to serve is to suffer

“..people like John Calvin and Martin Luther had a dizzying variety of responsibilities, so that they could only use their gifts in the fog of fatigue. Yet the fruits of their labor as leaders and writers still bless the church.”

-Ajith Fernando writing for CT in his article, To Serve is to Suffer

This is true even for lowly stay-home moms.  With schooling at home fast approaching, sleepless nights due to an almost three year old (the newborn sleeps just fine:), and life pressing in with aching bodies and crazy schedules, my “gifts” are often, if not always, used in the fog of fatigue.

I pray there will be enough of Christ’s grace over my daily work that some of it will survive the testing fires and be useful for the church: my family, my small group, my friends, etc.

He goes one to say:

“The New Testament is clear that those who work for Christ will suffer because of their work. Tiredness, stress, and strain may be the cross God calls us to. Paul often spoke about the physical hardships his ministry brought him, including emotional strain (Gal. 4:19; 2 Cor. 11:28), anger (2 Cor. 11:29), sleepless nights and hunger (2 Cor. 6:5), affliction and perplexity (2 Cor. 4:8), and toiling—working to the point of weariness (Col. 1:29). In statements radically countercultural in today’s “body conscious” society, he said, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16)”

Paul’s sacrifice puts my miniscule one into perspective.  I need to get up, be thankful for sleepless nights with children (it means I’m enjoying the gift of having children), put my arms to cheerful action, teach, clean, instruct, love, work, serve.  Expect difficulty and persevere.

Preaching to myself this morning, folks.

one purpose of suffering and calamity

I’ve been reading in Amos lately.

In chapter 4 verses 6-13 the writer recounts all the difficulties the Lord has sent to Israel in order to persuade them to return to the Lord.  But they don’t return.

Here’s a list of the calamities He sent them (minor in comparison with what was to come):

  • cleanness of teeth and lack of bread 
  • withheld the rain, no water
  • struck with blight and mildew and locusts
  • sent pestilence
  • killed young men with the sword
  • carried away horses
  • made the stench of the camp go up to their nostrils
  • overthrew some of them

And after each calamity it is reported, “‘yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord.”  

The ESV study bible notes these calamities as “patient appeals” by God that come before the largest calamity of all:

“Therefore I will do thus to you, O Israel;

because I will do this to you,

prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

So what do the Israelites have to fear?  What is the huge calamity that the Lord was working to spare them from?  It is meeting God (which would come by way of the Assyrians obliterating them).  Meeting God is the greatest calamity in the world, for those who are in rebellion against Him.  And Israel was in rebellion.

I pray that this truth will give me some urgency in sharing the Gospel.

Not all calamities and sufferings are given for the specific cause of jerking us out of rebellion.  But I dare say that all calamities and suffering should have the effect of causing us to draw nearer to God.

So, I’m praying now, as things are good and blessings flow like water and honey in my life, that I’ll think now about how to respond when calamity comes.  That I’ll get a footing for the hard times that I may one day face.  

And that my footing will be in the Word and in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man, without whom, meeting my Maker would be more fearsome than any earthly calamity.