Weekly Newsletter – January 25, 2021
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
Count It All Joy
There is no easy road to satisfaction. One reason for this is that no one has ever lived a life free from difficulties. Everyone faces trials, and all of us know suffering in one way or another. I’ve noticed that wherever I am, in every culture and every geographical region, when I mention the subject of suffering, there is an instant rapport, a bond of mutual understanding.
Suffering: A Door to Finding Satisfaction
We can take comfort in the knowledge that Scripture teaches that God’s perfect plan for each of us includes suffering, trials, and pain. The wonderful truth is that our most frustrating trials can be a source of great joy. James wrote:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4). Trials will make us either bitter or better.
I know what it is like to be broken — literally. Jack and I experienced a terrible automobile accident in Brussels in 1979. We were in Europe for our wedding anniversary and planned to celebrate the joyous occasion with members of Jack’s family.
That particular afternoon, we had traveled to Brussels to shop for anniversary gifts. We leisurely walked and talked, truly enjoying our visit to this fascinating city. We even stopped for afternoon tea and shared a sandwich. (A cousin was preparing a feast for our anniversary dinner that night and we didn’t want to ruin our appetites!)
The afternoon ended all too quickly, and we soon found ourselves driving back to the home of the cousin with whom we were staying. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a bus traveling 50 miles an hour struck our vehicle with such impact that my side of the car was ripped away and the rest of the automobile completely demolished. I remember saying, “Jack, there’s a bus!” He attempted to swerve, but it was too late. My last thoughts as I fell out onto the busy street was, This is what it’s like to die.
Everything went black. I felt no pain until my husband’s warm tears falling on my face revived me. His voice was choked with emotion as he wept and prayed over me. “Lord, must it end this way? Don’t let it happen. Please work a miracle!”
I felt that I was slipping away from him, and I wanted him to know how much I loved him. “Honey, I think I am dying,” I whispered. “I don’t want to leave you.”
“Oh no,” Jack cried. “Oh, God, please help us, Somehow spare her life.”
I wish that in some way I could convey the peace that I experienced from God during this time. Even Christians sometimes wonder about and perhaps are somewhat afraid of the unknown — that valley of the shadow of death through which we must one day pass. I would love to stand on a mountaintop and call to every believer everywhere, “Don’t be afraid!” At the moment of departure, He is there to give us peace and sustain our hearts. What a comfort to know that we are the Lord’s most prized possessions and that He will never allow us to go through the transition from this world to the next in fear. I rejoice over this experience today because I can say with David, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4).
Suspended in God’s sweet peace, I was almost in the presence of the Lord. Then suddenly, I was pulled back from going over. A hand grasped my wrist and a man stood beside me. He tenderly placed a blanket over my body and in perfect English said, “Don’t move her. She will be all right.” Immediately, my mind began to clear and I knew that I would live.
As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. The Lord had sent a man or an angel (only He knows) to provide perfect comfort and to minister to us in a special way Hebrews 1:14 says: Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
An ambulance rushed us to the hospital. I looked at Jack and was reassured to know that he was all right. I knew that somehow God was doing something special in our lives — something that would ultimately glorify Him if we would not faint (see II Corinthians 4:16).
I had sustained a severe head injury. X rays revealed that I had a broken collarbone and two broken ribs. I had also sustained numerous cuts and bruises, and fragments of glass were embedded in parts of my body. In fact, the doctor spent four hours removing glass from my legs, head, and ears. God had divinely and miraculously spared my face and eyes, for which I shall forever be grateful.
Because of my head injury, I was unable to receive any pain medication for 18 hours. In addition, I was told that if the bleeding from my head wound did not stop during the night, doctors would be forced to shave my head in order to suture the extreme abrasion. Jack remained by my side every minute of that entire night, praying with me, comforting me, and talking with me. We asked God for a miracle, and He gave us one. By morning, the bleeding had stopped.
