Have you been to the cross lately?
Father in heaven, I surrender all to You. Remove the veil that clouds my view. Help me to see more clearly your purpose for me. Guide my steps and take full control of my life. Lord, I am aware that I am nothing without You. Still, I yearn to be something–, not in this world, Lord, but in your Kingdom. I surrender all to you.
New Living Translation (NLT)
James Is Killed and Peter Is Imprisoned
King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial; he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, after the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
Some five hundred years before the arrival of Emmanuel, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that Emmanuel would come: “ Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:26-38).
Recently I read an extraordinarily inspiring post titled: “Give Thanks in Suffering,” in About Christianity @ www.about.com. I thought I would share it here.
The post reminds me of my struggles with an autoimmune disease. I was backed into a corner with two choices. Either I continue to lean on my understanding and die, or trust God and live. I chose the latter.
Giving thanks when you’re suffering seems like an idea so far-fetched nobody could take it seriously, yet that is exactly what God asks us to do.
The apostle Paul, who knew more than his share of sorrow, counseled his young apprentice Timothy to do just that:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 5:16-18, NIV)
Paul understood the spiritual benefit of giving thanks when you’re hurting. It takes your focus off self and puts it on God. But how, in the middle of our pain, can we possibly give thanks?
Let the Holy Spirit Speak for You
Paul was well aware of what he could do. He knew his missionary work was far beyond his natural strength, so he relied heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit within him.
It’s the same with us. Only when we stop struggling and surrender to God can we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. When we become a conduit for the Spirit’s power, God helps us do impossible things, like give thanks even when we’re hurting.
Humanly speaking, you may not see anything you can be grateful for now. Your circumstances are miserable, and you’re desperately praying they will change. God hears you. In a very real sense, though, you are focusing on the bigness of your circumstances and not on the bigness of God. God is all-powerful. He may allow your situation to continue, but know this: God is in control, not your circumstances.
I tell you this, not by theory but by my own painful past. When I was unemployed for 18 months, it didn’t seem God was in control. When important relationships fell apart, I couldn’t understand. When my father died in 1995, I felt lost.
I had cancer in 1976. I was 25 years old and could not give thanks. In 2011 when I had cancer again, I was able to give thanks to God, not for cancer, of course, but for his steady, loving hand through it all. The difference was that I was able to look back and see that no matter what happened to me in the past, God was with me, and he brought me through it.
As you give yourself to God, he will help you through this hard time you are in now. One of God’s goals for you is to make you totally dependent on him. The more you depend on him and sense his support, the more you will want to give thanks.
One Thing Satan Hates
If there’s one thing Satan hates, it’s when believers trust God. Satan encourages us to trust our emotions instead. He wants us to put our faith in fear, worry, depression, and doubt.
Jesus Christ encountered this many times in his own disciples. He told them not to be afraid, but to believe. Negative emotions are so strong that they skew our judgment. We forget it is God who is reliable, not our feelings.
That’s why, when you’re hurting, it’s wise to read the Bible. You may not feel like it. It may be the last thing you want to do, and it’s the last thing Satan wants you to do, but again, there’s an important reason to. It brings your focus away from your emotions and back onto God.
There is power in God’s Word to fend off Satan’s attacks and power to remind you of God’s love for you. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus drove him off by quoting Scripture. Our emotions can lie to us. The Bible never does.
When you’re going through trouble, Satan wants you to blame God. In the middle of Job’s worst trials, even his wife said to him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9, NIV) Later, Job showed extraordinary faith when he promised, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; ” (Job 13:15a, NIV)
Your hope is in God in this life and the next. Never forget that.
Doing What We Don’t Want to Do
Giving thanks when you’re hurting is like one of those tasks we don’t like to do. Perhaps dieting or a trip to the dentist, but it’s immensely more important because it brings you into God’s will for you. Obeying God is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile.
We seldom grow more intimate with God during good times. Pain has a way of drawing us close to him, making God so real we feel we can reach out and touch him.
You don’t have to give thanks for the thing afflicting you, but you can be grateful for God’s faithful presence. When you approach it that way, you’ll find that thanking God when you’re hurting does make perfect sense.
Not many people grow old gracefully. Some folks are sunny throughout their lives. There are others who were sunny earlier on, but It seems the nearer they get to the end of their lives the less sunny they have become. Many of these folks have all the toys they have ever wanted, but for some strange reason they are not happy. These poor souls cannot carry on a conversation without barking and growling at the other person.
Over the last 10 years, I have had to deal with at least one person per week who have displayed what I would like to call a “Nasty Disposition”. I used to get offended, but as the problem occur more and more, I realize it is not personal. It is who they have become, and they cannot do anything about it.
Hence, I thought about how cruel this world is. If we are not careful, it will chew us up and spit us out-leaving many miserable and aloof.
Therefore, I thank God for Jesus. He has the answer for every question and the solution for every problem. If I continue to hold on to the promises of God, and most importantly, His unchanging hand, then my life will be sunny to the end. Hopefully, my testimony then will be similar to one apostle gave at the end of his life: ” I have fought the good fight I have finished the race I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”(2 Timothy 4:7-8).
When you have Jesus in your life, heaven does sound sweet all the time.