Tag Archive | suffering

GOD’S LOVE IN THE SUFFERING (guest post)

Not a few Christians have the mindset that when they were saved and become followers of Christ their lives will be free of all problems and sufferings. Some of my friends were disappointed because their lives after receiving Christ didn’t get better and sometimes even become harder than before. And then they begin to doubt God’s promises that say,

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. (Isaiah 43:1-3)

For God do not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of Men. (Lamentations 3: 33)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1Peter 5:7)

 We all know that God really love His child.  If God is so good and loving, why does He allow suffering to His children? Even His begotten son had to suffer tortured beyond humanity and death on the cross.  This is the most common question that has been haunting many people especially for Christians. So, why the problems, trials, and tribulations seem to be part of our lives? My dear readers, this time, Sister Sella will give all of us an explanation as the answer of the question above. All comment hopefully could be reply by Sister Sella.  Thank you very much, dear readers.

 

Suffering is not a comfortable word to imagine. Even some of our prayers contain requests about the health, blessing, and protection of God. If we ponder more deeply, the point is to be escaped from suffering. But the facts… sadness, failure, loss, and the things connoted as suffering will always be a part of life. Not because God does not love us, but because the Lord has a noble purpose for our benefit:

Suffering is one of God’s ways to teach, mold, and purify His people: “Remember how THE LORD YOUR GOD LED YOU ALL THE WAY  IN THE DESERT these forty years, TO HUMBLE YOU AND TO TEST YOU in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV)

And any suffering that we must bear because of the truth as the people who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, or the suffering that we go through in obedience to God, is a process to produce the unshakable spiritual quality and makes us more firmly holding on to God as the only hope. Not just for the present life but to eternal life: “Not only so, 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.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

The various forms of suffering – whether caused by sin and human error, or the suffering that God allows in the lives of His chosen people, like Job – all can be used by God to reveal His love even in ways that transcend our understanding !!

THE CARE OF GOD

A few weeks ago, one of the chapters in the book “A Heart for God” by Sinclair B. Ferguson helped me to see suffering from another perspective: SUFFERING IS ONE OF GOD’S WAYS TO CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE. But … If God cares and loves His people, why should He show it through suffering? So let’s see the life of Naomi in the book of Ruth.

Once upon time there was famine in the land of Israel. One from Bethlehem-Judah named Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, went to country of Moab to live there. Then Elimelech died there. Naomi was left with her two sons, who eventually married women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah. Then her two sons died too, so Naomi alone with her two daughters-in-law.

Naomi had two choices: stay in Moab in the sad memories of her husband and two beloved sons who died there, or return to Israel, the Promised Land, from where she came from. By God’s grace, Naomi returned to Israel with Ruth, Mahlon’s wife, who was determined to go wherever Naomi goes. This was Naomi’s word about her life:

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara,  because THE ALMIGHTY HAS MADE MY LIFE VERY BITTER. I went away full, but  THE LORD HAS BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY. Why call me Naomi? THE LORD HAS AFFLICTED ME; THE ALMIGHTY HAS BROUGHT MISFORTUNE UPON ME.” (Ruth 1:20-21 NIV)

It was not words that comes out of a bitter and disappointed heart with God. It was Naomi’s recognition that GOD ALMIGHTY ALWAYS EXIST AND WORK in all her suffering. Naomi knew for sure that all things God allowed to happen in her life is to bring her back home, bringing her back to God and all His promises.

She remembered… when the famine occurred ten years ago, she and her family chose to leave Israel, the land on which the Lord had promised to bless and care for His people. Leaving the Promised Land is the same with to doubt the promises of God. She went away full, which is full of plans, hopes, and dreams of a better tomorrow, and possibly by bringing all their treasures, to build a new future in a foreign country. Then suffering for the sake of suffering was “forcing” her to return to the Promised Land despite with “empty hands”, nothing else can be expected and relied upon besides God!!

