Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj on the ‘CR’s from the Bible We Need To Recall When Life Plays Football With Us!
I was in Allahabad, North India, studying a college course (B. Tech., Agricultural Engineering) when I heard first about this beautiful actress from Nepal in Mumbai. Her name? Manisha Koirala. She won a tough battle against cancer recently. She said, “I think cancer helps to transform a person. It affected me so much that it enabled me to grow!” (I read this in Outlook mag). She is not a believer to the best of my knowledge. But I was amazed that she was able to see something positive in suffering. Though the Corona pandemic has caused many inconveniences to Corporates, churches, individuals, etc., can anything good come out of this? What are the blessings that come out of this pandemic?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese professional footballer, popularly known as CR. Using the acronym CR, I have outlined my message which captures the biblical CRs we need to keep in when life plays football with us. These CRs will keep us playing the game of life with a positive attitude despite setback such as the Corona Pandemic. When life plays football with us – that is when we suffer – we will do well to remember these biblical CRs!
CHARACTER REFINEMENT (CR NO. 1 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
Job is one of the earliest books of the Bible and it has a lesson on suffering. Job experienced untold suffering – loss of his children, loss of his wealth, his wife encouraging him to curse God and die, acting as Satan’s agent (She repeated Satan’s words to God about Job that he would curse God when his worldly blessing are removed). Job 23:10 says “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” God does not contradict himself. From the Old Testament to the New Testament God says the same thing in a progressive way. I Peter 5:10 says “after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The suffering which is only for a while confirms us, strengthen , and establish us. Our character gets refined in a mysterious way. It does not matter who caused it but blessings will come out of this pandemic.
COPYBOOK (BIBLE) REFLECTION (CR NO. 2 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
If a shotput hits your head during game time in school, you might lose your memory. You might say crazy things. But no shotput ball hit the author of Psalm 119. He was in-fact directed by the Holy Spirit when he wrote Psalm 119:71.
Psalm 119:71 says “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”
Generally our tendency is to waste our time and be addicted to the screen. We like to go down the easy path and are like water that flows wherever there is a way. Usually we are always in a hurry but this lock down time has given us unhurried time to study the word of God.
Suffering should not just turn our attention to Scripture. But also make us obey Scripture. I say this because I have read Psalm 119:67 – “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your Word!”
CROWNING OF OUR ROCK (CR NO. 3 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
By the phrase, ‘Crowning of our Rock’ I mean the ‘the glory of God our Rock’. John 9:1,2 speaks of a blind man from birth. “What is the cause of his blindness?” asked the disciples of Jesus. Was it his sin or the sin of his parents? He was born blind in order to display glory to God; raise the glory of the Lord in a mysterious way, the Scripture says in John 9:1-2. How does a black buffalo eat green grass and produce white milk? I don’t understand. But I drink milk and give my kids milk to drink! How can the corona virus situation bring glory to God? I don’t understand. But I do not doubt the goodness of God even in this situation! We are living in times of inexplicable suffering and inconveniences/lock down. During, the times of suffering we must keep praising for our creator. The Lord’s name must be glorified even during the time of suffering because suffering brings glory to his name according to John 9:1-2.
CHRIST ‘REPROGRAPHICS’ [COPYING] (CR NO. 4 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
We become more like Jesus during suffering. When we suffer with a positive attitude we copy Christ. Apostle Paul writes, “that I may know the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). We become like Him in death. Suffering with a positive attitude helps us to imitate Jesus. We become more like Him. That is God’s ultimate purpose for us (Rom. 8:29). We look for different models to imitate. Teens tend to imitate famous movie stars. The only model completely worthy of imitating is Jesus. Job 5:7 says “man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” If we are human, suffering is unavoidable according to the Old and New Testaments. Acts 14:22 says that we must go through many hardships in our day to day life till we enter heaven by our death or after the return of Jesus.
We get our salvation through the suffering of Jesus but He is also a model when it comes to suffering. We must copy the attitude of Jesus when we suffer. How did Jesus suffer?
Jesus saw suffering as something allowed by God enroute to the Cross. Jesus prayed this model prayer at Gethsemane: “Take this cup of suffering from me but yet not my will, but your will.”
We too must understand that times of suffering are allowed by God.
When Jesus suffered, He forgave those who made him suffer. That’s why he prayed while hanging on the Cross this: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do!”
In the Old Testament when someone cursed David, David felt God gave him permission to do that (2 Sam. 16:11). The Son of David, Jesus, also said in similar vein: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
There may be financial difficulty coming, terrible health issues, and untold trouble during this pandemic. There is a gripping Malayalam movie “Virus” about the Nipha virus outbreak which broke out in the Indian state of Kerala in 2018, but the Corono virus is more deadly and global. God has allowed it to happen (though we aren’t sure who is the cause for this)
And when we exhibit a Christ-like attitude during this time of suffering – saluting the Will of the Father, forgiving whoever may be involved – God will be pleased! And we will become Christ-like!
