Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More on Suffering

1 Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Powerful verse. Some thoughts:

1) We are going to suffer and for some reason, God waits and let's us suffer for a little while. He doesn't jump in and end the suffering immediately. Instead he let's us feel our pain.

2) God is the God of ALL grace. Grace -- unmerited favor. We don't deserve God's goodness, but he gives it to us anyway.

3) We've been called to God's eternal glory. That shadow seems to overshadow the suffering, doesn't it?

And then Paul says that God himself will do four things for us. Let's define the words as these definitions make the verse so much more powerful:

Restore: bring back to its former state; to bring back from a state of ruin, decay, disease, or the like; to repair; to renew; to recover.

Confirm: To make firm or firmer; to add strength to; to establish; To strengthen in judgment or purpose; To give new assurance of the truth of; to render certain; to verify;

Strengthen: To make strong or stronger; to add strength to;

Establish: To make stable or firm; to fix immovably or firmly; to set (a thing) in a place and make it stable there; to settle;

Suffering comes to us as I mentioned yesterday, so that we can comfort others. But it also comes so that we can experience God's grace in new ways. Life is a cycle of suffering and being restored, confirmed, strengthened and established so we can face the next round. But instead of a spiral down, it's a spiral up, each time as we go around the circle we are closer to God and stronger than the time before.

During my years as an adoptive parent this has proven so true for me. I can look back -- and so can you -- to my regular blog and see how God has taught me and made me a better person through the hard things we have been through.

Suffering today? After a little while God is going to burst through and restore... confirm... strengthen.... and establish you. AFter all, he IS the God of all grace and you were called according to his eternal purpose.

Simplistic? Possibly. But maybe not so much. Maybe it just makes a whole lot of sense.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You're the Reason I'm Suffering

For some reason, my Moravian Text Email didn't come this morning so I had to go to a "Random Scripture Generator" to provide my passage for reflection this morning. I was amazed as to how much it applied to our lives.

From 2 Corinthians Chapter 1:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

NObody chooses suffering. At least not intentionally. It's unamerican. In fact, one of the hardest things about my job is that I am actually encouraging people to do hard things, and that is not something we are accustomed to. But hard things do come whether we want them to, even to "normal" people who don't choose them.

Remember the old song by Andre Crouch, "Through it all?" Part of it says, and I quote from memory:

So I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys,
and I thank Him for the storms He's brought me through;
For if i never had a problem, I'd never know that He could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do."

Paul explains all this to the Corinthians in a very logical way. He says:

1) We should praise God in our troubles because it is during those times that we can experience God's comfort.

2) When we experience trouble and then God's comfort, it empowers and enables us to then share that comfort with others when they are in times of trouble.

In fact, he even takes it a step further and suggests that being able to comfort others is the very reason why any of us have troubles in the first place ... so that we can identify with others and help them in their times of distress. And finally, Paul says:

3) We can have a firm hope because we know that all of us can not only share in our sufferings, but also in our comfort.

My past five years of blogging and reading blogs have certainly shown me that this is true. Whether folks want to put it in religious terms or not, we have done a lot of sharing in sufferings and in comforting one another.

SO it's all YOUR fault you know, that I suffer. :-) It's so that I can experience God's comfort and then pass it on to you.

I had a poster when I was a kid that said:

Trouble shared is trouble halved,
joy shared is joy doubled.

Let's halve our trouble, and double our joy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Above and Beyond What I Think i Need

In order to select my Scripture to reflect on each day (when I am consistently using this blog) I use the Moravian Texts which are emailed to me daily. There are three scripture passages to read through and then a prayer at the end.

The following is from Luke Chapter Five (verses are marked)

17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."

Now I'm no preacher, but I do know that every good preacher has three points. And in the above passage I, of course, see three things:

1) Sometimes we need help to get in front of Jesus. There are days when we are just too week or too upset or too stressed to find our way to Him. We have to rely on our friends to get us to Jesus in order for us to ask Him for what we need.

2) Sometimes when we take someone to Jesus, He doesn't do what we expect. We think we know what others need. In fact, they think they know. But God can see a deeper need and sometimes He meets that need first. It's our responsibility not to criticize but to simply watch God work in ways that God knows are best.

3) in God's timing He does amazing things that fill us with awe. The people took their friend to Jesus to see him healed. His sins were forgiven AND he was healed. If we can be patient and wait, sometimes all we ask of God is provided with even more stuff added on at the end.

Three concise points, but we need to ask ourselves:

Who do I know that needs to be taken to Jesus today?

Do I need someone to help me get to Jesus?

What do I think I need God to do for me? Is it what God thinks I need?

Do I really believe that God can do exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think, doing even more than I think I need?