Ever had to go thru some tough times when you couldn’t help but wonder why? Ever saw others who are suffering and wonder why? Ever gotten thru it and even though you would never wish it on your worst enemy, you would never give it up because of what you learned through it?
The two scenarios that come to my mind are when my health started to falter and when I was being lied to and mistreated.
In the first case, I was going through a busy time in my life between work, home, and volunteering. At work we had a big project where we were getting ready to do a big international mobile launch and so I was working 18-20hr days. Volunteering I had the pressure of being president of the homeowners association with many community issues coming to the forefront that needed to be taken care of. At home there was life with daughter and my wife. And I was also serving at my church in the media area. Towards the end of the project at a regular meeting with my diabetic specialist my blood sugar readings were out of control and so he recommended I take some training on diet and counting carbs which was a great refresher. In the midst of all the stresses that were taking place, I started to pray during my devotional times and an audio book that I had read/listened too back in Canada while driving back and forth to work came to mind called “First things first“. God asked me what my priorities were and so I started to put together my list of priorities: (1) God, (2) Wife and marriage, (3) Family, … and once I had put the list together, the next question was “are you living in alignment to your priorities?” How are you spending your time? How are you spending your energy? How are you spending you money? I realized that even though in mind I had it right, the life I was living wasn’t aligning to it. So I knew I had to make changes … in the midst of the suffering something had to change. So I took a look at what I was doing and made a decision to align with my priorities.
(1) At work, I came to the decision that the company hires smart people and so I should trust that they will do the job they are accountable for and I don’t need to be micromanaging or babysitting them doing their work. By stepping back this made my 18-20 hr days become 8-10 hours a day.
(2) I got everything taken care of on the HOA board – hired new person to manage the staff, determined how to best handle safety while at the same time being a good steward with the insurance premium going up, increasing homeowner dues to cover this while at the same time stopping the effort by one of the board members to get their dues back (wasn’t going to raise dues on the community and then give us a pay — we were unpaid volunteers and that was how it would stay while I was president) and hiring a management company to help with accounting and billing. Once things were lined up and well underway, I let the board know that I was going to have to step down. [With my priorities, work that paid the bills and volunteering at church ranked higher and I felt the call God had put on my life to be on the board was completed with my last actions on the board]
(3) At home, with the training I received I changed my health patter to be able to get things back under control. Along with (1) and (2) I was able to get things back into the right order putting first things first!
In the second case, it was multi-tiered but the short version of what happened can be heard through this video presentation…
The pain, the suffering, the anger, the bitterness…why? But in and through it I learned the power of forgiveness! I learned that forgiveness not only of others but also the forgiveness I have received thanks to Jesus has power over my life! In learning it, I was not only able to find victory over the anger, sorrow, and bitterness, but was also put in a position to speak life and hope and truth into the lives of people around me who started sharing how they were going through suffering because of betrayal or lies or … and I was able to speak forgiveness to them. Without having gone through it, I wouldn’t have been able to relate or even speak encouragement to them. Without having gone so deep into the pit, I wouldn’t have been able to connect and understand what they were going through and still be able to tell them they have a choice to turn things around. Yes, I had to go through suffering to learn it. Yes, I was stronger coming out of it because I went through it. Yes, I had an answer for the hope that was in me that went beyond words to be able to help the people around me. FORGIVENESS! It’s a choice and the only choice that can set you free!
So suffering isn’t fun! Suffering isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy! Suffering isn’t something I would ask to go thru! That said, it was able to work in me and through me to change me, to transform me, to build up perseverance of my faith, to build up my faith, and to break chains that has transformed my life ever since!
Jesus has told us that in this world we will have troubles, but to take heart because He has overcome the world!
Jesus has told us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
So let’s get back to today’s topic and today’s devotional to see what God’s Word has to speak into our lives beyond my own personal experiences…
Day 25: Bible In One Year 2017 Psalm 15, Matthew 17:14-27, Matthew 18:1-9, Genesis 49, Genesis 50
God intended it for good is today’s title for the devotional…
1. God uses suffering to transform you
2. God used suffering to save you
3. God uses suffering for his good purposes
God uses suffering to transform you … Psalm 15:1-5
Because we know where our hope comes from, today’s psalm points to how we need to never to be shaken.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
2The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others; 4who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken. –Psalm 15:1-5
He provides us wisdom on how to live so that in and through the times of life we won’t need to be shaken: (our devotional calls them out this way)
- Act right: whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous (v2)
- Tell the truth: who speaks the truth from their heart (v2)
- Don’t gossip: whose tongue utters no slander (v3)
- Don’t hurt your neighbor: who does no wrong to a neighbor and casts no slur on others (v3)
- Keep your word…even when it hurts: who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; (v4)
- Be generous: who lends money to the poor without interest (v5)
- Be honest: who does not accept a bribe against the innocent (v5)
Today’s reading reminded me of a quote that speaks of our thoughts, actions, behavior and character and so I looked it up so I could share it here too.
Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny. ~ Tyron Edwards.
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. — from How habits form and lead to character and destiny
So in this world we will have trouble and trials and challenges. How we respond will develop our character! When we get aligned to God’s will and God’s plans such things won’t destabilize anymore (which I speak to in the video the next time something happened … forgiveness became my first response instead of my last) I now have a hope that I didn’t have before this. I now have the stabilizing force of Jesus working in and through me no matter the circumstance, the suffering, the challenge, the trouble, the persecution, because I know that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world!
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. –from Romans 5
God used suffering to save you … Matthew 17:14-18:9
Jesus came to deal with suffering once and for all! He came to nail it to the cross through His sacrifice and His suffering! He nailed it to the cross with His death and sacrifice and defeated it through His resurrection!
22When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” –from Matthew 17
We may not realize in the moment why. The disciples who had been following Jesus all that time had a hard time understanding why. We usually miss while we are going through it how God could be using it for good. Imagine Joseph and his incredible dream of the future. Consider the suffering he went thru from his brothers, from his master’s wife, from prison before God rose him up to be second in command as a wise and humble leader over Egypt. In the midst of it, we can’t see where it is going, but trusting in God we know that it will work out. Consider Daniel and his friends who wouldn’t bow down to the statue and were threatened that if they didn’t they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. Their hope and trust was in God! Even if they died in the furnace they knew God would take care of it all! Now God showed up and they weren’t harmed through the experience and it brought God the glory and was shown how He turned it around for good!
Ever heard it said, “what the devil meant for evil, God turned it around and used it for good”? The devil figured the death of Jesus on the cross would be the end of it! God turned it around and used it to provide salvation to this world!
We see a similar parallel with Joseph’s brothers’ plan and how God worked it all out so that he was able to save his family.
There is a future that is coming where those who believe in Jesus and will spend eternity with God will have no more suffering! So don’t become a stumbling block! Look to get rid of what trips you up or could trip up others!
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. –from Matthew 18
So, how will you respond? How should we respond? Today’s devotional gives us these tips:
- Have faith!
- 20He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” –from Matthew 17
- Don’t cause unnecessary offence!
- 27“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” –from Matthew 17
- Humble yourself!
- 4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. –from Matthew 18
- Be radical!
- 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. –from Matthew 18
God uses suffering for his good purposes … Genesis 49:1-50:26
No matter who is planning the suffering. No matter who is purposing the suffering. No matter what evil others are planning against you, God is able to turn it around and use it for good! For your good! For the good of others! In a way that will bring blessings into and through your life. Very similar to how God used the lesson that I learned about forgiveness to be able to share with so many others around me at the time and then again when GoDaddy asked me to speak in the story slam to share part of my story with the people who work at GoDaddy.
Even in the story of Joseph we see how so many plans against Joseph were turned around by the hands of God! We see how the plans for destruction were turned around and used Joseph to be a blessing to so many others! Joseph’s heart was in the right place and when his brothers started to fear after the death of their father, he comforted them with…
19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. –from Genesis 50
We need to be able to see beyond self! We need to look beyond feelings! We need to look beyond bitterness and revenge! We need to look towards God and how He can and will work in and through the pain and the suffering! How can we respond when we are being mistreated? Proverbs tells us…
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
–from Proverbs 25
Don’t try to take revenge! Don’t let bitterness build up inside you and fester!
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. –Romans 12:19
Remember that the battle belongs to the Lord!
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.
–from Proverbs 21:31
This is the day that the Lord has made, let’s rejoice and be glad in it!
Let’s turn this world upside down! Let’s not conform to the ways of this world! Let’s be transformed by the renewing of your mind and then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Today’s devotional concludes with these words of wisdom…
The promise of the New Testament is that God will use everything that happens to you for good. As you face trials, temptation, struggles and difficulty, the New Testament assures you that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).