The Three C’s to Getting through Hardship – Dr Charles Stanley

Well, here we are again, waiting, watching, working, and I certainly hope praying. It's very difficult for all of us at this time, especially people who are so energetic and working and playing and energized with their children. Here we are stuck in our homes or in our offices, whatever it might be. And yet God has a purpose for everything. Sometimes we don't understand what that is, but He always has a purpose. And when I think about what God has in mind, one thing for certain, He uses every difficulty to draw us to Himself. So ask yourself this question: How close do you feel to God now? Has this driven you closer to Him? Or has it made you impatient, wondering and asking the question, "Why God, where are you?" Well, I can tell you where He is. He's where He's always been, waiting for us to give Him our full attention. And I think about this verse from Scripture, "The secret things of the Lord, our God belong to Him. And we have to understand and wait and watch and listen to see what he has to say. And of course we ask ourselves this question. Well, the Bible says in Romans 8:28, "We know that all things, everything, works together for the good for those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose." Now we can quote that verse, know it by heart, and yet, when it comes to times like this, we think, "God, what are you up to?" God always has a purpose for what He's up to, and we might ask the question, "We've had it so good in this country, is God pulling away from us the blessings that he has bestowed upon us?" Maybe because the way we responded. We've certainly not responded with gratitude and thanksgiving. And it just might be that He is allowing us to suffer some things that other nations have suffered for years and years. I think about the wars we've been through and how it drove people to pray and the difficulty and the hardship people went through. And I can remember even then that we were afraid. Well, whatever God allows in your life, remember this: When he says, "All things work together for good to those who love Him." Not just anybody but to those of us who've trusted Jesus as our Savior, He's in charge. He has our best interest at heart, so whatever's going on in your life right now, remember this. This is His commitment. He is in an attempt to work something good in this in our life. So would you say that you're walking in the will of God, in the right direction for God's will in your life? Or would you say the real truth is you need to repent of your sins, get right with God, get back into the Word of God? You'd have to say, well you use to read the Word, used to go to church, used to do this, used to do that. What about right now? He deserves our attention, so I want you to think about three words. And the first word is "cleansing." He says in the 119th Psalm, "David said, 'Before I was afflicted I went astray.'" So what is He saying? God says, "There's a specific purpose for some things He allows in our life." And I want to challenge you to stop, get on your knees or whatever it might be, get by yourself and ask God, "Lord, what are you saying to me personally? Before I was afflicted, I went astray, Lord, have I been astray? Am I astray now? Has anything changed since we had to stay at home, since I can't work, since I don't have the income I had? I'm afraid I won't have enough, but what has that done for me? And so the truth is, He says if we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us for our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You can make it right, right now by asking God to show you where you've been astray. Where you've neglected him, things you've just overlooked. When's the last time you've opened your Bible? When's the last time you sat down with your children and said, "Let's read the Word of God." Would you be ashamed to read the Bible with your children since you haven't for a long time? Forget it. It's time to open the Word of God with your children and say, "Dad's not opened this Word before you. I'm ashamed, I'm asking God to forgive me, and we want to get God back into our family." Cleansing is a big step. Then companionship. What about the time you've spent with your family? Have you spent it with your friends to the neglect of your family, your wife, and your children? What have you been doing with the time that you've had the privilege of spending it with your family? And so in times of trouble, we have to think differently about things, and that's the reason God sends it. He wants us to think personally, intimately about, "What I'm I doing with my life? Is my life clean? What about my time? How am I spending my time?" And, "Am I spending it sitting in front of the TV, or with my friends, or shopping, or sports, or what is it?" A good time for us to re-evaluate how we're living our life. So, when I look around and see what people are doing, I can think very evidently, "God, you have gotten our attention. You have brought this plague upon us." People would say, "No, God had nothing to do with it." "I don't think so." For the simple reason you look at at the Word of God. And, look at the times plagues have happened to other nations. What has it done? It has driven them to almighty God. I believe that's one of the reasons this is here, and we can listen to the doctors and the scientists and the politicians and all the other people, and yet, we have to listen to God. I love this verse when it says, "In the shadow of thy wings is my refuge." So we don't give up hope, we don't lose hope. We keep watching and listening and saying, "Okay, God, I'm trusting you." That's what this is all about: trusting God. Asking, "Lord, what are you trying to say to me?" We should all come out of this better men and women, more faithful to God, more faithful in his churches, more faithful with our finances. This is the time to re-examine, to look around us, to look at ourselves and for the first time, maybe in a long time, to be very, very honest. And I think about all of this that's going on and think about this question, God may be asking us, "Am I not enough, "Do you need all these things? "Am I not enough? Am I not enough that I'm your God, that I've promised to meet your needs, and yet you've been too busy doing other things?" Then there's the third word, and that's conformity. Conformity means to be made in the likeness of Christ, that God is in the process of using all of this, first of all, to get our attention, and secondly, not only to get our attention, but get us into His word. Get us into new relationships, being sensitive to other people's needs, so He always has a purpose for it. And when I think about what He says, Because He uses all things, everything, to get our attention, to bring us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Storms, difficulty, hardship, pain, suffering, shape us. And many people you and I know, when they give that personal testimony, they've been shaped in their character by hardship and trial and death and suffering. So would you say that God may be able, not only just be able, but ready and willing and not only that but that He's in the process of shaping you? Changing something about you in life that needs to be changed. Do you have the courage to ask him, "Lord, whatever's going on in my life, you got my attention, and I want you to shape me, Father. Take out of my life what shouldn't be there. Add what ought to be there. Get my focus on my family, get my focus on you, Father, and not only upon my friends and all the rest." We're going to get through all of this. But the one thing you want to be sure: you have not gone through all of this and that you remain the way you were. This is an opportunity for God to speak to you. So therefore, you must be a listener, willing to listen to almighty God speak to your heart, tell you what He wants to say to you, and then stand back and ask yourself the question, Am I willing to make whatever changes are necessary to have made this virus an advantage in my life, not some handicap, not something I'm going to complain about for years and years. But a time in my life when I listened to God for the first time. A time in my life when I not only listened to Him, but I decided to obey God and leave all the consequences to Him. Don't waste your sorrows, don't waste your trials, don't waste your heartache, don't waste your suffering. Turn all of that, by turning yourself over to Jesus Christ, surrendering your life to Him, and remember, that God works everything to our good if we're willing to listen, willing to trust Him. And that's my prayer, that you will listen, that you will turn your heart toward God, and that you will allow this time to have been one of the most advantageous times in your life. Listening to God and choosing to obey him. So let's pray together. "Father, I pray today that every person who hears this message will be honest enough to open their heart to you, examine themselves, be willing to yield themselves to you, and let this be a new era in their life. Be willing to walk out of this virus saying, 'Thank you, God, for what you've done in my heart. You've opened my eyes and my ears to the truth. Lord, here's my heart, here's my life. I'm all yours.' In Jesus' name, amen."