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Trials & Discipline of God

 

Discipline

A man came up to two boys fighting in the park. He took one aside and began to spank him for his inappropriate behavior. An observing bystander came up to the man and asked indignantly why he didn’t do anything to the other boy. The man responded that this one was his own son and the other was not. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

A young child accidentally took sleeping pills from the family’s medicine cabinet. The doctor instructed the parents to keep the child awake by any means necessary for the next four hours—including the pain of slapping if necessary. That pain was necessary for the child’s survival. So, too, in the Christian’s journey: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11 NIV). ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

A boy’s toy boat went out of reach on a pond one day and started floating away. A man on the side started throwing rocks at the boat and the boy became horrified at what might happen. But then he realized that the rocks were going over the boat and making ripples that finally pushed the boat back to shore and into the boy’s hands.

        Many time, when we stray away from God, it appears that he is throwing rocks at us. But he is really using the ripples to bring us back home. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

A woman visiting in Switzerland came to a sheepfold on one of her daily walks. Venturing in, she saw the shepherd seated on the ground with his flock around him. Nearby, on a pile of straw lay a single sheep, which seemed to be suffering. Looking closely, the woman saw that its leg was broken.

        Her sympathy went out to the suffering sheep, and she looked up inquiringly to the shepherd as she asked how it happened. “I broke it myself,” said the shepherd sadly and then explained. “Of all the sheep in my flock, this was the most wayward. It would not obey my voice and would not follow when I was leading the flock. On more than one occasion, it wandered to the edge of a perilous cliff. And not only was it disobedient itself, but it was leading other sheep astray.

        “Based on my experience with this kind of sheep, I knew I had no choice, so I broke its leg. The next day I took food and it tried to bite me. After letting it lie alone for a couple of days, I went back and it not only eagerly took the food, but licked my hand and showed every sign of submission and affection.

        “And now, let me say this. When this sheep is well, it will be the model sheep of my entire flock. No sheep will hear my voice so quickly nor follow so closely. Instead of leading the others away, it will be an example of devotion and obedience. In short, a complete change will come into the life of this wayward sheep. It will have learned obedience through its sufferings.”

        Many times it is the same in human experience. Through our suffering, God may be seeking to teach us obedience and reliance on his care. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

The two-year-old normally a quite obedient little boy, was having an attack of stubbornness—a disease endemic to the species. Still, it was surprising to see such a severe case in one of such tender years. His mother had asked the lad to do something, but he was much too absorbed in his own activities to take time out for that. The father watched as the mother went over to impress on the little boy the importance of minding his parents promptly—to which he responded with a right hook to the jaw of his surprised mother! The father, realizing that his son’s behavior was completely unacceptable and would become dangerous not only to the mother but to the child as well if it were allowed to continue, intervened at this point by giving the would-be boxer the worst spanking of his young life, after which he was sent to his room.

        Ten minutes later, the child was back, tears still streaming down his cherub face, and crawled sobbing into the father’s lap as he put his chubby little arms around his neck. What followed is one of the warmest and tenderest memories in this father’s heart. What the child said was not “I’m sorry, Dad,” of “I won’t do it again,” but—with a wisdom and perception far beyond his years—“I love you, Dad!” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

Discipline is not God’s way of saying, “I’m through with you,” or a mark of abandonment by him. Rather, it is the loving act of God to bring you back. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures; he speaks to us in our work; he shouts at us in our pain.”

        Every one of us knows that there have been times when we would not listen to God or pay any attention to what his Word was saying, until finally he used a severe discipline to get our attention so that we would listen. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Discipline

Loose wires give out no musical notes, but when their ends are fastened, the piano, the harp, or the violin is born. Free steam drives no machine, but harnessed and confined with piston and turbine, it makes possible the great world of machinery. An unhampered river drives no dynamos, but dam it up and you can generate sufficient power to light a great city. So our lives must be disciplined if we are to be of any real service in the world. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Testing

        But If Not

        God is able to deliver

              From my weariness and pain,

        And he will deliver swiftly

              If it be for lasting gain;

        But if not-my heart shall sing,

              Trusting wholly in my King.

