Suffering with God – Romans 5:1-5

Suffering Is Good For The Soul

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Peace made Possible

We give thanks to God, for He has made a way for us to have peace with Him through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the milk of the word of God.  However, let us never forget these simple truths that help remind us of the grace and mercy of God.  For in our daily walk, Jesus said we would get our feet dirty, and we would need to wash them.

As we progress in our walk with God as disciples of Christ, we must keep in mind that He is faithful.  It is only through remembering even these basic truths that we correct ourselves and keep us averted from doing what is contrary to the word of God.  If we were thinking about the word of God every second of every day, how much less would we sin?

Grace of God

We also can never remember too often that it is by faith that we gained access to the grace of God.  When we are involved in ministry, even ministering to our own family, we can lose sight of the goal through the grinding day-to-day difficulties that wear us down.  The enemy will try to take advantage of us and plant thoughts in our head that we need to earn God’s love or grace or mercy through what we do.

Since God’s gift is based on faith rather than works, we need to keep everything in perspective as we are pulled in many directions, and the pressures of life are heaped upon our shoulders.  We must also remember that whatever God has called us to do, He will give us the strength, determination, resources, and time to complete.  The grace of God has been given to us through faith in the Son.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer…

Honor in Hardship

In this next section, the author of Hebrews leads us through a progression that should help us to embrace our suffering.  The life of a disciple is not easy and care-free; rather it is filled with adventure, hardship, suffering, and difficulty.  It is through suffering that we grow in character.

As we are bound in the physical universe with these sin-disposed bodies, we are naturally impatient.  Enduring suffering produces perseverance.  Just as we train our bodies with exercise to run faster and farther, and to be able to life greater weight, we are trained by suffering to produce perseverance in our faith.

Creating Character

The training of perseverance leads to the development of character.  Most of us need patience.  Additionally, few have learned to be self-controlled with their tongues.  Our mouths get us into the most difficult of situations.  A lot of that would resolve itself if we were able to master what comes out of our mouths.

Character development is of great interest and importance to God, for He is character-driven, rather than emotion-driven.  We too should learn restraint and strength so that we can resist the urges that will lead to our downfall.  Additionally, as the image-bearers of God, we need to properly display the character of God.  How can we do that when our own character is lacking?  We can only fake it for so long before we reach our breaking points, and we have an epic failure of character.  However, as character is developed in us, we are provided an assurance that we would not otherwise obtain.

Head towards Hope

The perseverance of character leads to the assurance of hope.  The word hope is not used to mean the wishful desire of an outcome, but rather a steadfast knowledge that something will occur.  People don’t hope that the sun will rise in the sky the following morning; they know it will.  As long as we are here on Earth, we are assured that the sun will rise each and every day.  We have hope that this will occur.

In the same way, character leads us to the assurance of the hope that we have in God’s character and both in His ability and certainty that He will follow through on every promise He has ever made.  Nothing can stop Almighty God from fulfilling His promises to us, and fulfilling every prophecy that He has made, for God is not a liar, but the embodiment of truth.  And as we experience the character of God, we also are assured of the certainty that God is who He says He is, and we can find peace in our hope of our faith.

Shedding Shame

And we are not ashamed of our hope, for God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.  He has placed assurance of both His power and His grace in our hearts.  We see Him act, and are assured of His claims of truth, righteousness, and certainty of His character.  When we know these things in our hearts, we can shed all shame.  For the outcome is more than certain:  God CANNOT fail to deliver His promises.  So we can endure even more with the assurance of His will being done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing God to train me through my suffering?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You discipline every child of yours.  Any child who does not receive discipline is not one of Yours.  Help me to not faint when You discipline me.  Give me the strength to endure it, and help me so that I will not despise it.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but I know that You seek to reap a harvest of righteousness in my character from it.  Give me the perspective that I need to endure all that You sovereignly allow into my life.  And if You should allow sickness to nearly destroy my body, give me the strength to hold onto You when there is no hope.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Faithfulness to God – Acts 14:19-20

Never Stop Doing What Is Right In The Eyes Of God

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Difficult Days

Most people have a really bad day every now and again.  But Paul had it a little harder than most people.  Even God said (about Paul’s life):

15 …”Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul had some interesting trials to undergo:

23 …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Most of us have not had to face the threat of death even once for the cause of Christ.  We do not yet know the difficulties that Paul encountered.  But even if that should change, we should take heart; Paul has shown us the way to overcome.  He was stoned near to death at least once.

