|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:It is amazing to see what the apostle Paul said to the Early Christian believers as he traveled from place to place in order to grow and encourage the Church. He certainly didn't share what we might have expected. His was not a comforting and prosperity message. Notice what he did in order to strengthen the believers in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch:
Acts 14:21-22 "And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."Suffering... tribulation... These things are not popular topics. Yet, the apostles exhorted the Early Christian believers that it would only be by first passing through "much tribulation" that they might enter into the Kingdom of God. Today, I want to share about the significance of suffering, as a vital part of our Christian experience. It may give each us a greater ability to suffer with grace and faith, if we better understand the good that God is up to in bringing us through it.
According to Scripture, we first partake of Christ's sufferings before we may have the joy of full fellowship with Him or partake in His glory (2 Tim. 2:12). “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…” Philippians 3:10 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you... But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy,” 1 Peter 4:12-13.
Suffering isn’t an unusual experience, in the life of a Christian. The Bible tells us that all who live godly will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12). The Scriptures also assure us that “all things work together for good” in the lives of those who love God (Romans 8:28). This means that God allows suffering into our lives only when it is for a good purpose. Suffering produces several good results:
- Suffering perfects our characters—1 Peter 5:10
- Suffering delivers us from materialism, causing us to focus our attention on that which has eternal value—Philippians 3:8
- Suffering in the flesh destroys our attraction for sin. Thus, suffering is the pain which comes in order for true healing to take place—1 Peter 4:1
- Suffering is the method God uses to “choose” us as His own, as the Bible states in the following verses:
“...Many be called, but few chosen,” (Matthew 20:16).“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction,” (Isaiah 48:10).“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him…” (2 Timothy 2:12).
How does suffering perfect our characters? Our characters are made up by our thoughts, feelings, and actions. When we spend our time thinking about earthly and temporal things, our characters become more worldly. When our feelings are left guided by selfishness, we cannot reflect the loveliness of Christ.
In our natural state, our characters are self-centered and ungodly. We exhibit the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), which are all part of the “old man of sin.” (See Colossians 3:9-10, Ephesians 4:22-24 & Romans 6:6-7). In this state, we are like a diamond, in the rough (see the top right picture). We cannot reflect the Light and loveliness of the Saviour when our “natural man” is still alive and unsurrendered.
Without the “cutting” experience of trials and suffering, which when patiently endured cut away more and more of our carnal hearts, our selfish old nature continues. But, through trials and suffering, God cuts away these unlovely character traits. Like a jeweler shaping a diamond, we are
perfected until we fully refract the light of His Truth and the rainbows of His loveliness. As a diamond has little value until it experiences the cutting. So we look like nothing more than jagged pieces of glass, though we each possess potential for becoming valuable. But what a dramatic change takes place when the diamond has been cut. Now it refracts light and scatters rainbows about. It has become a thing of great value and beauty, because of the cutting.
God refines us in steps, which we call “Peter’s Ladder.” These are the steps of growth, which when fully developed in us, will produce in us the character of Christ. The steps of Peter’s Ladder for Christian Character development are found in 2 Peter 1:5-7. These character qualities are developed in us in this order, starting with faith.
So the next time you are in a trial, or are brought into the place of suffering, pray and stay submitted in God's Hands. He is loving and good. And He has promised to work all things together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28).
Let's trust Him. Let's praise Him - no matter what. And let's be submitted in everything, even under our Father's cutting and polishing processes. As we faithfully and patiently endure, our Father takes us step-by-step through Peter's ladder of character development. God is good - all the time.