The joy of the Lord is my strength, is going through my mind as I find myself facing a new week and my mind immediately feeding and focusing on several things that need to be done, obstacles to be overcome – I step back and remind myself that I should rather focus on “The joy of the Lord which is my strength”.
“Understand what this means, Ian, the joy lies totally in trusting Me all the time and when you face obstacles and difficulties to remember that nothing in your life is unforeseen to Me – so you can quietly place your trust in Me and know the peace and joy of being in a relationship with Me. As you move into the week and face obstacles and difficulties – you can face them by recognizing My power and guidance, My presence – My purpose and handing over any sense of unease – simply placing your trust in Me and taking the next logical step. So turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His face – trust Him and sense the joy of the relationship of perfect safety – being in His grip which you have.”
Revisiting my last blog on spiritual warfare, reflected in persecution and Christian growth, I by no means was suggesting that persecution was the only way to experience true Christianity or spiritual growth. My point was that while we feel compassion and pity for those who are suffering persecution and are led to intense prayer for them, the irony is that some (surely not all) have rather ironically expressed a pity from their side towards brothers and sisters who live in the western life of affluence and ease and the effect it has on spiritual growth and experience (Nic Ripkin raises this in his book “The insanity of obedience”). Francis Shaeffer once said “the greatest threat to Christianity in the 20th century is personal affluence and privacy”. Personal affluence removes one’s sense of dependence on God and the privacy it buys, walls one off from a sense of community and the perception of interdependence.
Reading ch 27 of Acts, which describes Paul’s journey to Rome, beset by storms and finally a disastrous shipwreck, I am again struck by How much opposition and suffering Paul had during his life and ministry. How can we explain it? Well on the one hand surely Satan was at work trying to divert the potential spread of the gospel. Yet God in His sovereignty allowed it. I can just fall back on the thought that in all this he was constantly being brought to a deeper and deeper sense of dependence on God with the resultant growth in faith and trust.
More books than the hairs on my head have been written about Christian suffering, so far be it from me to think I can contribute something new. Suffice for me to say is suffering and its role in each of our lives is a very real factor in our spiritual growth, however, each of us is totally unique, so there is no way one can make a blanket statement about this subject which fits all.
We can learn from each other and from the scriptures but ultimately we need to apply what we are hearing Jesus saying to us in our particular situation and allow God to lavish us with His grace, through His word and through His Spirit, ministering to our particular, unique personality and circumstance. And by interaction with each other to support one another without offering easy answers, yet directing them back to God’s word.
Special thank you to Lilly for her interaction which provoked me to think through this subject again.