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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 5:3-4’

Most of us have asked at one time or another, “Why does God allow so much suffering?  Why doesn’t he intervene?” 

Surprisingly, people of the Third World where suffering is common don’t ask these questions.  They accept the fact that no one leaves this life without enduring times of trial and distress [1].

Even God’s own Son endured suffering. Unimaginable suffering.  And it didn’t begin with the physical torture inflicted by Roman soldiers or the horrific crucifixion sanctioned by Pilate.

It began the night before, in the garden of Gethsemane, as he experienced overwhelming desperation and sorrow, and his sweat fell like drops of blood [2].

BUT!  God Almighty takes the worst deeds of man that cause the greatest pain and turns them into glorious victory with eternal benefits.

As we wait for that day, God uses our suffering to fulfill higher purpose beyond our comfort and prosperity—purposes such as these:

God doesn’t intervene so we can learn to surrender and obey.

Even Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” [3]—poverty, hunger, temptation, pain, exhaustion, derision, and stress.  Anything we face, he faced.

God knows if we don’t learn to surrender to his ways and purposes, we end up living to please ourselves—and not liking the selves we’ve pleased.

On the other hand, obedience does lead to confidence in God, prosperity of soul, and the ability to face life with resilience and poise.

God doesn’t intervene so we can develop character.

Suffering works for the believer, not against, producing perseverance which leads to character; and character to hope [ 4].

So we strive to act wisely and in the process learn self-control.  We withstand discomfort and learn fortitude.  We endure self-sacrifice and learn how to love.

God doesn’t pour the rains of affliction upon our souls for nothing.  “Springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers.  And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life” [5].

God doesn’t intervene so we can inspire others.

Some of you may know the name Bill Sweeney, a popular blogger diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1996.  He graduated to heaven just after Christmas 2021. 

Bill outlived many others with the same diagnosis, but he suffered much.  For years his entire body was immobile.  Eventually Bill was composing his posts on a computer that tracked eye movements—posts that reflected deep faith, great strength of spirit, and delightful humor.

Commenters affirmed again and again Bill’s impact in their lives as he provided stellar encouragement and inspiration, all the more impactful because of his deteriorated health.

God doesn’t intervene so we can exhibit faith.

Bill Sweeney exhibited great faith even though he was incapable of anything beyond typing with eye movements.  But it wasn’t the suffering itself that produced spiritual strength.  It was his response.  Without self-pity he lived his life and shared his heart—humbly and honestly. And thousands of people found hope.

It’s important to understand: Christ did not suffer to exclude us from suffering; he suffered to exclude us from the consequences of our sins.  However, we can be confident of this:

That means Bill Sweeney’s sacrifice of suffering counts for all eternity.

And God will make your sacrifices of suffering count for all eternity too [6].


[1] Philip Yancey, Grace Notes, p. 69.

[2] Luke 22:44; Mark 14:34-36

[3] Hebrews 5:8

[4] Romans 5:3-4

[5] L. B. Cowman, Jim Reimann, ed., Streams in the Desert, June 15.

[6] F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond the Scars, p. 163.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included eight statements called beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each one highlighted a virtue that results in the highest kind of happiness: sweet contentment not based on circumstances but on joyful faith in God and his provision for all we need.

In addition to the beatitudes of Matthew 5, the Bible offers dozens of blessing-statements—each one an encouraging slice of truth about God and his ways for us. They just aren’t constructed in typical beatitude style.

For example, consider Psalm 37:4:

 

 

Written as a beatitude:

 

Blessed are those who delight in God

for they shall receive the desires of their hearts.

 

Of course, the desires of our hearts often reflect child-sized plans, while God may have designed a “hugely dimensional destiny” that will surprise everyone.[1]

Kara’s* story illustrates. She fully expected to attend university and then enter the world of business. But even with a straight-A average, no scholarship materialized, and her parents earned too much money to qualify for sufficient financial aid.

Unless she took out a large student loan, Kara’s only option was community college. Highly disappointed—embarrassed even—she applied. Meanwhile a letter happened to arrive from that local college, describing a new course of study in TV production.

 

 

Kara had just completed a high school course in multimedia programming and loved it, so she applied for this new program and was accepted. Better yet, God provided full tuition as she earned that degree. And best of all, he molded Kara’s desire to coincide with the delightful and satisfying plan he’d designed for her.

Now years later, Kara and her husband make their living in the entertainment industry. No doubt the two of them marvel how God brought them together to work in a medium they love.

Kara is a miracle.

Romans 5:3-4 offers another beatitude truth:

 

 

As a beatitude it might read like this:

 

Blessed are those who embrace their challenges,

for they shall be changed for the better.

 

Anne wanted to support her husband’s dream of a free counseling service in their community and began making pretzels to sell at the local farmer’s market.

Through long effort and a number of failures, Anne was able to grow the business into hundreds of franchises across the country. You’ve probably eaten one of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels at a mall or airport.

 

 

Anne’s personal life also included struggles, failures, and even the death of one of her children. Yet she says, “I am now thrilled to live this life, feeling that each day is one to be enjoyed. God’s grace and forgiveness are what got me through it all.”[2]

Anne is a miracle.

Our third new beatitude is based on Mark 10:27b:

 

 

Beatitude style?

 

Blessed are those who care less about their limitations

and care more how limitless God is.

 

The bio on the backs of Jennifer Rothschild’s books informs the reader she is a wife, mother, and recording artist. Jennifer also travels the country as a speaker, and cofounded WomensMinistry.NET.

What the bio does not reveal is that Jennifer has been blind since age fifteen. In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, she wrote: “God often wraps difficult gifts with His grace—and then uses them to display His glory.”[3] Jennifer’s productive and joyful life perfectly illustrates that statement.

Jennifer is a miracle.

All three women exemplify what Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote long ago:

 

 

Kara, Ann, Jennifer, and countless other believers demonstrate: When we embrace God’s be-attitudes, we not only experience the highest kind of happiness; we become miracles.

 

*Name changed.

 

Notes:

[1] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pp. 160-161.

[2] Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, pp. 147-148.

[3]  Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, p. 84.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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It happened again. I was reading a familiar Bible passage when a new question presented itself.

Here’s the scripture:

 

 

The first two reasons made perfect sense. Pushing through difficulty does produce endurance, and endurance results in the formation of character–traits like responsibility, self-discipline, and patience.

If Paul had concluded by saying character produced maturity, I’d have heartily agreed and read on. But he says character fosters hope, which led to my question: Why hope?

To begin, we need a clear understanding of what hope means. Which of these definitions do you find most insightful?

Hope is: a) looking forward with confidence and expectation (Beth Moore), b) the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible (Eugene Peterson), or c) happy certainty (J. B. Phillips).

 

 

Actually, instead of choosing, let’s weave them together: Hope is the attitude of looking forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to the reality being constructed though not yet visible.

Author Katherine Paterson would also have us understand: “Hope… is not a feeling. Hope is something we do”–such as:

  • Affirming God’s omnipotent power—power that can accomplish anything (Matthew 19:26).

 

 

When we are facing the impossible,

we can count upon the God of the impossible.

–Amy Carmichael

 

  • Remembering God’s promises of the Bible—promises that never fail (Psalm 145:13b).

 

 

Quit studying the problems

and start studying the promises.

–Ruth Graham

 

  • Practicing God’s presence—presence that instills comfort, encouragement, and strength (Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 41:10; Joshua 1:9).

 

 

Few delights can equal the mere presence

of one whom we trust utterly.

–George MacDonald

 

In the 1980s, retired millionaire Eugene Lang was asked to speak to the graduating six graders of his East Harlem alma mater. He planned to share his story and encourage them that effort and perseverance do produce success.

But when he took the podium, Lang changed his mind.

“Stay in school,” he charged them. “In fact, it is so important, I’m going to make you a promise. You stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

 

 

No doubt some of the students thought, “Yeah, right.”

Most of these kids had already experienced a lifetime-worth of disappointment. Why should they believe this old guy?

Yet even the most cynical among them had to admit: Mr. Lang did have the financial power to keep such a promise—a promise announced in front of numerous witnesses.

Soon Mr. Lang founded the I Have a Dream Foundation and convinced others to add their support. He exercised his own financial power to hire a project coordinator, finance field trips, and provide mentors and tutors for each student.

 

 

Mr. Lang made his presence known by taking students to restaurants and museums. He personally counseled them through crises, and intervened with school officials on their behalf.

The kids responded. They began to work toward the goal of a college education, learning self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility along the way. As those character traits and more developed within them, their hope grew that Mr. Lang’s promise would manifest itself in reality.

Six years after that impromptu offer, nearly ninety percent of the students graduated from high school, and close to half were enrolled for college in the fall. Character did indeed lead to hope—hope that looked forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to a reality under construction.*

 

 

Mr. Lang typified what God does for us, developing our character so we might grow in hope—a hope for every tomorrow based on his power, promises, and presence, and a hope that can see heaven through the thickest clouds (Thomas Brooks).

 

Addendum: As of 2017, approximately two hundred I Have a Dream programs were in operation in the United States and in New Zealand, assisting more than 16,000 students.*

 

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/nyregion/eugene-lang-dead-harlem-college.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.jbsa.mil; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.vaguard.dodlive.mil.

 

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