FAITH in the FIRE

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If you heard that within one month, 16 million people would lose their jobs; churches would close doors from coast to coast; People across America would not meet in groups greater than 10, but would stay at home, indoors, week after week; would you have believed it? Me neither.

But that is exactly what happened. People around the world are staying apart, wearing masks and using hand-sanitizer religiously—to prevent spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Even with these precautions, almost 2 million people have contracted the virus and over 100,000 have died worldwide; more than 20,000 of these in the United States.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned new words and phrases, like: social distancing, mitigate, shelter-in-place, apex, self-quarantine, asymptomatic, transmission, and flatten the curve.

We have learned that all those appointments on our calendars and planners for April were really not that important, as most have been cancelled, postponed or abandoned.

The pandemic has taught us that man’s inclination to believe he is in control is a joke. Covid19 proves the final words of “Invictus” to be cruel sarcasm: “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Really?

So, if we are not masters of our fate, or captains of our souls, are we mere mortal pawns on some celestial chessboard? Does God care about what is happening here? If so, where is He? What can we do during times of crisis and danger? Fortunately, the Word of God speaks to these issues.

Peter touched on God’s Four Principles His children should know as they endure trials (1 Peter 1:6), and God’s Four Purposes for His children when they encounter trials (1 Peter 1:7). Remember that this letter was written to Christians scattered throughout northern Asia Minor, who were being persecuted because of their faith in Christ.

In his letter, Peter sought to encourage them and to strengthen their faith. He began by reminding them that they were born again by faith in Christ and had a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a guarded inheritance in heaven (verse 4), and a secure salvation in Christ (verse 5).

Though they possessed these spiritual gifts by faith in Christ, they were being relentlessly persecuted for it. So they would not be discouraged, he revealed God’s principles for trials (verse 6) and God’s purposes in trials (verse 7).

God’s Principles for Trials…1 Peter 1:6

  1. Trials are Temporary…”In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while…”

Peter noted one characteristic of trials is that they are temporary—they do not last forever. God’s Word compares trials to seasons that are of short duration. The four seasons of our year are three months in length. The seasons only last a short while. After the heat of summer, comes the coolness of autumn, then the coldness of winter, followed by the colors of spring.

In a similar way, trials are temporary. Difficult times come on all of us, but thank God they do not stay with us. Paul wrote, “our light affliction…is but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17). Warren Wiersbe said, “When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat!”

  1. Trials are Necessary…”…if need be you have been distressed by various trials…”

Whether we like it or not, we need trials in our lives. When times of hardship come, other superficial things are disregarded. As we undergo hardship, it narrows our focus to important, valuable things, and away from frivolous, empty things.

God’s Word reveals several reasons for hardship.

Sometimes, trials come as discipline, when “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). God’s discipline takes many forms, but because He is a perfect, loving Father, it is ALWAYS for our benefit. Trials remind us to be in subjection to Him (verse 9). God’s discipline is always “for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (verse 10). And, though, “all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (verse 11).

At other times trials are necessary for spiritual growth. After Paul had prayed for relief from his suffering and the “messenger of Satan to torment me” (2 Cor. 12:7), God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (verse 9). Paul understood the trial he faced was to make him weak so he would trust Christ more. So he said, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 10).

Another purpose for trials is so the Christian can develop patience, as James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2, 3). Through tough times we learn to patiently wait.

A fourth reason trials are needed is that they push us to pray. We should “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be make known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He meant: “Don’t worry about anything—Pray about everything.” If you had no trials, tribulations or hardships, what would you pray about? Truthfully, we pray more often with greater intensity and fuller sincerity—when we are threatened, tried or hurting.

See? Trials and hardships are of short duration, are necessary and are good for you. They will make you fruitful, help you grow, bring about endurance, and drive you to God! Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember that: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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