by Phil Enlow

From a message preached at the Bible Tabernacle in January 2019.

I’ve been thinking about today’s service and my mind keeps coming back to a single word. And it’s an exciting subject called, “trouble”! I feel like the Lord wants to explore it just a little bit this morning and give us, perhaps, a fresh look.

An obvious starting point can be found in the words of Jesus in John 16. The occasion was the night before He was crucified. Jesus was giving his disciples words of instruction, of encouragement, knowing that very shortly they would be frightened and scattered. He knew they needed to have a sense that everything would turn out OK even though they didn’t understand what was happening at the time.

It seemed, at least, that they had reached a certain level of conviction as to who He was and that He was from God. Of course, Jesus knew their faith was still weak, so He said in verses 31-32, “Do you now believe? A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

Verse 33 continues, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Thank God for that balance! On the one hand we see trouble; on the other, overcoming and peace! We get a realistic statement about the world in which we live, and yet, a clear sense of hope in Jesus.

I looked up the word “trouble.” The English word, “trouble,” is used as a translation of several different original words and some of them could easily be translated, “adversity.” Our nature wants things to be smooth, doesn’t it? We want our circumstances to be pleasant, our natural desires fulfilled.

And yet, we know from both the Word and by experience, that that is not the kind of world we live in. Not only that, we know that this present world is headed for catastrophe. It is a very temporary place, and God has a larger purpose in it than just “smoothing our feathers” and making life comfortable.

It would be easy to simply go through all the familiar scriptures on this subject, but I thought of a different approach. Suppose you were from somewhere other than this world. Somehow, you arrive here and begin to observe. And imagine also, that you were able to see, not only the physical world, but also the spiritual realm, and that someone is available to answer any questions you might have.

As you observe, questions indeed arise in your mind: why do things happen as they do? Will someone please explain what I am seeing?

And so, whoever is explaining it to you says, “Well, there’s a God who is over all. He is everywhere, all-powerful, and He has a plan from the beginning of the world. He created a beautiful world and a race of people that He intended to be His sons and daughters, to live with Him and to enjoy Him, to share His life and goodness.

“But one of His servants rebelled and became His enemy. And this enemy led the new race into rebellion and so now the world is under the dominion of this wicked being who causes the trouble you see everywhere.”

Naturally, your question then is, “Well, He’s all-powerful. Why doesn’t He just fix it? Why doesn’t He simply step in and end all the trouble?” And so, the answer comes back, “Well, now, let’s watch. Let’s see what God is doing with this.”

And so, as we observe, we see God speaking to people, making them aware of their need and His loving plan. In process of time some respond. There is a radical change of allegiance from this world to God’s kingdom.

In their former delusion they had actually believed that they could be their own gods and do whatever they wanted to do. In fact, God’s enemy, known as Satan or the devil, was their god and they were headed for destruction. Now, because of God’s loving intervention, they were part of something eternal and wonderful. There was a home for which they were destined, far beyond this troubled world, a home that would never know trouble.

It would then be very natural, looking from the outside, to say, “Well, that’s wonderful! Praise God! All He has to do is just lift them out of here and take them there.” And the answer comes back, “They are not ready for that. There is a special place for everyone that becomes a part of that kingdom, but there is a preparation needed. And not only that, there is a purpose for every one of God’s children as long as they remain in this present world.

“And even though they have become a part of God’s kingdom, they still think and act too much like people of this world. They need to be changed.”

And so, your reaction is, “Well, that’s wonderful! Let the sun shine and let’s have them go to Sunday school and church and learn all about it and that will fix everything, right?” But the answer is, “It doesn’t work that way.”

And so, you’re watching one of God’s children and you see this devil come up and begin to cause them trouble. They’re going along, life is fine, they’re not doing anything wrong, but all of a sudden terrible trouble comes into their life.

You say, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. Why isn’t God stepping in? Why doesn’t He stop that?” And he says, “Just wait and watch.”

And so, you see the person involved begin to cry out and say, “Oh, God, I can’t handle this. Lord, I don’t understand. I have so many questions. Lord, help me to understand what I need to understand. Please help me be strong.”

