Doing Hard Things
Life is hard. Ironically, this is easy to say. And it seems there are seasons of hardness, not only for individuals but also families, marriages, churches and nations. I think we may be seeing some of that in our church. As I looked over the membership of our church, almost every family has a significant challenge facing them. While this is not happening to our church as a whole, it is something that our whole church is going through in individual ways. Some of these challenges have been chosen, others have been thrust upon families.
What do you need for a time of difficulty? Here are a few essentials.
- You need the Word
This is primary, and it will be seen as such because every other point will come from the Word. Even the gospel, as central and necessary as it is, is carried into the soul by the Word. If you don’t have the Word, you won’t have the gospel. As Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” To highlight the importance of Scripture, consider the following: David gave his highest song-writing abilities to exalt the Word in Psalm 119. In that Psalm, he used the word “revive” eleven times, in nine of which he was explicitly stating the Word will revive him. Jesus said “If you continue in my Word…you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Paul said in Acts 20:32 “And I commend you to God and to the word of his grace…” You must be regularly taking in the Word in your hard time. The rest of the following points are simply different ways that the Word will come to you and certain portions of Scripture you will want to focus on. Remember, though, the Bible is not a magic book, that if opened will unleash some kind of mysterious power. You can flip its pages and even read it, and yet see nothing happen. Truth can bounce right off of stony hearts. The power comes from God’s Spirit creating within you a love for the truth. Perhaps your difficult time will drive you to seek God’s Word and find the grace of God bringing biblical transformation you never expected. Pray for this as you read.
- You need one another
One of the most unexpected ways that the Word penetrates the hearts of people is through the lips of other people. Perhaps it is unexpected because it is so normal looking. We want divine encounters to have lightning bolts and angels singing in the background. But instead they come with babies squawking and the need to ignore the strange ear hairs of the person talking to you. But with all the normalcy and foibles, God regularly uses his people to speak a powerful word of truth into the midst of our blindness and self-deception (Heb. 3:13). This is never more the case than when circumstances are hard. We get lost in our own head, listening to our own justifications for grumbling and complaint. Then one of God’s children reminds us what Scripture says about grumbling. They help us to see our situation in the light of eternity and everything changes. Do not keep God’s people at a distance. Don’t neglect the assembling together of one another. In fact, the very reason that Hebrews 10:25 calls us to stay close together is so that we can encourage each other. Don’t cut off that channel of grace.
- You need to count on the power of the Gospel
I mentioned the power of the Gospel in the first point and I want to bring out it out here in this point for a special reason. The hope is that if the first two points have been happening (you are in the word and connected to others) then the gospel will have been driven in at the same time. The gospel is the main focal point we are to be seeing in the Word and hearing from others (Col. 2:1-2). If that hasn’t happened while you read, then read it again. If that hasn’t happened while you are with people, you need to find different people. The gospel is the good news that we are united to Christ, reconciled to God, and adopted into God’s family forever. He is completely for us. If you are aren’t evaluating everything from the vantage point of the cross then you aren’t seeing it rightly. God’s power toward you and God’s love for you, displayed through the death of his Son, changes everything and affects everything. Get situated in the gospel and you will be secure for the ride. If you are in the gospel, but it isn’t snuggly securing every part of you, it is going to be a bumpy ride, even though it is safe. Don’t get tussled around like that. Pull the gospel in. Secure it down like armor (Eph 6:10-16) and you will be ready.
- You need to view this world rightly
Life in this world is hard is because everything is under a curse of brokenness, and this broken world is dominated by a world system led by Satan himself. Therefore, much of what God is calling you to is going to be made hard. This world system does not want love to be expressed without great pain. Therefore, heavenly greatness means lowly servitude (Matthew 20:26-28), and Christlike love means dying (John 15:13). Many Christians need to buckle down and deal with the fact that if they are going to do anything that matters, it is going to cost them dearly. In light of this, what is the biblical call? It is to know that the gospel will empower you to love and serve in sacrificial ways (2 Peter 1:3-7). Therefore, just do it. Do hard things. Keep your eye on eternity and not solely on your painful issue. 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
- You need to remember God’s sovereign Wisdom
In moments of pain and difficulty, you need to have a deep and certain understanding of God’s control in every matter. Can you imagine doing physical therapy for a knee ligament surgery in a tumble dryer? Hoping that would turn out okay is not biblical hope, but wishful thinking, and no one would tolerate that kind of random and painful activity for long. Physical therapy is hard and painful, but it is bearable when you know there is a plan in place and the doctor is monitoring every step of the process. Scripture tells us that God knows exactly what he is doing in every detail. With God as our father (a gospel reality!), he is mindful of our frame and knows what is needed at each moment. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 he has promised that he will never give us a trial that will make sin unavoidable. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This does not give us the details we would often like, but it does assure us that we are not in a tumble dyer of difficulty. It is controlled and accomplishing exactly what is needed. Trust in God that he has redeemed you and will finish what he has started (Phil. 1:6). He leaves nothing to chance, but is working every detail for your good.
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