Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Twists in Your Story

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says your story will always be taking dramatic turns.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God’s grace is so rich, and He gives common grace; there are still blessings. We see glimpses of the goodness of God and the blessing. And not every day is stressful, painful. But as you map the course of your life, there are, there have been, and there will be things that are just hard to deal with.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for Monday, February 18, 2019.

I know something about you. You’re facing some less-than-perfect circumstances. I can say that with confidence because, this side of eternity, everybody faces difficulty. Today Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will show you the truth about your circumstances. You don’t have to be controlled by what’s going on around you, and she’ll show you how to walk in the truth. Nancy delivered this message a few months ago at the conference, True Woman '18: The Truth That Sets Us Free.

Before Nancy got up to speak, the audience heard from Jen Barrick. As a teenager, Jen suffered a brain injury when the family van was hit by a drunk driver.

Linda Barrick: He was running from the police. He had hit another vehical. He hit us at 80 mph, and actually, the impact was 120 mph. All four of us should have died, and yet, God spared our lives that night. Jennifer suffered a brain injury with multiple skull fractures. No one thought Jen would live.

Leslie: Those are horrible circumstances, but if you met Jen, you would see a radiant joy.

Jen Barrick: Holy, holy, holy are You, Lord God Almighty. We lift our hands in praise and honor and worship and abundance in thanksgiving to You, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the giver of life and hope. Father God, please speak peace to my friends. Peace be still to know that they can face anything in life because they have You on their side fighting for them. 

I want to pray that You would equip them today with strength and courage beyond measure. May that would be what leads them today in perfect abundance as well as in fellowship with You.

Father God, we cry holy, and we are just so expectant of You and the mighty work of You hand this day. Thank You for being so good and so mighty!

Leslie: You can hear Jen’s story in the archives at ReviveOurHearts.com. Okay, with that background, let’s listen to Nancy from True Woman '18. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We want to talk tonight about the truth about our circumstances. Now there’s no way to cover all the circumstances that we are facing. “Circumstances,” the dictionary says, “are events that change your life over which you have no control.”

Now sometimes . . . I hate to take issue with Webster’s Dictionary, but sometimes the circumstances in our lives are things over which we have control. We make choices, and then we have changes in our circumstances. But many times there are incidents, events, issues, relationships, things that change our lives over which we have no control.

We may not be able to control our circumstances, but, by God’s grace, we can control how we respond to our circumstances and whether we let God use our circumstances to change us and to make us more like Jesus.

This thing of circumstances that makes life difficult or makes it feel like they are spinning our life out of control, they really go back (as we have been taken many times this weekend) to the Garden of Eden.

In the beginning all was well. You read those first couple of chapters of Genesis, and it’s just full of blessing, goodness. God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. No crashes. No brain injuries. It was very good.

God was taking care of His creatures. He planted a garden. He made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Then God created a river that flowed out of Eden to water the garden. God made the circumstances beautiful, blessed, and good. Then God made Eve for Adam, and Adam delighted in the wife God had made for him. They were one flesh, intimate, and they were naked and not ashamed.

I mean, we cannot even imagine a world such as the one that Adam and Eve experienced in Genesis 1 and 2. But we ought to think about it because God is redeeming this broken world. One day He is going to recreate it and take us, not just back to Eden, but to the New Jerusalem, to that new garden where a river runs through it, and the Lamb of God is at the center of it, and all tears are wiped away. There is no more death or mourning or sorrow or weakness or sinfulness.

But in the meantime, we don't live in Genesis 1 and 2, and we don't live in Revelation, the last couple of chapters there. We live right here and now in what is sometimes the ugly in-between.

So in Genesis 1 and 2, we have blessing and goodness and beauty and abundant provision and needs met and intimacy—vertical with God, horizontal with others. There is no shame. There’s no guilt. There’s no fear. There’s no trauma. It’s blessing.

Then in Genesis chapter 3—you know this—because this is where we live. Enter sin. And now you just read in Genesis 3, 4, and on through those next chapters, you find now there is tension in the marriage relationship. Where once there had been intimacy and no shame, now there is shame and self-consciousness and blame, like throwing each other under the bus. Right? That’s all a consequence of the Fall.

There are broken relationships now. There is enmity. There is violence. “He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel,” God said to the serpent (see Gen. 3:15). There are strained relationships. The first two sons born to Adam and Eve, there is a strain between them. There’s estrangement. Cain kills Abel.

The first parents, the first children, and all of a sudden they go from blessing and enjoyment and goodness and fullness to deprivation and hardship and animosity and violence. How fast those circumstances changed.

We have pain. “I will multiply your pain in childbearing,” God said to the woman. “In pain, you shall bring forth children” (see Gen. 3:16). And every biological mom said, “It’s true!” What He said would happen has happened.

