Handling Suffering as a Christian…

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Handling Suffering as a Christian

The title of today’s challenge sounds a bit strange. And if you are not a ‘born again’ Christian you have no chance of understanding and accepting it. We live in a world where many teach that health, wealth, prosperity and the total absence of suffering brings fulfillment. And of course, our human nature totally agrees with that thought. There are even teachers professing to be ‘born again’ that teach the same. They teach that to experience otherwise reflects a weak faith or sin. While it can be a result of sin the scriptures never proclaim that if we suffer for the gospels sake it is a lack of faith. Actually, it is just the opposite.

When we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and we dig into His word to find meaning for our lives and we hear that, “”Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Wow, that stops us dead in our tracks. Many, who never study and never grow from the milk of God’s word to being able to handle the meat of God’s word never even address this question.

Can it really be true? If I am to live for my Savior who died for me can I expect some level of persecution? The answer from scripture is a loud yes. If the world disliked and even hated Jesus and we profess what He professed then the world will not like us either. That’s a tough one to swallow. Like you my flesh prefers that people would like me. And what if I am experiencing zero persecution. Does that mean my spiritual priorities are not correct? Yes, that could be the case. Ouch! We can only know that by asking God to answer that question and then we must do something contrary to our human will. We must truly be open to the answer. Remember the answers to prayer are yes, no and wait. Yes, is not the only option God has. When I hear no or wait it does not mean that God did not answer my prayer.

There are promises in the word of God that don’t seem much like promises to many believers. Persecution is one of them. Scripture proclaims that all whose purpose of heart is to live godly lives in this present world shall (certainly) suffer persecution, as did their Lord. Maybe we contemplate such verses and think they should say something like, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be appreciated for their goodness and rewarded with approval, good health and fortune while in this world.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul said to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We probably would be more comfortable if that were to read, “For unto you it is given…not only to believe on him, but also to be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity.” But it doesn’t say that. Reading and allowing the Word of God to change our lives are two entirely different things. Are you a reader only? Ouch, another convicting question.

So why would I want to be open to persecution??? As noted in James we are in this life but for a short time. Our lives are but a vapor that comes and disappears quickly. Our time to serve our Lord is short. This time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to eternity. And if you are a believer you will spend eternity with God. There is also a judgment seat or awards ceremony for believers. The judgment seat is not to judge our sins that Jesus took care of but to award us for services rendered while on this earth. I would rather hear, ‘well done’, than to hear how I missed the prize or to hear a silence because of lack of commitment on my part while on this earth.

We are to serve out of obedience. Disobedience is viewed by God as a tragic sin. Check it out over and over in scripture in both the OT and the NT. God never accepts disobedience. Our sins are washed away by Jesus blood so my salvation is secure. While works cannot save us they are very important after being ‘born again’. Serving Jesus while on this earth is now or should now be my focus! And when done correctly it will bring some level of persecution.

Remember persecution comes in many different ways including verbal, lost friendships, physical punishment, lost job opportunities, etc. In America at least for now the verbal, peer pressure and life style issues are the greatest persecution we see. So maybe all is not lost with that slap in the face that you just received, literal or figurative. Pray and think before you allow your fleshly frustration to take over. It may be that you are doing exactly what you should be for His glory!!!!!

Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

A CHRISTian Soldiers Request for Transfer

John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

A CHRISTian Soldiers Request for Transfer…

To: Commander and Chief Spiritual Armed Forces, Jesus Christ

Dear Lord:

I am writing this to You to request a transfer to a desk job. I here
with present my reasons:

I began my career as a private, because of the intensity of the battle
You have quickly moved me up in the ranks. You have made me an officer and given me a tremendous amount of responsibility. There are many soldiers and recruits under my charge. I am constantly being called upon to dispense wisdom, make judgments, and find solutions to complex problems. You have placed me in a position to function as an officer, when in my heart I know I have only the skills of a private. I realize that You have promised to supply all I would need for the battle.

