Life Is Hard! Now What?

Jesus told Peter, and now Peter tells us—Christians are going to be insulted and persecuted for believing in Jesus. So the fact that life is hard shouldn’t come as a surprise. Peter then goes on to elaborate on how Christians should live in spite of the mistreatment. 

“The more Christians are unlike the world, the more it hates us; the more we are like our Lord, the more the world will persecute us.” —Horatius Bonar

How should Christians respond to insults and persecution? Peter outlines the Christian’s response in 1 Peter 4:12-19

dear friends, do not be surprised (v. 12). I like this verse in the Amplified Bible: Do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. After all, Jesus told us this was coming (see John 15:18-20). 

but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ (v. 13a). Notice that this should be the sufferings OF Christ, not of our own making. 

—let suffering lead to Spirit-led reflection (notice the if’s in vv. 14-18, and the if’s in what Jesus said in John 15:18-20). We need to make sure our suffering is because we’re standing for Jesus, not because we’re being jerks! David asked God to check if his actions were the cause of his persecution (Psalm 7:3-4) and we should too. If we discover that we’re the one to blame, quickly apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make things right.  

keep your focus on when His glory is revealed (v. 13b). Time is short, and the rewards are sure so don’t remain focused on the immediate pain, but look up to the longterm gain.  

do not be ashamed to suffer for Jesus (v. 16). Jesus told us not to be ashamed of Him because He is not ashamed of us (Luke 9:26; Hebrews 2:11). 

stay committed to your faithful Creator (v. 19a). Staying committed means getting even closer to God in the hard times.

continue to do good (v. 19b). What does continue to do good look like? Peter lists things like being self-controlled, helping others that are being persecuted, showing proper respect, having a good work ethic, not trading insult for insult, and many other commands. Bottom line: doing good means living like Jesus lived while He was on Earth (see Acts 10:38). 

So, Christian, I’ve got two questions for you—

How are you handling insults and persecution? Are you continuing to do good despite the mistreatment? 

Remember Jesus is coming soon, and His rewards are with Him for how we have lived. “Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.” —Jesus (Revelation 22:12) 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while we visit Earth. You can join us either in person or via Facebook Live. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 45 and 53

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Isaiah 45 and 53

[These are notes on Oswald Chambers’ lectures on Isaiah 45 and 53.]

     Ever remember that “eternal life” is to know God, therefore you cannot expect to know Him in five minutes or forty years. … There are whole tracks of God’s character unrevealed to us as yet, and we have to bow in patience until God is able to reveal the things which look so dark. … 

     God never reveals anything ahead of moral and spiritual progress. The Christian worker who has never walked in the darkness of God’s hand with no light, has never walked with God at all. The principle of walking with God is that it is a walk by faith, not by sight; a walk in the light of Christ, not in the light of dogmatic conviction. Jesus as our example was under the shadow of the hand of God. “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He knew He could have called twelve legions of angels to His rescue, but He did not call one; not one fire of His own did He kindle, not one self-generated effort did He ever make. … Our Lord taught over and over again that things will never be explained in this life. We have to get rid of the idea that we are going to be vindicated down here; Jesus was not. The millennium age will be the vindication of the saints; this is the age of their humiliation. The triumphant thing for a saint is to stand true to God in spite of all the odds the world, the flesh and the devil can bring. … 

     Jesus Christ’s suffering was unique: He knew why He suffered. … There was nothing of the morbid fanatic about Our Lord: He looked beyond the travail to the joy set before Him, consequently He “endured the Cross, despising the shame.” … 

     Suffering unjustly will either produce sympathy with satan or similarity to Christ. Sympathy with satan arises from self-pity—“Why should I have to go through this?” 

From Notes On Isaiah 

There’s no doubt about it: suffering is hard. It’s confusing, too, for even many ‘seasoned saints.’ 

Jesus was not exempt from suffering, and neither will His followers be. In fact, Jesus even told us ahead of time that we should expect to suffer for His name’s sake. 

Our suffering never takes God by surprise. Neither is He indifferent to it. Remember that Jesus suffered in all the same ways we will without ever sinning. Now He intercedes before the Father on our behalf when we go through times of suffering. 

God’s suffering IS producing something great. Don’t bail out. Don’t give in to self-pity. Know that God is with you in your suffering, and He is accomplishing something far greater than you can ever imagine in this life. Hang in there—triumphant vindication IS coming! 

A Prayer For The New Year

“Especially would we make mention of the goodness of the Lord during another year. Each believer here has trodden a different pathway to some it has been a very smooth road, to others a very rough climb: to some a deep descent into the valley of sorrow and humiliation. But Thou hast led Thy people by a right way. With all the twisting of the wilderness march, we are persuaded that when Thou leadest us about, still we go the nearest way. Thou knowest best, and oftentimes to retreat is to advance, and to be beaten back is to make surest headway. We would again in the recollection of the whole year, whatever it may have been, lift up the song of grateful praise, raise another stone of help to record the loving-kindness of our God.

