Celebrations Amidst Suffering: Following Jesus In All Circumstances

As Easter this year is still quite a ways off, may we begin NOW to prepare our hearts and minds for the victory celebration of Jesus conquering the grave. Death could not hold Him; it had no claim on Him (Romans 6:9). He was perfect in every way (Hebrews 7:26-28). Tempted as we each are, yet He never once gave into it (Hebrews 4:15). Thus, when He took the punishment of all humanity upon His shoulders as He was nailed to the cross—for my shame, for your shame—He endured it out of His loyal love for all (Matthew 27:33-56). As Jesus explained to Peter just hours previous in the Garden of Gethsemane as Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, brought the religious leaders and temple guards to arrest Jesus:

 

51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53“Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?54“How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

55At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. 56“But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:51-56 (NASB)

 

In a Christian culture that is beginning to find very little, if any, room for suffering in the modern age—may we look to the example of our Risen Lord Jesus. In a day and age where it is more common to look for ways to receive blessing, rather than give it away—may we look to the example of our Risen Lord Jesus. For a Christian by name means “little Christ”. May we remember the words of Jesus:

 

20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23“He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24“If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25“But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’

      26“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:20-27 (NASB)

 

Christian church, may we be bold in our witness for Jesus Christ, regardless of our life circumstances. Why? Because Jesus Christ assures us confidently in John 16:33 that sufferings and troubles in this life WILL COME, but to take heart seeing as He has in fact overcome the world. Thank Jesus for His love, His grace and His direction over your life as a believer today. And if you have never actually placed your eternal salvation into the saving reality of Jesus, this is your moment.

You simply pray, LORD JESUS I am a sinner. I have screwed up in this life and have come to find that I cannot be perfect on my own. But, I believe that You are. And that You paid the price of death on a cross for me. Please forgive me of my wrong doings, my offenses and my rebellion against You. I turn away from any other way that I have been relying upon for eternal life. I’m all in, Jesus. I want to only follow You. Please come into my heart and take over my life. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for Your grace. Help me to live for You each day, MY LORD JESUS CHRIST. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2 Timothy 1:7-10 (NASB)

 

 

Artificial Flowers: The Acceptance of Other

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 

   2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB)

 

In recent days, it has become clear to me that many of those who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior, do not like to hear much about the reasons for which He came. For example, the topic of sin is uncomfortable, for it cannot be covered in name brand apparel or given a prescription drug to forever numb the pain. Another such topic of discomfort is that of hell. The point that really strikes me is that these topics should indeed cause discomfort. These realities should indeed cause each soul to pause and ask God Almighty where we stand regarding sin and hell. You see, to act as if one has never sinned—is to lie to oneself—and forgo the offer of eternal life.

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)

 

One must see their own depravity and their own shortcomings in order to more fully realize the sheer weight and gravity of the offense of our rebellion against the One and only Holy God of all things. The Bible assures us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This is why we must understand that because of God’s amazing grace and unabashed love for His creation, humanity, He sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ to rescue us from a course bound for destruction that was never intended for us.

 

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:21-26 (NASB)

 

The Bible clearly teaches, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). And as the pages unfold and the vast beauty of God’s detailed and complex creation is brought to life, we are first introduced to Adam and Eve within the perfect land called Eden (Genesis 2:7-10, Genesis 2:21-25). God had perfect fellowship with them and would daily walk in the garden with them, but as rebellion entered this perfect place, through the free will of Adam and Eve, guilt and shame also entered (Genesis 3). Only perfection could be in the presence of Almighty God. Thus, as Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the epic and celestial rescue operation, of God sending His own Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16) to atone for the screw ups and rebellion of each and every human heart (Isaiah 53:5), was set into motion.

 

Hell was never intended for humanity, but rather for the devil and his minions (Matthew 25:41). Thus, we must be burdened, as believers in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, to tell others to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved from a place that was never intended for them (Acts 16:31). Jesus clearly spoke of the reality of hell and the excruciating torment of hell for all who do not believe (Luke 16:19-31, John 5:39-47). Ladies, remember that the devil and his minions are determined to destroy all joy here on earth and cause each heart to reject God’s offer of eternal life through the penalty paid in full, on our behalf, by Jesus Christ the Son of God.

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (NASB)

 

Allow us to bring this point home: Ladies, rather than settling for an artificial flowers of carnal love or the inaccurate depiction of romance, may we repent from deception committed through smart phone screens and exploding text chains and return to the Lord who sees the value of each precious soul and poured out His own blood to rescue and redeem (1 John 4:9-10). Rather than believing that our culture or Hollywood knows best how to align our priorities and the allegiance of our souls, may we repent and return to the Lord for He promises plans filled with hope and a future for all who trust in Him (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Rather than settling for fashion that depicts the female body as a playground and shows the onlooker that the one wearing such articles only sees herself through the eyes of sex, may we repent and return to the Lord for He has so much better in store for you (Isaiah 61:10, Romans 13:14).

