Over the years I have taken an interest in suffering because of my own challenges through cerebral palsy. It has made me more aware and sympathetic to the suffering others go through. This also gave me a particular appreciation for God’s special gifting and ministry given to Joni Eareckson Tada. After a diving accident when she was 17, she became a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. God has turned this incident into a remarkable ministry of comfort and hope for those who go through suffering of any kind.
Joni shares four benefits of suffering that caused her to become more like Christ. (1)
1. Suffering was forcing me to make decisions about following God – I was choosing Him more often over my doubts and fears.
2. Suffering was also doing a cleanup on my character – I was able to stick to promises, quit whining, not be sloppy with relationships, and be more patient. My thoughts were more pure – I couldn’t reach for the common temptations that used to entice me (having no hands to help).
3. Suffering was making me more sensitive to others – before my accident, I didn’t care much about people in wheelchairs, but now it is a different story.
4. I realized that being paralyzed was making heaven come alive – not avoiding, but in a way that made me want to live better here on earth because greater things were coming in the next life with Jesus.
Psalm 68:19 is a great comfort to me and I trust it will be to you also; “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up (bears our burdens).” In the circumstances you face, do you experience the presence of the Lord and find rest in Him? Read Matthew 11:28-30.
(1) Making Sense of Suffering, 2012, page 2.
I will be very honest with you; this question has often rattled my mind and heart, not so much because of what I have gone through, but because of what I see others experiencing. Those who believe the Bible to be true, realize that suffering is a result of sin that began with Adam and Eve.
As a Christian, some go through suffering that seems unfair or extreme. I am sure Paul may have felt that way when you read 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Yet, when we read chapter 4:16-18, he gives us a perspective that is very enlightening.
“So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
Notice how Paul places more emphasis on what God is doing to renew the “inner” person and what is “unseen” and “eternal.” God often uses suffering to change our focus from the “light momentary affliction” to the “glory” of what is eternal. Perhaps you, or someone close to you is going through a difficult experience. As you set your spiritual eyes on what God is preparing you for, you can also help others in their trial.
There is only one time in the entire Bible where anyone admits to unbelief. In Mark 9, the crowd was arguing because a father had brought his son with an unclean spirit to the disciples to cast it out, and they could not. The father then brought his son to Jesus.
After describing to Jesus what had taken place, the father pleads with Jesus to cast out the evil spirit. Let’s look at the father’s request; “And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”” (9:22). The problem was not whether Jesus could deal with the unclean spirit, the problem was with the faith of the father. So, Jesus replies to the father with, “‘If You can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.”
This is where God calls each of us to be honest with Him about our faith and how real it is. This father takes inventory of his faith and realizes there was a serious deficiency in his heart. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”” (9:24).
Are you willing to examine your faith and ask the Lord to help those areas where you lack faith? In this case, Jesus immediately takes action to answer the request. There may be changes God wants to make in your life or circumstances, but He is waiting for you to admit where you need help.
Is it hard to trust what we cannot see? In Hebrews 11, we are given a definition of trust, but the word used is “faith.” “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Let’s take these two phrases and look more closely at their meaning.
First, the definition of the word “faith” is “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance, or to have faith in” something. Usually we find the word in Scripture used in relation to something that cannot be seen.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” points to “that which provides the basis for trust and reliance or confidence.” For example, though we may have ‘heard the message of the gospel,’ God has also provided abundant proof of it through the Scriptures that are one unified testimony over many hundreds of years that they are true and reliable.
Faith is also “the conviction of things not seen.” That means there is enough “evidence as to the truth or reality of something.” This evidence removes doubt, even though we do not see the real thing that our faith has told us about. From historical proof to the power of God in the Christian, there is ample evidence to the person of Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
When it comes to the things of God, do you rely more on what you see, or do you allow the Holy Spirit to give you assurance that builds your convictions. His work is with the inner man so the outer man lives by the assurance and convictions of the inner man. What is He doing IN YOU?
Yesterday we looked at how fathers can better reflect our Heavenly Father. How can the truth that Jesus spoke in John 14:1-11 work out in us? The next verses help us unpack this question. “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (14:10–11). Think about His many works!
As an older preacher used to say, ‘let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road.’
1. As Jesus had a close relationship with His Father and was “one” with Him, so we as fathers must have a close association with Jesus so we know God through knowing Jesus. This is essential for being the father we want to be and that God designed us to be.
2. In knowing the Father because we know Jesus, the character of the Father becomes formed in our lives because of our walk with Jesus. The Father was in Jesus and Jesus was in the Father. To see one was to see the other. We have a similar phrase on a human level when we say, ‘he is just like his father.’ If we want our children to turn out to be godly men and women, we must model that character.
3. As Jesus did not speak or act on His own authority,the authority we use with our children must be more than human authority if they are going to see God as a Father reflected in the way we handle them. Authority in our lives must be exercised in a biblical manner. Anger, abuse and absenteeism in any form cannot be part of fathering.
4. God the Father’s love must come to us through our close walk with Jesus to be seen in the way we love our children. That is the best way they will learn God’s love.
5. The words we speak must no longer be driven by impatience and frustration, but by words of grace, love, truthfulness under the control of the Holy Spirit sent from God. While we are taught in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go,” they need to see what you say practiced by you and me.
