13 December 2023

Just a little more suffering, the Bible text promises, and then the grace of God will be revealed. It is better to focus on all the good things God is doing for His children. This was the theme of a service recently, which the Chief Apostle conducted.

“The focus here is on the God of grace, who has called us to His eternal glory,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explained after he read out the Bible text to the congregation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 15 October: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5: 10).

Elected by grace

“We know that God chose us by grace,” the Chief Apostle said at the beginning. “And we are all aware that no one deserves this election. There is no explanation. It is grace.” Holy Baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and Holy Sealing are all grace and have made us a child of God and an heir of Jesus Christ. “It is sheer grace that we have become heirs of eternal life with Christ.”

A little suffering

“Despite having been called and chosen and therefore delivered we must suffer a little,” the Chief Apostle went on to clarify. Like all people, we suffer from illness and death, but we also suffer because we have been elected and follow Jesus Christ, the Chief Apostle said. Christians suffer because

  • they believe without seeing: “Sometimes we ask Jesus to give us a sign as proof. ‘I need evidence.’ And God says: ‘No, just believe. Trust Me.’”
  • they do not yet have perfect fellowship: “We suffer because we love Jesus Christ but are still separated from Him.”
  • they must give things up: “We must renounce all thoughts and opinions that are incompatible with Christ. This is sometimes anything but easy.”
  • they share in other people’s suffering because they love them: “We just cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others, and we suffer with them.”
  • they suffer with Jesus: “We suffer as Jesus suffered when He stood outside of Jerusalem and wept because they would not accept Him. And we suffer when we see that people do not believe in Jesus but reject Him.”

Resisting temptations

This suffering calls the evil one to the scene, who wants to use our pain to separate us from God. “Resist him, remain steadfast, despite the suffering,” urged the Chief Apostle. “Think about God and His work and not yourself, not your own work, not your own suffering, not the work done by the evil one,” because all these things can distract us from God’s grace and can separate us from Jesus if we take them too seriously.

Don’t forget what God is doing for you

“My dear brothers and sisters,” the Chief Apostle said, “this is the message for all of us this morning: do not forget what God is doing for you today.” He listed how God lifts us up and strengthens us.

  • “The Holy Spirit reminds us of this again and again: ‘Don’t forget, you are a child of God. In every divine service, every time we celebrate Holy Communion, God tells us: ‘I am the faithful one. I have chosen you.’”
  • “He is ready and willing to forgive. If you show remorse, He says: ‘Come on, let me fix it.’ Then He erases all our sins and guilt and gives us the opportunity to make a fresh start.
  • “The Holy Spirit shows us how great the love of Jesus Christ is. And the greater our love is and the more we do out of love, the stronger we are.”
  • “He teaches us how to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. And as often as we pray as Jesus would pray in our situation, we can be sure that God will answer this prayer.”
  • “The God of grace will make us perfect when He returns. Pin your hope on grace, not on your deeds, your merit, or your work.”

In closing, the Chief Apostle gave his brothers and sisters the following thoughts: “Look up to God and you will realise in how many ways He strengthens you. And with His help and grace we will receive the inheritance of Christ.”