Why? Why me? Why my family? What is the meaning of this suffering?
These are familiar questions asked by Christians and non-Christians alike. No one is immune to suffering and adversity: “Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). There are the pressures of want, need, sorrow, persecution, unpopularity, and loneliness. Some suffer for what they have done; others suffer because of what people do to them. Many suffer because they are victims of circumstances they cannot control.
Pain is distressing. There can be nights of agony when God seems so unfair and it seems that there is no possible help or answer. Temporary relief may seem adequate, but the real solution to suffering is not to isolate it and try to do away with it, nor even to grit our teeth and endure it. The solution, rather, is to condition our attitudes so that we learn to triumph in and through suffering. When the apostle Paul sought relief from his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), God did not take it away, but reassured him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9).
Except for physical pain, handling suffering seems to be a question of attitude: “What am I going to do in the face of suffering in order to learn from it and use it for my advantage as far as God’s eternal purposes are concerned?”
Some of the most pathetic people in the world are those who, amid adversity, indulge themselves by wallowing in self-pity and bitterness, all the while taking a sort of delight in blaming God for their problems. Job’s attitude is an inspiration: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
The sufferer will be blessed if, amid great agony and despair, he or she can look into the face of the Heavenly Father and, because of His eternal love and presence, be grateful. Our response to suffering should be to look beyond it and see God’s higher purposes and what He wants to teach us.
Reasons for Human Suffering
• We may bring suffering upon ourselves. Dissipation and lack of discipline bring unhappy consequences. Long-term abuse of our bodies may bring on sickness. Wrong choices come back to haunt us. You may ask the inquirer: “Do you think this is happening to you because of your own bad judgment or excessive actions? What can you do to alleviate your suffering?”
• Sometimes God is taking corrective action because of sin and disobedience. God will correct and discipline His own. Through chastening He proves that He loves us and that we truly belong to Him (Hebrews 12:5–11).
• God may permit suffering so that we learn to respond to problems in a biblical way. Scripture tells us that Jesus “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Our goal should be not merely relief from suffering but rather learning from it (Romans 12:1–2).
• Sometimes God permits us to suffer simply to teach us that pain is a part of life. Nowhere does the Bible say that the Christian will not suffer adversity! Paul points out that it is “granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). Adversity can be a gift from God. Christ did not try to escape the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says He “endured the cross, despising the shame.” Why? “For the joy that was set before Him.” Jesus knew that the final word was not crucifixion (suffering) but resurrection (victory). We may suffer briefly, or all our lives. But let us not give up hope or engage in self-pity or bitterness. The end result is what we all look forward to: Being with the Lord in heaven will put everything into perspective!
• God may permit suffering for our well-being: “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, NIV). We must accept this by faith and pray that God’s highest good will come as a result of our suffering. Some of the deeper lessons of life are learned only through adversity. We must trust God to work out His own will and purpose in us so that we might be more Christlike (Romans 8:29). There is no redemptive merit in our suffering, as there was in that of Jesus; but if we are faithful under adversity we may be able to share in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
• Sometimes God permits suffering in order to speak through our life and testimony to comfort others. Jesus said that a particular blind man had been allowed thus to suffer in order that “the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3, NIV). God might work in your life through suffering to inspire others by your example in handling the adversity. Those who endure adversity can sympathize and identify more effectively with others who suffer. We comfort others in the way we are comforted: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, NIV).
For the Non-Christian:
1. Be sympathetic. Listen carefully as the inquirer articulates his or her problems. Guide the conversation so that you can offer spiritual help.
2. Offer encouragement and hope. God loves the inquirer and knows what is happening. He or she is not alone: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2). Tell the person you are glad he or she called, and that, by working together, you should be able to find an answer to the situation.
3. Ask if he or she has ever received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Sometimes God permits affliction in order to get our attention and bring us to salvation. Share “Steps to Peace with God,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
4. Pray with the inquirer for salvation and deliverance.
5. Encourage the inquirer to read and study the Bible. Praying will provide strength and perspective on the problems in life. Offer to send – Your New Life In Christ Bible Study, which will provide a good starting place for serious Bible study.
6. Recommend finding a Bible-teaching church. Fellowship with committed Christians will have a maturing influence. The church can also provide opportunities for Bible study and Christian service.
For the Christian:
If the inquirer is distressed because of some tragedy or suffering, discuss possible reasons why God may have allowed it.
1. Sympathize with the caller. Encourage him or her by offering God’s comfort. You may share some of the insights from “Reasons for Human Suffering,” above. Apply those which seem suitable.
2. If a desire for restoration and rededication seems to be manifest, share about them – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION
3. Encourage the person to search God’s Word and to pray sincerely that God will reveal His reasons for the suffering:
A. What is God trying to say to me?
B. What is He trying to teach me?
C. What steps ought I to take as a result?
4. If the person is not already involved, encourage getting into a Bibleteaching church. Bible study can lead to deeper understanding of God’s will and ways.
5. Encourage him or her to communicate with Christian friends. It always helps to have a listening ear. This will result in comfort, understanding, and strength.
6. Pray with the inquirer personally, asking for deliverance.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
“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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29, NIV).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35, 37).
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2–3, 12, NIV).
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12–13).
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:16, 19).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996
Seasons of Suffering
by June Hunt
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
(1 Peter 4:12–13)
A. What Is the Purpose of Trials?
• A trial is the process of proving the quality or worth of something or someone.
• Trials are tests of your faith, patience or endurance through the process of suffering.
• Three primary Greek words are translated as “trial” in the New Testament. Each has a slightly different emphasis in meaning, yet they all reveal God’s purpose for trials and suffering.
—Dokimion … proven faith
A testing trial in which your faith is proved genuine—
“These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)
—Purosis … refined character
A fiery trial through which your character is refined, as gold is refined (implies suffering)—
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
—Peirasmos … tested commitment
A trial or temptation through which the quality of your commitment is tested—
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)
Genesis chapters 37–50
God Means It for Good
Wherever he went, young Joseph incited resentment and jealousy. This favored child of Jacob needed refining, and it was no wonder that his brothers determined to do away with him after he bragged that one day they would bow down to him (see Genesis 37:5–11). Joseph’s story illustrates how God smooths the rough edges of our character by various trials and testings that build confidence in His purpose and provision for us.
The sands of abrasion were very real in Joseph’s life, for God used his trials of rejection and suffering and years of undeserved punishment to soften him. Joseph’s self-centered spirit was replaced with compassion even for those who had tried to harm him (see Genesis 45:8–11). More importantly, Joseph learned to trust God. His most powerful pronouncement was made when he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
(1 Peter 5:10)
B. What Are Some Truths about Trials?
• Trials are experienced by everyone.
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
• Trials have a divine purpose.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3–5)
• Trials last only for a while.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6)
• Trials are controlled by God.
“God … will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
• Trials strengthen you in your weaknesses.
“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
• Trials come with God’s grace for endurance.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
C. What Are Some Types of Trials (Storms)?
• Trials (storms) to rebuke
“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:23–27)
• Trials to rise above
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘Why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Matthew 14:22–32)
• Trials to ride out
“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.… But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.” (Acts 27:20, 41–44)
• Trials we dare not rebuke
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)
“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)
D. What Process Is Possible During Trials?
Little apple seeds that grow into large apple trees go through a process of change. A process is marked by a series of natural, gradual changes that lead toward an end result. This is exactly what God has in mind when He allows trials to enter your life. If, like the seed, you are willing to die to self, God will begin a process in you that can result in great spiritual growth.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
The Process … in the Psalms
• Trials turn you to God.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:1–6)
• Trials bring God to you.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” (Psalm 10:17)
• Trials motivate you to cry out to God.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.” (Psalm 142:1–3)
• Trials lead to personal examination.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
• Trials draw you back to God’s will.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
• Trials draw you to God’s Word.
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)
• Trials produce a hatred of sin.
“Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
• Trials produce a heart of humility.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
A. Heart Attitudes That Choke God’s Grace
The mere presence of pain is not a promise that you will grow and mature. The trial itself does not produce growth. Your attitude and response toward your trial determines what God can accomplish in your life. Do you resist God’s grace by bitter murmuring and complaining, or do you respond with a humble heart … the fertile soil for spiritual growth?
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
“How could a God of love allow so much suffering?”
God’s ways are always just. He never does wrong.
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
“God is all powerful, so why is He letting me suffer?”
