Publication:Pastoral Letter, May 2020
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray you are well and at peace. During this season of global crisis, we all need perspective and guidance; that is what I have been seeking from the Lord. Recently, I listened to a podcast featuring my friend Rex Miller, who is a futurist. Two phrases stood out: “We are in a pivot.” A pivot is a radical turn in a different direction. The second phrase was: “Change comes through pain.” In other words, we change because it hurts not to. So, we are in a radical change that has been painfully forced upon us. That is crisis.
Most true prophets and apostles ministered in crisis times. We value their words, but often fail to see the circumstance that produced them. I have gone back to read some of what Jeremiah and Apostle Paul had to say in two often-quoted scriptures:
“I know the thoughts that I think for you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil; to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Both of those are comforting verses. What I want to do is look at the context and principles to which they point. Jeremiah is addressing God’s future purpose in the midst of extreme suffering and crisis. Jerusalem is on the verge of destruction, death, and heartbreak, and Jeremiah was being severely persecuted and threatened for saying so.
In Romans chapter 8, Paul was addressing how to overcome the suffering that was occurring to Christians under Roman rule. The writings of both of these great men have endured because they came out of the fiery trial. The Apostle Peter also spoke of this in 1 Peter chapter 4. We cannot afford to skip the context yet enjoy the message. We must not enjoy the fruit and despise the tree. The fruit of wisdom is borne by the tree of hard experience.
So, with your patience and willingness, I will share four words that have become very significant to me as I have looked at Jeremiah and Paul.
God has a purpose. Those who ignore God do not see His purpose and do not see purpose in crisis. Jeremiah says, “I know the plans.” Paul says, “Called according to His purpose.” God is good and His plans are good; it is our plans that are not good. It was Judah’s plans that were astray. It was Rome’s plans that were destructive. But God was promising to bring good out of evil. He was promising to overcome evil with good through His people.
What is happening to so many people in our world now is evil: starvation, sickness, suffering, and death. But the Lord will bring a new day out of the night. The issue for us is overcoming the darkness, and that will be assisted by our knowing that the Lord has a plan, even if we don’t know what it is. Our trust is not in the situation or even in knowing God’s plan. It is in trusting God Himself, not what we know or believe we know.
Revelation 5 and 13 both speak of “lamb that was slain” even before the foundation of the world. So God had a plan before He began creation, but until John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb,” the plan was obscure, even to theologians. Prophets saw bits and pieces of God’s plan, but the New Covenant begins to unveil it. Paul says “We know in part.” (There is more to come.) “Who has known the mind of God?” Yes, if we know at all, we know in part … not the whole.
So what is the plan? Generally speaking, we can say that God’s purpose is to make Himself known that we might be transformed by what He reveals (see Jeremiah 29:13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:7-13, 17-23; 3:10-11). Make no mistake; God has a plan and He is in control. But… there is a process. That will bring us to a more complete knowledge of God and maturity.
False prophets are those who say, “You can have the prize without the process; we can go from mountain-to-mountain with no valleys.” But God’s covenant has conditions. Psalm 23 tells us that between the green pastures, still waters, and the house of the Lord, there is the valley of the shadow of death. The Exodus tells us that between Egypt and Canaan there is the wilderness. What we do in the valley of the shadow of death matters. What we do in the wilderness matters to our future.
Yes, God can turn our mourning into dancing but how we handle our mourning matters. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” When would that be? After 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Between Jeremiah 29:11 and verse 13, are 70 years of captivity (see Jeremiah 29:10).
I find it very interesting that those captives in Babylon were the ones to seek the Lord and be brought back to the land. The ones left in the land had to endure the death and destruction. Some back home, including the false prophets, thought that it was the captives that were being punished. Things are not always as they seem.
When Jesus was crucified, some thought it was the end, but it was only the beginning. Even some disciples thought it was the end, but no, it was God’s plan and process. You don’t skip Good Friday to get to Easter; there is a process—sometimes a most difficult process!
