His light and momentary trouble
hanging on the cross
far outweighs my trials
each and every loss
He gained my salvation
eternal life with God
By His sacrifice I’m awed
His light and momentary trouble
hanging on the cross
far outweighs my trials
each and every loss
He gained my salvation
eternal life with God
By His sacrifice I’m awed
Some things in life are unknown. Right now I’m facing the unknown of health concerns. After multiple tests, doctors still don’t know what is causing recent symptoms. I do have a list of what it is not. Whenever a test reveals that it is not something else I’m told it is good news. And I know that for the most part it is. But the difficult news remains that we don’t know what it is.
I thought of this post this morning, but decided not to write it because, frankly, I get tired of complaining about my health. I know there are a lot of people worse off than me, and I’m sure it gets old for others to hear about my various maladies.
Then I went to my list of blog subscriptions to see what others had posted for today. I clicked on a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Karla over at Out of Eden Ministries. The post was called “at the beginning going low.” She starts with a discussion of how Rahab the prostitute appears in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5, and goes on to talk about how God makes the insignificant into a significant part of His plan. Karla writes:
Phone calls and prayers and prostitutes and a scarlet cord and you, yes you. Your life, your love, your pain, your prayer, and your hunger for more. All significant in the plans and the hands of God.
I immediately knew I had to write this post after all, because although it starts with my insignificant struggle with pain and its unknown cause, it doesn’t end there. It ends with a focus on the known. What I thought of to write for today was how, even though I don’t know what is wrong with me, God does. And even more importantly, I know the truth of what God has revealed in His Holy Word. Here are some truths that I cling to, that I choose to focus on, as I face my insignificant struggles.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV).
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV).
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).
My own struggles are light and momentary in the grand scheme of the universe and God’s plan. Though I will suffer a little while, Jesus will restore me and make me strong. He will use my sufferings for good in the big picture of His purpose. He has plans to prosper me spiritually, and He will faithfully fulfill this promise.
(You might be wondering why certain words are bolded in the above verses. These are the words I remember and that I used to find these verses on Biblegateway.com, since I seldom remember the actual chapter and verse of the scripture that I have stored up in my heart.)
Karla’s post made me realize that I needed to listen to the prompt in my spirit to post about my struggles and the known promises of God that I choose to focus on, because there just might be someone out there who is struggling too and needs to know that God is with them. If that happens to be you, then hold onto the promises of God and He will see you through.
The Gospel of John is my favorite of the four Gospel accounts. I think that is in part because it contains much of what Jesus said to the disciples before His crucifixion, warning them of what was to come, so that they would be prepared. His words of warning and preparation are equally important for anyone who desires to be His disciple today. After a laundry list of warnings, Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV).
In this world, we do have troubles. For My Tuesday Three, I want to highlight three ways in which Christians face troubles and persecution in this world.
The first post I want to showcase is titled Living in Fear in Cairo by Jim Travis over at BlessedDad’s Weblog. Jim is a wonderful writer with a heart for persecuted Christians around the world. He writes both fiction and personal accounts, and he always makes me think about whether I have become too complacent in my own freedom and safety. This particular post is based on facts he received from a fellow believer in Egypt regarding the recent burnings of Coptic Christian churches in that country. The mainstream media seldom picks up stories like this, and much of the church here in the West has failed to recognize the extreme persecution Christians face in countries where there is much less religious freedom. Jim writes:
This is Cairo, and it is a powder keg now, a pressure cooker just waiting to explode, and when it does it will be us who will pay. A Holocaust is coming if things continue to progress as they are. We know our God is faithful, we know we will have a home with Him when we move on, but as humans, we fear pain and torture like anyone. Our plight is not unlike being a wounded antelope in a herd of hungry lions, waiting to be devoured.
It is for the faithful such as these that Jesus’ comforting words that He has overcome the world must be their sustenance and their source of peace. In the West, we know very little of such persecution now, but our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world need our support and our faithfulness to share the truth of their plight. We can start by reading and sharing stories like the one Jim has posted.
