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Archive for the ‘submission’ Category

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The anonymous author of Embracing Obscurity writes this about suffering:

There’s a startling trend in Christian thinking about suffering. Though subtle, this misconception is no less dangerous than many other of Satan’s lies. I call it the “Joseph Principle,” and it goes like this:

If I am suffering in obscurity today, God must be preparing me for something greater, better, or more prominent later in life.

You can probably guess why I call it the Joseph Principle. I can only assume this faulty way of thinking gets its roots in a misunderstanding of Joseph’s unlikely story, found in Genesis 37; 39-50. In a nutshell, Joseph is betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape, and then endured years of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet – and this is the part that excites our ambition – God used all of Joseph’s suffering to prepare him for greatness (and I mean greatness). In a startling turn of events, Joseph becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt, ultimately saving the family that first betrayed him. In the end he gets it all: fame, power, justice, and even the girl.

Though Joseph’s story is one of my favorites, there are others like it. Abraham waited twenty-five years but in the end had the child he’d been waiting for. Moses had to spend forty years as a shepherd, but he eventually went back to Egypt and was God’s instrument to deliver the Israelites. Hannah put up with years of taunting and disillusionment before God gave her Samuel. David endured fourteen years of wondering, waiting, and dodging Saul, but in the end he became the greatest king Israel ever knew (notwithstanding Christ).

Why do we love these stories? Lots of reasons, to be sure. There’s action, adventure, hidden identities, wrongs made right, God’s faithfulness and fulfilled prophecies – but there’s also something about the underdog making it to the top that resonates within. Maybe because we hope it will be us.

If you’ve ever been fired, come up second (or tenth), been broken up with, or had any hope deferred, you’ve likely heard the well-meaning encouragement: “Don’t worry – God just has something even better in store for you” or “All things work together for good!” or maybe even, “You just keep working hard, and you’ll get whatever you want in the end.” I guess we give one another these platitudes for one of two reasons: (1) we really believe that suffering inevitably leads to bigger and better, or (2) we hate to kick someone when they’re down by telling them the hard truth: sometimes suffering only leads to our greater obscurity, God’s greater glory.

the Bible is wrought with examples of God’s doing things for His own glory. Refining our hearts is no exception: “I have refined you in the furnace of suffering…yes, for my own sake!” (Isa. 48:10-11 NLT). He goes on to say that Isaiah doesn’t want his reputation tarnished by idols; He refuses to let the recognition due Him to go to them. It was true in how we dealt with Israel, and it is true in his He deals with us. God more often allows us to suffer to refine our own hearts and purge us from idols than to prepare us for “greatness.”

This isn’t an easy pill to swallow…

All of God’s ways are good and true. Although His plans may not look like ours, we can trust that God is in fact “for us.”

I’ve had these thoughts many times, and this author (whomever it may be) has expressed and explained them well. Something to think about as we live coram Deo (before the face of God).

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Elisabeth Elliot described suffering as wanting what you don’t have and having what you don’t want.

When that happens (and it will if it hasn’t yet), there are two possible responses. Only two. We can say with Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Or we can say with Job’s wife, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

One response is based on submission and obedience to God. The other response is based on rebellion and disobedience to Him. Job sums up his response to suffering in 2:10 as he answers his wife. He says, in part, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” 

The only reasonable and faithful response to suffering is to trust the God who is there, sovereign, loving, just, and the One who knows exactly what He’s doing. The alternative is too horrific to consider.

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In a book titled “Embracing Obscurity,” the unnamed author (which is appropriate for a book about obscurity) quotes Elisabeth Elliot on the subject of suffering. She says suffering is

Having what you don’t want, or wanting what you don’t have. (A Path Through Suffering, p. 56)

There are some things I have that I don’t want. I want some things that I don’t have. I know, without a doubt, that you do, too. In God’s sovereignty and love, He’s given us precisely what we need, but there are times when it conflicts with our own wants and desires. That causes tension and turmoil in our souls for a simple reason – we’re far too focused on ourselves.

After quoting Elliot, the anonymous author then says

This is the perfect definition of suffering for our discussion about embracing obscurity because it’s in the little “sufferings” of demotions, hard breaks, layoffs, out-of-state moves, and menial jobs that we learn to defer to God our dreams of being well-known, respected, and admired. It’s in these trenches that we realize God is big and we are small, where we exchange our will – our dreams, desires, and plans – for the opportunity to make much of Him and less of ourselves.

God calls us to trust Him, whether our suffering is large or small. He knows what He’s doing.

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 95. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Our worship should be joyful, thankful, centered on God, which results in a softened heart that believes and obeys God.

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on John 19:1-16. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Jesus Christ was, and will be, recognized as King even by those who don’t believe in Him or submit to Him – what should be the response of those who believe and submit?

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on John 18:1-24. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: On His way to the cross, Jesus was in complete control of the situation, protects His sheep, and is at peace with His Father’s plan.

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This morning, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 2. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: The one who submits to the kingship of Jesus Christ is blessed.

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