“One more rep. C’mon Rick. One more rep. Squeeze it out. C’mon, you can do it. No pain no gain. Yes. Good job. You did it.” Many years ago I was a member of a fitness club. I remember hearing those words from my workout partner or spotter in gym terms. The purpose of the spotter was to assist you with the last couple of repetitions usually on the bench press. If the spotter was intense he would usually encourage one or two more reps but those last repetitions were always hard and painful. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. I felt like saying “Shut Up.” But I knew that if I pushed through if I kept my focus on my goal if I could endure the pain of those last couple reps the results would come. Now I wasn’t trying to win the “Mr. Olympia” contest or anything like that. But I did have a goal. I had a fitness goal. To get into
excellent physical condition and stay healthy and strong and with hard work, determination, and a lot of
physical pain in the gym I achieved my goal. That was many years ago but I learned a valuable lesson through that experience. A lesson that I’m still benefiting from today. It reminds me of Proverbs 14:23 –“Hard work pays off.”
Physical muscles and strength are one thing but spiritual muscles and strength are something entirely different. Spiritual strength is even more important and valuable. The truth is you can look like “Conan the Barbarian” but be spiritually weak and lazy. There are simply no shortcuts to spiritual growth and maturity. I’ve learned that it takes discipline, determination, dedication, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, and sometimes pain and suffering to obtain spiritual growth and maturity. Today I would like to talk about hard work and pain/suffering.
I can remember 20 years ago in the spring of 2000 when I first became a Christian. During those first 8 months of my Christian walk I barely picked up my Bible and I rarely prayed. I did attend Church now and then but I was nowhere near walking and living an authentic Christian lifestyle and the results showed. I got badly beat up and knocked around by the devil and even worse my marriage badly suffered. In those days I was struggling was addictions to alcohol, marijuana, pornography among other things. Because of the lifestyle, I was living at that time it caused tremendous pain and heartache in my marriage. It was a very dark time in my life and marriage. I’m still amazed today that my dear wife never tossed me to the curb because she had every right too. What an amazing woman.
It wasn’t until November of 2000 that everything started to change for me. I had an encounter with God where He revealed to me how much He loved me. It overwhelmed me. It was then that I finally started to walk and live an upright Christian lifestyle. I made the choice to draw near to God and as He says in His Word He drew near to me (James 4:7,8). I began to read His Word and pray daily. I fell in love with God, the Bible, and prayer. I committed to the practice of Scripture memorization. When a particular verse “jumped out” at me I decided to memorize it. I figured that if I memorized Scripture it would help me develop the mind of Christ because we are instructed in Philippians to have the mind of Christ. Now it takes practice and work to memorize Scripture but once you start and keep at it you can have an arsenal of ammunition to fire at the devil and put him in his place. Knowing Scripture is excellent for ministering to others as well. David understood this when he wrote, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11). Jesus is an excellent example of knowing the Word and using it when He was tempted in the wilderness. He countered each temptation by quoting the Word of God. If Jesus sent the devil packing by speaking out the Word then we should follow His example. The only way to know the Word is to spend time in the Word and prayer. Deposit God’s Word into your memory bank and you will draw interest for the rest of your life.
Be encouraged friends. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of consistent daily prayer and devotion time. If you want to make good positive spiritual gains and growth then this is an absolute must-do. The Word of God is our guide, our compass, our map, our GPS, and our Light in this lost dark world we live in. Reading the Bible and spending time in prayer is not to be done out of duty or ritual. It’s out of your love and gratitude for Him that you do it. There are times that I haven’t felt like doing it but I pushed through and made my prayer and devotion time my first priority for every day. The time when you connect with God daily is so essential and important that it needs to be guarded. Now it doesn’t have to be a 2 or 3-hour session although I suppose it can be. You can start with 15 minutes a day. It can be short but keep it consistent. Consistency is key. I’ve found that over the years the more time you spend reading God’s Word and in prayer the more you want it. Your spirit and soul will begin to crave the Word and you will make tremendous spiritual gains for your effort and sacrifice.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” Matt.5:6
“The Word of the Lord is perfect refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant giving light to the eyes. They are more precious than gold. Than much pure gold” Psalm 19:7-10
True intimacy with God and spiritual maturity will take sacrifice, dedication, hard work, and consistency. If you can give God some time every day He will surely bless you, strengthen you, empower you, and be faithful to you. He will reveal Himself to you in many ways. You will find that God will begin to use you in amazing ways as His servant and vessel to accomplish His purposes on earth. Now it doesn’t mean that everything in your life is going to be “Peaches and Cream” or gravy. In fact, Jesus says that “In this world, you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” John 16:33.
