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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - The Fiery Trial

John Bradshaw - The Fiery Trial

John Bradshaw - The Fiery Trial
John Bradshaw - The Fiery Trial
TOPICS: In The Word, Trials, Trust, Hard times

It's good to be together to open up the Bible and ask God's blessing, ask the Lord to speak to us. Let's pray before we begin.

Our Father in heaven, we thank You for the precious gift of Your Word and ask that You would speak to us through Your Word. We thank You for Jesus and for Your Spirit, who is with us now to guide us in our understanding. Lord, let us get Your message now, we pray. Grant that we would see You, know You, love You, and serve You. Speak, we ask You, in Jesus' name. Amen.

A man approached me while we were conducting an It Is Written evangelistic series in a large city in North America, and he said, "I want you to know that I'm here because of It Is Written". "Wow, great," I said, "I'm glad you're here. Thanks for being so supportive. I hope you're being blessed", all the usual things. I was glad he was at the meeting. It was an It Is Written meeting, so of course, he was there because of It Is Written. "No," he said. It became obvious I hadn't really caught what he was trying to say. He said to me, "I want you to know that I'm here because of It Is Written". Well, I did this, you know. My face said, "Tell on". And so he did. He said, "For years I've battled depression. It was more than I could take. I just couldn't get out of that dark place I was in". He said, "After a year's-long struggle with depression, I decided it wasn't worth going on. I decided I was going to end it all".

So I waited for him to proceed. He said, "But, somehow, I watched It Is Written, and the program I saw was your program about depression, and I thought to myself, maybe this is my chance. Maybe this is God reaching out to me. I'm going to try that. I will put into practice the things that I've just seen in this program". He said, "So that's what I did". And he smiled and he said, "My life has completely turned around. I'm a new man. My life has completely changed". Wow! You can hardly believe how I felt hearing that. It's not every day that somebody says, "I would be dead today except for a program you made". It made me realize that when we sit around our table and talk about what we're going to cover and what topics we'll do and what programs to produce, those are meetings that may have life-and-death consequences. But then I realized something else.

You see, I looked at this man, and he looked just about as together as a "together" man could look. And I don't know that if I'd looked into his eyes at any time that I could have told that he had a real battle going on. I realized, yet again, that we see people every day without having any idea what they're going through, people where you work, people you pass by driving on the road, sometimes people at church. We just don't always know what people are carrying around. The bottom line is life is often difficult, and we face hard times. Not always the kind of hard time my friend in Kansas City was going through. He was going through his own personal battle, his own private trial. And everybody seems to have their own, if not today, then yesterday, or perhaps tomorrow.

You see, trials, hardships, real difficult battles are a fact of everyday life. Although I do want to say this, please: Depression can be successfully treated. I said can be successfully treated. Please, if you're struggling with depression, talk to someone; talk to a professional. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Get help. Pray. Turn to God and get help. You see, depression often robs a person of the ability to think clearly or think healthily. So, please, if you're struggling with depression or dark thoughts, do pray, do turn to God, and do seek help. But again, getting away from that particular issue, even if it isn't depression, troubles are going to come to you. They just are. Discouragement is going to go after you. A lady I know is battling cancer. She's a young mother. It's very difficult. It's serious. It's a battle.

A friend recently went through a divorce. You can relate to this, either in your own experience or in the experience of someone in your family or circle of friends or church. A woman approached me one morning before an evangelistic series, and she said, "Pastor, pray for me. My husband just told me he wanted a divorce". On the way out the door to church, her husband says, "That's it; it's over. I don't want you in my life anymore. I want a divorce". Other people before church say, "Good morning," "God bless you," "How's your day"? "Have a great day". Her husband said, "I want a divorce". These things are life-changing. They're destabilizing. You lose a job, what then? Maybe you're fine, but maybe you're not. Your children get in trouble. You're having challenges with...who knows. But it's not hard to start feeling like things are against you.

It isn't a great distance from "I feel fine" to "Everything is against me," and this can affect your Christian experience. You and I both know that many people fall away from God simply because they become discouraged, get upset with a person, get upset with yourself. Maybe because things are going badly, folks get upset with God. You let a little distance set in, and before long, it's a lot of distance. Here's what we have to know: Trials are a fact of life. They are a fact of the Christian life. You cannot avoid them. You shouldn't be surprised when they come. They're a lot like stress in your life. Stress can't be avoided, but not all stressors are bad things. It's not the presence or absence of stress in your life that's most important. It's what you do with those stressful things. It's what you do with those stressors that dictates what kind of life that you're gonna have.

