Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset — “rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same ( identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.
Like a Tree
From: Our Daily Journey
I love the powerful song “We Shall Not Be Moved.” The song captures a unique vision of true peace. Like a firmly planted tree, being deeply rooted in God gives us the courage to stand firm for His justice—even when we’re surrounded by powerful forces of corruption.
Isaiah 57:1-58:14 captures a similar dynamic, in which God promised that if His people humbly turned to Him, they would find new courage and “abundant peace” (Isaiah 57:15,18-19). But first they needed to be shaken out of their complacent, superficial faith. Although they acted “so pious,” seemed “delighted to learn all about” God, and fully expected Him to be impressed by their zeal and “take action on their behalf” (Isaiah 58:2), God saw that their worship was really only about themselves (Isaiah 58:3).
Because even as they went “through the motions” of fasting and penance (Isaiah 58:5), they were exploiting others (Isaiah 58:3). If they really wanted to please God, they would be pouring out their lives for the “wrongly imprisoned,” “the oppressed,” “the hungry,” “the homeless,” and others who desperately needed their help (Isaiah 58:6-7).
It’s a challenging and convicting message, especially for people like me who’ve grown up in churches with relative privilege and power. Are we really growing deep roots in God and His ways—which leads to sharing our lives with the hurting—or are we just going “through the motions”? (Isaiah 58:5).
When we draw closer to God’s just and beautiful ways by joining His restoring work (Isaiah 58:12), we’ll also experience our own wounds gradually healing (Isaiah 58:8). We’ll experience the wonder of Him nourishing and strengthening us—guiding us to deeper, more refreshing waters (Isaiah 58:11-12).
Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will— even if it means you will suffer— is something very different. No normal, healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he simply chooses God’s will, just as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. And no saint should ever dare to interfere with the lesson of suffering being taught in another saint’s life.
The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. But the people used to strengthen us are never those who sympathize with us; in fact, we are hindered by those who give us their sympathy, because sympathy only serves to weaken us. No one better understands a saint than the saint who is as close and as intimate with Jesus as possible. If we accept the sympathy of another saint, our spontaneous feeling is, “God is dealing too harshly with me and making my life too difficult.” That is why Jesus said that self-pity was of the devil (see Matthew 16:21-23). We must be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy for us to tarnish God’s character because He never argues back; He never tries to defend or vindicate Himself. Beware of thinking that Jesus needed sympathy during His life on earth. He refused the sympathy of people because in His great wisdom He knew that no one on earth understood His purpose (see Matthew 16:23). He accepted only the sympathy of His Father and the angels (see Luke 15:10).
Look at God’s incredible waste of His saints, according to the world’s judgment. God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places. And then we say, “God intends for me to be here because I am so useful to Him.” Yet Jesus never measured His life by how or where He was of the greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.
When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. John 11:6
In the forefront of this marvelous chapter stands the affirmation, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus,” as if to teach us that at the very heart and foundation of all God’s dealings with us, however dark and mysterious they may be, we must dare to believe in and assert the infinite, unmerited, and unchanging love of God. Love permits pain.
The sisters never doubted that He would speed at all hazards and stay their brother from death, but, “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.”
What a startling “therefore”! He abstained from going, not because He did not love them, but because He did love them. His love alone kept Him back from hasting at once to the dear and stricken home. Anything less than infinite love must have rushed instantly to the relief of those loved and troubled hearts, to stay their grief and to have the luxury of wiping and stanching their tears and causing sorrow and sighing to flee away. Divine love could alone hold back the impetuosity of the Savior’s tender-heartedness until the Angel of Pain had done her work.
Who can estimate how much we owe to suffering and pain? But for them we should have little scope for many of the chief virtues of the Christian life. Where were faith, without trial to test it; or patience, with nothing to bear; or experience, without tribulation to develop it?
Loved! then the way will not be drear;
For One we know is ever near,
Proving it to our hearts so clear
That we are loved.
Loved when our sky is clouded o’er,
And days of sorrow press us sore;
Still we will trust Him evermore,
For we are loved.
Time, that affects all things below,
Can never change the love He’ll show;
The heart of Christ with love will flow,
And we are loved.