Oswald Chambers wrote, "You cannot help suffering; it is a true and needful training for the soul that dares to be true to God."
Suffering is an essential aspect of our Christian growth, whether it is mental, physical, financial, or spiritual. It is the main connection that enables the batteries to power us to be the best Christian possible. It is the link between the Holy Spirit and God's perfect plan working in us. Without this vital connection, the power source of our Lord will not be able to prime us for His service. We may have the ability and the power of the Spirit, but the vital link between them is missing. A spark of truth and service may pass between them, so we think we are working and doing fine. But there can be so much more! So when that connection is firmly in place, the power will flow the most, so our walk in Him becomes prepared to be the best that we can be.
That is why we are encouraged in the Word to hold on tight and be tough to the end. In other words waiting is perseverance, which is knowing that our future is in His Hands, in His control. Thus, whatever the situation or the consequences we may face, we are to look to the rewards to come. Our hope and purpose is to be with Christ in eternity everlasting.
How would you define Perseverance?
The dictionary defines perseverance as a "continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation." However, it is one thing to read about someone persevering through times of great adversity, and another thing being the person who is going through difficult times trying to persevere. Especially when you feel safe thinking nothing is or else can go wrong, then BAM your world falls apart!
We are encouraged in the Word to take comfort and strengthen ourselves in the Lord. If we belong to Christ, then the connections we have with people, and the events we face and trials of our lives are in His hands. From the greatest triumph to the loneliest tragedy, our great comfort is knowing that our God is still sovereign.
In I Peter: 6-7 our Lord lays it out for us, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
A Look into Psalm 62Growth through Waiting This is a Psalm of waiting as David wandered in the real physical desert of Judah while in his own personal desert of despair. David's world had come crashing down on him. Having faced severe adversity in the past and overcame it to become King, now once again David flees for his life. Saying in effect "Hey God, haven't I done this before?" And this time it is not from corrupt power seeking individuals, King Saul. It was from his own son Absolom (I Sam. 24). I do not believe we can understand David's true pain and plight. All that he accomplished, all that he lost, his highs and lows, his tragedies and triumphs and then once again at a ripe old age to go through it again. Once again David wanders the desert of waiting and despair, as he flees for his life. But even in the scorching heat of waiting, David has an ace up his sleeve! David is not just waiting on the circumstances to get better, nor is he allowing this tragedy to rule his faith and life. David is waiting on God, his rock and salvation even in the mist of shifting sands and the chaos of life. God is his defense that cannot be moved or thwarted.
- During times of waiting and confusion what do you do?
- How do you handle yourself, your family, work, school, and strangers?
- And most important how do you handle God?
- Do you wait for an answer with confidence from our Lord, or do you fret in circles throwing yourself in chaos and confusion resulting in anger and hopelessness?
- Why does God make us wait? Is there a plan that might make us stronger and better?
- How can you seek the quiet of trust and obedience to our Lord? That even through the deserts of despair when your world is crashing around you, how can you learn the lesson He gives us and praise His name as David did?
There was no water in the desert for David as he fled from his own son and his death squad. His mouth was parched, his lips were dry, his muscles ached in pain; yet his spirits were with joy. Because David knew of God's faithfulness. He had already experienced it. Even though he is literally going through the same trial again he experienced with Saul, David's confidence was in God's sovereignty and control. He knew he was loved and a better plan was unfolding before the hot sands under his feet, more than he could ever fathom. The lips that were chapped and parched praised His name. The flesh that ached in pain lifted up its arms to His name. The soul that experienced such a severe letdown and pain is satisfied in joy. Because in the end God wins, you life may be lost as the worst case may be, yet this life is a mere dress rehearsal to what is to come.
- Do you struggle with peace and quite in your soul and mind?
- Does the Spirit in you knock on your door while the noises of your frustrations are so loud you cannot hear His leading?
- Do you see waiting as a loss? That opportunities and blessings are passing you by?
- Do you grow angry with God that He will allow this to happen to you?
- How can you turn your despair around to you see His hope and love?
- How can you lift up your worn and aching lips and arms with praise?
- Can you see Him directing your path? If not what is in the way? Perhaps your fears, your expectations, relying on your limited knowledge and experience and not our Lord?
