The Christian’s “Moment of Truth”

The phrase “moment of truth” first appeared in Earnest Hemingway’s 1932 bullfighting story “Death in the Afternoon,” from Spanish el momento de la verdad.(1) In a bullfight, the “moment of truth” is when

“to end a bullfight, the matador takes his sword and must get the bull to charge straight at him, so that he can lean over the bull’s horns and kill him by stabbing just behind the back of the head. Many matadors can do very graceful and artistic moves with the cape and the maleta (the red cloth-on-a stick used to lure the bull) but lack the nerve to do the final killing properly. The ‘moment of truth’ is when he and the audience find out if he really has what it takes.”(2)

The phrase has come to mean a decisive moment of a challenge or test in which one finds if they have the strength, integrity, and courage to do the right thing. For the one who follows God, the phrase as come to mean a time in which we are tested by a temptation or a situation in which we see how strong our faith is and how much we really depend on God.

Believers Standing in the Moment of Truth

In a time of trial or temptation, our character is revealed. The Bible is filled with examples of faithful men and women who stood strong in the face of severe trial.

When David faced the giant Goliath he had great confidence in God’s ability to bring a victory, 1 Samuel 17:31-27. David knew Goliath was defying the armies of Israel, 1 Samuel 17:23-24. Even though King Saul, the brothers of David, and Goliath had no faith in David, in the moment of truth, David’s faith in God brought about a victory.

The book of Daniel begins with Daniel and friends courageously requesting a special diet that would allow them not to violate their conscience though they were new captives under a conquering government. They rose to positions of power and were challenged with a test of faith: Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image and commanded others to worship it on a given time. Daniels friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, had a chance to give up and live or obey God with a chance to die. Though cast into the fiery furnace they were protected from the fire and Nebuchadnezzar was taught a lesson.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was heavy with sorrow and struggled with the violent death He was about to face and the anguish His family and friends would endure. Matthew 26:36-46 tells how Jesus trusted the Father to strengthen Him in trial and take care of Him through death.

We could give many other examples: Abraham being commanded to offer Isaac, apostles being brought before the worldly powers and commanded to quit preaching Jesus, the Christians persecuted from town to town, etc. These examples demonstrate how God’s people will often find times in their lives when they face a test or a temptation, a “moment of truth”, where their faith and obedience is tested.

Our Moment of Truth

We will all face moments of truth. Our friends and family may not know we are facing the test: it may come when we are alone or around strangers away from home. Our loved ones may be going through a moment of truth and we do not realize it.

Our moment of truth may be a very public test with people we love, perhaps fellow Christians, watching to see how we will react when tested. We often do not know when these times will come. Sometimes they are disguised as small decisions about whether to do the right or wrong thing.

One against allIn high school, a friend of mine made what seemed like a small decision to hang out with some friends of poor moral character instead of the good friends that he used to hang out with. Soon they were involved in things like alcohol and drugs and, after being caught breaking into the school to steal some sound equipment, was sent away to live with his father in another state and to go down a different path.

Sometimes the test is obvious and you know that this decision will send you on a path closer to or farther away from God.

As a teenager I faced such a decision knowing that choosing one path would lead to a life of selfish and sinful living and the other path would lead to a devotion to Jesus and serving Him. I sat all afternoon on a mountain side contemplating my decision, counting the cost and examining my heart, with a determination that I would choose my path at sunset and live with it.

Many times the test will come when you are bruised, broken down, tired, abandoned, misunderstood, and feel that everyone has given up on you. At those times it is easy to give up on doing the right thing and giving into sin. It is when you are beat up and exhausted that you must dig deep and find the character to stand up, do the right thing, and prevail.

Revelation 2:10 – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Don’t give up, don’t quit

The moment of victory is often disguised as defeat. Popular superhero movies often show the hero rejected by the public, misunderstood by his family and friends, confused about himself, and doubting his ability to achieve victory but, when it appears defeat is imminent, he finds the strength to gain a victory.

There are many real life examples of people who have been in the same position who, in the moment of truth, stood up to do the right thing amidst doubts from self and others and opposition and gained a victory for good.

We must fight diligently for if we are fighting to overcome sin, God is fighting on our side—but we must not give up the fight. If we are still fighting a long battle, it means that the enemy has not won. He may not be defeated yet, but he does not have the victory! We must not hand Satan a victory and must remember that he will not give up ground that he thinks he can win.

