the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
Who can't relate to some form of suffering? Whether it is:
a broken heart from rejection.
financial disaster from a job loss.
physical problems from sickness, disease or injury.
deep and lasting hurt from abuse or divorce or the death of a loved one.
we have all experienced suffering in our lives.
Paul, the great man of God, had more than his fair share of suffering. He was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, lied to, lied about, and eventually beheaded for his faith in Christ (see 2 Cor. 11:24-30). One day, after being stoned and left for dead, God raised him up to preach yet again. He encouraged the disciples to keep walking with Jesus saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
What do you do when suffering touches down like a tornado and rocks your world?
1. Recognize that suffering is part of life. Suffering does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong and are being punished as a result. Paul suffered for doing what was right, not what was wrong. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered greatly on earth. Isaiah tells us that Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Is. 53:3). If Jesus did not escape suffering, why should we believe we will?
2. Realize that God has a plan in suffering. The Lord uses suffering to get us to depend upon Him more. We all have a great tendency to forget God when times are good. but we cry out to Him when times are bad. God allows the suffering to show us how much we really do need Him. Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5).
3. Accept the suffering as an opportunity for Christ to shine through you! In addition to all of Paul's external issues, he also had a physical issue. a thorn in the flesh that bothered him greatly. He asked the Lord three times to take it away. Hear what the Lord said to him about it:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
Paul went on to say, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
You and I need to remember that weakness and suffering bring humility and dependence, the precise conditions for Christ to really shine through our lives.
Are you suffering today? His grace IS sufficient in your suffering. and He wants to use it for good. You will never shine more brightly for Christ than when you experience hardships with a joy and a peace that passes understanding. That gets people's attention faster than anything and helps them see the reality of Jesus Christ in your life!
ONE LAST STORY
I heard about a young husband and wife who came to Christ. They were asked how it happened. "Well," they said, "our neighbors, Tim and Julie are Christians. Tim lost his job a year ago due to cutbacks. We knew things are very hard for them, yet they hadn't lost their joy, their peace, and their confidence that God would take care of them. We saw through their hardship, a power that we did not have. and we asked them how we could have what they had."
Allow God to use your suffering for good. Paul's greatest river of God's power came through his suffering, his thorn in the flesh. The same can be true of you.
Jeff Schreve is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. He and his wife Debbie have been married for over 20 years and are blessed with three wonderful girls. Jeff began From His Heart Ministries, a radio and television ministry, in January of 2005. This ministry is completely listener/viewer supported. It continues only through the faithful and generous gifts of people like you. Pastor Jeff takes no salary from this ministry. All gifts go to further the broadcast.