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Totally Abandoned - Part 2
A Quick Review
In Part 1 of this series we looked at the two sides of abandonment - as we abandon satan's kingdom, we abandon ourselves to Christ. This causes suffering in the life of the believer, a very high price to pay for the privilege of following the King of kings. We were left with the question, Are you willing to pay that price?
The Sufferings of the Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul was determined to follow Christ in the paths of suffering. Perhaps he suffered more than any other man except Jesus. He says of his life, “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:23-28).
Paul knew from the very beginning that he would suffer. The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16, “For I will shew him [Paul] how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. Paul counted the cost and found it to be extremely high, but well worth it.
Paul's Answer to Suffering
It was that same Apostle Paul who said, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). The same sang praises at midnight in a Philippian jail (Acts 16:25). The same was stoned and left for dead outside the city gates at Lystra (Acts 14:19).
The great apostle gives us a formula for total abandonment as he continues the theme of rejoicing in Romans 12:12 – “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.”
Let us look at Paul’s underlying thoughts through the Greek language. Chairō is the Greek word translated as rejoicing in this verse. Its general meaning is to be full of cheer, and/or calmly happy. We are to rejoice in hope. Paul was not saying he hoped it would all work out. He was not simply preaching a lesson on positive thinking.
The word hope (elpis) carries with it the idea of anticipation, expectation, and/or confidence. We may not find it easy to rejoice over our trials, but we should, and can rejoice in our hope – our confidence, our anticipation and expectation that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Next consider the phrase, patient in tribulation. The Greek word hupomenō has been translated into the English language as patient; however its meaning is far deeper than what we might think. The word means to stay under or remain; to bear as in trials, to have fortitude, persevere: - abide or endure.
Likewise the English word tribulation contains a deeper meaning. Thlipsis can mean pressure, anguish, persecution, or any kind of trouble. We are to remain with perseverance, and endure the pressure, anguish, and persecution of life for as long as the Lord sees fit. I understand trials are painful and difficult, but remember God is forming His masterpiece in you. This life shows the pain and suffering of trials. Eternity will show the beauty.
Now we come to the phrase continuing instant in prayer. Continuing instant or proskartereō carries the thought of being earnest, to persevere, to be constantly diligent, or to wait on. The Greek word for prayer is proseuchē, and it means just that – prayer. We are to be earnestly and diligently persevering in prayer while we wait on the Lord to meet the need. We are to be totally abandoned to His will and plan for our life. That is why amidst the storms and trials of life Paul could confidently say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). He goes on to mention in Romans 8:18,“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
In his total abandonment, nothing could separate Paul from his Lord. In verses 37-39 of Romans chapter 8 he continues, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Blessing of Abandonment
Total abandonment works two ways. To be totally abandoned may mean you will have to forfeit life’s little pleasures in exchange for suffering. The flip side is that amidst the suffering, we have the very presence, power, and protection of God Himself. There really is nothing else you need. When God is the central point of our lives finances do not matter. Health does not matter. Family does not matter. Social standing does not matter. These things are nice to have if God allows them, but truly He is all we need. In our lack, He is our supply. To our questions, He is the Answer.
Think about it realistically. If your finances fail, what can you do? When pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps fails, who can you turn to? What happens when you are given the bad news that cancer has taken over your body? You do not have the ability, nor does the doctor have the ability, to heal you. When your family falls apart and there is no instant fix, what are your options?
We simply do not have the answers to life’s complex problems. God may not choose to give you the finances, good health, or good relationships, but He will go with you through the storms. He never promised to lead you around the storm, but He did promise to be with you as the two of you go through the storm together. Totally abandon yourself to His loving arms, and find the peace that is waiting for you.
Not to belittle your difficulties in life, but in all honesty you probably have not suffered like the Apostle Paul, and you probably have not suffered like God’s servant Job. We learn in the opening verses of the book that bears his name that there were born to Job seven sons and three daughters. He possessed seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a huge household of servants. It was said that he was the greatest of all the men of the east. As we continue in the book we see that Job lost everything; his family, his business, and later his health. His own wife turned from him. All that was precious to him, God had removed by the hand of satan.
We suffer for many reasons. Sometimes we cause our own problems. When we do we just need to man up and admit our sin and wrongdoing. Sometimes God sends trials our way to test us. Sometimes our difficulties are brought about by one or more of satan’s corps. This was the case with Job.
My guess would be that most of the time we cause our own calamities. Other times God is at work bringing adversity in our lives for our good. Still, sometimes satan is at work although I do not believe as much as we give him credit for. Through all of this, God allows suffering. All your circumstances must pass through the loving hands of your Father.
Rest in that fact, but also know if satan is attacking, he cannot win. God may allow him access to our lives for a season as He did with Job, but realize that it is only for a period of time. Be faithful through the trial, and you will be blessed. Job struggled with his situation, but in the end as he sought God, God blessed him twice as much as we read in Job 42:12, 13 - “So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters.”
As you seek God with your whole heart, know that satan will not let you alone. He will constantly be trying to interfere with your quest. So realize that part of suffering may occur because of your attempt at total abandonment. If you are under satanic attack, thank God for the privilege of serving and suffering for Him. Satan will not bother you if you are not trying to serve God. If you are not serving God, satan already has you. You will not lose your salvation, but satan will back off if you are not making an impact for the kingdom. There is no need for him to harass you. If you are being harassed by the evil one, that is a sign you are pleasing God, so keep at it. See it through.
Remember James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but it is a battle nevertheless. Spiritual battles are more heated than physical battles. We cannot see the enemy approach, and before we realize it he is present stirring up the pot. James 4:7 is a two-sided coin. To submit to God is to resist the devil, and to resist the devil is to submit to God. The important thing is that as we consistently and faithfully submit and resist, God gives us a promise. The devil will flee; not maybe or sometimes, but he will flee from you. No doubt he will be back at a later time, but continue to submit and resist.
To summarize, total abandonment comes with the high price tag of suffering. Just as Jesus suffered we are to willingly and gladly follow in His steps. If are unwilling to take up our cross we cannot be Christ’s disciple. However, the high cost of total abandonment is worth all that God requires of you to sacrifice for His cause and the Kingdom. Your reward will follow you, so be faithful even to the death.