Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fiery Trials

(Photo: The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer)
“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.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”  (1 Peter 4:12-19)

We all go through hard periods in our lives.  Some of us go through really hard things and in the heat of it all, it often times feels hopeless.  You can feel like God must hate you.  Like you are finally reaping the consequences of your sin, but this kind of thinking is always wrong. 

First off, if we are saved and belong to God, He can’t possibly hate us.  Whatever God does, He does out of His love for us.  He wants us to possess a beautiful heart and soul, so He will take us through whatever He can to accomplish that.  His goal for our lives is to bring Him glory, so the difficult things that we go through are solely for His honor and glory.   We need to ask ourselves, when things get really tough, if we are reacting in a way that says we are being an edifying tool for the kingdom of Christ, and if our actions would be pleasing to God.  Are we are bringing glory to God, or Satan?  Being persecuted for Christ’s sake is a compliment.  Having people hate you because you are a Christian is a privilege.  It means that our enemies see the difference.  It is a beautiful thing!  If I could pick one way to die, it would be to suffer the death of a martyr.  To die because someone asked me to deny the Gospel of our precious Savior, and I refused to do so, but instead told my persecutor that I forgave him because I had been so forgiven myself.

It is an easy thing to bristle when we suffer any type of pain.  We may think that God has lost control and the enemy is running amuck with our lives.  But we need to remember Job.  In our ladies’ Bible study at my Church we are currently studying Job.  And it has been rather enlightening, so lets examine the result of Job’s hardship…

Job did not suffer such terrible loses because he lead a life that was displeasing to the Lord, or because the attacks were not within the (imagined) boundaries of God’s sovereignty.  Job 1:1 says, “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”  Job loved God and served Him solely in his life.  God saw him as a blameless man.  Job’s trials were a result of a conversation between God and Satan.  “The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’  Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down it.’  And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’  Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason?… But stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.’  And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand.  Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”  (Job 1:7-12)  We can see here that Satan told God that if He just did something horrible to Job, Job would curse Him.  And God said, everything he has is in your hand.  This can be a big help to us in trying times, if we can remember Job’s story and apply it to our own lives.  Satan is before God saying that if He will just do this to so and so, then so and so will curse Him.  We need to be very careful that we do not appease Satan by caving in to the temptation of becoming angry with God.  After Job loses everything he has, including his children, Job’s reply is, “ ‘Naked I came from my Mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.   The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”(Job 1:20-22) Do we charge God with wrong when something feels too hard for us to deal with?

We also need to ask ourselves what God may be trying to show us through a certain situation.  Is God trying to teach me something?  What character trait may God be attempting to instill in me through this difficult circumstance?  If we ask God to infuse something in us, say for instance, patience, God is not going to zap us with His “magic patience wand”, but He is going to give us the opportunity to be patient.  That might come in the guise of a trial.  We might forget what we have asked God to work in us and think, “why on earth is this happening to me?  That is not what I asked God to do!”  It can be hard to discern what God is doing in our lives at times, but we should always turn to His Word for answers, not our emotions!  Every Christian goes through times of affliction and persecution, that is just part of our sanctification, and it is how we react to those things and how God uses them in our life, that is important.  The Apostle Paul gives us such wonderful encouragement and wisdom on how to handle situations that can stress us and cause us to be anxious: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Let us rely on Him alone and remember these glorious words of the Psalmist “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?…But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6)

We know God will fight our battles for us…but we need to remember that He will not only fight them on our behalf, He will win them!  He will prevail with fiery Victory and conquer all!

  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b)