“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(Jno.16:33) Jesus didn’t hide the fact that bad things will happen to us in this life. Even Christians should expect to face trouble in this world. We don’t like it when bad things happen. If we’re honest, those bad things shock us to our core and even challenge our faith at times.
So what’s the plan, what do we do when bad things happen? We need to look to God and trust Him no matter how severe the circumstances are. We need to find comfort in Jesus knowing that He is always in complete control. We also must remind ourselves that true peace has nothing to do with this world but is only found in Jesus. When bad things happen the temptation is to take our eyes off Jesus and focus on the negative circumstances that we’re enduring at the time. Satan so wants us to react to life’s difficulties that way. Satan will use bad things against us to try and turn us away from God. We need to expect bad things to happen so we’re not caught off guard. We need to keep our focus on Jesus because He has overcome the world and only He supplies true peace, even when bad things happen.
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (II Cor.4:4) The “god of this age” is Satan, the Devil, and he does all he can to blind as many as possible to the light of the gospel. We are aware of the spiritual war that we’re all involved in with Satan. (Eph.6:12) Satan will masquerade himself as an angel of light (II Cor.11:14) and use his many schemes to outwit us. (II Cor.2:11) We are in the midst of the fight of our lives as Satan tries to lead us away from God and destroy us spiritually. Satan will not give up on us as he desperately wants you and I in hell with him for eternity.
You know about the battle for your soul. You’re aware of Satan’s schemes and trickery. But, are you aware of Satan’s patience? I tend to believe that Satan is patient waiting for just the right time to attack you and me with a temptation. “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Mt.4:2-3) Forty days without food and the first temptation Satan throws at Jesus is about turning stones into bread. Satan’s plan and careful patience to wait until Jesus was vulnerable to strike, failed, because Jesus never sinned. (Heb.4:15)
What I want you to notice is how Satan was patient and waited to attack Jesus when He was weak and vulnerable from His forty day fast. I believe one of Satan’s greatest schemes and tricks is his ability to lay off of us for a while. What I mean is Satan strategically gives us a break from his temptations once in a while. That break can lull us into thinking we are doing really well spiritually and cause us to let our guard down which makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. I can’t help but believe that’s all part of Satan’s plan. He wants us to feel so strong spiritually that we’ll not be so aware or conscientious of his attacks and therefore, vulnerable. So, when you are on a spiritual high, enjoy it and ride it out as long as you can, all the while keeping in mind that Satan is patiently plotting and planning his next attack.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph.6:10-11)
I think we know that forgiveness is necessary and even essential. When we forgive those who wrong us, God forgives our wrongdoing. (Mt.6:14-15) We all need God’s forgiveness, so it is essential that we be forgiving. Forgiving others is also necessary because it is freeing and allows us to move past the situation. An unwillingness to forgive is holding a grudge and keeps one stuck in the situation and doesn’t allow you to move on. Forgiveness is helpful and brings healing to both parties, so why is it so hard?
There are those who truly struggle with forgiveness. Forgiving those who wrong them seems overwhelming and too difficult to do. Why is forgiveness so hard? Some may claim it all depends on the offense and how serious it is. The bottom line is this, as Christians we are expected to forgive no matter the offense or how serious it is. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”(Eph.4:32)
I think forgiveness is hard because we are selfish. From the time we were very young we have had a selfish nature. The baby cries to be fed, held or changed. The little boy or girl may not want to share their favorite toy. We don’t outgrow our sinful selfish nature; we simply have to learn not to yield to it. When someone wrongs me or hurts me, my selfish nature says they don’t deserve my forgiveness because they treated me that way. I have to deny myself so that I can forgive and move on.
Every time you forgive someone you are denying yourself so that you can do what God wants you to do. The struggle is we don’t want to deny ourselves and our selfish nature easily convinces us that he or she is undeserving of our forgiveness. Our selfish nature works to help us justify our unwillingness to forgive. We all must face the reality that none of us deserves God’s forgiveness, but He still forgives. Forgiveness is hard because we have a selfish sinful nature that we struggle with. Let’s deny that selfish sinful nature and strive to forgive like God.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”(Lk.9:23)
Recently I was on my way back to the office after lunch and I passed an elementary school and it must have been recess time because the playground was full of kids. I couldn’t help but notice all of the children were playing. Some were running and playing, others were on the swings and some were playing on the monkey bars. I looked for as long as I could just to watch the children in action. In fact, I was completely mesmerized by the happenings on that playground. Every one of those children had one thing in common, they were playing and having fun.
Children are amazing and truly have the right attitude about things. They don’t make issues where there shouldn’t be issues, they just play and have fun with everyone. Children don’t have an issue with race and social or financial status. They don’t care where their friends live or how big or small their house is. They aren’t concerned about the looks or the clothes of others, they just want to play with them. I think every adult could learn a thing or two from children. The next time you pass a busy school playground, slow down enough to take in the sights and learn a few lessons about how to treat others.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”(Mk.10:15)