Monday, October 3, 2016

fiction and affliction

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Psalm 119: 49-80
Besides the obvious theme of God's amazing Word, there is another one woven in the great Psalm 119: affliction.
It's known also here by words such as: shame, estrangement, scorn, contempt, slander, sorrow, weariness, taunts, suffering, lies, being cut down and wronged. Not exactly "feel good" material. Certainly not a stroll down Easy Street.
But from what we read in Scripture, it's all part of what has been promised to any who seek to live a godly life (1). No matter what any wacko on "Christian Television" says, automatic health, wealth and earthly comfort have NEVER been part of the deal. Don't forget the least claimed promise given to us by Jesus: "In this world you will have trouble..." (2)
The fiction lies in believing that God's followers are somehow immune to affliction.
The question, therefore, is what am I going to do with the fact that "life's not fair."
And right here, in the midst of this masterpiece we find some of the most profound truth concerning human suffering. Not easy, trite answers; but some perspective.
Consider these three verses:
v. 67 -- Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
v. 71 --  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
v. 75 -- I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
There is no denial of pain or suffering, no escapism; but instead we find hope & truth:
The truth is, very often, the only way any of us can learn to trust God, or experience His love, or admit that He is the boss, is via trials and sufferings. We have a whole Bible full of men and women who found God only in their utter brokenness. Many of those same people still had to face all sorts of troubles and difficulties even as they remained faithful to God. We are foolish if we think that we can somehow exempt ourselves from that same process and still become spiritual giants.
C.S. Lewis put it this way, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (3) We are too hard of hearing to listen to God unless the harshness of our situation forces us to do so. The psalmist recognized that beyond all the difficulties he faced, there was the voice of God, calling him to draw near.
The hope is found in God's sovereignty- that He is able to work good out of the evil and hardships we endure. In His faithfulness, He allows us to encounter all sorts of things we would naturally do anything to avoid. His goal is that we be conformed into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (4) He knows what He is doing, even when all of life doesn't make any sense. You need no further proof of this then the cross, that dark moment where God felt forsaken by God, when it seemed that evil triumphed as cruel hatred murdered an innocent man- the only innocent man. Yet in the darkest moment of history, God was working out the redemption for all mankind.
(1) 2 Timothy 3:12
(2) John 16:33
(3) from "The Problem of Pain"
(4) Romans 8:29

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