        God is able to supply me

              With abundance from his store,

        And he will supply my table

              Though the wolf be at the door;

        But if not-my heart shall rest

              In the thought “He knoweth best.”

        God is able to defend my

              From my foes who throng around,

        And he will defend me surely

              When their rage and hate abound;

        But if not-I’ll bless his name,

              And confess him just the same.

        God is able to save dear ones

              From the world and self and sin,

        And he will both save and keep them

              In his fold safe gathered in;

        But if not-he’ll hold my hand,

              Teaching me to understand.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Limits of Testing

        The large tractor-trailer trucks that travel the highways of the nation are subjected to a load limit. This means that there is a limit as to how much weight each truck is allowed to carry. There is a good reason for establishing such limits. If the trucks were allowed to exceed their weight limit, the roads would eventually fall apart, because a given road is designed to support vehicles only up to a certain weight.

        Likewise, God knows how much we can bear when he allows us to be tested. He has assigned a definite “load limit” to each of us and never exceeds it (1 Cor. 10:13). ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Testing

        He sat by a furnace of sevenfold heat,

              As he watched by the precious ore;

        And closer he bent, with a searching gaze,

              As he heated it more and more.

        He knew he had ore that could stand the test;

              And he wanted the finest of gold—

        To mold as a crown for the King to wear;

              Set with gems of a price untold.

        So he laid our gold in the burning fire,

              Though we fain would have said him nay;

        And he watched the dross that we had not seen,

              As it melted and passed away.

        And the gold grew brighter, and yet more bright;

              But our eyes were so dim with tears,

        We saw but the fire-not the Master’s hand—

              And questioned with anxious fears.

        Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow,

              As it mirrored a form above

        That bent o’er the fire-though unseen by us—

              With looks of ineffable love.

        Can we think it pleases his loving heart

              To cause us a moment’s pain?

        Ah! No, but he saw through the present loss

              The bliss of eternal gain.

        So he waited there with a watchful eye,

              With a love that is strong and sure;

        And his gold did not suffer a whit more heat,

              Than was needed to make it pure.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of testing

        When American Airlines trains their pilots they first seek to prove them by use of a simulator. The simulator is designed to present the pilot with a variety of potential problems so that he will be able to handle any emergency in the future. First the pilot is tested with simple challenges, which eventually build up to catastrophic situations. The pilots are given more difficult problems only after they have mastered the previous ones. The result is that when the pilots have completed their courses, they are prepared to handle any problem that comes their way.

        This is similar to God’s method of working with us. God teaches us how to handle the problems of life, but never gives us more than we can handle. He teaches us through each situation, so that we can be fully prepared and mature people, ready to handle any challenge in life that might come our way. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        There is a story about how birds got their wings. The story goes that birds were first made without wings. Then God made wings, put them in front of the wingless birds, and said to them, “Come, take up these burdens and bear them.” The birds hesitated at first, but soon obeyed and picked up the wings in their beaks. Because the wings were heavy, the birds laid them on their shoulders. Then, to their amazement, the wings began to grow and soon had attached themselves to their bodies. The birds quickly discovered how to use these new appendages and were soon soaring through the air. What had once been a heavy burden now became an instrument that enabled the birds to soar and go where they could never go before.

