Thursday, August 02, 2012
Dear friends, my heart is very heavy. The burden is very great and difficult to bear. I cry in anguish for the hurting, helpless and hopeless people that seem to surround me. Discouragement seeks to rule my thoughts. Temptations to satisfy the longings of the flesh abound as the Enemy of my souls seeks to disqualify me from accomplishing God’s perfect purpose. The view of the finish line is being obscured by a cloud of conflict. Yet in all of this, I am not defeated. In fact, I can rejoice, and I will, for this is the testing of my faith that perfects me.
Not what you expected from your Pastor the first day after his return from a ten day vacation, is it? But I’ll venture a guess that the trials you are experiencing in your life right now are not what you expected from God either. They never are. In the flesh we have this entitlement mentality that expresses itself in a false belief that God owes us a storm-free existence with constant smooth sailing, favorable winds, and safe arrivals at our destinations. When storms do arise, we feel neglected, rejected, and abandoned by God, when in reality it is God doing His greatest work in our lives to produce the character of Jesus.
I know the reality of trials and tests. I am experiencing the overwhelming weight of life’s burdens. I live every day with the pain of other people’s problems. I know the fear that comes from feeling powerless to overthrow the influence of pride in my heart. I am tempted with the sin of self-sufficiency that is easily influenced by rising gas and grocery prices or lost income. I become disgruntled, discouraged, and disheartened when I choose – that’s right it’s my choice and I’m responsible – to be overwhelmed at the needs of the present rather than overjoyed at the grace of the Lord that is sufficient for every need.
I thank the Lord that He has filled my heart with faith in the midst of extremely dark times. He has given me three passages of Scripture to trust in completely because they are His promises to me – and to you as well.
- Deuteronomy 7:17-19 (ESV) 17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations (problems) are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples (problems) of whom you are afraid.
- James 1:2-4 (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- 1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so 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. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This last passage is my favorite because it challenges my perspective. I can rejoice in the trial because I have been, once and for all eternity, born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and my life is being guarded by God’s power. God’s power! Not mine, but God’s! Trials are NEVER designed by God nor allowed by God for the purpose of hindering, minimizing, or destroying faith, but rather for the eternal and glorious purpose of strengthening faith in the power and love of God to save our souls.
So no matter what today brings, I say bring it on. God has designed it to test my faith because He wants it to be genuine. When I allow the trial to trap me in a worldly mindset, I am not living by faith. When I embrace the trial as a test that proves and improves me, then I am living by faith. When I live by faith, I can clearly see the finish line again. So whatever the issue, whatever the problem, whatever the pain – I know God is faithful so there is nothing to fear, for He is God of the storm.