Archive for September, 2009

Coping With Defeat and Disappointment

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Difficulties and tough times are inevitable for the Christian, and with these tests, trials, and challenges come defeats and disappointment. Young and mature Christians alike can be disappointed, frustrated, and feel defeated at times. Some will go on to success in their Christian life, but others will allow a temporary defeat to side-line them forever.

Christians should never believe the myth that as they mature they will be less susceptible to defeat and failure. To an extent, this idea has validity because as a Christian matures they begin sowing more good seeds and fewer bad seeds, which results in a better harvest in light of God’s principle of sowing and reaping. A more mature Christian will also better handle God’s chastening and, presumably, do fewer things that warrant chastening.

However, as a Christian becomes stronger, so do the trials and tests that God sends their way. When a basic lesson in faith has been successfully completed, He moves the Christian on to an intermediate lesson. He tailors the challenge of each trial to the Christian’s strength and spiritual maturity.

As a Christian matures, becomes more effective for God, and becomes a more serious threat to the enemy, Satan also hurls more vicious attacks and directs more vigorous assaults against him or her. The intensity of Job’s difficulties were commensurate with his level of spiritual maturity, faith, and effectiveness for God.

Thus we find that mature Christians fail. Pastors fall. Christian marriages break up. King David pursues Bathsheeba, and King Solomon has his foreign, idolatrous women. The challenges a Christian faces grow as the Christian grows, and to disregard that fact opens the door to serious defeat.

Defeat, frustration, failure, and even despair will find their way into every Christian’s life sooner or later. When that time comes, the Christian’s future depends upon how they respond to the defeat.

For the answer as to how a Christian should respond to defeat and disappointment, we need look no further than the Bible. The Bible is all-sufficient for the Christian’s spiritual guidance and sustenance. It is a gracious and complete guide for Christians experiencing defeat and disappointment.

Let us consider the life of Joseph. Joseph’s early life is a story of one disappointment after another. The young Joseph was meeting his brothers in the field to give them a message from their father and to see how they were doing, and his jealous brethren rose up against him, tearing his coat from him and throwing him into a pit. They smeared the coat with the blood of a goat so that they could convince their father that some wild animal had killed him. If any man or woman were entitled to despair, Joseph could have been as he lay in the pit awaiting his brothers’ next move.

His brothers sold him as a slave to a caravan headed to Egypt. Once in Egypt, he was purchased by a wealthy man named Potiphar. Potiphar soon recognized Joseph’s strength of character and made him head of his household. “Finally,” maybe Joseph thought, “something good is happening to me.” But his position did not last long. Potiphar’s wife lusted after him, and when he would not yield to her desires out of respect to God and to his master, Potiphar, the woman accused him before Potiphar of attempting to rape her. Of course, Potiphar believed his wife, and cast Joseph into prison. What a disappointment! What a defeat! What an opportunity for despair!

The jailors soon appreciated Joseph’s qualities and made him essentially a steward of the jail, putting him in charge of all of the other prisoners. Things were looking up, but regardless of his position or rank, he was still in jail. There was hope one day when the Pharaoh’s butler and baker were thrown in jail. Joseph, with God’s inspiration, accurately interpreted their dreams, and the butler promised to remember him before Pharaoh when he was released. Finally, it looked like his big break was coming. But, soon his hopes were dashed again when the butler forgot all about him for years, and Joseph remained locked away in the Egyptian prison, far from his home, far from his father and mother, far from any worldly comforts.

Joseph seemed to experience one defeat and disappointment after another. Yet, through all of these great tragedies, he emerged a stronger person and, one day, was put in charge of all of Egypt. How did this happen? How does a person, like Joseph, manage to get past all of these defeats and disappointments that would send most “normal” people into a downward spiral of despair?

Joseph served faithfully.

It was as if Joseph had already read the words penned over a millennium later by the Apostle Paul: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:57-58)

In every situation Joseph found himself, he faithfully served as he believed God would have him do. In the face of the direst of disappointment, he remained “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” and God richly rewarded that faithfulness. When he was sold as a slave to Potiphar, he remained “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding . . .” and Potiphar quickly recognized that quality and promoted him. When he was faced with Potiphar’s wife enticing him to sin, he remained “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding . . . .” When he was imprisoned, he continued stedfastly, and again the quality of his character was recognized and the jailors promoted him.

