Trials & Suffering
Forgiving one another is very hard to do and yet God has asked us to do it for our sake more than His. I have discovered that the struggle of forgiving has much to do with perspective and approach.
But first, lets take a look at the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant told by Jesus in Matthew 18 about a king who wished to settle his accounts with his servants. There was one servant who owed him ten thousand talents (~$6 billion in today’s terms) and could not pay. His master determined to sell him with his wife, children and all that he had in order for payment to be made. The servant fell on his knees, pleading for patience and mercy and it says:
“…out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:27)
Now this is where we come into the story. The same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (~$12 thousand in today’s terms) and began choking him while demanding “pay what you owe.” (vs 28). Needless to say, word got back to his master who summoned him and said:
“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:32,33)
The servant was delivered to the jailers until he could pay all his debt. In this parable we are the servant and God is the Master. Jesus goes on to tell us that forgiveness must come from the heart.
The Apostle Paul gives insight on the approach. After reminding us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, we are to put on:
“compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12,13)
God offered forgiveness to all for a debt we could not pay. He gave His Son, Jesus in compassion and kindness for our lost souls.
Who do you most identify with? The wicked servant who refused to forgive or with God who has forgiven you and only asks in return that you do the same for those who owe you a debt? Mercy for mercy.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Aim for the blessed life and forgive!
Have you ever experienced a blessing just because you believed what someone said? As a child my mother spoke often of my potential in life and I believed her. Although at the time I didn’t have much to show for what my life would become, I knew that her opinion was sincere and from the heart. I also knew that she believed that nothing was impossible for God.
After Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus she set out to visit Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth was a picture of faith and God knew that Mary needed to be encouraged and affirmed in what was being asked of her. She probably had no idea of the depth of affirmation that she would receive from Elizabeth.
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Mary believed the message sent from God by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive and bear a son who would be great, the Son of the Most High, the Savior of the World.
Mary asked in faith how this would come about, knowing that she was a virgin and the angel Gabriel explained. Then she submitted herself to the process that God had chosen.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Her blessing began with believing in God’s promise, submitting to His process and trusting Him to fulfill His words.
What has God promised you? Whatever the circumstances He gives us faith to believe and will bless us as we submit to His process towards fulfillment.
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)
Our life in God is filled with purpose and He promises to lead us toward the timing of its fulfillment while using every season of our lives.
Queen Esther could not have imagined that God was mindful of every turn that her life took toward fulfilling His divine purpose.
“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Esther’s story gives a glimpse into the sovereignty of God and how He works through life circumstances beyond our control to fulfill our purpose.
Although orphaned at a young age, then torn from the only family that she had ever known and cast into a year long beauty preparation before being presented to King Ahasuerus, her reputation of “…winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her,” (2:15) preceded her with the King.
Esther’s trust in God with the outcomes of her life, “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, ‘and if I perish, I perish’.” (4:16b) and her humility and obedient response to Mordecai, her uncle and father figure, made her an ideal candidate as God’s vessel to deliver the entire Jewish race at that time!
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Are you trusting God with the direction of your life? When we trust and obey with contentment we can be assured of not missing God’s timing, placement and fulfillment of our purpose on this earth.
“The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)
How can we know that all will be well in this life and journey with God? How can we allow challenges in this life to grow our faith instead of weaken our faith? Last, how can we know that we are on the winning side in our journey with God through life on this earth?
We must take God at His Word and believe in His promises. We must accept that His way of leading us and working out life issues will often take a different approach than we might take. His thoughts and ways are far above our ways of thinking and problem solving.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9)
Once we embrace this truth we can believe God’s promise that all will be well with us. In love, He links this promise with obedience, specifically, obeying His commandments.
