Good or Bad Pain?
Although it would be nice to think that we live in a world full of kind people, that is an illusion. And sometimes, even followers of Jesus do not live up to their Master’s standards. Alas, every believer has the potential to make wrong decisions and behave in an ungodly way, and every saint is a sinner. The reality is all too obvious: no Christian is perfect, and various griefs may follow sin. But it should never be mistaken for the suffering of persecution (1 Peter 2:19). Neither should we pretend that God is pleased with us simply because we may be suffering, when we have brought it upon ourselves. Even then, the Lord will use the situation for His glory and our blessing as we accept His discipline (Hebrews 12:7). The right reaction is repentance, and an appeal for God's mercy through Christ's sacrifice on the cross (www.crosscheck.org.uk).
However, when we are living for Christ, serving Him and doing good to others, Satan is furious (Revelation 12:12). He often makes His attacks through people who resent that you serve Jesus. This evil mechanism is trying to spoil God's work in our lives. The unjust suffering also provides a temptation to disgrace Christ by urging us to solve the issue, unsatisfactorily, in our own strength. But the Lord allows it so that by your endurance, you may demonstrate the sustaining grace of Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7), relying on His love alone (1 John 4:16). It is endurance which marks out the true disciple from the Christian enthusiast (James 5:11). Not that there is anything wrong with enthusiasm, but it is all too often expressed in the energy of the flesh, which soon exhausts itself. But we need Jesus focussed, Father love and Spirit strengthened endurance – in the company of fellow believers (Romans 15:4-5).
Endurance depends on confidence that the end will be good (1 Timothy 1:12). Marathon runners, mountain climbers and Olympians all know that the finish is more important than the beginning. It is the same for those who are born again. The knowledge that Jesus Christ is waiting at the finish line to award His prize has sustained many generations of sufferers to cling on - for all He is worth (Hebrews 12:1-3). Endurance demands daily decisions to reject the fleshly solution and cling to the Lord. It is the training and proving ground for heaven.
But to work this out in the home and workplace is not easy, although both may provide plenty of opportunities to practice! The principles of Christ-like living are humility, servanthood, obedience and the willingness to suffer injustice – trusting that God will sustain and vindicate. Philippians 2:5-11 sum it up. If we are to live like that in the community and the church, it might be that we need to learn a Christ-like attitude at home and at work. As we endure with joy, we shine out like stars on a dark night … giving us the credibility to hold out the gospel to whoever will listen (Philippians 2:14-18). Look at the difficulties as being God’s training ground so that you may be more useful to Him in the future (2 Timothy 2:3).
© Dr Paul Adams