Trying Times - The Sequel

By Dr. Ken Matto

Proverbs 24:10 (KJV) If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

In the previous article I wrote entitled “Trying Times,” I wrote it with the desire to see those who have become disabled or are experiencing physically problematic lives to gain daily victory over their situation. In this article, the sequel, I want to list some people from the Bible who all faced trying times in their ministry but they all had one major thing in common which allowed them to be victorious in the Christian walk and their service to the Lord. As we look at these people, we will see what they had in common very quickly which caused them to triumph in their walk and service. Opposition to our ministries can have the same devastating effects on us if we allow our detractors to have the upper hand. As we will see the people in this list, did not allow their detractors to have the upper hand, even though they all seemed to be in some type of dreadful circumstances.

Acts 7:9 (KJV) And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

Joseph is probably one of the saddest stories in Scripture with a wonderful ending. Joseph was obedient to his father and became the apple of his father’s eye. He had dreams which God gave him at that time which were prophecies of what was to come. At that time Joseph had no idea what those dreams meant and as a result his brothers had made fun of him and called him “this dreamer.” Genesis 37:19 (KJV) And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Even his father had initially rejected those dreams but Jacob was wise and kept the meaning of them and did not just cast them off. Genesis 37:11 (KJV) And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. The problem was that his brothers had decided to get rid of Joseph once and for all, so when they saw him coming toward them while they were out in the field, they wanted to kill him but Reuben saved him and they put him in a pit and sold him to Ishmaelite traders for twenty pieces of silver. When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, a man named Potiphar bought him and Joseph became the chief steward in his house. Genesis 39:9 (KJV) There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? When Potiphar’s wife tried to make a move on Joseph, Joseph responded by stating he could not do such wicked sin against God as we read in Genesis 39:9. In that verse, we see the key to Joseph overcoming his circumstances. Even in the midst of Egypt, where there were many false gods, Joseph kept his eye focused on the true God. When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brethren, and then falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he could have become bitter or even angry at God as to why did He let this happen to him. Then after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of attempted rape, he spent many years in prison. Genesis 39:21-22 (KJV) But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. {22} And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. Here we read that the Lord was with Joseph and allowed him to be in charge of the prison. Then in time he interprets the dreams of the baker and butler which came to pass exactly as he spoke. Then he interprets the dreams for Pharaoh and is promoted to Governor of Egypt, the second highest office in the land. The key to Joseph overcoming his circumstances was that his entire life was focused on the Lord and instead of him becoming angry or bitter, his desire to serve the Lord in truth allowed him to be promoted. He trusted God every step of the way and did not focus on his circumstances and he was victorious in his service to the Lord and his Christian walk.

Job 2:10 (KJV) But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job is described in the Bible as a very perfect and upright man. Job 1:1 (KJV) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. To eschew means to “avoid, flee from, or shun.” Satan then challenges God and tells Him that if He touches the physical body of Job, he will accuse God and curse Him for losing everything. Job had lost his entire family except for his wife plus all his flocks went to the Chaldeans. Then Job was covered with painful boils and to add insult to injury, his three friends tried to convince him that all of this was his fault. With all that happened to Job, he could have become bitter and angry at God and accused Him or cursed Him and agreed with his wife and friends. Job did not do that, instead he kept his eye on the Lord and he came through that ordeal and did not sin once with his mouth. Job 1:22 (KJV) In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. What was Job’s secret to overcoming a horrible satanic attack? It was to keep his eye on the Lord throughout this entire situation. He did not focus on his circumstances as his wife and friends did, but kept his eye on the Lord, looking beyond his circumstances. He trusted the Lord in the midst of a rough situation and the result was the favor of the Lord. Job 42:10 (KJV) And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

1 Samuel 18:9-11 (KJV) And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. {10} And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. {11} And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

After David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel, the scene above was the beginning of David fleeing for his life from Saul. David had fled from Saul, hiding in caves, going from city to city and basically on the run from day one. David could have become disgusted because Saul had consistently stated that he would not kill David but every time he had the chance, he went after him in hopes to kill him so he would not lose his kingdom. Instead of David becoming disgusted from all the running and telling Samuel to find another king, David kept his eyes on the Lord during this entire situation and trusted Him. God kept David on the run and while he was, He protected him from harm and this is why David kept going because he knew it was part of God’s plan for now. 1 Samuel 23:14 (KJV) And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.

