Pastor Eric M. Stevenson
Greater Harvest Church of God in Christ
2119 14th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37208

 

My affliction is necessary

 

And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mightily; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come pass, that, when there falleth out any way, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore, they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharoah treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. Exodus 1:6-12 KJV

 

 

Afflictions happen to all of us at some point in our lives. They come in all shapes and sizes and can happen when we least expect them. They can range from financial to physical. They can be a loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, transitioning to a new area or challenges on the job. However, they present themselves afflictions or a season of going through is something most of us would rather not think about much less go through. But they are an inevitable part of life. We, however, are not without hope as the Word of God provides insight into how we navigate the afflictions that we may encounter.

 

In Exodus Chapter 1:6, 7, we read that Joseph and his generation has died and the children of Israel are in bondage. Yet they continued to prosper and did so at a steady pace. Even though their leaders had died they grew strong. It makes you wonder how you can prosper when those who held you together are now gone or even how you prosper during times of loss? It would make more sense that they would produce more under the right leadership or during times when everything is going good. But as we read further in Exodus 1:8, we learn that not only had their leaders died but now Egypt was under new leadership as well. The text tells us that a new Pharoah had come into power who did not like how well the Israelites were doing. So, he devised a plan to cut off their prosperity. A plan that would destroy them, along with their hopes and their future. When you think about it the enemy seeks to do the same to us today. His plan is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), which he does primarily through setting up strongholds in our minds.

 

This is the exact reason why the bible encourages us to renew our minds daily with God’s word (Romans 12:2). The enemy’s goal is to cloud our thoughts with negativity, resulting in thoughts that make us feel helpless and hopeless. The word says as a man thinketh in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7). We act on our thoughts. So, when we give in to a negative mindset we don’t get very far in life. It’s very important that we stay in tune with our thoughts because these contribute to our outcomes. We do not want to work against God and what He is doing in our lives, even in times of affliction. While our prayers may be geared more toward asking God to remove the affliction. There may be seasons where God does not remove it because doing so may stunt our growth. Think about it like this, you cannot build muscle through poor eating habits. You build muscle by lifting weights. We can depend on God to give us the strength and the strategy on how to deal with the difficulty. While the pain we feel may seem like it’s going to destroy us it’s not meant to; it’s meant to build power.

 

When we are going through, we can start to dwell more on the negative or the pain. Instead of dwelling on how bad things are ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas in your life where you may be prospering. We can get so focused on seeing only the negative that we may be missing the work that God is trying to accomplish in us. Consider how the affliction is growing your character, building strength, increasing faith, helping you to become more assertive, setting boundaries in relationships, or pointing out how negative your thoughts are towards yourself and others. These may be areas that God is trying to get your attention in. He wants to provide the strategy and strength you need to deal with these things so that He can mold you into who He created you to be.

 

Of course, the enemy does not want this as we see in the new Pharoah who came into power. The enemy sees our growth and prosperity as a threat because he knows your prosperity brings God glory and this may be what leads others to form a relationship with God. So, Pharoah begins a campaign of affliction to destroy their growth. What’s interesting about this is the harder they were afflicted the more they increased, the stronger they became. The Word of God encourages us to endure hardship as a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3). We want to give up easily allowing frustration to overtake us. We may then resign ourselves to return to our former life or the things that bring us the most comfort. But this is what the enemy wants.

 

Frustration is a weapon that the enemy can use to steal, kill, and destroy us. Our responsibility as believers is to stay in the fight. The fact that we want to give up so quickly and want things to be easy may be God’s way of letting us know that we need to grow in this area of our lives. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re so quick to give up? During this season yield your frustration to the Lord. Seek God during this time and ask Him to show you the lessons in the affliction. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your understanding to determine how you can use this affliction to help others. Yield yourself to the love of God and allow Him to build you up from the inside out. Give Him the glory throughout this season and lean on Him for all you need. He isn’t trying to destroy you. But just like the children of Israel He is working out your story to bring you out in a mighty way that lets those around you know who He is and draws others close to Him.

