I was recently reminded of a verse that you won’t find in any of the motivational messages you hear. You won’t pull it from your “Daily Bread” box. Nor will you find it preached during Sunday Morning Messages. But oddly, it is something Paul felt you need to hear.
It is found in his Pastoral letter to the church in Phillipi:
God has given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29)
Now, this makes, me anyway, ask what kind of suffering am I “privileged” to experience? Does this mean that I am “privileged” to have Diabetes? Huh? How is that a great honor? It has nothing to do with my actions as a Disciple of Jesus or the persecution I might receive as His follower.
No, it is, in my case anyway, because I abused my body for so many years with a high-carb, high-fat diet. I ate whole pizzas and drank probably 3 2-liters of Pepsi a week for a very long time! I still love pasta (though I have greatly reduced my consumption). Oh, don’t forget the doughnuts, cakes, pies and all kinds of other junk that I put into my body.
No, that wasn’t suffering for Jesus. In fact, I had ignored the warnings the Spirit of God was giving me about how I was abusing my body.
What about those who have had heart attacks, or juvenile diabetes. I deal with “Adult” diabetes. However, many are living with what they refer to as, “Juvenile” Diabetes. They weren’t abusing their bodies, but they are still confronted with the same disease.
Look, we live in a fallen world. Things changed after the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Pain and suffering settled on all of Creation. That is the reality we must face. Christians and non-Christians experience these things, just as we must face rain and snow! Not only that, evil men do evil things and when they do, many suffer the consequences of those actions.
The difference for believers is not that they are exempt from that kind of suffering, but it rests in how they respond to their suffering. Our Father is able to provide sufficient grace to sustain those who are suffering. How we respond to this “sustaining grace” can provide a perfect witness to the world of the Christian’s faith in their Father! I have heard many testimonies of how believers, who were lying in a hospital bed, provided evidence of the grace they received. While I was in the hospital for heart issues, I was able to share the Gospel with a couple of people and even prayed for a woman who, just that morning, was abandoned by her husband!
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Romans 8:28 quoted every time someone experiences a drastic event. Do you remember that verse?
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)
I am sure you have heard it before. It is probably the most quoted (and I will add, misapplied) verse in all of Scripture. It is thrown out whenever a Christian is recovering from surgery or a heart attack or any other difficult situation. They will even quote that verse when a parent loses a child!
But, tell me, does that verse really teach that all things in every situation work together for good to them that love God? No, it doesn’t! If you take it in the context of what Paul was discussing, the “all things” only pertains to those things that happen as a direct result of our living boldly for Christ.
But again, let me return to my point. What we need to do is not worry about the act of suffering; or the cause of suffering, but rather, let’s look at how we respond to whatever suffering we are experiencing!
Are you griping and complaining:
“Oh, whoa is me. I don’t deserve this”
“Damn it! I shouldn’t have to put up with this!”
“Oh, if that doctor wasn’t so incompetent, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“I have every right to be mad! You don’t know what they did to (or said about) me!”
“Hey! They ripped me off! By God, I should go down and shoot up that place!”
“I forgave them before. But not again!” [I love that one. So, you mean there are limits on our forgiveness?]
Have you heard comments like those? Personally, I think we need to “chill” a little. Psalm 119:165 says:
There is lasting peace for those who love your teachings.
Nothing can make those people stumble (Psalm 119:65)
Years ago, I read that verse. Oh, it must have been in the early 1980’s. But it was from King Jim’s Version:
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Psalm 119:65)
I read that and realized that indeed. what the Lord has done in my life! I don’t remember ever holding a grudge or being “offended” by anyone! People have said and done things to me, but I never responded in kind. Like my Lord, when people hurled insults at me, I didn’t retaliate; when I suffered, I never made any threats. Instead, I entrusted himself to my Father who judges justly! (I Peter 2:23)
We need to begin accepting life as it is, and say, “Father, I don’t like this situation, but you know, it doesn’t phase my love and admiration for you, one iota! You are my Wonderful Father and the Grace you have provided is way beyond what I deserve, and I thank you!”
Wouldn’t that be a more refreshing way to respond to the hardships of life?
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.