Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Personal Reflection as We Begin Joshua

Have you ever been through some of the roughest times in your life only to find that you have more rough times ahead? When I think of the overarching view of the Book of Joshua, I think of my friends, Randy and Missy. Their marriage several years ago seemed OK to the outside world. They had the nice house. They had the nice cars. They had the good jobs. They had a beautiful daughter who is a pageant-worthy beauty of young lady (who is way too fond of the word, “like”) and handsome son who has a heart of gold. They seemingly had the perfect life on the outside. However, even though it seemed to blow up one day, there were marital secrets brewing for years and lack of communication about things that mattered. All the things not dealt with in the marriage over the years caused it to blow up one day. They separated. Friends were shocked and did not know what to do. We all loved them both and thought they had this perfect life and were stunned as what to do. We did the smart thing. Not shut either one out of our lives.  We loved them both.

 

There were many dark days in their separation. There was talk of divorce. They were lawyers. It was an heart wrenching thing to watch the tears, the anger, the bewilderment of how it all came to this. It could have gotten real ugly as some separations that lead to divorce can become. I know from experience how ugly separation and divorce can be. It can leave permanent scars on you, your former spouse and your children. The pain of the dissolving of a long-term marriage can lead to pain and anger that is so raw and real and it dominates your life and your every thought. Somehow, by the grace of God and His working through our circle of friends around Missy and Randy, they decided to go to marital counseling. Through many months of counseling, pain and heartache, they finally got back together. My experiences with getting back together with your spouse after a separation were ultimately failed adventures both times so I was not hopeful. But they stuck it out, continued counseling even after they got back together, and today we find that they are stronger than ever. Closer to the Lord than ever.

 

The saving of their marriage was a miraculous work of God but that’s not the end of the story. Not long after they had gotten to a good place in their reconstructed marriage, wham! They get hit with the news. Missy has breast cancer. Now, they had been the wilderness already in reclaiming their marriage. It was a long hard road. They have fought to save their marriage. It was the right thing to do. It was tough work. It was blood, sweat and tears. But they did it! Guess what though, Randy and Missy? You’ve got more work to do as a couple. You’ve got to survive cancer. You have got to love your wife, Randy, through the roughest road there is, chemotherapy, constant doctor’s appointments, the pain, the nights without sleep, the fear of leaving this life too soon, the anger of saving their marriage and now this! But, wow, through it all, what was once a weak marriage with all the right appearances was now this solid rock of a marriage that was fighting hand in hand in love against the ugly, vicious enemy of cancer. Missy said recently that if they had not gone through the wilderness of their marital troubles that their marriage would not have been strong enough to survive the journey they have been on for the last 18 months or so with the cancer diagnosis.

 

They had survived the wilderness of near-divorce and it made them appreciate each other. They had learned not to sweat the small stuff. They had learned that love can forgive and move on. They had become strong in their belief in each other. They had learned to communicate. Without the wilderness wandering they would not have been up to the challenge that the Big C, cancer, can bring to a marriage. Just because they had been through the wilderness and the pain and suffering caused by it did not mean that there were not going to be new challenges ahead.

That’s the thing that came to mind when I was researching the various summaries of the Book of Joshua as we begin it today. That idea that there will always be constant challenges to us as Christ followers. Just because we have pain and suffering once does not mean that we will not have it again. We do not get a “skate through the rest of life without pain” card. They are always challenges. There will always be challenges to our faith. There will be defeats and victories. There will be times when we think we can’t take anymore but yet more gets piled on top of us. Be strong and courageous, my friends. God did not promise that our lives would be pain free when we became Christ followers. There may well be one set of strife-ridden days followed by another set of strife-ridden days that come at us from different directions and for different reasons.

 

Be strong and courageous. No matter that one set of challenges are followed immediately by another set, we must remember that God is with us in the storms and challenges of life. He will never forsake us. God never moves. It is often that we move away from Him and wonder what happened to Him. We must remember that God is the Creator of the Universe. He can handle our problems. He can carry us through the rough patch that is followed by the rougher patch that is followed by the roughest patch. God will deliver those who are faithful to Him. From our trials, we learn dependence on the Lord. As we depend on God in greater and greater faith, we trust that He will see us through even the toughest times. He is God. He is Creator. He’s got this. He will see you through. Depend on our Abba Father.

