Helloooooo? Are You There?

Podcast available at: https://anchor.fm/diane-simcox/episodes/Helloooooooo—Are-You-There-e1am20i

Romans 8 part 3

Last week, we covered the last half of Romans 8 as a whole.  Our Scripture included the familiar Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.”  We discussed the suffering, pain, and troubles that we experience in life and that we are assured that God will take each experience and work it for good if we love Him and are called to His purpose.  Dr. Tim Keller sums it all up in what he calls The Christian’s Happiness.  “Your bad things turn out for good, your good things can never be lost, and the best things are yet to come.”  What he’s saying is supported by Paul’s statement in Romans 8:18 18  NASB  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Many years ago, I dislocated a bone in my finger.  It was very uncomfortable.  It throbbed and I couldn’t do anything with it.  The finger wouldn’t bend like it was supposed to.  It was very swollen.  The thought of anyone touching it made me nauseated because it hurt so badly.  I tried taping it, making a homemade splint out of a popsicle stick, even using an ace bandage. But knowing that it wasn’t going to get better on its own, Mom took me to the doctor.  He explained that he would be able to put it in the right position, but that it was going to hurt.  He called in a nurse and he stationed her on one side of me; he put Mom on the other side.  They both held me as he took my hand and maneuvered the finger back into its joint.  The pain was excruciating, but it was brief.  After a few seconds, it was all over and even though the soreness lingered, the pain, the throbbing, the swelling quickly went away.  It took a moment of extreme pain to relieve the discomfort that had crippled me for days.  Today, I can’t even tell you which finger was hurt.  Even though the pain was intense at the time, I now can’t identify the source.

Our lives reflect that same scenario.  We encounter times when things are just not right.  They’re not how we expect them to be.  We hurt; we’re uncomfortable; we feel impaired. And try as we might, we are unable to fix them on our own.  And so we turn to God, our Healer, our Great Physician.  And even though it may hurt, may cause undeniable pain for a period of time, God can take that bad thing and mold it into something good.  Chances are, God will place people in our lives at just the right time to “hold us” as He’s working.  And one day, the pain of that time will diminish and soften as we begin to heal and see God’s fingerprints all over it.

Beth Moore, in her Esther Bible study, said this.  “At some of the hardest times in my life, I have been able to make the more difficult choice out of pure blind-eyed, bent-kneed acceptance that it was somehow part of a greater plan.  I was beaten by a conviction that throbbed relentlessly against my strong self-centeredness.  As much as my flesh wanted relief, I knew that when all was said and done, I’d sit on that side of glory having much rather fulfilled my calling than served myself all the way to meaninglessness.  I had to accept that I was not called to an easy life.  I was called to a purposeful life.”[i]

Think hard before you answer this question.  Do you want an easy life or a purposeful life?  Be honest with yourself.  In fact, think of it this way.  Think of going into a voting booth; the screen is positioned so that you have complete privacy. You insert your identification card and the one question pops up.  What kind of a life do you desire?  There are only two options.  Easy.  Purposeful.  You make your selection and hit “submit”.  The next screen shows your choice and asks if you are satisfied with your choice.  After you click “submit” again, there’s no going back.  There’s no changing of the mind.  What you chose is what you get and it’s either going to be easy or it’s going to be purposeful. 

Would you agree that our choice is solely based on our relationship with God?  If our relationship with God is pure and meaningful, then our choice would be for a purposeful life.  A life in which He is glorified and our fruits for Him are plentiful.  However, if we view our connection with God as a means to get what we desire and have Him at our beck and call to our every prayer, every wish, then what we have isn’t really a relationship and we would obviously choose an easy life. 

The last few verses of Romans 8 speaks of the unbreakable bond we have with God.  It emphasizes the power, the protection that, as God’s children, we are given.  It also speaks of God’s commitment to the relationship He desires with us.

Romans 8:31 TLB 31 “What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else?

33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself.

34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.”

