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Posts tagged ‘trials’

A Prayer for Relinquishing Ownership of Our Battles to God

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

Dear heavenly Father, I’m so thankful to begin this day relinquishing ownership of my battles to you. Your Word is so timely and encouraging. Though you call us into spiritual warfare and give us the appropriate armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as our “shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4), high tower and safe refuge, mighty Warrior and faithful Deliverer.

I’ll fight, not a disengaged pacifist but as a fully engaged worshiper—”beholding the salvation of the Lord.” I’m never more than a little David facing a formidable Goliath; but with you, that is enough. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Father. Fear and discouragement aren’t the order of the day; faith and peace are.

When dark plans and wicked ways threaten; when it seems like evil men and their destructive plots will triumph, let me hear your laughter in heaven, Father. Let me see your already-installed King, the Lord Jesus—for all things are subject to him, all things. Show me the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up my fears (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

When I’m under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let me see Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus, alone, is my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31). My boast is in Christ plus nothing, not in anything in me.

When I get pulled into petty fights and relational turmoil, with friends, “brethren, and others, center me quickly by the power of grace, and bring me back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6)—the only thing that matters.

When I’m in the presence of systemic evil and extreme brokenness, keep me sane, calm and wise. When my divided heart wages war inside of me, come to me in the storm, Father, and bring your peace that passes all understanding and transcends every difficulty. So very Amen I pray with confidence, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

When It’s Not “Okay”

SOURCE: Kasey Van Norman, M.A.

Discovering Raw Faith in the Midst of Tragedy

The truth is, no matter the condition of our faith, we all have bad days. And when I’m having a bad day—you know, like barfing for twenty-some hours straight as a result of a toxin that’s flowing through my veins and killing off every cell in hopes of catching the one or two bad ones that could kill me—on those days, I don’t need someone to come along and tell me that it’s all going to be okay.

My experience with cancer is not the first time I’ve encountered this phenomenon.

When I watched my mom spiral into depression after my parents’ divorce, she would say, “It’s going to be okay.”

When I was with my dad every other weekend as a child and watched him take drink after drink, he would say, “It’s going to be okay.”

The day I ended up in the hospital after sticking my finger down my throat one too many times and had literally burned holes in my esophagus and weighed a good eighty-five pounds soaking wet, a nurse told me, “It’s going to be okay.”

After my miscarriage when I was twelve weeks pregnant, my friends told me, “It’s going to be okay.”

As I stood in front of my mother’s corpse at the funeral home, amid sobbing people and a slew of flowers, people came through the line and said, “It’s going to be okay.”

And then, when I shared the news of my cancer diagnosis, I received e-mails and shoulder pats with those dreaded words once again; “It’s going to be okay.”

There have been countless times when I want to stand up and shout, “NO! IT IS NOT GOING TO BE OKAY!”

We live in a broken, messed-up world, and there are some things that are never going to be okay.

Embracing raw faith means understanding that the Christian life also means accepting pain, suffering, and trials. Genuine faith means accepting the reality that life is a continual movement to become more like Jesus. Man-made religion wants to lull us into a place of rules and being just okay, but Jesus rocks our world and calls us to live deeply, whether in times of joy or struggle.

In other words, it’s okay to not be okay.

Better than Okay

God doesn’t guarantee us deliverance from hardship, and following him doesn’t mean we’ll never go through the fire. But he does promise us something better: he doesn’t waste anything we go through. And no matter what happens, he will go through it with us.

God’s grace runs deeper than any heartbreak we will experience in this life. His love goes beyond than any unanswered questions we might have. And God’s purpose and plan for our future can trump any sin, any obstacle, and any defeat we might experience.  He can use the very things that plague us—our most difficult trials—to chisel us into the character of his Son.

That’s something we can’t experience if we settle for okay.

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Excerpted from Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight by Kasey Van Norman. Available at www.raw-faith.com.

Realizing the Good in the Bad

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 216.

 The Peacemaker’s Harvest

When someone has wronged you, it is also helpful to remember that God is sovereign and loving. Therefore, when you are having a hard time forgiving that person, take time to note how God may be using the offense for good.

  • Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God?
  • How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith?
  • What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed for the sake of your growth?
  • What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise?

