The latter months of 2015 were quite challenging for many of us. As a church, we experienced the loss of two wonderful men who had been part of our church family, both through cancer. At the same time, two other members of our church family had serious accidents, resulting in them both being hospitalised and requiring assistance afterwards. This all happened in the same weeks as the Paris attacks, which shocked the world. Of course, Paris was not the only city which was attacked by terrorists that week, but it was covered thoroughly by our media, meaning that for weeks many of us were living in fear of an imminent terrorist attack.
After all these things had happened, I was talking to a member of our church family at the end of the Sunday service. He asked me, “Why is all of this happening to us?”
This was a question I’d been reflecting on myself. In times like those we were facing, it’s only natural for us to ask this question. It can make even the toughest situations easier to face, if only we can find some rhyme or reason to it all. Are we under spiritual attack? Are all these things unrelated and just an unfortunate series of events? Is God testing us or teaching us a lesson?
The Discipline of Spiritual Stubbornness
When hardship comes at us, it could be for any of those reasons. The answer I gave when I was asked that question was simple. I didn’t know why these things were happening to us. It could have been that the enemy was having a go at us, or it could have just been a difficult period which is a reality of life. The conclusion I had reached was that it is vital for us to practice the discipline of spiritual stubbornness.
You won’t find the term “spiritual stubbornness” in the Bible. However, I do believe that it is a strong Biblical principle which we all should apply to our lives. Suffering is a reality of life. We can’t escape it; it’s a consequence of the imperfect nature of the world in which we live. What we can determine is our response to suffering. Whether it is an attack from the enemy, a random accident or the discipline of our Heavenly Father, there is one key response which is the epitome of spiritual stubbornness – keep your eyes on Jesus.
Whether it is an attack from the enemy, a random accident or the discipline of our Heavenly Father, there is one key response which is the epitome of spiritual stubbornness – keep your eyes on Jesus.
If we are under spiritual attack, it is because the enemy wants to distract us from following Jesus. He will try all sorts of things to keep us from maintaining a relationship with God our Father. When this happens, we must take up the attitude of so many protesters through the ages; “We shall not be moved!” Whatever the enemy throws your way, stubbornly resist him and keep your eyes on Jesus. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV)
As for those seemingly random occurrences which threaten to overcome us, the answer is the same – keep your eyes on Jesus. Even if it is purely out of that stubborn attitude which says, “I refuse to be distracted,” keep your eyes on Jesus. Think of someone in your life who is particularly stubborn. It’s frustrating isn’t it? No matter what you suggest, they doggedly refuse to shift from their decision. That’s how we need to be in the face of suffering.
This is easy to say, but not always easy to do. Sometimes things come along and they take us by surprise. Other things are just too much for us to bear, and we are in real danger of being overcome by them. Suffering is not an easy thing to deal with. I don’t want to diminish that in any way. As you’re reading this, there may be things you’re facing right now which feel like they’re too much for you to handle. You might completely agree with the concept of spiritual stubbornness, but have no idea how to actually do it when your current reality is so excruciatingly difficult.
For me, there is one truth onto which I hold, which gives me comfort. Jesus is still on the throne. I repeat it to myself, over and over. Life is horrible right now, I don’t know how I can cope, but Jesus is still on the throne. I’m grieving, I’m hurting, I don’t understand, but Jesus is still on the throne. I feel like everything in the world is against me and it’s one thing after another, but Jesus is still on the throne. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he left his disciples with one final command, which we call the Great Commission. He bookends this Commission with two truths which summarise this little ‘mantra’ of mine: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… and I am with you, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18 & 20).
We can receive comfort in our suffering, because Jesus is on the throne. Jesus understands suffering; he experienced it at its worst during his life. He now holds authority over all things – nothing takes him by surprise – and he has promised to be with us. Sometimes people wonder why God doesn’t intervene in our suffering. He sometimes does, but even if he doesn’t take it away, he chooses to feel it with us. God is not aloof from our suffering, he is there with us through it.
We can receive comfort in our suffering, because Jesus is on the throne.
Whatever you’re facing at the moment, I pray that you will find comfort in the knowledge that God is right there with you, and that you will find the strength to exercise the discipline of spiritual stubbornness, so that nothing can distract you or stop you from pursuing a close relationship with Jesus.
If you’re not a Christian and you’re reading this, I hope that you find comfort in it also. All our lives are tainted by suffering, but it is possible to live with hope if you choose to follow Jesus. If you would like to find out more about this hope, please contact me either through the comments or through the form on the bottom of this page.