Preparing for the trial and temptation

How can we stand alone like young David on the plain facing the giant, courageous like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the face of the angry and powerful king, or determined like Jesus going to a violent death, or the early Christians facing persecution with great humility and resolve to do what is right?

  • Wear your spiritual armor in the time of trial and temptation, Ephesians 6:10-18
  • Study God’s word
    • Teaches you what you should do, right and wrong, and how you should act
    • Teaches you what Satan and his followers do and how they act (what not to do)
    • Provides promises of God’s strength and heavenly reward to allow you to endure whatever trial knowing you have a greater reward that awaits you.
    • Provides godly wisdom of how to act during the time of trial.
    • Gives examples of great men and women of faith who endured great trials and overcame evil.
  • Pray for God’s wisdom and strength to endure all trials
    • You need God’s power to stand up under the time of trial.
    • Consider Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
    • Colossians 1:9-11: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,”
  • Be courageous and stand firm in the power of God as David, Daniel and his friends, and many Bible examplesdemonstrate.
    • 1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
    • James 4:7-8: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

If you are living as a child of God every day, studying, praying, actively doing good, forsaking evil, and devoting your life to Christ, you will be ready when you find yourself in the moment of truth.

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(1) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=moment+of+truth

(2) http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/44/messages/814.html

Working With God To Relieve Suffering

In the grand questions of how a good God can permit suffering, sometimes we forget that man can stop or help relieve the suffering of his fellow man. In all suffering, God is present if we will seek Him.

OTHER ARTICLES:

  1. How Can  A Good God Permit Suffering
  2. Man Creates Much of His Suffering

It is easy to see how man, through his greed for power and material wealth, ignorance, or acting based on “acceptable risks” creates situations that brings suffering upon himself and others. Some suffer terrible diseases or physical problems because they do not exercise, eat properly, or continue in other bad habits that have been proved to hurt the body. Man clearly has a hand in much of the suffering in this world.

Where Were You When Others Suffered?

However, man also can be a power to relieve suffering or provide comfort in a time of need. In the face of disasters some ask “Where was God?” but a question equal, or perhaps of greater significance is “Where is man?” In every suffering there is an opportunity to be compassionate and responsive. During the Judean famine of the first century churches throughout the world who were not suffering famine were able to provide assistance. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 13-15, the wealthy brethren helped their needy brethren to provide food during this time of deprivation. Involved in this action is the understanding that the Judean Christians would have the opportunity to repay that kindness when they helped other Christians during their suffering.

I have forgotten the source of this great quote: “In some kind of suffering that befalls man, I am afraid to ask ‘Why didn’t God do anything about it’ for fear that he will ask the same thing of me!” A story told by Stanley Jones illustrates this well:

A wealthy farmer prayed in his family circle that his unfortunate neighbors might not starve. When they arose from their knees, his little girl said to him, ‘Daddy, you needn’t have bothered God with that, for you can quite easily keep them from starving’

The question is less about what can the church, government, or society do to address a problem to the practical “what can I do to address this need?” He who curses the darkness could light a candle

Be Careful Not To Blame God

We have to be careful about the role we assign to God. Unless He explicitly states through His word what He has done, we are only speculating–and often terribly–about His actions. Sometimes people try to account for God during sufferin in a way that opens up more criticism. For example, an email that circulated after the September 11th attacks said that God “held up the towers while the people escaped.” If your loved one was one of the 2,830 who died, would you not be angry and wonder why God held it up long enough for many to escape but did not continue holding it up until all could escape? Why did He let it go when He did? Why not create obstacles for all the people (cancelled flights, etc.) so no one had to die? When we begin down this road, we come to some illogical and unscriptural conclusions.

I see this type of ignorance when people try to explain the death of a child. A well-meaning person tries to comfort the sibling by saying God wanted his little brother so much that He took him to heaven. In a misguided effort to provide comfort they terrify a kid and make him scared of God. Who knows when He’ll be back to get another one of us? Good intent; terrible approach. Better to understand that death is just a part of life and enjoy the comfort that while the death of the child was unfortunate, that God is comforting and caring for the child now.

