God Redeems Our Suffering

redemption 2

2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (NIV)

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

 

Hebrews 11 (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 

God isn’t in the business of bringing unlimited wealth, prosperity, and happiness to our earthly lives.  God’s in the business of transforming His children, whom He freed from sin’s shackles, into Christ’s likeness.  The Lord doesn’t promise His followers a walk down “easy street.”  He beckons us to shoulder our crosses along the narrow path.  The Father’s pruning hand is an expression of His love, as He prepares us to pursue His purposes for our lives.

The great author C.S. Lewis once said, “We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are rebels who must lay down our arms.”

In the two passages, we see examples of the many hardships that God’s people had to endure throughout the Bible.  Paul, who sis more to advance the church more than any other person who lived, had to suffer so much suffering during his time on earth.  In Hebrews 11, we see a systematic account of all of the great people from the Old Testament and the suffering they endured.  Please reread these two above passages and ask yourselves the following two questions:

  1. What did the people listed in Hebrews 11 have in common with one another?
  2. What are some way the Lord can use suffering redemptively in our own lives.

As believers, we’ve experienced God’s grace, blessing, and redemption in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we won’t also experience trouble, hardship, pain, and suffering.  Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:38, “Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High?”

Biblical history is filled with examples of God-fearing servants who faced adversity.  Noah faced a worldwide flood; Abraham faced an uprooting, a long wait, and an unthinkable command; Joseph faced betrayal, slavery, and false accusations; Ester face the threat of death; Job faced terrible loss; and Paul faced beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and imprisonment.  Yet they all remained faithful, trusting in God’s perfect will and timing.

The Lord can redeem suffering for kingdom purposes.

 

Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

God does not enjoy the fact that we experience suffering here on earth.  But, sometimes we need to experience some suffering to get to the place that God needs us to be at.  In other words, we can’t fully become the person God has designed us to be without us having to experience valleys.  It is during these tough times that we are forced to rely on God and seek His help.  When we do that, God can fix us from the inside out.  If we never come to Him, we will never experience those changes inside of us.

The best part of it all is knowing that through God’s promise and the suffering that Jesus experienced on our behalf, when our pilgrimage as his followers through this troubled world ends, God will usher us into an eternal realm free from pain.  What a glorious day that will be indeed.

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The Bread of Life That Satisfies Our Spiritual Hunger

bread of life

John 6:22-58 (NIV)

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.24  Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 

This passage, found in John 6, occurred right after Jesus had fed 5,000 people out of a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish and everyone had their fill of food that Jesus provided them.  This passage is the follow-up conversation Jesus has with these people who He had fed.

Four different times in this passage, from Joh 6, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life (vv 35, 41, 48, 51).  In Jesus’ day, bread was considered the most important part of the meal.

In today’s culture, when we visit a restaurant, we generally focus on the entrée while the basket of bread is considered secondary.  In Jesus’ day, meat was more like a side dish; bread represented the major part of the meal.  Also in Jesus’ day, nearly everyone had access to bread.  Poor people used barley to make bread while the wealthy used wheat, but almost everyone had the means to make or buy bread.

When Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, He was saying that He was the staple needed by everyone.  He was the most important part of life.  Jesus was saying that He was the food that never perishes and the bread that never grows stale.  Just as food is vital to survival, Jesus is essential to salvation.  The wonder of bread is not its nutritional value, but its universality.  The wonder of Jesus is that He is the only true, universal provision for the spiritual needs of every person.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, our ultimate satisfaction.

Ravi Zacharias once said, “With all our ingesting and consumption, our hungers are still many and our fulfillments are few.”  We are a society that consumes like no other in history, yet at the same time, we seem to be less fulfilled than any other generation in society.  Maybe we are focusing on the wrong kind of food.

Loaves and fishes can meet our body’s need for physical nourishment, but we have a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by growing in a right relationship with Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.

Today, we need to ask ourselves one very important question:

How does Jesus satisfy your spiritual hunger?

If you find this question difficult to answer, then maybe you should examine your life to see what role Jesus plays in your life.  If Jesus plays a very small part in your everyday life, then you are going to be going through your days with a hunger that no trip to any fast food joint will be able to fill.  Fill yourself with a relationship with Jesus and you will find that you are fuller than you have ever known.

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Sacrificial Love Is the Way

sacrifical love

Hebrews 10 (NIV)

10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

38 And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

 

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice when He selflessly laid down His own life for us so that we could have eternal life with Him.  He offers grace and mercy so abundantly that it disarms and amazes us.

C.S. Lewis once said of Jesus, “When God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary.”

Jim Braddock once supported his family as he fought in the boxing ring in the 1920s.  A movie about this famed boxer’s life portrayed legendary boxing matches, as well as heart-wrenching realities that plagued the world during the Great Depression.  The movie was titled Cinderella Man and Russell Crowe played Jim Braddock in the movie.

