Tag Archives: Suffering

Remembering the Last Things – Part 1

There are many things that we can think and meditate upon for the profit of our souls. One that is often recommended to us by the Christians of antiquity is our inevitable death and judgment before God. Granted, in a time in which we have seen and continue to see such topics handled with all the finesse and discretion of rusty cleaver, contemplating death and judgment is less than appealing and seems to be the purview of a rabid and thoughtless theology. However, what I would like to ask of you is to set those impressions aside as best you can and approach this idea on its own, for what it is.

Let’s start with a Scriptural precedent for such contemplations, for they do not have their origins in the desire of one person to control another. Rather, they spring from the desire that a person should control him/herself. (While I won’t touch on it directly, it would be remiss of me not to mention the entirety of the book of Revelation here.)

Paul writes the following to the Corinthians:

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

-2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Paul calls the church’s attention to the final judgment in order to give them perspective on their current condition; a perspective that includes eternity.

Peter also urges us to remain mindful of the Day of Judgment in light of the evils we encounter in life:

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”

-1 Peter 4:17-19

In both of these instances from Scripture, the final judgment is not presented to invoke mindless fear, but as occasion for thoughtful reflection and, in particular, introspection. It is such recollection that helps to keep us anchored to God as we navigate the seas of life.

Yet another instance in Scripture in which are urged to be mindful of the last things comes from Christ Himself. Throughout Matthew 24:45-25:46, Jesus provides us with four parables that we might meditate upon the final judgment; namely, the parable of the faithful servant and the evil servant (24:45-51), the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (25:1-13), the parable of the talents (25:14-30), and the parable of the sheep and the goats (25:31-46). To whom is Christ telling these parables? His disciples. The meditation of judgment is presented to those following Christ that we should be careful to be prepared; that we should search our hearts and see to it that, insofar as it has been given to us, we live our lives in response to the grace we receive from God. Sometimes we may fall into overlooking our daily struggle with sin and become self-conceited. It is from such pride, I think, that a great many errors of churches spring. It leads us to veer from our calling to follow God and to instead serve ourselves and act as though we were self-sufficient, having no need of God other than as a mascot of our organization.

Now it bears mentioning where the idea of assurance of salvation/“perseverance of the saints” fits into this topic we’ve been discussing. If we trust in God to bring us safely to the port of heaven, what practical gain is there for us in contemplating His judgment? There is much that could be said of this concept, but here I will only provide a brief and pragmatically oriented response. First, when Scripture speaks to us of election, assurance of salvation, and so forth, a large portion of what is being communicated to us is that our trust in God in never misplaced. Second, concerning the intersection of our trust in God’s grace and our consideration of the fires of hell, I offer 2 Peter 1:10 where the apostle writes the following after a brief call to continued spiritual growth, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;”

So we can see that Scripture encourages us to pause and remember that God will judge all people at the appointed time. Such practice is good for our soul because it reminds us not to become complacent or careless in our Christian walk. Paul sums up well the purpose of the reminders of fearsome judgment and precious hope we see in Scripture when he writes the following concerning the instances seen in the Old Testament:

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

-1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Advertisements

Who’s the Boss?

Many times we fall under the impression that being a Christian means that things will be “nice” from now on and all of our troubles will be over.  However, we soon discover that this is far from the reality.  Rather than being moved to a retirement community, we find ourselves in the midst of strife.  When we gave our life to Christ, we rejected our sin and agreed with God that it is vile and worthy of destruction.  Thus, we stepped out the dark and into the light.  Our former partners in crime (our sinful nature, the World, and all enemies of God), are loathe to see us go over to Him and do all that they can to regain control of our lives.  Perhaps the most intimidating of these foes is Satan and the rest of the fallen angels.  They are often portrayed as immensely powerful beings seeking to deceive, destroy, and dominate.  Peter refers to Satan as a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and John uses the terms “dragon” and “serpent” to describe him.  We read in the book of Job how Satan afflicts Job and destroys all his worldly possessions (Job 1:13-22, 2:7-10).  Later, in the Gospels, we read of the terrifying results of demonic possession such as the man who wandered among the tombs crying out and cutting himself (Mark 5:1-5).  Many stories exist of the desert monks being harassed by demons appearing in many fantastic and horrifying shapes.  Even today we see churches torn apart by petty quarrels, cults rising up to spread false doctrines, and all manner of death, suffering, and destruction.  The size and scope of the threat posed by demons often leaves us dumbfounded.

