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
My wife and I have friends who have three year-old twin girls, Rebekah and Hannah. The parents are doing such a great job raising them to love God. Their mother over-heard them talking and discovered they were reciting Scriptures they had learned. Here is the passage they quoted:
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” And like all Bible scholars, they quoted the Bible reference = God 1:1 Out of the mouths of babes,
The Bible is an amazing book; it contains adventure, romance, poetry, wisdom and a host of other topics. Often the Bible describes a situation that people were facing and you just know how it is going to turn out. All the facts considered there is no other option how this will end.
Unless you consider the Power of the “but.” In Acts 12, Peter has been arrested, placed in prison and guarded by four squads of soldiers; no bail, no escape plan, no lawyer. Peter will be placed on trial but Herod has already decided Peter will die. Acts 12:-34
I love how God intervened, verse 5 “So Peter was kept in prison, BUT the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” [emphasis added] FACT: Peter was kept in prison. No one, including the praying church and Peter, thought he would be ‘rescued.’ Everyone forgot that God is not constrained by the facts. That is why it is called a miracle!
All through the Bible we see the power of the “but.”
- Everyone expected Goliath to kill David…but God
- Jericho expected their walls to protect them…but God
- Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake, everyone expected him to die…but God
- Pilate, the Jews, the disciples didn’t expect Jesus to be resurrected…but God
No matter how bleak or impossible your situation do not forget the “Power of the But.”
I have never doubted that God knows everything. I have said many times in my sermons, “God is never surprised. He is never caught “off-guard.” In Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 I read that Jesus “knew their thoughts” which I have no problem accepting.
But then I read Matthew 8:10 “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed...” Now that started me thinking; if Jesus is God (And He is) and if He knows what people are going to say before they say it (And He does Psalm 139:4), surely He should not have been “amazed” at this Gentile’s faith! Nothing should “amaze” God, right?
As I looked at several commentaries, just as I expected, they explained it that it was Jesus’ humanity that caused Him to be amazed. I can understand their interpretation, for you can fully explain the incarnation; the God/Man? That is difficult to get our minds around!
I guess we will have to file this (and some others) passage under the Deut. 29:29 clause ““There are some things that the Lord our God has kept secret. Only he knows these things…”
Confession: I love electronic gadgets; especially my phone! The GPS is a tremendous help (most of the time.) When I type my destination into my phone, the first question that come on the screen is this: “Directions from current location?” In other words, “Do you want to start where you are?”
Of course I want to start from here. Sometimes I am not sure where “here” is! As soon a I tell the GPS yes, it begins calculating my route – not from where I started before I lost my way, not from the direction I should be headed but from right where I am now!
The most common reason people give for not following Jesus is that they want to get their lives together first. They want to start their journey from somewhere else than where they currently are.
Jesus reaches out to with grace and love and invites you to follow Him, right where you are. Start following Him right where you are and He wants you to start now!
Trust His directions!
One of the the most useful bits of knowledge I have gleaned from life is the importance of balance. There must be balance between work and family. There must be balance between studies and recreation. Chapter three of Ecclesiastes is all about balance. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..” Verses 1
One of the keys to a fulfilled life is not only knowing which season of life you are in but also accepting that it. I went to the doctor today and he reminded me that my body is aging and I cannot expect it to respond like it did when I was forty. It is a fact that I have to accept and live with it.
Balance sometimes means understanding that not all wrongs will be made right immediately. King David learned this fact. In Psalm 73 he struggled with the prosperity of the wicked. He lamented the fact that there seemed there was no punishment for their wickedness. But God gave him understanding [balance] in verse 17 “Only when I came into God’s holy place did I finally understand what would happen to them.”
God is a God of balance. He will right wrongs and bring justice. God is in control and He never makes a mistake! “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25
Having served as a Pastor for over thirty years, I have observed people whose lives are “broken.” Sometimes they would come to me and ask me if I could fix “it.” It may be a broken marriage or a parent/child relationship. Sometimes people look at their situation and conclude “This is so broken it cannot be fixed, repaired or restored.” So they get a divorce, give up on that relationship, or worse turn their back on God and quit living for Him.
I can understand their reasoning. From a human standpoint, there seems no way this wrong can be made right. We think that OUR situation is SO BAD that even God cannot untangle the mess. But that is not so. I have been amazed how God can take the “broken” and bring healing, restoration and wholeness. Consider:
- He is the one who heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
- “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27
In Ezekiel 37, we read the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. These were not recently slain corpses but dry bones! God asks Ezekiel a very pointed question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answers,“Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” That is a great answer for only God can “fix” some of life’s greatest challenges!
Years ago we used to sing a chorus, God Can Do Anything But Fail.” True. Let God begin to work in your life. Turn it over to Him and see God work in your life!