My husband will testify to the fact that I am normally a calm, peaceful, non-combative person; however, if one of my children is being hurt or mistreated in any way, I can quickly turn into a “Momster” and glide into supersonic protective mode.  Don’t misunderstand me.  They make mistakes; they are in the wrong from time to time and I don’t hesitate to be “Mom” in those situations and tell them so.  But when they are treated unfairly or attacked in any way, it hurts me as much as it does them and I can be very defensive on their behalf.

You don’t have to be a parent to understand that level of protectiveness.  There’s someone in your life that you have that kind of bond with that would cause you to go into combat mode for their sake, their well-being.  Maybe it’s a spouse, a sibling, a parent, another family member, or a best friend.  But what about God, Himself?  Do we stand up for Him like He stands up for us?  Are you as protective and defensive of God as you are with others?  If not, why not?  Is it that we feel God doesn’t need our protection or us standing up for Him? 

1 Peter 3:15 CSB “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

 I’ll find myself humming the song I learned as a child. “Rise and shine  and give God the glory, glory, glory.” It’s one of those songs that just gets stuck in your head and plays on a loop.  I’m given so many chances throughout the day to give Him glory, to make a stand for Him, to declare the majesty and glory of His name and Who He is.  But I regret that I miss so many of those opportunities.  I know I disappoint Him daily.  He doesn’t need me to protect Him or stand up for Him.  He wants me to love Him so much that it happens automatically.  He wants us to have a concrete bond with Him that regardless of our current situation or circumstances, we know that He is there for us and that His love is unwavering, and we continue to praise Him unconditionally.

Romans 8:35 TLB  “Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?”

There’s a saying that’s been around for many years that reads, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved.”

Ever since I heard that phrase in my teen years, I’ve applied it to my life.  There certainly have been times that I realized that slowly I had backed away from God.  I didn’t make Him a priority.  As days turned into weeks then weeks into months, I wasn’t as intentional about spending time with Him.  Truthfully, most of those times were when things were going fairly well; perhaps I didn’t feel like I needed Him as much during those periods of my life.  Other times, I pulled away or distanced myself because He didn’t respond like I expected, or perhaps He didn’t respond at all. 

It’s taken some years, some growth in my relationship with Him, that I’ve come to realize that sometimes those periods of feeling distant from Him weren’t what they seemed to be.  Perhaps there was no distance but rather those times were opportunities for my faith in Him to grow.  Maybe those bouts of silence were needed to strengthen my trust and my confidence in Him and His love for me. 

CeCe Winans sings a song entitled “He’s Never Failed Me Yet”

With years of life came test and trial

And nights when tears replaced the smile

Though God was right there all the while

My soul was not at rest

But I lived to tell that I made it through

So instead of singing ’bout the blues

I bring you news to encourage you

He’s never failed me yet

Can you claim that?  I admit there were brief moments when I felt as if God had failed me.  Times when I faced such hardship that I cried out to Him to free me from it.  Times when the pain was overwhelming and I was so scared.  I can just imagine that you’ve been there too.  Not one of us is immune to suffering.

Romans 8:36  TLB  “No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; 37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.”

There’s a Beth Moore study in which she uses the thought process of “what’s the worst that can happen”.  The idea is that you think of all of the possible outcomes to a situation, imagining the worst and you counter with “then what”? The idea is that no matter what the worst-case scenario may be, we, as children of God, always have victory in Jesus Christ.  I do believe that keeping that assurance at the forefront of our thoughts is what produces joy in our life.

Romans 8: 38  TLB “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”

God will never stop loving us.  Once we are His child, He loves us and nothing can break that love that flows from Him to us.  His passion for us is pure, unconditional, and cannot be broken.  But like all relationships, it takes two.  Nothing can separate us from His love; but is there anything that can separate our love from Him?

One thing that is troubling is hearing of people who once claimed to love God with all of their hearts.  They believed His every Word; they pledged their lives, their love, and loyalty to Him.  That is until they felt as if God failed them.  

