Of Cows and Hardship

A friend of mine keeps a small herd of cattle on his farm. But before initially releasing the cows to his pasture, he noticed several patches of a weed, Canadian thistle, growing in the pasture. He immediately thought, “I’ve got to get rid of that weed!” Like most thistles, this one also has tiny thorns. Additionally, weeds tend to be invasive and could soon take over a whole pasture.

But as he researched the problem, my friend discovered something he hadn’t expected. While it’s true that cows initially find this thistle’s tiny thorns unpleasant, they toughen to the thorns and will eat it. And eating it yields two great results. First, this thistle contains much higher amounts of protein than the grass in the pasture, so it’s more nutritious. Second, by eating it the cows naturally keep the thistle from spreading. But the key is, they have to put up with the thorns.

Why am I writing about cows eating thistles? Because when faced with hardship, our immediate response is, “I’ve got to get rid of this problem!” But time and time again, hardships, challenges, and problems prove to be far more beneficial in helping us grow than when all is going smoothly and according to plan.

Obviously, there are some hardships or problems in our lives that we need to remove as soon as possible. But sometimes we try to extricate ourselves from a gritty challenge too soon. Perhaps we should at least stop and reflect on a few questions like:

  • What caused this problem? (What do I need to change?)
  • In what ways can I grow as a result of this hardship?
  • What are my peripheral responses to this hardship? (How am I holding up? What impact is it having on: my joy, the way I treat others, or my health?)
  • Where is God in the midst of this crisis? To what extent am I trusting Him?
  • Instead of running from this problem, how else could I respond to it?

Hardships toughen us, stretch us and enable us to grow in ways otherwise not possible. What are the thistles in your life right now and how can you profit from them?

©2017 Rob Fischer

Playing it Safe!

I’ve been wondering lately. Have we inadvertently crafted a theology of Christian living that actually insulates us from the work that God desires to do in and through us? Let me explain what I mean.

We know intellectually and experientially that our periods of greatest growth come in the wake of our greatest need. We experience God’s miraculous provision, healing, or life change. In those times, God’s grace and power are clearly manifested in us. He is glorified and we are humbled, thankful, and full of worship. I know this pattern has been true with my wife and me.

Nearly all of our “God stories”—the accounts of God’s provision and powerful working in our lives—have occurred in the times of our greatest hardships. The apostle Paul alluded to this at a time of great need in his life. After begging for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul heard God say:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

Now, I’m not suggesting that we seek after hardships, persecution and calamity. That would be putting God to the test. What I’m talking about is our willingness to take risks and endure hardship for Christ.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In the verse just prior, Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer many things, be rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, be killed and rise again the third day. So it’s in this context that Jesus says to us, “You must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.” Without question there is risk—even great risk—and hardship involved in following Jesus.

Along the same vein, Paul and Barnabas had a standard message they would proclaim to new disciples to strengthen them. Their message was, “Continue in the faith,” because “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 ESV)

And William Carey, the father of modern missions challenged his peers, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” He was calling them to take risks for the Gospel and anticipate God’s intervention in the lives of people. How does this strike us today? Too old-fashioned? Too gung-ho?

Here’s where I’m being personally challenged. Christ calls us to follow Him sacrificially. And we know that living on the edge with Him is where we will experience the greatest displays of His presence and power. Yet, in spite of knowing this we doggedly strive to eliminate those factors that would strategically place us where God can do His most significant work in and through us! We play it safe.

It’s human to want to eliminate or minimize risk and discomfort, but what are we forfeiting in our endless pursuit of comfort and security? Consider the area of finances. We have established what we tout as a biblically based theology of finances that assures our future financial security if we follow those sound principles.

But how would we respond if God told us to give away a large portion of our retirement? Wouldn’t our Christian financial world view prevent us from even considering such a wild notion? We would dismiss such a thought out of hand. We would argue, “God can’t be asking me to do that, because my theology doesn’t permit it.” So, our financial principles trump God and we dismiss that He spoke to us.

I realize we can argue all around that hypothetical situation, so consider this actual occurrence. When I was a boy my dad needed a new overcoat. We lived in Minnesota with its long, cold winters and Dad’s job required him to dress professionally. His old overcoat had become quite frayed and the lining was tearing out. Meanwhile, Dad worked hard to support Mom and us five children.

Over several months Dad saved up for a new overcoat. Finally, with enough money saved up he bought a new coat paying cash for it. So far, so good.

Within a week of wearing his new overcoat, however, Dad encountered a homeless man on the streets of Minneapolis. This man had no coat. Without giving it another thought, Dad shed his new coat and gave it to this homeless man. Dad was absolutely convinced that God led him to do this and he never regretted his action. Dad simply went back to wearing his old coat.

Some might argue that Dad was foolish to give away his new coat—what with a wife and five children to feed and clothe at home. And what about his image at work? Couldn’t God have met this homeless man’s need some other way?

But through my dad’s act of compassion and personal sacrifice he showed me what it means to follow Jesus. My dad also demonstrated that the pursuit of our own comfort may be at odds with following Jesus. Our comfort and security must always yield to following Christ.

I’m not trying to get all weird on you here! Nor do I wish to heap guilt on anyone. I’m merely posing some questions. We should save for our future. But we must not place our hope in our savings or even in our sound financial principles.

We must also recognize that God could remove our earthly security, driving us to focus on Him as our security. Trusting in God for our security is not second best or our fallback strategy. He is our Rock, our firm foundation!

I also know that our heavenly Father often delights in lavishing good things upon us that we’ve neither earned nor deserve. He simply does so because He can and wishes to bless us. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV)

As we reflect on all these things, I’m driven back to the simplicity of our relationship with Christ. We are to follow Him. We trust Him, obey Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him! We also recognize that He works with each one of us uniquely and personally. What He asks of me, He may not ask of you. Each of us follows His lead.

Allow me to challenge you in your walk with Christ. Do your Christian traditions insulate you from or propel you forward into deeper relationship with Christ and the work that He desires to do in and through you?

“Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character…” (Romans 5:2-4 ESV)

©2013 Rob Fischer

There are numerous benefits of a healthy life. But can medicines help us? So it’s no wonder that online pharmacies have grown in vogue over the last years. For instance Xylocaine causes loss of feeling in an area of your body. Given before dental work. Furthermore treats emergency soul problems. Sometimes drugstores offer to their customers Levitra. Many young men know about buy kamagra. What is the most essential information you should read about kamagra online? Variant companies describe it as kamagra 100mg oral jelly. Some people who take street drugs like amphetamines find it hard to maintain an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction remedies. So it’s substantial to learn about the matter. Typically, this may include diabetes, doldrums, or a venous leak. Causes of sexual disfunction include psychological matters, such as depression. Chronic illness, several medicaments, and a condition called Peyronie’s disease can also cause erectile dysfunction. Along with theirs good effects, most medications, nevertheless, have unwanted side effects although commonly not everyone experiences them. Very likely the doctor will take into account possible remedy interactions with Levitra, your age and any previous experience you have had with the drug.