Sunday, February 7, 2016

Testing of Your Faith

We know that all things work together for good1 for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

In the above verse, other translations read God causes all things to work together for good. I mention this because John, Susan, Alan and others have all stressed to me this belief. As you read the scriptures carefully, it says that God causes all things to work for our good, not that He causes all things.  It’s a very good distinction to make, and one that can be a hard concept to understand.  We look around the world and we thank God for all the good things that happen to us, but then we blame God for all the bad things that happen as well, but the above verse shows that God is working for the good of mankind and the bad things are beyond what he controls.  Sometimes, He lets nature take its course.  

In my grief, I have forgotten a passage from my favorite book of the bible, James.  In James 1:2-4, James writes  “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  This is a scripture that is hard for many to swallow.  We should rejoice in our sorrows? We should find joy in our trials?  Death is a part of life, and at some point we will all face the sorrow that goes with the death of someone we love. All of you know that I am still struggling with my friend’s death, but it is getting better each day. I believe that by having a crisis of faith over my friend’s death, I have grown stronger in my faith.  I find great comfort in speaking to my friends who are ministers. Great ministers have a presence of calm about them.  God has called them to the profession of ministry and is able to work through them to help people find peace and love in His Word. 

God created us because He loves us. God never intended for tragedy and prejudice, wars and hatred, lust and greed, jealousy and pride. God meant for Earth to be a paradise, a place where there would be no death, but mankind did not always follow God’s Word, and the world suffers pain because of sin. Physical death is just the death of the body, but the spirit lives on. If your spirit is separated from God for eternity, it will be lost forever.

God has provided a rescue in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

God is not angry with you. In John 3:16, the Bible says that He loves everyone. However, because we live in an imperfect world, we all deal with good and bad. God is aware of everything that happens and has the ability to take what was intended for evil and use for good. The evil in this world does not render God powerless. It is quite the opposite. He promises to be with us – and, if we live life in relationship with Him – to guide us into a life of peace and freedom from fear. Jesus states in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

It often feels like difficult circumstances are directed at us or someone we love. We live in an imperfect world, and the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. We all live through painful and uncomfortable things. Who are we trusting when those things happen to us or someone we love? Are we self-reliant or do we rely on God? If we reach out to God in time of need, then we are accessing the One who created the universe. The Bible says that He is waiting for our response. He has already made the invitation through His Son Jesus. Why you? Because He loves you. He wants you to look to Him so He can rescue you and bring you peace. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” John 11:1-44 talks about the death of Jesus’s friend Lazarus. John 11:35 states that “Jesus wept.” Two words that are so incredibly powerful: Jesus wept. Jesus though had an advantage over us, he could bring back to life his friend, but we must take consolation that our loved ones have also come back to life and are waiting for us in heaven.

We still ask ourselves, what good can come out of this? There are no easy answers, just simple ones: growth and glory. We grow because when life hurts, we pay attention and we find out what is real and whom we can trust. In the Bible, in James 1:1- 4 tells us when we face trials, we can see it as a positive thing in our life because ultimately we are going to grow from it. That’s hard to realize when our pain is all we can see and feel. But, after you’ve experienced life as a follower of Jesus, and you’ve experienced His faithfulness, then you know it’s true.

When life is difficult, we look to God and find out that He has grace. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Bible tells us that His grace is sufficient for you, for his power is made perfect in our weakness. First, we must give our situation and life to God; this is the hardest part, because we feel more secure of we think we are in control of things. Once we give these things over to Him, He is going to give us the ability to stand up and endure. This is what I did when I lost my job and God guided me in the right direction.  I must trust God in this tragedy as well.  It is hard to admit weakness. That is what it takes to act in humility and allow God to take control of your situation. Acknowledge to God that He needs to bear your burdens because you can’t anymore. Jesus longs for you to come to Him and know Him personally. In 1 Peter 5:7 Paul tells us to “cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus tells us to come to Him “all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I want to end today with a beautiful hymn that speaks to what I am talking about today:

Softly and Tenderly

By Will L. Thompson, pub.1880


Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.



Come home, come home,

You who are weary, come home;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!


Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,

Pleading for you and for me?

Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,

Mercies for you and for me?


Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,

Passing from you and from me;

Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,

Coming for you and for me.


Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,

Pardon for you and for me.

1 comment:

Michael Dodd said...

In his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner says that we too often look for God in the causes of bad things whereas God's presence is to be found in our response to bad things. God is present as the source of strength and hope to live, despite the tragedies that are part and parcel of our human existence. I find some of the good Rabbi's philosophical (if that is the word I want) underpinnings unsatisfying -- that does not mean that they are wrong, of course -- but his basic theme is meaningful and hopeful.