The beloved missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) challenged her readers to “glorify ye the Lord in the fires (Isaiah 24:15 KJV),” not when they have passed or you are out of them and they are only memories, but in them.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened (Acts 16:25-26).
It’s a familiar story to us. Our brothers were beaten and thrown into prison, and we’re told that midnight found them praying and singing to God. Amazing. And what about their fellow inmates? Luke writes that the prisoners were listening. That can serve as a reminder to us that when we face trials, people are listening.
Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India for over five decades. This courageous sister in Christ rescued little girls from temple prostitution. We can rest assured that when she spoke, people listened. In 1931, Amy had an accident that left her bedridden for much of the final 20 years of her life. She spent that season writing over a dozen books. Maybe you have read some of them. Her writings have inspired many believers down through the years as they opened her books and listened to her accounts of God’s work on the mission field. (Amy’s story is powerfully told in Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton.)
Mike was a pastor, a husband, a dad, and a grandad, and he was terminally ill. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was expected to live for only a short time. During that sad season, he continued to attend church services despite the pain. As his health declined more, he sat in a recliner at the back of our church. We had a conference at a nearby retreat center. Mike made it a point to be there. He sat in a wheelchair at the end of the row.
I’ll never forget listening to Mike preach that Wednesday night. His voice was weak, and he was a bit emotional as he spoke of the sweet time that he was having with the Lord.
Listen to the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk’s response to the prospect of tragedy:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Despite what might come, Habakkuk determined to rejoice in the Lord. How could he do that? He declared, “God, the Lord, is my strength.”
In the New Testament book of Colossians, Paul prayed that, among other things, the believers would be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:11 NASB).”
Paul understood the source of the believers’ strength. He knew that Christians must depend on a power outside of themselves to face the difficulties of life. They need the glorious might of Almighty God.
Trials will come.
Some hide underneath a blanket of self-pity when trials arrive. It’s an easy option. Others strengthen themselves with the spiritual food that God provides: the Bible, sermons, Christian fellowship, etc. Some numb themselves on the empty things of this world, while others plead with God for strength to live in a manner that honors their Lord.
How will you and I respond when the next trial comes?
It’s an important question. We boast in our King on the sunny days. What will we say when the clouds darken and the storm rolls in? People want to know.