Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hard Times...


Americans are particularly adverse to pain and suffering and difficulty.
We still hold on to the "American Dream" at the core of our psyche, that says, "Bigger and Better, Bigger and Better - until we die!"

Truth is, trouble and difficulty are part of life. Everybody's life. For one financial. For another physical pain and sickness. For another family difficulties.

In earlier times trouble and difficulty were accepted as part of life. Paul offers a powerful reason why we go through trouble...

3 -5 "All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!
Father of all mercy!
God of all healing counsel!
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us."

Did you get that?
Purpose in pain.
The benefit of brokeness.
A bit counterculture in North America!

"We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
6 -7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it."

Paul goes on to a related theme. The difficulties he went through to get the Good News to these folks.

8 -11 "We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province.
It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it.
We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us.
As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead!
And he did it, rescued us from certain doom.
And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.
You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either.
I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part."

They were literally at death's door more than once.

12 -14 "Now that the worst is over, we're pleased we can report that we've come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high.
But it wasn't by any fancy footwork on our part.
It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised.
Don't try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We're writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you'll now see the whole picture as well as you've seen some of the details.
We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus."

Many of us are facing hard times right now. Remember this...

"He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us."

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