Monday, June 6, 2016

Drawing Closer to God Through Suffering

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8 NKJV).

In this week’s article, we will be sharing some personal experiences and some Biblical examples of people who actually experienced God in their lives. The purpose of sharing this article is to encourage the brotherhood to seek a personal, deeper and closer walk with the Lord. It is common knowledge that almost every Christian desires a closer walk with God, but the challenges of fleshly desires and personal interest cause hindrances to our faith (Mark 4:19). Nevertheless, as impeding as these obstructions are, they can also bring out the strength of our faith and our love for God (Nehemiah 4:1-6). Let me emphasize I'm not implying that God uses sufferings to bring us closer to Him; instead, our suffering cause us to seek God (Judges 10:15-16).

Weak Faith and Complaints Destroy Godly Confidence

As is common amongst new Christians, earlier in my Christian walk with God I experienced the joy of knowing the Lord and my love for God was evident through my witnessing, Bible reading, constant praying and church attendance. During the first few months of my conversion, I lost my desire for many worldly things as I lived the joy of knowing Christ (Matthew 13:44). Although many people avoided me and I was often by myself, I never felt all alone and rejected. With God in me, I enjoyed adequate companionship and fellowship.

Being new to persecutions, when I experienced my first real test I wanted to give up my job in order to avoid those who mocked and persecuted me. I also wanted to move away from the residence that I had rented in order to avoid the people I lived with. Meanwhile, these tests brought me closer to the Lord in prayer as I relied on Him to give me strength to endure and deliver me from the opposition I faced. I complained to a God-fearing Christian friend who encouraged me to continue praying and trusting the Lord. About a two week's later I received an answer to my prayers. The Lord gave a Word of knowledge and a Word of wisdom through a pastor that I visited that Sunday. Through this pastor, the Lord rebuked me for my complaining. She further encouraged me to endure trials, saying that the Lord was preparing me for ministry work. You could imagine how welcoming and comforting this message was! I received spiritual strength, faith and courage to face my sufferings.

In my weakness, I took up my cross and continued with my work of witnessing amongst my colleagues and in the busy streets of Hillbrow, Johannesburg. My love for those who made me suffer was renewed as I regained my Godly confidence. Looking back today to the difficult challenges I faced and overcame, it seemed a task impossible, but surely with faith and a love for God the journey was transformed into a memorable experience of trust and reliance on the Lord (Psalm 46:1). This demonstrates that no distress, persecutions, sufferings or any hindrances are powerful enough to destroy our faith and salvation in the Lord (Romans 8:35-39). Such fearless determination is a testimony of a living faith in Christ Jesus.

Growing Closer to God Through Suffering

By saying that we can grow closer to God through suffering, I am not implying that we should purposely inflict suffering on ourselves or allow suffering to oppress us as a means of bringing us closer to the Lord. Nobody likes suffering; it is oppressive and chokes faith, and historically people have always strived to offload sufferings (Exodus 5:15-21). With unfortunate circumstances being ever present and the unpredictable nature of life, we will need faith and God to strengthen and empower us out of sufferings. This is the comfort the Lord promised to give us during trying times (John 14:16). This particular Scripture foresaw the existence of soul-vexing sufferings and mercifully God intervened and provided relief and comfort.

Quite often we may not have control or mastery over trying circumstances, and with our souls crying out against the unjust treatment meted out to us, we might be left with a longing to be heard and granted relief (Genesis 40:15; Job 30:24-31). When young Joseph faced the ire and hatred of his brothers as a youth, and later on resisted the lustfulness of Potiphar's wife, he suffered unjust consequences (Genesis 37:4-27; 39:7-20). However, because his suffering was caused by forces aimed at destroying him and his relationship with God, the Lord gave Him mercy, deliverance, and authority (Genesis 39:21-23; 41:41-44).

Similarly, when David was still a youth, God promised to make him king over Israel. In a bid to destroy the Lord’s promise, Satan inflicted a harsh suffering on David to discourage him and hinder his faith in God so that the promise of the LORD might be rendered useless (1 Samuel 16:1-13). King Saul’s burning jealousy and hatred for David under a demonic influence resulted in David becoming a restless wanderer (1 Samuel 18;19). Notwithstanding the odds against his life, King David summoned strength in God Almighty and his faith overcame and he consequently inherited God’s promise (2 Samuel 5:1-5).

Additionally, Daniel was on the receiving end of his colleagues’ jealousies and he experienced much suffering for his faith in God. However, he endured the persecutions and the Lord God rescued and vindicated him, resulting in great honor to God (Daniel 6:3-28). Furthermore, Paul the apostle was possessed with love for the Lord, and he, therefore, rejoiced in the sufferings as he scorned the pain brought by his trying circumstances (Romans 5:3-5). What all the saints mentioned above have in common is that they truly experienced God personally and NOTHING could separate, take away and STOP the love they had for the Lord God and Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:8; Romans 8:36-39; 1 Peter 2:21).

Finally, dear brethren, believers who heartily and faithfully seek God without masquerading to please others, or showing off how super-spiritual they are when in the company of others, will experience a connecting power of God’s abiding Presence in their lives (Genesis 5:24). This is the same staying power the men of God mentioned above enjoyed, which leaves us in astonishment today on exactly how they were able to endure and make it to Heaven. What was their secret? A consuming love for God and, consequently, God’s grace carried and lifted them through sufferings (Hebrews 11:32-40). While the richness of the victorious and joyful Christian testimony is monumental, the gain after endurance is even surpassingly rewarding (1 Corinthians 2:9; Revelations 2:11, 26; 3:19-22). In the light of this, the promises of God for everlasting life are too precious to ignore, and they by far outweigh the present sufferings; let us therefore endure and be found worthy to inherit eternal life!

Have you been crying and complaining when faced with sufferings? Take courage and embrace the Christian passion, which is suffering for standing firm on your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Obey, be strong and of good courage, love all and fear none, for Christ is in and all around you. To receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please start by praying this Prayer of Sincere Repentance. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed Grace in Jesus’ Love,

Brother Glenn.