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Rejoice Within Suffering

 

Few days ago I met one of my best friends, Audrey, who just lost her beloved father. She said that now she felt lonely because before her father passing away, every morning before she go to the office, at the dining table she always talks about many things with him.  Now there’s one empty seat at her dining room and it makes her realized that she couldn’t longer share many things to her father. But there is something made me amazed from her. She said, “Yes I am very sad because I had to lose my beloved father, I am so sad because had to lose a great role model in my life. But in the other side, I am grateful because I don’t lose my joy. In the midst of grief I still have joy. Because why? I am grateful my father passed away in the state of keeping his faith faithfully, I am grateful there’s no unresolved sin before God, I am grateful that God gave him long lasting life with good health, though I feel too fast to go, I really know and understand God’s time is not our time. And the most important thing is, I rejoice because I really know where is my father go. He now will become a member of Kingdom of Heaven with God.” 

My beloved friends, this post inspired by Audrey’s story. This’s about rejoicing. Do we’ve rejoiced today? Maybe we’ll easily answer “Yes we are!” if our living conditions are safe; running well and there’s no problem at all. But do we still easily say we’re rejoicing when we’re in difficult situation Like Audrey for example. Do we still have joy though we’re under the pressure of hard problems? Generally, people associate joy/ rejoice with a feeling in a condition where there’s no suffering and problem. It means the joy for the majority of people comes and depends on their conditions that are being experienced. Many people also think that it’s impossible keep rejoicing in the midst of suffering. After I heard Audrey’s story my mind drifted away to one of the great figure in the Bible, Paul. For me, Paul is always can be a good example of rejoicing within suffering.

After repented through encountering with Christ, Paul then devoted himself fully to serving God. After having a new life, Paul’s life doesn’t automatically become easier. In his ministry, he met with the severe situations, suffered many tortures, had physical injuries, had mental pressure, and prisoned waiting for the capital punishment. But the amazing thing was all of his suffering didn’t stop him to serve God. Was Paul angry and disappointed to God? Did he grumbling and complain to God why after repenting and serving God he instead had a lot of suffering? No! Not at all! Paul didn’t do it all. What he did while in jail?  He praising God, he even wrote many letters to his congregation and his ministry friends and the messages that wrote become an essential foundation for every believer’s life today. The other amazing thing from Paul was that none of his letters contained grunts, disappointment, and sadness. Faithfully he greatly encourages people to remain steadfast and not stop rejoicing. For example, to the Philippians he had many messages to keep rejoicing and he repeatedly said that his miserable condition will not made him stop to rejoicing.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians.2:17-18, 3:1)

And in his final exhortation to the Philippians,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

My dear friend, when I wrote this post, I stopped for a moment to ponder and imagine Paul’s figure and had questions. How Paul can be like that? How can a man who has served God for a long time still be able to encourage others to remain rejoicing while he had hard suffering in the prison and awaits the coming of capital punishment? Then I read again the series of Paul’s letters and finally I could make a conclusion that Paul directed his heart and mind wasn’t like the worldly people. He didn’t focus to get wealth, fluency, preferential treatment, prestige, or popularity that he might get it all easily before repented. I noted some of Paul’s letters content.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

(Philippians 3:10-11)

 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3: 13-14)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3: 20-21)

From the verses above, we can know and learn what was become Paul’s focus in his life.  He focused to be like Christ, he always looked forward continuing to run for the purpose of obtaining a heavenly call from God in Christ Jesus. Though his worldly life was full of suffering and had capital punishment, he didn’t focus on his suffering. He more focus on the salvation that has been obtained through Jesus Christ and he had great opportunity to serve the Lord. I strongly believe this is reasons why he always rejoices within his suffering. Paul put his focus on the right position.