It is easy, when confronted by Satan and his works, to forget a profound truth:

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

-1 John 4:4

We often speak of the war between good and evil, but consider this: when has God ever fought a war or a battle?  God does not fight, He smites or refrains from smiting.  Satan and his ilk run around and cause trouble only because God does not strike them down as He can at any given moment.  To ask why God refrains is to ask why there is suffering in the world; this is a question that God is not obliged to answer us on and we must trust in His goodness and holiness.  Returning to the main point, two instances illustrate that God has complete power to do as He wishes with devils.  These are the same two instances cited by St. Anthony in his speech to encourage his fellow monks in the desert.

The first instance is Jesus’ casting a legion of demons out of the man who lived among the tombs.  At the very sight of Christ the demons cried out and begged Jesus, saying, “If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.”  Not exactly the words of someone who getting ready for a battle.  Rather, it rings more of a scoundrel caught in some mischief by the king and who begins to plead for his life without the king saying a word.  Perhaps more startling is the fact that the legion of demons is begging Christ for permission to enter into a bunch of pigs and it is only after Christ says they can that they are able to do so.

The second instance involves the story of Job.  While Satan’s affliction of Job is what may first come to mind, recall the events leading up to it:  the angels are coming and presenting themselves before God and Satan shows up as well.  The conversation between God and Satan soon turns to Job, a man who “fears God and shuns evil”.  After Satan slanders Job before God, God gives Satan permission to do what he will with everything that Job has.  However, God sets a limit on Satan’s power, commanding him not to lay a finger on Job’s person.  Satan destroys Job’s children and possessions, but leaves the man untouched.  Again Satan comes to God and slanders Job and this time God gives Satan permission to attack Job’s health but sets another strict limit on his power by commanding him not to kill Job.  Here we have Satan himself, the leader of all demons and ruler of the World, unable to do a thing without God letting him.

It is important to keep in mind that God is not ordering the demons to cause havoc, but instead He allows them to carry out what is in their minds to do.  Jesus allows the demons to go into the pigs as they requested.  Satan is allowed to carry out his plan against Job only after God permits him to and only to the degree that God allows him (first not to harm Job himself and second not to kill Job).

What this means to us is that although it may seem like Satan is in control, we can still trust in God who is the One really in control.  We may not understand why God doesn’t just destroy all of the rebellious angels rather than allowing them to pursue their wicked schemes, but we know that they act only as far as God permits them to.  This is one of the reasons why Paul can encourage the Corinthian church by writing,

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

-1 Corinthians 10:13

Why should demons, who have no interest in our welfare (quite the opposite, actually), refrain from overwhelming us with their wickedness and despair save that the hand of God holds them back?

Thus, despite their apparent power and authority, Satan and the other angels who have rebelled against God, are still subject to God’s power and authority.  They are “reserved in everlasting chains of darkness for the judgment of the great day,” unable to do anything without God’s allowing it.  We are not held at Satan’s mercy, we are given refuge under God’s.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

–James 4:7


Entitlement Reform

When bad things happen to us, one of the first questions we ask of God is “why?”  “Why did this happen to me?”  Or, a rather “why did You allow this to happen to me?”  We thought that we were doing everything the way we were supposed to.  We’re Christians after all, isn’t God supposed to protect us from harm?  The least He could do is make sure that everything turns out all right in the end.  At the most basic level, what we ultimately want from God at these times is an answer.  Even if we accept our suffering with all patience, we still want to know why we’re suffering.

When God allows Satan to afflict Job (taking away his wealth, family, and health), Job’s responses include, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” and, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”  These are certainly words we would expect to hear from a man who God testifies of as one who “fears God and shuns evil”.  However, let us not suppose that Job was not upset by his losses.  So ghastly was his appearance due to his sorrow and afflictions, that when his friends arrived to comfort him they did not recognize him and they sat in silence, no one daring to speak, for seven days and seven nights.

When they finally spoke, the debate centered on the question of why these things happened to Job.  Job asserts his righteousness and demands an explanation from God of the matter.  His friends, on the other hand, insist that he is being punished for his sins.  They reason that God wouldn’t allow such things to happen to a righteous man.  Thus, Job is not as righteous as he claims to be and can get God to end his suffering by repenting.  This debate unfolds over the course of the book until it comes screeching to a halt when God speaks.  He rebukes Job’s friends for misrepresenting Him.  Then, turning His attention to Job, God questions him to demonstrate the gap between the His understanding and Job’s.  Upon being shown this, Job repents of demanding an answer from God because he realizes that God owes him no such answer.

