Moving Through

A couple of my friends are going through challenging health situations. Both suffer from chronic pain and are not finding relief. They have prayed many times that their suffering would be eased or stop, but it seems God keeps answering, “No.” Now they are battling discouragement on top of the pain and other physical difficulties they face daily. In talking with one of them this week, we dug a bit deeper into this verse:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10, ESV)

On first reading, it seems this verse promises that God will rescue us from ongoing suffering. But could the verse be saying something different? Could it be telling us what to expect as we continue to suffer? Let’s look at what God promises to do: restore, confirm, strengthen and establish.

After you have suffered a little while, God will restore you. We want this to mean He will restore us to our pre-suffering state. We want anything we have lost to be returned to us. We want it to be as if our suffering had never happened. But let’s consider another interpretation. Pretend the suffering is a hurricane-strength wind. When it first hit, you may have stumbled, staggered, been knocked around, or even fallen. You were caught off-guard and became overwhelmed by the force pushing against you. But after a while, you adjust to the pressure. Rather than being pushed further away, you are able to maintain your position. Perhaps that is the restoration God describes here. Situations that bring suffering may catch us by surprise and cause our faith to stumble. At first, we may forget about God, question Him, or doubt Him. But after a little while, we remember Him, we stop asking “why”, and we believe He is present and aware. We are restored to a place where we can connect with Him, where our faith is engaged and active. This is where we experience far more life.

Early in Jesus’ ministry His disciples were caught off-guard when many followers left Jesus after hearing a hard teaching. I believe an example of restoration is recorded in Simon Peter’s response when Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave, too:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will confirm you. The Greek word translated “confirm” means to make firm, to render constant. After you are restored — able to maintain your position — you realize how much force you must exert against the wind — or the struggle you face — to maintain your balance and footing. In a spiritual sense, standing firm comes from remembering God’s truth about yourself, Him and your relationship. Truth gives us power to go through our struggles hand-in-hand with Jesus. Far more life is not the absence of struggle, but standing firm with Jesus in our struggles.

The rest of Simon Peter’s response to Jesus in the encounter described above shows he is confirmed, grounded in truth:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:69, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will strengthen you. This is the only place the Greek word translated “strengthen” appears in the New Testament. It means that something is made strong but mobile, able to move to achieve something in the most effective way. Hanging onto something strong allows us to stay upright against the gale-force winds of suffering. But Jesus offers us more than an immobile pillar; He offers a strength that allows us to move through our suffering effectively to achieve His purpose. Far more life is not stagnant, it is continuing with Christ through our struggles.

This plea and encouragement Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth describes the result of being strengthened during adversity:

…Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will establish you. The word establish means to make the soul stable, to lay a solid foundation. Suffering serves an important role in our spiritual growth and prepares us for future service and growth. This is one aspect of good that God works through our suffering; our faith becomes more solid and stable, resting more firmly on Christ. We believe God’s promises more fully because we have experienced them in action. Far more life is unshakeable because it is stable and solid.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV)

Our foundation of faith allows us to move with Christ through our suffering. And that experience prepares us for the next challenge we will face. Throughout our lives, we have the opportunity to keep establishing our connection to Christ with every hardship. If we turn to God in our suffering, he will continue to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will keep finding far more life in our suffering.

Sisters,
Are you currently suffering? If so, how has not being rescued impacted your faith?
How has God restored you during this or previous suffering?
How have you experienced God confirming you?
How has He strengthened you to continue doing His will?
How have you been established through suffering?
Thank God for giving you far more life in the midst of suffering. (And thank Him that one day all suffering will end for His children — what a glorious day that will be!)
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Great Adventure

The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Jesus came to earth to bring humans far more life than they had without Him. So we could experience all that He intended for us and become who He designed us to be.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51, NIV)

…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28, NIV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10, NIV)

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4, NIV)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NIV)

Jesus is the light that leads us to eternal life. He offers us salvation from the punishment we deserve for our sin. He paid the ransom that set us free. Jesus was not focused on His own comfort during His time on earth. He did not pursue wealth, power, or influence. He was not trudging through His weeks, living for the weekend when He could immerse Himself in what He wanted to do. His life was centered on His God-given mission: to restore our relationship with God.

But His life was not drudgery. It was overflowing with love, joy, peace, and more because those are the character traits of God. Jesus experienced far more life! Pursuing His God-given mission did not detract from Jesus’ life, it helped Him model far more life for us.

We find far more life as we pursue our God-given mission, too. And rather than pulling us away from the good things in life, focusing on our mission will enhance our lives. So what mission has He given His children?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29, NIV)

…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)

…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, NIV)

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12, NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

…Do good … be rich in good deeds … be generous and willing to share. (I Timothy 6:18, NIV)

Our mission is to draw attention to God. We sometimes call this bringing Him glory. But it just means giving Him the honor He deserves and making His magnificence and beauty known to others. He wants us to become like Him so that others can see His character in action. He wants us to tell others about Jesus and the way to a relationship with God. He wants us to teach them how to become like Him, too. He wants us to do good things to show His goodness. He wants us to model Him in every area of life, not just on certain days or at certain locations. In doing this, we experience far more life!

The best this world can offer pales in comparison to God’s glory. The most beautiful scenery is more beautiful when we acknowledge God as its Designer and Creator. The most rewarding experiences are more rewarding when they are investing in relationships that will last for eternity. Wealth is more satisfying when it is seen as a gift from God and used to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. Love and laughter are deeper and richer in relationships that are unconditional, pure, and unified. Songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman described far more life as “The Great Adventure.”

God knows we are incapable of living for Him perfectly. But Jesus has already paid for those moments. We can recognize them, apologize, and get back on mission. In fact, sometimes failures give us a chance to draw attention to other aspects of His character. I see Jesus clearly in others when I sin against them and they show me grace. I model God when others sin against me and I quickly and compassionately forgive them. These, too, are far more life moments! Our sins and failures do not define us. Part of our adventure is turning from our sin to glorifying God to the best of our ability. May we, like Jesus, be able to pray this at the end of our lives:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

If you have been on mission, keep up the good work of far more life! If you have not, start today…the adventure of far more life is waiting!

Sisters,
How does it feel to know that Jesus’ mission was to bring your far more life?
Do you think Jesus’ life was drudgery or an adventure? What about your life?
How can you draw attention to God — bring Him glory — with the personality, blessings, and opportunities available to you today?
Embrace the great adventure of far more life with Jesus!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso