If you watch college football, then you probably know that Bobby Bowden is under great scrutiny. Fans are upset because his team, the Florida State Seminoles, are off to one of their worst starts in school history. It’s amazing how quickly fans develop amnesia and jump off the bandwagon. Just a few years ago, Florida State dominated NCAA Division 1 football. Now, however, the victorious seasons are faint memories. I guess Bobby Bowden can attest, “Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them” (Publilius Syrus).
Fortunately, there is a friend who is not “fair-weather,” one who sticks closer than a brother. In the text included with this email, at least 13 people (hence “they,” v. 1) arrived at the other side of the lake, but only one exhibited compassion toward a person in need. Jesus, our friend when others abandon us, got out of the boat (comfort zone) to help a man in a crisis. In a subtle way, Jesus was validating His word. His actions proved that He will never fail or leave us (see Hebrews 13:5).
Maybe the circumstance you’ve encountered is intentional. Maybe God is removing “dead weight” to prove to you that He is your “refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1, New Living Translation). You’ll never find a friend more faithful than Jesus, and if He’s for you, no one can be against you!
I’ve used the example of a pregnant woman before, but again, it is an appropriate segue into today’s recharge. At conception, the woman seldom shows outward signs of the change inside. During the next nine months, however, her body undergoes significant changes. The closer she gets to her delivery date, the worse the pain becomes. If she’s not careful, she can mistakenly think her contractions are a sign that she made a bad choice. But they’re not. The most painful contractions are confirmation that the baby is on the way.
Ironically, Jesus was on the verge of birthing His public ministry in this text. He had been declared the chosen One, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and provided instructions for His first assignment. And, look who showed up – the devil. If you keep reading Matthew 4, you’ll notice that Jesus did not get upset, irritated, anxious, or troubled. Instead, He remained calmed and aced the assignment. Why? Jesus understood that this attack was just confirmation of His assignment.
Paul told his spiritual son Timothy, “… everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, New Living Translation). That is, whenever we’re on an assignment from God, we can expect trouble. So, if you’re listening to God, and in the storm of your life, hang in there. That trial is simply confirmation that you’re headed in the right direction!
Last Saturday, I talked to my friend who recently had bone spurs removed from his ankle. He shared his frustrations about the rehabilitation process, for it hurt to move his ankle. His comments reminded me of my appendectomy: I didn’t want to move after the surgery because every movement hurt so bad. But God sent a “word” through a nurse that helped me realize the benefit of post-operative pain. She said, “If you want to go home, then you’ll get out of this bed and walk around.” Likewise, I told my friend that his pain was good, for movement helped initiate the healing process.
Paul offers a similar perspective in the verse cited above. Sometimes, our trials are so painful that we shift our focus from where we’re going to where we are. That’s when complaining, doubt, hopelessness, and misery become our best friends. Paul, however, challenges us to look at the result of our troubles: “… they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” In other words, pain is good. Spiritual troubles lead to spiritual triumph!
You may be in a difficult place, focusing on the pain and frustration in the moment. I challenge you to look beyond the pain and recognize the promise. It’s all working for your good (see Romans 8:28). Be encouraged; strength is on the way!
Ever wonder why God allows suffering? I mean, He is all-powerful and can literally talk our problems away. Yet, He let’s us feel the fire until we think He doesn’t care. Wouldn’t He be more of a loving God if He gave us immunity from problems? Couldn’t He secure our devotion without pain and suffering?
I just came through a very difficult season wherein I asked many of these questions. In my despair, however, God gave me a revelation I will cherish eternally. In most restaurants, the waiter will not refill your glass until it’s empty. It’s not that he or she doesn’t see the liquid depleting; rather, he or she is waiting for the opportune moment to give you a refill. Likewise, God allows suffering to deplete our strength. It’s not that He doesn’t see or feel our pain; He’s just waiting for the right moment to refill us. Therefore, He let’s us get weak and powerless to give us new power and strength!
This email is directed toward people who can’t figure out why God hasn’t rescued you. It’s a set-up. You had to get weak, so He can make you strong! His “… power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, New Living Translation).