But outright persecution is not the only trouble facing Christ’s church. The second post I want to showcase is titled MURDERER! by Cloudwatcher over at Meeting in the Clouds. I only just found this blog this week, but I already know it’s one I will return to often. This particular post starts with an analogy based on two insidious plants that strangle and kill their host plants, though they both start out quite innocent and small. Cloudwatcher then reveals the trouble, also seemingly innocent and small, that seeks to strangle and kill the individual Christian and, in the process, the whole church. What is this trouble? Compromise. I love her connection between the plant and compromise:
Just like that vine,
COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD
will choke the spiritual life of the believer
who allows it to grow and send out its tendrils.
The host tree had no defence.
It could not fight back.
We are WITHOUT EXCUSE!
We do have a defense, and it is the Holy Spirit. Jesus has overcome compromise and has given us the power to overcome as well. Sometimes it seems easier, less troublesome, to just go with the flow and compromise on “just this one little thing, and it’ll be okay.” We try to avoid having others look down on us for our firm stand so that we will be accepted and not be persecuted. But the real trouble comes when the vine of compromise takes hold and chokes out the life of Christ.
Then there is a third area in which we face troubles and persecution. It is an area I am all too familiar with, and so I can so relate to this post titled Magic Eye mountain by Char over at Learning to be Still. This is the trouble and persecution that comes from within when depression consumes us. If you’ve never suffered from depression, I imagine it’s hard to understand. Char is a medical student and a fairly new Christian struggling to heal from depression. Her honesty and candor are both heartbreaking and encouraging. Of the troubles she faces she writes:
In some ways, the path ahead of me is like one of those Magic Eye paintings; at first glance, all I see is the trouble, and the challenges, and the fear of falling. All I see is the pattern that went before, of gaining a little ground, and then, oh so quickly, losing it, and falling even further back. All I see is a future stretch of never-ending depression, of never-ending torment, and the possability of unchanging, unstoppable strife is more than I can bear.
But then, I remember a section from the Bible, or have a thoughtful conversation with someone, or see something that reminds me that the world isn’t quite as bleak as I sometimes think it is, and I am pushed to look from a different angle, to refocus, and I see that behind and amongst that bleakest of patterns, that highest of mountains, is God, clear as crystal, hard as iron, and I can’t believe I didn’t see Him there before.
Yes, we will have troubles in this world. Christians face troubles from non-believers who persecute and hate us; we face troubles from the pressure to compromise with the world; and we face troubles from our own inner dialog that, in the case of one suffering from depression, can be the worst enemy of all. But in spite of all of these troubles, we take heart because Jesus has overcome the world and has given us the ultimate victory in all of these troubles. We have salvation through faith in the One who loves us enough to face the persecution and trouble of the cross so that we might live and overcome.
I hope you will check out these three great bloggers and the ways they encourage us to trust in Christ and to overcome the persecution and troubles of this world.
This past weekend I started reading Tortured for Christ by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. It is the true story of his imprisonment and torture in Communist Romania for preaching the Gospel. I had intended to read the whole book and then write a book review. But something I read last night struck me so profoundly that I was compelled to share what he wrote and my thoughts on it.
Wurmbrand talks of love divine that cares for the souls of all mankind. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling within the heart of a believer. I can relate to this first passage, though the pain he describes did not come upon me when I first believed, but has been developed within me by the Holy Spirit over time.
In the first days after my conversion, I felt that I would not be able to live any longer. Walking on the street, I felt a physical pain for every man and woman who passed by. It was like a knife in my heart, so burning was the question of whether or not he or she was saved. If a member of the congregation sinned, I would weep for hours. The longing for the salvation of all souls has remained in my heart and the Communists are not excluded from it. Tortured for Christ, pg. 56.
For me it is not always a case of wondering whether or not others are saved. Often I know by their own words that they have rejected Christ. In many instances, it is family or friends, and the pain is all the greater. This passage was encouraging to me because Wurmbrand put into words what I feel in my heart, and it was a blessing to know I am not alone. It also reminds me that I cannot pick and choose whose salvation I should care about for it is all of mankind that God wants to redeem at the cross.
But in this passage Wurmbrand speaks only of the stranger passing in the street and a general love for mankind. On the very next page, he speaks of a love so divine is defies all human logic. He speaks of the love not of one’s family and friends, but of one’s enemies. He writes:
A minister who was horribly beaten was thrown into my cell. He was half dead, with blood streaming from his face and body. We washed him. Some prisoners cursed the Communists. Groaning, he said, “Please, don’t curse them! Keep silent! I wish to pray for them.” Tortured for Christ, pg. 57.
