Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do You Glory or Growl

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). The Christian life is not made up of pie in the sky platitudes which have little or no meaning in the real world. When we are told to "Rejoice in our sufferings." we can indeed rejoice in our sufferings. The rejoicing is not considered in the sufferings themselves but in their effects. One effect of suffering is patience. Patience is the habit of endurance, and Christian patience implies submission to the will of God (James 1:3). As we grow spiritually we come to realize that sufferings themselves are an honor and blessing. This idea is often expressed in the Scriptures. Our Lord says, "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matt. 5:4). "Blessed are those who are persecuted" (Matt. 5:10). The apostles left the Jewish council "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41). Peter calls on believers to rejoice when they participate in Christ's sufferings and pronounces them happy when they are insulted for his sake (I Peter 4:13,14). And Paul says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses" (that is, my sufferings). "For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses," he says, "In insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties' (II Cor. 12: 9-10). This is not irrational or fanatical. We do not glory in suffering as such, or for its own sake, but because of what the Bible teaches. We are to consider it an honor to suffer for our Lord. We rejoice in being given the opportunity of showing His power in our support and deliverance. Suffering is one means of our sanctification and preparation for usefulness here and for heaven hereafter. A Biblical attitude toward suffering really sets the Christian apart from the world. The power to rejoice comes from omnipotent grace that we receive by trusting in God's promises. "Now brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." The "Grace of God" was given to them. That grace produced an indomitable joy in a great test of affliction. And that joy in affliction overflowed in love. Grace doesn't work like magic, it works through truth. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free from complaining and from a critical spirit. Paul never asked us to be stoical about suffering. However the pressures of life have a way of developing endurance in us, and this endurance can be exercised only when we are placed under pressure. The very trails we so dread are used by God to strengthen us. Paul is not saying we should merely pretend to be happy. Christianity is never phony. When it come to suffering do you glory or growl? Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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