Today's post was written by and shared with permission from Ann Mainse.
One of our family’s favourite classic movies is the “claymation” production by Dreamworks called, Chicken Run. The story revolves around a group of portly chickens and one stately older rooster who realize they’ve been “cooped up” far too long. The leader of the chickens is Ginger, an extremely intelligent and determined hen who refuses to spend the remainder of her days “fenced in” at the mercy of the sinister farmer. However, time and again their escape attempts from the concentration-camp-style chicken coop all ended in failure until, through a series of mishaps, they discovered a picture of an airplane. “This is our answer,” Ginger announced, and the group quickly coordinated the construction of their very own flying machine. However, as most good plans do, theirs ran into a snag when they were discovered by the bumbling farmer (hence, the famous line, “The chickens are organized!” – said in my best hackney accent). They had to act, and they had to act NOW.
As you can imagine, the announcement of immediate action only served to ruffle the feathers of the already “chicken” chickens. But Ginger wasn’t about to give up. Right there on the spot she gave an impassioned speech on why they should act, resulting in thunderous applause. However, it was the response from Babs (the hen that seemed always one egg short of a dozen) that still gives my family a good chuckle. At the height of her rallying cry, Ginger announced, “We’ll either die free chickens – or die trying!” That’s when Babs, with a quivering beak, asked, “Are those the ONLY choices?” Our family just loves that part! I think it’s because, whether we admit it or not, deep in our hearts, we are Babs. Facing the potential of suffering is a reality we’d really rather avoid. That’s why when reading certain passages in the Bible, most of us are stopped cold in our tracks.
The Apostle Paul was definitely a man who knew the meaning of suffering for his faith. In fact, he wrote several of his letters (which make up a good portion of the New Testament) while in prison. Just listen to what he wrote while sitting in a prison cell in Rome.
“There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for Him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.” Philippians 1:29 (The Message)
Did you get that? Suffering for Jesus is as much a gift as trusting in Him. Suffering is a gift. Hmmm… now there’s a sobering thought. One that (for most of us) doesn’t go down very easily. Another nugget to chew on is found in the fifth chapter of the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome (actually it’s more like a full buffet of thought-provoking morsels).
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” ~ Romans 5:3-5
Whoa… that’s a lot to take in. Let me get this straight. Problems >>> endurance >>> strength of character >>> confident hope of salvation >>> revelling in God’s love. You know, when you look at it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad. And the more you read of the Bible, the more you discover a theme. Even the Apostle James had something to say about it.
“When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow...” ~ James 1:2-4
So to recap… Troubles come >>> great joy >>> endurance grows. Yep. There’s definitely a pattern. The obvious progression of suffering ultimately producing a growth in grace is undeniable. And with more grace comes a greater intimacy with the Grace Giver. And when you boil it all down, isn’t that the bottom line?
So to all the Babs in the world (myself included), you need not fear suffering. As we trust in God’s faithfulness, we can be assured that the process (no matter how long) will ultimately end in our good (Romans 8:28).
And just like our feathered friends, once we make it over to the other side, we’ll find that, really, it’s all been worth it.
You can see more blog posts from Ann Mainse at crossroads360.com/blog. Crossroads360.com is a multi-channel service providing entertaining, informative and transformative content. In addition to blogs, there are episodes of past television shows as well as exclusive web content. Their channels include KidsSpace, God Stories, Music, Explore Faith, Nostalgia, Everyday Life and News.
Do you watch reality TV shows? I have often wondered how they got the descriptor reality. Based on their advertising, none of them seem too much like the reality I’ve come across. I don’t watch most of them, but there is one I enjoy: The Amazing Race. I love that I can see so many parts of the world from the safety and comfort of my own home. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief overview of how it works. Eleven teams gather at their starting point, packed and ready to start a race that will take them to dozens of countries around the world. At the end of each leg of the race, one team is eliminated. The participants all seem friendly enough at first, but along the way their true colours will shine through. They are given clues to find their next destination, but before they can check in at their next pit stop for a 12 hour rest period, they will face some challenges: detours, road blocks, tasks to complete—some arduous, some messy, some frightening, some fun—and more mystery solving. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not so far off reality after all.
After just discussing the heroes of faith, (Hebrews 11) who are our cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1-2 advises us to get rid of the things that are weighing us down—the extra baggage, the sin, the bad habits—and to fix our eyes on the goal, Jesus, so that we may run with endurance the race that lies before us. We are reminded of what Jesus endured to run the race that was set out for Him. And He finished that race, not because what He endured was enjoyable, but because He knew what joy was awaiting Him at the finish line.
As they do each season in The Amazing Race, and as Jesus did while He lived on earth, we will surely encounter some road blocks and detours along our course too. There will be mysteries that we may or may not be able to ever figure out. There will be fellow racers who may be willing to help us, but others may want to hinder us, looking out only for themselves. There will be some costs, but also some surprising gifts, but this I know for sure: it will not be easy. That is why we are told in Hebrews 12:3, to keep our eyes on Jesus. Remember what He endured. Most of us will never have to go through anything close to what He went through for us. And since He gives us the strength we need to get through everything we face, (Psalm 89:14-17, Philippians 4:13) let’s keep going! Let’s not grow weary! Unlike the game show contestants who win The Amazing Race, we aren’t likely to end ours with a million dollars, but we will walk on streets of gold, (Revelation 21:21) we will spend eternity in a place where there is no sorrow or pain, (Revelation 21:4) and we will spend it with the one who loved us so much that His race included the cross. (John 3:16) Don’t give up!