Weaknesses - Insults - Distresses - Persecutions - Difficulties
These things are not the most fun to experience or talk about. When was the last time you told a friend or family member about a weakness in your life? Have you ever been insulted or persecuted for your faith? Have you experienced difficulties or sharp trials that, at times, seem too much to bear?
The past couple of weeks, I have been hearing about pains, sufferings, illnesses, difficulties, and persecutions from different blog sites, Bible study groups, friends, family, and in my church. There have been some in my own life as well.
I've noticed a very wide range of attitudes, varying emotions - some filled with tears or anger - most are confused and asking serious questions. A few here and there, however... are joyful.
Joyful?? What is there to be joyful about? How can 'I' be joyful when I'm going through ______ (fill in the blank)?
Ok - now that we think we've asked the important questions, let's look to scripture and see what our attitudes should be like in this season of our life.
The Book of First Peter - found in the New Testament of your Bible gives great wisdom and incite to us as we look to Christ for guidance through the trials of life. The entire book is littered with instruction and encouragement of how we ought to live while suffering – what our lives should look like to the world in the midst of persecution...etc...
v. 1:6-9 "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."
v. 1:13 "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
v. 1:16 "because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
v. 2:1-3 "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord."
v. 2:12 "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."
It also teaches that suffering is inevitable and unavoidable for His people. I don’t believe that the Lord willingly afflicts, yet in His love for us, appoints trials (some sharper than others) to show His people their hearts – purging, chastening, and purifying us through the testing of our faith. These tests and trials are for our own good, probably more recognizable in the latter end than at the present time.
"God has always used suffering to perfect and purify His people and to demonstrate the sufficiency of His grace" - Dr. John MacArthur
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (emphasis added)
In James, we are also called to consider our trials as joy “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (some translations say ‘endurance’)…” (James 1:2, 3).
Ultimately, I believe that it’s only when we don’t trust in His sovereignty or when we don’t understand His purposes and plans that we will experience worry, fear, anxiety, doubts…etc… when things go wrong. On the flip side of these trials, we must remember the promise - God’s promise to us as Christians - that He will return and take us home - away from this sinful, tainted, corrupt world - to live with Him on a new earth and in a new Heaven (Peter also touches on this in the first couple of chapters in 1 Peter).
Trust in the promise! Ask God for wisdom and help! Train yourself (with the power of the Holy Spirit) to concentrate on eternal things and not the temporal things of this world! AND count ALL of your trials and difficulties as JOY! Easier said than done…
This link is to Matthew Chandlers blog (the lead pastor at The Village Church) who has recently experienced a life changing trial and is in the recovery process after surgery. If you get a chance – watch the video. Then ask yourself - "Am I worthy of a trial like this?" - "How can I point to God, in praise, in _____ (fill in the blank)?" Eye opening…
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