, but because we are being used by God for a greater purpose.
This chapter of Jeremiah gives us an incredible example of how God works towards those who love Him. Yes, God wants what is best for us, but some Christians taken the illogical jump that nothing bad should ever happen to us. This is what preachers like Kenneth Copeland or Joel Osteen preach. It is a "happy gospel" founded on unbiblical principals that sickness, accidents, poverty, etc. are from the devil and not from God, therefore all we need do is rebuke them or "bind" them in Jesus name and they will bother us no more. They base their beliefs on scriptures taken out of context and do not bother to see the big picture of how God works. So when sickness or poverty do not go away they blame it on the Christian as not having enough faith. When in truth, poverty, sickness, and other problems we encounter in life, don't go away because those who teach these lies are false teachers preaching false gospels and not acting on behalf of God or according to His Word.
Starting in Jeremiah 15:10 we get a glimpse into all that Jeremiah has suffered at the hands of his own people, all because he has been obediently proclaiming God’s warning of impending judgment. He is beginning to realize that even though he had not sinned and rejected God as the others had, he would still be sent into exile along with them. So he, to put it bluntly, starts having a pity party. And how does God respond? Does He say, "I want only the best for you, so I will keep you from this hour of torment?" No. Does He let Jeremiah know that he doesn't have enough faith and that is why he won't escape the coming invasion?" No.
Instead, the Lord says that He will deliver Jeremiah into the hands of the enemy, but his enemies will intercede for him during the coming persecution. The word used for intercede is paga` and means "to entreat, plead or intercede." So the enemies will, by God’s hand, recognize Jeremiah as one who speaks for God. As idol worshippers, they no doubt were very cognizant of the God of the Hebrews and being a superstitious and fearful people they would, no doubt, not want to make the Hebrew God angry. So in the end, Jeremiah would go into exile and be captured by his enemies, but unlike his own people who refused to listen to him, his captors would regard him as someone to be feared.
God is adamant – he will go into exile, but for a purpose. And God will be with him and deliver him. He tells Jeremiah that the enemy will fight against him but they will not prevail, for God will rescue him.
Jeremiah did everything right. He was obedient to God by prophesying to the people about God’s coming judgment. It cost him everything and eventually leads to Jeremiah and his people being taken captive and sent into exile. He rightly thought he would escape the coming judgment because he was God’s servant and was obedient to him. He was wrong. But, God did promise to deliver him and rescue him from the hand of the wicked. Notice it does not say he will rescue Jeremiah by allowing him to stay in Jerusalem or by allowing him to live. It simply says, “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:21). Ultimately, Jeremiah would not be separated from God in this life or in the one to come. He would be used by God, for God's good purposes and His glory. He did not give Jeremiah an easy "out" because he was His servant. Instead, God used Jeremiah's obedience and faith for His own glory and as history would show, elevated him as one of the major prophets in Biblical history.
The point is this - God does not always say yes and He does allow bad things to happen to His people, despite what prosperity preachers proclaim. But those "things" are for His glory and ultimately lead to our sanctification, so that when we leave this earth we will be able to stand before the Father and He will be able to say, "Well done! My good and faithful servant!"