Suffering Viewed Through the Lens of Faith

A few weeks ago Jimitri and Ruby Green, much-loved members of our congregation, learned that little Jimitri Jr. (whom they call Deuce) has a rare form of leukemia that is difficult to treat.

Yesterday Jimitri sent an update on Deuce’s condition. He’s making good progress, in answer to many prayers!

Peace in the storm

What impressed me most is the upbeat attitude they have chosen to take through this ordeal. Jimitri wrote:

“The following statement may sound weird, but I am blessed to have the opportunity to go through what we are experiencing. Although it is hard, there is a great deal of good that has come from it, and we’ve spent the multitude of days thus far in pure and perfect peace, knowing that God is with us. It’s amazing to know that so much peace comes with faith and trust. We’ve realized that God has not promised us a life without storms. But what He has promised to those who trust in Him is “Peace” in those tribulations.

“Please let the church know that we love them so much and that every word of encouragement, every card and every visit are not overlooked nor taken for granted. It fills our hearts with so much cheer to know that we are not in this alone.”

Joy in suffering

If Jimitri and Ruby did not have their faith and the encouragement and prayers of their church family, how well would they be doing?

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

The paradox of joy in suffering may seem to some to be unrealistic and nonsensical, but to Jimitri and Ruby, it makes perfect sense.

They’re living it!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Difference-Maker

Twice a day for forty days, the stalemate continued. The Philistines’ pride was Goliath, 9½ feet tall. Fully armed and extremely intimidating, Goliath repeatedly dared Israel to put forward a man to fight him. There were no takers.

Except one

When David the young shepherd arrived on the scene, he heard Goliath’s challenge. His reaction was totally different from everyone else’s: “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26).

When David announced he would take on the giant, King Saul was skeptical. David then cited the times he had successfully killed a lion and a bear that attacked his flock. “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (v. 37).

When David went out to face Goliath, he said, “. . . I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel . . . . This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands . . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel . . .“ (vv. 45-46).

In a few moments it was all over. Goliath lay prone on the ground, beheaded.

The Philistines fled, with Israel in hot pursuit.

So what made the difference?

Note in David’s statements quoted above he consistently expresses confidence in God.

To Saul’s army, it was Goliath versus Israel. To David, it was Goliath versus God.

And he knew which had the greater Power by far.

We deal today with the same God David did.

Oh, to believe as David did!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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In God We Trust?

What He promises

BIBLE THOUGHT: ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Evidently God knew it needed emphasizing. Although the principle is worded in many different ways, perhaps it is often repeated throughout the Bible so we will get the point if we miss it the first time.

Trustworthy?

The principle is this: Rely on God without reservation. Do not rely on anything or anyone else—not on yourself, not on political leaders, not on military power, not on wealth. Rely on God, on God alone.

“Little faith in a strong plank will carry me over the stream; great faith in a rotten one will land me in it” (Burton).

If we rely on Him, we will find Him totally reliable. If we trust Him, He will prove trustworthy. If we depend on Him, He is absolutely dependable. If we have confidence in Him, He will not disappoint us. If we put our full weight down on Him, He will hold us up.

Psalm 33 contrasts false trusts with the Lord, who “is our help and our shield.” “Help” means enablement. “Shield” involves protection. The psalmist urges us to fear Him, hope in Him, wait for Him, rejoice in Him, trust in Him.

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Adapted from an article by JDG in the daily devotional guide Power for Today

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Believed on in the World”

Yesterday’s post focused on the fourth in the series of six great truths about Jesus Christ: “Proclaimed among the nations” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Today’s truth is the logical result of yesterday’s. When the gospel (good news) of Jesus is proclaimed, God intends for those who hear to believe and obey the gospel (Acts 11:13-14; Romans 1:16; 10:10-17; 16:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Only then can anyone be saved (Mark 16:15-16).

Broadening proclamation

The gospel first went to the Jews: “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number . . .” (Acts 5:14).

Then to the Samaritans: “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12).

