Posts Tagged ‘ Despair ’

The Hard Knocks Life: Cursed to Bless

When life is hard, wisdom can be found to help at Proverbial Thought!

Last week I began a discussion on why our lives may be hard. I started with God leading to our difficulties for the purpose of strengthening our faith and preparing us for holiness.

As I said, it had to come first, no matter how much I wanted to build up to it, because God is always involved in some way with whatever is happening in our lives.

Now, before I hear any complaints or accusations about God causing our problems, hear me out.

Living with pain

3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

. . .

13 When they [the Sanhedrin] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Acts 3:1-10, 4:13-22

Here is a man who was born without the use of his legs. I am sure many people told his parents it was because of some sin in their lives. I am sure many people told this man that he remained crippled due to some unconfessed sin. I am sure many people questioned God’s goodness.

Yet, what do we see here?

This man was used to bring glory to God.

By his healing, many believed in Jesus as Savior and God.

Useful?

So many people grow up in and live through horrible circumstances.

Some grow up in poverty, barely living a life as they wonder if they will eat today.

Some grow up being abused by a parent or both parents, other relatives, friends, or some authority figure(s).

Some get into an abusive relationship with another person.

Some are hit unexpectedly with an illness or injury that turns their lives upside down (See Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8).

Some are hit with financial calamity.

Most who go through these ask a question something like this: “Am I good for anything?”

God says “Yes!”

God is in the redemption business. He can even redeem your pain, confusion, and loss.

God may not have been the primary cause of your circumstances, as was discussed last week, but in any event He is in control.

While that may sound like God is an evil tyrant, the truth is that He works with sinful man’s actions and orchestrates them out to His glory.

Are you useful?

For starters, you can appreciate God’s love, mercy, and grace in ways many other people miss or can not.

Secondly, you may be able to help others going through similar circumstances.

No two circumstances are identical. There will always be differences, whether great or small. However, the great connection found through the similarities offers a closeness and ability to help that few others may ever find.

Lastly, you bring glory to God!

When you believe Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord and live a life dedicated to serving Him, you bring glory to God.

When you ease the suffering of another human being, you bring glory to God.

When you help lead another person to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you bring glory to God.

God redeems your life to use you for His glory.

Your life may be hard, but it helps you appreciate God and love Him more.

Your life may be filled with pain, but it gives you the gift of being able to help others.

Your life may not be what you would have wished, but God will be glorified through your life.

That is the highest calling one can receive. It is the greatest gift one can be given.

As Paul instructed in Ephesians 5:20, we should be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” While it may hurt, cause discomfort, or create a living hell out of your life, God can use it for good.

Does God want you to suffer?

No. He does permit it, though, because He can see the bigger picture.

He wants you to spend eternity with Him. Sometimes, we have to go through pain to get there. (Like facing the needles to get antibiotics that can save your life.)

The Hard Knocks Life: When God Blesses Too Much

For a hard life, get some wisdom from Proverbial Thought.

There are three major reasons we learn things the hard way in this life.

The first comes obvious to too many of us: growing up in an abusive environment, whether it be physical, sexual, mental, or emotional from a parent, other family member, friend, or family circumstances.

The second reason rarely unknown to anyone: our own stupid decisions/mistakes with which we must live with the consequences. This can be seen through drug/alcohol abuse, gambling problems, trying to jump your parents’ car over the swimming pool, or a myriad other things.

Really, the third reason is most important, because it is involved with the other two reasons in some way.

The focus of this entry is the third reason: God.

A popular theme in Christendom as of late has been God blessing His people. There is nothing wrong with this, except that we either focus too much on His blessing and not enough on His discipline or take the idea too far into thinking He owes us blessings or we can create the blessings.

God does indeed bless us on a regular basis. Takes some of these passages for example:

Rich and poor have this in common:  The Lord is the Maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:45

We are each blessed with sunshine and rain (and yes, rain is good!) This can also be understood as “He gives us one more day.”

I mentioned that one first, because some people – usually those who fall under the first two reasons of a hard life – are not so thankful for a new day, let alone the day they were born. Some people find it hard to love or even believe in a God who could have allowed so much of their suffering.

Yet, there may be a reason for that suffering.

