Have you ever heard someone say, “this isn't personal, just business!”? This they say just before they cheat out of something really great. Does that comment make you feel any better when you wake up on the short end of the deal? I can remember hearing this just before I was screwed out of making a good return on a very hard investment, it would have led me to earn millions of dollars.
Have you ever heard anybody say to you, “this isn't personal, just church!”? Most church folk would not dare say this to you, because church and the people who attend church are supposed to operate in a different way, but the very same kind of fraud happens inside the church as in the days I have had to endure at the hands of greedy men in my business deals.
Every church membership course should include this warning I have just mentioned. Their constitution should have these words written boldly at the beginning of their statement of faith, “this isn't personal, just church!” Historically, how many good men and women of God have been spiritually raped and emotionally tortured in the place that the apostle Paul called the “pillar and ground of the truth, and the temple of Living God”?
Men like Polycarp, Luther, Wickliff and many others have suffered physical brutality as well. Even in our current time of enlightenment we see physical and emotional pain meted out by those who claim to possess the truth. In all cultures and all places, emotional and very personal grief has been poured out of well meaning people in the name of God.
Over the course of human history, the place we call the “house of worship” has shown itself to be just as self-serving as our greed-laden free market capitalistic society. Are we even surprised by this reality? Are we shocked that we find more solace many times sitting in a bar having a drink and sharing our troubles with men and women who also are overwhelmed by life's circumstances, then what most of us experience inside the walls of a typical church?
What has confused me more times then I care to admit, is a spirit of antagonism and personal attack laced with a wicked rejection of people who have problems and real needs that have to be solved or they will perish. When the Lord gets a hold on a man or woman, he causes their hearts to see what He sees, in turn, our expression of what we see creates all the problems. How many wars have we fought over points of doctrine that could have been settled in a place of peace?
In order to usher in a return to power of the early first century church, where simplicity and power of the Message of Jesus were central, the Lord is going to raise up a people who can endure such “personal” hardship as I have here described. They will have to deal with many obstacles within themselves and in our culture just to keep going forward in their service to Jesus and His Kingdom.
These painful and very “personal” situations are going to hurt. We will take on injuries of the soul that will need healing. The Lord will heal as we keep on going forward in our walk with Him. I don't claim have all the answers as to why our troubles have to come at the hands of unscrupulous men, or well-intentioned scholars in the church who seek to preserve the status quo, but these “personal” injuries are a necessary part of our development in His grace and they are powerful builders of godly character and perseverance. They match up perfectly to the way of His cross.
This once-for-all proclamation of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ has a very sharp edge, and it cuts both ways. The back edge of this very sharp knife, we call the Word of God, cuts our souls to pieces, real blood and raw emotion pour out of us, as much as in the hearts of those who hear the words of truth that come out of our mouths.
Heb. 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
When a man or woman says, “I want to serve God full-time, or I will go wherever He leads.” As these words leave our lips, we have no idea what we have just signed up for. The calling of God is irrevocable. The word of God includes all of God's words contained in scripture and those words to us of a more “personal” nature. He remembers all the words of your quiet meditation. Words like, “whatever it takes” make me a man or woman of God!
If the Lord is calling you and guiding you to come after Him and do His work; He will oftentimes allow hardship to overtake you. Your fall into “personal” hardship that is so “very” personal, with the associated sick feeling in your stomach, was part of the Lord's intention in letting you fall into what appears on the surface just to be confusion and upheaval. Here we find our way. In this hard place, human pride takes a death blow.
Personal embarrassment crushes us. Public humiliation breaks us off from our effort to protect ourselves from public accusation and scrutiny. Even when we have done nothing overtly wrong, attacks against our character and whisperings about our private life, force us to keep our eyes on the real prize – Jesus -- the author and finisher of our faith. Notice with me verse 13 of Heb. 4, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him who we must give account.”
As we keep our eyes on Him and His example, one day soon we will be vindicated. We will see His very literal face and hear a very real Voice say to us, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...” Mt.25:34
There is not a man or woman of God who did not face personal rejection and malicious words of gossip. Paul said in 2 Cor.6:4-10, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
Who is qualified to be partakers of his glory? Not those with the right affiliation or endorsement of man, or denominational connection. NO, only those who “do” what Paul is outlining here in these verses and these “possess” all things. Think of it, nobody who goes through all the difficulties outlined in these verses can do it without Christ and His grace.
We just don't understand why so many times that by our very “personal” sufferings, the Lord is preparing us for an incredible kingdom of light and unsurpassing wealth! We get it all in the end! So what the deepest blows that bring the most soul pain are endured at the hands of our friends and family and those who name “Christ” as their Savior, this is necessary for us to be counted worthy to inherit these lavish gifts from the Father, we must endure these kings of hardship, what a small price for so great an inheritance!
