Tag Archives: trials

The Day Of Seven Troubles

George Fox exhorted the early Friends to be valiant for the truth in this day of trial and persecution.  For if we are Christians, this is our portion in this day, as many in other lands have already discovered.  We Christians here in western lands need to arm ourselves with the same mind—and thus be prepared for the hardships and sufferings that are our portion in this evil day.

Here’s another thing Fox encouraged the early Friends with in one of his letters.

And the Lord hath promised to deliver His people in the six troubles, yea, in the seventh, the perfection of troubles… (Letter 377, To Friends that are Prisoners in York)

Fox had in mind Eliphaz’ words to Job.

He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee (Job 5.19).

Eliphaz was insinuating that the reason Job was in “seven troubles” was because there was something in his life that disqualified him from God’s deliverance—some hidden sin he was not being honest about.  The truth of the matter is that God was trying a vessel He loved very deeply, and when He had finished His work He brought him forth as gold.

This is what He was doing with those early Quakers as well.  This is what He is doing with Christians in Eritrea and Pakistan and Iran, and other places in the earth where persecution is severe in our day.  It’s what He has in mind for you and me also in the day of seven troubles that is dawning.

He promises deliverance, salvation.  But when the promised deliverance is delayed?  We must go through our troubles valiantly—trusting Him, believing He is a God of integrity, and will be true to His word.  We must be patient, trusting.  We must nourish faith and hope.  And love.  God’s people in many different ages have suffered much—with the promise of a coming deliverance and salvation nourishing them in their sufferings.  God would be true to His word—they knew this.  So they endured their sufferings patiently.

Here are Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in a time of great persecution.

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet (or, fitting), because your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure…

Notice the atmosphere the Thessalonian church lived in—their growing faith toward God, and their love toward one another in the sufferings they were going through.  Like the early Quakers—the Friends, as they called themselves.  They were ready to lay down their lives for their friends.  They would often go to the prison and offer to take the place of a brother or a sister they knew was inside—a sacrifice that could well mean death for them.

Paul continues:

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.3-8).

There’s a lot packed in here; let’s see if we can unfold it a little.  Paul is saying that the endurance and faith of the Thessalonians in sufferings they did not deserve was a token, a proof, evidence, that God had judged rightly; He had made the right decision—giving such as these the Kingdom of God.  Their patience and faith in their troubles, their refusal to retaliate, demonstrated that they were worthy of the kingdom of God they were suffering for.  It showed that they had indeed become the kind of people God intended to give His kingdom to.

And God would continue to judge righteously.  The day would come when He would recompense trouble to those who had troubled them, “and to you who are troubled, rest with us…”

When does this rest come?  “…When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

God had not forgotten His salvation in the day the Thessalonians were in such hardship.  God’s promise to His people is salvation.  His salvation is certain.  His day of recompense will surely come.

Scripture is clear.  “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…”  This is from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes. 5.9).

But this also is clear.  In the same letter Paul wrote: “…That no man should be moved by these afflictions (Gk. tribulations): for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1 Thes. 3.3).

We are not appointed to wrath.

But we are appointed to troubles, beloved.  So, let us arm our minds accordingly.  When we find ourselves in the midst of trial and trouble it does not mean God has reneged on His promise of salvation.

It means that His salvation will break upon us with greater honour and glory when it breaks.

Meanwhile, since we have to go through trouble, He who has overcome the world and is Lord over trouble promises that He will go through it with us.

I will be with him in trouble… (Ps. 91.15).

You mean, Jesus Himself with us in trouble?  Really, what more could one ask?

The Wind Is Shifting

Be valiant and faithful for God’s truth upon the earth in this day of trial and persecution.

This is from the letters of George Fox the Quaker apostle, which I have been reading.  Fox often encouraged his friends with words such as these.  The early Quakers suffered grievously at the hands of the apostate church of their day, and the government.  Many of them had their goods and houses confiscated because they refused to pay the mandatory tithe the established churches required.  They were thrown in jail for the same reason, or because they would not swear an oath or doff their hats to dignitaries.  They also reproved those in authority for their wicked ways, and paid the price for this as well.  So Fox—who himself spent much time behind bars—would encourage his fellow sufferers to take heart by recognizing that this kind of thing is the lot of those who follow Jesus Christ in “this day”—this present evil age.