Once-professing Christians are abandoning their love for God and their faith in Him as they face trials and sufferings in their life.  People who once identified as Christians now classify themselves as atheists.  There are various reasons for this to take place but one of the most dominant reasons is a trigger event; some life-changing event that causes one to doubt not only God’s love for them but the existence of God Himself. 

I want to share with you a condensed version of the story of Peter Guirguis who experienced this himself.

“I remember as a boy, my grandma would read me stories from the Bible. She was quite the evangelist.

She would tell me, “Peter, when you are ready, you need to ask Jesus into your heart.” She then would explain to me why I needed to do that.

It was because we are all sinners who violated God’s commands. Only through Jesus could we have the forgiveness of sins.

I thought about what my grandma said for a while, and then one day it just made sense to me.

I got on my knees and I gave my life to Jesus.  At the time, I thought it was one of the best things I ever did!  After that, I prayed and read the Bible for many years until I was in high school.

In my senior year, something happened to my family that made me abandon my belief that God exists.

When I was in high school, my dad thought it was a good idea to go into a business partnership with his best friend from college. So my dad invested all of the money my family had into this real estate business deal with his best friend.

As it turns out, my dad’s best friend was dishonest about some parts of the business deal.  As a result, my family was left with no money in the bank, and with property that couldn’t be sold.

We went from being financially comfortable, to having almost nothing in our bank account.  All of this happened in a twenty-four-hour period. After a while, my mom and I noticed that my dad was behaving strangely. He had all these delusions that people were coming after him because of this new partnership that he made with his best friend. I prayed to God and asked Him to reverse our situation, but He didn’t do it.  I asked God to heal my dad, but He didn’t do that either. I asked God to restore the money that we had lost overnight, but God seemed unresponsive.

My family was going through the biggest trial of our lives, and it seemed like God was nowhere to be found. I began to think that everything that I learned about Christianity was wrong.  I was told that God was going to help me during my trial, but God wasn’t responding to my pleas for help.

So I stopped praying, reading the Bible, and going to church.

I began to believe that the things that I learned about God’s existence were false.  I thought that since God didn’t help me, then surely He didn’t exist.

I was turning into an atheist. Fortunately enough, through a series of circumstances, my dad became convinced that he was ill.  We checked him into a psychiatric hospital and he began to get treatment. By the grace of God, my dad was able to go back to work.

At the time, I didn’t realize it, but God was healing my dad very slowly.  That in itself was a miracle that I didn’t notice because I had become atheistic in my beliefs. During my college years, I found myself fully embracing atheism. I went to the best and most exclusive nightclubs in Los Angeles, and I hung out at the famous Sunset Boulevard, where parties happened every night.

The interesting thing is that when I first began my party life, I remember hearing a voice speaking to me saying, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here.  You need to leave this place now.”

But I would ignore the voice, and after ignoring the voice long enough, I stopped hearing the voice altogether. What I thought was going to be the fun-filled life of the rich and famous turned out to be a life filled with depression, meaninglessness, and anger. I had everything the world told me would make me happy. Despite living the life that I thought was going to make me happy, I still felt empty and like my life had no purpose.

My new worldview came crumbling down during a night of night-clubbing in LA when I realized that everything I was doing was pointless. I began to ask myself, “What’s the meaning of life?  Why are we here on Earth? What’s the purpose of life?  What is my destiny?”

These were all questions that I was desperate to find answers for.  So I began to search for meaning and for spirituality. First off, I began to look into New Age philosophy. Next, I turned to the philosophy behind the power of positive thinking. This belief says that you can have anything that you want in life if you can just think and visualize that it has already happened. I continued to explore philosophies and religions, searching for the right one for me but I wasn’t finding anything that would stick.

My search would continue for an additional five years. At the end of those five years, I found myself rethinking my beliefs about the world, God, and the universe.

At this point, I forgot what it was like to be a Christian.

But I began to think, “Is there really no God? Am I here just by accident? Surely there must be some kind of purpose for my life, but why is it that I can’t find out what it is?”

I began to change my mind about my position of being an atheist because I started to think that there must be a God.

