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Entries in Trials (3)

Wednesday
Sep062017

Fiery Ordeals

Processing 1 Peter 4:12-19

This morning in my journible of 1 Peter 4, I wrote out the following verse.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange things were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12)

Fiery ordeals abound.

As I write this, Texas and Louisiana are still recovering from the devastating effects of hurricane Harvey. Irma, a category 5 hurricane is threatening other parts of the US. Destroying everything in their path are the wildfires out West.  

At the same time these fiery ordeals make the headlines, I have friends and family who are burying and grieving the loss of loved ones, facing death due to illness or age, battling significant health issues, emotionally distraught from a variety of life events, and on the list could go.  

Indeed, fiery ordeals abound.

 According to the word study tools found on http://biblestudytools.com, fiery ordeal means:

  1. the burning by which metals are roasted and reduced
  2. by a figure drawn from a refiners fire
    1. calamities or trials that test the character

I probably didn't need to define fiery ordeal, but you can't just read 1 Peter 4:12 and keep going. It boggles the mind and fills you with the need to break it down so you can actually get your mind around it. 

You see, I seem to forget that I'm not supposed to be surprised when fiery ordeals come. Oh my goodness, I seem to always be surprised by fiery ordeals as though some strange thing were happening to me. In the fog of fiery, I forget that the ordeal is testing my character and testing my very faith. I say I believe many things about my God and my life but it is only as I am being roasted and reduced that my faith is proven real and genuine.  Again, in the fiery fog, I lose sight of this very profound truth.

Fiery ordeals can easily overwhelm human strength and emotion. Watching others bear up and endure fiery because of their faith, brings hope and courage to me and I am sure to you. When I see people in Houston who have lost everything and are standing in a shelter singing praises to God, my heart is filled with strength and courage. Genuine and real faith at any time but especially during a fiery trial is a beautiful thing.  Here's what Peter said earlier...

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Our faith in Jesus is more precious than gold.

As I ponder with the Lord these verses this morning, my prayer for those of us who love Jesus and are in or facing fiery ordeals would be that our faith would be proven real and genuine and result in praise, glory, and honor to Jesus. May we keep entrusting our souls to our faithful Creator and do what is right and excellent.  For those who do not yet know or love Jesus, I pray that as they witness the real and genuine faith of us who know and love Jesus, they would be drawn and won to Christ.

Using Peter's words in 1 Peter 5:10, I pray that during your fiery ordeals, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

PS.  I know the context of these verses speaks specifically of fiery ordeals that come as a result of identifying with Christ, but I believe the principles I'm sharing about what trials produce can be found throughout Scripture.

Friday
Jul212017

Entry #6 - What helps me endure?

Yes, I have trials and trouble on my mind a lot and for many reasons.  First, in this world, we will and do have troubles.  Jesus said so - it's in red.  See John 16:33.  Second, I have prayer requests and lists that prove trials abound. Third, I recently spent weeks studying the Scripture concerning trials and troubles.  I'm still processing all I learned and am still learning!

Okay so with troubles on my mind, I get to 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 24 that says: "People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades."  Now that's a real attention getter.  A reality check.  As I sat there looking at these words, the Spirit brought to mind James 4:14 (b) that says: "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

I'm thinking to myself ... that in light of eternity, our lives here on earth short but they are filled with trouble. I remember that Peter is writing to those who are being distressed by various trials (1 Peter 1:6-7) reminding them "for a little while if necessary."  Now, my mind goes to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17:  "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  In light of eternity, our troubles are light, momentary, for a little while.

Now, I need to stop and process. The distress or trouble sure doesn't "feel" light, momentary or for a little while.  Sometimes it's seemingly a lifetime of trouble.  What's so light and momentary about a lifetime?  Well, in light of eternity it is, but we are in the here and now.  Eternity is hard to comprehend when the now has you in a pressure cooker.  Amen?  

I get that Peter is trying to get them and us to move beyond our troubles by reminding of who we are in Christ, what we have and how we are to live.  It's all true and being reminded of these truths helps us put our troubles in perspective.  And then boom, in 1 Peter 1:24-25(a) he says:

"All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grassThe grass withers and the flower fall off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Did you see it?  "....but the word of the Lord endures forever."  Earlier, in verse 24 he said the "living and enduring word of God."

The word endure just jumped off the page.  Why?  Because during the weeks of studying God's word concerning trials, the words endure and endurance kept coming up.  I could go on and on about what I learned about trials and endurance. I mean I know I need it, I know trials produce it and so on.  But, when I read 1 Peter 1:25(a)...this is the question that came to mind and that I wrote down in my journal.

What helps me endure?

Answer:  The living and enduring word of the Lord. 

Obvious, I know.  No earth shattering revelation here.  I mean we all know the word of the Lord is living and endures forever, right?  But knowing it and taking it up and using it to help me endure my trials and troubles are two entirely different things.  In the midst of trials and troubles that don't seem light or momentary, I endure by:

  • Eating or devouring God's word: "Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts." Jeremiah 15:16
  • Being nourished in and from God's word: But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”"  Matthew 4:4
  • Delighting in God's word that keeps me from perishing in my affliction:  "If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction." Psalm 119:92

The key to enduring?  The living and enduring word of the Lord.  A good word to myself and I pray to you.