Waiting on God is not sitting on the couch in front of the TV and doing nothing. Waiting is not being idle, just as with a car it is useless if it does not go anywhere, if it just starts and idles in one place, what good will it be? Waiting is a process where we assess what is going on our life through continuous prayer, the Word and Godly counsel. Thus, when we wait we are growing even closer in our personal relationship with Christ and those around us. It is a fortifying time of learning and growth. It is also one of the keys to being a committed disciple and child of the Lord. Because one of the main aspects of life is who we are in Christ. And knowing who we are in Christ helps us put life in perspective. And that perspective is that we are here in our life and relationships to learn and grow for God's glory. This is the meaning of life! He loves us and died for us! Everything else that happens that we think is so important such as career, material things, power, position, looks, and such is not even secondary in God's eyes.
- What is important to you in life?
- Can you write out a list of everything of value to you such as material goods, job, and relationships? What would the list say?
- Now write the same type of list, but this time as God would write it.
- What are the differences?
- What do you need to work on?
- How can you get the right Godly counsel to help you through those difficult times?
- Can you do it better alone?
- Who are you in Christ, that is what did He do for you and what do you owe Him?
To Him what is important is our learning and growth in Christ, being the person in relationship to Him and then to others representing Him. As Chambers says so well, "our utmost for His highest:" which means to be our best for His glory no matter what. And sometimes the only way to get that growth is to captivate our attention by adversity. It is a honing process and it is a very temporary process that lasts mere moments in the scope of His time of eternity.
Waiting can be harder than working! Waiting is how we are perfected!
- How often has God had to get your attention? If not, will He have to?
- So what can you do to be a person who waits on God?
- How do you learn?
- Do you know for certain that whatever you face is temporary?
- How can this help you?
- People commit suicide because they lose hope; they see no other way out of their situation. How can you see the hope in yours?
- How are you perfected in time of trials?
The Psalm encourages us when we wait we are to do it silently (vs. 1,5) That we can and must seek Godly counsel, but not use it as an excuse to draw attention to ourselves. Even in the deserts of despair our travesties are not about us, they are about growing in Him. The attention belongs to God and Him alone. It is a time for us to listen, not a time to do all of the talking and griping!
· One of the problems when we go though tough stuff is we let everyone know about it by creating a 'pity party' for ourselves. Yes we need to let others in (being totally private is unbiblical as we are meant to be in relationship with others), but when does the line get crossed from council and support to attention seeking and the poor me attitude?
The Psalms also encourages us to wait continually (vs. 8; Psalm 31:15; Isa. 26:3). This is not easy for most of us in our fast food and fast paced culture. We want results yesterday, while He wants us to settle down our anxiety and rely on Him. We have to conform to His schedule, and not expect God to follow our flawed reasoning and limited insight.
· In times of stress how can you learn to refocus on Christ and His schedule?
· How can you do this continually so you are covered in the Spirit, and not trapped in your own anxiety?
· How do you suppose that waiting will free you from stress and anxiety?
Growth through hardship, adversity and joy
For David God was not an idea or some obscure philosophy that he engaged in with academics; God was his salvation, and his defense. God was real and active in his life, no matter what the option, opportunity or obstruction may be.
· How can you learn to ride out the storms of life, so you will not be moved?
· Do you "flounder on the fence," struggle between the life that was promised to you and the life that you have experienced?
· Do you kick people when they are down? If so why, and is that a God centered act?
· Have you experienced others kicking you when you are down? If so, why do they do that?
· Do you feel that God is kicking you when you are down?
· How can you be not consumed with the blessings of the wicked when you think you have so little?
· What are the true treasures in life?
Perhaps you can trust Him when things go well, but when you lose a job, a sickness, a death in the family or total ruin as David had, where does your trust and hope lie?
Do you struggle with experiencing affliction inwardly, yet are seeking the higher ground of His deliverance because He promised his loving kindness? Then you are not alone, because that is exactly how David felt! What we feel and what we experience can be light years apart from each other and reality.
- Once you have gone through a trial do you feel better prepared for the next one?
- Once you have gone through a trial do you feel better prepared to be a person who listens, sympathizes and helps others?
- People who never experience hardship, and get everything they want and feel they deserve it; what kind of people are they?
