RD: Would you say then that as long as we say this is the devil doing it we’re not there yet, but when we say this is God, that is the difference? You come to have to see that ultimately you have to say this is God… If it is God, then your primary motive is not to get rid of it. But if you are saying this is the devil, then your primary motive and interest is to get rid of it.
MB: A lady came to me one time and she had been told she had a terminal illness. I knew she was coming. She and her husband were missionaries. I prayed for several days before they came as to what to say, and I didn’t know what to say. So when I met her the first thing the Lord impressed met o say to her was to ask her why she was ill. I knew she was going to think that was a very stupid question, but I obeyed the Lord. She said, of course, “I don’t know.” I said, “Do you know that if you knew why you are ill, you may not want to get rid of it?” That’s what we are saying. Even though the devil delivers the adversity–whatever it might be: sickness, sorrow–and causes you a great deal of difficulty because you have to work through it, there is no sign that God is out of it. It’s an indication to me that He is well aware of it and He is not only well aware of it, He has allowed it and He has limited it for His purpose. So, I immediately look for, “Why, Lord?” And if He chooses not to show me, why that within itself is the greatest reason why. He is saying, “Trust me, just trust me.” That is the greatest reason, because He wants us to be so trustful of Him that we do not question Him when He comes in different forms.
RD: I had a woman come up to me one night after I had preached on Abraham and Isaac and she asked me how old I thought Abraham was when that happened. I said, “I don’t know. I know he was pretty much over 100 years old.” She said, “Would you say that was his toughest test–sacrificing Isaac?” I said, “Yes, I guess it would be.” Then she said, “Don’t you think Abraham was a little old for that kind of test? Hadn’t he already proved himself to God?” I can’t help but think about that when I think about your situation. Everything you’ve been through since 1970–it would seem that by now you have suffered enough, and God ought to pick on somebody else. Or don’t you think maybe you are a little too old for this test? Or, is it that we only think we’ve given it all when we haven’t?
MB: Ron, really what is going on here is our lack of understanding the Scripture. In the Scriputure, the word “temptation” is used a number ot times. Most people think that temptation is only used as a means of enticement to do evil. But the word “temptation” in Hebrews 3 is referring to the children of Israel in the land of the wilderness during a time of temptation. We are referring now to the legitimate wilderness, not the 40 years of wilderness time. If you will look carefully at the different verses in the Bible, you will find the word “temptation” or “trial” or “testing” has a two-fold meaning. Adversity, testing and trials come to expose your wickedness and correct you–that’s one reason. And then God allows trials, testings, and temptations not for you but for others. I think possibly the test on Abraham’s life was not only for himself at times, but it was for others. Ithink we will be going through adversity, testing and trials for others if we are completely sanctified. They must see the reality of God, and they will see it in human flesh when they see it in us.
To say that Abraham was just too old to be tested might be a statement that indicates we are not understanding fully the difference between testing, trials and temptations–and that god could be doing that for our purpose rather than for His purpose. I think it was the greatest test that Abraham ever faced because it called for something that was so precious to him–not in the spiritual realm alone, but in the physical realm. When God called on him to do this, it seemingly contradicted the promises of God, the performances of God, the very purpose of God because through Isaac would come the Lord Jesus. But on the other hand, it gave Abraham such a vision of the Lord Jesus. It obviously took the experience with Isaac for Abraham to get a full glimpse of the purpose of God and that was to get the Son of God in the world in the flesh as man. Sometimes God allows the adversity and difficulty to come into our lives to save others–that’s my answer to such a good question.
RD: I guess the thing that intrigues me, or maybe that I worry about so much, is that we would all like to get to that point, but it’s not easy to get there. When I talked to you on the phone from Georgia, you indicated that there was a point where you were able to get hold of God and settle the issue. But at first, because of the pain and circumstances, you just didn’t feel like you could get hold of God. I believe I have felt that. What was the turning point at which you got a word from God? Did you ever feel abandoned?
MB: There was a time in both unique crises (when I was hospitalized for four months in Houston and also the time I was hospitalized for five and a half months in 1988) when it looked like God had literally forsaken me. Then I realized that there was a time in the life of Jesus when the Father forsook Him, turned His back and had to leave Him alone. That was the most difficult time to have that Bible knowledge, but it was important for me to remember that even Jesus had a time when He struggled. We are talking about the humanity of Jesus, I’m sure. But as a human being, He had that struggle. I had that struggle, and I think we all have that struggle. I think the struggle comes from two directions: from God literally drawing back His conscious presence from us to allow us to just stricktly walk it alone in order to learn that He is faithful without having the crutch of Him being consciously there. That’s one reason. The other reason that we are unconscious of God in times of struggle is because our spirit is like a sea. And if the spirit is calm, you can drop a hair on that sea and it will make a ripple and you can pick it up. But if that spirit is disturbed, you can drop a ship in an ocean and it wouldn’t make a ripple. So God is there trying to speak to you, but there is so much disturbance about you in yoru body and circumstances that you can’t hear God because your spirit is not quiet.
