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Category Archives: Chuck Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. He has written many helpful books including The Grace Awakening, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Insights on Revelation, and many biographies on Biblical characters.

CHUCK SWINDOLL ON “WHY DO WE SUFFER?”

WHY CHRISTIANS SUFFER – A MEDITATION ON 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-11

CBW Swindoll

2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 

Of all the letters Paul wrote, Second Corinthians is the most autobiographical. In it the great apostle lifts the veil of his private life and allows us to catch a glimpse of his human frailties and needs. You need to read that letter in one sitting to capture the moving emotion that surged through his soul.
It is in this letter alone that he records the specifics of his anguish, tears, affliction, and satanic opposition. In this letter alone he spells out the details of his persecution, loneliness, imprisonments, beatings, feelings of despair, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and that “thorn in the flesh”–his companion of pain. How close it makes us feel to him when we picture him as a man with real, honest-to-goodness problems…just like you and me!
It is not surprising, then, that he begins the letter with words of comfort–especially verses 3 through 11. Now, then, having read those nine verses, please observe his frequent use of the term comfort in verses 3-7. I count ten times in five verses that the same root word is employed by Paul. This word is para-kaleo, meaning literally, “to call alongside.” It involves more than a shallow “pat on the back” with the tired expression, “the Lord bless you…” No, this word involves genuine in-depth understanding…deep-down compassion and sympathy. This seems especially appropriate since it says that God, our Father, is the “God of all comfort” who “comforts us in all our affliction.” Our loving Father is never preoccupied or removed when we are enduring sadness and affliction! Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and Matthew 6:31-32 as further proof.
There is yet another observation worth noting in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1. No less than three reasons are given for suffering–each one introduced with the term “that” in verses 4, 9, and 11. Quietly and without a lot of fanfare, the Holy Spirit states the reasons we suffer:
(1) “That we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…” (v. 4). God allows suffering so that we might have the capacity to enter into others’ sorrow and affliction. Isn’t that true? If you have suffered a broken leg and been confined to crutches for weeks–you are in complete sympathy with someone else on crutches, even years after your affliction. The same is true for the loss of a child…emotional depression…an auto accident…undergoing unfair criticism…financial burdens. God gives His children the capacity to understand by bringing similar sufferings into our lives. Bruises attract one another.
(2) “That we should not trust in ourselves…” (v. 9). God also allows suffering so that we might learn what it means to depend on Him, not on our own strength and resources. Doesn’t suffering do that? It forces us to lean on Him totally, absolutely. Over and over He reminds us of the danger of pride…but it frequently takes suffering to make the lesson stick. Pride is smashed most effectively when the suffering comes suddenly, surprisingly. The express trains of heaven are seldom announced by a warning bell; they dash suddenly and abruptly into the station of the soul. Perhaps that has been your experience recently. Don’t resent the affliction as an intruder–welcome it as God’s message to stop trusting in your flesh…and start leaning on Him.
(3) “That thanks may be given…” (v. 11). Honestly–have you said, Thanks, Lord for this test”? Have you finally stopped struggling and expressed to Him how much you appreciate His loving sovereignty over your life? I submit that one of the reasons our suffering is prolonged is that we take so long saying “Thank you, Lord” with an attitude of genuine appreciation.
How unfinished and rebellious and proud and unconcerned we be without suffering! Here are two statements on suffering I heard years ago and shall never forget:
Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.
When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual–and crushes him.
May these things encourage you the next time God heats up the furnace.
Source: Chuck Swindoll. Come Before Winter…And Share My Hope. Multnomah Press, Portland, OR.: 1985, pp. 202-203.

 About the Author:

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Bible teacher on the internationally syndicated radio program Insight for Living.

Charles Swindoll’s Books:

  • You And Your Child, Thomas Nelson (1977)

  • Hand Me Another Brick, Thomas Nelson (1978)

  • Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Persevering Through Pressure, Thomas Nelson (1980)

  • Strike The Original Match, Multnomah (1980)

  • Improving Your Serve: The Art Of Unselfish Living, Word (1981)

  • Strengthening Your Grip: Essentials In An Aimless World, Word (1982)

  • Growing Strong In The Seasons Of Life, Multnomah (1983)

  • Dropping Your Guard: The Value Of Open Relationships, Word (1983)

  • Come Before Winter – And Share My Hope, Multnomah (1985)

  • Living On The Ragged Edge: Coming To Terms With Reality, Word (1985)

  • Growing Deep In The Christian Life: Returning To Our Roots, Multnomah (1986)

  • The Quest For Character, Multnomah (1987)

  • Living Above The Level Of Mediocrity : A Commitment To Excellence, Word (1987)

  • Growing Wise In Family Life, Multnomah (1988)