COSMOS REDEMPTION (CR No. 5 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
The most relatable example of how God can use our suffering as a channel of blessing for others (the cosmos) concerns the Old Testament hero, Joseph. Genesis 50:20 says “ye thought evil against me but God meant it unto good.” Those are Joseph’s words to his brothers who were super-mean to him when he met them after he became the Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph undergoes sufferings on multiple occasions. I preached a message on the sufferings of Joseph when I was invited to preach in a Baptist Church earlier this year (2019). That message on the ‘arrows’ launched against Joseph is found on YouTube. But despite these arrows, Joseph’s bow remained steady. He believed God had a plan in allowing his brothers to be envious of him. The envy of Joseph’s brothers was caused by Satan, of course. But Joseph saw that as God-allowed for the greater blessing of his family, the nation of Israel. Read Genesis 45:5-8. Count the times Joseph says there, “God sent me….”. He says it three times! Joseph did not feel that his brother’s envy sent him to Egypt but he came to Epypt because of the God’s good purposes! Joseph was not bitter when he suffered (via his brothers, Mrs. Potiphar, Mr. Potiphar, the forgetful cupbearer, etc.) but he thought differently. Great people think differently. He saw God’s hand in allowing these folk to make him suffer so that a grander plan can be executed for the blessing of many people.
Government restrictions for travel keep us home. Our international travel may have cancelled. The World’s finances may be in disarray. But Believe that God allowed this virus to go beserk for a good purpose.
By saying this I am not justifying envy or any sinful thing. If the Corona virus was manufactured in a lab as a weapon for bio-terrorism, whoever responsible for that must be punished. God will judge that person either on this side of eternity or the other side of it (if the concerned does not repent). Was that act wrong? Absolutely.
Joseph was in a position to bless so many people even though he was the second youngest sibling in his family as he grew up. He became an Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ! What a blessing!
Graham Staines was an ordinary missionary in the interior parts of Orissa. He was burnt alive along with his 2 sons when he stayed in his jeep following a meeting in a village (January of 1999). But this has inspired many to take up medical mission, to respect humanity, and pursue truth. Jim Eliot, worked among the Aucas in Ecuador, South America and was killed in 1956 at the age of 29, amidst remote tribals. His life inspired many people to labour for Christ and go to other countries to share the love of Jesus. In mysterious ways all this resulted in cosmos redemption.
CONTRAST AND REVERSE-APPRECIATION (CR No. 7 TO RECALL WHEN LIFE PLAYS FOOTBALL WITH US)
Read I Peter 1:6,7 (we already read it earlier in this message). Twenty-one day lock down may seem long. When you compare our time of suffering here and now with eternity, is such a short time. When we understand the fleeting nature of our suffering here and now, then only we will be able to appreciate the reverse – the time of everlasting joy in heaven. For example, a tiny kidney stone can cause much excruciating pain, even though temporary. I have experienced hours of kidney stone pain twice in my life (a pain that is said to be close to the labor pains a woman experiences). When I go through a pain-free day, I praise God even more with delirious joy because I recall those two terrible bouts of pain. Eugene Peterson, an American Presbyterian Minister, says hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us (in his contemporary English translation of II Corinthians 4:17,18). We have light and momentary troubles (to use another version’s rendering of the same set of verses).
Sometimes we feel our suffering is so gigantic but when compared to the suffering that Jesus underwent, it is very light. God has a grand, glorious plan when he allows anything. God had foreknowledge of this pandemic and this is not a surprise for God. He already knew about it.
Read Acts 2:22,23; Acts 4:27,28. Different people became united. The religious leaders of the time and common people, Jews and gentiles schemed together, came against Jesus who is the only one who did not deserve any suffering (as he never sinned and yes, suffering first came into the world because of sin – check out John 5:14; ofcourse not all suffering is because of sin – John 9:1-2 teaches that). We may not understand the intricacies but something good will come out of this corona virus pandemic. The teaching that we will not have to suffer here and now on this earth because Jesus suffered for us on the Cross is a false teaching. We suffer because Adam chose to disobey and we also commit sin and disobey. Hebrews 13:12,13 is clear that even though Jesus suffered on the cross, we have to suffer as well – especially when we take a stand for Jesus in this pluralistic World and in this prosperity-false-doctrine embracing backslidden church.
This world is not our home. We are just passing through looking for a new heaven and earth.
Let me reproduce a story from my article that provides a practical summary of the book of Job titled “Why me?”