Now, I want you to think about this: Although He had access to all the power of heaven, power that healed the sick and changed water to wine and cast out demons, although He had that kind of power, Jesus was never interested in compelling anyone so that His lot could be easy. He could have. Do you remember that interesting story in the Bible? Jesus was taken by force to a cliff, just outside of His hometown, by church leaders intent on killing Him. And I want you to think about this. Jesus was 30 years old or so when that happened. These were church leaders, so they may have been kids He went to church with, or they may have been teachers in church when He was a child. There were definitely people in that crowd that He knew from His childhood in Nazareth.

There they were, what were they doing? They were in the process of taking Jesus to His death. They were going to murder Him. What could Jesus have done? He could have called fire down from heaven, but He didn't. He could have, but He didn't. In another place, He was petitioned by His own disciples to allow them to call fire down from heaven to incinerate some folks, and He wouldn't allow it, stating that the problem was with the disciples rather than their opponents. Jesus was very direct in His criticism of church leaders occasionally, but He never ever sought to remove all of what was troubling His life. Imagine having the power to stop your opponents dead in their tracks, and not doing so. And think of this: Jesus had the power to remove opposition to His work and the work of the church so that the church could grow unopposed. He could have stopped James from being executed. He could have stopped the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. He could have prevented Stephen from being stoned with stones. But He didn't.

Their liberty was trampled on, their freedom to practice their faith was denied, but Jesus let it go. Evidently, there are some things more important to God than our comfort, and there are times, apparently, when there are some things more important to God than whether we live or die. The vital thing is that God is glorified. Think about this. Whatever the situation, what is paramount is the glory of God. And I wonder if we have a certain mindset. We go through a trial, life is bad. Trials come, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me"? If someone won't allow you to build a church where you want to build a church, or open a school where you want to open a school, you would go to the authorities and demand justice. If you're not allowed by law to home school your children, as is the case for many people living in Europe, we consider that an enormous indignity, and we would appeal to our rights.

Now, a moment, though, before you think I'm getting off in this direction, it wouldn't be wrong to go to the authorities; it wouldn't be wrong to utilize the legal process. In fact, there are times you should do that because you might improve your lot, your family's lot, and maybe society. But when we take the approach that if we don't get our way, it is the mother of all crises, we might be missing the larger purpose. Let's look at a case in the Bible. It's a pretty sober story of a man called by the church to a very important church office. His name was Stephen. He was one of the original seven deacons chosen by the church. According to the Bible, the deacons were men who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. "And Stephen [was] full of faith and power," according to Acts 6 and verse 8, and he "did great wonders and miracles among the people".

That's the kind of people the deacons were in those days. But we notice a certain something in Acts chapter 6. Certain Jews began disputing with Stephen. Stephen, while Jewish, was a Christian, and the Jews were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. So, rather than leaving Stephen be, rather than wishing Stephen well and allowing him to do and say whatever he wanted, they bribed people to lie about Stephen and to say that he did and said things he did not say or do. In Jerusalem, it didn't take much to get the people riled up. This got them plenty riled up. So let's go to our Bible, Acts chapter 6, I shall turn there, or your device. Acts chapter 6. That's Acts 8, but the "8" is looking more and more like a "6" every day. Acts chapter 6, and we pick it up in verse 12.

The Bible says in Acts 6 and verse 12, "And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, 'This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered [to] us.'" What would you do if people were saying this about you? It was all lies. And how did Stephen react? Verse 15, the Bible says, "And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel". Stephen was serene. He was untroubled. And he was reflecting to others the character of Christ. That's the right response. Stephen understood something. In this great controversy between good and evil, between Christ and Satan, we don't always get our own way. Things don't always work out as we wish. People don't always appreciate us as much as we feel they should. We don't always get justice, but we are not on this planet to get justice. We are here to glorify God.

Again, that doesn't mean we shouldn't work for a just system or try to get the best outcomes from situations, but we aren't to expect a just system or expect the system to always work in our favor. It won't. Sometimes the system will work decidedly against us. Let me put it to you like this. If you know the difference between soccer and football, or, depending on the language you speak, between "futbol" and football. In soccer, the ball is round. If I kick it to you, you know where it's going to go. It takes no real science or expertise to kick a soccer ball and have it go where you want it to go. If you're a soccer aficionado, you may take exception to that statement, but you shouldn't, particularly based on what I'm about to say. The ball is round. It bounces like a round ball bounces. In football or rugby, rugby is what I'm a little more familiar with, you can kick a ball, and you don't know how it's going to bounce because the ball is not round, it's oval, and it could bounce that way, or that way, or that way, or back towards you. It could bounce low; it could bounce up high.