When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

Conflict, along with trials, suffering, loss, and other hardships, can be what God uses to bring the most good in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. It’s often the most painful events of life that bring the biggest harvest.

God brings us through the times of conflict, trial, or suffering that can bring a great harvest. Yes, it’s work; often it involves hours (or months) of tears, heartache, and discipline, but the ultimate reward is one of becoming more like Christ. In these situations, God gives us opportunities to glorify him, to serve others, to be a part of what he is doing, and even to receive personal reward.

Yet in our stubbornness, our refusal to forgive, or our demand to be right or vindicated, we fail to seize those opportunities. We miss the very harvest for which we’ve toiled.

The sowing, the tending, and the harvest all depend on each other–one could not happen without the other. But we are promised that–

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

May your harvest be a great one as you sow peace in the midst of the conflicts you face.

A Prayer for Worshiping God Before, In and After the Fire

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-18

Heavenly Father, I am convicted, stretched and encouraged, by the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego honored you in this story. How refreshing to behold such God-centered, non-utilitarian, heart-engaged, authentic and fearless love for you.

These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give them, but because of the God that you are. They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace; but even if you didn’t rescue them, it would have no effect on their love for you, and trust in you. They would rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

Father, forgive me when my worship of you varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers—how fully you “bless” me, protect me, and grant me relief. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful—when I have to wait on you and trust you in the dark and silence. I want to worship you beforethere’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

Lord Jesus, you alone can give me such freedom and love; passion and delight; faithfulness and courage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, you were the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace—so great is your faithfulness to us. And you were the one who endured the “fiery trial” of the cross—so great is your grace for us. You will never leave us or forsake us—at any time or in any trial. Because of the gospel, “fire” is less about out destruction and more about our purification. You make all things new, including fiery trials

Because of you, Lord Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die; and we don’t have to be afraid to live, either. By your grace, stoke the fire of affection in our hearts for you, so that at the very moment we’re tempted to turn to some false god deliverance or relief, we won’t. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and strong name.

 

When The War Rages: A Prayer of Victory

SOURCE:  Mark Bubeck

 Prayer of Victory

Loving heavenly Father, I praise You that Satan is a defeated foe.

I rejoice that his defeat was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in His sinless life, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into glory. I look forward to that day when the Lord Jesus Christ rules, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. I know that Satan will ultimately be forever consigned to the lake of fire prepared for him and his angels. I rejoice that You have given to me, in my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, complete victory over Satan today.

I enter into my victory aggressively and claim my place as more than a conqueror through Him that loved me. I refuse to admit continuing defeat by Satan in any area of my life. He cannot and will not rule over me. I am dead with Christ to his rule.

I affirm that the grace and mercy of God’s  rule in all areas of my life through my union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to me the grace to affirm Your victory even when experiences of life seem to say otherwise.

I thank You for these battles and all that You are seeking to accomplish in Your wisdom and design for my life. I accept the battle and rejoice in Your purpose. I willingly accept and desire to profit from all of Your purpose in letting Satan’s kingdom get at me. I reject all of Satan’s purpose.

Through the victory of my Lord and Savior I stand resolute and strong upon the certainty of my victory. In confidence I look to You, Lord Jesus Christ. When Your purpose for this trial is fulfilled, I know that it shall fade into the dimness of forgotten battles and a defeated enemy.

Through the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it shall be so. Amen.[1]

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[1] Bubeck, M. I. (1984). Overcoming the Adversary: Warfare Praying Against Demon Activity (26–27). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Confidence for Troublesome Times

SOURCE:  In Touch Ministries/Charles Stanley

Romans 8:28-31

During difficult times, I cling to the Lord’s promise that He is in complete control.

This comforting truth is a reminder that nothing is left to chance. It also takes away the pressure to try and control life. Yet at the same time, knowing that God has ultimate authority can leave us wondering why He would allow our painful circumstances.

Friends, I wish I had an easy answer. Truthfully, the Lord’s ways are beyond our ability to understand. However, we have certain assurances that help us endure:

  • Some difficulty is the direct result of sin. Just as loving parents train their children, God teaches us from our mistakes.
  • The Lord promises to work all things for our good. There’s a far bigger picture than what we can see, and God weaves circumstances together in beautiful ways.
  • Trials are often necessary to draw us close to the Lord. As a pastor, I have seen many Christians with comfortable lives become self-reliant. Slowly, these believers drift away from a close relationship with the Living Water. They become spiritually dehydrated but fail to recognize their need.

