By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
When we find ourselves suffering, we may discover ourselves questioning God’s plan. This is especially true when we feel we have been suffering for an extended period of time. I think we all understand that bad things happen to good people, but we feel it should pass at some point. When the time of what we consider “reasonable” expires, we can grow impatient and wonder why is this happening. We may wonder if God is pleased with us, or if He is trying to provoke a change in our life; but sometimes suffering comes by chance as it “rains on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Sometimes suffering come by way of the people we associate with and the situations we put ourselves in; and yes suffering can come because God is trying to get our attention.
1 Peter 4:19 (ESV): Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Even though we may find ourselves suffering while here on earth, we should find comfort if our soul is right with the Lord. The faithful understand in a world full of sin that suffering is a part of life. While peace and happiness on earth is promised to no one, it is promised to those who are faithful until death (Revelations 2:10).
1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV): Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
The Apostle Peter encourages the church by first making sure the church understood that trials are going to come. Jesus Christ himself said the world will hate His followers because the world hated Him first (John 15:8). Peter’s response to suffering is the same response we find throughout Scripture - focus on the eternal reward. It is like any lesson we face; we will not remember the journey when we attain the reward. We tell our children to eat their vegetables first so they can get a dessert. While they are focusing on the vegetables, they are unable to understand and appreciate the reward waiting for them. Sometimes, our children will handle the trial so poorly, they put their reward at risk. It is important we keep in mind our reaction to the various trials we face. Our reaction will not affect whether or not we have the trial, it can only affect whether or not we get our reward. Just like our children’s reaction doesn’t affect whether they will have to eat the vegetables, it only affects whether they get the dessert. Let us be mindful and focus on the reward, understanding that suffering for Christ’s sake is a badge of honor we should feel privileged to partake in.
There is something liberating about knowing as humans we are going to make mistakes. We are going to make mistakes we wish no one witnessed; some mistakes feel so bad we are going to think they are unforgivable, but is that the case? While we may know the answer is “all of sins can be forgiven”, do we truly believe it? Understanding the sacrifice of Christ can make Christians feel unworthy anytime we fall short, but does God share that feeling?
Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV): Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
In his letter to the church of Galatia, the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to combat temptation by bearing one another’s burdens. Even if a Christian catches someone in the act of falling into temptation, they are still to treat their brethren with a spirit of gentleness. As difficult as this can seem in the heat of the moment, Christians are to take a moment to consider how they would want to be treated if they were caught in a temptation. There is the temptation to speak as though another’s burden is “heavier” than our own, but Paul tells us we deceive ourselves if we believe that. As Jesus stated, we are to treat others as we want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV): For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
There is not a person able to boast a lifestyle that earns them God’s favor. By faith and obedience we are offered God’s grace, but that is not be confused with us earning salvation. If God did not forgive our smallest sin, we would not be able to join Him in heaven (Romans 6:23). It is a human trait that has someone believe one sin is larger than another’s. In a world where everyone sins, some are compelled to make others feel their sins are more egregious. Jesus challenges this mindset with the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee knew of God’s greatness and lived a life many would believe is pleasing to God; while the Tax Collector knew of God’s greatness and lived a life many would see as an abomination to the Lord. Jesus said the Tax Collector was the one that went home justified, not because he lived a “better life”; but because he was humble and those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Let us be humble and gentle with our brethren so we may be pleasing and exalted by God.
One of the more difficult aspects of discipline is a willingness to be honest with each other. We were raised on the principle; if you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all. If we think back to when we heard this saying, it probably had nothing to do with whether our statement was true. Kids oftentimes are the most honest people one would ever meet. Adults are taught to be “tactful” and “considerate”, but this is often at the expense of being honest and helpful.
Titus 1:10-13 (ESV): For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
The Apostle Paul did not want to allow ambiguity of words to cause Christians to misunderstand his message. Paul knew he had to be emphatic in his statements because souls were at risk. Jewish converts were trying to mingle Christianity with Judaism, but Paul understood that could not happen. In fact, Paul encouraged Christians to rebuke those who would misapply the words of God.
