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!