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Friday Humor: Stephen W. Brown on Christians and Laughter

SERIES: FRIDAY HUMOR # 27 – A MEDITATION ON LAUGHTER

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I’m often criticized for allowing (or causing) too much laughter in my ministry. I can understand that. In fact, I pray about it a lot. After all, God is holy and sometimes I wonder if laughter is appropriate before holiness. I believe, and have often said, that if you have never stood before God and been afraid, you probably never stood before God.

Have you read in Isaiah 6 where the prophet encountered God in the temple? That chapter opens with these words: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted” (verse 1). Then the angels shout “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (verse 3).

Isaiah was doing just fine up to that point. In fact, at the time, he was involved in church work, doing what people do in church (probably picking up the bulletins from the first service), when the real God of the universe came into the temple. It shattered every preconceived idea Isaiah ever had about God. His response was what yours or mine would have been. He cried out, “Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (verse 5).

If Isaiah had laughed it would have been highly inappropriate. When people complain about laughter, I understand their complaint. God, after all, is God, and His awesomeness and power ought to solicit something other than the superficial laughter of His people. And then I start laughing. I don’t mean to. It just comes out. I start thinking about Him and that He has done, and sometimes I can’t stifle the chuckles. I’ve apologized a hundred times. I’ve tried–God knows I’ve tried–to be more serious and clergy-like, but I just can’t do it. Maybe it’s just the natural, nervous laughter that happens when one is frightened. Maybe things are funnier in a serious setting like church or a religious radio broadcast. It could be that the pressure is finally getting to me and my laughter is preceding the words, “They’re coming to take me away.”

But I don’t think so. In fact, I think there’s much more laughter in this thing called Christianity than I ever thought. Whether or not you hear the laughter would not have been appropriate, the message Isaiah was given was not for joking either. He received a message of judgment. He was charged to call the people to repentance.

But after the sorrow and the repentance, a veritable flood of laughter rushes out: “and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (35:10). And then, almost as if we didn’t get the message the first time, he says it again several chapters later: “The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (51:11). When the people of God have been redeemed, God commands them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem” (52:9).

In that wonderful passage where Isaiah proclaims the work of Messiah (as well as his own) and from which Jesus quoted in reference to Himself, there is a great statement about the proclamation that comes from the throne of grace: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

We get a lot of people who write to us at Key Life [Steve’s radio ministry], telling us that we make them laugh. Sometimes people write to tell me a funny story. Some have said that in their world, our broadcast is the one place where they smile. One listener said, “Steve, don’t ever get too serious. We need to laugh. I love what you teach, but I also love the fun you have doing it. It makes the teaching and living better.” Then I started feeling guilty again. I prayed, “Father, you didn’t call me to be a comedian. You called me to be a Bible teacher. Forgive me I’m not taking You seriously. Forgive me if I have made something light out of…” That was when my prayer was interrupted. I thought I heard laughter. I checked. Do you know what? I did. It was the laughter of God.

So, I have discovered that one of my ministries is laughter. Not the laughter of derision or cynicism, or the laughter that follows a dirty story, but the free, uninhibited laughter of the redeemed. That kind of laughter starts at the throne.

That may not sound like much to you. I didn’t think so either until a woman wrote to tell me how she had lost her husband. She described her loneliness and how she felt there was no reason to live on. Then she said, “But when I heard you laugh, I laughed too. I just wanted you to know that it helped a lot.”

Heaven knows we have enough sour Christians. There isn’t much about the world to inspire laughter. The hurt and pain we experience don’t leave much room for humor; there’s probably more reason for tears than laughter in most lives. So maybe there’s a place for a ministry that doesn’t take itself too seriously, that lightens up the landscape a bit. Perhaps that doesn’t sound so very important, but I think it really is. God has given His people laughter and that laughter has great healing power.

I recently heard about a man the went to the doctor for his annual physical. The doctor came to him with all the reports and test results and told him, “Mr. Jones, your health is very good. There is no reason why you can’t live a completely normal life as long as you don’t try to enjoy it.”