“But this command I gave them: Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:23)
Trusting and obeying God keeps us in a position of triumph. Jesus overcame everything in this world that could possibly come against us. He is Immanuel, (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23)
Walk in all the ways that God commands you and He promises to be with you.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal possession…” (2Corinthians 2:14)
God gives a strong warning about the stability of our faith in the Book of Isaiah when the people still had an opportunity to hold fast to His divine promises to spare them from destruction. At the core they were struggling with disbelief.
“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” (Isaiah 7:9b)
Near the end of King David’s life after God had delivered him out of many life threatening trials, betrayals and warfare he accounted his triumph to his faith in God and His divine promise to establish his throne forever;
“As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity…” (1Kings 1:29)
God also gives a strong warning for the unstable in faith. He connects instability in faith to a lack of trust in His wisdom to lead us through adversity.
“But let him ask in faith with no doubting, 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)
Jesus warned us that we would have trouble in this world. He also encouraged us to take heart and trust in Him who has overcome the world. In other words, He has already made provision for us to triumph! We are called to trust the process of being led and God’s readiness to help at every turn of events.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)
Be firm in your faith and God will deliver you out of all your troubles!
God enjoys blessing His children and He also desires to prepare us to not only receive His blessings but to position us to manage them as well.
Purpose and blessings go together. Seeking God and learning to serve Him aligns our lives toward fulfilling His purpose for us. Our ideas around purpose pale when compared to God’s purpose for us; He is the God of higher ways and higher thoughts.
When King David had prepared the plan and the materials for Solomon, his son to build God’s House, he encouraged his son with these words;
“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9)
We can hear the wisdom and experience in King David’s words. He learned first-hand his need to know, to serve and to seek God with all his heart and how his success in fulfilling God’s purpose directly related to his relationship with God.
A lifestyle of knowing, serving and seeking God will bring clarity to your purpose and the best way to fulfill it. God knows our heart and our plans are not hidden from His sight. He knows when we are ready to be sincere in our search for His purpose and not our own. If we are sincere in our seeking, He promises to be found by us and to reward those who don’t give up on the seeking.
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Determine to know, to serve and to seek God with a willing heart. He promises to reward your efforts.
Keeping a steady walk in life requires placing our trust in someone greater and more powerful, one who has gone before us and knows the beginning and end. That someone is God.
On the day when God delivered David from the hand of all his enemies, even from the hand of King Saul he testified to the One who had seen him through every trial, death threat, isolation from his family, being treated as an outcast which meant that he could not enter the place of worship.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:2-4)
David believed that God was with him even in his years of fleeing the death threats of King Saul. He also knew that God had anointed him king and trusted in God to establish his kingdom in time.
David was faithful to serve God during those years of waiting and chose to humble himself and learn the skills that he would need to be a great king. He learned how to follow God:
“For You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.” (2 Samuel 22:29)
He learned humility:
“You save a humble people, but Your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.” (2 Samuel 22:28)
He learned where his true strength came from:
“For You equipped me with strength for the battle, You made those who rise against me sink under me.” (2 Samuel 22:40)
He learned the wisdom and blessing of obedient living:
“The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from my God.” (2 Samuel 22:21,22)
And once God had established David as king, he could look back and see that God had fulfilled every promise spoken over his life and he offered this praise to God:
“This God–His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (2 Samuel 22:31)
Keep steady in the Lord, His way is perfect and He promises to save a humble people.
Long ago when life was hard and my trust in God was being challenged I ran across this promise from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:10;
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Like a sponge I absorbed this word and my faith walk began to take on the reality and wisdom of a long term view, critical for those who have truly anchored their hope in God through His Son Jesus Christ.
What I have learned through the events of life, both good and bad, that there is beauty in all circumstances when looking through the eyes of trust and faith. Instead of trying to bear through hardships in our own strength and understanding we are encouraged to;
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Endurance implies a journey worthwhile that by faith gives God opportunity to make something beautiful of our lives. As long as we live in this world life will be filled with joy and laughter, heartache and suffering. Take God at His Word and trust Him all the way to the end, He is the only One who can make all things beautiful in its time.