Modern popular theology leaves a person believing that if he will submit himself to God, accept Jesus Christ as his savior, and commit his life to the service of the master, life will be good and everything will work out fine. Money worries will be resolved, physical ailments will be relieved, emotional distress will be calmed, you will always enjoy employment, the weather will be designed to accommodate your planned outside activities . . . Everything will work out right!
But we all know this is not true. Godly people still have financial problems. Some get involved in accidents. They get sick. Some die. Some suffer abuse, hardship, heartache, emotional distress, and even breakdowns. Life is sometimes tough even for good people.
The apostle Paul suffered terrible hardship after he became a Christian. He would have been excommunicated as a Jew for becoming a Christian, and all he had prepared for in his life would have been for naught. As he went preaching the gospel, he would start in Jewish synagogues, because he cared deeply for the Jewish Nation (Romans 9:1-5). Many times he would be thrown out of the synagogue, and the Jews seemed to be the ones who would instigate opposition against him.
When he preached to idolaters, many would turn on him as well, as is shown in his preaching in Philippi (Acts 16) and in Ephesus (Acts 19). He lists the privations he went through as a Christian in 2 Corinthians 11. No, we cannot say life was easy for Paul because he was a Christian. In fact, he gloried in his sufferings so that Christ would be manifest in him (2 Corinthians 12). As he started the second letter to the Corinthians he stated “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us, in whom we trust that he will still deliver us. . .” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
As we consider this idea of faithfulness further, we see Jesus! See him in the garden with drops of bloody sweat oozing from his skin, and hear him say, “. . . My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me. He went a little farther and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:38-39).
Not everything works out right all the time, so when difficulties do arise . . .
FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example . . .” (2 Peter 2:21-25). In this passage the following points are made
He committed no sin – he did not sin when tried and executed. He did not deserve the way he was treated.
He did not retaliate. He could have called twelve legions of angels to save him, but did not (Matthew 26:53).
He made no threats.
He entrusted himself to God.
KNOW THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD (Romans 8:28). Notice it is not merely that “all things work together for good, “ but that “God works . . .” It isn’t a matter of circumstances. Nor is it that everything just finally happens to turn out beneficially. Rather, God himself is seeing to it. He is making sure that “all things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
No, everything does NOT always work out right, but in ALL THINGS God works for the good. May we learn to rely, not on ourselves, but on God.
Adapted from Milton Bird
HOW TO BUILD A GREAT CHURCH
“No matter what else we may have in the Lord’s church, it is strong determination, faith and plain old “gumption” which makes it possible. How many times have we seen it, not just in the story of the tortoise and the hare, but in all of life, “that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). There is an immeasurable, unseen value, that so often overrides all other shortcomings, and that is the will to win. Many a football team, out manned and outsized, yet by grit and determination, wins the game. A little church, with a keen sense of mission and determination to grow, will beat the big churches with their buildings, money and talents, yet with little desire to grow, every time!
“We must believe we can succeed in the Lord’s work. But not only that, we must believe it with all of our hearts. The diamond is the hardest substance known to man, yet with a concentrated electrical source, it can be broken and cut. The fierceness of the heat melts iron ore and makes possible the formation and usefulness of steel. So concentrated aim, an invincible purpose, moves the church forward.
. . . We must come to believe in greater achievements. We must formulate the decision we can do it with God’s grace and power on our side. No matter what our limits are in the church (location, money, buildings, age, opposition, competition or whatever) we can still do our very best with what God has given us.”
Mac Layton, How to Build a Great Church, p 24.
WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE A FAILURE
When you feel like a failure, it might encourage you to look once again at the familiar story of Peter’s denial of his Master.
Fortunately, Peter’s failure was a temporary one. It was a blemish on the surface of his character, but it was not decay in the core of his character. It made Peter look bad, but it did not destroy the real Peter. He was an amateur denier, never a professional one. Despite his failure he was more conditioned for discipleship than for becoming one of Satan’s permanent victims.
We often take to harsh a view of these temporary defections, both in ourselves and in one another. When they happen, we lose our perspective and act as if the whole of our lives is to be judged by this one set of actions. We make failures more important than they are, and hence we tend to condition each other toward failure, weakening in each other the elements of confidence and renewal.
Several years ago, a teen-age boy confided to me that he had, indeed, told his father a lie. “But that doesn’t give him the right,” he continued, “to call me a liar, who will never amount to anything.” I must confess that I agreed with him. What a horrible state of mind for a parent to put into the mind of his boy who is still trying to grow and develop as a Christian. All of us react better to encouragement and trust than to harsh pronouncements and censorious judgments.
How did Jesus treat Peter when he met him again following Peter’s denial? Did he berate Peter for his failure and seek to rub conversational salt into his wounds? NO! He met Peter as if nothing amiss had happened between them. He talked with Peter, ate with him, and then at the right moment said, “Peter, do you really love me? Feed my sheep.”
When you feel like a failure, that is the secret. Just keep on loving Christ, do what he asks you to do, and he will enable you, as he did Peter, to triumph over your failures.