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CAREY: GOD'S SOVEREIGN WILL
William Carey, who is called the father of modern missions, began his missionary career to India in 1793. He served the Lord in that country for 40 years, never once returning to his home in England. And throughout those years he translated portions of the Bible into over a dozen Indian languages.
But one afternoon, after 20 years of hard labor, a fire raged throughout his printing plant and warehouse. All of his printing equipment was destroyed and most of his precious manuscripts. Obviously, in that day there were no computer back-up copies or even photocopies kept somewhere else. Tragically, 20 years of non-stop labor was gone within a few hours.
Many people would have been devastated over the loss, but not William Carey. This is what he wrote to his pastor friend, Andrew Murray, in England:
"The ground must be labored over again, but we are not discouraged. We have all been supported under the affliction, and preserved from discouragement. To me the consideration of the divine sovereignty and wisdom has been very supporting." Then he quoted from Psalm 46:10, where the Lord Himself says, "Be still and know that I am God." (Bill Mills and Craig Parro, Finishing Well in Life and Ministry, Leadership Resources International, pp. 101-102)
Carey found peace and strength in Godís sovereign plan for his own life, even if it included times of devastating loss. & We can find the same thing if we return to the Lord. We donít find exemption from sorrow, just supernatural strength to face it with hope and joy.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Back to Bethel, 4/13/2011)
PLEASURE COMES FROM PAIN
The world's best cyclist, Lance Armstrong, says this about pain:
I become a happier man each time I suffer.
Suffering is as essential to a good life, and as inextricable, as bliss. The old saying that you should live each day as if itís your last is a nice sentiment, but it doesnít work. Take it from me. I tried it once, and hereís what I learned: If I pursued only happiness, and lived just for the moment, Iíd be a no-account with a perpetual three-day growth on my chin. Cancer taught me that.
Before cancer, whatever I imagined happiness to be, pretty soon I wore it out, took it for granted, or threw it away. A portfolio, a Porsche, a coffee machine--these things were important to me. So was my hair. Then I lost them, including the hair. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had metastasized into my lungs and brain. I sold the car, gave up my career as a world-class cyclist, lost a good deal of money, and barely hung on to my life.
When I went into remission, I thought happiness would mean being self-indulgent. Not knowing how much time I had left, I did not intend to ever suffer again. I had suffered months of fear, chemotherapy so strong it left burn marks under my skin, and surgery to remove two tumors. Happiness to me then was waking up.
I ate Mexican food, played golf, and lay on the couch. The pursuit of happiness meant going to my favorite restaurant and pursuing a plate of enchiladas with tomatillo sauce.
But one day my wife, Kristin, put down her fork and said, "You need to decide something: Are you going to be a golf-playing, beer-drinking, Mexican-food-eating slob for the rest of your life? If you are, Iíll still love you. But I need to know, because if so, Iíll go get a job. Iím not going to sit at home while you play golf."
I stared at her.
"Iím so bored," she said.
Suddenly, I understood that I was bored, too. The idleness was forced; I was purposeless, with nothing to pursue. That conversation changed everything. I realized that responsibility, the routines and habits of shaving in the morning with a purpose, a job to do, a wife to love, and a child to raise--these were the things that tied my days together and gave them a pattern deserving of the term living.
Within days I was back on my bicycle. For the first time in my life, I rode with real strength and stamina and purpose. Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason, and that sometimes the experience of losing things--whether health or a car or an old sense of self--has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers.
People ask me why I ride my bike for six hours a day; what is the pleasure? The answer is that I donít do it for the pleasure. I do it fo...
THE STORY OF MARTIN LUTHER
In 1517, an obscure Catholic priest named Martin Luther placed his life in God's hands when he nailed his 95 theses, his 95 arguments against the Catholic church, on the door of the Wittenberg Church. There was nothing wrong with nailing pages to the door. Everything was posted there for everyone to read. It was the community bulletin board. But Martin Luther had been studying the Bible personally and realized that Catholic ceremonies did nothing to dispense grace and the church had no right to sell indulgences. Salvation is received through faith in Jesus. His 95 theses specified errors of the Catholic church in the light of personal Bible study.
At that time, Catholicism was the most powerful institution in the western world. The Pope not only coronated kings, he could order them to abdicate if he so chose. The power to excommunicate did not so much inspire the fear of God as the fear of eternal hell. Opposition to the church meant a charge of heresy, possible torture, possible death, and certain excommunication.
After ten years of leading the Reformation, a series of health problems assaulted Martin Luther. In April, 1527, a dizzy spell struck him while preaching. Things got worse. By July he wondered if he had long to live. He regained some strength, then was assaulted with depression, heart problems, and severe intestinal complications. In those days, some treatments were as bad as the ailments.
At one point he wrote, "I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain." Some of you may know how that feels. He continued, "I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God."
THIS IS GOOD
The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"
One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!" To which the king replied, "No, this is not good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.
About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.
As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was bl...