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We're so used to living in this cursed, sinful world that it's hard to imagine what it must have been like to live in a cursed-free, sinless world that Adam and Eve experienced before the fall. But all it took was one bite of the forbidden fruit to bring sin into this world and into our lives as their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned—".
The Bible tells us that Adam lived to be 930 years old. How long Adam and Eve experienced paradise before the fall, we're not told. But even if they only experienced a few brief moments in Paradise, we can only imagine the horrible shock Adam and Eve experienced as a result of their sin:
Beginning with their attempt to hide from God in their nakedness and shame, witnessing the first death of an animal whose skin God used to cover their nakedness, in their less than perfect home life where we find Adam blaming Eve for his sin (even though as the head of the household, he was supposed to have protected Eve from the devil), the tragic murder of their youngest son Abel by the hand of their oldest son Cain, observing the overall increase of wickedness by their progeny that eventually God was sorry he ever made man that He sent a great flood to wipe out every person on earth, except for righteous Noah and his family.
Adam must have felt horrible for bringing sin into this world, no doubt compelling him to spend the rest of his 930 years on earth passing down to others the promise of the Messiah that God had given to him after the fall. The Messiah would make it possible to undo sins curse. And around 4000 years later, a baby born in Bethlehem named Jesus would grow up to suffer and die on a cross in order that we might be forgiven of all our sins and consequently no longer be under sin's curse.
But what about those times in our lives when our blessed life in Christ isn't quite so evident on this earth, such as when the doctor's report reads cancer, the bills are piling up, people let us down, your life makes no sense at all, and you fill in the blank with your own gripes and complaints that serve to remind you that you're not in heaven yet?
False teachers will try to scratch our itching ears with a message that once you become a Christian you will no longer suffer on this earth and all your problem will be instantly solved. But biblical Christianity tells us differently. Instead, we are told that God will allow sufferings in our lives in order that we might be gain a godlier perspective on life and a renewed trust in Him.
In fact, as you study God's Word, you'll discover that rather than being evidence that you are out of God's favor, your earthly sufferings can be as an affirmation of your status as God's favored and blessed child. As Romans 8:17 tells us, "And if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him."
St. Paul goes on to describes this blessed life in Philippians 3:10 as follows: "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death."
Friends in Christ, as painful as they may be, keep in mind that your earthly sufferings have been lovingly allowed by your Heavenly Father for good and for you to experience even more His indescribable love for you in Jesus Christ, as well as to remind you that this world is not your true home. As 2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
When Job experienced His earthly sufferings, He demanded an explanation from God. And yet when God finally answered Job, He didn't give really given him an explanation of why He allowed him to suffer so much. Instead, He asked Job, "Where were you when I created this earth?" and went on to give a detailed explanation of Creative work, as if to impress upon Job that as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, he hadn't been overlooked or forsaken, and nothing could have taken place in Job's life without His permissive will.
In the 1st chapter of Job God had been boasting about Job, saying to the devil: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Likewise, God knows of your faith in Him and may even be boasting about your faith to the devil. Nothing can take place in your life without first going through the permission of His nail-scarred hands. And even though you may not know the exact reason this side of heaven why God has allowed your earthly sufferings, He invites you to trust Him in the unknowns, as you join Job in confessing:
"For I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27)
And to trust in the Providential Care of the One who loves you so much that He sent His only begotten Son to this earth as a helpless baby, who would offer up His life to save you from our sins. As Romans 8:32 asks, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" For as much as we long to be blessed in this life with health, wealth, and fame, an even greater blessing is to know and actually experience the living God!
In heaven the blessing of being a forgiven child of God will be fully manifest and we will experience a sin free existence that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden before the fall, only it won't be temporary, but for all eternity. "…God will wipe the tears from our eyes…and there will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4)
In the meantime, God has allowed your earthly sufferings in order that the Holy Spirit can awaken in you an even deeper desire to know Him, as well as to further remind you that you are to build your life on the solid rock of Jesus and His words of life and not upon the sinking sand of the passing things of this fallen world.
Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price, worth giving up everything you have in this world to gain. Consequently, Matthew 6:19-21 tells us "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
In a culture that is obsessed with pursuing happiness in all the wrong places, our earthly sufferings invite us to re-focus on our relationship with Christ in light of the eternal, and to further experience an intimacy with God that we would have never known if we had not had our life's dreams shattered.
The symbol of the cross consists of a horizontal line and a vertical line, but if the vertical line were to be removed, we would be left with nothing but a negative sign. Likewise, when we only concern ourselves with the worries and cares of this world, life can appear to be nothing but a negative. But when we have a vertical relationship with our loving Heavenly Father, then no matter what our earthly lot, we can have a positive outlook. As we are reminded that when life gets us down, we are to look up for our redemption is drawing nearer (Luke 21:28), as well as to look to Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith.
Through the baby born in Bethlehem, you can have blessed fellowship with your Heavenly Father, knowing that He is with you throughout your earthly journey and will finally experience paradise in heaven where sin and sorrow will be no more.
And, so we sing the lyrics of Isaac Watt's Hymn "Joy to the World"
"No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found"
May the Joy of your Salvation be renewed this Christmas and always as you remember that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season"!
Oh, Come let us Adore Him!
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