Sometimes we are also like that. When faced with problems, we don’t immediately seek God but instead seek help from others with our own strength. Sometimes we are so confident that we don’t fully rely on God until God allows suffering to rob all we have. Maybe it’s money, position, power, self-esteem, relationships, or anything else that WITHOUT WE REALIZE ALREADY REPLACE THE POSITION OF GOD IN OUR HEARTS. Sometimes we feel our hearts are right and our relationship with God is all right, until suffering discloses hidden secrets from the depths of our hearts and makes us realize our true reality. That’s when we are purified and our commitment with God is renewed!!

“I USED TO WANDER OFF UNTIL YOU DISCIPLINED ME; but now I closely follow your word. You are good and do only good; teach me your principles.” (Psalms 119:67-68 NLT)

Sometimes the bitter things permitted by God as a form of His care for His people. The care of God is not only about an abundant blessing, but also discipline, rebuke, and protection for His people. Discipline and rebuke so that we repent of sin and soon return to Him. Protection – not just for the salvation of body and soul – but also protect us from everything that potentially to lead us away from God. In order to care for us, sometimes God has to discipline, rebuke, punish, and let us through suffering for our good, like a father to his beloved child.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the LORD’S DISCIPLINE, and do not lose heart when he REBUKES you, because the Lord DISCIPLINES those He loves, and He PUNISHES everyone He accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV)

If God allows us to suffer, that means God cares about our lives. Why go through suffering? Only God knows!! He knows before anything happens, He knows our hearts, He knows our tendencies toward everything, and He knows exactly how to treat each one of us. He knows when to talk to us through the word we read, through the words of others, through an event, or through suffering. When we ask “why”, no human answer can satisfy us. For He is God. It is impossible to understand His decision with our mind. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!.” (Romans 11:33 AMP)

One thing we must understand is that God is love and everything He does for us is out of love. When illustrated very simply, the God’s care is like parents who teaches and disciplines their children. A good parent will discipline their child to eat, learn, or sleep at the proper hour even if the child is in the mood to play. A good parent will supervise and not allow their child to do things that are not good for the child, and train their child to live in good habits that can make the child grow and develop to the maximum. When necessary, parents will be angry or punish their child who did wrong. In the feelings and limitations of a child’s understanding, of course the child will feel suffer and cry. But one day… according with their growth and maturity, they will know that all that their parents have done is for their good. So it is with our Father in Heaven. Whatever He does that makes us suffer is for our good, for He is a good Father.

THE GOOD FATHER

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN GIVE GOOD GIFTS to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 NIV)

When we pray and say “Amen” about GOOD GIFTS from the Father, often what we imagine is: get promotion in career, prosperous life, running well in business, and other GOOD THINGS FROM HUMAN VIEWS. But something good in the eyes of man is NOT ALWAYS GOOD FOR US FROM THE FATHER’S VIEW because FATHER KNOWS US VERY WELL. Father really knows what is best for each of His children personally and specifically!! Something good for one of His children does not mean it is also good for His other children. We can not measure our lives by comparing with the lives of others. We can not say God is unfair because we have to experience a certain suffering, while others do not experience it. The Father gives and does every thing according to our maturity, His perfect time and His plan in each of our lives.

The good gifts of the Father is not only what is good for our happiness and prosperity in the world, but especially what is good and has an impact on our eternal life. Under certain circumstances and when if necessary, God can use the suffering in order to accomplish His plan although actually His heart is not willing to see us suffer: Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” (Lamentations 3:32-33 NLT)

The reason for every thing the Father allows to happen in our lives is: LOVE. If suffering has to happen (even if it is caused by our own mistakes or sin), it will not harm us because God’s purpose is not to destroy us but to build our lives in Him so that He can bless us and make us as His partner to do His works in the world.

