“Fear Not”

God tells us “Fear not.” This is the most common commandment in the entire Bible, appearing roughly 150 times, because this is the most common problem for the Christian. Who are you afraid of? What are you afraid of? That fear will paralyze you. It will cause you not to live courageously and boldly. Jesus knows that there are reasons for you to be afraid. And yet he says, “Fear not.”

Nearly every time the Bible commands us to “fear not”, it also tells us why. Not because we will see things turn around soon, or even ever. Not because it’s going to be easy. And not because we will be vindicated in this life. Instead, when we are told, “Fear not,” in some fashion God is telling us, “I am with you.” Jesus, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, lives in us, works through us, goes with us, and will never leave us or forsake us, because he promised to be with us always, until the end of the age, as we limp toward home.

The Jesus who goes with you is a God who has experienced tribulation, poverty, slander, suffering, and death. He is always present to comfort you because he has walked the road that you are on and is waiting with nail-scarred hands to embrace you at its end. Since he has walked that road for you, his invitation to walk it with him is a great honor.

-Mark Driscoll, A Call to Resurgence

Advertisements

Christmas Suffering

We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just end suffering. But we know that whatever the reason, it isn’t one of indifference or remoteness. God so hates suffering and evil that he was willing to come into it and become enmeshed in it.

Dorothy Sayers wrote, ‘For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – he [God] has the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with this creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.’

The gift of Christmas gives you a resource – a comfort and consolation – for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering with us and for us.

~ Tim Keller

Contentment and Satisfaction through Suffering

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in self and the world. I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of life have come through times of ease and comfort.”

But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with Him has come through suffering.”

The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ.

Thus, Paul stresses that in our sufferings the glory of Christ’s all-sufficient grace is magnified. If we rely on Him in our calamity and He sustains our “rejoicing in hope,” then He is shown to be the all-satisfying God of grace and strength that He is.

If we hold fast to Him “when all around our soul gives way,” then we show that He is more to be desired than all we have lost.

Christ said to the suffering apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded to this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

So suffering clearly is designed by God not only as a way to wean Christians off of self and onto grace, but also as a way to spotlight that grace and make it shine. That is precisely what faith does; it magnifies Christ’s future grace. The deep things of life in God are discovered in suffering.

So it was with Jesus Himself: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The same book where we read this also tells us that Jesus never sinned (4:15).

So “learning obedience” does not mean switching from disobedience to obedience. It means growing deeper and deeper with God in the experience of obedience. It means experiencing depths of yieldedness to God that would not have been otherwise demanded.

Desiring God, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 265–267

Joy and Suffering in Psalm 30

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5

The psalmist displays a posture of worship reflecting the full spectrum of human experience – he calls God’s people to praise Him for His faithfulness and grants the freedom to cry out when our suffering seems too great to bear. He proclaims that God knows our sorrows, hears our cries and is near (Ps. 34:18). His words speak comfort from the Lord, that in our pain we have hope, the promise of joy in the end.

To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!
Psalm30:8-10

Yet sometimes in suffering, our only response is, “Why, Lord?” Another friend, parent or sibling diagnosed with cancer. Another baby lost before his parents could know the joy of the first cry of life. Another marriage that ends with a spouse alone the first night after the funeral. It’s too much to bear. The pain is too great. So we cry out, “Where are you, Lord?”

And we wait. Sometimes for a night. Sometimes for weeks. Sometimes years. We wait with darkness laid heavy like the heat of a late summer’s night. Will it ever break?

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing:
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothe me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12

But then, when the weight is at its heaviest: relief. The light of the morning dries our tear-stained cheeks, and we can see, maybe for the first time, that there is joy. We come to know that our story, with all its hurt and brokenness and grief, is part of God’s grand redemptive story. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, consummation. The story of a people ruined by sin, of a love so great that even death could not overcome it, of a Savior who lived, who died and was raised – Jesus, who will one day come again to set all that’s wrong to right. The tension may remain, the aching still present, but in the morning, there is hope. In the morning, there is joy.

Originally posted on The Village Church’s blog by Brady Goodwin here: http://ow.ly/cvABe

Trials That Establish and Root Us

“After that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”—1 Peter 5:10.

You have seen the arch of heaven as it spans the plain: glorious are its colours, and rare its hues. It is beautiful, but, alas, it passes away, and lo, it is not. The fair colours give way to the fleecy clouds, and the sky is no longer brilliant with the tints of heaven. It is not established. How can it be? A glorious show made up of transitory sun-beams and passing rain-drops, how can it abide?

The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty, but, on the contrary, must be stablished, settled, abiding. Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no “baseless fabric of a vision,” but may it be builded of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest. May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of hell, and all the storms of earth shall never be able to remove you.

But notice how this blessing of being “stablished in the faith” is gained. The apostle’s words point us to suffering as the means employed—“After that ye have suffered awhile.” It is of no use to hope that we shall be well rooted if no rough winds pass over us. Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree, and those strange twistings of the branches, all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong, and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life. Shrink not then from the tempestuous winds of trial, but take comfort, believing that by their rough discipline God is fulfilling this benediction to you.

~ C.H. Spurgeon (from his devotional Morning and Evening; formatting mine)

Going Deeper With God

How do I go deeper in my relationship with God? Let’s look at others who’ve gone deep with God.

King David wrote many of the Psalms. Reading a psalm is taking a peek into his prayer journal – seeing his deepest thoughts and feelings. In Psalm 23 he says, “The Lord is my Shepherd….He makes me lie down in green pastures….He leads me by still waters….He restores my soul….He leads me in the paths of righteousness….He is with me….His rod and staff, they comfort me.” As a shepherd boy, David spent lots of time alone tending sheep. While tending, he observed creation, pondered on the Creator and trusted God to give him strength to fight lions and bears.

Kind of makes you want to be a shepherd boy, doesn’t it?

Elijah the prophet, in flight from Jezebel, holed up alone in a cave. The Lord told him to stand on the mountain as He passed by. The Lord was not in the strong wind, the earthquake or the fire – but in the gentle breeze. It was in the stillness that Elijah heard the voice of the Lord say, “What are you doing here, Elijah….Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus” (1 Kings 19:9-15).

It’d be nice to hear God’s voice for direction in life, wouldn’t it?

Jesus often drew away to be alone with His Father. After healing crowds, He was found early in the morning “in a secluded place…praying there” (Mark 1:35). After the feeding of the 5,000, He “went up on the mountain to pray…he was there alone” (Matt. 14:1-36). On the night of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He withdrew from His disciples to kneel down in prayer, and “an angel appeared, strengthening Him” (Luke 22:43). Jesus spent time alone with His Father who gave Him strength to meet the demands of His service and suffering.

Does a day go by that we don’t need His strength to meet the demands of our life?

Martin Luther, Susanna Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Francis Schaeffer and Billy Graham – great men and women of faith – all share a common practice in their biographies. They spent time alone with God. They took walks in the woods, sat by the sea, hiked in the mountains. They pulled away from their struggles and the busyness of life to be with Him in silence, surrender and solitude – to ponder and reflect, to be refreshed and restored. They found time alone with God – not just in discipline but also in delight.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). In being still, we go deep with God.

Originally found on The Village Church blog here: http://ow.ly/bbAmr