Basic Training

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically

Originally published February 9, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

 

Your car breaks down and you don’t have the money to get it fixed.

Your child develops a behavior problem, and you have no idea how to help her.

Somebody royally messed something up at work and now you have to figure out how to fix it.

You’re smack dab in the middle of a tenuous situation at church instigated and exacerbated by THAT lady.

Anybody who tells you, “Come to Jesus and all of your problems will be over,” is selling something. The Christian life is not a stroll through a flowery meadow with never a bump in the road. In fact, sometimes it’s just one big pile of poo after another.

The truth is, if you come to faith in Christ, you’re going to continue to have some of the same kinds of general “that’s life” poo that you had before. People at work will keep messing up. Your child will still pour nail polish on your new white rug (Why do you have a white rug if you have children?). Your neighbor will back into your fence (again) and drag her feet about fixing it (again).

So what’s the point of coming to Christ if you’re just going to keep having problems?

Because the point of coming to Christ is not for Him to make all your problems disappear, it’s for Him to redeem you from your sin and propitiate God’s wrath against you. That’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a magic wand. So how does God want us to face those tests and trials of life in a biblical, Christian way?

1.
Recognize God’s Purpose in Testing You

There are scads of blessings and benefits that come along with repentance and faith in Christ, and one of them is that poo now has a purpose. (I sense some of you have had enough of the word poo. OK, moving on…)

What is the purpose of all these aggravations, sorrows, and worrisome circumstances that keep coming your way?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
Romans 5:3-4

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:9-11

Those difficult situations we face in life – whether they come as a consequence of our sin, a consequence of our Christlikeness, or simply a consequence of living in a post-Fall world – are the tools God uses to make us more like Jesus. Obediently bearing up during hard times develops steadfastness and maturity, endurance, character, and hope, holiness, peace, and righteousness.

You want those Christlike characteristics, don’t you?

I do too. But I’ll be honest – my flesh is not crazy about the fact that God often pulls a chisel out of His toolbag instead of a feather duster. And once again, we’re back to the cross versus the magic wand. We want God to “abracadabra” us into Christlike character. God points us to the cross.

2.
Look at Tests and Trials Through Jesus’ Eyes

…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 12:1c-2

Jesus was not some crazy masochist who enjoyed being beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, and having the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin. That was not fun. It was not pleasant. It was such a unique kind of awfulness that a whole new word had to be invented to describe it: excruciating. It was such a horrifying specter that it caused Jesus to sweat blood as He prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

God does not require you to enjoy pain, suffering, inconvenience, stress, or aggravation any more than He required Jesus to enjoy it. What Jesus did was to focus on “the joy set before Him” – the results of His suffering and the great and glorious things it would accomplish – to help Him endure the suffering. That’s what God wants us to pattern our approach to suffering after – Jesus. We don’t look at the circumstance itself. We look past the circumstance to how God is going to be glorified, how He’s going to grow us in Christlikeness, what we’re going to see Him do in answer to prayer, and whom He might save as a result of the circumstance. We look at the finish line. The winner’s circle. We focus on those things to help us get through the pain and exhaustion.

3.
Remember the Nature and Character of God

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

God is not some nasty bully sitting up there in Heaven arbitrarily messing your life up for His own personal entertainment like a kid setting ants on fire with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. He’s your Father. He loves and cares for you. Like any good parent, He wants what He knows is good for you more than He wants you to be fat and happy. He’s in complete control of what happens or doesn’t happen to you.

If something unpleasant comes into your life, go back to what you know to be true of God. God is not trying to harm or punish you. He has sovereignly allowed or caused this thing to happen because He is your Father who loves you and wants to do something good for you. He wants to work in your heart and life for your benefit, the benefit of others, and to glorify Himself through this circumstance.

4.
Don’t Worry

Yeah, right. If you’re anything like me, your first thought when faced with a problem is “Oh no. I’ll never get through this one. What if this happens? What if that happens?” Suddenly, in your mind, you’re ten miles down the road in Armageddon-land.

