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By: Larry Shaffer
This is Leigh’s brother Jim and his beautiful family.
The Fairness Doctrine
Joseph, lesson 35
Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many years have you lived?’ So, Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life.’ 47.8
In my older age, I have found myself to be more and more reflective. Jacob, in his old age becomes reflective in front of Pharaoh and says, ‘few (compared to Abraham and Isaac) and unpleasant have been the years of my life.’
The Bible is filled with stories of victory and joy. But this morning I’m reminded that many of the Bible characters lived difficult and painful lives. These weren’t the villains of the stories; they were servants of God and part of His plan and work. In Jacob’s case, part of what contributed toward his unpleasant life was his own sowing and reaping. But at the same time, God allowed Jacob to suffer, mostly emotionally and relationally, in order to accomplish His purposes.
We could say the same for David. His immense suffering was often the result of his own “sowing and reaping” of sinfulness resulting in pain. But then there are others. Hosea was commanded by God to marry a whore. What did he do to deserve that? His wife Gomer caused him constant emotional pain as he chased her down, searched for her, brought her home and sought to redeem her from her ways. Hosea was a picture of God and Gomer reflected the whorish heart of Israel. An important object lesson but did Hosea have to suffer so much?
What about the apostle Paul? When Jesus appeared to him on the road to Emmaus, He struck him blind and called a man name Ananias to care for Paul. Jesus spoke to Ananias and said, ‘Go, for He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for my Name’s sake.’ You can find a detailed and excruciating description of Paul’s suffering in 2 Corinthians 11.21-29.
Personally, I do not like this aspect of the Christian life. I do not like suffering, either emotionally, physically or mentally. In my fleshly and carnal opinion, I just don’t think it’s fair sometimes. There, I said it. I just said, ‘God isn’t fair.’ I’m going to take my toys and go home. I don’t want to share! (Share in the sufferings of Jesus, that is).
Ok then. When I fall into this pit of disdain for God’s ways, I have to fight through it with the reminders of scripture. The apostle Peter, who suffered immensely and wrote to a people under tremendous persecution, wrote, But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation…but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name, I Peter 4.13.
To suffer as a Christian is to suffer even though you are innocent. That sucks! But it also reminds me that our ultimate purpose isn’t happiness and ease, it is to serve Christ and be an example of His grace.
I’m also humbled and reminded of Jesus’ suffering that was done for me. This usually brings me back to the humble reminder that my suffering is miniscule compared to His. It helps to right my perspective and strip me of my whining and selfishness.
He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief…surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging, we are healed.
Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53
Father, thank you for allowing me the vulnerability to admit that I don’t enjoy suffering. I was just kidding when I said it wasn’t fair. (I’ve read of the scolding you gave Job for such silly words). But Your Son Jesus reminds me that there is always a purpose when I share in Your suffering. It’s the least I can do. And may I do it with a heart of gratitude and a spirit of servitude. Give me the strength to do what Peter said and keep on rejoicing, for Your glory and praise. Amen.