There is much suffering in this world and many situations that we as believers may struggle to understand. We may find ourselves asking, “Why did God allow this to happen?”. There will always be things we do not fully understand, but it is truly important to draw near to God during these times… draw closer to Him… do not let suffering or lack of understanding on your part separate you from God.
Proverbs 3:5-7 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
From a practical perspective, when we are looking to God to help us out of difficulty or to help us prosper while experiencing it, if we allow ourselves to drift away from Him, we will be less able to hear His instructions and guidance. During these times we want to draw near and listen closely to what God has to tell us. I want to serve God and honor Him even in suffering and trials. I want to learn what He is trying to teach me and let Him use me.
Consider the death of Stephen and persecution of the early followers of Christ by those who claimed to be righteous… Jewish religious leaders. There was much persecution and suffering amongst the early church. The followers of Jesus fled Jerusalem, and spread the message of the gospel to other locations. Imagine if they would have just gotten mad at God and stopped following Jesus to avoid a difficult situation… they would have been lost and God’s plan to spread the good news of Jesus Christ across the world would not have progressed the way He desired.
The early followers of Christ obeyed God and proclaimed the good news to others despite persecution. They began by preaching to only Jewish people. During this time of suffering, though, they still trusted God and when they heard His guidance to proclaim the gospel to Jews and Gentiles, they did. God brought a tremendous harvest of new believers from the Gentiles. The early church believed and trusted God even during persecution and hardship. As a result, God was able to use them in a mighty way to the glory of His kingdom.
None of the early followers of Christ were thinking… “If only we could be persecuted and scattered, that would be great.” or “We should preach to the Gentiles.” But they were faithful to God and served Him regardless of difficulty and circumstance. Praise and glory to God, the faithful servants flourished in the situation in which God planted them and then were able to hear His instructions to adjust their course and bring the gospel to a great number of believers. Now, 2000 years later, see how many followers of Christ were not among the Jewish people! How much of the harvest would have been missed if Jesus’ followers did not listen?
The Church at Antioch
19So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
27Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
Keep your eyes, ears and heart open for God’s direction for you in the midst of the difficulties you may be experiencing. How might He be using this situation or guiding you to further His kingdom? Do not despair, He is with you and can cause all things to work together for the good of those who believe in Him.
How can you obey God and allow Him to use you in the midst of hard situations you are experiencing today?
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.