God does not sovereignly put circumstances into your life to give you a platform for worrying. It is never God’s will for you to worry. It is always God’s will for you to trust Him. If you’re worrying about your circumstances, you are not doing God’s will. God puts difficult circumstances into our lives to give us the opportunity to exercise our “trust muscles”. Worrying is just another way of saying, “God, I don’t trust you in this. I don’t believe you’re in control in this situation. I’ve got to be the one to figure this out and handle it.” If God is big enough and powerful enough to save you, He is big enough and powerful enough to carry you, protect you, provide for you, comfort you, and reassure you through whatever He places in your path. Trust Him.

(And a special note to my fellow Reformed brothers and sisters – as I preach this to myself – if anybody shouldn’t worry, it’s us. We are the “God is sovereign over everything” people! It is utterly ridiculous to believe that God is sovereignly in control of every aspect of salvation, that He providentially foreordains the activity of every atom of the universe, and then turn around and worry that He can’t or won’t handle something as measly as a repair bill or a surly co-worker.)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

5.
An Opportunity for Obedience

In the same way that God doesn’t place situations in your life as an opportunity to worry but as an opportunity to exercise trust in Him, He does not place situations in your life in which you have no choice but to disobey Him, but rather, as opportunities to stretch, trust Him, and obey His Word in spite of how difficult it might be. Anybody can be obedient when things are awesome. Obedience during the hard times is what grows you.

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.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:6

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

Can’t find a doctrinally sound church nearby? Yes, that’s difficult, but God is not OK with you sitting down and resigning yourself to disobeying Him by giving up the search just because it’s hard. No man will step up and lead at church? They might be disobeying God, but we ladies don’t have God’s permission to violate His Word by teaching or exercising authority over the men of the church just because it would be a lot more convenient to do so.

Convenience, comfort, and smooth sailing are not the be all end all of life. The character that God wants to build in you, the glory He wants to bring Himself, the good He wants to do to others through your obedience during hard times is far more important. But you’ll never experience those amazing things if you take the easy way out by sinning. Have you stood against sin to the point of bloodshed? Have you prayed that God would provide you a way to resist temptation and obey Him? Are you committing your way to the Lord and trusting Him to work everything out? If you want God to accomplish His purposes through the sticky situations of your life, you’ve got to stand firm and obey Him no matter how great the challenge.

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

 

We may not like difficult situations very much, but for those of us who know Christ, we can rejoice in knowing that God has a purpose for them. The highest purpose – to make us more like Jesus. He does that for us because He loves us. And while we might still wish for Him to bop us with a magic wand and instantly make us patient or steadfast or peaceful, God created us, and He knows that suffering and difficulties are the best way to accomplish those things. So just as Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him, we can endure any difficult situation God blesses us with, knowing that He’s doing it for our good and His glory. And that’s definitely something to rejoice about.

Faith, Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

Originally published March 20, 2015christ is enough

It seems like so many people are hurting these days. There are personal hurts that come our way like health issues and broken relationships. Many of us are hurting because we’re watching someone we love suffer- an adult child going through a divorce, an elderly relative with Alzheimer’s. And the birth pains the world is going through – ISIS murdering our brothers and sisters in Christ, the rampant filth and debauchery that’s flooding our own culture here in the U.S., and so much more – make it burdensome just to inhabit the planet. It’s no wonder so many of us are limping around in pain just trying to make it through. Everywhere we turn, it’s bad news.

But for those of us who are in Christ, there’s also good news. Good news that trumps any piece of bad news we could possibly receive.

Good news: It’s OK for you to feel sad or overwhelmed during difficult times.

I know that may sound obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We’ve all heard stories about a person who received the diagnosis of some terminal disease with a smile and a “Praise the Lord!” We’ve all run into that lady whose hair could be currently on fire who would brush off our concerns for her with, “Honey, I’m too blessed to be stressed!” And if that’s genuinely the heart of those people, that’s great. They can be very inspiring.

