Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Thriving in a Painful World

Leslie Basham: As long as you’re living with people this side of eternity, you’ll know what it’s like to be disappointed and hurt. But Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, that doesn’t mean you have to be bitter.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you want to keep walking in freedom, then you need to keep walking in forgiveness, leaving these matters in God’s hands.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

Think about one of the less-than-ideal circumstances in your life right now. Is that circumstance keeping you from joy? Is it keeping you from taking action to build God’s kingdom? Yesterday, Nancy began showing us the life of the apostle Paul. He was living in a Roman prison. Now, that’s a terrible circumstance. But Paul was able to write letters in prison that were added to the Bible and encourage us to this day.

Nancy’s looking at his example to show us the truth about our circumstances. She’s in 2 Timothy 4, and she delivered this message at the conference True Woman '18: The Truth That Sets Us Free.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Now, I want to go back briefly through this passage and make . . . (I don't know if I should tell you how many observations. I’m going to tell you how many, but just breathe, because I’m going to spend a short time on these.) I want to make ten quick observations about these verses, just to get you so you can dig further into it.

Okay, if I didn't tell you how many it was, I’d be on number three, and you’d think, When is she going to be done? So I’m just telling you, it’s ten, and then you can go back and focus on these more.

These are how Paul responded to pressure, how he survived. But it’s how he did better than survive, how he thrived, and we can do the same in adverse circumstances.

Number one, it just strikes me, as I look at this overall passage, how simple Paul's needs were. How simple. He didn't have to have a lot to be okay. Just a coat and some books. You see, he had learned in whatever state he was to be content.

Isn't it true that our wants often become . . . We they say they're our needs, and then they become our demands.

Paul said, “Just bring me coat. Just bring my coat and some books so I can keep studying the Scripture, so I can keep writing letters.” Simple needs. Contentment.

Number two, he was grateful for the people God put in his life. (These are observations I have been making as I have been meditating on this passage over the last days.) He was grateful for the people God put in his life, and he stayed as connected to them as he could. Even when it was hard, he tried to stay connected.

Look at verse 19. He says, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus, Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, all the brothers.” They weren’t with him, but he knew they were part of his eternal family, and he was grateful for these people. Even though they're not right there with him, he stayed as connected as he possibly could to them under the circumstances.

When you focus on what you don't have, on those who’ve wronged you, on those who’ve left you, you become bitter. And how destructive is that? It steals joy.

But in the apostle Paul, we don't see this bitterness. We don’t see his joy being stolen. We see him being grateful for the people that God has put in his life.

And sometimes, the people that God puts in our lives are not the ones we would think would be that great of a blessing. Look at verse 11. (I'm still on number two here.) Paul says, “Get Mark and bring him with you for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

Now, you remember in the book of Acts that Mark had blown it twenty years earlier in Paul's early ministry. Mark had no doubt changed in those years, but I think it’s likely that Paul had also become more generous-hearted, more grace-filled. And so even Mark . . . You’d think he could have said, “I don't need Mark. He blew it.” He said, “Bring Mark with you. He is very useful to me for ministry.” He had grown up and was welcomed. And he was grateful for the people God put in his life.

Number three, he refused to take vengeance on his offenders.

“Alexander did me great harm. The Lord will repay him according to his deeds. He strongly opposed our message” (v. 14).

He left his offenders in God's hands. This coppersmith did great harm, not only to Paul personally, but also to the gospel, to the message, to the ministry. But Paul said, “It’s not mine to deal with. The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”

And as we think about what we were talking about earlier today, with sins that had been committed against us, how important it is, as we deal with those, that we leave vengeance to God. We leave judgment to God, who is merciful and gracious and wants even those offenders to repent. But if they will not, God will repay them. We don't have to do that.

And then number four, not only did he leave the vengeance in God's hands, but he also extended forgiveness.

Verse 16, “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them.”

You see, that's the heart of forgiveness. It’s giving up the right to exact payment. That's what Jen and Linda have done with the young man who was driving the car the night their family's lives were drastically altered.

That’s what Steven did as he was being stoned.

That’s what Jesus did as He was dying on the cross. “Father, forgive them.”

