Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Faith that Endures

I believe that God created everything from the smallest of the small to the largest of the large and everything in between.  My God is greater than anything else that lives or moves or breathes on earth or in heaven.  God currently holds sway over the whole of creation, He always has and He always will. 

I realized one day when I was reading the book of Job that God IS in fact in control of EVERYTHING that happens on earth and in heaven.  Once I recognized that, I also recognized and came to acceptance of the fact that nothing is going to happen to me each and every day that God has not already given His stamp of approval to, and anything that does happen to me each and every day is a direct result of God either giving it to me (He's the giver of all good and perfect gifts) or He has allowed the Adversary to bring upon me.

Job 1: 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." 8 And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." 12 And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.   

I used to think that just because God's ways are higher than ours, that there was no way to understand why God allows certain things to come into our lives.  However, as I am studying the book of James, I have learned that God allows tests and trials in our lives to perfect our faith in Him.
1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The study I am using for the book of James was written by Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries.  In her weekly lecture, she tells the story of how silver is refined, how the silver is put into the fire and the impurities a/k/a "dross" come to the top and are removed from the silver, and then it is put again into a hot fire and more dross comes to the top and is removed and each time this happens, the reflection of the one doing the refining becomes more and more discernible and recognizable as the silver becomes more and more pure, and once all the impurities have been removed, the refiner sees his perfect reflection looking back at him from the silver. 

James 1:2-8 tells us that we are to count it as "joy" when we encounter trials because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (also translated as perseverance,  patience and endurance).  Steadfastness, if we allow it to complete its work, will cause us to be perfect and complete (all our parts in place), lacking in nothing.  That's a pretty high calling...perfect and complete, lacking nothing; a state of being I can hardly contemplate. 

James 1:12 tells us that if we are steadfast through the trials and tribulations of this life that eventually we reach a state of approval whereupon we will receive a crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
It's hard, really hard, to put ourselves into Job's place and realize that when bad things come into our lives that God is allowing them to happen and that we are to be joyful about it.  It is hard to be humble and accepting of God's refining.  We just want to be accepted and loved and treated like we treat our pets, like good little people because we have believed in the gospel, but God wants more than that from us.  He wants us to shine like the brightest silver; He wants us to shine like the brightest light, He wants us to look like Him.

So everyday I get up, I read my Bible, I pray and I think, "Nothing is going to happen to me today that God does not want to happen", and you know what?  There is freedom in that.  It makes it so much easier to look a trial or a test in the face and realize that God wants me to sit still and know that He is God, He wants me to wait on Him, He wants me to acknowledge Him so that He can direct my path and He wants me to be steadfast - believing in Him for who is He, what He is and what He promises in His Word.   He is God.  He is good, and He has a plan for me; not to harm me, but to prosper me and re-make me in His image.  He promises to go before me and make a way for me to get through the trial.

When we can look at difficulties and trials  and tests that we encounter in this manner, well, at least for me, even the most difficult trials, the death of a loved one or the loss of one's health or job, can be endured in a much more accepting, even-tempered, faithful manner.   It is easier to keep the faith if you know that the trial or test is to build your faith. 

Plus, He promises to give you wisdom to know how to get through the trial and possibly why the trial was sent if you only ask Him in faith, believing that He will answer you.  And here's a scary thought, if you don't have faith, you might as well not ask because the one who asks without faith is double minded in all his ways, and should not expect to receiving anything from the Lord!

The farther I walk on this road to redemption, the more I know that we are so poor and little minded and yet we think we are so grand and able to do whatever we want.  We think we can sit down and say our little memorized, rote prayer, rote grace, list of thank yous and gee, haven't we done well today?  But God is a god of perfection.   He wants us to be perfect like He is perfect...thus, the trials.

I know that the trials of today are nothing like the trials of what is yet to come in this world that is quickly passing away, and so I pray that God would find me worthy of escaping the things that are coming, but should it be required, I ask that I would not love this life so much that I would bring shame to His name and myself if my life is required.   I pray that by His holy spirit I would make Him proud of me; that I would be steadfast and true and faithful to Him.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary; pure and holy, tried and true;
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for You.

This is my prayer today.

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