Accepting the Need to be Prepared by God
So many people live in fear of hard times. Maybe it's fear of illness or loss. Maybe it's fear of economic ruin or lack of freedom. The truth is: in times past those things often happened to Christians. And even more sobering: they are happening now to children of God around the nation and world.
The question is: can you understand what God may be doing? Can you see that God may allow bad things to happen to you as a means of molding you more into the image of His Son? After all, even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
If you are hurting at this moment, have you considered that you can use this to firm up your faith, increase your spiritual focus, and position yourself to do incredible work for God? You should think about that. God has done this many times.
Instead of the usual questions and comments, I want to give you Bible passages to consider. While you read these, ask yourself if trials are necessary in order to be who God needs you to be. Ask yourself if your attitude about hard times should be more about how you are being changed than the pain of what you are facing.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God… For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8,10
Notice that we are God's workmanship. He molds us and remakes us, changing us into perfect vessels for the work of carrying the Gospel to others. This may demand fire to burn out impurities or His heavy imprint to mold our shape.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
No one enjoys trials. But can we find joy in the proving of our faith? Can we look at who we are becoming as we persevere and find peace in that? We should and we must.
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline… All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:7,11
The "discipline" in this text was not punishment for sin. It was actually God allowing the Christians to be persecuted by workers of the evil one. And yet, it created an output that God used for good: seasoned and proven Christians.
“…there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me… Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” II Corinthians 12:7-9
Paul prayed for relief, and so should we. If we can be changed and useful without pain and suffering, may God grant us relief. But if God needs us to face this for His glory, may our attitude always be like the apostle Paul: more inclined to boast in my suffering than have it removed, if it's presence honors the will of God in my life.
In the podcast, we explored all of this in the life of Joseph. I hope you have given that a listen. I'll be preaching a sermon with more biblical detail at the Lindale church on March 15th, and you can find that on the Lindale church of Christ podcast or at www.lindalechurchofchrist.com.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Genesis 50:20
Listen to Joseph's words. No matter who did him wrong, he came to understand that God made it useful and the difficulties in Joseph's life only led him to a place to save others. May God do so with the difficulties in our lives as well. May we bear them by faith and may the outcome be the salvation of souls.
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
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