Arnold Schwarzenegger is a famous actor, businessman, politician, and former professional bodybuilder.
He grew up in Austria in humble circumstances and in his teens committed himself to bodybuilding – and to be the best bodybuilder.
At age 20 he won the Mr. Universe title.
Arnold would train six days a week, twice a day when preparing for a contest. Moreover, he would also train each muscle group three times a week.
It was rumoured that Arnold would need to train with at least three different training partners because no one could keep up with him.
He is a magnificent example of commitment, dedication, hard work, single-mindedness and enduring hardship for the sake of the prize – and he won the prize.
The Apostle Paul knew that for Christians there is an even greater, grander, eternal prize that motivates them. He knew that we, as Christians, must answer to Jesus and either receive reward or rebuke.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Affliction and suffering are a God-ordained part of the
normal Christian life.
One of the reasons God ordains affliction, suffering and illness in the Christian’s life is that he or she can in turn help others who are going through similar affliction, hardship and illness.
Many Christian groups have dedicated “Healing Services”. Typically, the pastor calls the diseased, disabled or despairing person to the front and claims their healing in Jesus’ name.
However, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, we read that God has ordained that Christians face affliction for a purpose – to help, encourage and comfort others facing affliction.
It may well be God’s will to heal the diseases, disabled or despairing Christian (through miracle or medicine), but that’s God’s work not ours. We should certainly pray for God to heal people, but it’s always with the caveat, “Your will be done, not ours”.
It may also not be God’s will to heal as God may have an even greater purpose in mind.
Pastors certainly do not have the power or authority to
claim healings in Jesus’ name.
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:4-6
The lights were turned down low and the music played softly. The pastor entered majestically through the church doors and immediately all the beams of light were turned on maximum strength and focused on him.
There was an expectant hush in the crowd. The anointed “Man of God” (as the pastor
liked to call himself) had arrived.
His teeth sparkled and his eyes twinkled as he reached the
God had revealed to the pastor the secret of walking in His
favour and blessing.
The pastor didn’t need a Bible as God revealed his Prophetic Word – sometimes contradicting the Bible – directly to the pastor; but that was no problem as the Spirit was clearly at work.
The pastor’s sermons were awesome: Jesus died for your sins, sickness and sorrow. No more suffering. No more second-best. No more sub-standard Christianity. You simply need to have enough faith.
This was real, victorious, triumphant Christianity!
God was clearly working through this Man of God and the
church was growing.
Another man, known as the Apostle Paul, had started the church, but it turned out that he was a bit of a loser. He was constantly suffering, continually facing hardships, not a great orator, not a rich man, always working, and he never even asked for money.
What kind of a church leader is that? No thank you, not for us.
We want a super-sized Christianity. Not the weak, suffering, faith-without-sight Christianity the Apostle Paul had to offer.
It’s a common and good practice to have a Last Will and Testament where you express how, after your death, you want your assets to be distributed and any other instructions that are important to you.
It was surprising when a Manhattan woman who died in 2015 left R1.4 million to her 32 cockatiels, her cat and her dog, along with specific instructions on how her beloved birds should be fed – which included popcorn.
However, that’s small-fry compared to a German-Shepherd named Gunther (a dog!), who was bequeathed R1.2 billion from his owner, a countess, when she died in 1991.
Your last words can tell a lot about you, your priorities and your concerns.
We don’t need the Bible to tell us about the reality of suffering and evil, it’s all too common to us. The Bible says we live in a fallen, broken, scarred world where evil and suffering are prevalent. In fact, the Bible is the only book in our world that can truly explain why the world is like it is.
We have all been following with horror the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in northern Iraq against Christians and other minority groups. We are all filled with revulsion knowing that Boko Haram has kidnapped over 200 mostly Christian schoolgirls. Our news reports are filled with acts of violence being committed against Christians. Christians are suffering, going hungry and dying of exposure. How ought we to think about the suffering of God’s people?
Imagine this terrible scenario: You are lying in a hospital bed being kept alive artificially by plastic tubes in your arm and nose. A killer hurricane has destroyed everything you own and all you’ve worked for – your house, you car and your savings. You family has not survived. You’re hanging on to life. You move through the normal stages of grief, but your prayers are tinged with bitterness, “If only God would visit me and give me some answers. What has happened contradicts everything I know about God. If I would just show up and explain why!”
Christians sometimes experience the depths of despair In Job chapters 1-2 Job has lost his livelihood, his business, his employees, his children and has been inflicted with a loathsome, painful, debilitating skin-disease. Yet 3 times in these chapters it says he is blameless. In other words, he is above reproach, a man of integrity and not living in sin. He is also a believer. Blameless believers, who have not fallen into sin, may go through utter dereliction.
As I mentioned in a previous post, one of our dogs died last week. Charlie, a dachshund, slipped a disk and started going paralysed and we had to have him put down. We were devastated. And even though Charlie was only a dog, I found myself asking, “Why did God allow this to happen? Charlie wasn’t a bad dog! Why not cause bad dogs to slip a disk? Why did he do to deserve it? What did we do that God is punishing our dog?”
Many in our church have suffered greatly, losing loved ones, parents, siblings, friends and even children. We have all seen the suffering caused by disease, death and disaster. Because we are created in the image of God, we instinctively know that there is something wrong with our world and this is not how it’s supposed to be. Perhaps the most common question people have is, “Why does a good God allow suffering and sorrow and slipped disks? Why do bad things happen to good people?”