Faithful Friends

Paul had very good friends.  After he was nearly stoned to death, they surrounded him.  They too could have faced stoning as well.  When a mob begins to act in emotion, it is difficult to dissuade them from their course of action.  Look at the recent mob activity in the United States of America.  Once the mob engages in violence, then comes the fires, and the looting, the beatings of innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It takes faithful friends to join you when the mob turns its full wrath upon you.

Continue to Contend

Most people, facing a near-death experience at the hands of an angry, murderous mob, would “take a hint” and go elsewhere.  Scripture shows us Paul’s reaction: he went right back into the city to preach.  That takes great faith and trust in God.  In speaking about hardship, Paul said:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Regardless of our circumstances, we should continue to contend for the faith.  God will provide our strength as we are faithful in His service.  We have no fear of this: whatever God calls you to, he will provide the means and resources for you to complete your tasks.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful even when I experience great trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You keep every promise that You make, and do so in perfect timing and in Your methods.  We know that we can count upon You to always be faithful.  Strengthen me this day, Father, that I would show that same faithfulness to You, regardless of my circumstances.  Help me to rely upon You totally and without reservation as trials come into my life.  Help me in my weakness that You would be strong for me.  Carry me when I cannot walk, and protect me from my adversaries.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Waiting for God – Psalm 42:8-11

The Long Dark Night of the Soul Will Be Redeemed by God

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Lavished Love

God pours out his love to us all of the time.  By day we see His hand as He provides for our every need.  He is involved in every aspect of our lives as we struggle in our daily lives.  Even when we cannot feel His presence, He is there, just as a father is running behind a child learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels as the front wheel wobbles back and forth.

Solemn Song

By night we experience His comfort as our souls cry out to Him. God tests us even as we sleep, yet still we seek Him out in song and prayer.  This does not happen automatically.  We must make every effort during our waking hours to instill this desire in our hearts so that at night, it will reveal itself in our subconscious wanderings.

Oppressed by Opposition

An old nursery rhyme says, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  This is given to children to counter taunts and jeers, but it is not accurate.  Words CAN and DO hurt.  And the enemy knows this well.  Whether they try to attach a label to the focus of their wrath, or merely mock us as we go through our trials (many of which THEY have caused), the pain of enduring the trial is greatly amplified when God appears silent, and deliverance is not quickly forthcoming.  This is especially true when the trial is prolonged and filled with physical as well as emotional suffering.

Downcast with Despair

The authors of this Psalm challenge themselves and us to ask ourselves a very important question:  Why should our souls be downcast?  Why should we be in emotional and spiritual despair?   Is not our God YHWH, who exists eternally and is dynamically involved in our lives?  Is God even able to break His word when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“?  What part of our despair is based in truth given the Word of the Living God who says that we are more than conquerors through Christ?  Or that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing?  Or that He knows the plans He has for us to give us hope and a future?

Heavenly Hope

The sons of Korah encourage us to put our hope in God our Savior.  Let us not forget His benefits, His lavishing of love, grace, and mercy upon us.  Let us breathe strength into our weary bones and emotional pain by remembering the Character and Nature of God and what He has done for us.  Remember also that God has a tendency to come during the fourth watch of the night – at the very last second.  Our faith is stretched and we grow when we are able to endure through the trial, especially when the devil and his demonic minions are hurling their insults, accusations, doubts and ideas of fear at us while his earthly minions are doing their best to oppress us and make us feel even worse.

