Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The unique opportunity of suffering

Praise to God is acceptable in all seasons and circumstances of life.

It's just easier when things are going our way. 

Social media illuminates and amplifies our inclination to shout from the rooftops the glory and power of our awesome God when things are going our way, or when our relationship with God directly benefits us in a tangible way.

And this is not unrealistic. On more than one occasion, Jesus spoke of present, earthly reward as a result of following Him (see: Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; John 10:10, etc.). 

However, it seems to be not as often that people are inclined to praise the God of their adversity. "Praise God, I lost my job today." 

I wouldn't say we're guilty of anything, it's just an observation. I don't imagine God expects us to revel in our tragedies. However, I do know He expects us to affirm His goodness in spite of them. 

Job could echo Paul's words in Philippians 3:8, "I have suffered the loss of all things." Yet in spite of that adversity, and under the darkened shadow of lesser revelations, Job still affirmed the goodness of the Almighty, under Whose direction his suffering came (Job 1:21). He wasn't jumping for joy, but he was declaring that his anchor ran deeper than his troubles.

I'll admit, there have been times that I have cringed when I hear of people praising God in the good times. But this is based upon my perception of an imbalance, not because praising God for favorable circumstances is the wrong thing to do.

It is always right to praise God. So when it is easy, and comes natural, we are right to proclaim the goodness of our God, and the present joys of our faith. 

But we must know that it comes at a price. 

We draw a double-edged sword on ourselves when we disproportionately affirm our faith, that is to say, when we do it primarily good times. Praise to God for personal, earthly benefits is of little value to an unbeliever. 

Satan claimed that Job only praised God because of the "stuff" God blessed him with, and that, once removed from him, Job would turn and deny that same God. That spirit is still in the world around us. 

Many believe - especially in the health and wealth culture of modern Christendom - that followers only follow because of what they can "get," and that, if but a few negative things happened, many would abandon their faith. And you know, they are right. 

Many then and now follow Jesus for the food, but don't stick around for the teaching, the hard stuff. Critics know this, can expose the hypocrisy of it easily, and can smugly go back to their lives without God, because the way they see it, they have about as much faith as those who tout God's goodness while receiving good things, but remain silent when trouble comes. That faith is as good as no faith.

When we affirm our trust in God under the crushing weight of suffering, there is nothing to expose, nothing to argue against. At that point, the critic can dismiss it as insanity, but even critics know this is an uphill battle. Few people want to be known as the one who criticizes a sufferer's faith. 

Unlike proclaiming God's goodness when in wealth and health, when one proclaims God's goodness in poverty and illness - yea, even in the face of death itself - it has a certain effect on the heart of those who are witness to it. It bears the marks of authenticity. 

Hypocrisy and authenticity are oppositely charged magnets. People are repelled by hypocrisy, but they are always drawn to authenticity. When we suffer, we are given opportunity to demonstrate the authenticity of our faith. 

Good times, by contrast, do not afford this same opportunity. After all, who wouldn't praise God when things are going their way? People are skeptical of it. They smell hypocrisy, even if it isn't. 

We are right to proclaim God's goodness, all the time, because He is always good. But let us remember that it is when we are under the weight of suffering that we have been given, not only an adversity, but a special opportunity to lead others to the Anchor of our soul.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Random Acts of Poetry: I am a Christian

A Haiku (5-7-5 syllable poem) about my faith. Westernized by stacking, telling a story, and adding rhyme :) 

Hope you enjoy.

I am a Christian.
So am I better than you?
No, that can’t be true.

I am a Christian.
So, your sins are worse than mine?
No, not in God’s mind.

I am a Christian.
Do I now know everything?
No, I’m not Divine.

I am a Christian.
Am I that diff'rent from you?
No, I need grace too.

I am a Christian.
The difference may seem slight.
No, that is not right.

I am a Christian.
So, what is the difference, then?
Jesus is my friend.

I am a Christian.
The gap between us is great;
Bridged but by His grace.

(c) 2015 Rick Kelley

Monday, April 13, 2015

The more things change

The more things change, the more they stay the same:
Modernism today is removing the ancient landmarks of biblical facts. The spirit of compromise, and halting between two sides, is removing the ancient landmarks of biblical commands. The church, therefore, needs constant admonition to "contend earnestly for the faith."
(J. Leonard Jackson, Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. IV, 1938).
"What has been is the same as what will be, and what has been done is the same as what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ MEV)