Walking through the fire with God
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“Please mommy, don’t let them take me!” Steven’s innocent voice cried out. Through her torrent of tears she replied, “You will be okay honey, Mommy will be here with you!” “Mommy, help me! Mommy, I am scared. Please Mommy, no…..” Steven’s desperate pleas for help echoed through the hallways until the surgeon closed the door behind them. Just as his voice faded, her sobbing erupted. She felt deep sorrow that her child had to go through this pain. However, she knew that Steven had to have this surgery or he may lose his life. She was willing to allow him to suffer for a little while, so that in the long run his life would be spared. Steven did not understand his need for this temporary affliction or why his mommy would allow it. Steven could only see the overwhelming pain before him. However, his mother saw that this temporary pain was worth the ultimate outcome—Steven’s life.
Likewise, God allows trials in our life because He knows the ultimate outcome it will produce. Just like Steven’s mother, He realizes that our temporary pain will be worth the ultimate outcome—eternity with Him.
The initial reaction to a trial is almost always “Why me?” Especially as Christians, we ask of God, “Why me? I serve you Lord, so why are you allowing this in my life?” However, the real question should be “Why not me?” The bible is clear that everyone will go through trials, but a Christian will go through many more trials. You see, we are walking against the grain of this world and, as such, we are in constant strife with this world. Further, the moment we declared our faith in Jesus Christ, a target was placed on our back by the enemy. Considering all this, we must come to the conclusion that trials are inevitable.
When we look to the bible, we see that the most notable Christians in the bible endured trials, some of which make our trials look trivial. For example, the apostle Paul was beaten, imprisoned and mocked for the sake of the gospel. At the tender age of 17, Joseph was deceived by his own brothers, sold as a slave, wrongfully accused and imprisoned. By far, the most notable example is Job. Job endured every possible trial possible. Job lost his family, his riches and also suffered physical affliction. However, we see that he endured and overcame each trial solely through his unshakable faith in God.
What is your trial today? Are you on the verge of a divorce? Are you suffering through a terminal illness? Are you plagued with a debilitating mental illness? Are you facing financial struggles? Are you dealing with rebellious children or aging parents? Right now, you may be crying out, “Why me Lord?” However, God can use even the worst of circumstances to teach us something invaluable and to draw us closer to Him. Just recently, I heard a pastor talking about a possible reason why God allows a person, thing or situation to be removed from one’s life. The pastor stated that God may be taking away that person, thing or situation to replace Himself in its place. In essence, He wants to be our sole dependence.
Since we know that trials are inevitable, we need to learn how to endure them. The most important thing we must do when a trial overcomes us is to turn to God. He is the only one who can truly direct us and bring us peace in the midst of our storm. What do you mean turn to God—how? We turn to God by praying fervently, reading and meditating on His Word and delighting in His glorious ways. It is truly when we draw in to Him that He draws in near to us.
We also need to realize that this trial is no accident. On the contrary, God has allowed this very trial you are undergoing for His divine purposes. When we recall Job’s trials we see that Satan first asked God for permission to afflict Job. (Job 1:6-12) God allowed the affliction, not to destroy Job, but to reveal Job’s unwavering faithfulness. Although Job lost his family, health and most of his possessions, God ultimately blessed him in abundance as a reward for faithfully enduring through the afflictions.
Although we may question why God is allowing this particular trial in our life, God reminds us that His plans are always to build us up, not break us down: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11) God gave this particular promise to the children of Israel who were taken captive to Babylon. God knew and allowed their trial, for their ultimate benefit.
We need to trust God and His plans, whether our trial makes sense or not. Remember, God’s ways are immensely higher than our ways, so who are we to question Him?
Trust is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as: “ a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b: one in which confidence is placed.” Isn’t it interesting that the definition of trust does not have anything to do with the truth spoken and its reasonableness? On the contrary, it solely has to do with the person speaking the truth. Who else completely fits this description except God? His character is pure and unchanging, He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly what we ask or expect and His strength is exemplified through the heavens, oceans and mountains and is beyond our comprehension. Thus, we have no reason not to “trust” Him even when what He calls us to do or to endure does not make sense to us. God is the epitome of trust.