There are those today who tell us that suffering is a lack of faith or that believers are exempt from the process. I wish! The truth is that all of the good things that we inherited came through great difficulty. Several years ago, I brought a message to Foothills Christian Church “History Was Written in Adversity.” (See our CSM Publishing YouTube Channel.) All that we have worth having has been fire-tested. It is darkness that magnifies the light. Should we therefore ask for suffering and darkness? Of course not! We don’t need to ask for night; it always comes. In fact, the new day begins at night. This is God’s time and our time to shine as stars in the sky!
God is NOT in a hurry, even when we are. “How long?” is a child’s question. The adult answer is, “A little longer.” Waiting is always long enough to test our trust in Jesus and that He has a plan and a process.
Those of us who grew up evangelical should be able to remember the predictions of some people about Jesus’ return that did not happen as predicted. Revelation 22:20 closes this inspired book with the promise and request for Jesus to come quickly. That is our desire and His promise. Books have been written about what that means. Whatever it means, it is not “quick” in our terms. A day with the Lord is like a thousand years. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said that the Gospel would be preached in every nation and then the end will come.
In Luke 21, Jesus speaks of the end times with its persecutions and serious problems. Trusting the Lord is critical in the process and in the waiting. “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage” (Psalm 27:14; see also Romans 12:12; 2 Peter 3:9). Waiting is spoken of in the Bible more than 100 times! There must be a reason.
If one cannot wait, the exit is ugly. The path off the road of patience is abortive, premature, falling short, and even suicidal. The Lord’s plan in it all is to bring us to maturity and patience—even to become like Jesus. The prize is worth the wait. We are being prepared to inherit what the Lord and our Father have for us. Those who receive wealth in their immaturity squander it as the prodigal did. While waiting for the inheritance, we do well to serve in Father’s family, then we will mature and be able to steward what He wants to give us. And what might that be?
Perhaps I should say prizes, because there are many prizes that come with victory over adversity. I believe that Jesus’ prize was to please the Father, and receive the “Well done” prize. To have Father’s approval is the greatest of all prizes and that is the prize of our highest aim.
Within the prize of pleasing the Father are many prizes and benefits too numerous to list. (Forgiveness, healing, redemption, mercy, renewal, provision, relationships, and more. See Psalm 103.)
The Apostle Paul said to the Church at Philippi, “You whom I love and long for, are my joy and my crown” (see Philippians 4:1) Because Paul kept his eyes on his upward call and did not look back, he was able to be very fruitful and rejoice in the harvest. He is still bearing fruit 2000 years later. That was His prize!
Jesus, upon His ascension, presented many sons and daughters to the Father (see Hebrews 2:10). He was able to bear fruit because He kept focused on the Father’s purpose for His life on earth, and that victory came at the Cross that He endured for our sake. He patiently endured the process.
We must remember in crisis that our endurance is not only for our sake; it is for the Lord and those who will be blessed by our endurance. Endurance is not the purpose, but it is the critical means to our purpose. We endure with patience and trust in God.
I should say that the Lord has multiple purposes within His overall purpose to reveal Himself. He has a purpose for each of us, and that is where He will reveal Himself to us. Paul knew his calling and pressed to fulfill it, and the Lord revealed Himself to Paul. We need to know our “upward call.” All of us have a “higher call,” a purpose that calls up above where we are and where the Lord will meet us. It will require some sacrifice and stretching but will take us to a more full revelation of our Father in Heaven and bring our purpose into His purpose.
I love the old hymn “Higher Ground”… “I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day, still praying as I’m onward bound. Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” That is our prayer!
Praying for You
We here are praying for you and deeply appreciate your prayers for us that we can fulfill our purpose—To Embrace the Truth with our Lives and serve you in that way. We want to stay focused on our God-given purpose, endure with patience whatever the process holds for us, and receive the prize to which we press … to present many to Christ.
We ask sincerely for your continued prayers and financial support this month. You play a significant role in the fulfillment of this mission, and we are grateful.
So, with God’s grace and strength, we will press on with these keys; and see you on the other side!
Brother Charles Simpson
Jeremiah 29:10-13; Romans 8:28;Revelation 5 & 13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:7-13, 17-23; Jeremiah 3:10-11; Psalm 23; Revelation 22:20; Philippians 4:1; Matthew 24:14; Luke 21; Psalm 27:14; Romans 12:12; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 103: Hebrews 2:10