 

Amen and Amen.

 

Now, let’s take a look at a high level about what we are going to see develop as we walk through the book of Joshua. The following summary is courtesy of www.gotquestions.com:

 

Overview of the Book of Joshua

Author: The Book of Joshua does not explicitly name its author. More than likely Joshua, the son of Nun, the successor of Moses as leader over Israel, penned much of this book. The latter part of the book was written by at least one other person after the death of Joshua. It is also possible that several sections were edited / compiled following Joshua’s death.

 

Date of Writing: The Book of Joshua was likely written between 1400 and 1370 B.C.

 

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Joshua provides an overview of the military campaigns to conquer the land area that God had promised. Following the exodus from Egypt and the subsequent forty years of the wilderness wanderings, the newly-formed nation is now poised to enter the Promised Land, conquer the inhabitants, and occupy the territory. The overview that we have here gives abbreviated and selective details of many of the battles and the manner in which the land was not only conquered, but how it was divided into tribal areas.

 

Key Verses: Joshua 1:6-9, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 

Joshua 24:14-15, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

 

Brief Summary: The Book of Joshua continues the story of the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. The book chronicles the approximately 20 years of Joshua’s leadership of the people after Moses anointed him at the end of Deuteronomy. The twenty-four chapter divisions of the Book of Joshua can be summarized as follows:

 

Chapters 1-12: Entering and conquering the Promised Land.

Chapters 13-22: Instructions for distributing the portions of the Promised Land.

Chapters 23-24: Joshua’s farewell address

 

Themes & Foreshadowing: The story of Rahab the harlot and her great faith in the God of the Israelites gives her a place with those honored for their faith in Hebrews 11:31. Hers is a story of God’s grace to sinners and salvation by faith alone. Most importantly, by God’s grace she was in the Messianic line (Matthew 1:5).

 

One of the ceremonial rituals of Joshua 5 finds its perfect fulfillment in the New Testament. Verses 1-9 describe God’s commandment that those who were born in the wilderness were to be circumcised when they came into the Promised Land. By so doing, God “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” from them, meaning that He cleansed them from the sins of their former life. Colossians 2:10-12 describes believers as having been circumcised in their hearts by Christ Himself, by whom we have put off the sinful nature of our former lives without Christ.

 

God established cities of refuge so that those who accidentally killed someone could live there without fear of retribution. Christ is our refuge to whom we “have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us” (Hebrews 6:18).

 

The Book of Joshua has an overriding theological theme of rest. The Israelites, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, finally entered the rest God had prepared for them in the land of Canaan. The writer of Hebrews uses this incident as a warning to us not to let unbelief keep us from entering into God’s rest in Christ (Hebrews 3:7-12).

 

Practical Application: One of the key verses of the Book of Joshua is 1:8 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The Old Testament is replete with stories of how the people “forgot” God and His Word and suffered terrible consequences. For the Christian, the Word of God is our lifeblood. If we neglect it, our lives will suffer accordingly. But if we take to heart the principle of verse 1:8, we will be complete and able to be of use in God’s kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and we will find that God’s promises in Joshua 1:8-9 will be ours as well.

 

Joshua is a prime example of the benefits of a worthy mentor. For years, he remained close to Moses. He watched Moses as he followed God in an almost flawless manner. He learned to pray in a personal way from Moses. He learned how to obey through the example of Moses. Joshua apparently also learned from the negative example that cost Moses the joy of actually entering the Promised Land. If you are alive, you are a mentor. Someone, somewhere, is watching you. Some younger person or someone that you are influencing is seeing how you live and how you react. Someone is learning from you. Someone will follow your example. Mentoring is far more than the words that are spoken by the mentor. His or her entire life is on display.

 

Deuteronomy 6:1-25 (Part 5 of 6)

Love the Lord Your God

 

The prosperity gospel. We can expect only good things when we follow God with all our hearts, right? When we obey God’s Word, success and prosperity will be all we know. If you are suffering, it is because you are not obeying God’s Word in some way, right? It can become so easy to think that.