        The story is a parable. We are the wingless birds. The duties and tasks that seem like a burden and a trial often become the very means that God uses to lift us up and build godliness in us. God’s plan is for our tasks to be our helpers and motivators. To refuse to bend our shoulders to receive a load is to decline a new opportunity for growth. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        There once was an ant who felt imposed upon, overburdened, and overworked. You see, he was instructed to carry a piece of straw across an expanse of concrete. The straw was so long and heavy that he staggered beneath its weight and felt he would not survive. Finally, as the stress of his burden began to overwhelm him and he began to wonder if life itself was worth it, the ant was brought to a halt by a large crack in his path. There was no way of getting across that deep divide, and it was evident that to go around it would be his final undoing. He stood there discouraged. Then suddenly a thought struck him. Carefully laying the straw across the crack in the concrete, he walked over it and safely reached the other side. His heavy load had become a helpful bridge. The burden was also a blessing.

 

Trials

        A man was shopping in a grocery story. His young son followed closely behind, carrying a large basket. The father loaded the basket with one thing after another until another customer began to feel sorry for the boy. She said, “That’s a pretty heavy load for a young fellow like you, isn’t it?” The boy turned to the woman and said, “Oh, don’t worry. My dad knows how much I can carry.” In the same way, God knows our limitations and gives to us no burden beyond what we can carry. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        In a man’s dream, he had a vision of walking through life on a sandy beach with Jesus by his side. As he looked back at the footprints in the sand, he noticed that at the troublesome spots of his life only one set of footprints marked the sand. The man asked Jesus where the Lord had been during those troublesome times. Jesus replied: “That single set of footprints is mine. Then I was carrying you and your burden.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        Have you ever stopped to examine weeds? They serve as a reminder of judgment, a result of the curse on the ground after the fall of Adam. But if you look closely, you can see signs of mercy in that judgment. Some weeds have gorgeous flowers: tiny blue bells, ruffled purple blooms, and even magnificent displays of gold. In the same way-even in trials or discipline-if we look closely, we can see beautiful signs of God’s mercy. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        A customer once asked a shopkeeper, “What makes this set of china so much more expensive than that one over there? They look almost the same.” The reply was simple, “The costlier set has had more done to it. You see, it had to be put through the kiln twice because the flowers are on a yellow background. On the less expensive set, they are on a white background. The costly china had to be put through the fire once for the yellow background, and then a second time for the design on it.”

        So it is in the life of a believer who desires God’s best. There will be many times we must go through the kiln with all of its fire and heat until we fully display God’s intended design in our life. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        There is a story about a traveler in a logging area who watched with curiosity as a lumberjack occasionally jabbed his sharp hook into a log to separate it from the others floating down a mountain stream. When asked why he did this, the logger replied, “These may all look alike to you, but I can recognize that a few of them are quite different. The ones I let pass are from trees that grew in a valley where they were always protected from the storms. Their grain is rather coarse. The ones I have hooked and kept apart came from high on the mountains. From the time they were small they were beaten by strong winds. This toughens the trees and gives them a fine grain. We save them for choice work. They are too good to be used for ordinary lumber.”

        Has the grain of your character been finely arranged by the toughening action of life’s trials and adversity? ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

I've always been amazed at how our sovereign God can turn tragedy into triumph.  Take the case of John and Reve Walsh,  In July of 1981, their little boy Adam, 6 years old, was abducted from a nearby Sears store.  Two weeks later, Adam's mutilated body was found 150 miles away.  Well, one thing led to another and John became the host of "America's Most Wanted", one of the hottest shows on television. 

"America's Most Wanted" wages its war on crime every Sunday night, and the results have been astounding.  As of this writing, 96 fugitives have been nabbed by phone-in tips -- about one per week.

 

Trials

        Someone has said, “A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Trials

        No one enjoys a visit to the dentist, although all enjoy the long-range benefits of the visit. In a similar way, no one enjoys the difficulties of a trial, but all who endure them enjoy the side effects of perseverance, proven character, and hope.

 

Trials

        The richest chords require some black keys. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Long ago, in the days of sailing ships, a terrible storm arose and a ship was lost in a deserted area. Only one crewman survived, washed up on a small uninhabited island. In his desperation, the castaway daily prayed to God for help and deliverance from his lonely existence. Each day he looked for a passing ship and saw nothing. Eventually he managed to build a crude hut, in which he stored the few things he had recovered from the wreck and those things he had made to help him.