And many times, people have kicked footballs, and I don't mean a "futbol" football, I mean a football football, or a rugby football. And have been buffaloed by the way the ball bounces. There's an old saying that the ball doesn't always bounce your way. In life, the ball doesn't always bounce your way. And God sees that, and, evidently, that's okay. So let's go back to Stephen. Stephen's face was as the face of an angel. He began to speak in his defense, but when he connected Jesus with the prophecies, the crowd reacted with fury. And he realized this was the end for him. They began to stone him. And Acts 7 and verse 60 says, "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'" He prayed for their forgiveness while they ripped his life away out of pettiness and jealousy and out of a malignant hatred of what? Not of Stephen. He hadn't done anything to bother them on any personal level.

This was just intolerance. It was prejudice. It was bias. It was mindless. We might want to ask ourselves why evil is allowed to trample us so frequently, and it is not an inconsequential question. According to the Bible, we are coming up on a time of trouble. Listen, according to the Bible, we are coming up on a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. There will be no appealing to one's religious rights or freedoms then. Now, it's true, God sometimes calls a person along a certain road so that person and others can see God's marvelous deliverance. He says, "I'm gonna lead you into a tight place, and you gonna pray, and I'm gonna deliver you, and everybody will say, 'Wow!'" But at other times, God calls a person to experience circumstances designed so that the rest of the world can see what God's grace can do in a person going through hard times.

Trials came at Stephen like many of us could not imagine. And he looked like an angel. And then he prayed for the people who were hurling stones at him. He prayed for his murderers! A life without trials? Wonderful! But how are we when our backs are to the wall, and trials come at us thick and fast? Think about the Beatitudes, what a remarkable passage of the Bible. "Blessed are the poor in spirit", we like that. "Blessed are they that mourn", that's nice. "Blessed are the meek," and so on. But further down that passage, Jesus' words take on a darker turn; Jesus' words become particularly challenging. The Beatitudes, Matthew chapter 5, verses 10 through 12. Here's what Jesus said: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".

Now do you like persecution? Does it feel like you're blessed when you're being persecuted? Do you like that? I don't think any of us like... now, now, think about this, though. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake". So you're doing the will of God, and you're persecuted when you do that, that's a blessing. I have preached in many places around the world and in some pretty challenging countries. I can't tell you how I would feel if the authorities swooped on me while I was preaching the Bible and locked me up and persecuted me. I'd probably want to get out of there and get home and, and flee and maybe never go back. But Jesus says, "It's a blessing".

Now, you have to be careful because there are some people who do things in the name of God that gets them negative attention and negative responses. They're not being persecuted for righteousness at all. They're being persecuted for carelessness or mindlessness or...thoughtlessness or stupidity. No, Jesus says when you do the will of God, and you're persecuted, now there's a blessing. He says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Then Jesus went on to say, "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad," Jesus said, "for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you".

Sometimes God calls you to suffer, and we don't want that. We don't like that. We shouldn't like that. For us here in the comfort of the United States, or in many other Western countries, we don't know what it's like. But Christians in the Middle East, in Africa, in some parts of India, in other parts of Asia, they know, they've experienced it. But us? We believe we're suffering for righteousness if we go to the supermarket, and the supermarket is out of soy milk. Oh, we're dying! We're calling out to God. Friend of mine told me he was in a Middle Eastern country where there's a degree of religious freedom. Christians from another neighboring Middle Eastern country were crossing the border to be baptized and then go back to their home country so they could live secretly as Christians. If they were baptized in their home country, they'd be dead. They snuck across the border to be baptized at a Christian church and go back servants of Christ.

