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Category — Hardship & Suffering

Psalm 23: A Model for Living!

Psalm 23 is no doubt the most well-known Psalm from the Bible. But I’m going to ask us to set aside our familiarity with it for a few minutes, and to consider it with a fresh perspective as a model for living.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23 NIV) [Read more →]

September 24, 2012   Comments Off on Psalm 23: A Model for Living!

Getting the Most out of Hardship – 7

Yet another benefit of hardship, suffering and trials is that they offer us the opportunity, like nothing else, to demonstrate the all-sufficiency of Christ in our lives. The apostle Paul was uniquely chosen by God to represent to others the all-sufficiency of Christ in the midst of suffering. In fact, when Paul came to know Jesus, the Lord said of him, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16)

After many years of serving Christ and taking the Gospel to those who had not yet heard the good news of Christ, Paul recounts some of his sufferings, persecutions and trials in 2 Corinthians 11. He had been flogged, beaten and imprisoned numerous times. He had been ship-wrecked three times and once had spent a day-and-a-half in the open sea. He’d been in danger from bandits, from his own countrymen and from the Gentiles. He had often worked hard to support himself and others, often gone without sleep, food, shelter and even clothes. Besides all this he often felt overwhelmed by his concern for the welfare of the churches he and his co-workers had established. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) [Read more →]

February 24, 2011   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship – 7

Getting the Most out of Hardship – 6

A sixth benefit from hardship and suffering is that they center our focus on the eternal.

In Hebrews, the writer reminds his readers of the severe persecution and trials they experienced after coming to Christ. He urges, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34 NIV) [Read more →]

February 19, 2011   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship – 6

Getting the Most out of Hardship — 5

A fifth benefit of hardship is that it stretches us and builds character. Romans 5:3 explains, “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” The perseverance produced by suffering molds and shapes our character.

I can’t think of a better example from the Bible of this benefit and principle of hardship and suffering than the account of Joseph in Genesis. Although Joseph’s brothers meant to harm him by selling him as a slave, God turned it into something profoundly good. But for 13 years Joseph suffered severe hardship as a slave and then an inmate in an ancient Egyptian prison. His hardships also included the pain and agony of being separated from his family and the cruel rejection he had experienced at the hands of his brothers. [Read more →]

January 27, 2011   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship — 5

Getting the Most out of Hardship – 4

A fourth benefit of hardship, suffering and trials is that they expose and help us root sin out of our lives. In Isaiah 48:10 God says, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” In refining a precious metal like gold or silver, the metal is heated to a liquid state and then the dross or imperfections are skimmed from the surface to make it more pure.

In the same way, God uses “heat” and “pressure” in our lives to bring sinful patterns to the surface. For instance, it’s easy to love others when they too are loving and caring toward us. But when the heat is cranked up and someone treats us with anger and malice we are tempted to throw back at them what they threw at us. Christ wants to change that in us, but without the heat and pressure of the moment, our sin won’t be revealed. [Read more →]

January 10, 2011   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship – 4

Getting the Most out of Hardship – 3

A third benefit of hardship, suffering and trials is that they teach us how to worship. In Job, chapter one, we read the account of a godly man named Job. Job was very wealthy and he loved and worshiped God. The Scripture tells us that Satan objected to God that the only reason Job served God was because God had blessed him. Satan insisted that if Job were stripped of his wealth and possessions he would curse God instead. So God gave Satan permission to attack Job in this manner.

We’re told that in one day through a series of horrible catastrophes, Job lost all of us flocks, herds, servants and even his children! His loss and grief must have been beyond comprehension! Yet, look at Job’s response in Job 1:20-21, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” [Read more →]

January 4, 2011   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship – 3

Getting the Most out of Hardship – 2

Another benefit of hardship is that it drives us to depend on God. When we are brought to the end of ourselves and see how frail and limited we are, we recognize our need for God. The apostle Peter explains what our response should be in hardship and suffering, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

When I was a sophomore in high school, 23 of us young men embarked on a 1300-mile bicycle trip around Lake Superior. We had transported our bicycles from Minneapolis, MN to Superior, WI and launched our trip from there. We rode counter-clockwise around the lake through Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into Ontario, Canada. After the first three days of sore muscles and butt fatigue we were all feeling pretty confident and energized by the challenges of the trip. [Read more →]

December 29, 2010   Comments Off on Getting the Most out of Hardship – 2

Getting the Most out of Hardship

With our economic downturn, rising costs and joblessness, hardships are on the rise. Yet hardships provide fertile ground for personal growth and blessing. Wait a minute, there are benefits to hardship? Yes! Really? Hardship, trials, suffering—who in their right mind would want those!? Our natural response in any trial or suffering is to pray first for deliverance. We shouldn’t feel bad for wanting out of a painful situation, but all too often we seek only deliverance without considering first how to extract the benefits of our hardship.

A short time ago, I prayed with an individual in the hospital who had been there nearly three weeks. I challenged that person not to miss the good things God might have for them in the midst of their suffering. Predictably, this individual blurted out, “I just want to get out of here!” That response is okay. It’s normal. But there’s more to any such tough situation that we won’t want to miss! [Read more →]

December 13, 2010   2 Comments

Forget the Former Things!

Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

We all have many things we hang on to from the past: hurts, regrets, broken relationships, failures, patterns of sin, poor choices, etc. Sometimes we even hang on to good memories or the way things were, but in an unhealthy manner always longing for what once was. But when we turn to God and put our trust in him and follow him, he invites us to “forget the former things” and to “not dwell on the past.” [Read more →]

September 26, 2010   Comments Off on Forget the Former Things!

To be a man like Joseph!

holy-spirit-instructionsAt times in my life I’ve been very career oriented— seeking out new challenges and keeping my resume up-to-date in the event that the right opportunity would present itself. I know I’m not alone in this incessant press to better our careers and circumstances. For a great number of us, this describes the American way.

Yet, as I read through Genesis again I’m utterly amazed at God’s career plan for Joseph. Through Joseph’s dreams it appears that God had given him an inkling of what the future might hold for him. His brothers and even his father interpreted this as arrogance. In fact, his brothers were so incensed by Joseph’s dreams and preferential treatment by his dad that they hated him (Genesis 37:4).

So at about the young age of 17, Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, then thought better of it and sold him as a slave to Midianite merchants who in turn sold him to one of Pharaoh’s officials in Egypt. Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers cunningly convinced their father that Joseph was dead, having been torn apart by some wild beast. [Read more →]

May 9, 2010   1 Comment