In one powerful scene in the movie, Jim’s daughter, Rosemary, was sitting at their breakfast table and asked her mom for more food.  Her mother Mae responded that there was no more.  Jim didn’t lecture his daughter about being grateful and content with what she had.  Instead, he told Mae and Rosemary about a dream he had the night before in which there were thick steaks and lavish food.  With a gleam in his eye, he told his daughter he was full from such a hearty “meal” and asked if she’d help him finish his food.  Then he gave his daughter his breakfast, kissed his wife, and left for work.

We can reflect Christ’s love by putting the needs of others before our own and by pointing them toward our Savior, who sacrificed His own life so that we could have abundant and eternal life in Him.

As you read through Hebrews 10, we get a much clearer picture of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for us; even the us that were yet to come.  Please read through Hebrew 10 again and ask yourself this question:

In what ways did Christ lay aside His comforts for us?

Then ponder the following question:

What are some ways we can reflect Christ’s loving sacrifice in our relationships with others?

We were designed to be a living representation of Jesus on this earth after He left this word almost 2,000 years ago.  Are we doing a good job of that?  If not, now may be a time to step back a reevaluate our priorities and make sure we are putting the most important things first.  Very rarely do any of us help or show love to another person and then regret doing that later.  We were designed to love others and help them out when they need help.  It is just a matter of doing it.  When you do, I promise, God will be smiling down on you.

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Don’t Be So Quick to Judge

judge 1

James 2:1-13 (NIV)

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.”  If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

A while back, while on the road for work, I found myself in a fast food restaurant to grab a bite to eat.  I was in the middle of a 6 hour drive so I was looking to get in and out as quickly as possible.  Shortly after I arrived, a bus full of school kids arrived and seemed hungry as ever.  Luckily, I had arrived before them so I had already ordered my food and just avoided the rush.  I was able to observe the action from my table as I was eating my lunch.

You should have seen the faces of the employees when this huge group of kids arrived.  You would have thought that the kids had never eaten out before or that their sponsors were stuffing them in preparation for a week of medicore camp food.  They ate and ate.

On the menu that day was a new, enticing concoction: the bacon sundae.  I love bacon and I also love bacon so why not put the two together.  The kids seemed intrigued, but each seemed afraid to actually order one.  Finally, one kid was brave enough to order one.  As soon as this young boy received his bacon sundae, the kids all gathered around him as if they were watching a science experiment that might blow up.  They gagged in mock disgust as this young boy sampled the dessert.  The other kids pronounced denouncing opinions of the sundae with great authority in their voices.  They spoke their judgments with maniacal glee.  It was quite a scene for just a sundae.

Playfully poking fun about a bacon sundae is one thing, but judging others about the weightier matters of life is a completely other matter.  It’s important to take care what and how we judge.  As recipients of God’s great mercy, Christians should be prayerfully and particularly mindful about the judgments we make.

Bono, the lead singer from U2, once said in an interview with Jim Daly, “The hypocrisy of the human heart is a remarkable thing.  And the piety and judgmentalism of the faithful can be very annoying.”  Those are some pretty strong and condemning words, but it is so often true.  Those who have faith should know better than to do this, but sadly, they seem to be leading the charge in judging others.

Biblical truth guides our knowledge of what’s right and wrong.  Biblical mercy and prayerful discernment should temper how and when we offer judgement to others.  Exercising a Christian attitude means making judgements based on biblical morality without being judgmental and self-righteous.

Today’s passage, found in the book of James, talks about this very thing.  It talks about how we should not judge people based on their outward appearance, but rather on the character found within their souls.  We should not show favoritism and it is really not our place to judge the sins of others.  The only One who has a right to judge is God.  We all get individually judged on our lives after we leave this world and that is the only judgement that really matters.  That is reason enough to leave the judging part up to God.  Our only job, when it comes to those around us, is to love them with the very best of our ability.

Take a few minutes today to think about some of the ways that God has shown mercy towards you in your life.  Think about times you were forgiven when you probably didn’t deserve it.  Use these thoughts when you think about your dealings with others and hopefully this will help you to be more merciful to others.

Can you recall any instances in your own life when you might have come across as self-righteous and judgmental towards others?  It can be an easy thing to do, but the long-term consequences of doing so can be very devastating.

Don’t be so quick to judge others.  Remember, you have plenty of things that could easily be judged as well.  We are all flawed, but despite this fact, God is still willing to forgive us.  Maybe that should be lens we see others through.

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Overcome Fear by Trusting God

fear 1

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

In many ways, faith is the key to the Christian life.  Everything we receive from God we receive by faith.  He is the One helping, providing, encouraging, promising, and loving us.  And we know that God values our faith in Him.  Our faith is the basis of everything and it starts with our belief in God.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Then 1 Peter 1:7 adds that the “genuineness of your faith is more valuable than gold.”  Clearly, faith is immensely important.  Whatever hinders faith must be dealt with.  Fear hinders faith, perhaps more than anything else.

