Real life is full of ups and downs. Good days and tough moments or even seasons when life can feel like an incredibly hard uphill battle. It’s been said that its not a matter of when you and I will face hardship, sorrow or trials but rather just when.
And yet so often we are knocked off our balance entirely by hardships and or suffering as believers. Why is this?
In part I believe that there is an unhelpful belief/teaching that makes out as if the Christian life is just victorious, just joy, just plain sailing… And when real life isn’t like this, such teaching/belief leads to a potential crisis of faith (God’s not faithful, loving or sovereign) or unhelpful spiritual introspection or even depression believing that the root cause must be lack of faith or an underlying sin issue that’s not been dealt with.
However, a simple reading of the New Testament letters reveals a different picture for us regarding suffering/hardships. Paul expected affliction/hardship, as did the Thessalonian believers because Paul had warned them in those first three weeks of their faith that hardship would come as a result of their faith in Christ. Paul says to them;
“For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
Paul wanted “no one (to) be moved by these afflictions” (vs3) that’s why he had warned them before the time that they would come.
I don’t believe Paul was morbid, negative, stoic or resigned to just enduring suffering and letting people walk all over him like a ‘welcome mat at the door’… I believe Paul was REAL, he knew that the enemy although defeated on the cross and having ultimately destiny with destruction at the Lord’s second coming was still the enemy and able to inflict pain and hardship, able to hinder the Gospel and able to hinder believers.
So, he anticipated hardship so was not shocked by it, not knocked off balance by it, but rather he and those he lead could be fortified in it and know how to respond to it with faith.
Looking back, Hebrews 6:12 says that we are to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited the promises. God often promises things to us, God has good things to do through us and in us, God wants to bless us in our marriages, families, businesses, friendships, church…
However, often there are battles to fiight between our present reality and that which God intends for us. Israel had been give this Promised Land by God and yet reading chapters like Joshua 10&11, you realise they really had to overcome numerous and very real enemies first.
Overcoming wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight, it required faith in who God is and what He had promised to do, it required a continual reliance on God who was faithful to keep speaking and guiding, and it also required patience at times.
Then Joshua 11:23 says;
“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.”
Joshua successfully lead God’s people into the promises God had made to them. They took possession of the whole land God gave them and then God gave them rest from war.
But it didn’t come easily; rather it came on the back of God speaking and Israel in most of these moments, responding to God’s word with obedience.
What battles are before you to fight now?
Don’t lack courage, but respond to challenge with faith & obedience.