One of the greatest barriers to faith in Jesus Christ is the tiny word… ’why?!’ If you watch yourself in the mirror as you pronounce the deictic, you can see the mouth open wide in an arrogant circle while the tongue compresses itself fearfully against the lower teeth, allowing the full aura of indignation to escape around the tonsils in a torrent of self-righteous hot air…
Try it and see what I mean!
(Tip: Teenagers have this down pat).
As I ponder these unusual thoughts, the image of a Godly woman: tiny in stature; beautiful but wrinkled as only the elderly can understand, refreshes in my fading memory. Her faith was simple but powerful: God is all sufficient and He will prove it to us if we take Him at His literal word. That’s a scary place to be, especially if you have no choice and He paints you into a corner. What if He takes away your health; your income; your home; your ability to find a job; the only friendly church is an orphanage for discarded and traumatised animals; and you are on your last can of beans?
Come on, Jack, that doesn’t happen!
Many struggling people are facing exactly this situation in a uncaring and unjust world, while the hands and feet of Jesus are fast diminishing into a traumatised, I’m right Jack; leave me alone; maybe if I remember, I’ll pray for you.
I know this situation affects people of the world regardless of whatever faith you claim to be or not to be (sounds like a bad rendition of something Shakespeare) but once you understand two things, the reason for a believer suffering makes a lot of sense.
First and foremost: Christ chose and called you before the creation of the world. You didn’t choose him…! Shocked…? You should be…! He died for your sin and paid the price so you could live forever in paradise with Him; and to prove it, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, a book that is soon to be closed with no further transactions. If you have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and believe on Him, then that part of the deal is not negotiable. Your future is sealed by the Holy Spirit and no one can steal that away from you!
Okay…! I’m good with that. I’m in the door… Now what?!
There is a long, often misunderstood word… inheritance, that has a profound impression on our lives in the next world.
The Bema Seat is said to be the judgement of Christ on all believers, but scholars argue that ‘judgement’ is an unfortunate translation. Maybe inheritance seat would be a better term. It is where the rewards are handed out for spiritual fruit – what we have allowed the Holy Spirit to do through us. Not what we did because we felt like it and thought it was a good thing to do. The Bema Seat is a fruit inspection station and again, it is what we allow God to do through us that counts.
Oh! So my big donation to the church may not be counted?!
If God has started a work in your life, painfully striping bark off your tender soul, then rejoice. He is doing a fruit work and the more we say yes to the unpleasant situations He brings our way, the more inheritance you will receive. If you are suffering, selflessly taking care of someone else’s needs while yours go unmet, rejoice. Papa God is giving you the opportunity to inherit. If each day is a constant round of unrelenting pain and you can praise God for it and encourage others, rejoice. If God has determined you will be single in this world but you can worship anyway, rejoice. If everything you touch turns to mud, but you can encourage others in Jesus through your situation, rejoice.
There is a spiritual blessing in every act of God-focused suffering and if your life is a mess but you can still say Jesus Christ is Lord through gritted teeth, rejoice.
The secret of the suffering saint is reflected in one of Jesus’ names for himself. The Man of Sorrows. We have a calling and a destiny to fulfil on Earth, wrought with painful character alterations that will determine our status in the next world; and there are many different crowns for those who suffer. Crowns for everything that God allows to come into our lives and our attitude to His discipline. Sickness, loneliness, poverty, death of a loved one or a child, unemployment and the list goes on forever.
It all depends on your attitude to God’s discipline and the circumstances He allows.
If you claim to belong to Jesus and there is nothing in your life but sweet smelling roses and sunshine, fulfilled dreams, and bigger and bigger toys to play with, this is a warning sign.
Find out what your calling is and get about it, before the thief comes in the night and catches you having a self-indulgent party.
La Belle Suisse… coming soon!