        One day, as the sailor was returning from his daily search for food, he saw a column of smoke. As he ran to it he saw his hut in flames. All was lost. Now not only was he alone, but he had nothing to help him in his struggle for survival. Stunned and nearly overcome with grief and despair, he fell into a deep depression and spent a nearly sleepless night wondering what was to become of him and questioning whether life itself was even worth the effort.

        The next morning, he rose early and went down to the sea. There, to his amazement, he saw a ship lying offshore and a small boat rowing toward him. When the once-marooned man met the ship’s captain, he asked him how he had known to send help. The captain replied, “Why, we saw your smoke signal yesterday, but by the time we drew close the tide was against us. So we had to wait until now to come and get you.”

        Do not despair when calamity strikes, for God is always able to bring a blessing out of what seems to be a curse. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        A vine clings to an oak tree and in so doing finds the protection in times of trial that preserves it. If a violent storm should arise and the vine is on the side of the tree away from the wind, the tree serves to protect the vine from the wind, which would otherwise tear it away and rip it into shreds. If the vine is on the exposed side of the tree, the wind serves only to press the vine closer to the tree it already clings to.

        In the storms of our life, God will at times set himself between us and the fury of the storm and so protect us from it. At other times, he will expose us to the storm so that its ravages may serve to press us closer to him. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

       Some flowers, such as the rose, must be crushed if their full fragrance is to be released. Some fruits, such as the sycamore, must be bruised if they are to attain ripeness and sweetness. Some metals, such as gold, must be heated in the furnace if they are to become pure.

        The attaining of godliness-the process of becoming a mature Christian-requires similar special handling. It is often through pain, suffering, trouble, adversity, trials, and even temptation that we develop spiritual discipline and become refined and enriched. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        When a wood sculptor wants to create a work of art, he starts with a log and begins to fashion it with a sharp chisel. He meticulously cuts and shapes that log until finally he has his finished product. The log, which might otherwise have been burned in a fireplace, has become a beautiful masterpiece that can be displayed on the mantle over the fireplace.

        God’s working in our lives may sometimes be painful, yet his ultimate purpose for us is to produce a masterpiece. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        The story is told of two artists who were putting the finishing touches on a painting high on a scaffold in a church. The younger artist stepped back to admire the work and became enraptured with the beauty of what he and his mentor had created. His master saw his pleasure and realized that in the emotion of the moment the young man was continuing to step back, inching toward the edge of the scaffold. In another moment he would plunge to his death. Fearing he would frighten his student by a warning cry, the master artist deliberately splashed paint across the painting. The young man lunged forward in shock and cried out, “What have you done? Why did you do that?” Upon hearing the reason, his anger and confusion melted into tears of joy and thankfulness.

        God sometimes uses trials to protect us from ourselves, especially from the naïve enthusiasm that could lead us to disaster. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        When the time comes, an eagle stirs up the nest and turns her young ones out into mid-air, compelling them to use their wings. In a similar manner, God allows many a human heart to be disturbed by troubles to bring about an urgent sense of need for the Savior. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        When God wants to drill a man,

        And thrill a man,

        And skill a man;

        When God wants to mold a man

        To play the noblest part,

        When he yearns with all his heart

        To create so great and bold a man

        That all the world shall be amazed,

        Watch his methods, watch his ways—

        Whom he royally elects.

        How he hammers him and hurts him,

        And with mighty blows, converts him

        Into trial shapes of clay

        Which only God understands,

        While his tortured heart is crying,

        And he lifts beseeching hands.

        How he bends but never breaks

        When his good he undertakes.

        How he uses whom he chooses,

        And with every purpose, fuses him,

        By every act, induces him

        To try his splendor out.

