Have you discovered ways that trials have secretly (or openly) stretched and added to your faith? In what other way could your faith be strengthened as easily?
When I’m going through a trial, my faith in God is sometimes “I have faith that You know what You’re doing”. Sometimes it’s “I have NO faith right now, but I’m going to give thanks in everything, because You told me to”. Either way, once the trial is over, I can look back and see God’s gracious hand in whatever has occurred.
The Apostle Paul discussed faith a lot. He also spent lots of time reminding us that we are all sinners in need of God’s salvation, and that salvation is found only through Christ Jesus. At one point, he connected the two with a “therefore”.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
We are to rejoice in our trials! What are we promised when we become believers? The peace of God which passes all understanding. Paul tells us that we are to rejoice because trials bring good things to us: endurance, character, and hope. All of these character traits won’t disappoint us, even if we feel overwhelmed, because God has promised us His love!
See that big “in”? Small word with a big meaning. Here it’s translated from the Greek – en – which means to “remain in place or rest in”. What this tells us is that during a trial, we aren’t supposed to try to work our way out. We are supposed to be at rest. How hard is THAT? For me it’s really tough. We obtain the grace to persevere from the inner strength that God gives us when we are still and wait on the Holy Spirit.
Is waiting a natural part of your reaction to stressful situations? For most it isn’t. I am going through a large trial right now. It seems that every time I think things are getting better, something else goes wrong. One of my friends always asks what I’m going to do. I tell her that I am going to wait and pray. Although what I want to do might be running around like a headless chicken, I know that the right thing to do is to wait, give thanks in everything, and see what lesson or point God is making through the trial. I don’t always get it right, but every trial brings me closer to contentment in waiting!
If you aren’t sure what to do, you can always turn to James 1.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)
When we don’t know what to do, we should turn to God in prayer, having faith that He knows the answer. We know that God is bigger than any problem. Sometimes we doubt. When we look a problem squarely and then wait, we can calm down, think rationally and go from disbelief and doubt to total trust. Read the text again and think of the promises God makes to the person who doubts. I like the non-doubting promises much better!
There is a verse frequently used to help us avoid temptation. Did you know that peirasmos, used in James 1:2 (studied earlier this week), can mean “temptation, trial, or blessing”? Neither temptation, trial, or blessing is a sin. Our response to the temptation, trial or blessing is what makes the choice one of obedience or disobedience.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor 10:13 (ESV)
When I read this verse and I think of Job, my response is usually two edged. First, I think, “ooohhhhh, let me be so strong that God can give me a trial like his.” My next response is, “Are you NUTS? Seriously. You want THAT kind of trial?” Does this verse make ready to accept more trials, knowing that even in the storm God is aware of how far you can be stretched? Don’t be complacent, though, because He won’t let the TEMPTATION or TRIAL go beyond your ability to deal with it, but He allows you to make the choice as to how you will respond to the temptation or trial. And when we think about blessings, the principle is the same. God won’t give us more blessing than we can handle either. Suppose God gave you a bag with a million bucks inside. That would be great, right? Could you use it to His glory, or would you be like most people who receive a windfall and lose it, and more, within a few years? Can you honestly say that God could bless you with a million dollars? I know that I would have great intentions, but I’m not sure that I could stick with those intentions long term. And that, friends, is why I am not a bazillionaire. God knows I couldn’t handle it. And even though it’s fun to think about that money, I know that it will not be a part of my life for the foreseeable future – and I am content. Can you join Paul in saying:
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil 4:12-13 (ESV)
We usually memorize the last sentence, but in the context of the paragraph, it takes on a deeper meaning!
I pray that you will reflect on Paul’s words and take them to heart. Whether you have a great job or no job, whether you are single or married or widowed, whether you have fancy cars or a beat up bicycle, you can do everything through Christ. Be content, friends. God knows what He’s doing, and He has you in the palm of His hand.
See you next week.