In God’s perfect plan, He will perfect me through suffering.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3–5)
“I seem to suffer more hardships than others. It doesn’t seem fair!”
I am no different from others. God allows all His children to suffer.
“You know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:9)
“I have a right to be angry. This is so unjust.”
Even though my trial seems unfair, I will display a Christlike attitude in order to bring glory to God.
“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19–21)
“God has turned His back on me.”
God is especially close to me when He knows my heart is hurting.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“I cry out to God, but it seems He is not hearing me.”
God cares about my sorrow, and He hears my cry for help.
“He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24)
“If I’d had enough faith, this would not have happened to me.”
Faith does not prevent suffering. Actually, the godly are called to suffer.
“It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29)
“Life is cruel, and so is God.”
I will accept both the joy and the suffering that my loving Father allows to come into my life.
“ ‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:10)
“I’ll just endure this trial until it is over.”
I want to learn what God is trying to teach me in this trial.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
“All trials and suffering are the result of sin.”
God often allows the innocent to suffer in order to display His grace.
“ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened [he was born blind] so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ ” (John 9:3)
“God has failed me by not removing these difficulties from my life.”
God will deliver me in the trial, though He may not move me out of the trial.
“Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” (Job 36:15)
“I cannot forgive God—He could have prevented this.”
God will give me the grace I need to have victory in whatever He allows to happen in my life.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
B. The Harvest of a Bitter Heart
God has already provided the grace for you to be triumphant through the most severe of trials, yet many people allow seeds of bitterness to take root in their hearts. A bitter root will bear bitter fruit, the taste of which only increases your sorrow.
“Each heart knows its own bitterness.”
Seeds of Bitterness
• Destructive anger
• Depleted energy
• Drained emotions
• Diminished joy
• Depressed outlook
• Damaging accusations
• Deteriorating self-worth
• Desire to escape
• Distrust of others
• Doubt of God
• Distracted from priorities
• Deadened spiritual sensitivity
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.… Get rid of all bitterness.”
A popular movement today is the “name it and claim it” mentality: “What the mind can conceive, you can achieve.” Even financial success becomes a bonus if you “just believe.” Yet this New Age belief is not biblical, as you can see from the whole counsel of God’s Word. (See 1 Timothy 6:3–10.)
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
(1 Timothy 6:9)
A. Called to Trials and Suffering
Called to Commitment
God calls you to endure the pain of unjust suffering because of your commitment to follow Christ. While Scripture is clear that every authentic Christian experiences the Lord’s provision, to follow in His footsteps means you will also be called to suffer!
“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
(1 Peter 2:19–21)
Called to Correction
God disciplines you because He loves you—you are His beloved child. Although self-will moves you off course, God puts you back on course by allowing you to suffer the consequences of your sin.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
Called to Compassion
God views suffering as the school of experience that can give you a heart of compassion for others. During times of trial your most lasting lessons come from the comfort and counsel of God.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3–5)
Called to Conflict
God calls you to take a stand for truth and righteousness in the midst of wrong. Those who choose to live godly lives in the midst of worldly values will be criticized and persecuted.
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
(2 Timothy 3:12)
Called to Christlikeness
God designs refining fires that cleanse your character and conform you to Christ. You can accept your fiery trials when you accept God’s purifying purpose.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Called to Conquer
God allows Satan to tempt and attack you, just as he did Christ, in order that you can stand against the enemy and live out of your victorious position in Christ. Jesus defeated Satan, and you are more than a conqueror in Him.
“In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
B. The Root Cause of Discontentment
Trials are the disappointments we experience that are designed to reveal our prideful hearts. Like gold in the crucible, the hotter the fire, the more our imperfections rise to the top.
“Life is not fair! I don’t deserve this much heartache and disappointment.”
There are no “accidents” in life. Since God is sovereign over every situation in my life, I will see my disappointment as God’s appointment to build Christlike character in me.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28–29)
IV. STEPS TO SOLUTION
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
Deepen the Roots of Faith
God plants all Christians in the soil of suffering in order to deepen their roots of faith. Your Christlike character grows and develops as you learn to patiently let each trial do God’s redeeming work in your heart.