        God knows what he’s about.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        A young boy carried the cocoon of a moth into his house to watch the fascinating events that would take place when the moth emerged. When the moth finally started to break out of his cocoon, the boy noticed how very hard the moth had to struggle. The process was very slow. In an effort to help, he reached down and widened the opening of the cocoon. Soon the moth was out of its prison. But as the boy watched, the wings remained shriveled. Something was wrong. What the boy had not realized was that the struggle to get out of the cocoon was essential for the moth’s muscle system to develop. In a misguided effort to relieve a struggle, the boy had crippled the future of this creature. Trials are necessary for growth. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        The trials of our faith are like God’s ironing. When the heat of trials are applied to our lives the wrinkles of spiritual immaturity begin to be smoothed out. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Bees undergo an interesting process to ensure the healthy development of their young. The queen lays each egg in a six-sided cell, which is filled with enough pollen and honey to feed on until the egg reaches a certain stage of maturity. The top is then sealed with a capsule of wax. When the occupant has exhausted its supply of nourishment, the time has come for the tiny creature to be released from its confinement. But what a wrestling, tussling, and straining it endures to get through the wax seal! The opening is so narrow that in the agony of its exit, the bee rubs off the membrane that encases its wings-so that when it does emerge, it is able to fly.

        If an insect were to get into the hive and devour the wax capsules, the young bees could crawl out without any effort or trouble but would be unable to fly. Soon their mature relatives would instinctively proceed to sting them to death.

        Christians also need the times of wrestling and straining with trials so that they may be prepared to do God’s will for their life. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        It is always good to attend church or Bible study and sit and soak up the truth of God’s Word like a sponge. But we must realize that sponges work best when they are squeezed. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good” sounds like the ingredients for a cake after they have been mixed together. Some of the ingredients used to make a cake taste good by themselves. Other ingredients, such as alum, baking powder, or flour are not very palatable. Nevertheless, they are essential and must be mixed with the good-tasting ingredients to produce a delicious final product.

        God can be trusted to take even the bitter experiences of life and blend them together and make them work together for good. God knows which ingredients are needed, and he knows how to mix them to produce the desired result. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Wilson Johnson, the founder of Holiday Inn motels, once said, “When I was forty years old I worked in a sawmill. One morning the boss told me I was fired. Depressed and discouraged, I felt like the world had caved in. When I told my wife what had happened, she asked me what I was going to do. I replied, ‘I’m going to mortgage our little home and go into the building business.’ My first venture was the construction of two small buildings. Within five years I was a multimillionaire! At the time it happened, I didn’t understand why I was fired. Later, I saw that it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me into the way of his choosing.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        In his Bible, an elderly minister carried a bookmark that was made of silk threads woven into a motto. The back of the bookmark was a tangled web of crossed threads that seemed to be without reason or purpose. When the minister visited a home or hospital room where there was great trouble, sorrow, or death, he would frequently show the bookmark, first presenting the reverse side with all its unintelligible tangle. When the distressed one had examined it intently without finding any meaning to the seeming disorder, the minister would ask him to turn the fabric over. Immediately, against a white silk background, there appeared a phrase in colored threads: “God Is Love.” That side made sense; it had order and meaning.

        So it is in life. We often experience events that seem to be without explanation or meaning, like a maze of tangled threads. But when we are face to face with Christ and can view our life from eternity, we will see that every detail-good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant-was woven together to show us that indeed “God Is Love.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), was talking to a young missionary who was about to start work in China. “Look at this,” Taylor said and then proceeded to pound his fist on the table. The tea cups jumped, and the tea was spilled. While the startled young man was wondering what was going on, Taylor said, “When you begin your work, you will be buffeted in numerous ways. The trials will be like blows. Remember, these blows will bring out only what is in you.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        At a cross-country steeplechase exhibition, one horse suddenly shied away from a hurdle and ran into a barbed-wire fence. The results were disaster, as the rider was taken by ambulance to a hospital and the bleeding horse remained ensnarled in the wire until the slow process of cutting it away was completed.

