Christians have burdens: from sins and weaknesses to the painful circumstances of life. In other words, Christians have burdens. To this end, one of the best aspects of Christianity, while living in this world, is that God has taught believers who have grown in Christ to become burden bearers.
While many enjoy the holidays this time of year a number suffer with pain, sorrow, and loneliness. May God truly bring joy to those suffering through Jesus Christ.
Last week we discussed God’s purpose for the suffering we endure in this world. Suffering, in its grand scheme, helps us to look beyond ourselves and see an All-knowing and wise Creator who cares for and comforts those who place their trust in Him for eternal comfort from this sinful world. While this knowledge consoles many, such experiences were never meant to give us a genuine hope. No, it was our risen Savior, who suffered at the hands of this sinful world through whom we enjoy a genuine hope for eternal comfort.
The apostle Paul knew this both from a conviction he long held before coming to know Jesus as the Christ (Acts 23:8), but also because as a hostile enemy of the Lord’s church, witnessed with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1-9; Acts 8:3). Because of this he said to the church at Corinth.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. ” (1 Corinthians 15:1–19, NKJV)”.
The fact and reality is that Jesus died, then rose from the dead according to prophetic scripture and is the reason why we have such a hope that we declare the glorious gospel to the lost. It is through our risen Savior we can trust God to get us through this suffering world, on to a better home. A place where there is no more sorrow and shed tears. Amen.
There have been countless articles written on the subject of “Grief & Suffering.” I’m sure I’m not adding anything new, but I have read many things in the past that have provided me with the most comfort in dealing with the subject.
One helpful comment on the problem of suffering comes from the pen of an uninspired man recorded in W. C. Morro’s biography of J.W. McGarvey:
A grief stricken mother in Lexington, Kentucky, asked McGarvey, ‘Oh, brother McGarvey, where was God when my son was killed?’
McGarvey’s answer was immediate: ‘Sister Yancy, he was just where he was when his own son was killed.’
It is hardly possible to live long on this earth without encountering some sort of heartbreak for which there seems no logical explanation. In the face of such painful circumstances, Satan tempts us to doubt God’s love for us. In Mark 9, a man whose son was possessed with a spirit since childhood asked Jesus’ disciples to cast out the spirit and they could not do it. He then pleaded with Jesus to cast it out. In verse 22, the father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” Jesus replied, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” In verse 24, the man cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” I think we all fall into this man’s weak moment from time to time when our faith is tested. However, like the man, we have more faith than we give ourselves credit for on many occasions.
It will help us to remember that God, in the person of the Father, experienced the loss of his only begotten Son in completely unjust circumstances. On the cruel cross, God assured us of his love for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (NASB). And by the same cross, he certified his intention to dry every tear after a few more days. “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, NASB).
Our country is going through the largest financial crisis since the great depression and is engaged in a protracted war in the Middle East. In addition to these, each has the daily struggles of life. We are concerned about our families, jobs, school and the testing of each Christian’s resolve to stand firm in their service to God. There is much to discourage us, and without the comfort of the Scriptures, we cannot know how to confront and conquer each of these situations. Christ warned us in Matthew 13:22 the cares of this world could very well choke us to death spiritually if we do not prepare to meet these challenges.
How should I fight the discontentment Satan stirs in my life? The way I find most helpful is to look to the examples of the Lord and of His apostles. Before Jesus took on the form of man, He knew exactly what He would face while on earth and came anyway. He knew our salvation would never happen without His sacrifice. His resolve to do the will of His Father led Him to quietly accept the constant temptations, trials and tribulations. He accepted His separation from God, while taking on our sins, and met the torture and death because He knew what lay ahead for Him, assuming His position by God’s side. He knew His sacrifice would bring salvation to mankind. He was content in His role.
In addition to the example of Christ, I personally look at Paul as a role model for achieving contentment. He, like Jesus, knew there was something far superior to all this life offers. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, he said he was able to keep the faith, knowing a crown of righteousness awaited him. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul lists the sufferings he had endured while serving God and spreading the gospel. This same man who had endured so much for Christ’s sake tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 he was content in whatever circumstance he found himself. How could anyone be so strong? Well, he tells us in verse 13 that he was able to accomplish this and every other thing he did through the Lord from whom he received his strength. The question I have to keep asking myself whenever confronted by the challenges of life is am I going to try to handle this by myself. The answer is no, I cannot handle it alone. Unfortunately, I often forget that and try to make a go of it alone. More often than not, I will make a complete mess of it and ultimately have to go to my Father as I should have done in the beginning. In Philippians 4, Paul tells us what to do and what the result will be. With prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, let God know your anxieties. While our fellow Christians care about us and our problems, only God can grant us the peace that surpasses anything we can imagine. True contentment and peaceful lives come with our trust in God and by following His will for our lives as found in Philippians 4:8-9: let our minds dwell on truth, righteousness, purity, loveliness, good and studying his Scriptures and practicing them. Then and only then will we find the peace of God. Godliness accompanied by contentment is the source of great gain as we are told in 1 Timothy 6:6. Paul was content in his role.
If you are struggling with anxiety over financial problems, loss of job or worry about loved ones in peril from war, go to God about it. The sooner we realize we cannot handle these things alone and that only He has the power to help, the sooner we will experience contentment. Remember 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (NASB). Are you content in your role?