Alexander Maclaren once said, “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles.  If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation.  He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.”

As human beings, we desire to be in control.  The problem is, we’re clearly not.  Bad things happen to us and to people we know.  The world can seem out of control.  While it’s certainly fallen, and bad things do happen, it’s not out of control.  Our Father is in charge, despite all appearances to the contrary.  He can be trusted, though that’s not a guarantee against all pain.  God uses our suffering to make us more like Christ.

We exercise faith when we choose to take God at His Word and to believe in His promises.  Today’s passage, found in Isaiah 41 assures us that we don’t need to be afraid, because the Lord is with us and He will strengthen us.  We can trust that He won’t let us go.  Trusting in God’s promises helps us to overcome fear.

So as we are thinking about this idea, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What fears do you tend to struggle with?
  2. Can you recall times when God helped you overcome your fears?

I would encourage each of you to trust in God.  If you can find it within yourself to do that, God will replace your fears with a strong faith.  A faith that will transform your life.

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God Redeems Our Suffering

redemption

2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (NIV)

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

 

Hebrews 11 (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 

God isn’t in the business of bringing unlimited wealth, prosperity, and happiness to our earthly lives.  God’s in the business of transforming His children, whom He freed from sin’s shackles, into Christ’s likeness.  The Lord doesn’t promise His followers a walk down “easy street.”  He beckons us to shoulder our crosses along the narrow path.  The Father’s pruning hand is an expression of His love, as He prepares us to pursue His purposes for our lives.

The great author C.S. Lewis once said, “We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are rebels who must lay down our arms.”

In the two passages, we see examples of the many hardships that God’s people had to endure throughout the Bible.  Paul, who sis more to advance the church more than any other person who lived, had to suffer so much suffering during his time on earth.  In Hebrews 11, we see a systematic account of all of the great people from the Old Testament and the suffering they endured.  Please reread these two above passages and ask yourselves the following two questions:

  1. What did the people listed in Hebrews 11 have in common with one another?
  2. What are some way the Lord can use suffering redemptively in our own lives.

As believers, we’ve experienced God’s grace, blessing, and redemption in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we won’t also experience trouble, hardship, pain, and suffering.  Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:38, “Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High?”

Biblical history is filled with examples of God-fearing servants who faced adversity.  Noah faced a worldwide flood; Abraham faced an uprooting, a long wait, and an unthinkable command; Joseph faced betrayal, slavery, and false accusations; Ester face the threat of death; Job faced terrible loss; and Paul faced beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and imprisonment.  Yet they all remained faithful, trusting in God’s perfect will and timing.

The Lord can redeem suffering for kingdom purposes.

 

Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

God does not enjoy the fact that we experience suffering here on earth.  But, sometimes we need to experience some suffering to get to the place that God needs us to be at.  In other words, we can’t fully become the person God has designed us to be without us having to experience valleys.  It is during these tough times that we are forced to rely on God and seek His help.  When we do that, God can fix us from the inside out.  If we never come to Him, we will never experience those changes inside of us.

The best part of it all is knowing that through God’s promise and the suffering that Jesus experienced on our behalf, when our pilgrimage as his followers through this troubled world ends, God will usher us into an eternal realm free from pain.  There is no pain and suffering found in heaven and that is what all believers have to look forward to.  What a glorious day that will be indeed.

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Walk in the Light

walk

John 8:12 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The word light is a metaphor that occurs more than 20 times in the first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel.  Jesus wasn’t saying that he was holding the light or that He had the light or that He’s the way to the light.  Instead, He unequivocally stated, “I am the Light.”  In doing so, He was claiming to be deity.  Rabbis used “light” as a name for Messiah.  When Jesus said He was the Light, He was saying that He is God and, therefore, He is the source of life.  The sun is necessary for sustaining life, but the One who created the sun and the universe is the source of all life.

C.S. Lewis once said, ”I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Everything comes from God and is therefore filtered through God.  If a person does not believe that, then they are in denial.

Darkness is often a metaphor for sin, spiritual blindness, and death.  Light and darkness cannot coexist.  When you turn on a light in a darkened room, immediately the darkness vanishes.  Christ is the Light who dispels spiritual darkness.

Not only does the light dispel the darkness, but it also lights our path.  Jesus is essential to our spiritual life.  As rain and sun are critical to earthly crops, we need Christ to nourish and help us grow in our spiritual walk.  He alone possesses the map to life.

To be a follower of Christ is to give our body, soul, and mind in obedience to Him.  As we walk in the Light, He delivers us from darkness and guides us on the path towards pursuing His purposes.

 

Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

The question I want us to ask ourselves today is:

How can I be more intentional about walking in Jesus’ light in my daily life?

When you figure out what you can do, the next step is to implement them into your daily life.  Make it a daily rhythm in your life to spend time with God.  Be intentional about living your life in a manner that reflects Jesus.  Doing this will change your life forever.

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