I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Matthew 10:16
Ouch! This hit me where I live. Out of nowhere in my conversation with God one morning came the words, “It’s a privilege to serve.” Within seconds, I was reduced to tears. Tough words on my heart which approaches the midnight hour on eight years without my firstborn son. How can it be? How can suffering through a myriad of painful causes be a privilege? The answer was swift in coming as though the thought winged its way to my oft-muddled mind.
God suggested that I recall and recount His Son’s promise to His twelve buddies before He returned home to heaven. His death would not be in vain. The death of His loyal disciples would not be in vain either. Of the twelve hand-picked disciples, ten were martyred. One died a death of solitude. All who refused to deny their Lord, died in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life in heaven.
Each disciple struggled in his desire to understand Jesus’ mission to earth. It was so different, so new. But after His ascension, they got it. Christ‘s commission, found in the book of Matthew, was earnest and clear, “Go tell” and tell they did; sharing the love of God to man with everyone they met until their voices were stopped by death.
Most of us have faced death in one way or another. Perhaps we have heard the words, “terminal disease” that we live with and therefore, every day is a gift. Maybe we have attended the funeral of friends and family. Maybe, like me, you are a suicide survivor; having lost a beloved child to suicide. Death and taxes are certain, isn’t that what we hear? Yes, death is certain. But there is hope. The disciples were close friends with Jesus. They were privileged to hear Him speak face to face. They watched Him live. They watched Him die. Now what? But they finally understood His message and with the promise of eternal life ringing in their ears, they shared the Good News until their lives were snuffed out. Only one died by his own hand, Judas, who betrayed Jesus. What of the others? Historical gleanings reveal their deaths:
Andrew, Peter‘s brother, crucified; Bartholomew, crucified; James, older brother of John, beheaded; James, son of Alphaeus, stoned then beaten to death; John, miraculously survived being boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil, but later died in exile; Jude, brother of James, crucified; Matthew, killed with a weapon that had a blade and spike; Peter, crucified head down by request. He felt unworthy to die like his Lord; Philip, crucified; Simon, crucified; Thomas, thrust through with a spear.
Grim list. Morbid perhaps? Or maybe not. Those disciples were not just loyal soldiers carrying out instructions. They fell in love with Jesus and nothing would silence them! But there are more names. Just read the list of “who’s who” in Hebrews 11. There’s Moses and Jacob and Abraham and Sarah and Samson and the list goes on and on. They remind me that real people stood up for Jesus. I must make a choice too. Do I follow in their footsteps which are forever cemented in history? Do I lend my voice to theirs by sharing the Good News that God loves each one of His kids? Yes, Lord. I will. Will you?
Refiner’s Fire –
“As YHWH‘s [GOD’s] Creations, most of us have gone through “fire” in one way or another and, hopefully, we learned from the experience. Through our trials and tribulations, rough edges are smoothed and sharp edges are sloughed off, until we more closely resembled what we were meant to be.
God allows us to go through hard times so that we may grow and become smooth and shiny. His goal is for us to become a reflection of Him that not only He can see, but also so others can see Him in us.
This is His top priority to transform us into the image of Christ. His priority is to make us holy not necessarily happy! Of course, satan has his own set of perverse purposes for trials. Suffering can be a great benefit to our growth in the Lord or it can become a great barrier to our relationship with Him.
Wrong responses to suffering can create a kaleidoscope of consequences and additional suffering. We are often responsible for the intensification of our trials because of our own unwillingness to do things God’s way. Then we kick and scream at how terrible things are and get upset with God for not caring and doing something about our misery. A right response to suffering will in part depend on a correct understanding of the possible purposes and positive development that can come through trial.
However, trials only produce positive character when responded to in a positive manner. If we don’t respond correctly the first time, there is another time around until we learn to trust God in any and every circumstance.” ~ Unknown
I am happy to do your will, O my God.” Psalm 40:8