Count Your Gains Not Your Losses
Dr. Benjamin George
Misfortune has no mercy!
It strikes all in turn!
Life is good to most people most of the time. It is so with us Christians too. We should be deliberately thanking God often for what He has blessed us with! But we shouldn’t forget that misfortunes too are life’s lot. It strikes all and spares none, even Christians. It bewilders us. The awful thought that crushed us is “Why me‘?” We feel that our right to life’s goodness has been snatched away from us while all others are spared. We need to understand that we all are players in this game of ‘life’s musical chair.’ It is only a matter of time when each one loses his chair! Of course, one or two win in the end but don’t ask me ‘how and why?’
God has the right to bless or take away!
God has the right to bless or not to bless and to give or to take away, whatever He wishes from whomever He wants! Thank God that He is not a tyrant who enjoys destroying His creatures and delights in seeing them suffering l
One of the earliest Biblical characters was the old saint Job. God attested that he was more righteous than all and the wealthiest too of all his countrymen! But great misfortune struck him and he lost everything including all his children and his health! All that he was left with was just his breath, a body full of sores and a perverse wife who counseled him to curse God and die! The Bible records, “And this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head, Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job.1:20,2l).
Consider it pure joy for suffering makes us perfect!
The Word of God says, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature, complete and lacking nothing’ (James1:2-4). Dear friends, and fellow believers, let me tell you, it is not pure joy to encounter trials. I can tell you that from the bewildering experiences my wife and I have had over the past decade or so! We are learning that God wants us to count it pure joy, for good reasons! He wants use to persevere in the midst of difficulties. Through them His expectation is that we might mature and become complete, lacking in nothing. In short, God wants to see us conformed to the image of His Son! Remember the Scripture reveals to us “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb.5:8,9).
The Origin of Suffering
The Bible explains that self-will and sin from the Garden of Eden to this day has brought upon all of us the righteous judgment of God, which is suffering and death. We can easily subscribe to this biblical theology, when calamities strike others. Without deep feelings for others who suffer, we could point fingers and say, “There you are the consequence of sin!” But for some peculiar reason, when misfortune befalls us, suddenly we realize that there are gaps in our understanding of this theology and it doesn’t satisfy us anymore! Often our faith in God and His Word also are shaken.
We need to get our theology of suffering right!
The time has come for us Christians to set right our theology about suffering, sickness and death’ so that our faith may stand the test of time! Christians need to be prepared for life’s realities. But present-day Christians seem to know only the doctrine of health, wealth and blessings! The word suffering is not in their vocabulary.
Godly men of old have suffered much. King David was one such. It was he who wrote and sang the Shepherd psalm - God is my shepherd; His presence is with me in green pastures as much as in the valley of the shadow of death, both of which I have to pass I through in life (Ps.23). Our own experiences of life makes it very clear, ‘it is adversity that draws us closer to God than all our prosperity’
The doctrine of permanent prosperity, healing of all illnesses and a never- ending life here on earth is un-Biblical and full of flaws, to say the least. Even saintly proponents of this theology have suffered and died! The clear Word of God to us is, ‘we should not consider it strange when we pass through fiery trials. We must rejoice because they make our faith strongly and more precious!’ (1Pet.4:l2).’’
Our faith must be founded on God and not by what happens to us!
There are many promises in the Bible for protection, provision and care. We may claim them all, but what we finally get is only what God has intended for our good! God’s will for us is good and perfect and acceptable (Rom.12:2). God is able to deliver us. But even if He does not deliver us, will we still trust Him? The three young friends of Daniel held on to their faith when the King threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace. In order to stand firm and defy our adverse circumstances, our theology and doctrine need to be sound like theirs! May God help us to learn this while we are still enjoying our good days, for afflictions have a tendency to strike us when we least expect them. Nothing should surprise believers.
The strange question
‘Why do you consider it strange when you face trials?’ It is simple and plain that by this question the apostle Peter is implying that we should not consider trials strange but accepts them as part of our lives ordained by our good God. When we pray for prosperity, we must believe and keep on praying. Likewise, when we pray for healing, we must believe and keep on praying. We must not doubt God or His ability to answer our prayer of faith. We must keep telling God our Father our desires until he makes known His will to us by His answers! We are emphatically taught in the Bible that God’s will is good and perfect and acceptable! Yes, if it is good for us and also perfect, we must accept it with thanksgiving. There will be” loss, pain, sorrow, disappointment even death, which is our only gateway to heaven! Adversity has a unique way of sanctifying us and bringing us closer to God and making us cling on to Him. Sometimes it seems that is the only way God can accomplish what is otherwise impossible in our lives!
Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish essayist wrote, ‘Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man, but for one man who enjoys prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Precious few are those who can keep their moral, spiritual and financial equilibrium while balancing on the elevated tightrope of success.’ How true it is!
Whatever your theology, it must include suffering!
Our understanding of God’s dealing in our lives must of necessity include joy and sorrow, gain and loss, health and sickness, and even life and death. That is the only way to sustain our faith in God through life’s changing circumstances, for all of us will have to face suffering sometime! We should have such trust and confidence in the Good Shepherd of our soul that we could declare with King David, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 2316).
Suffering for the sake of Christ!
We need to distinguish suffering for righteousness sake, for Christ and the gospel from our physical and mental suffering which we have addressed so far. The Lord Himself taught us in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, about suffering for righteousness and for His sake: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same Way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt.5:10-12).
The apostle Peter had this to say on the matter, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1Pet.4: 16). To his son in faith, Timothy, Paul said, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim.3: 12). The apostle Paul told the believers at Philippi, “Whatever happens, know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you…. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Phil.l:27-30). ‘
It has been said that the twenty-first century has seen more hardships, suffering, persecution and martyrdom among witnessing Christians than all the previous centuries put together! Whether that is true or not; the real question that you and I have to answer is “Are we willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness, godliness and the gospel of Christ‘?” May the Lord give us all the grace to stand up to the challenges that we may have to face as we spread the love of God and wait for His coming! Amen.