 

 

Ponder further:

  • How are you prospering through your times of affliction?

  • How have you prospered during difficult seasons in your life?

  • What was God trying to develop in you during those times?

  • What areas do you need to grow?

  • What are you doing to grow these areas of your life?

  • How does frustration or other emotions get in the way of you growing?

  • How can your afflictions be used to help others?

  • What’s a plan you can put into place to help you better manage the things that may be getting in the way of what God may be trying to teach you?

Producing good fruit

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:1-5

 

In John 13, The Lord and his disciples are at the Last Supper and he is preparing them for what is about to happen because he is about to leave the scene. As he discusses his departure, he talks to them about the importance that they bear good fruit. As we read through this parable, Jesus tells them that he is the true vine. He goes on to discuss the importance of being fruitful and the overarching theme of how connection to God produces the good in our lives, i.e., the fruit. He uses the analogy of vine and fruit because it was likely something that the people of the day could easily understand. He tells them they are the branches that are to bear fruit and he is the vine and God is the gardener.

 

Our ability to be fruitful is directly connected to us staying attached to Him. The important thing for us to do is not let anything get in the way of our connection to Jesus. When there is interference in this connection, we may find ourselves becoming stagnant and not moving forward. This makes it all the more important that we are aware of the people, relationships, and other life circumstances or stressors that can clog our connection with our Lord and Savior because when we stay connected, we continue producing good things. Not only is it important to maintain our connection with God as we read further into this particular text we learn that another part of our being able to produce the best is what’s known as pruning.

 

Pruning is a process of removal. The gardener’s responsibility is to make sure that the vine produces as much as it can produce. He ensures this by removing or cutting off parts that are no longer useful to the vine itself. Consider this, in grape production a branch may only bear fruit for a season. Once it bears fruit that branch typically stops producing. So, in order for the tree to continue producing the best fruit then pruning of that branch is necessary. It helps the vine to continue yielding the best of what it has to offer. Without pruning the vine may still produce but it won’t be its best. Instead, the fruit produced is small.

 

Seasons of pruning don’t typically happen during convenient times and they can be painful seasons for us. It is during these seasons that the things that are weighing down our productivity or clogging our connectivity to God are cut away. People, relationships, jobs, attitudes, thoughts, and what we thought were going to be great opportunities are cut away because while we may still be able to produce with those things it won’t be the best fruit that we could produce if we weren’t attached to them. Pruning seasons cut us away from our comfort zones but they position us to be launched into new levels. We often have difficulty moving out of our comfort zones without God prompting us to do so. God may use a pruning season to push us out of our spaces of comfort in order to yield more fruit out of our lives. During pruning seasons, it can often feel like God is distant from us. We may feel isolated. It may even seem as though God is not talking much; but even when He is silent He is still teaching us. If you are going through a pruning season God’s word tells us to “abide in Me”. Abide means to “stay”, “rest”, “dwell”. Stay where God has you. Do not allow the people around you, the boredom within you, any fear, anxiety, or depression, relationships, jobs, church, or any unexpected life circumstances to cause you to move. Stay where God has you and receive the lessons He is trying to impart in you to build you, mold you, and grow you into who He wants you to be.

 

Ponder further:

  • Are you in a pruning season?

    • How do you know if you are in a pruning season?

      • Have you been pursuing things that are leading to dead ends or closed doors? Have you lost things you thought was leading you to reaching a goal you’ve made for your life?

      • Is it a particularly hard season for you right now?

      • Do you find yourself restless wanting to move on to a different season in life?

  • What issues/problems/concerns has the Holy Spirit been trying to get your attention?

  • What things have been taken away? What were your motives in going after these things?

  • How did those motives line up with God’s will for your life?

  • What have you learned about the Lord, yourself, or life in general as you’ve gone through your pruning season?