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Strange Suffering

By Robert Jones  /  

This morning during my time with the Lord reading His Word, praying to see and savor His glory that is found in His Word, I came across these verses in Acts 14:21-22, "When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."

What a funny, odd verse. Part of Paul's strategy of giving encouragement and strength was to assure them...they'll have problems...huh? Gee, thanks Paul. You would think it would say "strengthening the disciples, encouraging them...and saying that God will keep you safe until you enter the kingdom of God."

But that's not what Paul said, and that's not the message of the Scriptures. Life is hard. Life is risk, and we will experience pain and toil, even persecution for our faith. This is a result of sin in our world. And we must go through it to enter the kingdom of God. Over the past year in the US, we are feeling this more acutely through natural disasters, political chaos, racism, injustice, etc.

But as your family pastor, I was thinking of our Renewal families this morning when I read this. What tribulation is going on in your family today? A hard marital issue between you and your spouse? A toxic sin in you or your spouse that is negatively impacting the family? A rebellious child? A strained parent-child relationship? Suffering your child is experiencing at school amongst their peers?

My strange encouragement to you this morning: this trial you are going through is not strange, and it is not a shock to God. And no matter how out of control you feel in this trial, our sovereign God is in control of it. He is so in control of it, that His Word tells us to rejoice in our trials because: 
     (1) He is strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10), 
     (2) Trials cause us to rely on God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9), 
     (3) If we don't sweep trials under the rug but face them, they produce in us
           perseverance and maturity (James 1:2-4), 
     (4) Trials prepare us for glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul knew this about God and knew this about trials. God doesn't waste pain.

God doesn't waste your pain; God doesn't waste your trial.

So whatever you are going through today with your spouse, with your child, be encouraged and strengthened this morning to press deeper into God and His mysterious, sovereign power over your trial. Pour your heart out to Him, pleading with Him to give you grace, wisdom, and obedience as you navigate your way through this trial.

And one, sure way He answers this prayer is found at the end of our Acts passage, "...through many tribulations WE must enter the kingdom of God." God gives us strength to endure by giving us each other - His Spirit-empowered people.

Don't go through this alone. We are here to pray with you and walk with you through this trial, on our way to glory.

Grace to you,
Robert