Neither of us slept during that long, unforgettable night. As we talked about why it happened, I felt a kinship with Job. God had allowed Satan to test us but not destroy us or our ministry together. He allowed the test to go so far, and no further. I knew that my Father was in control and that my Saviour was not leaving me alone. Indeed, I knew that He was feeling my infirmity with even greater intensity than I.
Jack spent the next 48 hours trying to get the doctors to release me for our return to America.
British Airways agreed to fly us and graciously provided wheelchair and ambulance service all the way to Detroit. Still, the hours in flight were painfully long, Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me (II Timothy 4:17).
During the next three months, I received extensive medical treatment and stringent therapy. Adhesions formed as the damaged muscles and tendons in my crushed shoulder healed. Doctors said that without corrective surgery I would never use my arm again. Instead, I underwent months of excruciating rehabilitative exercises to correct the situation. Still, I would not want to look back upon this experience with anything but rejoicing and praise — rejoicing in the Lord’s protection and love in bringing me through this trial and praise that He counted me worthy to be put to the test.
Resistance to Suffering is Counterproductive
It would have been easy, I suppose, to resist in my heart and be bitter against the Lord for allowing such a thing to happen. Yet it never occurred to me to question what God was doing. Years earlier Jack and I had committed ourselves to pursuing the Lord’s will whatever the cost — and when we made that commitment, we knew it could involve suffering. It has, but the rewards have been rich. God has filled our lives with blessings that exceed anything we could ask or think.
Unfortunately, instead of counting problems and trials as joy and allowing them to work patience and maturity, many people tend to follow their natural inclination, and the difficulties produce bitterness and resentment. That, in turn, only amplifies dissatisfaction, until finally they are caught in a never-ending cycle of devastatingly negative feelings.
The only effect resistance has on our trials is to make them more difficult to bear. When we rebel against God and turn from Him, we shut out the One who can enable us to carry whatever burden He gives us. How tragic it is to see someone who has gone through grief and pain who then turns sorrow into bitterness against God! That is not what God wants. He wants to make the burden light and the yoke easy to bear (see Matthew 11:30).
I know that it is normal to want to resist problems, and, of course, it is right and even necessary to resist some things. For example, we should not give in to immoral acts, so we must resist temptation. Scripture tells us to resist Satan (see James 4:7; I Peter 5:9). Nevertheless, when we are confronted with trials that are beyond our control, we need to see ourselves as Paul did — like clay in the hands of the Potter, submissive to His will for our lives. We must realize that through these trials He is molding us. shaping us. and perfecting us — until we become vessels that He can use.
Have you ever watched a potter work on a pottery wheel? He squeezes and pinches and applies pressure, and from what was an ugly lump of clay comes forth a beautiful, useful piece of pottery. The potter knows just where to poke and just where to rub — it is a fascinating process to watch. Occasionally, the potter will decide a radical change is in order, and he will smash a nearly molded pot and begin again from the beginning.
Jeremiah described the process:
I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it (Jeremiah 18:3-4).
Perhaps you feel like the Potter has smashed you that way. I have good news for you. God is one Potter who always rebuilds the vessels He allows to be broken so that they are better than before. It may not always be in the way we desire or think is best, but in the process, it is nonproductive for us to resist and become bitter. Instead we should try to see what is happening from God’s perspective, even though we may not understand what He is doing, and yield to His will for us. Paul wrote, Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay? (Romans 9:20, 21).
Acceptance: A New Name for Satisfaction
How much better it is to accept our trials as from the Lord who permits them! Job accepted his trials, as hard as they were for him. This incredible man lost all his earthly possessions and all his children in a series of disasters that happened in just one day. Soon after that, he lost his health as well. He was reduced to a mass of sores, sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery (how appropriate!). He did not understand what God was doing. but his response was, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord… Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? (Job 1:21; 2:10).