Like Job, we often ask why because we think we’re entitled to an explanation from God.  However, we learn from the story of Job that God doesn’t owe us an explanation.  As a matter of fact, God doesn’t owe us anything.  It might be an audacious question, but the next thing that goes through our head is often “why not?”  Fortunately, this is a question that we can at least begin to answer (by deferring to God’s answer, of course).  When God speaks to Job, He questions him concerning matters that, Job admits, are beyond his comprehension.  God reminds Job of their relationship as God and man, as Creator and created.  He essentially demands to know on what grounds Job is entitled to an explanation from Him.  Why is God obligated to explain Himself to the man He created?  Paul uses the metaphor of a potter and a pot in Romans 9:20-21.  The pot cannot claim authority over the potter nor can it claim that the potter owes it a debt.  Likewise, we don’t have any ground to stand on in order to make demands of God.

This certainly seems harsh, especially when God “brings the hammer down” on Job and company.  But we cannot lose sight of what it says about God when we look at the full picture.  Yes, it is true that God, by virtue of being God, doesn’t owe us so much as an explanation.  However, consider the things He has done without any obligation:  He has given us His written word in the Scriptures, He has redeemed us through Christ’s death and resurrection, and He causes His Spirit to dwell in us.  These are just a few of the unwarranted blessings that He gives us through grace.

We are often sidetracked by the whys, as Job and his friends were, which causes us to lose sight of God.  This is sometimes why we feel abandoned by God or that God doesn’t care; we aren’t looking for God, but for the answer we want.  We turn away the love and comfort that God offers us because it isn’t an explanation.  Finding God in trials and tribulations doesn’t always consist in understanding why.  It consists in receiving His grace:  His peace, consolation, patience, hope, etc.  “My grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Corinthians 12:9)


Oh the Humanity -4- A Human Faith

Scripture:  James 2:14-26

Alucard:  “Are you seriously planning to transform your soul into that of a monster?!!  Into a monster of God!!  Dare you make an attempt at becoming an immortal and almighty toy of providence?  Spare me the same, typical bullsh*t!  The monster that denies God; the monster that acknowledges God; they’re one and the same—monsters! … To be a monster like me… to give up your humanity, shows your weakness in spades.  You couldn’t make it as a man, so you stoop to being a monster.  A creature that’s destined to be toppled by humanity!!  Stop it, human!!  Do not become the monster that I am.  You’ve fought this far on your own.  Therefore, deep down, you should know my words are true.”

Anderson:  “I wish to be born a benevolent tempest, a revered threat, an explosive torrent of piety.  I wish to become a delightfully dreadful storm, one that’s both heartless and tearless.  And if stabbing myself with this is the only way to fulfill that wish… Then let it be done.  Amen.”

What do you think of when you think of the ideal Christian?

What about their faith?  What does it look like?  What is it based on?

We enter the scene and find Anderson and Alucard staring each other down, preparing for their final confrontation.  Anderson reveals an ancient holy relic, Elena’s Nail, which he intends to stab himself with in order to become a monster.  Upon seeing his intent, Alucard berates him and begs him not to go through with it.

Humans hold a unique position in the universe in that we are the only things in all known creation capable of having faith.  Lower animals do not have the cognitive capacities necessary for faith.  Purely spiritual beings (such as angels and demons) possess empirical knowledge.  They know that there is a God because they have seen Him, as it were.  They know what happened at the cross for the same reason.  Only humans are in a position to have faith in God.  However, faith is more than just “belief” and in the second chapter of the book bearing his name, James aims to show us just what faith is.

James begins his discourse in verses 14-17 by upsetting our understanding of faith by flatly stating that belief alone cannot save us.  If all we ever do is say “I believe”, then perhaps we are not so persuaded as we claim to be.  James fleshes out his assertion by drawing a comparison between our faith and our response to someone in need of food and clothing.  If we simply say to our destitute friend “be warm and filled” what good does that do?  NONE WHATSOEVER!  Likewise if you go through life simply saying “I believe” what good does that do?  According to James, NONE WHATSOEVER!  It would seem, then, that our confession of faith, our placing faith in Christ, is more than uttering words.  Instead, it is a matter of the heart.  If it were just words, it would be a magic ritual rather than an interaction with God.

