buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “When Suffering Comes”

Curve Balls

You just can’t tell when life will throw you a curve ball. Swoosh! Car accident. Swoosh! Fall off a ladder and break a leg. Swoosh! Someone you know dies suddenly. Those balls can come fast and furious. In every event, a new normal takes shape. Life continues on; we move on, sometimes slowly; but we go on. Things will never be the same again. However, nothing is a surprise to God. He saw it coming. In His Sovereignty, He allowed it to happen. He could have stopped it from happening. But for some reason, that “thing” happened. But God always has the last word on it.

I started this blog posting about three weeks ago. However, there was another word that was pressed upon me at the time. I woke up this morning with these words circling in my heart. You just never know when life will throw you a curve ball. What a difference a year can make or even a month or even more a day. The future is uncertain right now for me and my family. There is a season for everything, and the season is about to change. It’s a matter of when not if. A new normal is about to take shape.

Three weeks ago, my family celebrated my Dad’s 90th birthday. Today, he lies in a hospital bed. We don’t know the time when God will call any of us home. We just never know when things will happen that will change our future. Sometimes we ask why and we only get silence. We want life to be fair, but it’s anything but fair. We want justice, but there is no justice to be found. How can we live with this uncertainty with a peace beyond our understanding? Because of Jesus. When Jesus is in the picture, there is peace.

Peace beyond understanding. God is still Sovereign and on His throne. He is still glorious. His ways are still higher than ours. His thoughts still transcend ours. God still triumphs over evil – even when it looks like evil is winning. Whatever Satan has planned, God has a counter move. What Satan has planned for evil, God will make good out of it. It’s just the way God works. Satan can throw whatever he has at us, but when we have the peace of God, nothing will move us away from Him.

Satan will attempt many things to throw us off-balance. The curve balls can be his attempt to move us away from God. When we walk with Jesus, we are Satan’s target. Those curve balls will try to separate us from the only one who can keep us in the game. I heard a statement Tuesday night attributed to a singer who was questioned about Jesus being a “crutch” for all us Christians. The singer replied Jesus isn’t a crutch to him; Jesus is his stretcher. Jesus carries us. Sure we lean on Him, but it’s so much better when Jesus just picks us up and carries us through.

Levi Lesko wrote a powerful book written from a place of brokenness after he lost one of his daughters several years ago during the Christmas season. Right after they said goodbye to their precious one, Levi’s wife asked him to hand the hospital staff an invitation to the Christmas Eve service. In the midst of his pain, he handed the staff an invitation to make good out of a bad situation. Because of that invitation at a time when these parents could have walked away in their grief, they reached out and two of the staff came to know Jesus. Levi didn’t just lean on Jesus during that time. He couldn’t have delivered a message that would change people’s lives unless he was carried through it.

We never know how God will use the time of our greatest pain, but He will. We have to be open in those moments for God’s glory to come through. We have to be able to see the curve balls for what they are in this moment in time – God’s grace and mercy for such a time as this. There are hurting people all around us. Let us give them the gift of hope and let them be carried to the throne room of grace. Good can come out of a bad situation. Let God have the last word on it. And hit the curve balls out of the park, the game is already won but we can add to the number!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

Persist with Joy!

So the message this past weekend was to count it all joy. All the struggles, trials and tribulations are for a reason. God wants to take us from Point A to B – from where we are to where we need to be. He is developing in us a greater faith. Faith always has to be put to the test. Heaven is for the faith-filled believers; the ones who endured to the end. We never like to go through the storms in life. We are so anxious to get out of them before we learn the lessons. But Book of James tells us to stay the course and count it as joy. The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).

In my readings this past week, I learned of the Wright Brothers tenacity. I read of the struggles in Auschwitz through Viktor E. Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And in The Greatest Salesman in the World, I am contemplating “persist until you succeed.” The theme this week is persistence or perseverance. You never know when the next step will lead you to the promise. It’s always right before you. The trouble is we give up before we find the answer. It’s always just around the bend.

I was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ determination to fly. It was all they thought about. They persisted until they succeeded. They went through many years of tweaking their design until it proved right through all their experiments. Time after time, they focused on getting it right. If this worked this time, how can it be made better for the next version? During that same time, many others tried to develop plans for an airplane. Some were close, but they weren’t close enough; they never sustained flight. The Wright brothers focused on the birds. They saw how a bird used their wings to fly. The brothers worked their designs in accordance to how nature works, and the airplane came to be in a very simplistic manner.

Viktor E. Frankel’s book gives his account of the struggles behind the walls of the concentration camp. As I was reading about his fight to live, I wondered if the lucky ones were the ones who were taken to the gas chamber right away. They didn’t have to endure the harshness and horrendous circumstances in the camp. In his account, Viktor wrote about the ones who lost hope and gave up. They died right before liberation came. Viktor lived for three years behind those walls; barely surviving on very little food – a small bit of bread and watery “soup” each day. They worked in snow and ice with no gloves or coats to keep them warm. Some had shoes with no laces or no shoes at all. I am reminded of the depravity of man when man has no soul. But Viktor survived; he made it to the end of the war and saw liberation day.

We are told in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul fought the good fight; he finished his race and kept the faith until the end. Paul lived a life of testing. He endured the beatings, the shipwrecks, and various hardships. He stayed the course. After his conversion, Paul was told all that he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. And he did it. He was the man for that hour – to get the message rolling through the known world. His tenacity brought the message to you and me. He introduced the Gospel message to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And it spread like fire. He fought the fight so that we could keep it to ourselves. No, that’s not right. He did his work so that we could do ours.

We have our own battles to fight. We have our own hour to shine for Jesus. Our faith needs to be pure. It has to be tested and made sure. Like the refiners fire, the dross needs to be removed so that our faith is purified. When we suffer, we actually identify with Jesus. He took on our sin and shame and endured the cross for us. He suffered for us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we too have to suffer in this life. It will either draw us closer to Him or it will drive us away. This is the testing of our “soils” to see if we have good soil or the word was sown in rocky soil; when persecution comes, we fall away. Faith has to be sifted. The rocks have to be removed. It’s the only way to know for sure where we stand. When we endure until the end, we succeed in obtaining the crown of righteousness. When we count our trials as joy, we keep the end in mind – the crown will one day be ours, if we persist. So, persist; it builds character in us and gives us the hope for liberation day. It’s coming – count it as joy!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

Adversity: The Endurance Trainer

There have been a couple of times in the last week where the devotional readings have been in 2 Corinthians 11. This chapter lists all the hardships that Paul has endured for the sake of the Gospel. There were shipwrecks, floggings, beaten with rods, a stoning incident, danger from his countrymen and from bandits; the list continues with all that he has endured (not to mention the prison time). When Paul started his walk with Jesus back on the Damascus road, did he understand what all he was going to have to endure? There is one little statement the Lord told Ananias when Ananias was given the task to open Paul’s eyes. Ananias was trying to point out to the Lord just who this Paul (or Saul at the time) was and the harm that had come to the brotherhood by his hand. The Lord sends Ananias with “Go!” Acts 9:16 the Lord says “I will show him (Saul/Paul) how much he must suffer for my name.” I wonder if we were to see how much we were going to suffer, would we still follow Jesus?

When I was growing up, I never heard that following Jesus was going to be hard. Sure, it was going to be hard to follow the rules. I tried and failed so many times. But I had no clue that when we take the steps of faith, there will be opposition meeting us head on. Adversity is our character builder. Having an easy life doesn’t give us much of a foundation in developing our faith muscles. Faith has to be built with hardships. If Paul did not go through all that he went through, would the letters he sent to the churches be in our Bibles today? If he didn’t spend time in the prisons, would he have written as many letters? Probably not, to both of those questions. He was a gifted man for sure. But his character was built on his hardships. He could impart wisdom like no one else to those he was encouraging along the way (and to us today!). He had been there, done that and lived to tell about it! Psalm 118:17 became his testimony: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

On Paul’s way to Rome, the shipwreck that is recorded in Acts 27 tells of the fear that the men were experiencing in the storm. Fourteen days they endured the wind and the waves and all was hopeless; they feared death was coming. However, Paul gave the men encouragement. An angel had visited him and gave him a word that no one would be lost and Paul believed that word. Paul must get to his destination to stand trial before Caesar. God used Paul mightily to get the message to the world. It wasn’t easy, but Paul was faithful in doing all that God called him to. It started with a simple message to the one who would open Paul’s eyes – “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

No matter what we are called to do, our faith will be tested. This is not an easy life. Adversity is the building blocks for our character. Our character is essential to sustain us for our future; the future that God has planned for us. So many times I don’t want to endure the trial – the adversity. I have wanted to run in the other direction. I want out of the situation. But this is God’s way of refining my character. I need the adversity to make me stronger – to have a greater testimony. A couple of years ago, I went on my first mission trip. Before I went, Scripture kept speaking to me about suffering. I thought the trip was going to harder than it was. I didn’t suffer at all. So I forgot the message that suffering was coming. What I now understand is that we all will suffer at some point in our lives. It helps identify with Jesus and the suffering He endured for us (but not to the same extent). But it also draws us to God and develops a deeper relationship with Jesus. As Paul ends his life, he tells Timothy in the second letter (4:7): “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In the end, this is what we are all called to do. Keep the faith for it pleases God! Isn’t that our greatest accomplishment, to please God?!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 (NLT)

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