26 February 2002

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"- 2 Corinthians 4:17 Afflictions come in all shapes and sizes. Physical problems, financial disasters, family problems, heartaches and depressions are all common to man. Rich and poor all meet together in the furnace of affliction, none are exempt. As the book of Job says, "Man that is born of a woman is few days, and full of trouble" and again, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward". But do we see God's hand in afflictions as well as the blessings? It has occurred to me that this is one of the most perplexing experiences known to man. We have a tendency to judge others and justify self when it comes to afflictions. When they come our way we might say, "It is just a fluke, a chance of life," not realizing that if God did not bring it, He must have at least allowed it. Yet, when it comes to others, we wonder what deep, dark sin they are hiding and why God is punishing them for it. The veil of afflictions are uncovered when we learn they are not always a rod of correction. Most afflictions come our way to bring us closer, make us more reliant up the Lord, turn our heart away from the world and make better disciples. In this, God gets the glory! We can sit around perplexed about it all or we can be as Job when he said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." He saw the Lord in it all and grew closer! The book of Job is an illustration of God getting glory by a faithful man who is afflicted. Perplexing it was, even to his best friends. They came to comfort him and did a pretty good job when they sat silent. But they became full blown Pharisees in the end, accusing him of some sin: "Come on Job, cough it up, confess it, what have you done in your secret life to bring all this on your own head". That was the sentiment of their comforts and Job was right when he labeled them, "Miserable comforters." It was perplexing to them because Job's afflictions were not the result of sin. God allowed Satan to vex Job. In the midst of it all, God received the glory for Job's faithfulness, Satan was judged, Job learned a lot about God, himself and the people around him, and his friends learned that they did not know as much about God as they thought they did. We need to be careful how we judge other people's problems and how we should view our own. Perhaps the Lord is molding one of His children in the furnace for their good and His glory. It is wisdom when we learn that afflictions are actually good for us: as Paul writes, they work "for us". Though we would not admit it, most of the time we go along with the idea that we need no afflictions. I am sure if you took a survey, few children and teenagers would admit they needed any discipline or direction whatsoever. Yet, without it a life is wasted and the arrow falls short of the mark. In the Lord's eyes, we are always "children" and need afflictive guidance. The biblical perspective of affliction is given in many places. It is the fire which consumes he dross and refines the silver and gold. Dross is worldliness or sin. Worldly wisdom denies the existence of such things ... God continues to afflict. When the Lord gets ready to begin His refining, He turns the heat up. Surely, this can occur with our knowledge of what He is doing, or without it. Wisdom is to understand God's purpose in it. As we grow older, these old bodies begin to fail we look more upon eternal things and less on the world. Affliction! Paul speaks of these afflictions as "light afflictions". They are not "light" by measurement of pain experienced, but rather by time experienced. Paul considered the afflictions of his whole life as nothing compared to the "eternal weight of glory." Compared to an eternity with the Lord, earthly afflictions are just for "a moment", a wink of the eye or a flash in the pan. They may be for sin or they may be for further learning or a drawing closer. Whatever our circumstance may be, let us look for the Lord in the furnace and say with David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes"-Psalm 119:71. Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church. Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor.