A Testimony of a Dying Son
Joseph Herrin (07-09-08)
I Corinthians 15:31
I die daily.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
Yesterday, a Christian sister from the West Coast wrote to me and inquired as to how I am doing. We have corresponded often, and I am knowledgeable of her many trials, as she is of mine. I understood that her question was more than mere politeness when she asked, “How are you doing?”
Yesterday had its own set of specific trials, including a letter from a lawyer threatening legal action and sanctions. The threat was a direct result of my walking a path that the Spirit of Christ has led me down. The Spirit of Christ has put me in peril’s way. Such a thought is foreign to most Christians today, and it would even produce a rebuke from more than a few. “Surely,” they would contest, “the Lord will bless the man who is a true servant of God. God would not bring His obedient children into reproach and disrepute.”
In a recent writing I shared that since 1999, when I completely surrendered to the leading of the Lord in my life, God has led me down much more difficult pathways than when my own will was the determinant. He has led me to experience more trials, more reproaches, more rejection from Christian brothers and natural family, more perilous situations, more perplexity, and more fear than when I was still holding the reins of my life. This was certainly the experience of the apostles when they fully yielded control of their lives to God.
Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
II Corinthians 4:8-13
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Yahshua, that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Yahshua's sake, that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
Certainly I knew some trials in the many years preceding 1999. After all, I had a sincere devotion to Christ, and a desire to please Him. But my trials were fewer and far between. There were great seasons when the Lord simply left me alone to follow the desires of my heart. Since 1999, when I understood that Yahweh needed to do a work in my life of bringing all things in this soul of mine under subjection to His rule, the pace has greatly accelerated. I said, “God, bring me to a quick death, for I want the life of Christ to be revealed in me.”
He began by stripping me of all that I had acquired through many years of covetous living. In 1999 I was forced to file for bankruptcy. I surrendered my home, and my custom van to the creditors. At the direction of the Spirit of Christ I held a yard sale and sold all my furniture and worldly goods. He then led me to trust Him for all of my provision as I focused on fulfilling the ministry of writing to which He had called me.
I had a wife and two children, and my faith was far from perfect. The Lord led me to trial after trial in the area of provision, and at each test I had to wait patiently, not seeking to deliver myself by carnal means, and in every instance He came through. What a sifting it was to this man who has feet of clay and a mind unsettled by many fears, doubts and unbelief. In six years time the Lord led our family to move over fifteen times, and at each new move I had no idea where I was to go, or through what means my family’s provision was to be manifest. As I obeyed, and put my feet to the path the Father showed me, He always opened up a way. His pattern was always, “Put your feet in the water and then you will see them part.”
“And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above shall stand in one heap.”
It would do the Israelites no good to protest that everyone else who crossed the Jordan did so by boat. Why should they have to do things differently? I also knew that it would do me no good to protest that no one else I knew was living the way I was. I did not know of anyone else who was going out to move their family time after time without knowing where they were going or how they would find their provision. This was the path the Spirit led me on. I had to do as He directed. It did make things more difficult that even the Christians I knew called me a fool and condemned my walk. I was reproached for my obedience to the Spirit’s leading.
For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me."
Have you ever considered that Christ was reproached for living in the manner in which His Father directed Him to live? He had no job. He had no home. He traveled about with a number of disciples, and they received their substance from whatever means the Father provided. Oftentimes the Lord’s provision came from the hands of a group of devoted women who followed Him.
And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
I can hear the Jews now. “Why don’t you get a job and quit sponging off of others? Be a man and quit living off the money of these women. If you are God, why don’t you turn the stones into gold? You are just a pretender. If it weren’t for these women you would have starved to death long ago.”
Oh yes, I have heard similar charges. Sure, God could have dropped a bag of money out of heaven and taken care of all of my needs. Why then did He choose the methods employed? It was that I might learn humility, even as His own Son learned obedience from the things that He suffered. Had he turned the stones into diamonds, or the dust into gold, the lesson of humility that comes from being often reproached would not have been learned.
I can imagine the charges brought against Yahshua. “You are not a very good provider for your followers. They haven’t eaten all day, and now they are making a meal by walking through the fields and threshing grain in their hands. Can’t you do better than that? You have job skills. Why don’t you get a job and provide them with a real meal?”
There were days when the members of my family and I had no more than a sandwich, or two, and a glass of water for lunch and supper. One day we had only a bag of grits in the house. Yet we never went hungry. God always provided something. When we allow God to begin choosing our path for us we will find that we are met with many circumstances we would not have chosen for ourselves.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.
