The blessing of tough times: Rediscovering community

By Chuck Colson

For years I have prayed that God would do whatever it took to get our attention—to turn us from false idols and back to Him. If the current economic meltdown is an answer to prayer, God is certainly getting our attention.

Like everybody else, I find myself squirming. My personal retirement plan has taken a hit and our ministry, like so many others, has to cut its budget.

As bad as things are, I’ve also seen good things emerge. Christian friends tell me unsaved acquaintances are increasingly asking about their beliefs. Many Christians themselves are rethinking their priorities. Americans, maybe, are relearning important lessons: the need to lean on God, depend on one another, and to create a sense of community—the kind we forget about in our affluence, but which I remember from my childhood.

I grew up during the Great Depression. Few complained about hardships; we were too busy helping worse-off neighbors. And we’re seeing the same attitudes develop today. For instance, when a Texas woman recently lost her home to foreclosure, she cried as she watched it auctioned off. Observing her, another woman impulsively bid on the house, won, and then gave it back to its original owner—a total stranger.

Why did she do it? Her answer was, “People need to help each other, and that’s all there is to it.”

Other Americans—newly on tight budgets—are discovering that it’s much nicer to eat a home-cooked meal as a family than to grab a burger somewhere. Others are opening their homes to adult children who can no longer afford their own apartments—and enjoying family life once more.

Another surprising benefit of renewed community spirit is that history tells us crime rates will go down. An extensive study by Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the Kaiser Institute, found only one reliable predictor of crime rates in a community: whether it had, or lacked, a strong sense of community values and a willingness to impose those values on public space—what researchers called “community cohesion.” Crime was low in neighborhoods where people felt free to discipline neighborhood kids caught skipping school or scrawling graffiti on walls.

Sociologist James Q. Wilson found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, crime always drops in hard times. “The Depression pulled families together, and this cohesion inhibited crime,” he writes. It also lessened divorce, as Mike Gerson noted in the Washington Post. Many Americans “adopted a set of moral and economic habits such as thrift, family commitment, savings and modest consumption that lasted through their lifetimes—and that have decayed in our own,” Gerson writes.

Finally, a 2007 study by professor David Beckworth shows evidence that the church grows in hard times.

While I did not wish for this economic collapse, we can at least be glad to see some lessening of our moral decay and signs of renewed spiritual interest.

As the recession plays out, Christians should be looking with confidence to God, living radically holy lives, truly loving God and our neighbors—and letting a fearful world watch us. That would be a powerful witness.

Trust the Lord whole-heartedly as a child fully relies on his father.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1)


If You Trust The Lord, Why Do You Fear Tough Seasons?

Why does God allow suffering, which He could prevent?
By J. Carl Laney

The Bible teaches that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is reassuring to know that when God allows suffering, which He could prevent, He is accomplishing something good. Some of the good things God can accomplish through our suffering are as follows: building endurance and perseverance into our lives (James 1:3, Rom. 5:3), helping us grow in Christian maturity (James 1:4), proving our godly character (Rom. 5:4), developing Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:28-29), helping us grow in personal holiness (Heb.12:10), and giving us the assurance that we are His children (Heb. 12:7-8).

We may not see the good that God is accomplishing. But we can be confident that His eternal purposes are being fulfilled through our trials. Sometimes the dark threads are as needful as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern God has planned. But someday, he will unroll the tapestry of our lives and we will see the beautiful work God has accomplished, partly through suffering. It is important to keep an eternal perspective when going through suffering. Paul wrote, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

God recognizes that sometimes greater glory will come to His name by permitting evil rather than disallowing it altogether. It is hard to understand from a human and earthly perspective why God will sometimes allow human suffering for the purpose of bringing greater glory to Himself. But if the purpose of our lives is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31), then we will accept suffering gladly to more adequately exhibit the greatness of our God.

It is a normal tendency for people to avoid experiencing hardships. How we react to hardships shows the level of our spiritual growth.

Tough seasons are excellent opportunities for mature believers to shine. Spiritual sucklings tend to pray the hardships away when they are in tough seasons, but mature believers shine as their faith and trust in the Lord are strengthened as it is tried by the difficulties of the seasons.

How believers live their lives in tough times conveys a deeper witnessing message to the world than sermonizing.


When The Person Is The Way

By Frank Mihalic

Suppose you walk into town looking for your wantok's house. You meet a fellow and you ask him where it is. And he says something like, "Oh, yes, just go down that main street there until you come to the church, then turn right and go down two more streets, then turn left... Your wantok's house is the fifth one on the right side of that street."

If you heard all of that, you would probably forget it very easily. So this man sees that you are puzzled and he says to you, "Maski, forget all about the directions, I'll go along with you and show you the way. Follow me."

That is what Jesus means when he says that he is the way...

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

You who are caught in your own snare of darkness and who is now silently crying inside and begging for forgiveness and mercy, your days of trouble will be over if you let the Lord guide you from the stormy seas you have self-navigated yourself into. Your soul is worth more to the Lord than all the riches you can ever possess through your schemings. Let yourself be free from that wrong way by letting Him direct you into a right course. Let loose of your old self and you will find your renewed soul.

Submit to the Lord's wind. Be not afraid if the wind will blow even harder upon you such that you will be stripped down to bareness. No one is able to put on a clean clothing and smell fresh while still putting back on the old smelly dirty undergarment beneath.

It is only when we truly trust in the Lord that we learn to genuinely care for others and everything takes on a new meaning and beginning.