Times of Trouble
Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4v16- 18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
I wonder if sometimes you feel just like giving up, throwing it all away and just be buried by whatever is burdening you. I guess, almost everyone has felt like that at one time or another. Maybe its because you are undergoing troubles or suffering - physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Whatever it is, as a Christian you are to persevere. We persevere, because we are not alone in our troubles. Also, if we think about it, in the light of eternity, the time of endurance through these troubles, is but the blink of an eye! Wow!
How are you and I to respond to suffering and other troubles? Naturally, we either treat them too flippantly or far too seriously. The response that God wants His followers to have is to be exercised by it. When we undergo any suffering or trouble, we are to commit it to God, endure it and understand that He is faithful and that it will eventuate in His glory and for our own good (Romans 8v28; 1 Peter 4v18). We are to be joyful when enduring suffering (James 1v2). Now I admit, that that can be pretty hard to do, but we are not left alone. The Holy Spirit indwells us if we are His followers and as one of His names suggests, as the Comforter, He provides comfort during the difficult times. So, just as He perseveres, so are we!
Perseverance in relation to God and His work is the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer. It is a work of divine grace that is begun in your heart, which is continued and brought to completion.
As a Christian, you will never perish, and nobody or nothing can snatch them out of His hand (John 10v27-29). You have eternal life and you will not be condemned, passed from death to life (John 5v24). God, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1v6). You are shielded by God's power (1 Peter 1v15). Nothing can separate you from God/Christ's love (Romans 8v38-39).
God's whole purpose for you is to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. His purpose for you is to make you holy. This is where perseverance for you as a Christian comes in. He may well, as we have seen, use some form of temporal suffering in order to achieve it, but in the light of eternity, it will not be for long!
You are to keep your eyes focussed on Jesus Christ, carry your cross daily and be willing to obey Him. You are to run the race with eyes fixed ahead, forgetting what is past and not looking back at what in the past had entangled us. And yes it is hard to forget, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible!
As a Christian, persevere in your relationship with God. Obey Him and follow Him. Ask questions humbly of Him and expect Him to answer, particularly if you don't understand something. Persevere in your prayers, your relationships with God and with other people. God will persevere with you, turning you gradually into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will not abandon you, but you are free to abandon Him. If you did abandon Him, He would still continue to call you back to Himself. So if He perseveres, so must we! But why do we persevere?
Character results from persevering! As a Christian you are to be transformed and developed, working on improving your service and being transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. That is God's ultimate purpose for you! But in order to do that, we need to find out what needs to be developed! These characteristics will help you to measure how much the Holy Spirit has been free to develop your character.
1. Persistence & Endurance - Persistence & endurance is developing staying power, to hold courageously under fire. In other words - bulldog tenacity. Things like criticism, circumstances, opposition & problems can stop you cold, if you allow them.. The problem is that we sometimes think the Christian life is a sprint race. When in fact it is a marathon, where a second wind of the long hard grind is necessary. What is it that stops you? The size of a person is determined by what it takes to stop him or her. Winners are people who have formed the habit of doing things that failures hate to do. Don't let anything stop you!
2. Resistance - This is not resistance to ideas but resistance to opposition. Criticism is the occupational hazard for leaders (1 Peter 2v20-24). Discouragement is a cancer of the Spirit. Be resistant to discouragement and hyper-criticism. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you!
3. Servanthood - Matthew 20v26-28 "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Priority is be given to service. An essential part of developing character, is serving. If Jesus, as King, could be a humble servant, in that He came to earth as a member of His own creation, then you and I can also be identified as humble servants..
4. Consistent Example - Modelling is the greatest unconscious form of learning what we know. As Paul writes in Philippians 3v17 - 4v9 "Follow me as I follow Christ". Whether you like it or not, people are following you, but are you following Christ closely? Those who are following and watching you, do not do what you tell them to do, but do what you do!
5. Self-mastery - You need to be unencumbered by the things that weigh you down. This is the danger of an affluent society. (Hebrews 12:1-2) "Travel light". You need to decide what is good and what is evil. The real decision is between that which is good, that which is better and which is better or best. Choose the best!!
6. Virile Private Life - Two things to keep in balance are involvement & isolation. You cannot do enough for others if you are constantly in the company of others. You also need time alone but not as a complete hermit!
7. Confidence - The number one problem in our culture today, is a lack of confidence. Paul said in Philippians 4v13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". For you as Christian Disciple, self-confidence is Christ-confidence - this is not egotism. Say to your self "I can't lose. I can only make mistakes". Confidence is spawned by the ability to say no. The New Testament is the doctrine of moderation in all things. You don't have to do everything you are capable of achieving.
8. Teachability - You are to be teachable because you have an unlimited ceiling of being taught. A key part of your being a Christian Disciple is a willingness to be taught by other people, even if you are in a teaching role!
9. Positive Attitude - A danger in becoming negative, is that a root of bitterness sets up. The greatest therapy is that of thanksgiving & prayer. God says you can do it. Satan says you can't do it.
10. Your capacity to believe God - What is there in your life that you are trusting in God for that He alone can do? (2 Corinthians 4v7) In your life, Jesus is to have the supremacy and glory over all things!
Whatever you are going through - persevere and develop character. Allow yourself to be transformed daily by God the Holy Spirit into the image of God the Son in obedience to the will of God the Father.
For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. After reading 2 Timothy 2v11-13, what motivates me to endure and persevere?
Q2. After reading Philippians 3v17, how can I follow Jesus Christ more closely?
Q3. After reading 2 Corinthians 4:7, what is there in my life that where I show trust in God for that which He alone can do?
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