1 Thessalonians 3:2-5
2 “We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know. 5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless.”
Acts 14:21 22
“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.” Jerry Falwell
The early leaders of the church were not wooing new believers to their meetings with promises of donuts and coffee, nor making their time of worship more appealing with seeker sensitive or culturally relevant ideologies. In fact, they promised affliction and hardships for those who recognized their need for a Savior and chose to place their faith in Jesus Christ.
Wow. Hardly seems like a way to share the Gospel to us today. Our society longs to make things easier – in fact, we worship at the altar of comfort and ease. Now, I am not saying we cannot offer pleasantries to make the Gospel attractive to unbelievers, but the power of the Gospel is enough and the Word of God is living, active and powerful.
I confess that I have worried about new believers doubting their new faith when troubles enter in. I want to protect them, but realize that God is better suited for that role than I am. And when new believers see other believers who have weathered difficult storms and glorified God in the midst, that witness speaks volumes more than any program ever could.
Jesus promised that we would have troubles and demonstrated how to walk through them in victory. Genuine faith does not mean we will not have times of fear or of great sorrow, but it does mean we have One Who walks with us through life’s tragedies and triumphs, breathing grace into our souls.
If our faith is so fragile that we doubt the very goodness of God when life hurts, we have been deceived and been lulled into a superficial faith based on the idolatry of pleasure. But if from that place of fragility we look upward and ask God to strengthen us, we become overcomers in Christ.
Authentic faith is not easily shaken when the storms blow, nor crushed by sorrows. It is a quiet confidence that stands up to fear and bears burdens firmly trusting in God’s promises, even when it hurts. God mercifully died for us, chose us for salvation and will not leave us when the wind blows. He loves us and we can trust Him. Perhaps our view of suffering might be altered in the midst of God’s enablement through it.
Affliction surprisingly offers a promise. That we will be more like Christ, that we will be comforted by God Himself. That we will know and understand Him more. That, when we have been tested we will come forth as gold.
Lord, give us Your perspective and understanding. Our lives are Yours. Every blessing and every hardship we pour out at Your beautiful feet. Blessed be Your perfect, awesome Name.