This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Pastor Samuel Lamb (imprisoned for over 20 years, and persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ, by Chinese Communist Authorities), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks in their poison, God's terrors are marshaled against me. (Job 6:4)
When we suffer we should never grumble against God. Many people cannot endure suffering. They grumble all the time. Job had experienced a lot of suffering.
In the beginning he was spiritually strong. He even rebuked his own wife '...shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?' (Job 2:10)
Unfortunately, after a while he cursed his own birthday. Yes, he even grumbled against God. Some people, when they suffer, do not dare to complain to God. They let it out on the people around them.
This incident in Job's life meant a lot to me when I was in prison for my faith for 21 years. I can understand Job's victories and Job's defeats. It taught me that grumbling does not help. Not against God, not against those who persecuted me. My dear wife died while I was in prison. I was not allowed to attend her funeral. It was like an arrow of the Almighty, until I understood: God allows the pain, the loss, the torture, but we must grow through it.
'Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse' (Romans 12:14). 'Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me' (Matthew 11:6). May God teach us to rejoice when things go wrong--knowing that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
A moment of introspection: To grumble, or not to grumble? That is the present question. Samuel Lamb asserts that when we suffer we should never grumble against God. Philippians 2:14 instructs us, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." Pastor Lamb notes that many people cannot endure suffering. They grumble all the time. He even describes some people who, when they suffer, do not dare to complain to God. They let it out on the people around them. Someone once said that, if the mouth is given to grumbling, then the heart is lacking in submissiveness to God. Peace in the world depends on peace with God, and the best way to show humility before God is to submit to Him. (Philippians 4:7) In the place of grumbling, or complaining about suffering, may we rather exhibit patience borne of prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). In this passage, the apostle Paul bade us to pray in all situations--letting God know our needs, and thanking Him for His provision. In suffering, which would be most helpful--grumbling or patiently praying? One way to learn patience is to understand that others have shared this same suffering. Consider the words of the apostle James: "Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." (James 5:9-11)
William Barclay, in his commentary on James 5:10-11, states, "It is always a comfort to feel that others have gone through that which we have to go through. James reminds his readers that the prophets and the men of God could never have done their work and borne their witness had they not patiently endured. He reminds us that Jesus Himself had said that the man who endured to the end was blessed, for he would be saved (Matthew 24:13). Barclay continues, "We generally speak of the patience of Job...but patience is far too passive a word. There is a sense in which Job was anything but patient...he was passionately agonizing over the terrible thought that God might have forgotten and forsaken him... But the great fact about Job is that in spite of all his torrent of questionings, and in spite of the agonizing questionings which tore at his heart, he never lost faith in God.
Frustrated? At wits end? Suffering? Be patient; take a step back and consider that others before us have experienced what is happening, and survived.
God's Word provides good examples of those who were likewise frustrated and frazzled, yet praying and patient, they prevailed:
-Moses (Numbers 12:1; 16:2-4; etc.)
-David (1 Samuel 18:1-26:25; 2 Samuel 15)
-Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-19:18)
-Jeremiah (11:21; 37:15)
-Job (James 5:11; Job 1-2)
-Many others (Hebrews 11:32-40)
Charles Spurgeon, the noted preacher and evangelist, added, "O mourner! say not that thou art a target for all the arrows of the Almighty; take not to thyself the preeminence of woe: for thy fellows have trodden the valley too, and upon them are the scars of the thorns and briers of the dreary pathway." Patience, my friend; pray--don't take your unease out on others, or on God. Samuel Lamb tells us that God allows the pain, the loss, the torture, but we must grow [in faith] through it.
Robert Hall, the great Baptist preacher, used to be subject to occasions of great physical pain, in the course of which he would roll on the ground in sheer agony. When the pain was over, the first words he used to say were, "I hope I didn't complain." How much more effective our witness for Christ would be if we didn't complain so much about our trials of faith.
Or perhaps, if we didn't grumble so much about our trials (James 1:2-5).
Jean Pierre de Caussade, suggested that "We must offer ourselves to God like... a piece of stone. Each blow from the sculptor's chisel makes it feel—if it could—as if it were being destroyed. As blow upon blow descends, the stone knows nothing of how the sculptor is shaping it. All it feels is a chisel chopping away at it, cutting it, and mutilating it... [I]t might [say]: '... I have no idea what he is doing, nor do I know what he will make of me. But I know his work is the best possible. It is perfect and so I welcome each blow of his chisel as the best thing that could happen to me, although, if I'm to be truthful, I feel that every one of these blows is ruining me, destroying me, and disfiguring me.'" (quoted in "The Inner Treasure". From Christianity Today, "Reflections" (10/4/99)).
Samuel Lamb taught about growing in faith through suffering; Jean Pierre describes the patient growth in other words.
May we listen to Samuel Lamb again: 'Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse' (Romans 12:14). 'Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me' (Matthew 11:6). May God teach us to rejoice when things go wrong--knowing that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).