Joseph responded to every disappointment and defeat with a stedfast commitment to simply serving and doing what was right. He could have felt sorry for himself. He could have given up hope of ever finding freedom and happiness. He could have shaken his fist at God, blaming Him for all of the bad things in his life. Instead, he made the conscious decision to move forward in God rather than looking backward away from God. He decided with each seemingly hopeless defeat to make the best of a bad situation and be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

Every Christian should respond as Joseph did to difficult times. But, let’s be frank; this is one of those things that is “easier said than done.” It is rather easy to look at Joseph’s life and see how he responded to trials, but it is a hard thing for us respond the same way when a difficulty comes our way. In fact, outside of Christ it would be impossible for us. Praise God, “for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) We are assured, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13)

There are some practical things that we can do in order to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” when we are faced with difficulties. First and foremost, do not let your spiritual life diminish when difficulties begin. Often, challenges in our life will tend to push aside some of the things that are most vital to our successful navigation of the challenges.

When the doctor says, “cancer,” and those regular trips to the hospital begin, don’t let that stop your daily Bible reading. In fact, if at all possible, read more!

When you lose your job and you have no way to pay your bills, when you are afraid to answer the phone for fear of debt collectors, when you hate collecting the mail because you know what is in it, do not let these things stop you from regularly seeking God in secret prayer. Make more time for prayer!

When disease, or bad health, or schooling, or challenges at work eat away at your time, don’t quit teaching that Sunday School class or volunteering at the Gospel mission. Try with all your might to put your whole heart into your ministry for God.

When the crippling auto accident happens, or the deaths of loved ones, strive to see how you can use your experience or condition to help other people. Do all you can to keep your eyes off yourself and on other people’s needs. Remember that your life is not about you, but about Jesus and, as a minister on His behalf, about other people.

We can name and examine the lives of many saints, past and present, who have emerged victoriously from seemingly crushing difficulties: Ruth, David, the Apostle Paul, Hudson Taylor, Adonirum Judson, Elizabeth Elliot, and many others. In every case, these Christians strove, with God’s help, to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” when the trials came. When they saw failure or disappointment or fierce trials, they didn’t take their foot off the “gas pedal.” They strove to move on in the strength of the Lord.

Christians who have been through the fierce trials understand more than most of their brothers and sisters the fact that everything we do for Christ must be done in His strength alone. If we labor out of our own strength, we will never see the successes and rewards that we could if we were to rely upon Him. If we are working in our own strength, every challenge that comes our way could end our work. We may “get by” trying to do His work in our strength during the good times, but when the difficulties come it is impossible to do anything relying upon ourselves. Many times, God brings us into a position of weakness in order to teach us this fact. Paul tells us God’s response to him when he prayed that an infirmity be removed from him, “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.” (II Corinthians 12:9) God makes himself strong in our lives by making us weak. There is no weaker moment than when we have just experienced a defeat, or failure, or grand disappointment, and we are emotionally weak, physically weak, and maybe even spiritually weak.

When the difficulties come, let us resolve to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” relying on His strength. We can do this by remembering these things when difficulties come:

1. The only way to get past them and to see other victories in our life is to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

2. This means that we need to strive to maintain our spiritual walk and ministry on Christ’s behalf even when faced with despair and failure. Pray more, read the Bible more, don’t neglect Church, and don’t neglect or abandon positions and opportunities that allow us to serve God.

3. Without God, this is impossible, but, with God, all things are possible.

4. All of our work , if it will survive the difficulties, must be done in God’s strength and not our own. Attempting to do things in our own strength dooms us to failure.

Audio from Fall Conference

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

We had a wonderful week of meetings at the Church! Fruit from this year’s Fall Bible Conference included: a couple surrendering to God’s will to start a nursing home ministry; a visiting couple resolving to move to Maine to be a part of the ministry here and to help with the new nursing home ministry as well as music; and a man surrendering to do God’s will, whatever it is and whatever the cost. With these decisions, I believe we are going to see significant leaps ahead in the ministry here in Maine during the coming year.

