1. Jesus warns us that bad times will occur. Matthew 24:6: Jesus said; "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet." Jesus warned us there would be troubling events in the world. Are you surprised or alarmed when bad things happen? Why? Is it not comforting to know that bad things occurring is normal? We all encounter bad things. We should not be surprised or troubled when these events occur. Jesus taught us that these bad times have to happen. When we know that something bad has the potential to occur, we can prepare ourselves emotionally, psychologically, and physically to endure.
2.God will take everything bad that happens and turn it into something good. Romans 8:28; "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." God has a divine plan. He gave each of us free will. Good people have free will. Bad people have free will. Demons and angels have free will. Sometimes we are victimized by bad people who do wicked things. Demons and bad people are not omniscient. When God created the universe he knew every thought and action of everything he ever created. Before he created anything, he knew what would happen and has planted the seeds to help us grow from the negative experience and thrive if only we open ourselves to HIS will.
3.You are not alone. Ephesians 3:16; "that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being." God loves you so much that he sends the Holy Spirit to assist you and strengthen you through your ordeal. All you need to do is ask for his help and he is there.
4.We are all called to share in Christ's suffering. Matthew 16:24; "Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." So many believers think that if I pray to God he will divinely protect me from all suffering. However, Jesus teaches us that if we want to be his disciple, we are called to share in his suffering. Our suffering serves God's divine purpose. We are all given free will. There are consequences to decisions people make. Our suffering serves two purposes. First, our suffering can help us grow closer to God. Sometimes we forget that we are finite physical beings. We get too arrogant and we forget that all blessings come from God. Sometimes we think that all of our success comes from our own hands. God expects us to take action. God expects those actions to be motivated to be glory to God. When we forget where the gifts come from, sometimes we must be humbled in order to grow in our spirituality. "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."(Hebrews 12:6). Second, our suffering can help others grow closer to God. When our faith is solid as a rock, sometimes God calls us to suffer so others may bear witness. When others bear witness to our inner strength that is rooted in our relationship with Jesus, it may break their hard shell of arrogance, doubt, or disbelief. As St. Paul taught us in Romans 5: 3-4; "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."
5.Be cognizant of the potential outcomes of your decisions. Matthew 20:22; "Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?"They said to him, "We are able." It is important that we think through our decisions prior to placing those ideas into action. The decisions we make and the actions we take have consequences. No action should be taken lightly. Each action taken should bring glory to God. We should ask ourselves if we have the ability to drink the cup every time we make a decision. Father Henri Nouwen taught us that this question means; can you taste all the sorrows and joys of the decision you made and actions you took? Father Henri taught us to ask if we were able to live our lives to the fullest whatever it would bring. Jesus posed the question, "can you drink the cup"to two potential apostles, James and John. We may experience many blessings. We may also taste the bitter wine of self-sacrifice. St. James was martyred and St. John died an old man.
6. Learn to be Content. Philippians 4:11; "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." We live in a society today that has discarded the idea of capitalism and embraced consumerism. Capitalism was using God's gift of extra to store and use to better one's self, one's family, one's neighbor, and one's community. Consumerism is never being content. Consumerism is ever needing something more and expecting that something more to bring happiness. God teaches us to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in and with whatever possessions we have. All we need is food, water, shelter, and love. All else is icing on a beautiful cake.
7. Don't be afraid. Be Strong and courageous. Deuteronomy 31:6; "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." I know we all feel alone sometimes when are experiencing the dark and dangerous days. God teaches us to not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. He is with us. He will never forsake us through the pain we are experiencing. When you are following God's will, he will be there with you and help you to accomplish the goal he has given you to accomplish.
8. Glorify God in all your actions. John 17:4; "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do." When we work hard to glorify God, he blesses the mission he sets forth for us. Step up and take action!! Don't be afraid to glorify God. It can be very hard work, but he will make our burden light. We accomplish God's mission one step at a time. We glorify God by developing good character through self-discipline. I do my best in all that I do. I maintain self-control in every circumstance. In this way, I glorify God and accomplish the tasks but in front of me. This may mean washing dishes to the best of my ability, or digging a ditch to the best of my ability, or fighting against a wicked person attempting to harm others. In all that I do, I should give God my best. As Marion Harland wrote, "The laborer, not the labor, makes a thing common or refined."
