Does God Want Me to Struggle?
When we become Christians, why does God not remove our sinful nature so that we can serve Him and glorify him completely here on the earth?
Why doesn’t God just take us to heaven right away? As soon as an individual puts their faith in Jesus Christ, and as soon as they are converted by God’s Spirit, why doesn’t God just take them home to heaven? Or, if God is going to leave us down on this earth, why doesn’t He immediately complete this work of salvation in us?
We need to understand something basic about our salvation – it is spoken about in at least three senses:
- The Bible talks about salvation in the sense that we are saved.
- The Bible talks about salvation in the sense in which we are being saved, that’s the present tense, or that we have been saved/are being saved.
- The Bible talks about our salvation in the sense that we will be saved. We’re not glorified yet. We don’t have our resurrection bodies yet.
In the present moment – the moment when I experience struggles – I would simply say, God has a purpose for my present struggles. Does God want me to struggle? Well, in a sense, yes. This is because God has a purpose for my present struggles.
We understand completely that there are some struggles that God wants to deliver me from.
Maybe I have a financial need and God’s solution to that financial need is to bring me a lot of money to meet that financial need. Maybe I’m sick and God’s solution to my struggle with that illness as he wants to heal me right here and right now. These are examples of struggles that God might want to deliver us from.
But there are some struggles that God wants me to endure through. To put in other ways, if I’m in a struggle financially, perhaps God’s answer to my prayer for help in the midst of that is, is that God shows me how to manage the money I already have, and to manage it much better. By this I can make it through the financial difficulty without having any more money coming in. This is just one example of enduring through the difficulty.
The same thing could be said regarding our physical health or conflict with other people or whatever it might be.
Delivered From, Delivered Through
You see, there are some struggles that God wants to deliver us from. And there are other struggles that God wants to deliver us through, or to make us endure. We need real wisdom from God in each one of those struggles.
The presence of the struggle doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong with us individually. It does mean that there is something wrong in the broader world – it means that we live in a fallen world. And there is a very real sense in which we are all sons of Adam or daughters of Eve. Those things are true.
But there are also struggles and difficulties that come to our life that are not necessarily because of any sin or compromise on our part as individuals. What I’m trying to get at is this: the idea of a Christian life, that it is or should be a continuous victory with never a real struggle along the way is not a biblical idea.
I believe that God can give us victory – amen for that! But sometimes it’s going to be a victory that we gain with a great struggle. We are not spiritual Supermen, where the bullets just bounce off our chest. Some people think that that’s the ideal Christian life that God has for us right now. Where, if we’re really walking in the Spirit, nothing can really touch us. That’s not true. You can be in the middle of a profound struggle and still be in God’s will. Remember what Jesus said in John 16:33: In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Is that beautiful? Isn’t that powerful?
Jesus’ testimony is very plain: in the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, because Jesus Christ is greater than any struggle or difficulty that the world might throw at us. Like another verse from the New Testament that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians – and he could say this to any Christian – 1 Thessalonians 3:3: that no one would be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
There is some sense in which God has an appointment for affliction for us. But that doesn’t have to be an appointment to defeat. It just means there’s going to be affliction, a struggle, and hopefully the victory of God is in the midst of it.
Purpose in the Struggle
Now, it is true that God has a time for us when the struggles will be over. The battles are going to be finished and we will not have our own sinfulness to deal with anymore. But that time is not now on this earth, that time is in heaven. Here, God has a work to do in us right now, and in God’s wisdom, God understands that the work He wants to do in us is best served and best promoted by allowing the presence of sin and affliction and struggle in our lives at the present moment, leading to the day when all things will be new.
The purpose is to lead us into victory in Jesus Christ, either victory from the struggle or victory in the struggle.
So Christian, I want you to understand this. You can be struggling right now, and still be right in the center of God’s will for your life. If you’re in the midst of a trial, if you’re in the midst of significant difficulty, don’t think that that means you’re automatically blowing it or out of God’s will.
It means that God has allowed his struggle to come before you. He wants to use it for His glory and for the triumph of Jesus Christ in your life. Look to Jesus and have him do that in your life today.
Can we hear God’s voice by journaling?