Still, we must ask of James, “what’s the deal?  Aren’t we supposed to be saved by faith alone?  Wasn’t Abraham justified by faith?  James’ answer comes in verses 18-26 when he says that “I will show you my faith by my works.”  Faith is a matter of the heart and coming to faith is an internal change which then produces external actions (Matthew 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45).  If we merely believe in and acknowledge God, we are only carrying out a mental action no different than what the demons do.  Returning to the example of Abraham, James points out that Abraham’s faith led him to works. He picked up everything and followed God even though he didn’t know where he was going.  He offered his son, who was a blessing and miracle to Abraham, just because God told him to.  The bottom line is that Abraham didn’t just believe it, he lived it.  James offers us another example in Rahab the former Prostitute and ancestor of Jesus Christ.  Rahab didn’t just believe in God, she acted by protecting the Israelite spies.  While works alone cannot save us, works are the evidence of a living faith, like a person’s heartbeat.

As humans, we can only know and understand so much about God.  We cannot empirically know enough about Him to be 100% certain.  However, we do have the amazing and unique ability to respond to this gap in understanding with faith, the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”  Faith is not so simple as just saying “I believe”, nor does it consist solely in doing good works.  It is a combination of the two.

Sometimes, though, we stray from our human faith and lose faith in God and in ourselves.  This temptation tends to rear its head when we are faced with struggles in life and we are tempted to try and make it on our own.  Oftentimes, to make it on our own in these situations requires becoming something other than human.  The two errors into which we may fall in this case are to think that our works will save us or that our faith with justify our works (the ends justify the means).

The dialogue between Alucard and Anderson touches on this issue on a couple of ways.  First Alucard makes the observation that a monster is a monster regardless of whether or not it believes in God.  Think back to James’ assertion in verse 19, a demon is a demon regardless of whether is acknowledges God because it has ultimately rejected Him.  Likewise, even if a monster believes in God, it still has rejected God in rejecting its own humanity because it decided that God is insufficient to satisfy it.  We find Anderson making this mistake as he prepares to stab himself with the relic and give up his humanity.  He did not believe that he would be able to defeat Alucard as a human and so he seeks the infernal strength of a monster.  What’s more, he actually considers it holier to become a “thing” rather than a human being.

Practical Questions:

  1. In what ways does living out our faith do more than be evidence that our faith is alive?
  2. What are some examples of ways we make the error of focusing too much on faith or on works?
  3. Why is it so tempting to stray from our faith and humanity in times of trial?

Oh the Humanity -3- Human Perseverance

Scripture:  Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:31-39

Integra Hellsing:  (to the hoard of vampires surrounding her) “You want me to roll over like a dog?  Give up and accept defeat?  Ha!  That seems to be the sort of language that your kind is used to using.  Language for cowards who forfeited their humanity, because they were too weak to survive as such.  Don’t look down on humans, you monsters!  Come on, I’ll send you all to hell!”

What are some of the challenges and trials that Christians face these days?

Integra finds herself in a desperate situation.  She is surrounded by vampires whose sole objective is to kill her.  Having her cornered, they suggest that she just give up since a human is weak and stands no chance against a vampire, much less a group of them.  Integra responds with the charge that it is the vampires who are the weak ones.  Sometimes we feel as if we are cornered as well and are ready to throw up our hands in dismay.  We have trouble mustering the resolve to keep going and adopt a mindset that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15:32

“If, in the manner of men, I have fought with the beasts in Ephesus, what advantage is it to me?  If the dead do not rise, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

What good does it do to “fight the good fight”?  By turning on any given media outlet, we are almost guaranteed to find a story about injustice or human suffering in the world.  Why don’t we just curl up into a ball and hope that the world doesn’t notice us?  Why not just place our faith in Christ on a shelf in the back of our minds solely as an investment in our eternity?  It seems so much better to conform to the World because we don’t stand to change anything by struggling with it, right?

In Romans 5:1-5, Paul gives some words of wisdom and encouragement to remind us that such a cynical mentality is not fitting for Christians.  He begins by laying out exactly what the hope is that fires and inspires us.  It is through faith that we are justified, not anything that we do.  It is Jesus’ work on the cross that allows us to be justified by faith and accounted as righteous.  God has done all the shaking and moving when it comes to our redemption and we can rejoice in the grace He has shown us.  This is our ultimate hope.

Having laid out the basis of Christian hope, Paul continues by giving us some practical applications of this hope.  These applications take the form of a progression starting with our trials and struggles in life.  He says that we “glory” in our struggles, the word he uses also carries the meanings “boast”, “exult”, and “take pride in”.  As stated in the previous installment, this does not mean that we should ask or yearn for tribulations.  Instead, Paul is making a point about how we respond to them when they do come.  He says that the reason we glory in tribulations is because such struggles produce patience.