“Know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
|Face your trial positively||v. 2|
|Accept your trial patiently||v. 3|
|Implore God for wisdom in your trial||v. 5|
|Trust God through your trial||v. 6|
|Harvest the blessing from your trial||v. 12|
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Seasons of Suffering
Winter … Suffering the Chills of Pain
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
(1 Peter 4:12)
The cold winds of sorrow, tears and heartache blow into the lives of everyone, but as a Christian, you have a blanket of strength knowing that—
• God loves you.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
• God is with you.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
• God understands your weaknesses.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
• God cares about your struggle.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
• God controls your circumstances.
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you.” (Daniel 2:20–23)
• God is trustworthy.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33)
• God increases His provision.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21)
• God redeems your mistakes.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
• God gives sufficient grace.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
• God has your future in His hands.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18–19)
Spring … Sowing Seeds of Purpose
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
A wise farmer carefully cultivates the soil before his spring planting. In the same way, God has been preparing the soil of your heart through trials and suffering. You can sow spiritual seeds of maturity by choosing to respond with heart attitudes that are like those that Christ demonstrated, even though there will be times when you do not feel able to respond in a Christlike way.
Sow the Seeds of—
• Thankfulness—Thank God for what He is doing in your life.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
• Joy—Rejoice in the Lord, knowing that the outcome is in God’s hands.
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3)
• Confession—Search your heart and confess any hidden sin.
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
• Humility—Know that God gives grace to the brokenhearted.
“He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (James 4:6)
• Wisdom—Saturate your mind with Scripture.
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119:15–16)
• Prayer—Do not worry, but pray about everything.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)
• Endurance—Look to the Lord for deliverance.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
• Trust—Entrust yourself to God, who judges justly.
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
• Obedience—Learn to hear and obey God’s voice.
“This is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 John 6)
• Dependence—Act in the power of Christ.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
• Praise—Focus on God’s greatness, not on your circumstances.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
• Ministry—Look for ways to reach out and help others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
Summer … Living in the Sunshine of Provision
“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
When turbulent trials blow across the sunny skies of your life, how do you respond? Do you stew and fret, searching for solutions? Instead, realize that the presence of trials in your life reveals that God may be trying to get a message through to you. Maybe your tendency is to deny the facts, blame others or simply sink into self-pity. Regardless of the weather report, realize that the Spirit of Christ is living in you and gives you power to live above the winds of any adversity.
Biblical Truths to Tell Yourself
• Know with certainty that your life is surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I am a child of God!”
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
• Know that your unsaved self was crucified with Christ.
“I am dead to sinful ways!”
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6)
• Know that you have been separated from the power of sin.
“I may want to sin, but I don’t have to!”
“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Romans 6:12)
• Know that sin need not control you.
“When I respond in a sinful way, I am making a choice!”
“Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
• Know that there is power in God’s Word, and memorize and quote Romans 6:1–2 when you are tempted to sin.
“Shall I go on sinning? By no means! I am dead to sin. How can I live in it any longer?”
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1–2)
• Know that the Spirit of Christ lives in you.
“I have the power of Christ in me!”
“If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10–11)
• Know that you can face trials from a position of victory.
“My battle has already been won!”
“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)
• Know that you are an instrument of righteousness for God.
“I will give God total authority over everything I do and say!”
“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)
• Know that you live in the presence of Christ.
“I want to submit to the convicting of the Holy Spirit!”
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16, 25)
• Know that you are God’s child.
I believe that as God’s child I am led by His Spirit.
“For if [I] live according to the sinful nature, [I] will die; but if by the Spirit [I] put to death the misdeeds of the body, [I] will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13–14)
Fall … Reaping the Harvest of God’s Promise
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Responding properly to your trials reaps a large return. To the extent that you allow the Master Tiller to work through the rocky, unproductive ground in your life, you will grow in patience and perfection. Then as you mature, you will see that problems are the evidence of God’s promise to produce the life of His Son in you.
Responding Correctly to Trials Reaps:
• A greater understanding of life
• An objectivity with insight into daily events
• The capacity to discern between good and evil
• An ability to rise above daily stress
• A brighter outlook when trouble comes
• A deeper understanding of the ways of others
• A biblical viewpoint for making difficult decisions
• A heart for the heavenly calling
“Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
|What God Hath Promised|
|God hath not promised skies always blue,Flower strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky or steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep,
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
—Annie Johnson Flint
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