For nearly a year, our church had been preparing for a week-long youth outreach headed by a well known speaker. Then, shortly before the kick-off date, I discovered there was an event scheduled in our community on the same dates as our planned meetings. Concerned that this conflict would slash attendance and reduce the impact on youth we wanted to reach, I called the speaker to alert him to the problem. His response to my frail faith has been unforgettable.
"Well," he replied, "in every problem faith sees an opportunity and in every opportunity doubt sees a problem." His kind but pointed rebuke convinced me we should proceed with our plans, trusting God for good results.
When the time for our youth outreach arrived, the meetings were extremely successful and apparently not even affected by the competition of the other event, reminding me that through faith we can experience success even when conventional wisdom predicts failure.
Defeat stalks those who anticipate it.
Victory comes to those who expect to win.
Problems, then, are not the enemies of faith but opportunities to prove God's faithfulness. Life's difficulties provide reasons to exercise faith. And to grow, faith needs exercise.
George Mueller was born in 1805 and when very young kept getting into trouble.
When he was 14, his mother died, causing him to become concerned about the direction he was headed. The effect was only temporary, however, and at 16 he was arrested and jailed as a thief; but better things were ahead for this delinquent.
In his early 20s, George became acquainted with a group of people who met regularly for prayer and Bible study, which became a turning point in his life, leading to his later concern for orphans and a desire to help them, though he had few resources.
Mueller's faith finally became so personal and practical that he concluded he could trust God to supply all his needs and those of the thousands of orphans that ultimately became recipients of his care. Near the end of his life, Mueller wrote that fifty thousand of his prayers for the needs of his orphans had been answered, five thousand of them on the day he had prayed. He called problems the "food of faith."
Charles Colson, the legal counsel of the Nixon administration, watched his world crumble as a result of the Watergate scandal, not knowing that his greatest days were ahead. While in prison, he became aware of his spiritual needs and those of fellow inmates, causing him to start "Prison Fellowship," which has enabled him to share his life changing story with thousands of prisoners all over the world.
Joni Eareckson Tada, found herself confined to a wheelchair for life as the result of a swimming accident but, refusing to allow paralysis to defeat her, has built a worldwide outreach to millions, bringing many to trust her Lord.
The list is long of those who have risen up from blows that might have destroyed them and gone on to great accomplishments. We can be among them if we'll stop pouting over our problems and see them as opportunities in disguise.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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