What do you think about this practice of learning to hear God’s voice speak to your spirit by journaling? Whatever thoughts pop into your head after asking him a question.
I do not think that that’s a good idea. I don’t think that we learn how to hear God’s voice by writing down whatever pops into our head after we asked God a question.
I’m kind of surprised that people would go down this road. That’s not a way to learn God’s Word or God’s will.
If you want to hear God’s voice, read your Bible. I believe that God does speak to people today. But it is never and can never be on the same level of what he says in his Word. I don’t think we should seek to have God supernaturally speak to us apart from his Word.
Seek God’s voice by reading his Word. If God speaks to you in some way, other than that, then judge it by his Word, and by the discernment of trusted, more mature Christians in your life.
I think that it’s dangerous to be too casual about the idea of God speaking to us. But I’ve met people who would say: “Oh, well, God said this to me, and God said that to me, and God was speaking to me today and God said this!” But I think they’re confusing their own thoughts for God speaking to them. And, brothers and sisters, can’t we just agree that it is a dangerous thing to confuse your thoughts with God’s voice?
Again, if you want to hear God speak to you, seek Him in His Word. If God were to speak in some other way, you have to judge it by his Word, and by the judgment of other trusted believers who are more mature than you.
And I’ll just add one more thing. I am disturbed when I hear Christians far too casually speak about the Lord speaking to them. And they act or speak as if they have absolute certainty about what God speaks. I am much more impressed by people who say, “I think God might have been speaking to me in this.” People who say that qualify it and realize that they might be wrong. And they’re looking for God to confirm. The Bible is the word that we have final confidence in.
Always remember, that even though God may speak to an individual, He will never do it against His Word. And He will never do it against the judgment of mature believers that you place around it. That’s why Paul says we should judge what God says and judge it according to the Scriptures.
Is Colossians 2:15 one of the reasons why we see less demonic possession now than during Jesus’s earthly ministry?
Verse 15 speaks of the work of Jesus on the cross and says, “having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them in it.”
I think that that’s one reason why we see less demonic possession and demonic overt activity in the Western world, than we seem to see in the ministry of Jesus.
However, there are a few things to say about that:
We in the Western world live with the legacy of some 2,000 years of Christian influence in society. That is a huge legacy. Now, what’s really sad is that in our present day the culture at large in the Western world is running as fast as it can to abandon that Christian heritage – that will not end well for the culture. There are uncountable blessings that have come to the Western world because of the influence of 2,000 years of Christianity. We cannot turn our backs on that and be blessed. It will bring many bad things that I believe we begin to see right now.
Now I say “the Western world” because if you go to other parts of the world, places that are sometimes called “developing nations,” you may see something different. In those places – many of them that don’t have the same kind of centuries of Christian influence that we have – there is often much more overt or obvious demonic activity. Again, that’s because of the lack of Christian influence.
Another aspect of why we see less demonic activity in the Western world is, that I believe in some regard, it fits with Satan’s strategy.
I think that Satan and his agents have made a calculated strategic approach that they would rather be “under the radar” instead of being so obvious. Sometimes Satan operates in a very obvious way because the devil wants you to be afraid of him and surrender to him out of fear. There are other times when Satan very much wants to operate by going “under the radar” (so to speak), below detection, and not making himself obvious. I think that Satan understands that his strategy of being less obvious in the Western world is working very well. And that’s one of the reasons for that approach.
So, I would give those three reasons:
1) the disarming of principalities and powers
2) the 2,000 years of Christian influence
3) the strategy of Satan right now
It doesn’t mean that Satan is not busily working in the Western world right now – you better believe he is! He’s busily working in the broader world, and he is busily working in individual lives of both believers and unbelievers. But his general strategy in the Western world is to be below the obvious, to be below detection.
Evidence for God without referring to the Bible?
How do you respond to someone who wants evidence of God without referring to the Bible?
First and foremost, Romans 1 explains that God has spoken to every human being, through creation, and through conscience. We see evidence of God in creation and evidence of God in conscience, even apart from the Bible.
I guess that would be the simple answer to this question. I would point people towards creation and conscience for examples of evidence of God without referring to the Bible. Now, just because they don’t want you to refer to the Bible doesn’t mean that you can’t refer to the Bible.
