Monday, March 15, 2010

Tribulation is the Appointed Path to the Kingdom

First, I am hoping that the title of this blog does not scare anyone away from reading further. I debated much about changing it but decided to keep it as I think it most accurately reflects the context of this post. It may sound familiar to you as it is a quote from Sir Walter Scott as he was discussing the Christian life. He too, did not intend to scare anyone away, but his choice of words was also quite deliberate as he wanted to make sure no one believed that once they put their trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior that their life would be all sunshine and rainbows. It would seem that this type of prosperity gospel, where God is viewed as a sugar daddy just waiting to answer our every heart’s desire, was prevalent during Scott’s day, and also permeates our day too within the Pentecostal and faith movements.

But what does the Bible have to say? As you read through the Word of God, there is a theme of tribulation woven throughout the very lives of the writers of the Bible. Moses wrote the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) when he was in the wilderness. David wrote the majority of his Psalms when he was running for his life from King Saul. Ezekiel wrote while he was in exile. Jeremiah, who is often called the weeping prophet, lived a life that was characterized by trial and persecution. Peter wrote his two letters just before he was martyred. Paul wrote many of his letters while in prison and John, the beloved apostle of Jesus, was isolated on the island of Patmos when he penned the Book of Revelation. Speaking of John, I heard a preacher once say that when John was cut off from civilization on that small, deserted island. Shut off from everyone. He was shut up to God and there received the most extensive revelation of future events ever shown to any writer in the New Testament.

It is amazing to ponder that thought, isn’t it? John, who was put on the island of Patmos (a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea) for preaching the gospel, saw Christ revealed in all his glory and was given the awesome task of not just witnessing the Second Coming of Christ, but writing down the event for every future generation.

While there are many purposes for suffering – to glorify God, to reveal our spiritual condition, to chastise us for disobedience, to refine us to make us more like Christ, to develop within us the fruits of the Spirit – I think many times trials and tribulations are there just to bring us into the quite place where we can hear from God and know Him in a new way.

So often in the Scriptures we are admonished to spend time alone with the Lord, “Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). “Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision…” (Daniel 10:8). Jesus, Himself, often rose early in the morning to spend time alone with the Father, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Sir Walter Scott said that tribulation is the appointed path to the kingdom because we only get to the kingdom in the patience of Christ. Herein lies a marvelous truth. So many people claim to want to really know the Lord but they do not want to have to go through anything or give anything to truly know Him. A relationship with anyone has a cost, and so too with Christ, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14: 27-28).

If we truly want to know the Living God and all his glory than we have to be willing to be separated unto Him, each of us in our quiet place, stripped of self and the commotion of life, always remembering that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

"No soul can really be at rest until it has given up dependence on everything else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone… If God is what He would seem to be from His revealings; if He is indeed the 'God of all comfort;' if He is our Shepherd; if He is really and truly our Father; if, in short, all the many aspects He has told us of His character and His ways are actually true, then we must come to the positive conviction that He is, in Himself alone, enough for all our needs and that we may rest in Him absolutely and forever.” - Hannah Whitall Smith

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