But that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a Christian, or that you don’t trust God, if your doctor tells you that you have cancer and you fall apart. Or if you get that devastating news and you don’t bounce back right away.

Whether we realize it or not, there’s often a subtle pressure we church ladies put on ourselves to walk into God’s house and paste on a smile and pretend like these devastating things don’t bother us. We think that’s faith. We think that shows that we completely trust God. But is that what faith and trust really mean?

Some of the greatest men and women of faith in the Bible were hurt deeply and mourned over that hurt.

God said David was “a man after God’s own heart,” yet look at so many of the Psalms he wrote, especially when he was running for his life from Saul.

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 6:6-7

Time and again, we see passages like that in David’s writings. God never rebukes him or tells him to just put on a happy face.

And what about Jesus? Remember the shortest verse in the Bible? In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely why He wept. Maybe it was for one of the same reasons we suffer- the personal pain of losing a loved one, the pain of watching Mary and Martha suffer, or the pain of experiencing a broken world where sin causes awful things like death and disease. But whatever the reasons for His pain, Jesus didn’t plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything was fine.

On the cross at Jesus’ moment of greatest anguish, when the weight of the sin of the world was bearing down on Him, and the wrath of God was being poured out on Him in all its fury, and Jesus was experiencing first hand that it was the will of God to crush Him, Jesus cried out from the depths of His soul, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

David, Jesus, and so many other faithful men and women of God grieved. God’s people hurt sometimes, and that’s OK. You do not have to smile and pretend everything is OK when it’s not. It is OK to be sad when you’re hurting.

But the second piece of good news is this:

Good News: We may grieve, but we don’t “grieve as those who have no hope.” 

Because those of us who are truly born again believers have hope. And His name is Jesus. And He is enough. Jesus is enough for anything you’re going through.

If you watch “Christian TV” or read a lot of the books you’ll find in Christian bookstores by preachers with shiny teeth and even shinier hair, or, heaven help you, if you’re on Facebook, the message you will often hear about suffering is this:

“The pain you’re going through right now is nothing compared to the size of the blessing you’re about to receive.”

or

“It’s never God’s will for you to be sick or in lack. If you just have enough faith (and sow a seed into my ministry), God will bless you.”

or

“Your words create your reality. If you speak positive words (I’m wealthy, I’m successful, I’m healed), you will attract those positive things into your life. If you speak negative words, negative things will happen.”

So if you listen to these guys, in addition to the difficult circumstances that are going on in your life, you now have the pressure of “I’m still sick. I must not have enough faith.” or “Oh no, I accidentally spoke a negative word! I’m doomed to a life of poverty.” or “I thought my blessing was right around the corner. Why am I still suffering?”

Don’t believe those lies. God doesn’t promise any of that malarky in the Bible, because our hope is not found in “everything’s going my way” circumstances. Our hope is found in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Your circumstances may not get better. You may get that terminal disease and die from it. Your husband who left you for another woman may never come back. Your baby might be born with a disability. Sometimes circumstances don’t get better, but Jesus gets only gets better and better with each passing day.

God never promised you “Your Best Life Now.” He promises you Christ. And Christ is enough. And you can rejoice in that.

Why?

Because He knows what you’re going through.

Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah 53:3 says:

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

There’s nothing you can go through about which you can honestly say, “God doesn’t understand.” Jesus has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left all his glory behind. For you. He lived a sinless life. For you. He endured being hated, mistreated, and misunderstood. For you. He was whipped, tortured, and humiliated. For you. He took the nails. He took your sin. He took the wrath of His Father. For you. And three days later, He got up out of the grave. For you.