My beloved readers, I really don’t know how’s your condition right now. I’m so glad and be grateful if your life safe and everything is running very well. But maybe there’s among us who in the difficult time in life or currently facing very hard problems and it becomes a reason couldn’t be rejoicing. Right now, please allow me to telling this:  Actually joy isn’t come from what our condition is. Joy isn’t depends on how good or bad our life and also not depends on others. It’s really possible rejoicing within suffering. How come?  how can we keep rejoice in the hard time like Paul did? Let’s take a look to the following verses:

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

From two verses above we can conclude that there’s always joy and we will always be able to rejoice as long we live in His love and keep His command. This is the way that we can still rejoice even though our lives are full of suffering. Let’s take a look another verse,

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy (Psalms 5:11)

This verse above is another proof that when we take refuge in God we will be rejoice and everyone who love God will filled with joy.  The key point is “In the Lord” That’s all! So my dear friends, actually as true believers there’s no reason at all we couldn’t rejoice every day because we live and must be always live in God. Rejoice isn’t in and depending on our life condition or circumstances. True joy is always come from God and He’s the source of joy. Then what should we do in order to rejoice within suffering?  All we need to do is like Paul did. Put our focus on the right place. Not focus on the problems and suffering but focus on God who has given us salvation.  Like a rose and thorns. Don’t focus on the thorns but let’s focus on the rose. It would be better we think and be grateful God put rose on the thorns than we think and grumble God put thorns on the rose*). What does it mean? It’s all about our focus. If we always put our focus on the “thorn” we will grumble and will be difficult to have joy and rejoicing. But if we always put our focus on the “rose “then we will have joy and will always be able to rejoice. Don’t focus one the problems and difficulties because it will hinder us to have joy. Let’s focus on God because there is always joy in the Lord.  Moreover, we’ve to remember that joy/rejoice in the Lord is our strength. With rejoicing in the Lord then there will be strength to overcome our problems and difficulties.

Nehemiah said, “… Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

My dear friends, I really now it’s no easy to keep rejoice within suffering. But please remember, we have God who is so good. Let’s stop focusing on the problems and suffering, change it with focus on God. Remember, ponder, be thankful, and rejoice for His existence, His loving kindness, assurance of His eternal salvation, His words, and for what He has done for us. If until now we can still live this life, it’s not because of our strength and ability but God give us strength and enable us to face and overcome all problems and suffering.  Keep maintain our relationship and fellowship with God. Let the Holy Spirit always dwell in our heart and let the true joy always shine on from our lives because joy is the part of fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) Amen.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalms 32:11)

Karina – Living by faith

*) Quote from Dwight L Moody

Image source: Renfrew Christian Fellowship

Our Ultimate Goal

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

“Karin, you really like your father!” Many people around me always said like that. Yes I have to admit it. I have many likenesses with my father. The way we talk, our mindset, the way we handle problems, and many more likenesses. Still remembered until now, when I was a kid, if anyone asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Confidently and firmly I replied, “I want to be like my daddy” I really idolized my father. From him I have learned so many precious things. He taught me about the meaning of life, he taught me about humanity, from him I learned about true love, How to sincerely love one another, he also taught me about how to have empathy to others, and many other important lessons to live this life.

Talk about father, as Christians, beside worldly father, we have good and loving Father in Heaven. My dear friends, I have a question. As Christians and Father’s child, what is our goal?! I strongly believe all of us have personal goals to be achieved. We have big dreams to be reached. We want to be succeeding in career regardless of what we become. We want to be rich, maybe we want to be famous and honorable; we want our live always run smoothly, have problem-free life, and other worldly things. All of that isn’t wrong and indeed we must have goals and have dreams in our lives. But you know, as Christians, we actually have another important goal and it will become our ultimate goal. Let’s take a look to the Bible verse at the first paragraph of this post to get the answer. Let’s focus to:” …He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” From these words we clearly know what our ultimate goal as Father’s child is. Our ultimate goal is to become Christ-like.  Actually, the message about this thing already stated from the beginning in the first book of Genesis. God said:

 “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26-27)

 We’re Different with another God’s creation, we’re created very special. We were created in the image and likeness of God. Not physically but in character. It is very important to be implanted in our heart. Paul stresses the importance of living like Christ and describes his longing to see the fulfillment of this ultimate goal could be happen. He said, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,” (Galatian 4:19) in other word, That Paul willing to suffer again, like a suffering mother in childbirth so that Christ’s image is completely and permanently formed or molded in us.