In His wisdom and sovereignty, FATHER CAN DO GOOD THINGS THROUGH A BAD CIRCUMSTANCE, as God’s care in Naomi’s life. Who can surmise that after all the painful things she experienced, God not only restored her life but also touched the life of Ruth, even giving a new future for them both. Through Ruth, Naomi was supposed to live alone without heredity, eventually having a grandson, named Obed. As we know, Obed is the grandfather of King David. A priceless gift!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Therefore, if the situation is not good and suffering presses, do not lose hope because our Father must work together in it. But if we know for sure that we still have sin, it is better to straighten it out before God. God’s grace can sanctify and restore us. God is the Master to turn a ruined life into a new glorious one.

GOD WITH US

We can say that God’s care in Naomi’s life is remarkable because the Bible tells us the end of the story. But in everyday life, often we are in a dark valley without knowing “when and how” it will end. In such circumstances, our hope is that the good Shepherd never leaves us. His love always keeps us in spite of the time we can not feel Him. He always walks with us even though sometimes we can not see Him: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4 NIV) When God with us in the valley of the shadow of death, everything definitely in His control.

Dear reader, SUFFERING IN THE WORLD IS ONLY TEMPORARY, BUT THE LOVE OF GOD IS ETERNAL. If we remain faithful to God then we will get the reward: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Roma 8:18 NIV)

Therefore if God allows suffering to happen … Do not falter, because: “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10 NIV). Do not become weak, because: “The strong spirit of a man sustains him in bodily pain {or} trouble, but a weak {and} broken spirit who can raise up {or} bear?”(Proverbs 18:14 AMP)

All that power can only be obtained in fellowship with the Holy Spirit which will enlighten our hearts with His word, so that we may understand the will of God. Therefore, let us hold on to the Word of God when we are in distress. “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. Your statutes are for ever right; give me understanding that I may live.” (Psalms 119:143-144 NIV)

Do not be angry and disappointed with God because His love never leaves us. The apostle Paul, who had experienced so much suffering in his ministry, said: “Rejoice {and} exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering {and} tribulation; be constant in prayer.”(Romans 12:12 AMP).

Let us still rejoice even though we are in the midst of suffering. Rejoice in the midst of suffering is not based on our feelings, but based on faith in every promise of God and believing that God must fulfill all of His promises, so that in the midst of suffering we can say: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13 AMP)

A M E N

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Additional source:  Sinclair B. Ferguson, “A Heart for God”, by The Banner of Truth Trust, Scotland, 1987

Note: I use this book in Indonesian translation, page 117-132   (“Hati yang Dipersembahkan Kepada Allah”, Momentum Christian Literature, Surabaya, 2010, cetakan-3, translated by Hendry Ongkowidjojo)

Photo Credit: Google Images  (edited with pixlr app)

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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

The Head, Not The Tail

THE HEAD NOT THE TAIL - KARINA'S THOUGHT

 

I begin this post with a question. Do you want to be a successful in life? I strongly believe that your answer will definitely, “Yes, of course! I want to be successful in my life.”  That is so true. There is no one in this world who doesn’t want to reach a success in their lives. We all want to success in career, business, marriage, family, study, ministry or whatever it is. Maybe this time you all have achieved a certain level of success in a particular field. That’s great! Be grateful! However, not the least people among us still struggling to achieve a success. There are many people who actually have a life contrary to that I mentioned above. There are still many people who always fail to get a success. Many people said that failure is a part of process. OK, I agree! But it wasn’t supposed to ongoing forever. God wants to put each of us to be the head (successful) and not the tail (unsuccessful). Keep going up, not down. If we continue to be a tail and at the bottom, it could be a sign that there is something within us and it should be fixed.

…The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. (Deuteronomy 28:13 NLT)

Talk about the head and tail position, I love took the Joseph’s story as an instance. We all know since childhood Joseph was different than his other brothers. Jacob loved him more than his other children. (Gen.37: 3) and it made his brothers jealous and hated him. This is the beginning of Joseph’s suffering series. The suffering began when he told about his dream. (Gen.37: 5-7) Heard his dream; Joseph’s brothers hated him more and have a plan to kill him. (Gen.37:18) Fortunately, He wasn’t killed. But survived from murder plan didn’t make his life totally safe. His life still threatened because he was thrown into the dark cistern. Then even though he was free from the dark cistern, it was not a truly freedom because in fact his brothers sold him to the Midianite (Verse 28) Now Joseph’s status is as a slave. His status is not as the head, but the tail. Then what happen next? It turns out Joseph bought by Potiphar one of Egypt’s captain of the guard.

