Excuses | Devotion 5: Obedience ≠ Smooth Sailing!
Have you ever stepped out in obedience to God only to have your situation get worse? In Exodus 5:1-14, the Israelites experience exactly this. Moses, Aaron, and the people went before Pharaoh to deliver a message from God. They requested three days off of work to go into the wilderness to worship God. Certainly, a vacation to spend time with God would have been approved. However, not only did Pharaoh deny their request but he ordered additional work expectations, making it impossible to meet their quotas which led to harsh punishment. Where was God? Where was the God who saw their affliction and promised deliverance? Obedience led to suffering.
In April 1995, I came to a place where life was so overwhelming, and I needed someone to carry my burdens. In brokenness and need, I received Christ as my Savior. Over the next three years of my life, I was bombarded with trials: a cancer scare, two surgeries, job change, job loss, three major moves, and a child diagnosed with Autism. Where in the world was God? Life with Christ was not what I expected, and I was asking the same questions. However, by the grace of God, this is when my walk actually began. Over the last 25 years, God has taught me three truths about why trials follow obedience.
The first truth is the reality of persecution. In John 15:18, Jesus says: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites experienced hatred and rejection when they spoke out of obedience. As believers, we need to remember God’s warning when we experience persecution and not be surprised. We need to allow it to remind us that God’s Word is truth and cling to His promises of blessing and reward. Luke 6:22-23 adds, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
The second truth is that we have a real enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Have you ever noticed that when you commit to serving or growing in Christ, you are bombarded with roadblocks? My daughter and I were involved in the Passion Play for a number of years. Every year we were stunned at the illness, injury, or circumstances that would threaten our participation in the play. I watch the same thing happen when people commit to attending a Bible study. Believer, the last thing your enemy wants is for you to grow in your faith or be used by God to build His kingdom! We must be determined and go to battle. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
The third truth is that God allows bad things to happen to His people. Job is the most vivid illustration of this truth. God describes Job as blameless and upright (1:1) and yet He offers up Job to Satan for torment (1:8). Job suffered in ways we can not comprehend. A look at Job’s story gives us three reasons God allows His people to suffer. The first is to test our faith. Job’s determination to cling to his faith is noted in his statement, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (13:15). The second reason is to grow our faith. In 42:5, Job makes an amazing statement, “I had heard you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Most of what I know and believe about the Lord is from being in the pit and clinging to Him. The third reason God allows suffering is for the benefit of others. Job’s friends had a front row seat to Job’s suffering. They witnessed both his struggle and his faith. For unbelievers to only see the smooth sailing is to give them a false impression of living for Christ. Be willing to show your pain.
At the end of the book of Job, we see God restore Job and all that he had lost. Free commercial: Restoration to God does not always look the way we expect. Though the Bible does not say, I imagine Job was given plenty of opportunities to share his story to others in similar situations. Do not allow your pain to be in vain. Use it to comfort and encourage others. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we read, “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.”
Take away: All the trials and suffering of this life are sifted through the loving hands of the Sovereign God of the universe. There is a purpose for our pain. May we glorify Him as walk the rough roads.