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About this series
The ART of Survival
In this series, Chip explains there’s an ART to Survival - skills, honed by practice, that lead to joyful endurance, no matter what. A - is the ATTITUDE that helps us navigate adversity. R - is the RESOURCE God offers in adversity. And T - is the THEOLOGY that guides our perspective in adversity. When challenging times and difficult circumstances threaten to bring us down, God provides the hope and the tools we need to rise above. Life isn’t easy, He never said it would be. In fact, Jesus told us to expect trouble. How we handle the trouble and guard our attitude is an opportunity to demonstrate our trust in the sufficiency and sovereignty of Christ. There’s an ART to survival. Chip shows us, from James, Chapter 1, how it’s done.More from this series
Now, what I want to do is I want to take the truth of this passage and I want to develop three very practical, specific principles to help you slay the dragon of discouragement, or as I like to say, hanging tough in tough times demands first that we get God’s perspective on our circumstances. How do you do that? By looking at our circumstances through the eyes of faith.
That’s exactly what He calls us to do. Look at your current circumstance. Remember? What is it that is discouraging you? What is it that is difficult and painful right now that you just think, I can’t take it. I can’t take it.
Look at it through the eyes of faith. What is it that God is going to do because you are trusting what you can’t see, you’re trusting His promises, you’re trusting His character? How do you do that exactly?
Well, you need to understand that the Lord has you in a position to develop a work in you that is primary and even more important than the work through you. So, don’t get discouraged. Just, by faith, remember I wrote: for twenty months. There’s a passage in Psalm 25 that God gave me that said, “Chip, I will instruct you in the way in which you should go.” And for twenty months I’m going, Lord…
And you know what He gave me? “Here’s what you do today. Here’s what you do today. Here’s what you do today.” I kept saying, What about six months? What about six years? What about ten years? Lord, I have visionary gift. I need to know where I’m supposed to go. And what He said is, “I’ll show you what you need to do today and I will give you grace to do it today.”
And what I didn’t realize, I had no idea that God’s purposes for my family, my marriage, my children, my grandchildren, and the ministry – they were going to expand and expand and expand and when God is going to do something wide through you, He first has to do something deep in you.
And when God wants to do something deep in you, He has to remove the pillars and the dependency of your arrogance and your pride and your trust in people and wanting the affirmation of others. And He will strip you in ways for your good because you are so precious. But it is painful.
So, in your discouragement can you say, if it looks like I have little, you should boast in your high position because you are dependent. And I would love to say, I would love to say it, and after thirty-five years as a pastor, I would love to tell you this is true, but it’s not. I would love to say that when things are going well and when they’re easy and when all the relationships are good and circumstances are wonderful and we have lots of money, that we just trust God, that we go to deep levels with the Lord.
The fact of the matter is all of us, all of us have to have seasons where God takes the things that we trust in and He sets them aside so that we have Him. Just Him.
And God is doing that right now. He’s doing it in the world. He is shaking people, He’s shaking communities, He’s shaking the Church, He’s shaking the world. The question is: will we listen? Will we humble ourselves and be dependent?
So, the first thing we need to do is look at our circumstances through the lens of faith.
The second thing we need to do is get God’s perspective on our future. And how? By looking at our future through the lens of hope.
See, our hope if it’s in the now, if it’s in what I can see, if it’s in the ministry, if it’s how people are responding to me, if it’s in my bank account, if it’s in things going well or not going well, my circumstance, what did we learn? It goes up and it goes down.
He says, “You need to take what you are experiencing right now, whatever is discouraging you,” and he goes, “I want to give you another new set of glasses. After the glasses of faith, you set those down, and now you put on the glasses of hope.”
Listen to what the apostle Paul said, “Therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For the light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, and what is unseen is eternal.”
He tells them, I’m telling you this after I have been shipwrecked, I have been beaten about three times, I’ve been left in the sea.” I mean, he is viewing all of his temporal difficulty, pain, circumstances through a lens of hope and what God is preparing for him, not just now, but forever.
The third thing that we need to do is get God’s perspective on our circumstances, God’s perspective on our future, and now God’s perspective on our motivation, by looking at our motivation through the lens of love.