Yes, Job bore all the pain — in his case both physical pain and mental anguish — and did not sin with his lips. He never accused God or spoke bitterly against Him. Quite the contrary, Job accepted the negative things as graciously as he had accepted the good things. Though the task was not easy, out of Job’s afflictions came some wonderful fruit. The first is the book of Job — a good source of comfort in times of despair and doubt. In addition, Job grew wiser and closer to the Lord through his ordeal. Even his so-called comforters learned from his sufferings.
What became of Job. The answer is recorded for us in verses 12 and 13 and chapter 42: So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. After this lived Job an hundred and forty years…
The “secret” of Job’s success and blessing is rooted in the fact that he endured his suffering. He never turned from God. Instead, he repented! Why would a man who was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil (1:1) do such a thing? Because Job, through his suffering, was privileged to get a glimpse of God in His holiness. As a result, he saw himself as completely unworthy so that he said, I abhor myself(2:6). And in doing that, he discovered yet a third way of responding to trials.
Rejoicing: A Perspective You May Have Overlooked
This third type of response is what James referred to in the opening passage of this chapter — rejoicing, or glorying, in our trials. Admittedly, rejoicing in the midst of tribulation is not an easy thing to do. A woman wrote to us a short time ago:
I am having a very hard time adjusting my life. My husband died not too long ago at age 53, and I just can’t seem to get my life together. I never worked in all the years we were married. I was a family person and never made many friends outside our home, I am lonely and frightened. Please pray for me.
My heart goes out to this dear woman and many others like her. In fact, one might well ask how she could possibly rejoice in the midst of such a difficult trial. She cannot rejoice that her husband has died. How then can she find joy in the midst of her deep loneliness, fear, and doubts?
The answer is found in the perspective we choose to take. No one rejoices in the death of a loved one. Job didn’t, and even Jesus wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus. Scripture acknowledges that sorrow and grief are appropriate and normal responses to death.
Bitterness comes when we focus on our sorrows or trials themselves rather than on the Lord and what He is attempting to accomplish through them. From this perspective, we can easily become discouraged. Unfortunately, this is exactly the place in which many dissatisfied people find themselves. However, if we look beyond the trials and understand that God is working in the midst of them, if we focus our hearts on Him, a miracle begins to occur. He brings peace in the midst of pain, and joy in the midst of sorrow. Truly, His grace is sufficient.
My Grandmother Shelton taught me firsthand the meaning of glorying in tribulation. She knew trials all her life. She was the mother of eight children and, as a diabetic, had to take insulin shots every day of her life. She was a tall, vibrant, robust lady who would pick me up (literally) and shake me like a rag doll and say, “I love you, Rexella.” What a shock when she lost first one leg, then the other, to amputation because of complications from her disease. She would never walk again; yet, I never heard her mention her trials or complain. Her focus went far beyond them. And as she looked to the Lord and leaned on Him, she was actually able to glory in her infirmities! She was always rejoicing. I remember her often taking out a little harmonica and playing it. Just being around her brought me great joy, and I seldom thought of her as being in pain, although I’m certain she suffered greatly.
There is something to be said for pain. Trials are not pleasant, but they are valuable. A flower must be crushed before it yields perfume. A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die before it can bear fruit (see John 12:24). And we must suffer for the Lord if we are to be glorified with Him (see Romans 8:17).
If you are going through a trial, don’t resist it. And don’t just accept it or endure it. Learn to glory in it! God is doing something through your trials. You may not understand it fully, and He does not always give us explanations. But He does give us promises — and He always keeps them.
Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes, because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust his skill and thank him for his prescription.
— Isaac Newton
I came across something that helped me to further understand these precious truths. In Job 41:25 are to be found these few obscure words: By reason of breakings they purify themselves. What can that possibly mean?
Elsewhere the Bible teaches that the sacrifices God accepts are broken and contrite hearts (see Psalm 51:17). This is illustrated throughout the Bible as one observes God using for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. Here are some examples:
- Jacob at Peniel, where his natural strength was broken.
- Moses and the rock at Horeb; when he struck it, out gushed cool water for the thirsty people.