6. Our actions will begin reflecting the Father to our children and others, so they will come to know the Father. You and I will one day pass away. What foot prints are we leaving behind?
“May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey. O may all who come behind us find us faithful!” (Steve Green – Find Us Faithful)
In many places around the world, tomorrow, Sunday, June 16th is called “Father’s Day.” The day is used to honor and celebrate those who are fathers. I want us to think about the best way to learn how to be a father.
What is the standard for fatherhood? Obviously, we must start with God. One of the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father. During those three and a half years of being discipled by Jesus, He mentioned God as a Father, especially in the prayer they asked Jesus to teach them.
Thomas and Philip may not have had good fathers; we are not told, but Jesus made the statement, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him”” (John 14:6–7), they were puzzled!
Philip took the opportunity to ask Jesus to see the real thing; “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (14:9-10).
This deserves thinking about Jesus statements and response.
· The only way to come to God is through Jesus.
· The only way to know God as Father and see Him is through knowing Jesus.
· Close association with Jesus and getting to know Him well, means we get to also know the Father.
· How can this be? There is a perfect oneness between Jesus in the Father. Jesus is the full and perfect representation (reflection) of God. “I and the Father are one” (10:30)
Paul states; “For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). Fullness means “full measure, completeness, or totality of the contents.” The statement that God’s fullness “was pleased to dwell” means that it was God’s “pleasure” to be fully in Jesus. The Father was “living” there in Jesus as His settled and established place to live. There was no part of Jesus’ life where God the Father was not perfectly represented.
The best place to learn fatherhood is by looking at Jesus who showed us the Father. Be careful where you look for a model of fatherhood. There is only one person who is the perfect example.
One of the subjects that is difficult for many to understand and accept is the sovereign choosing of God. If you struggle with this truth, you are not the first, and you are not alone. Paul had to help the believers in Rome with the same issue. Let me point out a few Scriptures to consider.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, understanding their struggle. Chapter 1:18 through 3:20 develops the conditions of man’s heart as foolish, impure, evil, self-seeking, unrighteous and with no fear of God. For God to extend mercy to anyone in the whole world is an act of undeserved favor, kindness and love. In addition to realizing our condition in sin without mercy, knowing that God is absolutely holy, pure and righteous means that our sin cannot continue with judgment.
Since we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” to be made righteous is “by His grace as a gift” (3:23-24). Since this is a “gift,” there is “no injustice with God…for He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (9:14-15). Salvation then depends on God and not human will or exertion (9:15-18). God's calling and His righteousness is based on faith for both Jews and Gentiles (see chapter 10).
If you are struggling with this concept of God’s sovereignty, I urge you to read the first eleven chapters of Romans and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and open your understanding. We will look at this principle again at another time.
While we are on the subject of prayer (yesterday’s blog), I want to emphasize how important your prayers for this ministry are to us. In seeking to follow Paul’s model, we never stay in one place for any extended time, believing that if the seed of God’s Word is properly planted, the Holy Spirit will carefully tend to its growth.
As Paul thinks about places where the gospel spread so rapidly, he remembers what God did at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8). This gives him liberty to ask them to pray for his work in other places. “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2).
It was not just the spread of the gospel that was on Paul’s mind as he asks for prayer. “Wicked and evil men” are in every place seeking to hinder, if not destroy, the work of God. While knowing that we already have the victory in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57), that final day has not come yet, and we still “wrestle…against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Since our weapons are not fleshly or carnal, we must rely on the power of the Spirit in prayer. So, pray for us.
Tim’s great grandson has open heart surgery tomorrow. Please pray!
This blog is reaching out to everyone who reads this blog and we are asking you to urgently pray for Tim’s great grandson. He was born Monday with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a complex and rare heart defect present at birth (congenital). The left side of the heart is critically underdeveloped. If a baby is born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the left side of the heart can't effectively pump blood to the body. Instead, the right side of the heart must pump blood to the lungs and to the rest of the body. This will require many surgeries to correct as the boy grows.
The baby is due to have his first surgery on Friday. The family is asking for prayer because his blood oxygen are low, and need to be better before surgery.
Please be in prayer for the little life that God has created and for the family.
No doubt there are many answers to that question raised in the title. Like many of us, our minds immediately think about the gift we were given for ministry; evangelism, preaching, teaching, and others. But they are not the first reason we were called. There is, of course, our salvation and the relationship we have with God through the Lord Jesus. Let’s read again what Mark says about Jesus calling the twelve disciples:
“And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles [messengers]) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14).
First, we should focus on the phrase, “so that they might be with Him.” The word “with” in this verse means “to be in close association with another person.” How this worked out with each disciple was different. On one occasion, only Peter, James and John went with Jesus up on the mountain and saw His glory (9:2-8). John was the only one who “leaned back against Jesus” (John 13:25; 21:20). The point is that Jesus wanted all of them to live the rest of their lives in this “close association” because it would have a direct impact on their ministry.
It is no different for you and me. If we expect to be “sent….out to preach,” or any other form of ministry, there must be this nearness to the Lord. Remember that Barnabas and Saul were “sent out by the Holy Spirit” as they “were worshipping the Lord and fasting” (Acts 13:2, 4). EVERY OTHER RELATIONSHIP IS SECONDARY! Are you experiencing this kind of relationship with the Lord? If you think you are, test every other priority by your walk and time with the Lord to see if He really is first.
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