“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings” Romans 5:3
How often have you heard it or thought it? It goes something like this, “Friends, God wants to bless you today. He wants you to have that promotion, to get that new house and car. God does not hold back on giving the ones He loves the desires of their hearts.” And then what follows are a few examples that send shivers up our spines as we begin to visualize those “blessings” pouring down from the hand of God. Sort of like a divine vending machine, just waiting for us to break the code and ask for stuff so we can be happy little Christians, surrounded by material blessings that Jesus died for us to receive.
I speak from experience, my friends. I have pleaded with God for things. I’ve lined up all my behavior, prayer time, sacrificial giving (more than ten percent) and helping at church. And yet—no stuff! Then it occurred to me that I was asking God to bless my desires, to bring forth the items as requested.
Confronting my sinfulness, the Holy Spirit methodically revealed Scriptures which explained just how our Heavenly Father wants us to live. He wants us to know what we should expect, as followers of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:17-18 “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”
2 Cor 4:17-18 “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
These Scriptures, like so many others, snap us to reality; the reality of actually living the Gospel, not just talking about it. Jesus set the example by his beating, torture and death. How can we possibly skip past the shocking sacrifice He made for us to rationalize our materialistic desires? If you want blessings, and that’s just fine, here are examples:
1 Peter 1:8-9 “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
Acts 20:35 “In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
James 1:12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
And the most famous and least taught today is found in Matthew 5:3-9 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
To our Lord and Savior, blessings and sufferings are intertwined as the strands of a rope because, unlike us, His view is eternal. He sees through this temporary life, into the everlasting one. He was able to look through the suffering of the cross to what lay beyond.
1 Peter 4:12-14 “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.”
2 Thess 1:4-8 “We are happy to tell other churches about your patience and complete faith in God, in spite of all the crushing troubles and hardships you are going through.This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for he is using your sufferings to make you ready for his Kingdom, while at the same time he is preparing judgment and punishment for those who are hurting you. And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If we intend on living our lives for Christ, as lights in a dark world, we must shift our focus from this materialistic, self-indulging world to the life of temporary trials and sufferings that refine and strengthen us; trials that replace sinful appetites with Godly desires. Our aim should be to “count it all joy” when we’re beset with trials just as athletes in training are willing to undergo hours of pain and self-denial for the crown that awaits. That crown is temporary while ours is eternal.