THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2010
THE BLESSING OF AFFLICTION
The title of this paper is quite challenging, isn’t
it? But so is the book of Job. And as God brought us to the
book of Job for our theme for this year, we must really try
to see what God wants to teach us. What God wants us to learn
could be an overturning of quite a bit of what we believe
and how we perceive our faith to be.
let me at the outset state that affliction per se is not the
blessing. The blessing is what affliction accomplishes for
us as far as our relationship with God is concerned, and as
far as His accomplishing His will for our lives. This leads
to two truths. One, that we do not need to desire affliction,
but when it comes, that we positively look to the blessing
it will bring. Two, that we do not need to rejoice in affliction,
but that, while still looking to the blessing, we can grieve.
at the example of Jesus himself. At the garden of Gethsemane,
Jesus asked the Father if the cup could pass from him. He
felt “sorrow and distress” (Mt 26:37b). But he
immediately followed this request with an affirmation of obedience
and submission to the Father’s will.
Have you ever wondered why authentic faith in the First World
is disappearing, while faith in the Third World, especially
in countries where Christians are persecuted, is flourishing?
This is despite the reality that in the First World, the Christian
faith is older, Church institutions more established, theology
more developed, resources for building churches or doing mission
reason, if not the reason, is because Christians in the First
World have become the majority and have become comfortable.
They no longer need to fight and die for their faith. They
travel to prayer meetings in their cars, worship in air-conditioned
churches, and can hear the gospel preached on TV in the comfort
of their homes.
This is why since the time of Job, Satan has refined his methods.
He wanted Job to turn away from God by afflicting him. Today
he gets people to turn away from authentic faith by making
them comfortable and not afflicting them. They still look
to God, they still go to church, but they no longer live
the authentic gospel.
it any wonder that many Christian leaders today had to develop
their own theology to conform to and to affirm the lifestyle
that Christians seemed to be looking for? It is called the
gospel of prosperity. Accept Jesus and be blessed with success
and prosperity. Now indeed Jesus came so that we might have
a full or abundant life. Indeed we will experience the bountiful
blessings bestowed by a loving Father on His children. But
if only that, then that is not the authentic gospel! Jesus
said that those who follow him will receive bountiful material
blessings, but also persecutions (Mk 10:29-30).
does the gospel of prosperity lead us to a wrong relationship
with God? It makes us look at God as just the source of good
things. It makes us do and be good in order to be rewarded.
God, of course, is indeed the source of all good things, but
He is not just someone we call on in order to receive those
goodies. Many Christians today pray intently only when they
have some problem or difficulty and so have some request from
God. When the difficulty passes, so does their prayer time!
After 9/11, after Ondoy, after natural calamities, the churches
were packed. Tragically, after so many months, church attendance
brings us back to reality. First, God is not there just as
a dispenser of goodies. Second, pain and suffering are realities
of life, even with a loving God, and we just need to deal
with it. Third, it is suffering that puts us in a right relationship
with God -- with total dependence, with humble submission,
with walking the very way of Christ.
this we see how affliction is not negative but positive.
Can we now appreciate why God allowed Job to be afflicted?
Job was already blameless and upright. What more did God want?
Well, God allowed the test to make sure that Job was not good
only because of His blessings, which was what Satan contended.
But more so, God so loved Job, was so proud of him, that He
wanted him to enter even more deeply into a relationship with
Him, so Job could “see” Him even with the limitation
of human sight and insight.
required God to remove Job’s consolation and bring him
to desolation, to the dark night of the soul. When Job lost
everything, that is when he had only God. When all his
material and family blessings were removed, that is when Job
could praise God not for His blessings, but simply for who
He is, the Almighty.
Now despite His blessings, Job was a blameless and upright
man. How about many Christians today? They are easily led
astray by wealth, by power and position, by the adulation
of others. They even begin to want more and more, not realizing
they are having less and less of authentic faith. Comfort,
power, wealth -- all are threats to one’s spiritual
well-being. This is why Paul so very strongly warned against
wanting to be rich and the love of money (1 Tim 6:7-10). But
is this not the direction where many Christians today are
so we are called today to be the Church of the Poor. It is
not just a Church for the Poor, where the rich share their
material blessings with their less fortunate brethren. It
is not just a Church with the Poor, where all are in solidarity,
where justice is the norm. But it is a Church of the Poor,
where every member lives out evangelical poverty and rejects
the allures of materialism, consumerism and secularism.