As a good soldier of the cross, we take the lashes upon our pride and we move forward in His power and by His grace. Our Lord Jesus was accused of being a bastard, glutton, wine bibber, blasphemer, son of Satan, and many other horrible labels that many of us will never have to deal with, but He kept on course straight to the Father's throne.
Our Lord purposefully lived in a humble town, Nazareth, which was filled with blue collar workers. Nazareth was not noted in Palestine as a place of high society. The town of Nazareth would have been like one of our steel mill towns. These kind of towns are filled with hard working men who loved to work and have a good time. I'm sure many of Jesus friends love to party and spoke like common sailors. For almost 30 years, Jesus called these crazy Nazarites His neighbors and His friends.
Did any of them ever believe on Him? I'm sure some believed in Him, maybe many more later, after the days of Pentecost, after His resurrection. But what we do know is that Jesus left their region because they lacked faith in Him. Mt.13:54-58, “When He had come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “where did this Man get His wisdom and these mighty works?” Is this not a (carpenter's) metal-workers son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where did this man get these things? So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
Jesus pedigree did not match up to the expectation of those that were looking for Messiah. His life was not the life of ariodiqe scholarship, but of a hardworking mill worker. Jesus did not play their game of “vetting” His holy character, or prove His Messianic claims by kissing their scholarly rear-ends. His way was the way of the cross, the way of personal embarrassment, the way of rejection. What then, my dear friends, is going to be your way or my way in becoming “perfect” disciples of Jesus Christ?
The Pharisees and Sadducees were very concerned about looking good to their peers and the world around them. They were primarily focused on external things in the synagogue and in society. Like many christians today who choose a church based on social connections and who-do-you-know networking that goes in on in most dead churches.
To say that you go such-and-such a church “means” something to other people. My church is great at this or that. We have the best worship team, our preaching is very intelligent and socially and politically correct. Or you should hear our preacher, he is awesome. Or, our church uses the “right” bible. Or our doctrine lines up with this historical group of known heroes of the faith. Or we fall here on this issue that is currently a high point of debate and controversy in the church.
Jesus set all this kind of activity aside so He could perform a “perfect” righteousness for His Father and for us. Jesus put personal embarrassment or family conflict aside to do His Father's will. This we must do as well, and with all of our heart. We must endure through intense seasons of personal struggle as we seek Him, and in the process, become all that God wants us to be as His servants. The Word of God says, “Lo, I have come to do your will of God, your spirit is in my heart.”
Many times I have whispered to myself, “if I would have just stayed in the background and minded my own business, I would have not had to deal with all this trouble.” Most of the troubles I have faced in my adult life are directly connected with chasing after God's will. I have made many mistakes trying to figure out what God was saying to me and what it means to follow Jesus. Ever since I was a little boy my heart cry was, “I just want to love you Jesus!” You can read more of my personal “struggle to obey God” by downloading my personal testimony from the home page of this blog site.
In bringing many sons to glory the Lord seems to work in those of us called to do “something” for Him. This work of separating us to do His will leads us into weird situations where we feel stupid and weak. Those of you who are being called by God in this crazy time of gathering the end-time church of Jesus, must face insurmountable odds and get stuck in many confusing situations in order to be the kind of kingdom workers that the Lord wants and needs us to be.
Don't you think that God knows that we are dust. As particles of dirt, we come at our problems from a very low perspective. Even from the depths of the earth, we serve a God who rides on the clouds and laughs at the plots of high and mighty kings who try to manipulate His rightful claim over the earth and its peoples.
Our personal struggles empty us of our pride and our self-reliance. It shows us who are true friends are. It reveals the nature of the call to follow Jesus and become one of His disciples. As I have said before, “How can you make a disciple of Jesus unless you are one yourself?”
All the words I write are but a weak attempt to convey “my struggle to obey God”. We all are on a march to glory, no matter how crappy we feel about our lives at various points of struggle and hardship, and no matter how painful our circumstances. Mighty deliverances are ours if we faint not. The Captain of our Salvation was made perfect by the things He suffered, so too we will be made perfect by the things we suffer. Heb.2:10
Press on my dear fellow soldier of the cross. The cross is the epitome of personal and public embarrassment, and it is at the same time, the most powerful work of deliverance from a very real death sentence. Our real crimes against the perfect law of God caused Jesus to be embarrassed publicly, why shouldn't we suffer in like manner?
No matter what happens to you, even the most “personal” and painful of situations, just continue to chase after Him and the promotion of His everlasting kingdom. If this writing finds you flat on your face today, then turn your gaze upward to the God who cares so much for you, do it quickly, and do it now! As you seek the Lord today, mediate with me on the verse of a song I love to sing in times of deep despair:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of earth
will look strangely dim
in the eyes of His glory and grace.”
In : Suffering for Christ
Tags: personal suffering grace christ hardship church jesus