This week our hearts and prayers have been with the people of Oklahoma City, who were devastated by a massive tornado that led to much destruction and death. Like me, many of you have friends and family who live in OKC who have been impacted by the storm. Disaster relief teams are on the ground now and others are on the way to bring help and hope to people who are hurting.
Sometimes it is hard to find the good in bad situations. Tough times come to everyone. This is a universal problem with all of humanity. Sometimes the difficulties are health issues, sometimes financial challenges (like the loss of a job), sometimes weather-related storms, sometimes relationship problems, sometimes religious persecution, and the list could go on and on.
In the midst of the pain there is hope. God brings hope. God is our hope. The Bible helps us to see that there is a purpose even in the midst of the pain. Job – the most righteous man of his generation – experienced loss of family and property due to storms and enemy invaders. Jesus was beaten, mocked and crucified as He paid the penalty for our sins. The first-century followers of Christ faced persecution as they spread the good news of the hope found in Jesus Christ.
As the three examples above show, God is the sovereign controller of the universe. Nothing happens that He doesn’t either directly cause or allow to occur. He has a plan for everything. You are not a pawn in a cosmic game of fate or chance. Your life has a purpose, and even painful experiences have a purpose. God does not do anything without a pure, righteous purpose in mind.
In the first century, a leader named Peter – one of Jesus’ closest followers – wrote to a group of people that were enduring difficulties and trials. The tone of the first sentence may surprise you. Here’s what he said:
1 Peter 1:3-9 (HCSB)
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Notice some key words in the paragraph above:
- God’s great mercy
- Living hope
- New birth
- Eternal inheritance: imperishable, uncorrupted, unfading
- Protected by God’s power
- Short time… various trials
- Genuineness of your faith in Jesus Christ
- Believe in Him, love Him, praise Him, rejoice
- Goal of your faith: salvation of your soul
Trials are temporary. God is merciful and powerful, and He is at work. Everything that happens to you in life has a purpose. For the child of God, eternal life in heaven is guaranteed. In this world we have various trials, but they only last a short time. And in the midst of our pain we rejoice and praise God. Some of our greatest times of personal growth are during our most difficult days.
Let me encourage you to…
- Praise God
When Jesus is all that you’ve got, you will realize that Jesus is all that you need.
A prayer: “Dear Lord, show us that in the midst of our pain you are here. You are with us. Help us to see that you work all things together for the good of those who love you, those who are called according to your purpose. Help us. Strengthen our faith. Work in our lives to make us more like Jesus in every way. We praise your name because you are good and your mercy is great, even in the midst of our trials. Help us to persevere. Grow us. We praise You because You are good. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.”