        The underlying tragedy was seen in the fact that the jump was a low one, which the horse could have easily cleared. Yet the horse apparently took the fence to be an opening in the course and thus an escape from the obstacle.

        How we as believers are often like that foolish horse! When faced with difficulties, do we look for the way out rather than trusting in God’s provision? Do we break for the open at the first opportunity, only to find that we have become ensnared and that our present difficulty is far worse than the one we sought to avoid? ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        A Malayan boy, after having become a Christian, found himself in the midst of a truly demonic attack in the early weeks of his new Christian walk. Allah had been put behind him and the occult practices that had been woven together with this former Moslem faith had been turned from, but his Christian faith was like a tiny child’s first steps.

        This boy went through demon activity, which he had experienced before in his life, and his call went forth to God, “Oh, God, help me.” However, since there was no immediate, visible change, the boy fell into the trap Satan had set for him. “It isn’t working!” was the cry of his heart, and his old reaction pattern came forth: “I’ll try this, and this…” And so next, he called, “Allah be praised!” and then used some Arabic words in a “magic” formula handed down for generations.

        The young Christian did not yet know that superstitious “crossing your fingers” is not a sign of faith. He was later to learn the joy and freedom of trusting the power of God alone. Faith asks not in unbelief, but in belief without doubting. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Have you ever seen someone break a mustang? When a three-year-old horse who has never had a saddle on his back first feels a saddle, it must be a frightening experience. Some horses will react with anger, rearing back and trying to get away-even striking out with their forefeet at their trainer. Their nostrils flare, their eyeballs roll, and they panic! Others will just stand there, trembling, shaking like a leaf. They won’t move; they’re so afraid. They don’t know what’s happening to them.

        Immature Christians respond to trials like wild horses. Some panic and cry out to the Lord, “What’s gone wrong?” Others just freeze and do nothing. Mature Christians are like horses who have learned to trust their trainer. They sense what is happening and respond to it by submitting to the hand of their master, knowing that he will do them no wrong. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        Trials are not to our detriment but add to our growth. For example, consider the kite flyer. He must take in hand the string of his kite and run until the kite lifts up into the heavens. But he will not reach his goal of a flying kite if there is no wind. Every kite flyer knows that wind is necessary for flying kites. But note that kites do not rise with the wind but rise against it. So it is with trials. The Christian will not ascend to patience and maturity unless he ascends against trials. Do trials make you soar above, or just plain sore? ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        A carpenter hired to help restore an old farmhouse had just finished up a rough first day on the job. A flat tire had made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup refused to start.

        As he rode home with a friend, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, as he walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. Then, opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

        Why the transformation? The tree in his yard was his “trouble tree.” He knew he couldn’t avoid having troubles on the job, but one thing was for sure-troubles didn’t belong in the house with his wife and children. So he just hung his troubles on the tree every night when he came home and, in the morning, picked them up again. The funny thing was that when he came out in the morning to collect his troubles, there weren’t nearly as many as he remembered hanging up the night before. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        A lot of Christians have an ejection-seat mentality. As soon as they get into difficulty, they want to pull the ejection cord and zip off into glory, hoping to get away from it all. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        No pharmacist ever weighed out medicine with half as much care and exactness as God weighs out every trial he dispenses. Not one gram too much does he ever permit to be put on us. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        In 1895, Andrew Murray was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury he had incurred years before. One morning while he was eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. Andrew Murray handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice I’m writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.” This is what was written:

        “In time of trouble, say, ‘First, he brought me here. It is by his will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.’ Next, ‘He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.’ Then say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘In his good time he can bring me out again. How and when, he knows.’ Therefore, say ‘I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in his keeping, (3) under his training, (4) for his time.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Testing──But If Not

        God is able to deliver

              From my weariness and pain,

        And he will deliver swiftly

              If it be for lasting gain;

        But if not-my heart shall sing,

              Trusting wholly in my King.

