By Rick Cowman
God is always saying something to us as His children. He is always speaking, and He speaks loudest in the midst of times in our lives when we experience suffering! The question is, have we been listening? It’s so easy to listen to other people’s voices and miss the still, quiet voice of our heavenly Father. The noise of human wisdom so easily drowns out God’s wisdom!
If we haven’t been hearing what God is saying, or haven’t felt His touch in our lives lately, the problem is not with God, but with us! If we don’t feel close to God, guess who moved? You see, the problem lies with our expectations of God. What do you expect when you attend a Sunday morning service as the Church gathers together? Do you expect God to meet with you there? Do you expect Him to do something in your heart? Are you coming expecting to hear what He has to say to YOU through your Pastor? These are important questions to ask ourselves, because if we go expecting to find something wrong with the sermon, the music, the people or the preacher, we will! In fact, if we gather together for any reason other than to worship our awesome Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, be changed by His Word and His presence, and be equipped to serve Him, we are going for the wrong reason. And as a result, we will miss His voice and what He wants to say to us!
However, if we come together and open our Bibles expecting God to reveal Himself to us and meet us where we are, He will! And He’ll meet the deepest needs of our hearts! We can bank on it! And, by the way, God doesn’t just speak to us on Sunday in the so-called holy meeting place in our church buildings. Any place we open God’s word and spend time with Him is a holy place! In the Apostle John’s record of Jesus’ letter to the Church in Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus tells us, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!” He repeats this statement seven times, once in each of the seven letters to the seven churches. Why did He repeat Himself? Certainly, these were separate letters to each church, but knowing we would be reading it today, He know us, and He knows we have a hearing problem!
In the second chapter of Revelation, verses eight through eleven, Jesus writes a letter to the church that is in the midst of suffering. It’s the church at Smyrna. This church was going through it! They were struggling financially, spiritually and even physically because of their faith in Jesus Christ. It’s interesting that the name Smyrna means “bitter”, coming from the same root word as “myrrh”, a bitter herb. When an herb is crushed, a fragrance is released. The same is true of us as followers of Christ. How easy it is for us to become “bitter” when we get crushed by our circumstances. But if we’ve trusted Jesus to have forgiven our sin and to live His blameless life in us, then when life crushes us, the result should be the sweet fragrance of Christ coming out in us! God’s design is to conform us (or crush us) into the image of His Son, whatever it takes! The church of Jesus Christ has always been the most fragrant, and therefore, the most effective when she has gone through tough times. God allows those crushing times to purify her so the world around her that is lost without Christ will be drawn to Him!
Next week we’ll see what we can expect God to do in the midst of these times of suffering...that is, if we’re listening! God’s best this week!