It is never easy to wait for God.  As we are standing and waiting to be delivered, God will often allow great difficulty into our lives.  Let us not forget that we may even be called upon to bear His witness through isolation, torture, and even gruesome death.  Yet Jesus has overcome death itself!  We can be assured that regardless of the outcome, our hope in God is not misplaced.  Patiently endure your trials so that God may be glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we filling ourselves with God and hope in His promises as the devil and his minions are beating us up, having backed us into a corner, as we wait for God to deliver us?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name forever and ever!  It is always so difficult for me as I endure these trials.  Help me to overcome them, Lord God, and to do so with joy in my heart.  I know that You are never far from me, and that You are watching in expectation to see my faith grow.  Why must this always be so painful?  Remember me, Father, as my enemies lie about me to others, accuse me falsely, and seek to destroy my reputation and character.  May I find strength in Jesus, that He has provided me with His reputation and His character.  I know, Father, that my enemies don’t understand what they are doing.  They, like all truly evil people, lash out at the loved ones of their true target to cause the object of their fury the greatest amount of pain.  I pray, Father, that You would have mercy upon them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they would cease from bringing shame to You as Your image-bearers, and instead bring You the glory and honor that You so rightly deserve.  Strengthen me during these trials that regardless of the outcome, my faith would grow and when Your Son comes in glory, that All would glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Suffering for Christ – Philippians 1:27-30

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul had endured much suffering in order to bring Christ to the world.  He was stoned to death, then resurrected; He was shipwrecked; bitten by poisonous snakes; plans were made to murder him, but he escaped, and much more.  In the United States, it has been, until recently, very easy to claim the name of Christ.  It was a badge of honor.  Now, a new era is upon us.  People who call themselves “tolerant”, are tolerant only of those who believe the same way that they do.  There is no room in their worldview for people with differing opinions.  On college campuses, “safe spaces” have been created so that people can have a refuge from opinions, values, thoughts, or actions that would challenge or possibly offend them.

When people fail to bow to their “superior” understanding of “tolerance”, they use the law to financially destroy their opponents, and beat them into submission with the threat of financial and property confiscation.  This can be seen in the treatment of business owners who refuse to compromise their beliefs and convictions in Christ.  It would be egregious to ask that a homosexual baker provide cakes for a gathering that say, “Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.”  In the same way, it is egregious to ask a Christian baker to provide cakes for a homosexual civil union with rainbow colors and a pro-homosexual message – even if it is just two men or two women on top of the cake holding hands.  These social justice warriors DEMAND that the Christian-owned businesses not only provide their artistic services for messages counter to their beliefs, they must publicly acknowledge and AGREE with the message they are required to (now by law) provide.

But this is not the first time that Christians have been denied the right of property ownership because of their faith.  Hebrews 10:34 says:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Suffering for being a Christian has been going on for two millennia.  We are only starting to see this in the Church in the United States of America.  But this is a good thing.  Every time there has been suffering for the cause of Christ, a winnowing of the church body occurs.  The wheat kernels fall to the ground, and the chaff blow away in the wind.  Faith increases within the body of Christ, and the body tends to grow in response.

Are you being persecuted for your faith?  You are in good company!  Jesus was falsely accused.  He was railroaded through the justice system.  He was accused of being a child of Satan.  He was asked to leave a town where he had performed a great miracle.  Many of the prophets and righteous men and women living in the past suffered the same and more.  Rejoice!  You have been found worthy!

So, let’s ask the question:  If you were dragged into a court, would there be sufficient evidence to convict you of being a “Christian“?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious to behold.  You have shown us through Your Son that suffering is part of our sanctification process.  Help me to endure all suffering on Your behalf, and may my faith grow stronger every day that I am in the crucible being refined.  Give me the words to say and the restraint needed when I am falsely accused, and there are financial and career losses.  May my heart rejoice, as I look forward to my heavenly inheritance.  Comfort me through these trials, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?