        God is able to supply me

              With abundance from his store,

        And he will supply my table

              Though the wolf be at the door;

        But if not-my heart shall rest

              In the thought “He knoweth best.”

        God is able to defend my

              From my foes who throng around,

        And he will defend me surely

              When their rage and hate abound;

        But if not-I’ll bless his name,

              And confess him just the same.

        God is able to save dear ones

              From the world and self and sin,

        And he will both save and keep them

              In his fold safe gathered in;

        But if not-he’ll hold my hand,

              Teaching me to understand.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Purpose of Testing

        He sat by a furnace of sevenfold heat,

              As he watched by the precious ore;

        And closer he bent, with a searching gaze,

              As he heated it more and more.

        He knew he had ore that could stand the test;

              And he wanted the finest of gold—

        To mold as a crown for the King to wear;

              Set with gems of a price untold.

        So he laid our gold in the burning fire,

              Though we fain would have said him nay;

        And he watched the dross that we had not seen,

              As it melted and passed away.

        And the gold grew brighter, and yet more bright;

              But our eyes were so dim with tears,

        We saw but the fire-not the Master’s hand—

              And questioned with anxious fears.

        Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow,

              As it mirrored a form above

        That bent o’er the fire-though unseen by us—

              With looks of ineffable love.

        Can we think it pleases his loving heart

              To cause us a moment’s pain?

        Ah! No, but he saw through the present loss

              The bliss of eternal gain.

        So he waited there with a watchful eye,

              With a love that is strong and sure;

        And his gold did not suffer a whit more heat,

              Than was needed to make it pure.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

God’s Help in Trials

        When God wants to drill a man,

        And thrill a man,

        And skill a man;

        When God wants to mold a man

        To play the noblest part,

        When he yearns with all his heart

        To create so great and bold a man

        That all the world shall be amazed,

        Watch his methods, watch his ways—

        Whom he royally elects.

        How he hammers him and hurts him,

        And with mighty blows, converts him

        Into trial shapes of clay

        Which only God understands,

        While his tortured heart is crying,

        And he lifts beseeching hands.

        How he bends but never breaks

        When his good he undertakes.

        How he uses whom he chooses,

        And with every purpose, fuses him,

        By every act, induces him

        To try his splendor out.

        God knows what he’s about.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

PUNISHMENT

In South Africa, naturist club owner Beau Brummell was irked by accusations from morals watchdogs that a shriveling Transvaal drought was brought on the the "sin" of nude togetherness at his 1000-acre farm. So he asked his 370 visitors to get dressed. And, for the first time in two months, it poured rain. "It's enough to make me become a monk!" Brummell said. 

Ingrid Norton in Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg.


It is not the severity of punishment that acts as a deterrent. It is its inevitability. 

John Endsley.


Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

Friedrich Nietzsche.


Once there was a man who was such a golf addict that he was neglecting his job. Frequently he would call in sick as an excuse to play.

One morning, after making his usual call to the office, an angel up above spotted him on the way to the golf course and decided to teach him a lesson. "If you play golf today, you will be punished," the angel whispered in his ear. 

Thinking it was only his conscience, which he had successfully whipped in the past, the fellow just smiled. "No," he said, "I've been doing this for years. No one will ever know. I won't be punished."

The angel said no more and the fellow stepped up to the first tee where he promptly whacked the ball 300 yards straight down the middle of the fairway. Since he had never driven the ball more than 200 yards, he couldn't believe it. Yet, there it was. And his luck continued. Long drives on every hole, perfect putting. By the ninth hole he was six under par and was playing near-perfect golf. The fellow was walking on air. He wound up with an amazing 61, about 30 strokes under his usual game. Wait until he got back to the office and told them about this! But, suddenly, his face fell. He couldn't tell them. He could never tell anyone. The angel smiled. 

Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991.