Why Me? Why This? Why Now?

In my book (Dancing In The Dungeon: Suffering With Hopeful Joy For God’s Glory), one of the chapters is titled: “Why Me? Why This? Why Now?” What I wrote there is a compendium of many things I’ve read and considered over several years (If I could remember where I first read them I’d give them credit, but my memory has faded). So I hope these things will be of help and encouragement to those who might read this. It is best to read and meditate long on the Scripture…

Chapter 8: Why Me, Why Now

Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever… what Paul wrote that God did in him is also possible for God to do in us. Consider what is recorded in Philippians 4:11-13…

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Since there is nothing God cannot do, there is no reason whatsoever to doubt that God has, can, and will work the same contentment in us. The way this is accomplished by The Spirit is as we “hide His words in our heart so that we will not sin against Him.” Thus the purpose of this chapter, to expose you to as many passages of hope as possible in a few pages.

Paul asks a question worthy of us asking ourselves in Galatians 3:4, “Did you suffer so many things in vain…?” The implication is that suffering multiple ways over time is intended by God to have  particular positive and desired results. Depending on your view of God, understanding of Scripture, and how those things effect the way you process life… you will either look for and find reasons to grow in Christ, OR you will be a fatalist living life without much hope or purpose. My prayer is that as you read through this chapter you will purposely process your life events through the sieve of Bible truth. I pray God will help you redeem your hardships for His glory and your comfort.

Meditating on God through Scripture is one way God comforts those in affliction. I have found it helpful on numerous occasions to return to God’s Word and meditate on His truths to help me refocus my heart on God’s reality rather than my emotional false omniscience. And so this chapter is designed to present a truth, briefly comment on it, and provide supporting Scripture. There are many ways to apply what follows. You can read each truth; read each truth and a passage of Scripture; or take one truth and Scripture to meditate on for a day for sixteen days. The important thing is to drive the truth of God’s Word so deep into your spirit that The Spirit will comfort you. These are written in the first person by design to address the question, “God, WHY is this happening?”

The Scripture foundation begins with James 1:2-4 where it is written…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

It is easy to agree intellectually with James, but hard to be joyful when hurting unless the reasons to “count it all joy” are embraced. Joy isn’t because of the trial… but rather WHAT God is accomplishing through the trial. Thus a list of reasons to “count it all joy” in suffering. These are in no specific order, after the first two…

God’s Glory. The single most important thing in the universe is God’s glory. The fact is God will glorify His name in all things, including His children’s suffering, is more important than ease, comfort, or temporal blessings. Only when God’s glory is more important than anything else will anyone be able to count it all joy when they suffer.

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. (Is 48:9-11)

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Is 46:9-10)

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Cor 4:15)

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (Jn 21:19)

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (Jn 12:27-28)

Suffering is God’s will. God’s will and glory are above… beyond… and more significant than anything I want or desire. God’s will is for me to be blessed through suffering. While every Christian wants to be in God’s will, most don’t understand is it is God’s will for them to suffer in order to be blessed. As it is written…

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake… (Philippians 1:29)

All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)

Through Suffering Humility Is Accomplished. An enemy within me is pride, AKA selfishness, AKA self-centeredness. It is impossible for me to be conformed to the image of Christ as long as pride is in my heart. Thus God takes action to eliminate a boastful attitude that opposes humility. A powerful example of God attacking pride is the preemptive strike God took in Paul’s life which is representative of what He does in all His children. By knowing God is accomplishing humility through hardship, there is reason to count it all joy.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Suffering Reveals The Need For Sanctification. I don’t know what I need to become more like Jesus. The danger of prideful conceit creeps into my heart easily. Paul was unaware of his need for sanctification in the area of pride UNTIL the messenger of Satan came into his life. Only then did he begin understanding the thorn of suffering as a blessing from God. In suffering I see for myself what God always sees and needs correcting. Thus a reason for joy. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

Suffering Teaches Complete Rest In Christ’s Power. Everyone has a breaking point. Sooner or later everyone is at the end of their rope. There are times GOD purposely puts me in such a position to remind me who IS and who can’t. Those who are wise learn quickly to trust God in good and bad times knowing He controls them all. Those who walk with God delight more in their weaknesses because then God is glorified as they rest and rely on Him alone. Thus a reason for joy. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

Suffering Is God’s Method Of Sanctification. Knowing what God is doing… glorifying His name, doing His will, humbling His servant, revealing the need for sanctification, resting completely in His power (See points above)… means I am conscious of the big picture of God’s work in me. Being conscious of God making me more like Jesus is a blessing Job didn’t have. Thus I can have joy knowing God is in the process of sanctifying me. (Job 1-2)

Suffering Conforms Me To Christ’s Image. God is so determined to make me more like His Son that He does not leave it to chance. There is no possibility whatsoever that I will not become more like Jesus because both the process and the result are predestined by God. There is no possibility of God failing what He’s willed to accomplish in me. There is no possibility of not becoming more holy, more Godly, and more like Jesus. This is reason to count it all joy.

