Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Category

Finally, total relief (Proverbs 27, II Thessalonians 1)

April 9, 2014

“And to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels,”  II Th. 1:7

Last week I was reading about one of the top leaders in the Catholic church in Atlanta.  He recently completed a 2.2 million dollar home.  The leader repented of his actions as a result of the Pope’s rebuke of all leaders who were living in an exorbitant way.  As I thought about the article, I tried to reconcile this with what Paul wrote to the church in II Thessalonians 1.

This great church was growing in steadfastness and faith in the midst of persecutions and afflictions.  Paul’s letter to them was of great encouragement in the fact that they had something far better to look forward to.  Those who were persecuting them and preventing the gospel would be repaid, “with flaming fire.”

Think it through:

1.  There will be a day when the end will come.  For the Child of God this will be a day of relief and reward.

2.  There are days when we simply have to endure looking to the day of relief.  Living for Christ places us at odds with the world.  Living for God placing us in a position of lovingly giving all we have for the gospel.

Our response:

How can I point the finger at the leader who spent 2.2 million dollars without pointing the finger at my own life and all the comforts I have here? I truly believe we as followers of Christ lose the joy of looking to the future when we waste all of our resources on being relieved in this life.

I want to use what God has given me for the glory of the Lord.  I want to use what God has given me for the relief of the afflicted and for the spreading of the gospel.  There is coming a day when we will be relieved of all we face.  Until then, may we not become trapped in the mindset that says, “I want relief now.”

Is There More? (Revelation 7)

August 14, 2012

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

While in Romania I often got a laugh out of the comments made by the first timers during meal times.  Our cook would prepare food and our team would partake. Then when the team though they were through the cook would come with another selection of food.  Often I would hear the question, “Is there more.”

In a much more of a serious matter, people who face tribulation will often ask, “Is there more?”  The answer from Revelation 7 is in the affirmative.

Revelation seven comes on the heels of the six seal (Great Day) of God’s judgment being opened.   In this moment the reader would have to be asking, “Is there more.”  Certainly I know there are those who are reading this blog who are facing great trials.  You have been under them for some time and you are wondering, is there more.

This day I offer you great news.  You and I serve a great God who is seen at work in the midst of tribulation.  He has been at work in previous believers lives (Past generations).  He is at work in this present generation and He will be at work during the tribulation.  This is all encapsulated in Revelation 7:14.

So the question that comes to mind in this: “How should the Christian approach tribulation now and in the future?”  I think we find the answer in Revelation 7:

1.  Trust in the protection of our Great God, 7:1-8

2.  Spend time every day Praising our Great God, 7:9-12

Praise him for what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do.  Praise eases the pain and removes the doubt in our lives.

3.  Expect suffering and experience suffering with the understanding of God’s purpose, 7:13-17

We serve a great God who will see us through this present trial.  He is bringing honor to himself and he is teaching us much about himself in this hour of trial.  The last verses of chapter 7 speak powerfully about what awaits the child of God:

“Our sorrow will end, we will be sheltered in his presence, we will serve him day and night, and we will be secure knowing that he is on the throne.”

I join with saints of old singing, “Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.”

In Step With The Word

April 24, 2012

Day after day I was with you in the temple, teaching and you did not seize me, But let the scripture be fulfilled.” Mark 14:49

I can still remember the struggle I had with trying to be in step with my dad as he took me hunting when I was a little boy.  My Dad seemed like such a giant of a man (Through a little boys eyes).  He towered over me as we walked up the hill to the place where we were to hunt.  My dad instructed me to walk where he walked so that we could make as little noise as possible.  He walked with such ease and precision but it was not the case with me. I almost had to jump from step to step.  I found myself missing where he stepped and would break sticks and fall on rocks.  Finally my dad realized after I alerted everything in the forest of our presence that he would have to take smaller steps so that I could be in step with him.

This morning we see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walking in large steps.  His Father, before time began determined the only way man could be redeemed was through His Only Son.  Now in the fullness of time Jesus has come and truly He is in step with the word.