Here’s the question – and this is different for all of us and this is very personal, so I want you to lean back. I want you to really think for a moment before you would immediately answer. Am I willing to enter into the fellowship of His suffering? Are you willing like the apostle John and the apostle Peter to consider it a privilege and a joy to suffer for the sake of Christ?
You see, in the early Church, as they were beaten and taken in by the Sanhedrin and they went back there in Acts chapter 2 and 3 and 4 and told the other believers what happened, they were filled with joy, being counted worthy to suffer for the Lord.
It’s out of loyalty. The apostle Paul would say, “I want the fellowship of His suffering.” There is something about a love for the Lord Jesus that when you are suffering because you refuse to give up, refuse to give in that is very, very precious.
And what I would have to admit to you is that sometimes when I have worked hard, I have tried hard, I have prayed hard, I have ministered hard and circumstances don’t get better and I don’t feel better and candidly, I’m not very happy and I wish God would change things and change them faster, what I have to admit privately is that my motivation is really about God working my life out instead of me being willing to experience whatever I need to experience for me to express my love to Him.
I remember a number of years ago teaching a seminar. I was in Hong Kong at the time and was meeting with a group of pastors and that evening I had dinner with a pastor who was a, happened to be a house church leader – an evangelist. And he was telling this story and we had helped him with some resources and helped him with what he was doing in terms of discipleship.
And as he was traveling doing evangelism, the church was meeting in his house and the Communist party came, it was a remote area, and his wife said, “No, no, I’m the pastor. I’m the pastor. None of these people were here.” And she got all the people to leave and they took her down to the police station and for two days, they beat her to a pulp.
And he came back from his evangelistic trip and found what was happening and I’m listening to this story and in my mind’s eye, thinking about my wife. My wife’s name is Theresa.
And as he’s telling this story I’m just thinking, Boy, if someone did that to my wife I don’t know if I could keep my faith. Boy, I would just…
And I’m having all these emotions and anger and retribution. And he finishes the story and when he gets done with the story, very calmly, he looks at me and my friend and he says, “Can you imagine that God would count us worthy to get to suffer for Him?”
And I was too embarrassed to say the emotions and the thoughts that I had. But I want to ask you that. These are the times that we are living in. Is our love going to be loyal?
As we wrap things up, let me help you evaluate a little bit where you are and to remind you that you can slay the dragon of discouragement. You are not a victim. Victims have self-pity. Victims look through the lens of “me”. A victim looks through the lens of now. Victims look at, “Are things going well?” Survivors don’t.
Survivors have an attitude and we count it all joy, whether we feel like it or not. Survivors don’t know what to do, but we have God’s wisdom and we will take it one day at a time. And survivors get an eternal perspective, a divine perspective, a theology – a way of thinking about life and circumstances and the future and our relationship with the Lord in terms of our motivation.
And because of that, here’s the deal, you can overcome discouragement, but you have to fight.
So, could I ask you, remember when we began this teaching time I said, “What person, what circumstance, what specific thing was really discouraging you? And I asked you to get it really clear in your mind.
Before I go on and give you some practical tools, where are you struggling? From what I have shared so far, what is God saying to you today? What does it look like for you to look at life, your life, your sadness, your disappointment, your challenge, your heartache through the lens of faith, through the lens of hope, through the lens of love?
Let me give you a couple handles that I think will help. Number one, reevaluate your circumstances and here’s the test: is my faith in things that are perishable or in things that are permanent? Just pause for a moment. Your faith. What are you trusting in? Are you trusting in things that are perishable or things that are permanent?
I remember, again, in China speaking to a pastor Lam of many years ago. And he was beaten and tortured and the church grew. And so, they put him in prison and the church grew even more. And so, he got out of prison after many years and he had almost like a treehouse, I remember, and he had speakers and just hundreds of people would gather to hear him preach and proclaim God’s Word.
And the officials came at that time and said, “We are going to kill you,” and he smiled at them and he said, “You torture me, the church grows. You put me in prison, the church grows bigger. You kill me, the church will explode.” Do you hear it? His faith isn’t in what was perishable. His faith is in what is permanent.
