Perseverance in Suffering

2 Thessalonians 1-3

What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.”  In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering.  They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.

Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution.  Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other.  If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.

Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe.  It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day.  The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.

-Lacey Dunn

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Is it Eternal or Eternally Useless?

2 Corinthians 1-4

All+that+is+not+eternal,+is+eternally+useless.

Thursday, June 22

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 4:17-18

 

Each day is a new day to live, work, and accomplish new things. Everyone has goals and ambitions for what they would like to do and achieve. But it is important to remember that all our earthy success and money and goods are not long-lasting—they are not eternal. As C. S. Lewis remarked, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” Now, is it true that money and goods and other physical things are completely “useless” in all respects? No, not exactly. But what Lewis is getting at is that when it comes down to what really matters—only eternity matters. And as such, only those things which will last for eternity are of any true significance.

 

Paul exhorts his readers to realize that everything we suffer and go through in this life is just the precursor to the beautiful glory that is to come. There is a glory that is “beyond all comparison” waiting for God’s people. Everything that is in this world is perishable and will be destroyed one day when a new heavens and earth will be formed in its place (2 Pet 3:11-13). And the glorious, resurrection bodies and heavenly city of Jerusalem that God has prepared for his people surpasses any imagination of such glory that we could ever have (Phil 3:21; Rev 21:10-11).
But while on this earth during the present age, what do we get from all the hard work we labor in? The author of Ecclesiastes has a rather pessimistic outlook on all the hard work of life.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:15-16

As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?

 

What do we get for all our “toils”? Ultimately….nothing! It would be a terrible mistake to make prosperity, success, or fame the goal to which you set you eyes in life. These things have no eternal value, everything we have earned and accomplished in this life will come to nothing in the coming age. 1 John 2:17 says, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

 

The popular slogan, “Live for Today!” has both truth and error in it. While we don’t want our mind to be anxious and preoccupied about tomorrow that we forget to live in the moment and enjoy what is happening in our lives “now,” the problem is if all a person ever does is live for the “here and now.” Life is ultimately not about the “here and now” but about the destination of where everything is going. If we never raise our eyes to the horizon, then we will never gain an eternal perspective on life and understand the final objective to everything in life.

 

We must work and live in this world, but that is only what we are doing now. Life is not only about “now” but also about “then.” And “then” is what is truly important and eternal. So while we “toil” in this life, let us keep our eyes on the horizon and realize what actually is the true meaning of life. It is not what we see, but what we do not see. The unseen is eternal. If we live by faith, and not by sight, we will come to know the everlasting glory that is beyond all compare to anything in this world. Look to the things that are unseen and the spiritual reality of the life we have in Christ, awaiting the “riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: http://slideplayer.com/slide/6811229/)

 

The Opportunity We’ve All Wanted to Have

Habakkuk

Hab2

Thursday, April 20

There are some things that are guaranteed to happen in life: taxes, death, and suffering and evil. Haven’t you ever wanted to just have the opportunity to talk to God face to face? To have a conversation with him as we do with other humans? Each minor prophet has a characteristic about it that makes it unique from among the others. Habakkuk’s is this: he is the only prophet that dialogues back and forth to God as we do with each other, and the topic they discuss is suffering and evil. Specifically, how can God being just allow evil and suffering to continue?

The problem of evil is something all humans question, especially in light of God. Habakkuk and his context is no different. In the first four verses of chapter one, Habakkuk laments over the injustice that he witnesses, the wicked prospering over the righteous ones and the seemingly indifference that God exhibits in the present situation. Yet behold, God says in verse five, he will lead a foreign nation to punish the wickedness of his people in Judah. A common thread among all the prophets in the Bible: major, minor, Moses, John the Baptist, and others is that God ensures the prophet that justice is coming. Evil and wickedness will not triumph. Injustice and corruption will not be victorious. When we look back in the Old Testament we see again and again God takes action and rectifies the hopeless situation. But it’s important to remember that God does not act on our time, but on his.

Take for example, the enslavement of his people in Egypt. From the time they became slaves to when they were liberated was over four hundred years. How many Israelites cried out to their God during that time longing for liberation and freedom? Many. How many actually saw it come to fruition? Few. Yet God acted, and gave the Egyptians time to repent and let his people go. They refused, and God took his people out of slavery with a mighty hand.

The evil and suffering we witness God is not ignorant of. He is giving people time and opportunity to repent and reconcile with him through Jesus. But trust me, no, trust Exodus 34.6-7, that evil and injustice will not reign forever. He assured Habakkuk of this and he assures you and me today:

“Yahweh, Yahweh God is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives

iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means

leave the guilty unpunished.”

Exodus 34.6-7

 

-Jacob Rohrer

Write a Check

Job 35-38

job-375-e1444237761843

Thursday, December 22

Growing up and being the youngest of four, I went with my mom a lot of places.  One of the places I most accompanied her was the grocery store.  Candy was a rarity in my family (except for holidays), so when I reached the checkout and saw the limitless amounts awaiting there, I would start asking if I could have some.  On occasion, I would get my wish granted.  On other occasions, my mom would say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have the money for that.” I would quickly appeal by telling my mother, “You can just write a check, then.” “It doesn’t work like that,” she would respond.

 

My logic: I want candy: Mom has checks: I get candy.


Reality: I want candy; Mom has checks: money in bank account: I get candy

 

For 37 Chapters, Job has been trying to make sense of what is happening.  He has been to hell and back, but has remained faithful.  He sees his situation, and he sees God, and he wants God to “write a check”.