Did you know that you can refer to the Bible and talk about the Bible without specifically quoting chapter and verse? In other words, I can tell somebody, “God loves the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that if anybody puts their trust in Him, they won’t be condemned, but they’ll find eternal life and Jesus Christ.”
That is paraphrasing the wonderful message of John 3:16. without saying, “John 3:16 says….”
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with referring to the Bible. But if somebody is just very biased or prejudiced against the Bible, then you can quote scripture to them without telling them that you’re quoting scripture. One of the reasons why we need to be very familiar with the Word of God, know it and meditate upon it.
Are the prayers of the Saints in Revelation 8 now or in the future?
In Revelation 8:3 an angel of God is given incense to offer with prayers. Are the prayers of the saints on the altar now or does that happen in the future?
This is drawing on a picture that is used many places in the Bible. Does revelation 8:3 refer to prayers made now or prayers made in the future? My answer to that question would be yes. I think it encompasses both.
1) The smoke from incense rises up towards the heavens.
2) Incense can smell very pleasant. And our incense in the form of prayer will drift up to heaven, it is heard by God, and it is pleasing to Him.
Those are some of the associations with incense and prayer. So, if that was the only place in the Bible that indicated a connection between incense and prayer, we might say that it only refers to something in the future. But since this is a frequent image used for prayer in the Bible, we can say that it refers to much more.
Did Eve think her baby was the Messiah?
You said in your Genesis commentary that Eve thought her baby was the Messiah. Why?
Why do I think that Eve thought her baby was the Messiah?
Well, there’s basically two reasons. I can’t say that I’m 100% certain of this, but I can say that I feel like I’m pretty certain, and I’ll explain why.
Number one, remember the promise that God made to Eve and to Adam. He said to Eve that the seed of her descendent would crush the serpent head would be the Messiah, the one to conquer Satan.
Cain was the first descendant of Eve, it would be totally logical for her to say, “God said I would have a descendant. God said that descendant would crush Satan’s head, would defeat Satan, would be the Messiah. I have a descendant, this must be the guy”.
And there’s something to the name Cain that suggests that the meaning of the name is this is The One. The name connected to the promise makes us think, “oh, he probably thought that this was the one God promised, the descendant who would come to crush the serpent’s head, who would be the Messiah.”
How can one grow in walking with God?
I think the major ways we grow are by giving attention to the Christian basics: Prayer, reading our Bibles, worship and fellowship with other believers and serving God in some way, especially telling other people about Jesus. These are basic ways that we serve God.
Is free will really free if God is sovereign over all things?
I don’t use the phrase free will very often. I suppose sometimes it might slip out of my mouth. But I would refer to having a real choice. This is what I mean.
You can make the argument that our will is not truly free – that our will, our decision making ability, is under all kinds of influences, and especially that’s true of the person who has not been born again. Our will is under all kinds of influence, but what I do know is that God has given to humanity a real choice. If we as human beings do not have the capability to make real choices, then we’re just robots. We’re programmed.
We understand that God is sovereign. He has a plan and a purpose that He is working out throughout all the ages in all the universe. We don’t doubt that for a moment. And still, God has a way how the real choices of men and women on earth mesh together perfectly with His plan. How that happens I can’t exactly say, but we know that it does happen. But here’s what I would encourage you with: Think in terms of real choice more than free will.
How are tongues a sign for unbelievers?
In reference to 1 Corinthians 14:22
The answer that Paul gives connects back to judgment that God was bringing upon the Israelites. Paul quoted from the Old Testament here, Isaiah 45, where it says, “with men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people and yet for all that they will not hear me.”
When God originally gave that prophecy in Isaiah, it was a prophecy of judgment upon Israel. God was going to bring judgment upon Israel from people who spoke another language than Hebrew, they spoke the language of the Assyrians, they spoke the language of the Babylonians, the Chaldean language.
Now how does that connect with the gift of tongues? Well, there is some aspect of the gift of tongues that is a judgment to those who do not believe. It is the evidence of supernatural power in their midst, the evidences that the power of God, the presence of God, is there in their midst and they are rejecting it. They’re not believing it. This is what I think is important to point out.
