Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are You Suffering?

Sometimes, it's hard to be motivated when bad things are happening all around, and also to yourself. In fact, when bad things happen to me, I'm often guilty of blaming God, or asking God why these things are happening. I am learning that our God is a perfect father in every way. That's not to say I believe if something bad happens, it's because God caused it to happen. Remember Job, God allowed Satan to have his way with Job. God was confident that whatever Satan did to Job, Job would remain faithful. But God does allow things to happen in our lives to break us, to strengthen us, and eventually cause us to depend on Him. Whatever situation I find myself in, it's helpful for me to remember that God is with me and will never leave me. God always remains. I might find myself to have left him, and squander my gifts and talents on something useless. But at the end of the day, when I find myself sitting in the muck, I know that If I return to God, He'll be there, waiting for me, and once He sees me walking down that road, He'll run to take me in.

So why do we have to suffer? I'm only going to offer up possibly one reason for now. I was talking with one of my older brothers the other day, and he gave me such a great reminder! By the way, I am so thankful for times when God's Spirit uses people to encourage others. My brother reminded me of the story of Joseph - in Egypt. Talk about a bad situation. Joseph was HATED by his brothers, in part because he was his father's favorite, also in part, because Joseph said the wrong thing at the wrong time. [Gen. 37:3, Gen. 37:5] So, his brothers stripped him and left him down in a well, only to raise him up again and sell him off to slave traders who were passing through. Joseph suddenly found himself caged, hungry, exposed, homeless, and far from home. That's a pretty bad situation in which I have never found myself in. Joseph was soon sold to a high ranking official in Egypt to serve he and his wife. Joseph quickly realized that God was on his side. Joseph realized that God was blessing him and he remained faithful to God. Once again, something else bad happened to Joseph which would quickly change his situation and level of comfort. He was accused of behaving improper to this official's wife and he was quickly thrown in jail. Again, I've never found myself to be in this bad of shape, but Joseph acted admirably. The jailor quickly realized that God was with this young man, and promoted him to be over all the prisoners and every activity that happened was first approved by Joseph. After serving a few years in prison - for nothing he had done, Joseph was quickly brought before Pharaoh - the leader of all of Egypt to interpret a dream. Joseph clearly explained to Pharaoh that he himself could not interpret, but that his God alone could. With God's help, Joseph explained to Pharaoh what his dream meant, and offered up a wise solution for them to follow to avoid ruin and devastation. Pharaoh realized that there was no one wiser than Joseph and immediately promoted him over all of Egypt. With God's help and the plan that He divinely explained to Joseph, Joseph's actions benefited all of Egypt and the surrounding nations. Everyone came to Egypt to buy food during a long famine and it was during this time that he was reunited with his family. Joseph realized and explained his greatest purpose in life was to be used by God to help save his family. [Genesis 45:5, Genesis 45:7, Genesis 45:8]

God can use people and their bad circumstances to bless others – if we allow ourselves to be used this way. It wasn't a joyous thing for Joseph to be mistreated, hated, sold into slavery, alienated from his family, and imprisoned. Joseph definitely trusted in God to take care of him, and God did bless Joseph greatly. As a result of Joseph's faithfulness, God blessed and protected a nation which would usher in the savior of the world!

Remember too, another mighty example of suffering found in the New Testament. The apostle Paul, an apostle of Christ who served much later after Jesus' life, was a faithful minister of God and Christ. Saul or Paul was chosen by God to serve him, and He wasn't going to make it easy for Paul either. [Acts 9:16] Some of his sufferings included these: [2 Corinthians 6:4-5, 2 Corinthians 11:23, 2 Corinthians 11:24, 2 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 11:26, 2 Corinthians 11:27] But Paul realized that God was going to keep him going, that God was going to use him to further God's kingdom. In fact, Paul talks to his Christian brothers and sisters about his afflictions when he writes in Ephesians 3:13, clearly expressing that his sufferings were for THEIR glory. Just like Joseph suffered many things to secure and protect the people of God, Paul too was suffering for the benefit of the people of God. Think about even now, the benefits we have because of Paul's sufferings. What a blessing it is to open up the word of God and read Paul's writings - writings which were spoken to him by God, given to us so that we may know the will of God. [1 Timothy 3:15, 1 John 5:13]

As we suffer, may God give us His blessings and knowledge that our sufferings are first made to build us up and make us stronger so that we might encourage others to also be made stronger. [2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, James 1:3-4]. Take the challenge of recognizing our sufferings as being something from God then realize how it is we can bless others to their benefit. God works in mysterious ways, and He works in His own time.