I recently attended the Global Discipleship Conference Asia 2016 in Manila together with members of our pastoral team. It was an uplifting time – we all came back encouraged to persevere in our faith – and to “Pass it On”, the theme of the conference.
Among the several things I learned from the conference was that the Christian life is often fraught with pain. We expect God to mitigate the pain, remove it or deliver us from it. One speaker shared four steps that everyone goes through in life:
(1) Declaration (2) Distress (3) Development and (4) Demonstration.
We see in the lives of Bible heroes like Joseph and David, much loved by God and used mightily by Him, that there was the ‘declaration’ of God’s favour in the beginning. Joseph, was favoured by his father and as a young boy dreamt that he would one day be in mighty positions above his older siblings and even his parents. David, was anointed as a young lad, though so insignificant in his family that his father almost forgot his existence when prophet Samuel visited to anoint one of his sons as the future king.
But soon after the ‘declaration’ of favour, came the ‘distress’ and pain in their lives. We know how Joseph was badly treated by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused and imprisoned and we can imagine how all that must have tested his faith in God. David, despite serving King Saul excellently, wholeheartedly and faithfully, was loathed as an enemy and became the target of Saul’s spear and experienced much other pain in his life before he became king.
My wife and I have prayed for healing and deliverance for various people near and dear to us in illness and other difficult circumstances where we see them hurting and in pain. But God in His Sovereign wisdom seems to have other ideas about how these dear ones’ struggles should pan out. Often, the deliverance we desire and expect has not come through. But what we can and do, is to cling to the Lord and uplift them in prayer and support them as they journey through these struggles, some of which can last for years.
We know that there was ‘deliverance’ eventually in the lives of Joseph and David. I am not suggesting that the ‘deliverance’ in my personal experience is always a happy, healthy or prosperous ending as some preachers seem to suggest. But, for certain, it is always an ending in which our faith which has been put to the test in the crucible, is refined and strengthened, and we can truly experience the joy of the Lord. While my wife and I often go through a period of waiting to see a “demonstration” of God’s favour, we find the waiting period a time of “development” of our faith. In the process He gives us the grace to rejoice in His love for us, see His hand at work, and joyfully worship Him, no matter what the circumstances.
Consider what God told the people of Israel during their captivity and exile:-
“……. When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jer 29:11-12)
Are you hurting today? Are you beset by illness, problems at work, a family falling apart due to relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or other serious troubles? Don’t run away from God. He has not left you. He knows what He is doing in your life, and He is slowly but surely working in your life. Cling to Him. We may not understand, but we can trust that God is moulding us and working out His best purposes for us. If the journey is tough going, seek out a brother or sister to journey with you in your walk of faith. That is what our community of faith is here for.
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 20&21 February 2016)