June 23, 2014 - Serious Struggles

There is no winning, no victory—you just have to keep moving forward an hour at a time, and hope you can do it just one more day.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion

This is the consolation offered on a major television program to a woman suffering deeply from the tragic loss of her husband. If you are having difficulty grasping this advice, that’s good—because God has a much better plan than hoping you can make just one more day.

The world views death and suffering differently than those of us who know Christ as our Savior. But we are being taught from some pulpits that suffering is not of God—and if you are suffering, you are out of His will.

Scripture does not support such a teaching. In Matthew chapters 9 and 10, Jesus sends the Apostles into hostile territory to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. He knows that they will face difficulties, disappointments, prejudice and much more, but He sends them anyway.

In no uncertain terms, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be persecuted—not for doing anything wrong, but rather for serving Him and following His instructions. This is a little different from the health and wealth prosperity doctrines that are infesting our culture.

God summons the disciples to go to those in need–to the dirty, diseased, dying and despised. While doing so, the disciples are instructed to trust in God to care for their every need. In addition, He describes great dangers they’ll face, which will in turn teach them to depend on Him.

Jesus tells us clearly that we will be betrayed, hated and persecuted, but we are to be foolish as sheep, smart as snakes, and pure as doves in the process—not an easy task.

In his sermon Sent By The King, Dr. David Platt of the church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama challenges us that the danger in our lives may actually increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.

That’s a foreign concept to those in Joel Osteen’s camp who feel that Jesus wouldn’t allow any of us to suffer if we are in tune with Him. That ideal, specific to the United States of America is fostered by the belief that we are entitled to every luxury we can get our hands on. In other parts of the world, people are actually still praying for their daily bread.

How then can we hope to do better through suffering than get by one day at a time without victory? Jesus has promised in His Word that He will care for our needs, rule over us with sovereignty, know us completely and love us deeply.

This does not mean that we are shielded from suffering—it means the opposite. It doesn’t mean we won’t die while serving Christ—many of us will if we’re obedient to Him. And it doesn’t mean we won’t lose the one person we love more than anyone else in the world.

But God is faithful to deliver us, and great is our reward in Heaven. Matthew chapter 10:40-42 details the rewards that await us for obedience and faithfulness through suffering.

1 Corinthians 15:55 declares,

“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”

This is not just moving forward a day at a time—it’s victorious living, and winning over death. The sting of death is not in it as it is in the world because we are in God’s hands and our hope is in Him. God doesn’t expect us not to grieve–He expects us to rely on Him as we do.

To live one day at a time, trying to move one step forward paralyzed with pain is not God’s plan for anyone. He wants and expects us to live in obedience and victory—not in hopeless defeat as we await the day He takes us home. We must live our lives well for His honor and His glory, and trust Him—no matter what.

As others watch us suffer, and overcome, and live out our faith, they learn that God’s comfort in our lives is real. That’s a powerful witness to those around us.

We have work to do. We need to carry the Gospel to every tribe and every nation around the world–and we need to do it now.