This morning I am on Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida at the beginning of a wonderful vacation. The sun is shining, there is a cool ocean breeze and everything is right with the world. Well, not really.
There is a steady stream of people filling the beach: young, old, families with children, singles, surfers, sunbathers and a myriad of others. To that add the billions of people around the world. The thought came to me that one day we will all be together again but in a different setting.
“We shall all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions.” Romans 14:12
I look at all the people playing in the surf, searching for shells, playing volleyball etc. The majority of people are not even aware that such a event is going to take place! Which leads me to my second thought: Who is going to tell them? Preachers cannot reach those who do not come to church, so it is up to all of us to share to message.
Suffering comes in many shapes and sizes. You can suffer from a cold or cancer; from a trial or a tragedy; from the loss of a friendship to the loss of a friend. Suffering can last for a few moments or months or years. If you are normal, you will try to avoid suffering at any cost. A large majority of television commercials are geared to the elimination or the avoidance of pain.
Let’s face it, we do not like to be uncomfortable. The reason most of us do not exercise as we should is that it is unpleasant [suffering]. The reason we do not eat the proper foods is we do not want to deprive [suffer] ourselves from those foods we crave. But the reality is life, to some degree, is suffering is a part of life.
Sometimes suffering is the result of the trials of life or the challenges that come from following Christ. Suffering is inevitable: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12 Other times, suffering is the result of living in a fallen world. “Though our bodies are dying,…” 2 Corinthians 4:16
Suffering can be beneficial: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 The Message
Ultimately, suffering is preparation for reigning with Christ eternally. “ If we endure, we will also rule together….” 2 Timothy 2:12
The epic tale of David and Goliath is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. On one side of the Valley of Elah stands the Philistine army, with their nine-foot-tall champion named Goliath. On the other side of valley stands the Israelite army, cowering in fear under the leadership of their king named Saul. For forty days Goliath has been taunting the Israelites and holding them in the grip of fear. Day after day he has been challenging them to send out one soldier to face him man to man. But so far, nobody has volunteered.
Perhaps you can relate to the plight of the Israelites. Some kind of giant is standing before you keeping you from being less than God wants you to be. The good news is that God has made a way for these giants to fall. Jesus came to set you free from the giants who rise up against you and hold you paralyzed in fear.
Jesus has already overcome the enemy. However, as we read in 1 Peter 5:8, the devil still “prowls around . . . looking for someone to devour.” In many ways, he is like a snake with its head cut off. When you kill a snake, you have to be sure to bury its head, because even after death the serpent holds a lethal dose of venom in its fangs. If you step on a dead snake’s head, you can still get poisoned. In the same way, even though Jesus broke the power of Satan at the cross, he can still inject his deadly poison into our lives. He is dead but still deadly.
If you truly want to see victory over the giants in your life, you need to understand your dependency on the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Victory is all about trusting in Christ and not about trying to succeed.
Yesterday, I was shopping at Lowes Home Improvement store [One of my favorite stores.] I dutifully had my list of items I needed to purchase but when I came across the clearance rack, I found my favorite plant, Lantana. Clearance price? $1.00! So, I quickly took advantage of my good fortune!
While loading my items in my car, I discovered I had seven plants but had only paid for six. I had miscounted. [I never was good at Math.] So, I what do I do? After all, it was just a mistake; I was not attempting to steal anything and Lowes wouldn’t go bankrupt if I didn’t return it. I started to rationalize:
- It was a long walk back to the store and I was tired.
- I could return it later the next time at the store.
- It was only a dollar item! No big deal!
- People deliberately shoplift; so Lowes expects to lose a certain amount of product.
All those reasons made sense to me but the reality was still the same. I had something in my possession that did not belong to me and my conscious wouldn’t let me keep it. When I returned the plant and explained my the situation; the Lowes associate looked like they had just seen a green, one-eyed Martian!
I share this story, not to post on my own piety but to show us that honesty and integrity have become as extinct as the Do-Do bird. I want to be a person of integrity and I hope this is your goal.
Disclaimer: This story is what I felt that God required of me; you may have responded differently and I do not judge you. Allow the peace of God rule in your hearts. Colossians 3:15