How can we endure what we (definitely) cannot enjoy?

God is still working in and through ordinary folks like you and me and He is accomplishing marvellous things of eternal value.

Listen to this beauty-filled verse (2 Thessalonians 3:16) from the amplified Bible.  “Now the Lord Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways. (under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes).  The Lord be with you all.”  Drink that in deeply – treasure it – all times, all ways, under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes- PEACE!

Do you have a BUT – like I did?  Maybe you can relate to this and discern where my focus was wrong.

I have to be involved twice every day in a very unpleasant situation.  Possibly I could have manipulated myself out of it but that would not fit with my assurance that everything comes from God’s hand and He works in everything (Romans 8:28) for the good of His purpose.  My desire is to love – trust – obey the Lord 24/7 in every detail. What troubled me was the way I felt inside – I felt guilty about it.  I prayed – Lord, as far as I know there is no unconfessed sin in my life and I know the problem is not with You but definitely with me.  Very seldom did I retaliate outwardly and then confessed it immediately but it was the inner disturbance that troubled me.  Then another party was added to the mix and it got even worse.  I prayed – begged – pleaded for God to help me and He reminded me of (James 1:5) – if you lack wisdom just ask.  Of course!  God gives liberally without finding fault.  All through that night and into the next morning the Holy Spirit opened my understanding.  I’ll come back to this – but first – let’s start at the top and then scale down to my comparatively infinitesimal suffering.

You and I have taken several trips in the time machine to Gethsemane and Calvary.  As you recall what we observed of the anguish and agony Jesus suffered - - far beyond any other human suffering - - do you think Jesus enjoyed it?  This was a key point for me and can be very freeing.  Of course, He did not enjoy it – He endured it!  Why did He and how was He able to endure?  For the (Hebrews 12:2) guaranteed joy awaiting Him in the future.

Let’s go lower on the suffering scale to the horrific torture inflicted on our brothers and sisters in the Persecuted church.  In our prayers for them we include a request that (Acts 5:41) they will be enabled to rejoice because they are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus.  How could they be counted worthy and how could they possibly rejoice about it.  Here is that key again.  Certainly, they don’t rejoice because of excruciating pain but because of the (2 Corinthians 4:17) exceeding and eternal weight of glory being achieved for them in heaven.  They are much more than a threat to the kingdom of darkness.  Right now, through them, Jesus is invading Satan’s kingdom.  He is continuing (Matthew 16:18) to build His church – He is smashing through the gates of hell and (Luke 11:22) binding the strong man.  He is taking his spoils by rescuing souls that Satan thought were his for eternity and translating them from the power of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.

The gift of God’s love is offered freely and is presented in the gift-wrap of suffering.  Through all this, God is manifesting His wisdom through His Church (Ephesians 3:10) to the principalities and powers.

To connect my infinitely lesser circumstances with any of this would be appalling.  Yet, I was greatly distressed and suffering emotionally because I felt like I was failing to please God.  But my meditation to this point, gave me the key.  Are you listening? -  -

                  “I can endure even when I can’t enjoy.”

Let me explain.  You remember the verse I began with - - peace at all times and in all ways no matter what.  We can experience God’s peace by (Romans 12:12) obedient patience in times of enduring/suffering what we cannot enjoy.  My focus was rightly not on the circumstances but wrongly on my feelings and I felt guilty because I wasn’t thinking straight until the Lord gave me the wisdom I needed.  Such situations will not make us all warm and bubbly inside but should remind us that these very things guarantee the joy of increasing faith and character building with full assurance that God is working in all things.  We can have joy in God’s peace even while not enjoying the circumstances.  He never fails.  The things that cause suffering can fit us to obey His commands.  What commands?  Well, He never commanded us to be happy but (Matthew 5:48) to be perfect and (1 Peter 1:15-16, Leviticus 19:2) to be holy - - as we grow more and more (2 Corinthians 3:18) into His likeness.  Our journey will not always be (Isaiah 40:31) on eagle wings.  Sometimes it will require faithful walking, mile after mile.  In either case, we have His promise of renewed strength in His unfailing Presence.

We must never forget that we have a determined enemy and our spiritual battles will continue throughout our lifetime.  God will always show Himself strong (2 Chronicles 16:9) on behalf of those who have a heart to obey Him.  AND in the very presence of our enemies (Psalms 23:5) God will prepare a table set for us and prepared with everything we need (Romans :37) to make us more than conquerors.

Dr. Charles Stanley pointed out that the 3 primary Names of God reveal much of his characteristics, functions and attributes.  Everything we see in His glorious Name assures us that every spiritual blessing and our every need is covered.  Nothing is left out.  Let us remind ourselves and consider - -

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning GOD – ELOHIM – meaning –

He has infinite, unlimited power and is absolute in power.  All creation – everything He created – calls us to trust Him.

JEHOVAH – I AM – meaning –

Eternally existing, self-sustaining – needs nothing – has nothing to learn, without beginning and without end.  Moses asked ELOHIM (Exodus 3:13-14) Who shall I say sent me and Elohim answered – I AM – JEHOVAH.  Jesus said (John 8:28, John 8:58) I AM.

Do we truly recognize WHO HE really is?  All HE is HE will always be.  Do we tremble before Him?

ADONAI – meaning –

Lord, Ruler, Judge, Master.  He has absolute authority and absolute responsibility for His servants.  Joshua prayed (Joshua 7:7-11) and asked the Lord why.  Adonai told him to stop wasting time praying and deal with the hidden sin. Surprising defeat because of secret sin.

ELOHIM    -  trust Me

JEHOVAH  –  worship Me

ADONAI    –  serve Me

O LORD, our LORD (Psalms 8:1) how excellent is THY NAME in all the earth.

Dr. C. Swindoll – has rightly said that we cannot dig deep into God’s Word if we are always in a hurry.  It takes time.

Such time is well spent to find nourishing spiritual food. Sometimes the Lord may feed us (Isaiah 30:20-21) with the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.  Why?  It could be if we are living in disobedience – OR – it could be to build our character and strengthen our faith.  He will reveal Himself and teach and equip us to walk in the right way.  What do we feed our minds and souls on?  Surely we want more than a “burger and fries” spiritual life!

I may have mentioned this before but it is still in my thoughts.  My personal opinion is that if I pray a prayer which is not based on determined faith and determined obedience – I am taking God’s Name in vain.  To me this is much worse than an unbeliever using His Name to curse – and very dangerous.  Because we are partakers (2 Peter 1:4) of the Divine Nature, God has a much higher purpose than our comfort – convenience – enjoyment.  We were created to be God’s servants – the tools in His hand for His purpose in this world which God so loved.

There is only one reason to pray and only one reason for God to answer prayer - - and it covers everything – that (John 14:13) the Father may be glorified in the Son.

A wonderful thought came into my mind yesterday.  I cannot declare it as fact because I have no way of knowing but would not surprise me at all.  You remember the Roman soldier at the crucifixion of Jesus who said – “Truly this MAN was the Son of God”.  Wouldn’t it be just like God to arrange that this same soldier would be one of Paul’s guards in the Roman prison.  Paul would explain the Gospel – he would become a believer and part of the church at Rome.  One thing I know as fact - - this would not be (Jeremiah 32:27) too hard for God to arrange.  Just like when Levi the despised tax collector met Jesus, he became Matthew – which means gift of God.

God is still working in and through ordinary folks like you and me and HE is accomplishing marvellous things of eternal value.

What an exalted privilege we have to know Him – trust Him – love Him – worship Him – obey Him.

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