You Need Adversity!

reflections on Christ - crucifixionThat’s right, you and I NEED to suffer more. The best thing that can happen is for us to have more hardship, difficulty, trial, and tribulation. If Satan had his way, we’d all have an easy life. In fact, he will hold the ladder for anyone willing to climb of the shelf. You leave him alone, and he will leave you alone. Serve Jesus and you’ll find yourself in hot water… quick.

Suffering for Christ is proof of salvation and a life of obedience to Christ. As it is written in Phil 1:29, “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…”

God grants every genuine Christian two things, salvation and suffering. You can’t have one without the other. Every person who is saved will suffer. Without suffering for being a Christian there is reason to question being saved (If Phil 1:29 is true).

We’re not talking about getting sick, but being poisoned for sharing Christ. We’re not talking about losing your job due to economics, but getting fired for standing for Christ. We’re not talking about losing friends due to personality differences, but being ostracized because you won’t compromise your faith to be politically correct. Suffering isn’t dying from old age, but being killed as a result of sharing Jesus as the only way of salvation. Consider what Peter wrote…

1 Pet 2:19 This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Pet 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

1 Pet 4:12 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. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Being honest with ourselves, how many of our sufferings are due to living for Christ?


When You’re Feeling Weak

We are weak and frail human beings.  Jars of clay that can be easily broken.

We live in a world that is harsh… difficult… stressful… and full of adversity.

We have an Adversary (Satan) who is aware of the first and does all he can to heighten the second.  The result for Christians is as found written in Acts 14:21-23…

When they had preached the gospel… they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

“Through many tribulations…”  Children go wayward and rebel.  Interpersonal relationships are broken.  Families go through dysfunction.  Work environments deteriorate.  Life is just plain hard.  At some point, everyone would love to be somewhere else… in a place where there is no anxiety, frustration, worry, or stress.  This is why it is recorded Jesus said…

Mark 6:31 Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (NIV)

Mark 6:34 When (Jesus) went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And He began to teach them many things. (ESV)

Emotional, spiritual, and physical weakness is nothing new to the human condition.  They increases for those who follow Christ.  Consider Paul from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10…

To keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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. 10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Are you experiencing weakness?  Struggles?  Discouragement?  If so, consider the following…

1. That is life, don’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12 “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”).  Keep your eyes on Jesus’ soon return.

2. Make time to be alone with Jesus (Mark 6:31).

3. God knows what he is doing and is making you rely completely on Him (2 Cor 12:7-10).

4. The previous two points are best done through prayer and reading Scripture (Especially the Psalms).

5. The weakness God placed/allowed into your life is not about you… it’s about God’s glory to show the power of Christ (2 Cor 12:9-10A)

When Your Day Blows Up (Part 2)

Yesterday was a hypothetical conversation between a person asking God why their day went bad.  The hypothetical Q & A were nothing near what is recorded in Scripture when a person’s life really did blow up!  Consider a conversation a person had with God and worship Him.

Job (Demanding An Answer)…

Job 31:5 “If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; 6 (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) 7 if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, 8 then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out. 16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it… 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20 if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)

God (Confrontational)…

Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. 34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?  Job 40:2  Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.

Job (Repentant)…

Job 40:3 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

God (In Job’s face)…

Job 40:7 “Dress for action like a man;  I will question you, and you make it known to Me. 8 Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? 9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? 10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;  clothe yourself with glory and splendor. 11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. 12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. 13  Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

Job (Broken)…

Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Given the above, I really don’t think we want to get into a Q & A with God about “Why?” or what’s “fair!”  Consider further what is written in Scripture…

Romans 9:15 For He (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 18 So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. 20 Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

Daniel 4:34 His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God, Please… Not That!

This is a hard saying… who can accept it?  The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the following in Philippians 1:29

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.

Suffering, hardship, difficulty, and persecution are gifts from God… to every believer… to glorify Him.  That may not be a popular truth, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  The last thing we want to believe is that it is God’s will for EVERY Christian to suffer for Christ’s sake.

Suffering for His sake means…

Publicly and privately trusting God while your heart breaks over difficult family issues…

Refusing to succumb to bitterness and revenge when you and/or your family have been wronged…

Joyfully accepting a “No” answer to your prayer from God that disappoints you in your humanity…

Realizing that it is God’s will for your lifelong dream not to come true… and still be joyful…

Rejoicing when God will is the exact opposite of you thought was His will…

Being content when God places you where HE wants you rather than where you had hoped…

Being able to encourage others and continue in ministry even though your heart & life are filled with life altering struggles…

Being able to choose to be mistreated and in God’s will rather than enjoy briefly the fleeting pleasures of sin

Knowing in the depths of your heart that whatever you go through now will be more than rewarded by God… one day… for eternity.