What and how God’s characteristic is?  Actually it’s easy to know and understand God’s character. God has given the way to know His character through Jesus Christ who came to this world.  Generally, Christ – likeness encompasses two aspects, namely: First: the mind, attitude, and Christ’s heart. And the second thing is Christ’s character/ Integrity.  Easy to know but it turns out isn’t easy to apply in our lives.  Honestly, I have many times met Christians but they exactly don’t reflect the character of Christ. Instead they more reflect the worldly characters. For example, by chance I involved in the business world and really know how cruel the business world. I found so many sly businessmen. They can do anything just for the sake of their own business. They could run their business with dirty way, They compete unfairly, they in a sneaky way can  turn off the business of others that runs the same business with them, and you know, I got a sad fact that not a few of them are Christians. They assume that Christianity and business world are two very different things that cannot be mixed. They argue that Christian doctrines aren’t related with business rules. Business will be difficult to grow if always stick to the Christianity.  Once again I remember when for the first time I started to take over my parents’ businesses, my mom and dad give me myriad of advices and it all based on Christian doctrines. This proves that the Bible also deals with issues of how to run a business based on Christian teachings.

Another fact, I met many Christians that look like have “split personality”. In one particular situation and time their attitudes reflect Christ’s character. They seem like “A holy man” in the Church but in the other place and situation (out of the church), they changed and have completely contradictory attitudes. They didn’t have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) they are totally normal but they can easily set up their attitudes as needed. I call them as hypocrite. Another Sadder fact, the attitudes that didn’t reflect Christ’s character instead occurred in the church environment. Some time ago, one of my church friends in Singapore told me that just because there was dissent in some of the church assemblies, conflict occurred and they blaspheme and lash out each other and eventually they are hostile to each other. The examples and facts above are proofs that not necessarily people who claim as Christian could automatically reflect characters like Christ. I apologize to have conclusion that it’s not definite guarantee people who have been baptized and busy with church ministry automatically will completely reflect Christ’s character.  My father once said, “Don’t ever claim as Christian and already live in Christ if we aren’t reflecting His image. Once we claim we are Christian and live in Him, we have to always could reflect the form of His image” Then my father gave a simple example a glass and water. When the water gets into the glass, the water will follow the form of the glass. It’s impossible we pour water into the glass and the form of the water like a bowl. The water will always follow the shape of the vessel where it is poured. It means, when we say that we are living in God; we are obliged to follow the lead of Christ. We have to do something as exemplified by Jesus himself. About this thing John also affirms:

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

My beloved readers, this evening I want to ask all of us to seriously take time for a moment. Let’s think, ponder, and make an evaluation. How our spiritual life as Christians right now?  If we claim to be Christians and live in Christ, have we already reflect two aspects of Christ’s character through our behavior, deeds and lifestyles? Have we succeeded in getting people around us say: “Oh, their deed and behavior are truly reflecting the figure of Christ” Or even otherwise we are simply becoming a stumbling block to others? Let’s examine ourselves whether each thing we think is already in line with Christ’s character. Let’s evaluate again the way we think, the way we behave, our temperament, attitudes, character, integrity, and we have to make sure that it all still leads to the Christ. Do we already have a solid and genuine Christian character or we as if have “Split personality” that could be changed any time as needed and then people around us will labeling us as hypocrites.

Personally I have to admit it’s not easy to become Christ-like. Not infrequently I have to experience a struggle when I try to always reflect the character of Christ in my personal life.  As long as we live in this world, it’s not easy to always reflect Christ’s character because there are many things in this world are opposed with the Christian teachings. That’s true but isn’t an impossible thing to do and we have to remember one important thing that if anyone in Christ, the new creation has come the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17) As a new creation, we have to put off our old behavior and habits and day by day we should continue to experience renewal and increasingly get an Image of Christ and we continue to proceed to become Christ-like.

… you have put off the old man with his deeds,  and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Colossians 3:9-10)

And we also have been granted with the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, teach, help, and remind us of everything God has said to us:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

 Let’s always longing to live in God, really love Him, and always live in His words, faithful and obedient to His teaching, and fear to God. God will give us strength and ability to continue to live in accordance with His will. God’s word said:

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Don’t be affected by worldly temptations, stay focused on the process of reaching our ultimate goal. Stay focused to Jesus Christ as our role model and let Jesus mold and process us according to His will and also let Him eroding and destroying our old unpleasant character until finally our ultimate goal become Christ-like will be achieved. Amen

Karina Lam – Living by faith

Image source: thePreacersWord