A Christian is one who seeks to be like Christ. The goal of Christianity is for us to be more like Jesus. Being more like Jesus does not suggest that we are currently unlike Jesus now. It does however suggest that we can all be more like Jesus. There are likely areas in our lives where we are more like Jesus than we are in other areas. Some people may be more like Him in the area of justice than in the area of mercy. We may look more like Jesus when it comes to generosity than we are in handling conflict.
In seeking to be more like Jesus, there is an area in the life of Jesus that many of us really struggle to embrace. That is the area of suffering. No one wants to suffer. People don’t volunteer to be lied on, fired, or diagnosed with a disease. Although no one wants to suffer, we all will suffer at some point in our lives. The question is do we handle the adversities of life in a way that honors God?
First Peter 2:18-23 highlights Jesus as our role model in suffering. Christians were being called to go beyond what would reasonably be expected in the face of harsh treatment. God shines upon those who, because of their relationship with Him, face harsh treatment with courage and endure the pain of injustice with boldness. When you are aware of the presence and will of God in your life, it changes who you are and how you respond to harsh treatment. We have a testimony to maintain before the world. We are to emulate and reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. Christ left us an example of how to deal with being wronged by others. It is not a question of if, but when will suffering occur.
Suffering is not a detour by which believers receive the inheritance to which they were called. It is God’s appointed means for receiving the inheritance. Expect it. Expect to lose some friends because you are a Christian. Expect for family members to talk about you thinking you are better than they are. Expect co-workers to laugh at your holiness. Christ suffered. But he didn’t just suffer. He suffered for you.
If we are going to be more like Jesus in our suffering, we must learn to suffer patiently. We must suffer with trust. And we must suffer with appreciation. We should be able to give thanks even while in the trial. The purpose of Christ’s death was not merely to provide forgiveness but to empower his people to “live for righteousness.”
Speech and community go hand in hand. Community depends on communication—upon information and attitudes shared in common. Communication is perhaps the most important of all human activities. Nearly everything that we do communicates. People evaluate us based on our communication. They make decisions about future interactions with us based on our communication. As much as we communicate, it is amazing how often we don’t communicate well. Our message falls short. Our words are misinterpreted. Their meaning is often misunderstood. As a result communication gives way to conflict. It is inevitable. The word of God prepares us for the conflicts.
Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How we respond to conflict determines what happens next. Many conflicts arise, not because the issues separating the parties are so great, but because of the temperaments people bring to a confrontation.
The verse assumes a response to the angry person. It is the presence of a response, not the lack of a response that transforms the atmosphere in conflict.
The words for wrath and anger are two different words in the Hebrew text that speak to two different levels of intensity. The first word is an intense rage of emotions. They are already at a 10 on a 10 point anger scale. But a gentle response stops an erupting volcano. It is both the words and how those words are communicated that brings calm to the chaos of wrath. The second word is that of a less intense anger. Here, the person is at a five. A harsh word stirs up anger. Harsh words refers to words that hurt. Words can cause pain. And when people hurt us with their words, we often respond with anger, because we see anger as more powerful of an emotion than hurt.
When we match word for word and tone for tone, what starts off as a lit match turns into a forest fire. When we jab back with cutting words and sharp tone, nothing good is going to come out of it. We often end up having to apologize for what was said. And even after the apology, there is still a strain on the relationship. You cannot unsay words.
The phrase, “the year of our Lord” and the number that follows gives us an approximation of the time that has passed since the birth of Jesus, although most scholars agree that the actual birth of Jesus occurred at some point with the years 6-4 BC and not in the year 1 AD.
We are now a few days into the year of our Lord 2019. Some of us may have already broken our New Year’s Resolution. As we enter into the year of our Lord, 2019, the question is, “Will God be the Lord of our year?”
In Psalm 65:9-13, we see what happens when God blesses our year. God has abundant provisions. He prepares the soil so that it can receive the seed. He conditions the soil for productive growth. This is a reminder that God prepares before He blesses. We often want to get straight to the blessing, but God wants us to be ready for the blessing that He has prepared for us to receive. God prepares the blessing for you, but He also prepares you for the blessing.
After the preparation comes the harvest. God crowns the year with His goodness and His paths drip with abundance (Psalm 65:11). The imagery of crowning here is that of placing a wreath upon a person’s head as a symbol of victory. God crowns the year with prosperity. His paths drip with fatness. Whatever the Lord touches will prosper.
The year was so blessed that even the wilderness was fruitful (Psalm 65:12). When God touches your life, He can get make some things come to life that you thought were dead. God has crowned the year with His goodness.
For some of us last year was our year of preparation. The storms that you had to endure were preparation. The humbling experience of having employer after employer say, “No” was preparation. Your break-up was preparation. Last year God was softening your ground so that the seed of the word could grow in your heart. You have endured the preparation, now you are ready for a harvest. Even if you feel like your life is a desert, God can turn a desert into an oasis.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.