Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You Sweating Yet?

II Corinthians 1:3-11

“Don’t ever let them see you sweat.”

That is the message of an advertisement for a popular anti-perspirant. To allow it to be seen that you have a problem is considered a sign of weakness in our modern society, which says “Appearance is everything.”

Unfortunately, the over use of antiperspirants has been linked to an increase in breast cancer levels in both men and women. Sweating is a way the body uses to get rid of harmful products of stress. Not allowing them to escape, while giving the illusion of strength, may result in serious damage and eventual cancer development.

Many believe that as Christians, if we serve God, there should be no problems. Jesus was very specific that “in the world ye shall have tribulation” in John 16:33. Paul warns Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” in II Timothy 3:12. Suffering and tribulation are as normal for Christians as sweating is for humans. It is the absence of problems that is abnormal. The pride that doesn’t want to acknowledge problems can have devastating effects on the church.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (II Corinthians 1:3-5)

God provides comfort in all our tribulation, and we ought to rejoice in that fact. The fact of our suffering enables us to help others in their suffering. Much as we would prefer not to suffer, it is the suffering that makes us most useable to God for ministry. People can only identify with those who are similar to themselves.

Most politicians have trouble understanding peoples financial struggles, because most of them are lawyers. It is difficult for a man earning $600.00 per hour to understand a person’s problems who makes $6.00 per hour. It is difficult for the man with a $6.00 job to equate his and the lawyer’s problems. Over supported missionaries or pastors have trouble teaching people to trust God to supply, because they don’t appear to have problems. All they have to do is ask their churches for more money. The most effective pastors and missionaries are those who have problems similar to those of their people. Our struggles are as much for those around us as for ourselves.

“And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” (II Corinthians 1:6-11)

For others to benefit from our difficulties, they need to see us facing the problems and overcoming them by the power of God. We can only teach others to trust God by example. A missionary that calls on his supporting churches to provide for his church is teaching the people to trust people rather than God. A pastor who never lets people see problems in his life and how God provides leave people who have problems without hope. Parents who never share problems with their children leave children unequipped to deal with problems.

As people see God work in our problems, they have reason to hope that he will help in theirs. In order to pray effectively, people need to know about the problem. As God answers their prayers, they and others will give thanks for what God is doing. As they see that trust comes hard for us as well, they begin to understand their lack of trust is normal, and can be overcome. They begin to understand a full commitment to God.

It is the lack of problems that is abnormal. Concealing them is as harmful to the church as preventing sweat is to the body.

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