Trials with Purpose

Matthew 10:22And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Philippians 1:27-30Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and this too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Key verse: Philippians 1:29-30; Matthew 10:22

Key words: For to you it has been granted … to suffer on His behalf; hated because of My name

God’s Glorious Promises

The promises of God—His eternal salvation; His shelter, His wisdom, His protective love, and His refreshing rest—to name but a few—are some of the assurances I call upon when facing the troubles of my day; my year; my seasons. Another promise that is important to me is found in Proverbs 22:6 where the poet tells us that if we train up a child in the way he should go then when that child is old, he will not depart from it. With children (now grown) that have pushed at what I believe should be the boundaries of good and common spiritual sense, this verse is one I call upon often. And by the way, It seems timely to mention that this verse is often misunderstood in it’s meaning. The word hanakh translated as “train,” in our English language, in Hebrew means “to dedicate” or “to consecrate.” The verse leans toward you and I committing our children to the Lord more than guilt-whipping them into spiritual shape through obligatory and deceptive faith works.

Promises on the Roads Less Traveled

But the point of this blog is to discuss the less popular promises of God found in our key verses today. I think of them as the hard promises on the roads less traveled–the pathways we’re to be seeking.

These are the curious and often overlooked promises of suffering and persecution—hard topics to tackle.

But we must accurately handle these promises because we are called to rightly handle the Word of God.

We are to be masters with our swords.

We are to be prepared in season and out.

 And to rightly master the sword, we are to know where and why our troubles come from and not be tempted to blame God or circumstances, or even others when the suffering does come.

In a culture where love grows cold, it’s almost fashionable and certainly trendy, to place blame on people who and circumstances that do not up line up with our own ideals. I see it all around me … but also in me. At work, when our international ministry is disrupted by travel restrictions, I’m guilty of saying, “Dang that Covid 19.” It’s true this horrible, possibly man-made virus is disrupting God’s work all over the world, and I should certainly pray against it. But my first reaction, according to James 1:2, is to thank God for the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop my godly character. When the government threatens to place medical mandates—with large financial fines for noncompliance—on nonprofits that wish to respect a person’s privacy, I become distrustful of the very leaders we elected. Here again, is an opportunity for prayer, asking for discernment but also thanking Him for the opportunity to be tested in my faith. Is my faith in the government or is it in Christ?

Why Trials; Why Me

Jesus was clear when speaking of the reasons for trials: He’s shaping eternal life in you. And me. And all who belong to Him.

Because Christ and His disciples have warned us that persecution comes, we must take the bold step of laying blame to the side and accepting the coming trials not only with patience, but joy, knowing these trials have purpose. Look back at the Philippians verse. Paul wrote to the Philippians that suffering had been granted to them. Granted. The word granted brings to mind a privilege or an award. My dear Philippians, you have been granted to suffer and die! Enjoy your prize.

There’s no if attached to these promises. There is only a matter of when attached to these promises. As a child of God, you will experience sufferings and you will be persecuted. In the spiritual realm, this is to be considered a gift.

But take heart—there is a glorious reason.

Before jumping into my own limited ponderings on the glories of our trials, I looked up what the biblical scholar Matthew Henry had to say on these verses. This is good stuff and way beyond anything my wee brain could produce. Here is what Henry wrote in his commentary on Matthew 10, It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.  And in his commentary on Philippians 1, he penned, Faith is God’s gift on the behalf of Christ; the ability and disposition to believe are from God. And if we suffer reproach and loss for Christ, we are to reckon them a gift, and prize them accordingly.

In seeking to answer the why question that pops up in my own resistance to embracing the idea that suffering is a gift, I recalled what James had to say at the beginning of his epistle. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

From these Scriptures, clearly, trials and tribulations (sufferings and persecutions) are meant to mature us as Christ followers. The idea that our Christ cares to have you and me grow into the complete royal warriors He imagined when He envisioned the world says so much about the nature of our King. He cares for you. To the point of doing whatever it takes to bring you into the full glory of His own image.

Did he not suffer and die?

And yet, He made you in his image. The whole of His image.

In this, we have joy. Precept by precept, trial by trial, we are being made closer to the real deity deal.

But why my wee brain still asks.

And the Word answers me. For my glory.

In Isaiah 43, the prophet scribe records God’s promises to gather Israel together in a future time (Hello the rebirth of Israel in 1948), and in these promises, a small, but super powerful statement is revealed. Isaiah, writing on God’s behalf records, “… and who I created for my glory.”

God creates for His glory. You are on planet earth for His glory. And how does He do that? By making you in His image, and growing you up, through trials and tribulations, to prove your unfaltering faith. Your mature and steadfast faith brings Him glory. Your mature and steadfast patience brings Him glory. Your mature and steadfast trust brings Him glory.

There’s more:

You standing bold when your will is weak brings Him glory. You standing faithful in the face of cancer brings Him glory. You speaking truth in a culture of lies brings Him glory. You marching away from the world’s temptations brings Him glory.

What’s Your Trial?

Make your own statement and fill in the blank. When I ______, I bring Him glory.

I’m convicted about the complaining I’ve done. With every word of bad news, I should pray first, then thank the Lord that I’m worthy to live in these days of wars and rumors of wars, and famine, pestilence, earthquakes, and deception. I am thankful to be worthy, by His love alone, to be molded and shaped into His likeness.

This is a big deal.

And you’re a part of it.

Sharpen Up!

Let Him sharpen you and His sword. Let us all accept the challenges we face with grace and love and hearts firmly planted in His glory.

Amen.

If I perish, I perish.

Laurie

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