Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Whatever Doesn't Kill You...

As I mentioned a few days back, I am attempting to read the entire Bible in less than a year. So far, things are going very well. Today, I started on the book of Exodus, which chronicles the call and ministry of Moses, and God using him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. As I was reading the first chapter of the book this morning, I came across a passage that the Holy Spirit seemed to illuminate for me. Here it is:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.”Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land." So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. Exodus 1:8-12

Israel had enjoyed life so far in Egypt, that is, until a new king was established, and after Joseph was dead. The new king didn’t know Joseph, and was quite fearful of the Hebrew people. They had entered the land just seventy strong, yet now they were growing by leaps and bounds. Pharaoh, king of Egypt was afraid that these people would turn on them. So, to put them in their place, he thought it would be best to enslave them. Eventually, he even called for the deaths of all Hebrew baby boys, as a way to curtail their growing population.

When God’s hand is on someone, or a group of people, great things happen. When Pharaoh thought that the hard labor was his answer, God continued to bless his people. The more he afflicted them, the more the multiplied and grew. This has been God’s method throughout time, hasn’t it? Centuries of enslavement and hard life did nothing to stop these people from growing, and when it was all said and done, and they were led out of the country by Moses, the Bible says that they left with great abundance.

Let’s fast forward now to the city of Thessalonica, in the first century AD. These first years for the infant Christian Church were turbulent. Many believers paid the ultimate price for there faith, and in fact, many today still do. That is, with their lives. (In fact, in countries where Christians face hard persecution and death, the Christian church is rapidly growing!) These good folks in the city of Thessalonica were no exception. They had been dealing with heavy persecution for their faith. It seems logical to human reasoning that such pain and trouble would cause people to question their faith, and turn from it. Kind of like the guy who says to his doctor, “It hurts when I do this.” The doctor, in all his medical knowledge and wisdom, says, “Then don’t do that!” But God’s logic and man’s logic are two different things. You see, God uses our storms and trials to make us grow in him! Let’s read what the Apostle Paul wrote to these precious saints of God:

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” 2 Thess. 1:3-4

While we would think that such affliction would drive us from the pain, these people ran to it! They were growing in spite of the trials. As Romans 5 tells us, tribulation brings about proven character, which in turn brings about hope in our hearts. Hope isn’t some wistful wish, but an earnest expectation that God will take care of us. Simply put, God uses the times of suffering in our lives to make us stronger in him. I know that it’s not a popular teaching today, but it is the truth of the Word of God.

I’ve been reading a book lately entitled, Don’t Waste Your Life by Pastor John Piper. So far, the crux of the message is that a life not lived boasting in Christ crucified is a wasted life. After all, it was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that purchased us, and cleansed us. He knew that suffering was the way he would bring about our salvation. But he also told us that we must take up our cross as well, and follow him. So whether suffering means a little discomfort, or laying down your life, or anything in between, be encouraged that you will come out stronger and better.

Live your life in such a way as to allow God to get all of the glory, in the good and the bad. I guarantee on the Word of God, that in so doing, God will pour into you a full joy that rejoices in Christ even in the face of pain. You too, like the Israelites and the Thessalonians, will grow and abound in faith! God bless!

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