Throughout the bible God commands us to trust Him. He does this because He knows that when we trust Him, He can make anything possible. However, in our weakness, we are so apt to question God’s direction for our lives and our trust begins to diminish. In essence, we are focusing on the truth spoken, not the One speaking the truth. This is not what trust is!
Did it make any logical sense to have the Israelite army march around Jericho for seven days and on the last day to march around it seven more times and blow a horn in order to tear down the walls? NO, but God had a plan and tore down their walls.
Did it make any logical sense to send Moses and the Israelites into the desert just to be blocked by the Red Sea, while Pharoah’s army pursued them? NO, but God had a plan to save them and opened up the Red Sea.
Did it make any logical sense to command Noah to build an ark in the midst of a drought? NO, but God had a plan to save Noah and his family from a great flood that wiped out the earth.
Does it make any logical sense why you are enduring the trial you are enduring? Maybe and maybe not. However, we have to trust (like those aforementioned) that God has a plan and He will likewise bless you in abundance.
Further, when we place our complete trust in Him amazing things happen. Remember in Luke, when Peter and the other disciples saw Jesus walking on water. Peter asked Jesus to call him to Him so he too could walk on water. Do you remember what happened? Peter did the impossible, he walked on water—well, until he took his eyes of Jesus and started doubting. But, we see for that brief moment that Peter was able to do the impossible when he kept his eyes on Jesus. We can do that too. If we keep our eyes solely on Jesus and look away from ourselves and our troubles we will be able to do the impossible. The impossible could be overcoming the trial, finding joy in the midst of the trial or using our trial to further the gospel.
Trust is a must for the Christian walk. Remember, in the midst of life’s “emergency” moments, call 9-1-1, Psalms 91:1 that is: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (emphasis added)
A part of trusting God is relying on what He has promised us. The bible is full of infinite promises God has for you and me. These promises are real and are available to those who believe. A few of the promises to keep in mind are:
• Jeremiah 29:11: God reveals to us that he wants us to prosper and not to suffer. This is a promise of hope for all of us.
• 1Corinthians 10:13: God will not give you more than you can handle. God promises to not break us, but to give us what we are able to endure.
• Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God promises to work for the good for those of us whom love Him. That means that whatever circumstance you are in, God will use it for good, according to His divine purpose.
• 2Peter 2:4-9: God will rescue the godly from their trials. God promises us that we WILL be rescued. He does not promise that He will do this immediately, but we KNOW he will, so we must eagerly wait for Him.
You have heard the saying before, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade!” The same can be said when we endure trials of many kinds. God does not want us to lie paralyzed and shrivel up due to our trials. Instead, God wants us to continue to glorify Him in the midst of our weaknesses. He encourages us that during our weakness, "[His] grace is sufficient for you, for [His] power is made perfect in weakness." (2Cor 12:9 NIV)
Let us look back to Jeremiah 29 as we look at the captives in Babylon. In verses 5 through 6 we see that God commands the captives to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” Essentially, God is telling them to “press on” and continue in God’s work. Paul sums it up perfectly in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging us to forget any trials or failures that have plagued us in the past (even if the past is 1 minute ago) and to press on toward the purpose to which God has called us.
It is 2008 and the Olympics have begun. Like most people around the world, I am glued to the television. I am particularly interested in the track and field portion of the Olympic games. I find it absolutely amazing how fast these people can run, in short and long distances. Have you ever examined their facial expression as they run? If so, you will see that they are focused on one thing—the finish line. You will never (or rarely) see these athletes looking to the side or looking back during their strides. They not only are focused, but they are using every bit of strength within them to get to that finish line—quickly! You will even see some of their cheeks slapping against the wind as they dash with unbelievable vigor. Now, picture that same athlete running the track, in the Olympics, with several filled suitcases on their back and arms. Do you think they would have the same speed, endurance and focus? Of course not! The “baggage” would drastically slow them down. Likewise, when we allow the “baggage” of our past (whether it be sins or trials) to run the Christian race with us, our pace will slow, our endurance will dwindle and our focus will become blurred.
