I must apologise today before I begin as I was unable to prepare as in depth as I usually do for my Sunday sermons. The reason for this, is simply, my week did not go as I had planned… and as such I was unable to get done, what I wanted.

But that is life. Life does not go to plan. There are twists and turns, hills and descents and sometimes you even find your self stuck behind a tuck or a caravan, not moving as fast as would desire… A bit like the lakes way and experiencing the frustration it brings.

This week a fair bit of my time was taken up by 3 questions I needed to answer as part of my studies. Three big questions and often debated, Them being.

Does God still heal people?

Is it better to pray for a miracle or strength?

Why does God allow us to suffer.

I think its unfair to tell you the questions without providing you with my answers. As I read my responses, I ask you to think about what your answers would be and ask yourself if you agree or disagree with mine. I encourage you to think what your own response will be and invite you to participate it theology. 

My first question, I believe God still does heal people, physically from illness and sickness in the world today. However, it is according to his will and plan, not our will or plans. This can be understood better by accepting that it is not always Gods will to heal each of us physically, purely as God is more concerned with our faith and spiritual condition ensuring his glory is done by providing us a seat at his table in the kingdom of heaven, for eternity than our physical being

This point is further reinforced through 1 John 5:14-15, and this is the confidence we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us. and if we know he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. Key words, his will.

With this scripture we can be sure that God is active in our lives, however we need to have the faith that sometimes it is Gods will to heal, but sometimes it is not. GOD is all knowing and all powerful. Trust that.

For this reason I believe God is always healing us spiritually and has already completed the hardest part for us spiritually as read in 1 Peter 2:24, by his wounds you have been healed, through Christ on the cross.

My Dad like Ned and a few others in Church have had Knee operations. New knees, fantastic, knew lease of life. Great! But ask them all, the new knees need to be maintained and strengthen through physio and exercise otherwise thy deteriorate and you are no better off than before. The new Knee needs to be cared for by them alone, through action. 

This should be the focus for each of us, in our spiritual healing in Christ, caring for our personal relationship with Jesus, with the same vigour and action just like is required in recovering from a major knee operation. It’s not easy and challenges will confront you, but Strengthening our spirit and belief in Christ, will in turn lead to the strength, perseverance, courage, goodness and patience we need in this world to help us not just in times of physical illness and sickness but also mentally and in our faith it we will also help us to help others.

The second question, I knew my answer, but was struggling to convey my point. Until I had a light bulb moment through receiving a text message from Steve, whilst I was seated at home, pondering my study notes.

Stephen messaged me, apologising that he didn’t see Leesh and kids drive past him on Lowreys lane one afternoon through the week. However, he informed me his punishment for failing to wave was soon handed out, when he feel over in the creek checking on his new fence, only keeping his hat and phone dry. I had the picture in my mind, and I’m sorry to say, it did give me a chuckle. However,

At this same time, I was staring at the computer screen in front of me, Psalm 30 2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

In this instance, in the water, wet, sore and sorry, what was the better prayer. The prayer for a miracle or strength. I can tell you for a fact, a miracle did not lift Steve out of the water, strength did.

The power of Prayer can never be underestimated. I truly believe prayer has the potential to change any situation in your life and in miraculous ways. There is no limit to what God can do, in answering your prayers. In fact ancient religious texts tell us that Gods power is great, he can do anything. But we need to keep in our mind, God does all things for his glory, not our own. 

As such, I believe it is better for us to pray for strength than a miracle. Praying for strength helps to build our faith which is the way we defeat death and have eternal life.

It is important to acknowledge that miracles can occur although they are not common, hence them being called miracles in the first place.

In reading the Bible, we can see that the purpose of miracles has always been to demonstrate God’s power and giving us glimpses of the future Kingdom of Heaven. However, As Christians we see a clear message that God gives us through his grace, strength, peace and even joy despite circumstances to endure tough times. By encouraging us to allow him to walk alongside us to comfort and encourage us through his strength, he offers us, in the midst of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).

