Going through the difficulties of life

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Introduction Dietmar Joosten

Welcome. I trust that you have come with a heart that longs to hear the Lord speaking. Just as you hunger for food, you should hunger for the special food the Lord has prepared for today. I was reminded this morning about Sven Stegen. I met him years ago when he was riding a bicycle and I was on a motorbike. I stopped and offered to pull him with the motorbike. We did not get very far when he fell but he stood up without a long face or any complaints. I was reminded of the time God spoke to Sven and said, “Sven, that which you have heard with your ears, has defiled you and it will take you to hell.” Sven immediately woke up and wrote down what he was shown using his torchlight. The following morning his uncle could pray with him.
I recalled the many things we have heard lately. Things your ears may have been itching to hear or that just came across your path. Remember Sven. When things like that have entered your ears, they will block God’s word from entering even though you may sit under His word. If a person eats between meals, when it time for a meal he is too full to eat proper food. When God speaks and your ears are full, you will be unable to hear Him even though you would like to. May God help us to hear what He wants to say.

Testimony of Lithelihle Mbambane of CYPSA

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I grew up in the Eastern Cape in a family where we lacked nothing. At school I always had money but I felt that living at home under the authority or my parents was not the life for me. I envied the lifestyle of my older brothers who were well-known and respected, they had girlfriends and they drank. I began taking drugs and smoking dagga, however, instead of earning respect from people, I was rejected and despised.

One day my uncle entered the room and took something. As he left I followed and stabbed him. My heart grew harder and harder. My older brothers called me a man because of the way I lived. I looked after myself, buying whatever I needed to maintain my bad habits. Things went well for a while. I had to stop school. Eventually I ran out of money to buy drugs so I began housebreaking and sold the stolen items. Eventually it was too much hard work to always go to the nearby town to steal so I stole from home. My mother caught me and booked me into a rehab where I stayed for a year. This did not help me at all because when I returned home I began my old life again. I had no respect for older people because of what I was. I began selling my own clothes for money and eventually my mother told me to leave home. I lived with other drug addicts and eventually became a drug dealer to support my own habits.

I had a friend and we agreed to remain friends until the end but one day we had a fight. I stabbed him and had to flee from that area. I realised that I was going completely astray and losing my life. The things I did were the things I did not want to do. I no longer wanted to live. I returned to my parents, my mother and uncle and apologised to them. I told them that I could not continue with my lifestyle and I asked them for help. My mother accepted me back. My aunt knew about KwaSizabantu and my mother asked me whether I did not want to go to KwaSizabantu for help.

My mother and aunt brought me here. I did not know what this place was really like. I thought it was like a rehab. When I was told that I had to attend three services a day, it was too much for me. At the services I was told to confess my sins. My aim in coming was just to change my life not to become a Christian. One day at 6 am in a service God spoke to me and I saw my own evil and how I had gone astray. When I was struck at home with many hard blows, I never cried but when God spoke to me I broke down and I wept. That morning I experienced God speaking to me. For the first time I understood how to open your heart and confess your sins. I felt a burden lifting from my shoulders, something I never ever experienced before. God spoke to me and I realised that I needed to return home and apologise to my mother and others. I began with my brothers then with the community. They accepted and forgave me. From that time I have experienced peace which has been with me until today. God came and changed my life completely. I have personally experienced it.

Thank you, Reverend Stegen, Ms Dube and many others who help us. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to return to school and further my education.

Albu van Eeden

My topic this morning is a question: How do we go through the difficulties of life? All of us will face difficulties for various reasons. How do we go through life with them?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

The secret from David in this Psalm is to go through life with God. David had glorious times in his life where he fought man alone against Goliath and destroyed him. David had, what is known to the Jews as chutzpah – a highly esteemed characteristic. Chutzpah is simply the ability to do what you think is right even though you are without support. In spite of his chutzpah, David faced challenges that were beyond his ability to handle. He experienced challenges because he was a follower of his God, the Lord God Jehovah. He experienced opposition and was hunted down like a wild animal.

You will not experience the privilege of going through the valley of the shadow of death if you are not bound to Christ and are His follower. This verse not only speaks about the valley of the shadow of death – when your body lies ice-cold on the bed, when your soul leaves and you lose control over it. The body is dead and all the demons of hell descend upon your soul to drag it to hell for all eternity. You are powerless because you are out of your body. In a powerless world there is only one who can carry your soul safely to heaven. Your friends cannot help you on that day. Your money cannot help you on that day. Nothing can help you on that day if God does not grab your soul and lead it to heaven. We are all heading for that day when we will be powerless. Only if your life is in God’s hands will He carry you safely from your dead body to heaven.