Most of us don't know what that's like. Thing is, you don't have to go looking for trouble in this world. Trouble looks for you. In the year 1898, two lions began attacking workers during construction of a bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. Now, if you look at a, at a map of Kenya, say online, uh, you will notice down here on the Indian Ocean coast the city of Mombasa. And if you go northwest, you'll see two national parks, Tsavo West and Tsavo East, creatively named. Put them together, they're the size of the state of New Jersey. And if you look around there, there's not a lot of features or a lot of place names on the map, you'll find something called... Man Eaters Camp. It's a resort, Man Eaters Camp. I'm not staying there. I'm staying at "No Man Eaters Here Camp". I'm staying at "You Will Be Perfectly Safe at Our Resort Camp". That one's called Man Eaters Camp. It's not because there are man eaters there today necessarily. I'll tell you what happened.

Back in 1898, they were building the Uganda-Kenya Railroad, I believe it was Uganda-Kenya, building a bridge in this region, a bridge across a river. Lions, two lions, started attacking construction workers, there were a lot of them. So many men were attacked they had to halt construction. The man leading the project claimed that 135 men were killed by lions, although, although researchers, long after the fact, decades after the fact, says there's no way 135 could have been killed. They said it would have been 35. Which is still a huge amount. Anything more than zero, that's a lot. The lions were eventually dispatched. Now, it was with some great difficulty, but here's what happened. That man would, would shoot at these lions. He had a gun of some kind. Maybe it wasn't the greatest gun. One lion, shot, wounded, went away, came back, hunting more of the men. They built fences out of briars. The lions would figure out a way around, a way over, around, under, they were determined lions. They lit fires in order to provide light so they could see the lions and scare those lions away. Didn't work too well. Thirty-five, the researchers say, 135, the man said... dead.

Now, you can, in fact, you can see those lions today. They're at the Field Museum in Chicago. The man who shot them turned them into floor rugs. Later on, they were bought, taxidermied; now they're on display in a museum. First Peter 5, verse 8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". It's not that the men were being careless, they weren't. But the trouble came to them. The devil is just like that. He comes to you, but he is on a mission when he does. Be sure you're connected to God today. We need protection against the roaring lion, and our only protection is God. It was Jesus who said in John chapter 16 and verse 33, "In this world you shall have tribulation". We can't always avoid it. And what then? There is hardwired into the human psyche a desire to avoid trouble, an innate tendency to seek to justify yourself when accusations are made.

When Booker T. Washington was running the Tuskegee Institute, he was often criticized for this or that by various people. Mr. Washington said he never felt the need to try to defend himself because he believed that time would vindicate him. Eventually, people would know what sort of person he was and what he really stood for. The enemy of souls wants to discourage you. He'll do that any way he can, but he won't be able to do it at all if you believe your God is a big God, big enough to keep you and uphold you and sustain you even when things are tough. We think God is big when He gets us out of scrapes, when He causes us to avoid difficulties. And He does that, more than we know. Can you imagine getting to heaven and God telling you, "I got you out of this and that and that and that and that and that and that". Oh my goodness, I imagine God delivers us so many ways we don't even think about it; we don't perceive it. But God is bigger than that. Not only can God keep us from trouble; God can keep us in the midst of trouble.

Friends of mine had a disabled son, and they said, "We'd like to have him anointed". I participated in the anointing service. I said, "So why do you want this boy anointed"? And they said, "Well, because if he was healed and made whole again, this would bring great glory to God". Amen, it would. But at the time, they weren't thinking about the fact that that family was giving glory to God in the way they dealt with their circumstances. Great glory to God. It was...wonderful. I participated in an anointing just recently, a dear friend of mine. I arrived at his home. We were going to pray and ask God to heal him. Gravely ill. He spoke to me, and he said, "I just want to be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus".

Wow. Of course, he wanted to be healed, but his primary concern was the glory of God, was so that at the end of this, God could look at him and say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," so the universe could look on and say, "Look what God's grace did in this kind man's life". In Acts chapter 14 and verse 19, it says, "Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead". Hope you caught that. Paul was stoned with stones, which is, think about this for a moment: stoning. I recall reading in the newspaper when I was a young child about the firing squad execution of Gary Gilmore. I don't remember the details, but I remember his name, and I remember the description in the newspaper.

It said he was blindfolded, sorry, this is a little graphic, a white square, a target, was pinned to him right about where his heart was. All those guns fired. It said a, a little red appeared on the white cloth, and then his head slumped. That was it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there was anything good or pleasant or, or anything about that. But that was a death, that was an execution, and it was... somewhat sanitized. That is, it was grossly violent, but a little blood and then a slumping of the head. What happened to Paul that day? Have you ever thought about the mechanics of a stoning? Now, maybe we shouldn't go into that, but, my goodness, that is brutal. That is grossly violent and painful. And, and what for? Because he was doing God's work, they stoned him, dragged him out of the city, left his body, supposing that he was dead.

