Suffering, Part 1
We live in an unjust world. The good guys don’t always win. The bad guys often do. People who serve Jesus crash and burn. People who don’t serve him often live long and prosperous lives. We work hard and receive little return. Meanwhile, clever criminals grow rich. Hardworking families lose all their possessions and are driven from their homes. The “wrong” people prosper.
Baby girls are aborted simply for being female. Children are put out on the streets to beg or are sold to pay family debt. Young girls are sexually assaulted and raped. Young boys are raised to live as male prostitutes. Young women are forced into unwanted marriages with monstrous men.
Atrocities occur all over the world.
People are murdered for their trust in Christ.
God sees it all.
The day is coming when he will bring justice. We are offended by injustice. Our need for justice screams for retribution on those who do wrong. We want the horrendous injustices righted immediately.
That God is just is one of the reasons we love and adore him.
The author of Hebrews wrote to a group of people who had lived through decades of trial. Their property had been confiscated and they had been forced from their homes, simply because of their faith. For many decades they then lived as vagabonds cramped into smaller accommodations, often on the move, a far cry from their earlier comfort.
In the opening chapter of his letter to these long-suffering believers, the author reminds them of this essential truth: God sees, and he is just. This is what victims of injustice must cling to or we will be consumed by bitterness and be tempted to give up entirely.
In Psalm 45 God made this prophetic statement to his coming Son and then repeated it in his New Testament proclamation of prophecy fulfilled:
“But to the Son God says, ‘Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else” (Hebrews 1:8-9).
We love this about Christ, and we want his justice right now! Yet atrocities often happen, such as the martyrdom of Egyptian believers at the hands of ISIS five years ago.
If you’ve lived a comfortable life and everything has gone your way, God’s justice might seem harsh. But, to the majority of the believing world, the fact that God is just, that Christ will return to set everything right, and that he will one day rule with a scepter of justice is one of the most assuring truths of all time.
Do you crave his justice?
If so, hold on! Don’t lose hope as you wait for it. It may not come in this lifetime, but it will most certainly come. God sees, and he is just.
“For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?” (Hebrews 2:2-3).
Why do I write to remind you of this today? Because in the midst of horrific injustice and continuing trials, it is easy to lose heart and to be tempted to give up.
I have felt this way in hardship and have needed my brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside to encourage me. The writer of Hebrews knew this in his Holy Spirit inspired admonition.
“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12-14).
Hold on to Jesus. Justice is coming.
The people in Hebrews didn’t see it come to fruition in their lifetime. We may not either in this life. But we will see it.