When Paul was abandoned, when he was mistreated, he refused to become a debt collector. He refused to hold this sin against them. “May it not be charged against them. I’m not going to be a debt collector. I’m not going to hold this against him, against this man, these men who’ve neglected me, who’ve deserted and abandoned me.”

Listen, we’ve talked today about people who’ve wronged us. And I sense, in the singing tonight, in the stories I’ve been hearing, the people I’ve been talking with, that God has been in a beautiful process of setting captives free. It’s been a sweet thing. And I want to tell you, if you keep walking in freedom, then you’re going to need to keep walking in forgiveness, leaving these matters in God's hands.

Now, there may be steps that need to be taken, for safety reasons, for getting the law involved. I'm not saying just sit there and take it and do nothing. But I'm saying, in your heart, you have to release the right to exact vengeance or payment. This is what Paul did. “May it not be charged against them.”

Number five, when all others failed him, Paul knew that God was still faithful.

He says in verse 16, “No one came to stand by me. All deserted me, but,” verse 17, “the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.”

“When all else fails, when all else gives way, He then alone is all my hope and stay. God stood by me. When no one else would stand by me, God stood by me, and He strengthened me for the trial.”

The Lord never ever leaves or forsakes His own. I want you to remember that, some of you who are going back into desperately difficult situations and circumstances. The Lord never ever leaves or forsakes His own. He will stand by you, and He will strengthen you.

Number 6, Paul shared God's priorities. God's mission was his mission. What mattered to God was what mattered to Paul.

Look at verse 17. Paul says, “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

Think about Paul: End of his life. He knows he’s going to be executed. Don't you think he’d like to be having a little bit of a pity party? “Let’s focus on me. This is about me. How can I get my story out? How can I get my story told? How can I get people to help vindicate me?”

No. Paul says, “All that matters is that through me, the message (the message, what’s the message? It’s the gospel.), the gospel of Christ might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

Most of us in this room are Gentiles, and we’re hearing this message this weekend because Paul stayed in that prison. He had no choice. But instead of having a pity party, he wrote a letter and told how the Lord stayed by him and strengthened him. He told how his goal was that the message might go out, that God's mission for his life might be fulfilled.

Listen, God's purposes and His plan for your life can never be thwarted. He has a plan for your life regardless of what difficult circumstances you may find yourself in. And God will do whatever it takes to fulfill His redemptive purposes in this world, even if that involves, for a season, suffering on the part of the people of God.

Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world realize this. And they gladly suffer for Christ's sake so that through them, the message might be fully proclaimed, and others might come to faith.

As you struggle in your circumstances, is your agenda God's agenda? Is your mission to get just solely, primarily, out of there or to get vindication or to get repayment made? Or is your mission God's mission that He might use you as an instrument of grace and the gospel in other's lives.

Jen said when she got thyroid cancer, “Now I can tell more people. God’s going to expand my ministry.”

I mean, if that’s what a brain injury does to you, then we need all brain injuries, because most of us . . . I think she’s the one whose brain is working the best, really, because our brains are damaged when we say, “This is about me.” That’s when we let self-pity take over our lives.

Jen said, “God’s going to expand my mission, my ministry through these circumstances.” He wants to expand your ministry through your circumstances.

Number seven, ultimately, no enemy, no matter how powerful, can prevail against us.

Paul realized this. Verse 17, he said, “I was rescued from the lion's mouth.”

Listen, Paul was no match for lions. We don’t know exactly what the lion was. It may have been Nero. It may have been the Roman government. It was whatever these powerful circumstances were. You feel so helpless against a lion. Paul said, “I was rescued.”

Ultimately, no enemy, no matter how powerful, can prevail against the people of God.

Paul was in mortal danger. Satan attempts to destroy the children of God. “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But Paul says, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

And in God's way, and in God's time, God will rescue you from every mortal danger.

And that relates to number 8, and that is that our ultimate deliverance is guaranteed. Our ultimate deliverance is guaranteed. It is not dependent on what anyone else does but only on what God does.

Verse 18, “The Lord will rescue me. The Lord will rescue me. I was rescued from the lion's mouth. Now the Lord will rescue me, ultimately, from every evil deed and bring me safely into His eternal kingdom.”

