AKA "Closing Words of Comfort"
By Ray Comfort
Rarely do I become involved in counseling; I leave that to the expertise of the local pastor. However, I was awakened one morning by my wife, Sue. She said, “There is someone in the living room and he desperately wants to talk to you.” I protested, “But it’s not even 7 A.M….and I don’t do counseling!”
Nevertheless, I made my way into the living room and found a man whose eyes flashed with despair. I had met him a few months earlier when he purchased a series of our tapes, but this day he looked like a different man. It turned out that his whole life seemed to be falling to pieces. There were terrible problems at work, at home, and even in his church. Everything had suddenly gone wrong. I looked him in the eye and asked, “You didn’t pray that God would ‘break’ you, did you?” He looked back at me and said, “I asked God to break me and grind me to powder…”
Make sure you realize what you are saying at church when you sing words like “Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy.” I hum the song. Let me tell you why.
We may think that we are asking God for the “warm fuzzies>,” but the refining fire is what Job went through, and God may just give you your heart’s one desire if you keep asking Him. After the service, you find that someone has just crashed into your new car. That week you discover that God has let the devil get at you and your house has burned to the ground, your spouse and children have been killed, and someone forgot to pay the insurance premium.
The loss of your family, car,> and home and financial collapse give you a complete nervous breakdown. Well, rejoice –because you are getting your heart’s one desire. Read the Book of Job. I’ve been through the Refiner’s fire and I never want to go through it again. My prayer is, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Jesus had to suffer; there was no alternative for Him. But there is an alternative for us. If we chasten ourselves, perhaps we will not be chastened by God. Instead of praying that God will break me, I say, “Please, Lord, be gentle on your servant. ‘Neither chasten> me in your hot displeasure’ [Psalm 38.11]. Help me to see areas that I need to change.”
If we discipline ourselves to pray and read the Word, we may avoid the Refiner’s fire. If we draw close to Him, we won’t need a lion’s den to bring us to our knees. If we scatter abroad, preaching the Word everywhere, we may not need a Saul of Tarsus to breathe out slaughter against us. If we cut off unfruitful branches, we won’t feel the pain of the Husbandman’s sharp pruning sheers. Read the last chapters of Job and learn the lesson, so that you won’t have to go through the earlier chapters. Scripture was written for our instruction. Lay your hand on your mouth and quickly bow to the sovereignty of God.
THE FIERY TRIAL
Let me share something very personal. In June 1985, I had just finished preaching in a small country church when a lean-looking young man approached me and said, “I wish I was like you.” I managed a smile, but held onto the words that came to mind. You don’t know what you are saying. Little did he know that at that moment I was going through sheer terror.> I had been praying earlier that day when suddenly it seemed that all hell was let loose in my mind. It was as though God had removed every hedge of protection from me and a thousand spirits of terror invaded my thoughts. I fell upon the floor. I wept. I cried out to God. I exorcised myself, to no avail. There is no way I can describe the experience of the following months other than to say that it was like being held over a black pit of insanity by a spider’s web.
When I arrived home from that series of meetings, Sue asked how they went. I said, “The meetings were fine,” then broke down. I felt so crushed within my mind that I was unable to have family devotions, or even eat a meal at the table with my family for over twelve months.
I diagnosed myself as having a “wounded spirit.” Before God could use me, I needed to have a broken spirit:
But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands (Isaiah 66:2, Amplified Bible).
It was A.W. Tozer who said, “Before God uses a man, God will break the man.”
It took years to overcome that experience. At one point, I couldn’t even gather enough courage to go to my home church. I wanted to, but irrational fear was paralyzing me. The first Sunday after the initial experience, I was in my bedroom trying to gather strength to go with my family to church. The fear was so strong, I would actually lose my breath even while I lay in bed. My son, who was seven at the time, came into the bedroom and handed me a note. He had written out a few Scriptures he thought I should read, although he had no idea what I was going through. These were the verses:
The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me (Hebrews 13:6).
But the path of the just is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18).
Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Then he had written the words, “I love you, Dad!”
HOW TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS
If there is a cry in your heart to be used by God, then you may go through a similar experience. I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm you, but if you understand why it is happening and what you can do to speed up the process, it will help. If God in His great wisdom sees fit to use the Refiner’s fire (if He takes you through a fiery trial), then it is only “if need be” (1 Peter 1:6). Pray that you may avoid it, but this is often normal procedure in being prepared for ministry. A wild horse is no good to a rider. It can’t be trusted. It needs its spirit broken so that it will willingly yield to the desire of the rider. So, let me share with you a few words of comfort, so that if you find yourself hanging over a dark chasm of insanity by the spider web of faith, you will know why, and realize that the web is unbreakable.