David says under those circumstances – when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no demon, I will fear no evil, for you will be with me there, Lord. I met with You. I received forgiveness for my sins from You. I was washed in Your blood. I stand pure and clean and spotless before You. That is why I fear no evil on that day, for You are with me. Your rod and staff will comfort me and lead me to safety.

This verse does not just refer to the valley of the shadow of death, it means any path of gloom or sadness, any situation we may be faced with where we are troubled and our hearts are broken with sorrow; any dark and dangerous way. All these are contained in the valley of the shadow of death.

They did not ask, “Where is the Lord, who brought us out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of droughts and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?” Jeremiah 2:6.

Jeremiah said, “Where is the One who led us through the wilderness where there is no electricity, no houses, no roof over our heads, just bush; through a land of deserts where there is no water to drink and where there are pits and holes we can fall into?” He says that it is a land of drought where you thirst, you cannot get water and you come to the point of dying – a land of the shadow of death. Do you see what it entails? Jeremiah says it is a land of deep darkness where you cannot see your hand in front of your eyes. This is part of a valley of the shadow of death. It is a land where no one travels and no one lives.

If you follow God, He will lead you to a land where no man passes through and no man dwells – nobody can exist in that land. It is the place of the valley of the shadow of death. Jeremiah said, “My people got to that land but they did not think of saying, ‘Where is the Lord who could lead us through all these difficulties?’”

There are three ways, which is possibly an oversimplification, in which we can get through these difficulties: The one possibility is to go through every step with God and ensure that God is with you.

The second possibility is to confide in a good friend with whom you share your difficulties but if that friend is not a man of God, you will end up gossiping rather than being helped. You will speak about the mistakes of everyone around you whom you feel has contributed to your present circumstances. Instead of being lifted up out of this dark land, the more you gossip and talk, the deeper you will sink into hopelessness and darkness because God is not there.

The third possibility is that you keep things to yourself and carry them in your bosom. When you are alone and no one is close to you is an ideal situation for the devil to get hold of you. God is not there and He cannot help. You are alone in the hands of the devil. You will believe that you are thinking rationally about your problems and trying to solve them on your own but you will not realise how the devil whispers advice into your ears. How does he do this? He whispers in such a manner that you think they are your own thoughts and logic that makes you draw certain conclusions. You do not realise that you are alone and the devil is playing with you like a ball. He will plant a seed here and you will consider it then he will plant another seed there and you will reach a conclusion then he will plant another seed there and you will ponder over it and reach another conclusion. What you will not realise is that you are the biggest fool in the world because Satan has a wonderful time playing with you nobody can interfere.

Allow me give you just two or three examples of people to whom this happened:

King Saul, a humble man, was raised to kingship by God when he least expected it. But in time, he left God’s word because God blessed him and the devil convinced him that he was something. Pride entered his life. Friend, if the devil gets hold of you alone, he is going to convince you that you are something and that you should be proud of yourself. Finally, King Saul fell into grave sin. What did the prophet say to him? “Saul, when you were small in your own eyes …” A proud man is never thankful for what he gets. Examine yourself? Are you thankful for what you receive here? Are you thankful for everything you experience? Are you thankful for what you receive in a service? A proud man is never thankful. Do you know why? He thinks that he deserves something better than that which he receives. Do you know why there is no gratitude in your heart and why you cannot go on your knees to say thank you? You have become proud. The devil got hold of you when you were alone. If only you had broken away and brought that pride to God and into the light when it started but you keep the pride to yourself. You were too good to speak to anybody about it. It was too humiliating to ask for prayer for that pride. You are a ball in the hand of the devil and he can play with you and whisper into your ear whatever he wants. Why? You did not walk with God. We do not realise how important it is what David said: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…you are with me; That is why you have become hopeless.

Judas was convinced by the devil to steal the money and in the end Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus. Judas kept it to himself. Why? Because he got used to stealing and not coming into the light with it. He kept his thievery a secret. When he finally betrayed the Lord Jesus he had become used to the voice of Satan and he hanged himself. What happened? The devil whispered in his ears and said, “Judas, there is no forgiveness for you. You cannot receive forgiveness. You have sinned too much.” He was unable to receive mercy and forgiveness from Christ. “…but he concluded that iniquity was greater than could be forgiven, and would rather throw himself on the devil’s mercy than God’s. And some have said that Judas sinned more in despairing of the mercy of God, than in betraying his Master’s blood.” Matthew Henry on Matthew 26 When the devil had Judas in his grip he said, “God cannot save you from this sin any more, Judas. God does not have enough mercy to save you, Judas.” “…there were some of those saved that had been Christ’s betrayers and murderers…” Christ has forgiven people who betrayed him like Peter but Judas could not believe it. This is what the devil does when he has you in his hands. If you have stolen and you get into trouble the devil will tell you to steal a little more so that you can pay your debt and avoid exposure as a thief.