The best is yet to come. That's a promise. God will rescue His children. It’s guaranteed. And it doesn't depend on what anyone else does.

Listen, Nero thought he was in charge of the world, and in some temporal sense, he was. But in the eternal sense, Nero was a pawn in the hand of God. In God's time, and in God's way, He will say, “Checkmate. It’s all over.” God wins. The King wins, and He will rescue us from every evil deed and bring us safely into His heavenly kingdom.

Cling to those promises. They're so precious. But that didn't mean Paul would be spared a painful imprisonment or a gruesome death. And it doesn't mean we’ll be spared from painful or difficult circumstances.

But rather than seeing his death as a victory for Nero, he saw it as a victory for Jesus. He said, “He will rescue me.” How is he going to be rescued? By being beheaded. That doesn't seem like a rescue, does it? But he realized that, “When Nero thinks he's snuffing out my life, snuffing out the people of God, actually, that’s a victory for Jesus. That is my rescue and my transition into that great eternal, heavenly kingdom.” Praise God for this ultimate promise.

Number 9, ultimately, Paul realized all that matters is that God is glorified. That's all that matters.

“It’s not that I be believed. It’s not that someone hears my story. It’s not someone comes to my rescue, comes to my aid, that I get out of my circumstances. Ultimately,” Paul says in verse 18, “to Him be the glory forever and ever.”

Bottom line, nothing else matters, really matters as long as He is glorified and His kingdom is advanced and the fame of His name goes out into the world.

And then number 10, to the end, in the worst of circumstances, Paul was Christ-centered and others centered.

And isn't that the opposite? For me, when I get in painful or difficult . . . Circumstances much less than what Paul was involved in, much less than what some of you are experiencing . . . You know, it’s just that gnats can destroy my day, and I become self-centered.

But here we see Paul in excruciating torment and persecution being Jesus-centered and others centered.

Look at verse 22. “The Lord be with your spirit.” The “your” there is singular. He’s talking to Timothy. “The Lord be with your spirit.” He’s ministering grace to his son in the faith.

You say, “You’d think he’d want to say, ‘Can you come minister grace to my spirit?’” But he says, “No, the Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” That’s plural you—you all. Who is you all? That’s everybody reading this letter. That’s us. “Grace be with you all.”

Your prison is an opportunity to encourage others with the presence of Christ, “the Lord be with your spirit,” and to be a channel of grace to others.

When Paul needed grace the most, he was a channel of grace and encouragement to others. When you most need grace, God wants to use you as a channel of grace and encouragement to others.

We have the presence of Christ and the grace of Christ. What more could we need? Is that not enough? It was enough for Paul.

Robert and I have just finished writing a book that will be released sometime next year, Lord willing. It’s our first book together. It’s called, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. For writing this book, we interviewed and had conversations with a lot of dear friends who are in some really crummy circumstances—some challenging, painful, difficult circumstances:

  • People who are experiencing a painful marriage, an unwanted divorce, or loneliness in their marriage.
  • People experiencing unfulfilled longing to be married.
  • Deep loneliness.
  • Adult children making sinful choices.
  • Chronic health issues.
  • The death of a child, the death of a mate.
  • Dealing with the husband's pornography addiction.

Then we had the sweet, bittersweet privilege and honor of interviewing John and Tammy Wreford, longtime friends and fellow servants in our ministry, three weeks to the day before John was taken home to be with Jesus after dealing with cancer for many months. We sat in the living room of that couple.

We had phone conversations with others. We had email exchanges. Again and again and again, we heard people say, “The presence and the grace of Jesus is enough. It’s more than enough.”

We heard joy. We heard contentment. We heard ministry mindedness. We heard people who were more concerned about us than they were about themselves. In fact, it was so stark, so striking that many times, after we would finish those conversations, we would just turn to each other and say, “You know, we want what those people have, but we don't want to go through what they have been through to get what they have—the trust in Christ, the joy, the sweetness and fullness and surrender to the providence of God.”

But you know how they got to that place of trust and the grace and the presence of Christ? They got there because they trusted God to write their story, to take them through the circumstances, car wrecks, death, loss, prodigal children, health issues. They trusted God to write their story.

