facebook.com/robbylarson twitter.com/robbylarson

Friday, March 26, 2010

the beauty of suffering

Earlier in the week, I made mention of this past weekend's message at my church, Colossae, and its unquestionable applicability to my life. Despite the other people in the room, it seemed as though I was the only person there and our pastor, Chuck (and more specifically, God), was speaking directly to me. After the service, Chuck actually admitted that he kept thinking of me as he was preparing all week. To which, a friend replied, "Yeah, I was thinking about you the whole time Chuck was talking."

I think it is important to note, that although Chuck thought about me while preparing the message, he didn't select the message because of me. We have been walking through 1 Peter for several months, and the next section (4:7-19) dealt with suffering. I do believe that divine providence was involved here, because only one week earlier I would not have been in a place to receive this message. It was what God wanted to say at a time when I needed to hear. Today, I went back and listened to the message again, and gleaned considerably more from it, enough that I think I am actually starting to grasp it.

Verses 12-13 read: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." As Chuck paraphrased, "This whole tough time you're having, shouldn't be a shocker." Jesus doesn't promise to make everything perfect and comfortable for us, until we meet him after our physical death. It is in and through trials, suffering, and discomfort that God grows us to maturity in Him, and we are to accept such circumstances with joy.
James 1:2-4
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

1 Peter 1:6-7
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 

Romans 5:3-5
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Hebrews 12:11
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
Chuck posed three questions that I am still being challenged by, and which have drastically changed my perspective on what I am going through. It has taken six days for these questions to really impact my thinking, so I would encourage you to marinate on them for a few days.
1) When we find ourselves in trials, do we want to get out as quickly as possible? Or do we ask God to keep us in it as long as he sees necessary, so that he can teach us what he wants us to learn?

2) When someone you love is in a time of suffering, do you encourage them to just trust in Jesus and insinuate that if they do everything will automatically become easier for them? Or do you push them to worship Jesus because of the trial, knowing that their faith will be strengthened and proven in it?

3) When you find yourself in tough times, do you tend to have an attitude of self-pity? Or do you have a humble and teachable heart, trusting that Jesus will show you how to worship him more fully through and in the midst of that trial?
Finding joy in the midst of trial is certainly difficult; approaching trials with joy is even more so. However, this is how our Lord calls us to live. We must trust his goodness and promises to never leave us nor forsake us. We must be encouraged and hopeful, although not merely in our suffering, but because of it.

I haven't fully figured out how to accomplish this, but I am claiming the promise that the Lord is using this trial to grow my faith. In this, I have hope. 

If you were at Colossae on Sunday, you really should listen to this message again and let it seep in more. If you weren't there (perhaps you should come), you really should listen to the whole thing. To listen online or download the message, click here.