Words of Life ~ AFFLICTION

Fifteen years ago, I started thinking how good it might be to have a handbook that Christians could use concerning our particular language; the ordinary vocabulary that believers could study about our everyday life in Christ. All those years I shared some of this work with three of our granddaughters. Two years ago, we put together a list of words using the English alphabet to form Words of Life ~ A to Z ~ The Ordinary Vocabulary of a Christian.

Part-way through the list of A’s, we have been overwhelmed with our research and believe that this is a valued gift for all Christians. We come this week to the word AFFLICTION, one that will surprise and amaze all who truly understand how this word applies to us as God’s children.

We may not like what God’s Word teaches us, but hopefully, we will come away with a greater understanding of why we as God’s children have to endure AFFLICTION.

We are using a lot of references and not a lot of my own comments so God’s Word can speak for itself. Please take time to read these, so as to understand why affliction is an important element of the Christian life.

We will divide this into five areas:

The first two will be highlighted in this post.

AFFLICTION of the Israelites

Hope During AFFLICTION

The last three will be included in our next post.

AFFLICTION of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Master

AFFLICTION of followers of Christ; 

AFFLICTION within the body of Christ

 AFFLICTION of the Israelites
STRONG’S defines AFFLICTION H6031 ânâh, aw-naw’ to afflict, oppress, humble  All References  online.

“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.” Exodus 1:12 The more the Israelites were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew and became a threat to the Egyptians.

“And the LORD said , I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;” Exodus 3:7

Seeing their affliction from the Egyptians, God brought them out of Egypt. They believed, bowed their heads and worshipped. (Exodus 3:17; Exodus 4:31) Yet, afterward, they rebelled in the wilderness.

The word used for affliction is the same word used for humble; when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3

All their suffering was meant for God to prove what was in their hearts and that they would learn that man does not live by bread only, but true life depends on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

We may not like the idea that the Lord afflicts His own people, but affliction is His means of teaching His children, to bring attention to their sin and rebellion and to turn them to repentance. He does not afflict other people for the same purpose. We will look at this further in our next post: this week’s chapter The Secret Place in Beyond a Mere Christianity.

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10

“Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.” Lamentations 1:3  

“Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.” Lamentations 1:5

“I am the man (Jeremiah) that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.” Lamentations 3:1

“For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33

“But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.” Amos 6:14

The Psalmist understood the Lord’s judgment and faithfulness in affliction. His afflictions are according to His judgments, His word, and His statutes.

“I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75

“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Psalm 119:67

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Psalm 119:71

Hope During Affliction

“And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:” Deuteronomy 26:7

“When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; yet if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them;” 2 Chronicles 6:26

 “I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.”Psalm 119:107

 “Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.” Psalm 119:153

 “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.” Psalm 129:2

 “O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction,” Jeremiah 16:19

The Lord promised to restore those He had afflicted (Micah 4:6; Nahum 1:12).

The word is the same used for troubled when God’s people had no shepherd. Zechariah 10:2

Gracious Father in heaven looking down, even as we are looking up to you in our afflictions, have mercy upon us. Open our eyes to the truth of afflictions in generations of the past. Help us to understand why you afflicted your people then and guide us by your Spirit of truth to know that if we belong to you, you will afflict us as you see fit. Prepare our hearts through this first offering, to look further into the New Testament in our next post to see the afflictions, tribulation, and suffering of those who follow Jesus, your Son. In His name, I pray.
Fran

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Faith that Rejoices

Romans 5 is packed with the glorious treasure
imagesof the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continues to describe the effectual working of the gospel in the life of the believer. In chapter one and chapter sixteen he expresses his purpose in writing this letter to the first church in Rome; “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,” (1:6; 16:26) He keeps building upon the precepts of God’s grace, showing the power and authority that is in His word, to His own glory.

From the pit of degradation described in chapter one we are brought to chapter five to see the glory of the saint that is saved by the power of the gospel that was given to Paul. (Some of what I am saying is redundant, but well worth repeating.)
From the word, “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” God brings us to, “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.”
From the wrath of God, because of our disobedience, we are brought, through His own promise, to obedience. And what a glorious promise it is that brings us to this faith. It is the faith by which we are justified. No longer is God angry with us, because He has brought us to Himself through the death and resurrection of His own Son ~ what greater love than this! What would be the natural fruit of that justification, but rejoicing in hope of this promise? This “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-4) through Jesus Christ is the greatest news on earth and in heaven. The angels rejoice when one sinner is brought to Christ. (Luke 15;10)

We remember that the gospel is the word of God given for revelation and salvation. Christ is the living word of God, sent to save His people. (Matthew 1:21) He still speaks today through the written word, even as He lives and reigns at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The power is in His Holy Spirit to finish the work of salvation that was promised, planned from the beginning, and which Christ came to fulfill.

 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Our justification is proven by His love for us (vs. 6-111 John 4:9). Jesus Christ is the heart and love of God given for sinners. We could not know or imagine such a God or His plans for our justification. We are but dead in our trespasses and sin, until He quickens us through His word to new life and faith. This is the power of the gospel that brings us to peace with God.

