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Dr. Tony Evans

A Firm Foundation – Part 2

We continue our series from the book by Dr. Tony Evans, “Can God be Trusted in our Trials?”

Today we’ll keep our focus on laying a foundation that can withstand any trial.

Dr. Evans says being blown by the winds of a difficult trial is a poor time to discover that your spiritual Foundation is shaky or weak. Last week we talked about the house in Matthew 7 being built on sand or on rock. The difference between acting from a divine standpoint and a human standpoint.

So what is that difference?

A human viewpoint is one where we believe whatever we’re told by others to believe. A human viewpoint may make a person feel comfortable for a while (sand), but when the tide of life comes in, it gets swept away. The divine standpoint allows you to take the Word home and apply it (rock). Many times, the issue of whether we are wise or foolish is not what church we attend or how often we attend; but instead, what we do with God’s truth.

Hearing God’s word is not enough. In James 1:25 he reminds us that it is not the forgetful hearer, but instead the effectual doer, who will be blessed in what he does.

Dr. Evans reminds us that the storm that battered the two homes in Jesus story did not determine the two men’s foundations, it only exposed them. When you find a storm like this or run into a storm like this, you’d better have the right foundation. If Jesus is your foundation, you’ll be able to withstand the storm. But if he isn’t your foundation, you need to get started pouring a new one today. The middle of a crisis is a bad time to figure out that your house is shaking and shuddering as the foundation washes away.

Now you might be thinking, “I think that Jesus is my foundation but I’m really being battered by this trial. I’m scared to death and to be really honest, I’ve kind of been wondering if Jesus really knows what I’m going through.” If you’ve ever felt that way…you are not alone! Many Christians have had the same questions in the storm, which is why Mark 4 verses 35 through 41 are so important. They are a real life episode with Jesus and his disciples.

jesus-calms-storm1

When Jesus and the disciples went over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a huge storm came up and they were in trouble. The Greek word for the storm emphasizes that it came out of nowhere; one of those completely unexpected storms that the Sea of Galilee was famous for. The disciples were experienced fisherman, but they panicked. They turned around and looked at Jesus, but he was asleep in the stern of the boat. The disciples were upset and said in verse 38, “teacher do you not even care that we are perishing?” Dr. Evans paraphrases this: “Jesus we hate to bother you, but we could use a little help here. If you really care about us, get up and do something!”

Here’s the good news. Jesus got up and stilled the storm. That was the easy part. Then he turned to the Twelve and said in verse 40: “why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” Jesus’ question may seem a little harsh, but he said it because his men had forgotten what he had said before they ever got in the boat. He said, “let us go over to the other side.” He did not intend for his disciples to go out halfway in the water and drown. Once again the Twelve had heard Jesus say this, but in the middle of their crisis they forgot what he said. So when you seem to be drowning, remember what Jesus said.

Did Jesus know that storm was coming? Of course. Did he send the disciples into it on purpose? Yes, he did. Why? To teach them the same lesson we need to learn over and over again: when you have Jesus, you have a foundation that is built with the storms of life in mind. Nothing surprises or overwhelms him. With Jesus as the foundation of your life, you can endure the storms of life and the battering that it brings. Nothing can tip over your boat when Jesus is in it.

Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Todd

A Firm Foundation

Today we continue our series from the book by Dr. Tony Evans, “Can God be Trusted in our Trials?”

Today we’ll focus on laying a foundation that can withstand any trial.

Dr. Evans says being blown by the winds of a difficult trial is a poor time to discover that your spiritual Foundation is shaky or weak. So he’ll be giving us some tips that we’ll be sharing over the next few weeks about laying a solid foundation for our lives that would enable us to withstand any test or trial that the world, the flesh, or the devil can throw at you. The architect for the job is Jesus Christ himself.

Jesus finished The Sermon on the Mount with one of the best-known stories in all the Bible – he told of two men who built houses on different foundations and then describes what happens to each man’s house. We read this in Matthew 7 verses 24 through 27:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

So as we look at this story, we see a tale of two men. They had a lot in common, but they also had one crucial difference.

The similarities are that each man has the same dream. Each man wanted to build a house for his family. But we could also say that both men had the same pastor. Jesus said that both men heard his words. They both listened to the same sermon and both men were exposing themselves to the truth of God.

But the similarities between these two men faded into the background when the storm hit, because the wind and the waves revealed one critical difference between them – a different Foundation to their homes.

The difference is so major that Jesus called the first man ‘wise’ and labeled the second man ‘foolish.’ So we need to consider those terms.

So how can we avoid a foolish foundation? Foolish originates from a Greek word that means “moron.”  A fool in the Bible is not someone who lacks cognitive ability, but a person with a complete lack of biblical comprehension and discernment…so a lack of skill in living. What’s worse is that the fool doesn’t recognize his foolishness so he can correct it.

