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Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to do? Do you ever give your best and still lose? Do you ever really have faith that things will turn out well and they don’t? Do you ever feel like you will never be discouraged again, then one telephone call or incident sends your confidence to rock bottom?

How often do God’s children experience all of the above? There is a line in one of the southern gospel songs that says:

“If I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that God could solve ’em.”

Isn’t it amazing how quick we can start feeling sorry for ourselves? Peter reminds us:

“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” 1 Peter 2:20

No one wants to suffer. Mankind works at inventions, discoveries and technology that will prevent or alleviate suffering. Suffering is contrary to our thinking and to our flesh. Yet, it is suffering that seems to bring the best out in men. Note that it was said of Christ Himself:

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

Saul, the Pharisee, had been very successful. He had risen to the top of his field. He was a man of means and reputation when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. A few miles away, God was preparing a man named Ananias to come and mentor Paul. God’s words to Ananias were revealing:

“…For I will shew him how great things he must SUFFER for my name’s sake.” (caps mine) Acts 9:16

When we are trying to encourage others in their walk with Christ, we usually play down anything that resembles “suffering.” We never say, “Thank God for suffering.” We never praise God for suffering and include it as part of our calling. Christendom says, “Think positive, don’t think suffering.” Some tell us to ”rebuke suffering.” Job’s three friends told him that his suffering was due to his sinfulness. Today’s preaching is that if man will “do good,” his life will be a bed of roses; no problems, no sorrow, no suffering. Today, somewhere on this earth, women are raped, children are slaughtered and men are punished because of their belief in Jesus Christ. We in America interpret the Bible as if only America is in mind. We have had it very easy in America, but we are a minute part of God’s creation. Relocate most of us to Iraq and our theology would not hold up until dark.

Suffering is much easier to endure when we know that we have it coming. We can “kick” ourselves for our disobedience or stupidity. It is when we are doing our best and we suffer for it that we have “issues with God.”

Note Peter’s words again:

“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” 1 Peter 2:20

Peter continues:

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24

Peter now tells us that suffering is our calling. Christ left us an example and we should follow Him, not imitate Him. Calvary is the very epitome of this suffering. Our salvation became possible because of His suffering. Peter interprets “by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5,) not as healing of the body but the saving of the soul.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” 1 Peter 4:12-15

How often do we create our own sources of suffering by our sins of commission or omission? When suffering appears, it is always good to take a spiritual inventory of ourselves. If it is our fault, then we need to confess it and become restored in our fellowship with Him. If the suffering is coming from God…and remember, nothing happens in our lives that did not cross the Father’s desk and He initialed it; it crossed the Son’s desk and He initialed it; and it crossed the Holy Spirit’s desk and He initialed it…we should ask not “Why?” but “What do you want me to learn?”

In the physical realm, there is a saying, “No pain, no gain.” It simply means that there is no easy way to get into good physical condition. It makes no difference what all the commercials say about how easy that “this” or “that” piece of equipment, diet or supplements will cause your body to develop to its peak condition, it is not happening without hard work and physical pain, and it is not happening quickly.

We are inundated with religious books, CDs and seminars on how to open God’s treasure chest so that we will never have another bad day. They are no more truthful than the people hawking the exercise products.

The carnal mind keeps looking for shortcuts to spirituality. Bible study is work; it takes time; it takes effort. When Paul admonished us to study, he identified it with work (2 Timothy 2:15.) Prayer is not easy. Saying grace is not a hard task, but praying for the wayward grandchild, the health of a loved one or the salvation of a relative can be agonizing. Witnessing to people about Christ often results in ridicule and mocking. Most of us can endure physical pain better than the stabs of criticism.

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4:16

Yes, Christians suffer. Our carnal nature loathes it and our carnal mind despises it, but God uses it to conform us to His Son. I must give you one more scripture before I finish.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Keep Looking Up!

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