On Paul’s first missionary journey, he traveled with Barnabas to Cyprus and then up through several cities in Galatia. After preaching the gospel in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, they returned back through the same cities so they could strengthen those who had recently placed their faith in Jesus.
“They returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.”
The early church was facing great persecution for simply turning to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul himself faced many hardships and was recently stoned for preaching the gospel. Paul encouraged the churches by letting them know they were not alone in their suffering. But he also seemed to encourage by saying that hardship was a necessary part of the Christian walk.
Those who have placed their complete faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin have begun a journey which leads to the kingdom of God. Once we truly begin this journey, we are His child and our place with God has been reserved; “He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
However, while on this journey, God has a great plan and purpose for our life; “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Every step is for the purpose of drawing us closer and conforming us to the image of Christ. And hardship is the tool which seems to best accomplish this goal. We all might prefer that God would shape us through praise and blessings, but we seem to respond best to hardship.
It’s hardship which reminds us of our dependence on God when we’ve begun to trust in our own abilities and understanding. It’s hardship which brings us back to our knees in prayer after long seasons of silence. It’s hardship which develops the character of a mature believer: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
As difficult as this truth may be to accept and understand, part of God’s plan is for us to experience some hardship. Not all hardship can be said to come from God; but in our lost and fallen world where we come to God filled with pride and arrogance, hardship is often the only way to humble our spirit and soften our heart. Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to do whatever it takes to draw us closer to His side – even when this means being strengthened by hardship.
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
Dec 18 Habakkuk 1:1-3:19; Revelation 9:1-21; Psalm 137:1-9; Proverbs 30:10