Our loving Father allows trials so that we will stay near to Him. We can be confident in difficulty when we rest in the fact that Jesus is in complete control, and He works everything out for our good.

From our perspective, life sometimes seems to fall apart.

Using spiritual vision rather than our human ability to understand, we know God is in control. He promises to use our circumstances for good, and He will strengthen and guide us in every step.

Take heart and trust.

God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone)

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life.

How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more trials on you than you can bear”?

I challenge you to show me that in the Bible.

The problem I have with this myth is that it keeps so many believers wondering why they can’t handle their problems, falsely believing they should be able to, because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could.

Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy, just as Christ who calls us is holy.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, I read where at times God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear.

Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it.  Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)

Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure”.

David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see”. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life! Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”( Oh how I identify with David there!)

Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  (2 Chronicles 20:12)  It sounds like he was facing more than he could handle on his own.

Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear?

Absolutely! Positively!

If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle, at least more than I can handle alone. The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials, when they are bigger than our own strength can handle, is so that we have no where else to turn, except towards Him. We are faced with one solution, and that we realize Christ is our only hope!

After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) He recognized that this overwhelming time of trouble, that he couldn’t handle alone, had caused him to focus more on the power of God, and allow God to work His perfect will.

Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure?

Don’t believe that you can do it alone! You can’t!

Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!” Did you get that point? Nothing! Don’t try anything today without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak, but He is available to help, if you will call upon Him!

When we are at our weakest, He is strong!

God Will Test The Grace HE Gives

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow   (1808 –  1878)  The Octavius Winslow Archive

Comfort Me On Every Side

“O God, you have taught me, from my youth: and hitherto have I declared your wondrous works. You, which have showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” Psalm 71:17, 20, 21.

A careful reader of David’s history cannot but be impressed with the early discipline into which this eminent servant of God was brought.

He had scarcely slain Israel’s vaunting foe, while yet the flush of victory was upon his youthful brow, and the songs of applause were resounding on his ear, when he found himself placed in a position of the keenest trial and most imminent peril. The jealousy of Saul at the unbounded popularity of the youthful warrior, in whom he at once beheld a rival in his people’s affection, if not a successor to the throne, instantly dictated a policy the most oppressive and murderous. From that moment the king sought his life. And thus from being the deliverer of the nation, whom he had saved with his arm—an idol of the people, whom he had entranced with his exploit, David became a fugitive and an exile. Thus suddenly and darkly did the storm-cloud rise upon his bright and flattering prospects.

Two deeply spiritual and impressive lessons we may gather from this period of his history. How rapidly, in the experience of the child of God, may a season of prosperity and adulation be followed by one of trial and humiliation!

It is, perhaps, just the curb and the correction God sends to check and to save us. We can ill sustain too sudden and too great an elevation. Few can wear their honors meekly, and none apart from especial and great grace.

And when God gives great grace, we may always expect that He will follow it with great trial. He will test the grace He gives.

There is but a step from the “third heaven” to the “thorn in the flesh.” Oh, the wisdom and love of God that shine in this! Who that sees in the discipline a loving and judicious Father, would cherish one unkind rebellious thought?

Another lesson taught us is, that our severest and bitterest trials may be engrafted upon our dearest and sweetest blessings.

It was David’s popularity that evoked the storm now beating upon him. The grateful affection of the people inspired the envy and hatred of the king. How often is it thus with us! God bestows upon us blessings, and we abuse them.

We idolize the creature He has given, and cling too fondly to the friend He has bestowed—settle down too securely in the nest He has made—inhale too eagerly the incense offered to our rank, talents, and achievements—and God often adopts those very things as the voice of His rebuke, and as the instruments of our correction.

Thus may our severest trials spring from our sweetest mercies.

What a source of sorrow to Abraham was his loved Isaac; and to Isaac was his favored Jacob; and to Jacob was his precious Joseph; and to Jonah was his pleasant gourd!

And what deep spiritual truth would the Holy Spirit teach us by all this?—to seek to glorify God in all our blessings when He gives them; and to enjoy all our blessings in God, when He takes then away.

What Controls Your Attitude?