  • Living Beyond The Daily Grind: Reflections On The Songs And Sayings In Scripture, Word (1988)

  • Rise & Shine: A Wake-Up Call, Multnomah (1989)

  • The Grace Awakening, Word (1990)

  • Sanctity Of Life: The Inescapable Issue, Word (1990)

  • Stress Fractures, Multnomah (1990)

  • Simple Faith, Word (1991)

  • Laugh Again, Word (1992)

  • Flying Closer To The Flame (Re-issued as Embraced by The Spirit: The Untold Blessings of Intimacy with God, Word in 1993 & Zondervan in 2010)

  • The Finishing Touch, Word (1994)

  • Paw Paw Chuck’s Big Ideas in the Bible, Word (1995)

  • Hope Again, Word (1996)

  • The Road To Armageddon (with John F Walvoord; J Dwight Pentecost), Word (1999)

  • Start Where You Are: Catch A Fresh Vision For Your Life, Word (1999)

  • The Mystery Of God’s Will: What Does He Want For Me?, Word (1999)

  • Perfect Trust: Ears To Hear, Hearts To Trust, And Minds To Rest In Him, J. Countryman (2000 & 2012)

  • The Darkness And The Dawn : Empowered By The Tragedy And Triumph Of The Cross, Word (2001)

  • Why, God?: Calming Words For Chaotic Times, Word (2001)

  • Wisdom For The Way: Wise Words For Busy People, J. Countryman (2001)

  • Understanding Christian Theology (with Roy B Zuck), Thomas Nelson (2003)

  • Behold—The Man!: The Pathway Of His Passion, Word (2004)

  • Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something! Thomas Nelson (2004)

  • So, You Want To Be Like Christ?: Eight Essentials To Get You There, Word (2005)

  • When God Is Silent (Choosing To Trust In Life’s Trials), J. Countryman (2005)

  • Great Attitudes For Graduates!: 10 Choices For Success In Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2006)

  • Encouragement For Life: Words Of Hope And Inspiration, J. Countryman (2006)

  • The Strength Of Character: 7 Essential Traits Of A Remarkable Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2007)

  • A Bethlehem Christmas: Celebrating The Joyful Season, Thomas Nelson (2007

  • The Owner’s Manual for Christians: The Essential Guide for a God-Honoring Life, Thomas Nelson (2009)

  • The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, FaithWords (2010 & 2012)

  • Meet Me In The Library: Readings From 8 Writers Who Shaped My Life, IFL (2011)

  • Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words, FaithWords (2012)

  • Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind, Worthy (2012)

  • Living the Proverbs: Living in the Daily Grind, Worthy (2013)

Swindoll’s New Testament Insights Commentary Series

  • Insights on Romans, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on John, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on James and 1 & 2 Peter, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Zondervan (2011)

  • Insights on Revelation, Zondervan (2012)

  • Insights on Luke, Zondervan (2012)

  • Insights on Galatians & Ephesians, Zondervan (2013)

 Profiles in Character series

  • David: A Man Of Passion & Destiny, Word (1997)

  • Esther: A Woman Of Strength & Dignity, Word (1997)

  • Joseph: A Man Of Integrity And Forgiveness, Word (1998)

  • Moses: A Man Of Selfless Dedication, Word (1999)

  • Elijah: A Man Of Heroism And Humility, Word (2000)

  • Paul: A Man Of Grace And Grit, Word (2002)

  • Job: A Man Of Heroic Endurance, Word (2004)

  • Fascinating Stories Of Forgotten Lives: Rediscovering Some Old Testament Characters, Word (2005)

  • Jesus: The Greatest Life Of All, Thomas Nelson (2008)

Honors and Awards

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Chuck Swindoll, Suffering

 

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Do you REALLY CARE about the Lost?

A PARABLE OF SAVING LIVES

life preserver on water

By Charles R. Swindoll

On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat…but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely funrniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive gathering place for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn’t altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were black and “different” from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims…(it’s too unpleasant, it’s a hindrance to our social life, it’s opening the door to folks who are not our kind“). As you’d expect, some still insisted on saving lives, that this was their primary objective–that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club’s beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club…and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself…and if you visit that coast today you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving or lives. Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now,most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care…so very few.

Do you? 

Deepening Your Roots

Read: Colossians 4:2-6; Matthew 5:13-16; and Ephesians Chapter 5

Branching Out

(1) Take time today to pray for someone you know is shipwrecked.

(2) Look for someone in need this week and be his “salvation” by meeting his need.

(3) Keep your porch light on all week (day and night) to remind yourself that you and your home are to be a lighthouse for the world.

*Article adapted from Chuck Swindoll. Growing Strong In The Seasons of LIfe. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Press, 1983,  pp. 98-99. 