The most of us might think that there is no feat at all to be proud as a slave. But this thought wasn’t applied to Joseph. He was different. As a slave Joseph always get achievement and got the chance to live in Potiphar’s house. How it can be that way?  The scripture said:

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. (Genesis 39:2 NIV)

Joseph didn’t have a mental that always grouchy. He underwent his “profession” as a slave very well, whatever he did, he always succeed. Even though in the tail position, he could be the head. Why? Because The Lord with him. Joseph’s life journey becomes lighter? Not really. The next problem came. He tempted by Potiphar’s wife. (Genesis.39:7 NLT) But Joseph flatly refused. He wasn’t  tempted by momentary pleasure because he wants to live in obedience. The flesh may be willing, but his spirit refused. Joseph said: how could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9 NLT) Because continuously rejected, Potiphar’s wife was furious and malign Joseph so he was thrown in jail. Position increasingly dropped! Joseph’s status now no longer as a slave but as a prisoner. How Joseph’s attitude? His attitude remains the same. He didn’t complain or blaspheme anyone, including God, but he still showed remarkable attitude that always obey and please the Lord.

Again we will see the similar condition like in the verse 2 but in the different place, in the prison.

But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. (Genesis 39:21-23 NLT)

Difficulties might be increase but the fact, Joseph remains did as best as he could. Again we see that in the bottom position which lowers than a slave, Joseph can still be a head. Why? The answer once again, because The Lord with him and caused everything he did to succeed.  We all know the end of this story. For he successfully interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, he gets amazing position. From the prisoner became the most powerful man in the all land of Egypt. (Genesis 41: 40-42 NLT ) Joseph eventually became the true head.

Joseph experienced a long journey. He traversed three phases of process which is starting from the dark cistern, prison, and finally the palace. The interesting thing here is, Joseph always succeed even though he was in very difficult situation and even at the tail position. The important lesson that we can get from this story is, God always be with Joseph!  I am sure if God not always be with him, Joseph will not be able to pass through all of suffering and he will not be able to be the head. Just because God always be with him the hard problems and suffering not being able to stop Joseph to success became the head. Oh, our God is so marvelous! He not only will make us the head and always on the top, but he also always be with us in the process to be the head.  God gave Joseph strength and wisdom so everything he did always succeed and finally became the true head. It is a precious lesson for us. In our daily lives, we may pass through very unpleasant phases and even very painful. But right now I am telling you one thing: Don’t be afraid! God always be with us! David beautifully said,

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NLT)

And Jesus also said,

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

God always be with us not only when we are in the safe and comfort season without any problems but God still be with us even in the outer darkness.

Why God was always be with Joseph in any circumstances? Let’s go back to the Deuteronomy 28:13 to get the answer.

If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.

 More affirmed in verse 14:

You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.

From the verses above we can get 5 points. First, listen to God’s command. The Second, obey to His word.  Third, not turn away of His command. Fourth, not follow other gods. And the last is, only worship God, not god. Joseph was successfully went through these 5 points and made it as his guideline. Joseph was obedient did these things no matter the condition he faced. He wasn’t disappointed, not trying to find other alternatives to survive. He didn’t grumble and blaspheme, he didn’t despair, and he hadn’t lost hope. Joseph choose to remain believe and walk with God in obedience and finally God made him the head, not the tail.

