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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Affliction cartoon
An All Too Common Theology Of Affliction

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Today's message is the second in a 3 part series from Romans 12:12

"Patience In Affliction"

"Patient in affliction" (Romans 12:12).

Dave and Sandy SimpsonDave and Sandy are longtime friends who live in Springfield MO. In fact Dave has been my friend since 1st grade. For many years Sandy has been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis and continues to seek healing either divinely or through medical means. Through the years I have witnessed Dave and Sandy's faith and patience as they have dealt with this unforeseen affliction together. I spoke to Dave yesterday and he shared with me a verse that anchors his faith and brings reassurance to their hearts during this extended time of testing: "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded" (Hebrews 10:25).

Bob & Linda
Bob and Linda are long-time friends who live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Though we've never lived close in proximity we've thoroughly enjoyed our times of fellowship when we have met together. Bob is a tremendous encourager with an enthusiastic personality and an earnest concern for others. He has an affliction called tinnitus, which causes a persistent loud ringing in his ears, unobservable to others, but very painful to him.  It results in severe lengthy headaches and at times is practically debilitating. Yet Bob has a faith-filled, positive outlook on life that is contagious. I am quite sure that anyone who has met him will know immediately of whom I speak and will agree with my description. His wife, Linda, is equally zealous in her Christian faith.

Today's Scripture portion, just three words, describes a necessary outlook for the maturing Christian: "Patient in affliction." We may feel it's a "right" not to bear afflictions but such a view is Scripturally void.
The Psalmist candidly reminds us "Many are the afflictions of the righteous" (Psalm 34:19). Peter writes, "now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials…" (I Peter 1:6). Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation" (John 16:33).

In my associations afflictions are generally health related, financial troubles, unfaithful spouses, wayward children and the list continues. I feel our brethren over the centuries and many today face these afflictions. But many also deal with persecution which the Apostle Paul likely had in mind when he wrote the daily text.  Recently we have been praying concerning the chronically under reported persecution of Christians in Muslim lands and specifically the recent slaughter of Christians and the burning of churches in Nigeria.

Car crushed by boulder
The word "affliction" translates the Greek word thlipsis and conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. According to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty had heavy weights placed on their breasts and were pressed and crushed to death. This was literally thlipsis. Thlipsis thus refers not to mild discomfort but to a great burden that weighs heavily on one's heart, mind, and soul.

Regardless of the manner or degree in which we are afflicted, today's verse is instructive. We are called to endure patience in the midst of our afflictions. At times the source of affliction will lift speedily, at other times not so fast (never fast enough for most of us!) and some deal with affliction throughout their entire life. I like the KJV word for patience which is longsuffering, which of course means suffering long - not an short-term ailment.

May the Lord fill our hearts today so that we remain "joyful in hope" and triumphant in any ongoing affliction.
Our hope-inspired joy should produce a courage which is able to hold up under the afflictions of this present age, which is passing away.  Someone has said, "Triumph is umph added to try." We will endure much suffering in this life, but as a believer we also recognize that our suffering in affliction here is momentary and light in the context of eternity and it is producing for us a glory that far outweighs all pain experienced on this side of heaven.

Remember this the next time you look up at a giant oak tree: "Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's little acorn that held its ground."  Let us be patient through our affliction and hold our ground which is anchored in the Rock of Ages!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we are called to persevere not just in the good times but also in our times of affliction. We may suffer long but we know that in doing so the fruit of patience is being developed in us. Keep our hearts focused upward, so that we are "joyful in hope and patient in affliction" until the hour You call us home. It is then that we will see the
rich and complete reward of our endurance in this life. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"All Your Promises Are True"  Video  Shannon Wexelburg  Over the last several years we have really come to appreciate this inspiring and gifted singer and songwriter.

"God Will Carry You"  Video  
Shannon Wexelburg

"I Never Lost My Praise"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Outstanding song and graphics!

"He Giveth More Grace"  Video  Gaither Homecoming Series  

When we lived in New England Brooksyne met a retired missionary who shared an interesting story. Olive Hawkes served, along with her husband, for many years as a missionary in what is now Bangladesh. They labored under extremely harsh conditions, faithfully serving the Lord and expressing His message of love and redemption to the people. Bangladesh was, and is presently, an extremely impoverished country. Overwhelmingly Muslim, receptivity to the Gospel was (and is to this day) relatively minimal.

It was during a time of great discouragement when the Hawkes' resources were very low that a friend from the states sent her a record which she manually played by turning a crank on the record player.  She was listening to a newer song (at the time) titled "He giveth more grace".  However in the providence of God the record had a scratch on it and skipped at the most interesting place.  The lyrics in the refrain has a line that says, "He giveth and giveth and giveth again".  It was at this very line that the record skipped which made the line repeat over and over again, "He giveth and giveth and giveth and giveth and giveth…."  Olive shared many years later that she knew God wanted her to hear this line over and over and it filled her with great peace and assurance, even to the point that she laughed aloud at her situation.

I was curious as to whether there was any online mention of the Hawkes and came across a sermon that mentioned them in an illustration. Since she was in her late 70's when Brooksyne met her in 1994 this must have taken place many, many years before that. (East Pakistan is now known as Bangladesh).

"How well do I remember the year I stopped by at the airport on my way back to college. I was driving a VW bug with all my possessions packed in a trunk tied on the roof, and when I reached Hartford Connecticut, instead of turning south on the Burlington Turnpike, I went north a few miles to Bradley Field. A small group of prayer supporters were on hand to bid farewell to Howard and Olive Hawkes who were once again on their way back to the mission field they loved, East Pakistan. Their oldest daughter Lois was being left behind in college, their autistic son Howard would remain at home for the first time, and with them was their 16 year old daughter Joy. As I got back on the highway and made my way toward the next step in my own preparation for ministry, I was moved to tears as I reviewed that scene over and over in my mind's eye. What for me was a heart wrenching moment, for Howard and Olive was a glorious moment - with broad smiles on their faces they climbed the ramp to the plane. How could they do that? Because they knew they were being sent. They were missionaries.

One more reflection by Brooksyne: When I heard Olive Hawkes speak she was in her mid seventies at the time. Her husband had Alzheimers and was living in a nursing home.  Olive had never learned to drive in her early years, but in loving devotion to her husband, she learned to drive in her 70's and never missed a day of driving to the nursing home each day to be by his side.  We just read today online  that she continues to be a missionary now at nearly 90 years of age. It's not overseas but right in her own retirement community.

"The Voice Of The Martyrs" is a ministry that seeks to keep the plight of our persecuted brethren before us.  Here's an article about the situation in Nigeria referred to in our message. See here (pdf)

A form of persecution coming to America?  See here.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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