Adversity and Affliction – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAdversity and Affliction – Introduction

One thing in life is certain – we will all face adversity and affliction. It’s not the events in and of themselves that define us, it’s how we choose to respond. Do we let the trials and tribulations of life move us away from God? Or, do we allow adversity and affliction to move us closer to God; taking comfort in His love, and in His guidance – knowing that we will come out of whatever situation we find ourselves in stronger – perhaps more loving, a little kinder, or a little more forgiving?

Spiritual Quote

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thoughts

Adversity:

  • Hebrew – grief, pain, sorrow, calamity
  • Greek – suffer torment

Affliction:

  • Hebrew, several words – grief, sorry, pain, bruise, destruction, hurt
  • Greek – hardship, suffering pain

On the face of it, Adversity and Affliction seem to be interchangeable. However, they do have slightly different meanings. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Adversity as, “a difficult situation or condition, misfortune or tragedy; a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. Affliction is defined as, “something, such as disease, that causes pain or suffering; the state of being affected by something that causes suffering.”

Think of Job and all he went through. He lost all his property and wealth, and all of his children…Adversity. He also suffered boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head – Affliction.

We all face affliction and adversity at some time or another. Sometimes, it seems like they just keep piling up, one on top of the other. Job loss or reduced hours, financial difficulties, car repairs, damaged or broken relationships, medical issues, the death of a loved one – the list is endless. Living a mortal, human life, we can’t escape affliction and adversity. In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us of this fact when He said, “…In this world you will have trouble…” And Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…”

The question isn’t whether bad things will happen. The question is, will we allow the bad things to move us away from God, or closer to Him? How will we choose to respond?

Illustration:

I have a dear friend who is living with terminal cancer. I say living with instead of dealing with on purpose. He could sit and wallow in self pity. He could complain about how unfair it all is. Like Job, he’s led a good life; he’s an honest man who has dedicated his life to his family and to helping others. He could easily sit and ask, “why is God doing this (or allowing this)?” Instead, he thanks God for the wonderful life he has experienced. Though he’s had this horrible diagnosis and prognosis, he has chosen to live. He wakes every morning thankful that he has another day to spend with his wife, children, and grandchildren. As his health allows, he still attends meetings and events with a local service organization devoted to helping children in our community. His faith has made it possible to face what we all must eventually face – our own mortality. Rather than allowing his affliction to move him away from God, it has moved him closer – and he’s living his life fully.

Illustration:

Conversely, my former mother-in-law, my first husband’s mother, remains mired in grief. She professes to be a devout Christian; and I have no doubt that she is a believer. But her faith brings her no comfort. She cries and mourns the losses of her husband and her son every day. Rather than going through the grief process, being thankful for the time they shared, and moving on and living life, she merely exists. She finds no joy in living. It’s been over 20 years since her husband passed away, and 19 years since her son, my husband, passed, she lives her life mired in the pain and grief of loss.

There’s a passage in Romans that, when taken in the right context, can bring us comfort in times of adversity and affliction. Unfortunately, it can also be overused and can become simply a cliche. Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good…” This doesn’t for one moment mean that tragedies are good. It simply means that with God, if we stay close to Him through whatever situation we might be facing or experiencing, something good can come as a result. If we face and overcome addiction – perhaps we’re more compassionate to, or we find ways to help, those still struggling. If we’ve experienced homelessness, perhaps we find ways to help the homeless. Maybe we’ve experienced the loss of someone dear whose life was touched by hospice, and that experience instills a desire in us to volunteer with hospice. Or, like my friend living with cancer, significant health issues create the desire to live our lives as fully and as completely as we possibly can, despite the challenges.

Illustration*:

Many years ago a little girl was totally blind. She was blinded as an infant as the result of an accident. She lived to be over 90 years old. She became well-known in the American church. She wrote many popular Christian songs and choruses. Her name was Fanny Crosby. When she was only eight years old, she wrote:

Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see.
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind–I cannot and I won’t.

Illustration*:

When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and he had to work to help support them. At age nine, his mother died. At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education wasn’t good enough. At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At 26, his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. At 37, on his third try he was elected to Congress, but two years later, he failed to be reelected. At 41, his four-year-old son died. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At 47, he failed as the vice-presidential candidate. At 49, he ran for the Senate again, and lost. At 51, he was elected president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a man many consider the greatest leader the country ever had. Some people get all the breaks.