Now, he survived. That was a miracle. And I think there's a greater miracle: He went right on. That's one of the most incredible things you'll ever, ever read. It appears that the very next day he was preaching the gospel again, the very thing that got him stoned. What about many people? Someone in the church offends you, you won't go back. Church members are difficult, so the pastor quits. You don't like the pastor; you won't go back to church; you're gonna find another church. I'm not saying that's always the wrong thing to do, but you understand what I'm saying. No one says hello to you at church, you're done with it. Paul didn't let stoning keep him from pressing forward in God's work. He stuck with it. You have heard it said that we should not let the little things discourage us. Oh, that's true, but we also shouldn't let big things discourage us from serving God. And, my goodness, this was a big thing.

Back to our Bibles, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, and we're gonna pick it up in verse 17, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 17. Here it is; this is what the Bible says: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal". Did you hear what Paul wrote? This was a man who was stoned almost to death, and he referred to his "light affliction". How is God's character ever going to be seen unless we find ourselves in undesirable situations? I'm not advocating for them. I don't want them. But sometimes God allows them so He can bring the best out of us and help people see what He can do in our life.

I read somewhere that it is when the character of Christ is perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. We're not manifesting the character of Christ when we lose our experience because of the trials that we endure. Think of the trials suffered by God's people in the Bible. Jeremiah in prison, John arrested and exiled to Patmos. In Esther's day, the date was set for the eradication of the entire nation of Israel. Job went through something we would not want to endure, and he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him". He lost everything, didn't he? His possessions and his animals and his children. He didn't lose his wife, and his wife was goading him to be unfaithful to God. Later on, you get right down to the last chapters of the Bible, and you see the longest speech, as it were, ever given by God, about four chapters' worth.

Job spoke, and then God said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge"? That's just a euphemistic way of saying, "Who is this who does not know what he's talking about"? God said to Job, "Job, you just sit there, and you listen and answer me. Where were you when I created the world? Where were you when I said to the ocean, 'You can come this far and no further'? Where were you when I did and that and the other? Where were you when I created leviathan? Where were you, Job"? Job listened, and he understood. Job went through a trial. You don't want it. And I don't want it. Job said, "I wish I'd never been born, wish I'd died in the womb or in childbirth". And then he said later, after God spoke to him, Job said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You".

Isn't that interesting? Job came to the point where he said, "I get it. God is God. And whatever happens to me, I'm called to trust in Him". There it is, right there. While I think it is true that understanding the judgment and keeping the commandments of God, keeping the Sabbath day, understanding the anti-Christ, eating God's way, and knowing and believing what the dead are doing right now, while, while I think it's important that we understand that, very important, that's not the hard part. Think about the hard part. Right after the Lord's Prayer in Matthew chapter 6, the Bible says, this is Jesus speaking, it's the very next verse: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses".

There's an entire parable in Matthew 18 about a man who owed a huge sum of money, but he couldn't pay it, and the debt was forgiven. Same man found a man who owed him little. He had the fellow thrown into prison because he couldn't pay right away. Jesus' statement about what would happen to people who refused to forgive is really solemn. We are called to manifest the character of Christ, even in the midst of trials. People are going to rub your fur the wrong way. What then? You can be a Christian when everything is going right, but what does that prove? First Peter 4, verse 12: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you". Turning in my Bible to the book of James, and in James chapter 1, we read in verse 2: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations", or trials, "knowing...that the [trial or the] trying of your faith works patience".

Isn't that something? "Count it all joy when you fall into trials"? Why? Because ultimately it works out best that way. "Let patience have her perfect work that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing". If we'll let them do so, fiery trials will purify us. They will refine our character. Trials are God's chosen workmen to do in our lives what nothing else can do. There are actually times when liberty is less desirable than the alternative. Seeing what was going on in his home country, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor and theologian, went back to Germany, a Germany that was held tightly in the grip of the Nazi Party. He was opposed to Hitler. At that time, he held absolute power in Germany; he had German society entirely under his control. But Karl, but Karl Barth wrote to Bonhoeffer, who was pastoring in London, England, at the time, and he told him, "The house of your church is on fire".

