Showing posts with label enduring trials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label enduring trials. Show all posts

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wounds of Wisdom

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
- Psalm 119:71


When we find ourselves in times of distress, or trial, or uncertainty, we discover the importance of prayer. Our souls are overcome with desperation. We fall to our knees and we loose all sense of pride and self-reliance and we lay ourselves at the feet of the Master. We cry out to Him for mercy. We bargain with Him for relief. We re-evaluate our spiritual life and we vow to make corrections for the better - if only God would release us from our suffering and our affliction.

This is exactly where God wants us to be - humble, submissive, obedient, and listening intently, moment-by-moment, for His unmistakeable voice.

In my life I have known those seasons of pain. I have spent hours on my knees, my tear-stained face to the carpet, pleading with God to lift His heavy hand of affliction from off of my life.

In those moments of suffering, the only thing we want God to do is to take away the pain. Yet, I suspect that God's intention in those moments is to teach us to trust in Him and to seek His face. Because God knows that our greatest need isn't to have a more comfortable, pain-free life. Our greatest need is to learn to trust completely in Him alone.

At the end of the book of Job, he makes a marvelous declaration:

"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." - Job 42:5

After all of the intense suffering that Job endures, he has grown nearer to God. In spite of the fact that God never once appears to Job, he confesses that these experiences have allowed him to see God more clearly.

In the first chapter of James, we read:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4

James is not suggesting that we fake a smile as we endure hardships. Instead, he is asking us to take another look at our suffering and to gain perspective.

Why should we "consider it pure joy" whenever we "face trials of many kinds"? Because we understand that this "testing of (our) faith" is part of God's plan to help us grow. James says that this testing "develops perserverance" in us. What is perserverance? It's a quality of faith that will not let go of God, no matter what.

If we truly love God, and if we truly desire to grow in our faith, then we should rejoice when God allows us to develop a quality of faith that will prevent us from falling away or losing sight of Him.

Furthermore, this same perserverance works in us to make us "mature and complete, not lacking anything."

For those who can grasp this principle, it really is possible to "consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds".

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist David says:

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." (v 67)

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (v 71)


God works through our pain and our trials to teach us obedience and dependence upon Him and Him alone.

I can remember a time when God taught me to rely on Him for daily bread. I had been out of work for nearly a year. Our finances were very tight. One morning, my wife, Wendy poured the last of the milk into bowls of cereal for our young boys. She cracked the last egg and scrambled it for herself. She used the last paper towel to dry up a spill on the table. We had nothing in the bank. We were down to buying groceries with our credit card. In her heart she whispered a prayer for God's provision.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Our dear friend Karen was standing there with a care basket she had put together for us. In it were milk, eggs, paper towels and a box of Wheat Thins. Wendy began to laugh and cry at the same time. Just the night before I had been sitting on the couch watching television and I had casually mentioned that I hadn't eaten Wheat Thins in a long time. The message was clear: God was listening to us. He had not forgotten us. We were dear to Him and He was eager to supply our daily bread if we would only look to Him and wait.

If you're going through a season of pain right now, I want to encourage you. God loves you dearly. You are more precious to Him than life itself. He would rather die than be without you.

This suffering you're going through will not last forever. These seasons are temporary. They will last only as long as God intends for them to last, and then they will pass. It only seems as if the pain will last forever. But soon, when your heart has become fully surrendered to Him in whatever area requires the surrender, He will lift this burden. He will lift you up and bring you seasons of refreshing.

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:7-11

God may not remove the suffering from us, but He does promise to walk with us through the suffering and to use even these painful experiences to draw us even nearer to Himself.

Trust God in your hardships. Cling tightly to Him. Seek His face and lean into Him for comfort. He is in control of everything. That's the good news. The bad news is that this means you are not in control, and eventually that too will become good news to you.

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

Our house church family was recently discussing the Lord’s prayer. One of our brothers admitted he’s always struggled with the section where Jesus teaches us to pray, “…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Because we know that God doesn’t tempt us to do evil, it seems strange that Jesus would ask us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation.

According to the book of James, we are not tempted by God, but God does use our testing and trials to strengthen our faith.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” – (v.12-13)

So, what is Jesus saying in this teaching? What are we to understand from God’s Word about the intricacies of temptation and testing?

While God may not directly tempt us to sin, he does allow us to be tested – or tempted – in order to help us grow in our faith.

At the moment my wife Wendy and I are praying about sending our oldest son, Dylan (14), to attend the Orange County High School of the Arts. Dylan has always been a very creative young man and from an early age he has always expressed a desire to be an artist.

A few weeks ago, Dylan auditioned to become one of about 40 new students at this special arts-focused high school. He and 2,400 others showed their portfolio, submitted an application and turned in three drawings created during the interview process. We’ll find out in April if he’s made the cut.

If he does make it, we will be releasing our oldest son into the public school system, which, for home school parents like us is more than a little frightening, to be honest. We know that for the first time in his life Dylan will be exposed to ideas and language and behaviors he has only observed from a distance until now. We pray that he will continue to make good choices as temptations and distractions come his way at this new school. Frankly, we’re not fully convinced that this really is God’s best for Dylan, but we’re willing to take a leap of faith with our son.

As we were sharing our concerns along these lines with an older couple a few months ago over dinner, one of them said something that has continued to echo in my ears. He said, “Virtue untested is not virtue.”

Because of this simple sentence, I am willing to allow Dylan to step into a place where I know he will have his faith tested and his ideas challenged. Why? Because he is becoming a man now and sooner or later he must be allowed to succeed – or to fail – on his own. He must learn how to deal with failure and to recover from mistakes and he needs to do that without his Mom or Dad hovering over him. Dylan needs to discover for himself who he is and if what he believes about life – and about himself – is true or not.

This is similar to how God deals with us, I believe. He teaches about Himself. He shows us His love. He fills us with His Spirit. Then he allows us to be tempted and tested to see if we can live out what we say we believe. I think it’s more for our benefit because God already knows our heart. He already knows what’s in us. But, we do not. We need to discover the places where our faith is all talk and to see ourselves in the light of reality. We need to hold on tight to God when we can’t hear His voice. We need to fall flat on our face and realize that we weren’t really the spiritual superstars we thought we were. We need to be humbled and we need to know how much we really do rely on God for every single breath.

This is why God asked the Devil if he had seen Job’s faith. It’s why God prompted David to number the men of Israel. It’s why there was a tree in the Garden that wasn’t meant to be touched. It’s even why the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted. We need to know how weak we really are. We need to learn to trust God no matter what.

So, we need to pray and ask that God would lead us – not into temptation – but away from evil, because we know that we are weak and hopeless without Him.

-kg