 

For example, Elena and I are living in a season of blessing right now. We have no children at home. We have successfully paid off all of our debt with the exception of one car (that we had to buy recently, a 2007 gently used Toyota 4-Runner, due to my 1997 Ford F150 deciding to blow its engine). My job at Fujikura America, Inc. provides for us generously so much so that Elena has not HAD to work since January 2010. We are able to be generous to our church and our family. We are truly blessed. We thank God for it. It is not lost on us that this season is a special season right now. We know that it is a season. It is not some permanent thing that we are entitled to.

 

Elena and I, both, before we met have known the struggles of tight finances. I personally know of poor decisions that led to poor credit ratings. I personally know of having such a bad credit score that you give up on getting anything on credit. I personally know of having high interest, secondary market loans because of my credit score. I personally know of cringing every time the phone rang with a number not already identified in contacts because it was most likely a bill collector. I personally know of going through divorces and splitting up property, signing away property, and how a divorce can drain your finances. I personally know of having that mindset that I don’t care if unsecured creditors don’t get paid. As long as they don’t take my car and my ability to take vacations, I’m good. I remember that mentality. I would not return there for anything. Elena and I have worked hard to get our, and particularly my, financial situation under control. It involved choices of taking a vacation or paying off old debts. It involved self-control rather than self-indulgence.

 

Having said all that, we are tithers and more now. We live in a season where we can give generously to our church. It is easy for me to fall into the trap that one thing leads to the other like it is some investment/payback scenario. It is easy to think that because I am being generous in tithing that it leads to financial and other blessings that I live in at the moment. I could fall prey to the prosperity gospel syndrome rather easily. It is easy to think that when you are in a season of blessing. That one thing has to do with the other is an easy trap to fall into even when you know the truth of the Bible. It is easy to think that our obedience should be rewarded in ways that are tangibly human in nature. It is easy to believe that worldly rewards and pleasures are the results of our obedience to the Lord.

 

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when reading through Deuteronomy 6:1-25 another time. This morning, I thought about this concept of obedience and blessing being connected in our minds. Today, in this passage, I focused on vv. 24-25:

 

6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

 

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 

13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

 

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

 

Here, in vv. 24-25, we see that obedience and blessing are connected. It says that. Does the phrase, “so He can continue to bless us and preserve our lives” mean that we can expect only good things and no suffering when we obey God? What is promised here is a right relationship with God for all those who love Him with all their hearts. It speaks of a good relationship with God and the ultimate benefit of having a close relationship with Him. It is not blanket protection against poverty, adversity, or suffering. When God speaks of the blessings that come from obedience is understanding the right order of things between us and Him. When God speaks of blessings that come from obedience, He is speaking of the inner joy that comes to you in knowing that we will not be led astray by the Creator of All Things. It is the joy of knowing that God’s commands are intended to keep us from harm and to position us for eternity with Him. When God speaks of blessings that come from obedience, He speaks of the love that we have for God that makes us desire to do what He says not out of obligation but by nature of wanting to please Him. The blessings of obedience are the changed heart and changed mind.

 

A person that knows He is blessed by God is one who knows we are mere travelers here on earth and that we have the greatest of all places to call home – in heaven praising our Savior all the day long. A person who knows He is blessed by God lives a life of joy not by earthly standards but by eternal ones, where we know what we deserve (hell) and how we avoided it (Jesus Christ). We are joyful and blessed through that not by how much money we accrue after being obedient for a while.

 

We are not guaranteed a rose garden when we are obedient to the Lord. We may actually end up worse off by earthly standards if we are obedient to the Lord. We may suffer because of our obedience. We may even die because of obedience to God. The blessings of obedience are eternally oriented and not that God is going to put cash in your account just because you are obedient. If you are expecting earthly wealth as a direct result of trying to be obedient to the Lord, then, we have become misguided.

 

I think the thing that Elena and I have learned over the past decade together is that the true blessings of obedience to the Lord, particularly financially, come in the form of a changed mindset. We view the world through new lenses now. We see that our money belongs to God. He gives me the talents that I have to go out and earn the money that I earn. We then see it as our obedient responsibility to live on 90% or less of what I earn so that we can be obedient to the Lord – not because we want some payback, but rather because we desire to be obedient to the trusted, true, eternal Word of God. We have learned to live a more simple life. We have learned to be content not chasing after things and toys. We have learned that new and improved is not always better. We don’t have to have the newest toys are cars. There is wondrous contentment that comes from getting off the American Dream merry-go-round. That’s the blessing is the changed mindset away from things and onto pleasing God. There is contentment that comes from lovingly obeying Him. That’s the blessing not how much God has blessed us in our bank account.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 10:1-16 — As we continue our look at Luke 10:1-16, today we are going to concentrate on Luke 10:3. Jesus says, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Wow, that’s sound pretty inviting!