Yahweh still chooses to perfect His sons and daughters by letting them know lack, by them being cast upon Him for daily provision, and at the same time He teaches then humility. I have certainly been reproached for the care I provided for my family. It would be one thing to experience such humble means in a third world nation, but I was living in the midst of America, the land of plenty, the land of idolatrous consumerism. How could I justify such experiences to members of the church who had been inculcated with doctrines of prosperity and the love of mammon?
The answer is that I could not justify myself in their sight, so I quit trying. I simply had to bear reproach. I had to choose to die daily to the respect and affirmation my soul desired. My hope was that I might attain to all that the Father had for me and my family as I persevered and continued to follow the Lord wherever He would lead.
After six years my wife had enough. She had listened to other Christians telling her that it was not necessary that we live as we were. She had heard numerous criticisms of her husband, often from pastors and their wives. The decision to leave troubled her soul, for she had seen the hundreds of ways in which the Lord had intervened in our lives to manifest provision during the years of full-time ministry. Yet, she did not see any others living as we were doing, and she desired to be free of the trials and afflictions that seemed to beset our family more than all others around us.
In 2004 my wife left. Our son went with her to live with a wealthy Christian family who had boys his age. My daughter remained faithful in her desire to follow wherever God would lead, and the Lord opened a door for her to stay with a family in a Mennonite community, with my blessing. I was left by myself. Since I was by myself, the Lord was able to accelerate the trials even further. I found it much easier to endure hardship alone, than with wife and children.
II Corinthians 11:23-30
Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
My suffering has not been to the degree of Paul’s, but I can testify that I have endured far more than most of my Christian brothers in America. I spent five months living out of a car, eighty days camping in the forest in a small tent. During this period many days I was without food, and often was low on water. I spent a week one time without eating, and at another time I went seventeen days before the Father provided something to eat. In five months I lost forty pounds.
I knew exposure to the elements, camping out in a small tent in the woods in November and December. Some days I awoke to ice on the ground, and I had no winter clothes with me. I wore layers of summer clothing and had one fleece pullover. For months at a time I had no other human companionship, no one with whom to carry on a conversation, no one to share my burden. Yet through it all the Lord was with me. He made it abundantly clear that this was a path He had chosen for me. It was a cross appointed unto me to bear. I had to remain until He released me, and I received abundant grace to do so.
While camping the remnants of a hurricane passed through the area. The ground was already saturated from another tropical storm that had come through earlier. For three days it rained constantly until water began to seep through the sides of my tent. The wind was blowing and the ground so saturated that huge trees began falling over in the forest all around me. I lay in my tent listening to the thunderous crashing of huge pines as they fell close by. A restless night was spent listening to the sounds of the wind, rain, and crashing trees. I thought to get out of the tent and sleep in the car, but I considered that it afforded no better protection. My safety was in the Father’s hands. He had led me to this place. He would be my shelter.
After five months living as a homeless man, the Lord directed my steps to an inner city rescue mission. I was there a few months and they asked me to fill the position of Resident Manager. I was given a small room in the men’s dormitory, and I was responsible for the oversight of the Mission after staff hours. This required 80-100 hour work weeks, and my pay was room and board and $100 a week. In eight months time I had three days off (I worked every week-end from sunup to sundown). In this the Lord was teaching me endurance, patience, and many other needful things.
While at the mission I received notice that my wife had filed for divorce. Papers were served to me on Good Friday 2005. This was the day the church remembers the Lord being brought before the courts, falsely charged, and delivered to be scourged and crucified. The Spirit spoke to me that day and said “This is a cross I have appointed for you. You are to bear it willingly as My Son bore His.”
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The Lord said I was to accept this cross in the same way His Son accepted His own. He directed me to Peter’s writing.
I Peter 2:21-23
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously...
The Spirit of Christ revealed that I was not to hire a lawyer. I was not to mount a defense, or make accusation against my wife. I was to go to the divorce proceeding and entrust myself to the care of the Father. When the date arrived I did as the Lord instructed. I had no counsel, no witnesses, while my wife had brought both. I was accused of neglect of my family, of being heartless and uncaring, failing to provide for them as I was capable of doing. It was recounted how many times we had moved during the six years of walking in faith and performing the ministry entrusted to me. How irresponsible this seemed to those who did not judge things by the Spirit. False accusations were added that I might be made to look utterly reprehensible.
The judge gave me opportunity to speak, and I recounted how the Lord had led us as a family to this walk of complete trust in Him. I shared that we had seen God’s provision miraculously an uncounted number of times, and we had even seen our son healed of a hereditary bone disease that caused him to fracture 12 bones by the age of seven, when we cast ourselves over onto God at obedience to His direction. I shared that since my wife had left me that she had gone back on what God had spoken to us as a requirement to see our son healed. We had been told to cancel his SSI and Medicaid benefits and God would keep him from breaking bones. For seven years God had been faithful to this. Yet one of the first things my wife did after leaving me was to take out government benefits on our son once more. Just a few weeks later he broke his elbow when a friend jumped into the swimming pool and landed on him. He had to have surgery and to wear a cast for months.
