You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience. –A.B. Simpson, evangelist and church founder
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NASB)
God wants to do something great through us, not just for us. The very thought strikes a chord of hope in our hearts!
Joseph’s wilderness experience preserved not only the lives of his family—including the lineage of Christ—but also a multitude throughout the entire region.
During difficult, isolated seasons, we are tempted to think primarily about ourselves. We wonder if God has perhaps abandoned us. We focus on the wrongs inflicted by others. We wallow and stew, unable to make any real sense of what appears to be an unjust existence. But what if? What if God was up to something greater, a marvelous work transcending our natural ability to see?
God Works All Things to the Good of His People
We can draw great comfort and encouragement from the Scriptural promise that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). As we take the time to consider this promise, we can’t help but realize its unique nature.
No matter what we go through, no matter how painful the journey, or how horrible the experience, our God promises to work it all out for our greater benefit. And what is our greater benefit? That we would “become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
Only minimal effort is required to recognize that an integral aspect of Christ’s character is His love for others. It wasn’t for His own benefit that Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days; our Lord and Savior paid a huge price for the sake of others. If we are to be conformed into Christ’s glorious image, then it is entirely reasonable that a primary purpose for such a transformation would be to benefit people other than ourselves.
God loves you, that’s for sure, but it’s not about you as much as you might think.
The Value of Adversity
Through the years, I have observed that God is not especially efficient with His use of time—never does He run on a Western schedule. God-ordained wilderness experiences can go on for years. However, our Lord does appear to be quite effective with His use of the trials and tribulations that we experience in this broken world—even when they do not make sense to us.
When Debi and I began doing campus ministry, our initial twenty-one months were frustrating, painful, and visibly unproductive. The several years that followed weren’t much to brag about either. Throughout that long season of struggle, we often wondered what had happened to the promises we felt God had given us.
In time, we did see a measure of success and I eventually found myself coaching other campus ministers. I soon discovered that I had been through just about every struggle they were experiencing. I was elated (and somewhat relieved) to see the powerful effects that my victories over my previous struggles were having on their lives and ministries.
It was something I never could have foreseen; the full picture came together only as I entered that new phase of service.
It’s Not About You
The day you became a Christian was the day you gave—or should have given—God the freedom to write the story of your life, to use you for His good pleasure, to accomplish His plans and purposes in His good time.
Yes, it is essential that you grasp His extreme love for you, possessing the acute awareness that you are always in His thoughts, but don’t be fooled into believing that your difficulties are only about you. They’re not.
Remember, it’s not about you. Your God wants to do something great through you, not just for you. Your wilderness journey, when aligned with the dynamics of God’s eternal kingdom, will produce succulent fruit from which a multitude of others will feast!
This post is drawn from Chapter Forty-Five of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers