Endurance Through Trials

Romans 5 : 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Been meditating on this verse lately. Trying to, though counter-intuitive, be grateful for sufferings. Each of us bears his or her own loss, or bitterness of heart. Having been broken in love, or denied goals, having drank the anguish of defeat, often it causes us to resolve ourselves to hopelessness.

Charles Spurgeon said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in 10,000 ways, and die over and over again each hour.”

But, in wading through these things, we do good to remind ourselves of a couple of key truths. Firstly, For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col 1:16)

Also consider, John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

God has given us creation to enjoy, to be sure; love, wine, nature, a myriad of pleasures, but that only works if our hope and focus is on Him. When we look to the world to make us happy, finding sustaining life in the world is impossible. Welch put it this way:

“When you observe life and listen to wise people, you will quickly find that it is not about us, which hurts our pride but is a welcome relief. We simply can’t invest our hopes, dreams, and love in the self because it was never intended to carry such freight. For that matter, there is nothing created that was intended to sustain such hopes. Creation is to be enjoyed, but we don’t put our trust in it. The only alternative is God himself.” -Welch, Edward T.. Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness (Kindle Locations 913-916). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.

If we face bitterness and continue to long for that which we feel we are owed, even owed by God, then our resentment towards Him would distance us from that which is most important, would it not? If Christ is the door, the way, the truth, if indeed the greatest command is to love God above all else, then it could be determined that any trials, though not caused by God, are allowed to happen, in order to bring about the truth of this reality.

Paul said, it is better for you to lose your life and save your soul. Again, very counter-intuitive with how the world thinks. But imagine a world where every pleasure and desire was realized, and those pleasures kept you perpetually from seeking God. That life is still subject to entropy, and eventual death. Would it not be better to endure trials that “produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope?”

This has led me to conclude, rather reluctantly, that I am grateful for my trials. I say this carefully, not wishing certainly to evoke more, God forbid. But, my bitterness has certainly exposed the worst parts of me, it has exposed all of what I need to work on, and all I have put my hope in other than God Himself.

If the rest of my life, hypothetically, were devoid of all joys, stripped of all hope of love, and robbed of all entertainments, and ego-boosting assurances, understanding this one fact, that it is God’s love that will sustain me, then it is not a life wasted.

That is not to say, that nothing should be enjoyed. You won’t see me moving to a stone-built monastery in the Alps this year leaving my LOTR extended addition behind, or selling my car and living with the Amish (though I am sure they are much happier than many of the people who are plugged deeply into the world). But the folly of dependence upon people or things is lessened, as I focus my hope on Him, who has promised to sustain me, not just now, but always. John 5:24 “Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life…”

Yes it is counter-intuitive. But I am grateful for my trials.

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You Aren’t Free

There is this violation to our psyche, this offense that rears and bucks at the thought of losing liberty – or worse yet, realizing you don’t have it. This battle is tumultuous within the political realm, to be sure. But what about within your soul? If we focus for a minute, not on the rulers and lawmakers of a particular land, but instead on the method in which you run your own life, make decisions for yourself, chose your path.What controls that direction? Is it random? Certainly not. Your choices are made based on what you love.

That is not to say that we don’t have free will, but rather that our choices are inexorably tied to that which we love and worship. Becky Manley Pippert, in Out of the Salt Shaker, says, “Whatever controls us is our Lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.”

This means that though we act upon our own desires, make 10,000 decisions a day, all while maintaining that we are masters of our own destiny, not one of us is free. There is no soul that is not pressed upon by some ruling factor. There is no one truly at liberty to be free from all needs, or to just be. This is an illusion, and furthermore, as with atheism for example, to deny God, or a lord within your life, is to deny that a deeper desire exists within you, one that rules over your direction. Fear? Food? Vanity? Sexual immorality? Money? Anger? Do these not lord over us? Do we not make decisions in order to feed these desires? That isn’t freedom. That is control of another kind. I am reminded of verses such as, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.  Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!  Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.””

If there is a lord of your life no matter what, if this is a truth that is understood by an individual, then it would behoove us to take notice of what the bible makes very clear. You are either of Him, or of your father the devil. There is no alternative option. To be utterly free is to be God. This means, as people who aren’t gods, we must choose the type of slavery we want to operate under. The slavery of sin, of unforgiveness, of distance from our creator God? Or do we  chose to worship God, make Him our king, our Lord, and in that relationship, find redemption, forgiveness, grace, hope. Either way, you belong to someone not of yourself. If you need proof, then consider this… the lord of your life will determine the nature of your death. If you are in fact the lord of your life, then by what means will you conquer it?