How we in western lands need to recognize that we are still in this same day!  We are thankful for the liberty we have enjoyed; we in western lands can be Christians and still enjoy great security and safety and prosperity.  But wet your finger and hold it up to the wind.  You will discover the wind is shifting these days.  The warm west wind of prosperity is shifting—and is beginning to come out of the north.  The “world” is not going to be so amicable to us as it has been in the past.  Western nations don’t want to be recognized as “Christian” nations any more.  There is arising a “new king over Egypt,” who does not know “Joseph” (Ex. 1.8).

There is another factor that is going to provoke this coming persecution—a deeper manifestation of Christ in His people.  It’s heartbreaking to read of the things our brothers and sisters go through in other lands simply for being named a Christian.  Over here being identified as a Christian doesn’t seem to provoke the same reaction it does in many other places.  But the persecution is going to be just as severe here, if not more so, when the Spirit of Christ takes up His habitation in us in a more manifest way—something many are now seeking.

I recall many years ago reading one of the “Visions of Annie,” in which she said it seemed to her almost a deceitful thing when God gave His own that Spirit of His Presence they had so long been seeking.  For it provoked a severe reaction from those who hated Him—much suffering, pain, and persecution.

Some of us have been waiting a long time for this—not the trouble, but the Presence.  It is at the door, I believe.  Others bear the same witness.  And we long for this.  Nothing less than this will meet the need of this day.  But at the same time, this Presence is going to bring upon us here in western lands the measure of suffering many of our brothers and sisters in other lands are already enduring for merely being Christian in name.

Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you” (Jn. 15.18).  It’s important to note the context in which Jesus said this.  He was speaking of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  In other words, a world that has already demonstrated it hates Jesus Christ is going to hate those in whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ has come to abide.

And so if we are seeking God and greatly longing for a deeper reality of His Spirit in our lives, let’s be sure we understand what the implications are.

And let us start preparing for this.

How?  Peter’s words come to mind.

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind… (1 Pt. 4.1).

This is the key, I believe.  The servant is not greater than his lord, Jesus warned.  “If they have persecuted me they will also persecute you…” (Jn. 15.20).  If Christ suffered in the flesh, so shall we.  Let us arm ourselves with the same mind, then.   If we are armed beforehand with the realization that suffering and persecution is our portion in this day, and not some strange thing that has come upon us, we will not be undone when it comes upon us.

John exhorted, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 Jn. 3.13).  We are inclined to “marvel” when the world hates us, and to think it a strange thing when the trial of fire comes our way.  And we go under because we were not prepared for this.  No, we must go into the day before us with our eyes open, our minds armed, our hearts prepared.  We are greatly longing for a manifestation of the Spirit of Christ that will enable us to have a Testimony that is greater than mere words—something that is able to deal effectively with the forces of darkness in our world, something that brings genuine conviction.  God is going to answer our cry.

Let us be ready for the consequences.

Feed God First

Our Lord has accomplished something very special when He sees us beginning to consider His own interests first in all we go through, and in all we seek from Him.  When this becomes our first consideration—when in every problem, every situation, every need, every petition, our foremost concern is our Lord’s own interests—we have come into something very beautiful in His sight.

This is not to say that our problems and needs are not God’s own interests.  They are.  He cares for us deeply.  But His primary goal in all the things we are going through is that we have fellowship with Him in the midst of it all—that we come to know Him, and be conformed to the image of His Son.

It was the Father’s interests that were His own interests.

Take the story of the widow of Zarephath in the time of her great need.  When she met Elijah she was out with her son gathering sticks for the fire so she could bake her last bit of flour, and then die, she told him.  Don’t be afraid, yes, do that, Elijah responded.  “But make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son” (1 Ki. 17.13).  Kind of selfish of him, wasn’t it, taking a poor widow’s last meal?  But this was a man who stood before God.  God’s interests had become his own, God’s hunger His own.  And he wanted this woman to know that regardless how desperate her need was, she would come out the loser if she too did not make God’s need her own– her priority.

But when she did this, behold how wonderfully God met her need!

The same with you and me.  God is not being selfish when in the midst of our great anguish and deep need He says, “Feed Me first.”  It is our own great advantage He has in mind–that is, bringing us to the place where His advantage has become our own.

Yes, we seek Him for His help in all our dire circumstances and deep needs.  But getting Him to answer our need is not the first in importance.  First comes fellowship with Him, and getting knowing Him and His own heart’s longing.  First comes worshipping Him—which means giving Him our all on the altar of burnt sacrifice to satisfy His own great longing for you and me.

