God Never Changes

God Never Changes

God Never Changes

Suffering in this life is inevitable but it doesn’t change God. He ultimately brings everything perfectly together. And that is why we praise him.

Acts 16:25-30
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

SUFFERING AND PRISON

When Paul and Silas arrived in the prison, the other prisoners would have expected that they would have had no more hope than they did. That they were there by themselves since most people who suffer, suffer alone. 

But Paul and Silas were convinced they were not alone, that God was with them. Even though they knew that their sovereign, omnipotent God could have prevented this situation if He had so willed, they never wanted God to do anything but his will, regardless of what it meant for them physically.  From them we learn that when in that situation, there is only one thing to do and that is to pray, “Lord, use this difficult situation for Your glory to further Your purpose.” 

Daniel 3:17
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Perhaps that is why Paul wrote in Romans 8:35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Suffering did not mean that they were separated from God or his will.

As we read, through this prison experience, the jailer, his family and many others were saved by Paul and Silas’ witness. But they were not singing so that they could be good witnesses in this difficult situation. They were singing because their hearts were full of praise toward God and the joy of His salvation. And the overflow of their worship became a witness to the other prisoners. When people see us worshiping God in our suffering, they ask “What’s with these people, anyway?” Then we can tell them. That is a powerful witness for the Lord.

SUFFERING AND WORSHIP

Christians know that songs help truth travel down to the heart, and the use of music, the language of the heart, helps speed that process. When Paul and Silas prayed and sang in the prison, they were resorting to a time-tested method of responding to suffering.

When my suffering is caused by fear of what other people may do to me, of course my first reaction is to try to control them or to put them in their place, to teach them not to mess with me.  I do all that without considering God’s will in all of this. Over a lot of time and many mistakes, the Holy Spirit is teaching me to stop what I want to do and let God make his will known to me and then do that.  I’m learning that most of the time, for me, doing God‘s will is more about what I don’t do than what I do.  It is responding to people as Jesus would and letting God use the situation for his will to be done.

SUFFERING AND OBEDIENCE

So from that, like Paul and Silas, every act of obedience or faith from me is also an acceptance of an end to self. And that also is a type of suffering all by itself. An end to what I want to do so that God can do what he wants to do. It’s actually painful to do because of my fear that God will not rescue me. But it’s also a realization that what I do leads me away from God towards destruction and what God does leads me to him and him taking care of me and everybody.  My obedience to God’s will is an affirmation that as I die to self, I rely solely on God to bring me to life and that God is always faithful.

Like Paul and Silas, we find that there is, in fact, a joy that comes from full surrender. Otherwise you are alone and powerless. Full surrender means you are in the hands, or are the responsibility, of an all-powerful God. 

SUFFERING AND HEAVEN

And like Paul and Silas, I am looking forward to the day when I will be with Jesus face to face and in an instant understand the purpose of why he led me through times of suffering.  Even in my life now I have seen the good that came from some of my times of suffering. How much more when I am in heaven and everything is made known and how perfect God’s will is.  I have no doubt from that position, I will look back and see every moment of suffering as being well worthwhile.  I will have no regrets and would gladly go through it all again, a thousand times for what came from it.  And to think that I was never alone, God was with me the whole time. 

Many years ago in the former Soviet Union, a criminal who later got saved and became a church leader, wrote about his experience in prison: Among the general despair, while prisoners like myself were cursing ourselves, the camp, the authorities; while we opened up our veins or our stomachs, or hanged ourselves; the Christians (often with sentences of 20 to 25 years) did not despair. One could see Christ reflected in their faces. Their pure, upright life, deep faith and devotion to God, their gentleness and their courage, became a shining example of life for thousands.

The late Romanian pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in prison for preaching the gospel, three in solitary confinement in a dark cell. His captors smashed four of his vertebrae and either cut or burned 18 holes in his body, but they could not defeat him. He testified, “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.” During this time he asked a fellow prisoner, whom he had led to Christ before they were both arrested, “Have you any resentment against me that I brought you to Christ?” The man responded, “I have no words to express my thankfulness that you brought me to the wonderful Savior. I would never have it another way.”

Suffering in this life is inevitable but it doesn’t change God. He ultimately brings everything perfectly together. And that is why we praise him.

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