Sunday, October 31, 2010

For These Light Afflictions...

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
-- 2nd Corinthians 4:17 & 18

And we think we have problems...

Paul was beaten with rods at Philippi. He was imprisoned in stocks. He was stoned in Lystra. He was pursued by wicked people in Iconia and Thessalonica. He was cast to the wild beasts in Ephesus. He was arrested, beaten, bound and sentenced to death in Jerusalem. He was enclosed and defamed in Caesarea. He was ship wrecked and snake bit. He was buffeted by a messenger of Satan. Paul had more problems than most of us can imagine. Yet, he refers to them as "light afflictions".

A lot of Christians seem to think that when you accept Jesus as Lord, that you enjoy a lifetime free of any problems or persecutions from there on out.

This brings to mind the old Lynn Anderson song, "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden."

Well, God never promised us a rose garden either. But, he does tell us that his grace is sufficient for us. (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

Grace in this scripture is the Greek word charis (khar'-ece) which means graciousness of manner or act (including gratitude). Other meanings include joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks.

So, what was God telling Paul? Could it have been that his reaction to this messenger of Satan was the key to being rid of her or having her stick around? (I refer to this messenger as "her" because I believe Paul was referring to the demon-possessed woman who followed him around as he preached.)

In fact, Paul goes on to say:

"...Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
-- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul took pleasure in his weaknesses, because he knew that where his strength ended, God's took over.

In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, he said:

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Now, it's important to note that he didn't say to give thanks for everything, but rather in everything. This is an important distinction. Everything that comes to us isn't of God.

I know that some people will consider this blasphemous, but contrary to popular opinion, God is not in control.

Yes, I know that God is all powerful, and I know that when all is said and done God will take back control. But, for the time being, control of this earth and our circumstances rests with us and the enemy.

Do you doubt this? If God was in control, do you think there would be starving children? Think about it. Would an earthly parent (besides those with major mental illnesses or drug problems) allow a child to starve? Yet, we have starving children. There are plenty of examples of evil in this world.

"...what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
-- Matthew 7:9-11

At the moment, we live in a cursed world; cursed because Adam turned control over to the enemy in the Garden of Eden. This is why bad things happen -- even to good people.
Don't ever, ever, ever say that God brought something bad on you.

God doesn't try to teach us through bad things. God can't possibly give us anything evil, because there is no evil in him.

But, what God does, is provide a way out of every situation we find ourselves in. I believe the way out is Grace... graciousness... joy... giving thanks in all things.

How do you respond when something goes wrong in your life? Do you praise God for what's right in your life? Or can you not wait until you see someone so that you can tell them all of your troubles?

Pastor Tom gave a wonderful talk today. In it, he brought out the point that David never called Goliath by name. He only referred to him as "the Philistine". 1 Samuel 17  (Yeah, I found it hard to believe too. I quickly scanned the whole chapter, and it's true. David never speaks his name.)

Do you honor your "giants" unawares? Do you focus your attention on your problems and the work of the enemy more than you do on your blessings and the work of God in your life?

Today, rely on God's grace, which is sufficient to get us out of every circumstance, and give thanks in all things.

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