The word that is often translated as “patience” can also mean “steadfastness”, “constancy”, or “endurance”.  Initially, we learn to exhibit patient endurance in our trials.  To endure is a natural characteristic of all living things.  Take for example the weed that has been cut and sprayed but just won’t die.  The weed doesn’t possess any cognitive or spiritual prowess, but it endures all the same.  There are many processes that our bodies carry out at an unconscious level that are aimed at survival.  Our body doesn’t just give up when it is cut, it fights off any potential infections and repairs the damage.

Patience, Paul writes, produces experience.  The meaning conveyed by “experience”, in this case, is similar to “approved”, “tried”, or “trustiness”.  We can feasibly boil this down to something along the lines of tested and proven character.  When we learn to be patient in our trials, it becomes a part of our character.  As such, being patient becomes a part of how we spontaneously respond to struggles as opposed to something that we have to force ourselves to do.

Finally, experience produces hope.  When we are not completely focused on being patient, we become able to look beyond our current struggles to see the hope we profess.  That is when “finding God” in a bad situation becomes more than a platitude.  We are able to acknowledge our current suffering, but we are able to keep it in the perspective of eternity.  Paul goes on to say that hope does not disappoint.  He is not talking about the idea that “maybe tomorrow will be better”.  He is talking about actual knowledge.  We know that there is something better (Hebrews 11:1, 8-10).  We have evidence as well, via the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).  This hope, this knowledge, this faith is what supports us in times of trouble.

What’s more, this hope of ours is unshakeable because it is grounded in God’s love.  When we are standing on God’s love, it is God’s love which comes under attack.  In Romans 8:31-34, Paul speaks about the love of God to assuage our doubts and questions.  First of all, Paul states that God is the only one who can judge and justify.  If God declares us to be justified and forgiven, who can say that we aren’t?  It was Christ who suffered and died for our sins.  Who else, then, has any claim to condemn us?  These facts are particularly important when we are tempted to judge or pity ourselves.  Paul finishes the passage (verses 35-39) by emphatically stating that nothing can come between us and God’s love.  He runs down a laundry list of things that may threaten to separate us from God’s love and pronounces their power insufficient to do so.  God can and does reach us wherever we are, we need only take his hand.

Although we may be assailed on all sides by all manner of struggles and monsters, we have an unshakable hope for greater things and it is that hope which guides us ever forward through all circumstances.

Practical Questions:

  1. In what ways are we tempted to “give up” in our walk with God?
  2. In what ways are we tempted away from God’s love?
  3. What steps can we take to keep ourselves in the love of God?

Oh the Humanity -2- The Human Condition

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Ephesians 2:1-10

Major:  “I must devote my body and soul to fighting.  What do I have?  What does he have?  The ability to transform; the usage of familiars; the power to meddle with the hearts of men; the skill of resurrection; the consumption of blood; he is a vampire and views the lives of others as bread.  I, on the other hand, have nothing; simply because I am a human being.”

What are some of the expectations we have about our lives as Christians?

How do we explain hardship and suffering in the lives of Christians (including ourselves)?

The Major offers a grim view of our human condition, especially as compared to the many superhuman abilities of a monster like a vampire.  But is it really accurate to say that, as humans, we have nothing?  After all, despite all of our advances in the realms of science and theology, we are still subject to and frustrated by suffering and death.  In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul offers some insight on our suffering and on the idea that humans have nothing in the grand scheme of things.

2 Corinthians 12:7-8 tells us about Paul’s own struggles with hardship, with his “thorn in the flesh”.  This begs the question, “why?”  Paul is generally considered a very, very holy and godly dude.  As a matter of fact, in the preceding passages (2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:6), Paul had been laying out his extremely spiritual pedigree which included being a minister of Christ, receiving visions, harrowing experiences as a missionary, and even being stoned once.  Paul’s answer in verse 7 is fairly simple:

“And lest I be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”

Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is a reminder that he is still human and still must depend on God above all else.  The fact that Paul, arguably one of the most spiritual men ever, still experienced suffering in his life does not bode well for the common notion that if we are good enough we won’t have to suffer.  As long as we live in a world tainted with evil and sin, we will be subject to physical, mental, and spiritual infirmities.

