Patient in Affliction 5

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

Often when I am awakened by the alarm clock or startled out of sleep by a noise I am very confused. Because I have been in a deep sleep I wake up disoriented, not certain where I am our what day it is. It takes a moment to get my bearings. I stop the noise and take time to begin thinking clearly before I move on.

On a spiritual level it is easy to be disoriented in life, especially in times of hardship and troubles. We can feel doubt and confusion as to what is going on and what the solutions may be.

I think often of the many devotional guides that are put out to help in matters of faith. One of the beginning exercises in many of these publications is called “Centering Moments.” It is a directed time to get your spiritual bearings, to clear your heart and soul of distractions and confusion, and center – or focus – on God.

How are the faithful described in verse 4? What is said in verse 5 of those who believe? What direction is given?

We know that troubles are not taken away from us just because we believe in God and have faith in Jesus Christ. Even the most dedicated believer will be confronted with problems and challenges, heartache, sorrows, and pain. But as this letter to the church in Thessalonica sates, we should not be surprised by this.

Our faith in God should allow us to face the problems of life without being disoriented or confused. Our faith should be strong enough that troubled times – affliction – should not shake our confidence. As children of light – that is, people who belong to God – we should be alert to any situation that may confront us. We should be spiritually alert, braced for the problems with the strength that comes in our faith in God.

No matter what problems or worries may strike us we should be able to be patient in our afflictions, trusting that we are not alone in our plight, but that we are in the company of our Lord and Savior. The firm foundation of our confidence in God should enable us to withstand the troubles of life and keep us centered on the power, love and mercy of our heavenly Father.

Our faith in God, our acceptance of Christ as Savior, our Christian values and beliefs are not just solutions to problems. They are also strengths we build up so that we are ready to face the problems of life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a prayer or Bible verse that you can use to create a centering moment for you at the start of each day?

Patient in Affliction 4

Daniel 3:16-25

Jesus warned the disciples, and us, that in this life we will face troubles. There is no avoiding all the problems that can come our way. What is important, however, is that we are prepared to face the perils and sorrows of life.

Today’s passage is from the story of three companions to Daniel – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar has commanded that at a musical signal everyone is to fall down and worship his image, but these three men hold firm to their Jewish heritage and refuse to worship the king (Daniel 3:1-15).

What confidence do the three men have? What was their punishment? How do we know the furnace is truly hot? What does the king witness?

There was no getting out of the punishment that the king had ordered for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But they were ready to face their punishment because they trusted in God’s power. If you continue with the story you will see that nothing happens to these three men. Not only are they not burned, their clothes do not burn and they even have no odor of smoke or fire about them (see Daniel 3:26-27).

In this story we can see that it is not the troubles we face that is important but how we face the troubles. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were slaves in a foreign land and had fallen out of favor with the king. Their situation seemed hopeless, but they did not waiver in their faith.

Instead they were patient in their affliction, calmly enduring all the punishment and anger the king could dish out. The result was a very concrete example of how God is with the faithful even in times of trouble.

We may not be as fortunate as these three. Yes, they were fortunate, because God showed them quite clearly that He was with them in their troubles. There could be no doubt that no matter what they were going through they were not alone.

As we face the uncertainty and troubles of our current situation, or any situation, we must hold firm to our faith in God. We may not be blessed enough to see a tangible figure standing beside us, but we should know in our hearts that we are not alone. God is with us to give us protection and strength. He can see us through the bleakest of times.

And with that faith we should be given the ability to be patient in our afflictions. In time we will be carried through the fires of our trials and challenges, brought unscathed to the other side. And through it all we are not alone.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remind yourself of God’s presence in desperate times?

Patient in Affliction 3

Luke 12:35-37

No matter how tired I am I can not rest unless I am prepared for what needs to be done. I can not relax on Saturday night unless I am sure that I have all that I will need for Sunday’s service. Weeknights are the same; I can’t rest until I at least have a list of what must get done the next day. Knowing that I have gathered all that I need or have prepared myself and gotten organized to the best of my abilities helps avoid anxiety.

We can avoid fear by being spiritually prepared. In this passage from Luke Jesus is giving an example of how we are to be watchful for the Lord. What are the instructions? To whom is Christ compared in verse 36? What twist is presented in verse 37?

The image of Jesus as the bridegroom is common in the Gospels. It presents a picture of a loving relationship. It also creates a comparison that most of Jesus’ listeners were familiar with. Those attending the groom had to wait patiently for him. They had to be ready so that whenever the groom appeared they could serve him. To be unprepared meant to risk the success of the wedding.