Don’t we sometimes communicate the same message to people? We say in effect, “Now that you have been forgiven of all your sins and you’re sure of Heaven, and now that you have meaning in your life and have found great power in prayer, you ought to be able to live a normal Christian life–as long as you don’t try to enjoy it.” Of course, biblical truth is important. Reaching out to those with significant needs is important too. We also need to have an uncompromising, clear, and forceful presentation of truth. But all that doesn’t exclude laughter–it includes it, transforms it, sanctifies it, even glorifies it.

So let’s throw back our heads and laugh. God’s infinite riches are ours in Christ. What other reason could we ever need to laugh?

TIME TO DRAW AWAY

Read Exodus 15:1-21 and 2 Samuel 6.

For meditation: Take out some paper and put at the top of it “Reasons to Laugh.” Then begin writing under that heading what you have from God’s hand that’s cause for joy. Keep in mind that all good things come from God, so if you count your spouse, a friend, your home, or whatever or whoever else as a source of joy, understand that God is its ultimate source. It won’t take long before you discover how much you have to laugh about.

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About Steve Brown:

Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.

Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from pages 202-205 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, and Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

Steve Brown Has Authored These Outstanding Grace-Filled Books:

Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.

A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.

What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.

Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.

Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.

When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians.Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Book Excerpts, Humor, Stephen W. Brown

 

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Friday Humor: “Be Who You Are!” By Steve Brown

Series: Friday Humor #7

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The first axiomatic statement is this: Almost all frustration and anxiety come from a refusal to be what one is. In other words, frustration and anxiety are the result of playing a part other than the one you have been given.

Someone tells the story of a man who was out of work. His unemployment compensation benefits had run out, and he was desperate. He went to the zoo to ask for work, and the zoo keeper told him they didn’t really have any work, but he could make a few extra dollars by taking the place of a gorilla who had died the day before.

Ordinarily the man would not have done it, but he really needed money. He accepted the job, put on the gorilla suit, and made his way back to the gorilla cage. It really wasn’t a bad job. All he had to do was to eat bananas and swing from a rope, and after a while he began to like the job. But alas, all good things must come to an end. One day his rope broke and he fell over the fence into the lion’s cage. He started yelling for help, and the closer the lion came to him, the louder he yelled. Finally the lion came right up next to him, nudged him, and said, “Hey Buddy, will you shut up! We are both going to be out of a job!”

Now the difference between some Christians and the man in the gorilla outfit is that whereas he was forced into his role, we aren’t. We choose a role for which we are not suited, and in that choice is the source of much of our misery and frustration.

Have you ever seen Christians who seemed to be very pure and very spiritual—and very miserable? The problem with those Christians is that they were playing a role for which they were not suited. Jesus said, “No one is good except God” (Mark 10:18). If Jesus was right, and I have every reason to believe He was, then we pretend to be good and pure, we have just climbed into a gorilla suit.

And then there are those Christians who feel that everything they say comes as if from Sinai. They make all sorts of political and social pronouncements as if God Himself had given them a corner on truth. They are very serious—and very miserable. God says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9a). If that is true, then the person who believes and acts as if he or she had a corner on truth (when only God has that corner) has started wearing a gorilla costume.

We see countless examples of Christian men and women who play parts for which they were not created in the pride that so often is the a mark of modern Christianity, in the anger we feel when our plans are crossed, or in the way we want the world to revolve around our selfish desires. It is important that we understand that the source of much of our frustration and anxiety is our proclivity toward being something we aren’t.

*This humorous anecdote was adapted from the excellent book by Stephen Brown. If God is In Charge. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1983. Pages 61-62.

 

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This is Not An Abandoned World! By Steve Brown

While I was driving the other day, I saw the ugliest car I’ve ever seen. This car wasn’t just ugly–it was ugly on top of ugly. It had a large gash on its side; one of the doors was held together with baling wire; and several other parts were almost completely rusted out. The car’s muffler was so loose that with every bump, it hit the street, sending sparks in every direction. I couldn’t tell the original color of the car. The rust had eaten away much of the paint, and so much of the car had been painted over with so many colors that any one of them (or none of them) could have been the first coat. The most interesting thing about the care was the bumper sticker: “THIS IS NOT AN ABANDONED CAR.”