The problem was that I just didn’t know which god was the real god, or if anyone had even discovered him, her, or it.

I had tried the Christian God, but I thought He had failed me. Maybe there was another god out there that was true and real, but I just didn’t know about him yet.

At the same time, I decided that I wanted to have some kind of purpose in life because I felt so empty inside. wanted to have an over-arching goal to achieve that was big and meaningful for my life.

After giving it some thought, I decided that I wanted to become rich. While I knew that money wouldn’t make me happy, I also knew that it does solve a lot of problems in life. Plus, I could give away a large amount of money to charity, which I knew would make me feel good, and that would give me a sense of purpose. So I picked up a copy of Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, and I began to read it. In the book, Hill teaches you to write down on a piece of paper how much money you want to have, and to choose a specific date by which you will have this amount. After that, you’re to speak out loud every single day your written statement about your financial goal, and soon enough, you’ll find yourself taking action to achieving that goal. In short, this method is teaching you to obsess about getting money every single day to the point where it motivates you to take action.

So I thought about how much money I wanted to have. I came up with the figure, $20 million, and I was going to have this money by the time that I was forty years old. I started to become obsessed with achieving my goal.  Sure enough, after a short while, I found myself writing a business plan, and working towards my new financial goal. While I was working on making my money dreams come true, I went to Mexico for a family vacation. One day when I was in the villa that we were staying in, I was reading through the Napoleon Hill book. As I sat there in the living room, something felt strange and I felt like the purpose that I had chosen for myself of being financially well-off was not the right thing to do with my life. All of a sudden, I decided to pray out loud to a deity which I wasn’t sure existed.

I hadn’t prayed in years, and this time, I wasn’t even sure to whom I was going to pray. I was going to pray, and I would test to see if I would get an answer from a god that I wasn’t even sure existed. I prayed with a loud voice, “God, if you’re out there and if you are real, I want to ask you if I should make having these millions of dollars be the single purpose of my life. I don’t know if you’re listening, I don’t know if you exist, but if you’re real, please speak to me. I want to know.” All of a sudden, I heard a voice speak back to me. It wasn’t the kind of voice that you hear audibly, but it’s the kind of voice that you hear in your mind or in your heart. The voice said to me, “Peter, make Me the number-one priority in your life, and everything else in your life will fall into place.”

All of a sudden I became ecstatic! I thought to myself, “Wow, God really does exist and He’s communicating with me!”

I just finished thinking that thought when all of a sudden, I heard another internal voice speak to me. This voice said to me something different than the voice that I first heard.

The voice said, “That’s not true, Peter. You can have both God and money. Think about Joseph in the Bible. He was the ruler of Egypt, and at the same time, he believed in God. “Think about King David in the Bible.  He was rich and yet he was a follower of God. You can have the best of both worlds.  You can have both God and money.” What was this second voice? Where did it come from?  Why was it contradicting the first voice that I heard?

I didn’t understand what was going on, so I decided to pray one more time out loud. I prayed, “God, a few seconds ago, I asked you if I should make having the $20 million be the purpose of my life, and I could have sworn that you answered me and told me to make You the number-one priority in my life.

“But now I’m hearing another voice and it’s telling me that I should have both money and God at the same time. What should I do? Was that really You who was speaking to me a few seconds ago or is this all in my head?  Am I hallucinating and just making this stuff up?”

So I stopped and waited to see if the voice that I had heard would come back to me, and speak to me again.  But it didn’t. There was just complete silence. What was going on? I finished my vacation with my family, and I came back to my home in Los Angeles. 

A few days later, I was at a place called Third Street Promenade watching a movie with my best friend. After the movie, we were going back to our cars when a woman I never met before came up to me and asked, “Have you received your million dollars today?”

So I said, “Excuse me?”

She said, “Here, take this.” She handed me what appeared to be a million dollar bill.

“Thanks,” I said back to her, and I put the paper that she gave me in my pocket. When I went back home and into my bedroom, I emptied my pockets, and I pulled out the million dollar bill.

As I turned it over, it read, “Here’s the million dollar question: Are you going to heaven?” The million dollar bill then began to ask me a series of questions on whether I had kept the Ten Commandments. As I was reading this million dollar bill, my heart began to beat fast, and I got goosebumps on my arms.

When I finished reading it, the first voice that I heard the other night came back to me.  It was a small, still voice, and again, it was inaudible to the ear, but I heard it in my heart very clearly. The voice said, “Peter, the other day that was Me that was speaking to you. I told you to make Me the number-one priority in your life and that everything was going to fall into place. “But you didn’t listen and you couldn’t understand My voice. Now I’m speaking to you in a way that you can understand.

I sent you this million-dollar bill.  Do you now understand the million-dollar question? “The million-dollar question isn’t about how much money you have in the bank.  The million-dollar question is whether you’re going to heaven.”

I began to cry. It was God and He was speaking to me in a very personal way that I could understand.  He was communicating with me at my level, and through my personal circumstances. I responded, “God, I have sinned against you. I have done so many wrong things against You! I don’t deserve for You to call me your child anymore.”

But God responded to me by saying, “My son, I love you and I will forgive you. I want you back. Just give your life over to Me and everything will fall into place.”

But I said, “I can’t Lord, I have done too many wrong things against You!” But God said, “It’s okay son, I forgive you.  I love you, and I want you back.”

So I got on my knees in my bedroom.  I asked God to forgive me of all the wrong things I had done, and I asked Him to help me become a good Christian. That was the night that my life changed forever.[ii]

Peter Guirguis allowed circumstances of life and what he considered to be silence from God to create a wedge or a separation between him and God.  For years, Peter lived as God didn’t exist; he denied the very idea of God and he tried to fill every vacancy within himself with anything other than God.  His story may be considered extreme, but make no mistake.  His story is not isolated.  Many men, women, teenagers who once raised their hands in praise to Him, who knelt at the altar thanking Him for the good things in their life, who once sought to glorify God in all that they did were triggered by life’s events and turned their backs on Him.  They permitted some thing or some event to cut the extension of the love that flowed from them to God.  But that love that God had for them always existed.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Not life, not death, not even the powers of hell itself can keep  God’s love from us.  Don’t let the darkness of life pull you from Him. 

James 4:8 NET  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

My sweet Daddy with my oldest daughter,.

I have countless sweet memories of my parents.  But one that never fails to bring tears to my eyes was one day when I was going through a really rough time.  I felt tossed about, beaten up, bruised by life, and worst of all, I felt abandoned by God.  I had literally screamed at Him one morning in the car, “Why are You not fixing this?  I know You can fix it, but what aren’t You?”  I ended up with my parents, crying and sobbing over all of it.  My mom gave me her pearls of wisdom but at the moment, they were like feathers in the wind.  I couldn’t grasp what she was saying.  But my daddy, who was sitting there in his recliner just said, “Come here, baby girl.”  I got up and walked over to him and he patted his lap.  Here I was, 38 years old and the mother of two and I sat on my daddy’s lap.  He said nothing.  He simply held me.  He knew that I didn’t need words, I didn’t need someone to fix it, I didn’t need suggestions or solutions.  He knew that as hard and painful as it was, it was necessary for me to go through the rough time I was going through.  And he knew that I needed to know that he was there for me.  That’s the definition of a father.  I was blessed to have an earthly father who demonstrated such love for me that I can somehow grasp how much God my Heavenly Father loves me.  Nothing can separate me from that.

“When God is silent, He is not still.  God does some of His best work in the dark.  Trust Him- He’s there.” 

Tony Evans

[i] Beth Moore, Esther:  It’s Tough Being a Woman

[ii] https://notashamedofthegospel.com/testimony/peterguirguis/

Published by Diane Simcox

Daily I am humbled at how God shows me that He is active and involved in my life. He is gracious enough to simplify every day things so that I have a better understanding of Who He is to me.

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