Bonhoeffer went back to Germany, worked to counteract the destruction Hitler was imposing on society and on the church, and lived essentially on the run from authorities. He was arrested eventually. He was imprisoned. He was executed at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. I've been right there to the spot where he was executed. He was hanged and then incinerated. I've seen where the gallows were. I've stood beside that small pyramid-shaped thing made up of the ashes of those cremated following their death. I've seen the monuments to Bonhoeffer there and in other places, such as the place of his birth in Wroclaw in Poland, which back then was part of Germany. This man traded his freedom for death because sometimes Christianity costs a lot. He went home to Germany knowing he was going to die. And he went anyway because he knew there were worse things that could happen. Faith in Jesus isn't given to us so we can be free and have what we want.

Jesus didn't exist simply for the purpose of righting our wrongs. Faith is granted to us so we can be at liberty to serve God as He wishes, and that can vary, depending on place and time and the personalities involved, and we may struggle to understand that... but it's true nonetheless. I remember conducting an evangelistic series in 2018 in Rome in Italy. Oh my goodness, there were trials, trials. But God won. God won. While we were there, we filmed an It Is Written program in the city of Split in Croatia just across the Adriatic Sea. And in Split in Croatia are the ruins of the palace of Diocletian. Diocletian is the only Roman emperor who retired from office. Most of the others left under most unfortunate circumstances. But Diocletian isn't remembered for retiring from office nearly as much as he's remembered for persecuting the Christian church. He did so to the extent that he's mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:10 says, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life". Those 10 days were the 10 years of persecution under Diocletian. Jesus knew it was coming. Jesus didn't deliver the people from the persecution. Jesus didn't even say, "Run for the hills"! Jesus said, "Just be faithful. I'll give you the crown of life". And 2,000 years later, we are still talking about those faithful folks and what they did to stand for their faith in God, witnessing to the power of the gospel! Daniel and his friends were taken from their religious haven, marched across a desert to a foreign land. They even had their names changed in an attempt to reprogram their minds. And yet they were faithful to the extent that, long after the fact, Belshazzar's mother told them, "There's someone here who can interpret the writing on the wall, that Daniel". She remembered the faithfulness of Daniel, and it was Daniel's faithfulness that saw God's Spirit poured out upon him.

In Daniel 1, there's a food fight. In Daniel 2, a death decree. In Daniel 3, they were urged into idolatry, and Daniel's friends were urged into a fiery furnace. In Daniel 4, a stern message for a king. In Daniel 5, the city was conquered, and Daniel's religious freedom entirely removed. For what? So that the world could see what God could do in a people of faith, and so we could see what God might choose for us going forward. You're called to a Daniel experience? God is there. You're out on the plain of Dura, let me tell you, God is there. Your brothers sell you into slavery, and God is there. You have your own personal time of trouble. God is there. You get a terrible diagnosis from the doctor. Oh, my friend, God is there! You get news that somebody's been involved in a terrible accident. God is there! It may not feel like it, but God is there. This is no time to lose courage, to fail in our faith. Jesus is coming back soon, and when He does, we won't remember the difficult times; we will simply look up, and we'll say, "Lo, this is our God. We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord. We will rejoice and be glad in His salvation".

Can you rejoice and be glad now? I know there are many people who are going through indescribable difficulty. I'm not saying it's of no consequence. It's of great consequence. I'm saying to you the Bible makes clear Christ can be seen in your witness, even in your own private hell. He can. And He wants to be seen. There are others watching on. There is a universe watching on. The angels of heaven are looking to see how you will respond. Will you give Jesus your heart even when things are tough? Will you do that? Can you do that? Sometimes it seems far too difficult, and it is, humanly speaking. But we aren't serving a human in heaven. That is God, and God is able. He's always able. Come on and let's pray and thank Him for His ableness.

Our Father in heaven, You're able, and we're grateful. O Lord, we don't want trials; we don't like them. The Bible says, "Deliver us from evil". Oh yeah, we want You to do that, please. But we know that there are times in Your providence when difficulties will come. We live in a sinful world; sickness will come. We live in a sinful world; drunk drivers will run red lights. We live in a sinful world; there'll be accidents. We live in a sinful world; our bodies are degrading. None of that suggests that You're not faithful. And so bless us, dear Lord, I pray. Bless and keep us, please. Others will say, "How could God do this"? Others will see Jesus at work in our lives in times of trouble and say, "Wow! God can do that". Bless us, please, that in all things our primary concern is Your glory. Be glorified, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen and amen.

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