Does God Afflict His Children?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Does God afflict his own children? Listen to the psalmist’s answer. “For you, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalm 66:10-12, NKJV).

The psalmist was saying, “Lord, you put me in waters so high over my head that I thought I would drown. You put me into the fire to try me as silver is tried. You brought me into a net, laid affliction on me, caused men to trounce on me!”

Why did God allow such afflictions? It was because he was bringing his beloved child into a “wealthy place.” In the original Hebrew, this phrase means “a place of abundant fruitfulness.” God is saying, “I’m taking you through all these hard places to make you fruitful for my kingdom.”

Yet not all afflictions are from the hand of God. Many troubles come from the devil himself, straight from the pits of hell. “For he [God] does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). God says, “I get no joy out of afflicting my children. That is not my purpose in allowing troubles.” No, the Lord allows our afflictions only for his eternal purposes, to bring us into a “wealthy place.”

I cringe with amazement as I remember all the sorrows, trials, deep waters, flaming fires and powerful afflictions I have seen over the years. Usually when afflictions came, they came not just one at a time but in bundles. Many times, I thought, “There is no way I can make it through this.” Even the memories of afflictions are painful, memories of slander, chastenings of the Lord, ministry trials, personal buffetings, family problems, bodily pains and aches. 

As I recall those years of suffering, I can say with assurance, “God’s Word is true. He brought me out of every affliction that came upon me, and I praise him!”

God Is Making Investments

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

When a parent sends a child to college, it requires a great investment. Obviously, that parent hopes his child will apply herself to the rigors of her training. Why? Does he hope she will graduate, come home, hang her diploma on the wall, then sit around the house watching television? No! That parent hopes his child will make his investment pay off by starting a good career.

Likewise, when the U.S. military offers a free education to an enlisted soldier, those years of education are considered an investment. The soldier is told, “After you’re educated, your nation and government want a certain amount of your time.” That trained soldier is expected to serve in the armed forces for a number of years in order to justify the investment.

So it is with the Lord and our afflictions. Everything you go through as a Christian is a training exercise behind which God has a divine purpose. He did not save you so that you could cruise into paradise on a luxury liner; he saved you to prepare you to be of use in his kingdom. The moment you were born again, he enrolled you in his school of suffering. Every affliction and trial is another lesson in the curriculum.

Some Christians are in kindergarten. Their afflictions are not difficult to understand, and their tests are much easier to endure. Others are in grade school, and they quickly learn that their tests have become a little tougher to face and harder to understand. Others are in college, and their afflictions are much more severe and more difficult to figure out. Still others are in postgraduate school with years of hard afflictions behind them and many difficult tests looming before them. Their afflictions are the toughest of their lives, and they realize they need Holy Ghost strength to deal with them all.

My point is that God wants veterans of spiritual warfare, people who have been through many afflictions, to prove his faithfulness to the next generation. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19, NKJV). Every affliction we endure is an investment the Lord is making in us as his veterans. 

There Is a Time

Gary Wilkerson

There is a very special time in believers’ lives! I am talking about when it is time to stand up and take action. This is when it is right to say, “I believe God is calling me to be an answer to a problem and help in rescuing hurt people.” 

When you hear about a church going to the mission field, there is a time to say, “God bless them.” There is a time to engage in prayerful faith, and then there is a time for you to get up and go. It’s time to arise and take action!

In Genesis 14:14-16, Abraham did just that when he heard that his nephew Lot had been taken captive. He got up, armed his three hundred and eighteen men and took them with him. He was outnumbered by tens of thousands, but God gave him a plan. Abraham said, “We’re going to split into two troops, and we’re going to go in at nighttime.”

Do you see what he was doing? He was getting the mind of Christ for the battle plan. 

Some of us are like Lot when we get upset or enraged, even though we know his actions got him into trouble. We say, “I’ll get up, but I’ll take action in my own strength,” rather than listening to the Lord. I am not talking about a fleshly rising up and getting something done because you’re a New Yorker or your political beliefs. I am talking about getting something done because you are a follower of Jesus Christ.

If you move in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, you will hear the Spirit speak to you. Out of that comes an active, engaging, vibrant life where you become a witness and servant. You become engaged in ministry that makes a difference in people’s lives. Wherever you are involved—if your teenagers are in trouble or your husband/wife is far from God—you are engaged in speaking into their lives. You are modeling something that is different from what the world has to offer.

Wives win their husbands to the Lord through their humility, love and service. Men see their families come to Jesus Christ when they begin to really serve and love and put others ahead of themselves. The type of faith the Holy Spirit is calling us to says, “God, I need you, and you want me to become involved.”

Simon Days, Peter Days, Satan Days

Tim Dilena

Peter is a guy we can probably all relate to in the Bible. He has great days, and then he has pretty awful days, and scripture shows them to us. “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” (Matthew 16:15-18, ESV).

Wow! Jesus changed Simon’s name based on his revelation of Jesus. None of the other disciples had this happen. However, Peter had his name changed again. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!...’” (Matthew 16:21-23). 

Have you ever felt like that? You’re going along, having a Simon day, and something happens in which you move into a Peter day with revelations that God is awesome, and then all of a sudden you get smacked with a Satan day. 

In all of those days, though, you are loved by God. Your worst day does not make you any less accepted by God. Jesus didn’t stop loving Peter, did he? No. The same is true for you.  Author Brennan Manning gives us a glimpse into this revolutionary love of God: “His love is never, never, never based on our performance, never conditioned by our moods—of elation or depression. The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is always reliable. And always tender.” 

I read those words while traveling from Queens to Brooklyn on the F Train, and I started crying. The revolutionary thinking that God loves me as I am and not as I should be requires radical rethinking and profound emotional readjustment. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us. 

After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.

Flight or Fight

Gary Wilkerson

“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (Psalm 3:1, ESV). When David wrote this opening verse, he was either experiencing many people attacking him on a single front or being attacked on many fronts. 

Sometimes, we encounter one trial after another, or they pile up all at once. In the midst of our suffering, we can be driven to near despair. Some of us may grow paranoid, our thoughts running wild about worst-case scenarios. We grow panicked over what may happen to us.

Often, we are assured we can reasonably face one problem, but an avalanche of problems that are beyond our abilities troubles the soul. We spend every waking hour preoccupied with our difficulty, unable to shake our anxiety and fear. Despite our best intentions, like David, we turn to flight instead of fight. 

We have to accept that even in life’s toughest trials, the greater battle is always with principalities and powers that attack our mind and soul. These are our most vulnerable areas during times of great struggle.

In Psalm 3, David begins the prayer of a beleaguered king who despaired over the mounting odds stacked against him. By verse 3, things begin to change. David had another prayer in his heart, a prayer of awesome hope. “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). 

David had moved from being overwhelmed by “many” things to a single-minded focus on one thing: his source of deliverance. He was no longer worried about being surrounded by many trials but instead was lifted by the help he knew he had in God. David saw his shield, the Lord himself, surrounding him. 

Psalm 3 tells us that it doesn’t matter how encircled we may be by oncoming trials. No matter what direction the assaults come from, the Lord has us covered. This is true not just in some circumstances but in all of them. God has control over all our concerns and worries. He is a shield that covers every inch of our being, leaving no opening for the enemy’s piercing arrows. Today, let God’s very presence be your greatest shield in whatever trial you may face. 

This devotional has been adapted from Gary Wilkerson’s book, The Altar of Our Hearts: An Expository Devotional on the Psalms