And you’re sitting there watching all of this and you observe how trouble drives them to seek God’s help. As they seek Him, they learn more about themselves and also about Him and His plan and purpose. You watch them begin to grow and get stronger in their confidence toward God and their attitudes toward others and they begin to be changed.

And whoever is talking to you says, “You know, it’s kind of like a sculptor. God is creating every one of His children to be a special masterpiece. Everyone is different and God is working on each one as a unique individual. When one creates a sculpture there are things that must be chipped away.

And so, God is chipping things away, and the person who’s being chipped usually doesn’t understand at the time. And so, they react and say, “Oh, God, not that!” And the Lord says, “Yes, that! Let it go!”

Now remember, we’re standing outside, looking at this from an outsider’s point of view and whoever is talking with us says, “Don’t forget, God planned all this before the world began. And here we are, watching the middle of it. We’re seeing the outworking of something.” And so, our question is, “Okay, I still don’t quite understand what’s going on. How does this come out?”

And the one explaining says, “God has got this! The God who planned this from all eternity has absolutely got His hand on that person. He knows the plan. He knows how much to let the devil get in there. The devil can’t do anything unless the Lord lets him. So, if trouble comes and the devil’s brought it, don’t ever forget that the Lord has sent it! And He sent it because of a loving, wonderful, personal purpose. He has a reason. The finished ‘sculpture’ will be amazing.”

There’s nothing I’m saying that we haven’t heard many times, but it seems like we need this right now. We need it because we’re every one of us in real life situations.

And the trouble we’re talking about isn’t necessarily some terrible, outward thing that comes upon us, like our property being destroyed, or someone being sick, or someone having just died, or something like that. It could be something that’s deep inside your own heart that you’re struggling with and no one else knows about. But oh, it’s trouble.

“Oh, God, I’m struggling, I’m full of fear. Something happened to me that was traumatic and it’s eating on me and I can’t let it go. It rises up and begins to cause trouble in the present.” This touches on every facet of human nature.

Recently we spoke about the devil and the many ways he works. He is so deceived in his mind that he is still trying to win. His nature drives him to do what he’s doing. He is going to work relentlessly until the very end – and that end is coming!

But imagine now you’re still standing out there, looking, and saying, “Help me to understand what’s going on. Why is the Lord letting the devil do that?

And the answer comes back, “The devil is only a tool, a tool in the hands of God to fulfill something that is eternal. That something is a purpose that God conceived in His mind from the beginning. Everyone that He deals with, every person that He calls to His kingdom is someone that He knew intimately before He ever created the world.”

That’s mind boggling! To think that there are things in the depths of my being that I don’t even know about, yet God knew them, long before I was born! And He loves me anyway! What a God we serve, Who’s able to take the tangled threads of this world and weave them into something that is eternal!

And I can just hear you saying as you observe the scene, “Well, the devil must be awfully frustrated. He can’t possibly win and yet there he is. All he’s doing is spinning his wheels and everything he does turns out serving God’s purpose instead of his. Praise God!”

And isn’t it interesting how the Lord wants us to react in all of this. He begins by saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” (NIV). Peace. That’s amazing!

If we could see, if we could suddenly see from the point of view of someone from the outside, wouldn’t that change things? We could actually sing, “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us,” and believe it, in practice! We sing a lot of things — and it’s good to profess them — but there’s a lot more to truly possessing something than simply getting information, no matter how accurate it might be.

God wants to do something in us that’s real, that’s practical. We could have the most perfect doctrine, the most perfect program that one could conceive, and we would still have nothing of eternal value if God didn’t come and really transform lives and hearts.

And the only way He can do that is to introduce what we call trouble in some form or other. And so, trouble is not our enemy, it is our friend. If we could see these things from an outside point of view it would be a lot easier to cast all our cares on Him, knowing He cares for us. We could enjoy more of the peace that passes understanding! He says. “… you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Of course, the scriptures allow us in a sense to observe the lives of the saints of old from an outsider’s point of view. We often see, not only the outward events, but also that which is unseen by natural eyes. We see Satan at work, but we also see God at work, overruling to carry out His great purposes.

Think about the life of Jesus. He humbled Himself to come down to the world in which we live. He came to a world of trouble and experienced it all, in one form or another. I’m so glad we have someone like that to whom we can go!