We live in a fallen world, and sometimes it looks as ugly as that car. Almost everywhere you turn, you can see tragedy and heartache. Only a fool misses the point from the morning headlines that we are sitting on the edge of disaster.

A long time ago, in a manger, a baby was born. He was a sign to us. His presence read, ‘THIS IS NOT AN ABANDONED WORLD.”

During every Christmas season, there’s a break in the bleakness; a bit of beauty in the middle of the ugliness shines through. People will laugh and make merry. Most won’t understand why they laugh. Many of them will make merry because that is what one is supposed to do during the holiday season. But there are some who will pause and remember, “For unto us a child is born.”

We have not been abandoned. Someday the Owner will return, then all the ugliness will be remedied. There won’t be anymore pain, and all tears will be dried.

May you live merrily because He came. Make your life merry because He keeps coming. Keep it merry because He is coming again to set things right.

Two Biblical Reminders of Our King and Kingdom to Come:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious (Isaiah 11:1-10).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 21:1-22:7).

For Thought:

Reflect on the passages just cited. Try to etch into your mind what the future holds for the children of the King. Then, as you face various hardships, recall your future with Him. And remember, just as He has prepared a great inheritance for His children, so has He chosen to prepare them to receive it. He is with you now, working in your life to make you ready for glory. You can find peace and joy in that.

About Steve Brown:

Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.

Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from pages 62-63 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, and Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

Steve Brown Has Authored These Outstanding Grace-Filled Books:

Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.

A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.

What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.

Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.

Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.

When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians.Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.

 

 

 

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A Supernatural Life by Steve Brown

Series: Friday Humor #3

A friend of mine told me a great story the other day, which he confirmed was true.

A woman shipped a very valuable dog on airplane. But when the clerks checked the cage after the flight was complete, they found the dog dead. So they went out and bought one just like it and replaced the live dog for the dead one. When the woman came to pick up her dog, she looked in the cage and stepped back in surprise.

“What’s the matter?” an attendant asked.

“Why,” she said in a trembling voice, “That dog was dead when I put him in the cage.”

Jesus said that Christians have passed from death to life. Since that’s true, pagans, especially those who knew us before we trusted in Christ, ought to be just as surprised when they come in contact with us as that woman was when she saw her dog. Our new life ought to be different than the old one—so different, in fact, that people notice the difference.

What in your life can only be explained in terms of the supernatural? Ask a pagan. He should know.

Meditation:

What habits of your old life still linger in your new? I know. Old habits die hard, but God is bigger than any habit, and He sure won’t tolerate bad ones. So get through with them. With God at your side, start rooting them out of your life. As long as you can rely on Him you can do it—He promises you (Philippians 4:13)

 For Further Study:

Acts 9:1-31, “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Ephesians 4:17-5:12, Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”

 About the Writer:

Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.

Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from page 112 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, and Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

Steve Brown Has Authored These Outstanding Grace-Filled Books:

Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.

A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.

What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.

Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.

Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.

When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.

 

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Dr. Steve W. Brown on the Question: Why Does God Have Rules?

“God’s Rules”

Someone gave me several great rules of diet. Let me give you some of them:

  • If you eat something and no one sees you eat it, it has no calories.

  • If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, the diet soda cancels out the calories in the candy bar.

  • When you eat with other people, calories don’t count if don’t eat more than they do.

  • Cookie pieces contain no calories; the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

Don’t you wish those were true?

You see, there are certain inviolable rules built into the universe, so I’m afraid that wishing for fewer calories won’t make it so. The other rules of God are like that too. He doesn’t have rules to make you unhappy. Just the opposite. His word is simply the way the world works. Someone has said, “You don’t break the Ten Commandments. You break yourself against them.”

We would find life more enjoyable if we stopped fighting against God’s rules.

For Meditation & Application: Read Psalm 119

Circle, highlight, or underline all the benefits of God’s Word and knowing and obeying it as mentioned in Psalm 119. You’ll begin to get a taste of all that awaits those who guide their lives by God’s loving counsel.

About the Author:

Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.

Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from page 176 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, and Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

Steve Brown Has Authored These Outstanding Grace-Filled Books:

Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.

A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.

What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.

Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.

Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.

When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.

 

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Stephen W. Brown on Overcoming Discouragement

“The Demon of Discouragement”

Charles Spurgeon often dealt with the problem of discouragement. He told his students:

“One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low. The brother most relied upon becomes a traitor. Judas lifts up his heel against the man who trusted him, and the preacher’s heart for the moment fails him. . . . Strife, also, and division, and slander, and foolish censures, have often laid holy men prostrate, and made them go ‘as with a sword in their bones.’ Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly…. By experience the soul is hardened to the rough blows which are inevitable in our warfare; but at first these things utterly stagger us, and send us to our homes wrapped in a horror of great darkness….

“When troubles multiply, and discouragements follow each other in long succession, like Job’s messengers, then, too, amid the perturbation of soul occasioned by evil tidings, despondency despoils the heart of all its peace. Constant dropping wears away stones, and the bravest minds feel the fret of repeated afflictions. If a scanty cupboard is rendered a severer trial by the sickness of a wife or the loss of a child, and if ungenerous remarks of hearers are followed by the opposition of deacons and the coolness of members, then, like Jacob, we are apt to cry, ‘All these things are against me’… Accumulated distresses increase each other’s weight; they play into each other’s hands, and like bands of robbers, ruthlessly destroy our comfort. Wave upon wave is severe work for the strongest swimmer. The place where two seas meet strains the most seaworthy keel. If there were regulated pause between the buffetings of adversity, the spirit would stand prepared; but when they come suddenly and heavily, like the battering of great hailstones, the pilgrim may well be amazed. The last ounce is laid upon us, what wonder if we for awhile are ready to give up the ghost!” (Charles H. Spurgeon. Lectures to My Students. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1969, 161-162).

Spurgeon, of course, was talking to ministers, but everyone can identify with his comments. One of the great problems with broken ropes is the inevitable discouragement which follows. How does one deal with the demon of discouragement? Let’s talk about it.

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

One of the keys to dealing with discouragement is found in Hebrews 12:1-3:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

The writer of Hebrews first suggests that we are surrounded by witnesses. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists a number of Old Testament characters who endured great suffering and who persevered through faith. Talk about broken ropes! The writer ends that chapter talking about people of God who were mocked and beaten, who were stoned, imprisoned, sawn in half, and who had no homes (see Heb. 11:36-39).

The twelfth chapter of Hebrews opens by saying that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses; that is, “You are not by yourself. If your rope has broken, look at the broken ropes of others who have gone on to successfully complete their race. Be encouraged by them.”

The apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Corinth about the trials he and his friends had experienced-trials so great that they “despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). I wouldn’t wish that kind of hurt on anyone, but I’m glad Paul went through it. It makes me feel better about my own discouragement.

Discouragement, you see, is almost always marked by a feeling of aloneness. You feel that no one could possibly understand, no one could possibly have had the kind of troubles you have, no one could possibly be as discouraged as you are at the moment. It helps sometimes to remember that others have indeed shared the occasion of suffering.

An old spiritual says, “When I’ve done the best I can and my friends misunderstand, / Thou Who know-est all about me, stand by me.” But, you see, all of your friends don’t misunderstand. You just think they do. Discouragement is a part of living.

In the early part of the sixteenth century a man by the name of Thomas Bilney became convinced of the need for the Bible in the lives of believers. Because he was vocal about those convictions, he was burned at the stake in Norwich, England, in 1531. His story is not uncommon. Many people have burned at the stake because of their convictions.

Standing in the crowd on the day Bilney was executed was a young man named Hugh Latimer. A graduate of Cambridge, Latimer was so influenced by the life and death of Bilney that he committed his life to the propagation of Bilney’s faith. Later, Latimer became a bishop of the church. When “Bloody” Mary came to the throne, Hugh Latimer was among those who were tortured and killed. While he was burning at the stake, he turned to a fellow bishop and friend being executed with him and said, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out.”

I think of Bilney and Latimer when I get discouraged. They are a few of the witnesses who minister to me when my rope has broken. I have also asked God to give me enough grace to “keep on trucking” so that I may be a witness to others whose rope has broken.

The Demon of Guilt

The passage quoted from Hebrews 12 not only suggests that we have company, but also reminds us that we have been forgiven. The writer says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” I don’t know about you, but when I’m discouraged, the first thing I do is evaluate my sin-and I find a whole lot. Guilt, you see, is part of the demonic element in discouragement. How do you lay aside the weight and sin? You do it with confession, resting in the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Discouragement hardly ever grows in the soil of forgiveness.

When I was in high school, a group of my friends and I had an all-night party. About three in the morning someone suggested that we go swimming in the pool of an exclusive club and hotel in town. It was very dark when we climbed the fence and approached the pool. We were having a good time until one of my friends jumped off the high diving board, sitting on an inner tube. When he hit the water, it sounded like a shotgun blast. Before we knew what was happening the lights started going on in the hotel, and the night watchman came out of his office with his gun and a flashlight. We ran.

As I was climbing over the fence and running to the car, I looked back over my shoulder to see my friend-the one who had jumped off the high diving board-trying to climb the fence holding on to the inner tube. “Bill,” I yelled back, “drop the inner tube or the sucker’s going to get you!”

Guilt is like that inner tube. If your rope has broken, you already have enough trouble without adding guilt to the pile. You’ve already seen that there is no absolute correlation between your sin and your broken ropes. So, don’t forget to throw away the inner tube. Examine your life, accept your forgiveness, and don’t keep carrying around the inner tube of guilt.

Power to Endure

The author of Hebrews says that we are empowered to endure our broken ropes by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb.12:2). Hopelessness is the twin sister of discouragement. No Christian need ever feel hopeless, because we have the choice of looking to

Jesus rather than at our circumstances. Do you remember when Jesus told Peter to walk on the waves? At first the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, but Jesus quickly told them who He was and settled their fears. Peter, evidently, still had some doubt that Jesus was who He said He was, so he made a simple request:

“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. – Matthew 14:28-32

Peter’s problem was that he began to look at the waves instead of at Jesus. I don’t know about you, but if the waves had been big, I would have looked at them too. When waves are big, the danger is real, and we think about them to the exclusion of anything else. Some broken ropes are so devastating, it’s hard to look at anything except the broken rope. When you’re going through a divorce, when you have cancer, when you’re losing your children, others may easily say look at Jesus, but it’s very hard to do.

All of that granted, there is still a difference when Jesus is with us. Looking to Jesus may not be easy, and we can’t ignore the waves altogether. However, the point of Peter’s experience was not to show that waves exist or how big they get but to show that Jesus was there. He was there for Peter, and He is there for us.

One of the many nice things about my wife, Anna, is that she always puts little notes in and around the clothes I pack when I leave home for a speaking engagement. Anna knows that I get nervous in academic settings (I ran away from kindergarten, and I struggled through the next twenty years of education) and that I have a great desire to do well and to have people like me and a great fear of failure. As I was dressing before a lecture I was to give at Denver Seminary, I found a note in my shoe: “Just remember that nothing is going to happen today that Jesus can’t handle. ” That note reminded me about the One who owns me and for whom I speak. Because Anna helped me to focus on Jesus instead of myself and the situation, I felt a lot better.

“But  you don’t understand,” you are saying. “My broken rope is a lot more than a little fear about speaking in a seminary. I am really going through a very difficult time. I’m so discouraged that I don’t think I can go on.”

Let me tell you something: The principle is the same
no matter what the circumstances. Either Jesus is there or He isn’t. Either Jesus does have something to do with your situation or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t, you have a whole lot bigger problem than discouragement. But the Scripture is clear about His involvement: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Focus on Him. It can make a big difference.

I want to remind you of four important items we often forget when we’re discouraged.

(1) Remember the Past

First, don’t forget the past. The past is the informer of the present. Not everything said by Job’s friends was wrong. A case in point is Bildad’s first speech to job:

“For inquire, please, of the former age, And consider the things discovered by their fathers; For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, Because our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, And utter words from their heart?” (Job 8:8-10)

When you look at the history of God’s people, you see God’s faithfulness and love. When you look to your own past, you can also see God’s faithfulness and love.

