Have you suddenly had the ground pulled out from under you? Has a loved one hurt you deeply? Have close friends suddenly turned their backs on you or accused you of wretched motives over a simple misunderstanding? Do you feel like you are being crushed under heavy weights?
As Christians, we are called to walk in peace, but life is sometimes full of turmoil.
When this happens, I ask myself: Have I sinned? Is this a Satanic attack? Is God testing me?
Now, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was 18 [approximately 1000 years ago, according to some people]. I still remember feeling so light as if a heavy weight was off my shoulders, refreshed, and joyful.
My new life was free, paid for by Jesus with His blood. Yet I soon learned that Jesus "never promised me a rose garden." As I began to read the Scriptures, I discovered the Scriptures spoke of trials and a need for me to respond to the Lord in ways that I did not fully comprehend.
The first Bible book I read after becoming a believer was the book of James. James immediately got my attention when I read,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [James 1:1-4, WEB].
James also wrote:
Blessed is the man who endures temptation [some translations say "trials"], for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. [James 1:12, WEB. Insert Mine.].
Then I read that Paul had written,
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, and for those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified [Romans 8:28-30, WEB].
Peter said in his first letter:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn't fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 1:3-7, WEB]
And Jesus Himself said,
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? [Matthew 16: 24:26, WEB]
Wow! Although I didn't fully understand what these verses meant, I knew from reading them that the Christian life was not for wimps!
As a young believer, I would do anything to avoid going to hell. I'd face trouble if it meant I could eventually go to heaven. As I began to grow, however, my ambition began to change. Oh, I still don't want to end up in hell! But as I grew and walked with the Holy Spirit as my guide, I also fell in love with Jesus. I wanted to spend time in His presence, and I wanted to be like Him.
God has answered my desire by sending me trials. I've experienced some difficulties just because of my poor choices, but I have also faced problems, accusations, misunderstandings, and lost friendships because of my faith. Some trials were obvious and ended quickly. Some have been devastating; I wrote Out of the Ashes: Rediscover Your Hope in God after one of those difficult trials.
I am not unique. So many others are facing fiery trials now. God seems to be turning up the heat on all who call themselves His children. Why?
I wish I could make myself perfect in Christ, but I can't. I don't have that ability. I don't like discomfort or pain, but I would rather face the refining fire of our Lord than be an unproductive baby believer all my life. I want to hear the Lord say, "Well, done, good and faithful servant," and know that the One who died for me was pleased with how I lived for Him. I cling to Jesus' words,
I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world" [John 16:33].
So, how exactly should we handle this time of trial? I will write more about this tomorrow.