- Gideon and his band of 300 elect soldiers. When they broke their pitchers — a type of breaking of themselves — their hidden lights shone forth to the consternation of their adversaries.
- The poor widow who broke the seal on the little pot of oil, and it poured forth, whereby God multiplied it to pay her debts and her sons didn’t have to be taken as bondmen.
- Queen Esther risking her life, breaking through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court, thus obtaining favor to rescue her people from death.
- Jesus taking the five loaves of bread, breaking them, and in the act of breaking, there was sufficient to feed 5,000.
- Mary breaking her alabaster box, rendering it useless, but this allowed the perfume to fill the house.
- Jesus allowing His body to be broken by thorns, nails, and the spear, so that His life was poured out for us to live.
God must have broken things — throughout all plant life, all history, all the great biographical accounts, and in all spiritual life, this fact is preeminent.
Why should we then shrink from those things, which may break us at some point? If we will but allow Him, the brokenness we experience can be used for our purer good and for God’s glory. Such brokenness may come in the form of being broken in wealth, half-will, ambitions, ideals, reputation, affections, and even brokenness in health. Remember the final tally of life is not seen in the here and now. Can you, like James wrote, “Count it all joy?”
A CLASSIC MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE
A Young Man of Influence
Whether the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar knew it or not, young Daniel, probably no more than seventeen years old at the time of his capture, was a teenager beyond reproach. No evil motives are ever attributed to Daniel in Scripture. Daniel had great influence on his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. His moral rectitude rubbed off on them, and they, too, began to demonstrate the purity that God desires for everyone, young or old. With wisdom well beyond his years, Daniel had become a mentor to his three friends.
The Scripture tells us in Daniel 1:4 that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were already intelligent fellows, but mere knowledge is a far cry from a mature understanding of how to apply that learning where it truly counts. But because of Daniel’s daily influence, the Hebrew boys demonstrated much more than the accumulation of facts; they knew how to rely on God and to use those facts because the Spirit of almighty God was upon them. They were also fulfilling a prophecy written in Isaiah 39:7, which revealed that the offspring of the royal family of Judah would be taken as prisoners to Babylon, where they would hold high offices in the palace of the king. And this is exactly what was happening.
Can’t Have Those Jewish Names, Boys
But Nebuchadnezzar had a problem. He had Jewish boys, with Jewish names, in a Babylonian palace, and he figured he’d better do something about it-especially since their very names shouted out their allegiance to their God. The name Daniel means “God is judge.” When someone would call for Hananiah, that person would be shouting “Jehovah is gracious.” Mishael’s name asked the provocative question, “Who is what God is?” And Azariah’s name was a constant reminder of God’s mercy, meaning “Jehovah has helped.”
Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t allow these names to be echoed in his great hall, so he changed their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar was the master of the quick fix. His kingly logic was, if he changed the name, he would change the person. What the king did not realize, however, was that you can change a person’s name as many times as you want, but you will not necessarily change that person’s heart. So the name changes were purely cosmetic, and I’ve got a feeling that when the boys were in their quarters, in the privacy of their conversation, they still called each other Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
These brilliant young Jews loved their God and, as we’ll look at in more detail later, boldly proclaimed His presence in their lives three times a day in prayer-with the windows wide open. They didn’t care who heard them pray. They didn’t care who saw them with their heads lifted to heaven. They loved their God, and they would honor Him at all costs. They remained respectful to the king, but they had a greater God to serve. In one of the great “passive resistance” protests in history, they agreed to remain unwavering in their beliefs, even if it meant taking certain life-threatening risks.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
An Unlikely Training Food
The first challenge was what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Imagine the incredible feasts available to Daniel and his friends. Delicacies galore. Meat, fowl, wine, and fruit served in gold and silver vessels. The king’s best. Who would have refused that kind of lifestyle? Well, for starters, four young men with the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They determined in their hearts they would not eat the rich, fatty, high-cholesterol foods from the king’s table.