 

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Friday Humor: A Poll Regrading The Meaning of “Habakkuk”

FRIDAY HUMOR: #25

Habakkuk Live By Faith

I got some funny answers when I took a poll regarding the Book of Habakkuk. Some of the answers were:

  • a word spelled backwards,

  • a Jewish holiday,

  • a village in Vietnam,

  • a new game,

  • a disease of the lower back.

- Chuck Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Chuck Swindoll, Humor

 

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Chuck Swindoll on The Huge Importance of Our Attitude

Attitude is the Most Important Thing by Chuck Swindoll

Swindoll C image

“The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what others think, or say, or do. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

 

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Chuck Swindoll on Memorizing Scripture: 7 Tips

7 Tips on Scripture Memorization

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking than memorizing Scripture. That’s right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding than this. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.

God’s Word is filled with exhortations to implant His truth in our hearts. David says that a young man can keep his way pure by treasuring God’s Word in his heart.

Psalm 37:31, “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.”

Psalm 119:9-11, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Solomon refers to this in Proverbs 4:4, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.”

The words “hold fast” come from a single Hebrew term, meaning “to grasp, seize, lay hold of.” Scripture memory gives you a firm grasp of the Word—and allows the Word to get a firm grasp of you! Solomon also mentions writing the Word “on the tablet of your heart” and having Scriptures kept within you so “they may be on your lips” (Proverbs 7:3 & 22:18).

Now, I know you’ve been challenged to do this before. But is it happening? Perhaps you have procrastinated because you have mental blocks against it. Maybe you tried, but you either did not see the value or could not get beyond the method that was demanded by some memory program—little cards, booklets, check-up techniques, hearers, etc. Perhaps that seemed elementary and insulted your intelligence, I understand.

Okay…forget the methods…but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Take your Bible, turn to a passage that’s been especially helpful…and commit that passage to memory—all on your own. Don’t learn just isolated verses here and there. Bite off whole chunks of Scripture. That way you can get the flow of thought God had in mind.

Here are seven things I have found helpful:

(1)  Choose a time when your mind is free from outside distractions…perhaps soon after getting up in the morning.

(2)  Learn the reference by repeating it every time you say the verse(s). Numbers are more difficult to remember than words.

(3)  Read each verse through several times—both whisper and aloud. Hearing yourself say the words help cement them into your mind.

(4)  Break the passage into its natural phrases. Learn the reference and then the first phrase. Then repeat the reference and first phrase as you go to the second phrase. Continue adding phrases one by one.

(5)  Learn a little bit perfectly rather than a great deal poorly. Do not go on to the next verse until you can say the previous one(s) perfectly, without a glance at your Bible.

(6)  Review the verse(s) immediately after you have gone through this process. Twenty to thirty minutes later, repeat what you’ve memorized. Before the day has ended has ended, firmly fix the verse(s) in your mind by going over it fifteen to twenty times. (You can do this as you drive or do your job.)

(7)  Use the verse(s) orally as soon as possible. After all, the purpose of Scripture memory is a practical one, not academic. Use the verses in conversation, in correspondence, in teaching, in counseling, in everyday opportunities. Relate what you’ve learned to your daily situation. You’ll be thrilled with the results.

Article above adapted from Charles R. Swindoll. Growing Strong In The Seasons of Life. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Books, 1983, pp. 53-54.

About The Author:

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as senior pastor to congregations in Texas, Massachusetts, and California. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends far beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs in major Christian radio markets around the world, reaching people groups in languages they can understand. Chuck’s extensive writing ministry has also served the body of Christ worldwide and his leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren.

Chuck’s prolific writing ministry has blessed the body of Christ for over thirty years. Beginning with You and Your Child in 1977, Chuck has contributed more than seventy titles to a worldwide reading audience. His most popular books in the Christian Bookseller’s Association include: Strengthening Your Grip, Improving Your Serve, Dropping Your Guard, Living on the Ragged Edge, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, The Grace Awakening, Simple Faith, Laugh Again, The Finishing Touch, Intimacy with the Almighty, Suddenly One Morning, The Mystery of God’s Will, Wisdom for the Way, The Darkness and the Dawn, A Life Well Lived, and the Great Lives from God’s Word series, which includes Joseph, David, Esther, Moses, Elijah, Paul, Job, Jesus: The Greatest Life of All, and his most recent addition, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal. As a writer, Chuck has received the following awards: Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award, Evangelical Press Association, 1997 and Twelve Gold Medallion Awards.

