To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth- Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:2-6

Friday, August 29, 2008

No Pain, No Gain

Imagine someone came to you and wanted to write a novel based on your life. If everything was always going your way, always perfect so you never had anything to over come, you’d have the most boring book, wouldn’t you? Trials are what make us interesting. What would an Indiana Jones movie be like if all he ever did was walk in, grab the artifact and return to the university? The creepy crawlies, the villains, the huge stone ball chasing him down the tunnel… it’s his seeming ability to overcome the impossible and nearly escape death again and again and again that makes it worth watching. The Bible is filled with these impossible narratives. People whose lives cry out to us that God likes putting His glory, His creativity and His power on display. God is the ultimate author of drama, action, and those last-minute saves. We see the greatest example of this in Christ; who left heaven, the most perfect place, and came to this sin torn earth to endure trials just to save us.

Trials can make us better people. When we go through trials they work out of us those issues that are often lying dormant behind our inhibitions. They purge and purify us, raising to the surface our sin and impurities. We may never realize what sin issues we have until we are tested. Time and again we see confident looking people go through trials only to realize they have underlying insecurity issues. Who would feel insecure in an environment where everything was always going right? True confidence comes when we understand that God is sovereign. We may have knowledge of God’s sovereignty, but through trials we gain a priceless and concise understanding of it. The chief of all attributes gained through trials is patience. How many times have I thought I could handle things, I was a pretty patient person, only to have that tested and show how much a really have yet to grow. And grow you they do. I should hope that no one thinks they have already “arrived”, that they know all they need to know and they are as patient, loving and kind as they can be. How many of us have hurt people, really deeply hurt people, thinking we were totally justified in doing so, assuming that the ends justify the means. Often these people we hurt are the ones that are closest to us. When the tables are turned, and humility is gained, we see into the depravity of our own hearts.

How should we respond to these trials? With joy! Wow, that’s got to be one of the hardest things to do, but when we are joyful when we really shouldn’t be it makes people wonder why. John Piper likes to say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. With joy we show that our satisfaction does not lie in anything here on this earth, it is in heaven with Christ. Also, I must say that grieving or being hurt by things that come in our lives is to be expected. These feelings are normal, even Jesus wept. We are, however, expected to move on. We are to show the world that, even when we are hurt or our circumstances seem hopeless, our hope is in God and His promises.

So how do we respond when those around us go through trials? Do we complain about how they are being immensely insensitive to even think about going through a trial anywhere near us? Or, like Job’s friends, do we assume we know what’s going on and accuse them of sinning? I would certainly hope not! Who are we to think that we know the mind of God and why He does the things He does? Throughout the New Testament we are told to pray for one another, not to gossip about them. We are to encourage one another, not to badger each other. We are to also build one another up, not to tear them down. We are to be devoted to one another, not to ignore them. Finally, we are to love one another, not to be callous, merciless and spiteful.

I’m going to sound odd in saying this, but I kind of like going through trials. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I like the pain and purging. I like the closeness to God. Trials seem to force me to pray with out ceasing, to fully rely on God, and to cry out in total dependence on Him. There is an unexplainable peace that comes with depending on God to meet your every need. One of my favorite verses to remember when I’m in the midst of a trial is Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You”. My trials bring me closer to God, and that is the best place to be. Hebrews 13:6 “So we may boldly say: The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

We know that nothing and no one can touch us more than God allows; nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. In all these trials and tribulations we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. So why not face them confident and excited that we get to participate in an awesome adventure where God gets all the glory? All I can say is: Bring it on!

Here are some verses on the subject.

Romans 5:3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

James 1:3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Peter 4:12-19 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

2 Corinthians 1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.