Think of the weakness, think of the vulnerability, in a sense, of being a little fetus and then a little baby, completely helpless, completely dependent upon a human mother. Yet God overshadowed every bit of that. There He was, a little child and some wise men came from the east and, in all innocence, they went to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (KJV). And Herod, the king, heard about it and asked them to return and tell him where to find the child!

Now what do you think was going on behind the scenes? Do you think, just maybe, the devil saw an opportunity to destroy Jesus while he was a young vulnerable human being?

So, what did Herod do? When the wise men, warned by God, didn’t return to tell the king how to find the young child, he became angry. His response was to send soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every child under two years old. Now what was the inspiration behind that?

We see Satan trying to act, but then we also see God intervening. He sent an angel and warned Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night. And so, they weren’t there. And over and over you see this in the life of Jesus, Satan constantly trying to find some way to get to Him, to undermine Him.

There were times Jesus wouldn’t go certain places because they were out to kill Him and it wasn’t the time, it wasn’t the purpose of God at that point. We see Jesus going out into the wilderness and at His weakest point the Father stepped back and Satan was allowed to come at Him to appeal to His human nature from every possible angle. But Jesus prayed and looked to His Father and found strength to overcome.

I don’t doubt that this was at least one of the experiences to which the writer to the Hebrews referred when he wrote, “… he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Heb. 5:7-8. Jesus did some serious praying!

I wonder how serious we are sometimes. But He understood the issues. He said, in effect, oh, God, I’m here to do Your will, not mine. I’m part of something that’s eternal and my whole hope, my whole trust is in You. I recognize there is a war going on. Satan is being allowed to work on me.

And isn’t it interesting that the very scripture that talks about how He had to cry out and pray also tells us that He learned — learned — obedience. There were things Jesus had to personally experience as a man before He was ready to carry out the Father’s purpose. And it only came as trouble came. And trouble came because the Father stepped back and allowed the devil to do his thing.

The devil’s purpose was to destroy Him. God’s purpose was to shape Him and make Him the Savior that we need and worship today! Praise God!

So, the Father was changing Him, and He learned, “… obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect….” Wait a minute, I thought He was perfect? But He needed a completeness that could only happen as He came to live in a world of sin and trouble and overcame, personally, while feeling every weakness that you and I have ever felt. And He came through it all, remaining pure from sin!

Think about what He says: “… take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV). He knew that there was a victory that He had come to win. He understood the battle! He understood the Father’s plan! He understood His place in it and He yielded Himself to that place!

Is that not what God has called every one of us to in His Kingdom? To absolutely give our lives to Him so that He can shape us for His purpose, not only here, but in eternity? Praise God, I believe this is something He wants us to better understand!

In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you….” Praise God! I’m not going to go to the extreme where it’s all up to God and we have no responsibility, but there is a God Who chooses. There is a God who calls people out of this world.

We didn’t go looking for Him. He came looking for me. I would never, in a million years, have gone after Him. I would have lived and died in blindness if God had not overshadowed my heart, made Himself known to me, and then given me the strength and grace to repent and put my faith in Jesus Christ. I would never have done it. Neither would you.

And so, here is Jesus talking to His disciples saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Praise God!

But remember His words again in chapter 16: “Peace I leave with you….” Jesus was about to leave this world, but He said, I’m going to leave something for you. I’m going to leave my peace. He said, “… my peace I give you.”

Do you think Jesus is worried? Do you think He has any anxiety about whether God can fulfill His purpose? Does He want us to live in a state of anxiety, always fearful about the future, about how things will turn out?

No! We have access to the very peace of God. Isn’t that what it says? Is He at peace? Of course He is! He knows what He has purposed. He understands that the devil is just a tool. Satan cannot win when it comes to God’s people.

Do we understand that? Do we, in all the troubles of life, troubles that God uses to help shape us for his loving purposes, understand to the point that we can enjoy that peace? Do we really believe Paul’s words in Phil. 4:7 where he speaks of, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding”?

