I’d only planned to read through the Bible in a year once. But after hearing me share highlights from doing this over and over, friends begged me to do it again and host a discussion group so they could do it too. When we were in the middle of Leviticus two sisters started coming who didn’t know Jesus. I thought, “Oh no! What a place to start!” But they kept coming and it wasn’t long until one of them entered into a relationship with the Lord! Her sister, a legal secretary, stated, “I’m going to wait until I finish reading the whole thing!” And sure enough, soon as we finished, she surrendered her life to the Lord! Their lives, and all of our lives, were radically changed as a result. Truly it was an amazing year experiencing the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable…!”
But I’ll never forget, after we finally started reading the New Testament, one friend showed up exclaiming, “I don’t like Jesus!” She’d never read much of the Bible and was appalled by some of the things Jesus said. As we continued reading we discovered she wasn’t the first to feel this way! In John 6:60 even Jesus’ disciples said, “This is a hard teaching!” and at that point many of them turned away and stopped following Him.
But note when Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.”
You get a whole different perspective when hard things are taken in the context of relationship and knowing who God is!
Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth (John 1:14). If you separate one from the other, especially focusing on truth without the context of grace, can truth ever seem harsh, cold, unappealing!
In my quiet time this past week I was reading in 1 Kings 20 where a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me please.” And we aren’t just talking about getting hit. This strike left this guy noticeably wounded and what wounds come without pain? And I realized as I read this “sometimes to do God’s work we need to be willing to be wounded.”
Can that ever sound harsh! Especially if you aren’t remembering the context – and I don’t just mean the rest of 1 Kings 20! But the entire Bible and what it reveals about who the Lord is!
A murderer and a surgeon may both stab you. But one does it for life! Context makes all the difference!
Now I’ll be honest. There are times when the Lord allows hard things in my life I’m not happy about. In a broken and fallen world, this happens far more than I’d like! And yes, it often happens in the context of ministry. Some of my deepest wounds have been inflicted by other believers I’ve been co-laboring with (sadly that’s not just true for me – the responses to my post on “friendly fire” attest to this). It is so vital we help those we are discipling learn to run to the Lord and seek His perspective whenever they are wounded, taking time to process (for me, art journaling really helps, though I’m obviously not an artist!), letting Him provide a greater context for considering what they are going through.
However you best process, it’s so key to consider, “what has the Lord revealed in His Word that applies to what I’m going through?”
The enemy is only too happy to provide you with a context that puts the Lord in a bad light! He desires to get us to go from “I don’t like what’s happening in my life” to “I don’t like the One who is allowing these things to happen in my life!” so we’ll avoid running to the Lord using such reasoning as, “God can do anything and yet He’s letting you go through this?! Obviously He doesn’t care about you!” But that is such a lie! Yet it’s amazing how that lie can fester and impact us and our relationship with the Lord if we don’t take the time to confront it head on and process in the presence of the Lord.
But when we do, not only do we gain a true perspective that can help us weather the worst storm but our relationship with the Lord is strengthened and we grow!!! This really is where the rubber meets the road!