1 Peter 4:12-14 and Luke 12:15 and James 4
What thoughts do we give to our needs? We need clothes. We need food. We need a place to lay our heads. What more do we need? And what do we make of the misdeeds and ills that come to us? Do we blame God, the One Who has provided for all our needs? Out of our mouth comes thanks and complaint? How can that be? Have we not seen God’s graciousness and provision from Abraham to now to eternity? Has He not always loved us and wanted us to turn our hearts to Him? We should turn and look at ourselves instead of turning on God. Look to yourself: can you add one more day to your life or add another hair to your head? Can you make the day turn to night or the fire turn to rain? How then can we assume when complaining that we know better than God and we could do better than Him?
We should rather think to ourselves, not only is God providing for the abundance of my life, but He is providing for my learning and growth. Do we only grow through plentifulness? Can you say that you have not grown also by watching others go through trials and by going through trials yourself? Peter and the other Apostles as well as Paul do not consider trials and persecutions as God’s rejection of them. Rather, they see it as sharing in Christ’s suffering. They see them as a chance to be fashioned in His hands for His work. This trial may not be for us at all but for us to understand and help someone else. What does that mean, that I must run out and purposely put myself in harm’s way? That is not so. God’s intent is not to harm you, as you see it, but to lead you in growth. Consider 1 Peter 4:13-14, Peter says “do not be amazed at the ordeal which is taking place to test your quality.” Is that your first reaction, not to question a trial because it is testing your quality like a goldsmith testing gold in the smelting fire?
James said in James 1:2 “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort.” He even goes on to say that these trials will grow them, grow their steadfastness, endurance and patience. Now I know that we may not want to have to go through trials just to grow in patience and endurance to be used for God’s service to help others, but can you really tell me that you will grow in patience without having your patience tried? No. On the other side, when I have asked God for patience in the past, He has given me trials to grow them, which was not exactly what I was asking for. How else, though, will we grow in patience and endurance? Does a runner simply walk up to the starting line of a 52km marathon and run the whole way without gasping and passing out from exhaustion? No, the runner must train his body for this endurance race. Shouldn’t we then train ourselves or allow God to train us, without grumbling and grousing? Consider it all joy. That is hard, but, think of the alternative. We could be weak believers and when Satan throws his attacks against us, will we be able to stand strong or will we falter and fall? This is what Paul meant when he spoke of running the race.
We read in Hebrew 12:1-3, “…let us strip off every encumbrance and sin that so readily clings to us and let us run with patent endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race set before us, looking to Jesus who is the Source of our faith and it’s Finisher. He, because of the joy of what was set before Him (a relationship with us, salvation for God’s creation), endured the cross…think of Him who endured grievous opposition against Himself so that we will not grow weary from the trials.” Don’t forget, we are not going through anything that Christ didn’t face while on earth; therefore, we have already conquered this trial because Christ was the victor over it first. If Christ is the victor already then we only must endure and grow stronger with each trial. We must share in Christ’s sufferings and grow in Christ. As we grow stronger in our faith, the Holy Spirit in you, as a believer, grows so that His appearance in you increases and your own sinful nature decreases.
Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings then? Are we going through trials because we are followers or because God is growing us to be in His service? We must go through trials and we can be transformed through these to be used for God’s service. We can choose to grow from it or be trampled down by it. We must decide how we are going to let it affect us, growth or grumbling. But consider what Peter said, “Do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality. You are sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Rejoice, so that when His glory is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [over all the pitfalls Satan has put in your way.]” You must decide, fiery trials to make me bitter or to make me of better service for Christ’s work on earth. We never realize at the time that God is growing us; we go through it often without understanding but later in life we come to the “ah ha” moment where we see how God could use that past experience. It is then that we shake our heads in acknowledgement that God knew all along. We realize that God has strengthened us all along this way.
“If you are censured and suffer abuse because you bear the name of Jesus, blessed are you because the Spirit of God is resting upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)