Great Christians are not born, they are forged.

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If you feel like your life is falling apart read this.

There is a mysterious growth engine, a tool used by God over and over again to form amazing men and women.  It’s misunderstood and many avoid talking about it.  So, what is it?

Suffering.

Great Christians are not born that way, they are forged into it and this process can hurt!  However, your story isn’t done.

Let’s go back in time to the inception of the church. Jesus has died and risen.  From the religious halls of Jews to the Roman governmental chambers, instead of seeing Jesus disappear into history He had become the most famous person in all of human history.  About 500 eye witnesses saw the resurrected Jesus.  His core team has moved from fearful to fearless.  They have gone from hiding to publically proclaiming the good news of Jesus.  Peter boldly delivers his first sermon as the head of the first church and thousands come to believe in Jesus.  Listen to what came next, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:41-44).

Doesn’t this sound awesome?!  It’s the perfect church.  United, quickly growing, miracles are happening.  The worship services don’t end!  The church is filled with passion, commitment and wonder.  The following few chapters in Acts are filled with bold sermons, miraculous activity, and victory over opposition.  The church at this specific stage of her life is the church we all keep hunting for.

Until the end of chapter 6.

Like others Stephen is seized and in the vein of the church’s momentum he courageously proclaims the mystery and majesty of Jesus, but his story ends differently.

He is killed.

This begins heavy persecution and suffering in the church.  If a small church is like a cup of water and a large church is a bucket of water, this was a huge drum filled with people who were loving life.  Everyone is happy, enjoying each other and the miraculous presence of God.  Then God allows the huge drum of water to be smashed!

Persecution and suffering break up their Jesus party, but this isn’t a loss, this is the engine that was used to change the world. Persecution and suffering is part of the story.  The Christians spill out all over the country running for their lives, taking the stories of Jesus and their hope in Him with them.

The church didn’t fail at all.  Hardship does not necessarily mean failure!

In fact, the second part of Acts is just as important as the first.  Jesus told his disciples to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20), not to hide out in holy clumps.  Suffering and persecution have always been like vegetables for the church.  They don’t taste good, but they are essential for healthy growth.  Often in life what looks and feels like failure and loss may not be at all.  Fertile ground for Christ to work is often found in brokenness, humility, and total surrender.  The rest of the book of Acts is the refining of the mission.  A mission that becomes so powerful it literally changed human history.  Think of if.  The very tool used by Rome and religious leaders to destroy the church God used as the engine to cover the world.

Suffering does three things, be it individual or within a group:

  1. Suffering sobers the soul. It reminds us of what is most important and causes us to seek deeper meaning.
  2. It silences temporal things that compete for our hearts and reveals the futility of pursuing them.
  3. When our happiness in life is found in Jesus alone, unchallenged by other temporal things, our lives reflect how amazing He is. Remember, our greatest witness is our satisfaction in Jesus.

So, the next time hardship rolls your way remind yourself – Jesus is at work even if you don’t see it.  Take this time to draw close to him.

As you talk to others don’t make your suffering famous, make your satisfaction and trust in Jesus famous.

You are okay, not because life is working out the way you want, but because you trust that God in the end will make all things right.  That is our hope.

I promise, God is not done with you.  He is doing a great work and one day you will see how He was made famous and you were made better prepared for a greater eternal joy!

When the world’s offerings fall short, #jesussatisfies.

Want more?

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Abandon the American Peace machine

This post and the following sermon is brought to you by Trinity Church in Indianapolis.  www.encountertrinity.com

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