God has been building memorials in your life from the time you were born. What’s a memorial? It’s a memory of times when God has been faithful. If He was faithful in the past, He won’t stop being faithful now or in the future.

If I had been standing on the side of the boat, watching Peter go under the waves, I would have shouted to him, “Hey Peter! You were walking. You were really walking on the water before you got so overwhelmed by the waves. You aren’t going to drown. Jesus won’t let you.” If I could have gotten Peter’s attention, maybe he would have climbed back up on the wave and ridden it to Jesus. Of course, he didn’t. That’s why Jesus reached down and pulled him out.

I’ll bet Peter recorded in his memory those waves and Jesus’ faithfulness on that day. I’ll bet Peter thought about it the rest of his life.

I keep a diary. I must admit that I don’t write in it very often. In fact, I don’t write in it unless one of my ropes has broken. The diary records not my life but those places in my life when I was hurt and discouraged. When I think I’ve finally gotten into a hole from which I will never escape, I get out the diary and read about the other times when I thought I was in the same place. Then, I remember that I got out of the hole. It may have hurt, but by God’s grace I got out of the hole. God always says to me on those occasions of diary reading, “Child, if I was faithful then, I will be faithful now.”

(2) Remember the Facts

Second, when you are discouraged, don’t forget the facts. Paul instructed the people at Ephesus how to stand in the midst of a

spiritual battle: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” (Eph. 6:13-14). Please note that Paul said we need to depend on truth for support; facts are the reality, not our feelings about the facts. One of the marks of discouragement is the “feeling” that God has gone away-that you aren’t important and that you’ve been kidding yourself about your relationship with Him. I heard the story of a man whose wife left him, children disowned him, and business failed. As he was walking down the street, he was hit by an automobile and left bruised and battered, a number of bones broken. In his agony he called out to God, “Why me? What have I done to deserve all of this?” He thought he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Sam, you haven’t done anything wrong. There is just something about you that ticks me off.” Discouragement can make you believe that you’ve offended God. Is that true? Of course not. God doesn’t act in that kind of capricious manner. How do I know that? Because the Bible is clear on the subject. When you were a teenager did you go to one of those Christian camps where there was a closing campfire? If you did, you’ll remember how you took a pine cone or a stick, which represented your sin, and you threw it in the fire. If you were like me, you then told God that from that point on you were going to be obedient and different. You were going to be God’s person. Those are good experiences, and I don’t want to say anything against them. But you can easily make promises of obedience sitting by a campfire in the mountains, with all your friends singing hymns about Jesus. When you come back home and your mother wants you to carry out the garbage, though, the promises aren’t so easy to keep. It took me a long time to recognize that feelings are changeable and a decision made on the basis of feelings, even a good one, probably would change. There is, of course, nothing wrong with decisions based on feelings except that those kinds of decisions hardly ever last unless they are reinforced with facts. If you are encouraged by certain feelings, you will be discouraged by others. If you are encouraged by facts, no matter how discouraged you become, the facts won’t change.

Someone has said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light.” That’s good advice. Some of my friends find great comfort in prayer and studying the Scriptures when they are going through a difficult time, but that isn’t the way it works for me. When my rope breaks, the Scriptures seem as dry as dust and my prayers never seem to get any further than my front teeth. I study the Scriptures and pray when
things are going reasonably well. Then, when the darkness comes, I remember the truth I discovered in the light, and I hang on to that with everything I’ve got.

In your dealing with discouragement, knowing Bible doctrine is essential because it gives you eternal truths, facts that are constant in spite of what your feelings are at any particular moment. Sometimes I don’t feel like a Christian; sometimes I feel that God could not possibly be a God of love; sometimes I feel that there could not possibly be any meaning in my broken rope; sometimes I feel that God has cast me aside and that my life has been wasted. But, you see, feelings are just that—feelings. They have no reality of their own. That is why I remember in the dark the truth that I learned in the light.