Can you go to them when you have a problem or need a listening ear? Are they able to know Christ deeply as He calls us to do? Why or why not? My experience is that when we skip out on life's lessons we end up weak, selfish, and good for nothing. Unable to be the person He has called us to be! Sorrow will remove shallowness! Shallowness can never approach God, nor receive grace effectively.
- Can you start to see the purpose in our trials? That they are there not to attack us personally, but make us better?
- How can you see the joy in trials? That is, can you see the over all purpose of God for you in the midst of your life?
- If not what do you need to do to see God's perspective over yours?
Our trials do not make us better themselves, they only allow Him to make us better!!
Growth through Trust and Refuge
Waiting on God is what we do sometimes as His child. When things happen that we cannot explain, and when we are full of pain and hurt we cry out in anguish for answers or justice. It is there in our personal deserts of despair that we seem to see no answer or reason for our plight. God is silent, and we wonder why. God never tells Job why He did what He did. We may not receive those answers that we seek, because the answer is not the reprieve, it may soothe for a moment in time but that is it. Our answer is found in our relationship to Him, what we learn and how we respond to make the most out of our situation. So no mater the hurt or pain we are in or the cry of anguish we say, our purpose and answer is to fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our example is David. We can follow David's example as Scripture encourages us to wait. We can also look to the humanity of our Lord and how we persevered through His difficult times on this Earth. We also have comfort in that we are not alone. We have true examples to follow, and most of all He is there beside us all of the time!
Salvation becomes expectation
David persevered because he placed his confidence in the Lord and not in his situation. What happens with most of us is that we cannot see past our situation. We allow the bad stuff and our unfulfilled expectations to rule over us and not Christ. The travesties of life become the setting and focal point of our life. Such as a debilitating illness we become the person who is known for being sick, not the person growing in Christ through the sickness. The choice is ours to be the person we can be, better and stronger or to be dependent on the travesty as our lord, so it occupies all of our time and mind. Then we cannot grow beyond our situation, and be what we can be. So the expectant wait on God then God molds us to be shaped in His way and purpose, to give us His hope.
· Have you or have you known people who define their life from a certain incident, such as being a widow, being poor, being disabled, a car crash…?
· What can you do to place your eyes upon our Lord alone?
· How do you learn confidence in God?
· What is the balance between self esteem that is good and total reliance on God?
· When does self esteem go awry from Gal 2:20?
We can develop trust by training ourselves to avoid the distractions around us. Like the blinders that a racehorse has on that keeps them on the course so they do not get distracted and run off. So you will not be distracted by created things and stay focused on the Creator?
· How can you make 'blinders' for yourself?
David said he will not be "greatly moved." This is like a naval term referring to a ship moored during a storm, being held in place by its anchor, so it does not crash away. For us it means our faith and relationship and our circumstances will not be cut off from our Lord's hand. We may still be rocked by the tides and waves, but our Anchor keeps us firm in what is important and what is true.
· How certain are you that you will not be moved at all?
· Do you praise Him for your waiting?
· How do these words from this Psalm soothe you? If not how can they?
Our expectation is in Him!
Distractions verses Trust and Reality
We have to be on guard from those who would steer us in the wrong direction with flattery as well as blatant deception. There will be friends who disappoint us, and enemies who surprise us. There will be letdowns; disappointments, travesties and the one thing you can trust is that at some point in your life, you will face disillusionment. However, the main thing is that even though we will all receive those letdowns, Christ is there holding us as the great Comforter. People may let us down, but He will not. We may think God is the great provider of misery, the Creator of despair, the killjoy of our promise and plans. But that just means His plan is better than ours, and we are blinded from seeing it, either from His reasoning or our own distractions. Everyone may be against us, but our Lord is there for us, what more could we possibly ever need!
We can have no real hope in human promise or material goods!
· Are you able to trust in Him at all times?
· If so what is the foundation for that belief?
· Is your VCR and TV more important than your devotions and growth in Him?
· If so what can you do to keep the main thing the main thing?
· If not what is in the way?
· Why do most people place their focus on their problems only and forsake the One who is the divine blessing?
