Greetings everyone, It has been quite a while and i apologize for my enforced sabbatical. The truth is, I went through a very tough period that took quite a toll on me and it was hard getting any inspiration to write during that time. It has been a really challenging past few weeks for me, but I thank God for seeing me through the storm and by his grace I can boldly say that i am stronger than I ever was before. In fact I have to add, it was that storm and how God navigated me through it that inspired this particular writeup.
Interestingly, the topic of discussion is one that is given quite a lot of emphasis throughout the scriptures. If you study the old testament you will find stories of God’s Children who had their faith tested by suffering, and in the New testament we see Jesus telling his disciples that they should be willing to endure suffering for his sake (Matthew 10:38), and after the time of Jesus, the early apostles placed even higher emphasis on this message.
However, for some reason, it is almost no longer being taught today. Is it that Christians of our time no longer experience suffering, trials or persecution? Of course we do. Suffering in general comes to everyone on a different scale and time, whether Christian or not.
In fact as a believer, you will probably have to endure more suffering in this world than the unbeliever. So why do preachers of today deem it no longer necessary to teach the message of faith and perseverance in suffering? I would say Probably because it is not the most attractive or crowd pulling topic one can think of.
The thing is, as I sought solace in the scriptures during my trying period, I came to learn quite a lot about what it says about suffering – why it comes to us all and how we should go through them as Christians, and I am grateful to God for this platform to share with everyone.
First, we should look at the definition of “Faith” as it pertains to us believers. Faith according to Hebrews 11:1 (KJV); “… is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Going by that definition, it is safe to say that faith is the very essence of our religion, it is by faith that we believe in the existence of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Christian doctrine in general.
Now that we have seen the scriptural definition of faith, I have to be honest and say that at least from a personal point of view, serving God is not exactly a “bed of roses”. This is just me being honest and I am sure there are many more believers out there who might be feeling exactly the same way, especially the newly born again.
Serving God in truth and in spirit requires a degree of sacrifice. It requires us to leave behind our ‘old world’ which we have become so accustomed to and begin an entirely new journey into a whole ‘new world’. We are now in a ‘world’ that transcends light, one that is not a habitat for our dark habits, thus we are to render ourselves in total service to the Lord almighty.
(Mathew 6:24 KJV)
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else. he will hold to the one, and despise the other, Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.
However, the walk with Christ is still the most fruitful journey we can ever choose to embark on in our life time, but like most potentially rewarding adventures, there are bumps, challenges and difficulties to be encountered along the way. Persecutions and temptations will arise, trials and tribulations too, then there is also our human tendency of doubt whenever we hit a ‘gallop’.
Some days we would experience excruciating pain on a physical or mental level. We would become so weak at times and the Devil will begin to feed us false reasons why we should forsake our faith… and even at that, things could still get worse.
You see, the Devil and his cohorts have been roaming the face of the earth since he was rebuked and banished by God, and his ultimate agenda ever since has been to separate us from the creator. He has devised several means to achieve this objective in the past and if you look around the world today, you will clearly see that he is still in that same business.
It is important for us to know that the sufferings and difficulties we encounter in life are not necessarily a result of our sins, neither should it be seen as punishment from God. I feel the need to clarify this because in some societies today, it is very common for people to attribute someone’s illness or misfortune to that individual’s past or immediate wrong doing
While this might suffice in some cases, it is not necessarily true in every case.
Let us examine the cases of some strong Biblical characters; true servants of God who had their faith tested by suffering and persecution during their walk with God.
We begin with the story of Job, a very popular and unique case study. Unique because his suffering was brought upon him by none other than the Devil, albeit it was with the permission of God. One of the things we see from the story of Job is that God, despite the love he has for us, can sometimes allow the Devil to hurt us in order to test our faith and loyalty to him.
However, as true Christians and firm believers of God’s word, we shouldn’t lament, because the Devil can only hurt the flesh which is of this world. He has no power over our souls. God retains absolute ownership of our souls. My only concern is for the “air quoted Christian” who gives more importance to the flesh than to the Spirit.
According to the Bible, Job was a true servant of God. In fact, God boasted to Satan about Job. In the exact words of God; “there is no one as faithful and good as he is” (Job 1:8).
Now Satan desperately tried to put it to God that Job was only being faithful because he has been richly blessed by God, so God invited Satan to take his best shot. Job and his household was visited with tragedy. He lost his many properties and he also lost all his children (7 sons and 3 daughters) to a heavy storm, all in one day.
But despite all the loss and misfortune that the Devil brought upon Job, his faith in God remained unshaken. “I was born with nothing and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave and now he has taken, may his name be praised.” Job exclaimed. (Job 1:21). Wow! what a bold declaration of faith!