You are asleep in bed, when suddenly a creak of the floor causes you to open your eyes in the semi-dark room. Towering over you stands the ugly sight of a huge man, wearing a stocking over his face, with a gun pointed at your head. Suddenly, your heart races with fear. Your mouth becomes dry. Terror paralyzes you. You can see his evil lips smile in delight at having another human being under his power. Time stands still. Your racing heart is taking too much blood into your brain, feeding it an oversupply of oxygen, making your mind go blank. This inability to respond, even mentally, brings a panic that causes your breathing to become erratic. The over-action of the heart has also speedily lifted your body temperature to a point where cold sweat is forming on your brow, back, and legs.
With malicious intent, the intruder slowly moves the gun to the temple of your moistened brow. You can feel its cold barrel against your warm skin. The reality of what is happening tells you that this is no mere nightmare.
Adrenaline is being pumped throughout your body. Your mind is instinctively screaming Run! And yet you know that if you move, you are dead. With both hands on the gun, the cruel intruder slowly cocks the weapon. You see his white teeth grit in perverted delight. You are going to die! Unspeakable terror grips your mind. Perspiration pours out of your flesh. Your mouth is totally dry. It’s as though your heart is pounding through your chest. Your breath seems to have drained from your lungs and you can feel your eyes bulge with overwhelming dread…
That’s what an attack of irrational fear feels like. There is no intruder, no gun, and no threat of death. Yet there are those same, very real, worse-than-night-marish> symptoms.
According to estimates, three million people in the U.S. have panic attacks. These are characterized by rapid heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fear of losing control, going crazy, or dying.
The unsaved who> experience panic attacks are often driven to drugs, alcohol, despair, or insanity. The Christian who suffers doesn’t do so in vain, but there is a sense of guilt on top of the fear. The experience doesn’t seem to match the Bible’s description of a faith-filled Christian. He says, “I will not fear”…and yet he still fears. His will is incapacitated.
For those who have prayed, and prayed, and prayed for deliverance and still find themselves in such a predicament, there are strong consolations.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to fear. He said, “For, when we were come to Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings>, within were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5, emphasis added).
Look at these verses from 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said to me, My> grace is sufficient for you: 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.
Paul asked for deliverance from this demonic attack three times. Yet God chose to leave him with it. Some say it was a sickness, but that doesn’t seem to be what the Bible teaches. It says it was a “messenger of Satan” (a demon) that buffeted him.
Why then did God allow demonic oppression to come against His apostle? He wanted to use Paul, but He didn’t want him to fall through pride and fail in his calling. The demonic oppression was to keep him humble as God gave him an abundance of revelations. He had to remain small in his own eyes. The Greek word for “buffet” is kolaphizo>, which means to “rap with the fist.” Its root word is kolos>, which means, “dwarf.”
Satan fires arrows only at those who have potential for the kingdom of sGod. You have great potential to be used by God in these last days. Instead of saying, “But God can’t use me when I am paralyzed by fear,” say, “Because His strength is made perfect in my weakness, God can use me for His glory because the fear I am plagued by actually keeps me in weakness.”
Today, there are many who name the name of Christ, but who never “depart from iniquity.” They are false converts who “ask Jesus into their heart,” but are actually unconverted because they have never truly repented. So it is important that you examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Those who allow sin in their lives are actually opening themselves up to demonic influence. The Bible instructs us to “neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).
Afflictions only work together for our good, if we are “called according to [God’s] purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the following are questions each of us need to ask ourselves:
Do I honor my parents? Do I value them implicitly? God commands that we honor out parents, then Scripture warns, “that> it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3). In other words, if you don’t value your parents, all will not be well with you. I have found that many people have demonic problems because they hate their parents.
Is there any unconfessed> sin in my life? Is there any bitterness, resentment, or jealousy? Have I been hurt by someone in the past whom> I can’t find it within my heart to forgive? Then I am giving place to the devil. If I won’t forgive and forget, I’m like a man who is stung to death by one bee. You could understand someone being stung to death by a swarm of bees, but we can do something about one bee. The sad thing about someone who becomes bitter is that all they need to do to deal with their problem is to swat the thing through repentance. God says He will not forgive us if we will not forgive from our heart (Matthew 6:15).