I have a significant disagreement with my cessationist brothers and sisters, who don’t believe that the gifts of the Spirit such as the gift of tongues are for today but ended with the first century church and with the apostles. My cessationist brothers and sisters usually teach the only purpose for the gift of tongues was to be judgment towards Israel. Again, you cannot deny that it is a purpose that God has for the gift of tongues. Paul says so clearly right there in 1 Corinthians 14.
But from anything else Paul says about the gift of tongues, in 1 Corinthians 12 and also in chapter 14, I don’t think you can say for a moment that it is the only purpose.
This is a problem of failing to rightly dividing the word of truth, when we take only one aspect of scriptural truth, and think that that’s the only thing that the Bible says about it. So, when you’re talking about why God has given the gift of tongues and what the purpose is for the gift of tongues, don’t ignore the aspect of it being for judgment. But don’t think that that’s the only reason God gave the gift of tongues.
What is the purpose of the speaking in tongues in Acts 2:38?
The purpose of tongues in Acts 2 was not to preach to the crowd. Many people assume that, because when the crowd heard the Christians on the Day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues, and they recognized some of the languages that they spoke. They said, “We hear them declaring the great things of God.” Now, I do not believe that they were preaching the gospel for two reasons:
1) In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul tells us that when a person speaks in an unknown tongue by the gift of God, they are not speaking to man but to God. God is the audience of speaking in tongues, not man. There are many people who misunderstand the gift of tongues and think that it is like a divine pocket translator, that it’s the ability to do missionary work in other languages.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks unto God and not unto man. What was happening on the day of Pentecost was this: The disciples in their exuberance, of being filled with the Holy Spirit, being baptized with the Holy Spirit, were speaking in unknown tongues, and they were speaking loudly, exuberantly. They were speaking unto God, but it could be heard by the nearby crowd.
2) When it came time to preach the gospel to that crowd, Peter stood up, calmed everybody down from speaking in tongues, and he spoke to the crowd in a language that they all knew: Koine Greek. So it’s really very simple. On the Day of Pentecost, the purpose of it was consistent with the larger purpose of the gift of tongues.
Now, one purpose for the gift of tongues is to be a sign to unbelievers. But I think there’s a larger purpose. The larger purpose for the gift of tongues is to be a tool of communication that transcends our intellect, our human knowledge. The point is to communicate with God on a level that transcends our human understanding.
If you’re interested in this, go carefully through my commentary or my teaching, at enduringword.com through 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and I think I exhaustively explain this pretty well.
Thoughts on the new lockdown orders in California
Should churches refuse to obey them?
I believe that this is a matter for each individual pastor, to bring before God and for the pastor and the leaders of the church to come to an understanding of what God’s will is for them. And when they have a sense of what God’s will is, they should boldly pursue it. I do think we should not operate the church simply on the basis of what the government says we can and cannot do. We should try to be wise. We should care for the welfare of our people in our community. But the church does not fundamentally exist or operate at the permission of the government. And that’s not because of what the United States Constitution might say. That’s because the church is an institution that belongs to Jesus Christ. And the church does not belong to the state or the government. And so we should ask, what is honoring to God? What is faithful to God? What is honoring? And even if we do not obey what the local authorities tell us to do, we should disobey respectfully. But fundamentally, the church is God’s institution. It’s not my institution. It’s not the Christian’s institution. It’s Jesus’s institution. And we just need to remember that. I believe that God will give wisdom to each individual pastor and leadership team at a church if they will seek Him, and I won’t judge another brother for doing something different than what I might do.
How can we grow more and more in faith?
The Apostle said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”, Luke 17:5 How can we grow more and more in faith? Do we just ask elsewhere? Do we have to do read the word, Romans 10:17?
Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”. One way that we get more faith is by reading, understanding, meditating upon God’s word. So that is a very important source of faith. There’s another source of faith though, too. And I don’t think it’s another in the sense of being different. It’s alongside of reading the Word. It’s doing the word. It’s living out our Christian lives. Faith is like a muscle. And how does a muscle grow? A muscle grows by the right nourishment, like the Word of God. And by exercise: that’s doing the word. So, we need nourishment, and we need exercise. That’s how faith is built. In that sense, we can say that faith is like a muscle that some people want to exercise without nutrition. And other people want to get the nutrition without the exercise. No, we want to be hearers, or learners, of the word. And we want to be doers of the word.
