Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Bite at a Time: Part II

"Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for Thou art my praise"  Jeremiah 17:14
No one is immune from various trials and suffering.  It is a universal struggle.  At some point in every life, there will be some circumstance that will shake you to the core. Yet, when we are in the midst of a trial, we often feel we're the only one on earth that is suffering. It helps to know that we serve a God that is well acquainted with suffering himself, and therefore able to sympathize with our plight.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."- Hebrews 4:14

Hurts, trials, and suffering are sure to come our way at some point in our journey, and our response to these situations will have a lasting impact on our lives.  We can either choose to let the things of this world drag us down in defeat, or make us stronger.  They will either refine us or make us bitter. It's our choice, and it's in our hands.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 1:6-8.

We must learn to see every trial as a refining process that will make us more like Christ. It is a test. We must decide to believe God and respond properly, or to live in the unbelief of our flesh.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you." 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

In Kay Arthur's book, "Lord Heal My Hurts", she addresses this topic further when she states, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God, according to Romans 8:35-39.  The tribulations, distresses, and persecutions that come into our lives are not meant to destroy us.  They are designed to drive us into His everlasting arms of love.  In His sovereignty, God has allowed suffering.  The One who sits upon the throne of thrones reigns supremely.  He does "according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Daniel 4:35).  He holds you in His omnipotent hands.  God is love, and He loves you with an everlasting love.  Therefore, everything that comes into your life must be filtered through His fingers of love.  No one can touch, speak to you, look at you, or do anything to you without His permission (Isaiah 45:7)  And if it comes, it will work together for your good.  It will be used to conform you into His image."

So, when God allows tough things to enter our lives....when he serves us an elephant... he doesn't just leave us floundering about to fail.  He gives us the tools we need to get through the crisis.

First of all, he offers a healing balm. In the Old Testament, one of the names of God refers to his attribute of being The Great Physician: "Jehovah Rapha" The God who Heals.  The book of Jeremiah talks about the "balm of Gilead", a symbol of God's healing.  In chapter 8, Jeremiah was upset because the wounds of the Israelites were curable, but they rejected God's cure, the balm of Gilead. They turned everywhere else for healing, except to God. The balm of Gilead refers to the Word of God.

"He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." (Psalm 107:17-20)

This isn't the only place in the Bible that refers to "the Word" as a tool for conquering the hurts of this world.

Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the full armor of God.  It's a passage that I've been familiar with from childhood, yet I understand its implications for my life more today than I ever have before.  One of the pieces of the armor is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (verse 17)    Not only is it capable of healing us, but it also delivers us in times of need. The Word of God is our only weapon to fight with. The rest of the armor is used for protection.  Here are the other pieces of armor that God equips us with: The belt of truth, the breast plate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith,  and the helmet of salvation.

So God has equipped us with all of these tools to overcome any trial that comes our way, but we must choose whether or not to use them.  It involves action!  When speaking about the full armor of God, Paul uses words like, "Put on the full armor of God....stand firm against the schemes of the devil...take up the shield of faith...take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit."  Armor does nothing to protect us if we go into battle without it!  We have to use the tools that God provides us with, or we will be defeated!

So many times, in the midst of life's storms we say, "God, where are you in all of this, and why didn't you help me?"  God is right there in the storm, suffering with us, and he gives us the tools for battle and healing.  We need to run to the shelter of his Word. He has not forsaken us!

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

In my last post, I made the analogy of our hurts, struggles, and sufferings as an elephant that God serves us.  It feels huge, overwhelming, and impossible to swallow, but when we turn to God for help he is faithful to rescue us in our time of need.  He gives us the tools we need to eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

He offers salvation, healing, truth, peace that surpasses all understanding, righteousness through Christ, and hope.  It's all there for the taking, but we must accept it as our own.  It requires action.  Will you walk through life wounded and defeated, or will you accept God's healing balm, and become stronger?  Through Christ, we have a glorious hope!

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