We are thinking about the challenge to FOCUS our eyes on Jesus. And there are distractions that keep us from doing so. Distractions from the world, ourselves, and our archenemy, the devil.
Let’s continue thinking this morning about a major source which can blind us in our keeping our eyes on Jesus — suffering. We’ve thought some about self-inflicted suffering and how we ourselves are often our own worst enemies.
But what about others-inflicted suffering? The very world we live in is broken, dangerous, and opposes us with its Fall-induced thorns and thistles (Gen. 3- Adam and Eve’s fall away from God). We should not be surprised that we will suffer in this world, for the Lord Jesus promised such. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Our fallen world inflicts us with diseases, “natural disasters,” “acts of God,” birth defects, wild animals, and wayward politicians. Human beings do unspeakable things to other human beings. Although suffering in this world is inevitable, we are not to pursue pain or persecution.
What are some guidelines that will help us endure others-inflicted suffering so we can FOCUS on the Lord Jesus?
1. We must realize as believers that sometimes suffering is a gift! Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . .” Granted?! Yes. Belief in Christ + suffering for Him = a life of obedience and faithfulness. We “participate” in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, as we read in I Peter 4- 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. ”
2.We should also affirm the truth that sometimes suffering is a tool in the Master’s hand to shape us! James 1 says, 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
3. In our weaknesses, we learn of His strength and His grace. We read in 2 Corinthians 12 of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and how he prayed three times for God to take it away from him. Paul writes, 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It sounds pathological to “delight” in one’s weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. But the key expression for Paul — and for us — is “for Christ’s sake.” (to be continued)