When Christians suffer, there is the danger that bitterness may grow in our heart, if we get angry with God for allowing this trouble into our life. Even Job, a man so just that God bragged about him to Satan (Job 1:8), went through unimaginable trials with the loss of his wealth, family, and health. At times he questioned God, yet he remained faithful to Him throughout his ordeal, proclaiming “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
For the unsaved, God may allow trials so that they come to the end of themselves and realize they are sinners in need of a Savior. Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), God may still permit suffering in our lives, as we saw last week.
If we are willfully sinning, He may chasten us to bring us back in line with His perfect will (Hebrews 12:6). Even if we are faithfully following Him, He may allow trials in our life to strengthen our dependence on and faith in Him (Psalm 9:9; 27:5; 37:39), to shape us into Christ’s image (Who suffered for us even though He was without sin; Philippians 3:10), or to give us experience, wisdom and compassion to help others going through similar testing (Galatians 6:2).
But as born-again Christians (John 3:3-8), we can find peace and joy through the trouble in knowing that His grace is sufficient, that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that He will help us! (Psalm 46). Job’s sons were taken from him, his “friends” criticized him, and his wife told him to curse God and die. But God’s Word assures us that He will never leave us nor forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5).
Our Lord Jesus Christ experienced all the testing we could possibly face, yet He never yielded to sin. He now sits on the throne of grace, freely offering us mercy and grace to help us if we boldly ask Him (Hebrews 4:15-16).
We should realize that He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8,32; Luke 12:30), yet He wants us to pray because it changes us. His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), and His presence strengthens and upholds us so that we have no need to be afraid (Isaiah 41:10). God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). The Bible commands us to “Fear not!” 365 times – one for every day of the year!
He urges us to cast all our cares, or anxieties, on His broad, loving shoulders (1 Peter 5:7). We can find peace by keeping our mind, heart and priorities fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3-4), through prayer, studying and mediating on His Word, and praising and worshipping Him in all circumstances, knowing that this is His perfect will (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
We can try to carry our own burdens of sin, guilt, shame, regret, unforgiveness and bitterness ourselves, and grow weary to the point of exhaustion and despair. Or we can lay them down at the foot of His cross, where He paid the complete price for all of these, once and for all, freeing us to find His rest (Matthew 11:28) and to receive all the blessings He longs to give us (Luke 11:13).
He exchanges our burdens for His blessings, and He renews and transforms our mind if we turn from thoughts of evil and the darkness of this world (Romans 12:2) to meditating on His light of truth, beauty and excellence (Philippians 4:8).
The greatest blessing we could have in this life is to be in the center of His perfect will, for He created each of us for a purpose designed long before we were even conceived (Psalm 139:13,16). We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:8-10), created for a specific plan destined for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
When believers face Jesus Christ at the judgment seat, it will not be to pay for our sins (He has already paid for these in full) or to determine whether we can enter Heaven, for He has given us His perfect righteousness allowing us to spend eternity in the presence of Holy God (Romans 3:25).
Rather, at the judgment seat, believers will be rewarded for service done for Christ with the right motives, or we will suffer loss for not using opportunities He gave us to fulfill His perfect plan for our life (2 Corinthians 5:10). How sad it would be to miss out on these opportunities and rewards because we gave up too soon (Galatians 6:9), losing hope in our own ability (with good reason) yet failing to trust in His unfailing power!
No matter what struggles we face in this life, we can have victory in Christ Who has overcome all the evil in this world (John 16:33). If we have repented of our sins and asked Him into our heart as Lord and Savior, we have the glorious hope – meaning the sure and joyful expectation – of eternal life with Him in Heaven, and the hope of victory in all our earthly woes (Romans 15:13).
Where there is life, there is hope! (Ecclesiastes 9:4) Jesus wants us to enjoy abundant life in Him (John 10:10) here and now, in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13), to choose life over death as commanded in His Word (Deuteronomy 30:19; Proverbs 13:14). His promises preserve our life (Psalm 119:50).
Realizing that our body is His holy temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19), which we should present to Him daily as a holy, living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), will help us make the right choices to honor our body as His dwelling place. Not only is this pleasing to Him, but healthful choices in how we nourish and rest our body and protect it from toxins and other harm will help to keep our vessel in optimal working order to serve Him and persevere through trials.
Time on this earth to serve Him is short (James 4:14; John 9:4), so may we utilize it to the greatest extent possible! Praise God that He is always with us, faithful to hear and answer our prayers, to love, protect, guide and comfort us in our earthly journey until we meet Him face to face in glory!
© 2016 Laurie Collett