walk in the word
Sin / Suffering / Satan
What is the greatest injustice you have ever suffered, whether in the past or the present? Think about it for a minute. Did someone in authority jerk you around? For most of us, embracing suffering is a challenge. We wonder if God knows what we are going through, or if He cares. Yet God is so capable of pouring favor into our lives if we submit to Him.
There is a unique fellowship with Christ that comes through suffering. Peter said, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). This shows that suffering is not incompatible with biblical Christianity; it’s part of it. If you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have also embraced suffering.
For most of us, embracing suffering is a challenge. We wonder if God knows what we are going through, or if He cares. Yet God is so capable of pouring favor in our lives if we submit to Him. This means submitting even when we don’t see His actions on our behalf; even when submitting brings suffering and heartache. James said,that“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
What is the greatest injustice you have ever suffered, whether in the past or the present? Think about for a minute. Did someone in authority jerk you around? Difficult circumstances come into every person’s life. Inevitably, in one way or another, suffer It happens to all of us. I remember three times when I experienced great abuses of authority and suffered because of it. Each time God had to teach me how to respond submissively, so He could bring blessing into my life.
During my high school years, basketball was everything to me. In my senior year, I encountered a great disappointment. Leading my team in every statistical category, I thought I should have been picked for the league all-star game. But I wasn’t. I could give you the reasons why the person in authority did not pick me (some, no doubt, were my fault). But in that moment I was deeply hurt and felt that I had been treated unjustly.
I remember going to the game, sitting in the stands and stewing, “I should be out there! This isn’t right!” Although it’s laughable to me now, it was so hurtful at the time. What I felt in my heart was, “This is the death of my basketball dream.” But I look back now and realize that it was the birth of my ministry dream. “I’m not going to be the person I thought I was going to be. I’m going to go in a very different direction instead.” That ill-treatment by a God-established authority was used by God to bring favor and blessings that I simply could never have imagined at the time.
Later, during Bible college, my preaching professor and I didn’t get along very well (again, I’m sure it was partly my fault). For whatever reason, he just didn’t like me. Every time I would preach a message in front of the other students, he would criticize and even ridicule me. He made me feel so lousy—like I had no ability at all to speak for God! It was such a hard thing.
I didn’t handle this one very well. I got so troubled about it one day that I borrowed a paper from one of my buddies to prove a point. I copied it and put my name at the top. We both turned in the same paper, yet my buddy got an “A,” and I got a “D.” I was so upset! I took both papers to the professor’s office and laid them down. I challenged his authority, and on a human level I was 100% right. But you know what? I didn’t win; I lost. He didn’t back down. My actions injured my reputation, and I didn’t get favor from God in that instance.
It was only later, through submission, that God’s blessing rested on me, when I realized that nothing good was accomplished by taking things into my own hands. I might have been right, but I was also wrong!
I think of some of the early days at Harvest Bible Chapel, where I have pastored for fourteen years. On one occasion, twelve of the original eighteen founding members of the church turned their backs on us and walked out. They said some awful things about us. I thought about leaving, and my associate pastor thought about leaving. It was such a hard time. I can remember just weeping before the Lord. But God broke us during that time, and we submitted to the hardship.
None of the favor and blessing that have come since could have happened apart from submission to God in the midst of these hardships. It seems to me that the history of my life has been seasons of struggle under difficult authorities involving choices of submission, followed by abundant favor and blessing from God.
What if in any of those opportunities I would have said, “I’m out of here! I don’t want to put up with this! I don’t care anymore”? I would have missed the favor of God. If there is anything in my life that will stand at the judgment seat of Christ, I trace it directly to those choices of submission and the favor of God that followed those seasons of hardship.
May the Lord give you the grace to do the same with your season of hardship. Don’t try to run away from it; submit to Him in it. And you will find His blessing and grace just around the corner.
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