I was talking to one of our partners who does ministry in the Middle East and you may know that the fastest growing Church in the world is in Iran. And they came out of Iran and did some teaching and they were growing in their faith. And as they were ready to go back into their country, one of the ladies said to the trainer, “Before we go back into our country, would you teach us to die well?” She understood. She understood what they were going to do and what they were going to share, in all probability, is going to cost them their life. They wanted to die well.
I sat across the table from a young doctor who had a contract on her life. She was in Yemen and the Church has exploded in the midst of that civil war. And she was making her way to another country to be safe.
And she was young, maybe thirty, thirty-one. And she just looked at me and goes, “I know I won’t live very long.” And she didn’t say it with any sense of self-pity. It was a sense of, “This is my calling in life. There is more to life than right now.” My question is: do you believe that? Does your behavior, does my behavior, declare that?
For those of us in the First Word, I have a very good friend who has gone broke a couple times and made a lot of money, I guess, probably three times now. And this big COVID situation and all that it does to the financial markets and all the rest and I asked Him, “Well, how are you doing?” And he looked at me and he said, “It really doesn’t matter. It’s just money.”
In other words, they are numbers on a sheet of paper. Over time, he has come to actually believe and understand that money can’t make you, money can’t break you. He is looking at life through the lens of faith.
Second is to reevaluate where your focus is. The test here: is my hope determined by the size of my problems or the certainty of God’s promises? I mean, is your hope where the promises are? Those problems are getting smaller. Or is it these big promises of God? Where is your hope focused?
The apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, and they have their share of struggles. The Roman Empire is persecuting Christians. And he says to them, “For everything that was written in the past,” the Old Testament, it instructs us or teaches us, “that through,” listen carefully, “endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And then he quotes a number of Old Testament passages, about four or five, about the inclusion of the Gentiles. And then he ends with verse 13 of chapter 15, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In our dependency, I’m going to challenge you, one of the things that God wants to do is break down some of our preconceived ideas and our focus. For then it was Jew or Gentile. For some of us, it’s Black and White. For others, it’s different tribes. For some of you in different countries, though you love Jesus, there is this division, there’s this prejudice.
God wants to take us to this place of dependency that brings about unity. He says He gives encouragement and He gives – what? Endurance. How? Through the Scriptures.
Here’s the question: where is your mind going? Does your mind focus on the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? Or are you focused on the promises, the promises, the promises?
As I shared before, one of the reasons I memorize Scripture, one of the reasons I renew my mind, one of the reasons I sing and worship out loud is I want to fill my mind and my heart with the truth and the promises of God so I could look at the very challenging and discouraging circumstances in a fresh way – God’s way. You see, it’s perspective.
Finally, we reevaluate our motivation. And the test is: is your primary motivation and the motivation of your heart to love Christ or simply experience relief and get what you want for you? This is a hard one to be honest with. But as I shared, I think the brothers and sisters that I have met around the world have taught me more about a pure love than anybody else in the world, because they – there is very little hope for any financial gain or fame or life getting better.
They do what they do, they experience what they experience, and you all suffer what you suffer because you love the Lord Jesus.
As I close, when you start to get discouraged, are you ready? I just want you to remember three words. That’s all you need. Three words. As you struggle, the ART of survival, word number one is FAITH. God is in control. Word number two is HOPE. You are His child. He has a place, a plan, and a promise for you. And the last word is LOVE. Suffering is a chance and a privilege for you and for me to express our love for the Lord Jesus.
Father, these are words of hope and life, but we confess in our humanity, in our fallenness that they are very challenging words to apply. Lord, thank You for Your Word that gives us encouragement. Thank You for the examples of David and Moses and Deborah and Esther. Lord, thank You for Paul and Peter and John. Lord, thank You for people in our life, the heroes of today that blaze the trail, that love You, that live by faith, that focus on what is unseen rather than what’s seen.
And, Lord Jesus, may we be those kind of people. Thank You that we are not victims, that we are more than conquerors in Christ. Will You fill us with perspective and wisdom and hope and will You grant us the ability to fight the good fight, to finish the race, to do all that You have called us to do? In Jesus’ name, amen. God bless you. Let’s keep pressing ahead.