 

The time is now, Ladies. Let us not accept artificial lifestyles any longer. The King of Kings has called and created us for something much grander than simply updating an internet feed or chat chain; we have been called to righteousness as we advance the name of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection to all people (Genesis 1:26, John 4:24, Matthew 28:18-20). The time is now. Let’s go.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooted Above

Some pity the military lifestyle; while even fewer understands it. In the midst of yet another moving season, it is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed with the rapid changes that seem to all hit you at once. As friends say goodbye, boxes are packed and final photos are taken, the inevitable becomes all the more real. With many proverbial plates in the air, taking on any new challenges, such as searching for a new home, church and school for your children, seem truly beyond reach. Quiet murmurs of others can become a near constant drone of worry, shock and horror. If such negativity is paid too much attention to, the military family themselves can begin to internalize these comments and actually start to pity the very place where God has called them.

 

This was the case for myself as my husband had just left for a year at another U.S. Embassy within the Middle East. I had our two young children to comfort as they cried for their daddy both day and night and begged him over video chats to come home. In the midst of this rollercoaster of emotions and desperately trying to plug into this new American community to share life with for the year, comments would be shared in passing that would take my fatigued self off guard at time.

 

As well intentioned as these comments were, the very last thing I needed to hear were further reminders that many could not relate to my current trial. “I can’t believe you have to go through this. I could never do it! I feel so sad for you. You are like a single parent!” Others would aim their comments on the fact that my husband was away and affirm their own views that men are not needed anyway. “See, we women don’t need men in our lives to take care of us! Look at you! You are doing just fine looking after the kids and your husband is on the other side of the world.” I would reject the notion that I didn’t need my husband and would take the opportunity to affirm my husband and his vital role. Yet, even still, I began to harbor resentment towards my husband for doing the job that we had both prayed about prior to him accepting the position within this specific U.S. Embassy.

 

Although we had the direction of God, there was not a let up on the daily difficulties and pressure all around us. It was truly such a needed blessing to be affirmed by both family and close friends through prayer and constant contact amidst it all. I had to continually take these daily challenges back to the Lord through prayer as days of this journey turned into weeks and then into the first two months completed. We knew that we were where we were supposed to be. I would then consequently ask the Lord why we were enduring so much difficulty along the way.

 

What continued to come back to my heart was the reality that as Christians, no matter how many or how few are standing at our sides to affirm our walk with the Lord is really irrelevant. What does in fact matter is in whom we place our trust and eternal hope. The call of every Christian, military or otherwise, is to do the will of God whether others are standing alongside us with pom-poms, billboards and broad smiles or we find ourselves standing alone before strangers as they prepare to take our very lives. As the Apostle Paul assures all followers of Jesus Christ within his letter of Romans, “if God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31)”.

 

Ladies, the peace of God is not given strictly to those with luxurious lifestyles and personal shoppers—no, not by a long shot! The peace of God, according to the Bible, is available to all through Jesus Christ and it will blow logic clear out of the water! When the world tells you to worry, the Bible will encourage you to worship God for His goodness (1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 7:3, Psalm 86:5 & Psalm 100:5). When the world tells you to feel depressed, the Bible encourages you to deepen your faith by holding fast to the promises of God (Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 31:24, Psalm 62:5 & Isaiah 25:9). When the world tells you to give up, the Bible encourages you to give it all to Jesus in prayer (Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:25, Hebrews 4:15-16 & 1 Peter 5:6-7). You see, no matter what the circumstances may be in front of you, God has encouragement for you to faithfully lead you through each step with His divine presence and supernatural peace (John 14:26-27). How do we go about acquiring such peace? We are told in Philippians 4:6-7 that we are to bring all of our concerns, issues and baggage to the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer. Jesus Christ is our direct access to God the Father; there is no other way to approach God but through the risen Messiah Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Therefore, regardless of the boxes of worry, anxiety, chaos or suffocating doubt that may be trying to envelop you at present reality; reject the stacking fears and cry out to the Lord Jesus Christ this very moment for His intervention, intercession and direction.

As a military spouse, it is a challenge to move from familiarity, uproot and embrace another set of calendar years in the next duty station; especially once we add children and a deployed spouse to the mix. But! There amidst these challenging times, there is hope from above! You see, regardless of how many times your address, phone numbers and even driving routes may change, there is One element in life that will never change; this unchanging reality is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.”

Proverbs 30:8-9 (NASB)

 

When speaking of military families being “uprooted” by moves and new job assignments, may our hearts be reassured of biblical truths. As followers of Jesus Christ, our “roots” are not planted here within this world. Praise God for a lifestyle that teaches us to appreciate the moment, while never gripping too tightly to the things and people around us. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to “root” ourselves above…away from the dirt, depression and disease of this world. In other words, we are to “root” our hearts on the things above (Isaiah 26:9, Isaiah 33:6, Matthew 6:19-20 & Matthew 6:33-34 & John 6:26-40). May I encourage you this day to cry out to the Lord in a new way and ask for His guidance and eternal perspective for He cares for you. May we reach up our hearts and hands to the Lord and thank Him for not only hearing our cries, but for caring enough to intervene in His perfect time and sovereign way.