We must be able to turn our fears and expectations upside down, and inside out, so our Lord can reformat us in His image. I downloaded an update for my computer recently, and it crashed it completely, so I was not able to even boot it up. I am no stranger to computers, so I desperately tried everything to restore my computer. I called the tech people, checked in books, asked some experts I knew. And I was not able to fix it. The only thing I could do was reformat my hard drive and erase everything that was on it, and start over. I did not want to do that because the loss of all my programs and settings that took months to accumulate. So I had to let go of my fears and programs and start over. Or be left with a useless computer.
· What are the problems you have faced in the past and are not problems now?
· What happened to them so they are not being problems anymore?
· Can you see that the problems you have now will not be with you forever?
When we have a sin or a problem we did not cause it may require us to reformat our personal hard drive. This is the process of letting go of our fears, expectations and anything that gets in the way of us operating in His presence. To be our best by learning and growing in this life. To be our best by being surrendered and poured out before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Gal, 2:20; Phil. 1:6; 3:10). The result with my computer was that the problem was fixed by being wiped clean, and then it not only booted up, but it ran much better than before. The same lesson I had to learn when I went through my deserts of despair. Yes I lost a lot of programs and data, but what was important I had backed up. In life He is not our backup He is our life. And in my deserts I lost a lot there too, but again our losses can be our gains in what we learn and grow closer to Him.
Our thoughts, sorrows, plans and sins must be let go. We have to discharge anything that gets in the way of us growing deeper in the walk of life (His life), our journey into His presence. We cannot bottle it in, nor can we let it out so it affects others. It must e a controlled burn as we give it all to the foot of the cross. So when people form up against you remember they are just that people, mere dust in action. And our trust cannot, and must not be in dust, but firmly planted in truth. Our only path is the trust and reliance on our Lord, what He has done for us through it all.
· What is the reality of man (people in general, friends, family) in your life? (v.9)
· What is the reality of money in your life? (v.10)
· What is the reality of power in your life? (v.11)
· What is the reality of mercy in your life? (v.12)
· What can you do to make these realities God centered in your life?
Notice all of the 'my's' in this Psalm! David seizes God with passion and conviction. He does not see the hot sands and problems literally at his feet, he sees his Lord. David from a small child learned the importance of faith. David also has experienced major success and major travesties and disappointments throughout his life. Yet throughout the extreme highs and lows his passion never failed. He did not allow kings to be against him, nor let his own sin triumph over him.
- How many my's are in this passage?
- How many my's do you have in Him?
- How can you turn you fears into faith?
Have you considered that we wait for a reason, and that reason is to make us better, stronger and nearer to His presence and to be enhanced for His service? That God allows harsh stuff to happen and even takes us through some not as a personal attack upon us, but because He loves us and wants us to grow in maturity for our betterment?
Learning to let go of our fears and expectations is one of the keys for true success
- So how can you put together a life of distinction even in the midst of adversity?
- Finish this sentence, "the Power belongs to…" So how shall you then live your life?
The Psalm clearly states that no matter what we face God is there as our Rock through it all! That Rock is the encircling guard, not a prison guard, but like a concerned and loving mother watching her small child as it learns to walk. A good parent does not allow harm to come, nor let the child wander off by itself. God is the loving rock who guards us with encircling love. He may allow us to fall, only to make us better and stronger, and as long as our eyes are upon Him we will not wander off.So how do you think God sees time?
Waiting as we see it is all about time. We base our life in terms of a 'linear time frame'. That means everything has a beginning and ending, a start and finish. And in that linear time frame things are supposed to happen in a certain way, a certain place and in a certain time. Such in the small things, such as a movie or TV show we will expect it to start and finish in a certain time frame, if it is interrupted we become upset. In the grand scheme of life we are supposed to get our drivers license at 16, graduate High School at 18, spend 4 years in college, get married, have a career, children and so forth. We do not expect that schedule to be interrupted or skewed either. Yet it often is. Most people take more than 5 years to get through college and end up in massive debt doing so. The quest for the American dream is interrupted with job loss and stock market crashes. Marriage has its up and downs, and most statistics tell us 50% will get divorced. While most singles long to be married and see marriage as the answer to all of their troubles. Loss and death as well as promotions and unexpected surprises happen suddenly like a coke can hitting a ceiling fan. You do not know were it will end up.