When Cain sinned against his brother, Abel and killed him, there was rebellion in Cain’s heart. When God announced his punishment, Cain’s reaction was, “My punishment is too heavy for me to carry. You have hidden your face from me.” What do I read in Cain’s words? An element of rebellion and pride. A person who is rebellious and proud says, “The punishment is too big for me. Why do they treat me like this? Why am I no longer allowed to do what I did before? I made a small mistake and now I am not allowed to do this and that!” This is the spirit of rebellion and this spirit was in the heart of satan and God kicked him out of heaven.

Here is another example of what the devil can tell you – he can pump you full of anxiety and fears. Allow me to tell you a story in order to demonstrate this. A man was driving one night along a very lonely road when he had a flat tyre. He did not know what to do. Far away in the woods he saw a small shining light and decided to walk towards it. As he walked he spoke to himself – if I disturb the man who lives in that house at this time of the night he will be irritated with me; he will probably harm me and I am alone;  he is probably a terrible man – why else would he live alone? In the end he convinced himself that the man was terrible and probably a danger to society because he had committed crimes and for that reason hid in the woods. So when he knocked on the door and the man opened it, he punched him on the nose and ran away.

What is the lesson? You take situations and replay them in your mind – an incident at work or something that somebody said and you busy your mind with it. You have conversations in your head about the incident. “He said this and I could have said that? Then he would have said this and I would have told him that then he would have treated me like this and I would have given him a piece of my mind and put him in his place.” A conversation takes place your mind and you build a case against the person and reach a conclusion – he is evil and wrong even. You nurse these thoughts, like a nurse takes care of a little baby, you busy your mind with them and curse them in your mind. You go over the story a second time, nurse it and curse it again. Do not be surprised when something happens and you say the wrong things because you have been nursing these thoughts in your mind. Why? You are alone with the devil. You do not bring these thoughts to the light. You do not expose these thoughts to a child of God who can tell you that you are busy with a something that is a dream; it is not the truth. Do you want to know whether the Lord is with you in the valley of the shadow of death? Consider the things are you are pondering on all day long? Get rid of this devilish rubbish in your heart and expose it for what it is.

David faced the valley of the shadow of death even though he walked with God but God was with him and that made the difference. God was in the deepest secrets of his heart. Look at the example of Jacob: Jacob had to flee from his father’s house to escape his brother, Esau. Jacob did not flee because he had sinned but his parents sent him to the place where his family members stayed so that he would not marry a heathen woman. Esau married heathen woman. He actually married a descendant of Ishmael, the one who had mocked his father, Isaac. Some men are so eager to get married and then they marry worldly girls and think that they will save them. 9 out of 10 times the he ends up as the biggest fool because his wife drags him down – he does not drag her up

On his journey, Jacob experienced hardship and he had to sleep with his head on a stone one night but with God. Have you ever slept with your head on a stone? It was rough and difficult – it was the valley of a shadow of death. Jacob needed God. He needed a revelation from God to keep him going. God was merciful because that night, with his head on a stone, he saw the heavens open and a ladder with angels descending up and down. This is what happens if you go through difficulties with God. You get a revelation from God. Children of God who are going through difficult times, make sure that God is with you in every step you take. Wait upon God – yes, it is difficult – yes, there is opposition, but wait upon God.

God appeared to this blessed man, Jacob. How jealous I am of him! In that pathetic state when he was fleeing, in the valley of the shadow of death, God revealed Himself to him and said, “Jacob, this place where you are sleeping I will give your descendants.” This is the God we serve. This is what God does if we stay faithful to Him and make sure He is with us in everything.

The walk of faith is a radical road. Following the Lord Jesus is a road of no compromise with the world. Anybody who presents a road that is mellow, half-hearted, soft and pleasant is not giving you the true gospel. If you do not accept this soft, lukewarm gospel, they turn around, become your enemies and bite you. They will say you are crazy and fanatical. Why? Because you want to follow God with all your heart. They hate that because they have compromised and they want you to compromise and become lukewarm. Never! Dear brothers and sisters, over our dead bodies, never!