What’s the point? We will all experience adversity and affliction. Life isn’t necessarily fair. Yet, we always have a choice. We can wallow in self pity, looking back at what we’ve lost; or we can look forward, with faith, and anticipate God blessing us in new and wonderful ways.

A wonderful example of this type of faith is found in Genesis 26:12-28. In this set of passages, we read about Issac – a man of God who was promised the blessings of God. Verse 1 tells us there was a famine in the land, the land of Gerar, which is located outside of the Promised Land. Yet, despite the famine, in verses 12-14 we read that God blessed Isaac with a bountiful harvest, possessions, flocks, herds, and a great number of servants. Of course, the Philistines were extremely envious.  In their jealousy, they stopped up all the wells and filled them with dirt; and the king, Abimelech, told Isaac to go away because he was mightier than they (vs 15-16).

Now, Isaac could have gone off in any direction. He could have wallowed in the misery of having his wells destroyed and having to move. He could have allowed the situation to move him away from God. Who could blame him? They didn’t have air conditioned moving vans. They didn’t have well-drilling equipment and machinery. Isaac certainly wouldn’t look forward to having to move and having to dig new wells with nothing but primitive shovels. But, go he must – the king had commanded it.

And where does Isaac go? Verses 17-23 tell us he went a ways, settled and dug a well. But the herdsman claimed the well. Isaac went further, dug another well, and again, a quarrel ensued, and he was forced to move on once again. Finally, he settled and dug a well, and no quarrel arose. He goes from there to Beersheba which, coincidentally, is located in the Promised Land. It is here that God appears to him and promises to bless him in fulfillment of His promise to Isaac’s father, Abraham (vs. 24). Metaphorically, the Promised Land represents the place where God’s chosen would live in a close relationship with Him. So, figuratively speaking, through the adversity, Isaac into a closer relationship with God. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy, but Isaac maintained his faith, knowing that God had blessed him once, and would do so again. And his faith, and his blessings, were clearly seen by others. Verses 25-28 tell of Isaac pitching his tent (settling down) and digging another well in Beersheba. Abimelech, along with one of his friends, Ahuzzath, and the commander of his army, Phichol, came to Isaac asking for a truce because they had certainly seen that the Lord was with him.

The same hold true for us. If we hold on to our faith and persevere through adversity and affliction, we will be a living example to others of God working in and through our lives. In that process, not only will we move closer in relationship with God, we might just inspire others to deepen their own relationship with Him as well.

Closing Thoughts

In this human, mortal life we will certainly be confronted with adversity and affliction. The choice will always be ours as to how we respond. Will we respond like my former mother-in-law – wallowing in the mire of grief over what’s been lost? Or, like Isaac and my dear friend living with cancer, will we allow our faith to move us into a closer relationship with God? Will we choose to live our lives to their fullest, seeking opportunities to learn and to grow, and to experience all of the wonderful blessings God has in store for us? Will we allow the adversity and affliction to weaken us, turning us into sad, depressed, hopeless, broken people – existing but not really living? Or, like Nietzsche says, will we allow the adversity and affliction to strengthen us?

One of the comforts we find through the Christian faith, and having a deep relationship with Jesus, is the fact that we don’t have to face our adversity and affliction alone. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus assures us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” When adversity and affliction occur, instead of cursing God, as Job’s wife advised, we should turn to Him in prayer. Not simply asking for whatever the situation is to magically disappear. Rather, asking Jesus and the Holy Spirit to show us the way – to guide us in our thoughts, words, and actions. Let Jesus and the Holy Spirit open our eyes to the possibilites and the opportunities that lay before us, and give us the strength to persevere.

Acknowledgements

Pastor Larry Sarver Sermon

Scripture

  • John 16:33
  • Ecclesiastes 3
  • Romans 8:28
  • Genesis 26:12-28
  • Matthew 28:20
  • Philippians 4:13

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Adversity and Affliction – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAdversity and Affliction – Introduction

One thing in life is certain – we will all face adversity and affliction. It’s not the events in and of themselves that define us, it’s how we choose to respond. Do we let the trials and tribulations of life move us away from God? Or, do we allow adversity and affliction to move us closer to God; taking comfort in His love, and in His guidance – knowing that we will come out of whatever situation we find ourselves in stronger – perhaps more loving, a little kinder, or a little more forgiving?

Spiritual Quote

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Planned Scripture

  • John 16:33
  • Ecclesiastes 3
  • Romans 8:28
  • Genesis 26:12-28
  • Matthew 28:20
  • Philippians 4:13

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Attractive Christians – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAttractive Christians – Introduction

Due to Rev. Alan’s absence to celebrate the birth of his granddaughter, Michael (Mikey) Harris will serve as guest speaker. His topic this week: Are we Attractive Christians?

Spiritual Quote

“Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective, and valuable than words.”
~Francois Rabelais

Discussion

In Rev. Alan’s absence, Mikey led a discussion around the following questions:

  1. How would you define Christianity and/or the Person of Christ?
  2. What do you find least attractive about Christianity and/or the Person of Christ?
  3. What do you find most attractive about Christianity and/or the Person of Christ?
  4. How can we apply what we’ve discussed in our lives – how can we become Attractive Christians?

Scripture References

  • Matthew 5:9
  • John 13:34-35

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Attractive Christians – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAttractive Christians – Introduction

Due to Rev. Alan’s absence to celebrate the birth of his granddaughter, Michael (Mikey) Harris will serve as guest speaker. His topic this week: Are we Attractive Christians?

Spiritual Quote

“Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective, and valuable than words.”
~Francois Rabelais

Planned Scripture References

  • Matthew 5:9
  • John 13:34-35

Join Us

Join us every Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Abide in Christ – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace
Abide in Christ – Introduction

Christians often talk about abiding in Christ. And Scripture uses the term “abide” numerous times. What does it really mean to “abide in Christ?”

Spiritual Quote

“As fragrance abides in the flower
As reflection is within the mirror,
So does your Lord abide within you,
Why search for him without?”
~Guru Nanak

Thoughts

Many times we seem to be in a perpetual search for Jesus. We look all around us to see evidence of Him working in our lives. In reality, though – He’s not “out there” – He’s right here, within each of us, if we allow Him to be. It reminds me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she says, “…if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” The truth is, we don’t have to look for Him, we simply have to look within ourselves.

Two weeks ago we spoke about getting back to basics. Last week, we spoke about deciding whether we are “Fans” or “Followers” of Christ. One of the basics of our faith, and one of the ways we become “Followers” of Christ, is to abide in Him. In John 15:4-5, Jesus tells us, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” 1 John 2:28 tells us “And now, little children, abide in Him…” Today, I’d like to examine what it means to Abide in Christ.

First, we need to understand the meaning of abide. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, abide means:

  • Endure without yielding
  • To bear patiently
  • To accept without objection
  • To remain stable or fixed in a state
  • To continue in a place
  • And, when we the word “by,” as in “abide by,” it means to conform or adhere to (abide by the rules)

The Greek word used in Scripture is Meno. According to Strong’s Concordance (#3306), Meno means to stay in a given place, state, relation or expectancy. Words that are interchangeable are: to continue, to dwell, to endure, and to be present.

From these definitions, we see that to abide in Christ means that we endure, we bear things patiently, we accept Him without objection, we remain stable and continue in our faith and our relationship with Him, and we adhere to His teachings.

One With God

We know that Jesus is one with God. John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus’ desire was that our relationship with Him would be of such oneness that we would share His oneness with God.

In His prayer as related to us in John 17:21, He prayed, “…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Jesus knew He was one with God. And one of His strongest desires was that we would be one with Him and, through Him, we would be one with God.

And how do we know that we’re one with Him? First, because from the moment we accepted Christ as our Savior and became Christian, His Spirit was poured out on us. Scripture assures us of this in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” And 1 John 4:13 tells us, “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”

Second, we know that we’re one with Him when every aspect of our lives is driven by His teaching. 2 John 9 tells us, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” And what was Christ’s greatest teaching? Love one another as He loves us. (John 13:34)

When we recognize the Gospel as truth, and we strive to live the teaching of the Gospel, we abide with God, and God abides with us. 1 John 2:24 assures us that keeping His teachings is key to abiding in Christ: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

Abide in Love

Remember the Greek meaning of abide? Stay in a given state. Stay in a given relation. Continue. Remain.

To abide in love means, literally, to live our lives in a state of love – love toward God, love toward Jesus, and love toward one another. It means to continue in love, remain in love, endure in love, be patient in love. This is what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 13 – love is patient…love protects, trusts, hopes, and endures. Regardless of where we are, what we’re doing, what’s going on around us – no matter the circumstance – love must be the driving force of all we think, say, and do.

Scripture reminds us of this over and over again. 1 John alone stresses the point three times:

  • 4:7-8 – “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”
  • 4:12 – “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
  • 4:16 – “…God is love, and whoever remains (abides) in love remains (abides) in God and God (abides) in him.”

Closing Thoughts

Back to our original question – What does it mean to Abide in Christ? It means we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, and from that moment His Spirit is poured out on us. It means that through His Spirit being poured out on us, we are one with Him; and through Him, one with God. To Abide in Christ means we study and follow (abide by) the Gospel teachings. By so doing, it means that, since God is love, we are to be examples of that love in every aspect of our lives – every thought, every interaction, every conversation, every relationship. When we are that truly One with God, when we truly Abide in Christ, He is so much a part of our very being that we don’t need to look for Him elsewhere. Like Dorothy, we simply need to look within our own hearts to find Him.

Scripture

  • John 15:5
  • 1 John 2:28
  • John 10:30
  • John 17:21
  • 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
  • 1 John 4:13
  • John 13:34
  • 2 John 9
  • 1 John 2:24
  • 1 John 4:7-8
  • 1 John 4:12
  • 1 John 4:16

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Abide in Christ – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAbide in Christ – Introduction

Christians often talk about abiding in Christ. And Scripture uses the term “abide” numerous times. What does it really mean to “Abide in Christ?”

Spiritual Quote

“As fragrance abides in the flower
As reflection is within the mirror,
So does your Lord abide within you,
Why search for him without?”
~Guru Nanak

Planned Scripture

  • John 15:5
  • 1 John 2:28
  • John 10:30
  • John 17:21
  • 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
  • 1 John 4:13
  • John 13:34
  • 2 John 9
  • 1 John 2:24
  • 1 John 4:7-8
  • 1 John 4:12
  • 1 John 4:16

Join Us

Join us every Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Fans or Followers – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFans or Followers – Introduction

Those familiar with Facebook are familiar with terms such as “Fans” and “Followers.” In the Facebook world, “Fan” has been replaced by “Likes” – someone who “Likes” your page, your business, what it is you do or offer. But, as a Fan you may not see all of the posts. You’re not that invested. On the other hand, a “Follower” is someone who, after “Liking” your page, is interested enough in your page, your business, what it is you offer, to receive your content. After “Liking” a page, you can turn off the “Follow” aspect, thus minimizing the impact to your News Feed or Pages News Feed. In essence, you can then like a business and then choose not to pay attention to what they have to say.

For many Christians, we treat our relationship with Jesus the same way. We’ve clicked the “Like” button in our hearts, and then we’ve turned around clicked the “Unfollow” button. The question before us is, “are we fans or followers?”

Spiritual Quote

“Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee.”
~Kyle Idleman

Thoughts

Our discussion today involved sharing some thoughts from Pastor Shannon Blosser. You can read his thoughts for yourself in his sermon.

We also spoke about Kyle Idleman’s question posed in Pastor Blosser’s sermon:

“If following Jesus cost you everything, would it be worth it?” If following Jesus and accepting the invitation to “come and see” cost us our plans, our desires, our hopes, and our dreams, would the Lord’s grace and salvation be worth it?”

That’s the question I’d like for us to ponder, pray over, and answer. Scripture, especially The Book of Acts (9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, and 24:12), uses the term “Followers of The Way” to describe the first Christians. These weren’t people who simply liked what Jesus had to say. They were people who were deeply devoted to His teachings, understood Him to be the Son of God, the Messiah for whom they had been waiting, and who were willing to give up everything, including their lives, in pursuit of a relationship with Him.

Scripture also tells us: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Closing Thoughts

Are we truly changed? Have we allowed our faith in Jesus to transform us? Are we, as those first Christians, Followers of The Way, true Jesus Followers? Or, are we simply Fans – liking much of what He has to say, but not really willing to truly let His teaching change us?

Following the message, we had a very fruitful discussion of what it means to each of us to be Followers rather than mere Fans. I invite readers of this message to think about it,  read Pastor Blosser’s message, and discover what your heart tells you about your relationship with Christ.

Scripture

  • Acts: 9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, and 24:12
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!