Evangelist Mike PattersonThe Watchman (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 17, 2009 PM, Evangelist Mike Patterson (with song by Judi Freeman).
Evangelist Clarence HafelinThe Nine Dollar Sermon (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 17, 2009 PM, Evangelist Clarence Hafelin (with song by Judi Freeman).
Pastor David VoughtThe Character of Paul (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 17, 2009 PM, Pastor David Vought, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Madison, ME.
Dr. Paul McLaughlinWhere There Is No Vision (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 17, 2009 PM, Dr. Paul McLaughlin, Executive Director of Hope Haven Gospel Mission, Lewiston, ME.
Pastor Ron MeldrumWhy We Use the King James Bible (MP3 Audio)
Sunday, September 13, 2009 PM, Pastor Meldrum.
Evangelist Mike PattersonPergamos (MP3 Audio)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 PM, Evangelist Mike Patterson.
Evangelist Clarence HafelinClarence Hafelin Testimony (MP3 Audio) - Unshackled episode
How Evangelist Clarence Hafelin found peace with God after years in a bike gang.
Evangelist Mike PattersonMike Patterson Testimony (MP3 Audio)
How a man found God despite hard-heartedness and prison.
Evangelist Mike PattersonProtect Your Family (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 PM, Evangelist Mike Patterson.
Pastor Emeritus Ronald J. MeldrumElijah (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 PM, Pastor Emeritus Ronald J. Meldrum.
Evangelist Clarence HafelinHow Shall We Escape if We Neglect so Great Salvation? (MP3 Audio)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 PM, Evangelist Clarence Hafelin.
Evangelist Mike PattersonAaron and Hur (MP3 Audio)
Monday, September 14, 2009 PM, Evangelist Mike Patterson.
Pastor Ron MeldrumVoices from the Past (MP3 Audio)
Sunday, September 13, 2009 PM, Pastor Meldrum.
Evangelist Mike PattersonThe Truth About Sin (MP3 Audio)
Sunday, September 13, 2009 AM, Evangelist Mike Patterson.

Defeating Defeatism in our Churches

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Have you noticed the spirit of defeatism that pervades Christianity today?  It seems that many fundamental Christians are assuming that the battle is lost.  They’re resigned to the idea that Bible-believing churches are no longer “relevant” to the world and that we are destined to get smaller and smaller with every passing day.

I can understand why some fundamental Christians would believe that.  We watch around us as good churches fail and close their doors.  We watch as worldliness slithers its way into good, solid churches until it pervades and conquers them.  We watch as people discard long, firmly-held convictions about the Bible and step toward the left into positions more palatable to mainstream, worldly Christians.

During these past two years, I have seen more compromise and failure in fundamental churches and Christians than ever before in my life.  I have seen and heard of good churches closing their doors because there aren’t enough people left.  Worldly music has crept into churches I thought would never fall into the rock and roll death trap.  Churches, in numbers I have never seen before, are discarding their King James conviction.

Christians are panting after the world, drooling uncontrollably, yearning for the approbation and acceptance of a fallen, violent, sensual, hateful, angry, licentious, sin-hardened society.  And, they’re standing up in church on Sunday trying to justify this addiction to a sin-ridden culture as an attempt to be “relevant.”

Once solid churches are looking for the money, the crowds, and the social position afforded by bringing worldly culture — including fleshy music, sensual dress, and faddish theology — into their midst.

It’s no surprise, when you consider that, as a preacher, standing firm on traditional doctrine, Bible truths, wholesome music, and the Bible versions issue (which is really about the underlying question of the very existence of God), often means having a small church, little prominence in the community, and a small or no salary.

Meanwhile, if you bring in just a little bit of the world into the church, you can get a larger crowd, more respectability,  and a better salary.

It’s an easy choice … if your motive is a larger crowd, more respectability, and a better salary.  Based upon what I have seen in the past couple years, this does appear to be the motive of the majority of preachers.  Few are willing to drive an older model car, live in a modest house, buy their clothes at Goodwill, work outside jobs, and pray in money day-by-day for daily expenses — just to pastor a small congregation at a little church that barely takes in enough in tithes and offerings to keep the doors open and the lights on. [If this is you, contact me so we can pray for each other and encourage each other.]

