I recently answered the phone and found a distraught man on the other end saying, “I must be doing something wrong. Tell me, pastor, is God punishing me?”
Immediately I knew that my friend was struggling with his faith because he was dealing with some things that he had prayed might be removed from his life. Among them were physical pain from a chronic back condition and addiction that was often intensified when he was trying to manage pain.
When God didn’t take the pain and temptations away, he assumed he was being punished or that God didn’t really care for him.
Often we hear a message in the church that seems to indicate that faith in God will bring about a total change of circumstance and that God’s blessing will fall upon us in ways that will lead to perpetual blessings and make life easier. I have to tell you that God is always able to remove obstacles and hardships from your path, but more often than not, he does not remove the trials and sufferings. Rather, he uses them for his glory and for our good.
James writes, “Count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (perseverance). And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you might be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
People of God, just because you are a Christ-follower does not mean that your life will be easy. But what we do know is that God is always at work amid our trials. Just because you do not experience immediate rescue does not mean that God is not good or involved in your life. In fact, it may well mean that he is very active in your life. The trials of our lives are God’s curriculum to grow and mature us so that we may become more like Jesus.
As I talked with my friend, I reminded him of James’ teachings about trials and encouraged him to persevere for God’s glory. Thankfully, he continues to stand firm upon the promise of God’s word that teaches that God cares for him and that he will never be abandoned by his maker.
I am reminded today of the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in his flesh,” recorded in 2 Corinthians 12. Three times Paul asked for this torment to be removed from him.
We do not know what this thorn represented, but obviously it represented some difficulty in his life. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he (God) 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Oh brothers and sisters in Christ, run the race … fight the fight. Give God all the glory.
Mark Adcock is pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Fortville. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.