Make the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:29 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Could providing an opportunity to suffer be some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable?

Wait…what?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. He looked past the temporary to the eternal. Paul saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB).

We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to intimacy with Christ.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering can force us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and move us forward into the new.

The end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing in his glory as well! Romans 8:17 (NASB) tells us “if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided four years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we must choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship.

We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will not only give relief but peace throughout the process.

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Make the Plunge – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering or hard times changed you for the good?

The Bull Rider

by Sheri Schofield

It’s rodeo season here in Montana. Crowds flock to the fairgrounds to watch friends and family compete for prizes. The youngest rodeo riders, usually ages 4 to 7, start the contest by riding bucking sheep. They are the “wool riders”. Welcome to Mutton Busting! They hold onto the thick wool for dear life, cheered on by their families. Sometimes they cry when they are bucked off. They run to their mothers, who fold them in their arms and comfort them for a few minutes. Then the child wipes away his tears and rushes over to watch the next wool rider perform.

The rodeo events will gradually increase in danger from calf roping, to steer roping, horse shows, barrel racing, and bronco riding. Finally, the experienced riders head for the bulls. The huge animals snort and stamp their feet, just waiting for that man to drop on top of them. The gate opens. The bulls rush out, thrashing wildly.

This is the bull rider’s greatest test. Atop a horned bull that weighs between 1,500 and 1,900 pounds, the rider must spur this mountain of powerful muscles to make it an even wilder ride! It seems like an eternity as he holds on with only one hand! But in truth, the ride lasts only eight seconds. At the sound of the buzzer, the rider tries to jump off the bull and a clown rushes in to distract the angry beast while the bull rider picks himself up and heads for safety.

Sometimes, life can feel like a rodeo bull ride. We hold on for all we’re worth for what seems like an eternity before we are able to rest! We pass through stress, grief and loss. But it is not forever. It is only for a relatively short time, in view of eternity.

When we first begin to experience difficulties in life, we may be like the children—the wool riders—on sheep. It looks fairly safe from the standpoint of the bleachers. But to the child, it seems impossible! Then the tests increase in difficulty. We grow stronger. Soon, if we learn to stay in the saddle, we may find ourselves on top of the equivalent of a bull in life. Stay strong! Stay in the saddle! The ride is short! The rest is sure for those who trust God. The reward is tremendous!

We do not ride through these difficulties for our own spiritual maturing alone. Paul writes, “He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).

As we grow spiritually from these difficult experiences, we are able to reach out to others and help them through their own anxiety or grief. Sometimes, we simply stand with them, arm across their shoulders, and let them know we care, that we are there for them. Sometimes we share our own sorrows or stress, and tell how God helped us through them. We help others hang onto life and Christ. We give them the gifts of listening and understanding, prayer and comfort – gifts that God has given us in our times of testing.

Are you riding a bull today? Or are you resting from the testing? If you are in the saddle, hold onto Jesus! He will get you through this.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle, you will still be standing firm.  Ephesians 6:10-13, NLT

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The Bull Rider – insight on spiritual maturity from SheriSchofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: Have you been riding a bull lately?