Thank God for Suffering

We speak of the “comforts” of life, but what is comfortable? Perhaps we can know joy only after misery. Perhaps we can know peace only after the storm. Perhaps we can know comfort only on the other side of suffering.

Walking into a delicious fall breeze tingles your senses and fills you with a sense of energy and calmness. It’s fresh and invigorating precisely because it’s new and different. You have known sweltering hot summer days and chilly winter days, so the perfect autumn morning strikes you as just right.

Spiritually mature Christians know the comforts of the Lord because they have joined Him in His sufferings. They know what is pleasant because they know what is uncomfortable. They know what is peaceful because they know what is terrifying. Paul began his second letter to Corinth in this way:

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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. (2 Cor. 1.3-7)

He is the “God of all comfort”! Is that not wonderful? And His comforts work in us to such extent that we can now aid the afflicted around us. As the Lord has granted us mercies, so we extend mercy to the fallen and the outcast, the orphan and the widow.

But what shall we do with our own heavy burdens? From time to time the weight of this life can feel almost unbearable. Will it crush us? Will it destroy us? Will our faith be broken? Paul continues:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. (2 Cor. 1.8-11)

Paul–the great apostle, no less–had felt burdened so excessively that it was beyond his strength to bear! Yet he glimpsed God’s purpose underlying the burden: SO THAT he would not trust in himself but in God who raises the dead!

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13.15)

So, dear Christian, where is your hope today? Where is your peace? You will surely not find it on Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. Talk radio does not deliver joy. Facebook comments usually do not leave peaceful feelings. Our hope is found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Therefore we must join in giving thanks to Him in all things.

Enjoy the comforts God affords, but also give thanks for the sufferings He grants (Phil. 1.29), because through afflictions we find His rest sweeter and through sufferings we find our hope brighter (Rom. 5.1-5).

A Recipe for Life-long Accountability

As I was reading a helpful little online book called Coming Clean, I ran across this question:

What if we were meant to treat accountability not as a last resort but as a lifestyle?

The author then proceeded to recount a few of the many “one another” passages of the New Testament, which show how we really should work together to overcome sin and walk in righteousness! What should we be doing with one another which builds biblical accountability?

James does not suggest, he commands that we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. God intends for His people to share their struggles with one another! As a mighty weapon against the forces of evil, prayer remains one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and we should be in regular and constant prayer for one another’s burdens and sins.

How can you bear your brother’s burden if you don’t know what his burden is? Sometimes the weight is so great everyone around can clearly see. If a man is staggering drunk, we plainly see his issue. If a frail old woman loses her husband, we understand she carries a great burden. But how many of us carry unseen, secret weights–burdens of which we are so ashamed that we dare not reveal them to our friends? Satan would have us too ashamed to share, because then we would never find relief. But God wants our burdens lightened–even lifted!

Unless I know your temptation struggles, I won’t know exactly how to encourage you against the deceitfulness of those sins. If you tell me you struggle with gluttony, I can help you remember there is no lasting satisfaction in indulging your appetite. If you tell me you struggle with pornography, I can remind you of the immense dangers lurking for your soul in that dark, evil world; and I can tell you of the purity and sanctity of the marriage bed and of how wonderfully fulfilling God has made it to be.

In short, God expects us to love one another, encourage one another, confess to one another, and pray for one another. Sounds like a recipe for life-long accountability! God has so arranged the Body of Christ, the Church, that we might together overcome sin, resist temptation, and move toward righteousness.

Are we taking advantage of God’s blessings through His church?

Sermon: Holding Up Each Other’s Hands

From the life of Moses, three events clearly expose the leader’s need for help at different points in his life. How did God help Moses when he was fearful, weary, or overburdened?