Friday, November 20, 2009

Suffering and Gifts

By Odon Bulamba (summarised by Benedicte Bahjejian - 25/05/07)


Lam 3:31-33For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

This is a short message, telling us bout God. God is not the God who rejects people, no matter who you are & what you did, he continues to love you and me. But we are not called to do wrong things because his love is so great. That’s why He is teching us everyday to change and to improve, because He wants so much to make us new tools. I can easily ‘say this Bible is older than that one’, you can see that by just looking at these 2 Bibles. But in God’s kingdom everything is just new, present day after day. That’s why God tells us in the book of Exodus “I am who I am”, which means that I am the one who used to be, day after day I am a new God, I am refreshing and eternal, I am not old and I don’t change.

Once, a servant of God from the Bible said to God: I am old now and I cannot go to fight. God asked him: how old are you? I am 80. And he said: you have to go to fight, to be 80 is not a good enough reason for you not to go.

So God wants to use us, as I said, he doesn’t care about your age, or mind, or your personality, He doesn’t take control of your feelings. He asks us to go and serve him. You can be good in expressing things or bad in languages, you can be useless or have some handicaps, problems about yourself. But all this shall not stop God from using you. A good example that was given to me is about this country. People can face serious problems because of their culture, who they are, people cannot speak or hear. The government tries their best to educate these people somehow so that they play a role in the country. Blind people have trained dogs to lead them, and with this help, they can contribute to the development of this country. And new associations everywhere are created to train people to enable them to do something.

And in the kingdom of God it is the same. Many people believe that God has rejected them, they are unable to serve Him because they think they are just unable. They put their feelings first, and these feelings tell them: you are not the right one.

For instance Zacchaeus who was short, maybe shorter than me, tried to put his feelings aside, believing that even though I am short, I have to meet this God (Luke 19:1-4). If also you want to improve & you want God to use you, first of all, put your feelings aside. Satan can easily enter your mind and tempt you:

• you know, you are not really eloquent, how will you go on the street and talk to people about the Gospel?
• you are not so good at singing. How will open your mouth in a church and sing? People will hear that you sang the wrong tune.

And reasons will start to come & you’ll say: yes, that’s true, I am not really good in singing. And people sing to glorify God, because they have nice voices, you’ll try to hide yours. You will say: I am not singing so that they won’t criticize me. Even if you feel the power of worship in your heart, you will try to quiet it because you are afraid of people. But remember that God has never and ever rejected you. Why therefore are you rejecting God, thinking that what I have got is not enough to please you God.

So, as it is written in verse 32, God can make you suffer. But remember that he is full of love. Suffering will not make you say that: I can not serve God anymore, I cannot handle it anymore. I need to really feel God’s love. Imagine, when you are suffering, it is not easy to feel the love He has for you. For instance, if someone picks up a knife & attacks you & then later cuddles you ‘Oh, I love you! Come to me I love you!’. How will you feel? You’ll defend yourself and say: This is not love anymore. Maybe God will take away what you love so much, or he will not give you what you expect to receive, or what you deserved yesterday in order to make you suffer. And then the same God will come to you again saying: I open my arms, come & I will give you a big hug. And maybe you will tell God: "You are an hypocrite, God. I am sorry. While you are making me suffering, you want to show me love?"

So people who are growing up spiritually, & the ones who are reaching maturity in their spiritual life will face such things. Therefore, accept that suffering is normal. And remember that suffering has an end, it will not last forever. You can suffer tonight and tomorrow morning that stage will pass, and you will move on to another stage. People around the world today can say: there are many things happening in the country. For instance, murder, people are murdering each other in New Zealand. And if someone shoots someone else, it will be broadcasted on TV. And think about Congo; how many people die per day? And think of other countries such as Iraq or others. To the point that I think journalists are tired, they want to close this chapter it is too much, we can talk about it day after day after day. The smell of the country is only blood. So if your suffering is smaller than that, and you are complaining, & if God takes you to Iraq, where you will see blood everyday, will you really continue to persevere in your faith? If God tells you: The level where you are now is heavy for you, I want to bring you a level higher, so that you can face things that are 20 times harder than what you live now. Will you really continue to be a worshiper of that God?

You’ll wake in the morning and think how good is God, and say: Oh God, you are so good, you give me everything. At my work, my family is fine, I am feeling strong, I have to go to work. God will say: Ok, on your way, I will show you…
You’ll drive your car in the morning, & your way there BANG! car crash. Oh my God, what happened? And the person in front of you will tell you:
- This is your fault!
- No, this is not my fault; you are the one who came from the wrong direction.
- This is your fault, don’t bother me! And the person will leave.

You’ll call the police and the police will come. ‘Ok what’s the problem Odon?’
- O, I was just in this position, a car came this way & we had a crash
- What car was that?
- I can’t remember the number plate
- Ok, we think you are wrong because you should have noted it down. Anyway have you got insurance?
- No I haven’t
- So we cannot sort your problem out. Just go & fix your car.