One after another, the churches fall.  It’s like watching a California mudslide.  One by one, two by two, and three by three they fall, plummeting down slippery slopes to the certain destruction that always results from worldliness.  I have never seen a church come back. Once a little worldliness is introduced, such as the shallow “praise” choruses, the mudslide increasingly gains momentum until it pulls the house down.

Meanwhile, the only media coverage fundamental Christians get is when a preacher molests a little boy or some self-promoter prays for the President to get brain cancer.   Where are the TV stations when a wife-beater gets saved and a family turns from violence to peace?  Where are the newspapers when a drunk gets saved and becomes a productive member of society?  Where is the media when a man gets his heart right under some old-fashioned preaching and throws away his pornography or becomes a better employee?

It is so easy to despair, and I understand why fundamental Christians often do. But, if we entertain a spirit of defeatism, then defeat is certain.

The fact is, we will only be defeated if we accept defeat.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

God never asks us to accept defeat.  We are — at the very least — to stand and face the enemy.  In fact, when we read about the “armour of God” in Ephesians chapter 6, we find that the weapon and armor are only effective when we are facing the enemy.  When we retreat, we are exposed and not completely protected.  That “shield of faith” can no longer quench the “fiery darts of the wicked.”  We are vulnerable when retreating, which explains why that is when most Christians fall.

When we begin to assume defeat or a defeatist mentality, then the enemy has us right where they want us.   We are strong when we stand and face the enemy, Sword in hand, clad in the armor of God, refusing to give ground.  We are weak and vulnerable when we retreat.

God not only gives us the admonition to stand against the enemy, but also gives us the armor to defend against them.   Plus, He gives us the ultimate weapon to pierce the enemy’s own defenses.  Why do we sit down and let the enemy move ahead?

I’ll answer that question in a moment.  First I want to share a quote from a famous general.  I love this quote, and you may have heard it from me before.

In World War I, Field Marshall Foch was in command of the French forces defending against the German invasion.  France was pervaded by a spirit of defeatism, much as our fundamental churches are today.  Everyone expected the enemy to roll into the country and take Paris, as they had a few years earlier during the Franco-Prussian war.  The Germans seemed unstoppable, and there was little optimism left in France.

As the Germans advanced, Field Marshall Foch wired this message to Paris:

“I am hard-pressed on my right. My center is failing. It is impossible to move. The situation is excellent. I attack!”

And he did.  Despite his seemingly untenable situation, he launched an offensive instead of retreating and the enemy assault ground to a halt.  For the rest of the War, the lines between the two armies moved only a few hundred feet.  His decision to attack instead of letting the enemy push him back or wither his army away through assault and attrition saved the nation.

I believe that our Captain is calling for us to attack today.  I believe that He wants us to advance, not retreat or whither away.

We look at circumstances and think, “These are the Last Days.  It’s all over.  The enemy is winning.  More churches will close or go liberal.  Fewer people will have the character to stand for sound doctrine and holy living.”  Then, we make decisions accordingly.  We accept defeat as if it is inevitable, and by accepting it, defeat does become inevitable.

But God is calling for us to advance.

I don’t believe that this is a time to roll up the carpet and lock the doors.  And, it’s certainly not a time to become softer in our preaching.  In fact, if anything, we should become bolder and harder in our preaching.  These are Jeremiah days.

Here’s the problem.  Fundamental Christians themselves have become so enamored of this world and this nation’s culture that they don’t care to stand for the Old Time Religion anymore.

Our Captain sounds the horn and calls for  advance, but few join Him.  The bulk of us are sitting back in the trenches, our weapons unready, listening to our CDs, watching our TV shows, planning our futures, counting our money, promoting ourselves, surfing the Internet, or just plain worrying about whether or not the Captain really has the resources He needs to advance.

The Captain calls, and a handful of men and women grab their weapons and climb up out of the trenches, and charge across the muddy battlefield at His side.  The majority stays in the trenches where they don’t have to deal with the enemy fire, or the mud, or the other inconveniences of Battle.  They are neither answering their Captain’s call to arms nor supporting their brothers and sisters who are trying to advance against the enemy.

