Are you currently experiencing a hardship? Most likely, your answer is yes, but if you are in a quiet season, praise God and get ready because a challenge of some sort is on the way. As a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we know this is not our home and while living in this temporary place we will be tested and tried. This life is just a test; it is nothing but a test and training ground.
The bible clearly teaches this is not heaven; this is a temporary, fallen, decaying, and sin filled world. No human is exempt from hardships and suffering. The eastern concept of karma; a concept of a clear cause and effect, teaches that if I suffer I deserve it and if I enjoy a comfortable life I deserve it; this is not taught in the bible. God teaches us there is no formula to avoid suffering. Job’s friends believed in karma and were convinced Job must have done something to deserve his suffering, and they were soundly rebuked by the Lord.
Of course, there are natural consequences for bad choices. If I choose to live outside of God’s boundaries, I will suffer natural consequences. If I am a drunkard, a glutton or an unforgiving person, I will experience health issues and other problems. The suffering I am referring to is suffering that comes with being a human. As God’s child, He knows my name, His eye is on me, and any hardship that comes my way did not slip by Him. The challenge for me and you is how we will handle our hardships. I think the right perspective is crucial; if I know to expect problems than I am better equipped to handle the hardships. Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulations, but in Him we may have peace. In fact, something to consider is a point that Timothy Keller makes; “If you rarely experience suffering it may be God’s way of judging you, allowing you to perish in your complacency.”
Consider some reasons our Abba Father tells us we suffer:
A few years ago when my husband and I were flying home from a trip I kept hearing snippets of the latest news updates as we were walking through the airport regarding Ebola and the devastating potential of this deadly disease. Next, I noticed my social media lighting up with breaking news of yet another vicious attack on our Christian faith. Family Research Council reported, “A mayor in Houston issued an unprecedented legal demand that several key pastors turn over sermons, emails, and text messages, even communications with members of their congregations, under the threat of fines imprisonment or both. The pastors that have been targeted are pastors who have spoken out against Mayor Parker's LGBT special rights ordinance.” Wait, is this happening in America or China? Friends this is happening right here in the good ole US of A!
I heard a lady say we are living in constant fear; this is a world full of fear. It is true, as we approach the “last days” we will see many more horrific plagues, catastrophic acts of nature, evil being called good and good being called evil, and attacks on our most basic rights to believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, Twitter blocked a campaign yesterday to protect the pastors called #HoustonWeHaveAProblem.
Fear’s close cousin is anxiety, and it is hard to separate fear and anxiety as these two emotions feed off each other. The definition of anxiety is “fear about what might happen.” Many refer to our present period as the “Age of Anxiety”. Every single one of us has our fears; none of us is exempt.
As followers of Christ, we are told not to live under a spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). We have Almighty God looking over us, caring for us and guiding us. Did you know the opposite of fear is not courage; the opposite of fear is love.…“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). In the context, this verse means there will be no fear for us on Judgment day; our eternity is secure. But it is also an encouragement to keep accepting God’s love more and more because the more I grow in His love, the less fear I will experience. The Greek word for perfect here means complete or mature. When we live under a spirit of fear, it is God’s way of showing us we have not accepted enough of His love; we need to mature more in His love. We have not allowed His love to drive out our fears.
I know that is easier said than done; just two weeks ago we received some scary news that could affect our family for years to come. Below are the steps I kept going over and over from Psalm 3 when David was fleeing for his life from a hostile coup led by his beloved son. I encourage you to write down these five steps David revealed to us and practice them.
Rosa Parks said, “I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done, does away with fear.”
I forgive myself and I hold no grudges against You, God…..
Last week we talked about forgiving deep wounds of hurt and betrayal. God gives us time to process forgiveness, the desire and strength to forgive and the grace we need if we choose to move forward forgiving the offender. One of my favorite things about this God that we worship is that He is a God of clarity and not a God of confusion. When Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6 he told them, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” In other words, this is to be top priority in your life as a follower of Jesus. Unforgiving hearts are hearts not connected to their Jesus; intimacy is broken and blessings are forsaken. I don’t want that and I know you don’t want that either. Unforgiveness is a great barrier to receiving God’s love for you. I don’t know about you, but I want His love in my life, I want to slosh around in His love, I need His love because that is where I find meaning and contentment in this fallen world. Let’s make sure we are not letting any unforgiveness get in the way of receiving His love and all that He has planned and purposed for us.
Firstly, have you forgiven yourself? We all do things we are not proud of; we all fall short and sin. Paul is our great example in this area. He had a hand in killing those who claimed Jesus. Can you imagine the guilt Paul felt after he encountered Jesus and recognized the Truth! Paul; being a Pharisee, knew the Word of God and he no doubt prayed Psalm 51:7 Abba Father, cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Paul knew he was justified before the Lord. Justification is a theological term used to explain what happens to us when we become children of God. Justification simply means I am guiltless in the eyes of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice washed away all my sins once and for all; it is finished. I stand before God as if I had never sinned. Wow, now that is what I call grace! Paul believed this in his heart and was able to write for our encouragement Romans 8:1 There is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ. Believer, we have nothing to feel guilty about, we have been washed clean. Do you feel clean? You are clean if you are a daughter or son of God! Will you thank Jesus right now for setting you free of all guilt, shame and condemnation?
I forgive you.
These three little words are hard for us humans to say and mean in our heart of hearts.
Why does the Lord require forgiveness of His followers? Why is it so hard and why is it so important? Do you have someone in your life that you need to forgive? It is difficult because the reason you need to forgive them is because they hurt you!
I was recently reading Joseph’s story again in Genesis; there are 14 chapters devoted to Joseph so our Lord must have considered his story an important one for us. My goodness it spoke to me! Several years ago I knew the Lord was calling me to forgive someone who had deeply wounded me. The hurt was layers deep so He began to tell me to fast. It seemed as though my daily bible readings kept talking about fasting, when I listened to Christian radio the topic was often focused on fasting and then I attended a weekend seminar and guess what the lady was talking about, fasting!
Joseph’s story encouraged me so much because although Joseph loved his brothers; when they showed up on his door step after 20 years, it took him awhile to work through forgiveness. It can take us awhile to process forgiveness as well. At first I just couldn’t forgive the person I knew need forgiveness. I didn’t want to forgive and the desire to be angry was much stronger than the desire to forgive them. Like Joseph I needed the Lord’s help and an anointing of His grace to get there.
Psalm 26:1 (NLT)
Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Proverbs 12:16 (NLT)
A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.
Proverbs 12:16 (The Message)
Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults.
Do you believe Jesus is your greatest Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Loyal Supporter? Do you believe He is praying for you (Romans 8:34)? He desires you to connect with Him constantly. His love knows no bounds where you are concerned (Romans 8:38, 39). As you get to know Him, you will more easily reflect His character to others. Abba God is Just and Fair and knows best how to handle every situation. Will you trust Him with the difficult people in your life?
While you live in this fallen world, you will encounter rudeness from others. And God sees any mistreatment of you for you are His child. If God wants you to confront with love those who mistreat you, He will give you the words and guide the tone in which you speak them (Luke 21:15). Ask Him to guide you before you open your mouth. The Lord will instruct you to allow Him to deal with the offender. This may stretch you to pain, but God is growing iron in your soul. Let Him use everything in your life to strengthen you. You will know when you are trusting Him more because your heart will be a bit more tender and your hide a bit more tough. Do you have a tender heart and a tough hide?
Someone said to me when I started teaching bible study roughly 15 years ago that if I stand up, I will stand out and to get ready for the spiritual warfare that will come against me. I didn’t give the statement much consideration, but as I look back on my years of teaching and bizarre attacks from others I think that person knew what he was talking about! Early in my faith I heard too many Christians give credit for their bad behavior or other’s bad behavior to the enemy and his demons. This bothered me because I think we all free will and do what we want. However, as the years have passed I now believe the influence can be so strong on some they don’t even realize the power the enemy has over them.
According to Dr. Larry Richards, demonization is the presence of an evil spirit in a person’s life (both the Christian and non-Christian can be demonized). I don’t for one second believe that a believer who has the Spirit of God in them can be possessed by a demon, but I do believe they can be greatly influenced by a demon’s destructive and divisive ways.
Remember the enemy spoken of in John 10:10 comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. If the enemy has lost the battle for your eternal soul, he will fight for your time on earth; to destroy your witness as Abba Father’s child and your confidence in Jesus Christ, your Savior. My experience has been that he does this right in the church; within the circle of believers, within Christian families and within ministries. He is always trying to destroy families, ministries and harmony within the family of God. Expecting and knowing how he works can help in dealing with his cunning ways.
Deborah Buckingham is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ who lives her life for Him, her family and her great America. She is an activist at heart and is always looking for opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God by sharing truth and love to any who cross her path. Her other passions include politics, health and fitness and hunting down great recipes to share with family and friends around the dinner table.
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