How God Equips You to Serve
A few weeks ago, Mike and Jane from our GFA office had their first baby.
We are all so happy and praise God together with them, because they waited for this child for nearly 20 years. All these many years, they were clinging by faith to God’s promise that He would give them a child. They even had a room with a baby bed ready and prepared for the day when God would answer their prayers.
In the meantime, they both served God full time and with great faithfulness and joy. I am certain they had their times of struggles and discouragement. But instead of living a life of sadness, despair and frustration, they considered these past 20 years as a special time God gave them to serve Him with undivided attention and all their strength.
In this letter, I would like to explain a little why God leads us through times of waiting for answers to our prayers, testing of our faith and struggles from within and around us.
It’s for our personal growth as Christians. If God would fulfill our prayers and expectations and give us a smooth life without any adversities, we would forever remain weak, immature Christians. As much as physical exercise is vital for a small child to learn how to sit, stand and walk, we as believers need spiritual exercise to develop in our Christian lives.
The more we are forced by circumstances to learn to trust God and overcome adversities, the more our faith grows and the more Christlike we become.
Please read the story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37, and count how many struggles he faced. He was misunderstood and hated by his brothers, thrown in a well, sold as a slave to Egypt, separated from his family, lived as a Hebrew among idol worshipers, falsely accused, imprisoned for many years and forgotten by the royal official who could have helped him get out.
The Bible lists only the big struggles, but I am very certain there were hundreds of smaller ones Joseph faced daily in his heart: discouragement, sadness, feeling homesick and lonely... wondering if his father, mother and brothers were still alive and if they ever found out the real reason for his disappearance ... dealing with anger over what happened to him... feeling helpless as a slave with no rights... suffering daily humiliation... being taken advantage of and treated as a piece of property... worrying about his future... battling the temptation to compromise his faith and convictions... wondering why God had not rescued him, answered his prayers or fulfilled the dreams.
God used each of these obstacles in Joseph’s life to help him grow not only in his faith, endurance and ability to cling to God, but also in his character. Joseph became a man of integrity, faithfulness, forgiveness, obedience and patience. He learned courage to stand alone, serving and caring for others—instead of wallowing in self-pity—and waiting for God’s timing.
It’s also for equipping us to serve others who face similar circumstances. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3–7:
...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
This Scripture says that God doesn’t leave His children alone in their struggles. He has already prepared someone who faced a similar trial to understand, encourage, comfort and strengthen us.
None of us will go through every adversity there is on this planet, but each of us will go through some. And in all those we experienced and overcame by the grace of God, we become qualified to serve and strengthen others.
If you were in prison, Joseph would be the perfect person to visit, encourage and comfort you. If you were beaten and stoned, you would get the most understanding from the apostle Paul or a GFA missionary who experienced such an attack. And if you and your husband had been praying for many years for a child, Mike and Jane would be able to encourage you the most.
Even if you find no one else who faces the struggles you go through, you will always have Jesus. He faced all our temptations (Hebrews 4:15), and He bore all our sorrows and afflictions at the cross (Isaiah 53:4–6). His comfort is perfect and His grace sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
As believers, our ministry to the Body of Christ expands with every victory we win in our battles. Though trials, testing, struggles and adversities are things we would rather avoid—and often complain about—they are the very things that cause us to grow, overcome and become useful in serving God.
I hope this letter will encourage you in following Jesus.
May you walk in the grace of God always.
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