Jesus loves you. He hurts when you hurt. He wants to be the one you run to and pour out your heart to when everything is falling apart so He can comfort you with His presence and His word. He wants you to “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because the One who went through it all FOR you will walk through it all WITH you. And when you’re too weak to walk any more, He’ll carry you through it.

In Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission, Jesus says,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Hebrews 13:5b, He says,

be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be right there with you no matter what.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He sends you brothers and sisters in the faith to help you.

Church family is such a precious gift to us from Christ.

Matthew 25:36-40 is about the final judgment, and when Christ’s people stand before Him, He talks about how they have ministered to their brothers and sisters:

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

When we’re hurting, we allow our church family to minister to us because that is Christ’s gift to us. When we’re able, we turn around and minister to our church family out of love for Christ. We carry our brothers and sisters because Christ carries us.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because what He wants to do IN you is better than what you want Him to do FOR you.

You want Him to bring relief to a temporary problem. He wants to do the eternal in you- make you more like Christ. Romans 5:3-5 says:

we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We rejoice in our sufferings because, through them, God makes us more like Christ. And, as Christians, that’s our number one desire- to be like Him.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because you have the hope of Heaven.

Some days the only thing that gets me through is knowing that this life with all its hurts and problems won’t last forever. One day all of this is going to be gone, and God is going to set everything right. In the scope of eternity, this life and the suffering we endure is so short. James says our lives are a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Keep things in perspective by keeping your focus on the hope of Heaven.

 

If you are in Christ, you have every reason to rejoice in the Lord, even in suffering, because Christ is enough: He knows what you’re going through, He loves you, He’ll walk through it with you, He has given you church family to help, He’s making you more Christ-like, and because you have the hope of Heaven.

He is enough, so rejoice. Because if Christ isn’t enough, what is?

Basic Training

Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

 

Your car breaks down and you don’t have the money to get it fixed.

Your child develops a behavior problem, and you have no idea how to help her.

Somebody royally messed something up at work and now you have to figure out how to fix it.

You’re smack dab in the middle of a tenuous situation at church instigated and exacerbated by THAT lady.

Anybody who tells you, “Come to Jesus and all of your problems will be over,” is selling something. The Christian life is not a stroll through a flowery meadow with never a bump in the road. In fact, sometimes it’s just one big pile of poo after another.

The truth is, if you come to faith in Christ, you’re going to continue to have some of the same kinds of general “that’s life” poo that you had before. People at work will keep messing up. Your child will still pour nail polish on your new white rug (Why do you have a white rug if you have children?). Your neighbor will back into your fence (again) and drag her feet about fixing it (again).

So what’s the point of coming to Christ if you’re just going to keep having problems?

Because the point of coming to Christ is not for Him to make all your problems disappear, it’s for Him to redeem you from your sin and propitiate God’s wrath against you. That’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a magic wand. So how does God want us to face those tests and trials of life in a biblical, Christian way?

1.
Recognize God’s Purpose in Testing You

There are scads of blessings and benefits that come along with repentance and faith in Christ, and one of them is that poo now has a purpose. (I sense some of you have had enough of the word poo. OK, moving on…)

What is the purpose of all these aggravations, sorrows, and worrisome circumstances that keep coming your way?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
Romans 5:3-4

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:9-11

Those difficult situations we face in life – whether they come as a consequence of our sin, a consequence of our Christlikeness, or simply a consequence of living in a post-Fall world – are the tools God uses to make us more like Jesus. Obediently bearing up during hard times develops steadfastness and maturity, endurance, character, and hope, holiness, peace, and righteousness.

You want those Christlike characteristics, don’t you?

I do too. But I’ll be honest – my flesh is not crazy about the fact that God often pulls a chisel out of His toolbag instead of a feather duster. And once again, we’re back to the cross versus the magic wand. We want God to “abracadabra” us into Christlike character. God points us to the cross.

