Why Do We Suffer? – Just a Thought

God uses our suffering to pry our idolatrous hands from the things we thought were most precious, and to teach us to cling to the One who truly is.

Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake.

1 Corinthians 6:9

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)”

Sadly, I must confess, before coming to Christ I was guilty of more of these sins than I like to admit. I was guilty of quite a few of them. When you consider idolatry (the making of anything in your life a higher priority than God), that any sex outside of marriage is sexual immorality, and that divorce, biblically, is adultery, this passage has convicted a great majority of people in the Body of Christ at some point in our past. Further, according to this passage, not one of these sins is more condemnable than another. Sadly, some of us treat these sins as if one were worse than all the rest. These sins are equal according to this passage. Others of us don’t want these acts labeled as sins at all. Still the Word of God says what it says, and regardless of anyone’s heart in the issue, Christ followers are subject to the authority of the Bible. I myself have stood alongside every person guilty of any of these acts as a sinner unworthy of God’s love. I recognize that on my own I am no different. I do not hold myself in higher regard than ANYONE, and as the Apostle Paul said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” What I want to express is that by my belief in the Bible and my love for Christ I do not hate anyone nor do I believe I have any more right to Christ, or life and liberty for that mattter, than anyone else. People who know me, know my heart in this matter, and my LGBT friends can attest to the depth of our relationships and the genuine love and compassion that we share for one another. At the end of the day, what I know most clearly is that we are all sinners and all desperately need Jesus. That is the only message I’m called to deliver.

The good news, I found, and that I want to extend to everyone, is that immediately following the passage above (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) is verse 11: “And such were some of you [members of the Corinthian church]. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

What verse 11 illustrates is that many members of the Corinthian church, were formerly idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, etc., and they were all worshiping and serving together in the church, and accepted and loved by God. They were people who were saved and sanctified by Christ. Maybe all of the sin I’ve committed makes me more compassionate. I don’t know. Christ says, “he who is forgiven little loves little.” Maybe that means “he who is forgiven much loves much.” Perhaps that’s me. But perhaps that should also be all Christians. The Bible is clear that no people, on their own merit, are worthy of God. But the Bible is also clear God’s love and saving grace are available to anyone who would take hold of them and look to the cross. Every last one of us are sinners in need of the savior Jesus Christ. Not one of us in the Church is at liberty to deny anyone access to the cross or the gift of repentance. We are not called to badger, or hate, or condemn anyone, but to be light in the world. Our calling is to be like Christ, to engage, love and embrace sinners, to encourage all people to receive the gospel, and to help every person develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. We must understand that the sanctification of individuals is not our work, but is the progressive work of God in the hearts of each person as we engage Christ in His Word. My hope is simply that we would all bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Be kind, love people, point them to Jesus, and let God work.

Treasuring Time

In the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape, a senior ranking devil writes letters of advice to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one letter he directs the attention of his young nephew to the following point, “…you will have noticed that nothing throws (a person) into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. […] (This perceived loss angers) him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.” Screwtape goes on to encourage the young temper to, “Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.”

The Screwtape Letters theatrical adaptation @ http://screwtapeonstage.com/

C.S. Lewis concludes, “…man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his (personal possessions).” In the end, man has no ownership over time, and the idea of ownership of time is a foolish notion, being that our time is clearly God given, and God’s to cease giving.

Our time is a gift.

My realization in reading this piece is that, while I desire to give all of myself to Christ, the thing I most selfishly cling to and begrudgingly relinquish is the last of my free time. I place a higher value on time than on possessions or money, and where the cliché will say, “time is money,” I literally treasure my time. I’m not talking about moments in time or memories, but literally, the time itself – the free time to do what I want to do, even if it is doing nothing. Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and where many will link this verse to monetary wealth, I have been forced to make an examination of how I spend my time, and called to make a better effort to steward my time in ways that better please and glorify God.

This text further disturbed me as I truly want to believe I endeavor to have a servant’s heart. I am by no means fully self-sacrificing, but I believe I desire to be. I believe this begins with the recognition that we are not our own, but were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). The cost of our souls was the life of our God in the flesh. He cashed His life in, purchasing ours, and covering our debt. Christ gave his life, not just in death, but also in living sinlessly (in traveling, teaching, preaching, and healing – always doing the work and will of God even when it conflicted with his own self-preservation). Christ did this all to pay the cost to reconcile us sinners to the Father. Hence we should recognize we are not our own.

If I acknowledge that I am not my own, and I willingly give my life to Christ, then certainly, in fullness, this must include the forfeiture of my time, which clearly I have idolatrized and continue to place far too high a value on. Our lives (not our existences, but our lives as we perceive them here on earth) are truly just the days our souls spend encapsulated in these present vessels – our earthly bodies. God, however, promises that our souls exist independently of this earth (where time constrains), and are eternal. Somehow the idolatrizing of time must absolutely be indicative of a lack of faith in the eternality of our souls. Who would be so concerned with every minute, if we believed we had forever?

Psalm 90:12 says, teach us to number our days. This demonstrates that our days in this body are limited, come at a high premium, and should not be wasted. This, however, does not mean that we should be selfishly and fearfully hoarding our time for the purposes of self-worship – making ourselves our highest priority, and seeking endeavors that ultimately come to nothing more than our own vanity. We are offered such a limited time to come to know Christ, to introduce others to Him, and to get to the business to which He has called us. With this in mind I feel a very real need to let go of my grasp on time and invest it in ways that better satisfy Him. In doing so I believe I will also be better satisfied in Him. After all, it would seem that neither legacies nor memories are ever built in the moments when we are hoarding time, but always in the moments when we are spending it.