Monday, March 08, 2010

Suffering Reveals Allegiances

The Bible tells us that until Jesus comes there will always be suffering. People close to us will die. As we grow older, we will have to deal with impaired health. People will sin. There will be opportunities for you to become angry, battle evil desires, put up with frustrations, hide from fears, flee immorality, be confused, become defensive, suffer the cruelty of others, have interpersonal disasters, live in unstable conditions, be confronted with misery, have friends who are caught up in various kinds of substance abuse, and to be anxious about everything the world throws at us.

The Bible also tells us that these events can be seen as opportunities to become victims and to whine and grumble against the Lord. You are a victim. I don't want to paint an inaccurate picture of what is happening to you or to those around you. If you are suffering, you are indeed a victim. You may be suffering the onslaught of the Satan, as Job was. You may be suffering the unjust treatment of your friends as David was. Or you may even be suffering the results of your own stubbornness and rebelliousness as the Israelites did over and over again throughout the Bible.

But the Bible never leaves the people of God in the role of victim. The Bible tells us that God places these events in our lives as tests to see whether we will serve the living God, or if we will rebel and run to other gods. One Greek word is translated 'test,' 'temptation,' and 'trial. What this means that every event we encounter can be used to drive us away from God or draw us nearer to God. This is why James tells us that we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. He says coming through the trial in a victorious way will produce steadfastness and in the end will make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas. 1:2-4). Paul tells us that we are to "rejoice in our sufferings" because 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" (Rom 5:4-5).

How should we suffer? How should we live in the midst of an evil generation? How shall we respond to the misery we see around us? Turn to Jesus. Jesus has gone through all of the same kinds of suffering you face. He knows what you think and feel. He is our high priest and he intercedes on our behalf to the father of lights. Turn to Jesus, tell him your troubles. Ask him to strengthen you, to give you a new heart, to bring you comfort, to lift you up. Take a friend with you. Take two friends. Jesus went to garden with his friends and poured out his heart to the father, and in the process offered himself to God as a fragrant offering. "Not my will, but thy will be done."

This reminds us to confess our sins. Please kneel as you are able.

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