(3) Remember the Process

Third, when your rope is broken and you are discouraged, don’t forget that God works out His purpose in the process. The psalmist wrote: The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Let me tell you a secret. When you’re up, you think you’ll never be down, and when you’re down, you think you’ll never be up. But in the process of living you will go through times of success and joy and times of failure and discouragement.

In New England folks have a saying about the weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a couple of minutes and it will change. Discouragement is like that. It comes and it goes, so you need not assume that a state of discouragement, or encouragement for that matter, is permanent. When God decides that your broken rope has accomplished its purpose, He will fix the rope, and the discouragement will be fixed too.

My brother, Ron, spent a summer with us on Cape Cod to make some money to pay for his college education. He started out as a waiter because someone had told him that, with the big tips, he would make as much as two or three thousand dollars. That job lasted about two days. After numerous botched orders, broken plates, and angry customers, both Ron and his employer decided that Ron was not cut out to be a waiter. He then got a construction job. The construction contract ran out and he was laid off.

He came into my study one day and said, “Brother, this whole summer was a mistake. I should have stayed at home” I tried to encourage him, but in fact, I agreed with him. The summer hadn’t turned out the way either one of us had expected. But when I got home for dinner that evening, Ron was in a much better mood. I figured that he had found another job, but that wasn’t the case.

“Steve,” he told me, “I got to thinking this afternoon and decided that my life could change in the next five minutes. Why get discouraged?” He was right. The next day he got a job as a ranger on a golf course, and it was one of the best summer jobs he ever had.

Ron understood something we all ought to remember: the only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that change happens. Remember, every day the world rolls over on top of someone who was just sitting on top of it.

Let me repeat one of my favorite axioms: You can stand almost anything if you know it isn’t permanent. As a pastor, I am constantly amazed at the resilience of God’s people. The worst tragedy bringing the most terrible depression eventually dissipates
through the power of God’s grace. It doesn’t always fade quickly or easily, but it does fade away. Just accept your discouragement now as a part of God’s purpose, and be still until the light of understanding and grace shines.

(4) Look to the Future

Finally, when your rope has broken and you are discouraged, don’t forget the future. Paul wrote about what we can look forward to as believers:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality …. then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:51-54).

Richard Wurmbrand, who has dealt often with broken ropes, is a voice of hope in the midst of discouragement. He spent some fourteen years in communist prisons and is an example of a follower of Christ who, with hope and love, survived the worst that one man could do to another.

Wurmbrand, discussing the atheism of communism, spoke of the hope we have for the future. He suggested that if someone were to speak to an embryo, he or she might say that there was a wonderful life beyond the womb. If the embryo should answer the way an atheist would, it would say, “Don’t bother me with this kind of religious superstition. This is my world, and it’s the only one I know. I cannot see beyond it, and it is pure opiate to suggest that there is anything beyond.”

“But suppose,” Wurmbrand wrote,

this embryo could think with greater discernment than our academicians. It would say to itself: “Eyes develop in my head. To what purpose? There is nothing to see. Legs grow. I do not even have room to stretch them. Why should they grow? And why do arms and hands grow? I have to keep them folded over my breast. They embarrass me and my mother. My whole development in the womb is senseless unless there follows a life with light and color and many objects for my eyes to see. The place in which I’ll spend this other life must be large and varied. I will have to run in it. Therefore my legs grow. It will be a life of work and struggle. Therefore I grow arms and fists, which are of no use here”  (Richard Wurmbrand. My Answer to Moscow Atheists. New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1975, 156-157).

Broken ropes and the accompanying discouragement remind us that this life isn’t the way it ought to be. Thirst may not prove there is water, and hunger may not prove there is food. But thirst and hunger are very good indicators that there is something somewhere to fulfill those needs, something for resolution and completion, pointing to the future and to a promise.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). When your rope is broken and you are discouraged, remember the memorials God has given you in the past and look to the future with the confidence that He has prepared a place for you.

About the Author:

Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.

Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from Chapter 8 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

He Has Authored These Outstanding Books:

Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.

A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.

What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.

Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.

Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.

When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.

 

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