Though God created each of us and though we belong to Him, our faith that He desires only the best for us often stutters in hard times. If circumstances are suddenly not to our liking, we start questioning His intentions; as though we know what is best for us.
Hardships and pain so easily disrupt, dislocate and disturb our faith in the Lord’s omniscience; we forget, even if it is only momentarily, that He is our Creator, it is to Him we belong, and that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Instead we question why hardship has to happen to us, what have we done to deserve such adversity?
Anchored in confidence of belonging to God
Evangelist Johnny Louw says it is important to be anchored in the confidence of belonging to the Lord at all times especially through trials and tribulations.
It is essential that we recognise and dispel all the doubts in difficult times. We so easily forget that we are refined through adversities and that it is through the faith and reliance on the Lord gained from persevering through hard times that we are conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
It is so important to trust that God will not only use adversity to take us to a new level of spiritual maturity, but that our relationship with Him will also grow as a result of the very circumstances that aren’t to our liking.
Louw gives examples from his own life, his friend’s and the life of our country.
When I spoke to him, only a few days before Christmas, Louw’s wife, Jomene, was busy packing-up all their belongings as they had to vacate their home by mid-January.
“It is difficult times, especially for my wife; having to pack-up our home so close to Christmas and New Year,” said Louw.
“Furthermore, 2016 has been a hard year for the whole country with drought, a tense political climate, tough economic circumstances, and many people suffering financial hardship.
Nobody excluded from hardships and suffering
“Nobody is excluded from hardships and suffering, but in this time the Lord spoke to me about belonging to Him and how to overcome the hardships of our material condition with the spiritual gifts of steadfastness, love and power that He has granted us.
“The Bible says it doesn’t matter what stands against us, nothing will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). The Lord has granted us favour, because He is our Father and we belong to Him.
“The harder times get, the more we should worship Him and submerge ourselves in His love for us, for He favours those who diligently seek Him (Proverbs 11:27).”
Louw said he has been speaking with a friend, Japie Engelbrecht, who is a cattle farmer in the Kalahari, where there has been severe drought.
“He hasn’t had sustainable rain on his farm for the last five years. While we were speaking I could hear the suffering in his voice.
“He said the only place with water on the farm is around the house, so the cattle gather there bellowing for water as though they are pleading with him for relief.
“However, Japie has realised that the Lord is taking him away from his way of seeing to the Lord’s way; taking him away from fighting his circumstances in the flesh, to fighting them in the spirit.”
Being an example in trying circumstances
Louw says God wants to use His children in these trying circumstances as examples. The Bible tells us that the whole creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19).
“When I think of the cries of Japie’s cattle, I think of the cries of God’s children beseeching, ‘Lord, we are suffering’, like the cattle pleading for water around the house.
“Nevertheless, although Japie has exhausted his resources, he has remained secure by relying on his Holy Father and staying close to Him, in the same way that his own cattle surround the farmhouse, because they are provided for and feel secure when they are close to Japie.
“Like Japie, we need to realise nothing can sustain us, except the Lord who will make a way for and through His children. He wants to draw us together and work through us.
“The Lord wants us to rejoice in Him even though we may be suffering through difficult times, even though the world is suffering from people killing each other and the violence of wars, even though it seems there is nothing for us to rejoice about … the Lord says, ‘rejoice in Me and I will look after you and where there is no way, I will make a supernatural way through my children’.”
Supernatural ways that surpass understanding
Louw witnessed first-hand about the supernatural ways of the Lord that surpass our understanding and bring peace to His children even in circumstances that are confusing and trying.
“In those circumstances the Lord blesses us with spiritual gifts,” said the evangelist.
“The Lord provides us with a spiritual way that takes us out of the fleshly realm and into the spiritual realm where we overcome the circumstances of the world.
“For example, a few days ago I prayed to the Lord asking why he had brought us to this home for only a year and now the owner has sold it.
“I told the Lord that my wife and I were confused, because we had prayed before moving into the house and were reassured that it was right for us.
“Yet, now we found ourselves with nowhere to go.
“As I prayed, I felt as if I was one of Japie’s cows crying out for relief. My world was being rocked because of friction in the family through having to move and no houses available in Cape Town at this time the year, except those that are extremely expensive.