Our More For Christ readings, Mark 14:43-65, give us a wonderful viewpoint from the grandstand of scripture concerning each step Jesus took in obedience to the word.  Notice Vs:43-50 as Jesus submits to the word.  This passage is alive with stress as we see both a betrayer and his soldiers and a bruiser and his sword.  Both these men are carrying out what is in their hearts.  Judas is betraying Jesus into the hands of the High Priests soldiers.  Peter is a bruiser who cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers.  He is willing to die with Jesus.  Wow, what a scene.  But in the midst of this scene we see the settled calmness of Jesus in taking the right step, “Let the word be fulfilled.”

Question, “Is your life in step with the word?”  Maybe your response is, “I am trying, but the steps seem harder and harder.”  Brothers and sisters I can identify and more importantly Jesus can identify.  As you trace His steps in Mark 14 you find each step harder, but with each step Jesus continues to have the resolve that he knows where the steps will lead.

Here is what Jesus said, “And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.'”  Jesus is so in step with the word that He knows the end from the beginning.  His confidence in the end gives him the settled peace that is needed for the moment of great trial.

This morning, I challenge you to look to Christ who is both the author and finisher of our faith.  I challenge you to have a settled conviction that God’s word is true and in the end you will be a victor in and through Christ alone.

For further reading check out II Corinthians 4:16-18.  

Under House Arrest

March 29, 2012

“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.” Acts 28:16

Has there been moments in your life when you felt like your hands were tied?  I mean, you wanted to change where you were and what you were facing.  The fact is, most people spend large amounts of their lives trying to get out of where they are because they believe, “If I can get in a better position I can do more for Christ.”  This brothers and sister is often a lie of the enemy.

Consider Paul’s circumstances.  He is finally in Rome, Acts 28:11-31.  He is able to set up headquarters in a rented house.  But there is one catch.  Paul is under house arrest as a prisoner of Rome.

Certainly Paul could have been stressed over his circumstances and certainly Paul could have said, “This is no place to do ministry.”  But the opposite is the case.  Paul begins to receive as many people as possible and begins to share the gospel.  The next two years Paul would be extremely productive as he shared Christ with soldiers, people from all walks of life, and he would write several books of the bible.  All of this while being under house arrest.

Here is what Paul said, recorded by Luke: “it is for the hope of Israel that I am wearing these chains.” This was all a part of God’s plan for the furtherance of the gospel.  Question, “What are you facing today that seems like it has your hands tied?”

Consider the fact that the cross did not look like the best thing for Jesus.  But it was God’s plan for the salvation of mankind (Hope of Israel).  Jesus willingly went to the cross because this was the place where He would finish His mission.

So I say to those who read this today, “Be faithful where God has placed you.”  Allow Him to complete His work in and through you.  In His own timing He will move you from where you are.  Paul was be released after 2 years.  You will be released for your next assignment in God’s timing.  I encourage you to trust God in all of this and get to work with joy where you are this very day.

For further study, “Consider Paul’s letter to Philippians while he was under house arrest.” 

How Can You Use This?

March 28, 2012

“The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners, lest anyone should swim away and escape.” Acts 27:42

This morning I was gripped by the wonder of God’s providence in our More For Christ readings, Acts 27:39-28:10.  These verses chronicle Paul in two difficult places.  The first place was in a storm where the soldiers made plans to kill him and all the prisoners because they did not want them to escape.  The second place was by the shore when a snake decided to connect with Paul’s arm.

The fact is, “Sometimes life does not make sense.”  There are moments when, in a weakened faith moment, we question God’s wisdom in what comes our way.  However, if we can just hold onto faith we will be able to see God’s providence at work in our lives.

In these verses we discover God at work in saving all of the prisoners because Paul was liked by the solider in charge.  In these verses we discover God at work in protecting Paul from the ill effects of a snake bit.  This miracle positioned Paul to be able to share the gospel with the people of Malta.

Personally I can see Romans 8:28 all over this passage, “All things work together for Good for those who love the lord and are called according to His purpose.”  Paul loved the Lord and He trusted in God’s movements in his life.  Paul knew his purpose and He knew that everything that came his way was “Working,” to accomplish this purpose.

This foundational truth gave Paul the strength to carry on during difficult days.  Without a doubt there are difficulties that are in front of you today.  I know there are in front of me.  But one thing is for sure, “If God be for us, who can be against us.”  

