Suffering isn’t a word we get excited about hearing. And what does it have to do with a steadfast heart? Good question. This year, as I read chronologically, the word or thread I’m tracing is suffering. Sounds like a fun time, huh? But the truth is, the world offers up a very different definition on how we should look at that word–as a four letter word. A word for the garbage heap. Sadly, this perception has made its way into many churches in America. God is yours to bring you blessing which typically equates to health, wealth and the “good life” or your “best life now.” But is that true? What does God say about suffering? How can we view suffering biblically and why should it matter.
Often when we tell Jesus to take the wheel of our lives it comes through the vehicle of suffering.
Suffering develops in us steadfastness. James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-8 ESV
What is steadfastness? What does steadfast mean?
- It is a characteristic of a person who is not swerved from deliberate purpose and their loyalty to faith & dutiful devotion to God by even the greatest of trials and suffering.
- It is a patient, enduring, sustaining
- It implies a steady, unwavering course in love, allegiance, or conviction.
- Some synonyms: faithful, devoted, ardent, passionate, dependable, unfaltering, unhesitating, trusty, determined, serious, avid, dyed-in-the-wool, solid, reliable, and constant.
This remind you of anyone? Yes! Jesus. His heart is steadfast to us. God showed his steadfast love and demonstrated it “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Christ is called the Suffering Servant, in fact many of your Bible translations have that as a heading in places. We see Christ as the Suffering Servant in the Servant Songs found in Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12.
This year I want to challenge you to a steadfast heart. To suffer a little by denying yourself–denying that extra 15 minutes of sleep or the mindless scrolling of social media accounts at lunch or the evening or fill in the blank–in order to read the Word and grow in knowledge and grace, to be transformed into his image and be more Christ-like i.e. applying the Word to your life.
Paul himself says in Romans 12:1-3, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (bold type mine; ESV)
I’m leading a group of women this year in reading the Bible chronologically. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end including God’s story! Some of us are suffering in body. Some in mind. Some spiritually. Some emotionally and some all of the above. We need a biblical view of suffering for when we go through it and also to help and encourage others who are in the midst of fiery trials. Reading daily will be a living sacrifice. But it will also develop a steadfast heart.
Forward Reflection: Is my heart steadfast? How does my life reveal that truth? Am I daily disciplined in the Word, worship, and prayer? Am I growing in knowledge and grace? Can I tell the story of God if asked? Am I ready at any moment to lead someone to Jesus?
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Until Next Forward Friday,