Tuesday, August 13, 2013

joy in the pain

“If you really want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, you need to remember what happened to the hands and feet of Jesus.”

They were pierced. Jesus suffered. Then, He died, so that we might live. And now He’s commanded us to pick up His cross and follow Him. Do we understand what that means?

The pool of greasy guilt sat in the bottom of my stomach Sunday morning, making me the kind queasy that only occurs when you know that you know the pastor is preaching right at you. He was outlining the five principles of a dynamic, expansive life in Christ described in Acts 21 as opposed to a static faith.

Principle #3: To follow Jesus is to live a “Suffering Life.”

When the disciples begged Paul not to go back to Jerusalem where he would suffer in Acts 21:10-12, Paul responded in verse 13, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Earlier in the book of Acts, when the Lord tells to Ananias to go get Paul, He says in chapter nine, verses 15 and 16, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel. I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for My name!”

And this is not just Paul’s fate, but James, Peter, John and even Jesus speak of suffering as a natural occurrence in the life of believers.

So here’s the real question: Why do I think I deserve something different?

I have grown up in church all my life. I followed the Ten Commandments. I did not drink of sip of alcohol before I turned 21. I studied hard and followed the rules. I saved myself for my husband. I gave up summer and spring breaks to go on mission trips. Yes, I’ve messed up, but I’ve tried so, so very hard to get everything right.

And with all of this came the unintentional understanding that God owes me.

He owes me a job that I love where I can make good money. He owes me an easy way to make friends in this new town. He owes me at least one day where something doesn't go terribly wrong.

But that understanding couldn’t be more far from the truth. When I surrendered my life to Christ, there was no promise of an easy life full of rainbows, puppy dogs and chocolate fountains. The Gospel says nothing about prosperity. We live in a fallen world, and we must not be surprised when hardships come our way. Even more, we are commanded to rejoice in those sufferings.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
-1 Peter 4:12-13

“Not only that, but 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 4:3-5

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
-James 1:2-4

I certainly do not want to belittle the persecution these early Christians faced daily, but the reality is that I will probably never be imprisoned, beaten or killed for my beliefs. However, my prayer is that I may be joyful amidst the trials and sufferings placed in my path today and to continually remember the hope I have in Jesus Christ.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33

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