Suffering Produces Spiritual Strength or Reveals False Conversion

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July 20, 2015

Suffering Produces Spiritual Strength or Reveals False Conversion

It's been a while since I've shared anything about my physical health (my last post was in November 2014). Perhaps you thought the Lord healed me from my serious health afflictions...but He hasn't...yet. And that's okay with me.

I'm now entering my 11th year of constant and often debilitating pain, extreme fatigue, seven surgeries in seven years (my most recent was a few weeks ago). I'm also still adding new specialists to my already large repertoire (an Endocrinologist, Cardiac Electrophysiologist, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and more). In addition to all this, it looks as if I'm going to need at least one more, and possibly two surgeries this year (one for my hyperparathyroidism and the other for a cardiac pacemaker).

The reason it's been so long since I've shared anything about my continually declining health, is because I've wrongly concluded that it's better for me to encourage you rather than burden you with my seemingly, never-ending litany of trials. But when I was discussing this issue with my oldest son earlier today, I realized how wrong I've been not to share more about my weaknesses; because how then, can anyone see Christ's power manifested perfectly in me (2 Cor 12:9-10)?

Though our Father God has graciously allowed me to keep my heart and mind focused on the things eternal rather than on the things temporal—like my physical health, it's wrong of me not to share the pains of this journey with you. So please forgive me.

I want so much for you to be strengthened in your faith, to keep your sights vertical rather than horizontal, that I've neglected to show you how to do that when you're in the the heat of the battle between your flesh's desire and your renewed desire to please and honor the Lord.

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."
-1 Peter 4:1-6, ESV

Because the focus of what I do is not for physical results (comfort and healing), my hope is not deferred and my fervor is not exhausted. Part of my daily regime is to eat healthy, exercise five to six days a week (though it's painful and makes me very ill), drink about 72 ounces of water plus juice daily, and do more than my doctors ask. I don't practice these disciplines because I love my body and want nothing more than to be healed, I do them because I love Christ and know my body belongs to Him, and not me (Gal 2:20).

Some people wrongly assume because I'm so disciplined, it means I'm not tempted by my sinful flesh to gratify it, rather than honor Christ. But I am often tempted and sometimes give into my temptations to be lazy and do nothing; to be mediocre, rather than do all things with excellence as unto the Lord. I'm constantly tempted by my flesh to be so self-absorbed, that at times, I more resemble a black-hole, than a light to the world.

I could use God's grace as an excuse to remain enslaved to my fleshly desires (saying, "I'm only human", "God's not finished with me yet" or "I'm a work in progress"), or I could avail the great and wonderfully freeing gift from God given only to Christians—repentance. My confidence in my Father's forgiveness endows me with spiritual strength to persevere; to run my course and to finish well with urgency, rather than be satisfied with complacency (1 Jn 1:9, Rom 5:1-5).

Sadly, this is not the same experience all professing Christians know and understand. Some who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior live like they're their own lord and savior. They praise Jesus when things go well. And they may even praise Jesus and express trust when trials come their way. But when God's refining fire tests their faith over an extended period of time, their false profession and fruitless deeds are consumed by God's holiness (1 Cor 13:5). As Jesus says, there are those who hear the Gospel and joyfully receive it, but once painful trials come their way, they turn away from the Word rather than turn to it (Lk 8:13).

Those who do not truly know God only "love" Him when they think they can get something by claiming association with Him; including false piety. But when the show of false piety during difficult times gets old, their quick and easy profession of trust in Jesus, just as quickly, produces self-righteous demands, even arrogantly accusing God of not keeping His promises.

Throughout Scripture, we see how our gracious and merciful Father God uses even the fall of man that brought sin and suffering to this world, as a tool to reveal to us where we truly stand with Him: still in our self-righteous sin, or justified by the righteous works of Christ (Gen 3:24, Rom 5:16).

Those who are truly saved will never turn away from God or accuse Him of wrongdoing. Rather, they will turn all the more to Him, crying out to Him night and day, seeking to repent of any sins that are obvious or oblivious to them; begging God to help them see Him clearly and love Him more dearly. Those who abide in Christ will hunger and thirst for righteousness and look to the LORD for help rather than try to seek comfort from unbelievers who can only provide temporal remedies for our physical bodies, but can offer no real comfort for our eternal souls.

I don't remain true to God because I'm holier than others. I remain true to God because I'm keenly aware of the wretch that I am; the utter depravity of my sinful heart and mind, and my growing ineptness to do anything worthy of being called good by the only One who is good. Because I'm so desperately insecure in myself and often terrified of what others think of me or might say or do to me, I cling to Christ all the more and desire to remain hid in Him because He is my Strong Tower—the only place I can be me and feel completely safe, compassionately accepted, perfectly loved, and profoundly secure.

My faith and the life I live are not strong because of me. My faith and life are strong because of the One who holds and owns them both—Jesus Christ the Lord (Gal 2:20).

