Suffering for Doing Good

So how do you feel about that old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished”?

Are you of the opinion that this statement is dead-on correct?

Maybe you’ve experienced it personally. You resisted the temptation. You made the right decision. You took the high road. You sacrificed and you patiently stood last in line. But at the end of the day, the end result was not pretty. You didn’t get ahead. You only got further behind.

Why does this happen? Wouldn’t you think that if a dearly loved child of God made good choices — moral, God-pleasing choices — that this would be rewarded?

But so often it feels as if instead of a reward, all we get out of our suffering is more suffering. Being in agony for doing good — it just doesn’t make sense to us. And we often feel victimized when it occurs.

Peter has an antidote for the victim-mentality and turmoil in our hearts when the aforementioned, unpleasant circumstances come to pass in our lives.

His solution is to point us to the suffering of Christ. Our willingness to suffer with peace and joy in our hearts comes from recalling the cross Jesus bore. He reminds us that Jesus’ suffering is to be an inspiring example for us.

More important than that, Jesus’ suffering leaves us with a grace-altered heart. We know now that we can entrust ourselves to God. He will judge justly in the end of things.

Most critical of all, because of his suffering and sacrifice on the cross, Jesus will not judge us for our sins. Instead, he will grace us, forgive us, and heal us from our sins. Jesus’ good deed will make sure that we go unpunished — and return us to our close relationship, our right relationship, with him.

Return to Jesus, the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul, and your entire perspective on suffering will be transformed. And this is especially true when the suffering involves suffering for doing good.

 “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

 ‘He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.’

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:20a-25, NIV).

It’s true, Lord. I have strayed like a lost sheep. But you, through your suffering and sacrifice have restored me to a right relationship with yourself. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness. By your Spirit’s power, teach me do good, even if I must suffer for it.

Our Bible reading for Monday, November 23, is Ezekiel 43:1 – 44:31, 1 Peter 2:4-25 and Psalm 132:1-18.

Header image based on "Stray sheep on track." by Hefin Owen, CC By-SA 2.0

A Wise Expectation of Hardship

As Paul and Barnabas went on their way teaching people the gospel in various towns and cities, they met opposition. In fact, at times they encountered far more than mere opposition. They were met with violent animosity.

Nevertheless, they continued to share the gospel. Town to town. Person to person.

And they keep their expectations in the right place.

We live in a day and age when as a nation, and as individuals too, we are blessed with great wealth and position in our world. One of the issues with this is that our expectations can get skewed. The danger is that “the right to pursue happiness” can become “the right to always achieve happiness.”

And when something doesn’t make us happy in an environment like that, our tendency is to dispose of it as quickly as we can.

Had Paul and Barnabas bought into this line of thought, they would have abandoned their work long before this. But they had a different expectation.

They knew that living a life for the purpose of serving the One who suffered for our sins would bring suffering of its own. They realized that living a life with the intent to honor the Savior who humbled himself “even to death on a cross” would involve hardship.

So Paul and Barnabas kept teaching. They persevered — and even returned to places they had been kicked out of previously — to strengthen the believers, and to encourage the newly minted Christ-followers to stay true to their belief in Jesus.

All because they had a wise expectation of enduring hardship, instead of an unwise expectation of enjoying constant happiness!

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said” (Acts 14:21-22, NIV).

Lord, help me to be prepared for many hardships in my life as I follow you and carry out your purpose. Through the hardships that led you through Gethsemane to the cross, grant me entrance into your eternal kingdom.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, June 21, is 1 Kings 8:22 – 9:9, Acts 14:8-28 and Proverbs 15:11-20.

Header image based on "Gethsemane" by Waiting for the Word, CC By 2.0

Excruciating and Unrelenting… Or Is It?

Just today alone, I witnessed a horrific plane crash in Taiwan, a fiery train derailment in New York City, and a brutal execution in the Middle East. Thank goodness (for me) these were sanitized news clips. I was not forced to watch anyone actually die, or directly see anyone be seriously, life-alteringly injured.

But make no mistake, deaths occurred today. Gruesome injuries changed lives. Families and individuals were deeply, irreversibly impacted. Anguished loved ones will mourn and grieve their losses.

Anyone paying attention has to ask, “Is this what life is about? Is this all we have to look forward to? How are we supposed to absorb this excruciating, unrelenting pain — these losses that occur on a daily basis? How do we make sense of it?”

Near the end of his ministry, Jesus predicted that such deeply distressing, apparently senseless times would come: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21, NIV).

But Jesus’ prediction did not end there.

Jesus taught his disciples that these times of great distress would not be the end of the story. This pain is not all there is. This world will not continue forever, suffering one loss, then another, and then another.

Because Jesus is coming back. And when he comes, he will change everything.

Everything.

Are you ready for it?

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31, NIV).

Lord Jesus, give me a compassionate heart, prayerful words, and helpful hands for those around me who are experiencing the distress that our world is currently dishing out by the shovel load. Thank you for your predictions and promises that these times of distress will be limited, and will come to a complete stop when you return. Make me ready for that day.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, February 5, is Job 35:1 – 37:24, Matthew 24:1-31 and Proverbs 4:1-9.

Header image based on "PAIN Knuckle Tatoo" by Depolo, CC by 2.0