2.
Look at Tests and Trials Through Jesus’ Eyes

…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 12:1c-2

Jesus was not some crazy masochist who enjoyed being beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, and having the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin. That was not fun. It was not pleasant. It was such a unique kind of awfulness that a whole new word had to be invented to describe it: excruciating. It was such a horrifying specter that it caused Jesus to sweat blood as He prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

God does not require you to enjoy pain, suffering, inconvenience, stress, or aggravation any more than He required Jesus to enjoy it. What Jesus did was to focus on “the joy set before Him” – the results of His suffering and the great and glorious things it would accomplish – to help Him endure the suffering. That’s what God wants us to pattern our approach to suffering after – Jesus. We don’t look at the circumstance itself. We look past the circumstance to how God is going to be glorified, how He’s going to grow us in Christlikeness, what we’re going to see Him do in answer to prayer, and whom He might save as a result of the circumstance. We look at the finish line. The winner’s circle. We focus on those things to help us get through the pain and exhaustion.

3.
Remember the Nature and Character of God

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

God is not some nasty bully sitting up there in Heaven arbitrarily messing your life up for His own personal entertainment like a kid setting ants on fire with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. He’s your Father. He loves and cares for you. Like any good parent, He wants what He knows is good for you more than He wants you to be fat and happy. He’s in complete control of what happens or doesn’t happen to you.

If something unpleasant comes into your life, go back to what you know to be true of God. God is not trying to harm or punish you. He has sovereignly allowed or caused this thing to happen because He is your Father who loves you and wants to do something good for you. He wants to work in your heart and life for your benefit, the benefit of others, and to glorify Himself through this circumstance.

4.
Don’t Worry

Yeah, right. If you’re anything like me, your first thought when faced with a problem is “Oh no. I’ll never get through this one. What if this happens? What if that happens?” Suddenly, in your mind, you’re ten miles down the road in Armageddon-land.

God does not sovereignly put circumstances into your life to give you a platform for worrying. It is never God’s will for you to worry. It is always God’s will for you to trust Him. If you’re worrying about your circumstances, you are not doing God’s will. God puts difficult circumstances into our lives to give us the opportunity to exercise our “trust muscles”. Worrying is just another way of saying, “God, I don’t trust you in this. I don’t believe you’re in control in this situation. I’ve got to be the one to figure this out and handle it.” If God is big enough and powerful enough to save you, He is big enough and powerful enough to carry you, protect you, provide for you, comfort you, and reassure you through whatever He places in your path. Trust Him.

(And a special note to my fellow Reformed brothers and sisters – as I preach this to myself – if anybody shouldn’t worry, it’s us. We are the “God is sovereign over everything” people! It is utterly ridiculous to believe that God is sovereignly in control of every aspect of salvation, that He providentially foreordains the activity of every atom of the universe, and then turn around and worry that He can’t or won’t handle something as measly as a repair bill or a surly co-worker.)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

5.
An Opportunity for Obedience

In the same way that God doesn’t place situations in your life as an opportunity to worry but as an opportunity to exercise trust in Him, He does not place situations in your life in which you have no choice but to disobey Him, but rather, as opportunities to stretch, trust Him, and obey His Word in spite of how difficult it might be. Anybody can be obedient when things are awesome. Obedience during the hard times is what grows you.

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.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:6

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

Can’t find a doctrinally sound church nearby? Yes, that’s difficult, but God is not OK with you sitting down and resigning yourself to disobeying Him by giving up the search just because it’s hard. No man will step up and lead at church? They might be disobeying God, but we ladies don’t have God’s permission to violate His Word by teaching or exercising authority over the men of the church just because it would be a lot more convenient to do so.

Convenience, comfort, and smooth sailing are not the be all end all of life. The character that God wants to build in you, the glory He wants to bring Himself, the good He wants to do to others through your obedience during hard times is far more important. But you’ll never experience those amazing things if you take the easy way out by sinning. Have you stood against sin to the point of bloodshed? Have you prayed that God would provide you a way to resist temptation and obey Him? Are you committing your way to the Lord and trusting Him to work everything out? If you want God to accomplish His purposes through the sticky situations of your life, you’ve got to stand firm and obey Him no matter how great the challenge.