Similarly, we must not assume that suffering on an individual or national level is the result of the judgment of God. We do “reap what we sow” and “our sins will find us out.” However, sometimes we suffer as a consequence of the action of others or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God allowed Job to suffer many things as the devil sought to lure him away, but Job’s friends falsely claimed that he was suffering as a result of some sin. When Jesus and the apostles discussed some Jews killed by Pilate and eighteen people killed when a tower collapsed He did not blame their fate on sin, but told them that the dead were no worse sinners than anyone else (Luke 13:1-5). In John 9:1-3, Jesus rebuked the foolish question of whether the sin of a man or his parents led to his blindness. It is better not to blame God for suffering that may be simply the result of chance or natural consequences of one’s actions.

Where is God When Others Suffer?

It is easy to find God during suffering if we will open our eyes. He has entered the suffering with us and can strengthen us. God in the flesh had compassion on the lepers, forgave the immoral who repented with broken spirits, groaned in His spirit at the sorrow of Lazarus’ loved ones and wept with them, suffered rejection and violence at the hands of wicked men, was spat upon, beaten, and mocked, abandoned by his friends, and died a slow agonizing death on a cross of shame. Hebrews 5:5-9 tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering and is sympathetic to our pain.God can make “all things work together for good” for those who love Him, Romans 8:28. People find strength in suffering. Some learn compassion and become selfless. Some learn humility. Sometimes a small tragedy energizes a community to create laws or systems that prevent greater tragedies in the future. All suffering helps us to look forward to an eternal home where suffering is absent.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Where is God? He has entered into our suffering and grief and can give us strength to endure and use us to relieve the suffering of others until the day when we rise to live with Him in a world without suffering.

Man Creates Much of His Suffering

Suffering Series: Second Article
First Article: How Can A Good God Permit Suffering
Next Article: Working With God to Relieve Suffering

Before we look at man’s role in his own suffering, let’s examine God’s power. Some theologians take the approach of Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi who lost his son at an early age to a cruel and debilitating disease. God is infinitely good, Kushner concluded in his immensely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), but He is not all-powerful. We do know God cannot do anything that is inconsistent with his nature (lie) nor that is contradictory or absurd like create square circles. However, the powerlessness Kushner describes is not the God revealed in the Bible.

Restrained power

Though God could relieve all suffering, certain characteristics of man would suffer: loss of free will (if no opportunity to rebel—which brings suffering), weakened faith and hope, and little desire for heaven. Parents often exercise this restraint of power when they allow their children to suffer accidents, etc. so that they may learn on their own and develop character and perseverance. The world was created with the possibility of suffering and allows it to take place in the natural order: he does not decree it. As one author noted, “If I give my boy a pair of roller skates, I immediately make it possible for him to get a bad bump. That is a very different thing from taking him by the neck and banging his head upon the ground.” (Weatherhead)

Sinful People Inflict Suffering On Others

God has created a world capable of blessing and cursing, compassion and hatred, ease and suffering, benevolence and malevolence, good and evil. In His power God created a good world but when man sinned the world was corrupted and pain and suffering were introduced into the creation. 

Suffering was a byproduct of sin and rebellion, not a product of God’s positive creative action. Much suffering is brought about because man has used the good things of earth to oppress and subjugate his fellow man or has amassed control over these good things to the destitution and poverty of his fellow man.

Those who have moved a lot are very familiar with U-Haul trucks and have been glad to rent them to move to areas of great opportunity.Fertilizer is a great substance which allows us to enhance our food production and feed many who would otherwise starve. However, Timothy McVeigh filled a U-Haul truck with fertilizer and some other chemicals and blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City killing many and injuring many others. We would not think the U-Haul company or fertilizer manufacturers diabolical nor think they are not good because someone misused their products to destroy others. 

God commands us to live holy lives. Standards such as described in Galatians 5:19-21 explain how God wants us to live:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Think how this world would be if everyone did what God wanted them to do as expressed in Galatians 5

  1. Would we have murder in the world if people would not hate their fellow man or be bitter or malicious?
  2. Would we have the sexual diseases that have killed so many if people were pure until married then faithful until death?
  3. Would we have the pain and suffering of broken homes if people remained faithful and truly loved one another as Christ loved the church?
  4. Would we use locks and burglar alarms if no one was covetous and there were no thieves?

All of the chaos of our world is brought on by those who reject the law of God and will not submit themselves to Him. We have to live in such as world so we may directly or indirectly suffer at the hands of wicked people. It would be unfair for God to force people to do what is right; it would take away from our humanity. We must not implicate God for the product of men’s evil arising from their free will.