It reminds me of the football practice through the years. Football practice is where you spend most of your time on a football team. It is not fun. It is painful at times. Guys, you remember the exercise called “six inches” when you were laying flat on your back and had to hold your legs up off the ground but only at six inches off the ground. The coaches would make us hold our legs like that for about 20-30 seconds at a time. It was ok for the first two or three times you did it but we would have to do it like twenty times. By the time you got past the first two or three sets, the pain would set in and you thought you were going to die or at least puke. Either one would be acceptable! We would be put through some tough, tough exercises during football practice particularly at the beginning of the season. It was to get us in to playing shape. It was to teach us discipline. If we did not have practice, we would not have games. Playing the games each week was a welcome relief from the grueling grind of daily practice. Each year, there would be those who would quit because the daily grind was too tough. They weren’t willing to pay the cost of being on the football team. What stood between you at the beginning of each week and the glory of the lights on game night was a lot of hard work that nobody saw except your teammates. Some just were not willing to go through the gauntlet of practice. It was too tough of a calling for some. This is true whether its pee wee, junior, high school, college or pro football. Those who have the love and the passion for the game are willing to pay any cost to be able to play the game. As the stakes get higher at each level, those who are willing to pay the cost are fewer and fewer.

That point, the willing few, is kind of the point of Jesus’ statement here. Yesterday’s devotional was about the fact that the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few. The workers are few we learn today because the work is hard. Jesus says “Go!” He says that a lot. He has an expectation that we are not to simply sit still. We are not to rest on our laurels. We are to go forth and make disciples. He also says that He is sending us out like lambs among wolves. Lambs as you know are gentle creatures and just not well equipped by their mental nature or by their physical abilities to defend themselves against attack. They are easy pickings for a pack of wolves – they always hunt together. They surround their prey on all sides and slowly decrease the circle and then pounce on their prey. Jesus is saying that our work will be hard. There will be rejection, persecution, ridicule and sometimes even death in spreading the gospel message. In modern day America, where we are all about luxury and satisfying ourselves, this just doesn’t sound all that appealing. That’s why the workers are few. Jesus says if you are really my disciple, if you really love me, you will be willing to pay the price. We are lambs. We go in peace. We do not spread the gospel by war, with guns, terrorist attacks, exploding roadside bombs, by beheading people, or any other warring means. We spread the gospel in peace. We teach people of the love of God as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ in whom and through whom we find salvation and eternal reconciliation with God. The job is not fancy. The job is not to make headlines but rather quietly, softly spread the gospel message. If we are in it to be seen, it is like a football player only wanting to play on game night and not wanting to be there at practice during the week.

Jesus tells us to go where the wolves are. He tells us to go into the world and be Jesus to a world that is trying to tear Him down every day. Jesus tells us to stand up and be counted. We are to in the culture and not of it. We are to lovingly share the gospel with the world but we are not to compromise the message. We must be willing to address the hard issues out there that stand squarely against the Bible and not shy away from them. We must not avoid these issues just to fit in. We must not avoid these issues to be culturally relevant. God’s Word is timeless and so are its standards. Culture’s standard are lowered with each generation. So, what culture used to reject it now accepts. What was once considered wrong is now acceptable. It is shifting sand while God’s Word is a solid rock that will never be moved. This will bring us into conflict with culture at times. We stand not with fists raised or with guns in our hands. We stand like lambs. We are His lambs.