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

 

We may not like difficult situations very much, but for those of us who know Christ, we can rejoice in knowing that God has a purpose for them. The highest purpose – to make us more like Jesus. He does that for us because He loves us. And while we might still wish for Him to bop us with a magic wand and instantly make us patient or steadfast or peaceful, God created us, and He knows that suffering and difficulties are the best way to accomplish those things. So just as Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him, we can endure any difficult situation God blesses us with, knowing that He’s doing it for our good and His glory. And that’s definitely something to rejoice about.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 2 Corinthians 4

2 cor 4 6

 

2 Corinthians 4

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


 

 

Questions to Consider:

1. Identify the antecedents of the pronouns in this chapter. Who is “we“? Who is “they”? (3)

2. What does it mean that the gospel is “veiled”? To whom is it veiled and why? (3-4) How could God save these people if the gospel is veiled?

3. What are the two instances or events of light shining in darkness which Paul is comparing in verse 6?

4. In verse 7, what is the “treasure”? What are the “jars of clay”?

5. What does Paul say is the purpose (15) of the persecution and suffering he mentions in verses 8-9? Why do they “not lose heart”? (16-18)

Faith, Suffering

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

christ is enough

It seems like so many people are hurting these days. There are personal hurts that come our way like health issues and broken relationships. Many of us are hurting because we’re watching someone we love suffer- an adult child going through a divorce, an elderly relative with Alzheimer’s. And the birth pains the world is going through – ISIS murdering our brothers and sisters in Christ, the rampant filth and debauchery that’s flooding our own culture here in the U.S., and so much more – make it burdensome just to inhabit the planet. It’s no wonder so many of us are limping around in pain just trying to make it through. Everywhere we turn, it’s bad news.

But for those of us who are in Christ, there’s also good news. Good news that trumps any piece of bad news we could possibly receive.

Good news: It’s OK for you to feel sad or overwhelmed during difficult times.

I know that may sound obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We’ve all heard stories about a person who received the diagnosis of some terminal disease with a smile and a “Praise the Lord!” We’ve all run into that lady whose hair could be currently on fire who would brush off our concerns for her with, “Honey, I’m too blessed to be stressed!” And if that’s genuinely the heart of those people, that’s great. They can be very inspiring.

But that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a Christian, or that you don’t trust God, if your doctor tells you that you have cancer and you fall apart. Or if you get that devastating news and you don’t bounce back right away.

Whether we realize it or not, there’s often a subtle pressure we church ladies put on ourselves to walk into God’s house and paste on a smile and pretend like these devastating things don’t bother us. We think that’s faith. We think that shows that we completely trust God. But is that what faith and trust really mean?

Some of the greatest men and women of faith in the Bible were hurt deeply and mourned over that hurt.

God said David was “a man after God’s own heart,” yet look at so many of the Psalms he wrote, especially when he was running for his life from Saul.

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 6:6-7

Time and again, we see passages like that in David’s writings. God never rebukes him or tells him to just put on a happy face.

And what about Jesus? Remember the shortest verse in the Bible? In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely why He wept. Maybe it was for one of the same reasons we suffer- the personal pain of losing a loved one, the pain of watching Mary and Martha suffer, or the pain of experiencing a broken world where sin causes awful things like death and disease. But whatever the reasons for His pain, Jesus didn’t plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything was fine.

On the cross at Jesus’ moment of greatest anguish, when the weight of the sin of the world was bearing down on Him, and the wrath of God was being poured out on Him in all its fury, and Jesus was experiencing first hand that it was the will of God to crush Him, Jesus cried out from the depths of His soul, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

David, Jesus, and so many other faithful men and women of God grieved. God’s people hurt sometimes, and that’s OK. You do not have to smile and pretend everything is OK when it’s not. It is OK to be sad when you’re hurting.

