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Friday, February 10, 2012

A fresh look at AFFLICTION!

I was reading this morning Pauls letter to the Thessalonians.. In chapter 3:3 “That no man should be moved by these 
afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto..”
My attention zoomed on two words here.. afflictions and appointed!
It got me thinking about afflictions and why must we have to have them!? 
Personally, affliction causes me  to draw closer to God. I think the weaker we are the more we rely on HIM.. When I’m afflicted I cry out more, I  pray more , I become desperate to hear from God and so I set out to seek His face like never before! I pay more  attention to everything that might help me!

I believe when we are going through a hard time, God wants to reveal Christ to us (and reveal Christ through us too..) He wants to give us a revelation that can only come through experience as we walk closely with Him!


Reminds me of the  apostle Paul when he  cried out 3 times for God to remove the ‘thorn in his flesh’ in 2 Corinthians 12 he says:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me....That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong....”
I find these are amazing powerful words.. (This puts a big question mark on all those prosperity teachings!!) In our weakness, in our affliction God’s power rests upon us?! What was Paul saying.. Delights in affliction! I guess this is what he is saying if I am reading it right!
2 Corinthians 4:17 goes on to say For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory..”  So even a light affliction carries the same promise, an ‘eternal weight of glory!’
I long for a deeper revelation of God’s character..
When we are prospering we are most likely to forget about God. It’s in our affliction that we grow depth of character and we mature in Christ..
But how? Well I believe that affliction produces patience.. James says in 1:3 ‘testing of our faith’.. the opposite to patience is wanting everything and anything now.. we can get so stressed and filled with anxiety when we don’t’ have patience.. Patience is the cure for instant gratification..Most people are unable to delay their own gratification.. 
If we learn patience life is better.. we are less stressed!
I think also affliction helps us to PAY ATTENTION!!  In our prosperity we can get too confident.. It happened to King David in Psalm 30:6  we read, “When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."
We can stop paying attention to spiritual things and start to care more about material things.. This happens sometime and before we  know it we are spending  every moment  pursuing money or a nice body, or whatever!... It’s such a trap! A millionaire or a top athlete will tell you they can’t get peace from their achievements!
 So I think afflictions gets us to Pay Attention..

David understood this too! He declares in Psalm 119:67 “ Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word...”  What happened to David! Yes, he was afflicted and later on he proclaims that ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn your statutes.. Psalm 119:71! He saw that affliction was good and necessary!

When we are under the pressure of affliction we somehow get driven to read the Word, pray, press into God’s presence..

Again, affliction strengthens the inner man! In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 it says:   “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal..” And we read in  John 3:30 -  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”


It’s saying here that the inner man is being renewed, day by day through our light affliction working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!!  Our inner man is becoming strong while the outward is perishing! 
Are we as passionate about the inner man as we are the outward! I pray our attention will be on what is eternal.. Let’s not lose heart! Remember our afflictions are light but have a ‘far greater eternal weight of glory’. Not equal but far more!
The outward is perishing.. Nothing we can do about that! It’s terrible! It’s painful! But it’s so good to know that our inner man is being renewed day by day.. Our first hand experience with  the Lord is far greater than what I am losing in the outward man! Amen!
I think too often we look and spend a lot of time trying to get the outward man stronger! He must get weaker and weaker! It is the circle of life! And yet we spend way too much on clothing, getting healed, feeling good, enjoying life! When it’s all about the  INWARD MAN!
 I am not saying either to ignore our physical body! I am all for taking care of His Holy temple! But to be mindful that the outer is  perishing and the inner one is eternal..

It’s amazing really! The more we go through, the stronger we become.. Exactly what it means to be an overcomer! 
It’s important to remind ourselves here that we cannot do this in our own strength! But it’s a moment by moment yielding,  a total surrender of our will and our submission to Christ!
So don’t’ lose heart! Don’t give up in pressing into God to entering His rest!
Another thing affliction teachers us is to have contentment. People don’t’ know how to have this..  We get upset, moody impatient disappointed, we are not thankful... Counting our blessings needs to be learned! Look at how Paul learned this! Philippians 4:11 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Paul learned these things in the depth of his afflictions.. He didn’t read someone’s health book or find the answers on Google!! You just can’t learn these things by reading someone’s book or even reading the scriptures.. But as we walk through life in abundance and in poverty, in good times and bad times, full and hungry..
The depth of wisdom comes from experience. Experience teachers us deeper truths of God that we cannot get by doing a bible study.. Studying the Word is good to encourage us, to strengthen our faith and this is good, and I love them! But when we are confronted with real people, real problems, theories don’t work very well!! Learning cannot be purchased.. It needs to be experienced.
Affliction also encourages revelation! Prosperity doesn’t! Affliction does!!

Let’s look at Job. Now this man  had an extraordinary difficult tribulation and affliction.. at the end of it he said this.. Job 42:1,6 Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do all things;  no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’  Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,  things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;   I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 
My ears had heard of you  but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself 
and repent in dust and ashes.”
When God purposes something, He will finish it!  He can do all things! And like Job, we want to be able to say,  “but now my eyes have SEEN you..”
Affliction gives meaning to what we go through; we learn things about ourselves and about God that we cannot learn anywhere else!
The ideal state of mind is to be "Stirred, not shaken" by our afflictions.  This means to me that when hard times come, it stirs us to seek the Lord, but we are otherwise unruffled, unmoved, and unshaken - no matter what.

Well, the world doesn't have a clue how to be that way.

But as Christians, we have something the world doesn't have. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling in our heart to help us overcome the world!

So back to the letter to Thessalonians, Paul is telling them to have a good attitude so as not to lose their faith in the Lord and fall away!
I think that when difficulties come and we don’t have a godly perspective on why we have afflictions we are likely to get upset and disillusioned and even depressed..  Sometimes we like to live in bubble and not have to go through the hard stuff.. Sometimes death to self seems impossible and it’s just too hard! So when something happens to us or in our marriage, we get so discouraged! So shaken! And we can often make the wrong choices!
Yet, affliction is part of living!
We need to accept affliction!  To fight against it will cause us to resentful and harden our hearts.
The Bible says to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus - spiritual warfare is  very real.. and it’s hard on the flesh and the spirit and the soul.. so let us endure and be strong in the  power of His might ..
Clothe your self in armour of God and stand .. Ephesians 6

Be of good cheer!! It’s all about our response.. Testing will come whether we  agree with this or not! We are promised this! In 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 we read, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body..” Wow! What a promise! 


 In the middle of all this we can be of good cheer.. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation …But Be of Good Cheer; I Have Overcome the World”

Remember to stand fast!! Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”


Stand fast, hold on to Jesus! Not coming under the yoke of religion or traditions of men but the living Word, Jesus Christ!

Enduring, Accepting, Stirred and not shaken!
Pray !
Pray that the love of the saints will not grow cold!
Look at the last couple of verses in this chapter 3 in 1 Thessalonians.. v12 “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: v13 To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Stand! Rest in Him! Fight the good fight!

Mary J

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