Titus 1:16 (ESV): They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Paul described them as liars, evil, and lazy; not because he did not like them, but because that is what they were. Anyone claiming to know and follow God, but did not keep His word is a liar. To not obey God is to be evil and to misapply His words are to be lazy. Paul is speaking with the simplicity of a child we all use to know. He is not interested in pandering, he is interested in saving everyone’s soul (including the people he called liars, evil, and lazy). Paul is hoping his words, along with the church’s words (assuming the church rebukes them as commanded) will create a change in their lives. Too often we are uncomfortable speaking the truth because we do not believe there is anything we can say to encourage change. Constructive criticism is not always fun, but it is beneficial and necessary. Imagine if no one was comfortable telling the lost they were lost; allowing them to believe God was pleased with their actions. If we love and care about each other, we will tell each other what we need to hear; regardless of how it may affect our relationship. Let us be as clear in our discernment and humble in our interactions; whether we are being corrected or correcting others.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
If asked to list some of the most undesirable traits a person can have, pride would likely be high on the list. Pride can manifest itself in our lives in many ways. Pride can arise from wealth, appearance, knowledge, talent, influence/power, and the social status one occupies. Pride is a self-destructive trait that makes it hard for us to ask for help. It also makes it near impossible for us to admit when we are wrong. Pride makes it challenging for us to maintain relationships; as it is difficult for a prideful person to forgive and empathize with others. A lack of humility creates the illusion that we are never wrong, and someone who believes that does not have the patience for imperfection.
Proverbs 16:5 (ESV): Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Pride puts a strain on all relationship, including our relationship with God. A prideful person will find becoming a Christian unnecessary. They will not be able to see their shortcomings, so they cannot see the need for a Savior. They will see themselves as a “good person” who does the best they can when they can.
Proverbs 11:2 (ESV): When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
A humble person knows they need a Savior because a humble person understands their own shortcomings. Furthermore, they know they need a Savior they don’t deserve and salvation is a debt they could never repay. They are willing to devote their lives to expressing their appreciation through obedience, kindness to others, and selflessness. A prideful person lacks the awareness to properly judge the debt they owe Jesus Christ. Of all the shortcomings a prideful person possesses, this the most detrimental. They will be defiant and unwilling to submit themselves to the will of God and follow His wisdom. If they frequently rely upon themselves, God’s wisdom may be too perplexing for some to make the leap of faith. God’s wisdom is not of this world and requires a trust that surpasses all understanding. A trust that only a humble person is capable of achieving. Whenever we begin to look inward at our successes instead of upward to the true source, we run the risk of turning a gift into a curse.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
How does the Bible describe heaven? It depends where in the Bible you are reading. The Apostle Paul describes a third heaven; does that mean there are three different kinds of heaven?
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (ESV): I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
In a word, yes. The heaven we most often think of is the third heaven. This is the place where God resides with his angels, and where Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3). This is the heaven where God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more mourning and pain (Revelation 21:4). As found in Psalm 103:19 the word "heaven" here is defined as the location of God’s throne. The same word for heaven found in Psalm 103:19 (8064. Shamayim) is translated as sky in Genesis 1:26. This would likely be the first heaven. This heaven is depicted in the Bible as a location where rain and clouds are located (Isaiah 45:8). This heaven is described in the physical sense and should not be confused with the spiritual heaven.
Psalm 8:3-4 (ESV): When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
The second heaven is located between the first and the third heaven. This heaven would be restricted to the universe and the stars. While it is common to assume God lives among the stars, God is not located in the second heaven. God’s throne remains in the third heaven; making the first and second heaven more of a physical location than a spiritual one. In our physical body we can see the attributes of the first (sky, clouds, rain) and second (stars) heaven; yet we cannot see God and His angels in the third heaven. This was not an accident as the beauty of nature was created by God for us to know He exists (Romans 1). Meaning everything from photosynthesis to condensation to a shooting star should bring comfort to idea that our universe had a designer. And when I think of it that way, it makes sense that the beauty of nature is its own piece of heaven and properly named as such.