How to Have a Merry Christmas When Suffering

Are you riding the glory train because you love the Engineer, or because you seek the train’s destination? Do you have a passion for the King, or for His palatial, trouble-free environment (heaven) where He has promised you will dwell forever? Will He continue to receive your loyalty and devotion only so long as it benefits you? Or do you murmur and grumble against Him when troubles come your way? If God performs according to your will, do you “pay Him off” by affirming your love for Him, hoping that in this manner you can keep Him under your control? Sufferings invariably yield the answers to such questions.

Of course, most of us don’t overtly think of our relationship with God in this way, but this is the dilemma that Job faced and he flunked the test for most of the book. He thought God was mean spirited and unfair. He even demanded the right to defend himself: “I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments…. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:4,10). Wow! Job figured he merited God’s blessings due to his yeoman performance.

Must God earn your loyalty and love? Sufferings will yield the answer. Sufferings enable him to know himself. God doesn’t need such answers about your faith because he already knows. We need such answers about ourselves. How we respond to what we deem to be unjust sufferings will reveal this.

Do you murmur or perhaps rail at God if things don’t go your way? If so, you are wit­nessing before men and angels that God does not merit your consistent loyalty and love. Although the angels constantly proclaim His worthiness, God is not worthy to hold down His job in your opinion. You are tacitly saying that, given the chance, you could do a better job of running your section of the universe than He is doing. You’re claiming that you should have the right to be in control of your circumstances. This is usurping His role.

Dear one, the only way you can demonstrate that you love God just for who He is is to consistently praise Him, regardless of how your emotions vote, even when bad things happen to you—things that you don’t believe you deserve. “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God” (Ephesians 5:20). “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)—for all things and in all things.

Earth is the last chance you’ll have to suffer. Earth is the closest thing to hell we’ll expe­rience, but the closest thing to heaven the lost man will experience. Don’t misconstrue this important part of the maturation process. What could be more motivating than to know that God, who cannot lie, has stated unequivocally that His beneficent, altruistic, gracious purpose is to take the circumstances of your life, the good, along with the bad, and use them to accomplish the most glorious agape action on your behalf imaginable—fashion you into the image of Jesus Christ, the blessed One, the anointed One, the chosen One, the Lamb of God, the beloved Bridegroom, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the first-born from the dead, the One who is high and lifted up, the One to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given? The Christian who can’t find reason in this to consistently praise the Lord through thick and thin simply doesn’t “get it.” God wishes we knew some of the reasons He allows Christians to suffer.

I do not appeal to your emotions on this issue, but to your intellect. Your emotions will vote with the flesh every time suffering occurs. Will you allow a part of you to control you that can’t even think? Your mind and your will are the key players here; God has cast your feeler in the “walk on” bit part. Although never denying how you feel, faith (seated in the mind and brought on-line by the will) must practice, practice, practice dominating feeler, denying its insistence upon usurping the starring role. Knowing that God uses circum­stances to conform us to Christ’s image is ample cause to praise Him in times of suffering.

Understanding that a hypocrite “pretends to be something he is not,” enables us to know that we are acting like (living like) who we are, not faking it, but faithing it, when we praise Him, even though our emotions vote against it. This is the key to having a merry Christmas, even while suffering.


Written by By: Dr. Bill Gillham for The John Ankerberg Show, ©2000.

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