So God has to get you to a place where there is quietness, stillness and calm before He can really speak to you. Then when He does, you get to God. Even thought the suffering may get more intense, the victory is there, and you know you are going to make it. I do think that there are times in adversity and difficulty when a person really thinks God has forsaken them. It may be that He has just backed up to give them an opportunity to realize where they are and what they will do in circumstances like that. The other is that there is so much disturbance that they just can’t hear Him speaking.
RD: That brings a lot of thoughts and questions to mind. I’ve always thought that the darkest hour for Jesus on the cross was when He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It’s a little bit scary to think about God withdrawing His conscious blessings and our feeling abandoned and desolate because a great many of us have this attitude that if we’re right with God and our spirit and heart is right, then we’ll always feel God’s presence. And that would lead me to believe that perhaps the deepest part of pain is not so much the physical suffering but the sense of being separated and abandoned and cut off from God.
MB: I definitely feel that is the most serious pain that I have had to suffer. That pain went on for a couple of months in the 70s, and that pain went on for jsut a few days this last time, but it was much more intense than before. I don’t doubt that pain was the most severe pain I have had to go through. Now I know if I had a time of suffering and that would happen to me, it wouldn’t bother me as much as it has in the past. But if a thing has got to be of faith–and it does have to be faith–faith has to be tested somewhere. And when God is making Himself consciously present in your life, even in the midst of pain and adversity, I don’t know if your faith can be tested without Him withdrawing that consciousness. I feel He does that to test your faith, to see which way you will run.
And, like for instance in Job’s life, He knew exactly what Job was going to do, and Job did it right. Even though Job saw himself wicked, I think that was exactly what God wanted in his life–and I just rejoice in the fact that I could see that in Job. God bringing Job’s name up first when He and the devil were talking–that has been the most securing and most informative to my heart that enabled me to deal without a consciousness of God at all. Job obviously went through it.
RD: I think that is so important to hear because most people would look at your life and think that you have never had that point of desperation wehre you felt withdrawn from God. And, most of us feel that and we think something has gone wrong with us and we look at somebody like Manley Beasley and say, “I wish I had his faith.” I remember after that phone call from Georiga, I never felt the spirit of God so strong coming through a phone line. I was in tears, and Kaye and I talked about it for quite awhile. Then I said, “I am so glad I’ve never had to go through anything like Manley’s had to go through.” And no sooner had I said it had the thougth come to me, “Why don’t you just go ahead and say it? I’m so glad that I’m not as close to God as Manley Beasley is.” Because, in a way, that is exactly what I was saying.
MB: Welll, I prayed a prayer years ago that god is still answering, thank the Lord. I prayed, “Lord, help me never to know how spiritual I am so I will always keep seeking.” Today, with a great number of people calling me for help and honoring me as a person that is possibly spiritual, it’s possibly one of the most difficult battles I’ve ever had to face because I’ve always seen myself as a nobody and now here the Lord is honoring me, it seems, and people are saying I’m somebody. It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, so I continue to pray that prayer. As long as I can maintain this attitude–Lord, I’m still nobody. I’m still hungry. I’m still wanting to walk with You, willing for You to discipline me as You delight–I think He’ll keep me going. But if I get to the place that I think I’ve arrived, I think it’s all over. I know this–when I was searching for God in certain ways, I could not find men that could talk to me. So I am glad to be available to talk with people. Instead of shutting myself out from the world, I have made myself more visible to the world because I know that God wants to get glory through this.
I want to stay available and I think God will have to take us to the measure of affliction that it takes to glorify God. Whatever measure that is–I don’t know. I know my doctors that really understand physical adversity are more easily impressed than my Christian friends who do not understand. That might be an interesting issue to think about. Just the other day I had a little bout where they had to take fourteen pounds off my body, so I had to go to the doctor. I went to the hospital and stayed three days. One of my doctors is a born again Christian, a testifying Christian, a standing Christian, a firm Christian–and happens to believe that anyone can be healed at any time. So we have talked a great deal. I looked her in the eyes the other day and said, “I can live what I preach and preach what I live.” She couldn’t handle it because she is preaching something she can’t live. So it came time for me to go to Atlanta for next meeting. My Christian doctor did not want me to go, but my Hindu doctor who does not know the Lord Jesus said, “Oh, he can go–his God will take care of him.” So my doctors that understand medicine and physical suffering, sickness and death understand more thoroughly what I’m going through, and God is getting more glory there than He is with the Christian out there who says, “Oh, well.”
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