Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Cast your burden on the Lord, releasing the weight of it, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the consistently righteous to be moved or to slip and fall or to fail.”
Psalm 55: 22
“I am so weary, Lord! my load of care
Seems still more heavy with each opening day,
I cannot lift it. Father, hear my prayer,
And give me strength to keep the upward way.
I am so lonely, Lord! the happy and bright
And prosperous ones of earth all pass me by;
The friends of happier days ignore my night;
I come to Thee, O Father; hear my cry!
I am so hungry, Lord! my soul is faint
For heavenly nourishment amid the strife.
I starve, O Father; hear Thy child’s complaint,
And feed my spirit with ‘the bread of life.’
I am so thirsty, Lord! my heart would sink.
Withered and parched, upon earth’s arid plain;
Fill Thou my cup, O Father; let me drink
Of ‘living water,’ never to thirst again.
I am so sad, O Lord! the cries of woe
From suffering human souls afflict mine ear;
Oh, save and help them, Father, and I know
Thy must be comforted, when Thou art near.
Weary and lonely, hungry, thirst, sad,
With all my sorrows, Lord to Thee I come!
Safe in my Father’s arms, I will be glad,
And wait, in faith, till He shall come.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but with me take your share of suffering to which the preaching of the Gospel may expose you, and do it in the power of God.”
II Timothy 1: 8
“The Furnace of Affliction: - Part 2
“The Right Way To Go”
“To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
If Christ called me to bear the cross for Him, would I be willing even if it caused me to suffer?
What is there in my life that is causing me pain and agony?
How does this affect my faith in God?
“Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts.”
Francis de Sales
“God’s people have always in their worst condition found out the best of their God. He is good at all times; but He seemeth to be at His best when they are at their worst…They who dive in the ‘sea of affliction’ bring up rare pearls. You know, my companions in affliction, that is so. You have proved that He is a faithful God, and that as your tribulations abound, so your consolations also abound by Jesus Christ.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
He was born in 1628 in Elstow, England. After some schooling and a stint in the army he returned home to undertake employment as a tinker which was a trade passed down to him by his father. After his marriage, this young man became interested in religion which led him to join the Bedford Meeting, a nonconformist group. When the monarchy was restored, John Bunyon found his freedom curtailed and for 12 years he was confined to jail. It was during this time in jail when Bunyon began working on his world famous book Pilgrim’s Progress. As Pastor Charles Spurgeon observes, “Some of the most learned works in the world smell of the midnight oil; but the most spiritual, and most comforting books and sayings usually have a savour about them of prison – damp…John Bunyan’s Pilgrim may suffice as an example.” Many a trembling heart has been greatly encouraged by this beloved allegory which portrays the depths and heights which confront all of us on our journey to our eternal home.
Just to make certain I properly conveyed the thoughts Pastor Spurgeon shares about the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, I checked my dictionary which defines the word “savour” as a “defining characteristic or quality which exhibits the taste or smell and the flavor or aroma of the particular item being discussed.” In my humble opinion, the words “savour of prison” are perfectly chosen to bring us alongside the struggling “Christian” in Pilgrim’s Progress who is attempting to make his way from the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City” atop Mt. Zion for it was in the dank, dark Bedford prison when the words to this famous tale were written.
One of my favorite encounters in “Christian’s” challenging adventure occurs when “Christian” came to the foot of the mountain called the “Hill of Difficulty.” Eyeing the narrow path that wove from the valley floor to the top of the demanding mountain Christian decided to refresh himself at the spring before he began his ascent while saying:
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint or fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
In our Study Text for today, the Apostle Paul exhorts his son in ministry, Timothy, with these words:
“Don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, His prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us.”
II Timothy 1:8
The Message Bible
The point Paul was making to the young Timothy was that the Christian life was not one without mountains of difficulty and valleys of suffering. But don’t recoil in desperation for as the imprisoned Paul tells Timothy, “We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us.”
It makes a big difference in your life and mine when we feel bowed down in a trough of affliction to remember that we are children of God who have been personally called by Him.
The temptation to doubt “Who” has called us only serves to lead us into the valley of discouragement. As the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes so plainly regarding the words of Paul to his son in the gospel: “Timothy must not be ashamed of good old Paul, though he was now in bonds. As he must not himself be afraid of suffering, so he must not be afraid of owning those who were suffering for the cause of Christ.” And then the Apostle Paul shared, “But be thou partakers of the afflictions of the gospel.” The Greek definition of “partakers” even illuminates this passage of Scripture more clearly for what Paul wanted to convey to Timothy was the fact that when we suffer; when we are in pain; when we are afflicted; we are in “complete companionship” with Jesus. It certainly makes me view the hardships of this life differently for the Apostle Paul’s words lead us to recognize that the afflictions which make their way onto our earthly path can serve to bring us into union with our precious Lord and Master – Jesus Christ. In the words of Thomas á Kempis:
“Jesus has many who love His kingdom in heaven, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His passion. Many admire His miracles but few follow Him to the humiliation of His cross. Many love Jesus as long as no hardship touches them.”
May our statement of faith in our Father’s love through tough times be that of “Christian’s” as he climbed the “Hill of Difficulty” “Better, though difficult, the right way to go.”
“God, who foresaw your tribulation has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
C. S. Lewis
“Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I’ll show you how.”
Matthew 16: 24
The Message Bible
“Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
All things else I have forsaken;
Thou from hence my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought, or hoped, or known;
Yet how rich is my condition,
While I prove the Lord my own.”
Henry F. Lyte
“Jesus, where are you taking me?
I am afraid,
but to do anything other than go with You
would be to die inwardly;
And to look for wholeness apart from You
would be to lose my true self.
So I come to you,
protesting and confused,
but loving You all the same.
You will have to hold on to me
As we walk together
through this compelling and frightening
landscape of the kingdom of God.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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