 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

This grace that has saved us is the grace in which we stand; the grace in which we live, and are being prepared to share His glory ~ the same glory that Jesus has with God the Father. The work of justification is the beginning of the work of sanctification for our glorification. The Holy Spirit carries on the work within each believer so that we rejoice in hope for what He has promised for the future ~ sharing the glory of God.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing……………………………….

 The power of the gospel in the believer, the grace in which we stand enables us to rejoice not only in the good times but also in adversity. There is intelligence in the gospel, knowledge of its power to build upon our faith (for obedience) and to create the image that God has planned for those who will share His glory. It is His grace, His image, for His own glory. (See also Colossians 1:11; James 1:2-3)

The experience of faith is that of knowing what His grace does in and through us.

knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,

Water-pitcher-pouring
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  
Romans 5:3-6

It is this love, by which He accomplishes all that He planned in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9)

It is through His own will, His plans, His way, His power, that He is creating a people for Himself, conforming us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

This world and the suffering that has come through the power of sin no longer have a stronghold on God’s people. This is our deliverance in Christ; that we live, enduring the cross that we must bear for His sake. This endurance produces the character of Christ in us, which adds more fuel to our hope, with the understanding and reality of God’s love being continually poured into our hearts.

This is what the gospel does when it brings us by faith to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

It is not something we wait for after this life. Because Christ died for us while we were yet in our sin, dead and unable to respond, we are now reconciled and have begun eternal life in Him. By His death we are reconciled. By His life (His resurrection) we live, now and eternally in Him. If we hear and believe what Paul is saying it sounds as if we are already there. Yes, but not yet. This is the power of the gospel; that we live in hope and light of the promise that is ours in Jesus Christ.  All of true life is Christ; all is centered in Him.

“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:11 

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Dear Father, thank you again, and again, for your love poured into our hearts that brings us to yourself and spreads throughout our lives.  Thank you that we know this love as Christ, your Son given for us, for our justification, our sanctification and our glorification.  Let us live today knowing your mercy and grace, your love, joy, and peace, your presence and your power within; to love you with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourself.  Make Christ evident ~ faith that is the evidence of things not seen, the assurance, the substance of our hope ~ in our lives today.  In Jesus’ name I pray and praise you.  Amen.

The Purpose of Paul’s Letter to the Romans

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The Path to Glory (Part 2)

Which is the right way to heaven?  How do we find this path whereby we share in God’s glory?  It isn’t at all where or what we think it might be.

It is the same path our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, took, the way that was laid out for Him.  And if we are to “come” to this path—the only way to heaven—it must be “after” Him. (Luke 9:23) He said clearly that the only way is by “self-denial”—taking up our own cross to “follow” Him.  It is not a matter of, “But, wait Lord, until I have done “my thing;” when I have made a name for myself; then I think I might be ready to start on this path. Then I might have an interest in your glory.”
No, there is a cost to enter through this “strait gate”—my life, my own desires, my own glory.

The disciple is not above his master,
nor the servant above his lord.”
Matthew 10:24

 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus
shall suffer persecution.”
2 Timothy 3:12

Bitter and Sweet Promises

The promises that are given in this way to God’s glory are both hard to swallow, and pleasing to our senses.  Our heavenly Father knows how, and has planned, to direct us and minister to our needs.  On the way, and at the end, are great and precious promises that others will never know or understand because they have not yet entered through this strait gate that leads to the narrow way.

As we look at these promises from God’s Word let us meditate on the connections between Christ, our suffering with Him, and the results.  For example, in the following we are promised that we shall have tribulation; with it—in Christ, we are promised peace, and victory in overcoming the world.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.1 John 5:4

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” 
1 Peter 4:12-14

The Heirs of Glory

The path is laid out for, and revealed to God’s children.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God
.”  Romans 8:17-19

The Humbling and Proving

 This is the time of testing and proving, here on this earth, of those who are His.

 “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” 1 Peter 1:7

 His Presence and Power with Us

He promises all that we need for the way, though long and tedious it may be.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

 “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  
Psalm 32:6-8

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”
Psalm 73:22-24

The Nature of Those On This Path

God, our Father uses His own children to draw others to the path.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.”
Philippians 2: 12-15

The Holy Bible, God’s Word, is our guide book.  The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and help in time of need.  Through prayer, and in Christ, we are never alone, He is our  joy and the assurance of our safety and endurance to the destination to which He has called us.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
bringing many sons unto glory
Hebrews 12:2; 2:10
Music: My Grace is Sufficient for Thee

Graceful Suffering

Blows that wound cleanse away evil;

strokes make clean the innermost parts.”

Proverbs 20:30 ESV

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggles against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?”

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

“It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Hebrews 12: 5-14

These striking words from the writers of Proverbs and Hebrews are truths that are not easy to accept.  So I post these for my own remembrance, (how often I forget), and to share them with those who may not have undergone such trials, or understand the reasoning, the process and end result of suffering. Looking to Christ,”high and lifted up,” keeps me focused as I travel  this “path of righteousness” through the trials and tribulations of this wilderness.  It is the path that He had to take in order to return to the Father.  It was for our sake that He went this way, and now He leads us by His Spirit and His Word to follow Him—all for His glory and our joy.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith, produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and comlete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:3-4

May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy.”  Colossians 1:11