Can we trust our hearts?
Our hearts are deceitful. I wouldn’t trust my thoughts at all. The Bible that’s the only way we can trust 100%.
I agree with the spirit of what is said there, although we need to understand that as we are in the Word of God, the Bible says that there will be a renewing of our mind. To remember that phrase from Romans 12:2: “don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. As we are more and more in God’s word, reading, thinking, meditating, learning, our mind will be transformed. It will never be completely trustworthy, not until we’re glorified. But it should become more and more trustworthy, because we’re being transformed by the renewing of our mind.
What should be the exact repentance for adultery?
I don’t have an answer to that question that is correct in every circumstance. In a sense, this is a pastoral question that would need to be answered with a wise pastor, or someone who has a true shepherd’s knowledge and heart before God. In needs someone to go in with true knowledge of the situation and biblical wisdom, and who can apply biblical wisdom to that.
In general, we would say that repentance from adultery would mean completely cutting off the adulterous relationship. And then it would also mean doing whatever one can to rebuild a relationship of love and trust with the spouse who has been sinned against, realizing that that’s going to take a long time to rebuild and to restore. And then there may be many other aspects that are peculiar to the specific situation. But there needs to be confession before God. Confession in some sense between man but that is going to differ in each situation to the extent of that there will be a true breaking off of the relationship and a genuine effort towards the restoration of love and trust.
Do you think God could be trying to get our attention now with COVID-19?
I can answer that very simply, yes.
Whenever there is turmoil and disruption in the world, we can believe God is trying to get our attention.
How can I speak in tongues?
For years I have been struggling to speak in tongues. Why the delay? I’m afraid I’m not truly born again.
Don’t struggle to speak or to pray in tongues. It is a gift from God. The way Paul presents the gift, as he addresses the question “do all speak in tongues?” The answer to that question is no. This isn’t a gift that every believer has. So, don’t struggle for it. And don’t look at the gift of tongues as being a prize, or what we might call a merit badge. That’s not how it works. There’s been a lot of damage done in the Christian world by thinking of it in those terms. So no, instead, just simply be thankful and say, “God, if you ever want to give it to me, I’m open to receive it.” And, and then just go on from there. You don’t need to struggle to speak it. Again, if you want it, ask God if he gives it to you, and you can simply exercise that gift. There’s more that I could say. If you want more, go to the teachings on my website or my YouTube channel and search for my teaching on the Gift of Tongues.
What is your practical advice about entering into ministry?
For someone who feels called to ministry?
I would say a few things to someone who came to me and said that they were interested in that. First of all, and this is a very important principle, find a place to be faithful, right where you’re at. There are people who have great ambitions for ministry, and they think “I want to be a pastor and preach every Sunday.” And you know what, look, maybe God has that for an individual. But why don’t you start off just by being faithful in a Sunday school class? Find a ministry to be faithful in. God has so much to teach us and to build us simply through that. The other thing is take care that you don’t appoint yourself to ministry. Now, it is true that perhaps not everybody will see a calling that God has given us and we will be doing it all on our own. But it would be very unusual if nobody saw a calling that’s within you. Usually, God’s normal practice is to give confirmation to a calling through the observations in the contributions of other people. So that’s the main thing, just find a way to serve God right now where you’re at. Try different things and just look for where God’s blessing is. Look for where the joy is, and effectiveness is in serving the Lord. And go forward in that.
I’m struggling with the restrictions on daily life.
I have a friend who keeps making comments such as life seems pointless Now that everything has changed. What advice would you give him?
We could wish that God had appointed us to a more comfortable season right now. But he just hasn’t. And as bold and strong men and women in Jesus Christ, we need to rise up and fulfill the responsibility that God has placed in front of us right here right now. And we can take comfort in thee fact that, as difficult as this time is for some, our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world right now, and in generations past have faced much worse, and God has sustained them. We can learn the valuable lessons of endurance right here right now. And just simply say, “God, you can be real, you can show your power and your goodness right now in this present season.”