Genesis 22:2 (KJV) And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Abraham had waited all his life for a son, an heir, but this did not happen until they were well into their age. Sarah was 90 and Abraham was 99. Abraham had listened to Sarah and unfortunately he had a son named Ishmael by Hagar the handmaid. Abraham finally regained his faith in God’s promise and waited for the child of promise to come which he did. Isaac was born 13 years after Ishmael. Now everything was going along well and then God speaks to Abraham. He wanted him to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham had such faith in God that he did not question at all God’s request. Instead he just took Isaac and the necessary items for sacrifice and went. Here Abraham had waited all his life for a child and then God comes along and says sacrifice him to me. Abraham could have complained to God saying that Isaac was the chosen one, the child of promise, the heir, etc., but he did not. Instead he trusted God to the point that he was willing to make the sacrifice in obedience. Here was a strange situation. Abraham was going to bless all the families of the earth but how would that be accomplished if Isaac was no longer alive? It seemed that God was now giving Abraham something opposite of what was promised. Abraham kept his eyes on the Lord and as a result he passed the faith test by which we all have benefited. He may not have understood what God was doing, but his faith in God overrode any doubts he had.

Deuteronomy 3:26-27 (KJV) But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. {27} Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

Here we have Moses who led the Israelites for forty years from the time they left Egypt to the point of crossing the Jordan to go into the promised land. All during those years Moses had nothing but trouble from them, even right after the crossing of the Red Sea they refused to wait for Moses to come down from the mountain after receiving God’s laws. Moses had led Israel and bore the brunt of their disobedience to the point that God wanted to destroy them and make a great nation from Moses. Exodus 32:9 (KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: {10} Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. Instead Moses intervened and asked God to remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After all that Moses did for Israel, now he was being told that he could not go into the promised land. Moses could have also become rebellious and complained about it and refused to be their leader anymore but that was not his attitude. Moses kept his eyes on the Lord and trusted in the decision that God had made.

2 Corinthians 11:23 (KJV) Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. {24} Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

Anyone who is just the least bit familiar with the New Testament will know what a struggle the Apostle Paul had with not only the Jews but also with the heathens in different cities. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 Paul gives a little list of the physical problems he encountered while bringing the Gospel and setting up churches. His service to Christ was strewn with opposition to the Gospel on every occasion. He could have complained about it and even try to quit since it seemed he never made any headway without experiencing hostilities. What was Paul’s response to all this? Did he quit? Did he rail against God wanting to know why he was sent to bring the Gospel and was seemingly hindered at every point? No, throughout all the resistance that Paul faced, he never lost faith in God and kept his eyes on Him knowing He would keep Him in any situation. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV) And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Acts 5:40-41 (KJV) And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. {41} And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Here is Peter just coming off a major sermon on Pentecost where three thousand souls became saved. Now they were warned not to continue preaching in the name of Jesus. Acts 4:17 (KJV) But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. They did not obey the leaders because they knew that they had a commission from the Lord Jesus Christ to start sending forth the Gospel. Then they continued and were once again brought before the Sanhedrin but this time they were not just threatened but were flogged for doing what Jesus commanded them to do. Now Peter could have complained to the Lord or even walked away and asked how were they going to get the gospel out if they were continually going to be arrested and beaten. Instead of bringing any complaints to the Lord, they rejoiced in the fact that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. They were not going to allow any of these leaders to stop what they had been commanded to do. Acts 5:42 (KJV) And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. They continued their ministry, even in the temple where they were just flogged. They kept their eyes on the Lord because they knew that He was much bigger than the dead religious leaders who tried to stop the progression of the Gospel.

1 Kings 22:7-8 (KJV) And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him? {8} And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.