 

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love because You have seen my affliction. You have known the troubles of my life and have not handed me over to the enemy. You have set my feet in a spacious place.” Psalm 31:7-8 (HCSB)

Victory Over Insurmountable Odds Through the Lord Jesus Christ

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)

 

We are pack people by nature…it is easy to endure hardship in a crowd with multiple people cheering us on and running beside us. But, it is when we feel alone and grow extremely fatigued that the weight of stress and pressure begins to feel unbearable. Yet, as believers of Jesus Christ, may we recall that there is always a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on to run the race set before us to bring glory to God and honor His name to all people. In times of genuine turmoil and tunnels of chaos, may we realize that regardless of the amount of change or pain that we may endure, the Lord is faithfully with us. And if we are prayerfully approaching each new season, may we take heart in the fact that the Lord will lead us in His ways for His glory and for our ultimate good.

 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

 

Remember, the journey of one life will never exactly mirror that of another. The Bible as well as church history is packed full of stories of great followers of God who had to endure great hardship and suffering for the furthering of the Lord’s will. Moses’ life of movement back and forth to Egypt with his family and obedience to the Lord looked very different than the life of Daniel as a prisoner of war within Babylon. Both were used mightily for the Lord, yet both stories played out very differently for a distinct purpose. The same can be said of Esther, a beautiful Jewish girl who was made queen and used by God to save the whole nation of Israel.

Thus, it is vital that we prayerfully have our noses in the Holy Bible to discern the will of God for our personal families; for if we try to create a life that mirrors that of another follower of Jesus Christ, we may be forever waiting. Why? Because the life that the Lord has called each of us to walk is absolutely unique for the plan and purpose that He has set out for each of our giftings and talents (Jeremiah 29:11-13). The Lord is faithful and has given each individual a unique set of skills to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NASB)

 

And maybe, just maybe, the reality of your present sufferings or silent questions may be used to catapult you into the path of a soul who deeply needs the encouragement that only the Lord can provide. And it would be the biggest honor given to any soul to speak of the very One who can mend any wound and heal any situation; this is the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 34:18). And as one who has trekked through many mountain tops and deep valleys with the Lord, may I encourage each one reading today to hold fast to the teachings of the Holy Bible–realizing that God sincerely cares for each life (John 3:16, 1 John 1:9 & 1 John 4:9-10).

Need further examples of enduring through insurmountable odds by the power of Jesus Christ? Just look at Peter on the waves (Matthew 14:29-33)! May we look up when we struggle to maintain the coarse for He is right there to grab hold of us with great strength and divine power to raise us up back atop the waves, where we have been called to walk by faith (Matthew 10:28). Take a deep breath in the reality that with the Lord Jesus Christ, there is deliverance from any heartache or difficult situation.

 

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
            And He who formed you, O Israel,
            “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
            I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
            And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
            When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
            Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (NASB)

 

 

Prayer of a Soldier’s Wife:

LORD, You are good. You are trustworthy. By Your sovereign will and gracious love we will embrace another season of global separation as war wages on. Thank You for walking with my man as he is in harm’s way. Thank You that nothing passes into our lives that does not first meet approval to bring You ultimate glory. Please give me Your eyes.

 

Help me to stay focused on the promises found within Your Holy Word as I hold our children while they cry in the night from missing Daddy. Please allow my patience to be infused by Your wisdom and grace as we try to adjust to yet another new town, new church and new school. Thank You that I can look back and see the undeniable evidence of Your unabashed love for us in each move. Thank You for this lifestyle of learning to yearn for and rely upon You, rather than routine.

 

With each new move, new opportunities to see You at work in the lives of others are all around. You allow for us to both pour into the lives of others for their encouragement and Your glory as well as receiving refreshment from new friends along the way. Thank You that the truths of Your Word are indeed transcendent. There will never be a place on this big world where You will not faithfully walk with us. You will always walk beside us and lead us to the best path for our lives.

 

Thank You for the joy that You infuse the soul with—it is not based on external metrics or anything personally conjured up. No, it is more stable and concrete than that. The joy of Your giving nestles down deep into the bones, the minds and the hearts of those who call upon Your name. And in times of great longing, and genuine distress, it is that same joy from You that blossoms into peace to weather any storm or devastation that this world can bring (John 16:33).

 

The joy of the LORD is our strength! With each new challenge, with each new obstacle, may I come before You and throw all of my worries, fears and unknowns at Your feet. You have welcomed me to do this and I thank You for a lifestyle that continually provides opportunities in which to declare Your supremacy over every circumstance—and for this—claim the victory that belongs to each believer in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). It’s in the victorious name of my risen Savior, Jesus Christ, that I pray, amen.

 

“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this:” I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.” Isaiah 57:15 (HCSB)

 

After reading this, now, it is your turn. Write a prayer that declares your own hope in God’s perfect timing and sovereign will over your own personal story. God is bigger than our troubles (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is faithful to walk with us each step of our journeys (Isaiah 40:28). And He can use all circumstances for our good and His glory (Romans 8:37).

 

Take a moment to declare truth both to your heart as well as declaring back to the LORD how good He is.