Recently a former member of our congregation reminded me of an article I wrote in 2005 for a Cleveland magazine. She reread the article about suffering and reported that she was blessed by it again, six years later. Although, it has been a year since I have posted a blog, I decided that I would share the article again. I am not sharing because I think myself to be a prolific writer, but I sincerely hope to encourage somebody else. Thanks “Reese” for the reminder!
GRACE TO SUFFER
The longer I live and the more involved in ministry I become, I am more and more aware of suffering among the Saints. I recognize the prosperity message is very significant in the Body of Christ today, and we are challenged to declare the blessings of the Lord. We’ve been commanded to declare that “money cometh now”, and we’re challenged to walk into our deliverance. This is wonderful, but I am concerned about the message that suggests that proof of my faith is determined by my material possessions and the length of time for out running my problems. I am concerned especially because the Scriptures tell us that we “have the poor with us always” (John 12:8) and that “we are not to think it strange when the fiery trials come to try us” (I Peter 4:12).
The reality is that everybody is not going to be wealthy and we are going to suffer. Unfortunately, the blessings of God are usually only seen in dollars and cents or material possessions. God’s goodness goes beyond satisfying our selfish desires. Yes, many of us are blessed, healed, and delivered when our faith is challenged by the prosperity message, and we learn what we need to do to receive God’s promises, but the reality is that everybody is going to experience a season of suffering, The prosperity message is clear, but who will challenge and teach the Body of Christ how to suffer? How do we maintain until we reach our deliverance? How long and often do we pray for deliverance?
The Apostle Paul asked the Lord three times to take away his suffering or thorn in the flesh (II Corinthians 12:8), but the response he received was, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” After reading this passage I had one question, “What is it about His grace that is so significant that He would offer it in place of relief from suffering? How can His grace suffice in place of removing the thorn?” My answer was found in my study of the word grace. The Grace of God means that God supplies us with unmerited favor and undeserved blessings. The Greek transliteration of the word grace is charis or chara. Words formed from the Greek root char indicate things which produce well-being, like charisma or character. Hence, charis, or grace produces well-being. Because of grace, I have well-being no matter what comes my way. I am saved and I am justified and I have hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7). It’s about the position in Him, not the circumstances. Secondly, chara is the individual experience or expression of this well-being. So, grace brings well-being and grace is the expression of that well-being. Chara then is joy! It means to rejoice!
So when you are suffering and there seems to be no relief in sight, remember that God’s unmerited favor which brings well-being, and His joy is enough. Even in suffering, we are required to have joy. I guess that’s why Peter said, “if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (I Peter 4:16).”