Indeed, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to mere human understanding. How can I be at peace with this going on? And yet we read, “… the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We have an awesome God and trouble is not our enemy! If we can understand the purpose of God, it is a friend and we can find rest in the very peace of God!

And surely one of those purposes involves bearing witness to the world. They’re looking on and saying, “I don’t understand this. Maybe they have something I need.”

I am certainly not making light of trouble. Trouble can be a traumatic, difficult thing. There are some terrible things that, from a human point of view, God allows His people to experience. But there is never a time, there is never a place where, if you’re His child, He has ever left you for one second. He will never ever forsake His own.

We can surely see these truths played out in the lives of many of God’s children, recorded for us in the scriptures. Think about Joseph and how God made Himself known to him. Somehow, when he was a young man, God gave him some special dreams. Do you remember?

And in both of those dreams, it became obvious that his own family would one day bow down to him. And of course, they all loved that! But God, in fulfilling His purposes, gave Joseph those special dreams and somehow planted real faith in him.

Scripture doesn’t even go into the details of what was going on in his heart and mind and how in the world he maintained this relationship with God. I had someone ask me the other day about that. What did he do for worship? He was all by himself in a foreign land.

You know, we have this concept of what it takes to serve God today, yet, there he was. Surely, we can see the sovereign hand of Almighty God overshadowing him. It wasn’t natural strength that carried him along.

But can you not see the devil scheming? He heard all about Joseph’s dreams and was determined to prevent them from ever coming true. He knew those dreams came from God.

So, the devil no doubt said to himself something like, “I had better do something. I know his brothers are older than he is and they’re going to hate him for this. So, I’m going to work on them, and they don’t even half know God. They’ve heard about Him, but they don’t really have any relationship with this God. So, I’ve got an easy job here of getting them mad at him.”

And then you remember how the father sent him out to find his brothers, and they, seeing him a long way off, conspired together to kill him. And then the Lord intervened and put it in Rueben’s heart to say, “No, let’s not kill him.”

So, they put him in a pit for a while, and then some slave traders came by who were headed for Egypt to do some business. And so, they got together, and decided they would sell him into slavery in Egypt – and make a little profit in the process! Where do you suppose the inspiration for that come from?

Of course, it came from the devil. But do you see the purpose of God? Do you see the hand of God in spite of what happened and how it happened? Do you see that there was a God who was absolutely over all?

And so, there he was, being carried off by strangers to a foreign land, sold by his own brothers! And we get a glimpse later of what was going on in his brothers’ hearts and minds as they thought back on what they had done. As trouble after trouble came upon them, God used it all to make them conscious of their guilt. They said in effect, “Didn’t we see the anguish of his soul when we did this to him? God’s paying us back.”

But can you imagine the feelings that were going through Joseph’s heart and mind? And yet, what an amazing account it is of someone who still had enough faith in God to be able to go down there to Egypt and live as a slave. And don’t you see the hand of God blessing him in the middle of that?

He wasn’t alone. God was with him. He may not have had human fellowship in the Lord, but he had the Lord, giving him confidence and faith to stand. And this wasn’t a short trial. He was 17 when this started. He was 30 when he came to the throne, elevated to the second highest place in the kingdom. That’s a long time. That’s 13 years of hell on earth, most of it.

God blessed him for a time as a trustworthy slave, and then, suddenly, Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and he was thrown in prison. The scripture talks about his feet being hurt with fetters of iron in Psalm 105. So, you see, from the devil’s point of view, everything that he was trying to do to engineer this man’s defeat, to cause the vision of God, the purpose of God, to fail.

Think about that. Do you think God’s purpose is going to fail? That’s what He wants everyone of us to understand. God’s purpose is not going to fail. What He’s looking for from me, what He’s looking for from you, is a heart that says, “God, by Your grace, I’m going to keep believing You. I’m going to keep trusting You. I’m going to see what is happening to me, that I may not like at the moment, as Your tool. The devil may be allowed to cause it, but You’re the One who has engineered exactly what is happening.”

And so, of course, Joseph was thrown in prison, and I know that had to be a traumatic thing. And yet, there he was, still maintaining his integrity, not yielding to bitterness. He continued to trust and serve God, to look to Him in spite of it all.