It can be depressing to realize how helpless we are.  However, Paul does not leave it at that.  In verses 8-10, he provides us with direction in how to respond to our weakness.  Paul initially responds to his thorn by praying to God that it would be taken away from him.  As a matter of fact, he “pleaded” with God three times to have it removed.  God’s answer to Paul’s requests is:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Some answer, right?  But Paul says that he would rather boast in his infirmities that the “power of Christ” may rest upon him.  That is to say, the weaker Paul is, the more he leans on God’s strength, and the more God works through him.  Putting things more generally, we can rely on God to guide us through our times of trial.  Trusting and relying on God will get us through anything.  However, that does not mean the same thing as “everything will turn out nice”.  What it does mean is that God will lend us the strength to handle suffering.  Think about it this way:  our lives are a journey from point A to point B.  From time to time, or even a lot of the time, we will encounter ditches in the path that we walk.  We often ask God to fill in the ditch or make it disappear.  However, the promise we have from God is that He will help us to cross any and all ditches in order to reach our destination.

Paul takes pleasure and boasts in his infirmities insofar as they allow him to trust more fully in God.  When we rest in God’s power (think Proverbs 3:5), it is an act of worship which glorifies God because we are placing our trust in Him and accepting His help in whatever form it may come.  It is extremely important to note that Paul does not ask for infirmities or other burdens (we don’t have to ask for them, they will come).  What he does do is respond to them with faith when they do come.

Let’s take a look at this human weakness and reliance on God from a different angle:  consider the salvation offered to us through Christ.  Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us that, as humans, we are unable to do anything to save our souls and were slaves to sin.  We cannot work or will our way from sinfulness to holiness.  However, even though we weren’t able to save ourselves, God stepped in and gave us a way out of our predicament (verses 4-7).  God doesn’t just make the things we’ve done and their consequences disappear.  What He does is count us as righteous and saves us from condemnation.  He helps us to put our lives back together and to follow Him.  The bottom line is that, even though we have nothing, through God’s mercy and power alone we are able to triumph over sin (verses 8-10).

When we fully trust in God is when we are at our strongest.  When we are faced with adversity in our lives, we have two choices:  to rely on God or rely on ourselves.  The difference between the two is that God’s strength never fails while ours will inevitably run out.  As Paul observes back in 2 Corinthians 12:10, when we are weak, we are strong, because it is at those times that we lean most on God.  The major may have a point when he says that humans have nothing, especially compared to a vampire.  However, even if we have nothing in this world other than our frail human existence, we have everything when we have God.

Practical Questions:

  1. Why do you think we are told to be self-reliant or to “suck it up”?
  2. How is our relationship with God affected by this “suck it up” mentality?
  3. How does knowing you can rely on God at all times for support change your perception of your weaknesses?

Introductory Techniques – Coercion

I.                    Introductory Techniques

 

1.      Coercion

The whole idea behind the coercive technique is not to destroy the wretches, but to act as more of a diversion (remember that we are not able to force them to do anything).  The pain and suffering you inflict on them serves no other purpose than to keep them from turning their attention to anything the Enemy might be trying to make known to them.  Although we do delight in their suffering, we cannot afford to become preoccupied with mere pleasure while in the field.  When pressing the human, it is not unheard of for the Enemy to turn the situation to His advantage by stepping in and encouraging the filthy animal to lean on Him after you have broken it physically and emotionally.  Therefore, you must proceed down the coercive path with caution.

Getting down to the practicalities of coercion, it can take two possible forms.  The first is simply a matter of hiding facts and coloring perceptions.  You may go so far as to use your power to inflict some suffering on them such as our father below did to the man known as Job.  There is no need to show yourself to the patient.  Remember that your purpose is to keep their attention on their own woes and not on what the Enemy has to offer them.

The other option is to manifest yourself to them and reveal what power you have.  You should know by now that the humans are absolutely terrified of anything they don’t understand.  That is why they are frightened by the idea of ghosts.  It is simply something beyond the world that they know and comprehend.  When you manifest your power to them, they will certainly be frightened.  If properly handled, it will help prevent them from engaging with the Enemy because they are too busy being afraid of you to even think about Him.  If you are as successful (as you are expected to be), you will be able to make the human into a hallow materialist.  This means that they cling to and espouse a strictly materialist outlook, not because they actually believe it, but because they desperately want to believe it.  It is the wet paper shield that they think will protect them from you.  If they huddle under that, then there is no need to press them any harder because as long as they shut out the entire spiritual realm, we win.

(c) Noah Wilson. All Rights Reserved.