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Posts Tagged ‘Acts 14:22’

Hardship

Hardship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday our starting point was Acts 14:22: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Not exactly an encouraging affirmation, is it!

But we discovered that problems can actually be opportunities—opportunities to improve our perspective, foster appreciation, and draw us closer to God.

Another benefit? Problems build character.

And why is that a valuable endeavor? Wise King Solomon answered that question eons ago: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (1 Chronicles 29:17).  That means,  when I face problems with integrity, I bring pleasure to my Heavenly Father.  Now that’s a goal worth pursuing.

integrity

integrity (Photo credit: glsims99)

Integrity is firm adherence to a code or standard of values. The one and only true standard is God’s standard, laid out in his Word.  Integrity includes righteousness, courage, perseverance, and faith–character traits that don’t develop without pressure.

The key is to live within the spiritual realm with him. Then the physical realm becomes less important. It’s as if we exist in an alternative reality. No wallowing in self-pity. No rehashing the negative aspects of the situation. No time wasted considering the “what-ifs.”

Instead we “count it all joy when we meet various trials” (James 1:2). How?

1. Practice his presence by speaking to him throughout the day.   Keep rehearsing God’s attributes. Remember all his benefits. Think of the blessings he has already provided.

2. Acknowledge those little demons of worry, shame, or inadequacy. Call them by name and present them before God. Notice how they cower as God proclaims his everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Watch them retreat as he affirms his infinite power (Jeremiah 32:27).

3. Anticipate what God might accomplish through these difficult circumstances. Wonderful possibilities exist as he sends us in new directions and uses us to minister to others.

No doubt there are more steps we can take. But these offer a good start. And what will be the result? Difficulties develop perseverance, and perseverance produces maturity—the one positive character trait that covers them all (James 1:2).

Heavenly Father, you know even better than I how easy it is to verbally affirm these truths; it’s another to live by them moment by moment. I still have much to learn about counting it all joy in the midst of trials. But I do aspire to be a mature person, able to say, “It is well with my soul.”   No.   Matter.   What.   Thank you for continuing to work on me, for never giving up.

IT IS WELL

IT IS WELL (Photo credit: Amydeanne)

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Not long ago I came across these words in Acts 14:22: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

I don’t like the sound of that! Especially the word must. And considering the recent converts Paul was speaking to that day, it seems awfully harsh. Shouldn’t Paul have softened his message a bit by saying, “We might go through hardships?”

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet Paul was saying nothing that Jesus hadn’t warned his disciples about: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33, emphasis added).

The reality begs the question why. Why is hardship inevitable? God Almighty is sovereign over all. It’s well within his power to protect us from difficulty. So why doesn’t he?

Here are some possibilities:

1. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul could have said his troubles were heavy and ongoing rather than light and momentary. He had been falsely accused, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and more. But Paul’s focus wasn’t on his earthly life. He was already focused on his future life in heaven. Every time he endured suffering, it meant the glory yet to come would be all the more splendorous by comparison. Paul understood:  Problems focus our perspective.

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint Paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Hardships remind us of what Jesus endured for us. Anything we might suffer cannot begin to compare to what he suffered on the cross—the extreme pain, the loathsome humiliation, and the unbearable separation from his Heavenly Father. Problems foster appreciation for our precious Savior.

3. “Faith must be tested because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest). Faith does not grow without testing. Trials provide the best opportunity to become intimate with God. And what could be more valuable than an intimate relationship with our loving, wise Heavenly Father? Therefore, we need to remember: Problems draw us closer to God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for caring so deeply about me that you discipline me. I want to reach that level of maturity where I rejoice in problems because of the growth opportunities they provide and the intimacy with you that will result. Continue to chip away at the hesitancy and obstinacy in my spirit that stands in the way.

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