Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are You Facing Hardships? Then Praise The Lord!

Those who are mature in Christ know to expect some trouble in this world. It is a natural thing to happen because we are contrary to the nature of this place. However, I doubt many of us can appreciate just how much the enemy truly hates us. It is not a matter of dislike or annoyance; he truly despises and hates us and everything we represent. If he could, if he was allowed to, he would rip us apart in an instant. As it is, he will use all his power, lying and devious ways to try to separate us from God and then he can get at us any way he wants. It is not so much that he fears us or anything we can do as much as he hates us because our Father loves us. He hates us simply because we are the objects of our Father's affection. Now consider the severity of that hatred.

I am sure that Satan figured he had destroyed God's plan for reconciling man to himself. He had used the stubbornness of the Pharisees, the greed of the priests and elders, the ugly betraying heart of Judas, the blood lust of the crowd and the cowardice of a Roman governor. Many of the ugly traits of man used at the enemy's bidding to mess up the plans of his enemy, the Creator of all things. But now that he had the Son in his grasp it wasn't enough to simply kill him, he wanted revenge. The enemy of our soul doesn't want to just kill us, he wants to break us:

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. (Matthew 27:27-29)

I hope the thought of this scene never becomes dull to you. They were mocking the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Saviour, the instrument of creation, the Word of God made flesh, our brother, the first born. The mocking was designed to hurt, to kick a man while he was down. The enemy figured he had God on the ropes so he had better get a few good punches in. The mockery was to introduce despair, to cause doubt, to give Jesus a sense of failure. Then the cruelty increased:

They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. (Matthew 27:30)

Now understand that this did not include the flogging, when they ripped the skin from his back. This action from the soldiers was not part of the governor's sentence but instead an added cruelty from the soldiers. Allow me to repeat myself and keep this in mind; the enemy wants to do more than destroy you, he wants to break you. He will play on your weaknesses. He will play on your fears. He will try to stir up doubt in you. He doesn't know your thoughts but he studies your actions and he hears your words and he will use them against you, to try to break you so that you will let go of Jesus in your panic and fear. He is cruel and he hates us.

He was wrong though, he did not have God on the ropes. He is so full of anger and hatred he could not see how far God's love would take him in his rescue of his creation. The enemy thought he was destroying God's plan but God was using the enemy to finish his plan. That's the part I want us to grab hold of, right there, that part. Whatever the enemy is doing to try to break us God is using for his glory and our good :

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The death of Jesus made it possible for all of us to be forgiven our sins. In order for this to be true today Jesus had to endure mockery, torture and death. What the enemy thought were tools to destroy God's plan, God used for the good of those who love him. But it was because Jesus stayed faithful to his Father and the plan despite what the enemy threw at him.

This is a very hard thing for people to understand when they are pursuing their own comfort in life. When we believe that God is only interested in spoiling us here, making life comfortable, and fulfilling our greedy wishes then it becomes impossible for us to see his purpose in mockery, torture and death. It becomes impossible for us to trust that he is using these things for our good. It becomes impossible for us to worship the God who gives and takes away. Perhaps then we can understand why this verse clarifies for us that he works for the good of those believers "who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". It is time that we start speaking the truth plainly: there are some people in the Body who love their life too much and are going to lose it.

If you are so in love with the comforts of this world that you cannot understand that bad things happening does not mean God doesn't love you, you are at risk of losing everything. Those who love Jesus Christ also trust Jesus Christ. We trust him with today and tomorrow. We trust him with our pain, the mockery, the cruelty of this place. We trust that he is doing some good with it and that thought alone gives us the courage to press on with worship and praise on our lips. People lose children and continue to trust and praise. People face death because of their faith and they continue to trust and praise. People suffer with chronic pain and yet they trust and praise. People have their homes and businesses confiscated, they are beaten and jailed because of their faith yet they trust and praise. Teens look into the barrel of a gun pointed at their head and in trust declare Jesus as their Saviour.

Our God is not a God of comfortable living or comfortable faith. Our God is engaged in a battle over the souls of this world and he has called us to fight along side him. Jesus is more than our Saviour, he has been given to us as an example. "Not my will Father but yours be done" is what he declared and the only way we can understand "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" is if we are able to declare it too. Our petty goals and dreams should never be compared to the goals of a Father fighting for the billions of people who could be rescued from the grasp of the enemy. There is so much more to following Jesus Christ then just worship. We must be willing to be mocked, spat upon, struck, tortured and face whatever cruelty we must in order to see the Father's will fulfilled. We have a greater hope than the dullness of this world:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Jesus had his eyes fixed on the goal which put everything else in perspective. He was able to endure the torture and the cross, even death, because he knew what it was achieving. We may not know what is being achieved by the things that we are going through and that we will have to face but we do know that we have been promised that God has good planned for it. That should be good enough for those who love and trust him. God is good, all the time and as long as we are holding on to Jesus the enemy cannot defeat us and God will be glorified.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say Pastor, this is one of my favorite, if not my favorite article you have written.

I can sense and feel your worries of the End Times, but I can sense that you are not worried about just yourself, but for all of those around you, for everyone. I can tell this was a desperate attempt to get people to awaken themselves and see that there comfortable lives in sin are only leading to destruction. How right you are in this, but how loving you are for helping all of us see this by writing this!

Thank-you for writing such an eye opening article.

Blessing from Maryland,