Man’s Role in Natural Disasters

Sometimest he decisions of people create suffering associated with natural disasters. Many natural disasters have become tragedies due to short-sighted or negligent decison making.

  • Hurricane damage to property on barrier islands such as Santa Rosa Island (Gulf Shores and Orange Beach). Barrier islands exist to absorb damaging waves and surges.
  • Many have lost their lives and more have lost their homes and businesses because they built on flood plains—large expanses of land that contain and absorb excess water from rain and runoff.
  • Volcanoes erupt and houses built close to them will be destroyed.
  • Forest fires are a natural way in which forests are cleared of underbrush and allow new growth to emerge yet when men build close to the forest they may suffer from this natural occurrence.

Sometimes the political wranglings of nations create tragedies. In the Asian Tsunami of 2005 a record earthquake was recorded so one should expect a large tsunami. The tsunami ravaged areas that were built right up to the coastline and destroyed shanty towns that were built on the coast because financially other options were closed to them. People had suggested and proposed building a tsunami warning system for the Asian nations but no one funded it or started it. The Asian nations, many of whom are hostile to one another, did not seriously pursue building warning system until this disaster.

Acceptable Risks

People know that making certain decisions can increase their chance of being in a situation that can lead to suffering, pain, and even death. It is no secret that Japan exists on a major earthquake fault zone (as does California). However, the residents of these areas choose to live there because they consider the benefits outweigh the higher than normal risks of disaster. To their credit, these cities have tried to build structures to resist all but the most violent earthquakes and provide tsunami warning systems. But, as the events of 2011 have shown, sometimes events occur that overwhelm these preparations and people suffer.

We know that a high number of injuries and deaths result from car accidents. Yet most of us consider it an acceptable risk to drive anyway. I have a thirty minute commute to work–which increases my chances of an accident–because the benefits of living in my community outweigh those risks. If I am involved in an accident it would be foolish to blame God for my suffering since I made the decisions that increased the likelihood of the accident.

Suffering is just part of the human condition. In the final article we’ll examine where God is during times of suffering and where we should be.

Don’t Talk Your Dreams To Death

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

“In all toil (labor) there is profit”
Diligent work always leads to some result or profit of benefit to the worker. Most work is neither easy nor fun but it does pay the bills and provides money for doing good and having fun. Even if you have a job you enjoy, there will be  unpleasant duties. People who love to garden still must get dirty, sweaty, and dig through the soil if they want to have the flowers or produce of the garden.

“Mere talk leads to poverty”
In contrast to diligent labor, talk without action leads to poverty. Idle talking does not pay and has gotten some people fired. Grandiose plans and slick presentations may impress others but it does not pay one cent if no labor is expended to make the dream a reality.

The first obvious application—indeed the natural application—of this verse is to the business world. In the early days of personal computers —before the average person could access the Internet—a man I knew had great plans to work with realtors to put pictures of houses for sale on videodisc (pre-DVD) with sale information for agents and customers. He had a prototype system, good marketing plan, and enthusiastic presentation. He talked with people in the office about his plans and the unlimited potential for profits. One problem: he did not have customers or profit from the work because he did not get out and talk to the customers who needed the system. In short, he planned and talked his way to poverty while other people, through hard work, were able to profit from similar ideas.

The world is made up of  poor creative geniuses and  rich people of average intelligence. The difference is not what they know but by what they do.

This principle is especially important for spiritual growth. Is your spiritual life the product of hard work or mere talk?

Some people talk about “getting their life right” or “straightening up” but still hang out with ungodly friends, feed their minds with filth, and do not change. Some say they want to pray or study more—and do so year after year. Some talk about doing more things with their brethren, helping the sick or needy, or getting involved with some work in the church but do not act.

Some people realize their life is displeasing to God, is yielding undesirable consequences, and is unsatisfying so they change their behavior. Some want a closer relationship with God and execute a plan to study and pray more frequently. Some take action to involve themselves with their brethren so they can have richer and deeper fellowship with other Christians.

If you want to have a rich and meaninful spiritual life, you’ll have to work for it.

