post

Embrace the Trial – Part 6

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part two we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. In part three and part four, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” In part five we sought to understand the struggle of the ongoing trial. Here in part 6 we come to the topic of contentment in the trial.

Understanding Contentment – “Embracing God’s Sufficiency

Recently, I was in the process of preparing a Sunday morning message when I found myself struggling with being content.

In the midst of my current trial, as I battle with a number of health concerns, my three-year old accidently poked me in the eye and scratched my cornea. I found this painful and discouraging, but I also found myself on the wrong end of discontentment. This incident coincided with a busy week with a tight schedule and no room for distractions, let alone poor eyesight and additional visits to doctors and waiting rooms.

Looking back on the timing of things I see the wisdom of God. In my eyes this was absolutely the worst timing possible, but in God’s infinite and perfect wisdom He knew I would gain the most from having this personal object lesson to pave the way for change. I also see God’s humor as it made me the object lesson for the message I was preparing. A few weeks prior to this, the Lord had laid on my heart His will for our church to study Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. In the fourth chapter of he writes,

“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11b

I contemplated on the setting where these words were written and my heart was struck with rebuke. I know that the trial the Apostle Paul endured was far greater than my own, yet saw how he surrendered to God’s way and submitted to God’s wisdom and understanding. How did he do this? How could he write these words with such honesty without even a hint of underlying sarcasm or bitterness? Instead there is obvious peace and joy.

As I meditated upon this passage, a simple outline rose to the surface which explains the Paul’s contentment. It begins with the premise that I can be content in any circumstance no matter what (v. 11). It is then followed by two simple yet profound promises which speak of God’s sufficiency regarding His strength (v. 13) and His supply (v. 19). The reality of profoundly obvious truths in Scripture is that unfortunately they are often practically obscure in our lives. Often what appears so simple and clear on the pages of God’s Word and even in our minds remains hidden in our lives.

This was clearly the case, as I meditated upon this passage and was struck by how practically obscure these truths were, right at that moment in my life. With this realization I bowed my head in repentance. Then knowing God’s forgiveness, I smiled seeing God’s perfect timing, bringing me into a head-on collision with the details of my life and these truths that were so absolutely necessary to confront them and bring my heart to rest. The encouragement came as these truths began the twelve-inch journey from my head to my heart where they found a resting place and where my heart found the much-needed contentment even though the circumstances had yet to change.

Paul begins with a premise that on the outset is bold and daring. He says, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” It is a statement that, at first, comes across as “too good to be true” or may be only something that is for the “elite Christians” like Paul. But after further consideration and drawing in the promises that follow I see that this premise statement is meant for me—it is meant to be one of the statements of my life. It is meant for each of us “ordinary Christians.” God desires that my heart would rest content “in whatsoever state I am.”

Before we consider the promise, keep in mind that Paul’s statement isn’t a lesson that just came naturally to him but was one that he “learned” by experience. It was through trial after trial as he “learned” to rest in the stabilizing truths of God that he was able to, with a clear conscience and genuineness of heart, speak these words that, most often, seem to defy reality.

Now consider the promises, as pillars of truth, upon which the house of contentment is built. The foundation of these pillars is the sufficiency of God. Paul writes, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). The key to contentment begins first with a proper understanding of our inadequacy. Until we find ourselves to be lacking in our own ability to sufficiently deal with every detail of life we will never look outside ourselves and look to God. It is through the trials of life that God brings us to the end of ourselves—to the end of the façade of our own sufficiency and sovereignty as we turn to Him in dependent trust finding Him to be sovereign over all things and sufficient for our every need.

The first promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s powerlearning to rest in the strength of God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”—v. 13

This verse gives us both the strength and the source of contentment, which is the Power that comes from within—the indwelling Holy Spirit Who enables the believer to do all that the Lord calls upon him to do and go through. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). It is God working in us giving us the desire to do His “good pleasure” but also empowering us as well. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This is the grace of God at work in our lives as we humble ourselves before Him, for “God giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

Learning to rest in this truth of the sufficiency of God’s strength for every situation of life is vital to our contentment in life. When the temptation to give in to sin is seemingly greater than your strength to fight, run to Christ and remember that He has promised that His strength will be sufficient. Remember the promise that “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Whatever state you find yourself in, trust Him to be sufficient to carry you through. “Faithful is He that calleth you who will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s strength is more than enough. His strength is sufficient for me to stand fast against the temptation of discontentment and trust His providence to be right and best.

The second promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s provisionlearning to rest in the supply of God.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”—v. 19

In this verse we see the supply of contentment. I find it interesting to consider our American definition of the word, “need” as defined by how we use it. Quite often we use the word “need” where we should be using the word “want” instead. God has not promised to supply our wants but our genuine needs or those things that He defines as necessary. Once He stops providing it, it is no longer necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that our needs come in positive and negative qualities. The positive side of our needs are those things that God provides that we are lacking such as financial or health needs. On the negative side we see those things that are painful which God uses to teach us wonderful truths and help us deal with specific sin.

