Friday, August 10, 2007

Difficulties and the Grace of God

This past Wednesday was our monthly cell group celebration, when we hold a joint service at the church for all our cell groups. The message that was shared with us spoke of how the hardships we experience in life allow God to manifest himself and show his grace. As Christians living under the authority and power of God, sometimes we think we shouldn't have problems, and we wonder why we do. In John 16:33, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world." There are two promises in this verse: one, we will not always have an easy life BUT, two, God has already won the victory over whatever circumstances we find ourselves. When we have problems we often want to blame God and question his will. We need to remember, thought, that blame and doubts and confusion do not come from God, but from the devil. We might start to think that there are no solutions, that the problems we face personally and globally are too big, but these thoughts again are not from God; they are what the world would have us think. The book of Romans assures us that, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (8:28). Being a Christian doesn't make you immune to difficulties, but it does guarantee that as we seek the will of God and remain faithful to him, he will provide a solution to even the worst problems and can turn them into blessings. If we did not have problems, we would not see the power and grace of God working in our lives. John 9 tells the story of a man blind from birth. When the disciples saw him, they asked Jesus what sins this man or his parents had committed to cause him to be blind. Jesus replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (9:3). In John 11 we read the story of the death of Lazarus, one of Jesus' closest friends. Jesus could have healed Lazarus easily, but he stayed away until several days after his death. This was a difficult situation even for Jesus; he wept when he arrived at the tomb. But when his disciples first told him that Lazarus was ill, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (11:4). Jesus knew that he and the others who loved Lazarus would have to suffer, that Lazarus himself would suffer death, in order for God to be glorified. When we experience problems we have two choices: one, we can get angry and forget about God, or two, we can give thanks to God for the opportunity to experience his grace. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." If we stop seeking God and focus on our pain, our problems will grow, but if we accept problems as part of life and thank God for giving us life, we allow him to show his grace, power, and love.

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