“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4).
What a crazy thing to say…consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds? How can that be?
For the Christian, suffering is not a matter of if but when. Christ suffered. Disciples suffered. We are told in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
1 Peter 4:12-13, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
This doesn’t mean you should go out looking for persecution and suffering. That would be dumb. But what it does mean is that when trials and tribulations do come our way, they are given meaning and purpose.
Here is the amazing thing about the Christian faith: the Bible tells us that suffering has a purpose. Suffering tells us that we are on the right path. Suffering draws us closer to God. Suffering shows us our need for God. Suffering helps us to grow in maturity. Suffering makes us more like Christ.
Simon Wiel wrote: “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering but a supernatural use for it.”
Christians look to suffering not only as a place of pain, but as a place of meeting God. Suffering does not merely happen to us. It works in us!
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
This verse sounds so beautiful, so comforting, so nice. I like it. I like it a lot.
And once you see the context in which this trust is uttered, you will like it even more. Here is the context:
Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversariespursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The psalmist utters our verse of the day vowing his trust in God while being attacked by his adversaries. Death and betrayal is all around him. He’s not sure if he’s going to make it to the end of the day. Yet the psalmist declares: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
How? What is the source of such confident trust?
The character of God revealed in the Bible!
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:33-37:
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
So, what are you going through today? Is there anything in the created universe that can separate you from the love of God?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
All love, no wrath. All grace, no judgment. All accepting, no rejecting. All mercy, no justice. All heaven, no hell.
Wow! What a god!
This is the god of our imaginations. This is the god of our own creation. And, this is the god most Americans believe in. To hear most Americans, no one ever goes to hell. Every person turns into an angel who looks down upon their loved ones from heaven.
Where did we get such an understanding?
The problem with all this is that it’s all a figment of our imaginations. Such a god does not exist in the world.
How do I know that? Because such a god doesn’t exist in the Bible.
Because God is loving, God pours out his wrath on evil. Because God is full of grace, judgment is paid by his sacrifice of the Son on the cross. Because God is accepting and has made a pathway for all sinners, God must reject those who refuse the gift of eternal life through his Son. Because God is merciful, God must punish evil. Because God couldn’t imagine an eternity without you in it, God sent his Son to die for us so that we might rise with him. God did all this because it is not his will that any one should perish in hell.
Wow! What a God!
That is the God of the Bible. His name is Jesus. He is the Savior of the world. Do you know him? Have you received him as Lord and Savior?