 

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Dr. Charles R. Swindoll on The Messiah Who Understands Your Pain

“Getting Through The Tough Stuff of Pain” By Chuck Swindoll

HAVE YOU SEEN Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ? It’s like none other I’ve seen. It details the horrifying pain and anguish Jesus suffered in the final hours of His earthly life. By now, millions of viewers around the world have been moved beyond words by the graphic depiction of that violent and shockingly torturous ordeal. People of all ages, cultures, and races have looked on in alarm and disbelief as vivid scenes from the sacred story relentlessly rolled on, growing increasingly more bloody and intense. The film has stirred controversy that is unprecedented in recent history. But why? Why such shock at a story that has been told for centuries? Why the outrage over Gibson’s violent interpretation of Christ’s final days?

I would answer, because the film depicts and supports God’s revealed Word.

Many prefer to think of Jesus as meek and mild and gentle at heart. They find quiet rest in the loving Shepherd of Israel, who smiles at children, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and speaks softly of a kingdom not of this world. Few wish to go much further. They resist embracing His inconceivable pain—His excruciating humiliation, that culminated in a horrible death at the hands of unjust men bent on cursing, cruelty, misery, and murder. No one wishes to dwell on such abject evil.

Yet that is precisely how the Scriptures portray Jesus—a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ” (Isaiah 53:3).

The Bible swells with more appealing and endearing prospects of the Savior. They are the names we love to let fall from our lips in song and in prayerful devotion: Prince of Peace, Lord of Hosts, the Good Shepherd, the Great Physician, Morning Star, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God.

But Man of Sorrows? That doesn’t sound like anyone we’d care to get close to, does it? Until we find ourselves in the crucible of the tough stuff of pain. Enveloped in a world of hurt, broken by life’s brutal blows, we discover He’s everything we need.

COMING TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF PAIN

Long before Mel Gibson even thought about making a movie that dramatically focused on the passion of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote his original script. It would serve as the basis of a drama to unfold nearly eight centuries later. Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote of God’s promised Messiah—the One above all others who understands your pain and mine—the Man of Sorrows.

As It Relates to Jesus’s Life

Normally we don’t think of the Messiah in terms of weakness, sadness, deep sorrow, and grief. Yet Isaiah describes Him precisely in that manner, using just about every synonym available for suffering. Read slowly and thoughtfully the ancient prophet’s penetrating prophecy.

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3–5)

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. (v.7)

But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief. . . . As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. (vv. 10–11) That doesn’t sound like a milquetoast Messiah to me, wouldn’t you agree? No, Jesus endured, and therefore He understands the depth of human pain and suffering. Look again at a list of Isaiah’s words: despised, griefs, sorrows, crushed, oppressed, afflicted, scourged, pierced through, smitten, stricken, like a lamb led to slaughter. Today we would say, He’s been there . . . done that, even though we don’t like to think about it. We like to think of Messiah as winning, not losing. We want to see Him in white garments coming on a white horse. We like Him to be conquering and victorious. But that is not the way He was predicted to be.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews picks up the theme of Christ’s suffering when he writes, “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and he was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7). I find that to be a remarkably comforting thought. The Son of God, in all His deity, being also fully human, felt the sting of impending death and called on His heavenly Father for comfort and help.

Stop and think about what you’ve just read. All of it has to do with pain—that four-letter word from which we try our best to escape. But Jesus deliberately did not choose that route. He accepted the pain, He endured it, and He embraced it. Webster’s Dictionary defines physical pain as “a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort . . . acute mental or emotional distress” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. “pain”). Jesus knew such physical and emotional pain, as we shall discover in the pages that follow. Being the Man of Sorrows that he was, He understands and identifies with our deepest hurts and struggles.

If there is anyone who can meet you in your pain, you have found Him in the prophet Isaiah’s Man of Sorrows.

As It Relates to Our Lives

You and I enter this world screaming. Physicians tell us that one of the first signs of good, healthy lungs in newborns is that initial, piercing cry. The tiny child whose little frame has only moments before squeezed its way through a narrow birth canal screeches in pain when it leaves the warmth of the womb and emerges with a gush into the cold, cruel world—a world of pain.

From the moments we’re born until our final breaths, pain is our companion, albeit one we’d choose to abandon. Still, pain does have its benefits. Physically, for instance, pain signals unseen trouble, and it helps caring mothers and physicians pinpoint the problem. Personally, just like Christ, we learn obedience from the things we suffer (Hebrews 5:8). Spiritually, the pain of adversity helps us grow into mature people of faith (James 1:2–4).

