By Pastor Rod LaFee
Have you ever had to make a decision between family, friends and God. I am sure we all have been put in that situation before. Maybe you have been put in the situation of being with your friends or doing what you know God would want you to do? Maybe it was just a simple choice of doing what was right and not what was wrong. Maybe you felt God tugging at your heart telling you it was time to grow up or be more mature or stop what you have been doing? In either case the decision is very hard to make.
In most cases the decision seems to make life worse instead of better. You see we all fall under the false assumption that God guarantees us health, wealth and a carefree lifestyle. We have been taught that failure or suffering can only mean failure of our own spiritual walk, the result of sin in our lives, or the lack of faith. Most of the time your friends look at you as being some kind of freak. You have abandoned them instead of them realizing you are abandoning their life style or their actions. All of us want to be accepted by our friends and all of us want to have a plentiful life while on this earth. 1 Peter 4:1-5 tells us : “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” The prophets, the apostles and Job were all examples of suffering. The twelve apostles were men who gave up everything for the sake of the Cross. They lost their property; they lost their freedom; they lost health and were beaten; and ultimately they lost their lives. The prophets were no different. They were imprisoned, beaten and murdered for proclaiming the word of the Lord. The churches that flourished under the apostles also were plundered and impoverished and the Bible repeatedly encourages them to endure and look ahead to the end result. Our supreme example comes from Christ Himself. Hebrew 12:1-2: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” So what is a greater blessing, a carefree life with no eternal value or suffering packed with the promises of God? There is a saying that says “Where there is no storm, life has no depth.” When you find someone who has never suffered you will quickly see they have a shallow and self-centered perspective on life. By our human nature, we think that prosperity alone is a blessing. Sometimes it is, but so is suffering if we are enduring with godly motives. What many of us do not realize is that the comfort and promise offered through suffering are not available any other way. If I avoid suffering by refusing to follow God through the darkest times of my life, I don’t just bypass the suffering, I also bypass the glory of God in my life. If I endure out of necessity but become bitter against God or bitter against those who cause me pain, I have exchanged the glory of God in my life for self-pity and anger. Pain only is a tragedy when we are looking at it from our temporary circumstances. Suffering is not intended to singe my soul, but to refine me into a vessel of immeasurable value. I am only burned when I am taking control. When I am trusting Christ, then He shapes me and my trouble becomes a trophy of God’s grace.