Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What? Rejoicing in Suffering?

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us."
Romans 5:1-8

There is so much in these verses to reflect on. First, at a time when we thought we were strong in our own power, God's Spirit began His work in our hearts. He knew we were without the strength we needed to live life for Him, so He sent His son to He die for us! How amazing that God chose to demonstrate His love while we were still deep in our sin. Just think, He didn't die for "good" people. He died for the ungodly! That means He died for the liar, the murderer, the selfish, the self-centered, the mean, the abusive, the neglectful, the critical, the jealous, the addict, the promiscuous, and the greedy. He even died for people so steeped in idolatry that they try to fill God-given needs apart from Him. God did not wait for us to get better, He chose to show us His powerful sacrificial love when we were at our worst, still selfishness, rebellious, and prideful. Then through faith in Christ's death and resurrection He declared us righteous, giving us His peace. We're no longer His enemies and have unlimited access to Him by faith. We can rejoice because we have a hope not based on us, but on an all-powerful glorious God, who defeated sin and death and who is forever true to His word.

He gives us the ability to approach trials with unlimited hope. The Bible makes it clear that in this life we're going to experience difficult circumstances, unmet needs, strained relationships, illness, and persecution. It also makes it clear there is an eternal purpose behind painful trials. Trials, no matter what they are, develop in us perseverance when we trust God during them. By persevering we will develop godly character, which will produce hope in our hearts. Essentially trials are personal invitations to walk more intimately with God. As I tell Him about my fears, worries, or frustration He strengthens me and gives me His wisdom and His strength. The very trials we want to avoid or end are the means in which we are allowed to experience God and His power. We need to realize that turning to God when things look impossible is what causes faith to mature and our relationship with God to deepen. Trials have the potential to increase hope in God, purifying hearts and minds as they bring to the surface things like doubt, unbelief, or anger caused by pride. As we choose to walk through tough experiences with God. we find Christ infusing His love in our hearts. Experiencing His love and His grace allows us to worship Him with pure hearts. The love the Holy Spirit sheds in our hearts allows us to feel loved, accepted and cherished by our heavenly Father. Then and only then are we able to understand His love enough that we can respond to Him in love and are able to love others the way He intended us to – sacrificially, completely, and without fear.

So, what will we do when we face trials? Will we choose to trust God and allow the Holy Spirit to refine us and fill us with His love? Will we stand firm and rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God?

Prayer: Thank you so much, Father, for sending us your son. Thank you that he was willing to demonstrate your sacrificial love for us while we were still in a state of rebellion and sin. Thank you for declaring us righteousness and giving us a sense of purpose. Thank you that even our trials have significance. May your perfect work of developing patience and a strong hope be done in us. Thank you for shedding your love in our hearts that we may experience it and give it away. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!