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Devotional - An Honest Look At Suffering

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” - Mark 5: 34 (NLT)

    Despite what false preachers might say, suffering is a part of this life beloved. We live in a fallen world, in a sinful state, trapped in mortal bodies. Jesus Himself warned us of the tribulation we would face in this life. Don't listen to the hucksters who sell you on the notion that God wants you comfortable all your life. He allowed His only Son to die a criminal's death on an old wooden cross in order to be reconciled unto us. Do you think He is more concerned about our character or our comfort? Our character is not refined during periods of comfort.

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1: 2-4 (NIV)

    God wants us to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. The road that leads there however is marked with suffering. James here says we should consider it as pure joy when these trials come into our lives because they serve a greater purpose within us. Now, I do not know anyone who wakes up hoping for some suffering. It is just not in our human nature to gravitate towards pain. But given the inevitability of suffering, we should thank God Almighty that He gives us examples in the Bible we can learn from. Remember beloved, the Bible is not some collection of stories. It is our owners manual for the human condition and a road map guiding us to our eternal position. When I think about Biblical characters of suffering, I often think about the woman with the issue of blood. What lessons can we learn today for our own times of suffering?

    The first thing we should take heed of is the length and extent of her suffering. The Bible says that she suffered from this condition for twelve years. That is twelve long years without hope in sight. Twelve long years being ostracized from her people and community as being unclean. Twelve years of what may have appeared as unanswered prayers! Yet she persevered in her suffering. Too often we can give up too easily. We can think the heavens are brass and God is an absentee landlord. Nonsense! One of the side effects of listening to the false preaching of the bless me theologies is that we become trained to believe that God is there for our whims. That He is some kind of cosmic waiter to serve us and galactic bus boy to clean up after our messes. The sad reality is that we often spend so much time trying to figure out how to get out of the valley that we neglect to figure out what God wants us to learn while we are in it. The valley experience is simple to navigate. There are only three directions. Backwards, which is never an option. Behind us is everything God has already saved us from. We cannot be like dogs who return to their vomit. The second option is to try and scale the walls. This is like fighting against the suffering. Try as we might however, we cannot scale the walls because we were not meant to. The only direction is to walk straight ahead. God will lead us out and refine us along the way. The second lesson I see in this story is what not to do:

    She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. - Mark 5: 26 (NLT)

    Like the world, Christians love the medical model. Christians love their pharmacotherapy. This is not a statement against medicine. God uses people all of the time to accomplish His will and doctors are included in that. That does not mean however, that we have to employ the six degrees of separation argument every time. Just because God made "A" and "A" made "B" - that does not mean God made or condones "B." The issue is not about turning to the world for answers but whether we even tried to turn to God. This woman suffered for twelve years. The Gospel accounts make it a point to let us know that she not only sought the solutions of the medical world but that she suffered even more from them. She even spent everything she had over these twelve long years trying to see if the world could cure her. Now, I know some will balk and say, "But preacher, that was 2000 years ago, "medicine is so much more advanced today." True, but what will the medicine of today look like to the doctors of two thousand years from now? Or even 200 years from now? How medieval will it look to them. Medicine used to employ leeches to treat people. This woman tried for 12 years to turn to the world for her deliverance and healing and she only grew worse. It wasn't until she turned to Jesus that she was finally and completely healed. There is a lesson in there beloved. Not to ignore medicine - more importantly - to not ignore God!

    King Asa of Judah was the great-grandson of King Solomon. He was one of the few kings who sought the Lord. He rooted out the idolatry that existed when he came to power. He ruled for 41 years yet his story records the following regarding his end:

    In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians. So he died in the forty-first year of his reign. - 2Chronicles 16: 12-13 (NLT)

    Why would this be recorded for us? King Asa was not wrong for inquiring of his physicians but he was wrong in that he only inquired of them. That he did not consult the Lord at all! Sometimes we can say all the right things. Raise our hands at the right times. Play the part of obedient and faithful Christian only to turn into King Asa at the moment we need to be in even deeper with our faith. Jesus healed the blind. He healed the lame and paralyzed. He raised the dead! And after twelve long years of seeking help from the world, this woman finally reached out to God and He healed her as well.

    Next, the Scripture tells us that she heard about Jesus. No doubt the stories of His miraculous healings had spread throughout the land. People were now routinely bringing Him people to heal. In fact, He is on His way to the house of Jairus, a local Synagogue Leader, whose daughter was very ill when this woman sought Him out. But hearing about Jesus was not enough. Hearing the tales of great and supernatural healing was not going to be enough to heal her. She had to seek Him out. She needed to pursue Him. As Christians we do not pursue God as fervently as we ought to, especially at the times of our greatest need.

