May 5, 2012

In big or small challenges, God is faithful

In today’s world, hundreds of Christians are persecuted and murdered every year. The majority of these martyrs are nameless. Their selfless dedication to Jesus Christ has brought them no earthly fame or notoriety only tribulation. It is difficult for those of us living in areas with freedom of religion to understand the concept of religious persecution and martyrdom. The worst that I suffer is occasional scorn for all things religious, or blank stares when I offer praise to God or say anything about the Gospel or about Jesus Christ. 

I know that when the Bible talks about suffering it refers to the consequences of godly living, not petty and minor irritations that fall far short of being life-threatening. Most likely, the psalmist was thinking “persecution” when he wrote this:
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. (Psalm 71:20–21)
God may allow great difficulties and calamities, but He always has deliverance in mind. In these verses, the psalmist declares his confidence that God will restore him and bring good fortune to him after the trials are over. David also realized this and wrote, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

This week my greatest struggle is so minor compared to the suffering of the martyrs. I don’t want to insult those Christians who are persecuted. However, as I read today’s devotional verses, God reminds me that He is faithful even in the little things.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance… (Romans 5:2–3)
We are downsizing. After living in this house for more than thirteen years, we are moving to something smaller with no yard work. This means disposing of one third to one half of our stuff. Some of that is easy: if it hasn’t been used since we moved in, get rid of it. 

However, I’ve had a strong attachment to my books and some of the results of my labor. Every time I looked at the shelves, I felt confused and uncertain. Some of this seemed like it was part of me. How could I cull it?

The God whom I believe in and serve makes promises to deliver His people from their distresses. He doesn’t measure that stress and tell me that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, He asks me to trust Him and ask for grace and deliverance no matter the size of my hardship. 

So I did — and He did. First, He showed me why I’ve valued those unused and not needed items that are difficult to get rid of. I could see that instead of trusting Him, I was relying on what I thought those items were doing for me. I’d not considered that this attachment was a form of idolatry, but when I confessed it as such, God lifted this pressure off me. The books and files suddenly became nothing, easy to deal with.

Also, I’ve been reading “The Hiding Place” again. This book reminded me that those in concentration camps during the occupation of Holland had meager possessions. They fought over crusts of bread and bedpans. When released, the author went through culture shock at the seeming abundance on the dining room table. This amazing story demonstrates the faithfulness of God at the other end of the spectrum, but also puts possessions in perspective. Nothing I have will last for eternity. At the same time, God can and does use the things of this life as tools for His purposes. He cares about what I keep and what needs to be passed on to someone else. 

Lord, it is by grace that You help me with all problems, large and small. By putting my thoughts on my future hope and glory in eternity, I actually can rejoice in the bigger challenges of life here. And by that same process, all the problems of these petty things of life shrink to zero also. Thank You for being faithful. No matter what Your people need, You graciously supply.

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