Bless the Lord!
“I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)
Written next to this verse on the worn page of my Bible is the inscription: “6/11/95—8 guys walked out.” At that point, the Pure Life Ministries’ residential program had been going for 5 ½ years and was doing well. Nevertheless, some of the men began listening to the complaints and criticisms of a rebellious student and packed up their bags and left.
The morning after these men left, I opened my Bible and my eyes fell on this verse. I knew the Lord was encouraging me in an unexpected way. It was as if He were saying, “Steve, if you will focus on Me, your heart will rejoice and your problems will diminish.”
And that’s exactly what I did. I began thanking God for all of the many wonderful things He had done for me personally and for the many men we had ministered to over the years. I was immediately lifted out of my discouragement and was able to face the day with a renewed hope.
Interestingly, five years before—almost to the day—the same thing had occurred. The six-month-old program only had seven students then—and six of them quit. It was devastating.
The difference was in how I handled this adversity. My “little faith” sent me into a tailspin of despair and fear that I had completely failed in ministry. I was much too aware of myself and not focused upon the Lord nearly enough.
What stands out to me all these years later is how much I had changed during those five years. I simply did not have the spiritual wherewithal in 1990 to bless the Lord in the midst of a painful experience. My first reaction was to it was carnal and self-focused. But God was teaching me, to some extent, to live above the circumstances in which I found myself.
The Christian life is a journey of growth. Sincere believers will allow the Holy Spirit to work His wondrous change inside them. And isn’t one of the primary purposes of a trial to test the person to see how he will react, to reveal the true level of maturity?
Immature Christians—such as the Steve Gallagher of 1990—may be able to open their mouths in praise when everything is going well, but they will not do so when facing adversity. More than likely their response will be one of complaining, fretting or even accusing the Lord.
Think back to the last trial you encountered and make an honest evaluation of where you are in your Christian journey. Allow this self-evaluation to encourage you on to a deeper trust in the Lord.
And how about you? Where do you see yourself in your spiritual journey? If you are fairly new to the Christian faith, you shouldn’t demand a mature response of yourself to difficult trials. However, if you have been a believer for many years, you should be able to see a definite pattern of spiritual growth. Doesn’t that sound right?