In conclusion, allow someone else preach to you– Henry F Lyte, a Scotsman and hymn writer who wrote this hymn JESUS, I MY CROSS HAVE TAKEN.

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shalt be.

Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought, and hope, and known.
Yet how rich is my condition-
God and Heaven are still mine own!

Let the world despise and leave me-
They have left my Saviour, too-
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue;

And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate, and friends disown me:
Show Thy face, and all is bright.

Go then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn and plain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favour, loss is gain.

I have called Thee “Abba Father”;
I have set my heart on Thee;
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good for me.

Man may trouble and distress me,
‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heav’n will bring me sweeter rest.

Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me!
Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation;
Rise o’er, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station
Something still to do or bear!

Think what Spirit dwells within thee;
What a Father’s smile is thine;
What a Saviour died to win thee-
Child of Heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste then on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.

Soon shall close they earthly mission;
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer and praise.

Jesus, my cross I take. He has made up his mind, Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee. Destitute, despised, forsaken… Destitute means nowhere to stay – that is what he prepared himself for. If I follow Christ I might have no place to stay. Despised my enemies look down on me and spit on my name. I have become a curse to them. My friends and family may have forsaken me. Thou from now on, Lord, will be my all. Perish every fond ambition, many do not realise that their ambitions lead them away from the Lord. An ambition to achieve a qualification, an ambition to become a doctor, a lawyer, an ambition to marry a particular girl, live somewhere, get a job, build a good house. Ambitions that are fond to me must perish and be placed on the altar. All I’ve sought, and hope, and known. Everything you sought and hoped for, everything that you have known, must perish. He is truly fanatical, half-crazy, the world would say. Yet how rich is my condition-God and Heaven are still mine own!

God in heaven is my God. Let the world despise and leave me- They have left my Saviour, too- Human hearts and looks deceive me; Emotions – what I like, the appearance of certain girls or boys is deceptive. Emotions deceive. Thou art not, like them, untrue; You are always true and faithful. And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might, Foes may hate, and friends disown me: friends may shun me but it will only drive me to Your breast. Show Thy face, and all is bright. Just show me your face, Lord and everything is bright. Man may trouble and distress me, ‘twill but drive me to Thy breast. Trouble will make me hold close to You. Life with trials hard may press me; Heav’n will bring me sweeter rest. There are challenges, trials and tests in life but it may not necessarily be a person who is responsible. Life on earth is like that. Life has difficulties and trials. There are problems. Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me Do you know the grief that man experiences in this world? Grief over the death of loved ones, the grief over what people have done to you. Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me While Thy love is left to me! Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me, Were that joy unmixed with Thee. It is bewitching to be in this hopeless state of grief. The grief about my closest friend, or family member will not charm me or affect my brain that I cannot think soberly anymore. Why do people take drugs? Because they are charmed by the happiness that they feel when they take the drugs. Happiness becomes an idol, they must have that happiness otherwise things go wrong. That is why they are addicted. The happiness charms them and they cannot get away from it. As long as happiness is not united with a person, as long as it is separate from a person, it will not charm them. Take, my soul, thy full salvation; Rise o’er, and fear, and care; Joy to find in every station something still to do or bear!

Service to others, very often, helps you to get out of a hole. Think what Spirit dwells within thee;

what a Father’s smile is thine; what a Saviour died to win thee-Child of Heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer, Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there. Soon shall close they earthly mission; swift shall pass thy pilgrim days; hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer and praise.

My faith will lead to sight when I will see Him in heaven and I will praise him, not pray, because I will be with Him.

How do you have this relationship? By exposing yourself and your sins so that the blood of Christ can wash and cleanse you and then you can say everything that this man has said. May God be merciful to us.

Conclusion Dietmar Joosten

There was a couple who was visited daily by God. What a life that must that have been! But the devil got it right through thoughts, “Did God really say you shall not?” Eve was drawn aside to a simple tree and that is where the devil got her. Friends, we have heard that the worst times are when you are all alone. When you hear things and instead of running to the Lord and asking Him you listen to what the devil says and one thing leads to the next. It is very dangerous because you even begin speaking against God and his children. The difficulties that we face drive us to the Lord Jesus. He carried them for us. He allows these things so that we will draw close to Him. He will be the one who will save us. How wonderful to experience difficulties! You may think that there is nothing as difficult as what you are going through at this moment. There seems to be no one else who experiences what you are but the Lord’s view is– His rod and His staff comfort and guide you. Allow Him.