Trials and Suffering
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
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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)
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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)
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!
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Christmas is a time of great joy and this Christmas joy is rooted in an announcement from an angel to shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock one night. That particular night God’s glory was unmistakable as the bible tells it; “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Have you noticed that when life gets dark, God’s glory shines its brightest when we turn to Him for help?
“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord was born on this day and the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This is the Merry in Christmas and peace to those with whom God is pleased. And how is God pleased? When we adore His Son Jesus, who is Christ the Lord.
Honor, devotion and worship are qualities of adoration towards someone. If your heart desires to honor God in all that you say and do, you are pleasing Him. If you are devoted to keeping God the priority of your life, you are pleasing to Him. If you are willing to live a life of worship to God by submitting to His will, you are pleasing to Him.
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is our good news and great joy, the Merry in our Christmas. His glory is unmistakable!
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Have you noticed that two overriding themes of the Bible are trust and obedience? Both words are used hundreds of times in giving both positive and negative insight. Christians are encouraged to trust in God as we journey through life in ever-increasing measure. The more we trust God the more obedience is established in our relationship with Him.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)
A trust walk keeps our focus on God and our lives aligned with His will. This intentional walk based on trust can also keep us free from becoming entangled in sin, which can lead to bondage. Sin removes us from a position of trusting in God to meet our needs towards trusting in ourselves to meet our need. Often we are lead into sin by our own lust, desiring the very things that steer us in the direction of a lifestyle of bondage.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
A sin focused life leads to destruction, devastation and even ultimate death on some level. Sadly, the fall-out usually impacts a wide circle of lives.
Our freedom from the power of sin has been bought and paid for by Jesus who willingly gave His life as a sacrifice in order to offer us a life with the freedom to choose. Those who place their faith in Jesus can actually choose to sin or not to sin. They are no longer in bondage to the power of sin.
Sin is blinding and its fall-out usually happens slowly (like the frog place in a pot of water that slowly heats until it’s too late to escape for his life). When we choose to sin the dying process begins and we won’t realize the full devastation until the process is fully grown.
There are many examples of God’s people being delivered from calamity because they placed their trust in Him by waiting for His instruction before taking things into their own hands. He knows exactly how and when we need deliverance and does it in a way that builds our trust in Him.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)
During a recent walk-run in our neighborhood a huge truck came up alongside me and the driver asked “is this the way out?” Yelling above the engine noise I replied, “yes, this road leads to the way out!”
Friend, Jesus is the road to the way out of a life of sin and bondage!
“For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13)
Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.
So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.
Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.
Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.
God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.
The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)
Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!
“…give us this day our daily bread…”