Has there been any occult activity in my life in the past? Do I have idols (even as souvenirs) in my home? Is there any pornography? I need to prayerfully walk around in the house and ask God if there is anything that is unpleasing to Him. Then I must consider the same thing within the temple of my own body. Am I a glutton? Do I feed filth into my mind through my eyes or through my ears? Do my hands touch only what is pleasing in His sight? Are my words kind and loving? Are the meditations of my mind pleasing to God?
The only way to know if you are a Christian is by your fruit. There are a number of fruits in Scripture: the fruit of praise, the fruit of thanksgiving, the fruit of holiness, the fruit of repentance, the fruit of righteousness, and the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
A key to overcoming trials is to understand that they are relative. The next time Satan tries to make you feel sorry for yourself in the midst of a trial, ask yourself, “Would I like to trade places with someone who has a horrible terminal disease? Would I like to trade places with a burn victim who has been burned over 90% of his body?” We can’t imagine the agonies those in such a predicament go through. Have you ever burned yourself on a toaster? Think what it might be like for those poor people. Such sober thoughts bring our problems into perspective, and should make us want to thank God for His many blessings. Not only for what we have, but also for those things we don’t have—like unspeakable pain.
The fruit of thanksgiving should be evident in the Christian, not only for temporal blessings, but for the cross. Paul was persecuted beyond measure, merely for his faith in God, yet he said, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:13).
As Christians, we should have the fruit of holiness. We should be separated from this world, with all of its corruption, to God. We should have evidence of our repentance. If we have stolen, we will return what isn’t ours. We will set right (where possible) that which we have wronged. Lastly, we will possess the fruit of the Spirit. If we are rooted and grounded in Him, we will have the fruits of His character hanging from the branches of our lives. Do we have love that cares for others? Do we care enough about the salvation of sinners to put feet to our prayers and take the gospel to them? Love is not passive. It will not be self-indulgent while others suffer. It is empathetic.
If we haven’t giving place to the devil, what is he doing in our lives? There must be good reason for him to be there. The only reasonable conclusion is that God has given permission. This happened in the book of Job. God allowed Satan to buffet Job so that he would grow in his faith in God. As I have said before, God has given us the Book of Job for our admonition and instruction.
Study the following verse from the Amplified Bible:
It is God who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight (Philippians 2:13).
We have established that God is at work in you. You have this demonic “buffeting” from which God will not presently deliver you because He is doing a good work in you. Therefore, what should be your attitude to this good work He is doing? It should be one of joy – because your joy is evidence of how much you trust God. If you trust Him, then you will rejoice for His goodness, and that joy will be strength to you.
Take for instance a world champion boxer. His coach loves him to a point where he wants him above all things to be a winner. So what does the coach do –buy him a sofa, a TV, and potato chips? No. Instead, he places weights on his shoulders and resistance against his arms. He will even look around for the toughest sparring partner he can find. If the boxer doesn’t understand what his trainer is doing, if he doesn’t have faith in his methods, he will get depressed and lose heart. But is he knows what’s going on, he will rejoice now in the trials because he sees, through the eyes of faith, the finished product.
That’s why God is letting the devil loose on you: to make you strong. Paul says,
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment [in the light of eternity], works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).>
Afflictions work for us, not against us, if we are in God’s will. How is your joy when the Trainer brings the resistance your way? How much faith do you have in Him? The joy you have will be your measuring rod.
For you, Oh God, have proved us: you have tried us, as silver is tried.> You have caused men to ride over our heads, we went through fire and through water: but you brought us out into a wealthy place (Psalm 66:10,12>).
God takes us through the fires of persecution, tribulation, and temptation to purify us, not to burn us. He takes us through water to cleanse us, not to drown us. Look at the reason God chastens His children, given in Hebrews 12:9-15:
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be> in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; les any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many defiled.
In other words, get it together. Don’t fall into discouragement, which is essentially a lack of faith in God. If you let your arms hang down in depression instead of rejoicing that God is working all things out for your good, you are saying that God isn’t faithful, that His promises aren’t worth believing, that He is actually a liar. There is no greater insult to God than to not believe His promises. The result of unbelief will be depression, discouragement, self-pity, resentment, then> bitterness, which you will end up spreading to others.
If you have never thanked God for His promises, for His faithfulness, for the fact that He is working with you, in you, and for you—if you have been joyless, or even despised what has been happening to you and moved into bitterness—then repent of the sin of mistrust. How insulted you would be if you were a faithful and loving trainer, and your boxer, for whose good you are laboring, began to despise you for what you were doing.