It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility for them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them. Tortured for Christ, pg. 58.
How does one love those who have beaten, starved, and tortured them, those who have deprived them of their physical freedom? Wurmbrand spent a total of 14 years in prison, his only crime preaching the love of Christ. As I read his description of the atrocities he suffered it is unfathomable that a human being could endure such hardship only to turn around and show love to those who caused it. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling in his heart.
As I read his account, I am convicted of the paucity of my own love for not only my enemies, but my friends and family as well. Given my regular reaction to those who have slighted me in some small way, would I respond to torture and hatred the way Wurmbrand did and other persecuted Christians do even today? Wurmbrand refered to 2 Corinthians 4:17, saying that the troubles he endured were “light and momentary” compared to the eternal glory he would experience in Heaven. I’ve used that same verse as encouragement, struggling with the concept that my own troubles are truly “light and momentary.” By comparison to what Wurmbrand and other persecuted Christians endure, my troubles are nothing. Yet I find it difficult to feel or show love towards those who cause them.
This morning I received an email that illustrated the divine love that comes from Christ. I am in charge of prayer requests at my church and the email I received was a prayer request for a young woman who had been hit by a drunk driver. She is in critical condition with serious brain injury and the doctors don’t know if she will regain speech or sight after the surgery they must perform. This first part of the prayer request is pretty normal; we often ask for prayer for our loved ones. It was the next sentence that struck me as being a wonderful example of divine love. “Please also pray for the young man that hit her. Not sure what his issues are that he was drunk at 5 pm. He and his buddy are fine, but need prayer about his/their life choices.”
Wurmbrand, no doubt, would not only pray for this young drunk driver, but would track him down and share with him the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps that is the response we should have as well. But I think even the thought to pray for one who has caused a loved one such pain and injury is evidence of the love of Christ in the heart of the person who sent me this prayer request. It is the type of love we should all aspire to.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.
Richard Wurmbrand has done just as Jesus commanded here. We have the power to do the same if we rely on the Holy Spirit. It is only when we allow the love of Christ to dwell richly in our hearts that we can so. It is when we see all of humanity, including our enemies, as God sees them that we will be filled with the desire that they know His love. And that desire will override our natural tendency toward hatred and revenge. In the end, it is a love so divine that it defies all human logic that has saved the human race from itself.
Yesterday I was the lay reader for our church, which means I got to read the first two scripture lessons for the day towards the beginning of the service. The second lesson for the day was 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I love these verses because they put this life in perspective. Lately I have been feeling weighed down by my troubles, by changes in my life that I have no control over and expectations that are going to take a lot of energy for me to meet. But Paul tells us that, in view of the resurrection, these troubles are “light and momentary!” Even without the resurrection, the troubles that are before me are not that bad, not as bad as what many are facing.
The Gospel lesson at church yesterday (read by our pastor) portrayed a “trouble” that was much greater than what is before me. We heard the story of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, found in John 11. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, and yet when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He did not immediately go to heal him. Instead, after Lazarus died, Jesus came to raise him from the dead so that the disciples would believe in a God for whom even death is a “light and momentary trouble.”
What is seen, including our troubles, are temporary. Things change. People come into our lives, and they leave just as quickly. Kids grow up. Pets get sick. Cars break down. Friends move away or just become too busy to keep in touch. We struggle with illness and death, financial reverses and financial gains, job changes, family relationships, and changes in the way we do church. All these things are temporary. To the extent they trouble us, those troubles are light and momentary.
But God, who is unseen, is eternal and unchanging. God was, is, and always will be a God of love and mercy, a God of justice and holiness, a God of grace and truth. For a short time this God was seen. As the Apostle John testified:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. John 1:14, 16-18.
After Jesus made our Holy God known to us, He ascended into Heaven. Now He lives invisibly but powerfully in the hearts of those who put their trust in Him. His Spirit renews us day by day in the knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sake. Because of this daily renewal, our troubles are light and momentary indeed!