Jesus tells us to go where the wolves are. He tells us to take the gospel to the places that it will be attacked. We take the Bible to the hard places. We take the Bible to the places that are difficult, both here at home and abroad. We take the Bible to the homeless shanty towns in the Upstate. We take the Bible to China. We take the Bible to North Korea. We take the Bible to Hindu nations. We take the Bible to Buddhist nations. We take the Bible to Islamic nations. It is similar to Kennedy’s space program speech at Rice University in September 1962, where he said,

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win”

The harvest is plentiful but the number of workers willing to put forth the effort are few. How many of us are willing to let souls pass into eternity without hearing of the Word of God that is encapsulated in Jesus Christ? How willing are you to spread the gospel? How many of us are willing to put ourselves out to spread the gospel? How many of us are willing to do the unseen work of the gospel in the places where we live, work, and play much less spreading the gospel in ways and/or in places that make us uncomfortable? How many of us are going to put ourselves out to serve the Lord? How many of us have the attitude that I will do these things later? How many of us have the attitude that sharing the gospel in that way is just not my cup of tea? How many are the few. How many of us are willing to go through the pain of the long days of practice to get to the 3 hours of game time on Friday night? How many are the few?

Father in heaven, awaken our souls that you never said that serving you was just when it was convenient and painless. Awaken our souls to the tough work of spreading the gospel. Give us the passion to do what is necessary regardless of the cost, regardless of how inconvenient it is, regardless of how difficult it is, regardless of whether we get praise of men for it or not, regardless of whether anyone is looking or not, regardless of what we have to give up or not, regardless, regardless. Give us the passion for the hard work because we love the game, the game of seeing lost souls out there, and there are too many, come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Savior. That’s game night. That’s what all the hard work, pain and suffering are for, Lord. People coming to know you through Your Son!

Romans 8:31-39 — Nothing can separate us from God’s love. No matter what we go through.

This is the good news. This words were written to a church in Rome that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years from the time that Romans was written by Paul, his hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for His people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be separated from God’s love. Suffering should not drive us away from God but help us identify with Him and allow His love to heal us.

These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardship in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment and death. Although here we may not be imprisoned or killed for what we believe but we can suffer painful losses such as death of loved ones, betrayal, divorce, the results of other’s actions such as greed, jealousy, and people that are just downright evil to us. Sometimes we suffer because stupid choices that we have made that have short-term or even long-term negative consequences for our lives. Sometimes, when we go through trials, in whatever form they may take, we may fear that Christ has abandoned us. Paul, however, exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death on the cross, and His willingness to do so, are proof of His unconquerable love for us. Paul says that Jesus is pleading our case before the Father. We are acquitted of the penalty for our sin before the Father through Jesus so the Father listens to the Son. Jesus is our advocated sits at the Father’s right hand to present our case. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will have comfort and not be afraid.

Sure, going through hard times when you feel all alone is tough. As a believer there is that faint hope even in the worst of times that things will get better. That feeling comes from God. Those who have Christ as their Savior know that current hardships are temporary. We know that God will walk us through our trials and tribulations. He will set us on the mountaintop when the time is right, when the purpose of the valley is complete. Recently, in the book, Radical, I have been reading it challenges you with the question of basically, “How far are you willing to take your ‘yes’? Are you willing to go where God sends are you so married to the American dream that you will not spread the gospel in the place and in the way that God leads.

The combination of this passage and the book that I am reading leads to the question now of how much do you believe in the reward of heaven? Are you a good-time Christian only? When times get tough do you run from God? The Bible promises us suffering in this life, particularly when we are following Christ. Satan will attack. Bad things will happen to us. Are we capable of weathering the storms of life with our faith intact here in America where our problems pale in comparison to the minister in Nigeria who watches his village be destroyed and people killed for not denying Christ. How deep is your faith? How deeply do you believe that your reward is heaven? Our suffering here has an end game. It is heaven. We will be rewarded for our endurance and perseverance. When will we as Christians really believe in our reward so much that we can put it all on the line. Leave our comfort zone. What’s the worst that can happen? We die….and go to heaven. We talk about how wondrous it is. Do we really believe it.

