A Bible based thesis dealing with proper Christian attitude in times of adversity and of trouble.
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In Romans 12:10-12, we are encouraged to “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;”
What a need there is for the Christian to be patient in tribulation, both for the benefit of his own state of mental and spiritual well being, and for the benefit of the Christian ministry. It is obvious that God’s people should be and often fail to be thus, by the very fact that the Bible so regularly urges us to do it. However, knowing the spirit in which we should be and actually being able to maintain that spirit when the storms of life assail, may be two very different things.
It is my opinion that our condition of spirit is always greatly effected by the attitude we have toward trouble, and that in turn is most relevant to the pertinent truths of God’s Word. By this I mean, how well we understand those truths and how much we are really persuaded of them. It shall be my purpose in this brief tract to establish that trouble comes by the providence of God, and to show scripturally why we should not despair. Trouble may befall you in the area of marital complications, finances, health, unfair persecution and a hundred other things. Frequently our reaction is anger, resentment, fear, worry, bitterness and even physical and emotional illness. According to Isaiah 30:20, God is the author or at least the permitter of adversity. “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity” This being the fact, the above mentioned reactions ought not be. What should be our attitude in time of trouble and tribulation?
WE SHOULD HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF FAITH
We should have faith at such a time, because God has given us a word of explanation. In Romans 8:28-29 we are told, “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. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” If you are saved, you are to be conformed to Christ’s image, by the providence of God. A necessary part of that process is suffering, even as Christ was ordained unto suffering. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17). So we should have faith because God, at least vaguely, explains the reason for our tribulation.
We also ought to look at trouble and adversity with an attitude of faith, because of God’s expression of, and extreme proof of His love for us. In Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” This love is further expressed in John 3:16. In Romans 8:32, Paul cites God’s act of giving His Son for us, as the ultimate proof of God’s grand eternal plan for us. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” If then we know of this promise, we should believe that all which our sovereign and loving God allows to befall us is for our good. Therefore, whether we can see good in it or not we should face trouble in faith.
WE SHOULD HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF SUBMISSION
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Few, if any of us have ever been called upon to suffer as did Job. He had lost all his wealth, his children had all been killed, his wife wanted him dead, his health was gone, he lived in constant pain and all his friends had lost confidence in him. In spite of this, he would not doubt, rebel against, or criticize God. Having the written account of Job and others in the Bible who suffered in God’s love, should make us stronger than they were.
Our attitude should not be just one of resignation to circumstances we can’t change, but one of genuine submission to God’s plan. It must consist of more than a “Praise the Lord anyhow” display or a “Smile God loves you” testimony, even though these have their proper place. We need to be actually willing to be used, or afflicted as God may choose. We need to be willing, truly willing to be poor like Lazarus, sick like Job, crippled like Mephibosheth or killed for His sake as was Stephen. I do not claim that I have attained to this degree of submission. I am simply saying, our state will be a blessed one when and if we do. I further state that we should be able to entertain such an attitude when we remember that He is the Almighty, our Creator, Redeemer and God. Romans 9:21 asks such a question as this: “Hath not the potter power (authority) over the clay?” Let our attitude truly be as that expressed by the song writer. “Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay Mould me and make me After Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still.” Seek, yea, strive to be submissive to the Creator and Master’s will.
WE SHOULD HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF PATIENCE
Often our reason for failure is that we, because of proper Bible teaching and through earnest prayer, do approach our trouble with faith and submission, but we fail the test of time. Oh, how time changes things. Even as it can eat away and remove pain and heartache by replacing our sad memories with new blessings, joys and interests; time tends to erode our good attitudes of faith and submission when we are left for very long periods under heavy burdens and tribulations. What we bear gracefully for a time may, after an extended time, bring discouragement, disillusionment, resentment and even bitterness. It is here that patience is so necessary. It also may well be the hardest part of all the admonitions of this message. It is to this that our text, Romans 12:12 speaks. “Patient in tribulation.” Our text does not say faithful or submissive, even though both of these are imperative if we are to dwell in true peace with God, and they are both supposed by the text. The text says patient in tribulation, for this attitude goes beyond just an attitude of faith and of submission and calls for perseverance in those qualities when tribulation persists in knocking at our door, or insists upon being our shadow, day and night.
We are admonished to be patient in forgiveness. In Luke 17:3, the Lord instructs us, that if a brother trespass against us seven times in a day and turns again, saying I repent, we are to forgive him. In Matthew, we are told to extend that to 490 times. We are instructed to be patient in good works (Galatians 6:9) and in labor (Revelation 2:3).
What is the key to compliance with this admonition? It is consistently returning to the same stay that gave to us an attitude of faith and submission in the first place. You see if Romans 8:28-29 is true in good circumstances, it is also true in bad circumstances. If it is true in success, it is true in failure. If it is true in blessing, it is true in chastisement. By the same token if it is true for one minute, it is true for eternity. Therefore, when God’s explanation and promise have stayed us in heartache and trouble for a short time, and when persistence of bad circumstances has wounded our good attitude; we must return to that same scriptural explanation and promise for spiritual therapy.
When Job had passed successfully through the first stage of testing that Satan desired to bring upon him, Satan proposed a more grievous one and God permitted it. Job did not understand, he trusted. We too, may be brought often to the table where the water of affliction and the bread of adversity is the only menu, but remember that God will yet bless (Isaiah 30:18-21). Read that Scripture and re-read it! Remember that God will not let anything befall the true Christian that is not for the purpose of conforming him to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Read that Scripture again and again and again. Then let us, as Paul admonishes us in Hebrews 12:1b-2, “…run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross despising shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Look up burdened Christian and through those tears see God’s Word, and in that Word you can find the necessary explanation and promise which will enable you to go on and live gracefully for God. Trust His promises, bow quietly to His will and in this attitude of faith and submission, continue, for in due time God will bless and glorify. Amen!