Friday
Jun302017

Entry #5 - Sincere & fervent love

Processing 1 Peter 1:20-25

Entry #4 was a more than a year's worth of processing with the Lord the impact of hurt and disappointment.  This all due to a trial I did not see coming and that was totally distressing.  While it took the better part of a year, I'm so grateful to the Lord for the understanding He has given to me.  And, I think there's more to come!  Understanding the spiritual impact trials have had on me and can have on me is huge.  To look back and see the progression I described in Entry #4, is a gift from the Lord.  Praise Him.

As I processed the distress with the Lord, I believe He revealed to me how I had transferred the hurt and disappointment to Him.  However, I was aware that God was sincerely and fervently loving me through the healing and sorting it all out process. 

Some would say - of course!  God never leaves or forsakes us. Hashtag truth could be used here.  But here's the thing:  In the fog of hurt, disappointment, discouragement, despair of spiritual depression, these truths were just not as clear to me as they once were. Yes, I know the truth.  But the emotions were so painful it was hard to name and claim truth. Oh, but the fervent love of the Lord...

Fervently means earnestly, intensely.  To stretch out the hand...thus it means to be streched out, earnest, resolute, tense.  Continual or intense.  Intently, earnestly.

I know God fervently loves me every day.  But in my distress, I think God allowed me to be more aware of His presence...more aware of His stretching out His hand to me.  His continual and intense love for me.  He was resolute.  I withdrew from Him, blamed Him, ignored Him, wrestled with Him, let my emotions go wild, believed lies...and couldn't seem to pin the right truth in the right spot in my heart or mind.  But, His hand was always stretched out to me, patiently waiting for me to grab hold of Him.  

During this time, He was wooing me with His creation.  As I would sit having no desire to do anything else, I would often just watch the birds.  As I did, the Spirit of God within me would call to remembrance His word which I had hidden in my heart.  God used the birds to remind me of His love for me and my worth to Him.  As the storms would roll in or the sun would rise, the Spirit of God would bring to remembrance His word which spoke of His power and might and sovereignty in all things.  Once, He even took clouds and turned them into a heart as I sat there looking at the beautiful sky. Over and over He reminded that He is working all things together for my good and His glory.  But, I was still hurting.  In some ways in mourning loss (another post for another time).

Oh, how I wish I had journaled each day during this time because God taught me so much about what it means and looks like to fervently love from the heart.  I am better equipped to fervently love from the heart as a result of that particular trial.  I think.  I hope.  We'll see!

I know how precious it is to be fervently loved from the heart while being distressed by trials and having your faith tested.  To be fervently loved from the heart while fighting for your faith is a tremendous blessing.  I have a better understanding today of just how important it is to not give up on others but to keep stretching out my hand, so it's there when they need to or are ready to grab on to it.  I know I need to and want to be resolute in my love.  To be fervent and earnest and intense. To woo, comfort, strengthen, encourage and help others by reminding them of His enduring word.  Just like God was with me.

Easy enough to do with those who love me back or want me to love them and be in their life.  But, as I was processing 1 Peter 22 this morning, my mind shifted to those who have caused me hurt, disappointed me, rejected me - whatever.  Are you kidding me, Lord?  How do I earnestly, fervently and intensely from the heart love those who have hurt me or seemingly don't like me or want to be in my life? Some would answer me saying because God says so and because we are to forgive and so many other truths from God's word.  All #truth, but doing from the heart what the word says - that's hard and is a supernatural work of God.  it means yielding, and for me that means wrestling.  Come on, can someone please give me a #truth?

I've learned that just because I know the truth, it doesn't mean I can actually live out that truth in each and every distressing trial of my life.  The Lord has to help me which can sometimes mean wrestling me to the ground.

What I've learned is even those who hurt and disappointed me need to be fervently loved from the heart just as I do. Yes, I know this, but I'm talking about actually doing it.  Through all of this, I've been reminded that we all need someone(s) to love us enough not to give up on us.  Extend the same love and grace as God has extended to me.  Especially those who belong to Christ as I belong to Christ.  We are family. 

I know.  Some people may not want me to fervently love them from my heart.  But, truth be told, it should not stop me from stretching out my hand, so it's there should they ever want to grab hold of it.  How awesome would it be to fervently love from the heart my brothers and sisters in Christ - no matter how they act.  When they don't act right like I don't act right...when they get lost in their own fog and can't quite see the truth just like I've found myself doing...when they pout, wrestle and disobey just like I do...yet earnestly, resolutely and intensely love them.  

I want to.  Now that I know on a deeper level what being fervently loved looks and feels like and how wonderful it is, I am more eager to extend and offer it...even to those who don't want it...to those who have hurt and disappointed me and may not even like me so much. 

Oh, Father as soon as the pain of hurt pierces my heart I am sure I will forget this.  But I don't want to.  Help me.  What a gift and blessing it would be to fervently love others from the heart as you have fervently loved me from Your heart.  It would be a miracle.  Make it so.