Rejoicing in the Lord always
“While I was praying the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Philippians 4:1-8, which speaks of rejoicing in the Lord always, letting your gentleness be known to all men.
“I felt the Holy Spirit say, ‘Johnny, rejoice, because what I have planned for you is better; be still and know that I am God, be still and know that I am in control. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“The Lord also spoke to me through 1Peter 2:1-5, which speaks of a living stone given to us through Jesus Christ who was rejected by men, but in the sight of God was chosen and precious, and we, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house that will stand for ever.
“While I was reading the scripture, I felt the Lord say, ‘I have given you the power of Jesus that has made every stone fall in place that I have pre-destined to be a part of My spiritual house’.
“He said, ‘My son you are part of that spiritual house, don’t fear, because I have a plan and answer for everything’.
Peace with God
“All of a sudden I felt peace in my heart. Then the Lord gave me Romans 5:1-5, which talks of being justified through faith and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“And God said, ‘In this time I want to give you the spiritual gift of belonging to Me that is faith; I want you to stand firm in faith’.
“He said, ‘Because you belong to Me and you are My royal children, I will give you the spiritual gift of faith to withstand any attempt to come against you and I will right the wrongs’.
“The Lord said to me, ‘Johnny in the midst of this madness I will give My children the spiritual fruits to stand fast, to go through sufferings, to witness and to share salvation with people who are in hardship’.
“And all of a sudden, I just started to rejoice in the Lord. I started to sing although materially I had nothing to rejoice about; finances are not good, our house was taken away and my wife was suffering, but the Lord said, ‘My son you are part of the building blocks for a spiritual house, for the spiritual wellbeing of my children; they can take away everything from you, but they can’t take away My everlasting love, you are one of My flock and I will look after you, for you are part of My plan’.”
Louw said he shared the Lord’s Word with Jomene and they rejoiced together despite the sadness and uncertainty of having to leave their home. During their rejoicing Johnny remembered Japie’s tribulations in the Kalahari and prayed that the Lord would give him a sign that he had not been forgotten too.
“About an hour later I received a phone call from Japie who told me they had just received 14mm of rain, enough to make them rejoice too.
“I said, ‘My Father, how great You are. Thank You for the gift of rejoicing. Thank You for reminding me that in Jesus Christ I am a spiritual building block and part of the building of the house of God that will stand against all natural challenges.“
More supernatural ways of God
The same afternoon Louw’s neighbour, Darryl Ninneman, phoned and invited Johnny and Jomene to supper.
That evening during supper Darryl said, ‘Johnny this morning I was praying for you and the Lord laid it on my heart to share with you why He moved you here for only a year’.
Darryl continued to witness that he had lost his faith and had told his children they should figure out for themselves who God is, because God was just a story to him. He felt without hope and did not experience the presence of the Lord at all.
However, after Johnny moved next door Darryl’s faith was revived by the example he saw in his neighbour and testimonies shared.
“You moved here so that I could receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Darryl.
“My children also accepted Jesus Christ, because of you. The reason why you moved here for a year was for our salvation,” he added.
“I started to cry,” said Louw.
“And I’m sitting there crying and rejoicing, and my wife is crying, and the next moment her telephone starts to ring and she says, ‘Oh my goodness it is one of the estate agents’.
“She picked up her phone and walked away and I heard her say, ‘Oh, thank You Lord’!
“After no other agent had come back to us, as there were no houses to let in our price range, this agent phoned from her hospital bed to let us know she had ten brand-new long-term rentals in our area and we could have our pick. Halleluiah!
Spiritual gifts out of tribulations
“Out of our tribulations had come the spiritual gifts from our Father of: rejoicing; belonging to Him; faith strengthened; and knowing that our Father sees all and will look after His children, because he favours us
“He has granted us righteousness and He is our answer, He will look after His children.
“God is good all the time — through the drought, through economic hardships and through political uncertainty — for we are His living stones being built into His spiritual house that will never end.
“God is with us, His name is Emmanuel. He is with us through our trials and tribulations and He won’t forsake us.
“My heart goes out to all those suffering at this moment, but they can rejoice that suffering brings character, and character brings faith.
“I want people to know that when they are suffering they must dive into the love of God, dive into the rejoicing gift of His Spirit and draw-up strength from that spiritual well, for then it will be well with their souls,” says Louw.