But Sir, I must present You a realistic picture of my equipment. My
uniform, once so crisp and starched, is now stained with tears and blood of those I have tried to assist. The soles of my boots are cracked and worn from the miles I have walked trying to enlist and encourage the instructed troops. My weapons are marred, tarnished and chipped from constant battle against the enemy.

Even the Book of Regulations I was issued has been torn and tattered
from endless use. The words are now smeared. You have promised You would be with me throughout, but when the noise of the battle is so loud and the confusion is so great, I can neither see nor hear You.

I feel so alone. I’m tired. I’m discouraged. I have Battle Fatigue. I
would never ask You for a discharge. I love being in Your service. But I humbly request a demotion and transfer. I’ll file papers or clean
latrines. Just get me out of the battle–please, Sir.

Your Faithful, but tired, Warrior.

——

To: Faithful, but tired, Soldier, Spiritual Armed Forces
Location: The Battlefield
SUBJECT: Transfer

Dear Soldier:

Your request for transfer has been denied. I here with present my reasons:

You are needed in this battle. I have selected you, and I will keep My
Word to supply your need. You do not need a demotion and transfer.
(You’d never cut it on latrine duty.) You need a period of “R&R”
–Renewal and Rekindling. I am setting aside a place on the battlefield that is insulated from all sound and fully protected from the enemy. I will meet you there and I will give you rest. I will remove your old equipment and “make all things new.” You have been wounded in the battle, my soldier. Your wounds are not visible, but you have received grave internal injuries. You need to be healed. I will heal you. You have been weakened in the battle. You need to be strengthened. I will strengthen you and be your strength. I will instill in you confidence and ability. My Words will rekindle within you and renewed love, zeal and enthusiasm.

Report to Me tattered and empty. I will refill you.

Compassionately,

Your Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ

Author Unknown

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

God knows ALL…

Mat 11:28, 29 “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest.

Who knows All

When you are tired and discouraged from fruitless efforts…                                                       God knows how hard you have tried.

When you’ve cried so long and your heart is in anguish…God has counted your tears.

If you feel that your life is on hold and time has passed you by…God is waiting with you.

When you’re lonely and your friends are too busy even for a phone call…God is by your side.

When you think you’ve tried everything and don’t know where to turn…God has a solution.

When nothing makes sense and you are confused or frustrated…God has the answer.

If suddenly your outlook is brighter and you find traces of hope…God has sustained you.

When things are going well and you have much to be thankful for…God has blessed you.

When something joyful happens and you are filled with awe…God has smiled upon you.

When you have a purpose to fulfill and a dream to follow…God has opened your eyes and called you by name.

When you realize life is for eternity and only Jesus can save you…God awaits your calling upon His Son to save you.

Remember that wherever you are or whatever you are facing…GOD KNOWS ALL!

Mat 11:28, 29 “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am
gently and lowly of heart, and you will find rest unto your soul.”

Time Gets Better with Age…

I Cor 13:11 “When I was a child I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

Time Gets Better with Age…

I’ve learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing
“Silent Night”. Age 5

I’ve learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either. Age 7

I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what
they are doing and wave back. Age 9

I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes
me clean it up again. Age 12

I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try
cheering someone else up. Age 14

I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my
parents are strict with me. Age 15

I’ve learned that silent company is often more healing than words of
advice. Age 24

I’ve learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great
pleasures. Age 26

I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed
me there. (Or gotten there before me)Age 29

I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live
so that no one will believe it. Age 30

I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t
know how to show it. Age 42

I’ve learned that you can make some one’s day by simply sending them a
little note. Age 44

I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his
or her need to cast blame on others. Age 46

I’ve learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 47

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today,
life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. Age 48

I’ve learned that singing “Amazing Grace” can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49

I’ve learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the
phone. Age 50

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles
these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas
tree lights. Age 51

I’ve learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet
full of pills. Age 52

