Tag Archives: This has actually served to advance the gospel

Blessings in disguise


There’s an old Chinese proverb about a man who lost his horse, which he thought to be a bad thing. Later his horse returned bringing a great wild stallion with him. This seemed like a good thing. Then his son went riding on the stallion and fell off, breaking his leg. This was a bad thing for sure, right? But wait. Because of the son’s broken leg, he avoided being drafted into fighting the war and stayed home with his father instead (a good thing).


Sometimes our troubles are actually blessings in disguise.


Paul experienced this. He was shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, and imprisoned. We would consider it a very bad thing if it happened to us. But Paul writes to let others know this “bad thing” was actually a good thing because it actually served to advance the gospel of Christ.


When I broke my leg I mourned not being able to work, but then realized the rest gave me more time for reflection I had ignored. When going through chemotherapy I thought it was bad news because it delayed our mission to Bolivia. But quickly it was revealed that there was a mission for us right in the hospital. When something is lost we take special joy in what remains. In our weakness we find God’s strength. In strength we find the ability to persevere. In perseverance we find hope. In failure we learn humility. In being humbled we find his grace. In grace we find wonder. In our doubts we find renewed reason to believe. In believing we find deliverance. In all our suffering, if it is for the Lord, there is future glory revealed, adding to our hope.


What troubles have brought you bad news?  The natural temptation is to want to get away from them as soon as possible. But maybe, and quite often, there is some good thing in the midst of it ready to be revealed.  To discover it, we have to take our eyes off our problems and look to God for his blessing in disguise, his goodness in the middle of our dark circumstances.


I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13


Bad news or good news?

A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.
Good news, of course.

This Chinese parable illustrates a basic truth we’ve discussed before: light overcomes darkness. Blessings sometimes travel in disguise, even embedded in trials. The path to peace and contentment sometimes winds through a valley of discontent. The apostle Paul revealed that the “bad news” of his imprisonment and suffering actually served to advance the “good news” of the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)

Disciplining your mind to habituate to a positive “good news” attitude will help you see problems as opportunities. This is an ongoing challenge that requires daily focus to maintain this perspective consistently. For sure, this life view will rescue you from the paralysis of inward focus to find the freedom of focusing on what God intends to reveal.

There was a cartoon of a turtle on its back; with clear view of the sky, he concluded, “I’m flying!” Hilarious as the image was, his delusion about flying offered absolutely no help to overcome the fact that he was in fact STUCK on his back. Positive thinking helps us to FEEL better about our ‘bad news’ and to temporarily escape the pain of our circumstance, but eventually we have to come back to the reality of how to actually deal with the problem.

The really ‘good news’ is that God knows us – and our ‘bad news’ situation – perfectly. Furthermore, he cares deeply about us. He offers his perfect perspective and counsel by providing his Spirit, grace, strength, and power to rise above our circumstance…to become victorious over them. Now THAT’s good news indeed!

Here’s to seeing the “good news” God intends for you to see and share with others today!

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach my good news to all creation.'” (And use words if you have to!) Mark 16:15

Disappointment or HIS appointment?

Can you remember a time when you were disappointed, either by something that happened you DIDN’T want, or something that didn’t happen you DID want? Most of us could quickly go to our carousel of childhood or teenage memories to pick out any number of examples: rejection by a friend, being told ‘no’ when we wanted ‘yes,’ garage sale clothes, underwear for Christmas. 🙂 These may seem frivolous now, but the memory of other deep disappointments may still have lasting effects on our soul: the loss of a loved one, the memory of abuse, never feeling like you measured up or mattered, making a poor choice that had lasting consequences.

I don’t know anyone who didn’t have to deal with some level of disappointment in their lives, whether momentary or life long. But as common as it is to experience disappointment even in major aspects of our life, there is another side to this coin. Asking God to reveal HIS APPOINTMENT in the situation doesn’t always yield an escape from the circumstances, but it does offer a way out from being trapped by the oppressive weight of disappointment. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He spoke not only to an eternal life, but also to our participation in the aspect of eternal life that begins now; the way to be freed from the slavery to our present worries, fears, and sorrows.

Years ago Phil Keaggy wrote a song about this that opened with these lines:
Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

The apostle Paul knew about sorrow, pain, and suffering. His writings reveal that he quickly turned any potential disappointments over to God and chose to diligently and eagerly pursue God’s purpose IN and through the situation. From his dismal prison cell he wrote:
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

In other words, there is not only an escape from the oppression of disappointment, but also purpose to be found in disappointment. It may be to bring us closer to God so we can enjoy His presence or to sensitize and enable us to help someone else along their path.

Are you disappointed today? Tell God. (He already knows but wants to visit with you about it.) Ask him to reveal HIS appointment to you. (Hint: you will likely find it in His Word.) He WANTS you to experience HIS appointment of peace and power even in the middle of your disappointing storm.

Closing with the final words of Keaggy’s song:
Disappointment – His appointment
Lord I take it then as such,
Like the clay in hands of potter
Yielding wholly to Thy touch

All my life’s plan is Thy molding
Not one single choice be mine
Let me answer unrepining,
Father not my will but Thine.