The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since the horrors of World War II. Today, there are close to 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In one sense, all men are refugees; we have all been forcibly displaced. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and we, as their descendants, continue to search for a safe place where our souls can rest. Ephesians 2:19 eludes to the fact that those outside of God’s household are strangers and aliens.
The Bible recounts the stories of men and women, groups and nations who were displaced by natural disaster, famine, persecution, war, human trafficking and more. We can become so familiar with these old stories that we miss seeing them in terms of today’s social injustices.
Noah and his family were displaced by the flood. Abraham and Sarah were driven to another land by famine. Jacob fled to another land because his brother threatened to kill him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt due to political persecution. *
During his 3-year ministry, Jesus was a homeless refugee. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to the Scribe, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” As his followers, we must consider what holds our heart’s affections. Am I willing to give up my home and side with the homeless to follow him?
Syria has over twenty million citizens made up of eighteen different people groups. Around 4.8 million of these people have become refugees and another 6.5 million have become displaced within Syria and are seeking refuge. Christian missionaries have spent years praying, strategizing, and risking everything to go to these people with the gospel. After raising tens of thousands of dollars, undergoing extensive training, leaving everything familiar, and going through the long process of learning a foreign language – only then, could missionaries reach these people. The paradigm has shifted!
We serve a God who scatters. Through scattering, God places His people where they need to be to have an impact on communities, peoples, and nations. When we see that people are being scattered, the believers response needs to be “What is God doing?” and “How can I serve?”
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul writes that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” by God to prevent him from becoming arrogant. He asked the Lord three times to remove it and the Lord would not. The following verse was the Lord’s answer to Paul:
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Grace! It cannot be touched or held in your hand. It is not an object to be observed or measured. A common definition is the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. But this statement from the Lord to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” what does this mean? When we are hurting or tormented or placed in some undesirable circumstance for which there is no way out, how do we lay hold of this grace?
In my life, there have been four areas where I have encountered this grace.
Through the Body
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35 Through fellowship groups, Bible study groups, and accountability partners, I have received encouragement, I have been specifically upheld in prayer, and I have had tangible needs met. God’s sufficient grace has been bestowed on me through others within the body of Christ.
His Truth – the Quickening of His Word in which is Hidden in our Heart
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 By filling my mind with His Word, I have a solid foundation for my life so that even if the framework breaks down, I am securely anchored. Continue reading →
Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). He doesn’t say that they will ask about our faith. Or about our doctrine. Or even about our good conduct. They might ask those things. We want them to. But Peter is expecting that they will ask about our hope. Why?
Why in 1 Peter 3:15 does the unbelieving world ask Christians about their hope?
This was a compelling question for us. We invite you to read and consider as we did in our staff meeting today, how we can understand, experience, and share our hope more fully.
Faith is a gift from God (Rom 12:3 – “… God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”). There are times when God may give us the faith to move mountains (Matt 17:20, 20:21). But there are also times when God intends us to climb the mountain and to trust Him for the faith to do so. Whether it’s moving mountains, or climbing them, God has a purpose for both.
What if our greatest challenge in life does not get easier? Consider these verses.
We Will Rejoice all the More at His Coming
1PE 4:12-13 – 12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”
Question – Are you ready for His coming?
We Will Know (Have an Intimate Understanding) of His Grace & Power
2CO 12:9-10 – 9 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Thought – You won’t really know His grace & power if you don’t need His grace & power.
We Will Know Him, the Power of His Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings
PHI 3:7-11 – 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Question – How well do you know Him? Is that well enough?
Dealing with a thorn that has been embedded in your hand or foot can be a very difficult, if not an excruciating experience. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we can learn some valuable life lessons as we read about Paul’s thorn:
7) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! 8) Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9) And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10) Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
What exactly was Paul’s thorn? Some of the more popular theories include a temptation, a difficult relationship, a chronic eye problem, and a speech impediment. God does not tell us the exact nature of the thorn. If we knew, then we might not think this verse applies to our own unique and specific thorn. Turning from what we do not know about Paul’s thorn, there are several things we can know.
1) The thorn does not come during or after a low point in Paul’s life (i.e. – a tragedy or defeat), but after a high point, a great experience (as described in the preceding verses – 2 Cor. 12:2-4). Likewise, the failures of Israel described in I Corinthians 10 came after having experienced some of the most incredible miracles and manifestations of God recorded in scripture (their deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision in the wilderness, etc.). We do not usually drop our guard during a time of testing. But after the trial has passed and the victory is won, it is human nature to let down our guard. That is when we are vulnerable. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – I Peter 5:8. Continue reading →
A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
– Genesis 50:20
Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.
Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.
Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.
– The HOPE, Chapter 6
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.
Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1
were sent by their fathers to their brothers – Joseph’s brothers hated him and sought to kill him, and the Deliverer’s own kinsmen rejected Him and sought to kill Him (see Genesis 37:13, John 7:3, Luke 20:47).
As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.
ASK & REFLECT
From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?
DECIDE & DO
You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.
Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.
Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…” – Philippians 3:10 NASB
What can we learn from an 87 year old missionary doctor who in 1964, while single and serving God in the Congo, was captured by rebels, beaten and raped? We realize that this is the second consecutive devotional we’ve done on the topic of suffering, but we think you’ll really benefit from getting to know Helen Roseveare. This video (8 min. 21 sec., part 2 of 5) will give a glimpse into how Helen experienced God in the middle of that night;
The Question – Can you thank God for trusting you with suffering, even if He never explains why?
In the 16th chapter of John, we find Jesus preparing His disciples for what is to come. He paints a picture of the suffering they will endure (v16:2) and He tells them that, though He is going away, He will send a Helper, the Holy Spirit (vrs16:7-15). Then in verse 16:20 (ESV) He says, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow (grief in some versions) will turn into joy.”
Depending on how you read this one verse, you will either find the comfort Jesus intended, or you will miss it. What if you take His words to mean, “You will have sorrow for a time, then that time will end and you will have a time of joy.”? There may be some comfort in knowing that the suffering and sorrow has an end; that it doesn’t need to last forever. But this alone falls way short of the comfort Jesus intended. After all, why do we have to go through the hard and painful part? Why not just go straight to the joy? Continue reading →