But his suffering did not end there, as he was later struck with a terrible disease and people soon began to avoid getting in contact with him. It got so bad that even his Wife asked him to curse God and die, but he didn’t. Then came three of his closest friends who visited him on his sick bed and were all convinced, even putting it to him that he must have sinned against God to warrant such suffering and punishment.
Months went by and Job’s condition showed no sign of improving, if anything, his condition seemed to be getting worse. It got to a point where he totally ‘lost it’ and began to doubt and question the justness of God. He began to blame God for his suffering.
But in the end, he realized that he had been mistaken and he asked God for mercy. God did not only restore Job’s health, he also blessed him with wealth twice as much as he had before (Job 42:12).
Another exemplary character who went through long years of suffering according to the Bible was Joseph, the son of Jacob. The one we like to refer to as “the dreamer”. He was exported to a foreign land out of jealousy by his own brothers, sold to an Egyptian government official as a slave, falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife and was left to rot in prison for an offence he did not commit.
Joseph endured all of these suffering for a period of seventeen years and I am quite sure he would have been tempted to ask; “Where is God? Why is he letting all these happen?” But if the story of Job taught us that God will reward faithfulness, Joseph’s story shows that God will use the distinct details of our suffering to redeem us.
Joseph as we later got to know went on to become great. He was made Governor over all of Egypt by King Pharaoh – he was second in office only to the King himself.
Jeremiah was another servant of God who had to endure suffering and persecution. He was rejected, mocked and even stoned by the people for proclaiming God’s word. On one particular occasion, he was thrown down into a deep well, but in the end God gave him the ultimate assurance (Jer 29:11).
Job, Joseph and Jeremiah – these three men had so much in common. They all went through long period of suffering, they truly loved God and had unwavering faith in him, and as i am writing now, it has just strike me that their names begin with the letter “J”. But more than any similarity in their stories is the fact that God ultimately turned their situation around and they were rewarded big time because of their faith in God. Yes, God always reward those who stay faithful and loyal to him – especially in the face of suffering and persecution.
But in as much as God can reward our faith here on earth, we should also know that as believers our grand reward is not of this earth, but in heaven, and that should be the ultimate goal of our Christian faith. Eternal life is the greatest achievement we can ever attain.
We all love a “happy ending” kind of story like that of Job and Joseph in the Bible, but that is not always the case. This brings me to the hard truth so many Christians don’t like to talk about. Permit me to digress a little bit here,…
It is indeed true that most Christians only like to hear and listen to certain types of messages when it comes to the word of God,
and most Pastors/Ministers of today prioritize preaching about those same topics in order to keep filling the seats in their churches. This is one phenomenon that I hope to “put pen to paper on” in the coming days by the grace of God, so I won’t really say much about it here.
However I strongly believe that selecting only specific parts of the Gospel to preach is totally wrong. The effect of it in this regard is that most Christians have gotten so used to the “prosperity sermons” their pastors preach almost every Sunday, so they assume that accepting Christ will automatically make life easy and straightforward. No wonder the moment they experience any slight hardship in their lives, they begin to doubt God and subsequently lose faith in him. Jesus commanded us to preach the truth of the Gospel as it is in its entirety, he didn’t say, “preach only the parts your congregation or audience love to hear”.
Back to our topic, in as much as God can reward our faithfulness here on earth, the truth is, it is not for us to decide. Our part is to put in our best effort and pray with diligence and faith for God to turn the situation around, but ultimately we always have to submit to the will of God regardless of whether the outcome is looking pretty on the surface or not. After all, we are only his vessels. Our faith should be evident to all, not just when things are going smoothly, but even when things are rough for us.
If the Devil sees that we only profess love and faithfulness to God because of our possessions or because things are moving smoothly for us, he would strike us by attacking our possessions and state of mind like he did with Job, thus exposing our deceit. Therefore, even in our suffering and mourning periods we should always stand by our faith, proclaiming God’s name with absolute conviction.
Remember, there is no faith worth having that has not been tested by fire and your sufferings are only a test of your faith. If you truly believe in Jesus Christ and have unwavering faith in God, you will be willing to lay down your life proclaiming his word, but if you renounce or deny your faith because of your sufferings, it means what you had in the first place was a fragile faith without conviction, and sadly, this is the case with many Christians
John the Baptist was a special prophet of God, he was given a specific and unique mandate by God to be the forerunner of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. He preached the word of God and baptized many including Jesus. He was someone you could describe as “a fearless soldier of God”, he spoke truth to the authority calling out the King Herod for immorality and because of his boldness, he was arrested and put in jail. After spending years behind bars, he was eventually decapitated at the request of the King’s daughter.
The Disciples of Jesus, as well as most of the early apostles were often persecuted during their missionary work but they never abandoned their faith, they continued to proclaim Jesus until their last breath.
