Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trials and Persecution 7: Day of Reflection

It is with a sad heart that I write this post today. This post will be the last of the series posts that have been the Wednesday posts over the duration of this blog. It is the first and hopefully only casualty this blog takes from the very soon not as flexible schedule my life will file under. A greater announcement regarding that will come next Wednesday.

But the show must go on; we have business to attend to today that isn't related to that which pertains to these series as a whole.

In life, we are bound to experience trials. There are self-help and encouragement books galore to show us how to survive and thrive through the struggles we find in our lives. Indeed some have gone as far as to say that success happens simply when people are able to overcome those obstacles in their life that would so easily beset them.

If success truly is determined by our abilities to overcome suffering, then we ought to be able to understand all that suffering encompasses. Truly, it makes sense that there are so many books dedicated to suffering. This is just another one of those written types of presentation regarding hardship for the Christian. But I would hope that thus far I have stumbled upon a certain amount of encouraging truth.

Let us review our discussion of the trials and persecution that a Christian will inevitably face by examining the history of suffering throughout the Bible.

Cause of Suffering

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." 

Thus begins the Bible in Genesis 1:1. This is then the beginning of the world as we know it. Through the rest of the chapter, we hear about how the Lord created everything that we know. He declares of course after everything that he created, that it was good. 

Indeed it was perfect in complete harmony and bliss. Adam and Eve were placed in this utopia by the Lord, and the Lord even went so far as to warn them of which fruit was good to eat and which would cause certain death to interrupt their eternal bliss. But Adam and Eve decided they knew better than the Lord did, and ate the forbidden fruit anyway. Since that time, we've seen that the Lord was right, death and suffering of a both temporal and eternal kind were introduced into the lives of humans, all because of sin. 

Now we must be careful here. Just because the ultimate cause of all suffering is sin, does not mean that all individual suffering comes from a direct result of sin. Indeed, hardship can also come as a means of avoiding greater trials, a temptation from the devil, and to increase our faith for greater service to the Lord. 

It is impossible to tell for sure why each trial we see in the world is happening, but we best not assume that it is all because of sin. The book of Job among other portions of Scripture show us that this is not the case.

Cessation of Eternal Suffering

Adam and Eve have now reproduced and the world is populated. Through the seed of Adam, all man has been born evil, with nary a glimpse of righteousness in their minds. Men have a code of morality, and some men appear to live fairly decent lives based on it. But in Isaiah 64:6, we learn that even the good works we do are nothing righteous at all.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."

We remember that this sin in our lives is going to lead us through a life of suffering into the ultimate and eternal suffering. It is a pretty bleak scenario.

But the Lord is gracious. Just as He didn't give up on humanity after the fall in the first place, He hasn't left them to eternal suffering even now. He uses His omnipotent and sovereign power to supernaturally cause Himself to be born into this world without the evil seed of Adam.

At this point, God Himself calling Himself Jesus is a second and final Adam. He once again is placed in a world with no sin at first, and then was tempted just as anyone else would be. Yet through this all, Jesus did not sin.

Then in the end of it all, he went through the ultimate suffering on the cross, both physically and emotionally, as a penalty for the sins of the world. Jesus' atoning sacrifice promises to eliminate the eternal suffering of those who would accept it as punishment for their actions.

Notice though that Jesus' sacrifice doesn't promise anything regarding the hardship we face in our own world. The temporal trials that we face will not be magically gone once we trust in Jesus. In fact, if we truly trust in Jesus and follow in His words, the persecution we face should increase. Look at 2 Timothy 3:12,
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

Salvation and Christianity are not about having a fulfilled, wealthy life here on earth; it is about our eternal life being more abundant in the end. However, Christ doesn't leave us hanging out to dry nonetheless.

Christ's Strength through Suffering

Knowing that serving the Lord would only produce results that are troubling to our lives, we might be tempted to just decide to give up. Trust that the Lord will keep His promises to grant us eternal life. With our eternal suffering taken care of, we should see what we can do about working through that temporal suffering too. 

Before you jump the ship that quickly, ask yourself, are you really prepared to go through trials and persecution without the Lord's presence, and without His strength in your life? Because whether you serve Him or not, hardship will find you. The only difference is, whether you have someone to help you in the crisis. (I'm going to neglect to mention that serving the Lord stores up eternal treasures in Heaven, so you can consider the persecution it beings in this Earth an investment.)

You see, as if the Lord hadn't done enough already by giving us both life and eternal life by His grace, He also decided that He is going to always be there for us to comfort us in all manner of our conversation in this world. Jesus Christ our Lord promises to strengthen us so we can manage to survive through any suffering that may befall us. As Sarah Arthur brilliantly puts it
"Jesus fought the war and has come back to help us win our battles." 

Paul explains in much more detail in Philippians 4:11-13,
 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

After all that the Lord has done for me in relation to His grace, I'd say that I am willing to suffer a little for His sake, knowing that His presence is better than being comfortable in my life. With all the love He has given me, I would like to be able to please Him as I would any other person who cared about me so deeply.

No comments:

Post a Comment