Trials & Suffering
A spiritual giant of a man that we’ve all heard of at one time or another once said “When the heart sees what God wants, the body must be willing to spend and be spent for that cause alone.” Oswald Chambers was a man completely abandoned to God, he understood what it meant to be a true follower.
A true follower accepts the authority of another and obeys by placing himself in submission to the instruction or orders given. As a Christian we have been asked by God to:
“…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
In other words, I must offer up my life, give it away as a living sacrifice in order to truly fulfill God’s purpose for my life. I have been made holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This is my spiritual worship, a reasonable response to God’s amazing grace deposited into my life.
How does this look in my daily walk and growing relationship with my Heavenly Father? And how will I know that I am fulfilling His purpose and will in my life? We are to follow by setting ourselves apart from this world by renewing our mind with His Word, accepting the tests that come our way that God will use to give us wisdom and discernment to know His will. All this by living in the world and yet apart from it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Only then can the heart begin to see what it was created to be spent for.
Has something in your life died that needs to be brought to life again? The death of a relationship, dream or vision, a loss or failure in your life that you are struggling through, fighting off what appears to be a permanent outcome? Then you must know in whom you can believe to bring life to your death situation.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21)
Martha’s first response to Jesus showing up four days after Lazarus died brings this story close to home and our own ‘death’ situations that appear to be utterly hopeless and beyond restoration. Martha had witnessed the Lord’s power and even proclaimed that she knew that whatever He asked from God would be granted to Him.” (John 11:22) Then Jesus speaks to the situation:
“…your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23)
Martha assumed that Jesus was speaking of the resurrection on the last day. Her assumption was lacking obviously when Jesus proclaimed:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25,26)
When we believe or place our trust in Jesus, He promises to use all life situations for our greater good in the future, in His time. In other words, every experience counts, every loss, every death and broken dream. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy, even evil plotted against us He will turn around for our good.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Peter 5:10)
“Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 11:27)
Life is the culmination of new beginnings, seasons of growth and change. As God put it, while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22)
But there is more to life than just existing on this earth from birth to death. There is a divine purpose to our existence that God desires to fulfill and it begins with acknowledging the source of true life. Moses told the people of Israel to look forward to a future prophet that God would raise up like him, one that they should be careful to listen to.
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to Him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
For all those who looked toward the fulfillment of this promise, this prophet, who like Moses would lead the people and the world into new beginnings of eternal life through Him, would take center stage in the world as we know it.
“…behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.'” (Matthew 17:5)
Today presents an opportunity for new beginnings. There is more to life on this earth than merely existing aimlessly, void of purpose and a life left wanting. Jesus said that those who believe in Him would have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) His desire is for us to know Him, not only in His death on the cross (seedtime) but in the power of His resurrection (harvest) in newness of life. (Philippians 3:10)
“I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father;and I lay down My life for the sheep…and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, One shepherd.” (John 10:14,15)
New beginnings begin with listening to Jesus!
Bold, Italics are mine.
Faith is real and we all have faith in something or someone. Faith convinces us to trust with unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.
The word faith is easily associated with religious beliefs or traditions but what about faith and healing? Do you find it easier to have faith in God yet struggle with the idea of a God who heals situations in your life or body?
There was a woman in the bible who suffered with a physical issue for 12 years, an issue of a discharge of blood. And because any prolonged bleeding by Jewish law made her ceremonially unclean it forced her to become an outcast, not even allowed to enter the Temple. A seemingly hopeless situation in her day.
One day, however, when she heard that Jesus was passing through she said to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” (Matthew 9:21) It was in this moment that she placed her faith in Jesus from whom all healing comes.
When she touched His garment the scripture tells us that Jesus turned in the crowd of people, knowing that healing power had gone out from Him. He saw this frightened woman who had stepped out boldly and reassured and affirmed her healing.
“Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.” (Matthew 9:22)
Faith heals. Faith places its trust in a trustworthy God who loved us before we loved Him. Faith believes that nothing is impossible with God.
“…if you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Take heart, your faith will make you well.
Do you ever feel like your faith walk is easily affected by life’s circumstances? Do you seem to waver between trusting in God and trusting in yourself to work through the trials of life? When you don’t know what to do, what do you do?