When we recall the various trials that Joseph faced, many of us would admit that it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to see him give up. However, this faithful man of God pressed on toward the finish line of serving Jesus Christ. He endured slavery, imprisonment, false accusations, etc. and continued to serve God with fervor. In doing so, Joseph reaped an amazing reward and was blessed with the honor of being able to save his own family from a severe famine that struck Egypt. He knew God had a purpose for his life and even in the midst of his trials, he continued to flourish.
Paul is another prime example. Paul traveled to far away lands just to preach the Gospel message. Although some people welcomed him, others were greatly opposed to him and his message. Paul endured beatings and imprisonments at various times in his ministry. However, this never slowed Paul down. Whether on the streets, in a synagogue or chained up in a prison cell, Paul continued to preach the Gospel and give glory to God. As a matter of fact, some of Paul’s letters were written while he was actually imprisoned. This is an amazing testimony to how we should be in the midst of our trials.
BLESSINGS OF TRIALS
Is there even such a thing as reaping a blessing from a daunting trial? YES, there is! James 1:2-3 instruct us that trials produce perseverance and perseverance produces a strong character and the ability to endure anything. These are all essential characteristics for the Christian walk. Therefore, in enduring trials we will reap the blessing of Godly characteristics that will enable us to walk stronger in our faith.
There is a saying that states “In order to grow, faith must be stretched.” If our faith is never stretched (by trials) we will become stagnant and will not have room to grow. However, if our faith is stretched and we endure to the end, our faith will have room to grow and this will mold us into a stronger, more faithful Christian.
Further, 1Peter 1:6-7 states that trials reveal the genuineness of our faith. When we are put to the test and faced with overwhelming trials, the genuineness of our faith will be revealed. Will we give up and question God or will we hold tighter and trust in God. Mark chapter 4 talks about the parable of a gardener. This parable is really talking about those that receive God’s Word and what they do with it. The parable states that those who receive the Word of God on rocky places, with no roots “hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” (Mark 4:17-18) Essentially, their faith was not deep nor strong enough to endure the trials that afflicted them and the genuineness of their faith was revealed.
Lastly, we receive the blessing of a pure heart after enduring a trial. God tells us that we are refined by the fire and left purified for God’s work. (Isaiah 48:10 and Isaiah 1:25) A refiner's fire is a fire that is so hot that it causes any metal being heated upon it to be separated from the dross (impurities) that is within it. The liquid metal gets heated up, and the impurities rise to the surface, whereupon the silversmith then removes the dross. As more dross is consumed or removed, the refined metal is purer, more precious to the refiner. Interestingly, the silversmith knows how high to heat the liquid, so as not to burn it.
God is our Silversmith. He refines us by the fire of trials and, through them, He brings to the surface all our impurities (sins). As he scoops them away, he continues with the fire until we are left with a pure heart. Also, like the Silversmith, God is careful to not allow the fire of our trials to overwhelm us. God knows how much we can handle and will not give us more than that.
Here is a perfect example. Think of a beautiful, glistening rock. It is a perfect marbled color and has a soft and smooth surface. Now picture someone getting that rock and smashing it against the ground, shattering it to pieces. Our initial reaction would be “Why did you destroy that beautiful rock? It is now worthless!” However, when we look closer at the shattered rock, we see something beaming beneath the broken shell—diamonds! Had the rock never been shattered, the diamonds would never have been revealed. Similarly, sometimes God uses a trial to shatter us in order to reveal our true beauty within.
HOLD TIGHT MY FRIEND
The truth is, nobody wants to endure trials—especially trials that test our faith and reveal our weaknesses. However, when we acknowledge that our trials are divinely appointed and are able to produce blessings, we are better able to endure them with strength and joy—God’s joy. Trials are not meant to melt us down to nothing, instead they are meant to soften us and mold us into the person God has called us to be! Hold up your head my friend, and allow the power of Christ to resonate through you!
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