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a
life. Age 58

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you
miss them terribly after they die. Age 60

I’ve learned that if you want to do something positive for your
children, work to improve your marriage. Age 61

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
(but not often) Age 62

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on
both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.
Age 64

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.
But if you focus on doing God’s will, loving your family, meeting the needs of others, doing your work with joy, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
Age 65

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually
make the right decision. Age 66

I’ve learned that everyone can use a prayer. Age 72

I’ve learned that it pays to believe in miracles. And to tell the truth,
I’ve seen several. Age 75

The Ways of Mankind are…

The ways of Mankind are….

Heb 12:2a “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…”

A Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet. Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Bee

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat, and the bee. They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there “above” them. Without Jesus as their Lord and Savior they only have themselves and the world around them to control their destiny. What an awful predicament!!!!

Prov 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Don’t be like the creatures and people who cannot see the forestry for the trees.

Heb 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

 John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 3:3-5 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Be NOT Conformed to this World

2 Cor. 5:21 “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Be Not Conformed to This World

Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, the government and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want and think we deserve.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly–even for a moment. We deserved expulsion; He gives us a diploma. We deserved the electric chair; He gives us eternal life with Him if we will accept it by grace through faith. Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?

Christians in the Sudan and many other countries around the world–who’ve suffered unspeakably for their faith–are deeply grateful for God’s daily blessings. But us? We whine and pout with the “I deserve more” and “Why me” mentalities.

Thankfulness should draw a clear line between us and a Christless world. If the same spirit of entitlement and ingratitude that characterizes our culture characterizes us, what do we have to offer? We have become the salt that has lost its seasoning power and may be good for nothing. Ouch! God is sovereign in the affairs of mankind which must be our attitude toward all issues. The results of sin are the only ones that God did not design and even those results God can use to teach and train us if we allow Him to.

To know if you have it you need but check out your attitude of gratitude. Are you thankful for even the things that appear to be catastrophic in your life? If they are not a result of sin then I brought them on by myself. God can never tempt or author sin. Don’t get captured by the attitude of the world or the opinion page of the local newspaper. Scripture teaches that we are to count ALL things or situations in our lives as joy and that God is sovereign in the affairs of mankind.

If I grasp that I deserve hell, I’ll be filled with gratitude not only for God’s huge blessings–including my redemption and home in heaven–but also for His smaller blessings: sun, rain, a beating heart, eyes that see, legs that walk, a mind that thinks and the unspeakable joy of the trials that bring spiritual growth. And my whole focus would change. Because Christ allowed Himself to be crushed under the weight of my sin, I’ll enjoy forever a clear mind and perfect body. Never believe anything about yourself or God that makes His grace to you seem anything less than astonishing. Because that’s exactly what it is.

Portions from; Randy Alcorn, “The Grace and Truth Paradox,” Multnomah Publishers 2003, pp. 33-35

The rest of the story….

Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah.”

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Romans 12:1-2 ” I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

It is all about your Perspective…

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

It is all about your Perspective…

A little girl walked daily to and from school. Though the
weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made
her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with
thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that
her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school, and she
herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

Following the roar of thunder, lightning, like a flaming sword,
would cut through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into
her car and drove along the route to her child’s school.

As she did so she saw her little girl walking along, but at each
flash of lightning, the child would stop, look and smile. Another and
another followed quickly, each with the little girl stopping, looking at
the streak of light and smiling.

Finally, the mother called her over to the car and asked, “What
are you doing?” The child answered, “God just keeps taking pictures of me.”

“And a little child shall lead them…”

That story is a great lead in for truths from God’s word. It reminds us that

God desires pure and unquestioning faith for us to first be ‘born again’ and then

to please Him during our walk as CHRISTians. The faith like little children display.

Here is the test. For that need you have this morning, what or Who are you trusting to fill it?

Luke 18:17 “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

 

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

 

Hebrews 10:38 “But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrinks back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.”