We also see time and events in a very limited perspective. As the old illustration goes you can't see the forest through all of the trees. That means if we are just focused on one tree we do not see all of the others, we may not even realize we are in a forest. The same goes in our relationships with people and God, as well as events in our life. We do not always see how everything is interconnected, and our lives touch so may others and so forth. We do not see God working behind, beside, and even in front of us when the tree is in the way. So take a look back, get a handle on the big picture. See how your life is interconnected and how you can use that for His glory.
What is time like to us?
To a baby time is like a very short instant gratification, seconds are a lifetime.
To a 4 year old time is a long time for just 15 minutes and several hours is a lifetime
To a 10-year old time is viewed in large segments and events: How long until Christmas? Birthday? Halloween? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Going to grandmas house?
To a 15-year old time is like a lifetime for just one year equal, the Romeo and Juliet Syndrome that they are unable to see beyond their limited time thinking.
To a 20-year old time is like they have all the time in the world.
To a 30-year old time is starting to move faster, concentrating on life's relationship goals, priorities and settling down.
To a 40-year old time is moving very fast, regrets tend to pile up, thinking it is better do it now or never, life is half over, mid life crisis, time to buy a Harley!
To a 60-year old time is becoming a blur everything blends into one continuous stream of events.
To a 70- year old time is seen from a reflective point of view of the end of activities not much time left.
To God His view of time is eternity, perpetuity, that all things are purpose directed, organized and orchestrated. God lives outside of space-time. Time is circular and continual all leading to eternity with Him.
How do these time perspectives help us? We are focused on the here and now, or the past, or concern for the future. Thus we need to learn to wait and still seize the opportunities when they do come. To learn all we can as our life, even when and especially when things do not go our way. As our life is preparing us for a greater prize than we can conceive or believe, yet we will achieve it!
- Read Psalm 130 how can you apply vs. 5-6 so it is your lifestyle?
We live in an age of quick fixes. If I think my computer is too slow I will get a new one, if I'm hungry and do not feel like making dinner I will go to McDonalds. When something breaks we get it fixed or buy a new one. But what happens when we are broken and we cannot be fixed or replaced?
- John 5:1 We need to become like Him. My cross is the yoke that is light we have an easy burden. Compared to Him our yoke is easy even if we are paralyzed. There is nothing greater than knowing the Savior. There are people who are under unthinkable suffering because of pain, disease, accidents, and psychological stress.
- We need to also see there are always people who are in greater distress than us.
- We cannot lose our perspective, our attitude, our humor, or our hope. God is glorified through our suffering. We showcase our Lord by pointing to Him, by relaying on Him.
- Nothing gets our attention more than circumstances that cause us to look up and not at ourselves. When we realize that God's power sustains us and if being cut down a notch or two may be the only way for us to learn this precious marvel, then embrace it!
God is against the proud and self-reliant, when we rest in God we have the ultimate grasp on what life is all about. We are diminished and nullified so we can become great.
- Our God is bigger when we need Him more. The weaker we are the stronger we are in Him, the stronger we are for eternity!
Let our human strength hemorrhage, and embrace what He has for you. Do not waist your afflictions, embrace them, and welcome them as a weird and wonderful friend. If you never face being hurt, passed by with a promotion, a hurtful relationship, felt rejected or forsaken not enough money to buy food. Then how can you rest in Him? How can you understand what Christ did for you, His hands are scared, His chest has a hole in it for you. Don't let your learning opportunities pass you by.
- I Cor. 4:12 Luke 14: The lame bless us not we bless them. They show us who Christ is. God's power is shown through them.
I Cor. 12:26 When we are moving to help others and share with them we are not arguing about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. No division means we are working together in action with each other, that our eyes are focused upon Him and not ourselves, so no division will happen. There is no time to do the strife and the sometimes disorder of the church when we are learning and growing together, working together.
- We need to embrace those with the pain and hardships.
- Our primary Goal Matt 20:28
- Rom 5:8 We need to see God's love for others. Even when there is no return in our investment of time and resources, we are to remain, as Christ remains in us.
- Psalm 39:1 Stay focused!
Some further Scriptural helps:
Psalm 103 Growth through Failure
Job 1-2Growth through Loss
Luke 10:20; I Cor. 10:31 Growth through Success
Richard Joseph Krejcir, is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a discipleing ministry. He is also a pastor, teacher, speaker is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California and has amounted nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry experience mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.