Why does God allow Suffering in the Christian’s life?

I just got done watching InTouch with Dr. Charles F. Stanley.  I was convicted that I may have been sending the message that once you are rightly related to God, through faith in His Son Jesus’ death on the cross paying for your sins, that everything after is peace, joy and love.  Dr. Stanley said that some things we can only learn as we experience pain and suffering; suffering from obeying God, and suffering from not obeying God.

Suffering from not obeying God makes sense.  God has the best planned for us.  If we don’t do what He says we can suffer the natural consequences of not positioning ourselves for His best.

But what about when we obey God and there is pain and suffering?  Does that mean God has abandoned us?  Does that mean it is pointless to serve God?  God says through Jesus in the Bible that when we suffer for doing good there is blessing.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:11-12, NKJV

I have personal experience of this being true.  When I first became a Christian I told a person close to me about Jesus and what He had done for me.  They hurled their vehement anger towards God, at me.  Later, they told me a very sad cynical sexually-themed joke and when I didn’t laugh they accused me of thinking the joke was funny but being a hypocrite and not laughing.  They continued to insult me personally and Christians in general as evil, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hypocrites.  The experience was painful, God insulated me from the worst of it by taking it upon Himself, and I didn’t say anything negative back to this person. (I wasn’t strong enough at that time to return good for evil, the best I could do was not retaliate).

What was my reward?  Many years later I was thinking about what happened and I realized, that by obeying Jesus, and doing what did not come naturally, I had loved this person. I had done what was in their best interest.  I had told them about the love of God and demonstrated it by not returning evil for evil.  And that was worth more to me than gold or homes or cars.  That truly was a “great reward”.

It can be very painful following God, but God always works everything out for our good.  And He also works out everything so that the world can know who He truly is.  As Dr. Charles F. Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

You can choose to go to Heaven (Part 2)

Jesus has done almost everything needed for us to enjoy a relationship with Him forever.  We have a critical part to play in receiving and giving Jesus’ love.  Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  What does that mean?  Repentance means to “turn around and go in the opposite direction.”  Jesus’ gift of Eternal Life, and eternity with Him, is completely free.  It cost Jesus His life to be able to give it to us, but He gives it to us freely as a gift of love.  But what do we need to do, and what does Jesus need us to do, so that He can live His life freely through us?  We must be willing to turn from the principle of sin, and from the actions of sins; specifically, we must renounce that which hurts God and other people and ourselves.  You may be thinking, “Jim, I’ve tried to change before, I can’t do it!”  I can’t either.  No one can… not by themselves.  The Spirit of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, must remove the sin principle that is in us and give us His power to be “bent toward God” in order for us to leave our sins and truly love God and other people.  If we are willing to surrender control of our lives, and obey God, God is more than willing to give us His power to change and to leave evil actions behind and to live for Him.

Jesus was faithful again in a small/large thing

My wife called me and said she had lost a roll of 100 stamps.  To us, $56.00 is a lot of money.  We prayed over the phone, dear Jesus, please find the stamps.  It was 5:00pm and my wife had bought the stamps at the Post Office around 9:30am.  She had searched everywhere and so decided to go back to the Post Office where she bought them.  As she approached the Post Office’s parking lot she prayed, dear Jesus, I know you care about postage stamps.  When she got to the parking lot she saw the top of the tiny, flattened, cellophane covered roll of stamps.  She called me and said excitedly, “Did you  know God cares about our finances?”

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

God cares about the smallest details of our lives.  That is the character of Jesus.  He cares so much about you that He decided He would rather die than spend eternity without you.  And now it’s your turn to decide if you want to spend eternity with Him.  He will not force you, He’s a gentleman, and only goes where He’s invited.  He offers eternal life, right now, not just after you die.  And you don’t have to be perfect, that’s His work, to make you like Himself.  You do have to choose, as He makes you able, to not sin anymore.  But if you do sin again, He is faithful and forgives you and helps you through the consequences of sin.  He will also challenge you to discover that His way is better than any sin.  When you choose to obey Him, He will give you real life, real joy, real meaning, real satisfaction.  You will discover that satan’s way has never ultimately satisfied you like Jesus’ way.

Jesus is with you right now.  He can give you the power to change.  All you have to do is ask Him, and let Him give you the power to obey Him.