My dear readers, maybe this time we are experiencing very unpleasant phases in life. We may facing failures and in the tail position. Or we may currently in a hard struggle to pursue a success. This time allow me to encourage all of us one thing: Don’t be afraid and discouraged because God always be with us in any circumstances. No matter what condition we are today, let’s keep hold fast to the God’s word, believe without doubt at all, don’t tolerate the sin’s trap and don’t be tempted to take other alternatives because we impatient to undergo the process. God has promised that He will make us the head. And not only that, He also promised always be with us same as He was always be with Joseph. Even we walk through the darkest journey; if we always walk very close with Him, at the end of journey we will get success.

We will remain succeed even though we are pressed. We will keep moving forward even though detained. No one can stop God’s will as long we remain do what He commanded. Joseph has proved his obedience with always walk with God and he was succeed! Now it’s our turn to prove that by always listen and obey His word and commands, by not follow other gods, and always worship our true God, we will reap God’s promise that He will make us the head, not the tail and always at the top, never at the bottom. Are we ready? Amen

Karina – Living by faith

Image credit: lingholic.com

Smyrna, The suffering Church

 

SMYRNA, THE SUFFERING CHURCH - Karina's Thought

To be followers of Christ then our lives completely secure, free of problems, enjoy life without any obstacles at all. Have a life with abundance blessings, and live in prosperity.  I thought this is a misconception about following Christ and sadly, this concept is currently held by many people and becoming a benchmark when they decided to follow Christ.  Personally, I know a businessman who suddenly decided accept Christ in order to save his business that is threatened with bankruptcy. Today, there are many wrong purposes in following Christ. They only think about blessings, help, and miracles from God. Actually, we all know that being a Christ follower doesn’t mean that we will be hundreds percent have a safe life, trouble-free, and without any obstacles.  In fact, when we become a Christ’s follower, we will face so many trials and our faith will be tested.  It is so easy we says, “God is so good” when our lives is free of problems and there is no obstacles and pressure at all. But the question is, have we remain easily say, “Good is so good” when we have so many life pressure and in a very hard situation? Can we remain being faithful and obedient even though our lives in unpleasant condition? These are questions which the answer will indicate how far we love and believe in Him.

My brother and sister in Christ, this evening I would like to take all of us to learn from one of seven churches that received the message from God in the book of Revelation 2. Let’s take a look to the church in Smyrna. Smyrna was a seaport city about 40 miles north of Ephesus. It has been described as the most beautiful of the seven cities. Today it is called Izmir, Turkey. Scripture does not give us any information concerning the founding of this church, nor is it mentioned in the book of Acts. Presumably, this church was founded during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Smyrna is the Greek word for myrrh, a flagrant perfume used in burial. Many believe that this church represents the martyrs of all the ages and the sweet-smelling fragrance of their faithfulness until death. There was no rebuke for this church and because they were faithful until death. Why the church in Smyrna mentioned as the martyrs of all the ages and sweet-smelling fragrance of their Faithfulness? Actually, the life of the church in Smyrna was contrary to the conditions the city of Smyrna itself. The church of Smyrna was the suffering church. How suffered they are? Let’s have a look together.

I know your afflictions and your poverty… (Revelation 2: 9 NIV)

The church of Smyrna suffered because of the pressure of the Roman government, at the time, made it mandatory that all citizens should worship the emperor or they will facing the death. They must burn incense and acknowledges that the emperor is God. Here lies the root of the problem. The church in Smyrna refused to do all that and they considered as unpatriotic traitors. Then the affliction begins. Many of them were boiled alive, many others were roasted alive, some crucified, or the Roman authorities took them to the coliseum and fed to the angry and hungry lions.

The church in Smyrna lived in poverty. Based on some of the commentary on the book of Revelation I have read, they were not only poor but they absolute poor. They were absolutely didn’t have anything.  They cannot live their lives normally. They hated, boycotted, people didn’t want to make a trading with them just because they were Christians. They cannot develop their work; there was no way to make a living, and worse it seems the all city dwellers trying to make them starve.

The affliction does not stop there, there is another one. The church in Smyrna was slandered.

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2: 9b NIV)

The Jews was making false allegations and reported it to the government. They slandered that the Christians make a practice of cannibalism, immorality, considered atheists, people instigator, and a family crusher.

