Thursday, August 11, 2011

Worthy to Suffer

My favorite book of the Bible is Acts, at least of those that I've read all the way through.

I'm drawn even to the title of the book. Acts. It implies action. It implies that you cannot remain in your faith, but rather you must act on it.

I love reading about how the church was started. About how a small group of people literally changed the world because they were so passionate about what they believed.

I love to read about the martyrs, about the many times Peter and John go to jail for preaching and doing miracles through Jesus' name. About the miraculous things that the disciples can do through the Holy Spirit.

I love reading about how Paul comes to know Christ. It amazes me that someone as "bad" as him can be placed in the Bible as one of our biggest role models today.

But my favorite part of Acts is their radical faith. Those men and women love Jesus. They believe in Jesus with every fiber of their being. And because of their love and their belief, they receive the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit they speak in different languages, they make paralyzed men walk, they lead thousands and thousands to the truth of the Gospel.

One of my favorite passages in Acts is chapter 7, verses 17-40.

It tells of the apostles being imprisoned for preaching in the name of Jesus. But during the night, an angel of the Lord came and freed them. Amazing as this is, it is not the most amazing part to me.

For the apostles are brought to the Council a second time, because in spite of their imprisonment, they are still preaching in Jesus' name.

And when asked why they had continued to preach in Jesus' name, the apostles even shared the Gospel with the Pharisees! The men who killed their Lord! The men who would sooner see them killed than convert to Christianity!

Finding no reason to condemn them to death, the Pharisees settled with whipping each of them, and ordering them not to preach in the name of Jesus.

And, this is the amazing part. When the apostles left, they still preached in the name of Jesus! They told everybody! They didn't move away, they didn't try and be more discreet about it, they just kept preaching the gospel!

And the best is verse 41.

"So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name."

The apostles rejoiced over the Pharisees scorn. They rejoiced over being sent to jail, over being flogged.

Because they were worthy to suffer for God.

How much our lives would change if we thought that way!

Levi is aggressive all the time. But, thank you God for considering us worthy to handle it!

I'm not in Peru. But, I praise you God, because you consider me worthy to be here instead of where I desire to be!

I don't want to go to school. But, O God, I am so grateful that you consider me worthy to deal with something I don't want to do.

It's backwards from today's thinking. Our world is completely focused on what we feel at the moment. This is what I want. This is how I feel. This is what I'm experiencing right now.

But if we look with God's eyes, we see that everything we suffer, everything we enjoy, every mundane detail of our lives is a gift from God.

Whether it be school, a glass of juice in the morning, or even doing chores, it is what God intended for us. I have a decision every morning. I can wake up and be upset that I have to get up for school, or I can understand that God thought I could handle this. God wants me to be here, and He wants me to be there for a reason.

I can walk through every day understanding that, yes, I do feel called to Peru. But God wants me here. God considers me to be strong enough to stand not being where I would rather be.

I am learning, slowly, to trust that everything I go through, I go through because God considers me worthy of it. Because God considers me strong enough to handle it.

Although, it's somewhat backwards. I, by myself, am able to handle nothing - no struggle, no temptation, no trial. But, if I lean on God's strength, I can handle anything.

When God measures our strength, He is not measuring any willpower of our own, but rather our tendency to lean fully and completely on His strength.

For me, I want to rejoice because I am worthy to suffer. Because the more I suffer, the more worthy He considers me, and the more I am learning to lean on His strength.

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