 

His logic: God is love:  He has the power to take this away:  I will not suffer

 

Reality: God is love: He has the power to take this away: Every act of a holy and loving God is to bring me into His kingdom: I will not suffer (Rom 8:28)

 

God’s plan is eternal.  It is wrought in creation and sanctified with the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is fashioned from His desire that all men should be saved, and none should perish (2 Pet 3:9). A glimpse into the depths of God’s plan begins in His rebuttal to Job:

 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone (WOW – Eph 2:20; Psa 118:22) while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4-7

Suffering, pain, and death are the direct and indirect results of sin, not part of God’s design.  Does God save us from suffering?  Yes, eternally and sometimes temporarily, but we should never forget he offers comfort, peace, hope, love, and joy in the midst of every circumstance. Every action God takes is not to save a fleeting life, but to give an eternal one.  While there is nothing wrong with asking God to “write a check”, keep close to your heart the plan which he has made and paid.

-Aaron Winner

Though He Slay Me

Job 13 – 17

 job-13

Saturday, December 17

Today’s reading records my favorite verse of the book of Job:

 

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ”  (Job 13:15)

 

Job lived this song. The Psalms plead this song.  Because of God’s sovereign care for us, every pain in this life is producing a glory that will last forever.  A Christian’s suffering should never be meaningless. Not only is all our affliction momentary, not only is all our affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every second of our pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every second of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory.

Job’s trust in God was not based upon emotion.  It was based upon a complete belief in God as the One who knew what was best for him in all situations.  It was based upon a complete belief that whatever God put into his life, God was still to be trusted.  Job uttered these classic words after he had gone through the worst testing that anyone has possibly gone through.  He didn’t look to what was seen, and neither should we.

Shane Barnard of the Christian contemporary music group, Shane & Shane, understands this truth too. After the untimely death of his father, he and his family desperately looked to God for comfort. They clung to God’s word, and in their deepest moments of grief, they were led to worship. The song below, “Though You Slay Me,” was born in that experience.

 

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

 

Therefore, do not lose heart. Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!

-Julie Driskill

 

 

Questioning God

Job 5-8

why Thursday, December 15

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? This is a re-occurring question we find Job and his so-called friends exploring in this section of scripture. The re-occurring theme seems to center around man’s status in the world. Man’s powers don’t come close to God’s, but according to Genesis, we were made in His image. Does that give us a right to talk back to God? Job would shout a resounding yes, but sometimes the exchanges back and forth between the friends and Job would give the reader mixed signals.

 

Usually when someone makes rules, it isn’t in the rulebook to question those rules. Job doesn’t deny that the rules exist, but he’s often found challenging their application. So as Job doubts God we find him taking a big step philosophically for Israelite thought. He is seemingly doubting tradition and this is a big leap. Job keeps acknowledging his innocence in his lengthy monologues, but he cannot quite reconcile how God in His divine justice remains silent in his suffering.

 

While this excerpt of Job is not offering any answers, it does provide helpful guidelines for thinking through issues. All men and women eventually suffer. It is in our duty as we feel the pain to explore the sovereignty of God – and eventually relinquish control that we never had in the first place. All Christians will go through challenging situations, by studying the life of Job it can help one to draw strength and encouragement until relief comes.

 

Julie Driskill

Hold ON!

Job 1-4

roller-coaster

Wednesday, December 14

The book of Job is an emotional rollercoaster. Rider/reader beware when you begin to venture this wild, scary, often windingly frustrating thrill ride. Pretty much everyone in the Book of Job dies except the main characters. But this story is about more than just mass destruction. Don’t get me wrong, the mourning rituals recorded after Job’s entire family dies are fascinating, but the physical destruction in the story leads to quite a collection of major philosophical ponderings that truly stick with the reader. Heavy, confusing stuff. You were warned.

 

The prologue places us in the land of Uz, not Oz, which is located far away from Israel. The unnamed author reveals no clear historical settings, and it seems as if all of the characters, except one, Elihu, are of any Hebrew origin whatsoever. The reoccurring themes throughout seemingly volley back and forth from the idea of suffering to justice. And by the way, don’t hold your breath, those questions will never get answered. Job will be pondering, reflecting, and VERBALIZING about how fragile and meaningless human life is in repeated fashion throughout.

 

The saga opens with the author declaring how awesome Job is, “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”(Job 1:3)  Wow. That is quite an endorsement. From this point we are ushered into the throne room of heaven in a very odd scene of sorts. The action resembles a court scene of sorts. God, the angels, and Satan are all present arguing the integrity and faith of Job. God gives Satan permission to test Job and the story gets very dark, real quick.

 

Pain is a central part of the human experience and there is no way around it. The book of Job covers all its pain bases: rashes, boils, and blisters, oh my! Not only does he experience physical pain but also emotional pain. Round that out with a heavy dose of spiritual pain and you can begin to see why Job finds himself at breaking points time and time again asking God why.

 

By chapter 3 & 4 we are introduced to Job’s “friends.” The reader will quickly discover that with friends like these you wouldn’t really have need of enemies.  The three bullies seemingly gang up on Job doing their best to convince him non-stop that he has sinned in some manner and God is simply punishing him for it. While Job is certainly down for the count, his consistent banter back and forth with the trio is mind boggling. Give it a rest Job? Just shut up and let them move on!

 

Remember how Job renounced God and became an atheist when his entire family died? No? Oh yeah, that’s because that’s not how it goes down. Nor will it ever be. Job makes it through Round 1 pretty successfully, but we find him getting more and more feisty when he finds himself with a rash and infuriating, obnoxious friends. And neither should we. Spoiler alert: God does not owe us explanations, and the sooner we come to terms with that timeless truth the happier we will all be. Tune in tomorrow as we observe the further unraveling of our besieged hero. I promise it will be worth the ride!

-Julie Driskill