    You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29: 13 (NIV)

    The sad truth is often we try and seek God with a divided heart. We seek Him with uncertainty in our hearts about what He can do. We seek Him with irreverence in our hearts, forgetting who He is. We seek Him with hearts weighed down by the worries of this world. The Ninth Chapter of Mark's Gospel tells the story of the father who had a son possessed by a demon. The father watched his son suffer with this for his whole life. The Gospel account says he sought out the disciples first but they could not cast out the demon. By the time he stands before Jesus, this is the weak prayer he has left:

    “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” - Mark 9: 22 (NIV)

    If you can do anything? Take pity on us? It sounds incredible but how often are our prayers just as weak? How often do we doubt the God we are seeking help from? How often have we allowed the world, our friends, or our condition itself to divide our heart against the one we seek help from? Not so with the woman with the issue of blood. Maybe it was that she had finally suffered enough at the hands of others. Maybe she had finally arrived at the point of final desperation. Whatever it was - she pursued Jesus. She did not pursue Him with a "if you can do anything" attitude. No beloved, she pursued Him with a "I know I will be healed if i can just touch the hem of His garment" attitude! That is the attitude we need to have in our suffering. That is the pursuit of God we need to undertake.

    Next in this story we see that she pressed in to touch Jesus. The story tells us that there was a great crowd around Jesus. So great a crowd that He could not immediately tell who had touched Him. This woman had to be determined in the face of opposition. She had to be resolute in the face of obstruction. She had to fight her way through the crowd in order to reach out and be healed by the Master. What does this teach us today in our own suffering? We cannot allow anything to come between us and God. This woman could have allowed any number of things to prevent her from being healed. Social status could have prevented her. After all she was a woman in a male dominated society. She was ceremonially unclean as well. Likewise, we too sometimes think that Jesus is too crowded or too busy to deal with our problem. Nonsense! The Bible says that He numbers the hairs on our head and even more:

    You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book. - Psalm 56: 8 (NLT)

    He collects our very tears! God isn't some detached entity up in the sky hurling lightening bolts down upon is in disapproval! But He wants us to pursue Him beloved. He at least wants us to pursue Him like we pursue some other things in this world. Like we pursued our spouse. Or like we pursued our career. When we finally choose to pursue Him as such we can expect there to be things trying to crowd us out, like this woman faced that day. Just like blind Bartimaeus:

    Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” - Mark 10: 46-48 (NIV)

    The more they tried to silence him, the louder he shouted! The more this world tries to prevent you from pursuing God - the more fervently you need to! Bartimaeus would receive his sight that day. The woman with the issue of blood would be healed.

    This brings us to the key verse for today. The final line from the story of the woman with the issue of blood. Twelve long years she suffered. Twelve long years she sought out the expert advice of the world only to be still found suffering. Then those words spoken from Jesus' lips - your suffering is over. Notice however it is her faith that makes her well. This is a common theme throughout the healing ministry from Jesus. Even to Bartimaeus, Jesus said that it was his faith that healed him. That is the final lesson for today. God of course provides the healing. The power comes from Christ. But without faith we cannot access it. Without faith we cannot activate it.

    He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” - Matthew 17: 21 (NIV)

    The world will ask you how you feel about the mountain. It will ask you to assess the mountain and figure out where it came from. It will cause you to dread the mountain and take medication to make it seem less imposing. Eventually, the world hopes to teach you how to live with your mountain. God doesn't care how you feel about it. He doesn't care where it came from and He certainly doesn't want you to learn how to live with it. He wants you to activate your faith in who He is and cast it into the sea! Beloved, the Words of the Bible are powerful beyond our mortal comprehension. But without belief - they are just words written on paper. We cannot have an intellectual faith. If the Bible is merely an academic exercise to us then there will be no Spiritual witness to it.

    I do not know where this writing finds you. Suffering is part of the human experience. Do not listen to those who are picking your pockets with one hand while promising you a kumbya existence in Christ out of the sides of their mouths. Walk through the valley with God leading you and watch as He deepens your faith in who He is. That is where the power is. It starts in the saving knowledge of who Jesus is and flows all the way down to the mere hem of His garment; waiting for us to press in, reach out, and touch it by faith.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - August 8, 2013

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