Philip Yancey, in his insightful work Where Is God When It Hurts? writes,

“I have never read a poem extolling the virtues of pain, nor seen a statue erected in its honor, nor heard a hymn dedicated to it. Pain is usually defined as “unpleasantness.” Christians don’t really know how to interpret pain. If you pinned them against the wall, in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God’s one mistake. He really should have worked a little harder and invented a better way of coping with the world’s dangers. I am convinced that pain gets a bad press. Perhaps we should see statues, hymns, and poems to pain. Why do I think that? Because up close, under a microscope, the pain network is seen in an entirely different light. It is perhaps the paragon of creative genius (Philip Yancey. Where Is God When It Hurts? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977, 1990, pp. 22-23).

Emotional or mental pain is not quite as objective. Almost always on target, C. S. Lewis adds this comment, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. It is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’ . . . Sometimes, however, it persists, and the effect is devastating” (C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. New York: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962, p. 156).

I love that quote! In other words, it’s hard enough to go to a dentist when I have a bad tooth, but where do I go with this broken heart? I suggest the answer is not that difficult: We go to Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, who is acquainted with grief, who understands our brokenness and pain. Pain has a way of turning us back to the Savior. That makes it essential for our growth and spiritual well-being. If you’re feeling despised, forsaken, rejected, crushed, or afflicted, Jesus understands (Hebrews 4:15). To what degree does He understand?

To answer that, let’s revisit those final hours of Jesus’s life and look closely at the categories of pain He suffered.

THE PAIN OF GETHSEMANE AND THE ANGUISH OF THE CROSS

At the commencement of Christ’s ministry John the Baptist pointed to Him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I’ve often imagined the dull sense of dread those words must have sent through Christ’s soul—knowing He’d one day be the actual “Lamb led to the slaughter.” Yet His physical suffering was only a portion of the cup of suffering He would be compelled to drink.

 Relational Pain

Matthew 26:30 tells us that Jesus and His disciples had just completed their final meal together, which they ended by singing a hymn. That must have been an extremely emotional time for the Savior, as He reflected on the torturous anguish He’d soon endure and those He’d be forced to leave behind. The men He had lived among for so many months knew nothing of what would soon unfold. But Jesus knew what was ahead of Him from that moment all the way to the cross. If there was ever a time when He needed the strong support of His closest friends, it was in those ominous hours in Gethsemane.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:36–38).

Gethsemane. The word means “oilpress.” Symbolically it is easy to see how it represents those places of deep, pressing pain and mental agony. We each have our own Gethsemane to endure. Perhaps you are in the depth of yours today. Maybe not; for you it could be in the future. Maybe you’ve passed through one and before you could catch your breath you’ve entered another. It’s always something! It’s at those times that having a few close friends means the most. We lean on them and draw strength from them.

In one of the most intimate scenes from Jesus’s life, Matthew writes of the Savior inviting His closest friends to remain with Him as a ready source of encouragement and support: “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’ ” (v. 39). Christ’s pain was so intense He pleaded with His Father for a way out of it. Don’t hurry over that. In Luke’s Gospel, we’re told that Jesus prayed with such intensity that He dripped sweat that “became like drops of blood” oozing from his skin and falling to the ground (Luke 22:44).

Drenched in pain’s agony, Jesus returned to His friends in hopes of finding some needed encouragement. But in that time, when He needed them the most, His disciples failed Him miserably. Read carefully through this tender but convicting scene, and allow Matthew’s words to touch you deeply. Let your heart be broken.

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:40–46).

Each time Jesus returned to His friends, they lay snoozing in the grass. What a pathetic scene. To make things worse, as we saw in the previous chapter, one of His close companions stood ready to betray Him publicly. Jesus knelt in Gethsemane, broken in spirit and betrayed, anguished of soul and grieving, missing the comfort of those He had mentored for over three years. Truly alone, He now experienced the deep, relational pain of failed friendships and would soon feel the kiss of the traitor.

There is no place more alone than one’s own Gethsemane. Support groups are great. I believe in them and encourage every one of them in our church. But there are personal Gethsemanes you must walk through completely alone. You’ll always feel a deep loneliness while you’re getting through the tough stuff of pain. That’s when Christ will be there. Your best friends may fail you. Some will try to understand, but often they can’t. A few, frankly, will forget you. Some may turn against you. In the agony of your need for relational support, you’ll have all you need with Christ. You will find Him at those times closer than a brother. I know. He has met me in my own Gethsemanes, and He will do so again and again and yet again.

Internal Pain

A good friend of mine and former fellow church staff team member, David Carder, has spent years counseling brokenhearted people. Dave offers a rare insight into the reality of internal pain as he observes, “Knowing doesn’t automatically fix feelings.” Isn’t that an excellent insight?

In spite of the fact that Jesus knew all His life He would suffer a horrible death on the cross, such knowledge did not remove the internal agony
He endured when the zero hour arrived.

Jesus had known for thirty-three years that the cup of suffering would come. Knowing all of that for so long didn’t fix His feelings of intense pain. When the full weight landed on Him at Gethsemane, He pleaded for relief.