For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29)

Suffering Draws Me Closer To God. “The same sun that softens wax, hardens clay.” When dark days invade my life I find my heart is drawn to God, not repelled from Him. Whatever draws me closer to God and makes me more like Jesus is worth it. As is found in the hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Ps 119:67, 71)

Jesus Is Manifested In Me. It is because of Christ in me that I am better able to suffer in a manner that glorifies God. As a result the more of Jesus I have AND the more people see Jesus in me. As God comforts and sustains me in the hardest and most difficult times, the resurrection power of Jesus is manifested in the world and as a result He is glorified. Thus a reason to count it all joy.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-12)

Suffering Results In Spiritual Maturity. The Biblical attitude toward suffering is found in embracing what God is doing and participating with Him in it. The joy is not in the trial, but rather the eventual result and outcome the trial will produce… namely spiritual maturity also known as conformity to Christ. Thus a powerful reason to count it all joy!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Suffering Results In Sharing Christ’s Glory. Since suffering is God’s will to sanctify me and conform me to the image of Christ, I will not be surprised when hard times enter my life because they have been ordained by God for His glory. I am therefore able to rejoice because sharing in Christ’s sufferings means also sharing in his glory and rewards. Thus a reason to count it all joy.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Suffering Results In God’s Comfort. Paul wrote he was willing to suffer the loss of all things IF that was what it took to be more like Jesus and closer to God. One thief on the cross in essence said, “Get me off this cross and I will follow you.” The other, “If it takes this cross for me to be with you it is worth it.” Therefore, if it takes suffering to be closer to God and experience more of Him and His comfort, it is well worth it. See # 8 above. That is a great reason to count it all joy.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction… (2 Cor 1:3)

Suffering Equips Me To Comfort Others. I am not to live my life on an island, but to be God’s hands and feet to help His kingdom of peace to spread abroad. Therefore I am called to look for, search out, find, and comfort others with the same comforts God has effected in my life for comfort. My own suffering will lend credibility to others who suffer to know that God does comfort as they hear my testimony of God’s comfort in my suffering. This is a reason to count it all joy.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)

Suffering Emboldens Other Christians. Surprisingly, suffering is God’s chosen means and way for the Gospel to spread. As Christians suffer in a manner that joyfully glorifies God other Christians see and as a result are infused with The Spirit to follow their example. As I joyfully suffer in a manner that glorifies God, there will be others who see what God does and will fearlessly respond to God’s call on their life to follow Him. This is a wonderful reason to count it all joy.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Phil 1:12-14)

Suffering Perfects God’s Power In Me. Athletes prepare to win a contest by “suffering” (training) so that when the time comes they can overcome their opponent. If athletes know this maxim, how much more should I embrace the truth of weakness and suffering as THE best way I am vested with the power of Christ?! Suffering exploits my weaknesses which as a result are overwhelmed with the power of Christ. This is indeed a reason to count suffering as joy!

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)

Suffering Increases My Rewards. If I live over 100 years it is nothing compared to eternity! Therefore it is better to submit to God who is increasing my eternal rewards than to have ease in this life. Afflictions that are “slight” (Think death) and “momentary” (Think 80 years) is but a small thing compared to what God has prepared for me in heaven. That indeed is a reason to count it all joy!

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Since God IS accomplishing at least these things in my life, how can I not “Count it ALL joy?” How much of an insult is it to push back at God when the only thing He wills and desires is His glory and my ultimate good?! Even a dog does not bite the hand that feeds him. How much more is it only right to thank God for what some consider suffering when there are at least these sixteen reasons to count everything that happens in life joy? As Larry Crabb wrote, “Every event of life is God calling you to a closer walk with Him.” I am convinced that those who walk the closest with God are those who suffer most… joyfully… for His glory!

Patience With The Hurting

GoodSamJohn Maxwell wrote, “Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by people.”

We live in a broken world where everyone has secret problems. Some hide and handle them well… others (Because of what they are dealing with internally) are withdrawn, short-fused, harsh, detached, emotional, and have all kinds of dysfunctions. We are ALL dysfunctional… it is just a matter of degree, which should affect how we interact with others who are dysfunctional just like us.

Patience, mercy, and grace with others is a rare virtue… but a blessing when encountered. Hurting people don’t need to be told to pull themselves up by their boot straps… nor do they need to be told others are tired of drilling holes and pulling them through it. What they need is patience, mercy, grace, compassion, and love.

Hurting people are messy… I’m messy! Like the Good Samaritan, we are to bind up the wounds of the hurting REGARDLESS of how they got wounded! Yes, it will require sacrifice on your part. It may require you to suffer while binding up their wounds. But that is what Christians are called to do because that is what Jesus did for US.