Defeating the sin which so easily ensnares us

Satan is appealing to my pride again.  He is telling me (not in words, but in thoughts and feelings) that I KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT GOD that I don’t need to learn from other people (which God says in Proverbs clearly that I do need to learn from others).  I identified this feeling when in a Christian bookstore reading the covers of some books.  I decided to buy the book I was looking at (and my feelings were telling me that I didn’t need to read it).  Then I told my wife what I was going through. 

I have started reading the book (All In: You are one decision away from a totally different life by Mark Batterson) and it is very good and I am learning alot and being motivated alot (which satan didn’t want). By telling my wife about my struggle, the sin of pride is not in the dark anymore, where it can grow and destroy me.  Instead, it is in the light which exposes its true malicious intent.

1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.                                                                             – Paul the Apostle, Hebrews 12:1 NKJV


 I experience world-class feelings of insecurity and inferiority sometimes.  Satan used my God-given need to feel the value God has given us, against me.   However, detecting satan can be so difficult sometimes.  He can be so subtle and appeals to our God-given needs (but he wants us to meet those needs outside of God’s will).  But by following Jesus I (and you) can defeat satan.

It has been said that to learn how to recognize counterfeit money you have get to know the real thing better.  It has also been said that to learn how to recognize satan, get to know Jesus better.

Jesus and Psych Medication

Some television pastors that I highly respect believe that mental illness, including depression, can be best treated without medication.  While some depression can be treated by developing a better relationship with Jesus, and some can be treated by learning better thinking patterns, and still others can be treated by having a healthier body and lifestyle; I believe some mental illness requires medication, as well as these other treatments.

At the early onset of depression, medication (SSRIs) can arrest a downward spiral. This can give the person an opportunity to develop a better relationship with Jesus, to learn and apply more effective thinking patterns, and to gain the benefits of a healthier body and lifestyle.  By acquiring new skills a person may be able to manage their situation better, and may be able to get off the meds relatively soon.

By waiting to take meds, or not take them at all, as some pastors suggest, permanent damage to the brain can occur and the person can then need the medication for life.  (Not to mention that the person could become so ill without medication they could even take their own life).

The brain is a physical organ of the body.  It is the interface between our mind and the physical world.  As an organ of the body it is subject to disease just as the other organs of the body are subject to disease.  Just as bone marrow produces blood and the pancreas produces bile, the brain produces, among other things, thoughts.  Disease interferes with the correct production of these thoughts.  That is, many times these diseases interfere with the electro-chemical interactions of the brain that produce correct thinking.  These electro-chemical interactions can sometimes be corrected by medication.

Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps us to naturally “feel good”.  If the serotonin the brain is producing is insufficient, depression can result.  SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) are used to cause the brain to recycle its own limited supply of serotonin.  It is still your own serotonin; it is just reused over and over instead of being used up the first time.

Some may say, “God can heal depression.”  And to that I say, “Absolutely!”  God has the power to miraculously heal depression, all mental illness, and all illnesses – without the use of doctors or medicine.  But why does the Bible not condemn Luke for being a doctor?  And why did the Apostle Paul say to Timothy, “Have a little wine for your stomach’s sake?”  Is intervention – by people and medicine – to heal the body (and the brain is part of the body) universally condemned by all of Scripture?  As Jesus said, “Let’s judge by true standards!”  Do you use glasses to correct your vision?  Would you say, “My lack of vision is caused by a lack of faith in Jesus to heal me, I am going to have faith and drive without glasses now.”  Would you say to a person dealing with diabetes, “Your poor diet and lack of exercise has caused this, repent, stop taking your medication, and trust Jesus to heal you?”  Would you have surgery without anesthesia because anesthesia affects the brain?  Have you ever taken an aspirin?  Have you ever had a cup of coffee?

Mental illness is unimaginable suffering (as I know from experience).  When the religious people of Jesus’ day held that God did not want the man with the withered hand and the woman bent over in pain to be healed on the Sabbath; but rather to continue in their pain one more day; because they interpreted Scripture to forbid all work on the Sabbath; Jesus was indignant and angry at their lack of compassion.  I can see Jesus saying to them then: Which one of you would not pull your animal out of a pit if it had fallen into it on the Sabbath… (breaking your own man-made rule).  And I can see Jesus saying to them and us: …Yet you don’t care about a fellow person’s intense pain and suffering, (because of your man-made rule that “God doesn’t use medicine for the brain”?)  As Jesus said, “Use true standards!”

