Paul certainly knew sufferings, And He regarded them as opportunities. This is why James could sincerely admonish us to “count it all joy.”
Are you heading into a threatening storm? Is the course you’re on heading for rocks and shoals? As we travel, we are becoming aware that significant portions of our subscribers are going through very serious trials and “dark times.” As most of our regular readers know, Nan and I have also been blessed with a life-changing valley. We were “sitting on top of the world”: the fruits of a 30-year career in high-technology ventures had left us with substantial assets and a life of adventure and excitement.
However, we allowed ourselves to get overextended, and the Lord used a series of setbacks to redirect our entire lives to where He wanted us to be.
The Flight of the Phoenix
Our venture development firm, The Phoenix Group International, specializing in acquiring and repairing troubled technology assets, was named after the bird of the fable which rose from its ashes. (We should have done more homework: the Phoenix legend is about a mythical bird that burned every 500 years.)
Through a bizarre series of events, we succeeded in signing an $8 billion joint venture with the Soviet Union to provide personal computers to their 143,000 schools. (We later discovered that 16 companies from 7 countries had been competing for this. If we had known that earlier, we wouldn’t have had the guts to undertake a proposal!)
As the USSR subsequently began to unravel, our venture began to run into difficulties of several kinds. Our real mistake was the result of my personal arrogance: I attempted to prop up the venture, and the corporation, personally. (My Jewish friends have explained to me what a guarantor is: he’s “a schmuck with a pen.”)1
We went down in flames: the venture, the corporation, and our entire situation—including personal bankruptcy. The grinding mill of these events not only crushed our financial assets, it crushed our very identities.
In this short summary article, there isn’t the opportunity to recount the many priceless lessons of those dark times. But it is important to note that Romans 8:28 was still operative:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Probably the three most important words are the first three: “And we know...” It is the confidence in this commitment that sees you through the deepest of valleys.
There are several major errors we can make regarding trials: The first mistake is the failure to anticipate trials. Jesus suffered trials. And Jesus promised us trials.2 All the apostles suffered trials.
Trials are an expected part of the Christian life. And, like all storms, preparation can be critical in successfully enduring them.
As we encounter serious trials, we also need to remember Job. The secret to the Book of Job is to gain and maintain the divine viewpoint. When we read this earliest of books, realize that, as a reader, we have the advantage of the conversation between God and Satan in Chapter 1. Job didn’t.
Paul certainly knew sufferings,3 and he regarded them as opportunities. This is why James could sincerely admonish us to “count it all joy.”8 We need to remember that we are in a “boot camp” for heaven:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
(You and I cannot begin to imagine what this really means. Compare this to your wildest dreams on this earth...!)
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
And, as Paul develops in the eighth chapter of his letter to the believers in Rome, he climaxes with the greatest tour d’force in the Scriptures: Romans 8:31-39. Read it and apply it.
The Greatest Adventure
As the Lord refocused our lives—and our priorities—He led us to entirely new horizons: a worldwide ministry which is both transnational and trans-denominational, through a think-tank serving interactive Internet Bible studies “24/7” to thousands in over 70 countries! And now with a base in the South Pacific, which may be a gateway to all of Asia. (Nan refers to our time in New Zealand as “the vacation that never ends!”)If you are going through a major trial, drop us a note so that we can pray for you. And recognize that it may be your prelude to the greatest adventure of all!
And if you haven’t discovered the Koinonia Institute, check it out! It is intended to provide a membership commonwealth committed to assist you in pursuing whatever lifetime adventure that God is calling you to. Pray about joining us!