On the other hand, if you are “exercised thereby,” the result will be the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” In other words, you will end up living a life that is in complete righteousness, and bring a smile to the heart of your heavenly Father.
Look at Hebrews 12:11. Notice the word “afterward.” That one word was my light in the dark tunnel. It meant there was an end to my terror, a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t a train heading for me. Write down the word “afterward,” and put it somewhere where you will be reminded that you have hope—and “hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us” (Romans 5:5, Amplified).
Guard against condemnation. You are no “less spiritual” than those who seem to have complete victory. If you don’t believe it, think of the experience of Oswald Chambers, author of the mega-bestselling devotional My Utmost For> His Highest. Now there’s a man whose life and words have been an inspiration to millions. He was “spiritual” in the truest sense of the word. However, the great author had four years in his life of which he said, “God used me during those years for the conversion of souls, but I had no conscious communion with Him. The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence” (Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God). He described those four years as “hell on earth.” However, he found that there was an “afterward,” saying,
But those of you who know the experience know very well how God brings one to the point of utter despair, and I got to the place where I did not care whether everyone knew how bad I was, I cared not for another on earth, saving to get out of my present condition (ibid).
If you have panic attacks or agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), don’t fall into the deep pit of self-pity, because it has ugly bedfellows—discouragement, joylessness, condemnation, despair, and hopelessness.> The sides of the pit of self-pity are very slippery, but there is one firm foothold. It is the uplifting stairs of thanksgiving. Let me explain how you can get your foot into it.
AN ATTITUDE OF THANKSGIVING
Sue and I were visiting an elderly lady named Helen, a 93-year-old who had broken her hip. She was unhappy because the food in the convalescent home wasn’t very good. One day Mary walked into Helen’s room. Mary was in her late seventies and had to be permanently fed through a tube that ran from a bottle directly into her stomach. Mary never tasted food or drink, and barring a miracle from God, she would never taste food or liquid again. Mary’s condition made Helen thankful that at least she could have the pleasure of food and drink, even if it wasn’t up to standard.
Then there was Robert. Robert had a good clear brain, but he had chronic emphysema. He couldn’t breathe. Whenever she looked into his room, he was sitting on his bed, leaning over with his hand on his forehead. He gasped for every breath, twenty-four hours a day. Robert’s problem made Mary thankful that at least she could breathe.
The point is that, despite your tormenting fears, you won’t have to look too far for people who are suffering so badly that their problems dwarf yours. If you don’t believe me, try being Robert for two minutes. Pinch your nose with one hand then with the other one hold your lips together so that a meager amount of air gets into your mouth. Don’t cheat. Do that for 120 long seconds. Feel the sweat break out on your forehead. Feel the panic. After two minutes of gasping for your breath, when you let go you will begin to thank God that you can breathe, and that will bring your problems into perspective. I’m not demeaning your fears. I’m offering you a way to lift yourself out of the pit of pity.
So next time you are attacked in some way, pull yourself together with a prayer of heartfelt thanksgiving, and say,
Father I thank You that all things work together for my good; that it is You> who are at work in me to will and do of Your good pleasure. Your strength is made perfect in my weakness. I will not let this attack discourage me because Your> grace is sufficient for me. You will help me through it. When I think of the sufferings of many, many others, I feel shamed for having any self-pity. I will therefore rejoice in the God of my salvation and give You> thanks in and for everything. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Your constant battle with trials will make you no stranger to them. Like a tree that is constantly beaten about by the wind, your roots will be deep. You will find,> if you have an acquaintance with fear, etc., that you can live with it where others can’t. You will be able to do things that others can’t. The roots of your faith in God will be deeper than the roots of those who have never been ravaged by the winds of terror. Affliction works for us. God doesn’t let the wind blow to destroy, but to strengthen. You will be able to go places and do things that others would fear to do, because those things that should (rationally) produce fear pale in significance compared to the average attack of irrational fear.
Again, do you believe God is at work in you to will and do of His good pleasure? Then rejoice, and let the joy of the Lord be your strength. There is a world weighed in the balance and found wanting. Don’t fiddle while Rome burns. Your problems and fears are nothing compared to the terrible plight of the sinner. Eternal hell is his destiny. Lift up hands that hang down, lift up your heart through faith, then lift up your voice like a trumpet and show this people their transgression.