We have competition in marriage. “Your desire shall be for, or against, your husband, and he shall rule over you” (see Gen. 3:16).

To the man God says, “The ground will be cursed in pain you shall eat of it, by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (see Gen. 3:17). It is hard, hard, hard now.

And there is death. “You are dust and to dust you shall return,” God says to Adam and Eve (see Gen. 3:19).

There is exile. “The Lord God sent him out of the garden. He drove out the man. He placed a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life” (see Gen. 3:24).

And here we are, in a broken world. A world that groans and travails in pain. There is corruption. There is brokenness. There is betrayal and disappointment and violence and hurt and oppression and drunk drivers and brain injuries.

Life doesn't work today the way God intended that it should. And that’s because the man and the woman, the human race, chose to go their own way rather than God's way.

And so you're facing circumstances. Or you’ve faced some recently. Or maybe your life just seems to be going really well, but I can tell you, before long, you will be facing circumstances, events that change your life over which you have no control.

There was a woman who wanted badly to be at this conference. She had signed up. She had registered. And then she wrote us recently and said that her husband was filing for divorce.
She said he's involved with another woman and has decided to abandon our marriage. So I can't come because I'm afraid while I'm gone he will put me out on the street and change the locks.

There are women in this room who made it to the conference, but there are stressful, painful circumstances in your life, in your marriage, with children, in your health, in your finances in your workplace, in your church, there are hard, hard circumstances.

Now, God's grace is so rich, and He gives common grace, and He spreads . . . There are still blessings. We see glimpses of the goodness of God and the blessings. And not every day feels the way I just described. But as you map the course of your life, there are, there have been, and there will be things that are just hard to deal with.

And so, for some perspective on that, I want to take us to turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy chapter 4. This is the last letter written by the apostle Paul. It’s about 67 AD. This is during Nero’s persecution of the church. Paul is in prison in Rome. By the way, he spent approximately 1/4 of his missionary career in prison—not very glamorous, a lot of painful circumstances.

Let me read to you what Christian History Magazine says about Roman imprisonment. It says that,

It was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged—a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated as prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated blood stained clothing was not replaced even in the cold of winter. Most cells were dark. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.

Pain. Hardship. Paul was likely in the Mamertine Prison, which was a massive network of dungeons under the city's main sewer. The Mamertine Prison was usually used for high-profile prisoners who were awaiting execution.

It was known for its cramped, miserable conditions. There was city sewage running through it. And condemned criminals were lowered into this underground pit through a hole. There was no way to escape. There was no hope of coming out alive.

Now, I read that just because sometimes they say. “Oh, yeah, Paul was in prison in Rome,” and we don't think about what he was going through. Paul was considered a criminal. He was treated like one. And he knew that he was not going to get out, that he was soon to die.

In fact, in chapter 4, verse 6, just before the passage we’re going to look at tonight, Paul says, “I'm already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come.” And, according to tradition, Paul was beheaded not long after writing 2 Timothy.

Now, here’s a letter that was written to Timothy, his son in the faith, to encourage Timothy in his calling and role as a pastor in Ephesus. And, to me, it’s just amazing, as I read through this book, and I consider the backdrop. I consider the context in which Paul found himself, and I realize that, throughout this book, there is not a word of complaint. Not a word of discouragement. Not a word of fear in this letter. To the contrary, the tone is encouraging and joyful and Christ-centered.

And I read this, and I think, How little it takes to throw me and to give me a really bad day—or to make me think I'm having a really bad day and to get me out of sorts and in a critical or negative or foul mood, to get me discouraged, to get me afraid, to get me feeling insecure.

Circumstances. So often, I let them control my life, rather than finding the beauty of Christ and trusting His control in my circumstances, which then gives me the grace to, not only be encouraged in my own soul, but to be a means of grace and encouragement to others—as Paul was, not only to Timothy, but as he is to us tonight. He wrote that letter, and in those circumstances, so that we can be encouraged.

I wonder, 2,000 years from now, should the Lord tarry, who may be writing a letter or an email or a text thread or an Instagram feed that we wrote in our adverse circumstances, and who might find hope or encouragement or grace? Forget about 2,000 years from now. How about two days from now? Or two months from now?

The way we’re reacting in our circumstances is either pointing others to Christ or it is pointing others to ourselves and our discouraging circumstances.

Now, the closing paragraphs of this letter are so personal and warm and human. And you think of the apostle Paul who wrote that amazing Romans chapter 8. We  think of Paul the great theological and Paul the great church planner. But in these last paragraphs of 2 Timothy 4, we see a very human Paul. A Paul who is in debilitating circumstances. He gives us a glimpse into some of the circumstances he was facing and how he responded to them.

