Suffering Is Spiritual Resistance

suffering, spiritual growth, maturity, painLet’s use our imaginations for a moment.  Imagine a person who is born into a situation where they have absolutely no responsibility, no needs that go unmet and no impetus for movement beyond basic biological functions.  This person has all of their meals prepared and delivered to them in their room and they are not even required to leave their bed if they don’t want to.  They are not made to learn or to go to school.  They are not required to clean up their own space and have no chores or work assignments beyond merely existing.

Growing up like this, what kind of adult would be produced?  What does your imagination tell you about such a person?  Mine tells me that they would be completely unable to function in normal society, spoiled and lacking in empathy and compassion for others.  Furthermore, they would be fairly useless in any sort of constructive capacity.  In other words, they would be of no help to anyone else (and this is important to remember for the basis of our discussion – as you will see in a moment).

The fact is that in this life almost all of what makes us usable and constructive human beings comes from us meeting some kind of resistance along the way and learning to overcome it.  An easy example to use is that of education.  Facts and figures and logical principles don’t come naturally to most of our brains.  When we first encounter a math problem it seems utterly alien and strange but with a good teacher and some practice we can learn to add and subtract and do all of those things that are required for us to learn basic math.  But unless we pit our brains against the problem of learning how to add and subtract and then do the work required to practice and memorize those skills then we will never progress in our education.

And so it goes with our spiritual walk.  We begin our lives in Christ with simple faith in Jesus and what he has done for us.  But to become useful and constructive Christians we have to meet some resistance along the way and learn to overcome it not by our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name.

Allow me to be very personal here for a moment.  Not because I enjoy talking about myself but just to be as real and as transparent as possible.  The last year or so I have had some physical challenges to face.  I seem to have become progressively more sensitive to certain foods and have spent a lot of time in at least some degree of digestive discomfort with all that that entails.  In the process of learning what I can eat and what I must avoid I have also lost a lot of sleep and developed various and sundry body and joint aches (most likely due to not absorbing my food properly).  I’ve had days where I was sick to my stomach, exhausted and aching in various places and I got up, went to work and did “life” anyway because it was the right thing to do and stopping is not an option.

In all of this I wondered where God was and what He was trying to accomplish in me through this experience.  And to tell you the truth I still don’t know.  There might be an “ultimate” answer down the road or it might be that God is just trying to grow me up spiritually by providing some increased resistance in the form of suffering.  I’ve come far enough to know that I don’t need an answer.  I just need to be faithful and believe that anything that comes against me God has already given me the power to overcome in Jesus’ name.  I can say this with confidence because I’ve come through those days and can look back and see God’s faithfulness and love for me even when I was at my worst.  And I’ve learned to trust Him for deliverance because He has delivered me over and over again as I cried out to Him.

But it isn’t just about me, is it?  The reason is far more important than I.  It’s about me being able to tell you and anyone else who will listen that Jesus is not only savior He is also deliverer and the one who comforts and heals.  And it’s only because I’ve experienced it firsthand that I can now testify to God’s grace and tell you that He alone is sufficient.  The fact of the matter is, God can use one person’s suffering to teach and encourage many souls and the value of that teaching and encouragement has vast eternal worth.

 

How Genuine Faith Is Formed

suffering, 1 Peter 1: 3-9, faithHave you ever said to yourself “I don’t like this, I don’t understand why it’s happening and I wish it would go away!”  If you are like me then you have likely uttered similar statements or had similar thoughts on more than one occasion.  It seems to be part of our human condition to face adversity and to be in the midst of difficult circumstances no matter who you are or where you might be.

From a Christian perspective, we should understand it is Sin (notice the capital “S”, as in the fallen state of all creation) that is the root cause of the trials that we face but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily help us cope.  No, we need more than knowledge of the problem to stand firm and strong in our faith when we are facing a trial.  We need that constant connection to God the Father through the Holy Spirit in prayer and meditation on His Word, the Bible.

And the Bible, being one of the first and most important places to go in our distress, has a lot to say about the problems we face during this life.  In the 1st Book of Peter, we find the following:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith,being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NKJV)

I’ve included verses three through nine because they form a complete thought and need to be read and understood together but take a closer look at verses six through nine.  In the midst of our rejoicing (because of what is coming and is yet to be revealed, God’s ultimate gift to us!) we might be grieved (troubled) by various trials, if need be.  And why would we need to be troubled?  What purpose is served by the problems we face and then overcome with God’s help?

Genuine faith!  God works through all circumstance, good or bad, to produce in us a genuine faith that is more precious than gold and has as its goal the praise, honor and glory of God.  And what is the end of that faith?  What is the sum total of all that God is working in and through us?  The salvation of our souls and eternity with our savior.

Something that is genuine is true.  It is the real deal.  When placed under stress its true colors shine forth and there is nothing fake or artificial about it.  If it’s real, God knows it and people can see it in us.  Can people see a real and genuine faith in me?  Can they see it in you?

To get to that point of having a real and genuine faith we are going to have to go through some things that we might not like and that might be painful.  During those times it is only natural to search for answers.  As we are searching, I pray we would remember the Apostle Peter’s words to us as recorded in First Peter verses three through nine.  God’s still working on us.  He’s not finished yet.  Hang in there and keep the goal in sight.  It will be well worth it all.