This day, I encourage you in the midst of your storm to look to Jesus and consider what He is really doing.  And when you cannot see what He is doing,  make a settled decision to trust in His decision-making.  This will bring a settled peace that will cause you to weather the storm because you are in His hands.

For further reading, “Romans 8, II Corinthians 1.”  

“The Fight Is On”

March 2, 2011

This mornings headlines continues to be filled with the fighting in the nation of Libya. One news reporter said, “Certainly this is civil war.”  It seems that civil unrests is encompassing the globe.

Question, “How is it at home?”  It seems to me that many people are facing the same unrest here in America.  This morning I turned the pages of my bible to Matthew 11-12, Zechariah 1, and Psalm 126.  Here is what Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until know the Kingdom Of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force,” Matthew 11:12. The forces of hell were trying to stop Jesus and they were using violence in an attempt to stop the gospel.

How violent did they become?  John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus was crucified, and all of the disciples were martyred except the Apostle John.  Thousands were killed in the first few centuries of the church and even today many thousands are being killed for their stand for Christ.  However I have good news, “Violence did not stop the gospel.  Jesus rose from the grave defeating death, hell, and the grave!!!”

Often we get into a fight and we think, “This is something no one has ever faced before.”  Oh brothers and sisters the fight has been on since before the world was created when Satan rebelled against God (Revelation 12:7-12).  The fight does not have to overcome you nor does the fight have to wear you down.

Here is what Jesus said to those who were in the midst of the fight, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” 11:28-30. These are instructions you and I must take to heart if we expect to do more than survive in the fight.

The instructions are simple: 1) You must admit you are weighed down in the fight  2) You must place all of your trust in Him  (He will give you rest) 3)  You must learn what it means to live the exchanged life.  Allow Christ to live in and through you (Gal. 2:20)  4) Daily investigate what it means to live the Christ life.  Follow these instructions and you will be successful in the fight.

Look back at the last sentence and read it again.  Notice what I did not say, “The fight will end because you follow these instructions.”  As long as we are alive the fight is on.  But now you are on the winning side because you are following His instructions.

I leave you with the words of the Psalmist, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy,” Psalm 126:5. I wish I had time to write more but, its time to go because, “The fight is on!”

Do You Want To Share?

January 19, 2011

If you grew up with siblings, you certainly remember your parents encouraging you to share?  Recently I was at the church on a Friday evening for a Basketball game.  It was half-time and a young man was walking across the court with some candy in his hand.  I asked this nice young man, “Would you like to share your skittles with me?”  Quickly the response came with actions and words.  He said, “No, very nicely,” as he pulled the candy close to him.

In life, there will always be a struggle with sharing things that we greatly enjoy.  And whats even worse is that we fail to understand how we could possibly be as happy with less.

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy in II Timothy 1:8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”

As I read the book of II Timothy I became keenly aware that Paul was seeking to encourage Timothy to continue to faithfully deliver the gospel.  But in doing so Paul encourages Timothy to share!  What does he ask him to share?  The answer may surprise you, “Share in suffering for the gospel.”

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will demand a life that causes us to not only share in the joy of salvation, the wonder of sanctification, but also in suffering for our faith.  Certainly we love the first part, we grow in the second part, but the last part we would rather not share.  But be assured it is a part of your Christian life.

Paul makes this even more clear in II Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The fact is, you are a light in a dark world, and a dark world does not want to come to the light.  A dark world wants to put the light out and because you are a light reflector, you are a target.

Certainly, you know this?  Consider your job and how daily it can be tough to live for God.  Consider your family, even though each may know Christ, daily the old nature tries to fight against the light.  You can find yourself hurting so much at home and you wonder what am I going through.

Brothers and sisters, do not lost heart in what you are going through.  Consider the following, “You are sharing in suffering.”  If a person is sharing in something, it suggests they are not alone. In reality you have a partner or maybe many partners.  Here is what Paul wrote, “Yet from them all the Lord rescued me,” 3:11.  “But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the Lion’s mouth,” 4:17.

When we share in suffering for the gospel, we are sharing life with Christ and we are promised victory in Christ.  So take heart, you are sharing suffering with the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.  Oh what an honor and oh what joy awaits as victory will come in Jesus name.