Paul says it here. No matter what we go through. We have Jesus on our side. He will deliver us one way or another through what we go through. In this life, our suffering has a purpose when it occurs. It helps us to see and experience our dependence on Him. It helps us to demonstrate to others that there is something far greater than our suffering. Our suffering and the way we handle it can lead people to Christ. Our suffering and the way we handle it can give glory to God. Because we knew for a fact that we have hope. Even if our suffering doesn’t end before we die, we still have hope. We have heaven awaiting. We have Jesus waiting there. We have glory unmeasurable awaiting. Even if our suffering does end before we die, God is preparing us for what’s next. Our suffering gets us ready for what God has planned for us next. That is the hope we have. When we see God’s guiding hand in it all, we see hope. We see a plan. Let us not lose hope. He is preparing us for what He has prepared for us. Live with abandon in this assurance. Follow where He leads. Do His Work. Spread the Good News where it needs spreading. Do not let fear of suffering hold you back. What is the worst that could happen? We die and go to heaven. Believe it. Live life like you believe that heaven awaits!

Romans 8:18-30 — Yesterday we talked about our present confidence that we have in the Lord. Today, we talk about our future glory. Paul tells us plain out that there will be suffering, but it is nothing compared to our future glory.

Man, this week, in what I call God’s synchronicity, He is driving home a point to me. In this synchronicity, He drives home a point to me in various different ways and from various different sources. The idea that He is making to me is that there is a price to be paid to be identified with Jesus and how far, how deeply, am I willing to take my faith. How far am I willing to follow. Am I content to sit back while there are billions of people who have not yet come to know Jesus? Do I have the faith of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who are dying rather than denounce the name of Jesus. Yes, they are dying today in the 21st century for Christ. Do you have that kind of faith, Mark? How far are you willing to take this thing? God is speaking this synchronously to me – in the chapter of the book, Radical, that I am reading now (which, bam, is using Romans as the source for the discussion in the chapter), in mailing I have received about suffering Christians in Africa and the Middle East, and in my current passage under study, the Book of Romans.

Along with being heirs of God’s glory, Paul, in this passage, mentions suffering. What kinds of suffering are we willing to endure? For first century believers and for many around the world today that are Christ followers, there is economic and social prices to be paid for being Christian. Some face physical torture. Some face death. Even in countries where Christ is still tolerated or is encouraged, we must not become complacent. To live as Jesus did – serving others without expectation of payback, resisting the temptation to conform to the ways of the world, and heeding the call to call out what is evil and against God’s Word, and to love others so much that you are willing to die for them – exacts a price. How far are you willing to go? Being a Christian involves making small choices that separate us from the crowd and sometimes it involves making big ones. Are you content with your American dream lifestyle of me, me, me and gathering all the toys you can? Are you willing to chuck it all and follow where God leads you. Are you willing to say yes to Jesus? or do you say yes to the American dream of stuff, stuff and more stuff.

Comfort. cushiness. Complacency. Just because we go the most up to date current cool church with over the top service to the community and the latest Christian music doesn’t mean anything if we do not answer the call as Christians. If we just sit in a pew on Sunday and that’s the comfy Christian life we want, we are missing the point. It doesn’t matter that you attend a cutting edge church if you don’t heed God’s call, if you do not put your yes on the table. Are you willing to follow God’s call? It may involve selling your house and all your possessions and moving to Nigeria to help Christians being persecuted there? It might involve chucking it all and teaching in an inner city school? Christ did not promise us the American dream. He promised us suffering in His name. How far are you willing to take your faith? This is the question that I am struggling with now. The deeper you go with your faith, the more you are convicted of the inadequacy of it. Jesus went to the cross for us. How far are willing to go to make his name known?

Paul says what we suffer here is nothing compared to the glory that we will be rewarded with in Heaven. Do we really, really believe that? Christians in Nigeria believe it. Christians in Sudan believe it. Christians in Iraq believe it. Nothing that we go through here compares to the glory that we will receive in Heaven. Even dying in the name of Jesus is temporary pain compared to the glory of heaven. Even though we don’t often die in the name of Jesus here, we do still have our personal trials and tribulations, divorce, death of loved ones, job loss, and so on. We suffer in those ways here but the suffering we as humans endure is nothing compared to our future glory in heaven. Nothing we endure here is so nasty and ugly that it can trump our reward in Heaven as Christ followers. Many of us are so worrried out this life and being happy and content that we sell out our souls to chase after these worldly things. Paul says our future glory is what we should be chasing. All this, this is just temporary. Its seasonal fashion. Here today. Gone tomorrow. When we are chasing after Jesus, none of this temporary stuff matters. We have our eyes on the eternal prize. How far your faith? How much in love with this life are you? How deep are you willing to go? Are you all in?