Otherwise God may become to us no more than a dispenser of help for our troubles, one who answers our prayers… but we still haven’t come to know Him, to walk with Him, and become like Him.

We may have a deep wound that some circumstance has brought into our life.  But to have been wounded with the wound of longing for God… this is a precious gift that can only be healed in finding Him in the midst of what we are going through.  It causes our first prayer in all things to be, Lord, I want to, I must… know You in this thing!  This is my first and great desire above and beyond Your answering my prayers and meeting my needs.  I must know You!  Bring me through the secret door in this situation, which, going through, I discover myself face to face with You in my great distress, and come to know You in a deeper way.  And in this way I become a kind of firstfruits that satisfies Your own deep hunger… for fellowship with one who is just like You.  For, the firstfruits are always Your own to enjoy first– and then when Your own hunger is satisfied others enjoy the bounty.

So… are you and I in the midst of a trial that is very difficult for us?  Let us be crying out like Job, then.  He cried out in the midst of his great trial, “Oh, that I knew where I might find HIM” (Job 23.3).  We must find GOD in our trial—as Job did.  So often our prayer is, “Deliver me from the trial, Lord!”  Job cried that too in his anguish.  But God answered Him in a way that was higher than Job could comprehend at the moment.  God’s objective was that Job come to know Him—actually see Him.

He has the same thing in mind for you and me.  That is His objective in what we are going through—that we find Him.  God Himself, that is.  The implication is becoming one with Him… as Elijah was.  “Make me a little cake first,” he had said.  It was God’s request, really. 

…And look how God answered Job after He had first brought him to know Him—know him oh so wonderfully—like never before.

“Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of tender pity, and compassionate” (James 5.11).

I think of David in the midst of all his trials and afflictions—how he swore unto the LORD that his first priority would be to make a habitation for his God (Ps. 132.1-5).  See how God responded?  Once He has that habitation for Himself He says, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.  I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.”

God is not unmindful of our needs and great longings.  Far from it.  But our God is a God of great love, and great wisdom.  His love for us is, oh, so deep.  When what we long for seems so far away, is nowhere in sight, there is something near He is working to help us discover—something very special He has in mind for us to find right there in the midst of our trial and unanswered prayer—Himself.  This is His own great longing.  And this is why we find ourselves in this kind of trial—and needing to endure, like Job, and be patient.  Our God loves us deeply, and wants the very best for us.  The very best.  He wants us to find Him in our trial.  Once this happens, and patience has had its perfect work, like the widow of Zarephath we will find our desires and prayers answered far more fully than we were ever able to formulate.

The Ever Increasing Feast

There is a feast that forever mends in length – it grows greater, richer, fuller.  The longer it goes, the greater it grows.  The more this feast is partaken of, the more there is to partake of.

What a wonder.  How can this be?  How can there be more in the dish after I have taken from it?  Yet it is so.  Jesus began to feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes.  Yet after they had all eaten and were full, there was more left over than when they began.
“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14.20).
How did this come about?  It happened because the five loaves and two fishes were broken in His hands.

“…And (He) took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake…”

Wonderful mystery.  Christ’s hands break the loaves, and suddenly a great increase takes place.

This reminds us of His words to His disciples at the feast of the Passover before He suffered.  Here is Paul’s account of it.

“…The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread;
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11.24).

What an amazing thing.  His body was broken on the Cross.  Yet this breaking was the very thing that caused that Body to increase!
…And it increases to this day – the many-membered body of Christ – and it grows greater in spite of all that comes against it.  In fact all attempts to break it – difficult circumstances, afflictions, persecutions – only cause it to grow and multiply.

How can this be?  It is the wondrous power of resurrection life at work.  Jesus said on the eve of the Cross, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12.24).

Let us remember this in the midst of our own trials and sufferings — our own breakings.  Let us be assured of the wondrous power of God in the mystery of the Cross of Christ.  The Cross of Christ is that wondrous way by which God, in His great wisdom, brought to naught the power of death.

For, what is falling into the ground and dying to a seed?

If that living Seed is in you and me, nothing that comes against us can hurt us.  In fact, all that comes against us only causes that Seed to grow, and multiply.
And… what is breaking to a loaf of bread?

When we keep our hearts aright — when we stay in the loving hands of our Lord — nothing can rob us of our place at this ever-increasing Table… where we are both guest, and, in His hands, the bread He breaks for others.

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