Another affliction is the church in Smyrna had long suffering.

…I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days… (Revelation 2:10 NIV)

Verse 9 talking about the suffering that has been experienced by the church in Smyrna, but the verse 10 speaks of the suffering that are still will experienced by them. There are many Bible commentators assume that “ten days” refers 10 period of time of suffering for the God’s church that will be experienced during the reign of ten anti-Christ Roman emperors.  And it was true; history noted that there were around five millions Christian dies as a martyr during ten period of Roman emperor.

What lessons that we can take from the church in Smyrna?  After I study deeper this passage, I thought there are two important things we can learn. Being fearless and be faithful. God gives two instructions to handle their suffering.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer… Be faithful, until death(Revelation 2: 10 NASB)

Do not be afraid and be faithful! God said these with His omnipotence and omnipresence (These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Verse 8) and His omniscience (I know your afflictions and your poverty. Verse 9) and the church in Smyrna chose to be fearless and be faithful. They are not afraid to die to defend their faith in Christ. Polycarp, a pastor in Smyrna offered freedom by governor if he willing to deny The Christ. But He said: “for 86 years I have served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king and my savior?” Before Polycarp was burned, he prays, “Oh Lord, almighty God, I thank you for counting me worthy of sharing the cup of Christ among the number of your martyrs”. The church at Smyrna knows He is the Word that is the first and the last. What this means is that He is God who fought in the entire history of this world and have full authority over what happens. They also realized and understand in their suffering God always be with them and even will strengthen them. Suffering because of their faithfulness is not due God forgetting to help them but rather God is present in their lives.

My dear friends, what about us today? What season of life are we in today? Maybe we are in a season that everything is going great and we just love life. Things are running smoothly. We are so in love with the Lord. Every day there is just a wonderful surprise and we are just in a great season of life. But I going to tell one thing that God never promises us as a believer that life is going to always be fun. He never promises us that life is just going to be great. As a matter of fact, He promises us that if we are a believer, we will face suffering and you will have some persecution in our life.

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus Himself reminded:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24 NIV)

This evening,  allow me to encourage all of us to learn from the church in Smyrna. We may be hated by the world, received unfair treatment, insulted, slandered, and so on, but it should not make us turn away from God. Jesus had reminded this thing. He said:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 NIV)

Let’s emulate the church in Smyrna to remain faithful, never give up, and keep stand firm in their faith despite the torment and suffering continue come upon them. And eventually, they got great rewards. There are two rewards from God. The first is “The Crown of life”

…and I will give you the crown of life. ( Revelation 2 : 10 NASB)

The second reward is, “The Eternal life”

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2 : 11 NASB)

As a believer, we do have eternal life and He is saying we may suffer the first death, we may die physically, but spiritually we will never die again.

If today we facing so many severe pressures, problems, treated unfair, and any form of inconveniences, Please remember God said:  

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Do not grumble when there is a problem, do not despair and give up. There is a crown of life and eternal life that God provides to all of us who remained faithful to God in all circumstances. Just as the church in Smyrna, let us prove the strength of our faith in Christ through fortitude, obedience and faithfulness whatever our situation. Amen

Karina – Living by faith

Supporting material resources:

Clarke, Adam. Commentary on Revelation, studylight.org

Keeth, Janane. Rekindle the Fire (Revelation 2-3), bible.org

The Pulpit commentaries, revelation 2, studylight.org

Related post:

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/daily-devotion-july-21-2015

http://tworiversblog.com/2015/12/10/smyrna-i-know/

 

 

Image credit:  The Church in Smyrna. padfield.com

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd -Karina's Thought

A few days ago I went to make a visit of condolence the wife of my manager who suddenly passed away. According of his story, it all happened so fast, his wife only complained of headaches and breathless, and a few hours later she passed away. I know this is a very hard for him and his children. Losing someone they love is a very sad thing, especially when occur abruptly.