Be patient with those who are hurting. Give them space to not be perfect. Allow them time to work through problems and help them toward what they are seeking… Peace in Jesus Christ! Remember what Jesus said… “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.” Keep in mind what is found in Hebrews 10:32-35…

Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

It Could Be Worse!

chJoyProverb… “I complained about having no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Do you have a house? A car… clothes… food? Then you have more than Paul did! 1 Tim 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” He was content with no TV… no internet… no air conditioning… no camel or donkey… no electricity… no retirement… no pillow… no health insurance… no roof over his head. This was a man who was beaten and then sang in the dungeon (Acts 16:25)! He was chained between two guards in prison and wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS…”

Take a few minutes and be thankful. If you are a believer, consider your name is written down in heaven. Anything more is icing on the cake (Especially considering we deserve eternal condemnation)!

Being thankful, rather than complaining, is pure Bible. Consider…

Eph 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out-of-place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Eph 5:18 Be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Col 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

1 Thess 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Remember… it could be worse…

When Sidelined By God

Side Lined“This is counsel for you who are temporarily laid on the shelf. Some of God’s best workers have been laid aside for long periods. Moses was forty years in the desert, doing nothing but tending sheep. One greater than Moses, our Blessed Savior, was thirty years doing — I will not say nothing, but certainly doing no public work.

When you are retired or inactive, prepare for the time when God will use you again. If you are put on the shelf, do not rust; pray that The Master will polish you, so that when He uses you again you will be fully ready for the work.

While you are laid aside, I want you to pray for others who are working. Help them and encourage them. Do not get into that peevish, miserable frame of mind that grudges and undervalues other’s efforts. Some people, when they cannot do anything, do not like anyone else to work. Promise that if you cannot help, you will not hinder. Spend time in prayer, that you might be fit for the master’s use.” (C.S. Spurgeon. “Beside Still Waters” edited by Roy H. Clark, page 9).

How Dying Is Gain

This is copied from Desiring God. “It Is Great Gain To Die: Five Reasons

Our spirits will be made perfect (Hebrews 12:22-23).

There will be no more sin in us. We will be done with the inner war and the heartrending disappointments of offending the Lord who loved us and gave himself for us.

    But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and the church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the just which have been made perfect.

We will be relieved of the pain of this world (Luke 16:25).

The joy of the resurrection will not yet be ours, but the joy of freedom from pain will be. Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man to show the great reversal that is coming.

    [The rich man] he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”

We will be given profound rest in our soul (Revelation 6:9-11).

There will be a serenity beneath the eye and care of God that surpasses anything we have known here on the softest summer evening by the most peaceful lake at our most happy moments.

    I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a while

We will experience a deep at-homeness (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The whole human race is homesick for God, without knowing it. When we go home to Christ there will be a contentment beyond any sense of security and peace we have ever known.

    We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

We will be with Christ (Philippians 1:21-23).

Christ is a more wonderful person than anyone on earth. He is wiser, stronger, and kinder than anyone you enjoy spending time with. He is endlessly interesting. He knows exactly what to do and what to say at every moment to make his guests as glad as they can possibly be. He overflows in love and with infinite insight into how to use that love to make his loved ones feel loved. Therefore Paul said…

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.

More People Should Blush…

Blushing“We used to blush when we were ashamed, now wer’re ashamed when we blush” (Vance Havner).

It is written in Jeremiah 6:15, “They did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall…”

From Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Last it is found in Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things (Sin described in 1:29-31) deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Today’s “normal” used to cause people to blush. Now those who blush are viewed as prudes by the politically correct. Consider a few things that at used to cause blushing, but now are badges of honor from a debased culture just related to one area… marriage.

Sex before and/or outside marriage… Living with a person in place of marriage… Same sex marriage… Having children proudly before or outside marriage. Note: And many who call themselves Christians do these things!

Worse is the gradual acceptance of these things by an increasing majority of Americans… including those in the church. At the same time, preachers proclaim health, wealth, and prosperity rather than sound doctrine. Christians fight and split over minor doctrinal points rather than exemplifying love, grace, and mercy toward each other. It seems fewer and fewer people blush anymore…

These things burden the heart of the faithful who agree with what the Prophet wrote in Habakkuk 1:2-4…

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You “Violence!” and You will not save? 3 Why do You make me see iniquity, and why do You idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

Understanding Waiting On God

WOGIf God granted every prayer request, we would be spiritually spoiled brats. Not only that, it would not be loving for God to give us everything we want… when we want it… because we want it. It is a good thing that God both says “No” to our requests and makes us wait extended times before He answers other requests. Consider…

“Providence so ordered it that all that night they should catch nothing, that the miraculous draught of fishes in the morning might be the more wonderful.” Matthew Henry on John 21:3-6.

We need to remember that when we pray, if something is good for us and will glorify God, He will grant the request. If both requirements aren’t met… no matter how hard we pray, how many people pray with us, how much faith we have, or how bad we want something… God will NOT grant the request. As it is written in Ps 84:11, “No good thing does God withhold from those who walk uprightly (Who are in Christ).”

The Apostles fished all night in all the best places with all their expertise… there was not a single fish in the boat. But then… Jesus said (Paraphrased), “You’ve been doing it wrong. Try the other side.” And what happened? There was a haul of fish over and above they imagined could happen. God’s providence of a fruitless night of fishing was worth the one haul that occurred in the morning.

Application: Are your nets empty… after fishing all night? “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…” (Gal 6:9-10).