Thursday, April 18, 2013

When suffering comes


People make the same mistake today when they think sickness or poverty is a sign of unconfessed sin or a lack of faith. Normally, obeying God does lead to a happier life while rebelling against God yields an unhappy life. But this is not always true. In our world invaded by sin, suffering comes to the good and the bad alike.

This doesn't mean that God is uncaring, unjust, or powerless to protect us. Bad things happen because we live in a broken world, where all people suffer from the tragic consequences of sin. Though God allows evil for a time, he has the power to turn it around for our good (Romans 8:28). And God uses suffering in our lives to teach us faith and dependence on him. His ultimate goal is not that we live an easy life but that we grow closer to him and become more like him. In the end, we may not be able to understand why God allows evil, but we can be sure that he is all-powerful and knows what he is doing.

Labor to know God, and to be affected with his attributes, and always to live as in his sight.—No man can know sin perfectly, because no man can know God perfectly. You can no further know what sin is than you know what God is, whom you sin against; for the formal malignity of sin is relative, as it is against the will and attributes of God. The godly have some knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have some knowledge of God that is wronged by it. The wicked have no practical, prevalent knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have no such knowledge of God. 

Nothing in world will tell us so plainly and powerfully of the evil of sin, as the knowledge of the greatness, wisdom goodness, holiness, authority, justice, truth, of God. The sense of his presence, therefore, will revive our sense of sin’s malignity.

One of the ways God uses to stretch us is by putting people in our paths who are radically different from us. We live in a world of radical individualization and, if you are not careful, this can creep into your life, especially as you get older and more secure in your worldview. You'll be tempted to hang out only with people who agree with you and reinforce your own biases. This will ensure that you have the exact same opinion on every single issue as you did five years ago. It will also keep you from being exposed to people from differing cultures, tribes, and perspectives. 

We also know that Satan is a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  He is often relentless in his pursuit to keep us stagnant, indifferent, uncaring, and numb.  It’s important for us as the body of Christ to come together and encourage each other.  If we are truly pursuing Jesus, we can also expect that Satan will be attempting to de-rail us on our journey.  He seeks to take our joy, our peace, and our assurance away from us.

When suffering comes.........

Everyone faces adversity from time to time. A person is fired from his or her job. Bills are due, but there's no money to pay them with. A beloved family member dies. How we handle these situations can say a lot about our faith in the Lord. Obstacles have the ability to take us out of contention, but we also have the opportunity to rise above them. We can cry, complain, and live in misery because of our struggles. Or we can react like Joseph--allowing God, in his timing, to bring something good out of our circumstances. Are you allowing God to help you land on your feet?

I have often thought how that advice applies to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues as well. We may think that we are helping our relationships by ignoring hurt feelings, but sometimes we end up harming not only our relationships, but also ourselves.

The Sages explain that there are two ways to hate someone. One is by expressing our feelings externally with words or actions. The other is by keeping our feelings on the inside, in our hearts. This verse is talking specifically about the second type of hating – the kind that seems innocuous at first, but can ultimately be the poison that kills a relationship in the end.

These instructions are invaluable when it comes to having healthy and fulfilling relationships that enrich our lives. Whether we are dealing with a spouse or a co-worker, it’s how we deal with our disagreements that will determine the quality of our relationships. So let’s take God’s advice to heart! Let’s fill our hearts with love and empty them of hate, so that within us will be a place suitable for the spirit of the Lord. As it says in Exodus 25:8. “I will dwell among them.” The Sages teach: Fill your heart with love and God will dwell there, too.

The Christian life is not stumbling along, hoping to keep up with the Savior. He lives in me and I live in Him. And in this identification with Him, His power becomes mine. His very life becomes my life, guaranteeing that His victory over sin is mine to claim. I no longer need to live as a slave to sin.

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God" (Romans 8–10).

You will meet well-meaning Christians who teach about crucifying oneself. But I have good news for you: That has already been done. You are in Christ. He was crucified once for all. He died for you so you never need to die again. Because we have our identification with Him, we have all the power needed to live the rest of our lives above the drag and dregs of slavery. Death to sin is an accomplished act, a finished fact. It has all been taken care of. A victorious walk begins with our knowing this fact. Christ's "Emancipation Proclamation" has put to death the whole idea of slavery to sin. Having died to sin's power, we are now free to serve our new Master.


Raj Kosaraju

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