Friday, July 03, 2009

How Do You Choose To Suffer?

My hubby has asked me to write the devos that will go along with his upcoming sermon series from Phillipians: Joy in Suffering, Joy in Serving, Joy in believing and Joy in the Lord. May we always find Joy in our relationship with Christ as we seek to draw nearer to Him and walk with Him daily!

How do you choose to suffer?

What does it mean to “suffer?” It is all a matter of who you ask. To the soldier in a foreign country, it may mean being without his family, a hot shower and a bed in which to sleep. To the wealthy, spoiled young actress, it may mean having a broken nail and having to wait two days before her routine manicure and spa pedicure! To the five year old child, it may mean having to eat oatmeal instead of a donut for breakfast. Suffering is all a matter of perception. People perceive anything that is out of the ordinary and that presents a bit of a challenge to move through suffering in their lives! Of course, the soldier is suffering much greater trials than the five year old who badly wanted a Krispy Kreme, but what we suffer isn’t the issue, it is how we suffer that sets us apart from the world and it’s trappings.

Paul was accustomed to suffering. First, he inflicted it upon the early Christians, by making spectacles of them and killing them. After he came to know Christ, or rather, Christ introduced himself to him on the road to Damascus, blinding him and changing the course of his life forever, he suffered ridicule, snake bites, imprisonment and ultimately death, all in the name of the man for which he used to kill! He tells us many times in his letters that we are to take hold of what Christ gives us, even the bad things that cause us to hurt and to suffer, as suffering allows us to have but a taste of how Christ endured the weight of the world for us! We are to exercise the hope we have in Christ Jesus because it is through suffering that we are made more like Him and only then, able to give Him glory and honor that He doesn’t require from us, but that he does desire from us! We are to view our lives, every part, the good, the bad and the ugly, as offerings to God. Wallowing in self pity and refusing to seek God as we trudge through the valleys, knowing the mountain top must be near, isn’t the answer. Instead, we are to keep our eyes ahead, focused on God and pressing hard to draw as near as we possibly can (see Phil. 3:12-14)!

This week, think of some ways you are suffering in your life and no matter how big or small those trials may be, consider what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5. Remember that God provides you with all you need to grow and the opportunity to experience a joy that only comes to those who are seeking to be more like Christ; a joy that is available only because Christ chose to suffer so we wouldn’t ever have to know an eternity apart from our loving Father. Don’t suffer like those who have no hope, but suffer as if there is something worth suffering for! “. . . but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

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