The Church of the Poor is the Church suffering with Christ,
embracing the cross, and journeying with the Savior all the
way to heaven.
But what is the lot of the poor? They are oppressed, marginalized,
deprived and afflicted. Why does God allow this? Is God unjust?
Some even ask: where is God? Job complained: “From out
of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries
for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer.”
God has revealed Himself in the Bible as a defender of the
poor. The very Son of God was born poor, in a squalid and
smelly stable. Jesus himself came to bring glad tidings to
the poor. His body on earth, the Church, has looked to a preferential
option for the poor. God loves the poor!
then are there so many poor people in the world, with seemingly
no hope for a better life? Just as God used affliction to
bring Job to a deeper relationship with Him, God allows poverty
to show us, both rich and poor alike, the way to authentic
faith. And just as affliction is not the blessing, so too
poverty itself is not the blessing. But just as affliction
brought Job to a deeper relationship with God, so too does
poverty bring us all to a deeper faith in Him.
it good to be poor then? Should the rich strive to become
poor? Material poverty, not necessarily. Evangelical poverty,
yes. How? This is the place of affliction. To be poor is to
be deprived, to become powerless, to be oppressed. To be poor
is to do without or to be stripped of what the world desires.
When affliction lays us low and humbles us, when it makes
us become no longer dependent on ourselves or on our human
strength and resources, when it removes us from the comfort
zones from where our faith begins to weaken, when we can no
longer find our joy in material things, that is the start
of a renewed and proper relationship with God.
we discover the true blessings and bountiful life that God
intends. First there is God Himself as the center of our lives.
Then we have the blessings of life itself, health, family,
children, selfless service to others, the beauty of God’s
creation, our Christian community. Such is true wealth.
In our life and mission as CFC-FFL, we do experience affliction.
Those who do are among those truly blessed.
The victims of Ondoy who were forcibly detached from earthly
poor in our Restoration Villages who struggle with their
day-to-day material needs.
missionaries who leave the comforts of home and family to
serve in a foreign land
missionaries who suffered a serious accident in Ghana that
resulted in severe bodily injuries.
who were betrayed, maligned and rejected by their very own
who experience the tragic death of a loved one.
widow who has to fend for herself.
young children who are “orphaned” due to their
parents having to go abroad to work.
we suffer in this way in Christ, we enter into the mystery
of the cross. This is the central aspect of our faith. Thus
we do not go around in the circles of peripherals, but plunge
right in to our faith’s core. When we suffer in this
way, we are emptied and so God’s grace can flow in and
fill us. We are able to let go of self-importance and self-sufficiency.
When we suffer this way, we reap its good fruit, that of compassion
and empathy for the poor, hope in the Lord, trust in Jesus,
and joy in Christ. When we suffer in this way, we are on our
way to following in the very footsteps of our Lord and Savior.
the grace and mercy of God, perhaps we in CFC-FFL are well
underway to becoming the Church of the Poor. In our evangelization,
we will be privileged to spread the good news of Jesus Christ,
a gospel of the cross, a gospel to the poor.
is why God has brought us to the story of Job. It is to be
our own story.
 We do not need to desire or rejoice in affliction, but
we can, since we look to the blessing it brings. There are
great saints, like St Francis of Assisi, who actually looked
for, embraced and rejoiced in affliction for the sake of Christ.
St Paul often affirmed his joy at suffering affliction for
 The next step of course is being swallowed by a secular
and materialist world. Then one would no longer even go to
 For those who understand, there are pain and suffering
precisely because God is loving.
 Except his life, which was no life at all at that moment.
 Can you see the irony of wanting the poor to become rich
and for a poor nation to become First World?
 In fact poverty is in contradiction to the abundance of
the world God created and the fullness of life Jesus came
 Material or evangelical.
 The driver was actually killed.
 That is what God intends. Whether it happens is entirely
up to our response.
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Theme for 2010- Part 12[PDF]