9.Don't be afraid of death. Sirach 24:9; "From Eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall not cease to exist." God created us all because he loved us. He created us to love and to be loved in return. Sometimes, we are placed into a situation where we must choose to either lay down our lives or not. Jesus taught us in John 15:13; "Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends."Do not be afraid to lose your life defending others. There is a place for you for all eternity in the paradise of Heaven. If there is no way out of a dangerous situation, then be at peace. Know that you will soon be welcomed into Heaven by Jesus himself. God loves those whom have sacrificed their life for another. This is what life is all about. As God sacrificed his own son, we sacrifice our own lives for others. As a husband, my job is to sacrifice my life for my bride. My bride sacrifices what could have been to share her life with me. We sacrifice our lives and fortune for the benefit of our children. Warriors sacrifice their lives for the benefit of their community and country. Father Henri Nouwen wrote; "What makes you and me Christians is not only our belief that he who was without sin died for our sake on the cross and thus opened for us the way to his heavenly Father, but also that through his death our death is transformed from a totally absurd end of all that gives life meaning into an event that liberates us and those whom we love."
10.Train your children. Proverbs 22:6; "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." We only have eighteen years to teach our children the way of God. God made us to have an abundant life and he expects us to steward his gifts well. This means we must teach our children about God, the care of the self, the care of the home, and the care of others. We must train our children to be able to defend themselves, "Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle (Psalm 144:1)"and to provide for their homes, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever )1 Timothy 5:8."
11.Seek Wisdom. James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him." As human beings, none of us are omniscient. Only God knows all things. We can better endure difficult situations when we have some understanding of the situation. We make better decisions when we dedicate our lives to understanding God's revelation and the world he gave us to enjoy. King Solomon wrote; "I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness."Many sufferings we endure are because of foolish decisions made by self or others.
12.Seek Wise Counsel. Proverbs 12:15; The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." As we are not omniscient, it is wise to seek God's direction through prayer. God also wants us to surround ourselves with good, wise, and faithful believers. God expects us to go to others for wise counsel. God does not like us to be prideful or arrogant. Rather, God calls us to humility.
13.Endure difficult times. Hebrews 10:36; "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." God has made us all a promise. We are called to glorify God. God calls us to a life of abundance. God also calls us to endure great difficulties, bearing our cross as Christ bore his cross for us. God has promised us eternal life with him in the paradise of Heaven. For an oak tree to grow to its fullest potential, it must endure hot summer days, thunder storms, strong winds, and cold winter nights. But, through its endurance, the tree will grow strong and beautiful. General George Washington wrote; "If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions and proportion our efforts to the exigency of the times."As St. James taught us in James 1:12; "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
14.Exercise Self-Control. 2 Timothy 1:7; "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." Self-respect originates in self-control. If we endure difficult times, we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and state that I endured that difficult time through God's assistance. God is proud of us when we endure. He uses us as an example to show all angelic beings.
15.Help one another. Galatians 6:2; "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." All of us need help sometimes. We all need someone to talk to and to mourn with. Never be afraid to share your burden with someone who loves you. Never be afraid to share your burden with someone you trust. Do not share your heart with just anyone. Not all people are worthy of your love and trust. Be a friend and confidant to a friend in need. The word that describes the Holy Spirit is the Greek word "Paraclete." Paraclete means to come along side another. It is the action of a loving older brother who comes alongside the younger brother and places his arm around his shoulder to comfort, console, and counsel.
