In the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.
God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”
God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.
God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.
Do you do interviews with students who apply to go on a missions trip with your student ministry? If you had asked me this a few months ago I would have said no. As I started promoting for our 2013 high school summer missions trip with LeaderTreks I wasn’t planning on doing interviews. Honestly, it was probably more for selfish reasons than anything like not thinking I had enough time to interview a bunch of students. But since I’m part of a multi-site student ministry I wanted to follow what our student ministries have always done and that has been to hold interviews with students wanting to go on missions trip. I did the interviews last week and I can honestly say I’m glad I decided to go through with doing them. I came away more excited about our upcoming mission trip as well as a excited about serving the students God has placed under my care. So if you would ask me the question again, do I hold interviews with my students wanting to go on missions trip, I’d say yes! It’s a must for our ministry and we will continue to do it as long as we exist. Maybe you do them as well or maybe you don’t, but I want to offer up a few reasons why I believe we must do interviews with our students who want to go on a missions trip with our ministry.
Set a serious tone for the trip. Many students sign up for mission trips because it sounds fun or maybe their friends are going. Usually these are the students that will not go into the trip with a very serious attitude towards it. Holding interviews sets a serious tone for the trip, especially for the students going who just want to be a part of the “fun and games.” Sure mission trips are a blast and we want to have fun, but they are also serious because we are going to reach others and pour our time and energy into spreading the love of Christ. This means that students can’t stay up all night playing pranks on each other. Mission trips are not summer camp. Interviews help set this tone upfront.
Understand where each student is spiritually. Just because a student signs up for a mission trip doesn’t mean they are spiritually healthy and growing in their faith. This is why an interview is important. It allows you to figure out where each student is spiritually. Once you figure out where they are you know how to help them grow before, during, and after the mission trip. For example, I found out many of my students who are going are not spending time in the Word and in prayer consistently. So one of the things I’m doing leading up to the trip is challenging them to do personal devotions on a daily basis. We are giving them devotional books that help them do this. Interviews will help you discern where each student is on their spiritual journey.
Get to know the students better. This is important for larger student ministries like ours. It’s hard to know every student and connect with them relationally. But you want to know the students going on your mission trip pretty well. You want to build a good relationship with them even before the trip starts. Interviews are a great time to just get to know each student better. See how their doing in school, with their family, and in other areas of their life. Spend a few minutes just talking to them and getting to know them better. This was one of the best parts of each of my interviews.
These are just a few reasons why I think interviews for students going on a mission trip are important. If you don’t do them, start doing them soon. You won’t regret it. It demands a lot of time and energy, but it’s well worth it.
Last week I preached the first sermon of a series called “Draw a Circle” here at Weymouth Community Church. The whole “draw a circle” is that revival starts with individuals. Before churches can experience revival, individuals must experience personal revival. We need to draw a circle around us and pray, “Lord, send revival and let it begin in me!” In the first sermon we talked about three indicators that you need revival:
If you do not love God as much as you did at first, you need revival.
If your walk with God is defined by activity rather than intimacy, you need revival.
If you do not sense an urgent need for God’s help, you need revival.
These ideas were taken straight from the letters to church in Revelation 2 and 3. This week we are continuing the “Draw a Circle” series and will be talking about humility. Before we can experience revival we must be humble. C.J. Mahaney defines humility as honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. The Scripture we will be looking at is James 4:6-10. In this passages James tells us to come close to God, wash our hands and purify our hearts, and to be broken over our sin.
I wanted to share something in this post that I will be sharing in the sermon. Dan Jarvis, lead pastor of Weymouth, came up with twenty reasons not to sin:
1. Sin breaks the heart of my Savior.
2. Jesus died to save me from sin.
3. I’ll feel guilty and dirty if I do it.
4. This won’t really satisfy me.
5. Once I’m done sinning, I’ll wish I hadn’t.
6. My disobedience to God will hurt other people that I love and care for.
7. It will hurt God’s reputation.
8. I will come under the discipline of God.
9. It will rob me of my potential in life.
10. It will waste precious, God-given time.
11. Eventually, someone will find out.
12. God sees everything I do, say, and think.
13. It will keep me from fulfilling the purpose of my life.
14. I have more important things to do than to mess around with sin.
15. This sin will distract me from my spiritual focus.
16. It will rob me of heavenly rewards.
17. The devil wants me to disobey God.
18. There will be real consequences to this, some of which I don’t even realize.
19. God will hold me accountable.
20. I really love God, so, why would I want to disobey Him?
So next time you’re facing temptation or are thinking about committing a particular sin, remember some of these reasons you should NOT do it.