But the second piece of good news is this:

Good News: We may grieve, but we don’t “grieve as those who have no hope.” 

Because those of us who are truly born again believers have hope. And His name is Jesus. And He is enough. Jesus is enough for anything you’re going through.

If you watch “Christian TV” or read a lot of the books you’ll find in Christian bookstores by preachers with shiny teeth and even shinier hair, or, heaven help you, if you’re on Facebook, the message you will often hear about suffering is this:

“The pain you’re going through right now is nothing compared to the size of the blessing you’re about to receive.”

or

“It’s never God’s will for you to be sick or in lack. If you just have enough faith (and sow a seed into my ministry), God will bless you.”

or

“Your words create your reality. If you speak positive words (I’m wealthy, I’m successful, I’m healed), you will attract those positive things into your life. If you speak negative words, negative things will happen.”

So if you listen to these guys, in addition to the difficult circumstances that are going on in your life, you now have the pressure of “I’m still sick. I must not have enough faith.” or “Oh no, I accidentally spoke a negative word! I’m doomed to a life of poverty.” or “I thought my blessing was right around the corner. Why am I still suffering?”

Don’t believe those lies. God doesn’t promise any of that malarky in the Bible, because our hope is not found in “everything’s going my way” circumstances. Our hope is found in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Your circumstances may not get better. You may get that terminal disease and die from it. Your husband who left you for another woman may never come back. Your baby might be born with a disability. Sometimes circumstances don’t get better, but Jesus gets only gets better and better with each passing day.

God never promised you “Your Best Life Now.” He promises you Christ. And Christ is enough. And you can rejoice in that.

Why?

Because He knows what you’re going through.

Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah 53:3 says:

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

There’s nothing you can go through about which you can honestly say, “God doesn’t understand.” Jesus has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left all his glory behind. For you. He lived a sinless life. For you. He endured being hated, mistreated, and misunderstood. For you. He was whipped, tortured, and humiliated. For you. He took the nails. He took your sin. He took the wrath of His Father. For you. And three days later, He got up out of the grave. For you.

Jesus loves you. He hurts when you hurt. He wants to be the one you run to and pour out your heart to when everything is falling apart so He can comfort you with His presence and His word. He wants you to “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because the One who went through it all FOR you will walk through it all WITH you. And when you’re too weak to walk any more, He’ll carry you through it.

In Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission, Jesus says,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Hebrews 13:5b, He says,

be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be right there with you no matter what.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He sends you brothers and sisters in the faith to help you.

Church family is such a precious gift to us from Christ.

Matthew 25:36-40 is about the final judgment, and when Christ’s people stand before Him, He talks about how they have ministered to their brothers and sisters:

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

When we’re hurting, we allow our church family to minister to us because that is Christ’s gift to us. When we’re able, we turn around and minister to our church family out of love for Christ. We carry our brothers and sisters because Christ carries us.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because what He wants to do IN you is better than what you want Him to do FOR you.

You want Him to bring relief to a temporary problem. He wants to do the eternal in you- make you more like Christ. Romans 5:3-5 says:

we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We rejoice in our sufferings because, through them, God makes us more like Christ. And, as Christians, that’s our number one desire- to be like Him.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because you have the hope of Heaven.

Some days the only thing that gets me through is knowing that this life with all its hurts and problems won’t last forever. One day all of this is going to be gone, and God is going to set everything right. In the scope of eternity, this life and the suffering we endure is so short. James says our lives are a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Keep things in perspective by keeping your focus on the hope of Heaven.

 

If you are in Christ, you have every reason to rejoice in the Lord, even in suffering, because Christ is enough: He knows what you’re going through, He loves you, He’ll walk through it with you, He has given you church family to help, He’s making you more Christ-like, and because you have the hope of Heaven.

He is enough, so rejoice. Because if Christ isn’t enough, what is?