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No Pain No Gain

Pain in the Side

At Sunday School they were teaching how God created everything, including human beings. Little Johnny seemed especially intent when they told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs. Later in the week his mother noticed him lying down as though he were ill, and said, Johnny what is the matter? Little Johnny responded, “I have a pain in my side. I think I’m going to have a wife.”

Ok, that was more a cute one than a belly laugh-er. But it does bring out a point that we are going to work through this week. Sometimes we misunderstand pain and suffering. The little boy just put two and two together and got a wife. Often times, we humans tend to put pain and suffering up there with most unwanted things in life. It’s natural to do that. My knee doesn’t like to be bent backwards. My finger doesn’t like it when I’m less than accurate with a stapler. When my toe rams itself into the table leg, I scream…and maybe say some other things in my brain. When I have a headache, I take aspirin. When my acid reflux boils, I remember to take my little purple pill. When I slam my hand in a door…I remove it quickly.

We don’t like pain. We pull away from it. We take stuff for it. We yell out at it. Pain is sometimes useful, as in when a splinter is in our heel, but it still hurts. We want it gone.

This brings up a problem. Sometimes it hurts living Christ-like. Sometimes it feels as though the world is against us…not tolerating Jesus followers (pressed on every side). Sometimes we don’t understand why God is allowing us to go through something (perplexed). Sometimes we’re made fun of or taken lightly or threatened when we live out Godly morals and values (persecuted). Sometimes we here of Christians in the world who are imprisoned, beaten, and killed (struck down). By a human standard, Christianity is not too appealing. Through the eyes of God, our pain is our gain…and Jesus’ gain as well.

The more we’re able to withstand pain, confusion and suffering, the more the light of Jesus shines through us. Some people will not see Christ in us. Some people refuse to see it. Some will shut us out. Some will jump on board with both feet! We take that risk. Chapter 4 verse 4 says that the god of this world has closed the eyes and ears of unbelievers. With this Biblical revelation, we see that we’re not fighting against people. Our pain is not coming from people. Ephesians 6:12 and following says that we’re in a spiritual battle. It is a battle for souls, and with that knowledge, my understanding of pain changes. Pain is worth it. Through my pain and suffering Jesus can shine…maybe bright enough and loud enough to get through to those Satan has influenced.

As leaders, our followers need to hear of our pain and suffering for Jesus, and they need to see it. They need to see that it is OK and worthwhile. We are the church. The gates of Hell cannot stand against the church. Therefore we need to live like that. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God did not give us a spirit of timidity. God gave us His spirit…which is a spirit of power.

I often think of sports illustrations. I used to run a lot. Running down a road for 5 miles at a time…not listening to anything, not talking to anyone…taught me a lot about life. There are safe pains and not so safe pains in athletics. Most cramps are not debilitating, you just need to run through them. If you don’t, they clamp down stronger. Some leg cramps are debilitating. You need to stop immediately and let it run its course. When running cross country and track, the mindset was to blow through a shoulder or abdomen cramp. You pushed through and actually came out better. It spurred you on.

Jesus went through a lot of false accusations. He walked through a lot of criticism. He was captured, beaten and then killed on a public cross. He died. I think my pain is worth it. His pain was. What are you willing to go through to get the Truth to someone’s heart?

Teaching it: This lesson lends itself well to discussion groups or pairs. People could share their personal times of hardship for Jesus. Not all hardships are because of the Gospel, though, so one needs to be able to separate these things. Focusing on what is growing in us…the spirit of Life, Christ himself, is a skill to be passed on and talked about so that when that growth begins in other, we can help them recognize it and nurture it.

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