And, if the enemy gets too close to their trench, they pick up their CDs, their TV, and their money, and they retreat back to the next line of trenches.  But this is where many of them fall — not advancing against the enemy (when their God-given armor protects them), but when they are giving ground to the enemy and retreating, arms full of this world’s things.  The more encumbered they are with the things of this world, the more likely they are to be wounded.

The enemy has no problem shooting you in the back.  In fact, that’s about the only place they can shoot you.

The faithful Christians are advancing into enemy territory.  They are crying out for reinforcements.  They are pleading for supplies.  Some are pinned down by enemy fire. Some are engaged in fierce combat.  Some are throwing up new fortifications in new territory, freshly taken from the enemy.  They are depending upon their brothers and sisters to be behind them, or beside them, supporting them.

But where is the support?  Where are the rest of the troops?  They are back in the trenches, too enthralled by this world to move from the trenches to the battlefield, while their faithful brothers and sisters are being wounded, enduring unrelenting assault, or finding themselves simply unable to advance because so few of the troops showed up for the battle.

Then, many of the faithful begin giving up their gains, considering them to be too small to be significant, or considering their positions to be untenable without the support of their brothers and sisters.

If I could give only a 10-second message to all King James, fundamental Baptist, it would be this:  “We are hard pressed by the left.  Our center is failing.  Modernism and worldliness are flooding in from every direction. It’s time to attack!”

This is a time for advance, not retreat.  It’s time to solidify our positions and to use them as a base to achieve greater gains.  It’s time to search out the faithful brothers and sisters who are serving in isolated, under-supported positions and support them.

And, brothers and sisters, it’s time to put more resources into reaching America  for Christ. International missions is necessary and it is a wonderful privilege to support a missionary bringing the Gospel to a foreign land, but we need to start shoring up our own foundations here in America.  If we don’t make some significant gains here in our own country during the next decade, we will not be able to support international missions anymore.

When ninety percent of our troops here in America are in retreat from or falling in the face of the enemy’s advance, we need to redouble the effort and resources for the missionaries serving right here in our own nation.  We need to support the rescue missions, the domestic church planters, and small churches at a much higher level if we seriously expect to make advances or even hold our own in America.  If we begin making gains again in our nation, then a massive expansion of foreign missions actually becomes feasible.

The fact is that we currently have the resources in our midst to both support foreign missions at its current level and to dramatically expand “home” missions.  But, those resources are tied up at the moment.  They are tied up in the big houses and cars of Christians who are obsessed with being “middle class” while the country around them is going to Hell.  They are tied up in the bank accounts, hobbies, properties, boats, clothing, jewelry, and other encumbrances of Christians who have forgotten that we are pilgrims in a foreign land.

We have become much too comfortable in this world.  We are striving to achieve this world’s norms instead of the next world’s goals.

This is a time to advance.  Defeat is not an option — in fact, I’ve read the last chapter of the book and see that defeat never happens.  Our Captain wins this war.

Today, He has given us, as a whole, the resources and people we need to make great gains.  Let’s cut the cords that bind us to this world, climb out of the trenches, and charge the enemy at the side of our Captain.

The outlook seems gloomy when we look at circumstances, but remember that a handful of Christians who left the upper room filled with the Spirit — the cross before them and the world behind them — eventually conquered the Roman empire.  They were ready to die to advance the Gospel.  They gave up everything that this world offered them, in order to advance the Gospel.  They didn’t care what the world thought, and they didn’t encumber themselves with the things of this world.  The opposition seemed overwhelming with the whole world against those 120 faithful, but they nonetheless charged the enemy lines and won, planting churches all over the known world.

We can do that today, too.  We can climb out of the pews and start new ministries.  We can bring in more on the buses.  We can go out across the countryside planting little churches (and don’t forget that 2-3 little churches can be pastored by one preacher — that model worked for our ancestors on the frontiers, why not today?) across this nation instead of giving over huge swathes of territory to the enemy.

Don’t discount small churches.  A small church is always better than no church — where there is even a little church, there is hope. Where there is none, there is no hope.  Only darkness.

Let’s follow our Captain out of the trenches.  Let’s advance.