Hebrews was written to Christians who were suffering persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, some were leaving Christ and falling away from grace. In Hebrews 11 the writer reminds them of the heroes and heroines of faith from the Old Testament who suffered persecution and trials. In chapter 12 he uses their example to encourage the Hebrews to keep their faith as Christians and to keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-4). In the verses that follow he helps them to understand what God is doing with their trials and it will help us to understand what God is doing with the coronavirus pandemic and the trials we face, today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a great hardship to many people around the world. It has caused a great problem for the church because most have not been able to assemble as a congregation. If I tell you all today to look with me in God’s word, the Bible, some might respond, “I don’t even know if there is a God. Where is He? What is He doing? Why doesn’t He take this all away? And, what does a book written thousand of years ago have to do with us today?” My answer is, “Yes, there is a God, He will take this all away and everything else in this world; and the Bible has everything to do with us.” All of this is not much different from the persecution endured by the church in Jerusalem when they were scattered from their homes, their jobs and separated from family and friends (Acts 8:1-4). It is to these Christians and others like them that Peter writes his first epistle. He gives them a message of hope that is just as relevant and powerful as it was when it was first written.
The world is making every effort to find a cure for the coronavirus. Some medicines have already proven to help treat it and we are on our way to find a vaccine. We all long the day when we can go to the doctor and he is able to write a prescription to take it all away. But there is a greater prescription already available given to us by the Great Physician to treat all our ailments. It is found in the apostle Paul’s inspired letter which he wrote to the church that met in Philippi long ago. Then, as now, there were all kinds of trials and temptations that Christians had to face. In chapter 4 verses 4-9 we find God’s prescription for a coronavirus pandemic and whatever else you may be facing in your life.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Judah was facing seventy years of captivity for their sinful rebellion against God. Yet, He wants them to know His thoughts for them. It was not to do them evil, but to give them a future and a hope. This is what God wants for all His people.
Sometimes we find ourselves suffering the consequences of our sins, as well as the sins of others. In those times we can become discouraged, knowing only doom and destruction. Often, we become angry at ourselves, at others and at God. It is difficult for us to understand what is happening and why it is happening. Instead of turning to God in prayer and going to His word for answers and for help, we fall away from Him.
Are you feeling fatigued and overburdened? Everyone experiences sin, stress, grief, heartache, pain and misery. It can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible to overcome. There is often no relief and no escape.
Here is Jesus' invitation to you: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
There are a lot of things we do not understand about suffering. Many of our questions go unanswered but there are some things we can know.
We can know that God knows all about our suffering (Psalms 56:8).
We can know that God understands everything we are going through (Hebrews 4:15).
We can know that God truly cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Suffering hurts. We don’t want to suffer. But it will help us to know that there are at least five benefits of suffering for the Christian.
1. It tests our faith (Jam. 1:2-4). If we meet our trials with faith, we will develop the patience needed to mature spiritually. It is when our faith is tested that we grow and become strong. So, we can rejoice even in our trials. Do you remember how God tested Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22, commanding him to sacrifice his son? Can you imagine a greater test of faith? Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He believed God would raise his son from the dead. That is a great faith. Do we have the faith of Abraham? Will we trust God enough to do what He has asks of us? God wants to know if you will keep faith even in the greatest tests of life.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
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