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Monday, April 1, 2013

1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the - revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation”

We should recognize that every fiery trial that comes to us in life is not a coincidence, a random occurrence of bad luck.  God has a very specific purpose for it and He is content much of the time to not show us what that purpose is until after the trial has passed.  Jesus’ fiery trial was the cross, and he bore that cross His whole life, knowing that eventually He was going to have to suffer the torment of being separated from His Father.  He lived 33 years with that knowledge and never once did He fall into despair and give up.  He calls us to follow His example and patiently bear our cross as well – denying ourselves in the trials and temptations of life without falling into discouragement or giving up.

Luke 9:23  “And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Satan tries to use different schemes to keep us from being cross-carriers.  The following is a list of a few of them that I have noticed:

1.    Satan tries to make us feel sorry for ourselves that we have such a large cross:

When Jesus was about to go to the cross, Satan tried to use Peter to make Jesus feel sorry for Himself:
Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid [it,] Lord! This shall never happen to You."  (Matt 16:22)
But Jesus knew who was speaking through Peter – “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's”(Matt 16:23)

Here Peter must have felt pretty good about himself, like he had Jesus’ best interest in mind – “Jesus, don’t go die, that’s terrible, you don’t deserve that, you are too valuable!”  Satan no doubt wanted Jesus to “walk away sad” like the rich young ruler, bewildered that God would call Him to give up such a thing!  Self-pity is a huge stumbling block to God’s will, and it’s very deceptive.

When something difficult happens to us, the devil will often whisper, “Why is God letting this happening to you?  You don’t deserve that!”  Then we may find ourselves wallowing in sorrow for a long time, our whole world revolving around our problems instead of around God and what He has done for us.  If we find ourselves stuck in a pit of self-pity that is paralyzing us from doing God’s will, it’s because like Peter we have set our minds on man’s interests, not on God’s (verse 23).  If we have our minds set on God, then we can have peace no matter what cross we have to carry.  The Earthly-focused mind is death, but a Heavenly focused mind is the key to peace (Rom 8:6).

Romans 8:6 "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace"

2.    Satan gets us to compare our cross with others:

After He was resurrected, Jesus indicated to Peter that he was going to die (John 21:18).  Peter’s first reaction was to wonder if others were going to have the same fate (v 21).  His thought must have been “how is it fair that I would die, but others would get to live?”  So Peter asked Jesus about this:

John 21:21-22  “So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"

Jesus’ answer to Peter was basically “don’t worry about him, just follow me!”

Satan tries to distract us by making us jealous that other people have it easier than we do, making us wish we were in their shoes, and wonder why they have it so easy when we’ve been dealt a bad hand in life.  We’ve got to cast down those thoughts away from our mind immediately and not concern ourselves with how much suffering we have compared to everybody else.  We must look only straight forward to Jesus – and we will see our beloved Savior who for us carried the weight of the world on His cross.  If we have such a clear view of Jesus’ cross then we will see how tiny our cross really is.  When we have that perspective then like Paul we will call whatever trial we have in life ‘light affliction’ (2 Cor 4:17).  Don’t be discouraged if others seem to have an easy life when yours is so difficult.  Praise God for the privilege to have some type of cross because it’s a privilege to be like Jesus in that way!  “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet 4:13).

3.    Satan tempts us throw down our cross, or at least make it lighter:

Job’s wife told him “curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)  Job disregarded the discouragement that the devil tried to throw his way.  To his wife Job had a wonderfully simple reply, “you speak as a foolish woman, should we accept good from God but not adversity?”

Satan was trying to use Job's wife to convince Job to throw down his cross by killing himself.  Many times he will try to convince us to come up with some scheme to get rid of our cross, or at least to make it more bearable.  Married people will hear whispers of ‘divorce’ or ‘harden your heart’ and single men burning with lust will hear whispers like "pornography", or "marry an unbeliever."  Anything to get us to lighten the load of our cross!  We have to remind ourselves of the foolishness of these schemes to lighten our loads.  God has chosen the perfect weight of cross for us:

1 Corinthians 10:13 “… God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

God chose the weight of our cross, and we shouldn’t try to change it.  Instead, we should be content to patiently bear the weight of our cross and keep following Jesus.

4.    Satan tries to convince us that our cross is so huge that we cannot bear it:

Satan wants everybody to think life is so terrible for us that we will not make it through.  He tries to make us complain to God that our cross is too big and that it’s unbearable.   He tries to tell us “IF ONLY your cross was smaller, you’d be able to bear it and follow Jesus!  You can’t follow Jesus with such a big cross.”  The devil is a liar and his method is to deceive us into thinking that our cross is actually hindering our walking after Christ.  He wants us to think that a life with difficulties makes it impossible to follow Christ.  But in truth, the exact opposite is true!  Goliath’s sword appeared once to be David’s biggest threat, but after a few short moments it turned out to be the very thing which he slew the enemy with.  The cross once appeared to be the death of Jesus, and when God was finished with the work, it was the very thing that Jesus used to defeat death!  In the Christian walk, our cross (including our trials and our temptations) many times seems to be the very thing that drives us into the ground burdening us and bringing us to despair, but if we trust in the Lord patiently bearing our cross - being faithful to obey without falling into discouragement, we will see that our cross will be the very thing which God uses to help us overcome many sins (which we never previously knew were in us) and to keep us in very close intimacy with Him.

When we look back on this life from eternity we will be thankful that God used the trials which we hated so much at the time to cleanse us of so much self-centeredness and love of the world.  Godly people aren’t made in a one-night revival meeting, but through years of persistent cross carrying.  This is God’s method.  So when we are faced with it we must not have the immediate reaction to flee difficulty and take refuge in worldly comforts, but we must “count it all joy” because it’s the very thing which God is using to make us like Christ.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”