Then, you’ll start to blame the police, ‘he is bad’, and judge the person who hit your car & left, you’ll even judge people who were witnesses because they say they didn’t see anything.

So we think you are wrong because you should have taken the plate number. Anyway, do you have insurance? No insurance. So we cannot sort out your problem, go and fix your car. And then you will start to judge that the police is bad, and maybe the person who hit your car and left. You will even judge people who were witness of the accident and who said they did not see anything

For instance, I was young, I used to go to a Catholic secondary school called Saint Paul. And there, we used to meet with a group of young boys and we would be naughty, as for example attacking someone, and when the principal would come to ask us what happened, we would blame the person and say that she or he was wrong. While we were the ones who attacked him. So if five, six, ten people testify against you, but you are telling the truth, who will really believe you are telling the truth? And most of the time, while doing God’s work, you will face these kinds of situations, where people will testify against you, you can tell them this is the truth, change your lives, Jesus likes you, He loves you, He died for you, and people will say: No! Your message is a wrong message. People will say no. Whatever you are talking about, it is not correct, you have to change your ways, you have to improve your strategies.

Although God does good to us, he doesn’t stop us from suffering. And there are three types of sufferings:

1) The first one is inside ourselves; you feel that you are suffering inside but you cannot express what it is. Sometimes you wake up and sit on your chair, and start to think about your life. And you feel pain inside: Why only me? Why only my family? Why did this happen to me? And by thinking of your mountains of problems, you can make yourself sick. And on that day, you loose completely your joy.

2) The second type is physical suffering. When your body is mistreated, because people hate you and so on. And you feel that you are really suffering of headache, stomach ache, backache and so on. Sometimes, you will find a remedy in seeing the doctor, and sometimes not.

3) The third one is spiritual suffering that very often our body cannot feel. It is the worst one because you don’t feel pain at all. It’s like people who practice yoga or kung fu, when they reach a certain level, when they are stubbed they do not feel the pain any more. In my country, in the 1960’s, people used to practice witchcraft, if someone shot another person; the bullet would just hit the body and drop on the ground. If someone wanted to stab another person, the knife would just bend by itself. No pain, no problem at all. When people are facing such attacks, they would put fear aside.

But when you do not feel this physical pain you will not fear God, nor people talking about the message of God. You will start to think that you are not sensitive to God any more, and be inflexible about what you believe in: "That is my way, my culture, the way I have been brought up. This is my life." And then you will find that you are loosing something, which is the love of God. Your love for God, and your love for others will decrease. And once your love for God decreases, you become a lazy person in your spiritual tasks; you will stop praying, stop visiting people, you will not exercise what the Bible asks you to do. And after that, the God who let you go through suffering will come and intervene, saying: Just because of this small hardship, you want to forget about me? He will be the first person to accuse you. He brought suffering, but he wants you to persevere, because according to the book of James, the more you persevere, the bigger your faith (will grow) and your faith will become stronger. Yet, if you decide to give up, you will lose everything.

God wants us to go through suffering, and yet no one likes to suffer. Some people will tell you that you cannot talk about suffering because you don’t know what it is, whereas others will tell you that to suffer a little is not really suffering because suffering made Jesus to fear, he wanted this cup to be removed from him because of the wrath of God coming on him. To suffer is hard, and when you suffer, that is when you realize how useless this life is, how useless is your body in the society, and in the kingdom of darkness. And Paul said that once you go through suffering, you do not live any more, but Jesus who lives in you (Galatians 2:20), because you find that everything you have got is useless. You can kill yourself studying, working from Monday to Monday, fulfilling all the requirements asked by the society, but never be satisfied. You will work so hard for the rest of your life, and when you finally look at your income, you will ask yourself: why did I work so hard? Some people, during their might have been working so hard, maybe twenty hours a day, but today are nothing. Yesterday they were rich but today they lost all their money. They had joy yesterday but today it is also completely gone. They worked hard to the point of being sick, their bodies cannot cope any more.

God wants you to work for him, not to the point of being sick but first of all to prepare your future in the kingdom of God. He is taking you somewhere, not only to please hHimself, but for you to have something in His kingdom. So if today you are suffering, your treasure is in the kingdom of God, you are preparing your own place. If you do not do God’s work, God will not lose anything, but you will lose. But if you work hard for him, you will bring more people to his kingdom, and be heir of this kingdom. For this very reason, God decided to give us gifts and ministries. It is true that we suffer and will continue to suffer, but we have to keep on working.

Now is not too late, you can still work by using your gifts. And remember that whenever you use your gifts, you will also suffer. You will be disappointed or chocked by people, they can say things you don’t like, God can completely abandon you, as he did with Jesus (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. If you reach this stage, don’t give up using your gifts, don’t believe that God is away from you just because you don’t feel his presence in your heart. No, GOD IS WITH YOU.

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