The Fellowship of Pain

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Luke 5:12, NLT

The Bible text reveals that this man is desperate.  His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’ He’s an outcast now, completely infected by something he never asked for; he is ‘unclean’ and completely without hope. There is no treatment, the doctors can do nothing.

The leper knows that without the touch of Jesus, he’ll never be healed. 

He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced by anyone over the complete hopelessness of his condition. He has heard that he can do incredible miracles. Could it be that Jesus can heal his sickness? The leper comes and falls on his knees before the Lord, with his face in the dirt. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except for Jesus. What else can he do?

Our diseases differ, but our lives have been completely changed by our pain. We all have this in common. 

Our pain and darkness vary. Some hurt more, some less. But we’ve all come to the place where we no longer have illusions of somehow being made whole. Whenever we meet, I think there should be a secret handshake or a password. We all share a comradeship— we’re all part of the same community. 

We’re a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.

We belong to the fellowship of pain.

Lying in the dirt, we start to believe the unbelievable.  Our faith doesn’t activate our healing, as much as it simply guides us to Jesus. We can kneel, and perhaps that’s all we need to do. His presence drives away the fear, the doubt, and the pain. He’s come, and somehow we begin to hope for mercy. Only he can carry us through this.

I have struggled with deep dark depression. I’ve had to take meds.  But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all my melancholy is driven out. He comes and I start to hope again.  Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship?  I think not. But isn’t about us becoming “angels,” perhaps it’s more about us learning how to kneel, and to allow Jesus to touch our hearts.

You must do this. Repeatedly.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.”

“The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”   

–Mike Yaconelli

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Furnace People Understand Suffering

The Furnace

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.   Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.

Isaiah 48:10

“Once we have come through the ‘furnace of humiliation,’ desperately, fearfully clinging to Christ for all He is worth, then we are fully equipped to march into somebody else’s furnace.”

‘Blessed with Bipolar”

Becoming a real and authentic person starts with basic responses that we’ve made in the presence of Jesus. Amazingly, this simple faith becomes the prerequisite, granting us the right to enter into the promises of the Lord. If you have those promises you may enter in. However, without faith in those promises, you won’t find anything real or true.

You will not be able to handle the Kingdom of God unless you’re walking out of a life of brokenness and humility.

Furnace people will often recognize those without any real and tangible connection with God’s work. There are furnace promises, but they, without truly understanding them will walk around in unreality. Often ‘they get religion.’ These are those who land on “the rocky soil.” They become ‘quasi-disciples’ who will do and say things that they really don’t really understand.

But furnace people have the connection to that which is honest and true. They rarely enter into anything false or manipulative.  Their own hearts are transformed by the fire, and only then are qualified to minister God’s grace. Only furnace people can enter in. You will know them by their scars.

The Church has a tremendous need for those who have withstood the furnace of humiliation.

After we endure its ugliness and its great evil, we’ll discover that we’re in an altogether different place than when we first started. The Church is waiting for those who went in and then come out on the other side.

I was thinking today about Joseph, and his ordeal, as found in the Book of Genesis chapters 37-50.  He was a rare kind of person. Perhaps, one in a hundred. You may emulate but never attain his faith. His confidence in the Lord was true.

Furnace people have the ability to function gracefully at this particular stage.

Furnace people are sovereignly brought to a place where they can minister the grace of God into desperate situations. We must convince ourselves, that furnace people have a gift.  They have been through the worst.  They may be battered and bruised.  But they still stand.  We must look to those who are the gracious agents of a loving God.

Our brothers and sisters have carried the Word with wisdom and grace. They come to us, through the fire. But will we receive them?

My hope is that you would personally grasp what God has worked in you. That really is your truest calling.  The things good or bad, that have happened to you are part of how you’ll understand grace. He waits for you to respond.  Will you come to Him, through the grace you find in the flames? The most gracious people you’ll ever meet are those who endured God’s furnace.

 “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”

Malachi 3:3

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He Knows Where I’m Going

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“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him.I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed.

“But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
For I have stayed on God’s paths;
I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”

Job 23:10-11, NLT

 Job is not sure where God is exactly.

He can’t really provide us any insight or understanding. But Job knows one thing very well; the outcome will be wonderfully ‘golden’ (v. 10).

Job explains his confidence, “He knows where I am going.”  That sweet understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God.  “He knows where I am going.” He, the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, looks to me, Bryan, the puny and small–the littlest pimple on the ankle of the smallest flea. Yet, He knows everything about me.

Verse 10 becomes my trumpet blast. 

Testing me is His full intention.  He intends to make me pure and true. And as I think of this, I first should understand that it is ‘He’ that is making me.  It’s the Father’s work; it is certainly not by my silly little efforts.

His intention is to put us in His crucible. It’s there that He heats us until we are melted and gleaming–shiny and pure.  Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension.  We understand now why we have this dynamic we call discipleship.  Under_construction

Verse 11 now speaks to us about this sweaty work of growing up.  There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. And Job’s faith, thrown into the crucible, becomes transformed into a solid walk. Is this plausible for us today? Should we evaluate our walks from His perspective?

Job claims this understanding.  “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”  Some might suggest religious pride.   But also, could it be that he has been transformed by the crucible? Could it be that a man was being changed and altered by a heated furnace?

The intensity of the Holy Spirit, and His sovereign use of our various trials, delight in this process we call sanctification. Make an effort to walk in that direction today.

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“The same Jesus who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”

-Adrian Rogers^

A Painful Victory

Who Suffers From Affliction?

Everyone does.  We all experience trial and affliction no matter who we are or how lost we are.  Everyone hurts.  Often we see the ungodly man or woman in suffering:  Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.” Ps. 107:17

However, it really isn’t as easy to understand the sufferings of the believers.  We can try to explain it but we still end up with questions:  “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,  but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”  Ps. 34:19. 

I guess there is some comfort in knowing that other believers are also being tested and that it is part of God’s plan.

What Are Some Godly Examples of Testing?

  • Job– “see thou mine affliction;” Job 10:15
  • Moses– “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”  Hebrews 11:25
  • David– “I am afflicted very much;  revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.”  Ps. 119:107
  • The Prophets– “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”   James 5:10
  • Jesus Christ– He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth”  Isa. 53:10
  • Paul– “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart” I wrote to you, with many tears. “ 2 Cor. 2:4

But it is not enough to know the ‘realness’ of your affliction.  We insist on knowing why.  Why am I suffering in this way?  Moses, probably the stellar personality in the Old Testament asked, “So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?”  Ex. 11:11

Afflictions Are For Our Good

Psalm 119:75 says, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

Why would David thank God in afflicting him? I think that David was able to see through the affliction.  He then could realize that the intentions and purposes of God were good and edifying to him.  He saw the divine purpose in God’s hands.  He chose to trust that.

This pain is working out for our good

The Bible is quite clear on this subject.  “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”  2 Cor. 4:17.  Exceeding and eternal!  Words that need to impress us with their weight.  Our afflictions are not our focus, it’s what they produce must be our focus.

We are explicitly told this, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”,  Romans 8:28.

Kyrie Elesion, (Lord, have mercy)

Bryan

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