SOURCE:  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Do you ever have one of those weeks? You know, where life seems to always be one step ahead of you. You can never catch your breath and feel like you are constantly choking. No break in sight. Just when it seems like life can’t get any worse … it does.

I recently had one of those weeks. My wife and I weren’t connecting and tension was in the air. Discussions about the upcoming holidays were pending. The kids’ attitudes were affected by household chores and difficulties at school and with peers. At work there was one curve-ball after another. Accounts weren’t paid on time, some contractors gave us some bad news, others weren’t producing, friends were really struggling, plans for a mission trip were not going smoothly. Then, with so much work to catch up on, a storm blew in and we lost power for 48 hours.

In the past, these kinds of weeks would have caused so much distress, prompting poor decisions that would have led to even worse circumstances and consequences. This vicious cycle would spiral so quickly and last longer because of the poor way I handled a set of circumstances.

My life took a dramatic turn when I learned that no matter what you do, you will never stop life’s bad turns.  We are all going to be tested, to be sifted, purified, and refined.

Traffic jams will cause you to miss that important appointment. You’ll lose a job or promotion. Someone will be rude or hurtful, or cheat on you. Regardless of the situation, remember, God is the one who allows all things to happen. We don’t know why, but He does, and He has a plan.

You can live happily each day despite life’s ups and downs, but it can only be done through daily dependence on Jesus Christ and trust in God’s sovereignty and plan. The Apostle Paul tells us that he learned the secret of being content in every situation: that he could do everything through Him that gives me strength.

Today, remember it’s not what happens to you that counts. How you choose to react to each situation reflects your attitude, your heart, and is the fruit of your life.

It just comes down to who’s in control of your attitude. When you feel uncomfortable today, stop and assess your reaction to the day’s events. What kind of lenses are you using, your me-centered ones, or your God-centered ones? Your decision, choose well.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, I invite You to be in me and at work with me. Help me grow, Father, so that I may have the same attitude and mind as Jesus Christ. I know peace doesn’t come from the outside, but comes only from You inside me. Help me look inward for peace and not wait for my circumstances to settle down for me to be at peace. I do not want to be ruled by the circumstances around me … I want to be ruled and guided by Your Holy Spirit. I pray in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus – AMEN!

The Truth

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:5

 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Christ’s Pruning Knife in a Believer: Trials

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/J.C. Ryle Quotes

How would the great work of sanctification go on in a person if they had no trial?

Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning–knife which Christ employs in order to make us fruitful in good works.

The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only.

It must go through its days of wind, rain and storm.

~ J.C. Ryle

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, “The Ruler of the Waves”, [Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishing, 2001], 237.

Wisdom for the Trials of Life

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/InTouch Ministries

Read | James 1:5-8

At first glance, today’s passage on wisdom doesn’t seem related to the subject of trials, but James is actually continuing His thoughts from the previous three verses. We need wisdom to know how to respond to suffering. This means we should see trials from the Lord’s viewpoint and understand His purposes in allowing them in our lives.

If you want to profit from struggles, be sustained in them, and come through with joy and victory, you must be persuaded of the following truths:

1. God is in full control of the timing and intensity of your trial and will not allow it to go beyond His boundaries.

2. He has a specific purpose for your suffering which you may not understand until it is over.

3. This trial will prove to be profitable if you submit to God and trust Him through it.

4. Trying situations are opportunities for faith to prove genuine and grow stronger.

5. When you endure extreme pressure with unexplainable peace and joy, the Lord will demonstrate His sustaining power to a watching world.

6. Your difficulties are used by the Father to produce Christ-like character.

7. God will walk with you through all trials.

8. The Holy Spirit will enable you not only to survive but also to come out a conqueror.

If you believe all these principles, they will shape how you respond to difficulties in your life. This perspective eliminates the negative reactions normally elicited by trials and makes supernatural responses possible. Instead of feeling miserable and hopeless, you’ll experience amazing peace and joy.

Expecting the Trials of Life

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle Quotes

Trials, we must distinctly understand, are a part of the diet which all true Christians must expect.

It is one of the means by which their grace is proved, and by which they find out what there is in themselves.

Winter as well as summer–cold as well as heat–clouds as well as sunshine–are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity. We do not naturally like this. We would rather cross the lake with calm weather and favorable winds, with Christ always by our side, and the sun shining down on our faces.

But it may not be.

It is not in this way that God’s children are made “partakers of His holiness.” (Heb. 12:10). Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and Job were all men of many trials.

Let us be content to walk in their footsteps, and to drink of their cup. In our darkest hours we may seem to be left–but we are never really alone.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987], 338,339. {John 6:15-21}

Living With A Painful Situation

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 64-64

Although we can be sure that God is always working for our good and the good of others, even through trials and suffering, we will not always know exactly what that good is.

In many cases his ultimate purposes will not be evident for a long time.

And in some situations his ways and objectives are simply too profound for us to comprehend, at least until we see God face to face (see Romans 11:33-36).

This should not diminish our confidence in him or our willingness to obey him, however. As Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

This passage provides the key to dealing faithfully with painful and unjust situations. God may not tell us everything we want to know about the painful events of life, but he has already told us all we need to know. Therefore, instead of wasting time and energy trying to figure out things that are beyond our comprehension, we need to turn our attention to the promises and instructions that God has revealed to us through Scripture. The Bible tells us that God is both sovereign and good, so we can be sure that whatever he has brought into our lives can be used to glorify him, to benefit others, and to help us to grow.

Food for Thought

Are you living with a painful situation? Is there a situation in your life that you just don’t understand why it has transpired in the way it has?

As you trust God with the “secret things,” first remember all he has already done for you through Christ. Then focus your attention on obeying his revealed will, and you will experience greater peace within yourself (Psalm 131; Isaiah 26:3) and serve him more effectively as a peacemaker (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Singing in the Pain

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Jim Chew

Issues: The Bible gives such good reasons for rejoicing in the midst of our hardships that we can consider suffering to be a true privilege.

The opening portion of Peter’s first epistle is one of the most exuberant passages in the Bible. It begins with “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Peter 1:3), and ends with “You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Clearly, the apostle could hardly contain his joy as he wrote to his scattered flock.

We can easily identify with such high spirits if, like Peter, we review all the blessings we have in Christ. Joy is normal to the Christian. But in this same passage Peter reminds his readers that they “have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6).

How strange! Sufferings, grief, and trials are hardly compatible with rejoicing. It is one thing to endure trials and sufferings because we love Christ, but quite another to rejoice in the midst of them.

Yet this unusual response to difficult times is not an isolated teaching in the Bible. Again and again we are exhorted to find joy in our affliction. In the opening verses of Romans 5, for example, the apostle Paul wrote about the joy of being justified in Christ, and then added, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings.”

What do these inspired writers mean?

GRIT YOUR TEETH?

Let’s look first at Paul’s exhortation in Romans 5. I don’t think he is asking us to grit our teeth and be stoical about suffering. Neither is he saying that afflictions, in themselves, should be enjoyed. Rather, we are asked to rejoice in what sufferings can produce. Paul explains that we rejoice in our sufferings “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4). Suffering produces endurance and a Christlike character.

We can translate the Greek word for “suffering” in this passage with a more common and modern term: pressure. The pressures of life have a way of developing endurance in us, and this endurance can be exercised only when we are placed under pressure. The very trials we dread are thus used by God to strengthen us.

Therefore the followers of Christ can view sufferings as opportunities, as training situations in which our inner reserves of strength and tenacity are developed. And how we need these qualities if we are to maintain godly, righteous lives in the complex, highly pressurized societies in which we live!

SHARPENED SENSES

We’ve already noted the apparent contradiction in Peter’s first letter—the great burst of joy at the beginning, coupled with the reminder that he was writing to churches facing fierce persecution. Indeed, suffering is one of the major themes of the letter.

What gave Peter such a confident belief that trials and afflictions are occasions for rejoicing?

First, I think he understood the value of faith, which he said was “of greater worth than gold” (Romans 1:7). He could welcome and rejoice in sufferings because he knew they were the crucible in which his faith would be tested and proven, and that they would authenticate and strengthen his trust in God.

Peter also saw that our afflictions are opportunities to participate in Christ’s sufferings (Romans 4:12–14). Through afflictions we learn more deeply “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,” as Paul put it (Philippians 3:10). We are brought closer to the heart of our Lord. His presence becomes a reality. With a sharpened sense we learn to discern between things of eternal value and those that are merely passing away. We realize afresh that we are but pilgrims in the world. We become more like Christ.