This IS a hard saying… however… “It is He that is at work in you both to will and accomplish His good pleasure.”

God willing… tomorrow I’ll try to make a few suggestions about joy in the midst of adversity.

We Need Trauma, Not Drama

News Flash: For Christians, trauma is a good thing!  Including those traumatic events that drive us to the edge of despair!  Consider the Scripture…

2 Corinthians 1:8 We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Read those verses again.  Paul and his companions experienced some kind of trauma.  It was so severe they thought they were going to die.  Their emotional state got to the point of giving up.  But they didn’t die.  The trauma abated.  They were delivered.  And God had a reason for both the presence of the trauma AND delivering them from it.  Re-read the sentence in red…

When trauma enters a genuine Christian’s life, their automatic response is to flee to God… to pray to God… to rely on God… to trust God for the outcome regardless of what it may be.  They do not shake their fist at Him.  They do not sit in judgment of Him.  Instead they seek understanding FROM Him of their situation, circumstances, and what He would have them to learn.

Read again the sentence in red.  The reason God providentially allowed/placed the trauma in Paul and his companion’s life was to teach them something very important.  God MADE THEM (Meditate on that)… God MADE THEM rely on HIM rather than themselves.  God’s concern was more about faith than physical deliverance.  God’s concern was more about their sanctification than protecting them from immediate emotional fear.  In fact… God used traumatic fear to increase their faith!

God has a purpose for whatever trauma you encounter.  The reason He sovereignly and providentially places/allows it into your life is to draw you Himself.  As Larry Crabb said, “Every event of life is God calling us to a closer walk with Him.”  The result is then greater faith, trust, and reliance upon God rather than ourselves.  Therefore…

Trauma in a Christian’s life is ultimately a good thing!  Not because of the pain in and of its self, but because of what the result is in the hands of God… our sanctification and maturity in Christ.  THAT is why it is written in James 1:2-4…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Hard Times Are Good!

No person grows or matures in Christ apart from hardship, trials, and difficulty.  No one.  A good friend of mine and I got into a “discussion” one time listening to Dr. Chuck Swindoll preach several years ago.  Dr. Swindoll said, “God doesn’t use anyone He doesn’t first break.”  Now consider the brief conversation that ensued as I turned to my friend and said…

Me: “He’s wrong…”

My friend: “No.  YOU’RE wrong…”

Me: “NO.  HE is wrong!”

My friend: “No.  You ARE wrong…”

Me: “What do you mean?”

My friend: “He is right.  You ARE wrong!”

At that point I decided to be the godly one and not make a scene (Ah-hum.  Yea right…).

Not long after that… and for many years since… I’ve come to realize I was wrong and Dr. Swindoll was right (I just can’t bring myself to say my friend was right though!).  During one of those difficult times in my life I ran across two verses in Psalms and ever since then when life presses in on me I fall back on them.  They are from Psalm 119…

Ps 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.

Ps 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.

Let those settle into your heart for a little bit.  Meditate upon them.  Submit your soul, spirit, and emotions to the truth of God’s Word.

119:67.  Affliction is used by God to draw His children back to Him.  He uses difficulty to teach us to keep His Commands (Which are for our good).

119:71.  Sometimes our hardship and affliction is NOT necessarily because of anything we’ve done wrong.  When life is hard, it is then that we are much more prone to listen… and hear… God speak to us.  It is in difficulty that we learn (to the depths of our heart) to keep God’s commands.

Are you having a hard time?  Is someone close to you struggling?  Consider the love of God in the event and what He is working out in life as we find in Hebrews 12:5-7, 10-11…

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”  7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. 10 …But He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Let’s Put This In Perspective…

Think about your life.  Think about the things that have happened to you.  Think about the good and bad things.  Think about the certainties and uncertainties.  Think about your desire to understand… to understand what God is up to.  Think about your disappointments and joys.  Think about how many times you have cried out to God asking… “Why me?”

Now… put all your thoughts on those things and about God in the context of Job 9:1b-12… {Emphasis mine}

Then Job… said (to his friends): “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with Him, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

He is wise in heart and mighty in strength—who has hardened himself against Him, and succeeded?—

He who removes mountains, and they know it not, when He overturns them in his anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble;

Who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea;

Who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; Who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number.

Behold, He passes by me, and I see Him not; He moves on, but I do not perceive Him.

Behold, He snatches away; who can turn Him back? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’

Remember this… God is God, we aren’t!