Friday, September 6, 2013

Strengthened Through Suffering




                                                                                                                                                                 
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee 
these forty years in the wilderness, 
to humble thee, and to prove thee, 
to know what was in thine heart, 
whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.  
Deuteronomy 8:2 




There is so much that still needs to be said regarding suffering.  There are so many Christian believers giving up because they can’t endure their struggles or they can’t understand why they are struggling.  After all, we’re on the Lord’s side now and life is supposed to be a bed of roses.  So if I’m now serving God, why am I suffering?   One day after my prayer, God reminded me that it had to be the way it was in order for the newness of Christ in me to develop.  I was shown in His word two passages that gave me strength and endurance to remain in Christ despite my negative circumstances.  The first passage of scripture is this:


Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
 I Peter 4:1


The situation did not go away right away,  and that's where the second passage of scripture came in:

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.  1 Peter 5:10

However, I had peace of mind and more importantly, I was now in a position for God to mold me for His use.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

God promises us His peace which comes with accepting Him and living righteously.   Perfect peace comes when our focus is off the problem, off the trouble, and constantly on Christ.  

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.  Isaiah 26:3
 
I am reminded of what the Israelites were told during their wilderness experience  

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou would keep his commandments, or no.  Deuteronomy 8:2

We do well to accept the fact that in all of our struggles God either allows it - 

But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.  And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.  Job 1:11-12

 or He wills it - 

But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.  Jonah 1:4

Remember, God does not cause suffering. Suffering is in the world because of sin that began way back in the garden of Eden. But God uses suffering as an opportunity to demonstrate His power. He uses it:

   TO GIVE US SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS:  

If you are a follower of Christ, you are going to suffer.  Peter admonishes us to arm ourselves or prepare our minds for suffering.  Jesus lets us know:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

     TO TEACH US OBEDIENCE:  

Jesus himself, though being the word in flesh, was obedient to the Father:  

Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;  (Hebrews 5:8)

     TO TEST THE WORD OF GOD WITHIN US:  

You cannot be an instrument for God without knowing what it is that you stand for.  That is why it is so imperative that while you are suffering that you continue or start reading your word and make it a daily part of your lifestyle.  

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Psalms 12:6)

     TO HUMBLE US

 I can only speak for myself, I needed to be humbled because I thought I had it all together but through the process of my struggles, I saw very clearly how fragile I was; not physically or in the natural, but in the spirit. Yes, there were times when I wanted to just give up, but the Holy Spirit within me wouldn’t let me. This one, I learned very well! I knew that without God, I am nothing, I was nothing; would be nothing. 

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said , For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:28)  


Moses said:  


Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might humble thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.  (Deuteronomy 8:15-16)


     TO ENLARGE US SPIRITUALLY:  

This means you grow spiritually:  

Thou has enlarged me when I was under pressure.  (Psalms 4:1)

     TO HELP US COME TO KNOW GOD INTIMATELY 

You come to know God on a more intimate basis through suffering. Job, who suffered much, learned this truth and said:

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6).  


Some of us only know God through other people's experience.  When we are experiencing the blessings of life, God is often a luxury instead of a necessity. But when you have a real need, God becomes a necessity.  Job came to know God more intimately through suffering. Before he suffered, Job knew God through theology. Afterwards, he knew Him by experience. This is why Paul said:  


That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. (Philippians 3:10)  


You can only come to know God in resurrection power through the intimate fellowship of suffering.  Throughout his ordeal, Job questioned God as to the cause of his suffering. It is not wrong to ask questions of God. Jesus knew the purpose for which He had come into the world was to die for the sins of all mankind. Yet in His final hour of suffering He cried out, "My God, My God, WHY hast thou forsaken me?"  It is what follows the questioning that is important. The Lord’s next words were, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." Despite the questions, Job's response was:  


Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.(Job 13:15)

And then he went on to say:  


For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
(Job 19:25-26).  

After all the questioning is finished, the emphasis must change from "me" to "Thee".

You must commit your suffering, with all its unanswered questions, into the hands of God. 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)  


God may reveal some of the purposes in your suffering, but it is possible you will never fully understand it:  


It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
(Proverbs 25:2) 

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.   (Deuteronomy 29:29).  


There are some secret things that belong only to the Lord. As Job, you may never understand all the purposes of your suffering:  


Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?  (Proverbs 20:24)

When God finally talked with Job, He used several examples from nature which Job could not explain. God stressed that if Job could not understand what he saw in the natural world, he certainly could not understand that which he could not see in the spiritual world.  When Job faces God, it no longer matters that he does not get an answer to his questions about suffering. He is in the direct presence of God, and that experience leaves no room for anything else. He is no longer controlled and tormented by human reasoning. 


He replaces questions, not with answers, but with faith.  


When you come to know God intimately through suffering, you see yourself as you really are. You no longer know God second-handedly. That face-to-face encounter with God does what arguments and discussions cannot do.  When Job stood before God, he had no new answers. He was given no new facts about his suffering. But he replaced questions with faith. Job has been in the direct presence of God, and that experience leaves no room for questions or doubts.

We cease letting the enemy stop us in our tracks through our suffering. There are some Christian believers who are almost spiritually catatonic because they have let the enemy buffet them to their knees about their struggle. Sometimes the enemy will lay a guilt trip on you, or an inferiority complex, or a defeatist attitude. But you have to shake that off and remind yourself that you are a child of God, a child of the King and you are coming out victorious. Pray to God Almighty and ask Him, if you don’t already know, what is it that He would have you do or stop doing. Most importantly, remember that even though you are intimately involved, it’s not about you! Flip the script and realize that we are here to serve God, we are not here for God to serve us. He can’t use us when we are broken down, rejected and dejected, depressed and oppressed. Let Him mold you according to His will. 

But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.  Isaiah 64:8


(Biblical Studies)


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