Nov 14 2023 - Eric Buresh
Over the last couple of weeks, two young men in my life, close friends of my youngest son and long-time family friends, have suffered significant injuries. First, an unexplained seizure on a blazing hot soccer field. Then, two days ago, another young man was kicked squarely in the face during a game, fracturing his jaw in several places among other damage. He is now embarking on multiple weeks of being unable to speak or to eat anything other than liquids. I had the opportunity to pray over both boys and to encourage them in the faith along with several other men. It was probably more of an encouragement to us as we got to witness two young men who were fully prepared to suffer well. They were both discouraged, of course, but when the men around them mentioned God’s promises and His good plans for them, to prosper them in their faith, and to make them more like Christ through all adversity, those young men had the powerful hope of true faith light up their eyes and countenance. They understood, they believed, and they received the comfort of the Truth. They were suffering and we were weeping with them, but we were full of joy in Christ. 2 Cor. 6:10. You could see their faith in that moment. The substance of their hope and the evidence of God’s presence in these young men. Hebrews 11:1. Truly beautiful and so much glory for our Savior!
Suffering tests faith. Suffering deepens faith. Suffering gives confidence to our faith. We should always grieve suffering in others and in ourselves. Suffering is not, in itself, good. But what it produces is good. And, thus, we can count it all joy. James 1:2-4. Are we prepared to suffer well? For me, this is a two-fold question: 1) do I understand what is happening in and through suffering (knowledge), 2) do I believe that the end goal is worth it (faith)?
Do I understand what is happening? There are several passages that explain God’s purposes in allowing His children to suffer. My heart is drawn today to Romans 5:3-5: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Versus 1-2 show us that this whole passage is about our faith. When we suffer, it grows the endurance of our faith. That endurance grows the depth, or character, of our faith. And that greater depth, grows our confidence, or hope, in our faith. And our confidence will not be misplaced, because God will not disappoint. He will pour out His love, and transforming grace, in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God works in suffering to deepen the roots of our faith and our own confidence in that faith, leading to God’s greater work of grace in us to bring us ever closer to the perfection that is Jesus Christ. That is what is happening in our suffering.
Do I believe that greater faith bring us ever more into unity with Christ is worth the suffering? This is the ultimate value question for all of us. Do I value unity with Christ through progressively perfected faith more than I value present physical or emotional comfort? Do I believe that unity with Christ is the treasure in the field that surpasses any other value? Do I believe He is the fountain of living water that perfectly quenches my inner thirsts in a way nothing else can? Have I set my mind on these goals above, or am I fixed on maximizing my here and now comforts? Like these two young men, you too can be prepared to persevere in any tribulation with joy and confidence, knowing that God is prospering your faith through it. Joy in gaining Christ. And your confident hope will beautifully demonstrate the glory of God to all around you!