Saturday, February 18, 2012

God Never Promised a Rose Garden

How often do you face situations where you look at God and ask "Why?"  How often do you look at your life after you accepted Christ or perhaps even before and ask yourself "When is the good stuff going to start?"

How often do we believe that because we are in with the good crowd - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that life should go smooth for us?  Yet when we become creations in Christ, suffering becomes part of the territory.  Suffering may take many different forms.  If we look into scripture, we can find numerous stories of those who suffered.

Joseph - Joseph, chosen by his father to be the best of his sons.  Marked as special (remember the robe and the dreams of all bowing before him?).  Sold into slavery by his brothers.  As the Lord was with Joseph even in slavery, he rose in station.  Until he was attacked again by false claims and thrown in jail.  He remained in jail but he never turned his face from God, he remained faithful.  He did not give in to sin, he did not give up.

Job - Job lost everything - his wealth, health, and family. My wife despises stories where one bad thing happens one right after the other.  This is one of those stories, because the hits keep coming one on top of the other.  The pain, the suffering, the trials, the disappointments; they keep coming. In the end because Job stayed faithful to the Lord, he was restored.  He was more than restored.  He was truly blessed.

Paul - Paul had one big thing going for him which many of today's "suffering faithful" seem to have missed: He was told up front to expect mistreatment.

In Damascus, a couple of days after his encounter with Jesus, Paul was visited by  Ananias, who told of the plans God had for him. "(Saul) is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:16).

Paul knew going in that suffering was part of the deal. This is completely in line with our Lord's statements to the apostles in Matthew 5:11-12 and Mark 10:29-30.

But these three stayed faithful.  They recognized that there was a choice in each trial and tribulation that they faced.  They could have turned away from God, they could have given in.  But instead they stayed faithful.  In their darkest hours, God was with them.  In our darkest hours, God is with us.

We all have choices.  We are not the victims of our circumstances unless we choose to be so.  Faith believes that with God, we are never victims. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).  We can take our situations and grumble, fuss, and complain.  We can blame those around us.  We can blame God. Or we can stay focused on God and have faith in our sufferings.  If you read on in Hebrews, there are many accounts of people of the bible who lived by faith, yet did not receive fully God's total reward.  That will come later when we can all rejoice in God's perfect gift together.

Let me leave you with this:

When we are faithful in the midst of our sufferings, 12 good things happen.

God is honored,

Jesus is pleased,

And the Holy Spirit is given a situation He can use for God's purposes.

The devil is infuriated,

Our enemies are puzzled,

The critics of the church are silenced.

The church itself is strengthened,

Believers going through tough times are encouraged,

The unsaved observe and want what they see.

You yourself are blessed and strengthened,

Your reward in Heaven is great,

Your reputation goes through the roof (Luke 6:35).

For believers -- for faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus -- suffering is not "par for the course."

It is the course.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance (James 1:2-3)

Despite what you may be going through today - success or suffering - keep your eyes firmly on the Lord.  Keep yourself grounded in prayer.  Jesus warns us that the road will be difficult.  There will be struggles.  It is easier to quit.  That is what Satan wants.  He wants you to throw in the towel for the promise of how easy life will be.  Trust me, it won't be.  

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.  If we choose to.

Many blessings to you today.  God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Jim