As I continue to struggle physically and spiritually—to live a life that most pleases, honors and glorifies the Lord, I often grow weary of the fight and am tempted to give up. But when I cry out to the LORD, He lifts me from my miry pit and sets my feet on solid ground (Mt 11:28-30, Ps 40:1-3). If you do the same, you will receive same because I don't have any more of Jesus than you do (Gen 4:6-7). As Burk Parsons wisely said,"We don't need more of Jesus, just less of self. We already have all of Jesus."

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us. but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, 'Where is your God?' Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

"I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."
-Psalm 115:1-3; 121:1-2, ESV


  1. Nikki Wallace FloryJuly 20, 2015 at 7:55 PM


  2. Pastor Mike,

    Thank you, thank you so very much for sharing this sermon of yours! I'm so blessed and encouraged by it! My heart was soared as I read Scripture after Scripture. I love and appreciate how you rightly handle the Word of God and how preach from the text and not from human psychology. THANK YOU! God has used you to richly bless me today and I am grateful for your kindness towards me. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. The Lord bless you. :o)

  3. Dear Sunny Shell – greetings from Finland to my sister in

    Don´t be sorry for not being all the time so open concerning
    your health – always honest, open when you like. Well, anybody can read your
    blog, but generally speaken we don´t have to say everything to everybody. I do
    appreciate your open and so touching writings, but you (like me) have also
    faced some ”friends of Job” because of your sincerity. I noticed such comments
    earlier and became sad about them. Oh those pious christians, who miss all the
    empathy and claim us to be so holy!

    Job 15:4 ”Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer
    before God.”

    You wrote: ””Those who are truly saved will never turn away
    from God or accuse Him of wrongdoing.”

    We don´t want to turn away from God, but may, and more than
    that, we are even allowed to acuse Him in our desperation and agony. God will
    gladly listen to our heart´s cry for the blood of Jesus is our shelter. You
    must have heard of Joni Eareckson Tada,
    an evangelical Christian, author, radio host, and founder of Joni and
    Friends. During her two years of
    rehabilitation, according to her autobiography, she experienced anger (to God),
    depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubt. To say it straight – all
    honest christians mus admit that sometimes they get disappointed with
    Jesus. It is derived from our
    expectations of happy life in the hand of God – when God takes us to the valleys,
    where we thought we´ll never visit, whom else to accuse than God. He did it , He took us there. To say
    the last word: Jesus never betrays us, it´s our heart that protests the hard road.

    Joni did protest, Job accused God too – and I have done it
    from time to time. We need to stay near Jesus while protesting, for He is our helper
    and comforter, not depending on our temperary feelings. We can face God always
    honest and always open too. Little children complain about their parents, and
    that´s exactly what we are as children of out heavenly Father.

    Ps. 62:8 ”Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out
    your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

    Have you listened to the song ”God on the mountain” by Linda Radle - pick it up from Youtube.

    Eero, your brother in Christ.

  4. Hello there brother Eero,

    Thank you for commenting and for your encouragement to press on toward the upward call of our Father God in Christ Jesus.

    And thank you for your concern for me and your kindness towards me. I'm aware that I don't have to share everything (and I don't), as we are wisely counseled in Proverbs 14:8). :o) However, I believe it is my calling by God to share what He's given me to share in order that the saints in Christ who are also suffering in various ways, might be encouraged to persevere.

    Yes, I have had many of Job's "friends", but I also have many true friends in Christ, namely my husband and oldest son whom God has mercifully given me to bring me much comfort and encouragement in my time of need. I also have many other brothers and sisters both near and far who pray for me daily and encourage me continuously with God's Word.

    As far as being angry with God, I would be lying if I said I have ever been angry with God. Shortly after I came to Christ, I was taught by a dear sister in Christ who's husband was dying of cancer that we ought never be angry with God because we have no right to question God's wisdom. He is righteous in all He does: always doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. I prayed that instant, for the Lord to give me faith like that, and He kindly did.

    I ask God questions and I cry out to Him in my anguish, but I've never accused Him of wrong or been angry with Him. I know others have, like those you mentioned and I do not judge them, I understand why they felt that way, but I also do not condone what they did only because God does not. When Job accused God, God did not answer any of Job's questions, rather God responded, "Gird yourself up like a man and you answer me..." Then the LORD only testified to who He is rather than answer any of Job's questions. In response, Job repented, as he should've.

    Comforting someone who's angry with God is one thing, but telling them it's okay because others have done it is wrong because when we are angry with anyone, including God, it's because we think we're not getting something good we deserve. And this is sinful. God owes us nothing good, but by His grace, He gives us the ultimate good we could never earn...eternal life in Jesus Christ the Lord.

    May the Lord our God bless and comfort you brother as you face various trials in your life. And may He multiply His grace and peace to your spirit.


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