I’ll be the first to tell you that the Christian walk and pilgrimage is not always a cakewalk. It can be very difficult at times. Sometimes bad things just happen. Things completely out of our control. I know Christians personally who have lost a loved one, lost a job, suffer from chronic illness or disease, struggle with mental health, go through financial chaos, deal with a broken marriage, addiction, or suffered some tragic accident. Sometimes the hurt and pain can be short-lived and other times it can drag out for years. As Christians, we can either let these circumstances bring us down in defeat or we can use these events to draw closer to God and to trust and rely on Him to sustain us through. What’s wonderful about the Lord is that he is with us through all the hurt, pain, and suffering that we go through. Psalm 34:18 “God is near the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. It’s during those valleys that God will do some of the deepest work in your character building as long as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Your faith can get tested during these times but God is so faithful. He will help you, assist you, strengthen you, and uphold you during the difficult times in your life and through the process, your faith and trust in Jesus will grow and be strengthened.
Paul the Apostle experienced hardship. 2 Cor.11:25 says “Five times I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and day in the open sea. I have gone without food and water. I’m in constant danger.” Paul boasted in his sufferings because he knew it was for the sake of the Lord. He knew that God would sustain him and see him through. Paul knew that through his suffering he would become more like Christ by allowing his heart to be purged of all pride and self-reliance. Amazingly God will do the same thing in your life. God will use your pain and suffering for His glory and shape your character.
When the time is right God will use you in the lives of others to help them, encourage them, and love them. God will use your pain and suffering to help you empathize with other fellow Believers who are going through similar situations as you did. Suffering will equip you for ministry. Many people in the Church struggle with a marriage falling apart, alcoholism, drug addiction, porn addiction, depression, mental health anxiety, and the list goes on. God has a unique way of making Divine connections and what He will do is connect you with other hurting people because of what you’ve been through yourself. God will empower you to speak and minister into people’s lives because He knows you have a strong word for them and it serves a dual purpose. Not only are you helping another person in need but you are growing in your faith and gifts by ministering to others. In other words….Your pain their gain and your pain your gain.
“We glory in our sufferings(pain), because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” Romans 5:3,4
Jesus Himself knew the importance of pain and suffering. He knew He had to go to the cross. He knew He had to experience the pain to receive the gain. Hebrews 12:2 says “Fix our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” No cross no gain or you could say that it was His pain and our gain. Either way, the fact remains that Jesus had to experience real pain and suffering but the result was glorious and the same is true for you and me.
Let me encourage you Friends in Christ. If you have not experienced some pain and suffering as a Christian, you probably will. But don’t be afraid. Maybe some of you are going through it right now. Acts 14:22 says “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Your pain and suffering will serve a purpose. The body of Christ is meant to be a refuge for those who are suffering. As fellow Believers in Christ, we can come alongside to help each other through such times. “God comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may comfort those in their afflictions with the same comfort we received from God.” 2 Cor.1:4.
If you have gone through your own fiery trials and hardships and you’ve come to realize that God is faithful, loyal, and true, you have something to offer others. To be able to help another person in distress is a beautiful act of love and reflection of God’s heart. The trials, tribulation, pain, and suffering that you’ve been through in your life will make you wise for ministry and keep your heart tender and compassionate towards others.
Together in His Grip,
By: Rick Pilat