Grace To Endure

November 21, 2015

                                         Grace To Endure

For reasons known only to God, some are called to carry a heavy cross.  Crosses come in many different ways.  For some it is a weak and diseased body.  The cross of others is an unhappy marriage.  For some it might be poverty.  Every Christian is given some form of a cross to bear.

With God’s help, I want to write an article to encourage and strengthen those who are finding their cross hard to bear.  I frequently meet those who are carrying a cross much heavier than mine.

In John chapter five we read of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  Here is what it says. “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.   In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.    For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.    And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.    When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?    The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.    Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.    And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.”

One would think that after such a long time he would be accustomed to living under these circumstances.  At least, he never lost hope of being healed.  Every day he went, or perhaps was carried, to the pool of Bethesda.  Even there it seemed that he had little hope of being healed because someone else always got ahead of him when the angel troubled the water.  It is strange that he didn’t say, “It’s not worth the effort.  Even if I was the only one here I still couldn’t get in the water.” What this man teaches us is that we should never lose hope.  Doctors tell us that there is little hope of healing for a patient who doesn’t want to be healed.  That gives me reason to think that if I can give someone reason to go on trusting God for strength to endure, I have made a tremendous contribution to his or her well-being.

If you are an invalid, you should be extremely grateful for those who care for you. Perhaps some of your care givers are family and loved ones. Perhaps a neighbor takes you to the doctor. The doctor takes his time to help you. They do it all in hopes that you will get well. It will be discouraging for them if you lack will power and have little hope of improvement. You need to keep doing all that is in your power to do.

When one is called upon to bear a heavy cross, there is always the temptation to be bitter. Sometimes he may get angry with God and the world around him. There was a time when David allowed himself to focus on the prosperity of the wicked. In Psalm 73:21 he said that the result was “My heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.” The Hebrew word “grieved,” used in this verse, means to be sour. Later he realized he was in the wrong for feeling that way. In the next verse he confessed. “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” In the last verse of that Psalm he said “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”

If you find that you have bitterness toward God you need to confess it to God and ask him to forgive you. The Apostle Paul tells us that he had what he called a thorn in his flesh. In II Corinthians 12:8 he says that three times he asked God to remove it. In II Corinthians 12:9 he tells us what God told him. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul said “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” That is a promise we can claim when we grow weary of bearing our cross.

When things are going great for us, and all of a sudden a heavy cross falls on us, that’s when it is often hard to accept it. In that moment we may be faced with the temptation to be bitter. Our situation has changed from one day to the next. It may be a sudden loss of health. It may be a marriage problem. Once I heard of a man who came home from work and his wife told him, “From now on, you are just history.” He hadn’t known there was any problem. Some ask, “What have I done to deserve this”? God does sometimes send punishment in the form of trials. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” If God sends a trial in the form of chastisement he will make it known to you.

The one who has a good relationship with God is better prepared for a sudden change in his situation. He knows that God wouldn’t allow anything to happen that wasn’t for his good. He clings to the promise of Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even with that, he may need to make some changes in his thinking and in his manner of life in order to adapt to these new demands on his life. If we accept trials in our life with a good spirit they will draw us to a closer relationship with God. They make us realize that we need him and we will call on him more frequently.

What can we say to one who has been given a cross to bear, and it is very likely that he will have to bear it the rest of his life? It may be one of his legs has to be amputated or he will be paralyzed for life. It wouldn’t be wise to advise him or her to trust God for a miracle that isn’t likely to happen. Being incapacitated would demand that he make some major changes in his life. He might even need to find a new reason for living.

If we are called upon to counsel and console such a one, we should first of all be assured that he is saved. He is going to need God’s help and he won’t have it if he isn’t a part of God’s family. If he is saved we should assure him that there are no limits to what God can do for him. We can tell him that he is going to get to find out what God can do for him in spite of his limitations. We can give him assurance from the Bible. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can also encourage him to identify with Job who, in the midst of great loss said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

He should be assured that he can still serve the Lord. It may be that he can’t continue in the ministry he had before. He may now learn that he has a gift he didn’t know he had. He may be confined to a wheel chair, but he can still use his hands. I once knew a lady who spent much of her time in a wheel chair mending clothes for the people in her church. I knew a man who learned to use his computer. Perhaps these people are no longer capable of making a living, but they can do something to show appreciation to those who care for them.

We should look for opportunities to visit and help those in our church who are limited in what they can do. There is a time to give and a time to receive. We should be glad to give of our time and talents while we can. We can expect that the time will come when we will have to be the recipients of the time and talents of others. James 1:27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

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