Herein lies a vital lesson for all of us: we are never more presumptuous than when we try to give hurting people the feelings we think they ought to have in their anguish. Don’t dare invade that tender, internal space! There are occasions when another’s anguish is essential for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Even though some of us wish to rescue others from pain, we need to restrain ourselves from doing so. Let’s guard against cutting in on God’s plan. Don’t try to fix people’s feelings. Our best involvement is usually to “keep watch and pray.” To stay near and be silent. To be available and to support.

Jesus understands better than anyone the silent cries of your internal pain.

 Physical Pain

For those who have seen The Passion of the Christ, I need not rehearse in detail the depth of physical pain Christ endured. The brutalities were horrific and like none experienced by anyone before or since. A quick glance at Matthew’s list provides an overview of the intensity of what Christ experienced physically.

  • He was seized and treated harshly like a common criminal (Matthew 26:57).
  • He was spit on in the face, slapped, and beaten (26:67).
  • He was bound and scourged, according to the other Gospel writers (27:2; Mark 15:15; John 19:1).
  • He was spit on again and mercilessly beaten with a reed (Matthew 27:30).
  • He was crucified, spikes driven into His hands and feet, and later a sword was thrust into His side (27:33–35; John 19:34).

Imagine the horror of having iron spikes pounded into your hands and into your feet. Or the excruciating humiliation of being hung naked in plain view of a gawking crowd. Insects no doubt swarmed His bloodsoaked body. It must have been a horrible event to witness, to say nothing of personally enduring it!

Christ’s body had been so mutilated He didn’t even look human. The physical pain He must have borne is nothing short of mind-boggling. Still there was a pain more severe than that which He felt physically. Thankfully because of Christ it’s a pain you and I will never know.

The Ultimate Pain—Separation from God

Though Christ’s relational, internal, and physical pain were horribly intense, the pain of being separated from His Father goes far beyond our ability to imagine. Matthew writes, “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:45–46).

For the first and only time, God turned His back on His Son. It was at that moment Christ bore all our sin. That’s why the Father could not look on Him—because of the affront of our iniquities. Christ experienced the ultimate pain—separation from God the Father. In absolute loneliness and pain Jesus screamed, “Why have You forsaken Me?”

Let me assure you, you cannot have a heartache that Jesus doesn’t understand and with which He doesn’t identify. You cannot have a physical pain that somehow escapes His awareness. You cannot have a crippling disease, a disability, a grief, a heart attack…not even a debilitating fear or panic attack that He cannot understand or feel.

He’s felt it all. Therefore He’s there to walk with you through your most profound depths of pain, if you’ll only let Him.

Do you have a lingering scar on your heart that won’t heal? Look at His hands, His feet, and His side. Feeling humiliated and alone? He knows what that feels like. Are you so confused by your circumstances that you’re tempted to bargain with God for relief? No need. Without one word from your lips, He understands. He’s touched with the feelings of our weaknesses, and therefore He identifies with them.

Perhaps you’re lonely. Your lifelong mate has gone to be with the Lord. You face an uncertain future—all alone. You may have recently been forgotten. Your parents told you to get out of their lives. Perhaps your husband or your wife just walked out for good, rejecting you for someone else. Or you may have just read a cruel letter from an adult child that included seven words you cannot bear to believe: “I never want to see you again.” Relationally, you need somebody. Internally, you’re in anguish. Physically, you’ve reached your threshold.

You may be confused, living with deep emotional scars as a result of being abused. You may suffer from such a horrible and shameful addiction that you fear rejection by anyone who might discover your secret. The pain of shame grips your soul and ambushes your thoughts. Perhaps you feel helpless, enraged, confused, disappointed, depressed, misunderstood, humiliated, and at the end.

Ultimately you wonder, as Jesus did, why God has forsaken you. You may feel that, but hear this: you are not alone. There is hope. There is help with the Savior by your side.

GETTING THROUGH THE TOUGH STUFF OF PAIN . . . WITH CHRIST

I want to close this chapter [article] with several analogies I hope will provide you a measure of comfort as you walk with Christ through the tough stuff of your pain.

Relationally, no one stays closer than Christ. Christ is better than the most faithful husband, more understanding than the most comforting wife, more reliable than the choicest friend. No one stays closer than Christ. There is no friend more caring. There is no person more unconditionally accepting. There is no one more available or more interested whom you can talk to in the middle of the night, or at any other time, simply by calling out in prayer. He even understands your groanings—He’s able to put correct meanings to your inexpressible moans! He has promised never to leave you. He will not walk out on you. No one stays closer than Christ. I’ll say it again: no one.

Internally, no one heals deeper than Christ. You may say, “I’ll never be able to get over this grief.” Yes you can, but not on your own. That’s where Christ is the Master Comforter. He’s the “Man of Sorrows.” Remember, He is intimately “acquainted with grief.” He understands what there is to lose. He lost everything for you. His own family thought He was insane. Right in the middle of His ministry they came to take Him away because they were convinced He was losing his senses. He knows what it feels like to suffer in silence, to be the brunt of unfair criticism, to feel helpless when no one understands, when no one remains in
your corner. His balm of comfort penetrates. No one heals deeper than Christ.

Physically, no one comforts better than Christ. In the midst of your deepest physical pain, His presence brings comfort and strength. He may choose to restore your physical health, but frankly, He may not. Regardless, His grace is abundantly sufficient for you. His hand is on your life at this time of your affliction. It’s better than the hand of any friend, any partner, any parent, or any child, because when He touches, He brings great compassion and lasting relief. No one comforts better than Christ. Ultimately, no one sees the benefits of our pain clearer than Christ. He sees through the dark, winding tunnel of your Gethsemane all the way to the end. You see only the unrelenting, frightening, thick darkness. He sees beyond it into the shining light of eternity. Maturity, growth, stability, wisdom, and ultimately the crown of life await the one who trusts His unseen hand. Keep in mind, He owns the map that gets you through your Gethsemane. No one sees the benefits of our pain clearer than Christ.

Whatever you’re facing today, please remind yourself that your pain is no mistake. It is no accident. In fact, your suffering may be precisely what Christ will use to bring you to your knees, to draw you back to His heart and discover His peace. “Man of Sorrows,” what a name! It’s the name of the Son of God. His name is Jesus. It’s the name that represents the extremes of pain and understanding, companionship and relief. Perhaps you have never recognized your need for a personal relationship with God, through faith in Christ. You’ve gripped the reins of your life tightly in your own hands. I suggest you release them and turn them over to God. Come to His Son, Jesus. Admit where you are and express to him what you need. A simple prayer is all it takes to begin this life-transforming relationship with Him. I close with a simple prayer you may use to speak in the quietness of your heart to the One who longs to walk with you through the tough stuff of personal pain.

A Salvation Prayer:

Father, thanks for sending Your Son – the Lord Jesus to empathize with my pain.

 I know that I’m a sinner. I’ve made a royal mess of my life.

 I’m tire of the fight. I’m tired of the pain I’ve added to my life as if You didn’t exist.

 Today, I come to You (Lord Jesus),

  believing that You died for me and that You rose from the dead.

 I turn my back on my stubborn ways as I surrender all to You.

 Take the reings, Lord Jesus. I release them to You.

 I accept Your forgiveness, and I claim Your grace.

 As I repent of my sins, especially my idolatry in putting other things before You.

 I believe that only Your grace through Your perfect life, death,

 and resurrection can save me, as I accept your gift of eternal life. Amen.

 “Hallelujah, What a Savior!” by Philip R. Bliss

“Man of Sorrows!” what a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood—

Sealed my pardon with His blood:

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we,

Spotless Lamb of God was he;

Full atonement! Can it be?

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

*The article above was adapted from the excellent book by Charles R. Swindoll. Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

 About the Author:

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Bible teacher on the internationally syndicated radio program Insight for Living.

Charles Swindoll’s Books:

  • You And Your Child, Thomas Nelson (1977)
  • Hand Me Another Brick, Thomas Nelson (1978)
  • Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Persevering Through Pressure, Thomas Nelson (1980)
  • Strike The Original Match, Multnomah (1980)
  • Improving Your Serve: The Art Of Unselfish Living, Word (1981)
  • Strengthening Your Grip: Essentials In An Aimless World, Word (1982)
  • Growing Strong In The Seasons Of Life, Multnomah (1983)
  • Dropping Your Guard: The Value Of Open Relationships, Word (1983)
  • Come Before Winter – And Share My Hope, Multnomah (1985)
  • Living On The Ragged Edge: Coming To Terms With Reality, Word (1985)
  • Growing Deep In The Christian Life: Returning To Our Roots, Multnomah (1986)
  • The Quest For Character, Multnomah (1987)
  • Living Above The Level Of Mediocrity : A Commitment To Excellence, Word (1987)
  • Growing Wise In Family Life, Multnomah (1988)
  • Living Beyond The Daily Grind: Reflections On The Songs And Sayings In Scripture, Word (1988)
  • Rise & Shine: A Wake-Up Call, Multnomah (1989)
  • The Grace Awakening, Word (1990)
  • Sanctity Of Life: The Inescapable Issue, Word (1990)
  • Stress Fractures, Multnomah (1990)
  • Simple Faith, Word (1991)
  • Laugh Again, Word (1992)
  • Flying Closer To The Flame (Re-issued as Embraced by The Spirit: The Untold Blessings of Intimacy with God, Word in 1993 & Zondervan in 2010)
  • The Finishing Touch, Word (1994)
  • Paw Paw Chuck’s Big Ideas in the Bible, Word (1995)
  • Hope Again, Word (1996)
  • The Road To Armageddon (with John F Walvoord; J Dwight Pentecost), Word (1999)
  • Start Where You Are: Catch A Fresh Vision For Your Life, Word (1999)
  • The Mystery Of God’s Will: What Does He Want For Me?, Word (1999)
  • Perfect Trust: Ears To Hear, Hearts To Trust, And Minds To Rest In Him, J. Countryman (2000 & 2012)
  • The Darkness And The Dawn : Empowered By The Tragedy And Triumph Of The Cross, Word (2001)
  • Why, God?: Calming Words For Chaotic Times, Word (2001)
  • Wisdom For The Way: Wise Words For Busy People, J. Countryman (2001)
  • Understanding Christian Theology (with Roy B Zuck), Thomas Nelson (2003)
  • Behold—The Man!: The Pathway Of His Passion, Word (2004)
  • Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something! Thomas Nelson (2004)
  • So, You Want To Be Like Christ?: Eight Essentials To Get You There, Word (2005)
  • When God Is Silent (Choosing To Trust In Life’s Trials), J. Countryman (2005)
  • Great Attitudes For Graduates!: 10 Choices For Success In Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2006)
  • Encouragement For Life: Words Of Hope And Inspiration, J. Countryman (2006)
  • The Strength Of Character: 7 Essential Traits Of A Remarkable Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2007)
  • A Bethlehem Christmas: Celebrating The Joyful Season, Thomas Nelson (2007
  • The Owner’s Manual for Christians: The Essential Guide for a God-Honoring Life, Thomas Nelson (2009)
  • The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, FaithWords (2010 & 2012)
  • Meet Me In The Library: Readings From 8 Writers Who Shaped My Life, IFL (2011)
  • Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words, FaithWords (2012)
  • Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind, Worthy (2012)
  • Living the Proverbs: Living in the Daily Grind, Worthy (2013)

Swindoll’s New Testament Insights Commentary Series

  • Insights on Romans, Zondervan (2010)
  • Insights on John, Zondervan (2010)
  • Insights on James and 1 & 2 Peter, Zondervan (2010)
  • Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Zondervan (2011)
  • Insights on Revelation, Zondervan (2012)
  • Insights on Luke, Zondervan (2012)
  • Insights on Galatians & Ephesians, Zondervan (2013)

 Profiles in Character series

  • David: A Man Of Passion & Destiny, Word (1997)
  • Esther: A Woman Of Strength & Dignity, Word (1997)
  • Joseph: A Man Of Integrity And Forgiveness, Word (1998)
  • Moses: A Man Of Selfless Dedication, Word (1999)
  • Elijah: A Man Of Heroism And Humility, Word (2000)
  • Paul: A Man Of Grace And Grit, Word (2002)
  • Job: A Man Of Heroic Endurance, Word (2004)
  • Fascinating Stories Of Forgotten Lives: Rediscovering Some Old Testament Characters, Word (2005)
  • Jesus: The Greatest Life Of All, Thomas Nelson (2008)

Honors and Awards

 

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Motivation To Last a Lifetime: Learning from the Ingenuity of Benjamin Franklin

An old article in Newsweek titled “Advice to a (Bored) Young Man” sheds light on the life of one individual whose life was one of exploration and discovery.

Many people reading this page are doing so with the aid of bifocals. Inventor? Benjamin Franklin, age 79.

The presses that printed this page were powered by electricity. One of the first harnessers? B. Franklin, age 40.

Some are reading this on the campus of one of the Ivy League universities. Founder? B. Franklin, age 45.

Others, in a library. Who founded the first library in America? B. Franklin, age 25.

Who started the first fire department? B. Franklin, age 31.

Who invented the lightning rod? B. Franklin, age 43.

Who designed a heating stove still in use today? B. Franklin, age 36.

Wit. Conversationalist. Economist. Philosopher. Diplomat. Printer. Publisher. Linguist (he spoke and wrote five languages). Advocate of paratroopers (from balloons) a century before the airplane was invented. All this until age 84. And he had exactly two years of formal schooling. It’s a good bet that you already have more sheer knowledge than

Franklin ever had when he was your age. Perhaps you think there’s no use trying to think of anything new, that everything’s been done.

Wrong…. Go do something about it.

-Ted Engstrom, Motivation to Last a Lifetime.

Source: Charles R. Swindoll. Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

 

 

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