Job, a righteous man, suffered great pain and loss. He struggled to understand the reasons for his suffering. What he could not see from earth was the dialog in heaven between God and Satan as they discussed Job. The Evil One wagered that Job’s devotion to God and his blameless behavior would quickly disappear if God’s blessings of health, wealth, and family were removed. Although Job did not deserve suffering, God allowed Satan to test him, so that his unconditional love for God could be demonstrated. God was glorified by this demonstration of Job’s devotion. Our sufferings, too, can be God-glorifying opportunities, as we show the Accuser of the Brethren and the onlooking world God’s power, as it is seen more clearly in our weakness.
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT
Besides glorifying God, our suffering can also make us better people. Like a coach who puts his athletes through grueling training to make them fit for competition, God does the same with us. He makes us stronger, more patient, less materialistic, and more holy through our trials.
“God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT
(The word above translated discipline is used elsewhere for “child-training,” conveying an educational, preparatory, or restorative strategy.)
“My suffering was good for me,
for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” Psalm 119:71
Lord, mold us and refine us into what You intend us to be. Let the way we respond to the stresses that life brings us “show you off” vividly to onlookers.
In Victor Hugo’s les Miserables, Jean Valjean’s life was forever changed by the kindness and forgiveness he received from the priest, from whom he had stolen silver . He went on through life feeling compelled to help and forgive others, as he had been.
Paul described the same experience for the believer in Christ , who realizes he has been forgiven and adopted to sonship by God, though he deserves only punishment for living life apart from God. “Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:1-2
It is a most natural response for us to be forever grateful for a great benefit received from another, such that the way we relate to that person is forever changed. When I personally came to realize that, because Jesus paid the penalty that I owed God, I could receive forgiveness and eternal life, my relationship toward God was forever changed. Previously a fretful performer on a treadmill, hoping I might be doing enough to win God’s approval, I was transformed into a grateful son who loved to please his Father.
The best motivation for godly living is gratitude for what God has done for us.
“Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.“ 2 Corinthians 7:1
“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.” Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
It is a difficult assignment to speak boldly of our faith in God in hostile surroundings. Rather than face disdain and mockery, many keep silent. The first disciples were changed men who felt they were undeservingly snatched from hell. In gratitude, they could not help but speak.
We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” [the High Priest] said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him . . .” But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. . . . The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Acts 5:28, 29, 41
Later, Paul, overflowing with gratitude, as one “alive from the dead” (Romans 6:13), felt compelled to speak,
Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. . . And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:14, 18-20
Just as this single red tulip stands out among the yellow, Lord, make me so bold to not be afraid to stand out for You, as Your ambassador!
Paul, toward the end of his life, was able to say to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation, both to the Jew and also to the Greek” (1:16). However, earlier in his life he asked for help to overcome fears that he had in proclaiming the gospel:
“And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20
Lord, like Paul, Moses, and Jeremiah, I am hesitant to speak out when You give opportunities to share with others Your generous free gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. Give me the confidence that You have orchestrated these very circumstances, that You have prepared the hearts of the listeners, and that You will certainly accomplish what You desire in that conversation, in your time.
When reading to my children many years ago, they never let me skip a page. When I was tired and wanted to abbreviate the nighttime ritual, they knew immediately if two pages were turned, instead of one. They never seemed to grow tired of the same stories over and over again. My uncle, decades after his children were grown, could still quote perfectly from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.
Both the present state and the future direction of our lives are determined by the time and energy we invest in God’s written Word. So we, too, grow to love hearing and learning from the same stories over and over. The disciples of Jesus never tired of Jesus’ teachings, but remained hungry for more. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
Throughout Israel’s history, God’s people were given a sense of security and meaning in their present circumstances by frequent repetition of the stories of their nation. These also gave them hope for the future. “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the Lord our God has commanded us to obey?’ Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand.” Deuteronomy 6:20-21
But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9
As they prepared to enter the Promised Land, they were warned about what kind of king they should place over themselves. His attitude should also be trusting, submissive, and childlike, daily seeking out this important history from God’s Word:
He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. Deuteronomy 17:19
Lord, never let me tire of hearing and reading the stories from Your Word, which give me life. They comfort me, as they tell of Your never-failing faithfulness. They are Your essential instructions for my everyday navigation of this life. I thank You for being willing to tell them to me over and over again. I need that.
Jesus set the pattern for how desperately we need to seek God’s wisdom, power, and guidance daily. After an extremely busy day and evening before, it is said of Him In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35
I make getting alone with God such a priority that I feel naked or thirsty if I must go off into my day without it. David’s heart attitude was, O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 We need to cultivate this hunger.
What do we do when we are alone with God? King David said of his time with God, For to You I pray. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3 Of this expectant watching, the prophet Habakkuk said, I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. Habakkuk 2:1
This time with God does us no good and does no good for God’s kingdom if we are not alert and obedient for ways to apply what He teaches us while we are with Him. David said, Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. James said, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. James 1:22-24
Joshua warned Israel, This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua 1:8 Meditation on the lessons God teaches us when we are with Him takes time, but this investment is essential for our time spent to make a difference for eternity.
As I meditate, I find it helpful to ask myself some questions. Is there a sin God is pointing out to me that I need to confess and forsake? Do I have a bad attitude I need to correct? Is there here a passion that I need to develop? Is there a relationship I need to nurture? Do I see an awesome attribute of God‘s to admire, and tell Him about it?
Priests, ministers, and pastors have the distinct privilege to represent God to men and to represent man to God. They help people understand more accurately who God is, how He made it possible for Him to forgive us our many sins, and how He longs to help us to live the lives we were created to live. The priestly function is also to bring man’s needs before the always-hearing, omniscient ear of Omnipotence. The priest is like the Holy Spirit in his role as advocate and defender, reminding God of the forgiveness He has offered every repentant sinner. He likewise reminds us sinners of our undeserved but guaranteed righteous standing before God, at Christ’s expense.
Peter reminded all believers that they have been made priests, who are to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
These unlikely priests were qualified for service by their costly purchase requiring Christ’s blood. They are a diverse, international kingdom of priests, from all ethnic groups. They will reign with Christ at the end of time for 1000 years. (Revelation 5:10, 20:6)
This is you. This is me. We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us, “We beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Jeremiah did not feel qualified to perform this holy, two-way representation in his own person. God reminded him, Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord Jeremiah 1:7-8
Lord, help us not to make little of our priestly assignment, acting like You must have made a mistake in choosing us to send and represent You. Wash away our fear, as we feel Your strong, calm presence within us, Your firm hand behind us. Give us words to say that would explain perfectly who You are and the shocking good news of the undeserved forgiveness You offer to any humble enough to receive it. Thank you for this exciting, fulfilling assignment.