Suffering for doing good

Western culture and most of our societies today are based on making one person happy: me. This has infiltrated the thinking of many who would call themselves Christians. Like me, you have probably been told when certain things happen to us that are perceived as ‘bad’ that you are doing something wrong. The prevailing message often taught by many – and that most like to hear – is that if you do everything right, God will bless you and prevent bad things from happening to you. Those who teach this message seem to have never studied the pages of scripture.

We are to live the best lives we can. Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 3:8-12, emphasising the need to live good, upstanding lives where we don’t give evil for evil but are a blessing to others. He supports what he wrote by quoting Psalm 34:12-16.

He then said, “For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13 NET). If we stopped reading there, we might get the impression that as long as we are faithful to Jesus and do what is right, nothing bad will ever happen to us. But we need to read on … Continue reading “Suffering for doing good”

‘Perils in the wilderness’

“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned’ three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26, NKJV).

Paul’s list of his sufferings while preaching the Gospel are absolutely amazing. The experiences cited above are only a relatively small part of the full list found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. One who reads that account might well feel shame to complain about inconveniences and minor persecutions suffered today.

Yet while the extent of Paul’s experience surpasses that of most others, the fact of suffering and danger is a common, expected aspect of the Christian life. Paul promised, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Continue reading “‘Perils in the wilderness’”

Overcoming adversity

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations . . .” (Romans 5:3).

It is not unusual for people to take pride in, or even boast about, the problems that they face in their lives. Athletes will often speak in interviews about “All the adversity I (or we) have overcome” to be successful as an individual or a team. They are not the only ones to use hardships as motivation to try to prove themselves to others. Minorities, the poor, and those with various handicaps will all display their problems proudly to show the extent of their triumphs and successes.

One common error that such pride succumbs to is to feel that one’s particular adversities are somehow special. Maybe they don’t claim that they are more troubled than anyone else, but there is often a distinct flavor of, “I have had to overcome more than most,” at the very least. Continue reading “Overcoming adversity”

Jesus the supreme example of suffering

Some people make it almost a life’s goal to avoid or remove any type of discomfort in their lives. They live by a dangerous misconception that happiness depends upon the absence of suffering and pain. Jesus’ gave us the supreme example of humility and also the supreme example of suffering. Following him is the key to joy and meaning.

Originally, man was created to enjoy life with God without suffering or pain. (Perhaps the deep-seated aversion to them and attempts to avoid them rise from this truth.) The Garden of Eden was the perfect place for man’s fellowship (relationship) with God. He had all he wanted or needed. Nothing lacked. Everything abounded in supply and variety. In the Garden, Adam and Eve had no worries, no cares, no difficulties. This was God’s eternal design. Continue reading “Jesus the supreme example of suffering”

The fog will clear

A few days ago, early in the morning, I glanced out my back window toward the apartment building where my son Joel and his family live. They’re living here for a year and found an apartment a couple of blocks away. But their building was gone! I did a double-take and noticed that a heavy fog had rolled in. Nothing could be seen beyond my backyard.

In less than an hour, the fog had lifted. My son’s building and everything else were in place.

The doubts of life are like that morning fog. Continue reading “The fog will clear”

Worthy to be treated shamefully

Can you imagine being arrested for simply telling others about Jesus? Although this does happen in some areas of the world, this is not something that most Christians think much about. Yet this was something that the Christians had to face in the months and years following Jesus’ resurrection.

Those first few months had to be exciting – the Day of Pentecost and 3000 became Christians, the miraculous healings, the boldness of the apostles, the fellowship and generosity of the Christians. Yes, there were causes for anxiety when Peter and John were arrested and Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to God. But on the whole, it had to have been exciting! It finally reached the point that signs and wonder were being done frequently. Continue reading “Worthy to be treated shamefully”

The gift of suffering

A young woman sat in my office, hurt and scared. Her husband had abandoned her. She had two small children, no job, and an education that had been interrupted for that marriage and those kids. What would she do?

I said the things preachers say, read a Scripture and prayed, but felt I had been inadequate.

Afterward, however, I began to think. I knew another woman in the congregation, an older woman, who had suffered something similar. I phoned the other woman and asked: “Can you do me a favor?” Continue reading “The gift of suffering”

Our secure hope

Sometimes we may think that we have it bad as Christians living in the 21st century. Our society seems to be turning against anything having to do with Christianity. But when we compare our situation to those living in the first century, what we go through is insignificant.

Nero was the ruler in Rome. He persecuted Christians, resulting in the deaths of many Christians – including, we believe, the apostles Paul and Peter. As the persecution began, Christians found themselves alienated from those around them. How do you face this type of aggression day after day?

Peter began his first letter by reminding them of all that they had because they were Christians. Continue reading “Our secure hope”