But there was another reason they refused to defile their bodies: The king’s food had already been offered to the Babylonian god Marduk, and to eat the king’s food would be to break the second commandment. They knew what Exodus 20:4-5 said:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
But this conviction created a problem. These four boys were in training-and Nebuchadnezzar and his trainers were in charge. They were under strict orders to follow Babylonian rules, not Jewish rules. Nothing kosher here. But-and this is why I hope young people are reading this book, because this in so many ways is a young person’s book-Daniel still found favor with the prince of the eunuchs. Character is what counts. Sticking to your guns when everyone else says to do something that dishonors God is what wins the day.
Now it was Melzar, the eunuch-in-charge, who had the problem. His job and his life were on the line. He had a specific assignment-to make his charges obey the rules, follow the instructions, color between the lines, do what they were told, and eat the king’s food like the other Jewish boys. What could be so bad about that! “Come on, guys, please,” I can almost hear him say. “I like this job, and I really don’t need to get into any trouble with the head eunuch.” I’m sure that Daniel and his buddies listened to their eunuch friend with hearts of compassion for the predicament he was in, but they still remained faithful to God’s agenda for their lives.
Acting Like Gentlemen
Now here’s a part I love. Rather than giving Melzar a tongue-lashing, Old Testament lecture on the evils of giving good food to bad gods like Marduk, Daniel did something much more effective: He provided an alternative. He presented the eunuch an option by suggesting, “Let’s just check this other idea out, and see what happens.” Daniel came up with a “ten-day plan.” And what was the essence of this plan?
To eat only pulse-another word for beans. Beans. Not meat, fish, exotic game from the forest, rich desserts, wine flowing by the flagons-but beans . . . and water. I can just see Melzar’s face turn ghostly white as he gently touches the side of his neck, wondering how long it will remain attached to the rest of his head. “Beans! Surely you jest. We have beef, and you want beans?”
Daniel and his friends confirmed their resolve, and the diet plan was approved. While the rest of Jewish captives were being wined and dined in the palace dining hall, Daniel and his three friends ate beans-and amazingly were growing stronger and healthier in mind and body day by day. They trusted their God to make them healthy and strong. They remained obedient to God when all the odds were stacked against them. And when the ten-day experiment came to an end, we read that
“their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse” (vv. 15-16).
And the palace scoreboard read:
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
As a result of one of Dr. Jack’s early sermons back in the 1950s in Michigan, my Dad accepted Jesus as his lord and savior. My Dad raised all five of us kids in the church and lived his life very much in step with God. He passed away not long ago and I just know that he is with Jesus now watching over all of us – thanks in part to your dedication to sharing God’s word.
Thank you for all you do.
HIGHLIGHTED MINISTRY OFFERS
While other books have explored various glimpses of Jesus in the Old Testament, this one is different — seeking out and finding the redemptive message of the Gospel in all 39 books of the original Hebrew Scriptures.
Not only is this book a convenient and unique reference for book-by-book study of the Hebrew Scriptures, it also provides a fresh look at the complexity and fullness of the Good News Jesus and the Apostles preached in the Greek Scriptures. There are 39 chapters in the book, each one devoted to finding and documenting the Gospel in each book of the Old Testament — from Genesis to Malachi.
What is God’s Relationship to the Jewish People?
- Have the Jews ceased to be God’s Chosen People?
- Are they guilty of the unforgivable sin of “killing God”?
- Has God replaced them with the Church?
- Has God transferred their promises to the Church?
- Have they lost all hope as a nation?
- Are they devoid of any role in the end times?
- If God still loves them, how could He allow them to experience the Holocaust?
- Do they have their own way of salvation, separate and apart from Jesus?
In this book, Dr. Reagan deals with these and many other questions regarding the Jewish people. In the process, he reveals the evil of Replacement Theology and the tragedy of Dual Covenant Theology — and he does so in simple, understandable language.