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).

One Thing Will I Seek

What’s the most important thing in your life, your absolute strongest desire?

Many Christians would reply, “Going to heaven” or “Being with God one day.”

If that truly is your main, goal, does your life reflect it? Do others know this about you? If I were to ask your best friend or spouse or parents, “What is his / her life’s passion?” what would they tell me?

David stated clearly in Psalm 27.4 the one thing he sought. It wasn’t going to heaven. It wasn’t one day being with God in eternity. It had to do with his immediate life.

One thing I have asked of the LORD,
that I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house if the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire (or meditate) in his temple.

David wished to dwell in God’s house now, while he lived.

As you read David’s words, don’t they ring true with you? Don’t you feel how right they are? Doesn’t a fire well up inside your own heart, a reflection of the same longing David expressed–to know God?!

How can I dwell in God’s house, gaze upon His beauty, and meditate in His temple now? David and I seek God and know God the same way–through His word. Notice another passage from David: Psalm 119.11-16.

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Am I ingesting God’s word on a regular basis? God has not given us some rule for how much we must read per day, week, or year, but He certainly shows us how important His word is! It’s really the only way to truly know God, because in His word God reveals Himself.

Our modern society scoffs at, disdains, and belittles the Bible, and it’s easy to feel as if the Book is actually an archaic relic best left on the shelf or coffee table. But for those who actually open the Book–watch out! It speaks just as powerfully today as it did to David and to Paul.

One thing I will seek–to know God, to experience God, to enjoy God. I will seek Him now, not wait for eternity. I will seek Him through His word, through Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God in the flesh!

You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Psalm 27.8 ESV)

The Path to Joy

Perhaps you have memorized Philippians 2.3-7:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

You may remember Paul wrote Philippians from a prison cell in Rome. You may also recall a major theme of the letter is JOY! Rejoice in the Lord always.

Where do we find this joy and that deep peace the world cannot know (Phil. 4.6-7)?

The world looks for joy in all the wrong places, because it believes happiness happens (see the relationship between those words?) as we seek it. Yes, the world pursues happiness. After all, is it not written into the Constitution of the United States? They seek happiness in power, prestige, and possessions (connect with the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–1 John 2.16). The world shouts “Me! I deserve! I want! Give me! You can’t have mine!” If it sounds selfish, it’s because it is.

However, God’s ways are opposite the world’s. When the world shouts “Me,” God says “regard one another as more important than yourselves.” When the world shouts “I want; Give me,” God says, “It’s better to give than to receive.” When the world shouts “I deserve,” God says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…who emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” If anyone deserves, Christ does. If anyone deserves nothing, it is I.

Brothers and sisters, we can only find true joy and peace when we quit seeking them and rather begin seeking Christ and the the interests of others. Have you ever noticed how good you feel after you pour your energy out for someone else? It may be your child, your spouse, or your friend. It may be your neighbor, your coworker, or your enemy. When we expend ourselves for others, God has built into our consciences–into our very beings–an understanding of the rightness of selfless action.

Jesus, of course, perfectly models this mindset, and we should imitate Him.

How will you seek the interest of others today?

Emotions in the Face of Election Results

DisbeliefIn light of the political upset which we witnessed last night, I realize many are excited, many are bewildered, and many are upset. I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, to set your mind on things above, not on things here below.

The following guidance from Scripture seems appropriate:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2.1-4)

So many in this country drift this way and that because they don’t have a firm authority in their lives. They rule their own lives (they think), and so their whim is their command. They have no rock, no anchor of their soul. Their emotions drift with them.

Our emotions, however, are governed by the Lord our God, as we walk in obedience to Him. We can rejoice in all things, even in election results which may or may not have gone our way. We should be careful not to fully think of it being “our way,” even if we voted for Mr. Trump, because we surely don’t stand for everything he does! We should be careful not to think of it being “our way” if we voted for Mrs. Clinton, because it seems God has decided not to place her in this position right now–surely we don’t want to stand against His will.

Christian brothers and sisters, just keep being who you are supposed to be. “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5.13). Love your neighbor as yourself–especially if they voted differently than you!

God bless you. God give our country peace. May we continually bless Him and bless others.