Tag Archives: trials

The Missing Peace by Josh Knowlton


Celebrating Josh’s 20th birthday a month ago at Wheaton College

(Note from Roger:Today I have asked one of my favorite people in the world to be a guest blogger.  He is my one and only son, Josh Knowlton. Josh is a sophomore at Wheaton College studying Anthropology.  Aside from academics, Josh is a member of the Wheaton Men’s Glee Club and the acapella group, Thundertones. He’s also a weekly worship leader for three-year-old Sunday School at the Church of the Resurrection and also leads a weekly ministry to teach English to native Chinese speakers in the Chinatown area of Chicago. Lastly, he also occasionally writes a personal devotional from his Scripture reading. So for today…I asked him to go public. Be sure to share freely!)

One of the deepest cries of every soul is the plea for peace. Not having peace is like a restless night’s sleep. You toss and you turn as your bed creaks and moans. Your pillow always has a lump in it; your sheets always have a crinkle. The temperature either makes you shiver or sweat, as nagging frustration runs through your mind. And when you wake up the next morning in a half-sleep stupor, you end up more tired than you were the night before. Not peace.

This “not peace”  is a constant reality everywhere we turn. It happens at home in the sounds of raised voices; it happens at work in gossip or a biting remark; it happens at school in the form of stress and “being left out”; it happens in the world in the ways of Ferguson, Ukraine and Russia, ISIS.

Every night, the world has insomnia. It’s tossing and turning, desperate for some peace it believes should be here. Restless for rest. But every morning we awake to a world that seems worse off than it was before.

And yet, Paul says that because we have been “justified by faith” by Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can have peace! True peace, a “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Although the world may still be broken and restless in endless ways, God wants us to experience his peace by being in a relationship with him, by knowing his grace.

This probably isn’t shocking to you. But it should be. You see, God knows the words you’re going to say before you even think to say them (Psalm 139:4). He’s numbered your days, and knows what each one will be like (Psalm 139:16). He knows you, the real you. He knows your family history and your inside jokes with your best friends. He’s watched and smiled at your most embarrassing moments, and applauded you at your biggest successes. And he knows your sin—the horrible things you wish you could forget and the little things you can’t even remember.

God knows you better than Google knows your search history. And yet he still loves you endlessly. And as Paul says, he lets us, unclean sinners, enter into a peace with him. No more restless nights, right?

Maybe one day. But for now, this isn’t quite the end of the story. We still live in a world full of violent unrest, unrelenting agitation. Not peace: suffering. And even though as Christians, the Holy Spirit has given us peace, there’s still going to battles we have to face—there’s still going to be suffering.

So how does this suffering work into this plan of peace?

Paul, as usual, has the answer. He outlines: “suffering produces endurance…endurance produces character…and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3).

You see, suffering is like a super-charged, rocket-engine fuel that is agonizing to produce, but ultimately launches our hope in God into the stratosphere. Just like rocket science, it’s hard to understand—especially when you’re living through that suffering. But with Christ working through our suffering—we end up producing hope. It’s kinda like putting last week’s garbage in a blender and ending up with the new iPhone 6. It’s wonderful, beautiful, impossible, glorious. It’s Christ working through us.

Without Christ, peace is like a puff of smoke we see but can’t contain, a handful of sand running through our fingertips. But with Christ, peace is a reality that takes hold in our hearts. And it’s here for us—here for you.


For tomorrow, Friday, March 27th: Romans 6

While you’re at it, here’s another story about Josh…


Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Power of Pain

man in the gymI’ve been hanging out at Club Fitness in Waupun this winter, and a casual glance around the gym brings one great truth home: Pain causes growth.

Now, I’m a treadmill guy and don’t do the weights thing (I don’t want to surprise you, but that’s not me in the picture), but I know I really should, because I know how it works. You stress your muscles to the breaking point and then give them time to rest…and they come back stronger, and bigger too (As in my adolescent dream of being like Arnold S.)  But I’m sure this is nothing new to anyone who has ever heard the cliché: “No pain…no gain.”

This muscular principle of tearing down and rebuilding works in all the other areas too – physical, yes, but mental and emotional also. And of course, let’s not forget spiritual…

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67 (ESV)


It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Psalm 119:71 (ESV)

In other words, it’s amazing how much Bible study and subsequent repentance come out of cancer and divorce. Break-ups and bankruptcies have a way of showing us things we would have never seen anywhere else, and when we see things we haven’t seen before, we set off on new paths. You see, good things repeatedly come out of affliction. It’s certainly been true in my life, and yet that’s the irony of it all – when I stop and reflect on it, I would have to say that almost all of the greatest lessons of my life have come out of pain, yes, even self-inflicted pain. But while that is undoubtedly true, I still do just about everything I can to avoid pain. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone.  So how should we think about pain?

Well, first note that pain not only causes growth in the individual’s life – it works the same in organizations…like the Church of the Living God.  Chapter 8 of Acts is all about how the church came into great pain…which led to great growth:

…And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. Acts 8:1, 4, 5 (ESV)

Pain brings growth, and persecution brings preaching. This great persecution apparently began with the martyrdom of Stephen, and it led to the scattering of the former Jerusalem-bound disciples throughout Israel. And then, wonder of wonders, these scattered disciples, Philip among them, began to preach the word of God, and many believed…

So the early church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It’s not what we expect, but it is what happens here in the early church and other places. The most famous example in recent history is the China missionary purge, where the government of China removed missionaries from the country, and western Christians surmised that all hope was lost. But not so – for apparently during the silent years, the church flourished and multiplied massively…under persecution. You see, pain causes growth…

And the direct result of growth? Joy!  Joy actually shows up twice in this chapter as a result of the initial pain. Luke reports, “…there was much joy in that city,” (verse 8) and again, the Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (verse 39).

Which brings us back to the personal level. The application for this truth is not to seek out pain (unless you’re bodybuilding). No, the answer, according to the writers of Scripture, is in how we greet pain as it comes into our lives. I would never counsel someone to try to find pain, but I do think it’s appropriate to counsel a brother or sister to work hard to remember that when pain comes, it will do a good work. And at the risk of being glib, since the good work of pain will likely result in joy, we do well to greet it in the same way, as James reminds us:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)


Tomorrow, Friday, February 18: Acts 9

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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


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