MARTIN AND GRACIA BURNHAM STORY VIA A NAT GEO TV PROGRAM
My wife and I tucked our kids to bed and settled to watch the National Geographic channel program called, “Locked up Abroad!” in September 2008. It featured the story of a missionary couple by the name of Martin and Gracia Burnham.
They were American Missionaries who served God in the country of Phiippines. They had met and married each other with a singular purpose of serving God together in the mission field he would send them to. God had blessed them with three children all of whom were born in the mission field.
On their eighteenth wedding anniversary, they had gone to a beachside island resort in the same country to romance each other afresh and to celebrate their wedding anniversary minus the children.
That’s when a terrorist group led by Abu Sayyaf linked with Osama bin Laden kidnapped them and took them away in a speedboat along with 18 others. In this group of 18, there was only one more American, apart from the Burnhams. This missionary couple was chained to two terrorists. They kept moving in the dense forests as the Philippine Army tried to track them down.
They starved for most part of their 377-day captivity. While they fainted physically, spiritually they did not. They kept believing God and kept serving him by sharing the gospel with their captors. When they did eat something, dysentery was the result. Though the food came out of their bodies like water, their faith during this time was rock solid. Their bodies were cut. Blood oozed out. But their faith in Jesus did not fizzle out. Their captors demanded $1 million for their release. $330,000 was given to them, yet they did not release them. 3 men in that group of 18 were beheaded. Even after these horrific incidents, this missionary couple in captivity did not want to kick their Christian Faith from their hearts and heads. The terrorists married four women in the group against their wishes and sexually violated them. Even this incident did not force this determined duo to divorce their faith from their life during the time of extreme trail. On June 7, 2002, during a cross-fire between the Phippine Army and the terrorists, a bullet pierced the chest of Martin the soldier of the Cross, and he died. Yet, the faith of his wife, Gracia, did not die. She continued to serve God with a steely resolve. Injured on her leg in the same cross-fire, she was finally free from her captors – nearly 400 days in horrific captivity.
Max Lucado writing about this incident memorably asks a series of questions you may have wanted to ask as well as you read this true story: “Why didn’t God block the bullets? Why did he let her get shot? And why God let him die?…She was a widow, and we are left to wonder why. Is this how God honors his chosen? How do we explain this tragedy? And as you’re thinking of theirs, how do you explain yours? The tension at home. The demands at work. The bills on your desk or the tumor on your body. You’re taken hostage, but aren’t you occasionally taken aback by God’s silence? He knows what you are facing. How do we explain this?”
Gracia Martin, the dead missionary’s widow, answers this “why” question in an interview she gave: “During the 10th week of my captivity, this Bible truth I had taught others all-along strongly came to me: life’s not all about me getting my way; it’s about Him getting His way. I decided that I was going to believe God was good, no matter what…. It seemed like God would answer every prayer but to get us out of there. I think we realized that He wanted us in there for a reason. Our prayers really changed at that point – we just wanted God to be teaching us.”
Today, Gracia Martin, is stronger in her faith after having gone through such a harrowing experience. She leads a ministry that uses aviation for mission work that involves getting the Gospel to those living in closed Islamic countries. The terrifying trails she underwent being a captive to a dreaded terrorist group for close to 400 days helped in mysterious ways to demonstrate the glory and power of God in her life!
This Corona Virus Pandemic and consequent lock down time will also be for our ultimate good! I am sure of that!
There was a time when Apostle Paul was chained to a roman soldier. He considered that as an opportunity to share the Gospel. The chains that bound Apostle Paul caused him inconvenience. But he say that as an occasion to advance the Gospel (Phil. 1:12). This is one obvious reason and purpose. In their discussion with God, Satan tried to tell God that Job loved Him because of all the gifts He gave Job. God said that Job loved Him because of genuine love and had no ulterior motives. The reason that Job had for loving God was love for God and nothing else. As a popular secular romantic song goes, “Love me for a reason. Let the reason be love!” We must love God for no other reason, but love! And if we do, this pandemic time will become a purposeful time for us!
Prayer: Thank you Lord for helping us understand from the Bible why there can be a mysterious blessing even via this Corona pandemic. Bless our time of lockdown and suffering so that we will continue to learn your word, raise Your praise, share your Gospel , and grow in character. In Jesus name. Amen.
[Transcribed by Mrs. Malini Prabakar voluntarily from a devotional that Duke Jeyaraj shared via video on 29 March 2020. Duke Jeyaraj, the author of this piece, is the fouder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, a listener supported Indian Ministry. Find out more at www.dukev.org. You may choose to subscribe to www.youtube.com/visitduke and like www.facebook.com/dukebook. You can reach Duke via WhatsApp at +91-8886040605. If you send a message via this number we can send you the PDF of the magazine that Duke publishes called, The Days of Your Youth, with the article, ‘Why Me?’ (summary of the main lessons of Job put in outline j-o-b o-f u-z)]