Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Faith over Suffering

According to Mildred Witte Struven, our faith life during times of suffering is likened to a clay pot sitting in the sun needing to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. Suffering when anchored in faith produces the right behavior. The apostle Paul exhorted,

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“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Let not the weight of any suffering plunges our faith downward but realizing that when suffering challenges our faith in God, let it be transformed as a testimony for others to imitate. Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They're the only ones who can take it." Putting it in another way, Paul encouraged assessing any suffering in the right perspective: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). When we look at any suffering from this point of view, then it yields a resilient faith that glorifies God instead of feeling defeat.

How do we strengthen our resolve to stand strong in our faith against any suffering? Paul encouraged having the right attitude: “In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider-- God has made the one as well as the other So that man will not discover anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Tim Hansel shared,

Most of the Psalms were born in difficulty. Most of the Epistles were written in prisons. Most of the greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers of all time had to pass through the fire. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress from jail. Florence Nightingale, too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. Semiparalyzed and under the constant menace of apoplexy, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease. Sometimes it seems that when God is about to make preeminent use of a man, he puts him through the fire (You Gotta Keep Dancin', David C. Cook, 1985, p. 87).

The reality of suffering is evident around us and the apostle Paul provided an excellent reminder,

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 (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

If you need a reminder that your suffering is not as bad as Job’s, read the Scriptures how he overcame his sufferings. As a summary of Job's life in experiencing the worst kinds of suffering that any person could ever endure, Job kept his integrity intact and chose not to curse God. Instead of losing his faith in God, Job chose to honor God and kept his faith solidly anchored on God's promises. Somebody explained, “In adversity we usually want God to do a removing job when He wants to do an improving job. To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm.”

M.R. Dehaan provided an excellent representation of how suffering becomes a huge blessing when seen through the eyes of faith in God’s ways,

A little piece of wood once complained bitterly because it owner kept whittling away at it, cutting and filling it with holes, but the one who was cutting it so remorselessly paid no attention to it complaining. He was making a flute out of that piece of ebony, and he was too wise to resist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly. He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever, just a useless piece of ebony. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you for only thus can you be a blessing in the world.

Let’s talk again!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Journey Towards the Promises of God

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In following the Scriptures, I discovered that our life’s journey with God’s promises guiding our way assures us of success in attaining our vision. However, being entirely focused on moving ahead with a steadfast and wholehearted attitude is a must. The book of Hebrews described this kind attitude, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (11:13, NIV). Gertrude Cramer Williams described it this way: "I think I can" are four magic words that create success; four magic words that when woven into the fiber of our human thoughts can make all the difference in the world as to whether we succeed or fail.”

Allow me to share some key ingredients on our journey towards the promises of God. First, we need clarity of vision and faith. J. Sidlow Baxter explained, “What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” Job exclaimed, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (19:2, NIV). Next, adopt a sense of anticipation with confidence. Elisabeth Elliot stressed, "If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things.  It is we, of course, to whom things look "little" or "big." When attacked by anxieties, declare like the Psalmists, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalms 42:11). Finally, stand on your faith with renewed patience while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Helen Keller emphasized, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." The book of Hebrews offered an excellent reminder when faced with such difficulties,

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:10-12).

Keeping our hearts and minds aligned with God’s promises with absolute confidence is a non-negotiable deal. The Our Daily Bread dated January 1, 1985 listed 12 promises for the Christian to claim:
1.     God's presence -- "I will never leave thee" (Heb. 13:5)
2.     God's protection -- "I am thy shield" (Gen. 15:1)
3.     God's power -- "I will strengthen thee" (Isa. 41:10)
4.     God's provision -- "I will help thee" (Isa. 41:10)
5.     God's leading -- "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" (John 10:4)
6.     God's purposes -- "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 20:11)
7.     God's rest -- "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28)
8.     God's cleansing -- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)
9.     God's goodness -- "No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly" (Psalm 84:11)
10. God's faithfulness -- "The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake" (1 Sam. 12:22)
11. God's guidance -- "The meek will He guide" (Psalm 25:9)
12. God's wise plan -- "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28) -

This New Year is another opportunity for all of us to experience God’s promises in a new level. Allow Him room to fulfill His promises as He sees fit for our sake. God is in the habit of fulfilling them in a grand way and He never ceased to amaze those that wait for Him. Remember that He will never let us down.

Let’s talk again!