By Jerry Wiles – “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). Jesus tells us to “stop judging according to outward appearance, but make a right judgement.” Later in that same chapter of John 7, He said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of your inner most being (your heart) will flow rivers of Living Water.” Of course, He is speaking of the indwelling Holy Spirit and His redemptive work through us. So many other references are made throughout Scripture about the inward life. People tend to look on the outward appearances, but God looks on the heart, the inner being.
The Need for 50/20 Vision
A long-time friend and mentor of mine use to talk about the need for having 50/20 Vision. It’s based on Genesis 50:20 when Joseph said to his brothers, after being abused by them, “You planned evil against me, but God meant it for good.” There are many examples throughout history where God intervenes in human experience to bring good out of bad situations. However, the realization of that truth can best be experienced when we see things from God’s perspective, seeing past the seen and temporal to the unseen and eternal.
Repetition – the Mother of all Learning
Another mentor of mine use to emphasize that every negative has a positive. Furthermore, the more negative the negative, the more positive the positive. So, when life’s circumstances seem really bad, we can look to the Lord and expect that He will intervene and use what is going on to bring good from it. We often observe how God shows up in the most difficult times and the darkest places. It’s not always easy to remember these important spiritual truths. That’s why repetition is so vital to our spiritual journey, and it is also the mother of all learning.
An Accidental Witness
A lady ran into the back of my car on the freeway one time. While waiting for the police to arrive to do an accident report, I engaged her in conversation, shared the Gospel and had prayer with her. She was very open to the Lord and received Christ. As a result of that encounter, she immediately shared her experience with a security guard in the parking lot. A little later in the day, she shared her testimony with two police officers while processing the accident report. It was a great example of how the Lord can use negative experiences and turn them into redemptive results.
It’s important to remember that when things really get bad, we can look to the Lord and trust that He will show Himself strong on our behalf. History is filled with examples of how God has used those crisis times and difficult experiences for His divine purposes. However, it is important to focus on the inward and eternal, rather than the outward and temporary.
I enlisted in the Air Force right after High School. As I was leaving home for basic training, my Daddy told me, “Remember that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” He shared that his Dad had told him the same thing when he was leaving for the Army during World War II. I later encountered some difficulties and began to wonder, “Where is that verse in the Bible.” (I was not so knowledgeable of the Bible at the time). Of course, I discovered it was Romans 8:28. Over the years the Lord has brought that verse to my mind many times.
More than 40 years ago, I heard a Bible teacher on the radio (I can actually remember the city I was driving in at the time). He was talking about the purpose of difficulties, suffering and problems in our lives. He talked about how God uses those experiences to; 1. Focus our Faith, 2. Fashion our Character, and 3. Fit us for Service. It is remarkable how a phrase, a statement or quote, or a story can stick in our minds and change our lives. It illustrates the power of a word or message, and how we should be aware and intentional about what we say and how it can impact people’s lives.
It is liberating to realize that God is working all things after the council of His own will. All of our negative and positive experiences can be used by the Lord for His purposes. It’s our perspective, our 50/20 Vision, which allows us to be fruitful and make an impact for His kingdom purposes.
Keeping our focus on the Lord enables us to endure hardships and difficulties. Having a 50/20 Vision also helps us to recognize God’s redemptive activities and those divine appointments for witness and ministry. Opportunities we might miss otherwise. Those opportunities may present themselves during a visit to a medical center, an auto repair business or a shopping trip.
An Exemplary Witness
Many years ago I observed an older English gentlemen ask a small boy a simple question. He held a flower in his hand and asked, “Do you think you could make one of these?” Well, that question led to an important conversation about the Lord, the Creator of the universe and the Maker of all things. There are so many of those kinds of opportunities to engage in spiritual conversation when we are alert to them.
God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in His creative handy work. It’s a powerful tool to connect with God’s artistic expressions and incorporate them into our daily conversations. Such encounters can lead to life changing experiences when we bring Jesus into those conversations. It does not always produce instant results, but when we sow the good seed of God’s Word into the lives of others, we can expect a harvest in His time.
Benefits of Hard Times
Hard times come to all of us. When they do, we can ask the Lord, “How do you want me to respond?” — “What are you up to, and how do you want to use me in this situation?” God will often use us in those times to demonstrate His character to those around us. Then the door can open to share and make known the hope that is within us, Christ Himself.
Seeing the Invisible, Doing the Impossible
An automobile accident, a medical emergency, crisis situations, or even a global pandemic can result in meeting new people, forming new relationships and discovering new ministry opportunities. Those occasions can often result in spiritual light shining into new places. As ambassadors of Christ, we can expect that the Lord will be orchestrating our lives and circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Living out of an awareness of the indwelling life of Christ and seeing the invisible will enhance those possibilities.