Archives for posts with tag: struggle

Why is my life filled with so much pain and struggle? What have I done wrong to deserve this? If I just had enough faith, this would not have happened! These and other comments reflect a misunderstanding of faith and life.

There are people who believe that faith in God will prevent tragedy and adversity. They espouse the understanding that God watches over God’s people and will shield them from all harm. They have scripture on their side and they quote verses like 2 Samuel 22:3 “My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield and my salvation’s strength, my place of safety and my shelter.” Or “God is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

There are many more similar expressions of confidence that God looks out for God’s own- and I believe them too. But we have to consider the whole of the Bible and not just select verses.

The Bible contains many strong assertions that God will protect and prevent people of faith from suffering disaster. There are many examples where that is dramatically demonstrated and the faith of God’s followers is affirmed. Stories in the Bible and history contain details of people who trusted God and were spared. The Hebrew Children is an excellent example. King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace but they were rescued without even the hair on their head being burned.

Trust God and everything will be alright! But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood the possibility that they would not be spared. With that awareness they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us… But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The story of Job is an interesting one. In spite of the fact that he had lost many of the things that were important, he refused to stop trusting God. He said, “Even if God killed me, I’d keep on hoping.” What about the Apostle Paul. It has been said that he is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the origins of Christianity and he certainly did not have an easy life.

Ok, so faith does not always prevent adversity but God will deliver those who put their trust in Him. Right? Yes but perhaps not exactly as we would wish.

Chapter 11 of The Book of Hebrews chronicles the exploits of many “heroes of faith.” Their mighty and miraculous deeds are listed and the writer suggests there are too many such people and stories to mention them all. But the record shows that there were others who were tortured, imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted in ways too horrible to mention. “Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised” (Heb. 11:39-40 MSG).

“When disaster strikes, or calamity becomes the norm, there is no human logic that can explain all of the questions, ‘Why?’  There are things that, quite frankly, seem to make no sense at all.  Much of our human suffering appears arbitrary and senseless…One day every person faces eternity through death; better to believe in God through His son Jesus, and at least have the assurance of eternal life.  The trials of this life are temporary, even though they may seem to drag on forever.  Faith becomes the reality and evidence of what eternity will one day make vivid and real.”**

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “ For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NRSV).

It is important to maintain faith in a loving and powerful God Almighty. To believe that all things are possible if you believe. At the same time one must realize that faith does not guarantee a victorious outcome in this earthly life. The words to a song by Mercy Me captures what I am trying to say.

I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t my hope is You alone.

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Good thing. A little faith is all I have right now. But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.”

Regardless of circumstances the important thing is to come to the end of this earthly journey and be able to say, “I have finished my course. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.” Then you can be assured that you will receive God’s approval and the prize will be worth the journey (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Jamie Jenkins
*”Even If” by MercyMe- writers: Bart Millard, Ben Glover, Crystal Lewis, David Garcia, Tim Timmons

**Why Should I Believe In A God Who Doesn’t Seem To Help? by Craig Blumel

 

 

What does the Apostle Paul, Bob Dylan have in common? They both understand that being human means living with internal conflict. They understand that no one is their best self at all times. Sometimes the less than desirable part of one’s personality expresses itself. It is a struggle as long as you live.

DylanbyBarryFeinstein

Dylan put it this way: “Most of the time, I’m clear focused all around. Most of the time, I can keep both feet on the ground. I can follow the path, I can read the signs. Stay right with it when the road unwinds…Most of the time.”

“Most of the time, my head is on straight. Most of the time, I’m strong enough not to hate. I don’t build up illusion ’till it makes me sick. I ain’t afraid of confusion no matter how thick… Most of the time.”

“Most of the time, I’m halfway content. Most of the time, I know exactly where it all went. I don’t cheat on myself, I don’t run and hide. Hide from the feelings, that are buried inside…Most of the time.”

The Apostle Paul said it like this: “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise” (Romans 7:15 MSG).

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Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, Bob Dylan has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. In the 1960s he became a reluctant “voice of a generation” with lyrics that appealed to the anti-establishment culture of that time.

More recently Mr. Dylan became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. It was perhaps the most radical choice for such an honor in the Swedish Academy’s 115 year history.

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Paul the Apostle was born about 5 BC into a devout Jewish family in the city of Tarsus, one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast. He received his education in Jerusalem at the school of Gamaliel, one of the most noted rabbis in history. 

The conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus.

Saul of Tarsus, as he was known, dedicated to persecuting the early followers of Jesus. One day as he was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem” the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light and he was struck blind. After three days his sight was restored and his life’s mission changed. He became a devoted follower of Jesus and is often considered to be the second most important person in the history of Christianity.

Both Bob Dylan and the Apostle Paul understood the difficulty of living as one should. They knew how hard it is to be true to the values that give a person dignity and demonstrates the honorable quality of life.

Paul the Apostle in prison, writing his epistle to the Ephesians.

Paul said: “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?” And he found an answer to his dilemma. “The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions” (Romans 7:24-25 The Message).

I am so glad that we are not left to struggle through life alone and that there is a solution to our struggles. The Prayer of Confession and Pardon that many Christians often pray sums it up:

“Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.

Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then the response to the prayer: Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!”

Glory to God. Amen.

Jamie Jenkins

 

Close-up of Multi Colored Figurine

This week includes two very important dates. First of all, this past Monday was Christmas Day. It is a high holy day for people all over the world because it is the celebration of Jesus Christ. The birth of that baby in the tiny town of Bethlehem was an event that has changed the world and divided time.

TFree stock photo of decoration, christmas, celebration, goldhanks to my wife, our house was beautifully decorated for the Advent Season as we anticipated Christmas. I was blessed by the devotional thoughts that the staff and many members of our church shared. My family and I participated in worship services and attended several musical programs leading up to December 25. It was a joyful and hope filled season. Then on Christmas Day we enjoyed visiting with friends as we gathered around the table for a holiday feast.

Christmas Crib Figures, Christmas

On December 25, near the end of the calendar year, Christmas reminded us of God’s promise of peace on earth.

Close-up of Wedding Rings on Floor

Today, December 28, is the second day of significance for me. Forty-nine years ago today my wife and I vowed to love one another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”

When we stood at the altar of that little church on Stone Street in Mobile, Alabama three days after Christmas in 1968 I could not have imagined how wonderful marriage would be. Also, I had no idea how difficult it is to merge two distinctly different personalities into a unit of mutual respect and love. But over the years I have come to realize that two can become one without either individual being lost in the process.

There have been many challenges as well as joyous experiences. Struggles and triumphs. I am grateful that Lena has stuck with me through the good times and the tough times. “A true lover always feels in debt to the one he loves” (Ralph W. Sockman). I would not call myself a “true lover” but I certainly acknowledge that I am indebted to her.

Victor Hugo said, “Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.” I have never doubted her love as she has been my chief critic and number one cheerleader. She has traveled with me through three states, nine houses, and many different contexts. She raised our three children with minimal help from me. She is a strong woman, a wonderful wife, and a great mother/grandmother.

“We recognize a soulmate by the supreme level of comfort and security we feel with that person. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that remain to be ironed out. Rather, it means we know intuitively that we can resolve issues … without losing his or her love and respect” (Linda Brady). I am grateful for 49 years of marriage to my soulmate and I am excited about our future together.

Jamie Jenkins

ADVENTURE 1

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Life is full of starts and stops. Ups and downs. Cycles. But I believe that people of faith ought to always see life as an adventure.

Long ago God called Abram to pick up and leave everything that was familiar and journey to a place that he did not know (Genesis 12). Although Abram did not know the destination, God assured him of guidance to the “land that I will show you.”

It was not necessary for Abram to know the end from the beginning. God knew the way.

Along the way Abram and his entourage encountered some difficult circumstances but the promise of God was that blessings would be the reward for faithful obedience. As they traveled on their divinely directed journey we are told that “the Canaanites were in the land” (Gen. 12:6) and they lived in “great cities walled up to the sky.” The Canaan Convention and Visitors Bureau was not very hospitable. But Abram continued to follow God’s direction.

It is irrational to believe that all of life will be smooth sailing- even for people who follow God’s leading. We mistakenly think that the absence of struggle and challenge is a good thing. In fact the opposite is true. Adversity is not our enemy; it is often our good friend strengthening us for the journey.

 

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

It seems to me that the key is to be on the path that God has planned for us. If we are, we will be equal to every test and able to overcome any obstacle. As we journey with God we will learn, as Abram did, that God will bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Jamie Jenkins