Joy in tribulation
Today is December 31st, the last day of 2012. I am writing this morning from a local Starbucks. It’s something I do on occasion as I enjoy getting up early and heading to the coffee shop to read my bible and write. I’m always hopeful for a chance to share the gospel if the opportunity avails itself. It’s sometimes interesting to see people look at you as you’re reading a bible. One man said to me “I didn’t think anyone read that anymore”.
I was in a Starbucks in Cincinnati a couple months ago and the place was loaded with people working on computers doing whatever it is they were doing, probably blogging, they all looked so cool. I’ll admit I’m not one of the cool people sitting in Starbucks. I work on a three plus year old ThinkPad, not a Mac Book Pro or an Ipad, I like the utilitarian look of my ThinkPad. I think it fits my personality. I also don’t have a cool paraph or don’t sign off my emails with “cheers”. I like being different in a very normal sort of way. My desire is to be very workmanlike. I think if I played professional football I’d be an offensive lineman, of course that would be impossible at five foot eleven and a hundred and eighty five pounds, but that’s how I envision myself.
One area I desire to stand out and be different is in the area of evangelism. I desire to share God’s Word and have people consider me different. Not for my own recognition but for God’s Glory which brings me to the point of this post. Ephesians 3:13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
This past Saturday we discussed this verse at our mens bible study. The question was posed to each man if they were suffering tribulation. Each man gave testimony about tribulation in his life and when this was done we looked at Paul’s tribulations.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Are they ministers of Christ? – I speak as a fool – I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness – besides the other things, what comes upon my daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
As I considered this throughout the rest of the weekend I came to realize how completely normal I am. I say this to my shame. On occasion I may suffer some reproach, I might even actually have someone upset with me. Sometimes that might be a family member or someone I care about. Sometimes it’s a stranger when they are challenged with the reality of God. As we went through all of Paul’s tribulations one by one I realized that Paul never became discouraged in any of these tribulations, in fact he was joyful.
I want this to really sink in for a moment. He was beaten and then he picked himself up and went to the next town where it was likely it happened again and then again and again. It can be very intimidating when someone reviles you and is upset with you, but not to Paul. He just kept going back for more. How small we are today. How weak that we can’t speak up when we know we should. How self focused we are when we say things like, “well that was Paul”. Don’t forget Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Or my favorite, “he’s too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. Maybe in reality your too earthly minded to be any heavenly good. See this great article if you say that, then repent and stop saying it. Heavenly minded
In all of Paul’s tribulations he was joyful and he tells us to not to lose heart why? It’s for our glory; our glory and the glory of the King that suffered and is worthy of our suffering. As a new year is approaching many will make resolutions. If you call yourself a Believer, I propose you make it a goal to suffer more for Christ this year. If you’ve never experienced any sort of tribulation for Christ’s sake, you need to examine yourself to see if you are really in the faith. You might not be saved, or at best you are in rebellion to God. 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
I pray 2013 is the year that God make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory… (Romans 9:23)