I believe God demonstrates a strong preference for providing us strength and grace over providing and performing miracles. Strength is a common theme throughout the bible, from Adam and eve, needing strength to leave the garden as directed, Abraham, packing up and leaving his comfort zone trusting God, Joseph, being sold as a slave, Paul in the New testament and his life of suffering via ship wrecks and  imprisonment and to Christ, needing strength to die as a sacrifice on the Cross.

All these occasions required strength in situations not planned by them, which resulted in Glory to God and the ultimate miracle that we have eternal life, through Gods love and Grace. We can confidently celebrate this grace, rather than live in disappointment when miracles don’t happen.

I believe the cementing stone of praying for strength rather than miracles is read in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul repeatedly praying and asking, God to remove a “thorn in his flesh” which he describes as a messenger of Satan, made to torment him, But God’s response was rather to tell Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

What does weakness need, strength.

Last week, I managed to get the police vehicle bogged. I was alone, it was dark. The first thing I said, was No no no, Why God? Why now. I don’t need this in my life.

I tried everything to get myself out but I could not do it alone, I had exhausted or my ideas. I literally asked God aloud for help, once I had accepted the situation I was in. acceptance provided clarity. I called a mate who is experienced with 4WDriving. He turned up with the right tools for the job and brought with him friends. My Neighbours…working Together, which involved the effort of digging, we got the car out.

 Although it was not a miracle, I tell you, it felt like one to me. But in the days past I reflected on this. In being bogged and helpless, I was weak and needed help. I needed strength. I made a call to someone with the experience and knowledge who I knew would come and help. Through action together as one, great joy was achieved.

God is waiting for your call out for help in weakness. To provide you with the strength he knows you need, he has the experience and the knowledge, He has the right tools for the job. And most importantly, he walks with you, You and God become one, you become a we, and together achieving the joy of peace and comfort no matter the circumstance or situation you are in and gaining the glory and joy he offers.

The last question on suffering, it is important that we understand that Suffering is a universal part of our humanity that exists in a fallen and broken world. The question of why do good people suffer, is one that is asked by all persons, of all faiths, including those with no faith and is consistent with a common view that life is not fair and good guys always finish last. To simply ask this question acknowledges there is a God. If there was no God, there is no love and no sense for justice, therefore why would we care. I believe it is a flawed attempt in trying prove there is no god.

In proverbs we learn that God is wise and just. In Ecclesiastes we are informed that people don’t always get what they deserve and the world isn’t always fair. In Job we learn that the Wisdom of God is incomprehensible for us to understand but faithfulness to God sees us through.   

Through the bible, we are able to appreciate that suffering and death are part of the curse of sin on the world (Genesis 3:16-19) and are things that we can expect to occur. We are all destined to die and as such we are also all destined to suffer.

However, through suffering we are at our most needy of God. If we allow it, suffering allows us to seek God out, honestly and in turn strengthening our faith in God, through perseverance, humility and trust of Gods wisdom and plans for us.   

I tend to believe God allows suffering so that “the work of God might be displayed” in our lives, through us his disciples. Whether it be through words of advice to loved ones or in honest tearful prayer asking questions like Job in chapter 7, “what have I done to you?”

Suffering encourages us to seek acceptance and trust in God who is all-knowing and all powerful. It allows us to safely say that no suffering is without a purpose in the plan of God, even though we as mere humans may not see that purpose clearly.

Romans 8:28, informs us that all things work together for good. God enables every event in our lives, including those where we experience suffering, temptation and sin, to accomplish both our temporary and eternal benefit. Don’t forget it is our faith in Christ that is needed to be saved.

In Job, we read about the suffering of a man, who did nothing to deserve the pain and sadness he experienced. Yet we read through his story, God uses Job in suffering to show his glory and infinite wisdom.

We see that the answer to why do people suffer, is a question for God to answer. But most importantly, we see that closest we can come to an answer is that, God allows us to experience suffering to enable us like Job, to grow in our faith, to trust in Gods wisdom which in turn will give us the peace, comfort and perseverance in a fallen world, where we have no control, except for our faithfulness and active relationship to Christ. It essentially is a way to mature in our faith and bring us closer to him and his love in the kingdom of heaven. Reflect on the wise words as written in James 5, be patient in our suffering.

In reflecting on the answers to these three questions, I realised the questions are all focused on our individual concerns for ourselves in the now. Yet the answers are all focused on Christ and acceptance of Gods plan and will to save us.

Are you surprised. I’m not, the bible from start to finish is about this.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

During our men’s coffee meet, on Friday we discussed many a topic. Acceptance was one of the topics discussed.

It is broad topic, and it is best understood when kept simple in accepting God will. The importance of Gods will and his desire for us to accept it is seen in the Lords Prayer, spoken by Jesus when telling his disciples (us) how to pray, Matthew 6:10 Your Kingdom come, your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

The book of Job is an incredible journey of acceptance whilst maintaining his faithfulness in Gods will. Paul in the New testament is also another testament to accepting his fate as part of Gods plan. Like Joseph in Genesis, sold as a slave by his brothers, imprisoned in Egypt before rising to 2nd in command behind the Pharaoh saving the lives of many including his brothers with love and joy, we see Gods plan and will is always working for a greater good. This theme is repeated throughout the bible.

In our lives, like each mentioned above, we also do not have control of everything and the hardships that will be encountered by each of us, I must also add these hardships always come unexpected.

Jesus tells us this himself in John 16:33, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

We all have our current sufferings and hardships in our personal lives. But in understanding and accepting that God is in control, as Christians we are able turn and focus on Jesus, the great counsellor and trust and see the beauty in the bible, we discover acceptance, in the trust of Christ will see us through. It will give us the strength we need. The words we speak and the love and joy we share.

Philippines 4
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These New testament scripture verses fit beautifully with Old testament Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Now before I finish there was a sentence spoken by Eric on Friday when we spoke of Army life. He said, with passion, “Army trainers have to know more than the soldier.” This phrase stuck with. It hit home so true, that I don’t remember his next words. No doubt they were incredibly wise.

It struck me, The trainer does need to know more than the soldier, as the soldier was going into real life and death battles with the sol imparted knowledge from the trainer his only weapon to ensure his safe return from the battle field. The Soldier’s only saving grace.

Therefore, the knowledge of the trainer had to be more than, the soldier could be expected to encounter. To assist in providing the right paths and choices to take.

I linked the trainer as Jesus and us as the soldier. Like it or not, we too are in a life and death world. The life I’m talking about is eternal and death, darkness. Jesus knows more than us and wants to teach us his wisdom, to help bring us home safely alive and well with our neighbours to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus is with us, in our hearts and he works through all of us for his glory, which at the end of the day, is also for our shared Glory in life after death because of his saving grace.

The questions at the beginning, reflect our fears of death. They are asked from a concern for ourselves, however, there answers point to the concerns for God.

Through Gods words, we can take confidence and comfort that Gods Will is for us to be with him in a kingdom with no sickness or disease, no sin, no jealousy or hate, no anger or sadness, no death. But a kingdom of Joy, happiness, love, life and thankfulness.

That is what is on offer. And the best way to grow our faith is through honest communication with Christ.

I guess now as I finish, I simply want to send a message of, Read your bible.

Search it more. Listen to it more. Like Nige mentioned last week about driving along a road and not realising you’d been on autopilot for x amount of kilometres oblivious to the road around you.

You have the gift of the Holy Spirit in your heart and the call of Christ in your hands. Don’t be a fool and be oblivious to its message and teachings it provides.

Personal Peace, comfort and joy await you.