The judge listened somewhat impatiently, and then said, “Mr. Herrin, in some ways I find your faith to be admirable, but I must conclude that it is my judgment that it is misguided.” The judge granted the divorce and required that I begin paying alimony and child support amounting to $900 a month. At the time I was only earning $400 a month, but the judge based this amount upon what I had earned six years earlier while employed as a computer professional.
After the divorce was granted, my father came from out of state to visit me. He and my mother had concluded years earlier that I was a religious heretic, filled with many ideas relating to God’s word and life in the Spirit that were unsound. I knew it would probably be a trying meeting, so I prayed before I went to meet him that God would give me grace to simply express my love for my father and to not allow my tongue to say anything disrespectful.
My dad shared that he placed the blame for my divorce upon my shoulders. He said that if I continued to do as I was doing in seeking to be led of God in all things that I would probably end up in jail for not paying child support. I told my father that I understood how he arrived at his conclusions in this matter. I told him that if I had lived the life that had been mine since 1999 because I had chosen it for myself, and that God had not chosen it for me as he believed, then he could only judge me to be a great fool. In response my father replied, “That is right. I believe you are a fool.”
After we finished sharing a meal together, we went to part. My father stuck out his hand in parting, but I drew closer and hugged his neck instead. I told him I loved him, and I have not heard from him since that day.
As I drove back to the rescue mission I told the Lord that I did not know what the future held, but if it was His will for me to go to jail as my father suggested, then I was willing. My life had been so much like Joseph’s, the son of Jacob, that I could almost imagine it to be God’s will that I also suffer this ignominy. I confessed to the Lord that my life was in His hands. He had told me not to hire a lawyer or mount a defense, but to entrust myself to His care, and I had done so. I told Him I would continue to rest in His care.
The next day a man from New Zealand sent me $5,000. This was the largest gift I had ever received. Five is the number of grace, and it was as if the Lord had answered the challenge of my father, and said, “You trusted me in this, and I will provide for you. You will not go to jail for lack of ability to pay child support.” Right after this happened, the director of the mission approached me and said that he was going to fire the two managers of their thrift store that day, and he wanted me to step into a management position there immediately. In this way the Lord provided the means to pay my wife every month.
In February of this year my son turned eighteen, and my child support obligation was fully met, and paid on-time. God has been faithful. There were more trials to come, however. Little did I realize how much my own trials were to resemble Joseph’s. My wife’s wealthy friend that she moved in with hated me with a passion. She was very restless in seeking to cause me trouble, despite her confession of being a Christian. She began to go down to the Mennonite community my daughter was in and tell the people my daughter was staying with that I was a terrible person and that Kristin should not be helping me in any way. My daughter Kristin had been receiving my mail and forwarding it to me, but due to the influence of this woman the people at whose house my mail was being sent decided they should not be involved anymore.
This was merely a minor inconvenience to me, but it disturbed me that this woman was going out of her way to spread evil reports. My wife accompanied this woman and listened quietly as her friend made charges against me. This woman heard that I had been hired by the mission in a staff position, and although she had been the driving force behind the demands that I pay child support and alimony, she sought to get me fired from my job. She called the mission director and accused me of being an abuser of my wife and children. The director called me into his office later and related these things to me. He said that he informed her if these things were true that there was no better place for me to be than at the mission, for their goal was to help troubled men.
This woman called repeatedly to the director, and then she even had the pastor of her church send an e-mail to the director to warn him of the type of man he had hired. This pastor had never even met me, yet he gave forth this evil testimony. The director called me to his office again and shared with me the e-mail he had sent back in response. He informed the pastor that he had known me for over a year and had sufficient knowledge of me to form an opinion of my character. This director had recently given me an award at the mission's holiday banquet, saying that I had been the best Resident Manager the mission had ever known. Thus, the attempts of the enemy to cause me discomfort were thwarted.
No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
Like Joseph of old, God had given me favor with my employer. The director of the mission became my defender, negating the need for me to defend myself. Yet the worst actions of this woman were still to come. She went to this Mennonite community again, and she openly suggested that the reason my daughter had sided with her father was that there was an unrighteous relationship between us. She went so far as to suggest that my daughter and I had been having sexual relations together.
The woman in the home my daughter was staying at was so appalled at this suggestion, knowing the purity of my daughter, that she told her husband that she never wanted to meet with that woman again unless her husband was present. This wealthy Christian woman began spreading this accusation around to others who were willing to listen, and I even heard the report come back from the mouth of my own mother.
