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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Sometimes we get the idea that ‘Bible People’ were somehow a different species of animals. Not really human, not really susceptible to the same emotions, struggles and trials we have. They were from a different time with fewer struggles, they had a closer handle on life and faith…and God. Some of us even write them off as good characters from some novel. Not real, even though realistic.

Fact of the matter is, the stories of the Bible are stories of real people with real struggles surprisingly like our own. Sure, they didn’t have internet or electricity. They didn’t have to worry about a global economy. High gas prices wouldn’t be developed for centuries. But don’t let that keep you from the realization that these are real people with real problems.

They still struggled with relationship issues like divorce and dysfunctional families. There were still time issues and disease to contend with. Politics were just as dangerous as they are today, maybe even more so for some. There was worry and racism and gossip and religious intolerance.

So how did they manage? How did people like the Apostle Paul deal with the issues in his life of several near death experiences, enduring the verbal attacks of people who he sought to love and extend the Grace of God too? Where did he turn when tempted to lash out or lust attacked, or disappointment set in? What encouraged him when he was afraid of the future?

Paul tells us that he learned the secret. There were times in his ministry when people around him supported him emotionally, physically and spiritually. During those times he enjoyed the comfort and contentment of having a warm place to sleep and a full stomach.

There were other times when the hunger was unbearable. The only thing that hurt worse were the accusations, the harassment and the lies that were told about him. There were times he felt completely alone and wondered if his work of ministry was worth the pain.

So what was this secret of Paul’s stability? He learned that in times of need or times of plenty it was his reliance on Christ that kept him strong. The human soul was never created to endure life struggles alone. By our very essence we need a helper to keep us strong during the tough times. Sometimes that strength comes from leaning on others, but there are times when the only solace we have is in Christ. He longs to comfort you, embrace you and lift you up.

Regardless of what you are struggling with; or what others have done to you in your past; or what worries you about the future, Jesus Christ came to strengthen your heart to endure. He didn’t come to remove the trials; he came to walk through them with you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for the power you have to support me. During the trying times may I remember that it is you, only you that I need to make my way through life. Amen.

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21 (NLT)

Remember the game you played in Jr. High? A friend punches you, kicks you or plays a prank of some sort on you and yells, “Even”. Maybe this was more of a guy thing, but I remember it well. It usually started out relatively harmless. Sometimes it could escalate into a full-blown war. It may have started with an accidental push and usually you never knew who really started it. One thing you did know is that ‘Even’ never happened because you always had to get in the last act of (usually) playful violence.

There is, deep within us, the desire to win, to stand for ourselves, to be victorious. It may be buried under years of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It still lies beneath the scars of our pain, but it’s there. It’s longing cries out to us. Its desire cloaks itself in anger, hopelessness, fear and worry. We use chemicals, lifestyle and other control issues to soothe its longing.

The fact of the matter is, we’ll never be victorious as long as we have the attitude of “It’s me against the world.” Until we realize we are nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, spiritual battle we’ll continue to try to win a battle we can never emerge from victorious.

The lifestyle of the Christ-follower is one of dichotomies. The war for our souls is no exception. The best way to ‘win’ is to ‘lose’. The best way to ‘be strong’, is to ‘be weak’. The best way to ‘get even’ is to ‘give in’. The best way to combat the evil in our lives is to do good. Evil acts will always conceive more evil. The only remedy is to allow the Holy Spirit of God enter into your life and develop his fruit in your soul. “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways” (Galatians 5:22-23CEV).

The Christian life is one of dichotomies. Society says, “Revenge is the best way to handle conflict”. God says, “Doing good in the face of evil destroys evil.” Society says lives by the adage, “I did it my way”. God says, “It’s my power working in you, not your power that accomplishes things.”

When faced with the desire to ‘get even’, remember you will accomplish much more by taking a step back and seeking God’s power and wisdom to know how you can best turn this evil into good; to show Christ-like character to those needing the freedom grace has to offer.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times when I’m mistreated, offended, ignored and blamed. During those times when I seek to get even give me the wisdom to follow your path and show Christ’s love in response to those who persecute me. Amen.

Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. 1 Peter 2:23 (CEV)

“Although he was abused, he never tried to get even.”

What a statement of strength, love and faith about Jesus Christ! When abuse happens, those who suffer the abuse may withdraw into a shell and lose themselves in the pain of the wound. Others may strike back at the abuser or become an abuser themselves using their victims as a way of ‘getting even’ with the offender in their own lives. 

Abuse, by definition is the improper treatment of someone else. Physical abuse brings harm to one’s physical body, but bruises heal. Emotional abuse is harder to diagnose. Emotional abuse leaves much deeper scars; the bruises are not seen by the human eye; the pain can last a lifetime.

Jesus Christ was abused for us. He suffered emotionally, physically and spiritually on our behalf. That is refreshing to me for two reasons. First of all, when I’m treated unfairly he completely understands my pain. He’s felt the pain of rejection. He’s heard the voices of insult and false accusation. He was misrepresented and misunderstood. If you are a victim of abuse, you have someone who knows how you feel.

The fact that Jesus was abused also helps me realize how I can best handle abuse. Jesus didn’t get angry at his abusers. As God in the flesh he could have wiped them out with a single word, but he made no threats. Why? How was he able to endure the words and actions of evil people against his body and emotions?

It was faith. Faith gave Jesus Christ the power to endure the abuse leveled against him. Most of us put our faith in ourselves ultimately. We rely on our own power to endure, our own power to plow through the wilderness. When we are mistreated and abused the biggest damage is done to our identity. We believe we are worthless. We blame ourselves. We become angry and bitter.

On the other hand, when our identity is placed in the hands of a loving, all-powerful and forgiving God, we endure the attacks because our value is secure as a result of his power. If today, you are a victim of abuse, not matter how harsh and how unfair, remember this. The God of Heaven sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live among us. He was abused and beaten on your behalf so you could experience the love of His father.

The wounds you bear may never heal completely, but a relationship with him is like soothing oil that heals to the very depth of your soul. Come to him. He knows how you feel.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I pray today for those who are the victims of evil acts that have destroyed their lives. I ask that they may find the relief that comes from a relationship with you. Thank you for enduring all you did for me. Thank you Father for making me who I am. Amen.

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February 2023
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