What a faith that was! It’s amazing to me, that someone who knew as little as he did about God was able to go on trusting in spite of the extreme circumstances! He didn’t have all the wonderful scriptures the Lord has given us to lean upon. Do you not see the hand of God overshadowing that young man’s heart, giving him that kind of faith and confidence?

We have the same God today Who will meet us with what we need to fulfill His purposes for us. Now, I don’t expect to be on an earthly throne someday! I doubt you will be either! But, every one of us has a place. Every one of us has a purpose whether it’s in your home, your job, your school, whatever it is. God has a purpose for your life, and He’s shaping you for that purpose.

God was shaping Joseph for an amazing job. It wasn’t about magnifying Joseph so he could be filled with pride and pursue wealth and power for selfish purposes. It was about lifting up a man for a particular purpose in a critical hour that was central to what God was doing in the earth.

And so, God gave him a faithful heart, and it was recognized, even in the prison. He was even allowed to run his section of the prison! All the prisoners were in his hands. And, of course, you remember the account of how two of the king’s servants were thrown into the prison where Joseph was, and how they had unusual dreams.

I wonder where that came from! Wouldn’t it be something, again, to stand outside and watch all this as an outside observer, and hear the Lord saying, “Well, it’s time to do something. I’m going to give these two guys some supernatural dreams, and they’re going to wake up and wonder. And they’re going to go to Daniel, and Daniel’s going to explain the dreams.”

In three days, both dreams were fulfilled. One man was restored to his position. The other one was hung. Of course, Joseph used the situation to try to help himself, as any of us would! He wanted the man who was to be restored to speak to the king on his behalf. How many times have you been in a situation where you had your timetable? You had it all figured out how things were supposed to happen!

Wouldn’t it be good if we would just say, God, I don’t know? I’m just trusting You. Lord, please do what You need to do. Do it Your way, and on Your time schedule, because that will be right. And then, I don’t have to worry about it. I can just rest, knowing that You will give me the grace that I need, step-by-step, whatever happens.

That’s the only way we can have peace. If we don’t have peace, are we really trusting Him? Do you see what’s happening? Instead of peace we are plagued with anxiety and uncertainty.

Anyway, Joseph tried to engineer his own deliverance, and that didn’t work. It wasn’t time. So, after two whole years, it was God’s time for deliverance. And so, He gave Pharaoh a couple of frightening, perplexing dreams, causing him to call all the wise men of Egypt in to explain them. Of course, none of them could. I wonder why!

Meanwhile, the butler was serving him wine, listening to all of this. Suddenly, the Lord brought back to his mind what had happened in prison and he told Pharaoh about it. He told him that when he and the baker had been sent to prison they, too, had had mysterious dreams, but there had been a man in the prison who had been able to interpret those dreams – and – the interpretations had come true.

Joseph, of course, knew nothing about all this. I wonder how many times, when we think nothing is happening, God is mightily at work on our behalf!

So, Joseph got up that morning, and to him it was a morning like any other, and he probably wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. And suddenly, the prison warden came in and told him to get ready because he was going to see Pharaoh! Can you imagine?

There’s a God Who can do more than we can ask or imagine, if we’ll trust Him. Up to this point it had seemed like the devil had successfully brought Joseph down and gotten him out of the way. Surely nothing could possibly come of all those dreams that he had had when he was a child – until God intervened! And when He did, there wasn’t a thing the devil could do about it!

They brought him before Pharaoh, and he interpreted the dreams, and everyone was so impressed, he was given the second highest position in the land. And then you remember how the rest of it happened.

But do you see, also in that, how God formed the man’s character? How many of us would have come through all of that, and still had a terrible time dealing with the trauma of what our brothers had done to us? How many of us would have had that festering in our hearts all those years? How many of us would have taken advantage of the situation and said, “Now I’ll show them; now’s my chance to get even”?

And yet, there was in Joseph a tenderness of heart, and when it finally came time for him to make himself known to his brothers, he was weeping. They were scared to death when they realized who he was, and yet, there he was, weeping, and, one after another, embracing them!

And then, after their father died, they came to him, still frightened. They thought perhaps he had held back from taking revenge because of his father, and now that his father was gone, they were in trouble. They still felt guilty for what they had done so long before. What a burden they had carried!

But Joseph said in Gen 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The devil indeed had been allowed to bring terrible trouble into Joseph’s life, but that very trouble is what brought him to the place where God’s purpose to save life could be fulfilled. And He had allowed things to unfold in a way that worked to form Joseph’s character, preparing him to be the kind of man who could be used to fulfill that purpose.

What insight, what wisdom God had given His servant! Oh, wouldn’t it be good if we had that kind of insight in our lives? This is not just for high important people. Those are the ones we read about. But in God’s Kingdom, every one of us is just as important to Him, just as loved. We’re just designed for a different place.

But I believe God wants us to understand, just as if we were like that imaginary outsider who observed both God and the devil at work influencing people’s lives. Yes, there are times of trouble that don’t seem to make any sense to us, yet God’s loving purpose prevails. He is using that wicked being down here as a tool. The devil has no chance. He’s already lost. He just doesn’t believe it. He’s deceiving himself. He’s going to fight to the bitter end! But all he can do is help to fulfill the very purpose of God. So, God’s children have no reason to be afraid, to be anxious, or to have anything but peace.

Here is something that I’m very conscious of: there is a lot of secondhand religion, secondhand faith. And, it’s wonderful that people can be exposed to truth, but that’s not enough! It must become yours! It must become personal, or what good is it? We could transmit the faith that we believe to every member of the younger generation, and they could know it, recite it, and sing about it, but if they never actually “possessed” it, coming to know the God that we have come to know, what good is it?

So, how does God bring people into a practical knowledge of Himself except through trouble that drives us to Him and causes us to feel our need? I pray that God will bring whatever trouble it takes to bring you and me to the feet of Jesus Christ, to a more practical heart faith in Him.

I pray that He will cause us to realize the utter futility of this present world. The further I go, the more I see how stupid and ridiculous and idiotic it all is. God can deliver His people in a practical sense, but it does not come by information alone. We need that, but we also need the personal experience of God.

David had experience with God, and so he was able to realize what the battle with Goliath was really about. It was almost like he could step back, like we have been doing, and see that this was not just a battle with a physical enemy. Something deeper was happening. There was a devil, a false god, a demon behind Goliath’s challenge. And this demon has the gall to challenge my God, and I know that He is God! So, this isn’t really my battle, but His!

Do we see that in our lives, or is that just a history lesson? Your troubles, your battles are not just your battles. They are God’s battles, and He takes them personally! He wants us to come to Him!

Too often we choose to just muddle through, and blindly charge ahead, unaware what it’s really about. But God wants to use everything that Satan is allowed to do to turn our hearts to Him so we will come to Him from the depths of our hearts and say, “Oh, God, I need You. I need You, Lord.”

Praise God! I need Him, don’t you? The further I go, the more I know I need Him. What a blessed place that is! And I’m so glad He’s not trying to bully me into fearfully serving Him and trying desperately to win His favor through my own efforts. How awful that would be!

We spoke about Job recently and the place that he occupied. I believe he is a pretty good example of secondhand, hand-me-down faith. He lived sometime in the era after the flood. For all we know, Noah may have still been alive. He lived 350 years after the flood. But one thing is for sure. He knew about God. He knew there was a God who judges sin.

And from his own lips, we have the expression, “… the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me.” (Job 3:25, KJV). What motivated his devotion to God involved a lot of fear about a remote God he had heard about, a great and powerful God Who judges wickedness. Job felt he had to do everything he knew to stay on His good side. Do you see that element in Job?

And God saw him doing what he knew to do and was pleased, but wanted better for him. He wanted Job to know Him and not just be afraid of Him. And so, Job was taken down a dark, deep valley.

When he came to the other end, do you think he still had that same kind of fear? Or do you rather think he came to a place where he knew God on a more personal level? He didn’t have to just listen to the stories about how Noah walked with God and how God had preserved him through a terrible flood! Now, Noah’s God became Job’s God, because he had personally experienced Him in the darkest times of his life. This great almighty God had made Himself known to Job and had come to his rescue.

And the blessing that He had afterwards was not just the fact that He had twice as much as he had had before. God did bless him in that way, but the blessing that mattered was that he had come to know his God. God had removed the fear from his heart.