But without sharing in his sufferings, we cannot hope to grow closer to him and to become more like him. Christ suffered; we are Christ’s, so we suffer too.

Only the person who thus identifies with Christ can really rejoice. The more we suffer, the more we share in his sufferings; therefore, the more we suffer, the more we can rejoice.

So it is that the apostles rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 5:40–42). They did not mope or complain, but kept on teaching and preaching Christ. And Peter was one of them.

Peter knew as well that we learn how to suffer from our Lord. Christ’s suffering is our example, that we “should follow in his steps” (Acts 2:21). He suffered undeservingly, yet submitted to his persecutors and to the will of God. We can learn to do the same.

Submission is not a sign of weakness in the Bible’s point of view. On the contrary, a submissive attitude has powerful effects. With it, Christian wives can win their husbands to the Lord (Acts 3:1–2), and Christian citizens can silence their critics in society who are ignorant and foolish (Acts 2:13–15).

And let us never forget that Christ’s life of submission made salvation possible for all mankind. Howard Hendricks wrote, “You will never learn to suffer with the right attitudes if you have never learned to submit at every level, and you will never learn to submit if you do not have a deep appreciation of the salvation with which you were saved.”

A CERTAIN FACT

Suffering is painful, but submission to it always leads to victory. I remember visiting a close Christian friend who was dying of cancer. He was enduring great pain, and his body was so emaciated I could hardly recognize him. Yet his response was one of thanksgiving to God. Doctors and other patients were influenced by his radiant testimony, and visitors who came to comfort him were instead comforted by him. His last words to me were, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ.”

I can recall clearly a time in my experience as an overseas missionary when I was adjusting to a foreign culture and also assuming more and more responsibilities. With burdens and problems mounting, I was tempted to give up.

Again and again I turned to Scriptures that talk of trials and sufferings. It dawned on me that, compared to the difficulties experienced by many of God’s servants in the Bible, my problems were minimal!

The Lord then allowed a series of personal testings through which I experienced the reality of his grace and strength. I learned that God’s presence in the midst of suffering is a certain fact.

No wonder Peter tells us, “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:14).

Are you in the midst of trials and perplexities? Happy are you! Celebrate this privilege, because the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on you!

Turn to Jesus … what does that mean?

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

How refreshing is this fact … Jesus never changes! When you climbed out of bed this morning, regardless of how you might have felt, or the subtle changes you went through, He had not changed during the night. He is trustworthy and consistent.

             Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

No matter what your situation, you can turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus … what does that mean? Obviously not just a physical turning, but something more practical and powerful. Turning our back on the world’s values, ways of measuring success, influences, and decision-making strategies. Turning away from the desires of our flesh.

What choices are you facing? We all make one very key decision in every circumstance we face that determines the outcome of that particular situation … the choice of the lenses I will use to view, experience, and assess this particular event God has allowed to come into my life. Turning toward, understanding, grabbing hold of, and using God’s instruction, forgiveness, grace, promises, and character to form the lenses I use to view each situation God brings my way. This is what I mean by turning toward Jesus. Following Jesus … choosing His way and His lenses, not yours … choosing to receive His love … choosing to trust Him.

If you use His lenses, of course you will still have problems and challenges. Remember the trials Jesus endured? But each one of these opportunities (yes, I called them opportunities) will be easier to navigate in a way that grows you psychologically and spiritually, because it won’t be you who is responding to the adversity. It will be Jesus who lives in you, who will be responding. You will be perceiving and responding in a Christ-like way, having the Mind of Christ.

Today, choose to trust Jesus and do things His way. God has room to work in your life. He will help you move on past the hurt, pain, or failures of the past. He will give you hope for the future. Use lenses based on who He is and what He teaches. Don’t use those distorted lenses with all the muck we’ve accumulated from this world.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I do want to trust You … not just verbalize it, but actually do it in every circumstance. I know You love me and that Your plan for me is the best plan. Please keep me on track … show me the next step … and the next one after that. I know turning to You isn’t physical, it is all mental. Help me turn it all over to You and allow Your perspective to be my lenses. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who I choose to follow, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!

Proverbs 3:5-7

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

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