So Paul says, “The Lord is with you. His grace is with you.”

Paul knew the Lord was with him, and the grace of Christ was with him, and that’s how he was able to write a letter like this and to be a means of ministry and grace to our lives tonight.

Would you bow with me for prayer? I just want to give you a moment to reflect on what God’s been saying to you. Maybe there’s one of those points tonight you say, “That’s the one I needed to hear.”

What’s the hardest circumstance you are facing right now? Would you just name it to the Lord in your heart there? You know what it is. You’ve been thinking about it while I've been talking. And would you just say, “Lord, I trust You to write my story. Thank You that if all others fail me that You will stand by me, and You will strengthen me, and You will give me grace.”

Is there someone you need to forgive? You’ve been holding this against that person. You’ve been wanting for them to be repaid. Could you just lift that person or that circumstance up to the Lord and say, “Lord, I am releasing it to You? I’m giving that person, I'm giving that circumstance to You. I'm not going to be defined by this any longer. I want to be defined by Your grace, by Your peace, by Your presence.”

Lord, I pray that You would continue, in each of our hearts, even through the rest of this evening, and then, as we leave this conference and go back into those real-life circumstances. We pray that we would experience the presence of Christ and the peace of Christ and the grace of God in every moment, in every circumstance so that we can say, “God is good. He can be trusted, and all that matters is that to Him be glory forever and ever, amen.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth inviting you to turn your story over to the Lord and trust Him to direct it. She delivered that message a few months ago at the conference True Woman '18: The Truth that Sets Us Free. To hear more conference message or watch the videos visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

At the conference, author and speaker Erin Davis commented on that theme.

Erin Davis: Well I think we are in the era of relative truth. The cultural noise is really loud. There's never been a golden age of morality since the Fall. Cultural thinking hasn't been biblical thinking for a really long time. I don't think the sky is falling, necessarily. But I think what is unique at this time is "your truth," "my truth," "relative truth," and truth based on feelings and truth based on emotions, and that we think we can't really speak truth because it will be offensive.

I think what is really counter-cultural about this conference is us putting a flag in the sand.

Right now I'm reading the book Flags of Our Fathers. It's about the soldier who stormed Hiroshima and put a flag in that rocky sand, declaring that they had the victory. That's what we are doing here this weekend. We're saying that we are going to put a stake in truth. All this warfare is going on around us. And in that story, the war was still going on when those soldiers put the American flag in the soil. So that's what we are doing.

All the skirmishes are still happening around us culturally and in our own lives, but we are saying, "We believe there is such a thing as Truth. We believe that Truth is the Word of God."

That's what Jesus prayed for us in John 17: 17. He said, "Sanctify them in truth: Your Word is truth." I know He was looking forward to this moment. He was looking forward to all the moments. But He was looking forward to this moment and the need for the reminder that there is Truth, and the Bible is Truth.

It's a fitting message culturally, but it is also evergreen. There's never going to be a moment that I don't need individually to be reminded that God's Word is Truth. I can wake up every single morning and think what I feel is truth. I need constant reminders that God's Word is Truth.

So this has cultural ramifications, but I think that's secondary to what God is doing in each of our hearts. It's, again, that flag in the sand. So we're like, "Oh, yeah, I have a source of Truth. I have something I can look to, and it's the Word of God."

So it's the perfect theme. I think we can do it two years from now and two years after that and two years after that, and it would still have a significant impact.

Leslie: That’s Erin Davis, recorded last fall at True Woman '18, talking about how the conference theme finds solid footing in the Word of God. That theme complements Nancy’s classic book Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. In it, she addresses common lies about circumstances, about God, ourselves, about beauty, children, marriage and many more.

We’d like to send you a copy along with her husband’s book. Robert wrote Lies Men Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. You can get both books as our way of saying "thanks" for a donation of any amount. Your support will help Revive Our Hearts to keep coming your way each weekday. And when you give, make sure to let us know you’d like the book set. You can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow Jen Wilkins will show you how to dig into God’s Word so you can then share what you’re learning with others. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to equip you for tough circumstances. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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