16.Share your grief. Romans 12:15; "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." We are all physically finite beings. Our body will grow old and die. Our spirit will go to be with God. One day, our bodies will be raised from the dead and we will be given glorified bodies. Until that time, we are faced with the fact that all of God's creations will die. The price of loving is loss. The price of loss is grief. Grief is how we know that we truly loved someone. Recognizing that our bodies are finite, we have the ability to love more fully. When someone dies, we feel grief. We experience many emotions, including anger, loss, sadness, and eventually, acceptance. We may laugh at funerals remembering wonderful times, and this is normal, or we may bitterly weep, because we may be angry because that person went away, or God took someone and we were not ready for them to go. This is also a natural emotion. Those emotions will pass. St. Paul teaches to celebrate the life of another when they remember the wonderful memories. St. Paul also teaches us to weep with those who weep. Many men say it is unmanly to weep. However, the shortest verse of the Bible John, 11:35, teaches us that even Jesus wept. If Jesus could weep, and he was tough enough to endure the cross, than I think it is okay to cry. God mourns when we feel pain. He has a plan in place to comfort us. When you are sad, share your pain with God and he will comfort you.
17. Love. 1 John 4:8; "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." Life is not about condemnation. Life is not about passing judgement. Life is about love. Life does requirement discernment. Life is not about anarchy. Life is about lovingly edifying others and assisting them in reaching their highest potential. Humans make decisions that go against God's teachings. These decisions lead to great suffering in their lives in the long run. We are to look upon them with love and compassion. Help all who sincerely ask for your assistance. Love is eternal as God is eternal because God is love. Love lives on after our bodies have long ceased. Love knows no limit.
18. Create your home to be a sanctuary. Isaiah 32:18; "Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places." God created us to live in peaceful dwelling places. Peaceful dwelling places become peaceful when the home is dedicated to following God's way. Life is about relationship. There is a hierarchal order to our lives. The top of the hierarchy is our personal relationship with God. The second wrung of this hierarchy is my relationship to my spouse. The next wrung is my relationship to my children. The next wrung is my relationship to my employment. The next wrung is my relationship to my ministry. The next wrung is my relationship to my parents and parents in law. The next wrung is my relationship to extended family. The next wrung is my relationship to my friends. The home is the first priority after our relationship with God. God wants our home to be peaceful and loving. We cannot have a loving and peaceful home if the home is in disarray or parents are ships passing in the night. Home is the place we should come at the end of a stressful day to recuperate. Home is to be a place of beauty, understanding, and safety. Home is the place we should come to share our love with people whom we love. Be careful ladies, King Solomon taught us in Proverbs 14:1; "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down."It is important that we live according to our means and not live with extravagance. Men, St. Paul taught us to love our wives in the same way that Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). How did Jesus love the church? He allowed himself to be tortured, shamed, and crucified to death. This was the spirit during the Victorian times that led to the idea of "Women and children first." Hundreds of women and children survived the Titanic because REAL men sacrificed their lives so women and children could survive. That is what it means to live like Jesus. Living like Jesus does not mean being selfish and buying expensive toys instead of meeting your wife and children's needs. A home is peaceful and safe when a husband is willing to love his family sacrificially. A home is peaceful and safe when a woman loves her family with respect and nurturing.
19. Practice Discipline. Hebrews 12:11; "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." To practice self-control, we benefit from practicing our Christian disciplines. Through Christian disciplines, we learn to control our thoughts, our actions, and our emotions. We can endure difficult times because we have learned to master the three elements of our being; mind, body, and soul. All men are called to be Christian warriors. You are called to protect yourselves, your families, your community, and your country. Christian disciplines include the practice of prayer, Bible study, meditation, corporate worship, caring for others, martial arts, and other disciplines we will discuss in another section.
20. Be Still and know that God is in control. Psalm 46:10; ""Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" When you have climbed your mountain and endured the rain, the snow, the wind, and pain, sit and look down upon the valley below. This is a time to remember and be grateful that God has seen you through it all. He knew you would be successful and this experience would help you grow and others will grow because what you have done. You have reached a form of temporary perfection. You endured what God asked you to endure. Think back on all the difficulties you have accomplished and be grateful.