Jesus felt healing people’s suffering was more important than rules.  Jesus gave the example of David, on the run and hungry, asking the priests for the show bread; which only the priests could legally eat according to God’s Law.  The priests gave it to him and he and his men ate it, in direct violation of Scripture.  Jesus said that all “rules” must be derived from “Love God, love people.”  I believe God allows the use of meds to help the brain and so help people not to suffer, to reclaim their thinking, and to recover.

The real issue here, I believe, may not be medical intervention of brain disease.  The real issues may be fear; and perceived failure and its consequences.  Fear, in that the people who say not to use meds for brain disease may feel that if someone else’s brain can inexplicably not work correctly, then maybe the same thing could happen to them.  And they may be scared to death that they could “lose their mind” too.  They may not understand or trust medication and so be afraid of it.  They may be more comfortable “trusting God” and doing nothing, than trusting God and using the tools He has provided (developing a relationship with Jesus, developing thinking skills, developing a healthy body and lifestyle, and medication).

Perceived failure and its consequences may also be the real issue.  The person who does not believe God uses meds for the brain may feel that the person who is depressed has “failed” to have “faith”, or has “sinned” and so must not be “drugged” to insulate them from the pain they need to feel in order to be motivated to “get right with God.”  Job’s experience with his “friends” teaches us that our response to suffering needs to be compassion, and sharing the burden; not judgment based on our wrong assumptions of “God’s ways”.

If you know someone who is struggling, you can be a light in a very dark world.  You can offer compassion and hope to them by affirming to them that God is for them and so are you.  You can encourage them that one in five people will deal with a mental illness in their lifetime and that recovery is now the expectation instead of the exception.  And, if they are prescribed medication, (and that medication may have to be changed before the right one is found), you can assure them that Jesus uses medication to help the brain function just as he uses medication to help other parts of the body to function.

What is Jesus like?

What is Jesus like?  The Bible says: 

He is the [exact visible] image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a, KJV, brackets mine)

What is God like?  The Bible says

…God is Love. (1 John 4:8b, KJV)

What is Love like?

1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
4Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
5Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
6Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.  (1 Corinthians chapter 13, The Message)

This is what Love is like.  This is what God is like.  And this is what Jesus is like.  He never gives up on us, He’s always looking for the best in us, He doesn’t keep a sin scorecard (our sins are wiped away when we trust Him that He paid the penalty for them), He doesn’t think He’s better than us, He’s not stuck up, He doesn’t force Himself on us,  He doesn’t have to be first, He cares more about us than His own life.

This is one amazing Love…

This is one amazing God…
This is one amazing Jesus.

He’s not what you may think

There are many definitions of the “Glory of God”.  To me the greatest attribute of God’s glory is his humility. God chose to humble Himself and love me when I was arrogant, boastful, insulting and rude; to others and especially to Him.  If God had not endured my disrespect, I would probably be in hell by now.  And rightfully so.  

My greatest weakness may be “Pride.”  I wrote evangelistic advertisements for a newspaper.  The ads ran every Saturday.  I did this for two years until my pride was such that I couldn’t hear from God any more.  I didn’t write again for 8 years.  I knew I was getting proud.  I didn’t want to get proud.  I thought I confessed my pride to God.  But I was proud.

Pride is the opposite of love.  Love gets its joy from helping others.  Pride thinks only about itself.  I still need to die to myself.  Every day.

On the other hand, God’s humility is amazing.  His depths of self-denial are so great that if I loved like He does I would feel embarrassed.  Like the father of the prodigal son, God undignifies Himself and runs after us to love us.  Where I would feel humiliated to love someone who treated me like I treated God, His strength-of-self knows no such weakness.  He voluntarily throws aside the respect due Him, in order to meet my need.  And He has.  And He truly has my Respect.

How about you?  Did you think God was stuffy, formal and pretentious?  Did you think you were too low for Him to come down to meet you where you are?  He’s already there.  And He is waiting for you to ask Him into your life.  And He wants to give you His love.