What I am pointing out here is that, as we see from the stories of John the Baptist, Stephen, Peter, James, and the other apostles who lost their lives proclaiming their faith, sometimes we don’t get the worldly defined happy ending, but Jesus assures us in the scripture that if we lose our life for his sake, it means that we have ultimately saved it (Mathew 16:25). This means that we should learn to look at the bigger picture, because the way of God is not the way of man. Sometimes his work might not be clear to our understanding
Aside from Bible characters, we have also seen and heard of men and women of unwavering faith in our own generation who have proven themselves as true and faithful servants of God in the face of one form of suffering or the other, even in the face of death.
Many Christians struggle to uphold their faith when they are faced with suffering and trials of any form. It could be health problems, it could be challenges in your business, marital challenges, academic challenges, it could be that you have graduated from the university for quite some time now and you haven’t gotten a job, it could be that you are currently mourning the loss of a friend or family member that you loved so much. Looking back, i remember how bitter I felt when I lost my mom. I was only 13 years old and i used to cry my eyes out everyday asking God why, I wondered why God would allow such a tragedy to befall my family, it was one of the hardest period of my life.
In the world today, so many things can go wrong. If you are a believer, The Devil will utilize every ammunition in his armoury to make you lose your faith in God. I implore every believer out there who is experiencing any form of suffering or persecution to stand firm on the word of God in other not to fall for the Devil’s tricks. Prayer has always been and is very much still the “master key”, but daily study of the scriptures can also carry us through such times as well as strengthen our faith.
(Ephesians 6:11, 12, 16, 17 KJV)
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Above all taking the shield of faith and wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”
Another important thing is that while praying and trusting God in patience to turn our situation around for the better, we should always maintain a grateful heart and show appreciation to God for the things we do have, because no matter how bad our situation gets here on this earth, there is always a reason to give thanks to God.
Questioning and blaming God during such period will not solve anything, It will only go to show the weakness of your faith. In fact by doing that, you are giving the Devil the chance to rejoice over you and further poison your mind.
It is normal to feel hurt, you don’t need to pretend that everything is all right. That will just be you “fronting”, Jesus knows that there will be times when we feel pain, times when our problems can be so overwhelming, when such a time arrive, what we should do is go to him as he instructs us in the gospel
(Matthew 11:28 KJV)
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
But in the midst of all these, we should keep glorifying God and acknowledging his never ending love for us.
(Romans 5:3-5 KJV)
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Suffering and trials are part of our journey, it is what makes us stronger, gives us endurance and build our faith. The scripture tells us not to be surprised when they come but rather we should “keep on rejoicing”.
(1 Peter 4:12-13)
“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 in the suffering of Christ, keep rejoicing…”
In this context, FAITH can be said to be knowing that yes you are going through a really hard period (you don’t have to be in denial), and yes you are hurting, but even with all the suffering and pain, you rejoice in gratitude to God, because you see the situation as a test and because you are deeply rooted in the word and love of God, it will only make your faith stronger. You believe one hundred percent that the “storm” is going to pass, and even if it persists, you still wouldn’t love God any less. Now that is faith built on a solid foundation, faith even the Devil cannot crack.
Beloved in Christ, no matter the suffering you are enduring in any aspect of your life, I want you to know that God is bigger than any storm we face, and whatever the situation or outcome, he is always working for our good (Romans 8:28).
As believers, in the course of our daily lives, we will surely find ourselves in situations where we would need to display the depths of our faith in God at different point in time. Of course it is easy to boldly proclaim our faith when things are going well, but of all the times and scenarios where we can do that, there is none greater and more appealing to God our heavenly father than when we display FAITH AMIDST OUR SUFFERING.
If you have been impacted by the word of God through this piece, do well to inculcate this mindset and also share this message with your brothers and sisters of faith. There might be someone out there who is going through a tough period right now, struggling and probably on the brink of losing faith. Allow God to use you to strengthen that person.
Loving Father! We believe in your absolute sovereignty. Just as we always praise and glorify your name in the good times, we also praise and glorify your name in the hard times, because we know they are part of life’s journey and a test of our faith in you. We graciously accept any challenging situation we are faced with because we know that after all said and done, we shall come out victorious. We believe in your word, and your word affirms that everything will eventually turn out for good.
Lord, I pray for myself and for every one of your Children struggling out there; increase and continue to strengthen our faith and passion for you. Do not allow us to fall for the tricks of the enemy. Most importantly oh Lord, we surrender ourselves to your will at all times, even when our human capacity does not allow us to fully understand.
Father, in the face of eternal bliss with you, no amount of suffering or pain in this world can shake our confidence in you.
We make all prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN!