Trials and Suffering
The ability to hear causes us to take notice, to observe or pay attention to what we are being informed of. Hearing is listening.
Are you a good listener? Whether you believe you are a good listener or not, God has plenty to say about the art of being a good listener. The word is used so often in the Bible God must have known we would be challenged in this area.
“Listen diligently to Me…incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:2,3)
The livelihood of our souls depends on how great a listener we are to not only what God speaks into our lives but how well we apply it. God tells us that it was because the Israelites refused to hear His words they turned back to the sin of their forefathers.
“They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear My words.” (Jeremiah 11:10)
Listening and believing go hand in hand with God. He promises to bless those who believe what He speaks.
“And blessed is she who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Listening and obedience go hand in hand with God who entrusted an entire nation under the leadership of Moses to bring them into the promised land.
“…He is faithful in all My house.” (Numbers 12:7)
Hearing God can’t be done well in a noisy and hectic lifestyle. We must learn to guard our hearts for the quiet times that are needed to hear and grow in our knowledge of God and the daily fellowship and blessings that knowing Him offer.
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Joy is Strength
Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)
His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.
“Believe, believe, believe in Me, All your hearts desires be
Anchored in My Sovereignty, believe, believe, believe in Me.”
God has a plan for our lives that is offered to us through His patient, forgiving and gracious love. He gives us time to work out our lives according to our own wisdom and ways of doing life. He knows that eventually, after trial and failure, we will come to the end of our self-efforts. If we are fortunate enough to move through this phase of life, we will look back and realize that God was watching over us, protecting us during those years of futile self-efforts towards building a successful life. We will all conclude that there is no true wisdom but wisdom that comes from God.
“Where is the one who is wise?…Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish?” (1Corinthians 1:20)
Discovering God’s plan begins with accepting our inability to know His will without believing in Christ, His Son and our Savior. Once we accept Christ we gain access to godly wisdom that will lead us into the fruitful life God has for us based on His Word, the Bible.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Don’t be like the foolish rich man (in the Book of Luke) who focused on storing up his earthly riches while neglecting the poverty of his soul. He perished in failing to live out his life according to the wisdom of God, his self-efforts came to nothing from an eternal perspective.
“That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
Believe in God’s sovereign plan for your life. Humble yourself and get to know God through His Son and you will discover His eternal will for your life.
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
“Believe” by ljwillis
Run Your Race Well
Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)
In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)
When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)
Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.
Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)
How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.
When Jesus rose from the dead He sealed forever the triumphant life for all who would believe in Him.
“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.” (2Corinthians 2:14) The Message
I’ve heard it said that “life is hard, but God is good.” So true. I also believe that no matter what you face in life, whatever hardships you are called to endure, whatever testing of your faith allowed in Christ, that you remain in a position of perpetual victory by keeping your trust in Him.
When placed in the loving hands of Jesus your trial will result in great gain in being used to transform not only your life but much more valuable is being transformed into the image of Christ your Savior.
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good…He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son.” (Romans 8:28,29) The Message
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5,6) ESV
Image: Thomas Herzog
Ignoring God can become a way of life if we are not intentional about not allowing our daily responsibilities, desires to achieve success and seasons of hardships to blind us toward His desires and plan for our lives.
In the Book of Hosea, the people of Israel had slowly gravitated towards a lifestyle of ignoring God’s commandments. They had been repeatedly warned by God’s prophets to return to Him with all their heart in love and obedience to ensure a continuance of God’s blessing on their nation. They had begun to live as if they were the source of blessing and not God.
“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built…Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.” (Hosea 10:1-2)
What altars or pillars has God been warning you about? Have you allowed other things or people to be placed higher in your life than God? Are you pursuing anything more than you are pursuing knowing the God who is the source of all blessings in your life?
“…but when they grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot Me.” (Hosea 13:6)
Because God continued to bless them for a long time during this warning season, they presumed upon His grace and continued in a life of sin, they were prideful and unrepentant. They did not understand the consequences of willful disobedience that hardens the heart toward God and His commandments. Like most of us who outwardly continue to practice christianity, God knows that inwardly we have turned from our devotion to Him when we begin to rely on our works to stay in His favor. Abusing His grace over a long period of time actually sets us up to move from enjoying the mercy of God to entering His judgement for our sin.
“…Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt. For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.” (Hosea 8:13-14)
We are the beloved children of God and His desire is that we would love Him and desire to know Him intimately from the heart. But if we choose to ignore His warnings, know that He loves us too much to leave us in a state of unrepentance. He will judge our sin in order to heal us and raise us up again to His glory and honor.
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up…He will revive us…He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” (Hosea 6:1-2)
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)
Image: w-dog.net wallpaper
Love is such a multi-dimensional emotion so often expressed simply in acts of kindness and tenderness yet on so many levels it invites a complex nature. On any given day love has the potential of being displayed tenderly or roughly, with deep loving affection and at other times in painful distress or cutting anguish. By the time we reach young adulthood most of us have been exposed to a full range of love actions from good to bad.
Love was originated by God. I call His love blessed. It is straightforward and uncomplicated, simple in its application to mankind. He presented it to us through the most generous act of all time by sending His Son Jesus to rescue us from a life void of His love. This blessed love is as pure as refined gold because it came through the fire of deep adversity that brought sin to its knees, crushing the power of it forever. Without accepting this blessed love we can’t come close to loving others as we should.
This God love is as pure as love can be. It is as giving as it can be, never running out and is always there when you need it. This blessed love is committed to your future, it believes for the best and greatest potential imparted into you. This blessed love is pure joy and equips you to live above your circumstances while trusting God to work out His best for your life. God is true love.
Loving others well hinges on how well we allow God to love us through Jesus His Son. May you choose His blessed love.
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1John 4:16)
Pressing On Towards the Goal
What are the pressing issues in your life right now and how are they impacting your long-term goals? For most, these challenges have the capability of knocking us off path towards our ultimate life fulfilling goals and discouraging us from pressing on.
Paul, the apostle obviously struggled with his past failures to the point that he referred to himself as a ‘foremost sinner’, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God had bestowed on his life.
“…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1Timothy 1:15)
Paul goes on to say that this mercy that he received was a display of Jesus’ perfect patience that would serve as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us to not make futile the gift of grace that has been poured into our lives by accepting our imperfections and inconsistent attempts towards fulfilling our goals and purpose. Instead, by faith, believe “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Our daily, pressing life issues have been sovereignly and compassionately placed in our lives by a loving Heavenly Father who knows its value and necessity in shaping our destiny while impacting those around us in their faith walk.
The point is that when we respond correctly to trials and sufferings, as Jesus did, we come through having gained more of Him than when we entered into the trial. (Philippians 3:8-9)
So let’s keep our life goals at the forefront of our life issues and follow the example of Apostle Paul who lived with the conviction of not wanting the grace that had been poured into his life to have been in vain. This, we are told, is how the mature respond to the call of God on their lives with all its imperfections:
“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Keep pressing on!
Image: The Light of Morning, brl.press
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