Summary: Our scripture for today falls into this category of verses I don’t understand when I first read them. Here it is. Happy are those who are persecuted.
“Recycling our Pain”
In my personal study of the gospels one of the things I have noticed is that some of the teachings of Jesus are just very difficult for us to follow. At times when we read them they don’t even make sense. For instance, Jesus said:
• If your right eye offends you, pluck it out
• If you right arm offends you, cut it off
• If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother , his wife and children and his brothers and sister, he cannot be my disciple
Our scripture for today falls into this category of verses I don’t understand when I first read them. Here it is. Happy are those who are persecuted. When Jesus spoke these words, Christians were beginning to experience persecution. Stephen would soon be stoned to death for his faith; Paul experienced great persecution. It has been estimated that more Christians were persecuted and martyred in the 20th century than in the previous 1900 years combined. So it really applies to today. Yet Jesus said happy are those who are persecuted. These are verses that we simply cannot understand until we really dig beneath the surface. These are verses we have to stop and ponder. Then we begin to understand. Jesus never wanted us to harm ourselves. He would never want us to pluck out an eye or cut off an arm but he does want us to remove sin from our lives. Jesus taught us to love and honor our parents so why would he tell us we must first hate our parents to be his followers? He was speaking to the extreme in parables to help us understand that our loyalty to Him must be at the top of the list. No one more important than Him. Should be no comparison between our love for Jesus and our love for Him.
Again, happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. Most of us believe that our greatest contribution to this world we live in will be in the area where we are strongest but that’s actually not the case. Your greatest contribution-your greatest ministry—will not be found in your strength. It will be found in your weakness. The very thing you want to hide in your closet is the very thing God wants you to share.
Listen. God never wastes a hurt. What good is a trial if something good doesn’t come from it? Let’s look at the first of two questions I want us to try to answer.
1. Why does God allow pain and suffering? I see at least 6 reasons.
• God has given us a free will. You and I were created in God’s image and one of the things that means is that we have the right to choose. We have the ability to make decisions and these decisions will greatly impact our future. Now God could have created us without a free will. Basically we would be like puppets. But instead He chose to create us in His image.
Free will is a blessing but it can also be a burden. I won’t bother to ask how many of us have made at least one bad decision in our lifetime because I already know the answer. Now there’s one more thing to consider about the free will that God has given to us. He gives it to everyone else too. So when others choose to do wrong, we will sometimes be the victim.
• God uses pain to get our attention. Now pain is not the problem. Pain is a wake-up call; pain is a warning light. 3-4 years ago I was relaxing on the couch on the 4th of July and I had done some year work that day and my side was beginning to hurt. I thought well I overdid it today. But the pain just got worse and it continued for several hours. Finally after about four hours I thought I should tell my wife. I think I need to go to the ER. But the problem wasn’t the pain, the problem was a I had a kidney stone. The pain was just a warning signal. And the pain from that small stone can be incredible.
• God will often use a painful experience to cause us to change our ways. If you remember the story of Jonah, God told him to go to the city of Ninevah but instead he went down to Joppa. Look at the map. Jonah was going one way and God told him to go another. And then at the bottom of the ocean Jonah finally said this, “when I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. The apostle Paul said this about pain—“I am glad, not because it hurt you but because the pain turned to God.” God uses pain to get our attention.