You can’t build your house on sand, because if you try to dig deep, the sand will cave in. The foolish man went with the cheap and easy way out. He didn’t want to pay the cost, or take the time, to lay a strong foundation to his house.

So what made the difference? Jesus said it was the difference between just hearing his words and putting them into practice. Both men had all the proper ingredients for a firm foundation. They heard Jesus’ words. They both sat under the Word, but the first man took the Word home with him and applied it; and the second man left what he heard on the Pew along with his bulletin when he left church. It’s the difference between acting from a divine standpoint and a human standpoint.

More about that next week! Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Todd

Trusting God in the Fire

Today we continue our series from the book by Dr. Tony Evans, “Can God be Trusted in our Trials?”

Last week, we shared that the time to look to the savior is not just when things are going well and you’re singing praises, but when the pain is the most intense and you feel like you’re going to collapse any minute. God CAN be trusted in our trials because he’s given us the fuel to press through them.

Today we’re going to share a famous Bible story that really underlies the importance of our faith in our belief as we go through trials. The three Hebrew boys of Daniel 3 were captives of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and that certainly was a trial. Of course, we’re talking about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Shadrach+Meshach+and+Abednego

The king and made a golden image and declared that everyone in Babylon should bow down and worship it. But these three young Jewish men could not do that without violating God’s commandment to worship no other God, so they refused. King Nebuchadnezzar says in Daniel 3:15 “if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire…and what God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Now as far as the King was concerned, the only options were to bow or burn; but it didn’t ruffle these Hebrew boys because they had a third option: BELIEVE. Dr. Evans loves what they said to the king: “we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.”

In other words, “this is going to be very quick; we don’t even need to think about it, your highness. We discussed this before we ever took this job and we agreed that if the choice came down to our God or you, you would lose.

If our God wants to, he can deliver us from your fiery furnace, because he is able to do that. But even if he doesn’t, and we roast to death in there, he still the only God and we aren’t going to worship your image.

Now, the important thing is to not skip over that opening phrase in verse 18 “but even if he does not deliver us from the fire.” We love to hear the part about how God delivered them from the fiery furnace and then later delivered Daniel from the Lion’s Den, and that’s okay…

But…the point of Daniel 3:18 is that these three young men realized that God might not choose to deliver them in the way that they had hoped. They understood that if they defied the king, they might get tossed into the furnace. But whatever God chose was fine with them because they believed he would act on their behalf…and they put their faith into action.

When you fix your eyes on Jesus and begin acting as if what He said is true, you are in a win-win situation. To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord – that’s in 2 Corinthians 5:8. You can’t lose with Christ.

None of us can promise that trusting God will get you out of your crisis. But we can promise that trust in God will keep you from being in your crisis alone. The author of Hebrews said of Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross;” that’s in Chapter 12 verse 2. The cross was not something Jesus wanted to endure. But he fixed his eyes on his father in Heaven and the joy that would be his when he had accomplished the father’s will.

Dr. Evans wraps up the segment by sharing something that he says hopes will put steel in your backbone and joy in your heart as you go through the trials of life.

The Bible not only says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, but also that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly places. That’s in Ephesians 2:6. This is not just something we will enjoy someday when we get to heaven. This is our present reality as believers. So if you feel as if you’re about to lose heart in your trial, before you give up, look up and see Jesus seated at God’s right hand.

And that gives you the access to all the God the father has for you. Keep your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith.

Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Todd

Praise Thursday – Belief in the Trials!

Today we continue our series from the book by Dr. Tony Evans, “Can God be Trusted in our Trials?”

Last week we talked about making sure that faith is at the forefront of trusting God through our trials. This week, we’re going back to the book of Hebrews to get more encouragement. This week, it’s about making sure that we are intentional to get in the race to work with God through our trials.

Dr. Evans, when he refers to “getting in the race,” is writing about making sure we are pushing back against unbelief. Using faith to help us push forward. In Hebrews chapter 4, it reminds us that the struggles of the Israelites, as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land, stemmed from the fact that they had lost their belief in God and they were not united in their faith.

Remember in life, we can anchor a lot of things – we can anchor a swing set, a basketball hoop, a fence post or anything else we want with cement, but it has to be mixed with water to become concrete and hold.

In a shaky situation where you need an anchor for your soul, you need to mix God’s truth with your faith. In other words, you act as if God will provide you with the strength to bear your trial.

Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that once we get rid of the sin of unbelief, that tangles us up so easily, we can run the race with endurance. It’s the same thing that James says in Chapter 1, verse 4: keep going; don’t quit, let endurance have its perfect result.

