Suffering is an amazing concept in the Christian life. If you watch certain TV Christian Shows you would think that suffering is not something any Christian should have to deal with at all. Everything is great, and by the way, don’t forget to send me your check. You can immediately discount the “I’m picking out this Scripture to preach because it makes my point” type of preacher. Of course, in making an argument we would go too far the other way to prove our point. Both have some right and some wrong, but both must be lined up with what Scripture says. Our Bible Study Teacher said something that made the whole class laugh this past Sunday, when he said, “Here’s what scripture says, and it’s hard to argue with scripture.” We didn’t laugh because it was funny to mention that, but that it makes total sense. How can you argue with something if it says it in the Bible? You can’t!! There are answers to everything you ask “in the Bible.” The Bible is true to the core, with great insight in how to live your life and follow the right path. The Bible is a constant source of encouragement, correction, and direction. Then why don’t we use it? Because it has parts we like and parts we have trouble with when it deals with our wants and desires. Pure truth has a way of doing that….You know, raining on our parade. If you are like me your parade has been rained on a bunch lately and it gets old after awhile. But guess what? I still trust God!
Point in case: Early in my ministry I was serving with a fellow minister who was my superior and he did everything the Bible said “not to do.” He lied, he cheated, he stole, he beat up on people, and he carried the sword of superiority to the max over me and everyone else.
He had a long list of coworkers he had “canned” when they didn’t agree with him and I was on his list. He attacked me financially and emotionally and every step I took was like walking through quick sand. I cried and tried to deal with this whole situation by getting tougher and wiser, but it got worse and worse. Him being my superior caused me great damage in my respect for that position and almost shut me down. Then I read the scripture in 1 Peter 1:18-25. I realized in this scripture that there was hope. In verses 18 and 19 Peter shares that being submissive to unreasonable people is good and that it finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. Hmmm. Bears up. Now think about that one. God is apparently planning on me going through some tough times a.k.a. suffering, from time to time and He is saying one thing, “bear up.” Then in verse 20 that strength scripture comes through where it says, “But if, when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” There it is…..favor. I pray for God’s favor on a daily basis. I long for God’s favor almost on a minute by minute thought pattern. But, there is one way to get it….Bearing up. I wonder where this reasoning comes from…..hmmmm could be JESUS. Peter goes on to tell that Jesus, who had no sin, and suffered, didn’t revile or strike back, but He entrusted Himself and the problem to God the Father. And since we were healed by His stripes He is the ultimate example of “what to do” in the suffering situation. Wow. When I read this I got not only peace, but strength. It helped me get over the hump and every time my superior came at me, I smiled and went on and let God fight that one for me. I became a Spiritual Punching Bag! Have you ever hit a punching bag continuously? I can tell you now, you may get in your licks, but you will “punch out” after awhile. Why? Punching bags are made to withstand more blows than one person, or many people can put on them. When the ones who are throwing the blows get tired and fade away, the punching bag continues to hang there, ready for whatever may come their way.
So. Who comes out ahead on this whole thing? Well, Jesus does. Remember, it’s all about HIm, our Savior. But when He comes out glorified in all of this, He lifts us up and blesses us. That’s the way it works. Human reasoning will reject suffering, but God’s Word uses it to bring out righteousness in a fallen world. Remember, the first will be last, and the last will be first? Well, here it is! For us to lose our high and mighty standing, per our own opinion is like saying “Dude, Where’s my car?” We feel like when we lose our pride, we lose our only identity vehicle for greatness. Not so! Forget the car and forget puffing yourself up. God is our vehicle for greatness and it is found in following Him and Him alone. He is our strength. He is our hope. He is our everything in every situation. Verse 25 says, “You were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
Basically, God is fighting your battles for you if you do what is right. If you don’t think you can trust God to take care of your business, then you need to look back to the moment you received Christ and eternity in Heaven became a reality to you because of God taking care of business, namely sin business. You may feel like a Spiritual Punching Bag from time to time, but remember, when it’s all over those who have been punching will quit punching because they can’t beat you down because God has insulated you from falling. Then they will give up and walk away. Now THAT is a good word….
The Pilgrimage continues…..