Tag Archives: love

Subject to Many Trials

How are we as Christians to regard such a time as this?

Some of you may have the virus. Others of you have friends or loved ones who have suffered or even died from it. Others of you have lost or are about to lose your livelihoods. In some way, all of us have experienced inconveniences and discouragement we have never known before. None of us knows what the future holds.

Jesus warned His disciples that in this life we will have tribulations or trials (John 16:33). What was He talking about?

Most times, these are things we don’t like to think about. We have been conditioned to think that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, life will be rosy and sweet. What happens when life is not sweet?

Even the best of us experience trials. Jesus Himself was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. Paul the apostle experienced many tribulations (2 Cor. 11:16-33).

In his first letter, Peter portrays the ideal Christian as both a person of great joy and much sorrow and grief, subject to many trials in life. These are not just chance events, but things that are allowed, and even sent, “if necessary,” by God Himself. Why does God find it necessary?

First and foremost, God wants to build His church whose foundation is Jesus Christ. He saves us when we are still sinners. We enter the kingdom in an imperfect state. God allows trials for at least three different reasons:

  1. Sometimes He chastises us for our failures. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens,” we are told in Hebrews 12:6. If we do not know the chastening of the Lord, if all is sweetness and light in our lives, we are not Christians, it is as simple as that.
  2. Sometimes God allows trials in life to prepare us for a higher task, to make us more dependent upon Him. Think of Joseph and David who knew grievous trials of faith. God chose them for greater things, and they needed greater maturity to bear greater responsibilities.
  3. Even when we have not fallen into gross sin, we are still imperfect in our faith. We all have many areas of the flesh in our thinking and doing, however unconscious they may be, that interfere with our effective walk with Christ. Often, God sends trials our way to make us aware of these things and to bring out a greater faith.

When we bear these trials and learn from them to develop greater fellowship with our Heavenly Father, we certify that we are indeed His children. We learn to rejoice in our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5) in ways we have never rejoiced before. As believers who rejoice in the midst of tribulation, we become testimonies to a watching world of a great and loving God.

Which of these kinds of trials have you experienced? When we learn from them, they last only for a season. The fruit we bear in our lives at such times glorifies our Lord Jesus. Such fruit lasts for eternity and affects not only us but the world around us.

During this time of trial and crisis, how ready are we to submit to God’s will and allow Him to work through our present troubles to bring about revival, healing and spiritual awakening?

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What the World Cannot Ignore

autumn-trees-tumblr-wallpaper-3The first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims took place among people who sacrificed and suffered beyond words. During their first harsh winter in America, they lost almost half their number. Yet those who lived thanked God for His provision in the midst of widespread grief.

The apostle Paul suffered trials and persecutions almost without number. Yet he says he has learned to be content under all conditions, whether good or bad. “I can do all things,” he writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul’s experience and that of the Pilgrims indicates that contentment and thanksgiving are not natural human traits. They are learned experiences that come over time through daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the product of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we do this, Jesus says, “all these things [including contentment and thanksgiving] will be added unto you.”

We live in a general culture of discontent. We see signs of this all around us in high consumer debt and a high rate of mobility. Increasing numbers of people identify as victims. We become anxious over what we do not have. We exhibit jealousy and envy. We engage in self-criticism and self-hatred. We focus on everything else but God to meet our needs, but since God made us for Himself, these other things can never help us.

Discontented people are miserable people. Miserable people are not thankful people. Unfortunately, many such people are found in the church. Are we among them?

Contentment and thankful spirits are acquired traits. How do we acquire them? By learning to submit to God as sovereign, knowing that He puts us where we are and is fully able to give us all we need for the situation. By learning to serve the Savior who has served us to the fullest degree. By learning to trust the One who is all-sufficient in all circumstances.

Paul, who suffered many things, experienced the love of God poured out into his heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). How does this work out in real life? Read the testimony of a young man, 19 years old, dying of a fever, lying on a straw bed in a hovel with broken windows:

“I would not change my state with the richest person on earth . . . Blessed be God! I have a good hope through Christ, of being admitted to those blessed regions where Lazarus now dwells, having long forgotten his sorrows and miseries. Sir, this is nothing to bear, while the presence of God cheers my soul and where I have access to Him, by constant prayer through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Only the love of God is constant,” said Henry Venn, who experienced shifting circumstances in his life. He learned to practice constant prayer, meditate on scripture, engage in fasting and keep a spiritual diary. To him, these were not mere religious exercises, but means to develop intimacy with the living God.

Henry Venn had lost two wives and a 16-year-old daughter through death. Through his trials, he recognized his sin and his need for humility before God. He experienced the love of God poured out in his heart. It was more than enough, and he thanked God.

Do we have that kind of contentment that leads to thanksgiving? When we learn contentment, we will have a testimony the world cannot ignore.

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Do You Truly Know Him?

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, “What this world needs more than anything else is personal knowledge of the true character of God. Our basic problem is a profound ignorance of God’s character.”

If anything, those words are truer today than ever before—a profound ignorance of the character of God. Tragically, this is true even in many churches that call themselves “Christian.”

Too many Christians have bought into the lie that God is a creation of our psychological state, and that we can pick and choose what parts of God we like and leave out whatever makes us feel uncomfortable. Too many Christians have bought into the lie that religion begins and ends with ourselves, that God is about “meeting my needs and the needs of my family.”

The names of God in the Bible do not allow us this fantasy. God’s names in the Bible do not result from philosophical speculation but are the names God gives to Himself. They reveal His true being. They shatter our ignorance. They remind us that He makes us, we don’t make Him.

God reveals who He is through His names because He wants us to experience Him. He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is always greater than what we think of Him. If we are attracted to the God of love and grace, we must also experience the holy and righteous God who hates and judges our sin. We must also experience the God who demands our total submission to Him. In our present culture, these truths cause discomfort even in the church.

When we adapt God to our own desires and dreams, we cannot experience a true relationship with Him. True relationship with anyone is impossible with fantasies about that person, even more so with God. Whenever we leave something out of God’s character, we experience less of Him, not more. We know less of His love and grace. We know less of His power. In the end, He becomes remote and impotent to us, and we trust Him less, not more.

In today’s world, a remote God is the last thing we need. With all its confusion and turmoil, the world looms large, and God appears small and ineffective even to many Christians, unable to help them overcome daily problems of raising families, deal with health issues, find hope in turbulent electoral politics, face the prospect of death.

God is pleased to reveal hundreds of names of Himself in the Bible. The multiplicity of God’s names in scripture reveal how great He really is—and how little we truly know Him. The multiplicity of His names also demonstrate God’s continuing and patient invitation to us to know Him better.

When we allow Him to surround and embrace us with who He really is, and not who we want Him to be, we discover joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of war, opportunities in the midst of obstacles, accomplishment in the midst of mundane toil.

The multiplicity of God’s names speak of the greatness of God. Let us proclaim this great God to a fragmented world and anticipate His promise of that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

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