Sometimes, our response to that is, “but I’m tired.” And that’s true; we all get tired. But God will give us grace to press on for one more day tomorrow and then he’ll meet us again with grace to endure the day after tomorrow.

Remember what Matthew 6:34 says: “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.” You may not see anything but the crisis right now, but God’s Word assures you that Christ is in your crisis. And that’s all any of us really needs to know.

Hebrews continues with more wisdom in chapter 12, verse 2, when it reminds us to, “keep our eyes on Jesus the author (or the architect) of our faith; and the perfector (or completer) of our faith.

That means he is everything between the start and the finish of the race called the Christian life. The time to look to the savior is not just when things are going well and you’re singing praises, but when the pain is the most intense and you feel like you’re going to collapse any minute.

God CAN be trusted in our trials because he’s given us the fuel to press through them.

Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Todd

Praise Thursday: Maturing through Trials

One of the things that Dr. Evans has been writing about (and we’ve been discussing over the last couple of weeks) is the fact that God wants to mature us through our trials.

The basic principle is that trials help us grow up and help us understand that sometimes, our crisis will be a short, momentary interruption. Sometimes these trials will be long-term. Still, God helps us achieve a new level of growth regardless of the length of the trial.

The section we’re talking about today is speeding our spiritual growth and it comes in the book of James. James 1:4 reminds us that God’s purpose for our trials is that we grow until we are “perfect and complete,” or fully mature.

So today we’re going to talk about the difference between physical and spiritual growth.

We all see this.  Sometimes you meet people who have only been Christians for 5 or less years, but they’re more mature spiritually than others who have been saved for 30 years.

So the speed at which we grow is directly related to the speed at which we go in fully committing Our Lives to the Lord.

Dr. Evans gives a couple of practical examples. Two families will experience severe financial trials:

  • The first family, by their own testimony, recognizes that they have not been good stewards of the resources God gave them, and the Holy Spirit convicts them of the need to transfer their trust from money to their Lord. They learn the lesson start giving to God first and trust Him to turn their situation around.
  • The second family keeps saying, “I know I’m supposed to be giving to the Lord but I can’t afford to right now. I was going to start here and start there…” but…they never do it. Now we all understand that emergencies will happen to all of us, but Dr. Evans is talking about believers who have been doing this dance for years and still haven’t grown to the point that they can trust God completely.

Now this illustration can also work the other way. Many Christians say that even though they were doing quite well financially without honoring God, they pay a heavy price in terms of ill-health, ruined marriage, lost peace of mind or serious family problems. And in many cases when they persisted in their lack of faith in God, it resulted in their financial house crumbling down.

In Hebrews chapter 5 verses 13 and 14 there is a difference presented between milk and meat – the diet of babies and adults.

13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

We know that babies can’t take meat because their systems are not mature enough to digest it. The same principle is true in the spiritual realm.

In passages like this, the term milk is generally understood to represent the basic easier doctrines of the faith like sin and salvation. Meat, is the deeper or harder to understand parts of scripture.  So while John 3:16 would be milk, talking about the high priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 5 and 6 would be meat.

The difference between milk and meat goes deeper than a difference in the amount of Bible knowledge you have in your head. Milk, biblically understood, is elementary teaching about Christ, or understanding what the Bible says.

Meat then, is understanding and applying what the Bible says. When you understand what God is telling you in his word, and when you comprehend what it means and what it requires, that’s great; but when you start applying it to your life practically that’s when you start to flourish.

The other trap we fall into is that we want the meat to happen very quickly and we don’t have the patience to go through day by day, month by month and year by year in the practice that leads to being trained or becoming spiritually mature.

The process takes time. God wants us to emerge from our trials more mature than when we started. God is not going to rush the process he wants us to practice, so we will be fully-trained and ready to go.

The Holy Spirit’s job is to apply Divine truth to your life so you can make Godly decisions between good and bad, right and wrong. Maturity is the ability to make decisions with the truth not just recite the truth.

When there is no ability to make decisions, there is no maturity.

Dr. Evans is trying to remind us that when God sends us on a trial, it’s a practice session. He’s calling us to put into practice on Monday the truth that we said “amen” to on Sunday.

Just like a football team who works hard to execute its plays in practice so that in the real game they can execute properly, God wants us to practice righteousness until our senses are well-trained and we are mature… because the world, our own sinful flesh and the enemy are waiting to resist us.

We become spiritually mature when the information we take in, or the milk, is translated into our daily practice, or the meat. Why can God be trusted in our trials?  Because trials help us develop spiritual maturity, which in turn glorifies God.

THANKS FOR LISTENING!
– Joe and Todd

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