When the Lord desires to prepare a son to share His glory, He does so by first subjecting the son to shame, reproach, falsehood, and many trials. Joseph, the son of Jacob, spent many years in prison being known as the man who attempted to rape Potipher’s wife. God did not remove this reproach from Joseph until the day he was brought into Pharaoh’s presence and made second ruler in the land. It is also appointed to the sons of God in this age to suffer many things. God is seeking to bring forth a humble, forgiving spirit in His sons. He wants them to die to the opinions of men that they might live only for His opinion, His judgment.
Yahshua, the firstborn Son of God, learned much from the things He suffered as well. He heard the crowds cry out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Just a short while later these same people were crying out, “Crucify him!” God must bring all of His sons to a place where the opinions of men no longer move them. They must recognize that both the praise and condemnation of man are without weight. All that really matters is what God thinks.
At the same time, being subject to persecution, unjust accusation and the enmity of men and women provides the child of God with an opportunity to die to all offense that arises from their soul. As they clothe themselves with Christ they can cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” This has been the confession the Spirit has brought forth from my mouth time and again as offense has been added to offense. Ours is not a ministry of condemnation, but of forgiveness and reconciliation.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
It is a true statement that declares “by the judgment you have judged others, you shall be judged.” Those who are merciful shall obtain mercy. When we are reviled we are to speak a blessing in return. How can we do these things if there is no one to revile us, to speak evil of us, and to unjustly accuse us? If they did these things to the Lord of glory, how much more will they do so to those who are His disciples?
II Timothy 3:12
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
My trials did not end with these things. For two years I labored at a menial job at a thrift store. Had I chosen to do so I could have returned to the computer field and made a large salary, but this was not the Father’s will. Instead I was called to toil at a thankless job that was fraught with many difficulties. It would have done me no good to say, “But Lord, I can do so much more. I remember the days of heady success when I worked as a computer professional. I made a good salary and had money to spend upon many things. I remember the years I worked in ministry, writing books and teaching your children.” We must submit to whatever the Lord chooses for us. He alone knows what is necessary for our perfecting as sons.
If we will surrender to the direction of the Lord in all things, we will find that He brings us into circumstances where it is necessary that we die daily. The desires, thoughts, and ambitions of our soul must be subjugated to the will of the Father. We must walk according to the leading of the Spirit, not according to the natural course of this world.
All those who do so will certainly be considered odd. They will be met with many reproaches. In the hour when their commitment to obedience is producing in their being the greatest sacrifice, they will find the world, and a worldly church, casting condemnation at them. If they hurled insults at the Son of God as He was offering Himself as a sacrifice in obedience to His Father, will they not do so with all those who follow in His steps?
In closing the letter I wrote to this sister yesterday, I wrote the following:
I have been thinking recently whether we truly have a proper mindset in regard to suffering. We are Christ, for we are a part of His body. Yahweh has appointed a cup of suffering that Christ must drink. Yahshua drank the largest portion of it, and then He has presented the cup to the rest of His body. Most have chosen to not drink from the cup at all. Yet a remnant have acquiesced. Some have sipped at it, trying to only get a taste, but no more than they had to. It has been a mere remnant among the remnant that has had the mind to drink fully that the sufferings of Christ might be brought to completion and that they might set an example for others.
Are we not brought to a quicker death if we drink deeply? Christ's sufferings were intense, but short lived. Others have seemed to smolder like a wick all their lives. Their sufferings have never burst into flame, but Yahshua is so gracious that He will not even extinguish a smoldering wick. They will have to smolder a long time, however, before the work of purification is accomplished in their life.
Consider that the three Israelites who were cast into the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. They were in the furnace but a moment, and even then the visible Son of God was present with them. The more intense our trials, the greater the manifestation of the Lord we will be met with. He is near to the brokenhearted, to the sorrowful, to those suffering for righteousness sake.
So be encouraged sister. Suffer well with me as we embrace the cross God has appointed unto us. And thanks for asking about my welfare!
Back in February of this year I was led by the Spirit to leave the mission after three years of service. The Lord has indicated that I am to prepare for a ministry of teaching. I believe I will be traveling and the Lord will provide open doors of opportunity. Yet even in this time of preparation the trials continue. I still find that I must die daily. The message the Lord has given me to proclaim is the message of the cross.
I am no glutton for punishment. However, I realize that suffering is appointed to us in this time. My great hope is that I might not resist this work, but that I might willingly drink deeply from the cup of suffering presented to me. This willingness is of itself a triumph, for it goes against the inclinations of the natural man. It is choosing identification with Christ above self-preservation.
I expect the trials will continue even as the Lord sends me out on the road. Yet I look to the Lord to walk with me through every trial. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Let us encourage one another with these words.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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