Here was a truth telling Prophet named Micaiah who would not be like the false prophets that would tell the king what he wanted to hear. 1 Kings 22:6 (KJV) Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. Here were four hundred worthless prophets who definitely did not receive their messages from God. Jehoshaphat comes to the king of Israel and asks him if there are any other prophets. He apparently knew that these four hundred men were all frauds and wanted to know if there was a real prophet among his people. He knew that these men were only telling Ahab what he wanted to hear, so he commands that Micaiah be brought before them. Micaiah then begins to tell the truth about the outcome of the coming battle. 1 Kings 22:28 (KJV) And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you. Micaiah had prophesied that Ahab would die in this battle and as a result Ahab had him placed back in prison and fed only bread and water. 1 Kings 22:27 (KJV) And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. Micaiah brought forth the true word of God and as a result of him telling the truth, Ahab placed him back in prison with only bread and water for sustenance. Did Micaiah complain or did he change his story so he would not face prison, knowing that the other false prophets were probably eating very well and drinking very well? The prison sentence did not bother him because he knew that he was speaking the truth from the Lord. He would soon be vindicated because Ahab would die in this battle and everyone would know that the four hundred “prophets” were all false and that Micaiah was the only one who told the truth. He kept his eye on the Lord because he knew very well that telling the truth to an apostate would not be received warmly, and it wasn’t. Yet, he kept on telling the truth, no matter what the cost!

Jeremiah 37:15 (KJV) Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

Here the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah was going to be taken into captivity by the Chaldeans for a period of seventy years because this is what God told him to say. The false prophets had told the king that it was only going to be a period of two years. Jeremiah insisted on telling the truth and as a result, he was beaten and thrown into prison. Jeremiah could have lost heart and decided that serving God was not worth the physical abuse. Instead he continued to prophesy right up till the time that the Chaldeans overtook Judah and took them into captivity. Jeremiah knew that he had a commission from God to bring the truth to Judah, whether they wanted to hear the truth or not and they didn’t. Jeremiah 1:19 (KJV) And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. Jeremiah knew that God was with him and that their opposition to the truth would not overcome him despite being treated badly by them because his message was vindicated when the Chaldeans took Judah.

Ruth 1:5 (KJV) And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Mahlon was the one who was married to Ruth. Mahlon had died and now Ruth was a widow which made her a member of a lower class in ancient times. Ruth could have went back to Moab with Orpah and abandoned Naomi. Ruth was married to Mahlon for ten years. Instead of Ruth becoming bitter about this, she chose to stay with Naomi and go to Israel with her. Her attitude was that of a true Christian. Ruth 1:16 (KJV) And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: She chose to stay with Naomi and to seek the God of Israel and because of her desire to serve the Lord, King David was born in her line. She was Great Grandmother to David. If she would have gone back to Moab, then she would not have had the privilege of being in the Messianic line of the Lord Jesus. Matthew 1:5 (KJV) And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

Psalms 73:16-17 (KJV) When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; {17} Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

Asaph was so representative of today’s Christian. Sometimes we wonder why are the wicked allowed to prosper and seem to do anything they want. It seems that they can state what they are going to do a year from now and it will come to pass just as they say. Many Christians go from paycheck to paycheck and can barely make ends meet while it seems that unbelievers in this world make money in a heartbeat and never seem to have a care in the world. Asaph could not understand how this could be. He had served the Lord and it seemed it was too hard to do in this world. Then Asaph did something that helped clear up his understanding. He went into the house of the Lord. Psalms 73:17 (KJV) Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Then once he went into the house of the Lord and started hearing the Scriptures expounded, he then knew that this life was all that the unbeliever has and once they die, there is no more pleasure and no more easy lifestyle. They will undergo eternal damnation and the believer will experience eternal bliss forevermore. Asaph then understood that the Christian need not focus on this life except to the point of necessities and serving the Lord. We will never find peace and safety in this world, it will be in the next world where the Christian will find true happiness and holiness. Psalms 73:28 (KJV) But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works. Asaph drew near to God and then all things were made clear instead of him just becoming angry and refusing to serve the Lord anymore.

Okay Ken, these are Bible characters and we expect them to fall in line because they seemed closer to the Lord and actually had prophets to speak to them for God. What about Christians in our day who had or have trying times in their lives?