So I want to read in 2 Timothy 4, beginning in verse 9. He says, “Do your best to come to me soon.” Now, we’re going to read through the whole passage, but let me just skip from verse 9 for a moment down to verse 21 where Paul says, “Do your best to come before winter.” So he begins and ends the letter by saying to Timothy, “Hurry up! I need you! Come to Rome!”

Paul knew that he didn't have long to live, and he missed his dear friend and disciple. It was great to be able to have letters between each other, but for Paul, that wasn't enough. He wanted to see Timothy. He wanted to be with him. And with winter coming, he knew it would soon be impossible for Timothy to sail to Rome. So he said, “Do your best to come before winter.”

Then verse 10,

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia. Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. And when you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm. The Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself for he strongly opposed our message.

At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them. But 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. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom, to him be the glory forever and ever, amen.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all (2 Tim. 4:10–22).

I see in this passage three categories of need, of types of circumstances the apostle was facing.

First, there were personal and practical needs.

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (v. 13).

Paul may have had to leave Troas quickly. He may have had to leave everything behind, it appears. Winter was coming, and that cloak would double as a blanket in the cold winter in Rome.

And he wanted his books, which would be papyrus scrolls, probably the Old Testament scriptures, and the parchments—these would be animal skins. They were, perhaps, material for writing. The apostle Paul didn’t want to wile away his time in this prison. He knew time was short, and he wanted to be able to read, to study, to write. “And don't forget the cloak. I want to stay warm.” So he had personal and practical needs.

And then he had relational needs. For various reasons, most of the people that Paul had looked to for help and comfort were no longer there. They were gone. There were many different reasons. “Demas,” verse 10, “in love with the present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

Now, in the book of Philemon, Paul calls Demas a fellow worker. Demas had once been a trusted friend and partner in ministry. But Demas’ heart had been drawn to this present world, literally, the now age. Perhaps Demas was embarrassed. He didn't want to be identified with Paul in this shameful criminal condition. For whatever reason, he had defected. He had turned away from Paul as his heart and affections had been turned away to this now age.

But there were others that Paul had counted on. Some he had to send elsewhere because they were needed for the ministry. “Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.”

Paul had to go through hard things alone. Verse 16, “At my first defense”—this would be when he stood this mock trial in Rome—“no one came to stand by me.”

You see these famous publicized trials, and often you’ll see the mate or a parent or the close friends of the accused standing by for encouragement, for support, even with guilty criminals. But Paul says, “No one stood by me. All deserted me.”

Imagine having no one to stand by you. No one to encourage you. No one to be there to pray for you, to touch you, to say, “God is going to get us through this.” No one.

Paul was a godly man. You think? But he was a man. He was human. God made us for relationship. He was lonely. He was longing for friendship, for companionship. So he had personal and practical needs. He had relational needs. And then there was opposition to his ministry.

Verse 14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm.” Verse 15, “He strongly opposed our message.”

There are always people, no matter what God is doing, no matter how great the work of God is, there are always people that are opposed to it. They withstand it. They buck against it. They resist you. You’re pouring out your life to serve the Lord or to serve your family or to serve others, and then there are those with the critical spirit those who try to undermine you, those who try to sabotage you. And Paul experienced that opposition.

Now, can I just make a note here? Let me just remind us that you can be really, really godly and still have crummy circumstances. Sometimes our circumstances are just the natural by-product of crummy choices we’ve made. But sometimes you’ve been walking with the Lord, you’ve been waiting on Him, you’ve been trusting Him, you’ve been trying to serve Him, you’ve been trying to be faithful to Him, and yet you still have these really miserable circumstances.

Paul had been a faithful servant of the Lord. Now he’s at the end of his life and ministry, and you’d think maybe he’d have a chance here on this earth to get some of the reward of his ministry. But he understood the reward is not here and now. The reward is there and then. In the meantime, he was going to have God’s view of his circumstances and his life. He was a servant of the Lord. Whatever it was that God had for him, he was going to receive.

Leslie: I know you’ve come to Revive Our Hearts today in less than perfect circumstances, because we all face challenges all the time. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been giving us solid hope to stay focused on Jesus during those tough circumstances. She recorded that message at the conference True Woman '18: The Truth That Sets Us Free. You can watch videos from the conference when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

The conference theme was inspired by Nancy’s book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. And we’d like to send you a copy today along with the book Lies Men Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy’s husband Robert. This set of books is our gift to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount.

Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com to donate and request the books, or ask for them when you call 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow we’ll hear part two of today’s message. 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 will show us how to avoid living in bitterness and hurt.

Nancy: If you want to keep walking in freedom, you're going to have to keep walking in forgiveness, leaving these matters in God's hands.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to prepare you for the storms of life. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion