June 28, 2022
“For it has been given to you on Messiah’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle...”
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“For it has been given to you on Messiah’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear about me.” Philippians 1:29-30
“Hey, Paul! How are we supposed to convince sinners with THAT kind of theology? Struggling? Suffering? Dude, you don’t understand this post-modern culture…?”
Paul’s statement certainly raises some questions and concerns about what we should expect from following Jesus. The “problem of pain” is, perhaps, the Church’s greatest dilemma, moving ahead. We live in a culture of luxury. Ours is an “i-Centered” world, complete with iTunes, iChat…iChurch. I’m writing this study on a Mac iBook!! The point is that our world seems to revolve around how we feel.
You can tell our narcissism by the complaints we have about church services. “The music was off today.” “The preaching went long.” “The parking lot is too crowded.”
News flash: God connects more deeply with us through hardship than abundance. Consider the September 11th tragedy of 2001. Remember how quickly our national focus changed to “God, save us!”? Recall how soon folks abandoned the Lord once the immediate hardship seemed to diminish?
Some within the Church believe that Christians never have problems as long as they are friendly people and live according to the “golden rule.” When such people observe your pain, they say it must be the result of your sin. Any difficulty in their life, they attribute to the sins of others. This theology is negligent of Paul’s teaching. It is heresy because Paul exhorted that suffering is a GIFT from the Lord. It is part of His grace to us!
Alongside the gift of salvation, through faith in Messiah, we also receive the gift of living “in Him.” Consider the lives of Jesus and Paul. Who wants to be beaten, stoned, shipwrecked…crucified? Yet, they considered it all joy in light of the hope set before them.
Hardship is inevitable and also a privilege for believers. How so? It builds faith.
“Blessed is a man who endures trials because when he passes the test, he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
We trust God, initially, because of the observable testimony of faithful believers. When we read the Bible, we learn of God’s holiness and His faithful interaction with mankind. This leads us to trust His leading in our lives. He leads us through hardships, where we learn the REALITY of His faithfulness instead of abstractly believing in the THEORY of it. Thus, our faith and boldness builds. Observable faithfulness attracts unbelievers. And the whole process starts again.