So it is with our faith. We need to establish that relationship with God now. We need to work on perfecting ourselves in Christ now. We are not supposed to wander blindly through life turning to God only when things get desperate. Nor can we abandon our faith when things get tough.

We need to be patient with our faith. One way to be patient, to avoid fear and worry, is to know that our faith is strong. We should be spiritually dressed and ready for service to God. Is your heart in a place where you are prepared to help God’s kingdom even when society seems to be in turmoil?

We need to keep our spiritual lamps burning. We should be a beacon of light and hope to others who do not have the depth of faith we have. Is your spiritual light of hope and love shining in these dark times?

How can we dress our souls for service? How can we keep our own lights burning? We do so by applying ourselves to our faith – by examining the word of God, by searching for understanding in the teachings of Jesus, and by holding firmly to our faith. We also need to be persistent and diligent in our prayer life.

We also dress for service by watching for need in others. We should be observant to the troubles others may be going through and be prepared – physically, emotionally and spiritually – to step in with help and encouragement. We can also be an example of strength and confidence, exhibiting that faith in God which keeps us joyful in hope and patient in affliction. When we do that we shine our lights for others to see.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do now to keep your spiritual lamp burning?

Patient in Affliction 2

Philippians 4:4-7

One of my goals in life recently has been to become more calm and level-headed in all situations. I am trying not to let small things annoy me or excite me. I have always admired those individuals who can go through life seemingly without fear or anxiety, taking whatever life throws at them in stride. It is what we are called to do. It is an example of being patient in affliction.

In this letter to the church at Philippi what is encouraged in verse 4? What is encouraged in verse 5? Why? Instead of anxiety, what is encouraged? What is the result?

The first verse of today’s reading fits with the concept of being joyful in hope. We are to rejoice in the Lord at all times. We are to know that God is Lord of all, and with that confidence we should be able to celebrate all that we are experiencing.

But we are also encouraged to be patient in our afflictions. We are to remain steady in troubled times. Knowing that the Lord is near should give us such a firm faith that we can be gentle in all that we do, not desperate and anxious.

We are not called to sleep-walk through life oblivious to what is going on. We are not expected to be unaffected by the loss of a loved one. But we should be able to overcome the worries and stress of uncertainty, and we should be able to cling to hope in our sorrows.

If we are truly Christians, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that the Lord is our God, then we should be able to exhibit that faith in how we live our lives. There is no need to be worried about our economy or our government. There is no need to be worried about eternity and our own mortality.

Being a Christian means having a firm faith in the teachings of Christ and the promises of God. With that firm faith should come the confidence that allows us to be patient with what is going on. We can patiently wait for things to get better. We can patiently wait for God to work through new leadership. And we can patiently wait for the eternal reward Christ has assured us.

By patiently trusting that God is in control, no matter how uncertain life can be, we can find the peace of God which will guard our hearts and minds.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to relieve anxiety?

Patient in Affliction

Hebrews 6:10-12

In today's world, it is nearly unheard of to pay employees cash at the end of the day for the work they have done. In fact, most new employees have to wait an extra week or so to get into the paycheck rhythm of the company. But, while we wait for our pay we are expected to continue to do our work and do it to the best of our abilities.

A similar attitude is referred to in this passage from Hebrews. How is God described? What is encouraged or desired? What does the author want to avoid?

How is God described? What is encouraged or desired? What does the author want to avoid?

Last week we examined the passage from Romans 12 where Paul encouraged the believers to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We have seen that knowing our salvation is sure through Jesus Christ should bring us hope. We have seen that knowing we are not alone in our difficulties should bring us hope. And we have seen that having all this hope should bring us joy.

Now we must learn to be patient in our affliction. Many financial experts have commented on the current trouble in the world marketplace. One comment that has frequently been voiced is that it will take time for the economy to recover. Those who have investments in stock will do well to be patient, allowing time to pass and their stock values to increase.

The same attitude is required in our faith. As we face hardships and challenges in life, we need to be patient in our difficult times. Rarely do our problems resolve themselves overnight. The struggles and hardships we encounter do not mean that God does not love us nor that God is not there.

We need to be diligent in our faith. We need to continue to apply ourselves spiritually to our pursuit of God and the perfecting of our souls. This usually takes time.

We should be patient, not only in the times of affliction we must endure – the struggles, the pain and the loss – but also in our spiritual growth, and in the relationship we have with the Almighty.

The author of Hebrews warns against becoming lazy. True faith and belief in Christ requires a patience and an endurance, holding firm to what we know as true without allowing ourselves to weaken or abandon our hopes.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you remain patient in difficult times?