As we start a new year, let’s pause and look around. Many folks are financially unhealthy and feeling severe stress. Economic uncertainty in the USA and worldwide provides a less than optimistic outlook. This situation is exacerbated by the predictable pathetic mismanagement in the USA’s economy where again, they dodged needed tough decisions.
We haven’t yet fallen off the fiscal cliff, but we will be amassing more debt on a weakened foundation. Indeed, in a couple month’s the president and Congress will repeat discussions on increasing the debt ceiling. No doubt, again they will resolve it temporarily by “punting” the problem a few months or a few years.
Probably, challenges and change will be the main constants in 2013. While studying the New Testament book of 1 Peter, I realized that the Apostle’s advice is likely to be most practical and helpful to allow us to function joyfully this year. He wrote to folks who understood persecution and suffering. Although our situations are not as severe as theirs, I believe taking his counsel will be the best stress relieving antidote for 2013.
One Peter 1: 3-7 (ESV) states:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Verses three and four remind us that we have an everlasting living hope in Jesus our Messiah. It will never fade and cannot be defiled. Let us never forget this. As we journey, we need to keep an eternal view. Verses six to eight present the attitude we should adopt during times of suffering and persecution. Mull over these five key points as you walk through 2013:
- Suffering is temporary
- Suffering has an aim
- Suffering causes severe pain
- Suffering is multi faceted
- Suffering cannot remove the joy of The Lord
Suffering is temporary
While we are going through our challenges, always we think they are permanent. Peter tells us trials are “for a little while.” Do we believe? We must recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20 that he will be with his children always. As well, we need to remember Psalm 23 where the Psalmist says he will fear no evil because God is with him through the valley.
Sometimes, what we regard as suffering merely is the result of our poor choices. If you spend indiscriminately and end up in debt, you need to bear the consequences. Certainly, God will be with you, but that’s your load to carry (Galatians 6:5).
Suffering has an aim
In verse five Peter said, “if necessary,” suggesting there might be a need, an aim. This includes testing the reality of your faith (v.7) and bringing glory to Jesus (v.8 and John 9:3). God wants us to be holy (Ephesians 1:4). It is when we are weak he is strong, and others see him in our actions.
As we go through our challenges, let us reflect on Joseph. What did he do to deserve ill treatment by his brothers and others? Nevertheless, his attitude was to keep his eyes on the Lord. He was vindicated and became governor of Egypt. So much was he focussed on God that he was able to tell his brothers that what they meant for evil God used for good (Genesis 50:20).
Suffering causes severe pain
We know that suffering causes severe pain. Peter acknowledged that folks had been “grieved” by their trails. Our response is a significant witness to others about our walk with Jesus. Will we panic and start blaming God? Alternatively, will we react like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. First, he was ‘alarmed,’ then he declared a fast, prayed, and accepted that the battle was the Lord’s. This is unnatural, but that’s the essence of our Christian walk – living contrary to the world.
Suffering is multi faceted
We experience “various trials.” That’s why we need to keep in mind that it has an aim. Remember Job?
Suffering cannot remove the joy of The Lord
As we go through our testing, Apostle Peter reminds us to rejoice and give glory and honor to our Lord at the testing of our faith.
In the flesh we can’t do this. Trying to rationalize “why me,” will send you to a pity party. Turning to friends trapped in this me-centered world is worse. Beloved, let’s read and reflect on Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-4:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope
Contrary to the health-and-wealth, and name-it-claim-it wealthy TV evangelists, Jesus tells us in Luke 14: 25-33 to count the cost of discipleship. We must be prepared to die. Nowhere in Scripture do we see the financially wealthy utopian vision TV evangelists paint.
They are chasing after the wind; don’t be blown over by them. Go to the Word of God on your own and let God’s Holy Spirit guide you to his truth (John 14:26).
Jesus promised his followers that he would send, and he sent, his Holy Spirit to be our teacher and guide. Besides, he tells us he will never leave us or forsake us. We have an inheritance in heaven; let us keep our eyes on Jesus and away from money-grabbing TV evangelist.
Copyright © 2013, Michel A. Bell