“And now do we hoist sail and draw up anchor to sail into another year. O Thou blessed Pilot of the future as of the past, we are so happy to leave all to Thee; but in leaving all to Thee we have one wish, and it is that Thou wouldst in the next year glorify the Father’s name in us more than in any other year of our lives. Perhaps this may involve deeper trial, but let it be if we can glorify God. Perhaps this may involve the being cast aside from the service that we love; but we would prefer to be laid aside if we could glorify Thee the better. Perhaps this may involve the ending of all life’s pleasant work and the being taken home—well, Thy children make no sort of stipulations with their God, but this one prayer ascends from all true hearts this morning, ‘Father, glorify Thy name.’” —Charles Spurgeon

Saturday In The Psalms—In Over My Head!

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck! (Psalm 69)

Not just up to David’s neck, but he felt like he was in over his head! Ever been there? You feel like…

  • …there’s no solid ground to stand on
  • …you’re stuck in deep muck
  • …the floodwaters are rising fast

David cried himself dry and hoarse because of the troubles ganging up on him!

One of David’s motivations in asking God for help was not just to alleviate his own suffering, but to not be a burden to other God-followers—“Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.”

So David made his prayer to God, believing that God would completely vindicate and rescue him. And as he prayed, he praised—“Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

When you’re in over your head, there’s nowhere else to look but up! 

Our prayer: Holy Spirit, when I feel like I’m in over my head, may You remind me to lift up my prayer and my praise to my Savior. Don’t let other God-followers be ashamed because of me, but let my deliverance be the reason they continue to look expectantly to You!

Thursdays With Oswald—Am I Ready For God To Use Me?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Am I Ready For God To Use Me?

That life is not as idle ore, 
But iron dug from central gloom, 
And heated hot with burning fears, 
And dipt in baths of hissing tears, 
And batter’d with the shocks of doom 
To shape and use. —Alfred Lord Tennyson

     You have had the vision, but you are not there yet by any means. You have seen what God wants you to be but what you are not yet. Are you prepared to have this “iron dug from central gloom” battered into “shape and use”? “Battering” conveys the idea of a blacksmith putting good metal into right useful shape. The batterings of God come in commonplace days and commonplace ways, God is using the anvil to bring us into the shape of the vision. … 

     It is when we are going through the valley to prove whether we will be the “choice” ones, that most of us turn tail; we are not prepared for the blows that must come if we are going to be turned into the shape of the vision.” 

    He [God] never is in a hurry. We are in such a frantic hurry. We get down before God and pray, then we get up and say, “It is all done now,” and in the light of the glory of the vision we go forth to do the thing. But it is not real, and God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get into the condition in which He can trust us with the reality of His recognition of us. … 

     Let God put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision He gave you. Don’t lose heart in the process. 

From So Send I You

Has God given you a vision for your life? If so, don’t get discouraged at the time God is taking to ‘batter’ you into shape. Don’t lose heart, He knows what He is doing. When God says you are ready to go, the fulfillment of His vision is going to be so much grander than what you ever would have achieved on your own!

10 Steps To Help Someone Through A Tragedy

Christians should be the best at loving others and supporting them through a tragedy. When someone’s world is rocked by an unexpected heartache like a miscarriage, a suicide, a difficult medical diagnosis, or even a hurricane, here is my list of 10 steps to help someone through this trying time. You may watch this short video, or see the list of 10 items below…

  1. Just be there for them.
  2. Listen.
  3. Listen.
  4. Listen to them some more.
  5. Don’t try to “fix” their problem.
  6. Weep with those who weep.”
  7. Don’t defend God (like Job’s friends tried to do).
  8. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you insight.
  9. Remind them of their responsibility now—your choices to go forward, how will you honor their memory, how can you help others in a similar situation, what does this make you think about your eternity?
  10. Stay in touch for the long haul (remember the birthday of their dead loved one; be them for the anniversary date of a marriage, the day their loved one died; go to those doctor’s appointments with them; roll up your sleeves and work alongside them). Use your creativity to proactively be there for them.

How Long??

Four times in the opening two verses of one of his psalms, David cries out, “How long, O Lord?”

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?”

It does sometimes feel like the unpleasant season is lasting “forever!” David lays it out: “Every day it seems like Your face is hidden, I’m trying to come up with my own escape plans, my heart is breaking, and the bad guys are taking advantage of me! O Lord, how long will You let this last?”

David turns to prayer again and again. He asks God to hear him, enlighten his eyes, and silence his enemies.

Then I love this transition in David’s outlook—
“But I have trusted in Your mercy; [so]
my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because
He will deal bountifully with me.”

I have … I will … You have … You will!

O my soul, keep looking up. Keep crying out.

The God who has STILL will! 

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