It Begins with Me
Life can be very difficult at times, that’s for sure. Our days may be filled with many joys and a certain measure of happiness, but lurking somewhere in the shadows is disappointment, discouragement, or perhaps even despair. Bad news happens. Sickness happens. A sprained ankle happens. Sometimes things just happen. We may not be able to control the negative things that happen in our lives, but we have full control over how we respond to them.
Sometimes Christians suffer because of their association with Christ. In Acts 5:41 the apostles had already been warned that they were not to be preaching or teaching in the name of Jesus anymore. Verse 40 says that the council called the apostles in and they flogged them. (Imagine the agony that those men felt, to have the skin stripped off their backs, flayed open). They flogged them and then they released them. Verse 41 says, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” That’s the proper way to react to suffering; but that’s not the way we always react, is it?
Now do you believe that these disciples would have prospered, or that the Lord would have comforted them, or that the Lord would have blessed them if when they left there they said, “I’ll tell you what, I am so sick of being a Christian and being kicked around in this town! All we have done is gotten hauled up before the council every time we speak. I’ll tell you, if it weren’t so hard to be a Christian, it’d be a nice existence! And if I didn’t want to go to heaven so bad, I wouldn’t put up with this junk! I’m tired of being a Christian!” Do you think that there would have been a blessing in it for them? There wouldn’t have been. Would the Lord have comforted them? Would there be any joy among the disciples if they had reacted that way? How does the Lord feel when if something doesn’t go right for us, or somebody gives us a hard time for being Christians, then we complain and grumble and talk about how tough it is to be a Christian; and how sometimes we wish we weren’t, and if we didn’t want to go to heaven so bad we wouldn’t put up with all of this? Friends, it cannot help in our suffering, if we suffer for the wrong things.
We also need to recognize that some of our suffering may be self-inflicted to some degree. For example, a person may suffer in their relationship with other people; but who is at fault? Some have a rocky relationship with their spouse. Some have an on-again-off-again relationship with their friends. Some parents are out of touch with their children. Some Christians struggle in their existence with other Christians. While there may be a lot of blame to go around, the key to making the most out of difficult situations is to stop blaming everyone else and start examining ourselves. Maybe we are the problem (or at least part of it). We need to adopt this policy: “A better friendship begins with me.” “A better marriage begins with me.” “A better family begins with me.” “A better church begins with me” – etc. Jesus said, “…first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26). If we would all follow this rule, imagine how truly wonderful this life could be.