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932)
Annie Johnson Flint was born in Vineland, New Jersey. She became saved at the age of 8. She taught school for about three years until she developed arthritis which caused her to stop teaching school because she was unable to walk. She wanted to be a concert Pianist but her hands had become so twisted because of the arthritis that she had to give up that dream. The major part of her life was spent as disabled, she was also blind and had constant pain plus she was totally dependent upon others. Instead of giving up and feeling sorry for herself, she had written some of the most beautiful godly poetry and she never lost her love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Annie penned one of the most beautiful Christian hymns that we still sing. “He Giveth More Grace”

He Giveth More Grace
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Elisabeth Elliott
Elisabeth Elliott was born in 1926 and she was married to Jim Elliott. Jim died on January 8, 1956 when he was martyred along with four other missionaries trying to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming were the other four martyred missionaries. After their deaths, Elisabeth did not come home as a weeping widow blaming God for the loss of her husband, instead she stayed and worked among the Auca Indians for another two years, and as a result of that, many of them became saved including the warriors who had killed the missionaries. Their first convert was Dayuma who has gone to be with the Lord in March of 2014. She became a tremendous testimony to the Gospel and traveled to many countries bringing the Gospel.

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888)
Horatio Spafford was a close friend of D.L. Moody because they lived in Chicago. He was a very prominent lawyer and he had supported the ministry of Dwight Moody. He married Anna Larsen of Norway in 1861 and they had four daughters and a son. Their son died in 1870 of Scarlet Fever at the age of four. Spafford had invested in property in North Chicago in the spring of 1871. In October of 1871, the great Chicago fire had occurred and wiped out almost all of Horatio’s investment. In 1873, he had decided to take his family on a holiday to England because he knew that was where D.L. Moody would be preaching. Business had caused a delay so he sent his family ahead and he would join them as soon as his business was completed. On November 22, 1873 their ship was hit by an iron sailing vessel and as a result 226 people lost their lives including Horatio’s four daughters. Anna survived the collision and sent a message back to Horatio, “Saved Alone.” Horatio could have went into deep depression or held his fist toward God instead he trusted the Lord and kept his eye on Him and as a result he penned the words of a very famous hymn.

It Is Well With My Soul
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
In 1517 Martin Luther had posted his 95 Theses to the door of the cathedral at Wittenberg, Germany. It started the greatest time of spiritual renewal this world had ever known. It also began the hunt for Luther by the Roman Catholic Church who excommunicated him and afterward sought his death. Did Luther give up and stop fighting the fight for truth? No, instead he continued to write commentaries, a German translation of the Bible, and many articles and other books to expose the truth of the Bible and challenge the false teachings of Romanism. He did all of this while facing opposition and the constant threat of death and even traitors who might turn him in. His ministry continues to bless countless millions 500 years later all because he trusted in the Lord and did not give up or complain that he was always being sought.

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
At the time of Bunyan, the Church of England was a very powerful entity. One was not allowed to preach unless they were ordained by the Church of England. John Bunyan was not ordained by them but continued to preach the Gospel. This resulted in him being sentenced to twelve years in prison. Instead of complaining and blaming God for his predicament, he continued to serve the Lord and even though he was imprisoned several times, he continued to preach the Gospel. It was during his stay in Bedford County Jail where he penned his novel, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Needless to say it is still blessing people 350 years later all because he chose to remain obedient and in service to the Lord, even in prison, just like the Apostle Paul.

I have given eleven people from the Bible who had faced trials of their faith in their lifetimes plus I have given five people after the completion of the Bible who also faced trials of their faith. They all had one thing in common and that was during those times of trial, they all kept their eyes on the Lord and continued to progress in the Christian walk. No one is saying that these Saints did not shed tears or even become temporarily discouraged but they did not stay under their circumstances, instead trusted the Lord and lived above those circumstances to make indelible impressions on Christianity, both in their times and for posterity. So when you are doing ministry or even just living for the Lord and there comes a trial of your faith, no matter how severe, if you keep your eyes on the Lord you will overcome any and all discouragement and then you will emerge a stronger and more vibrant Christian. I had mentioned that the people from the Bible era had prophets to speak to them from God. We too in our day have that same privilege. God’s word is found in your King James Bible and when you read it, you are getting the same authoritative messages the old time Bible people got from their prophets. Failing to read and study your Bible will place you in a dangerous position where you will face spiritual degeneration and weakness.

James 1:2-4 (KJV) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; {3} Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. {4} But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.