Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Who do you think you are?

"Tornado" (c) Jmos via Creative Commons License; Flickr.com

I'm a big believer in faith. The Bible says that without faith, it's impossible to please God. I study faith, I listen to faith ministers, and I attend a full-gospel faith church.

But, I have to tell you, there is something odd about some of the people in the "faith movement". You know the ones I'm talking about. I'm sure you've met some of them.

They are the ones who shake their heads and tsk, tsk, when a fellow church member faces a challenge in his or her life. They huddle together in a corner wondering what sin Suzie committed to bring such a disaster into her life. Or they wonder how Bob and Sharon failed in raising their children, because they just didn't turn out right and always seem to be getting into trouble. Or they think it's a crying shame that Dave's faith wasn't strong enough to prevent his illness.

I'm certainly not going to tell you that I have it all figured out, because I don't. But, I can tell you that there are some things I do know.

I know that when bad things happen to us, they don't come from God.

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." 
~ John 10:10

There really shouldn't be any question in the mind of a Christian as to who steals, kills and destroys. You can only give what you have, and I'm pretty sure God doesn't have a storehouse of evil to torture us with for any purpose. God doesn't send us bad things to teach us, or train us, or strengthen us, or test us. What He has to give is life more abundantly.

I also know that trouble comes to everyone.

Don't think for one minute that you can ever develop your faith to the point that you won't have any problems in this life. Do you really think that's possible? What about the apostles? Do you think their faith was undeveloped? Look at the life of Paul and his "light afflictions" that are far worse than most of us will ever experience. Would you say that he was not a man of faith?

And, if the example of Paul isn't enough, consider Jesus, the Christ, the only begotten son of God. Do you think he lacked faith? Look at what he suffered. Surely if faith alone could prevent bad things from happening, the Bible would tell a completely different story.

In fact, this is what Jesus told us:

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
~John 16:33  

I want to really dissect this verse. He begins by saying "These things I have spoken unto you."  What are the things he had just said? He had just told them that He was going away so that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, could come. He said that we should ask and we would receive so that our joy would be full, and that whatever we ask the Father in His name and will be given to us. He said that in him, we would have peace, or tranquility.

And, just as life wasn't a rose garden for Paul, or Stephen, or Peter, or Jesus, he tells us "In the world ye shall have tribulation". Just in case you have any doubt in your mind about what tribulation means, this is the Greek word thlipsis, and it's bad. It means: affliction,anguish, burdened, persecuted, tribulation, trouble. As a noun, it means: to crush, press, compress, squeeze, break; pressure, compression; distress, calamity, persecution; heavy, burdensome weight, agitation, disturbance.

This is Jesus speaking. These words are written in red in my Bible, and probably in yours as well.

But, don't despair. Look what they are followed by: a three-letter word "but". "But" is a conjunction, and it means simply that Jesus wasn't finished talking. "But be of good cheer." This is the Greek word tharseo, which means to have courage, or to take comfort. (Interesting, in that He has just promised to send "the Comforter".)

Why are we to have courage, take comfort and be of good cheer? Because, Jesus said, "I have overcome the world." Overcome is from the Greek word nikao, to subdue, conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.

He has stripped evil of its power and ability to harm us. Oh, it can still come upon us, but it can't destroy us.

Remember the story of the two houses: one built on the sand, and the other built on a strong foundation. The storms pounded both of the houses. The house built on sand was destroyed. But the house built on the firm foundation, the house that was fortified by faith, the house that was filled with the Comforter, stood strong.

I wish I could tell you that when you surrender your life to God and make Jesus your Lord and Savior, that your life will be filled with nothing but good. But, I can't.

What I can tell you is that God is faithful.

"For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."
~Isaiah 41:13

I can also tell you that no matter what happens, it will be alright. I've read the end of the story, and it's a happy one.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
~Philippians 4:13  

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