Consider Job

Job was one who cursed the day he was born (Job 3), rather extensively, actually. Why?

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Job 1

Therefore, Job lost all of his possessions and his children. But that was not the end:

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Job 2

Job also lost his health! You can see why he would curse his birthday! (This was his sin, by the way. He told God He had made a mistake.)

Yet, because Job stayed faithful to God, he received twice as much as he lost and had the most beautiful daughters in all of Israel.

God put Job through the fire to purify him and prepare him for greater things.

Consider Jacob

On his way back to his home, where his brother lived, Jacob asked God to show His favor on Jacob. He sent his family and possessions across the river ahead of him, then the story got more interesting.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
Genesis 32

Some argue that Jesus is the one who wrestled with Jacob, but that is not the point.

The point is this: Jacob asked God to bless him, and he walked differently for the rest of his life.

When we ask God to bless us, it will always cost us something. Many times it will hurt. Most times we have to give up something. Every time we will have to reconsider what we know and believe about God, our world, and ourselves. His blessing may even be one of the reasons we go through the other two reasons for a hard life (see my entry at GrowUp318.com , “Stupid Prayers“).

Most times, we ask God for blessings, and we forget that it may very well bring pain and will certainly bring change.

However, it is the only way we will grow closer to our loving Heavenly Father.

You could say the old proverb is true: Be careful what you wish (pray) for, you just might get it!

With God, it is always worth it in the end.

Besides, do not forget was James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

The Core Facts: Despairing Disciples

Here is another friendly reminder to go read the wise words written by the men at Proverbial Thought!

Also, the youth pastor with whom I work speaks on all of this. Find Jesse Bollinger at Fervent Youth.

Last week I began the study of the Core Facts, starting with Jesus’ death on the cross. And I remind you that these posts are not meant to be exhaustive arguments on these topics. I currently do not have the time for that! Rather, these are a brief synopsis of the main points.

This week I continue with the second of The Four Core Facts:

The Despair of the Disciples

There are two main reasons why the Disciples being desperate is true:

  1. the Jews (of which all of the initial Disciples were) were expecting a Messiah to overthrow the pagan government; and
  2. it was shameful to record faults of heroes of the story.

On point number one, as was discussed last week, the Jews were expecting Israel to be freed from oppressive rule by a great King.

One example of the Disciples’ fervor for a conquering King is demonstrated while travelling through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem for the last time:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Luke 9: 51-54

One example that they did not expect their Messiah to die comes immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Matthew 16:21-22

Imagine being in their shoes … er … sandals. They are expecting the heir of King David to come to the rescue, restore Israel, and lead them as King …

… not die.

If you saw your unstoppable leader killed, would you not be emotionally destroyed?

If you saw your Lord being taken away by soldiers, put on trial, flogged (beaten, whipped, and tortured), and crucified, do you think you would run in and try to save the day or run and hide?

This leads to point number two: The Gospels recorded the Disciples running away!

Throughout history, those who have written history have generally put themselves in the best possible light. The epics written of old showed individuals and armies alike running into danger to rescue a friend, a leader, or an army. Individuals confronted hundreds or thousands of soldiers to save the day. Mere mortals braved the pain and torment of the Underworld to save a loved one.

The first leaders of the Church fled and hid. Then they told everyone about it!

At the time of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, they forgot He ever said that He must be killed and raised back to life. Peter even denied his best friend of the previous three years!

Some might argue that this kind of thing happens all the time, but I urge you to look into the current world of politics. Rarely do we see a politician taking the rap for a mistake, let alone deserting friends. If they do own up to it, usually it is to cast it in a good light.

The Disciples knew what they did was sad and wrong. They owned up to it.

Even today that shows someone who is honest and therefore trustworthy.

These were heartbroken men, literally scared for their lives, who believed their Lord and Messiah died. They had enough reason to suspect that they could also be arrested and even crucified for inciting a rebellion.

Perhaps they even thought they were wrong all along about who Jesus is.

Talk about an existential crisis.

Fortunately for them, within three days they were redeemed (on so many levels).

It changed their lives.

But that is for next week when I cover Core Fact #3: The Change in the Disciples’ Willingness to Die

Are there any thoughts on this?