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November 5, 2012

Stand // Day 16

How to Stand When Suffering

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21(NLT)

It’s fun to read about the heroes of our faith who come out on top. Like Daniel who was delivered from the lions or David who took down a giant with a sling shot or Elijah who stood alone against 850 false prophets and a wicked King and prayed fired down from heaven! What could be more exciting than to stand in obedience and see God move in your behalf to show Himself mighty! Immediate Divine intervention rescued men and women of the faith. However, none of them could possibly have known the outcome ahead of time. They were simply being obedient.

But what happens when obedience leads to suffering and there seems to be no immediate Divine intervention on your behalf? What if the lions had eaten Daniel or the giant had taken out David? Hebrews 11 has been called the “Hall of Faith” by many Bible scholars. It records the names of mighty men and women of God who took a stand in a defining moment of their lives. Their stand would last forever recorded in the eternal Word of God. Yet, as you read that chapter you will notice that while many experienced immediate Divine intervention and were rescued in this life, there were equally those who took their stand and it led to unimaginable suffering and a horrific death. These fallen heroes of the faith are remembered in Hebrews 11:35-39 (NIV).

“…. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

So how do you stand when suffering? Psalm 129 offers hope for standing despite suffering and how God’s people often feel in this world. Look at the first four verses.

From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. But the Lord is good….”

When I read this recently in my quiet time I was struck by the response of the Psalmist to his suffering. Persecuted from his earliest youth, his back covered with deep cuts from senseless and undeserved beatings, yet he says, “But the Lord is good…” What is up with that? As I read it I began to wonder how he could come to that conclusion based on his circumstances. Good? To whom? It’s striking to me that he didn’t blame God or even question Him. Isn’t that what we usually do when bad things happen? We wonder where God is and why this is happening. Our stand is challenged as we become increasingly more disillusioned with God. How could the Psalmist with only an

Old Testament perspective conclude that God was good in spite of such suffering?

The secret to the disposition of those who cannot be defeated by circumstances and trials they can’t understand is that they stand on what they do understand. If I stand on what I can’t ‘under-stand’, my foundation crumbles and I fall! Stand on what you know “God is good…” Turn your problems into opportunity for praise! Praise delivers us from the pit of discouragement and faithlessness and puts our feet on solid ground. Stand on what you understand – “God is good!” “All the time” “God is good”

Earlier in Psalm 125:1 the Psalmist said, “Those who trust in the Lord are steady as Mount Zion, unmoved by any circumstance.” Do circumstances rattle you? If we determine what God is like based on our circumstances we will always get a wrong view of God. Let God’s own revelation of Himself in His infallible Word shape your understanding. You will be as steady as a mountain.