Did you notice in the beginning what happened when the devil went before God? God Himself pointed out Job as a righteous man. The devil’s response was to point out that God had a “hedge” of protection around Job. In the devil’s mind – given his selfish nature – Job was only serving God for selfish advantage.

But doesn’t that reveal something? Do you realize that every single one of God’s children has a hedge about them? If something gets through that hedge, it is because God has allowed it.

The devil could not just attack Peter. He had to get permission. Jesus said, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31, NIV). Here’s Satan, in effect, asking for permission to be God’s tool! What blindness!

But it was the same kind of spirit: “I know human flesh. I know humanity. You let me at him just the right way, and I can bring him down.” And the Lord turns that thing right around and changes the individual, revealing Himself in a way that that person could never have otherwise known.

I know there are people here who have been down roads you would never have chosen in a million years. But yet, it’s brought you to a place where you know something about God that you didn’t know before, and there’s a depth of faith and peace that you have because of what you have gone through. Every single one of us could say that, who have known Him any length of time. I thank God!

You know that song, “Thank God for the Valley,” that Jackie has sung many times over the years, has a tremendous, simple truth. This is how we know Him. David had to go through the valley of the shadow of death, didn’t he? How many times have we referred to all he went through before he reached the throne! That pathway could easily be described as “hell on earth” and it lasted many years.

The devil was free to attack him in so many ways, and yet, over and over again, he called upon God. He kept his integrity. He looked to God, and in it all God was forming his character – but it was more than that! David was coming to a place of rest, of confidence in God, of knowing God so that when he got on the throne, he would be ready.

God knew there were things he was going to have to deal with that were going to be tough. But he was preparing His man just like He prepared Joseph, just like He prepared His Son, just like He prepared Paul, and so many others.

So, what is it that God is looking for in all of this? It’s easy to say that God simply wants my behavior to match up to a certain standard, and then things will be good. Is that really what God is after?

What is the heart of the new covenant? You know, there was a covenant of laws under Moses, of rules to live by, and sacrifices to offer when those rules were broken. But that covenant was temporary, designed to prepare people for a new one to come.

Jer. 31:33-34 gives us the prophecy of what was to come: “‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord.”

This new covenant, the one to which we have been called, is about far more than merely knowing “about” God; it is about “knowing” Him. And it is not just for the special ones, but for everyone, from the least to the greatest.

God wants a person-to-person, heart-to-heart, faith-to-faith relationship with every single one of His children. He cares about us. Remember the words of Jesus, reminding us that the hairs of our heads are numbered? Do you really think He doesn’t care about all the details of every single life?

When God brings trouble in our path, His whole heart is to do one simple thing: it’s to bring us to a deeper relationship with Himself. As we said earlier, God has purposed something from the beginning. That purpose is eternal and everything He does in our lives is designed to shape us for that purpose.

I pray that God will help every one of us to truly understand this simple truth in a much more practical way. Trouble is going to come in our lives. It comes at the hands of Satan, in one form or another. But Satan is only a tool. There is nothing he can ever do that can change the outcome of someone who has put their trust in Him.

We can live with that confidence, and in that confidence, we can have a rest that will carry us through. God is going to shape your life and mine. We might not like the process, but we’re going to love the result.

And one day, we’re going to stand before Him and be amazed beyond words. Scripture tells us that God has crowns for His people, but it also pictures the saints casting their crowns at the feet of Jesus, knowing that all the glory and praise belong to Him. His name alone is above every other name!

But right now, we’re in the middle of the war. There’s a hedge about you. Satan can do nothing but what God allows. But when He allows it, He’s going to take you through, and shape your character through it. He’s going to build faith in you. He’s going to glorify Himself. He’s going to make you the kind of person He wants you to be in this world. He’s going to help you to know Him in a way that perhaps you haven’t up until now. And there is going to be a lot more rest in it. To God be the glory!

In the world, you will have trouble! That’s a fact. But we don’t have to be afraid of it, because Jesus has overcome the world, and He has given us His peace, and we can lay hold of that in the middle of the worst trouble that we see, because God is faithful. Praise God!

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