Posted by: pmarkrobb | February 8, 2015

continue to do good

I wonder if this current season of your life is one marked or defined by suffering.  I feel as though I’m emerging from such a season, and the questions and truths of suffering have been front and center in my sacred time with God.  My personal study and preparation for my Wednesday morning men’s group have been saturated with the issue of suffering, and just this morning the Spirit gifted a prompt that connected the dots of that study time and the character of Joseph.

Some of the most powerful time in my conversation with God this week has centered on a verse in 1 Peter.  Read with me…

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19 (NIV)

It’s more than fair to say that Joseph suffered.  As I wrote a few days ago, his life was a roller coaster of mountain top and dark valley experiences.  As I sat a while with this illustration, I began to focus on the sections of Joseph’s coaster which followed the valleys and preceded the mountain tops.  Sections like, when Joseph was retrieved from the hole his brothers threw him into and was taken to Egypt and sold into slavery.  Times like, when Joseph was thrown into prison after being falsely accused of seducing Potiphar’s wife.  Times like, when the cupbearer gets released from prison and forgets his promise to Joseph to mention him to Pharaoh.

When Joseph is down, dirt seems to get repeatedly kicked in his face.  Yet how does Joseph respond … each and every time?  I believe you can answer, “1 Peter 4:19” after each kick of dirt.  The reason there is an ascent in the direction of a mountain top in Joseph’s life, is because in the face of being dealt an unfair card, he commits himself to his faithful Creator and continues to do good.  He is sold to Potiphar, and it is not long before he is put in charge of Potiphar’s household and entrusted to care for everything Potiphar owns.  Joseph is thrown into prison and in almost no time, “the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.” (Gen. 39:22)  Joseph is later forgotten in prison (for two whole years!), ends up in Pharaoh’s court interpreting his dream, is later elevated to a personal attendant for Pharaoh himself and put in charge of all the storehouses in Egypt.  It is clear that God was with Joseph in all of this, but it also remains absolutely true that Joseph committed himself to God and continued to do good in each and every occasion of suffering.

The guide for my Wednesday morning men’s group had a really great prompt as it related to meditating on the verse in 1 Peter.  It is called the Emphasize Different Words method and encourages you to focus on the words that may not initially come into view when studying a verse.  In the case of 1 Peter 4:19, the primary focus words I saw were “suffer,” “commit,” and “continue.”  My response to their prompt to emphasize different words drew me to “according to God’s will,” and “faithful Creator.”  I was drawn immediately to the fundamental truth that any suffering we endure (and Joseph endured) is allowed by God into our lives, and further, that He remains present and faithful every single step of our journey through that suffering.  The fingerprints of that truth are all over Joseph’s story, and they are absolutely present in yours and mine.  Will we choose to see them?  Will we choose to commit and continue to do good each step of our journey through suffering?

The very next assignment relative to 1 Peter 4:19 was to summarize the verse in your own words.  I am rarely shy with words, and it proved true again as I “summarized.” I didn’t start with that as a goal,  but I found the words flowed as the truths I had been reminded of and drawn deeper into spilled out on paper.  I share them with you, not from a place of pride, but in the hope that they may be of encouragement or prompt to someone else who finds themselves in a season of suffering.  I’ll end with those words and with the promise that you are on my heart and in my prayers tonight.  Albeit unnamed, my heart is petitioning Jesus on your behalf.  Be encouraged that God knows you, sees you, and is allowing this suffering in your life.  Commit yourself to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.

There’s an amazing and mysterious thing called “God’s will for your life.”  An essential and irreplaceable part of it, is the truth that you will suffer.  If there is anything that is “harmful” in suffering, it’s to your sin nature and the part of you that insists on living your life and walking your faith under your own power.  Let suffering do its necessary work, and you will find yourself right in the middle of doing good.  If you’re surprised by where you are, don’t be.  God can be trusted in everything, and especially when you die to the evil of your own purposes.  He will author good, which He lavishly allows you to be a part of — and He’ll even do it right in the middle of real and genuine suffering.

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