There is one thing that makes me so touched and amazed. He did not show a deeply sadness. He remained strong, calm and smile to each person who attended the mourning service. Even when he gave a speech, he cites a Bible verse of Psalm:The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.”(Psalm 23:1)

This verse spoke directly to my heart and makes me ponder. How far we apply this verse in our daily lives? How far we are able to believing it when we experience pain or suffering? David expresses it short but concise, and very clear. He said that whatever happens, he will never lack. Is it because of his strength, his prowess, ability and endurance? Not at all!  David knew that his strength as a human being is very limited. At certain situations, as good as the human ability will no longer be able to do anything. David could say that he will not be lack because realizing the existence of God as a good shepherd of his life. No more and no less.

Let’s dive deeper to the next verses in Psalm 23. We can see and will feel the greatness of God in His role as the Good Shepherd in our lives, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3) This verse feels so comfort and comforting us. These verses came from David who has so many problems in his life. Many times he faced threats, being chased and eliminated from his own people, many times he faced a life-threatening situation, but he could put his entire life and entrusted to the God’s care. David said it all when he is not in having fun, but his faith is enough to give a sense of calm for believing in God as a good shepherd for him. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Verse 4)  Beside believe that God always with him, David has strongly faith that God also prepare everything that he need. Not only has enough but overflowed.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Verse 5)

Both in quiet and difficult times, David realized that God will always be with him, so that he could say: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Verse 6) Very marvelous! It might be easy for us to say these things when we’re in good condition, but how far we can still believing it when the problems are being repeatedly hit us? Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)  Such was the figure of the Shepherd who always protects us as His sheep.  Trouble could come over our lives, but God promises us to still have a life. Not only life but living in all its fullness. Not lack yet in fullness? Yes, right! Although the problems are present in our lives, God promises that His providence could give strength, give relief, protection, give hope, and that’s all He provides not only sufficient but abundantly.

My manager was able to experience how God gave him strength in his difficult times, and he realized that there is no reason for him to be disappointed to God and blame Him. He certainly sad and loses but he also realized though he lost his beloved wife, he believes God still preserve his life and did not show a conclusion that God is not fair. He realized and believes that his wife had gone into the peaceful kingdom which full of joy, where there is no crying and no more suffering again as often we experience in this world. His wife has been in the eternal God’s providence in heaven.

My lovely friends, when we have a situation full of suffering, could we continue to believe that we will never lack the strength? Can we believe that God’s presence will always give reassurance and relief in a heavy burden? When there are events that occur beyond our control, could we rely on unlimited God’s power or we are still busy hanging on our own strength or another human being who have limitation? In any difficult situation, remember that God never leaves us. He will never lose by anything. He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)  These verses show us what a close and beautiful relationship between God as the shepherd and us as His sheep. If we truly comprehend the meaning of these verses and put in the bottom of our heart and minds, why do we have to worry with all the trials and suffering that might happen in our lives?

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) There are no problems that He could not overcome. Believe that God will not remain silent when we really need his touch. Therefore, do not be discouraged, but always be thankful. Make our relationship with God still close and closer day by day, experience God’s presence and providence personally, until at the some point we can say with full confidence as David said, “THE LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.”  Amen.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Karina

Related Article

Psalm 23 by http://secretangelps911.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: justonemore.info

Keep Endure Within Suffering

Keep endure within suffering - Karina's thought

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Job 13:15

Beside Jesus, perhaps there is only Job is a man in history who has great suffering in his life. Job’s afflictions came from because of his obedience to God, yet he seemed to be utterly forsaken by God while afflicted by men and Satan.

He is completely lost his wealth, family, and his health as well. His flocks were stolen, his children were killed, and his wife turned against him, and worse, his body was ravaged by disease. If we were to look at him, after Satan was given free rein to afflict him, we would see boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. (Job 2:7) the pus of which he had to scrape off his body. He sat among ashes- probably to dry up the sweating of his boils. So he was caked with white dust from head to toe.

What actually happened? What is behind all of Job’s suffering? Why God gives him so heavy suffering? As we know Job is a blameless and upright person. In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1) This shows that Job was a man whose life is true and blameless before God.  Rightly the wicked and sinful people who deserve to got suffering like job.

Though it is very difficult to applied, as a believer we should learn to comprehend God’s will because God has a different perspective. God is never go wrong and failed. All of Job’s suffering is because Satan wants to his faith fall. But we can see although experience the great suffering, Job still endure, even he can said: Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10b) lost a lot of things did not make his faith wavered and did not make him weak and desperate. He keep endure within his suffering.

As long we living in this world, we could not running away from problems and suffering. The important thing that we should always to remember is we have God’s promise which can give us strength and give us the Holy Spirit as our savior. That is why in the midst of suffering let us stay endure because there is always God’s purpose and plan behind our suffering.

we should to realize as Job realize as well that God knows his way and when God tested him, he will come forth as Gold. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

My dear reader, what kind of suffering that we face today? Lost someone we love?  Lost our wealth, we are suffering because of the disease? Job’s life can be our example of great patience and faith. No matter what suffering we got, we can learn from Job’s life testimony. Our beloved God was faithful. He never leaves and forsakes us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Job’s trust and faithfulness to God can inspire us to always obey, be patient, hoping in God when we are in the darkness situation. We may feel that God seems slaying our happiness, Remember it all is only so that we will find our greatest joy in God.  As has been done by Job, let us keep endure within our suffering. Ask for strength to God so that we have always had a strong faith. Fill our lives with the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to endure in any circumstances. Amen

Karina – Living by Faith

Photo Credit: rodalena.com

Count Your Blessing,Name Them One by One.

count your blessing

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”Isaiah 43:18-19

There is an old parable about God give two pieces of box to a young girl. One box is black and the other is gold. Then God said to the girl: “Please put all of your sufferings to the black box and enter your happiness to the gold box.  Then the young girl did what God says. Every suffering that she got always put into the black box. When she got happiness she put into the gold box and so on.

One day, she felt there was something strange. Day after day, time after time, she saw that the gold box getting full. But strange! The black box remains empty. Then she trying to find out what is going on. After a while she checking out that box, finally she found something. There is a hole in the bottom of the box. That’s why that black box still empty. Every suffering that she enters to the black box will come out again.

She was puzzled and more curious. Then she asks to God: “Dear God, where is my suffering?” With a warm and tender smile God answered:”My child, all of your sufferings are in Me” The young girl asked again: “And why there is a hole in the black box?”  Then god Said:” My child, I have purpose. I’m giving you gold box that you may always count every blessing that has been given to you. I gave you a black box with the hole that you may not see your sorrows, always forget all of your sorrows and never remember again. The point is always count every your blessing.”

My dear friends, did we realize that as humans we have two life’s side and both sides of it are in one package. Good and bad, happy and sad with all it is a unity that cannot be separated. We often experience the good things that make us happy but not infrequently, we are also experiencing the hard times that make us sad. Unfortunately, many of us tend to always remember the bad things that can make us stuck in that situation and makes us forget about God’s blessing. There is a hymn song that the lyrics were say:”When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” This song teaches us to always remember every God’s blessing even though we are in the bad situation and experience many suffering.

The parable above shows and reminds us to forget all of our sorrows and not always remember it again. Always remember the bad things that ever happened to us would weaken our faith. But if we always remember and count all of God’s goodness that has been given to us, it will further strengthen our faith. Isaiah 43:18-19 said: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

So my dear blogger, this evening I would like to ask all of us to ponder this; what will we do? Whether we would continue to fill the gold box and always remember and counting every God’s blessing  or do we want to always remember and count any of suffering that we have experienced and make our faith is getting weak?  Let this be our reflection. Amen.

“Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will keep singing as the days go by.”

Always look at what you have left. Never look at what you have lost. Robert H. Schuller

Karina.

Song lyric taken from Hymn song: “Count Your Blessing” by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

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