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s supply is more than enough. His supply is sufficient to help me rest in His providence and stand fast against the temptation to doubt that I have what I need or that God will fail to provide it in His perfect time.

In summary: Biblical contentment becomes a reality in the believer’s life when we become humbly dependent upon the Lord for both His strength, to endure our trials, and His supply for our every need. Biblical contentment is learning to thank God for our troubles while we are still in them.

 “So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

post

Embrace the Trial – Part 1

Honey, I think we need to go to the hospital!” This was a statement I had heard four times before, as we anticipated the arrival of each of our wonderful children, God has blessed us with. This day, I found myself on the other side of this statement—I was actually saying these words!

At times, in life, we find ourselves looking squarely into the head-on collision of an unforeseen trial that may appear overwhelming in its uncertainties. What do you do? How do you respond? Is there purpose? How can we know? The list of questions seems daunting as we ponder the endless possibilities.

The words, “embrace” and “trial,” when put together, seem so foreign and contrary. Yet these two words were on my mind. A “trial” speaks of a hardship, something unwanted and unsolicited. An “embrace” speaks of warmth and love. For me it brings memories of my mother’s loving embrace—something I long for. So, how can these two words coexist in the same thought?

As I began the process of coming to grips with this current trial, the phrase, “Embrace the trial,” kept repeatedly coming to mind. It was something I couldn’t get out of my head. Soon I found myself taking this before the Lord to find His purpose of this seemingly contradictory phrase. What the Lord showed me was both refreshing and humbling. The fog began to burn off with the view before me coming into focus. And then with great clarity this purpose statement came to rest at the forefront of my mind. “Embrace the trial—that I may know Him and glorify Him.”

In the process of coming to grips with this trial, a dear friend of mine challenged me to write a poem. Naturally, I laughed at the thought. Actually, I think I laughed out loud when he said it. Writing isn’t my area of expertise, although I enjoy sharing God’s truths through the written word. Later that evening, I found myself actually considering his challenge.

So, with pen in hand I began to pour my heart out on the page. I was amazed at how therapeutic I found the process, as it was good medicine for my soul. What came out was the struggle of the trial expressed in a conversation with my loving, heavenly Father. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. With the recurring line “Embrace the trial,” God has been reassuring me of His love, like the tender reminder of a father encouraging his son to embrace what is best, despite the painful process. With His gracious Word of truth, He was reminding me to trust Him because He is trustworthy. Paul states, “Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Through these words He continues to remind me of His sovereign purpose of conforming me into the image of His dear Son.

God’s GOAL for me is to KNOW HIM, in order to GLORIFY HIM, as I am changed to be LIKE HIM. This is His goal for every soul in every trial. This is the purging process—the crucible of affliction that God, in His loving providence, sees fit to bring about the change that He desires. It has been said that this is the process by which the Spirit of God, takes the Word of God and transforms us into the likeness of the Son of God.

Paul writes about this process of change, saying, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are changed into the same image that we spend time gazing on. The challenge is to spend time gazing upon the image of the Son of God found in the Word of God so as to be “changed into that same image from glory to glory.”

I love the results, David writes of in Psalm 40:3, that God brings about. He writes, “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” In my case, “He has put a new poem of praise in my mouth.” My prayer is that those who read it shall “worship and shall trust in the LORD.”

Here is what the Lord spoke to my heart about. My prayer is that it will be a special blessing to you, wherever you find yourself, whether needing to embrace a trial or simply continuing life’s journey.

“Embrace the Trial”

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know, just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

“Look up and see your Savior’s face, and gaze upon My Word.
In time, you’ll be the change I see, committed to your Lord.”

“Look up and see My eyes of grace, I look from up above.
Fear not, My child, the pain you feel is sent because I love.”

“Rejoice! My mercy never fails, enduring to the end.
My grace you’ll find sufficient in humility you bend.”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

In case you were wondering…No, I’m not through having this conversation but I am truly grateful for how we have begun. I know the road ahead will be marked with areas of failure and repentance. I know there will be times where I am tempted to misplace my trust. I know there will be times that I will need to refocus my perspective on my loving Savior’s face and the purpose that He is seeking to accomplish. The bottom line is that I know that I will need to “embrace the trial,” time and time again in order to achieve the goal for which God has purposed. His will is for me to know Him, in order to glorify Him, as I am changed into the image of His Son. By God’s grace and with the prayers of His saints I will “embrace the trial—that I may know Him and glorify Him.”

Can you relate? It is very possible that you have had a similar conversation with the Lord. Or maybe it is time to have this conversation with our good and loving God. I want to encourage you to read over and meditate upon the truths of God’s Word, then take Him at His Word. I want to encourage you to “embrace the trial.

Look up and see God’s eyes of grace, He looks from up above. Fear not, God’s child, the pain you feel is sent because He loves.” And then “Rejoice! His mercy never fails, enduring to the end. His grace you’ll find sufficient in humility you bend. So, embrace the trial, God’s dear child, His best is what you’ll see, beyond the suffering you feel, God’s Son they soon shall see.”