And finally, to the Gentiles: “. . . you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Expanding response

“. . . before seventy years had passed . . . men from every nation accepted this crucified Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Here in this simple phrase [“Believed on in the world”] there is the whole wonder of the expansion of the Church, an expansion which on any human grounds was incredible” (Wm. Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Westminster Press, 105).

Who but God could use such improbable means to achieve such incredible ends?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Man Who Amazed Jesus

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A true story with a happy ending

What was there about the Roman army officer that impressed Jesus so much? Here’s what happened:

“. . . a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it.’

“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel’ . . . . And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:5-10, 13).

Amazing faith!

From his own military experience this centurion recognized that he and Jesus had something in common: both were under higher authority. The centurion could issue orders to his men because the authority of Rome itself was behind him.

Jesus could issue commands because of the authority of heaven behind Him.

Because Jesus was linked to God, who gave Him the power to heal, Jesus could help the centurion’s servant, and the centurion knew it.

Jesus marveled at this centurion’s ability to see the parallel chains of authority: from Caesar down to the centurion down to the men under him—parallel with God’s authorizing Jesus to heal diseases of all kinds.

In reality, Jesus represented a far greater Power than Rome.

And the centurion knew that too.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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When It Doesn’t Make Sense

Should we obey God? Before we answer too quickly: What if we bump up against a command in the Bible that makes no apparent sense to us, or perhaps rubs us the wrong way?

Let’s consider the following interchange between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Peter’s challenge

“And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.”

What Jesus asked Peter to do here was easy. It didn’t require much effort, and it made perfect sense.

But notice what happens next: “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”

Initially he states the facts: worked hard, all night, caught nothing.

“. . . but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

After a night of hard work with only empty nets to show for it, fishing was probably the last thing Peter wanted to do at the moment. Who could blame him?

But good ole Peter! Overcoming his natural reluctance, he obeys—and is amply rewarded.

“. . . they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.” Peter and his partners “filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:1-11).

The nets that came up empty the night before are now torn by the weight of the catch!

In response to the facts Peter cited—worked hard, all night, caught nothing—Jesus provided a new set of facts—great quantity of fish, nets breaking, boats sinking.

Jesus positive facts far outweighed Peter’s negative facts.

Peter’s growth

This wouldn’t be the last time Peter would find what Jesus said extremely difficult to accept. As time went on, Peter realized increasingly that Jesus is never wrong.

To his credit, Peter moved past his initial objections: “. . . but I will do as You say . . . .”

If Peter had known all along what was about to happen, would he have objected? But since he didn’t know, he had to trust.

He was learning to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What was Peter’s reward that day? A big catch? Something far better: a strengthened faith and a clearer understanding of just how powerful Jesus is.

What if Peter had refused to obey?

And what if we?

Christ’s power + our obedience → great results.

Makes sense.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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In Exchange

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One day I accidentally dropped a large paper clip into the crack between the seat cushion and the back of the couch in our den. In trying to retrieve it I pulled out a ballpoint pen, then another, and then another. I never did find my paper clip.

Not a bad trade-off—three pens for one paper clip! Maybe I should drop another paper clip down the crack.

Loss is bearable if we get something better in return. In everyday life we are perfectly willing to exchange our hard-earned dollars for something we really need or want, especially if it’s a real bargain.

Jesus’ offer

Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He had just said that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (verse 24; see Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).

We must give up ourselves (our own desires and comfortable, familiar ways of thinking and living) and instead let Christ determine our values and goals.

We let Him own us completely instead of our trying to direct our own little world.

In exchange, He promises us life that is life indeed (John 10:10). But if we’re not willing to let go of ourselves, then we’re the ultimate losers.

Our response?

If we should trust Jesus enough to do as He directs, will we be disappointed in the long run? Does Jesus offer what He can’t deliver? Can He be trusted?

The Rich Young Ruler was unwilling to make the trade—and he was sad (Matthew 19:16-22). Paul was willing—and he was glad (Philippians 3:4-14).

Are we willing to stake everything we’ve got on the conviction that His way is best for us—and that someday we will be glad we took Him up on it?

Ever so glad!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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