“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” — Acts 14:22
I am not a fan of suffering. In fact, I try to avoid it as much as possible. Looking back over my life, I have done really stupid stuff to bring hardships on myself. I have also had hardships that were just completely unavoidable. I have learned to look at my hardships closely. I must ask myself, “Am I suffering because of my poor decision making?” If the answer is “yes”, then that suffering was unnecessary. If the answer is “no”, then that suffering was unavoidable and I look at it as God-ordained.
Nobody has suffered like Job. His suffering was absolutely unavoidable. He did not suffer as a result of his poor choices. In fact, Job was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Just a few verses later, an onslaught from Satan began that nobody has experienced since. However, by the end of the book, Job emerged stronger in faith than ever, and with twice the stuff he had before the hardship began.
I have seen in this life that no two people have the same sets of trials and tribulations. Even though hardships may be similar, no two are exactly alike. Our main verse for today says we “must” go through them to enter the kingdom of God. In other words, if you want what God offers, eternal life in Heaven with Him, as well as an abundant life here on Earth, you are going to be tested and tried. At the end of every trial, you will emerge much better off than you were before.
This morning, I am going to keep in mind that my trials and hardships have been custom designed. You might want to start thinking of yours as custom designed as well. God knows exactly what you and I need to experience to become more like Him. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” I don’t think I remember being presented that truth when I received Christ as my personal savior. I sort of found out the hard way that our sinful nature doesn’t just disappear. I also found out the hard way that the process of becoming more Christ-like is ongoing and does not just automatically happen the day I decide to call myself a Christian. The only way to conform to His image is to walk with Him one day at a time, not just in theory, but also in practice.
I guess I say all that to say this: Whatever you are going through, and I mean whatever . . . it is custom designed by God Himself. He knows exactly what you need to go through to be prepared to enter Heaven. People think just anybody and everybody is going, but Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. We are here on Earth for such a short period of time. All that matters is that you conform to the image of Christ. At the end of it all, He will say one of two things to each and every person who has ever lived:
“Depart from me, I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23) These are the people who did everything possible to avoid the process of enduring hardships to become Christ-like. Every time the least bit of discomfort was involved in following Him, they quit. They wanted no part of self-denial, no part of the cross of suffering, and no part of following Jesus into unknown territory.
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) These are the people who could join Job in the midst of custom-designed suffering and say, “Though He slay me, still I will hope in Him!” (Job 13:15)