Saturday, August 22, 2015

If You Think Suffering is Bad...

Sometimes, Success is Worse.

No one enjoys suffering. 


In fact, it can feel like punishment from God. You may wonder "is He playing games with me, like He did with poor Job"? It is very tempting to go with that line of thinking -- and I do not use the word "tempting" lightly. Temptation is one of Satan's favorite tools to pull us away from God. But never, ever forget that Satan sits on a throne of lies, and it always starts with a thought.

Pastor and author Tim Keller speaks to this topic better than anyone I know. Keller is an amazing theologian and communicator and explains it much more thoroughly than I ever could. Listen to his podcast: 'Questions of Suffering'.

Everyone suffers, but some more than others.


Some people have more resources available to deal effectively with their suffering, which may create the illusion of "self" control, at least for a little while. 

You see, all of us enjoy God's "common grace" -- the good stuff that He makes available to all people, like beauty, love, and life in an incredibly complex universe that He breathed into existence. But if you add to that, good looks, wealth, and power -- well, a person might easily mistake the gifts for the Giver and embrace the illusion of self-sufficiency and entitlement.

If that "enviable" person chooses not to turn to God -- either in gratitude, or in need -- they run a terrible risk. He or she may become so self-invested that they are UNABLE to see their need for God. Their heart may harden. And when their earthly anchors finally fail them (as they surely will) -- because they never looked up, or bowed down --  they do not get salvation. They are ultimately and tragically lost, and there is nothing worse than that.

 The upside of weakness.


Most of us mortals, however, fall into the camp of the 'everyman' sufferer, where without unlimited resources, it may be easier to admit our frailty and turn to God for help. If you have accepted Jesus, then you have inner resources that trump any outward circumstance. You are royalty in God's family and nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:35-39)

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of books written on the subject of suffering and the many ways it can make us stronger. But for this moment together, I would like to draw your attention to one particular aspect that may keep you from receiving the inherent benefits of any trouble you are going through: and that is envy.

So don't throw yourself a pity party or envy the guy who has massive resources.

In your weakness you have received an amazing gift from God, and here it is: When He called to your heart, you were ABLE to hear Him and respond. You KNOW Him because you dared to need Him, and you now have an earthly anchor and eternal salvation as a benefit (2 Corinthians 12:9). God drew you to Himself (John 6:44), and there is absolutely nothing more valuable than that.

This is God's "Saving Grace" which is infinitely better, and not everyone gets it.

So, who is really better off here?


It's not always the one that looks the most blessed. That is probably why the Bible stresses how difficult it is to respond to God when a person is lavishly endowed with earthly treasures. It is so easy and "tempting" to let the "gifts" take the place of the "Giver". Satan can give pretty good stuff to people in the hope that it will keep them from God.

The ONLY gift that ultimately matters is knowing the Giver.

How blessed we are to recognize and love the Giver. Christians are just as entitled to receive earthly success and prosperity as non-believers. I wish that for you! And God wants you to be happy, successful, and maybe even embarrassingly wealthy. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The key is to keep your loves well-ordered. Love Him first, and love Him best. The "gift" or the "curse" of success is in your heart and what your life points to -- or, rather "Who" your life points to.

In our suffering and weakness, 

we are often far better off than we think.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  
(Philippians 4:12-13)

I have a song for everything.

"What Faith Can Do" by Kutlass
"The One I'm Running To"  by 7th Time down

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