If someone would have asked me after almost three years as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Bellville, if anything has taken me by surprise – I would say this – the amount of suffering and affliction and difficulty so many of our people would face and endure. Following Jesus simply does not promise me or you a life that escapes affliction or difficulty. There is nothing in the Bible that promotes that type of thinking.
He does, however, offer to give you the grace you will need in the time that you need it to suffer well, and in that grace, you discover a treasure chest of the riches and the beauty of the gospel. Now, there is nothing wrong with asking God to make the pain less, to relieve you of your pain, or to ask him to no longer allow you to be in pain. But, in reality, it is more important for you in the middle of your pain to rely on a truth – that God is working something for your good and his glory – namely, perfecting our faith, strengthening our spirit, and transforming our life so that we may become more like Jesus.
This is hard to say when we want relief – but often, relief comes not in the form of the removal of the pain, affliction or suffering – but in the strengthening of your faith. That’s what trials and difficulties are there for: to test, give evidence, and to strengthen your faith.
It’s easy to follow Jesus when things are pain-free, but your faith in Jesus becomes refined and crystal clear when you’re tested. I can’t think of a greater example of this refining than what happened at the African-American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. When the family of some the victims stood before the accused, each one forgave him. Incredible. What a testimony of their faith in Jesus.
In times of weakness, you probably have asked God to sanctify, grow, and strengthen you. Well, I think Romans 5:3-5 gives us an answer to this. “3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
God will, and does much good in the midst of your “fiery trial” when (and the when is important) WHEN you suffer well. To suffer well doesn’t mean you show no emotion and shed no tears. It actually means that as you walk through that suffering, you trust God, you praise him, you look to him, and you point him to others.
When you do so, you’ll find a treasure chest that never is empty.