  • Romans 13:11-14 – Awake and get busy
  • Thessalonians 5:4-8 – get busy with good things
  • Ephesians 5:14-17 – wake up and make good use of your time

 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How sad it will be for those who dreamed of a close relationship with God and their brethren, a close loving family, and a meaningful life’s work to fail because they only dreamed and did not act.

When God Delays

When we pray to God, sometimes we expect God to answer us immediately. We are used to instant results from texting, overnight shipping, fast food, etc. Sometimes we may feel that God is not listening or doesn’t care when we cry out to Him. However, as we mature in our faith we discover lessons that can only be learned by God’s delay in answering our prayers.

Despite the empty promises of some health-and-wealth preachers, believers are never promised a life free of suffering. In fact, suffering believers are main characters in the Bible story. The story of Job and the words of Jesus in John 9:1-2 and Luke 13:1-5 clearly separate suffering and disaster from one’s righteousness or lack of it. We may suffer consequences of sinful actions but we can also suffer from time and chance. If obedience to Christ guaranteed a prosperous and pain-free life, few would reject the gospel’s call. Sometimes we must suffer as Christians.

Believers sometimes feel that God is not helping them during trials. We can feel abandoned and cry out “Why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps we might wonder if we have cleansed our hands in vain (Psalm 73). In agony or frustration we might cry out to God, “Where are you?!?” Consider these heartfelt cries from the Psalms:

  • Psalm 43:1-2 – “Why have you cast me off?”
  • Psalm 44:23 – “Why do you sleep, O’ Lord?”
  • Psalm 88:13-14 – “Why do you cast off my soul?”

Our cries are more bitter when we hear the scoffer and enemy say, “Where is your God?” Depression can lead to doubt. Frustration with God can lead to anger. How can God’s delay in answering our cry benefit us?

Delay Challenges Us To Use Our Faith

Jim happened to meet the minister on the street one day, and during the conversation told him of all the troubles he had had during the past year. He wound up with: “I tell you right now, preacher, it’s enough to make a man lose his religion.”  “Seems to me, Jim,” the minister told him quietly, “it’s enough to make a man use his religion.” Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Jesus told a parable to teach believers not to give up. The Persistent Widow and the Judge (Luke 18:1-8) teaches that God is a just and loving Father but sometes He “bears with us” before answering. It takes faith to continue to pray and hope when it appears that any reason to hope is gone. Jesus asked a soul searching question at the end of the parable: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will He find people who still trust Him even when it appears that He is not responding to their prayers? He told a parable to teach believers not to give up and wonders if anyone will not give up!

Delay Teaches Total Dependence On God

Some consider themselves dependent on God but when things turn against them, they feel God has forsaken them and they reject Him. Dependence on God must not depend on external factors: possessions, health, employment status. It is easy to feel dependent on God when your enemies are lying at your feet, the battles are won, and the treasures gained. The challenge is to be faithful when you remain faithful in the face of defeat. Revelation 20:8-9 portrays a small city of saints surrounded by a army reaching to the horizon all around. Only when the enemy closed in and was ready to smash the small company of believers did God unleash His fury and destroy the opposition. Though He could have destroyed them before they came near the city, He challenged the faith of the believers to maintain their hope and dedication in the face of what appeared to be certain defeat. How many will lose faith and give up before the victory? Who will still rely on God when it appears that God is unreliable?

We often rely too much on our own power. We must understand that control is an illusion and that most things are out of our control. God’s delay reinforces this and encourages us to rely on God’s power (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Delay Teaches The Believer Hope

According to Romans 5:3-4, it is tribulation that yields hope, not ease. Perseverance is not succeeding but trying and failing, without giving up. Character is not a sterling reputation but the excellence that comes from enduring trial when it would be easy to give up or, through deception, trying to escape a trial that one must face. When we have forged strong character through patient endurance, we emerge with a hope for better days and eternal rest from all trials.

What Christians sometimes fail to realize is that suffering on earth sweetens the taste of heaven! The more we must endure suffering, the less hold the world can have on us. Why should we desire rest for our labor when the work is not hard? Why would we hope for a home in heaven if our home on earth is comfortable enough? Can the promise of “no more sorrows or tears” in heaven mean anything if our hearts are not broken and we suffer no loss on earth? Suffering allows us to see earthly things in their fragility and the greater value of eternal things.

When you must face trials that seem unending and unrelenting, let it draw you closer to God and teach you lessons you could learn no other way.

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