The bible tells us that faith and wisdom work together to bring stability into our daily lives.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” (James 1:5,6)
Did you notice the warning to ‘not doubt’? Doubt embraces uncertainty and distrust, it makes us hesitant to believe, fearful or apprehensive about the truth. God encourages us to receive wisdom from Him and then warns us not to doubt the instruction in truth that He gives. If we doubt we are described as unstable and tossed about as the wind.
“…for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)
Faith in God and the application of His wisdom in our daily lives will give us the stability we desire that will position us to weather any trial or test that comes our way. This is God’s promise to those who love Him.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
Perseverance is the key to fulfillment. Many are inspired to fulfill their designed purpose and yet so few enter into their promise land. Perseverance implies a continued, patient effort towards a desired end that leads to fulfillment.
The decision to perseverance is just the first step, finishing well requires a strength beyond our ability. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to persevere. He was also given assurance that he would have divine protection in his difficult pursuit of fulfilling God’s plan for his life.
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land…They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:18, 19)
Even with this powerful promise of protection from God, Jeremiah struggled with all the threats and opposition he received early on, just as we struggle. God used it all to show Jeremiah his need beyond his own abilities. The Lord answered his complaints by addressing his inadequacies to go the distance without God’s help.
“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?” (Jeremiah 12:8, The Message)
Like us, Jeremiah had to learn how to depend on God’s strength to persevere. With every deliverance Jeremiah’s trust in God’s power and presence grew. He achieved the fulfillment of God’s purpose for his life and received all that God promised him.
Whatever God has asked of you, His power and strength will get you there, not your’s. Choose to persevere, trusting in His daily provision. May the ‘few’ turn into the ‘many’ who persevere to the end, fulfilling their purpose on this earth!
“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Have your own trials and sufferings affected your heart of compassion towards others? Do you struggle with feeling sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of others with very little inspiration to help?
Jesus warns us about having compassion for others when at the end of our lives we will be held accountable for how we treated others. He will proclaim you ‘blessed’ by His Father to inherit the kingdom prepared for you when you live a lifestyle of compassion towards others.
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-38)
His followers wanted to know how and when they had done these acts to Jesus and He explained that “…as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)
For those who lacked compassion for the suffering Jesus ‘condemned’. In other words they would have no part of Jesus and were told to depart from Him, cursed into eternal fire that had been prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) All because they refused to follow Jesus.
Our personal sufferings tend to turn our focus on ourselves and walking through it can block out others in their pain. Compassion is always available to us when we place our trust in God to see us through. This same compassion that we receive can be a blessing to others when extended. The world would truly be a better place.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4)
One of the ways we can know when God is moving us from one season to another toward fulfilling our purpose is when we find ourselves facing a test. Not just any test, but ‘the’ test that if we successfully pass will usher us into the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Abraham was tested many times before arriving at the ultimate test of obeying God. First he had to pass the test of faith by believing all that God initially spoke to him of leaving his family and all that he had ever known to go “to the land that I (God) will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) God promised to make of him a great nation, to make his name great and to bless him. God even promised to bless his offspring by giving the promised land to them.
Ultimately God promised Abraham a son: “…your very own son shall be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4)
“And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Abraham was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4) when God first called him to leave his family and travel to a land that he did not know with Sarah, his wife who was barren. And yet because he believed the Lord he was made righteous in God’s sight.
Finally, at the age of 100, some 25 years after God initially called Abraham to follow Him and after many exploits of faith that tested his obedience, Sarah conceived and bore Isaac. (Genesis 21) Then ‘the’ tests of all tests was brought before Abraham-the sacrifice of his son:
“After these things God tested Abraham…He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:1,2)
Abraham had learned that he could trust in God’s provision in every circumstance even to the point of answering his son’s question of “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:6)
Abraham passed the ‘test of all tests’ by being willing to offer up his own son in absolute obedience to God who was entrusting the birth of a nation into his hands. And God lets us know in our hearts and in our lives when we pass just as He announced to Abraham when he passed:
“…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)
Abraham could now be trusted as God’s instrument of providing salvation to the nations through His only Son, Jesus Christ one day.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Are you facing a test in your faith walk? Ask God to show you His provision in order to pass the test and enter into the fulfillment of all His promises!