Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Worthwhile Suffering

I suppose when we value the outcome, we’ll endure many things. People will eat tasteless food for months to be able to fit in clothes they’ve outgrown. People will allow doctors to cut and wound them to the point of inflicting great pain because they believe it will bring relief and healing. People will make limitless sacrifices if they believe it would bring a desirable outcome.

When you think about suffering, do you think about the outcome that will be produced? We fuss, gripe, complain and are given to bad attitudes during times of suffering and it is generally because we do not believe there is any valuable result from our suffering. When we face suffering in this way or with this attitude we are wrong. Suffering brings an outcome. And it should not be just any outcome. God desires that suffering bring a helpful outcome.

Listen to what the Bible says about the suffering of Christians, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV)

For those who have been made right with God by the work of Jesus and have peace with God because of the grace He has shown them, they can rest assured that God is using their suffering for good. We see that suffering sets a process in motion that will ultimately lead to a stronger character and a better hope. What is the hope? Well, the hope is that our pain is leading us in a direction. Acts 14:22 says that through many trials believers will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians can know that God is using suffering to prepare them to be in His presence and to know the full joy of relationship with Him forever. Would you consider that a worthwhile outcome?

Suffering isn’t limited to benefits in eternity, though.

The previous passage says that God desires to use suffering to build greater character. Suffering build endurance. Suffering makes us better encouragers. Suffering makes us better sympathizers. Suffering makes us realize what really matters. Suffering makes us better.

How do you deal with suffering? We can endure just about anything if we know that it provides a worthwhile return. Is the Kingdom of Heaven a worthwhile return to you? Is an increased character a worthwhile return to you? If so, suffer well. If not, think through what gives you real hope to see if its returns are as valuable as the returns God offers suffering?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

God at Work

God is kind to us. He is at work in our lives when we do not realize it. Today I read about the angels God sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. In verse 16 we hear the angels took Lot and his family by the hand because they were hesitant to leave. The writer tells us it was an act of kindness by God.

In a very different scenario, a friend of mine had surgery to remove cancer in a kidney yesterday. The doctors only found the cancer because they were doing a scan to find out the reason for the man's lower back pain. There were bones spurs and other problems causing the back pain, but the tests revealed a much more serious problem in the cancer. This morning he is cancer free because his back pain led to the discovery.

Never think that God is not working in your life. Our job is not to doubt, but to try to trace the work of His loving hand.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Lord Is A Stronghold

Life is fragile. The rising waters of this weekend’s rains make us well aware how quickly we can lose the control we believe we have over life. In a short amount of time our homes, possessions and security can be washed away. Though we don’t face physical disaster like this often, we regularly face overwhelming situations. How do you handle those situations? Are you prepared with a plan of action? Or, do you simply wait and respond in the hour of great distress?

When it comes to facing adversity there are several things that are certain. First, difficulty will come. We can know this as truth. In a million different shapes and sizes, we will all struggle at times in life. The second thing we can know, though we don’t often take advantage of this truth, is that God offers help. In Psalm 9:9-10 we hear, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

What is a stronghold? The psalmist mentions it twice so it must be important. A stronghold is a place of security that is unreachable by an attacker. It is a rare place of ultimate security. We long for these strongholds. We try to construct them for ourselves. And, they may endure much of our struggle. However, when the greatest troubles of life come even the most durable self-made strongholds crumble. But the psalmist has great confidence in the stronghold he refers to. It is because this stronghold is not one that is man-made. In fact, it is not made at all. It is the Everlasting God.

Do you realize that God desires and even offers to be your stronghold? In love and mercy He offers this invitation to you. Now, there are some requirements to gain access to this stronghold. There is the turning away from selfish rebellion and the desire to be the king of the fortress. This fortress has a King and needs no other. This means you will have to surrender things like pride and arrogance. You must realize your plan may not be the best plan, and the King of this fortress may choose a different process for dealing with your struggle.

In addition, to gain access to this fortress there is the requirement of trust. Many of us struggle with trust. Especially when we’re hurting and confused. It is difficult to turn loose of control, even if it’s only a false sense of control. God calls you trust Him.

What assurance do you have? David says God will not forsake those who trust Him. Reassuring, isn’t it. Perhaps people or organizations have walked away from you in times of trouble. God won’t. Will you turn today, ask His forgiveness for your rebellion and begin to trust Him?